A Completely New Thought

This is more of a person journal entry than anything else. But it is one I want to remember. More, it is one I never want to forget.

I just got out of the bath and began to get ready to go over to my friend Tanya’s house. I began to wonder what I should wear, how much makeup to put on and how to do my hair. Then I thought the most astounding thought I’ve ever had. It was a completely new thought:

It doesn’t matter what I wear or how I look. As long as I look like me that is all that matters.

Never in my life have I thought that showing up as me and only me was completely enough- that I was all that was really wanted. I’m sure it has been the case- that other’s only wanted me- but to know it in my bone, that is something to be truly treasured.

And that is exactly what I will do- I will treasure my friend- and not just her but all of them- by offering more freely this treasure that is me.

Amy E Patton

A Break from my Blogging Break: On Books and More

I am on a blogging break, but writing is my refuge, and I have some things I want to record- for me, for you. So today, I am taking a break from my break to pen a few words.

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It is interesting to me how this year has evolved. I began with intention, forming my goals around a single word: “More.” I wanted more, so much more, of 2013. I wanted more of Jesus, more of this abundant life full and free. I wanted more experiences, more good days, more of everything. I had tasted the goodness of the Lord, and I was starving for more of what He had to offer. (Psalm 34:8).

Because saying I wanted “More” felt greedy, I framed my More around the word “Enough”- which had unintentionally been the grand lesson I learned the year before. I was enough because Jesus was more than enough. Yes, Jesus was all I needed, I just wanted Him to give me MORE of the same. And, my friend, that is the truth of how I entered this year, and why it has been a journey of discovering in fact things I only grasped in theory.

Lesson #1: Want MORE of Jesus? You must start with LESS.

Within days of flipping the calendar to 2014, all of my well laid plans fell apart. I was sick, constantly and continually. Everything I wanted to do could not be done or done only with half the effort and half the excellence. Being sick forced me to come to a stand still and realize that I could do nothing on my own. I came completely to the end of me.

That is where the stripping of self began, layer by layer. The grand pause that ensued while I was shedding the me I held so dear launched my year in an unexpected way.

Lesson #2: When your cup is empty God fills it up with the sweetest of elixirs.

As I spent days upon days too sick to do much of anything, I began to fill my hours reading. Many of the books had been lying in wait for years- even a decade or more- for “such a time as this.”

First there was the Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rives. The lessons I learned in the story of  Haddassah were deep and personal.

Then there was The Seven Experiment Bible study and book by Jen Hatmaker. I worked through these books over a series of months with the Women’s Bible Study group at our church. God opened my eyes to blind spots in my life I had no idea existed. God weaved past lessons into fullness: Pastor Matt’s message series on Steven Furtick’s book Greater, our small group study on Kyle Idleman’s book Not a Fan, my mission trip to Thailand with Adventures in Missions, words of great truth spoken by a vast depth of women at the IF Gathering all came together and painted the outline of a masterpiece God had started long ago unbeknownst to me. It is a masterpiece of pure beauty- one full of Him- so much more of Him and so much less of me.

And then came a reread of Radical by David Platt.

That life altering read lead me into even more intimate time with my Father. Like most, I have had seasons of consistent quiet times, but those seasons were always short and far between. This year was different though- and not because of any grand thing I did. No, in fact the only change I made was to keep my Bible on the coffee table at all times. I didn’t even make my resolution to read God’s Word daily with any confidence. I did it out of sheer obligation knowing only that I should do it. Yet, somehow that hunger for more of Jesus propelled me into a daily habit that is now as natural as brushing my teeth. I simply do it. Every. Single. Day.

First I read Philippians, then John and Matthew, then James and Micah. After Micah I jumped head first into the beginning with a fresh reading of the Pentateuch- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and now Deuteronomy. I am devouring a Psalm a day and just completed a lengthy time camping out in Romans. Next I am off to Acts. God’s Word is becoming alive and active in my daily life. Although it should not surprise me, I am constantly taken aback at how what I am reading correlates so directly to everything else in my life.

Immediately after finishing Radical I opened the story of Katie Davis, a young lady who is boldly living the lessons I was learning. Her story laid out with beauty in Kisses from Katie began the reconstruction process in my life. Yes, I am still wrecked and parts of me are still being stripped away, but God never leaves a void. He always, always, always fills the empty spaces. He is a God of fullness not a God of emptiness.

Following Katie’s story came a surprising fiction read. Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings spoke deeply to my heart. In Sarah and Handful, I saw two girls struggling with the ugliness of the system’s they lived in, as well as the ugliness of their own hearts. Their journey was my journey. Their lives were full of beauty and pain, yet in both the beauty and the pain they were able to find their wings, their freedom, and the ability to become the women they were designed to be. This book gave me hope. It inspired me to continue my pursuit of More. This year has been one of both beauty- the beauty of discovery- and pain- the pain of both pause and the persistence of pulling off the old and putting on the new and unknown.

As I closed Kidd’s brilliant work, I was refreshed with the sweet and wild words of Bob Goff in Love Does. His words opened my eyes to a life of whimsy all around me and reignited my imagination. I now look for ways- unexpected and ordinary- to sprinkle love on those around me. I began practicing this life of Less with More and More yeses to the One beckoning me forward.

God’s gentle prodding led me to participate in Kristen Welch’s book launch. Circumstances caused that to look much different than I expected. God is always and forever reminding me that His timing and ways are so much better than mine. Kristen’s story as told in Rhinestone Jesus left me breathless with excitement to say “Yes” right in the middle of my mess. Her words also left my heart pounding in anxious anticipation of where those Yeses would lead, for they seem to be pointing toward the wild unknown. God’s grace is that I can see He is lighting the way step by step as He makes both me and the way ready.

Today, I read the last words of Jonathan Merritt’s gentle and poignant memoir. “The living God is waiting, and He is better than you imagined.”

How do I tell you the grace God showed me in his story? Jonathan’s journey and the pain he experienced threw me a life line to not only say Yes but to fully and boldly DO  the Yes that God has been calling me to for years. It is the yes I entered timidly when God, through Pastor Matt, asked me  to burn my plow and to walk forward into a life of writing.

My heart is full. My cup is overflowing. I am so grateful for this journey. I know it is not done. I am stunned at how God used one word to show me something so different than I expected. Yes, I had to start with Less and then discover both Nothing and All to find my way into the deep and rich abundance of Christ which is all the More I will ever need. And it is better than I ever imagined.

Amy E Patton