Dreams are like stars…you may never touch them,
but if you follow them they will lead you to your destiny.

Be Authentic

Monet’s Garden, July 2009

Women and Happiness

As I sit here trying to put words on paper, I am listening to a lively discussion on women and happiness. According to this recent hullabaloo, I mean research, since 1972 (and the onset of the feminist movement), women have become increasingly “un” happier. Why? Because life is too busy and women are trapped trying to balance career, family, marriage, life, etc. Would you agree or disagree?

I would have to wholeheartedly agree. I spend a great deal of my time loving and listening to women (of all ages) and sense a deep discontent percolating under the surface of their lives. Not always visible to the naked eye, but when allowed—comes bubbling up with tears and pain. It begins with the quiver of the lip and then flows freely.

The Lie of Our Culture

I felt this way this past June. Once again, as I have expressed in earlier posts, I bought into the lie of our culture by standing at the buffet of opportunities and good works, over stuffing my life until I was bloated by “too much of a good thing.” Graduate work. Ministry opportunities. Teaching. Family commitments. Shall I continue?

But, then, my husband ripped through the rut I had so carelessly dug, and swept me away for 30 days. I had no idea how those 30 days would change my life. If I could, I would demand that every person I know and love do the same thing. Being taken out of this stressed culture and my carefully crafted comfort zones, showed me that life can be lived differently. I knew it mentally, but in Europe experienced it physically. They do things differently on that continent. Now, I am not naive, I am sure there is stress. But, it is different.

Be Authentic

Our Tuscan villa

A Lightbulb Moment

For me, the light bulb went off while walking down a dusky Tuscan street. I have dreamed of going to Tuscany for years. Never in a million years, did I think Tuscany would hold my destiny in its hands. Rob and I lived in an authentic Tuscan one-bedroom farmhouse villa for six days. No screens on the windows. No air conditioning. Just lots of mosquitoes, a great deal of sweat, and cute little geckos. And, an adorable blue writing desk (which, I never used). Tuscany would take time to process. Writing would come later.

Be Authentic

Beautiful olive tree right in front of our door.

An Unexpected Revelation

As Rob and I walked the Tuscan streets, I became very aware that I wanted my life to change. I came to the conclusion, after much reflection, that I can’t live the next half of my life in the same way—caught in the web of overachieving, legalistic spirituality, people-pleasing, ego-stroking and self-inflicted pressure, that plays out in feeling responsible for everything and everybody. Don’t get me wrong, all of these experiences have shaped the person, wife, mother, teacher, speaker, friend, and ministry leader  that I am today, but now, it is time to live differently, especially when it comes to my faith.

Be Authentic

One thought rolled around my mind: Be Authentic, Janell.  True to who God created you to be (Genesis 2:7).

For years, I have stood before women’s groups proclaiming that God doesn’t desire his children to be frazzled, fractured and falling apart, yet have not always listened to my own teaching. Somewhere, in the Tuscan hills, I finally heard that message. I noticed that in every little Tuscan village (and the villages are miles apart) there was only one church. Unlike America, where a church can sit on every corner. I had several thoughts on this subject:

  1. If I had been born in a different country, what would my faith look like?
  2. Is my Christianity clothed in American culture or is it truly authentic faith?
  3. What is authentic faith? What does that look like?
  4. Can I keep the intimacy I felt with Christ in Europe when I return to America? To my ruts? To my conditioned responses and certain expectations of others when it comes to how I should live out my Christianity?

And, I surmised, that there are men, women and children in Tuscany that love Jesus with all their hearts. There has to be. And, if that is the case, they are doing so with only one church in a village and with far less resources than I have at my fingertips. Somehow, I sense that it is just less complicated. Less crowded. Less crazy.

I am still processing. I will be for a long time, I think. But, I am committed to change. Perhaps you have felt the same angst with your faith walk. The same tension for more authenticity. Do you think our faith is dressed in American culture? If so, how might we change that?

30 Lessons in 30 Days

At the same time I was wrestling with this, I received an email invitation to speak in Bangkok, Thailand. Talk about moving out of your comfort zone! I accepted that invitation and in less than two weeks, I will be boarding a plane to yet another major life change. I have no doubt that I will get some answers to my questions.

So, today, take a moment to reflect. It doesn’t have to be on a dusky, Tuscan road. It can be at your kitchen sink. Do you sense any discontent percolating under the surface of your life? Begin a conversation with God about it. Let it surface. And, then, listen for his gentle whisper. Perhaps he will lead you to make one small step towards a more authentic, vibrant life and enable you to live differently.

“Lord, show us that abundant life You speak of in John 10:10.
We desire to walk closely with You.
To hear your gentle whisper.
To sense Your presence afresh today.
Push us out of our comfort zones so we can
experience all that You have for us.

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