It has always fascinated me (read-- frustrated me) that Abraham was actually living in the Promise Land when God established his covenant with him. Abraham was prosperous, righteous, chosen, obedient and willing. And, BONUS--he already lived in the place God promised to give to him and his descendants. It seems a lot of time, trauma and trekking could have been saved if God had simply established their residency early on. I'm just saying...
And now, a little about me...
A little over five years ago I attended a silent retreat at a beautiful Mission on the west coast. I remember it well because I was coming off a four year journey of deepening my relationship with God through the contemplative disciplines. It had been a season of healing from addiction to busyness, compulsive codependency and activity-based Christianity. I longed to help other Christian leaders find the sanity and soul nourishment I experienced and I assumed God's next step for me would be into the field of spiritual direction or coaching Christian leaders. I wanted to spend more time 'being'. I was afraid of 'doing'. It felt like death.
So, of course, that's where God sent me. Not because he's a masochist, but because he conquers death.
A New Direction
As I sat on the cool grass in the center of the Mission courtyard I began a collage that I thought would depict 'being'. Somehow I found myself gluing the word 'DO' to my paper. Then...ACT. In the midst of all my being words, God was clearly directing me to action of some kind. But what?
I left the retreat confused. I thought I'd misunderstood. I pursued a job coaching leaders but some wise people around me shared they felt it wasn't a good fit and that door slammed shut.
God waited a week, then showed me his plan as I drove to Home Depot. I don't know why he chose Home Depot as my burning bush moment, but it has forever changed my experience of home improvement. Anyway...as I drove to Home Depot, God suggested I call Apartment Life and see if they were still looking to fill the regional leadership position. They were. Through a serious of miscommunications with my husband I ended up putting my name in the hat and in January of 2009 I was fully immersed in a world of doing and performing and activity.
The next three years I spent trying to integrate what I knew about formation into my life as a leader. I felt propelled for a purpose--creative, energetic and resilient. Then, just as quickly as the energy appeared, it was gone. I knew it was time to move on.
Then, two more years of wandering.
Back Where I Started
And here I sit. In the same place I thought I would be five years ago. Pursuing a master's degree in spiritual formation. More and more drawn to silence and solitude. Repentance and rest. Waiting and watching. Loving and listening.
There are days I wonder if it wouldn't have been simpler if God had led me here in the first place. I was already sitting on the edge of this new land. Did we really have to walk away, only to return a few years later?
Yes. So clearly, YES. I don't claim to understand all of what God was doing, but I honestly wouldn't have done it any other way. And, although I'm sitting in the same place, I come as a different woman. A woman with more depth, more pain, more healing, more dependency, less certainty, more beauty.
Today I see how God took my desires from that day at the Mission and grew them. How he lovingly held them with me, then took my hand and led me where I needed to go in order to fully enter into his plan. I have a feeling there'll be more of this in the future. Glimpses of the future, abrupt changes in direction, wandering and then...home.
Until we're finally face to face.
Katy Perry's song Roar hit the airwaves en force last month. Since then it has become an anthem for discouraged, seemingly-defeated-but-resilient people everywhere. Just yesterday Richard showed me a YouTube video with kids in a children's hospital lip-syncing to this song. There's no way around it--I'm inspired.
Given my 'no love' stance toward Taylor Swift, you might assume Katy Perry was on my 'do not listen' list as well. But you'd be wrong. If I were interviewing nannies, I would go with Taylor, but otherwise--Katy's my girl. I can't help it. She has talent and soul. And, every once in a while I see remnants of holy in her.
With the release of her new album, Prism, this week she's been widely interviewed about the inspiration for her songs. It doesn't take a degree in poetry to gather that she's writing about a time of difficulty in her life. In her interviews she confirms that she went through a period that took a toll on her self esteem. But it was out of that darkness that Roar was birthed. (Apparently hyper-sexuality was also part of the healing process, but I'll leave that alone for now.)
As a woman who has a daughter and who works with women leaders to help them find their voice, Roar should be my theme song. You can't hold me down! I'm a fighter! You hear my voice...like thunder, gonna shake the ground! I'm a champion! Roar!
But I tell you...
There's only one problem. God isn't asking me to roar. I'm not saying that having some fight isn't often what's called for, I'm simply observing that the way of Jesus is, more often than not, a much quieter path.
Today I wanted to roar. I'm physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted. As I meditated and prayed this morning I secretly hoped I would emerge from this time feeling energetic and ready to take on the world. After all, isn't that how the agreement works? I plug into the power source of the Holy Spirit and, just like my iPhone in the morning, I leave fully charged and ready for another day of productive activity?
I'm currently taking a class on the Disciplines of the Spirit and one of our textbooks is a favorite of mine...The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun. This week we completed a brief assessment designed to surface where God might desire to shape us. I faithfully completed the assessment and moved on to the reflection questions. What I hoped would come out in my reflection was a sense of deep rest and encouragement. I found myself drawn to the disciplines of Sabbath and listening to God.
Inwardly I crouched, waiting for my time to roar.
And then, he spoke.
"Kelli, ask a friend to show you your blind spots."
"Kelli, you've wounded another friend. Ask for forgiveness."
So, let me clarify. I feel tired and vulnerable and God wants me to invite someone to point out areas of weakness of which I'm blissfully unaware. And then he wants me to admit to another that I've neglected our friendship.
Just what I was hoping for.
This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:
After accepting his invitation I am more amazed at God's faithfulness and grace. But I do not feel like roaring. On the contrary, I feel more dependent, quieter, still tender.
I love Katy Perry, but, for now, she'll have to roar without me.
In our family, we love to watch the first weeks of American Idol. The train wreck portion of the show. We know its all staged, but we can't look away as person after person sings their heart out--poorly. We're left asking, "Where are her friends? Who let her believe she could carry a tune? Why didn't her parents protect her from this delusion?" Of course, that's all part of the drama.
I often fear I'm deluded. So, to insure that I don't make the same mistake as thousands of American Idol hopefuls , I study people's reaction to me very closely. I've learned to read when their words don't match their body language and I've placed a high value on the opinion of others. When I ask Richard "Do I look fat in these jeans?" He knows its a setup. I can tell what he thinks before he even speaks.
This pathology isn't all bad. I'm open to feedback and it allows me to grow. I surround myself with good counsel and it helps me make better decisions.
But what about when the judges disagree?
If you've ever seen the show, or one of the many knock-offs, you know that sometimes the judges have different opinions about the contestant's talent or potential. For a person like me, this is a conundrum. I like unanimous affirmation. Some people like the challenge of proving people wrong, of overcoming their objections. I think that sounds like a lot of work that could potentially end up in failure.
But nothing of value comes from so little effort.
The Journey or the Prize?
Many of you know I have a book proposal making the rounds at publishing houses around the country. Earlier this year, one of the smaller publishers made an offer on it. However, in the meantime I'd decided that wasn't the book I wanted to write and we withdrew the proposal so I could make some changes. A few weeks ago we resubmitted the proposal. I was pretty excited about the changes and we received some very positive feedback from the initial query. Photo Cred
Sure enough, one of the big publishers was quick to get back with some feedback. I was in a conversation with my son when I saw the email notification from my agent. My insides started to churn. I couldn't keep myself from hope. This might be it!
I paused Caleb in mid-sentence and went to my inbox. Yes, I was talking to Caleb with my computer in front of me. In my defense, I was working when he came in to talk. Plus, he was going to be very proud of his mom in just a few seconds so this faux pas would be forgiven.
As I skimmed the email looking for the words "loved your proposal" and "made an offer", I became aware that I wasn't breathing. My brain seemed to be floating away from my body and the room started to spin. "False alarm." I stammered to Caleb. "They don't want my book."
But that was an understatement. I finished the conversation with Caleb and went back to the email. This publisher didn't just pass on my book, they seemed intent on dissuading me from the whole writing game. My first thought was, "How did I miss the signs? I must have been delusional to think I could do this."
I toyed with the idea of sharing this rejection with you only after I was sitting comfortably with an actual offer. How dramatic that would be. And, inspirational.
But this is reality. I may never get an offer. And, I'm learning that a book deal may not be the primary reason God had me in the process in the first place. (Although, I'm really hoping it is a by-product.)
Something is different and God used this event to show me what he's doing in me.
The first hours were tough. I wondered if I'd ever feel good about myself again. Or, at least, my writing. But I decided to let myself experience the hurt and the pain. Not push it down or pretend that "sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me." On the contrary, I was acutely aware of the power of words. I made a couple of attempts to read my proposal; to see if I could fix it and make these people like me. But I was too anxious, too wounded to view it objectively. So I went for a run, hung out with my kids, played a game on my iPad. I talked with God and cried with my husband and then went to bed.
I woke up feeling less anxious, but hardly back to normal. I have a morning routine that involves writing three pages of longhand ideas and thoughts each day. I didn't feel like writing. I stared at the blank pages for a long while, silently justifying a pass for this daily discipline. I picked up the pen and wrote a paragraph. I stopped to feel sorry for myself. I picked up the pen and started writing again. But this time I'd decided to suck it up and keep going. What is a discipline for if not for the days you don't feel like it? By the end of the exercise I had processed through my next steps. And the anxiety was gone.
I called my agent (who confirmed that the feedback was unusually harsh) and shared my potential modifications. She agreed and I got to work.
And it was done. A miracle. I was at peace. Not defined by someone else's opinion of me or my work and still able to learn from it.
This must be what it feels like to be a grown up.
Old Skool Cafe in San Francisco is like no other restaurant I know and it's the realization of a dream for my friend, Teresa. This one-of-a-kind place employs at-risk youth in every aspect of the operation. And despite the exhaustion of seven years of struggle and a schedule that doesn't quit, Teresa simply glows as she sits with us in this space--the tangible reality of a dream.
My dream is to have a dream.
I've always envied people with a dream.
For a brief period in my youth I dreamed of becoming a professional ice skater. Until, at the age of 10, I realized it was already too late.
Even within my skills, dreams never took root. I could sing and received plenty of recognition and affirmation, but it was something I enjoyed, not something I pursued.
It's not for lack of trying to create a dream. I've taken tests and read books and attended workshops--all promising to help me distill and realize my dream. All to no avail.
I have a problem.
I've been told I'm afraid of failure. Or perhaps, that I'm afraid of success. Others have proposed I'm lazy or don't have a strong work ethic. I'm too passive. I'm A.D.D. I'm a quitter. I'm a poor leader. The list goes on.
At times I've tried to make other people's dreams for me happen. It seemed the godly thing to do. But in the end my vision would cloud as the passion waned. I simply didn't care.
In the last year I've been asked repeatedly, "What are you passionate about?" "What's your message?" "What do you want to do?" I'm at a unique place in my life where I can create my own job description and start living into my dream.
All I'm missing is the dream.
I have a gift.
Ironically, I'm not a person who lacks passion. In fact, I have a wide range of topics and causes and ideas I'm passionate about.
Therein lies the problem.
Turning a dream into a reality requires a singleness of focus for which I'm not wired. It demands a perseverance fueled by hope and courage and a clear picture of what could be. And that's not how my passion works.
For years I've thought myself a failure; wishy-washy and fickle at best. But God is clarifying a different path.
One where...I give my passion and skills to help others accomplish their dream.
While I thought this was a temporary assignment (something to grow me while I waited for my dream to evolve), I'm beginning to embrace it as my core purpose. In a way I can't fully describe, God gives me vision, energy and passion for the dreams of others. And when I've accomplished what he has for me to accomplish, he moves me along. Not very sexy and rarely easy.
It's still difficult for me to give up the dream of having a dream. I often romanticize the struggle and long to create something that is uniquely "me". But I'm truly energized and alive when I'm doing what I was made to do--even if I can't explain it to others.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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