In a world where bills and diapers and to-do lists distract, how can we be sure our lives are making an impact? How can we make a lasting difference?
We’ve forgotten who we are.
We’re facing an identity crisis. And the reason is very simple: We have forgotten that it’s the very Person of God which defines us. Who He is speaks who we are into being. So, when God is resisted, pushed away, ignored, considered to be imaginary…that’s when we’ll allow anything but Him to define our deepest selves.
Here, in this nation we like to call the “Land of the Free,” we’ve ousted God from the public square. Pushed Him to the periphery. Surrendered to relativity in the name of tolerance.
And many of us have forgotten that it’s the very Presence of God which defines us.
It’s not the opinions of others which define us.
…Or sexual preference.
…Or past performance or future plans.
…Or present situations or hopeless circumstances.
…Or careers or relationship statuses.
The very definition of identity is under scrutiny in our nation. What does it mean to be human? To be married? To be a parent? To be a man or a woman? To be a Christ-follower? To be free?
David had no qualms about who he was and how he was defined, whether in his lowest moments or in his highest peaks. “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.” (Psalm 18:20) I’ve struggled with these words – this declaration of right-standing before God – because I know I’m not innocent. I know the inner struggles of my heart, the many, daily failings I face.
Yet in my struggles, God has reminded me that my righteousness has nothing to do with my past. It has everything to do with the sacrifice made for me while I was still a sinner, the sacrifice God made for me. For me! For you!
I just can’t get over the fact that God loves me (and you!) unconditionally. In the middle of my mess, covered with the stench of my choices that are rooted in pride, all the times I’ve sought anything but Him to define me – He still loves fully! He embraces completely! Me…and you…right where we are in this moment.
But He won’t leave us there.
This God who loves us passionately created us for such a time as this. He conceived us in His mind before we were ever conceived in body. And He daily invites us to take steps towards becoming the people He designed us to be.
So, when we’re in the onslaught, facing another attack against the essence of who we are, stepping into His Presence is where we can find the truth that brings freedom.
When we look at what we do and we think it’s who we are, we’ve missed a critical reality! What we do stems from who we are – and who we are is defined by the One who dreamt of us, created us, and stands ready to partner with us in living this life authentically – with love, truth, abundance, and freedom.
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This blog is nearly 4 years old! And I am readying to attend the Declare Conference for the 4th time – that place where I’ve gone to find rest and inspiration to continue on in this bloggy space. Where women gather to worship. Where friends find one another for the first time. Where the #digitalevangelist is equipped.
To gear up for this year’s conference, attendees are linking our digital arms and answering a few questions…So here we go!
1. If we were meeting in person, how would you introduce yourself? Wife to Steve, homeschooling mama to two (so far!), writer, speaker, editor, writer’s coach, and native Texan. I’ve always been an old soul, an avid reader, a lover of music. Although I’m an introvert in need of recharging time on my own, I love people – meeting, encouraging, diving deep.
2. What is your favorite thing to write and why? I love writing nearly everything. But books are my favorite, by far! I enjoy the long-range project, the life-message, the time spent with God processing on paper. My first book – Refining Identity – a Bible study, a discipleship journey. My second, an ebook – The inTentional Mama – a super-short and practical read to uplift mamas everywhere. My third releases in ONE WEEK! Chronic Healing follows my journey living with a chronic condition, walking alongside the Lord who is my Healer.
3. What is your favorite thing to read and why? Can I just say ALL the things? Articles and blogs, commentaries and Bible reference, Christian novels, Christian inspiration, classics of the church fathers and mothers that challenge me to go deeper. I wrote recently about the books I couldn’t stand to part with during our recent move. Give me words to read, to ponder, to apply, and I’m generally content to sit for hours [if anyone will let me…ha!].
4. If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? Have my pre-dawn writing time followed by listening to waves on a beach, toes in the sand. Dine slowly at delicious, local restaurants with people I love. Hold my hubby’s hand. Kiss my daughter’s freckled face. Tickle my son. Nap. And read.
5. What’s one thing you love about your blog and one thing you’d like to improve? I love this space dedicated to finding God in the midst of everyday life. I love the freedom to express, to share, to challenge myself and others. I’d like to tweak a few things to make the site more aesthetically pleasing and current.
6. [Lightning Round] Would you rather…
Read on Kindle or paperback? Silly question…paperback! Pen and coffee go with my reading time.
Drink coffee or tea? See above =) Coffee, for sure. But I don’t mind a cup of tea in the evenings either.
Go to a musical or a movie? Unless the musical is Les Miserables, I’ll take the movie option.
Vacation at the beach or at the mountains? Engaged on a mountain, married on the beach, I love them both! Beach ultimately wins – crashing waves, bare feet in sand, endlessness of the ocean.
Have an exciting night out or a relaxing night in? Relaxing night in. Games, pjs, cuddles, deep conversation = happiness.
Watch sports, play sports, or no sports? I’ll watch as long as hubby is nearby. Then it classifies as a date. =)
Thanks so much for joining me on this link-up intro!
Recently, I sat down with a friend I haven’t talked with in depth for a while, just a time to catch up and let our kids play. “What’s going on with you these days?” she tossed out with a smile.
I stumbled over thoughts. Usually I can pick one or two things going on and jump right in. But this has been a full season indeed. It took me a minute to get out, “Too much!” Many things. Big things. Incredible life changes.
And the enemy has been out in full force, on the attack for months. On the one hand, it’s frustrating being in a season with so much wonderful, yet facing so many battles – living moment-to-moment wielding my shield and sword. On the other hand, it’s an encouragement that we’re on the right track if the enemy is so hell-bent on derailing and discouraging us.
I keep coming back to my word for this year: Press! And God has brought me time and again to Psalm 18, remembering that He is my Source of strength, everything that I need. But I still have an active part to play, taking the offensive position against my enemies.
“I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed. I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet. For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.” Psalm 18:37-39
What are these enemies that need to be overtaken and thrust through? Fear. Food cravings. The desire for control. Lethargy. Insecurity. Pride. The feeling that I’m just not enough, or far worse, that God is not enough.
So, in the midst of the battles, what’s been going on around here? Here are the top highlights:
NEW BOOK ON THE WAY! The very week after I completed Refining Identity, I began writing Chronic Healing. It’s been three years in the works and now we’re preparing to launch. Chronic Healing follows my journey living with Type 1 diabetes and chronicles the many ways God has brought healing to my life as I’ve learned to seek the Healer more than I seek the “healing.” This is my testimony, sharing with every reader how God wants to be right there in the midst of your own chronic struggles, be they physical, emotional, or spiritual. This book is a message of hope, freedom, truth, and naked vulnerability as you peek into the day-to-day challenges of living with an ongoing condition even as God brings about His own miraculous healing. Chronic Healing will be released this summer!
NEW HOME! We’re building a new house and preparing to sell our current one, nearly complete with the projects to get it sell-worthy. The many conversations full of dreaming Steve and I have had over the years have come in handy these past few months as we (finally) made the decision about whether to continue investing time and money into our older house or build a new one that will better suit our long-term needs. We’ve maximized every square foot of our current home. And given the next major update, extra square footage will be a huge bonus!
NEW MEMBER OF THE FAMILY! Our journey towards adoption has been long, beginning with our hearts’ longings even before marriage, continuing through facing two high-risk pregnancies, lived temporarily through our fostering experience, and moving into a permanent stage now with domestic adoption. We’re SO excited to meet the newest member of the Cohen family! Get ready to hear more about our journey as I will catalog the steps along the way, inviting you to take part in this wonderful process with prayer and partnering with us financially to make this dream a reality.
And, in the midst of all of this, I’ve been writing up a storm on new projects, editing and working as a writer’s coach, eating a plant-based diet to test its effects on diabetes for me, and continuing to teach classes at church. I’ve also had to release some things from my schedule. I’ve had to say no, or at least not now. And, certainly, I’ll have to say no as other opportunities come my way, discerning what God has for me in this season.
Through everything, this blog has been simmering on the back burner. I’ve missed this space, this open discussion of the many ways God can be found. In a season like this, full of happenings, it’s easy to overlook the nearness of His presence. But He’s so close, arms extended, reaching for us in every, single circumstance if we will only pause to take notice.
So, what’s going on with you these days? How do you see God moving in the midst of this season?
In Chronic Healing, I share my journey of living with a chronic illness, all the while experiencing ongoing healing throughout my life. God has shown me that He is faithful, He is near, He sees the daily battles, He walks alongside in every moment.
Chronic Healing is Now Available! Order your copy today and meet the One who can give you lasting hope and healing for your body, soul, and spirit!
I sat restless, my certainties from just hours before upended. Surrounded by coffee house chatter, the smell of roasting beans, and a sense that life was about to shift in a dramatic way, I poured out my heart on paper. The years and my choices had taken me far from God. My dreams, ambitions, they had nothing to do with Him anymore. My world centered firmly on me. But my world was experiencing an axis-shift.
Just 19-years-old, my future before me, a longtime dream in my hands, I finally opened my ears to hear His opinion on my future, my identity, my purpose.
My dream: to become a recording artist and producer. My reasons: I loved music and I wanted the spotlight. Surely my career was supposed to be all about me. Right?
But as my world shifted and turned, poles realigning, and I heard His voice, suddenly what I wanted shifted too. In a matter of moments, I’d stepped out of the center of my own life and invited God in to be the new center. With fresh eyes, with a heart finally opened, I began to care more about what He wanted than what I’d had planned.
And He asked, “Will you give Me your dream?”
I paused…not quite resisting, just facing the depth of His question to me. Finally, my heart spoke, “Yes. Here’s my dream. Here are my plans, my hopes. I don’t know what You have in mind, but I’ll trust You.”
My hands unclenched, opening palms up.
He wanted to talk about who I was before He would let me in on what I was supposed to do. He wanted to focus on my being before my doing. We spent months chatting in journals and quiet moments, speaking of things like identity and being and His truth.
One day, sitting outside the student union building between classes, He was suddenly there, radiating light…sitting in the patio chair across the table from me.
And I asked, “Lord, since I’m a part of the Body of Christ, what part am I? What is my purpose?” I was ready to see a glimpse of what my being was designed to do.
“Be My hands. Be My voice.” Somehow, I knew this meant to write and speak, though both things were alien to me at that moment. “Be there, not to stand in the spotlight, but to reflect My light.” And He was gone. The patio chair empty once again.
Now, journals stacked two feet high show me more than a decade of conversation between us in the years to follow. A non-writer began writing. A blog began, space dedicated to continuing this conversation about Who He is and where He is to be found. A book written and published, all about identity. More writing projects stand on the horizon. A perspective shifted, a new dream discovered. Doors opened that I never could’ve imagined on my own.
It’s the most exciting journey of my life, following Him each step of the way, wondering what’s next, still dumbfounded that He would choose to work through me in any capacity. It began with a conversation. With unclenched hands, opened to new possibilities. With willingness to let go of what I thought was best. Given a new hope and a new future.
I don’t know about you, but I for one have walked (several times, in fact) down a road of wondering who I am…who I’m supposed to be. I’ve tried to answer that question myself many times, with each instance leaving me feeling like I’ve failed. Again.
I’ve tried to define myself by the “hats” I wear…and by others’ expectations…and by my strengths…and by my weaknesses…and any number of things that this society suggests define identity.
But, when I stopped…and asked God who He said I was, I stopped walking in circles and began to actually walk on the path of my destiny. He began to reveal to me His perfect design and steps I can take as I trust Him.
During this process, He also gave me a heart for discovering identity in Christ alone and sharing that with others…to see people set free from incorrect definitions. If there is anything that we need to properly have defined, it is our true identity. It shapes our decisions in every way. We MUST know!
God, in His amazingly gracious way, gave me a message to go along with this passion…and that message has turned into a book which is called Refining Identity.
Refining Identity is now published after nine years of waiting and working and writing and waiting some more. I am beyond thrilled to see my heart’s message, this passion of mine expand beyond the confines of my computer’s file folders!
To celebrate the Refining Identity Launch, jump over to my Facebook page on November 26 between 10am and 10pm. You won’t want to miss the GIVEAWAYS and special promotions happening all. day. long! I look forward to seeing you there!
I am utterly amazed and humbled to see this book, which started as a whisper, come to life!
God tenderly spoke to me the heart message for Refining Identity 9 years ago…and it has taken form in a way that reaches beyond the shadows of my computer files.
I wanted to share the final cover design with you here, and invite you to join me in this journey of believing and living lives that reflect the glory of God. It’s not because of our own merits, but only because of His sacrifice and His commitment to meet us in our brokenness.
I am who I am NOT because of what I do. I am who I am because God has declared it so and I have agreed! He just AMAZES me!
For more information on Refining Identity…my heart and message, go HERE! Thank you so much for your prayers and support!
So, the raw truth…at first I didn’t want to be a foster mom. As in, I said, “Never!” A string of excuses ensued…
“I don’t want to deal with government bureaucracy.”
“What if I fall in love and can’t let them go?”
“What if we can’t afford it?”
“What if it’s dangerous to our family?”
“How can I explain this to our extended family?”
“What if an angry bio-parent follows us home from a visitation with their child?”
Anyone else know what often happens when we say, “Never!” to God?
I’ve already shared several major steps of our journey already…our vision prior to becoming a foster family…our reality while in the midst…and our trust in God when it came time to say goodbye to our foster daughter.
But there were two things that helped me overcome all those excuses and doubts and fears. God spoke…and He gave us a community of support.
I was preparing a list of questions to ask Randy and Vickie Akins who run a non-profit support group in our area called Chosen Ones. As I readied myself to ask every question in the universe so I could convince myself that fostering was NOT what God had for us, God spoke so clearly to my soul, “You’re going to foster…and it will be okay! Trust Me!” That was it. I knew.
And “Trust Me” would become the theme of what He would speak to me throughout our entire journey of becoming licensed and living in the reality of fostering and, later, letting go. Trust Him. Not what I thought I knew…Not what I’d seen on T.V….Not what fear whispered in my ear…Just Him.
Then came the community of support through Chosen Ones…an overwhelming outpouring that I never could have imagined! Information on local agencies, answers to all my questions and more, real-life testimonies of other foster families, regular support meetings, fun events with other foster/adoptive families, a closet filled with anything we might need to fill in the gaps…clothes…toys…baby monitors and car seats for FREE, meals when we got our first placement, prayers over the phone, prayers through our Facebook group, prayers during monthly support group meetings…and more than I can even recall! The way they embraced us was amazing and so full of love and an eagerness to support us through this journey.
When I first heard the name of the group, “Chosen Ones“, I thought they were referring to the children that would come into these foster and adoptive homes. But after getting more information, I understood that the “chosen ones” were actually the foster or adoptive families! These families would be chosen to care for children who needed a home, either temporarily or forever. To be one of those chosen ones was one of the most humbling things I’ve ever experienced.
The scope of this amazing grassroots organization is immense…their vision huge and continuing to grow! They have expanded from just one support group to several and they continue to meet with local churches to establish new Chosen Ones groups throughout the area. Randy and Vickie amaze me in their willingness to serve and go wherever God has called them to go.
If you are a family considering foster care or adoption, I encourage you to pray for God’s direction and timing. Read our story here and here and here. And, contact Chosen Ones for more information to help answer your questions! If you are in the DFW metroplex, come to an informational meeting or visit a support group for families considering or already actively fostering or adopting.
If you’re already a foster or adoptive family and you need some extra encouragement, support and resources, consider checking out Chosen Ones!
If your church is looking to begin their own foster/adoptive care ministry, contact Chosen Ones for information on how to do that!
If you just want to help in some way by volunteering your time or resources, here are some of their needs! You don’t have to become licensed to foster or adopt to make an impact!
As for our family, for some health and other reasons we have taken a break from fostering and are waiting for God’s direction on returning to it anytime soon or perhaps further down the road. In the meantime, we will continue to be a voice of encouragement to those considering foster care or adoption. We were definitely and immensely blessed to be “chosen ones”! We miss our foster daughter…keep her pictures up…talk about her often with our kids, family and friends…and continue to pray for her health and safety and blessing!
In case you haven’t heard, I am publishing my first book, entitled Refining Identity: Now Found in Christ which will be released this Fall! To see more about this resource, be a part of the publication project or pre-order your copy, visit our FundRazr campaign! God bless!
Fallen leaves embrace dark corners outside the ground floor.
Pushed aside, off the trail; product of a few, fenced trees.
They are left to be forgotten amidst a concrete and civilized world
Until carried away by the promised rain.
Layers of dust removed; purity replaces former adulteration
Penetrating even the most shadowed spaces,
As living waters scatter all dead.
Solace remains, leaving only the stillness grey.
She recalls her forgone, hurried days,
Bearing burdens too heavy,
With corners of life un-swept,
At last halted in the foothills of dark soil,
Crisp air, with Flatirons in view.
Then, inviting her coming rain and sanctification.
In thoughtful retrospection of once swaying days
She mourns years lost for ignorance of the stillness grey.
Unaware of acute observation,
They hurry to go slow.
Willing captives behind the glass, noosed with neckties,
Bear minds bent on capital gain and vocational pursuits.
In attempted control of a concrete world
They assure accuracy and diligence in the void.
Lost in the deception of formula;
Blind to the stillness grey.
She dwells in the rain;
Her silent grey retreat of flowing tranquility.
Sodden, she gazes through concrete and glass.
Hand held out now, turning in the rain.
Cupping and releasing droplets.
She watches the rushing onslaught
Behind the glass where droplets stop.
She then breathes the stillness grey.
I wrote this poem in a college poetry class, where I learned that I LOVE to write poetry. It’s been ten years since I put this piece to paper, but this message behind a young woman discovering her identity, no longer defined by her past, is still vibrant and living in my heart! My prayer for you today is that you will set aside what compartment your past may try to stuff you in, and instead look to Jesus, in the stillness listen for Him to give you the definition of who you are to Him!
I’ve just finished writing a book called Refining Identity, a Bible study that takes a look at what DOES and what DOES NOT define us. I’m in the process of having this resource published and I want to invite you to partner with me to see this book come to life! Please visit HERE for more information on this book that is my heart’s message and how you can be involved! God bless!
(And, for those of you who are scratching your heads wondering…the Flatirons are a section of the Rocky Mountains overlooking Boulder, CO. I spent a few years in the Denver area and had one particularly life-changing moment, meeting with God in the stillness on those foothills.)