IT'S TIME TO LET GO

I don’t fly much. But, I’ve learned that when I do - what I bring, and how much, makes all the difference. At least in my opinion, the less baggage the better. Right? I believe the same is true when traveling from one year to the next. Less is absolutely, and always, better. 

Sometimes, our baggage is tangible; often circumstantial. Perhaps we left a job, ended a friendship, or suffered through a long illness. There's just no way around it, life is unpredictable and some seasons are just plain hard. Other times, our baggage is spiritual. Our struggles live deep in the heart. We're paralyzed by insecurities or distraught over disappointment. The pendulum can swing wide here; there's just so much we can carry. In both cases though, we practically carry this baggage with us wherever we go. And without realizing it, we're impacted. Our shoulders slump. Our arms ache. We walk differently than we normally do. We become restricted by unnecessary and unhealthy perspectives or beliefs that profoundly disturb the way we live out our daily lives. 

Baggage comes in all shapes and sizes but, truth is, we all have it. For both our sakes though, I'm going to stick myself out on a limb and declare that with Jesus, maybe we don't have to. Maybe instead of poking around and unpacking what we've been carrying, we can do something radical instead -we can let go. 

Because confession is synonymous with acknowledgment, and you can't let go of what you haven't first admitted is already there - I'm going to go first. Here are the three things that I'm letting go of in 2018, to never be seen or carried again. In Jesus Name. 

1. EXPECTATIONS. It's not about avoiding disappointment. It's about realizing that I am actually not God. Go figure. No one needs to live up to my ideal of them, and no one ever will. My perspective will always fall short of what's best for me, and for others. And, where many people regard expectations as a means of overextending a hope, or a dream -I've found that they're more like blinders. In the pursuit of an ideal, from anyone or anything - we lose sight of what is God's best.

In the Kingdom, we can operate out of a place of expectancy instead. It's here that we trust God's work in ourselves, in others, through others, and entwined in each and every circumstance that we may face. Expectancy is different because it's believing that God has our best in mind. It's about not looking at what the world should or could provide, but rather about what God will provide. Expectancy is keeping our eyes open for Him in every aspect, fully believing that He will show up for us and that, while we may not be aware of it -- He is absolutely doing the same for every other person, too. 

2. A VICTIM MINDSET. "I can't. I didn't. I have no choice. I am not in control." All of these, in one way or another, I've thought or said out loud or believed. It's hard to even admit - but where seasons of life have become difficult it's been most comfortable to lay down and die. Have you ever heard that phrase before? It means to give up hope, to quit, and to have no ambition. How many times after long-suffering through a habit we want to kick, a harsh environment we want to leave, or a tough relationship we just don't understand we have just said, "I can't do this anymore; I won't?" Instead of making a move towards something better, something greater -- we just allow whatever it is to consume us. 

I'm learning that this is what separates those who experience real change in their lives from those who don't. We all fall, we'll all stumble - but what makes us or breaks us if we're willing to get back up again. Then, we have to define what sort of mindset we will allow to define us; the fall and the failure or the victory of Christ? When we choose Christ, we get to live from victory not victimhood. That's how we break free. 

3. MY PERSONAL AGENDA. What if we woke up every day with the sole goal of tackling what was on God's agenda, instead of ours? What if we literally asked Him what he wanted us to do that day? What if I said He cares just as much about the little tasks as the big dreams? It's both thrilling and a bit intimidating, right? It also requires us to relinquish a lot of control and more significantly, our self-focus. However, this is where I see the Lord doing the most work; in the surrendered. If I give Him my career, He'll take it and expand it. If I give Him my dreams, He'll make them more than I ever thought possible and exactly what I need. If I give Him my errands, He'll show up at the grocery store and in the drive-thru line.

For God, it's not about control. It's about the possibilities that come to fruition when we bring the Kingdom with us. When we allow Him access into our lives 24/7, we're doing more than just changing ourselves. We're changing the world. 

In the last several years, God's been persistent in teaching me the same lesson; with different words and through various events. I don't know that it will ever change. But, these three things only serve to prove what His grandest plan has been for my life all along; and it's this: to live is Christ, and to die is gain. And if all I have to surrender is all that has only has served to imprison me, than so be it. 

Come at me 2018, cause my hands are free. 


IN THE WORD

"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." || 2 Peter 3:8-9

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." || Romans 8:28

"For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory." || Deuteronomy 20:4

"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." || 1 Corinthians 15:57

"For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." || 2 Timothy 1:7

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." || Proverbs 3:5

"“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." || John 15:1-7

JESUS CLEANS UP THIS HOT MESS

When I first entered into motherhood, I was determined to not succumb to any of the more well-known stereotypes. I refused to be a "scary mommy," a "mama bear," and even the typical "hot mess." I went into motherhood bright-eyed and naive, ready to smother my children with kisses and our daily endeavors with an "WE CAN DO ALL THINGS" optimism. And for the first year or so, I actually felt like I was thriving. Trophy Wife?! What about Trophy Mom? My son was sleeping at night. I was making homemade pureed food. I was working part-time and was successfully organized. I got dressed everyday and did my hair and put eyeliner on. I was kicking butt. 

Then, my son turned two. We had another baby. I quit my career. And suddenly, I didn't feel like I was doing such a good job anymore. In fact, the word "failure" began to root itself in my subconscious; fighting to take any optimism I had left and destroy it. Suddenly, being a hot mess was my reality and very quickly became my identity. 

We do this with a lot of labels, don't we? We call ourselves a lot of different things; like victim, loser, crazy, not good enough, too emotional, worthless, unimportant, unseen, and even still; sinner. And, while we don't want to be known by these names; we seem to accept them more readily than we ought.  

As my friend Brandi Lea shares often when she speaks - we all have stacks of evidence that validate these labels, these ideas that we have about ourselves. They just don't come out of nowhere. There's a reason for why we think these things to be true. Most of the time, anyways. However, there comes a point where we all have to eventually make a choice. We either spend all our time sorting through this evidence - searching for validation and attempting to understand the why OR we choose to walk away from it.  

We have to learn that there's a big difference between recognizing our circumstances and the labels that come from them, and LIVING IN THEM. 

Consider the woman at the well- a New Testament hot mess if I ever saw one. Her circumstances and her actions had come to define her. So much so, that she lived life in the margins; drawing water from the well when no others would be near. And yet, Jesus decided to meet her there; in the margins and in the wreckage of her heart. She was so stunned by His presence and His request for water that she asked Him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" I imagine that what she could have been thinking was, "How can this man ask ME - not just a samaritan woman guilty of sexual immorality but a woman who is unclean, worthless, passed over time and time again AND a hot mess - for a drink of water?!" Remember, the women at the well was fully aware of who she was. She wasn't in denial of her circumstances, she had just allowed them to become her life sentence. 

But, Jesus sat down anyways. He asked for a drink anyways. And, He does that with us too. 

He sees us in the wreckage - the spilled milk and dirty laundry. He sees us with our messy buns, worn-out leggings, and no make-up faces. He sees us - tired, overwhelmed, and unsure. Whether in the thick of motherhood or in the chaos of chasing after dreams, or in the cubicle of our 9 to 5 job - He sees our messes and He enters in. Sometimes, the wreckage has little to do with what is going on around us and a whole lot more to do with our hearts. Maybe we're full of doubt, insecurities, or jealousy. Maybe our greed has consumed us, or bitterness and jealousy has darkened our perspectives. Maybe we are addicted, depressed, or just plain angry. But one thing is for sure, we know that we're in desperate need of rescuing.

He's not in the business of denying the pain that we're in, He's just out to help us find a better way. Jesus doesn't just sit down with us and listen to us complain about the difficulties of our lives. He leads us into transformation. He not only gives us a way out, but He gives us a new name. 

The thing we seem to miss in the recounting of the woman at the well is that Jesus gets STRAIGHT to the point. He's not messing around. He says to the woman, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." I don't know about you, but Jesus's words here tell me that if we really knew the gift of God, we'd be diving head first into the living water of our salvation rather than living eagerly in our mess and our sin.

What I find interesting is that Jesus then asks the woman to fetch her husband. That's when she confesses that she doesn't have one. Jesus knew. They both knew of her past - of the five husbands she had had. And, they both knew of her present - the man who she was not in holy matrimony with, but sleeping with nonetheless. Did Jesus ask her that to make her feel ashamed? I don't think so. I think Jesus wanted to point to her sin to remind her of her desperation. 

Granted, she didn't want to talk about it. And, just when she started to get uncomfortable she changed the subject. She's like most of us, I think. No one wants to be called out. No one wants to be told that they've normalized their sin. No one wants someone to come up to them and say, "Actually, there's a better way." This is how we get out of our mess, though. It's not enough for us to see it through our own eyes - we can easily just rationalize and excuse and deny. I've found that what really brings about life change is when someone else can see it too; when we filter our sin through God's eyes.

What's really cool about this interaction between Jesus and the woman at the well is that he turns the conversation on it's head. Instead of focusing too long on who the woman was, He tells her WHO HE IS. After the woman declared that they would know all the answers when the Messiah came, Jesus interjects with, "“I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” 

He's the gift. He's the rescuer. He transforms us. 

Jesus shows us that while we might be living in sin, or simply surviving, or just trying to get through another bad day - He'll always step in. We're never too outside the margins for Him. But, He won't leave us there. He'll use those messes we've made and the ones others made for us, for His glory.; to point us right back to Him. Nothing goes untouched, nothing goes unredeemed. Nothing goes unseen. And then? He'll declare His goodness in our lives- past, present, and future. We will experience the the fullness of Christ rather than the emptiness of our day. 

The woman at the well is proof, like so many others- that Jesus cleans up this hot mess. 


IN THE WORD

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” || John 4:1-26

GRASPING HOLD OF PURPOSE

The most memorable award I ever remember receiving was an accolade for 'best hair.' 

I was seven. 

They called my name in front of the entire elementary school and I stood up from the shiny gymnasium floor, stunned. I couldn't believe they had noticed; could hardly believe that I was having my own moment, a moment meant just for me. 

I walked through the parted sea of students to the front, beaming.

I don't think I will ever forget that day. 

Though, I'm not sure that I've won anything since; or even achieved anything the rest of the world would consider significant. To be honest, I've always considered myself average.

In looks.

In skills. 

In performance. 

And yes, even in hair. 

 

What I lack in excellence, I've made up for in setting goals. 

I would go to college. I would get my masters degree. I would get the job. I would get the man. I would maybe (it was questionable, then) have children. I would live the American dream. I would be special. I would relive that moment from when I was seven, over and over again. 

Yet, here I am. I finished college. I received a $45,000 piece of paper that allowed me to get my dream job. I married. I brought two children into the world. I obeyed the Lord and quit said job. But I don't feel any more special, any more important, or any more seen. 

Sara Hagerty, in her newest book writes, "God loves to hide us. Behind circumstances and callings and misjudgments and scorn from even the dearest of friends, He hides us. We may feel veiled and unnoticed, but God is training us to to turn our eyes toward Him, to find Him there. Our hidden places aren't signs of God's displeasure or punishment... God doesn't banish us to this hidden place. He invites us." 

I've spent so much wasted time scrambling for a purpose when it was right in front of me the whole time. I've hustled for platforms and microphones when God's asked me to step down into His refuge and listen. I've cared more about finding the eyes of the world then finding the eyes of the Creator. And, I've missed this simple invitation from Him. It's not easy to accept His invite. It's not easy to RSVP to a life of dying to myself. It's certainly not easy to be comfortable with walking the narrow road, often alone. More often than not, hidden in Him. 

I think that I, like many of us - battle the desire to be seen. We're not all writing blogs, or managing Instagram lives or becoming influencers. But, we're all looking for validation. We're all looking to be agreed with, liked, and noticed. We want to be understood and we want to even understand; ourselves and our purpose. We're all searching for meaning.

But, we're uncomfortable doing the exact opposite of what the world calls us to do; hunker down. After all, we think meaning is found in what makes us greater. Not in what makes us smaller. 

So, we join rallies and forums and protests. We show up to work earlier and answer emails later. We do what we can to stand out, to be noticed. And we do it all under the banner of passion; of purpose. When really, it should be called by another name. We're lost in a sea of offense, tolerance, and hashtags that declare who we are and who we aren't and where we stand. And, we're found worshipping at the feet of personality tests and self-help books and campaigns that tell us how to build a better platform. And really, we're all just secretly dying to be seen. 

Somehow, we've turned what we think our purpose is into an idol. We've made what was supposed to be about God, about us instead. 

 

Maybe this doesn't even make sense to you. Your'e shaking your head and saying, "But Tabitha, it's good to know who we are." And actually, I would agree with you. Regardless, I still have to wonder -- by what means do we know ourselves? By who God is? Or, by what we do, by who approves of us, and by who cheers us on? Or not. A lot of times, we call this purpose. Our intentions get all jumbled up with our identities. We just can't help it. That's just who we are. 

But God offers, and sometimes demands, that we hide ourselves in Him. It's in this hidden place that He reveals His purpose for our lives. Surprisingly, it doesn't have much to do with us. It's just about Him. 

This clears up any confusion we might have about our purpose; about the meaning of our lives. It's certainly not about winning 'best hair' in some end of the year celebration. It's not about doing all the things and achieving all the goals. It's not about fame, fortune, or even family. It's not even about changing the world, not initially. 

When Jesus called to His disciples to follow Him; they immediately left their boats and at once, left their nets to do so. They didn't bother to return home to their friends or family to ask for guidance or get approval - they just up and went. They didn't question their purpose, they just followed right after it; right after Him. They knew He would lead them to where they needed to go. 

We make it all so very complicated, don't we? We try way too hard to figure ourselves and our lives out. On top of that, we've made our callings about our careers and our purposes about our identities. Meanwhile, the Lord is calling to us to just follow Him. To lay down those nets that those fish are tangled up in and to get up and out of that boat we've spent most of our days in.

Our purpose in this life has nothing to do with who we are. It has little to do with who sees us. Unless you flip the script. 

Our purpose in this life has everything to do with who He is, and who we are in Him. It has everything to do with God seeing us.  

 

You know what beats out that incredible day in elementary school?

The random Tuesday that my husband and I drove to our church to be water baptized together. It wasn't on a Sunday when everyone was watching or music was thumping in the background and congregants worshiped. Instead, we sneaked behind the stage with our two friends and one by one jumped into the hot tub to get dunked. It was just us and them and God. It was absolutely beautiful. I left my husband there to get back to work, and I headed home knowing that the Lord was absolutely watching me, applauding me, and beaming at me from above. I had His full satisfaction. I had grasped hold of my purpose. I had grasped hold of Him. 


IN THE WORD

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him." || Matthew 4:19-20

"The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands." || Psalm 138:8

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." || Matthew 6:33

"He has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace." ||  2 Timothy 1:9

"Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” || Jeremiah 9:23-24

"The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men." || Psalm 33:13

"For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, And He sees all his steps." || Job 34:21

"Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." || John 15:4

"Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God." || Colossians 3:1-3