Are you ready to release your control of needing to be everything for everyone?
In Choosing REAL, author Bekah Pogue walks with us into life’s unplanned circumstancesspecifically frantic schedules, pain, transition, feelings of unworthiness, loneliness, and tensionand reminds us it is in these.very.moments where God invites us to notice, respond, and even celebrate an authentic relationship with Him through every.little.detail despite our own efforts or work. The result? A connection between real life and faith so that they are one and the same.
When we enjoy God's company firstthe heavenly Creator will transform our minds to view our schedules, work, relationships, parenting, and responsibilities as opportunities to dance in life's storms and honor how beautiful simple can be. Better than our ideal party, it is He who is inviting us, setting the table, breathing peace and freedom into details we aren’t in control of. When we recognize how He surprises us by using our greatest pains and detours to draw us to a beautiful dependence on Himfreedom and peace replace control and worry.
Put aside what-could-be and instead embrace what is? The invitation is yours. . .choose Real today.
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
An everyday Jane, Bekah is passionate about encouraging women to find their identity and freedom in Jesus, to live intentionally, and to celebrate their created selves. As a writer and speaker, Bekah shares about how God is inviting His REAL self to be experienced through life’s pits and peaks. She communicates her heart with a relaxed, storytelling style, as if you were sitting on her couch and catching up as old friends. You can find her at the beach, reading, baking, rearranging furniture, or flea-marketing. Bekah and her hubby, Bryan, and their two energetic boys reside at The Pogue Cottage in Huntington Beach, where dance parties are a regular occurrence. Bekah invites you to connect with her at bekahpogue.com.
Read an Excerpt
An Invitation to Celebrate when Life Doesn't Go as Planned
By Bekah Jane Pogue
Barbour Publishing, IncCopyright © 2016 Bekah Jane Pogue
All rights reserved.
An Invitation to Respond to Life with an Intentional Yes
We must cease striving and trust God to provide what He thinks is best and in whatever time He chooses to make it available. But this kind of trusting doesn't come naturally. It's a spiritual crisis of the will in which we must choose to exercise faith.
— Charles R. Swindoll
He held up four dimpled fingers, and two sapphire oceans stared up at me. "For my birthday I want chocolate chip cookies and a dance party." I laughed. Of course he does, this kid who can barely contain his passion for life and love for people. Of course he was planning ahead for his birthday, which happened to be six months from then.
My thoughts drifted to his first birthday celebration: Ty & Tapas. Both great-grandmas had called to clarify. "A topless party, Bekah? Really? What is this?" I explained about tapas — small plate, Spanish nibbles — and that in all honesty, it was a party for the adults, especially us parents, because, Praise Jesus, we survived his first year. "Please Grandma, come. And puh-leeze, do wear a shirt."
I snapped to the present. "Cookies and a dance party sound perfect!"
Fall came, and Ty was in charge of the guest list and spouted off friends' names as fast as I could write them down. At the bottom of the online invitation, four tiny letters sealed the deal: RSVP. Depending on whether people responded yes or no would affect the birthday celebration. For those who chose yes, cookies and sweet dance moves awaited — and the assurance their children would be sent home in a sugar coma. For the guests who couldn't attend, no problem — we'd understand. And for those who didn't respond to the invitation, it was just that.
It really couldn't get simpler than chocolate chip cookies and loud tunes and children dancing. Now, you must know, I'm impulsive and get overly excited about the smallest of events and may have gone a bit overboard on the baking. And because there is nothing, I repeat nothing, like a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, let's not stop at a dozen. No, friend, let's make 150 homemade chocolate chip cookies — just in case the entire state of California responded positively to the birthday invite. As Tanner and Ty helped crack eggs, stir dry ingredients, and pour buckets of chocolate morsels into the mixer, my husband, Bryan, created an upbeat dance party mix, and we chatted about the upcoming birthday festivities. RSVPs came one after another: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Ty's birthday celebration was perfectly uncomplicated. Minimal setup. Unhindered time. Platters upon platters of homemade chocolate chip cookies. "Happy Birthday to You" voices in unison. Birthday boy basking. No-cares-in-the-world dancing. Loud music drawing in the neighbors.
Billy, from down the street, stopped by with his dog, watched on the outskirts, and left with a bag of cookies. From the driveway across, kids paused their game of basketball to bust a move and sample birthday treats. "Come on over," we invited neighbors. "Come dance and eat and celebrate." And some said yes while others stayed indoors. Long after guests left, our family sat on worn beach blankets and watched the sky entertain with her generous scoops of sherbet piled high in cloud bowls.
Have you ever noticed the opposing perspective between when you host and when you attend a party? When we RSVP yes to an invitation, we simply get to come and be. We don't have to buy the napkins, hang the banners, or nudge the final sheet of cookie dough balls into the oven, timing them perfectly for guests to savor warm treats. We simply come to enjoy. To relax and be included in the celebration. It requires little work on our part other than showing up and walking through the doors. The rest is soaking up laughter, savoring appetizers and fizzy drinks, shaking to catchy tunes, and breathing easy as kids run and squeal in utter joy. RSVPing yes means we experience an invitation to its fullest.
Growing up, I desperately wanted to say yes to the invitation of a dynamic relationship with Jesus. But I wondered how because no one ever explained to me that I didn't have to work so stinkin' hard at it. I concluded Christianity was nice people doing nice things for one another. I believed Jesus was who He said He was, but He always seemed a bit too perfect for me. I couldn't relate. I suppose deep in my gut I couldn't grasp that Jesus is actually personal and wanted to hang out with my feelings, my insecurities, and me. In high school I went on every church mission trip and volunteered for leadership roles in school and ministry, but my faith was performance based. I didn't understand I had a choice in allowing Jesus to take the lead. Because, heaven forbid, what if He didn't? How could I follow a Jesus I didn't have a real relationship with other than what I did for Him?
Until my early thirties, I lived out my faith the same way I lived out my natural calling — as the host, the inviter. Mostly because that's my sweet spot. I adore opening our cottage doors and welcoming friends with the clink of a glass and music dancing from the kitchen. Hosting families and encouraging them to feel cozy within our safe walls awakens me to my creative self. But I had a misguided belief that physically inviting people into my heart and home transferred into spiritually inviting. Thus the lie rooted: I was responsible to do the inviting with God. This unrealistic faith perspective was a heavy weight, one that put me in the center, doing all of the work.
Perhaps if I entertained Jesus enough, caught His attention, proved why He should attend my so-called party called Bekah's life, He would come. Hopefully with dessert. So I invited Him, but only to the major events. God, will You join me on this mission trip? Can I get Your opinion on what college to attend? What are Your thoughts about my future spouse? Career? Where should we live? On and off, I used Him like a seasonal accessory.
Jesus the hat.
Jesus the cute scarf.
Jesus the sassy neon belt.
Mostly, I asked Him to meet me in the important parts of life because I didn't know how to be real about mundane, unexciting details. Like How do I navigate friendships in college? Where are You when it comes to my shifting identity? It barely crossed my mind that He would want to listen to my heartache or family tension or marital spats. And because I didn't know how to invite Him into the oh-so-normal parts of my life, doubt took hold. Deep, dark doubt. If I wasn't aware of how to be personal with Him, there was no way I could conceive that He wanted to know me, all of me, every nook and cranny. Sure, I knew Christianity claimed that Jesus wanted an intimate relationship with me, but practically grasping it was another story.
I heard little discussion of life not going as planned from the older generation, from people at church, from the pulpit. Will someone explain how real life collides with faith? How do I respond with my temporal circumstances and let God use them for His eternal plan? And how does this whole faith thing work in the everyday?
Unsure, I decided, I'll keep on keeping on. I'll connect with Jesus when I read my Bible. I'll carve out space when I'm not working or chasing my little monkeys around or trying to make sense of life. I'll do it all even if I'm worn out. And I'll do it with a smile, because that's what faith looks like. Adamant foot stomp.
Come. The more the merrier. I invited and planned and hosted. At the core, I recognized a frantic inner fan. Whir, whir, whir. The unceasing white noise begged me to pause. Little did I know it was God's Spirit, beckoning me to follow, to stop whirring about, and give Him space and time to initiate a relationship with me. If I'm honest, at the center was fear. Fear that if I stopped reaching out and organizing, I wouldn't be accepted, thought of, or invited. So I took control and used my natural gift for connection but suffocated it beneath panic and charged ahead.
Yes, I choose You, God. But I mapped out life on my own. He would place dreams in my heart and mind, but I'd stress about what would happen if I went for them and failed. I had friends but was afraid I wasn't enough for them. I was real with others about hard times, but did I really believe God wanted to endure my brain chatter?
What does it look like to respond to Jesus' invitation for a genuine relationship with Him?
First, I have to believe He wants to invite me — all of me. If I can't wholeheartedly embrace how He sees me, knows all my crazy thoughts, and right this moment is planning the menu and pouring glasses, then I can't take the next step. Only when my head connects to my heart and I know with every fiber in me that He is already here and chooses me, then, and only then, can I move forward.
With trust established, I now have a basic choice — do I respond yes or no? Do I trust my unknown to God more than I trust my sense of control? More than my outcome and plan? Do I choose to enter into an expectant posture, or do I choose a five-step, fill-in-the-blank, paint-by-number life? Saying yes views every feeling, experience, relationship, and bump in the road as an opportunity to see from His vantage point. Yes holds plans open, turns palms up, and acknowledges that God knows what He's doing. Responding with a nod means, Lord, how can I get closer to Your heart through this? The reality is that when I constantly did the initiating with others (and sometimes even with God), doing so became tiring. Exhausting. I secretly wanted to fling my arms out wide, tilt my head back, and give up. I wanted to stop trying to make sense of details and allow God to take over.
But wait. What if I can let God do the inviting? What if you can let Him? Let Him send the invitations, plan the event, choose the colors and theme and guest list as He comes to celebrate us? What if we let Him lay out the dreams He has placed within us since before time in the order He knows best? What if we choose to know He is weaving passion and pain and grace so personally together that it has to be journeyed with Him to appreciate His peace all the more? What if it starts with one lip-quivering yes?
Bob Goff, a life-embracing communicator and world changer, in his guttural laugh type of way, said, "Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure. It's not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary; He simply invites us. God asks what it is He's made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, 'Let's go do that together.'" This invitation visual makes my heart happy.
Slowly, my perspective shifts. Before I assumed the role of inviter, but now I receive hundreds, thousands of daily invitations to follow and join Him. The invitations can come like they did when I was a child in the traditional sense of His black-and-white words found in scripture. They come through prayer and people. But they also surprise deeply as God's Spirit sprinkles out-of-the-box invitations through dreams, my children, nature, and music. I notice His offer as I'm baking, designing, playing with our sons, as the sun sinks into the silver ocean. Wise souls tell us, and they are correct, that the harder the circumstance, the clearer He becomes.
His invitations arrive.
A crisp white envelope with black bold script. "Will you choose to trust Me with this job interview?"
A crumpled, tearstained envelope with smeared pen. "Will you choose to follow Me into the unknown of this move away from family?"
A small, dark envelope with faint type. "Will you choose to follow Me when you feel alone?"
A dazzling gold envelope on the screen. "Will you choose to follow Me when marriage is hard work and everyone else on Instagram looks like they have it together?"
A formal envelope with numbers signifying a patient's name. "Will you choose to follow Me when your dad has cancer?"
The choices come, one after another, carrying extreme feelings and real-life circumstances, and I get to rip open the pretty, ugly, and scary packaging to peer inside. Only I can respond to each and every invitation. Will I RSVP yes or no?
God's Spirit beckons, presenting a choice to create my own path, even under the mask of faith — or to recognize Him as the Inviter, the One Who Has Already Shown Up. As Ulrich Henn, a German sculptor, so beautifully said, "All men, believing in God or not, are invited to enter. I wish to make them curious to see what God has to offer them within the cathedral." Here lies my choice: Will I enter into where God is inviting?
Oh friend, how backward my perspective used to be. This trust journey is an invitation, one that begins with God first inviting me. Inviting me to come with my fears and questions and stories of transition and pain. Inviting me to carry broken dreams, an imperfect family, and fragile expectations. Inviting me to bring my bags packed with life's experiences, which He so willingly offers to carry. He invites me to RSVP to this faith journey. To let Him surprise me in the order, the people, and the gifts wrapped in pain. He is a giver of good gifts, but I have to trust He knows when and how and why to give them. And believe He remains constantly Real even when gifts are taken away.
Too often I still try to host. To take control and design the menu, coordinate the napkins to fit with the theme, and Hmmm, what games should we play? Favors or no favors? No wonder I wore myself thin. I perceived faith much in the same way as a party I planned. Every new sunrise offers opportunities to respond yes. Will I see how God is Real in this circumstance, this emotion, and this relationship? Will I choose to engage, despite how painful or lonely or awkward doing so may be? Or will I try to host?
Bryan and I love inviting, but how great is our joy when we are invited. Thought of by people who want to know us more. Esteemed enough to be welcomed into their homes. Being invited is one of the most humbling gifts to receive because it has nothing to do with us making the event happen and everything to do with showing up and choosing to be seen.
In his book Yes or No: How Your Everyday Decisions Will Forever Shape Your Life, Jeff Shinabarger talks about community and noticing people enough to invite them, especially when they are withdrawing. He wrote, "If you see people you care about retreating, engage them. They need you. They need your care, your listening ear, and your perspective to help them through whatever has them stuck. We were made for each other." How true this is for community but even more so for how Jesus longs to invite us into community with Him.
What does it look like to say yes to God? To greet Him as the Welcomer? To let Him intentionally place people to intersect your journey while they travel their specific paths?
"Come enjoy and taste and see and experience," God says.
When I attend God's party with my fears about being too emotional and my ginormous, passionate dreams, He asks me to bring them all — the whole shebang. He welcomes my heart for others, my honest frustrations about busy schedules, and my hope to be intentional in my parenting of our curious boys. When I RSVP yes, I'm saying yep to every last drop, His realness in each and every situation. RSVPing yes is a good starting point.
When Jesus invites, when He shows up and knocks gently, when He whispers through classmates and coworkers, co-op moms and crazy calendars, we have the choice to accept and walk through the door with Him or to continue putting on the "inviter hat." We know how it feels to be invited in, so why do we so often refuse these invitations and go about our way, hoping He'll ask later when we're less busy?
It took my son's birthday party to surface deep faith questions. Will I RSVP to Jesus' invitation to follow Him, even when I'm not sure what that even means? Will I choose to grab hold of His hand while my other arm carries bags of real-life questions? Will I recognize that in the moments when I question, "Is there more? Is this it?" followed by my most honest confession, "I hope there's more," that God is here? That He is meeting, waiting, and patiently holding out His hand?
Of course, God starts with an invitation, an offering of Himself. On the cross Jesus invited me to follow. And since then His invitations haven't ceased. No wonder He starts by meeting me where I am in my current season. An invitation is by far the most beautiful expression of love and grace. It requires no work on my part other than acceptance. His invitation includes all of life, every dark corner and every vibrant, celebratory space.
Excerpted from Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue. Copyright © 2016 Bekah Jane Pogue. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. RSVP Yes,
2. Enjoy the Journey,
3. Loss Is More,
4. Who Am I?,
5. Undie Therapy,
6. Cozy Corner Booth,
8. Communicating Value,
9. Thanksgiving in May,
11. Dancing in the Routine,
12. Turning Outward,
13. YOU Matter,