Use What You’ve Got

Use What

It seems like everybody is asking these questions:

What are my dreams?

What is my calling?

What am I meant to do in life?

You know you’ve asked them. Don’t deny it. In bed at night, unable to sleep, you wonder if you’re doing what you were made to do. Or maybe you’ve been sitting around a table drinking coffee with friends and someone asks the “If you could do anything, what would it be” question, which always leaves me wanting to put my head through the wall. It’s such a HUGE question.

Geez. I don’t know. Most days I struggle picking out what I want to wear to work.

I mean, if it were up to me, I’d have married my bearded lumberjack and have had babies by now–to be a wife and a mom. That was….is….my dream.

There’s more than that though. And I know it. There’s these passions in my heart that up until a year ago, I hadn’t even dared to pursue because of fear. Like this blog, for example.

I started writing when I was a teenager. I didn’t have a traditional diary, but a “Jesus Journal” as I called it. Each entry begins, “Dear Jesus,” and I share what’s on my heart. The struggles and endless “why…” questions. I wasn’t always super deep. I told Jesus about the boy I was in love with (that week) and how I wanted to know if he was “the one”. Or how I was mad at my friend for inviting my sister over and not me. I’d say my notes have matured with age, but I’m just using bigger words now.

Then, in 2008, I felt like I was supposed to go back to college and get my BA in Writing. I had already graduated from Bible school and had been working as a full time youth leader and had no intentions of going back to school. God had other plans. He wasn’t just calling me to go back to college to get a degree, but to rekindle the calling He had on my life.

I was meant to write.

Let me back up to three years earlier. I was in my Senior year of Bible school and as is the tradition there, our teachers pray for us before we graduate. When it was my turn, the person praying mentioned the scripture Ezekiel 37 in regards to my calling. The story behind Ezekiel 37 is pretty amazing– I’ll give you the Holly notes version. Basically, there’s a prophet named Ezekiel and God brings him to a valley full of bones. The bones are dry and lifeless and God asks Ezekiel if the bones can be brought to life.

Ezekiel’s a smart guy. His response to God is brilliant, in my opinion, “Only you know that God.”

Ya. You got that right.

So, God tells Ezekiel to speak breath to the bones and he does. And there, in that valley of death, God causes the bones to grow ligaments and muscles and skin and they become living, breathing bodies! In verse 10, these once lifeless bones are now called an exceeding army.

What’s this got to do with me and writing?

You see, God hasn’t called me just to write. He’s called me to speak life to weary bones. Weary bones that are just trying to make it through the day and aren’t seeing any hope. Bones that are grieving over loses or unfulfilled dreams. Bones that have been bruised and hurt (including those hurt by Christians). Bones that feel unlovable and unworthy.

When God asked me to write, He asked me: “Holly, do you believe I can use your words to bring life to people?”

And all I knew to say was, “God, only you can know that.”

I know some of you may be thinking that you don’t have what it takes to fulfill the dreams and calling God has on your life. Maybe you feel deficient in some way and you tell yourself you’ll pursue it once you get a little more training or schooling. Or once your kids are grown. Or when you’ve got more money or more time.

Let me give you one more Bible story to help you with all those excuses.

In 1 Samuel 17, we read the story of little David and big bad Goliath. Goliath was a monster of a man and caused grown men to crap their pants in fear. For 40 days, this mammoth would stand before the Israelite army and insult God and would dare any man to come fight him one-on-one. The winner would take all. Literally.

David was not a part of the army, but was just a little shepherd boy bringing his brothers (who were in the army) food. While there, David heard Goliath’s rant, and saw no one was doing anything. David wouldn’t stand by and do nothing and goes to King Saul and volunteers to fight the giant. King Saul allows him, and tries to give him his armor.

The problem is, Saul’s armor doesn’t fit David. It wasn’t made for him.

Instead, David goes out to battle without armor and the only tool he knows how to use– a simple sling and a few stones he’s picked up along the way.

To everyone watching, the scene must have appeared ridiculous. David killed that giant though. And he did it using the skills God had given him. God always anoints the gifts He gives. 

So, I ask you: What has God given you that He’s asking you to use? What is YOUR sling?

For me, it’s my words. I may feel like a punk kid among veterans, but I’m going to be faithful to go out and use what God gave me. I’m confident if I’m obedient to do that then He will bring victory upon victory. I believe that for you, too.

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Fake Smiles: How to Be a Good Christian

fake smiles

My face is fairly readable. If I’m angry, you know. If I’m excited, you know. If I’m sad, you know.

For a long time, I was ashamed of that. Don’t good Christian girls keep smiles plastered on their faces all the time regardless of how they feel? I thought that a frozen smile was a mark of self discipline or self control. You may be wondering where I got that–I have a pretty good idea.

When I was a little girl, my grandma would drive me to church with her. I’d spend Saturday night at her house so I was up and ready to leave on time. I’m not sure why that mattered though because she was always the one causing us to be late Sunday after Sunday. In the car, I’d sit silently in the front seat trying to gather my muddled morning thoughts. I hadn’t started drinking coffee yet, so my wake-up time was a bit longer than it is now.

My grandma, on the other hand, is a ray of freakin’ sunshine in the morning. She’s singing along to the Psalty’s sing-a-long cassette tape and I’m zoned out staring out the car window. Each Sunday, she’d turn to me and ask why I wasn’t smiling. She’s never wait for a response, but would immediately proceed with the Sunday school jingle: “Jesus takes a frown and turns it upside down and whooooooops! There comes a smile.”

This didn’t make me smile.

Actually, it pissed me off.

The thing was, I was never intentionally frowning…well, until she sang that song. Then, I was frowning with (what I thought was) good reason.

My grandma didn’t have an easy life. She married young and not very long into her marriage, her husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Over the years, she’d watch him deteriorate from being a tall, strong man to someone who needed help with normal everyday functions. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to carry the financial load of her family, raise her three children and take care of her sick husband, but my grandma always did it with a steadfast faith. I don’t ever remember hearing her complain about how hard it was. Never saw her cry a tear over her difficult life. All I ever saw was a woman who praised Jesus– even early in the morning.

This godly woman was an amazing example to me growing up. That example, albeit it a good one, caused me to believe some things that were unattainable for me.

I believed that a godly woman should smile even when she was hurt or sad.

I believed that being “emotional” was a sign of a lack of discipline.

I believed that being loud wasn’t lady like.

The problem was….or rather is… that I don’t smile all the time. My face shows a range of emotions and as much as I’d like to hide those emotions, my face refuses to co-operate. I am emotional and passionate no matter if its a game of Uno with friends (that’s never friendly) or directing a kid’s summer camp. I’m all in all the time. And I’m loud. My laugh fills up a room and my volume button is usually pretty high. All of those things are me. And if that is the case, if they are my qualities, then I believed I was flawed and I’d never be a good Christian woman.

My thoughts about what a good Christian was supposed to look like was wrong.

Jesus never asked me to be fake or pretend I was feeling OK even when I wasn’t. Jesus never told me to quiet down or to stop being so emotional. Actually, He’s pretty happy with me just the way I am. Not to say that I’m perfect because we all know that I’m not, but to embrace the person God made me to be.

Do you want to know what I think the “formula” is to be a good Christian?

BE WHO GOD MADE YOU TO BE.

No three point sermon to spiritual perfection here. Just one amazing Truth that could bring freedom in your life because you’d no longer be bound by trying to be someone you’re not, but enjoying the perks of being yourself. There’s no shame in that.

Finding My Way Home

finding my way home

A friend came to visit me recently. She’s a few years younger than me and exponentially more athletic. Like a good friend, I thought since she had driven hours to spend a few days with me I could at least make sure she had a good time.

If you know anything about me, on free weekends (they don’t occur very often) I like to spend time vegging out watching Netflix. I always tell myself I should be productive and get some reading, writing, or cleaning done. That becomes difficult when they make every episode of the Frasier series available. What other options do I have but to start from Season 1 Episode 1?

Instead of making my friend endure through hours upon hours of a show she’s never heard of, we decided to spend our time doing some site seeing and hiking. When I say “hiking” read walking through the woods at a pleasant and mostly non-strenuous pace. Well, non-strenuous for some people. I, for one, was huffing it both days.

Our first day’s hike took us to a local state park that had beautiful waterfalls, stone bridges and lots and lots of stairs. We captured a few selfies to remember the adventure– one of which we took on “Lover’s Lane”. We laughed at the name of our selected trail, but I secretly hoped I might find a single, bearded lumberjack along the way. 🙂

photo (6)

I didn’t find my lumberjack, but it was fun none-the-less.

The next day we decided to visit a Nature Center that had numerous trails and a scenic overlook that would show us the river and the valley below. I’d hiked there the previous summer and I didn’t remember it being too difficult. I remember enjoying the view and thought it would be nice to experience it again. The trail head included a map showing the different colored routes you could take. Each one indicating how long the trails were, where they’d join and which one would take us all the way to the overlook.

The over-sized map also included warning signs letting us know that this was a rattlesnake preserve land and that even though we most likely wouldn’t see one, if we did, to proceed with caution and report it to the Park Ranger. You won’t have to worry about that, Ranger Man, if I see a rattlesnake the entire hillside is going to know about it. Also, I’ll be the blur running past you at record speed.

We didn’t see a rattlesnake on our hike, thankfully.

But we did get lost.

You see, even though we had taken a picture of the map with our trusty iPhones, and there were colored markers every few yards, somehow we got off track. We started off following the red trail, but somewhere in the middle of our hike the red markers disappeared and all we saw were yellow markers. There was no overlook and there certainly wasn’t a bench. I was convinced we had been walking exclusively uphill at an 80 degree angle. The sky was getting dark overhead and I was hearing the slight rumbles of thunder in the distance. Of course the Weather Man’s prediction of rain would be 100% on the money while we were stuck on some trail not quite sure if we were coming or going.

I was getting discouraged and my brain was just beginning to hit panic mode. I didn’t want to get stuck walking circles in the woods–especially if a storm was coming. In a moment of pure genius, my friend checked the compass on her phone. I’m sure she did it because she realized I was starting to fray around the edges. We had managed to have ourselves pointed in the direction that led us out of the woods and back to the Nature Center within minutes.

We had read the signs wrong, but we made it back home.

As we walked through the parking lot, and drove down off the hill, I wondered how often that has happened to me in life. I was walking around, enjoying my company, the lovely views and gotten myself off track. Realizing I wasn’t quite sure where I was, began to panic noticing the dark clouds. And yet, I’d make it home safe and sound all because I knew what direction would lead me there.

I’ll be the first to tell you I’ve gotten off track before….many, many times. I had mistakenly thought I was doing the right thing only to find out that along the way I had taken a wrong turn. Sometimes I’m quick to see my misstep and other times I’m out there wandering like the Jews in the desert circling the same mountain over and over again.

Then, there in the midst of my panic, confusion and uncertainly I finally stop and set my eyes back on God. My focus back now where it should be, He leads me out and leads me Home.

His grace welcoming me back.