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who I want to be: a manifesto

 

The name of my very first blog was Quietness and Confidence Forever. It was a private blog – a place for me to journal and pour out my heart and thoughts with the tap, tap, tap of a keyboard instead of pencil and paper. I was a stay home mom with three (soon-to-be four) little ones and that meant time alone to pray and process was limited. I figured I could type faster than I could write by hand, so I took to penning my vulnerable prayers and honest thoughts on the computer. My first post, written on January 15, 2009 was titled Who I Want To Be and under it, this verse:

“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.” Isaiah 32:17

It was the first time I saw the words and made the connection that this was exactly what my heart longed for: quietness and confidence forever. I’ve clung to the hope ever since.

The practice of private online journaling faded after a year or so. All of my creative energy was transferred to Jones Design Company, the other blog I began at the same time. I made crafts and printables and enjoyed styling, photographing and coming up with house projects to share. The connection with ladies from across the globe around products and books and choosing outfits was invaluable to me during a season when most of my life revolved around mothering my four babies. Occasionally a more journal-y post – something heartfelt and personal, often written through teary eyes – would bubble out. In the ten years of creating content, those remain my favorite pieces. Despite the commitment to posting about lifestyle topics, my heart has always been drawn to the genuine working out of my faith, processing my thoughts, asking questions, telling my story, pondering God’s truth and finding joy in putting thoughtful words to things that others experience but maybe haven’t been able to articulate. 

Something life-giving happens when I process through written word. It’s like I don’t know exactly what I think or what I’m worried about or what hope I’m clinging to until I get it out of my mind and onto paper. Quite honestly, I would be happy to just leave them at that; sacred words between me and God, a private conversation that builds my faith and strengthens my relationship with Him and helps me understand myself better. But – this is what he’s reminding me lately – he desires for my life to be more than just about me. He keeps pushing me to share. To open up my clingy hands and concerned-about-what-everyone-thinks-of-me mentality and offer the most precious parts of me to the world. To my closest people and those I’ll never meet.

I keep wrestling with this. Why? What words do I have to offer? What insights do I have that haven’t already been expressed by someone more eloquent, more mature, more faithful? What if they stomp on my words or disagree or, worst of all, what if they dismiss my deepest thoughts as insignificant? 

The first inklings of these questions came early in my blogging career as I wondered where it was all going. What was the purpose in spending so much time and energy on sharing my life with complete strangers on the internet? God answered me with these words: 

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 MSG

Always in the background of my heart, I knew the work I shared on the internet was about more than just me, that this was for a greater purpose than popularity or accolades or focused attention on me and my creativity and my pretty house and my cute outfits. But I’m a forgetful person and prone to wander and that knowledge just didn’t quite sink into my self-absorbed heart.

I’ve done a lot of work over the past five years circling around my identity in Christ. I came to a point of soul-deep exhaustion and knew it was time to pay attention to what was keeping me bound. There has been breakthrough and miraculous healing of my body and heart. I have been set free of so many lies that had me tangled up in believing in my own self-sufficiency and have spent time getting to know and trust in God’s true character. Insecurities have been rooted out and pulled up, peace has moved in. It has been slow and deep and reorienting and beautiful.

I know the love, acceptance and freedom Jesus offers; I have experienced it! He brought me out of darkness into his glorious light. And yet, how quickly I find myself right back in the unwinnable game of trying to prove myself valuable by what I do, by how I am perceived, by who likes me, and how I compare. I make it all about me. Again and again and again. 

These are the same dumb insecurities and temptations I confessed privately on that first blog 11 years ago – the one in which I wished for that lasting peace as promised in scripture. Has anything changed at all? I keep making it about me and my effort and my worthiness, feeling loudly insecure, not at all quiet or confident. See what I mean about being forgetful and prone to wander?

I’m tempted to beat myself up for it. To feel dumb for thinking change is possible. To scold myself for being a person who just wrote a book about this and yet maybe I am not all that different than before. Maybe it’s all a lie. Maybe I didn’t really heal. Maybe I’m still just as self-focused and insecure as I’ve always been. The enemy would love for me to believe this. He’d love for me to curl into a comfortable self-protective ball of shame and hide. To put my light under a bucket and find superficial safety in the darkness.

But I refuse. Today, I refuse. And tomorrow I will again. It’s just not true. 

He did heal me and is continuing to do so. He has filled me with peace, and continues to do so. There are signs of transformation and the promise of moving from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). I’m not done, no, of course I’m not. This is a continual being made new, not a one time thing. Transformation comes about through the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). RenewING. It’s a life-long, sanctifying process and one that we get to participate in with the Holy Spirit until its completion when Jesus returns for good. 

This renewing happens from the inside out – allowing the truth of the gospel to change how we look at ourselves. Jesus’s final words on the cross made it known; there is nothing left to do and no one else to be to earn God’s favor. It is finished. The only person whose opinion counts says I am chosen (John 15:16), known (Isaiah 43:1), loved (Zeph 3:17) and there is no condemnation for my wandering, forgetful, selfish ways (Rom 8:1). I am made right with God by placing my faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22) which means my greatest hope is true: the righteousness given to me by God results in quietness and confidence forever. This is my new life. No more hustling, striving, scrambling to measure up and be found worthy. My soul can be quiet because the work is complete. God is faithful and I can trust with confidence that He is enough, that he has my best at heart, that no matter the circumstances, I am in good hands. I believe and will keep on believing (Mark 5:36). 

The keep on believing part is the renewing of the mind that happens from the outside in. It is the work of choosing to fill my mind with beauty and truth and having eyes to look for and see the glory of Christ in all things. By remaining close to Jesus and delighting in what delights him (phil 4:8), by choosing to fix my eyes on him instead of gazing at myself, my mind will be renewed and my heart transformed so I can become more like Jesus and live the abundant life of joy, love and peace he promises (John 10:10). 

 

When our family took an extended road trip around the country, we had a saying: Heads Up! The kids often watched movies to pass the long drive times but when Ryan or I noticed a landmark or sunset or iconic cityscape or breathtaking view out our car window, we’d call out Heads Up! It signaled to the kids to pause the distraction before them and glance upwards to experience the beauty they might have otherwise missed. 

I need that heads up reminder in my spiritual life as much as anyone. Transformation of the mind comes through lifting my eyes to find beauty, goodness and truth in the everyday moments that might otherwise be missed if left to my own well-meaning, but utterly distracted and fearful and forgetful ways. I need to practice the art of paying attention to the greater story – one in which I am not the main character – to build my faith. I desire to catch glimpses of God’s glory and be reminded of his nearness, so I can experience unexplainable joy and peace and turn it all to worship. It’s why I love listening to podcasts, following creatives on instagram, reading books, listening to music and hearing people’s stories. It’s why I paint and create. Because Christ is in all things and if I just pay attention, I will see his glory and little by little, my heart is changed. 

This is what I know is mine to do: I am an illuminator, shining brightly with the love and truth of Jesus. My job is to hold up a light, like a lantern illuminating a darkened path, call out heads up! and point out God’s beauty, goodness and truth. I’m not leading the way, but just shining a light on the way. Asking questions, noticing, pondering, creating beauty and sharing generously and genuinely so we can take steps forward into the renewed life together as we follow Jesus. 

After all these years of wrestling with questions of purpose, the answer is so clear: by being open with my life, I can encourage others to open up to God. It’s not for my own gain, but for the glory of God. This is my great reward and where true, lasting satisfaction is found.

So I will hold out that bright lantern filled with the light of Christ in me so that God’s beauty, goodness and truth will be illuminated. And as we gaze together at His glory, may our hearts be transformed and quietness and confidence truly be ours forever. 

This is who I want to be. 

“But you are God’s chosen treasure—priests who are kings, a spiritual “nation” set apart as God’s devoted ones. He called you out of darkness to experience his marvelous light, and now he claims you as his very own. He did this so that you would broadcast his glorious wonders throughout the world.” 1 Peter 2:9 TPT

 

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