The gas light came on in my car. This is not uncommon; I’ve got a tendency to wait until I have zero gas before I fill up. What makes today unique is that it means that all three lights are now lit on my dashboard. I’m low on gas, my tires are low on air, and my Check Engine light has been on for about a week … maybe two or three…

It’s not that I dislike my car; I just get busy. My crazy life has me going here, there, and everywhere and my car has been amazing and reliable since I purchased it in March of 2011. This car is the first “new” car I’ve ever purchased and it’s paid off so it is completely mine.

I like my car and appreciate the blessing it is in my life. Honestly, I just always feel like I’ll have time “tomorrow” to buy gas.

You don’t need to tell me; I am aware that driving on low fuel is supposed to be bad for the engine and I don’t mean to tax it unnecessarily… I just get busy. I say that I will get gas after work and then I remember that I have somewhere to be or something to accomplish and figure I can make it a bit further.

It never seems to be that big a deal that I am low on gas since there are gas stations on every corner. Then I ran out … twice … in the same week. After buying a $10 gas can and a gallon of gas, I failed to stop and fill the car up and so I ran out of gas again a few days later.

Apparently not one to learn from my mistakes, a few months ago my light came on, I ignored it, and the next day Austin had a run on gas. That was exciting, driving 30+ miles past where my car said 0 miles remaining. (Pretty sure that was supernatural intervention.)

The other lights are similar. I know the tire light is probably just because of the cold and it just needs a little air. But one time I was working from that assumption and then learned that I had a bullet hole in my tire.

My Check Engine light came on a while back and I keep planning to take care of it “tomorrow” … I just never seem to have the 4-8 hours it takes every time I go to the Nissan dealership.

These lights are intended to allow my car to communicate with me about its needs. As much as I appreciate the ability to use my car to get around; I will be stranded quickly without gas. Driving on underinflated tires is bad for efficiency and “Check Engine” could be anything from a bad spark plug to a transmission issue.

These indicators mean nothing if I ignore them. And if I ignore them long enough then I won’t have the car to zip me all over Austin. But those lights are not the only indicators I let myself be too busy to appreciate.

Focused on goals and intentional about living to impact others, it’s easy to take my physical, emotional, and spiritual self for granted.

“One more 4-hour-night this week will be ok; I’ll sleep in on Saturday.”
“Just put on a smile and help them; I can process my tears later at home.”
“I know I need some personal worship time but a quick scripture verse and steering wheel prayer is all I have time for this morning. God understands.”

In the pursuit of purpose there will always be a time for self-sacrifice. Living for others will mean that my needs don’t come first. But if I fail to meet my own needs consistently I will fatigue and will be unable to finish.

After three very difficult weeks, this weekend I pulled away for some self-care. Friday was spent emotionally recharging with Ranae. The weekend was more amazing emotional and spiritual refueling, peeked this morning when I had the opportunity to worship with Dustin Smith and Here Be Lions and to receive some warfare prayer. Now I’m spiritually and emotionally recharged as I fly home and tomorrow I am off work so I can give my physical body a bit of rest and love.

And now I am better and stronger to be able to pour into others.

Are your warning lights on? Have you been ignoring yourself in pursuit of your purpose and service to others? Is it time to get away?

If your “physical” light is on, it’s time for a day off. Turn off the phone and alarms and just let your body recover. That doesn’t always mean sleep; maybe it’s a workout or a swim that helps you recharge.

Maybe your “emotional” light has come on.  I am so blessed to have amazing women who I share life with. Grab a girlfriend and get coffee or go for a hike. (I have no idea how guys emotionally recharge… so good luck.) For those deeper needs, I have learned about the importance of a good counselor. Find someone who can help talk you thought the circumstances that have you running on empty.

If your “spiritual” light is on, and you don’t know what to do, I encourage you to check out We Be Lions. Their music is not just songs; it’s spirit filled and powerful for healing and rejuvenation. Every time I hear it, whether it’s a download or live in concert, my soul is refreshed and my spirit is healed.

Whatever “lights” have come on, it’s important to recognize that caring for yourself is not selfish. Without good coming in, you run out of good to give out but when your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are met, you have a strong foundation to invest into others.  It all can be done in a delicate balance.

Let’s all learn to read the lights and to care for ourselves so that we have what we need to live for people and on purpose.


Where’s My Miracle?

As I was driving to church this morning, a story came on the radio of a woman who prayed over her dead son. After an hour without a heartbeat, he came back to life. It should be encouraging but it just made me cry.

“Where’s my miracle?”

How selfish is that? Here’s a mom celebrating the life of her son and all I can think about is how unfair it is that her son is alive and my father is dead. My soul is in a dangerous place.

The danger to my soul is not the losses I have endured this year. My soul’s danger is the allure of selfishness and desire to grasp everything I can in response to that loss.

If I don’t trust, my trust can’t be broken.
If I don’t share my heart, you can’t betray me.
If I keep Community Group superficial, it won’t hurt when it falls apart.
If I don’t love, losing you won’t wound me.

But when my eyes are on myself, there’s no hope for my rescue. The path out of my depression is found in reaching out a hand to others. If my world is all about me then my world will keep getting smaller and smaller till I suffocate.

Ironically, my father would have given his life for that boy. He would have done anything to save his life and he would have died a hero. Nothing mattered more to my father than children and I should be able to celebrate his miraculous resurrection.

Instead I’m crying and moping and asking, “Where’s my miracle?”

God set me straight. This is the loving rebuke He gave me.

Where’s my miracle?

My miracle is 8 years ago when God introduced me to Tony. Through Tony I gained access to an association that helped me learn my value and establish my core doctrines to prepare me for the challenges I’d face. Because of Tony I have met Stephen, the primary voice of reason in my chaos.

Where’s my miracle?

My miracle is 6 years ago when God came to me in a dream and told me to go to WBCC. At WBCC I forged many relationships that have been my support and lifeline this year.

Where’s my miracle?

My miracle was born 5 years ago and miraculously is strong and healthy today. My Princess is the brightest light in my (physical) life and on my hardest days I just find her and hold her.

Where’s my miracle?

My miracle is two years ago when I found the Cotton Community Group. This was my “family” when everything started to fall apart. They cleaned my house, washed my laundry, cooked me meals, and were the hands of Christ when I needed it most.

Where’s my miracle?

My miracle is last year when Julie offered to disciple me. I was untrusting and wounded and difficult but she never gave up and kept trying to break my shell. She organized a group of people to bring the ornaments in the header image and has consistently been an encourager to me.

Where’s my miracle?

My miracle is this year, when Bob* asked me to find “safe” people and God led me to Ranae. I couldn’t have imagined someone as perfectly suited to be the friend I need in this season.

Where’s my miracle?
What have I needed that wasn’t provided?
When have I lacked for anything?

Maybe it’s time to stop asking, “Where’s my miracle?” and instead ask, “Whose miracle am I supposed to be?”

*Bob is the name my cousin gave my counselor.

What Story are You Writing?

I hate losing.

Losing bites and the more I give to a goal the more painful it is to fail.  To give everything and then lose is to be told that everything I have is not enough.

That I am not enough.

I spend my life seeking to prove I am enough, so I do everything I can to avoid losing and I hate losing more than I hate Jar Jar in the Star Wars prequels.

It’s ok to hate losing but I hate losing so much that I have developed a dangerous habit to avoid it: quitting.

Where losing is giving it all and being found wanting, quitting is the forfeit, the slink away, the snake. It’s lying to myself, my fans, and my team that I don’t really want the prize anyway.

My parents always taught me that quitting wasn’t an option. I remember begging them to join soccer. Then three days of practice later, and all the running involved, this chubby little girl wanted out. But my parents had paid the $40 (or whatever) so I was sticking it out through the season no matter how many fake injuries I conjured.

In hindsight, it was never really about the $40. My parents knew the dangerous allure that quitting can become and that once the door is opened it is very hard to shut.

Now, this is not a treatise on why we should never quit. There is wisdom in dumping a boyfriend, quitting a job, or even abandoning a goal. Don’t print out this blog as proof you should hold out until he changes. Get into a mentoring relationship and figure out what your situation is… my situation is that I quit too easily.

And I don’t mike-drop and walk away either… I just fade.

I slink away in a myriad of excuses that are all valid and hollow at the same time. My house needs cleaning, my car needs an oil change, my plants need water, and my closet needs to be sorted. It’s been a busy day, a rough week, a long month… and by the time the deadline comes and goes the goal has been forgotten, buried under 100 little excuses all sourced from the insecurity that the fear of failure birthed in my soul.

Currently I have a goal that I am passionate about.  The goal was set 8 months ago and given serious attention about 3 months ago. But as the deadline gets closer and the process demands more faith, I find myself avoiding the actions necessary to make my goal a reality.

Today as I cast about for excuses to avoid working toward my goal, I had a moment of perspective where I realized that it’s really about my story more than it’s about my goal.

Last night God asked me a question: “What story are you writing, Jenn?”

I thought it was a great topic for a blog and started sketching out the idea:

Am I writing a story about a damsel in distress, waiting for someone to rescue me or break the curse with a kiss?

Am I the sidekick, helping the main character with his objective while seeking out the six-fingered man to kill in a side quest and resolve my tragic backstory?

Am I the hero out to shake off my past, rescue the captive princess, lightsaber fight my evil father, and blow up the enemy’s Death Star?

Am I the comic relief, tagging along to lighten the mood of a difficult situation with some fart jokes and a funny outfit?

Am I the heroic figurehead who inspires the real warriors with my empowering speeches and the sword I found in a field?

It was a good thought and I played with it, but the blog never really came together. Today I realized it wasn’t a topic for a blog; it was a question for me to seriously answer.

What story are you writing, Jenn?

Yesterday and today I was writing a story about being a quitter. About how my goal doesn’t really matter anyway and it’s ok if I just let it go. About defying expectations and shaking off the mantel of responsibility to embrace the freedom of grace over the pursuit of perfection.

But all of that is a lie.

My goal does matter and I do care. Sure, failure will hurt less if I can convince myself otherwise … but my soul knows that this goal is important to me.

And my goal is all about defying expectations. My goal is about proving that my story didn’t end when I lost my parents and that there is more in me that the world still needs to discover.

And responsibility? The only responsibility that I am avoiding is the face in the mirror that believes there is more in me than a salesperson at a technology company who blogs in the evenings. It’s not about pursing perfection or avoiding grace; it’s about waking the lion in me to fight instead of roll over play dead like a pet dog.

Failure is terrifying and the higher the stakes the more that failure stings. Easier to stay numb with chores, videos, food, or even sleep and avoid the discomfort of believing in an impossible goal.

Let the lion go back to sleep and enjoy the comfortable life I have built.

That is the safe choice and it’s the choice I’ve made many times.

Choose to believe the impossible; chase the improbable?

Wake up and fight to make something happen?

Give everything to a goal?

Win, or die trying?

Why bother?

Just sleep.

No! Wake up!

Yes! Win or die trying.

Yes! Give everything to my goal.

Yes! Wake up and fight to make this happen.

Yes! Choose to believe the important, albeit improbable, is possible.

If I quit now then it’s back to sleep until another goal comes to wake the lion or the silent killer, Time, takes her in her sleep.

Dust yourself off and write a new chapter today about embracing the process and pressing on toward the goal. Make today count and refuse to quit on yourself.

No one wants to read a story about a dead lion.