Tag Archives: Embrace Your Worth

Do: Workmanship

fall leaf

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV).

You are saved by the rich grace of God. No matter what you’ve done in your life, his grace is enough.  No A-pluses, no good-enoughs, no extra credit required. You don’t need to dig yourself out of your hole or pick yourself up by your bootstraps or overcome your failings or earn a golden ticket because it’s not about doing good works to get God’s approval. This grace and faith and salvation miracle? It’s all God’s.

 But . . .

. . . here is where we so often stop. We’re fantastic at quoting (and arguing about!) Ephesians 2:8-9 . . . and we stop there where Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, didn’t stop. God had more to say about this grace and faith and salvation miracle!

Let’s consider again how he brings this idea of grace and salvation to a climactic, purpose-full conclusion:  Continue reading

What’s Your Mark?

Friends, I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Kim Goad. Kim’s newest book Inked, co-authored with Janet Bostwick Kusiak, explores the messages that mark our lives. Read along as Kim and I chat about how we can experience wholeness by grounding our worth and identity in the Truth.

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Welcome, Kim! Tell my readers a bit about yourself. 

kim3I have a passion for helping others find their true mark – whether it’s helping companies with their marketing and business development practices, or using my counseling background to help others find God’s true mark for their lives. In my dream world, I’m doing it all while hiking or traveling the globe.

You recently co-authored the book Inked which is all about “Choosing God’s Mark to Transform Your Life.” It uses tattoos as a metaphor for how we can understand our identity in Christ. So, let’s get this out of the way first. Do you have a tattoo? If so, what is it?

No! I brave a needle about once a year when I need a shot for a poison ivy breakout (even that once resulted in passing out in the doctor’s office with the needle still in my hip), and I can’t even commit to a hair color! But I have a fascination with tattoos and, like everyone, I’ve been marked by life nonetheless.

To build upon this metaphor, I think many of us feel marked — labeled — by things we didn’t choose. Marked by pain or shame from our past, by others’ expectations or judgments, by cultural definitions of our value. Why do you think this is such a struggle for women? Why is it so hard to strip these “marks” away from our sense of identity?

It’s a struggle for everyone. We’re learning more and more about how our brains are shaped by our thoughts, or others’ words and actions. However, I do think women have unique challenges when it comes to identity. For example, research shows others observe men’s successes and women’s successes differently. If a man is successful, we tend to attribute it to his skill. If a woman is successful, we tend to attribute it to luck. 

When something goes wrong, men tend to attribute the blame to external causes, where women tend to internalize the blame. Here’s the good news, though, male or female: Research also shows that we are capable of changing the negative and harmful  patterns. But, of course, as Christians, we’ve always known that. The apostle Paul urged first century Christians to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. It isn’t always easy, but it is possible.

3D Book CoverIn Inked you write, “Every day, we have the opportunity to choose good markings. To be made new.” What do you mean by that? Practically speaking, how can a woman move toward embracing God’s truth about her value and identity? Continue reading

The Poetry of Grace

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

potteryAhhh… Thank God for the beautiful words of Ephesians 2:8-9. Grace to save us. Grace to build up faith within us. Grace as the most generous of gifts. Grace that is freely given — not earned, not accomplished, not awarded like a merit badge. And this grace makes us whole. Even in our brokenness and our ongoing struggles, this grace shapes us, builds us, forms something in and out of our lives.

And this grace is the context within which we understand the verse that follows. Read it all together: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“Handiwork” is the word poema–it’s something made, something crafted, a masterpiece. It’s the word from which we derive “poem” and this idea of poetry can give us a unique way of understanding God’s beautiful working in our lives.

mosaicYou are divinely, intentionally, handmade by God. You — your story that includes pain and brokenness and areas of weakness and failing — You are God’s grace-shaping masterpiece. The Artist can create stunning and divine beauty even out of the broken pieces of one’s life! In Christ, you are whole and are being made whole (the journey isn’t done!) . . . and it’s for a purpose: to do the good work of God that he’s prepared for you to do in this world! God desires to work his goodness and love and healing and grace in this world through you. Even today, in whatever is on your plate, God has goodness — blessing — to give to the world through you.

Being “whole” doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out or that you’re earning “perfect-Christian” merit badges from God! It means you’re wholly-reliant upon grace, you’re wholly-immersed in God’s love, you’re wholly-dependent upon God for your identity and life’s purpose.

How is God shaping you with his love? How is he writing his poetry of grace in and through your life? How are you now, and how are you continually becoming, his masterpiece?

Thank you God for these words of truth that defy the darkness and confound what we, at times, believe about ourselves! Help each of us us more deeply embrace your truth at the core of who we are: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

God Wants You To . . .

. . . embrace your God-given worth!

So often we struggle with self-image. Who am I? What am I worth? At times, many of us battle low self-esteem or even self-hatred.

But is this what God wants for us? Is this dark and crushing struggle what he made us for? Why he’s sustaining our life every day?

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Embrace Your Worth-CVR1This common struggle and Scripture’s resounding answer to it compelled me to write Embrace Your Worth. If you want to dig into Scripture and explore ideas like self-worth, God’s grace, spiritual gifts, and God’s unique calling and purpose in your life, I encourage you to use Embrace Your Worth as a 30-day personal Bible study. Gather friends around you to go through the study together (and find a free discussion guide here). Or consider giving the book as a gift to women you care about – women who you want to develop a strong sense of identity, purpose, confidence, and, ultimately, their value in Christ.

Whole . . . From Broken

In the face of our own brokenness and failings, in the shadow of past trauma or current hurts, in the midst of woundedness or the perpetual swirl of confusion about who we are and what we’re worth . . .

broken glassWhat does it mean to be whole? How does God’s grace, God’s love, God’s healing change us, shape us, bind us up and weave us together into something new, something healed, something integrated, something complete? Into someone whole?

It starts with facing, first, our brokenness. In honest courage, looking squarely at the stain of sin in our lives. Join me in this month’s exploration of wholeness by first considering this excerpt from my Flourishing Faith devotional study Embrace Your Worth (Wesleyan Publishing House):

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“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8).

In your mind’s eye, imagine Adam and Eve, hiding away in the trees of the Garden of Eden. Sin has entered the world—and the immediate human reaction is shame (“We’re naked! Hurry, cover up!”) and hiding.

Can you picture Eve, crouched down, trying to hide herself away from her Maker? Trying to be smaller, to be invisible, to disappear?

Before the fatal choice to disobey God, Adam and Eve walked in confidence and joy and security. But now they’re completely different—isolated, insecure, ashamed.

When sin entered the world, it shattered the self. Continue reading

Embrace Your Worth

Embrace Your Worth-CVR1Thanks for joining in on the exploration of “Calling” during the month of March! If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, check out my new book Embrace Your Worth. Along with themes of calling and vocation, Embrace Your Worth delves deep into critical issues in our lives like self-image struggles, self-worth vs. self-esteem, seeing yourself as God sees you (You are his masterpiece!), embracing the giftings given to you through God’s Spirit, and discerning the good God gives you to do in your world.

Starting next week and for the month of  April we’ll explore Creation Care (environmental stewardship). Though Christians may have different political opinions about hot-button issues like environmental policies, I strongly believe that Christians of all political stripes can find unity around the biblical themes of receiving the good gifts of God’s created world with gratitude; learning more about God and experiencing his presence through his created world; loving the least of these by protecting human life from environmental degradation; and embracing Scripture’s call to be a wise and faithful caretaker of God’s good, very good, creation.

So whether you’re green at heart, curious but tentative about “green” issues, or even a skeptic about faith & environmentalism, please tune in during April. I’d love for you to be part of the dialogue!

Do Your Thing

do your thingCalling is a great big, deep, often mysterious thing. It’s the answer we seek to the oft-recurring question we ask: “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” And calling is also some small, mundane, plain and daily thing. It can be tied to one’s job (like, “God’s called me to be a surgeon . . . or a missionary or a pilot or a writer or a farmer”). It can be completely separate from one’s employment (like, “God’s called me to volunteer in children’s ministry” or “God’s called me to be a parent” or “God’s called me to be an AIDS activist”). It can be linked to passions, hobbies, and interests—like art, gardening, music, writing, cooking, woodworking, dance, or fishing. And, as Leslie reminded us last week, it can be connected to our afflictions. Even cancer or widowhood or a learning disability or a failed marriage or chronic pain can flow into a calling: A calling to bless, to listen, to mourn with those who mourn, to act in compassion, to offer words of mercy.

And calling can also be all wrapped up in totally un-special and seemingly un-spiritual daily tasks—like dusting, changing diapers, sorting laundry, grocery shopping, sorting recycling, and paying bills—because these tasks are all wrapped up into larger callings of love: Loving family, blessing neighbors, receiving God’s gifts with gratitude, living in integrity, stewarding God’s world well. Consider this claim from Puritan William Tyndale (quoted in my book Embrace Your Worth): “As touching to please God, there is no work better than another. . . . Now if thou compare deed to deed, there is [a] difference betwixt washing of dishes and preaching the word of God. But as touching to please God, none at all.”

So God’s calling, like a brilliant thread, weaves in and out of the multitude of other threads that make up the fabric of our lives: our work, our hobbies, our gifts, our passions, our ministry, our abilities, our relationships, our daily tasks, and even our weaknesses and our suffering. Continue reading

Small Acts: Meet My Friend Leslie Leyland Fields

Readers, as I edited this interview, Leslie’s words literally brought tears to my eyes. This is a gives-you-goosebumps kind of interview: beautifully honest and spiritually deep. Just what I needed as I edited it, and hopefully just what you need to read in this God-ordained moment right now.

So, as you can tell, I’m really excited to give you this chance to hear from Leslie Leyland Fields. She’s an author, a regular columnist for Christianity Today, a mom, and a woman with a unique job: participating in her family’s fishing business. Keep reading for some interesting, compelling, and honest thoughts about calling, motherhood, real-life, and the adventure God has in mind for each of us. 

leslieWelcome, Leslie! Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

I almost always identify myself first by where I live — I live on two island in Alaska, on Kodiak Island in the winter and on a small island in bush Alaska in the summer where my family and I commercial salmon fish. But I also resist being defined by where I live — there begins the paradoxes I live between and among. I’m mother to six children, ages 24 to 10, and I’ve delivered eight books into the world, all facts that contain both tension and blessing. But I know no better place to live.

This month we’re exploring the idea of “calling” in our lives. For some women, this is a really inspiring and invigorating idea. For others it’s frustrating because it can bring with it an expectation of doing something grand and important; meanwhile their real life feels so . . . normal. What’s your gut-reaction to the idea of having a calling? Why?

I believe in calling. Most of us know the root word for “vocation” is vocare, meaning “to call.”  That term and idea was used by the church for a vocation within the church, but we have a fuller understanding that the world cannot be riven into sacred verses secular arenas. We’ve all been “called” to go out and make disciples, but we’ve been called in different ways, and each according to her gifts — and her afflictions. Fulfilling our call is very rarely going to look dramatic and grand. It’s going to look and feel small, especially to us in this culture when everyone lusts after fame and a global platform. It’s going to be small acts done in private spaces, away from the cameras and microphones: a cup of cold water, a call to a neighbor who’s just returned from the doctor, mentoring a teen, helping a friend through a marriage crisis, feeding strangers. We can and we must do these kinds of things as part of our calling. But calling is more than this. It’s about fostering the particular gifts and afflictions that God has given each one of us for the up-building of his Kingdom. If you’ve got a beautiful voice, sing. If you’re an amazing gardener, garden. If words on the page are your passion, write. And afflictions: If you’ve been through serious illness, gone through marital pain, whatever burden of witness God has given you, exercise that witness among others in need.  Here is what I’ve written in my Writer’s Manifesto about writing and calling (but it applies to any gift):

Writing is a vocation, a calling, a kind of pilgrimage that takes us, like Abraham, from one land to another, through, of course, wastelands, where the promise of a promised land appears invisible and impossible, but the writing inexorably, day by day, moves us closer to holiness, the city of God.

Any calling, if it is of God, will include all of this: struggle, suffering, and yet a steady movement toward God and His holiness.

parentingmythOne reason I wanted to interview you about this topic is because I loved your book (with its critical subtitle!): Parenting Is Your Highest Calling–And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt. Why do you think this idea that “parenting is one’s highest calling” can be so dangerous for moms? And why, in your opinion, is it a myth?

As Christian women and as mothers, we’ve been fed this idea since we were young: that our greatest contribution to the world, to the church, to the kingdom of God is the children we produce and raise. Continue reading

Your Daily Work: Does It Matter?

Work. Many of you, my readers, work outside the home: at an office, in a classroom, in a lab, in a cubicle, in a factory, or somewhere else. Others of you, my readers, work within the home: as stay-at-home moms, as homemakers, as household CEOs. And some of you work in the way I do: as a hybrid of a stay-at-home-mom and a part-time employee.

woman workingWhether it’s outside the home in a career you’re paid for or inside the home in the hard work of mothering, the truth is we ALL work. Our lives are filled with tasks that we set out to accomplish. We put in hard work and determined effort. We do thankless jobs. We create or contribute to something excellent. Our work takes up a large percentage of our time. We may derive a lot of our identity and self-confidence from our work, or we may simply work because, financially, we have to. We may love our daily work . . . or we may hate it.

So does our work really matter? And how does it relate to calling? Consider this post about the theology of work that I wrote for Gifted For Leadership back in 2007:

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We recently had a “worst or weirdest job ever” conversation among the adults in our Sunday school class at church. One friend had spent two years collecting umbilical cords for research (i.e. personally picking them up, packaging them, and taking them back to the lab in her car); another had worked the graveyard shift at a cherry-packing factory, quickly grabbing rotten cherries off the line . . . all night long.

My contribution to the discussion was one of my first jobs ever — a regular babysitting gig as a young teen. After several afternoons with the three kids and their “adorable” shih tzu named Buddy, I reported to my dad how cute it was that Buddy kept hugging my leg all the time. Needless to say, I nearly puked when my dad explained to me what all the “hugging” really was!

All joking aside, we all know from experience that sometimes work can feel frustrating, monotonous, exhausting, and unsatisfying. Whether you’re leading meetings in a boardroom or are at home washing dishes, your “work” consumes at least a third of your life. 

So what does it have to do with your faith? Continue reading

You (yes . . . YOU!) have a calling

phone.callingRing . . . Ring . . . Ring . . . Ring!

Hello?

Yes, this is God calling. I wanted to give you the plan. Here’s exactly what I’d like you to do . . .

If only it were that easy! The idea of having a “calling” in life can feel exciting to some and intimidating to others. What does it mean to be “called”? Isn’t that just for pastors or missionaries? And if we do have a calling, how do we discern what it is?

This month we’ll be exploring calling on my blog so stay tuned and engage in the discussion. My hope is that God uses this forum to speak directly to you–about who you are and his call on your lifeSo to start things out, here’s an excerpt adapted from my brand new Flourishing Faith book Embrace Your Worth:

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Vocation comes from the Latin root vocare which means “to call.” In this sense, as Parker Palmer explains in Let Your Life Speak, “Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear.” Further, says Palmer, vocation is “a gift to be received.”

Pastor and author Fredrick Buechner has defined vocation this way: “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

What is your vocation? What calling do you sense? Continue reading