Monday, March 26, 2012

what the dictionary can't tell you and the Soli Deo Gloria Party

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Cultivate is my one word for 2012.

It sounds good, doesn't.  This digging deep, this growing, this living thing that is my heart constantly being refreshed as the soil turns over and the oxygen infuses.

It sounds good.

But here I am in March and during the season of Lent I reaffirmed my commitment to live out this word.  And here I am 2 1/2 weeks away from Easter and just this morning did I realize that although it sounds good, I really have no idea how this cultivation tangibly happens in my life.

Have any of you struggled with your one word?

I know this word, cultivation, was God-breathed into me.  I know this is where I am supposed to be and yet, silly me, I forgot to ask Him how and why and what does this mean for my relationship with Him?  Silly me, I just started doing what I thought it meant and I ended up feeling like I am two steps behind where I started.

But last Monday proved to be a break-through, quite literally, it proved to be a breaking, which allowed me to focus less on holding it together and more on allowing God to rearrange the pieces.  And so I ask Him in my journal,

What do You want to cultivate in me?

It's such a simple question and I think I may have asked it a time or two before, but when you are playing your own game of life, perhaps you don't always slow down and listen to the real answer?  But when you are broken, shattered, unrecognizable to yourself, perhaps you start paying a bit more attention.

I begin to hear His words and I scribble them down on the page.

joy
focus (the prized fruit)
spirit of rest
companionship with You
perspective
restoration

I realize that these are not individual characteristics that are independent of each other.  They are not part of a check-list to be recycled at the end of completion.  These things He longs to till together -- they are ingredients for a woman whose primary focus is Jesus.  All of these parts are essential.  I wouldn't expect a seed to grow with just water and when it had gotten to a certain point, decide to add in some soil.  I wouldn't expect a seed to bear fruit first and then add some fertilizer.  In this heart of mine, I long for all these things now and am willing to see how they interact and produce good fruit in me.

This all still sounds a wee bit ambiguous, I think.  So, I'll end with a tangible action that God has laid on my heart:

Lay down the "shoulds."

Specifically, I feel like I've gotten off-track a bit in my ministry with this whole social media promotion thing.  For quite some time, I felt like God said that I could do no promotion for my ministry so that I could focus just on being real and vulnerable and true to Him (pride can be incessantly pesky in my life).  Then, I felt that He loosened the reins and so I engaged.  And now, I think constantly -- I should do more. I should post more.  What if my Klout score goes down?  Why are my insights on FB so low?  What should I do next?  All this just makes me tired.  I'm focused on the numbers that I've allowed to describe me instead of spending my time with Jesus who loves me regardless of my Klout score or my Facebook graphs.  It's better to be at the bottom of the throne than it is at the top of the charts.  It's better to be walking along side Him at His pace than breaking the tape at the finish line.  

So, when I hear "I should" in my mind, I'm going to take it to God as ask, "Should I?"

What about you, friends?  How is your One Word going?

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40 comments :

  1. Girl, I affirm you in your laying down of the "shoulds." My word for the year is "Drink." I want to drink in more of God's goodness. That, too, requires me to lay down a lot of shoulds and just sit in God's presence.

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    1. Drink is a good one. Your body/mind can only hold so much -- so we must choose: drink more of Him or more of the world.

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  2. Jen:

    You are not the only one who struggles with stats, promotion, etc. I've been in the same boat (and still struggle).

    My word for this year is trust and yes, my trust in Him has been tested. However, I know He is faithful, He's proven Himself over and over. Why then do I still struggle?

    He's teaching me....

    Blessings,
    Jona

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  3. I've struggled too, Jen. I think we all do. Since I pulled back, I have been much more content. I still check my stats etc but don't do klout, alexas etc etc. I had to draw the line. Many weeks I hardly read a post. Even though my readership has dropped, I feel more at peace and less pressured. It is such a delima when one wants to be in ministry.
    My word is contentment and I'm trying to find my contentment in Him and not the social media or ministry. Not saying it works all the time. If it were so easy we would all be super-Christians.
    All that said, You are normal! I love your honesty.

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  4. I struggle with this too...those "shoulds" weigh heavy, friend. lay down and rest along side us here...

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  5. I went through the exact same thing of promoting my ministry - and the "should" questions. Should I link up every post on FB, should I join a link up party every day, should I join twitter, ect. The list seemed to be endless, and every time I prayed about it I felt like God was leading me to promote once a week. I shrugged it off, until I had lunch with a friend and was talking to her about the topic. I respected her opinion since she is a strong woman of faith, and she told me about a book on boundaries, and suggested I promote once a week. It was as if God was no longer whispering but speaking loudly to me now. It has given me a lot of peace to have boundaries in this way.

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    1. It would be really good for me to pray and ask God for specific boundaries. And then, pray again, and ask Him to help me follow through!

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  6. So what I needed to hear today! We are walking parallel paths in attempting to be more wholistic in our walk with God rather than checking off lists - at least I am. I'm new-ish, so I don't have a word for this year, but maybe God will give me one during our prayer/fasting time. Right now it's "daily".

    Thanks for sharing - even when you're still thinking it out. Know that you ministered to me today. I'm praying for us both as I post this comment. Give yourself a hug.

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  7. I have been thinking about this a lot this week ... prompted by some other posts on a similar topics. I am trying to think of ways to spend less time on the computer AND make better use of the time I do spend there.

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    1. I agree, Glenda. That sounds like the perfect combination!

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  8. ummm. didn't choose one word this year....but i am taking a hard look at why i write. and what i write. and for whose glory.

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  9. I have heard it say...we should not "should" on ourselves or "should" on others...I don't want to be driven by anything...only to be lead by ONE...Jen, I love your heart and honesty...God meets us right there. Blessings to you:)

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    1. Me, too, Ells! I always think of that when that nasty word "should" passes through my lips.

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  10. I think it's good that you're struggling with your one word. If we get it down too pat, too comfortable, it all becomes predictable. And God is not predictable in what he wants to do with us. So good for you! :-)

    My one word is "venture." For better or worse, God has taken that WAY out of context. ha. I never would have dreamed when I (He?) chose it of the direction it would take regarding my church home. A serious issue arose that has me visiting other churches and potentially leaving where I've been for 18 years. I am not a church-hopper, so getting pushed out of my comfort zone has not been an easy task for Him. But He's obviously up for the challenge.

    So here we are. Lord, have mercy. I'm glad He does!

    Thank you, Jen, for your vulnerability. It's precious.

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  11. I so get this Jen. How easy it is to get off track by listening to the shoulds. I live in a whole culture that grew up with should as a middle name and it blurs identity. Always love your honesty, and know you are not alone.

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  12. I didn't have a word for this year, but last year David and I spent time asking God about the "shoulds" When they come up, we try and remind each other, to lay it down and listen for what God wants in the situation. Sometimes we pick it up again, but often it is something we need to let go. Wayne Jacobson (author of He Loves Me, an awesome book) says that he wants to have t-shits made that say "don't should on yourself and don't should on your friends."

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  13. I feel so freed just to read it here.. so much of what you've said are the words that are scribbled across my journal. I'm so sick of the performance, the platforms, the "shoulds".. because the list never ends. Just when I think I've actually accomplished what I SHOULD do, a new should do shows up. I love your new response... "should I?" I'm going to echo that cry! You "rating" in my book is sky high. Thanks for being honest and for loving Jesus more than all of this!

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  14. Appreciate your honesty, Jen...laying down the "shoulds" with you...my word is "OPEN"...maybe I should (oops!) write a post about it (wink)...seriously, you have inspired me...if I am led to do so and I write about my word, I promise to post :)

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  15. For my life, my words are always grace and love. Almost 61 years old, yet how little I know, and how much He is faithful and patient to teach me.

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  16. Oh, that is good...when I feel as if I "should" ask God "Should I?" Brilliant!! I hadn't come up with one word. But now that I pause, there was verse that He laid on my heart that first week of January. Plans for a future and a hope...but I had forgotten all about it, perhaps because I didn't distill it down to just one word. Hmmmm. It seems that verse is one that I need & has been somewhat of what I have been struggling with these days that I haven't been focused on it. Silly me!! Thanks for the reminder to focus back on what God had called me to.

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  17. Jen, I needed to hear your beautiful honesty today. It encourages me in my call from Him to rest, to abide, to seek the margin He offers for me so I can more clearly see His face and hear His words. My two words from Him this year are humility and relationships. The two go hand-in-hand. And in the margin He has been calling me to lately, I need to say 'yes' to that, as, in the margin, relationships thrive, with Him, and with whomever He brings. Thank you. You bless me, and I am so grateful.

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  18. We must blog unto the Lord as if our words are for Him only. Write for His audience of One. He is the only One that matters after all... When we have that as our focus, I believe He will bless our words and use them to truly minister to others. It's not about numbers-it's about His Name.

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  19. Hi Jen - My word for this year is 'content' Pretty obvious that I lack contentment otherwise I would have chosen another word :) Having said that, when I am discontent I am aware that I should be seeking contentment and one can only get true contentment in the Lord, thus I try to focus more in His word and in choosing to be content in faith!
    God bless precious friend
    Tracy

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  20. "Should I" What an awesome thought this morning. My word, Healthy, would benefit if I asked this question of God, too. I have the "I should" down. All that guilt because I think I should do it all. Thank you for sharing this.

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  21. Most of the time the "I should"s are undergirded in guilt but sometimes we must ask the question of the Lord and ourselves, should I do this? I believe this is especially true when it is out of our comfort zone, when in the flesh we want to say, "No, I am not going there." Really? It may be the very thing God uses to change your life or more importantly to change someone else's because you were willing to do what goes against the usual.

    I guess what I am saying are the "I shoulds" we don't do because of fear or apathy. Does that make sense?

    You are on to something with your vulnerability here. Vulnerability is what we all "should" be giving on our blogs but we all know how hard that is. That is the truth. I am the number one offender in the lack of vulnerability department and it keeps me from writing, tied up with no words.

    My word is "restored." I have come full circle in 11 years when I sat unable to function in a mental health hospital to this place of healing and restoration that is mine. How to live with the miracle of being given a life back? That is my challenge.

    Thanks for this place Jen.

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    1. You bring up an interesting point, Dea. I hadn't thought of the "shoulds" that come from God. Those things that we feel we should for the right reasons -- because God has asked us to do them. And yet, we let fear get in the way. Excellent point.

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    2. Hey, Jen, your post inspired my recent post...THANK YOU, sweet sister in Him :)

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  22. Love your post, Jen. Should I really applies to my life too. This lent I have been laying down things and people that need to be removed so that God can continue to elevate me to soar like the eagle that He has created me to be. My One Word for 2012 is Righteousness. I am spring cleaning my life to live righteously for Jesus.

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  23. I am so challenged by what you said. I need to slow down, look deep, and ask questions like this. "What do you want to cultivate in me?" -- Oh, for the courage to ask and a heart that is quiet enough to listen....

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  24. Well, considering you had to remind me again about {dwell} secure as my word{s}, I'd say I haven't been so intentional...but yet, like with right now, this journey, His knowing I'm weary, we're weary, He is carrying me securely in His arms full of Grace. Grace is so close. I am offering the world little and yet I know His Grace in preparation...I am turning inward and yet I know it is to bloom in a day ahead...I feel like I am offering Him nothing and yet the truth of my weariness gives me His everything...so, I guess we are learning...

    As for you, I want to say that the cultivate and the tilling up is taking away the rock and weeds...the bad soil. It is taking you into your quiet & secret places and necessarily so that the fruit is that much more lasting...and this is all very good. praying for you!

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  25. Oh, Jen, this really spoke to my heart. Never enough time, and constantly needing to restrain even the services we do in His Name so that we can get closer to Him.
    "It's better to be at the bottom of the throne than it is at the top of the charts." -- how true!
    Love in Him,
    Laurie
    http://savedbygracebiblestudy.blogspot.com/

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  26. Oh Jen, this was so beautiful...

    The word "cultivate"...

    And how these words are interdependent:
    joy
    focus (the prized fruit)
    spirit of rest
    companionship with You
    perspective
    restoration

    You speak right to my heart, Jen. I haven't thought of having a one word for 2012 and I just learned all about it from you. So I knew I have to have one... "Trust" is my one word. :-)

    I will also be pondering on "Cultivate" because I am pretty sure there is something that God wants to cultivate in me.

    Thank you so much for sharing what's in your heart once more, Jen. I love learning from you. You are truly a blessing. :-)

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  27. I'm with you, Jen. My word is FREEDOM so the "shoulds" kill it! All that I should do, think, feel is what enslaved me in the first place. I would say it's going better on some days than others. Today I had a minor melt down for all the things I'm not good enough at doing so I would say today, freedom is not around much.

    Thank you for sharing. Keep asking!

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  28. Turning I should into Should I. I love that! Thanks, jen!

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  29. I like using those nasty shoulds to turn a heart back to Him. Very, very good, Jen. I might copy you, my friend. :)

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  30. "Silly me" you wrote while I was thinking - she isn't silly at all - she is blessed and look how God is cultivating her, turning her over, breaking up the old dried up soil and enriching her with His spirit. Jen, this is one post I read three times and probably will read again. lots of inner work going on within you! No wonder you are tired. will keep you in my prayers

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  31. http://heretofindhim.blogspot.com/2012/03/thankful-everyday.html here's my link. I linked up in the linky tools above but forgot to put that I'm New in my caption. My post is simply what God put on my heart tonight while I was at work. I feel so blessed to have found such a wonderful group of people!

    Blessings to all of you!

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    1. Welcome to SDG, Megan! I am off to visit you!

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  32. This is so beautifully honest, transparently you, Jen, and is such an encouragement to us all. I believe we all get caught up to one degree or another in stats and how many guests we have coming to our table.

    When I catch myself doing that, I go to prayer, again, to my knees, again, asking forgiveness, and asking for direction. I have worn out so many pairs of pants that way you'd think I was a five year old boy! :-)

    I believe that when we allow Him to write through us, then we can be like Mother Teresa when she noted, "I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world."

    My word this year is follow. When I don't follow, He always sends me a gentle reminder that the reason I am sitting in the brambles is because I walked away, and that the way back is clear.

    I know without a doubt my best writing is not mine at all, but it is His words, written through me, in hope and encouragement to the women I serve through my gifts. When I pray and follow His lead, I end up where I need to be and write what He desires to share through me.

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    1. I love this part, Kim: "...and the way back is clear." Love that our God is faithful to make the way back to Him so obvious.

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