Are you an Achiever-Believer?

I went to great lengths to find this picture of my old table!

 

I felt the grooves of the soft wood on the palms of my hand, as I decided whether or not to purchase the table. “It’s hard to find handmade tables like this anymore,” The owner said. “After the industrial revolution, many craftsman went out of business. Each table used to be unique with it’s own carved details and imperfections, like this one. But society became more concerned about quantity and uniformity. Since machines were more efficient, here we are.” The owner explained the craftsman of the table was a famous artist from Italy. I wasn’t sure he was telling the truth (it was a craigslist purchase after all), but the story touched my heart and the table was beautiful.

For years, I held on to this impractical table. It was a sticky, soft wood – impossible to clean for a mom with three kids. It was like putting your dinner plate on a layer of maple syrup every night. And it was heavy (you need a team to move it heavy).  But I loved that table. I loved the grooves and waves of the wood that peeked through the dark stain, and the industrial bolts underneath. Mostly, I loved the story behind it and the idea of supporting a craftsman who loved his work.

I have a book on personality types and I am the “The Achiever.” I see a little achiever in my son too, always looking for the next task, the next responsibility, the next goal to reach. In school, the achiever in me piled up straight A’s, extracurricular activities, awards and benchmarks to success. I viewed love as something to be earned.

In college, I became a Christian and everything changed. I encountered God, I encountered His love. I learned His love is unconditional – not based on my performance, my efforts or achievements. I encountered a God who wanted to be with me, not for what I could do for Him.

A simple truth still refreshes my soul: God is after my heart not my output.

I didn’t have my eye on the handmade table because of it’s industrious capacity, I had my eye on it because it’s a piece of art. Intention and passion shine through the design of the table. It’s unique, made by a creator who cares about the details.

Ephesians 2:10 says,For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

For my fellow achiever-believers, we need these truths breathed into our lives. If not, we become consumed doing work for God while missing out on spending time with God. We are loved for our form, not our function. Our Father, the great craftsman, delights in being with us. He doesn’t form us into His image in assembly line fashion. He takes pleasure in the process and invites us to enjoy the process too. Yes, we are created to do good work, but first we must remember we are His work.

My son has been making school lunches lately. He made lunches for two weeks straight even though I never asked him to. Monday he woke up late, I made lunches and didn’t think anything of it. On the way home from school he said, “I’m so sorry I didn’t make lunches this morning, Mom. I was really tired.”

I looked at my achiever son and brushed his hair out of his face. I told him not to apologize, that I never expected him to pack lunches for me.

Then I spoke words to him every achiever needs to hear:

“I love you for who you are, not what you do.”

Fake or Faith?

A couple weeks ago, I ran into a young woman struggling in her marriage. She said, “I just gotta fake it until I make it, right?”

I hear that phrase periodically and it doesn’t sit well with me, I’m a girl who treasures authenticity.  I hugged the young woman and said, “How about FAITH it until you make it? God doesn’t want us to be fake.”

“That’s good! I like that.” She said before we parted ways.

One little word can make a big difference in how we see God through our circumstances and approach him. Fake is different than Faith. Faith is not being fake, there is nothing fake about making the choice to focus on God’s greatness.

I used to have a motto when it came to prayer. I would say, “The only ingredient to a successful prayer is sincerity.” My passion for sincerity was in an effort to avoid being like the scribes who prayed for pretense (Luke 20:46-47). They were being fake, they were praying for show. I also noticed others memorizing prayers (like the Lord’s prayer) and reciting them like the pledge of allegiance. In an effort to pull myself and others towards an authentic relationship with God, I emphasized sincerity. I still believe 100% in sincere prayers, but I’ve also noticed the power of adding one extra ingredient: Faith.

Jesus said in Mark 11:22-24, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

I recently made my first Facebook live video on our tendency to “worry-pray.” Instead of praying in faith, we can have the tendency to magnify the problem rather than the problem-solver. I wrote out a faith-declaration about who God is (all based on scripture), as a way of setting my mind on the greatness of God first before I bring him my concerns. When I set my mind on His greatness, my (once) mountain of a problem starts to look more like a speck. It’s not fake, it’s focus.

If our prayers magnify our problem to be bigger than God and His power – our faith is in the wrong thing.

Yesterday, my daughter came to me overwhelmed with homework. As we sat on her bed, I pulled out my faith-declaration and read it to her. Tears fell down her face as she was reminded of our God who is limitless in strength and power when she feels weak. She asked if she could hang a copy up in her bedroom. The privilege of paving the way in motherhood never gets old. I want her to know what real faith is. Fake smiles through gritted-teeth and says, “I can do this.” But faith is different. Faith says, “I can’t do this, but my great God certainly can!”

What I Learned From Writing A Book About My Life

My sweet daughter, running wild and free. 

 

Years ago, I wrote a book about my life. I thought, I love to write, I have an unbelievable story, a book sounds like a good idea. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

I labored over the book for years. I wept over pages, dove into memories I hadn’t thought about since childhood, and my love for writing grew in the process.

Books take multiple edits and rewrites, and something unexpected and beautiful happened during the revision process. I rewrote the book again and again. Each edit was less angry than the first draft, every rewrite was a chance for a fresh perspective. I began to edit out certain words I’d written about people from my past, because I genuinely didn’t feel that way towards them any longer. It got to the point where I was no longer writing from a place of anger, hurt, or unforgiveness – I was writing from a place of compassion.

I made sample copies of the book and gave them to a few close friends who’d partnered with me on that journey. One of those dear friends came over the other day and handed me the sample book. She said, “I’m embarrassed I’ve had this so long, I can’t believe I forgot to return it to you.”

I hadn’t thought about that book in a long time. I told her I was tempted to throw it in the fire (I heard every writer feels that way about their first book which makes me feel better), but a part of why I felt that way, I explained to my friend, was that it served it’s purpose. I felt everything I needed to feel. I processed everything I needed to process. I accepted every memory, released every pain, forgave every hurt. I am free.

I have no desire to share that book with anyone, it was therapy between me and God.

****

I went to Georgia this past week for a conference. I sat next to a woman who became a fast friend. Kelen is a Christian counselor who also happens to be an expert in reading body language. I felt like she could see through my soul by examining the way my legs were crossed. I was a little intimidated but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to pick her brilliant brain. Kelen has excelled in her profession for a long time, she said in her experience, unforgiveness is people’s problem 98% of the time.

Ninety Eight Percent.

I can’t stop thinking about that.

I don’t recall the exact words Kelen shared with me, but the imagery I walked away with was an onion. I imagined someone sitting down for counseling with Kelen, thinking they are there for an eating disorder or a family quarrel. I pictured Kelen peeling back the layers of an onion. A layer of defensiveness, a layer of insecurity, a layer of pride, a layer of anger…the layers kept getting tossed aside until she hit the core: unforgiveness.

****

I sat on the plane on the long flight back to California and I closed my eyes. Most people would assume I was sleeping, but I was doing important work. I was asking God if there was anything or anyone else I needed to forgive and release. I allowed God to scan my heart like a laser. Is there any remaining anger? Is there any lingering bitterness? Uproot it Lord. I don’t want any heart blockages hindering me.

A couple instances popped in my mind, things I hadn’t written about. So I did what writing that book taught me to do (in my head instead of on paper). I felt what I needed to feel. I prayed until anger took a backseat to compassion. I forgave and I released it to God. I threw away the first draft.

I walked off that plane without baggage, light and free, because the airline graciously gate checked mine for me, and because God took some junk from my heart.

Brene Brown writes; “If you own this story you get to write the ending. When we bury the story we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story we get to narrate the ending. As Carl Jung said, “I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

Without me even knowing it, God took my love for stories and writing and showed me how to own my own. God is sneaky like that.

****

I laid in bed with my husband the night I got back from Georgia. I was exhausted from traveling, he was exhausted from taking care of the kids for five days, but we couldn’t resist staying up late to talk. I told him about my new friend Kelen, my baggage-free flight and how free and light I felt. We talked about the ninety eight percent a lot. “Ninety eight percent!” I kept saying, as if the number would change if I said it with more emphasis.

“Isn’t it amazing,” my husband added, “that the very thing us humans struggle to extend to one another is the very thing Jesus came down to earth to extend to us freely?”

And now I have something else I can’t stop thinking about.

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” Ephesians 1:7