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My life is bigger than it has ever been.  It feels as if all the small paths I have walked are conjoining into a large open road that is full and busy and bustling with dreams realized.  My life feels overflowing with relationships and new roles and exciting opportunities.

But most of the time I feel quite small. 

Let me explain.

Our kids are big.  They are in college and final years of high school.  In many ways I feel like my husband and I have “accomplished” raising children…they are healthy, smart, kind and pretty amazing people.

AND YET…

I feel small in my parenting…teenagers come with all sorts of challenges.  They are becoming real life people with real life minds and thoughts.  Their problems are bigger, their feelings are bigger, and their needs are bigger.  Most of the time my husband and I hope and pray every day we are making the right parenting decisions with each new turn in the road.

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In the last couple of years I have been invited into some significant leadership and speaking roles in our church that are amazing–and scary big.  I am incredibly grateful and excited about the opportunities.  It is a exponential time of learning and growth for me, and the opportunity for influence and responsibility fits right in with what I feel called to do in this season.

BUT

I often feel unequipped and unqualified…the bigger the role, the more I sit in this place.  This past year I have dealt with more insecurity and self-doubt and kicking myself after meetings for saying too much, or not saying enough, or saying the wrong thing…I think?  I have questioned my wisdom, my intelligence, my ability to express coherent ideas.  I have wrestled to find my voice–only to find it and then spend the next week analyzing what I said and how I could have said it differently or better.

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Our marriage is big.  We are just a few months shy of twenty-five years, and I can’t believe how much life Jon and I have shared together.   I am so proud of the intentionality and work we have invested over the years, resulting in a strong and loving marriage at this significant milestone.

AND YET…

I often feel small in my marriage that I cherish so dearly.  I worry that I am not showing up well, that I am not present like I want to be, that my dear husband and I are not spending as much quality time together that we could be.  Marriage is a consistent practice in selflessness, service, and grace.  

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My opportunities for community are big.  Not just in the church, but in our home.  Starting in a couple of weeks our weekly neighborhood bible study resumes in our basement for its ninth year.  It is a small group of women who carry in big suitcases of life’s challenges…and we unpack them together each Monday night in the light of God’s goodness and grace.   And then on Wednesday morning, another group of women shed shoes at the front door and grab a steaming mug of coffee and sit through a class that is scary big for all of us, because we are looking deeply at our flaws and working hard at evolving into our better selves to carry into our spheres of influence.

YET…

I sometimes struggle in living up to these roles.   Because leading assumes one knows how to guide others in whatever endeavor is present.  It assumes the leader has figured “it” out, has perfected whatever they are leading in.  But mostly I feel like I am trying to figure out my own messy life along with everyone else.  And that doesn’t always make me feel confident or skilled at bringing others along the path we are on.

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And my work life is big.  This summer my design and painting company has grown to six employees not counting myself, full time work and referrals that book us out months at a time.  I have never experienced this kind of role that is really about fourteen roles in one-accountant, customer service, marketing, CEO, fellow paint pusher, boss, scheduler, payroll manager, H.R., trainer and quality control.  (I’m making the oval teeth emoji face right now.)

BUT I do not feel CEO big…

Just the opposite… because I know the responsibility I carry for my business name and reputation is one bad review away.  I feel small under the weight of needing to train the amazing women that work for me well enough so that I don’t need to always be present–because my sanity lies in finding margin.  I feel small knowing that we are being paid thousands of dollars to produce a near perfect product, and all the cogs in the wheel need to turn just right to make that happen.

So…my life feels pretty big at the moment.  And REALLY small.

For me, this season is a juxtaposition of calling and fear and one more thing…PEACE.

In the midst of all the insecurity, I hold strongly and confidently to the fact that I am where I am supposed to be, at this perfect time, in this right season.  I know this because I have spent too many years of my life pushing my own agenda, striving after dreams with self-propelled will.  

This season is different.  Each part of my life is present because a few years ago I surrendered my agenda to God.  I decided that I was going nowhere without his plan being first, and that he couldn’t fulfill his plan for my life unless I got out of the way.   And the opportunities began to literally fall in my lap, one after another. 

So the peace I feel comes from this bigger plan out there.  If I stumble or trip along the way, it’s okay.  God is walking beside me in all of it, and heck, if he wants all this to be in my life than he can certainly manage my weaknesses.

God’s way is not our own.  In our weakness, He is strong.  In our insecurity, he is secure.  IN OUR SMALLNESS, HE IS BIG.

And I can take a deep exhaling breath and rest in all of that.

How about you?  What is BIG in your life?  What makes you question your abilities, your strength, your wisdom?  It may not be something good…it may be something very, very difficult.  Health, marriage, parenting, work. 

From my story, I would encourage you to turn it all over to God.  Lay it in his large, capable hands.  There you and I can stop striving.  

What is God calling you to give to him today?  Do you trust he has a better plan for your hours and days (even better than your own?), for your pain (he can bring great peace in the midst of it), and for your relationship with Him (he is ALL about relationship)?

I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; 
I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know,
from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none
besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and
create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the
Lord, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:5-7

Friends, rest with me in the smallness.  It means God is doing big thing around us…and more importantly…IN us.  And he will equip us with all that we need for this season, right now.

xoxo,

Amy

Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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Our daughter, Hannah, was home from college last weekend.  Jon and I took her out for breakfast one morning and I just couldn’t help but stare at her .  There she was, in the flesh, sitting across the table eating chocolate chip pancakes and telling us about life at school in Arizona. I reached across the table to hold her hand, and she laughed and said, “Mom, why are you being so weird?”  I laughed back, “I know, I just miss you when you are away and am so glad to be talking to you face to face.”  

I do miss her, but I am really thankful for this little technology marvel called Facetime that she and I use when she is back at school.  It is the next best thing to watching her eat chocolate chip pancakes in person.  I love Facetime because I can experience her world a little better.  Sometimes she is walking through campus, or washing her face in the mirror, or in line at Chipotle.  I’m right there, connected with her.  

It is a far cry from communication of the past.  My in-laws were in town a couple of weeks ago and they were telling stories of when my father-in-law, Vin, was stationed on an aircraft carrier at sea for six months at a time while in the military.  Letters were the only way of communication to his wife and kids except for the occasional phone call.  These phone calls would have no prior notice and my mother-in-law would have to just hope she was at home to receive the call on her land-line.

I am sure during those many months home as a single-mom, my mother-in-law longed for a face to face conversation with her husband, or to reach out and hold his hand, as did my father-in-law on a ship at sea for days on end.  And I’m sure they would have been thrilled to be able to FaceTime each other each night.  It would have dramatically changed the experience for them.  

I think that we often communicate with God in pre-FaceTime mindset. 

We send up a “letter” to God, a one way form of communication with hopes of receiving an answer back sometime in the future.  We perceive our relationship with him to be long-distance.  We hope we are listening and aware when he hopefully decides to respond to a prayer.   When we pray it is without assurance that someone is really listening on the other side.

And then we wonder why our connection to God is struggling and why he seems unreachable.

It’s time for a technology update in our prayer life.

I just finished reading the newly published book, Talking To Jesus, by Jeannie Blackmer.  Jeannie writes about how the bible records many conversations people had with Jesus, and if we took a fresh look at those conversations as “prayers” it gives us a whole new perspective on how reachable, close and present Jesus really is.

Men and women in the bible approached Jesus during his time on earth with different requests or situations.  And he responded.  Like when he was sought out by the grieving ruler whose daughter had just died of a mysterious illness.   Jesus responded by walking to the ruler’s house, taking the child’s hand and commanding her to wake up. She immediately began breathing again.

Let that sink in.  Regular folks like you and me approached the Son of God and asked for physical healing, or to understand him better, or to calm a storm, or for wisdom or direction, or to describe the cost of following him.   And he listened and had a response to their need.

Aren’t those the topics we go to God with every day? What if we truly believed we had direct access to him anytime.  What if we embraced the fact that Jesus wants to communicate and respond to our needs just as earnestly now as he did in biblical times? How would that change our prayer life?

While true face to face conversations with Jesus will happen only when we get to heaven, I do think we can liken our prayer life to a Facetime call.  He is right there, having a conversation with me and acknowledging my questions and concerns.  His responses are not random.  I can picture his face and his loving expressions…and maybe entertain the idea that he’s eating chocolate chip pancakes while we talk.

I realize this metaphor might be stretching it a bit…but here my point.  Let’s not treat our interactions with God as if he is far away, with time and distance preventing intimate, present, personal relationship.

And the disciples asked Jesus, “Where are we going to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”   Matthew15:33

Personal, present, honest.

What if we asked Jesus for help in our lives today as assuredly as the real people who did 2000 years ago?  What if we got rid of our old technology mindset?

Jeannie explores this idea with beautiful conversations and written illustrations in her book. If you would like to understand this personal way of praying even more, I would highly recommend reading TALKING TO JESUS.   Not only does she share the conversations people had with Jesus in detail and depth, but she then invites us into personal reflection that encourages us to go deeper in our own prayer lives.

If you struggle with prayer like so many of us, this book is a must read…you may even begin to experience Jesus like he is sitting right across the table from you, listening to you talk, reaching for more syrup. 

You can get the book here:  http://amzn.to/2y2Y1Rf

Blessings to you this week!

xoxo,

Amy

PS: I am posting on my Facebook Community Blog page every week with design tips, projects I am working on, parenting thoughts and faith encouragement!  Like the page at: http://www.facebook.com/amyhayesblog/

Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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Do you remember when we were growing up and used to play four-square at recess?  There were so many times where I’d do a double bounce and yet because we were all having so much fun someone would say, “Do over!”  Or when I served a ball that clearly landed outside the boundary and a kind friend would say, “Do over!”  I loved those moments.  The ones that kept me in the game even when I deserved to be kicked out.

As I reflect on the past year, I could certainly use a “do over” in different areas–parenting, marriage, even my blogging and design work. There are always mistakes made, but there also somehow seems to be grace in the mix, and I think I feel it the most this time of year–when in the new year I get to shake the dust off my boots (especially the cute ones I just got for Christmas) and receive another chance to do better.

The idea of new beginnings is not new. God set this into the framework of time and space-through the seasons (Earth’s tilt), the new year (Earth’s travel around the sun), and the new day (Earth’s rotation).  His word says that he has new mercies waiting for us each and every morning.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Don’t you just love that?  Whatever it is that holds us back, that weighs us down, that we wish we had done differently….we get a second chance, and a third, and a fourth. Just like the trees that get the chance to grow taller and stronger with each passing spring, so do we.

So let’s take a deep breath as the new year approaches. In what areas do you want to grow taller and stronger in 2017?

Health? Spirituality? Relationships? Finances? Marriage? Parenting? Work?

Ask yourself some questions:

1.  In what part of your life do you want a fresh start?

2. What went well last year that you want to continue?

3. What didn’t?

4. In what areas do you want a “do over”?

Invite God into this process.  What work is He doing in you right now?  What new adventures is He inviting you to take?

Maybe God is saying, “It’s okay, this is a journey. This will work itself out in time,” or maybe He has been gently convicting your heart for a while now that it’s time for you to take some steps in a better direction.

This process of reflection is so important if we are to move ahead in growth and maturity.  Take some time today to write your thoughts down, or find some quiet time to just be still and think.

If you need some help, Michael Hyatt has put together a “Life Assessment” which is a short online questionnaire to help you identify areas of strength and weakness.  I took it and it confirmed what I suspected but made it much more real to see it “scored.”  I clearly see the areas where I need to set some new goals!  There is not a follow up to this survey–the webinar he attached it to is no longer running–I just used it for my own personal assessment:

http://assessment.bestyearever.me/intro

I love second chances because it means I don’t have to stay stuck.  That my mistakes and flops and areas of partial growth do not have to be my only story.  I get to write a new chapter this coming year.  I get a do-over!

Have a good day my friend!

~Amy

In my next post I will share some more concrete strategies on how to create New Year Resolutions that stick! (more…)

Also…I created these prayer journals for the Fall.  I will be creating a new version for each season of the year.   If you are like me and need some structure during your prayer time to keep you focused, you might love one of these.  They are a perfect size, to sit on your nightstand, on the table by your favorite chair in the morning, or to drop in your purse.  $15, including shipping.  Just click here to purchase now!

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