Monday, April 28, 2014

Vicarious Victories

I didn't expect to have a God appointment on Saturday morning. I thought I was just going to brunch with a Miss Texas friend and a fashion blogger I met through Instagram—and I dressed accordingly.

Black Audrey Hepburn flats. Leopard-print shorts. Graphic tee from France featuring Batman and a ton of sequins.

Just trust matches.

"Is that what you're wearing?" my husband asked. Not in a mean way. More of a "Hmm...interesting combo" -type thing.

I knew it was funky, but that was the point. I was meeting a FASHION BLOGGER (given name Chelsie). And a MISS TEXAS friend (otherwise known as Michelle). I knew they would both be wearing something completely amazing, and I wanted to make a good impression too. (What if they like my outfit so much they decide to blog about it?? Real thought.)

Within about 10 seconds of meeting up on the porch of the Company Cafe on Katy Trail, all of that pretense fell away. Spiritual conversation and mutual encouragement flowed easily between all three of us, allowing real things to take the place of first impression smiles and isn't-the-weather-so-great commentary.

"Coming from the industry I'm in, I should hate both of you," Chelsie said matter-of-factly.

And I thought, wow. Isn't that the truth?

In addition to being a fashion blogger, Chelsie is a celebrity makeup artist who flies that super-slick route between LA and New York. Michelle is the Director of Leadership Giving for United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and an all-around mover-and-shaker. We all feel that our callings have to do with writing, speaking, and generally making a global impact (obviously we're all fans of the slogan "dream big").

We should have been competing for the spotlight. Because only one woman can shine, right? That's what our culture says. Only one woman can rise to the top. Only one woman can have the most fans, the greatest circle of influence, the highest number of followers on Twitter and Instagram. Only one woman can wear the most put-together outfit, lay claim to the most impressive resume, and literally sweat glitter at the gym because she's THAT fabulous.

Those are all lies, of course. But ladies, don't our feelings and attitudes toward other women often reflect those dangerous sentiments?

We can't praise the achievement of another woman—that might diminish our own accomplishments. We can't applaud another woman's victory—that might make us seem defeated. We can't encourage another woman to pursue her dreams—our own ambitions might begin to pale in comparison. Most importantly, we can't celebrate with another woman when God has elevated her position, given her a platform, equipped her for ministry, blessed her beyond measure, and allowed His face to shine upon her—that would make us seem low, rejected, ill-equipped, overlooked, and completely insignificant.

Or would it?

. . .

"Yet the Spirit also rested on [Eldad and Medad], and they prophesied in the camp...Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' aide since youth, spoke up and said, 'Moses, my lord, stop them!' But Moses replied, 'Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit on them!' " —Numbers 11:26-30

Prior to this interaction, Moses had expressed to the Lord that he was tired, frustrated, and just plain over it. The Israelites wouldn't stop complaining—this time, it was about meat. Meat this, meat that. We hate manna. Manna is gross. For Moses, enough was enough.

"What have I done to displease You that You put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do You tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant...?" —Numbers 11:11-12

"It's too much, God," Moses basically goes on to say. "I need a little help here." And in His graciousness, God responds by anointing 70 Israelite elders with the Spirit to help Moses shoulder the weight of his calling.

"...I will take the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone." —Numbers 11:17

That's when Joshua freaks out. "Moses, you're the star!" he says (kind of). "If all of these guys start prophesying and get filled with the Spirit, you won't be special anymore. You should not be on board with this—tell them to cut it out!"

Oh, that I would respond to the favor of others with the humility of Moses.

"I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets," he says.

"I wish that all the Lord's people might experience intimacy with Christ, and global impact, and success, and television interviews, and Instagram followers, and blessings, and favor,"  I want to say.

Moses understood that God was God, and he was not. Moses understood that there was enough of God to go around. Moses understood that God's glory, and not his own, was paramount. Moses understood that his status in the Kingdom was not measured against the status of others. Moses understood that the empowerment of others would not pose a threat to or chip away at his own significance. Moses understood that he could no longer shoulder the burden of leadership alone, but that he in fact needed the Lord to equip other people in order to walk out his own calling.

. . .

I don't know about you, but when I'm experiencing a mountain-top moment I don't want to be alone. I want others to join around me in celebration of what the Lord has done. And because of that, I must learn how to celebrate others in kind.

Here's the truth: When we begrudge, envy, and/or resent the success of others, we only deplete ourselves of the energy it takes to pursue our own calling. But when we applaud and affirm the success of others? We share in their joy, are mutually encouraged, and vicariously victorious.

Who can you applaud today?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Becoming Evergreen

A verse has been reoccurring in my life lately, and whenever that happens I know it's not a coincidence. It's more of a flashing sign printed with the words, "Hey, look at me," "No seriously, pay attention," or some other variation of that theme.

Here's part one of my Stop, Look, and Listen verse (as it turns out, those aren't just instructions for elementary school students crossing the street):

"This is what the LORD says: Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives." Jeremiah 17:5-6

I have been a desert-dwelling shrub many times in my life, and pain has always been my excuse. I've written before about battling fear from an early age, but during my senior year of high school, I went through a fire of accusation that spun my life completely out of control and took my battle with fear to a whole new level. I remember feeling torn apart by anxiety, pinned to the ground by pain, so heavy with helplessness that I couldn't see straight or remember what was true. When I went to college I didn't want anyone to see the ugliness of those wounds, and I was beyond tired of thinking about them. So I stuffed the pain...which only made it fester and grow until I felt all but consumed by a sadness I couldn't fully understand, and still have difficulty putting into words.

Although you and I have most likely not experienced the exact same set of painful circumstances, we all know what it means to be hurt. And, no matter what person or set of circumstances is responsible for inflicting the various wounds we carry, we have all probably responded with words of resolve similar to these: "Never again."

Never again will I let that person do that to me. Never again will I allow myself to be treated that way. Never again will I let my guard down. Never again will I put my heart out there only to see it cast aside. Never again will I open myself up to embarrassment. Never again will I risk failure. 

Never again will I be out of control.

Because of my background and my story, I have this desire to see exactly how everything is going to turn out, to know exactly where everything is going. If I can't, my general response is fear and worry—as though playing "What if?" scenarios in my mind over and over again will prepare me for every possible outcome so that I can never, ever, ever be caught off guard by a surprise attack again.

So yes, I understand well what it means to "depend on [my own] flesh for [my] strength" by attempting to control the circumstances around me. And because of that, I have often found myself in the middle of blessings bigger than I could have ever imagined, yet failing to "see prosperity" because I'm too busy worrying about what might happen if those blessings are suddenly taken away.

But here is part two of the verse, which by the grace of God, is what I know I am becoming:

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8

Found this tucked-away stream while living in France. I'd like to put down my roots here, please.

Blessed am I when I'm in the middle of a battle I didn't see coming, or standing at the edge of an adventure I don't feel quite prepared for, or straining to control a future I'll never be able to foresee, and I choose to draw all of my confidence from the reservoir of my unchanging Savior rather than the ever-changing circumstances around me.

Blessed am I when instead of constantly looking over my shoulder to prepare for attack, I choose to send my roots even deeper into the stream of Living Water and trust that "my God will supply all [my] needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to [me] in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).

Blessed am I when even in the midst of pain—the kind I said I'd never make it through alive again—when even then, I remain steadfast in my trust. When even then, I refuse to fear. When even then, I believe that the Lord will bring beauty from ashes. When even then, I realize that my leaves are green and my branches are bearing fruit not because of the perfection of my circumstances, but because of the perfection of the God who "causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

I want my eyes to be open to see prosperity when it comes. I don't want to miss the good thing He is doing by worrying about that good thing slipping through my fingers. I don't want to live in a desert of isolation, a captive of fear in that "salt land where no one lives." I want to be an evergreen, fully at peace and bearing fruit no matter where I'm planted or what the weather forecast says.

Join me today on a journey of trust—let's watch and wait and see what our God will do.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hitched in a Hurry: Heather & Richard

Fridays are always fabulous, but this Friday is extra special. Why? Because I have a very special submitted story to share! As most of you know, Hitched in a Hurry: The ultimate how-to for a speedy "I do" was just published on April 3 (and is ALMOST back in stock on Amazon, I promise). One of my favorite features that sets Hitched apart from other bridal books on the market is that each chapter concludes with a Real-Life Love story from a couple that planned their wedding in six months or less. Although I didn't learn about Heather's story until after my book was published, I am so grateful that she sent her beautiful love story my way and allowed me to share it on today's blog. Heather and her husband were only engaged for 4.5 months before tying the knot, and today is their wedding anniversary! 

Seriously, how cute are they? Many continued congratulations, Heather and Rich. Wishing you years upon years of love and happiness. Warning: This is one of those so-sweet-and-moving-you're-gonna-need-tissues kind of stories. So prepare yourself.

"After spending five years as a single mother I had serious doubts about finding anyone who could touch my shattered and hardened heart. Finding someone who would be a suitable father for my son seemed even less likely. March 23, 2002 my life changed forever. I had my first date with the man I would marry. For the first time since my son, Austin, was born I had found someone who realized I was a package deal and included Austin from the start. 

Rich proposed on December 24, 2002 and on April 11, 2003 we were married. The engagement was short by design. We knew we wanted to be married and we didn’t want to wait. My only real requirements for the wedding day were that we both show up, a minister be present and we leave married. I didn’t grow up dreaming about this perfect magical ceremony. I never looked at bridal magazines before being engaged. The wedding isn’t what I longed for—it was the 'forever after' that I desired. I wanted a union that would last a lifetime with a man who understood the depths of who I am and could love me anyway. I wanted someone who could look at Austin as his own son and not be scared away by the thought of raising a child who desperately needed a dad. 

 The wedding planning part was pretty simple. We wanted our guests to attend the type of wedding we would love to attend ourselves. After being in dozens of weddings and attending so many more, we had lots of ideas about what we liked and what we didn’t. So our decisions were made with our friends and family in mind, rather than fulfilling a selfish desire for the 'perfect day.'  Here is a list of 10 of the things we did to make the ceremony fun, simple, yet memorable and heartfelt. 

1. We chose a location that would allow for a beautiful ceremony and fun reception under the same roof—the Alexander Mansion, home of the Dallas Women’s Forum. We got married at the top of the staircase in front of a gorgeous stain glass window. Our guests stood in the lobby during the ceremony so we kept it super short. 

2. We took all of our pictures before the ceremony started! ALL OF THEM! The photographer we hired does all of his weddings this way, a concept that I understood and loved! I didn’t want the guests to wait while pictures were being taken, I wanted the celebration to begin as soon as possible. We still had our special moment of him walking down the aisle to me (or actually up the stairs) and we had that moment completely alone so we could talk and laugh together before the pictures of us were taken. So yes, he saw me before the wedding—but it was no big deal. 

3. We got married on a Friday—it’s cheaper and was easier to find a date that would work for us. We spent the day after our wedding with the friends and family who flew into town; we went to the lake and enjoyed a day of fun and relaxation before heading off to our honeymoon on Sunday.  I’m thankful we took the time to spend an extra stress-free day with the those who traveled to see us.

4. I let my bridesmaids help me choose the dress they would wear. I wanted black and white because I assumed they would be more likely to wear it again, and they probably had some black heels in their closet already. So I sent over several options, and fortunately everyone liked one of them so that is what we chose. They could wear any shoes they wanted, and we provided the jewelery and paid for their hair and makeup to be done. The bridesmaids from out of town stayed at my parents' house so they didn’t have to spend extra money on a hotel.

5. The rehearsal dinner was a BBQ at Richard’s mom's house, and was the most fun rehearsal dinner ever! So relaxed and laid back—good food, great company. Jon Rutherford, who sang at our wedding, brought his guitar and we all sang and laughed together. It was simple, it was fun, and it was affordable.

6. I bought the second dress I tried on and it didn’t have to be altered. I didn’t over-think it or keep looking. I knew it was the one, so why keep looking and confusing myself?

7. We included Austin in the ceremony. He was the ring bearer, of course, but he also had his own small candle and helped light the unity candle with us. When the ceremony was over, Rich picked him up and carried him as we walked down the stairs—we were a family and we wanted Austin to know he was a special part of this union.

8. Rich’s brother is a minister, so he married us. He was incredible and kept the ceremony light-hearted yet deep in true meaning. It was short and simple yet completely moving and memorable at the same time.

9. We had a buffet-style, finger-food kind of dinner. We wanted people to eat what they wanted, when they wanted, and not be confined to a table. They could mingle and enjoy each others' company without being forced to sit for a long period of time. Thankfully, the caterer boxed up food for Rich and I to take to the hotel with us, because we wouldn’t have eaten otherwise.

10. I let my mother have input in all decisions involved with planning the wedding. I listened to her thoughts and we made choices quickly. She was paying for it, so I was open to all suggestions. I don’t remember any drama surrounding the planning of the wedding or the actual wedding day at all.

Planning a wedding in a hurry can be done if you have the right attitude about the process. It’s not about having the perfect event—it is all about finding the best partner for your life and starting the journey of marriage with a positive mindset. We had a fun wedding, and guess what? We have had a fun marriage. He is my best friend and an absolutely incredible father. God knew what He was doing when He brought us together. God always knows what He is doing—we just have to step back, take a breath, and let go of the need to find perfection."
Karley with a K. Todos los derechos reservados. © Maira Gall.