Tag Archives: Purpose

Thanksgiving in March

For the last month and a half I have been trying to get healthy. I’ve been eating smaller portions and healthier food, taking vitamins and probiotics, and stretching and doing yoga daily. I’m especially fond of the hilarious Adriene of “Yoga with Adriene.” Her motto is “Find What Feels Good.” Now, as a Christian, I know that saying cannot be applied to everything. Many things that “feel good” in the moment are not good for us in eternity, but it works for yoga and stretching. It basically means, don’t over-extend.

In life, I am learning, however, that it’s important to not only find what feels good, it’s important to find what fills us. Over the weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Costas*, a man from Haiti who lives near a park where I was attending an event. Our conversation started when he mistakenly told me “Happy Thanksgiving” and I corrected him, saying, “I think you mean happy Easter.” This led to a long conversation about assignments from God. Though, on first glance, Costas seemed like a disheveled wanderer, it turned out he was a man literally on a mission from God. All the trials and tribulations of his past had brought him to a place, geographically, financially, and spiritually, where he could serve the very place where it all began. He allowed God to take the pain of yesterday and turn it into the joy of the present.

After escaping his home country, Costas entered a world that was new to him. The language was new. The culture was new. Everything was new. In this place of deep need and emptiness, much like Job of the scripture, he encountered people on assignment for God, people of many different cultures and religions who had made the humble decision to serve refugees. As a recipient of such generosity and kindness, he thrived in his new home. He created a life for himself, even purchased the house he once shared with 11 other refugees.

His story could have ended there with a big fat “Happily Ever After,” but it didn’t. Instead God called him back to where all the pain began, where the running began, where the terror began. It must have been as profound for him as it was for me listening to it because he made a point of saying, “God often sends you back to where it all began.” He gave examples like that of Moses who had to go back to Egypt to set the Israelites free. Costas, in the last 15 years, decades after escaping Haiti, decided to go back to build a school where there was no education and serve thousands of people in rural Haiti.

His story really resonated with me. For the first 25 years of life I lived within 30 miles of where I was born. At 25 years old I decided to move to the Bay Area for 3 years until I finished school. Now 10 years later I am still here, and constantly wondering why. I love Oakland. I love my church, the food, the culture, but I often miss home. Maybe God took me from home to learn something to take back home someday. Perhaps there’s something I will find here that I would have never found at home, and when I return I will bring with me something someone needs.

So maybe there is something I could gain from this conversation with Costas that I could use years from now when I return home, but what I can I take from it today? Later that day, after talking with him, I felt so energized. I’m sure it was partially due to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in our exchange, but it was something more than that. I realized afterward that I am energized by one-on-one conversations with people. I walk away feeling like I have gained insight, learned more about culture, the similarities and differences. I feel as though the words spoken to me are the most precious gift.

Through this conversation with a complete stranger God reminded me that I need to have these individual conversations in order to be filled, energized. I recognize now why I sometimes feel unfulfilled in my workplace where there’s little time for individual exchanges or deep conversation, where the majority of my day is spent conversing with a computer screen.

Perhaps Costas had a point. It may not have been Thanksgiving, but Sunday was truly a day to be thankful.

 

*name changed for privacy

 

Advertisements

Bees and Butterflies

Have you ever watched a butterfly flying around on a beautiful spring day? They don’t seem determined, zooming toward their destination like bees. Their path is anything but straight, and they seem to rely on the wind to guide them.

Many people are like butterflies. They are beautiful wanderers, going wherever they like on a whim, as if directed by the changing winds, but God set you and I apart for something more.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

The Lord sets us apart when we submit to him, and he makes our paths straight. There’s nothing more frustrating than driving around in circles, lost, sometimes afraid or flat-out angry. I believe when the scripture says he makes our paths straight, it means he makes us to live our lives the way he planned them, in his perfect design.

The scripture makes it clear. It is up to us whether our path is straight or we take the long way home. It is up to us to submit. We can be a bee, who has a clear destination to the source of life and purpose, or the butterfly flapping and flailing in the breeze. The butterfly looks beautiful on the outside, but look at all the effort it took to become that beautiful. When we submit to God he takes us, beautiful or not, stripes and all, and transforms us beyond our own effort. We don’t have to spin an elaborate cocoon to protect us from the elements of life because he is our cocoon.

Life is so much sweeter as a bee, following our purpose and our source of life, our Heavenly Father. Drink in the sweet nectar of the perfect and wise Author of life.

P.S. This blog post was inspired by the scripture-inspired prayer my dear friend Winnie prayed over me tonight. It is always inspiring to receive prayer.

Are you a Thing-a-ma-jig?

Tonight I decided to finally change that burned out light bulb that is just out of reach even though in the past when I’ve tried to change it I’ve nearly killed myself stumbling around the bed atop some pillows and small footstool, but what can I say, fashion called for it. I literally couldn’t06d569c0-a0a7-4a3d-b0d9-3606c9910144 tell navy from black, and most women know that navy and black are two totally different things. First I put my laundry hamper face down on the bed. Then I stepped on top, and, boom, it caved. Okay, don’t give up. I then piled two pillows on the bed and sprung up onto them grabbing the light fixture with one hand. Probably not one of my best moments, practically dangling from the light fixture. In any case, I ended up changing the bulb, possibly with some strained muscles as a result.

After changing the bulb, I began cleaning up the house. After all, my sister is coming, and she’s only been to this apartment once before. Laundry put away, check. Kitchen clean, check. Then, while laying out a sweater to dry, I spot a strange item, a wrinkled, shriveled piece of cardboard on the ironing board. I pick it up to examine it, squinting in wonder and confusion. How did this get here? I don’t even know what it is. Did Mark leave this here? He’s always leaving strange things around my house, like stuff out of his pockets. But even if it was his, what is it?

It’s funny how context can really help us discover what something is. I turn to take the item to the trash, when out of the corner of my eye I see the light bulb box. I pick it up too and begin to close it when right there, I see what the shriveled cardboard is. It’s the padding that was wrapped around the new bulb!

This is how people can perceive our identity if we don’t know our purpose. See, I didn’t know the purpose of the shriveled piece of cardboard, and it only confused me the more I looked at it. If we don’t know what our purpose is as children of God, people may look at us as if we are an unknown, someone wandering without a path, but as children of God we already know that living for God and being His disciple is our purpose. We also know that God knit us when we were in our mother’s womb for a particular purpose and a specific path. If we know this, then we don’t need to know what tomorrow holds to be obedient disciples and let God’s particular purpose and path for us unfold. When people see that you know who you are in Christ, they won’t squint in wonder, but they will say, “Hey, that person is really secure in who God made them to be.” Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

I encourage you to be more than a thing-a-ma-jig (something that has no identity), but live out your identity and purpose as a child of God.

A Peaceful Path

0df3801b-8e01-4398-a273-fd6a5e36a3e3

For months, even years I have prayed for direction in my career. My current job was just something I stumbled upon when I was in fashion design school nine years ago. Since then I have been blessed with wonderful coworkers, wise mentors, and meaningful life experiences. I have had days when I was perfectly content with my job, and days, like all of us, when I have wanted to walk out and not come back. Thankfully God has always given me strength and opened my eyes to His purpose for me right where I was at.

While at home sick this last week I spent time in prayer, persistently asking for guidance about my next career steps. I have felt for some time now that God would be leading me into a new field or something much different than my current position. Then one morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m. Wide awake, I opened my eyes and had what one might call an “ah-ha!” moment. Suddenly I knew I exactly what God wanted for my life as far as my career, and I knew it was from God because this new step makes total sense for me, my skills, passions, and hopes for the future. I felt completely at peace, unlike past career decisions.

Many times it seems God keeps us in the uncomfortable waiting room of life, squirming in our seats, watching the second hand while He has already paved the path for us. Or maybe it is that our eyes are not open to His plan even though we are desperately asking for his guidance. Perhaps we’d rather snuggle into the comfort of the metaphoric couch of routine than have to face the changes of tomorrow. Whatever the case may be, when we find that well-plan path He’s built for each of us, we are guaranteed peace in our spirits even if it stirs up discomfort in our routine.

As I think back on the last nine years, I know that I have not always taken the peaceful path, and I can guarantee there will be days when I wander off the path again, but God reminds me daily that I could not be His beautiful mosaic had I not been broken first.

Published on Oct 21, 2013. Music video by Steven Curtis Chapman performing Something Beautiful (Official Pseudo Video). (C) 2013 Provident Label Group LLC, a unit of Sony Music Entertainment. Music “Something Beautiful” by Steven Curtis Chapman

In future posts you will hear more about my next steps. I am working toward them little by little each day, and I look forward to sharing more very soon.

His Calling in this Moment

A friend of mine recently challenged his Facebook friends to share five minutes with a homeless person next time we are asked for change. On top of that he also suggested that we give them all our change and then ask for half of it back. Explain that you ask for half back so that you have something to give the next person and so that they have a part in giving to the next person. Upon making this exchange he also suggested praying for the person. Now, I must admit, I have not mastered this whole process in the last three days since he posted that, however I have tried parts of his suggestion. One experience is chronicled in the below reflection on tonight’s experience.

His Calling in this Moment

Fairy tales paint my childhood memory,
Not in black and white, but vivid color.
With age the colors seem to fade
And fairies disappear into the clouds
That transform our tales into life stories.
It seems all too apparent that this journey
Called life can wind up and down and around
As if there is no destination
No final purpose, no reason for being
However pastors, preachers, priests, teachers
They all tell us that there is purpose
And a unique plan and reason for each life.
You can choose to toss that idea out the window,
Or you can wait for that plan to be revealed.
But there is another technique for identifying
Your unique calling.
Looking for it.
Unlike in the movies or what religious leaders might tell you
Sometimes, most times the blindfold of human nature
Will not magically be pulled away,
Revealing a divine purpose that all at once shows you
The story of your life end to beginning
But what if as you are looking,
The eyes of your heart refocus
And bring about a perfect moment of meaning
Of purpose to touch even a single life?
Wouldn’t that make all the other uncertainty worth it?
Often I get so wrapped up in the thinking,
The wandering, the working at a purpose
That I forget that my purpose could be staring me in the face
With long beard, sad eyes, worn shoes, cracking skin.
I fail to remember that Jesus found purpose in every step
Every thirst, every broken person.
What makes me think I am above that?
So today, I make the usual call to my mom as I walk to my car.
I look down to find a crisp ten-dollar bill lying at my feet.
I pick it up, sliding it into my pocket.
It feels so smooth against the pocket lining.
I reach into my other pocket,
Which reveals I already had ten dollars there.
I’m reminded of the things I take for granted.
I complain that I have to go to the store to get more lunch foods.
How can I complain when there are people starving a block away?
As I exit Target I see Panera Bread in the distance.
My mouth waters, longing for my favorite broccoli cheddar soup.
Strangely, even though I am tired from my long day at work,
I decide to walk across the parking lot to Panera for a bowl of deliciousness.
Out of the corner of my eye I see that man,
The one that looks so much like Jesus I have to stare,
And at that moment he stares back.
Our eyes are locked, but I’m not scared.
I pull that crisp, fresh ten-dollar bill from my wallet,
Place it in his hand and say “I found this.
You need it more than me.”
I wait briefly for a response as he looks down at the bill.
There isn’t a smile, a “thanks”,
Just utter speechlessness, a look of shock.
“God bless,” I say as I walk into the Panera distance.
Perhaps he was just a homeless beggar,
The kind Jesus tells us to serve,
Or perhaps he was Jesus in a not-so-good disguise.
Whichever he was when I got to Panera and turned back
He was gone, as if vanished in his disbelief.

Pushing Past Glue and Gravity

Gravity stabilizes our world. Without gravity things wouldn’t stay put. In the Lego movie there is an evil president who plans to glue all the citizens in place in an effort to control the world. Like gravity, glue, the very thing that stabilizes also stops things in their tracks. Gravity says you can only jump so high, you can only throw so far. When we lack self-esteem it is like we are affected with a powerful gravity, a super sticky glue.

We think we can only go so far in life. We sit in church every Sunday hearing about so-and-so off in Africa serving in an orphanage or building houses in Mexico, and we think, ‘Good for them, but God won’t call little old me to do that.’ Then we go to work and we hear that our coworker is being promoted, bought a house, and is getting married, and we think, ‘I guess God forgot about me.’ Let me tell you, friends, God didn’t forget about you. You forgot that you were made in his image with the purpose, not only, to love Him and others but to love yourself (Matt 22:37-40). When we love God first and then love ourselves our perspective has changed and our value becomes well-placed.

Aside from recognizing our value and the fact that we are made in God’s image, an image above all others, we must also remember that God knitted us in our mother’s womb for a specific purpose. While we all have the broader purpose to love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbor, we also have a specific purpose for which God uniquely designed us. Our lives did not come with an owner’s manual telling us our specific purpose. That is why we must see the sky as the limit. If God created a man that could walk on the moon, invent electricity, or part the Red Sea then why would he stop at you or me?

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Hmmm… So not only does God promise to prosper you and not harm you, but he promises that during trials and periods of doubt you will have hope and a future.

Often I get comfortable where I’m at. I think, ‘God can use me wherever I’m at. I don’t want to go chasing after money or the world’s definition of success.’ But I forget that pressing on is not just about enduring where I’m at now, but believing that there’s something bigger and better in store. We can’t just sit around waiting for that bigger, better thing to happen when God has given us tools to push ourselves, improve our lives, and become more skillful. Push past the glue and gravity toward passion and purpose.

Published on Jul 31, 2013. Music video by MercyMe performing Move. (C) 2010 MercyMe

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Please pass the message along by emailing it to a friend, liking/sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also leave a comment under “reply” at the top of this post.

Leaving the Rut Behind

Stuck in a rut? Every couple of years, sometimes more often, I feel stuck in a rut. While meeting with a friend one day she asked me, “If you don’t like what you do right now, then what do you want to do? What would be your ideal job?” I described my top four or five things I enjoy doing, and suddenly I paused and said with surprise, “So I just described my current job.” Why do we become so dissatisfied with our circumstances, especially our jobs or our families, when often they are exactly what we want and need?

I heard my pastor tell the story of a young man who met a beautiful woman. Her skin was perfectly flawless, like an angel. The way she dressed was so chic and attractive. Her elegance took his breath away. Of course this attraction swept him off his feet. He immediately fell in love with her. The young couple got married, but soon after the man began questioning why his wife spent so much money on clothing and cosmetics. She always had to have the latest fashions and skin care treatments. His paychecks would have been better off going straight to the salons she visited on a weekly basis. Frustrated with his wife the man went to his pastor. Surely his pastor would advise him to correct his wife’s behavior, or better yet, tell him to file for divorce. After hearing all his marital woes, the pastor asked the man, “Why did you fall in love with your wife?” The man replied, “Because she was beautiful like an angel with flawless skin and elegant style.” The pastor persisted, “Is she still beautiful and elegant with flawless skin?” “Yes, she is,” the man replied. His pastor continued, “If your wife has not changed, who has?”

This was pretty much the question my friend asked me while discussing my discontent with my job. My response, in hindsight, was a poor excuse for a response. I basically fumbled for a decent reply to her question. Some of it made sense, but it basically comes down to losing sight of my purpose there. Today brought just one of many profound reminders of my purpose. In the afternoon I always await the smiling face of my coworker at the door of my office. She usually has something encouraging to say, and today was one of the best afternoon encouragement nuggets I’ve had in a long time. She told me how she’s experiencing God’s joy in her life even after recently struggling with some hard life changes, and for a few moments I loved my job. If I were to keep my eyes on Him even when my coworker’s smiling face was not at my door, I would always experience joy at my job, no matter the circumstances.

Is there an area in your life where you are experiencing discontent? Examine the reasoning behind it. Perhaps it is not your job or your spouse that has changed, but your focus that has changed. It’s not too late. Hit the reset button before bitterness and depression set in. This prayer will help you reset your thinking. Continue praying each morning, and celebrating God’s goodness and grace. You are sure to see a shift in your focus and in your joy.

Heavenly Father, help us to see the world through your eyes. May we no longer look through the lens of the world, but through the lens of Love. May we think of whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, any excellence, anything worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). When our focus is on You, the embodiment of love, our focus is to love. When we love we cannot help but experience joy and peace that passes all understanding. Fill our hearts today with the Holy Spirit, that we would give from the overflow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

As always, if you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment or like it on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also email the post to a friend, or sign up to follow the blog at the top of this page. Looking forward to seeing your responses.