Okay. So first things first. I must unashamedly confess; I had no idea ‘clout’ was a legitimate, dictionary-approved word when I first stumbled upon this book. Clout Book CoverTo be honest, I didn’t give the title much thought at all. Sure, the subtitle caught my attention, but the title, well, it had no meaning to me. It wasn’t until I was less than a chapter in that I was sucker-punched by the following two sentences in Jenni Catron’s introduction, & was compelled to consult Mr. Webster, himself, on the matter:

“When we discover and unleash our God given influence, we position ourselves to lead with passion and purpose that defy our personal limitations.”

Personal limitations? Well, let’s maybe not go there quite yet. Instead, stick with me a moment as I attempt to review what this thing called ‘clout’ is all about & what makes Jenni Catron’s words of wisdom so poignant to us all.

According to Webster’s dictionary, clout is defined as “the power to influence or control situations.” In other words, a person’s clout is his pull, his control, or as Catron best describes,

“Clout is the influence that God has given to you and to no one else…the collection of nuances that make you unique.”

Simply put, clout is a gift. One that is unique to both you & me. It is God’s priceless investment that should certainly not be taken for granted, let alone, wasted. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to defy his or her own personal limitations? Who would turn his back on a life of passion & purpose? I think we would all agree that the answer to these questions is simple – no one. Bound handsFor me, however, when I truly examined my life, my purpose, and my passion in light of my own personal limitations, I quickly became aware of how bound I truly was as a result of what Catron describes as “clout killers” – fear, comparison, jealousy, scarcity, insecurity, pride & control.

As the book progresses, Catron boldly attacks each of these clout killers, pairing her own personal confrontations & experiences with Biblically sound teaching & scriptures to validate the gifts we so frequently suppress, all because we allow one or more of these clout killers to rob us of who God intended us to be.

This book could not have come along at a more opportune time as that when I received it. The further I read, the more saturated my heart became with the truth God had been gently whispering to me for the past few years & had wanted me to trust Him with all along – the beautiful truth that I am needed. I have a purpose. And regardless of where He has positioned me at any given moment, He has a uniquely defined intention that He has equipped me for in order that my influence would bring others to know Him.

Not only does Catron shed light on the falsities that too often shadow the light which God has placed inside of us, she continues to unravel these mis-truths, Anchor Scriptureproviding the reader with an anchor of hope & courage to instrumentally replace each of these clout killers with what she accurately defines as “clout cultivators” – our identity, our confidence, our mission & our passion.

Catron concludes her book with practical, step-by-step instructions on how to discover one’s clout regardless of where one is in his or her stage of life. In the first chapter, she writes,

“We often confront our greatest fear at the crossroads of influence. We face our fear at the threshold of our greatest opportunity to make an impact. Not to confront this fear would be to deny who we are created to be.”

My stage of life was just that – a crossroads of influence, an intersection of my family, my career, my faith & my health, a fatal accident waiting to happen.Crossroads When I began reading Clout, I was desperate for direction, for guidance & most of all, for God’s voice. Today, I am fully convinced the Lord used this book to deliver all of those longings & more. Clout taught me how to exchange fear for truth, comparison for focus, jealousy for affirmation, scarcity for generosity, insecurity for love, pride for humility and control for faith.

So back to personal limitations. Do I have them? You bet I do. Do I still struggle with “clout killers”? Absolutely. The difference before & after reading Clout, however, is that I now have a more clearly defined understanding of my own, God-given influence & how He wants me to use it to grow His kingdom. Stewardship at its finest. I would recommend this book to anyone – a CEO, a stay at home mom, a doctor, a cashier, a college student, a lawyer…there is not a single person I can think of that would not benefit from reading Clout. It has changed my life, my perspective & has given me hope that I can live with peace, joy & contentment when I am living out who God has uniquely designed me to be.

MatchI think it is fitting to end this post with a quote Catron uses in the conclusion of her book & one I believe is both humbling & electric, leaving us with the challenge to use what she has delivered & apply it to our everyday lives in order to unleash our God-given influence, our clout. In the words of Catherine of Siena,

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

Hide it under a bushel? No! Set fire to your clout & let it shine!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com&gt; book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html&gt; : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

My Dear Friend, Knowledge.

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Today, amongst friends, family & strangers, I officially said goodbye to a beloved friend, one who will be remembered fondly for years to come, Mr. Knowledge Supreme Scientific.

Yes, that was his name.

It would take me a blog & a day to explain how someone with the Hollywood name of Michael McCray could, in his right mind, legally change his name to one of such, well…stateliness. But I guess there was a time in his life when he & the State were pretty tight (if you get my drift), so maybe he was on to something after all.

Regardless, that’s not the purpose of my writing this evening. In fact, I have very little to share, few thoughts to muddle through; instead, I really have little to write into life but mere observations, sentiments & a sense of urgency, longing that has been welling inside, particularly since His passing.

You see, my friends, Knowledge had nothing to lose & everything to gain. He had been there, done that. He had limitless love to share. A wealth of wisdom to pass on to others who found themselves in the same circumstances he had been in on more than one occasion. His smile was infectious, even on the dreariest of days. His joy was found in The Lord. It was abundant & it truly was his strength.

If anyone had a journey & lived to tell about it, it would no doubt be Knowledge. As I was reading in scripture today, this passage stood out to me & particularly reminded me of the life Knowledge once lived, the new life He found in Christ & now the perfect union he has with His Creator, even tonight as I write…

“Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21 MSG)

It brings tears of joy to my eyes that Knowledge knew this future. He was at peace. And if anything, I know his prayer for the rest of us would be that we would find peace too. That we would accept that we were not an afterthought & that we would fully believe that each one of us, including you & me, has a perfectly written future in Christ. Our time here, like Knowledge’s, is just for a season…

So, in celebration of Knowledge’s beautiful life & the last year & a half I was able to spend with him, this is the cry of my heart tonight. Thankful that he has already met Him in the sky…

 

As of today, Thursday, the 6th of March, 2014, I have literally worked a total of 12 days straight. This isn’t just any kind of work either. This is heavy duty,

lifting elephants, swinging silverware, tying knots in all of those wiry sections of my cerebrum, particularly the frontal & temporal lobes, at least what I have left. Too much of this equates to too little of me.Those wiry sections become like a ball of yarn that the cat attacked. ImageThen maybe attacked again. Except I don’t look so cute. 

I get cranky. Irritable. Downright mean to everyone who is near & dear to my heart. I over-analyze this & covet that, stalking Facebook & Instagram to see the millions, ok, hundreds of friends who are living the dream. They have 2.5 kids, a clean house, maybe a dog (or cat in this instance). They’re apparently paid up on their bills & incredibly wise with their money because they’re going to the Outer Banks for the weekend. They’re sipping a chai latte while they casually lounge on their comfortable new sofa from Restoration Hardware with a brand new blanket they “just found on clearance for $27 at TJ Maxx!” while watching a much-too-intelligent-for-me-to-understand documentary on a subject which I know nothing about, only to pile more snow onto my downwardly speeding snowball of “It’s a Lousy Life”. ImageReally. Happy meals aren’t good for you? Geez. I’m a lousy parent now too.  

Can we be honest? Can we be real for a minute? I will if you will. Heck, I’m going to do it regardless. 

We all do it. Each & every one of us have our own reasons why. But for me, I have narrowed it down to two things, one resulting from the other, but both deep rooted issues of the heart.

Busyness, with the end result being one of it’s BFFs…Jealousy.

Earlier this week I had a dear friend send me a message that has not stepped foot out of my mind since the day it entered. We had been corresponding that morning via text about a fundraiser coming up that we are both involved in & I simply stated that if I could just get through this week, I could spend more time preparing with her for this upcoming event. She quickly replied back, “I just finished praying for The Lord to slow me down in whatever way He sees fit! I just did the same for you, so be ready!!!!!”

It took me a moment to realize that by “be ready” she meant, “I am praying that God will do whatever He has to do to keep you from doing the things that distract you so easily from Him.” I won’t lie. At first, this was a little scary, like when you pray for patience. But then the more I thought on it, it kind of excited me. You see, when I am too busy for my God, too busy for my family, too busy to take care of me, I become someone else, & definitely not the woman He created me to be. But when I make time. When I choose to give my best to Him, to my family & so on, there is no room for jealousy. And as busyness & jealousy sets with the dark, rays of hope, joy, peace & rest come filtering in through our once clouded vision. Suddenly the truth becomes clear. 

So today, Thursday, the 6th of March, 2014, whether you are continents away, or just down the street, whether I know your name, or we are blood relatives, the words that were prayed over me earlier this week, I am praying over you today. So get ready!!!!!Image

An Egg and a Stick of Butter

Overdue StampAs many of you know, I recently made a purposeful decision to return my overdue love of literature back to the Library of Lonesome & begin filling up my barren shelves, with a vast selection of titles & authors, in order that my quiver, in a literary sense, be full. 

I am being 99.9% truthful when I say I have little preference over fiction, non-fiction, biography & so forth. I like them all; however, to get my feet wet, I went for a book that a friend had recommended, Love Does, by Bob Goff. Turns out, this really isn’t a “get your feet wet” sort of book. It’s more like a plunge. But in a good way.

Love Does Book

The book is fantastic. So far, this is what I’ve learned: love does. Seriously. It’s helping the elderly lady across the street mow her grass. It’s letting your neighbor “borrow” an egg or a stick of butter. It’s picking up a friend’s kids from school when she has to work late. It’s fixing a meal for a family who is grieving the recent loss of a loved one. It’s random acts of kindness. It’s intentional acts of kindness. It’s giving people a second chance. It’s giving people the benefit of the doubt. And not just people like you, or people like me. It may often be people you don’t like. People who get under your skin. People you avoid eye contact with at all costs. Those kind of people. Love is seeing people, all people, & letting them know they are seen.

As Bob Goff so eloquently composes, “…we need to stop plotting the course and instead just land the plane on our plans to make a difference by getting to the “do” part of faith. That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.”

So, I have two questions for you. First, share a specific “love does” experience where you have been the receiver. Secondly, think of 1 specific way you can be a giver this week & do it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jteOVglvxcY

Continue reading An Egg and a Stick of Butter

Trading Good for More Gooder

Today has been a good day & I’m thankful for it. Despite the busyness of preparing for my Isacc’s birthday party, I intentionally took the time to watch, to be present & to be in the moment as my little one celebrated his special day with several of his dearest friends & our amazing families.

Days like today are good reminders to me of what life is really all about. As birthday parties, Christmases, and other significant milestones come & go, I am reminded, even more, how fast these moments pass by. Some may come in a grand entrance while others tiptoe out as quickly & quietly as they tiptoed in. These seasons, these years, every moment we have is one moment we will never have again.

Learning to be present is a tough lesson to learn. There’s always one more recipe to find, one more Pinterest idea to research, one more Facebook status to eloquently compose. Here’s one for you; there’s always one more photo to shoot & flawlessly edit to be Instagram worthy. Oh, how many experiences, how much laughter & tears, hugs & kisses, joy filled smiles, sunrises, sunsets, or the opportunity to make someone’s day better – how much of life do we miss out on simply because we aren’t intentional about being present? Earlier today, Rick was singing part of an old John Mayer song & I had to dust off the cobwebs in my musician’s library & go looking for that old familiar album, Room for Squares. After a little meandering, I found the particular song & line that had so strongly convicted & challenged me earlier in the day. 

“Didn’t have a camera by my side this time. Hopin’ I would see the world through both my eyes…today I finally overcame…tryin’ to put the world inside a picture frame…no more 3x5s.”

They are one and then they are four, then twelve, then twenty-one & off to conquer the world. These tender moments are so precious. Their worth cannot be measured. I wouldn’t trade them for the world & I would gladly surrender my iPhone, my Canon rebel, my Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram & Twitter accounts, even this blog, if I had to choose between. Intentional. Present. In the moment. Sometimes it means giving up something good for something that my birthday boy, Isaac endearingly calls “more gooder.” What could possibly be more gooder than that?

So what’s keeping you from being present? What are you being intentional about?

Couture Cards & Chaos

For the past several weeks, my life has been, for the most part, out of order. Not like the “Out of Order” sign you see at that shady gas station you probably wouldn’t want to frequent anyway, but more-so like the disaster that comes when you go to shuffle a deck of cards & you don’t get it just right. Cards go everywhere. Left, right, under the table, in someone’s spaghetti. You get the picture. Disorder at it’s finest.

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I read a quote just this week by historian, Henry Adams (1838-1918),

“Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.

Was it just me or did you have to read that again? Did he say what I think he said? Let’s just say this hit a nerve with me, one I never learned about in my neuroscience classes.  

 

Take a moment. Imagine with me a gorgeous, couture scarf, made of the most luxurious, most expensive fabrics (color of your choice, obviously), tragically fraying from both ends due to years of wear & weather; after all, it is couture. I’d be wearin’ that thing in my sleep.

This scarf, my friends, in a strange sort of way, represents me. And you, for that matter. For me, these past few weeks the threads of my intricately designed scarf have been held together by just a few strands, my precious family, dear friends & the grace of my Heavenly Father. It brings back memories of that old hymn by John Fawcett, 

“Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.”

I am reminded most during times as of late to reflect upon the designer of my scarf. If I didn’t know the designer, how could I appreciate it’s value? If I didn’t have the frays, the pulls, the picks & other minor and/or possibly major defects in the fabric or weaving, how would I recall where I had been along the way, the places my scarf & I had traveled, our story? Most importantly, knowing the designer, I am able to fully trust that no matter where the path leads, my scarf will forever be a wardrobe staple in my closet, through all seasons, all sizes and all situations.

So back to that quote. You thought I had gotten distracted & forgot all about it, hadn’t you? (You know me so well!) I still haven’t quite wrapped my brain around his thinking, but I do know this: chaos, order, life, habit, we can learn from each of these situations. Maybe we need a little more chaos from our monotonous, structured routine. Maybe we need a little more order in our lackadaisical approach to life. 

So get your scarf out! We’ve still got a lot of travelin’ to do… 

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The Dusty Shelf

ImageI’ve always been a reader. Since I was a child, there were few things I loved more than a good book. My mom still swears that my siblings & I were reading on our own by the age of three. Maybe it was the countless episodes of Sesame Street or the stacks of Little Golden Books that were often strewn about. Who knows; I’m still not sure if I believe her.

From grade school through graduate school, my passion for reading continually increased. The smell of a new book fresh off the press, the curiosities surrounding an old book found. Both excited my senses & captured my full attention, as a conductor would capture that of his concertmaster. 

Be it poetry, science fiction, one of inspiration, an autobiography or even a cookbook, I loved, and still love, books of all kinds. 

Just recently I was trying to think of the last book I had read. Regrettably, I couldn’t. The thought of this saddened me as I realized I had kicked one of my lifelong loves to the curb in exchange for life’s busyness. Without haste, I came to the resolution that I would no longer make excuses for the dust on my shelves. I would no longer blame my empty bookcase on working long hours, not enough time in the day, having kids & simply put, having more important things on my agenda. 

So today is that day. My 33rd birthday. I begin my journey. I’m dusting my shelves & filling them up. I invite you to join me. You never know how the story may end…  

What about you? Do you have an empty shelf?