Dawn Owens | Live Worthy | Do you have a calling?

Calling: How To Know If You Have One?

“Do you have a calling?” Better yet, what is a calling and how do you know if you have one?

When I was a child, I had two dreams: I wanted to be a Mom and a Teacher. I would line up my dolls and my younger sister in our playroom into desk lines and teach them a chosen curriculum for the day

Later, I would feed, bath, and dress the same crew and ready them for bed. The same way any mother would.

And though there is much truth in those early years of who I have become today, does that mean those roles have become my calling?

I’d like to suggest the answer to that is no.

But before I get to the reason why, let me share with you the scripture verse that will guide our conversation.

It is Ephesians 4:1-3 which says, 

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Dawn M Owens | Live Worthy | Ephesians 4:1-3

The author of Ephesians, Paul, is making a huge statement here to the church at Ephesus and us as believers today.  If you put this verse into the context of defining calling by our dreams or the careers we might someday fulfill, it would be a particular and finite use of the word calling. However, I don’t think Paul was implying a vocation, as much as he was suggesting something much more significant than that.

The Worth of Your Calling

I’d like to offer that the value placed on the word “calling” is much larger than we may realize. Check out the words prior to the word “calling.” Paul says, “live a life worthy of the calling.”  The word “worthy” has a value associated with it that we can skim by if we are not careful.

When translated into Greek, the word “worthy” is axios.  This means weight, assigning a matching value (worth-to worth), and my absolute favorite definition:

as the assessment in keeping with how something “weighs in” on God’s balance –
a scale of truth.

This statement implies that your calling is on a balance of the same equal value or worth to God’s truth.

Worthy Image_FB Cover

I think it is safe to say, though it is important to us to have a vocation, Paul is speaking of calling that has much more worth than a specific job.

Your calling has more worth than a vocation. #calling #purpose #worth

The Blessings of Your Calling

So what is Paul telling us about the calling that we have received?

Let’s go check out that word calling in Greek too. Why not, right?

(And by the way, you can do this on your own. I am using a great website called Bible Hub. I love it for all things translation. Little secret, I get a little geeked out about finding words that have a more substantial meaning in the Hebrew or Greek than what we use in English.)

In the Greek klésis means:

calling; used of God inviting all people to receive His gift of salvation – with all His blessings that go with it

Oh.my.goodness. I love that so much.

Do you hear what God is saying to you and me in the definition of calling? Oh to be able to speak Greek, always.

God is saying to us; I am inviting you to accept my gift of salvation, that one where I sent my Son, Jesus to live a sinless life. He lived fully man and fully God. Then He took on all the suffering and all the sins of the world so you could LIVE. And not just live, but live eternally with me in Heaven.

But that is not all! Oh no, there is MORE.

Not only do you get the gift of salvation which includes eternal life, but He also washed your sins away (you know that gossip you said yesterday, those little lies you told the other week, maybe that big sin you committed in the past). And if we stopped there, that would be more than enough. But He also clothed you in righteousness AND gave you ALL His blessings to go along with it.

Say what?! It’s like winning the 5.3 million dollar jackpot, and then them saying, wait there is more, and more, and more, and…

Because here is the deal, God’s blessings…they are abundant.

Which brings us back to why there is no way that Paul is only suggesting your vocation. You’ll find the same word in several other scripture verses where the use is broader. Here are a few examples:

Romans 11:29, NIV
…for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable

2 Thessalonians 1:11, NIV
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling, and that by His power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.

Philippians 3:14
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

The Character in Your Calling

Now that we understand there is immense worth in our calling, there is a blessing beyond our calling; we need to know in what ways to live our calling.

This may be the most challenging part.

Because I don’t know about you, but what Paul lays down here are the ways you and I should exhibit, some pretty high standards:

He says in verses 2-3, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Humble, gentle, patient, bearing in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…goodness, I am out of the game starting at humble.

I mean, I don’t know about you, but these are not natural character traits for me to accomplish every day.

And if you thought you might be able to get away with the “bearing with one another in love” let me just mention in the NLT it says it like this “making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Yeah, I’m out too. 

So what are we to do?

Allow me to offer a few suggestions.

Living Your Calling

First of all, this is not a do-them-all-or-you’re-out deal for you Type-As out there. So take a deep breath.

Second of all, Paul said he is urging us to live a life worthy of the calling. In his urging, he recognizes the struggle. I mean, he is the one who talked about the thorn in the flesh, right?!

Third of all, we can use these as they are needed. The more we recall these words in our mind and speak them out of our mouths, the more they will start to be exhibited in our lives.

Making Your Calling Worthy

My words of the year this year are LIVE WORTHY.

When I felt God leading me to those words, it was out of the verses here in Ephesians. But months before that, I wrote a book, and in the sixth chapter, I talk about how we get stuck in comparison rather than building community. I used Ephesians 4:6 as my scripture of teaching.

God had planted the seeds for this scripture verse and then later was going to hold me to it.

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A few months later, I was struggling with defining who I was as a ministry leader apart from my everyday role as the Founder/Executive Director of The Link of Cullman County. It can be a slippery slope when you lead something and allow your position to define who you are.  And God led me back to these verses yet again, to teach me that my calling has nothing to do with what I do in my vocation. It has everything to do with how I live for Him.

So the way this looks for me: I take one day at a time.

One day at a time where I am learning who I am in Him. In that one day, I can believe for all those blessings that are part of the invitation of the call. Blessings which includes being humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another in love.

And then how I am seeking unity with others as I serve the world around me.

As I do that I assess if I am doing that with humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with others in love.

Some days I get some of them right, other days not as much.

But tomorrow is another day, and I will try again. And so can you.

Your calling is so much more than your vocation, a dream to be a something or a someone.

Your calling is how God created you to worship Him, serve Him, honor Him, and give glory to Him in everything that you do.

What Will You Do With Your Calling?

How will you start to live out your calling today differently than you did yesterday?

Comment below and let’s talk about how we can all live a life that is worthy of the calling we have received.

Why I am a Professed Approval Addict

I am an approval addict. There, I said it.

“I AM AN APPROVAL ADDICT!!!” Goodness, that feels good. It’s empowering to own up to the things we struggle with, don’t you think?

Being an approval addict began as a child, for me and intensified over the years. Now, in the age of social media, it only exacerbates the problem. I have the constant temptation every time I make a post to see if people “liked” my post, left a comment, or the ultimate compliment, “shared” my content with their followers.

Maybe I am the only one to deal with being an approval addict, but my guess is on some level you too are challenged with wanting, really needing the approval of others.

How do I know this?

We were all created with a need for approval. As image bearers of God, He created us with a desire to be fully known, and fully approved by Him. But, here is the good news.

“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

Did you catch that last part? Let me repeat it, “God favors what you do.”

He. favors. you. Gosh, I love those three words.

But here is the problem, as much as He has set our hearts to be approved by Him, we get it all mixed up.

We take the desire God gave us for heaven, and we set our sights on earth. #approvaladdict

We warp the pure relationship we could have with Him which is healthy, honorable, and true and exchange it for one that will never be able to fully satisfy our needs.

We seek the approval of those around us. In our homes; at school; in our workplaces and online.

We put more value in what the person on the other side of the screen thinks of us than honoring the God who created us.

In the core of our addiction, we have a slew of challenges wrapped up in packages of people pleasing, insecurity, jealousy, control, and anger, just to name a few. When we let it all pile up we isolate and become depressed. (Fact: People in depression and taking depression related medication have hit epidemic proportions.)

It’s been years since I admitted I had a problem. Since then God has taken me on a journey to learn how to overcome this addiction to approval, and though I am not completely healed, yet…I believe I have some wisdom I can share with you. 

This is why I have written a book called Like Me…or Not: Overcoming the Addiction to Approval which will tentatively be in bookstores this summer (2018).

So why would a self-professed approval addict, ever go through the intense approval-seeking, platform building and editing-process of publishing a book and announcing this inner-struggle to the world?

You.

You are the reason why I am professing I am an approval addict to the world.

You are why I just spent the last year pouring out my heart over what was once 65,000 words, now chopped down to 57,000 words and by the time my editor at Worthy-Inspired gets through with it, it will be less than 50,000 words. (Talk about having to be willing to let go of your need for approval. Ouch.)

You are also why I am subjecting myself to the daily temptation of seeking approval by posting online, writing blogs, finding speaking engagements, and sharing some of my most vulnerable moments with the world.

I am doing all of this because I know there is strength in vulnerability. We can find unity in our weaknesses. And that maybe, just maybe, as I share my struggles you can feel the freedom to share yours.

Why I am a Professed Approval Addict @dawnmarieowens #approvaladdict

Does any of this sound interesting to you? Great! Because now, I am going to need your help. It’s one thing to write the book. It’s another feat to find an agent to represent you, and then to get a publisher that is interested in publishing the book. As if that is not enough, now I have to figure out how to sell the book.

But, that’s where you come in.

So, here is what you can do to help. If you aren’t already, start following me on one of my social media platforms through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I also am starting to have a presence on Pinterest.

You will also want to sign up for updates because I know you want to be up-to-date on all the new book information. So stop reading now, and subscribe to my blog emails. You can do that on the right-hand side of the page. That’s all I need you to do for now. (Unless of course, you would like to happen to share some of my blogs, my posts, my tweets, or pin images to your boards.) The key now is for me to start sharing with everyone that I can that I wrote a book and help others know they can find answers if they read it.

The key now is for me to start sharing with everyone I can that I wrote a book about overcoming the addiction to approval and how it can help others know they can find answers if they read it.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to share with you the back story of how God opened up the door for me to get my book published and how I had to battle my approval addiction at every turn.

Even if you don’t ever want to publish a book, I promise you’ll learn a few things from my missteps, which will help you not only understand more about your need approval. But, it will also teach you how to deal with those everyday challenges us approval addicts need to learn how to face head-on.

Let’s start off our journey together nice and easy, shall we? Tell me who you are, where you’re from, and why you feel like approval addiction is an important topic for us to cover in this day and age. Share below so we can all engage together and we’ll know none of us are alone.

Want to check out my last few posts?

Hope: How Badly Do You Want It

5 Ways to Lose Hope

hope that is seen

Hope: How Badly Do You Want It?

Some things in life are just worth the fight. Hope is one of them. But what about when your circumstances dictate the exact opposite? Then what?

How badly do you want it? Would you go to battle to see the very thing you are hoping to come to fruition?

And if you are, what will you sacrifice to get there?

Sometimes, when, our future seems bleak, we need to choose to fight. We’ll need to be ready to get uncomfortable to face our fears, and then we need to dig in deep to decide we are not going to lose hope.

If only it were that easy.

Times when our beliefs and emotions vary, we need to find comfort in the tension. Enter hope.

Lori felt exactly like that when she went off to jail for the first time at age thirty-eight. She never thought her life would land up this way, but it did. All she had in front of her was a pile of her consequences.

Lor's Hope in Family
Lori (middle) with her daughter and husband.

Five years before this time, she had a wonderful husband, two children, and life was good. Despite being brought up by her grandparents as a toddler and then later, by two parents caught in the grips of alcoholism. Lori overcame the odds of what could have been in growing up in that environment, that was until her husband went to jail for a year, on a misdemeanor charge. While her husband sat in jail, Lori’s world turned upside down.

Instead of helping her while her husband was away, people took advantage of her. Within a year she was raped twice, and to numb her pain, she turned to drugs.

When her husband came home from prison he didn’t even recognize her. He said to her, “What happened to my wife?”

Her response was one born out of pain, “She died.”

This lifestyle then extended to her husband as life seemed to get worse and worse for them. As she sat in jail, with her future looking bleak, no family to support them, and little in the way of options. Her and her husband, also in jail at the time, decided that they would pray.

Sometimes when there seems to be no way out, the only place to look is up.

Romans 8:24, NIV says, “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

Lori and her husband soon learned that God could provide a way out. In their desperation, they realized they could not go back to the same place they came from or back to the same friends. They needed hope, and it came in the form of rehab.

God provided through family members who had earlier given up hope, but through their prayers, God changed their hearts.

Now, both Lori and her husband are fighting for what their future in rehab. In the midst of what felt like a hopeless situation, Lori and her husband have learned to put their faith in what God could accomplish, not in what they could.

In doing so, their lives changed significantly.

Lori enrolled in a 9-month residential rehabilitation program through Restoring Women Outreach. She also enrolled in our Pure Joy Goods job-training program. In her job-training program, here at The Community Place, Lori uses her gifts and talents to create beautiful pallet art. She takes classes, attends recovery meetings, and is mentored by one of our staff.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick

You can support Lori on her journey to hope, by purchasing a piece of pallet art. For every $10 you spend, it is the equivalent of one hour of job-training and support services.

So how about you? Are you like Lori, recognizing hope exists in the unseen, not in what you currently perceive? Or will you allow your emotions to dictate what you believe your future will hold?

If you want to fight for hope you are going to have to do the following:

  1. Submit your will to God’s, just like Lori did in jail.
  2. You’ll have to believe beyond your circumstance that your future includes hope, and not focus on how today feels. Your emotions do not dictate what God has in store for you.
  3. Cling to the scriptures. You will need them to be armed against the attacks of the enemy as he seeks to deter your faith.

Someday, Lori’s family will be restored, all because she fights daily for the hope of what will be, not what it is today.

Everyone struggles when the situation looks bleak. But we have a choice. How will you arm yourself in battle to obtain the hope you seek? Comment below and let’s encourage each other in our battle for the things we do not see.

 

Learn 5 Ways You Can Lose Hope

5 Ways to Lose Hope

It’s true; sometimes life can be hard. At times, it can feel like there is nothing we can do to change our circumstances. It’s in those moments we can’t lose hope.

 

As you walk into our office at The Link of Cullman County, you will find yourself confronted with four large letters strategically placed on a pallet-designed counter top.

In moments you will determine whether you can accept the meaning of those four letters, or if your perception of your situation keeps you from believing their truth.

The letters in and of themselves, hold little power.

But when they are combined, they quadruple in strength and form the word “HOPE.”

 

HOPE DESK
The “Hope Desk” at The Community Place, home of The Link of Cullman County.

 

For some who find themselves in the midst of chaos, destruction, and crisis this word can either settle their soul or be cause for an accusation.

What does it mean to have hope?

By definition, hope is to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true.

There can be much excitement and joy in hoping for something new, and yet, at the same time, hope can feel defeating, frustrating, or some times far-reaching when things don’t seem to be going the way you think they should.

But sometimes we hijack ourselves by believing hope does not exist. Here are five ways we can lose hope:

  1. Give up
    This can seem like the most appealing option at times. If we just give up and no longer believe hope exists, then we won’t get our feelings hurt or our dreams crushed.
  2. Stop trusting God
    When people hurt us, repeatedly, it’s a standard defense mechanism to stop trusting them. There are times when they may need to earn our trust back. But God is who He says He is and never changes. If we stop trusting Him, we will quickly lose hope.
  3. Place our faith in people
    People will fail us daily. If we put our confidence in them, it won’t take long before we lose all hope in humanity.
  4. Blame everyone else for our circumstances
    Pointing our finger at everyone around us will keep us feeling like we are the victim of our circumstances. So go ahead and blame everyone else and watch hope fly out the window.
  5. Rely on yourself
    The quickest way to lose hope is to rely on your wisdom, your strength, and your own experiences. If you never allow anyone else, including God, to help you, hope will elude you.

Those may seem like some great options if feeling sad, lonely, and depressed sound attractive. However, if you prefer to experience some joy in this life, allow me to suggest some alternatives.

Here are some ways you can find hope when you feel hopeless.

Rebuke the lie that says “Hope is dead.”
Just last week I had a situation happen to me where I felt stuck, lost, defeated…even heart sick. There seemed to be no glimmer of hope. It wasn’t until I realized my emotions were ruling my decisions that I could recognize the lies.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. Pr 12:15

The truth was hope had been there the whole time. This perspective gave me clarity, and I felt my attitude change, which helped me have hope in my situation, again.

Consider enlisting support
Believing you don’t have any hope feels lonely. Sometimes we need others to help us get out of our rut. Friends or family member can help you identify your current state of mind. 1 Thessalonians 5:11a tells us, “…encourage each other and build each other up…” Seek out those people in your life that encourage you. If you don’t have people like that, visit us at The Link of Cullman County. We have someone on staff called “Lead Encourager.” It is her job to encourage anyone who comes in feeling hopeless to help them set goals so they can move forward.

Get ready to fight
Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12, HCSB) Let this statement not fool you, just because our battles are against the spiritual realm, doesn’t mean hopelessness can’t feel just as powerful as a bully in real life. Especially when the circumstances you are facing seem dire. One of the most beneficial ways to overcome losing hope is by putting on your armor of God (see Ephesians 6:13-17).

On days when hope feels like it will slip away you'll have to decide, how badly do you want it?

Let’s encourage each other. What are some of the ways that you can suggest to someone who is struggling with hope to stand firm and trust the Lord?

Dawn M Owens, Executive Director of The Link of Cullman County

Dawn Owens is the Founder/Executive Director of The Link of Cullman County, a blogger, speaker, and a lover of lattes in coffeehouses that have deep seats and warm faces. She also enjoys encouraging others to dream big for the kingdom of God. As a wife and mother to gingers, she finds herself staying on her toes, outnumbered by the men in her life. In her down time, she is either reading a good book or watching historical period shows, dreaming of where she might travel to next.You can find Dawn on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Uncomfortable: One Family’s Story of Reconciliation

Leslie never imagined her life would turn out that way.

Addicted to drugs.

Estranged from her family.

Selling everything she had to eat and to use.

She never imagined a day when the Department of Human Resources (DHR) would take her 3-year-old son, Garrett away from her.

But it happened.

A few weeks ago we discussed how there are times in our lives we need to become comfortable with the uncomfortable in order to receive a blessing. We used a story from 1 Kings of Elisha and the Shunammite woman. You can read that post here.

At the time Garrett was taken from Leslie, her addiction got worse, not better. Having her son removed from her custody only increased her drug use rather than her wake up call, her rock bottom.

“The day they took Garrett from me, I remember throwing a fit on my porch,” Leslie shared. I slammed my head against the pillar, kicked the table, and slammed the door going into my house.”

By this time Leslie had so much anger, hurt, and unforgiveness deeply rooted in her heart, the only way she knew to cope with the pain was by acting out.

She was already distant from God. She distanced herself further from healthy, safe people, and sunk deeper into addiction.

For Leslie it wasn’t an “ah-a” God moment that turned her life around. In fact, the thing God used to get Leslie’s attention was fear. And let’s face it, fear can feel really uncomfortable.

“ I was sworn into Drug Court, in lieu of going to prison. I had to spend the next twelve months going to court a few times a month, going to the Intensive Outpatient Program three days a week for three hours a day, and consistently test negative for drug use,” Leslie explained.

“Knowing that if I relapsed or didn’t follow through I could be sent off to prison got me moving forward in the right direction.”

For Leslie, she had to learn how to surrender to God in the uncomfortable.

And in doing so she learned how to forgive, how to submit to authority, and how to exhibit patience when all she wanted to do was run.

How about you?

Are you in a place where you feel stuck?

Perhaps you feel like you are spinning around in a destructive cycle and can’t seem to figure a way out.

What if God is allowing these circumstances right now for you to feel uncomfortable so that ultimately He can bless you with His spiritual blessings?

What can you do while you are in this very uncomfortable place?

  1. Surrender to God. I love what Peter says in Mark 10:28, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” That’s the sum of it. Leave whatever it is you are clinging to: control, addiction, anger, unforgiveness, unbelief and surrender it to God.
  2. Embrace the discomfort. As hard as those words are to read, and even harder to do, embracing the season your in is so much easier than fighting against it. When you embrace your discomfort, it can become your companion rather than your enemy.
  3. Wait on the blessing. “Blessed are all they that wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18 Your blessing is coming, God promises it. But you are going to have to choose daily to wait on Him to bring that blessing in His timing.

garrett and leslie

Garret is now 9 years old and has been back living with his Mom for over five years now. God allowed this season of discomfort in Leslie’s life to help her find freedom from addiction, forgiveness, and hope.

Leslie is no different than you and I. God will is able to do more than we ask or imagine (Eph 3:20, NIV), when we choose to surrender to the uncomfortable.

How do you feel when you are uncomfortable? Does it bring you comfort to hear stories of how God can provide blessing in the midst of discomfort?