Monday, December 31, 2012

What I want....for you and for me. With all my heart....

 Dear ones....

As we close out one year and get ready to walk into the next, it's tempting to put some things into boxes. To categorize and put away an entire year of experiences. One thing the Lord continues to speak to me about is how I look at timing WAY differently than He does! (yeah. no shock to those who know me well :) His work continues without thought to the passing of one year on to the next. The chapters in our lives form together to create a beautiful book of our lives. And the chapters we do have in our lives are rarely segregated into years!

All of that to say, this isn't a wrap up 2012 post because I think I'm in the middle of a chapter, not finishing one out right now! It's a.....this is part of my story....and it's continuing - as is His faithfulness. Instead of wrapping up 2012 or giving my one word for 2013....I want to share my hopes and dreams...for me and for you as we continue to write and rewrite and LIVE the story that God is planning for us.

Freedom. I desire freedom for us in our inmost beings. Physical freedom for all....that no one would live in oppression and slavery. I desire emotional freedom that we may know our own wounds and seek a God who can heal them and bring freedom. Spiritual freedom as we unravel our boxes and begin to allow God to be God. Relational freedom....that you may live in relationship with those who are good to you and treat you like you deserve. May you have the freedom to be FULLY yourself. May you have the freedom to walk away from what it is not good for you and to run hard into the things He has planned for you. May you cling with fury to the promises He has for you and walk out of the chains He is destroying.

Beauty. May you seek His face and His beauty. May you sink into the truth that He loves you deeply. May you understand how your God sees you. May you understand in the depths of your soul that He desires GREAT beauty for you. The God who created ALL beauty longs to create beauty for you. So stop settling for surviving! Stop settling for mediocrity! Strive for beauty in everything. Long for it. Want it. Beg for it. Then walk out what He calls you to walk out to see this beauty.

Dream. dream big and let Him wash His dreams over you. You serve the God who created the UNIVERSE, you don't think He can accomplish the dreams and promises He has placed within you? Let yourself dream. Then follow those beautiful dreams He has placed in you!

Hope. Even when it's hard. Hope. Choose it. Live in it. Let yourself feel crazy because you hope so strongly even in the face of ashes or pain. It's hard. I promise. Hope is the thing the enemy seems to attack the most. But it's beautiful and SOOOOOO worth it!

Join the adventure. I want you to sink into beauty and truth and grace and mercy and the unfathomable love of Jesus. I want you to experience freedom and healing in your most inmost places. Then....I want to invite you to join the party :)  The great big God that we serve is actively pursuing a hurting world and He wants YOU to be a part of this great adventure. He wants to see you soar to new and amazing heights, dive into the depths of darkness that our world to bring hope and participate in His beautiful work of bringing healing and redemption throughout the world!!!

I want to be the kind of girl who loves fearlessly because I know deeply how loved I am. I want to be free in every way possible so that I might live out my freedom and healing in a hurting world. I want to constantly tear down my boxes and re-evaluate everything so that I might not hold to tightly to things that are untrue. I want to see people. Truly see them. I want the people around me to experience love and service that makes them heal because it must be from the hand of God. I want to desire and pursue my Jesus passionately and be willing to walk, believe, hope and dream whatever He asks of me. I want to see beauty. I want to watch dry bones dance and slaves realize their freedom. I want to walk with others into their dark places and hold their hands while they come alive. I want to see Jesus more clearly, be held more closely by Him and walk dangerously into the great adventure that He has planned for me....and I want that for YOU too :)

I desire these things for you...

with all my heart,

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Married to Vincent Van Gogh :)

"Beauty comes....but not for you" he whispers sneers into my ear. I tell a friend. She hears it too, she gently confesses. We believe for beauty for one another. We stand firmly on that point. No need to waiver. It is not a question in our minds. God will surely bring great, overwhelming, breath taking beauty to my precious friend who has hurt so much. Isaiah 61:7 springs to my mind.
"Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours."
We believe. We stand. We encourage. we doubt. Oh wait, that last one isn't supposed to be in there, is it? But it's true. We doubt. We so often doubt. That voice....that horrible little gets to us. We cower in shame, ashamed that we would believe such a thing. And yet, the enemy uses "proof" to show us that God is not for us and beauty will not come. He doesn't, however, use very good logic :) He tried to lure you into believing, "You can't see the beauty, so it's obviously not coming."

Wait a second. Is this true? Is that a good logic that follows reasoning?  Nope. Not so much. I can't see the moon right now, but that doesn't mean it won't rise tonight? Just because something isn't happening in this moment, in no way guarantees that it won't ever happen! You aren't pregnant today, but you long for a baby? That doesn't mean you will never be pregnant or be a mama. You are alone today and you long for a precious man or woman to love you? You could meet this man tomorrow! Whatever the dream or promise that He has laid in your heart....just because you can't see the fulfillment today, does not mean that it won't ever come.

I don't know what your dreams are. I don't know what pain clutches your heart. I don't know what beauty you long for.

I do know the one who longs to hold you in your pain, walk with you in your waiting and bring His sweet promises to pass (I just don't know when ;)

Often though, we hide. We hide our hearts' dreams from the one who planted them. We hide our longings and our pain. We hide from the very one who can help us....

I went through a beautiful walk through this snowy canyon a few days ago with my friend Malory. As we walked, we talked about beauty.


He created THIS.

And yet I doubt.

How silly my doubt seems when compared to this MAJESTY!

It's as if I am happily married to Vincent Van Gogh and yet lamenting that I want a painting SOOOOOOOOO badly. Why oh why do I not have a painting?

Can you picture my husband? Vincent Van Gogh. Gently pulling me aside and saying, "Sweetie....maybe I could paint you something? I mean, people have said I'm sort of good at this :) Why don't you ask me? Your loving husband who adores you? Who would want to paint you something more? I promise. I want to. AND I'm capable at creating beauty.

Maybe Jesus wants to whisper the same thing to your heart?

Maybe He wants to remind you that YOUR bridegroom adores you and would love to create beauty for you. Look around.....He is capable. Beauty is sort of His thing :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012 I go.

I'm just going to ramble here and sort of just share my heart to catch you up....not going to worry about being flowery or poetic. This is wordy. Could I go back and make it concise? Yep....but I'm inviting you on the journey as I figure it out you are getting ME....unedited :) Consider yourself warned :)

For a long time, I have known that God is putting a big vision in my life. Once I heard about the issue of human trafficking, I was immediately drawn to this issue. I knew that God's heart beat for justice and for the oppressed........

But I was involved in Africa.

I felt conflicted.

I felt like as I switched from issue to issue that people would think I was scatterbrained. Actually, I was told that. I was told that I was all over the place and no one would listen to me.

But Jesus spoke to my heart 'it's all about justice. It's all about freedom" It all ran together because it was all about ONE issue: Justice....taking on many faces: poverty, trafficking, abuse, etc.

I've known that one day I would want to start something....but what? I know when you start a non-profit that you have to actually KNOW what you want to do :)

So I waited....I waited and I waited because I didn't want to start something too small.

I had lived in boxes for too long and I was afraid that in my limited thinking that I would plan too small :) I didn't want to do that.

I think God is clarifying my vision though. I know the "smart" thing to do is to keep it inside and to figure it all out and then present it to you as a finished product. But....that's not the way I roll :) Pretty and packaged isn't my thing. A broken girl leading broken people to make a difference in this world and inviting people on the grand adventure is more my thing.

But then came the fear. Fear of really diving into the trafficking. Fear of the pain that lies there.

I told people for a long time "I know my calling is in trafficking....but I won't do it until I'm married."

Ministry is freaking hard. It is. Life in the mess is incredibly hard. Life lived in the midst of injustice is ridiculously hard.

and it's hard to do alone. Oh I know I'm not alone, alone. I know I have YOU :) I know I have amazing friends all over the world that walk with me and cry with me. But the truth is, I'm alone. I'm a single mama. I don't have a partner in this world for whom I am his greatest passion (besides Jesus juking me here :) and his first priority. I was scared to go to India or SE Asia and face this pain myself. I was scared to see the pain and not have a partner's shoulder to cry on.

Walking through pain with others, particularly those that you come to dearly love (even if you only know their name) is hard. There have been MANY nights over the last 2 years when I have cried myself to sleep over the pain that others must face. I have cried out to God many times, "I will do this. I will walk into the hard, dark, messy places with people....but please oh please at least let me not do it alone" I was/am scared to hurt so badly in the places of greatest darkness like the red light districts across the world. I was afraid to go into the places where the enemy is SO present without someone who "has my back" spiritually. What's funny is the one thing I'm not afraid of is physical danger. Guess I have the boys at Krav to thank for that :)

So I waited.

But the truth is. I am alone. It's a fact of life. and I can't wait any longer. If the Lord is calling me to walk in my calling and to begin to "soar" (as my precious Elena puts it so often) than I am just going to have to trust that He will give me the people necessary to hold my hand while I do it. One day I'll have a partner by my side to do ministry with....but for now....I must walk ahead in faith.

So here are my thoughts about what I believe I am called to's 2 fold actually.
I first want to find 2 groups of people....

1. I want to find great organizations doing amazing things in this world. I want to create a network of organizations around the world. A network of friends. I want to find great orgs around the world that are working in the area of freedom and justice. People who work against the chains of injustice for either poverty or trafficking. They could do helping orphans and keeping them in school or doing awareness campaigns. Even women's cooperatives like what we do in Uganda can be considered trafficking prevention! They could do rescues or brothel investigations. They could do restoration homes for girls/boys who have come out of trafficking. They could be orgs that focus on empowerment and reintegration.

2. I also want to find lots and lots of normal, broken, messy people around the world who want to make a difference.

And I want to help.

I want to help organizations to know how to work with advocates. I want to help them see advocacy as helpful to them and as people joining their team. I want leaders of organizations to feel loved and cared for and encouraged by whole teams of people around the world.

And I want to help normal, broken people like me know that they CAN make a difference in the world. I want to inspire and empower them to get involved in God's call for freedom and justice around the world. I want to invite them on the great adventure that is following God's call. And I want to help them learn how to use their voice and their talents for His glory.

I'm thinking what it will look day...

1. maybe speaking, writing, facebooking, etc and inviting people on this great adventure. And then, as people step up to the call and want in on this party that we call making a difference,  (this is the inspire  part :)

2. When they respond, I help them in learning how they can use their voice and talents to make a difference by:
      1. connecting them to a great organization. Because I will have created a network of great orgs I can just ask 1. what part of the world strikes your fancy? Africa? SE Asia? Europe? S. America? Here?  Ok, now that we know that.....tell me what part of injustice makes you angry? What part do you want to get involved in? Prevention? Schools? Empowerment? Rescue? Restoration? Reintegration? Orphans? And once they know these things, I can introduce them to the great orgs I know!
    2. Then we brainstorm together about how they might use their voice, their talents to make a difference. like the group of artists that is going to come together to decorate safe houses or the school teachers inspiring their students to raise money for school fees.

So there it plan. Inspiring and empowering people to get involved in God's call for justice and freedom throughout the world.  We will do this through forming a network of great organizations that we know are doing what they say they will do and are committed to really utilizing advocates as a part of their strategy and on their team and connecting them to trained advocates ready to make a difference.  What do you think? Specifically...anyone have a name idea? :)

In keeping with my...."Ok, I guess I can't really wait around any longer....better get soaring" plan, I feel like I'm being asked to plan a trip to SE Asia. I am planning/considering a 2 week, 4 country trip to begin "vetting" the orgs I will work with. My initial plan is to go to Mumbai, India - Bangkok, Thailand - Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Singapore, Malaysia. I will spend 2-3 days in each city and will see 3-4 different organizations that are making a difference. My goal would be to understand the issue of human trafficking more deeply and to connect to great organizations on the ground making a difference so that I can come back, offer my humble voice to them and begin to recruit and train advocates for them.

Am I scared? Yep. The enemy whispers "hey, one is asking you to speak or write or in any way inspire" but I know this is my call. The enemy says "your heart will be broken and you don't have anyone by your side to comfort you"  yep. true. but that doesn't mean I shouldn't walk ahead anyways. The enemy says "you already have too much on your plate" yep. but when I think about heart thrills and my eyes spill over with tears to think about God using me to make a difference in this world.

so here I go....

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In which I am adored

The boys are wrestling in the hallway. I can hear them. Shouting. Bumping into things. They start every morning this way. It makes me smile even when it wakes me up way earlier than I'd like to be awake.

Gracie, comes yawning into my room, stretching her little body and crawling into bed. "I slept good, Mama....but now I want to snuggle." I open up the covers as she crawls into and snuggles close to me.


This is her happy place. No place in the world she'd rather be than snuggled in bed with me. We close our eyes as if sleeping again is actually a possibility while a full blown UFC fight is going on right outside my door. I tickle her. She giggles. We practice our butterfly and eskimo kisses. She sighs. "I love you mommy. so much."

My boys, they love me. We have fun together and we absolutely love and respect one another. But Gracie?  Well, she full on adores me. I am her favorite person in the world. I am her safe place. Anyone who has been around us can see it. She clings to my legs and watches how I react to certain people and situations. She proudly talks about how much alike we are....

and we are alike. She is my princess. Frilly dresses, twirly skirts, painted nails and a love of boots, we share. We are also both quite - how shall we say - spunky :) Gracie has a retort for everything. She is not one to be pushed into a corner or into a box of any kind. She is passionate and curious. I've never met a child with more words....especially questions....and deep words. Have you met a 6 year old who says "That person didn't make my heart feel safe"? She talks about how her heart feels regularly. She reminds people that no one can tell her how she feels and that she deserves respect. She quickly says that "You're not respecting my words - my words, they mean something" and when talking about slavery says that "it's never okay to own another human being."  At night, she prays for a few things consistently.....two of them being that Joseph Kony will be captured or killed and that Mr James will rescue more slaves.

This morning, as she snuggled in bed and read the wall of my bedroom aloud "Loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free" and then snuggled closer, I was struck by her precious heart and how she adores me. I've been reflecting on it all morning.

Gracie's adoration of me both challenges and teaches me.

She challenges me to be the best me I can possibly be. If she is going to look to me as a measure of love, safety and the role model of what it means to be a woman....than I want to be cognizant of my role. I want her to see a mama who loves Jesus with all of my heart. I want her to see a woman who isn't afraid to be broken before her Lord because she knows that safety is in His presence. I want her to see a believer who HOPES big and LOVES big. I want her to see me living in the great adventure that the Lord has for me. I want her to see a scholar who wrestles with scripture and doesn't take it lightly. I want her to see a friend who goes into deep, hard places with others and doesn't try to fix them...but is willing to sit, pray and love. I want her to see a servant leader who is more concerned with lifting others up and serving them than with being served. I want her to see a courageous woman who boldly strides where Jesus leads. I want her to see a dreamer, a lover, a prayer warrior, a servant, a doer of the gospel. I want her to be more sure of herself because I have done the work to be ok with myself. I want to go before the Father than He may heal my wounds so that I might lead her down a path of healing for the wounds she is sure to receive in this path of life. I want to inspire and empower her to seek after God on her own, to hear His voice and to walk the path He will lay out for her. I want more than anything for her to love Him and know Him intimately.

She teaches me about loving and knowing Him intimately as she snuggles into my side. I want to be like that with my God. I want to be so in awe of Him that He is all that I want. I want to cast all aside to snuggle into His presence. I want Him to know He is adored by me. I want to sigh in contentment when I spend time in His presence. I want to be an "adorer" more than just an admirer of my Savior.

Life is busy. This we all know. But this week, this day even, I want to find the time to adore. I found it this morning at the end of yoga. Those last few minutes where we find our "final resting". I sigh here as I ask Jesus to speak over me. When she tells us to roll onto our sides and begin to sit up, I want to rebel and just lay there in His presence longer. I want to find more of those places throughout

the day. A minute here, a sigh there, a snuggle in which I breathe deep. I want to adore Him and soak in every minute of my time in His presence. For He is the one that I love....He is my safe place. And....funny is in Him that I feel adored too :-)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Eshet chayil, Rachel Held Evans!!!!

I was driving across the country with a friend, reading a book. She wasn't even necessarily interested in the book, but that didn't stop me from regularly stopping her in the middle of singing her favorite songs so that I could read sections aloud of this book that was changing my life. Reading this book was a spiritual experience. As I shouted and agreed wholeheartedly with this author I could actually feel the chains falling from around me. The book was called Evolving in Monkey Town and was written by an author I had just started following on FB, Rachel Held Evans. I can't even remember now who told me that I absolutely HAD to read this book, but they were right.

After reading Monkey Town, I started following Rachel's blog. She is funny and insightful. She had a deep love for the scriptures, but was willing to wrestle through the questions she had of them. She stood up for tough issues of injustice throughout the church and Christendom. She was a bit of a rebel to my evangelical mind :) Her posts caused me to think....deeply. Often times the truths she presented were ones that I had tossed around in my own mind and heart, but hadn't been able to fully articulate.

As you probably know, after life came crashing down in 2010, I was left with nothing more than my Lord. For months, He was my only companion and I didn't have a whole to I read my Bible. Between Mid November and the end of the year, I had read through the Bible once. I read through it a second time before April of 2011 hit and through once more before the end of the year. This time spent reading the scriptures changed my view of God. I began to see the character of God more than individual stories that I needed to learn from. I saw Jesus as scandalous. I saw how He stood up for the oppressed and how He treated women with honor. I began to rethink some of the boxes I had put Jesus in....some of the chains that I had wrapped around my Savior. Rachel's posts helped me uncover the chains and bravely walk into freedom.

One of the things I appreciate most about Rachel Held Evans is her humility. When she introduces a concept, it is firstly because she has wrestled with it personally. She wrestles with it, researches it, studies profusely and then pours out her heart. She does this not with an assertion that she has, above everyone else, discovered the ONLY answer and the best way. Instead, she gently and carefully lays out her impeccable research and the conclusions she has drawn. She never asserts that people who don't agree with her are idiots, unbelievers or who hate God or women or anyone else. She understands the intricacies of Scripture and how difficult it is to unpack great spiritual truths amidst cultural considerations to find the heart of God. She understand that other brilliant minds, with the same research available to them might search out the scriptures and come to a different conclusion and she honors that - applauds it even! She understands that we are a Body...a family...and that each of us might learn from the other parts of this wide array that is the Christian family.

She does all of this with a deep love for God's word, His people and His spirit at work amongst each of us. And she writes....I feel free to pursue my Jesus and His word more deeply. I feel unhindered by the many boxes of religion and find myself in the story of His grace. I find myself less afraid of the questions and the confusion that the Bible sometimes causes. Without the chains, I am able to interact with the Bible that is living and active. I dance with the living, breathing word of God. I wrestle with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Today, I join with others in celebrating Rachel and saying Eshet chayil! You are truly a Woman of valor!  Thank you for living so bravely so that so many of us may be free! 

Just so ya Rachel's new book releases:  A Year of Biblical Womanhood and I will be buying it tomorrow :) In it, she wrestles with the concept of "Biblical Womanhood" that is thrown about like a role to be played, a job description to be either lived up to or to fail miserably at. Womanhood and especially Biblical womanhood are much more complicated than a simple set of rules.  Would you like to join me in reading this together?

PS: You should definitely start reading RHE's blog. My favorite series is her series on Mutuality. I literally read most of these pieces with tears running down my face as the chains fell from my heart.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I hate it that I wrestle with the God that I adore

I like order.

This might be why I like to help people move :) I love packing and organizing and watching the project get done. I think I even like the boxes.

I like order in relationships too. I like to feel safe. I like to know where I stand with people. In fact, I'd rather not be in relationship at all then be confused about where you stand with me.

What I fighting. Ugh. Makes my stomach turn just thinking about having an argument with someone. (though I don't mind a good natured debate at all :) I especially hate arguing with people that I love. I'd rather just give in then fight. I want peace.

Life is chaos sometimes, however, and it's not so easy. While in life I'd love to be able to label every experience, every relationship, everything either good or bad, right or wrong, from Jesus or the's just not that simple.

My life has brought me many experiences and relationships that have more questions than answers. I try so desperately to figure them out and label them. I want to be able to say definitively that this relationship or experience was either all bad or all good, that it was either brought to me by the Lord or was a horrible ploy of the enemy. I want to be safe. If I can just label it and box it up, the nagging questions can leave me alone. If I can figure it out, the walls can go up so I don't have to feel conflicting emotions about it.

A few of my past relationships that I thought were brought to me by the Lord have turned out to bring more pain into my life than I ever thought possible. Some of these people hurt me in ways that I would love to say "well, at least I know Jesus didn't do that to me".  But it's just not that easy for me. When I look into the scriptures I see that He led the people of Israel into oppression a number of times! While I would like to figure God out and be able to determine "if it was good and ended was from Him....if it was painful, it was not" - I can't come to those terms.

I hate that. Truly.

Just last night I was struggling with this very idea. I was struggling through a recent, very painful experience. I wanted to write it off as not of God because of how painful it was....but that didn't quite work. But if I DID say that maybe the Lord was involved, well now I had more questions for HIM! If He was involved in my pain, I now had to wrestle through hurt feelings of "Jesus, why didn't you protect me?" or "Jesus, that felt cruel and hurt my heart. Why would you want that for me?" It seemed like every question led to more questions.

Charlie Hall in the song "My Brightness" sings I hate it that I wrestle with the God that I adore". YES! Me too. I hate wrestling with Him. I hate questioning His heart towards me. I hate the questions that life brings up. I want my boxes back! I want to be able to say with no tears and no questions, "I trust you and it's all good."  But life just isn't that simple!

Last night while I shamed myself for my frustration (ok, anger....I was possibly throwing things while praying :) and tried so desperately to just simply trust, I heard Him whisper to me "This is what I love about you. I love that you will keep wrestling with me. I love that you will question me. I love that I can entrust confusing situations to you and you will live with the questions with me"

You see, maybe the trite answers work. They certainly make great boxes. Relationships, however, are often found in the wrestling, in the questions. This is where intimacy is built. If I shoved these experiences under the rug, into the appropriately labeled box, I would be safe from baring my heart before God in the most raw way possible. I would be safe behind those walls and in those boxes, but I wouldn't be living in intimacy and authenticity. 

If we really believe that God's ways are SO far above ours, why do we expect to understand Him? Maybe He doesn't expect us to understand....and yet still desires intimacy in relationship with us. Maybe our lack of understanding and our questions, if wrestled out in relationship with Him, will actually draw us deeper into the heart of God?

For me, I want to allow myself to live among the questions. Live without answers to all of the situations and relationships in my life. Live in the sometimes frustrating intimacy that comes with being in relationship with someone who you don't quite understand completely but you know loves you deeply. I am glad that it IS here that I am safe....I am safe to question and struggle because I am fully loved in the midst of my humanity.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Living a better story

God's been stirring something in me lately, in so many different ways. It appears when He asks me to dance. It shows up when He tells me my only job is to "bloom" like the wildflower I am.

This week, He spoke to me through one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Bessey. She blogged about reacting vs creating. In case you didn't already know this, there are a few....ahem....people in the world....cough, cough....that aren't my biggest fans :) They are always going to be there. I've realized that I am called to live a life that is going to have some detractors. It's what happens when you're on the front lines and in the mess with others. There's no place I'd rather be. If God is calling me to live a life spent standing with those who others leave behind, spent fighting for injustice in so many forms, spent living an unconventional life with unconventional faith going places that others have no desire to go....well then, I'm going to have some critics. People like boxes and lines and laws. They like to say definitively what Jesus would and would not do. I'm tired of living that way :)

I'm tired of defending my life with Jesus. There are times when I wonder how I can best explain my heart to others. There are times when I want to scream and then invite people into my life and heart because maybe, just maybe if they really knew me, they'd understand. Maybe just maybe if they'd walked my journey they'd see Jesus where I see Him and move where I hear Him tell me to move. I wonder about defending myself with scriptures. I wonder at defending and clearly articulating my position on women, marriage, abuse, divorce, freedom, leadership, service, advice, etc. It's tiring because the truth is, some people don't want to know. People who want to criticize are going to criticize! They don't want to get to know me more and hear my heart. They aren't seeking to understand, so why am I offering explanation after explanation as if they are? All of this striving I do to keep peace and to want to make people understand is just striving. It doesn't help the kingdom.

Instead....I want to live a better story, my better story....the beautiful story that He is writing for me.

Sarah Bessey put it so beautifully here:
I long to Love, I long to offer grace, particularly to those struggling under their own new Laws, I long to worship, I’d rather write a better story than a point-by-point defense, and I long to really see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

As I read those words, the striving melted away from my shoulders. I felt peace. "This is it, Dear One," I heard Him whisper to my heart, "live a better story. Don't worry about them. Just live your story with me so beautifully that for the ones with listening ears and open eyes, they will see and know your heart because they will see me present. Just dance, don't apologize. Just love, don't explain. Just speak, no need to wait for permission. Just be you. Live this better, beautiful story that I have laid out and let all else fade away."

ahhhhhh. I plan on sinking into my better story. How about you? Do you find it hard to not want to react, explain or defend and just live the beautiful story He is writing for you?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Easy Answers vs. Shared Tears

Henri Nouwen once said, "“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 

As we all know, I walk in the messy. I think I've made my home here out in the mudpit actually :) I have friends who are facing all kinds of complicated, messy situations. Friends leaving abusive marriages, friends trying to save hard marriages, friends recovering from abuse (spiritual, sexual, physical, emotional, verbal), friends recovering from addictions, friends trying to leave prostitution, friends trying to parent addicts, friends trying to parent abused children, friends living in the mess of life.  I have lived through the mess in my own life. It is here that I find Jesus, the Jesus who left heaven and made his home dwelling in the dirt and mess of this world. The Jesus who enters our mess and brings hope and healing in the most beautiful of ways.

But mess is uncomfortable. It's dirty. Sometimes when we see mess, we LONG to clean it up! Partly this is's our longing to see things made new and beautiful!  Unfortunately, in our desire for new and beautiful, we tend to wound the wounded even more.
A hard truth that people like to acknowledge in word but don't really live by:
There are no easy answers, simple solutions or 5 easy steps to follow. 

We know our heads. However, in the midst of complicated situations people often try to offer these simple solutions "well, you really should....." Oftentimes, people consider the situation (what they know of it) and search their brains for what information they have stored in there that might apply ("I remember reading something that said a woman should wait x amount of years before dating") and spout that out as God's Word and final truth. People determine what they would do in the situation and then deliver it as the only answer.  

Here's the problem: when you offer simple solutions or "you should"s, you are reducing complex, painful, messy situations into easy answers and simple solutions and invalidating the pain of the person living in the situation.  

Every situation involves more than you can see. Even if you have lived in a similar situation, no two situations are the same. All situations are unique and have unique background information (that you may not be privy to) and involve unique people. What worked for you or someone you know, may not be applicable in this situation! 

I'm not saying that a set of fresh eyes isn't sometimes helpful! Having the wisdom or experience of others can change one's perspective and open up worlds of ideas. We must, however, be ever so gentle and careful when interjecting in hard situations. We must do so with the gentle respect that the person to whom we are speaking LIVES and breathes this pain day in and day out. We must do so with the humble awareness that we are not God and cannot determine with 100% accuracy what any one person MUST do.

I mean, let's be honest....I would not have given a lot of the advice that God gave! I would NEVER have told Abraham to kill his kid. I would never have told Elijah to go live in the forest for weeks on end. I would never have asked Noah to build an ark (because I wouldn't have known that rain would come!).

The path that the Lord asks my friends to walk may look different than my own path or what I would advise. 

With this in mind, instead of easy answers or "you should"s, I want to offer simply a listening ear. I want to offer a shoulder to cry on. I want to offer a gentle voice that says "I can see why that would hurt". I want to point my friends to the ONE person who can offer direction because He's the only one who actually knows all of the details of the situation! My friends tease me that the only thing I ever have to say about a hard situation is "Sweet friend, have you asked Jesus about this?" along with an offer to go to Jesus with them. If they want more, I can provide my life experience or what I have learned on this journey....but I always want to offer it with the caveat, "here is what I have learned or experienced and is simply my perspective".

and then....we love. Sometimes our friends will make decisions that we don't think are the wisest. Sometimes they will make decisions that don't make sense to us, but were exactly the decisions that Jesus led them to making! And so....we love. We love. We listen. We care. We cry together. We enter the pain and the mess. We offer grace. We point to the Jesus who knows every detail and can redeem everything.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Annoyingly Needy or a Holy Discontent?

I've wondered a few times in this recent season of my life if I'm terribly selfish.

It's been rough, this season... But God has been crazy present. Seriously, the most intimate and palpable times of my entire journey with Jesus has been through this season.

I remember one night in late November 2010, lying in bed bawling. I was weeping into my pillow, practically shaking my bed with my racking sobs. I begged Jesus to hold me. He did. All of a sudden, in the middle of a sob a peace came over me. I immediately stopped crying. I could feel His presence as He wrapped His arms around me and I fell asleep.

Other times I have cried out for His voice, for promises of beauty, for confirmation of what I was hearing in my own spirit. Often, on that very day I would have a friend call or email me and say, "I was praying for you and here's what I heard Jesus say...." And have it completely confirm what He was speaking.

I have gone into my deepest wounds with Jesus in my counseling sessions with my beloved Robin (everyone should have a counselor like her :) He has met me in those memories and spoken healing that is unspeakable.

And you know what? The next day, I'm asking for more. Begging for it. Perhaps even emailing or texting that same friend, "Jesus saying anything new about me today?" And I've wondered... I've wondered if I'm selfish and just not satisfied with what Jesus gives me. The words, truth, healing and presence I've experienced should be enough for a lifetime I tell myself. But this isn't what Jesus tells me. He whispers to my weary spirit "of course you need more manna, it's a new day and this journey has been hard." He tells me this but still I feel at times like a bother to the God of the universe. I wonder if one day He will be annoyed with me. I feel needy... And I hate it. I hate being needy. It's vulnerable. It's painful. It's scary. Surely His goodness and patience will run out? Nope. Not my God. He, above everyone else, knows how painful this journey has been. Never does He tell me to suck it up. He only speaks new words and gives fresh healing and more powerful presence every single time.

Then, this morning at church we sang a song I hadn't heard before... And something clicked inside of me. The song was "Shekinah Glory - We wait for you". Here are some of the lyrics:

"You move, and we want more
You speak, and we want more
You move, and we want more
We want the fullness

Release the fullness of Your spirit
Shekinah glory come
Shekinah glory come

I can't get enough of Your presence, presence
I can't get enough of Your presence, presence"

Yes! That's me. With every word, I want another. With every movement, I want more. With every chain that falls, I want to see 10 more. With every healing, I want more. With every miracle, I want more.

It dawned on me then.... We were made to be discontent. It's a holy discontent to want more and more and more and more of our Sweet Jesus. To see Him more and experience Him more. This is a good thing in me, not a shameful one.

To hunger and thirst for more of Him is a beautiful, spiritual concept that sometimes makes us uncomfortable.

I want to own it now. Instead of feeling annoyingly needy, I want to revel in this holy discontent. I want to hunger more because I experience more. With every drip that comes from Him, I want to thirst for more.

Have you ever felt annoyingly needy for more of Him?

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Day at the Pumpkin Patch

How about a nice little picture post? ;) Maybe you people get tired of my long diatribes processing my counseling sessions and the theological subjects in my head.....if so, here's us - at a pumpkin patch yesterday!

Friday, October 5, 2012

I choose beauty. (Part 2 of Wildflowers)

Remember when I told you that I am an unmanageable wildflower and asked you to join me? Can we talk more about that? Because I think it's quite a beautiful thing.

On my way home from counseling that day, I called my dear friend Megan and shared with her the beauty of the wildflower As soon as I was done, she told me this story.....

Megan used to live in this house with beautiful landscaping all around. She spent hours maintaining it and perfecting it.

One day, she noticed something under the big pot of flowers in the front yard. When she moved the pot, she found a beautiful, living and blossoming chrysanthemum.

Here this strong and brave flower had poked it's way through the creases in the sidewalk and bloomed under a pot. The pot had tried to stifle it to no avail.

This is us. This is our story you guys.
My mom sent me this after my last post on wildflowers...apparently I've always loved them :)

Pots may placed on our heads. People may want to force us to be manageable, to line up in neat rows like good little flowers. They may want us to bloom where they want us to be planted. They may want us to fit in their cute little boxes.

Not us. We will bloom. We will be beauty in this dark, hard world in dark and hard places. We will flourish where others think we should die because of our audacity to even plant ourselves in that place. We will walk out of the well tended gardens and go live in the open wild. 

That counseling session ended with a beautiful commissioning from my Jesus.

I could see myself as a flower, growing strong and blooming. I could see a man next to me doing the same.

Then a man came and yelled at the two of us to get back into our pots. He yelled that we weren't supposed to be beautiful how and where we were.

And Jesus looked at me and said this;
"Your only job is to bloom and be beautiful. Let them choose pots and neat lines if they want. YOU get to choose beauty where and how I tell you. Just BE beauty. I will take care of the rest"

People can hate it all they want. They can despise my unmanagability. (It's a new word, like it? :) They can want me to fit in rows and pots and boxes all they want. They can not understand. I may confuse and frustrate them. The choice, however, is up to me on how I might live my life.

I choose beauty.

I choose the kind of jaw dropping beauty that is beauty in the hard places. I choose hard fought beauty. I choose the beauty that comes in walking away from the neat lines and planting myself in the rocks and dirt that is our hurting world.

Join me?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Crazy Faith and Ark Building Friends

Can you imagine for a moment with me, life for Noah or Abraham????

God says there will be a flood. He starts building this ark. It takes YEARS to build an ark. Years. YEARS of building something that has no worth to anyone. (an ark? on land?) Years of people most likely telling him he was crazy for believing these promises. In fact, Noah was told about the flood and how his sons and their wives would be saved before he even had sons! He was told about this flood 120 years before the flood came. That is a LOT of time to doubt.

I bet there were days of hopeful expectation, whistling while he worked. Days of strength as he praised his God and believed in the promises and carried out the instructions he was given.  

I bet there were also days of doubt and confusion. Days when he came home asking his wife, "was it really true? Are you sure that God really appeared and told me these things?" If this is true....where is the rain????? Why is this so hard? Maybe the angel should come back and tell me every single day?

I bet there were others in his life who were downright evil about his ark. It says that the world was excessively evil during this time. I can only imagine that people were absolutely horrible to him. Criticizing him. Making fun of him. Questioning him, his faith, his sanity.

God tells Abraham that Sarai will have a baby. YEARS go by. Nothing. Can you imagine being at Sarai's 98th birthday party????  A friend leans over to Abraham, points at Sarai's old, wrinkly body and says "really, Abe? Maybe it's about time that you gave up that dream?"

I bet he, like Noah, had days of strong belief. Nights when he and Sarai laid under the stars, with his hand on her stomach, dreaming of their future child.

I bet he also had days where he had no clue what God was doing. I bet he had days where he cried out to God in pain and confusion.

What I hope that they both had is good friends..... While I know that they both probably faced horrible doubts and criticism, I hope they also had friends who helped their faith.

Yes, I know that Noah and Abraham might have walked this road alone. They may have been the ONLY ones who believed in their promises. But I hope that's not true. I hope that their wives stood beside them. I hope that when they were filled with doubt and confusion that someone, anyone really, stood next to them and said "I remember the promise even when you don't"

I have a few friends like this in my life. Friends who seek God on my behalf. Friends who beg God for His fulfillment of His promises in my life. Friends who battle for and with me to stay in the truth. On the days when I look around in despair and think that I am lost and may possibly be crazy, they are there. They are just a text or a phone call away. They are listening and responding when my desperate text of "I need Jesus to say it again" comes through. They are there to text or call me and say 'I went to Jesus on your behalf and I heard Him speak confirmation of the promises and say that you are to hold on....He will fulfill every good promise He has made"

I want to be a friend like that. For promises big and small. Some of the promises and truths I need to be reminded of are small and some are huge in my life. Some are promises of healing, some of hope and a future. Some are promises that I am not alone and forgotten and that Jesus always cares about my pain. Some are that He loves and cares for my Ugandan mamas more than I do and will fulfill His plans for them. No matter what the promises are....having someone remind me of them is ALWAYS a blessing. I want to do that for others. I want to regularly ask them about the promises God is speaking into their lives. I want to regularly take them before the Father and ask for precious promises on their behalf. I want to search scripture with them when times are rough. And then....when they struggle, I want to be a phone call or text away so that when they don't believe, I can hold up their arms and believe for them.

Want to join me in being those kind of friends? Want to join me in being the one who, when a friend despairs, we say "But His promises are TRUE - No matter what!" Want to implore the Father on behalf of our friends? And then to be the people who speak truth and life and HOPE for the promises to come?  Noah may very well have built his ark alone.....but I want to help my friends build theirs....always believing and holding on to the promises that He always fulfills His promises....even the crazy ones :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Unmanageable WildFlower

***This is from my counseling session yesterday....thought I'd share it with you***

"I never fit into any neat boxes," I hear Jesus whisper at the same time that my counselor says to me, "Brandi, I don't think you are every going to be understandable to others or fit into neat boxes. I think He is going to call you to do and be things that don't fit into what others deem acceptable."

I sigh. I know this truth. I even love it at times. Other times, it hurts. People are unkind and the truth is....sometimes I long to be understood - to take an easy path. Jesus is kind, though and whispers to me in these hurting places.... He tells me that people won't understand me because I don't fit into their boxes. I'm no longer the good, Christian girl that follows along with everything everyone thinks she should do. On the other hand, I don't completely fit into the "bad" box that they want to squeeze me into either. I do things, say things, believe things, hang out with people that they disagree with or are uncomfortable around....but at the same time, they hear me speak of my Jesus and somehow see the beauty of Him in the most unlikely of packages. And this confuses people. And this is ok.

"I want you to be a wildflower" I hear Him speak so clearly.
Used with permission from Sweet Abby of LoveRoots Photography

In that moment, I see 3 pictures. All of wildflowers.

The first shot is a beautiful field of wildflowers. Yellow flowers spread out before me. Beauty that is breath taking and awe-inspiring.

The second flower is one blossoming from among the ashes in the burn scar here in the mountains. With the major wild fire that spread throughout our mountains just a few months ago, the burn scar is often evident. Dark swaths cut out of the beauty of our beloved mountains. Ashes where there once was life. It is here, amongst inches of ashes that I see a flower rise forth.

The final shot is a flower blooming in the rocks. When you go mountain climbing here, you will often find flowers where there should seemingly be none. Flowers growing out of rocks with no soil around. These flowers are baffling and beautiful because of their unpredictability. You want to lean down and cheer them on; to support and affirm their strength and beauty.

Here is where He stops me.

"I want you to be a wild flower. This wildflower fought it's way through the earth in dark places, standing strong to shout of my beauty.  That is you. You will fight through the darkness in hard places to declare my Beauty. You will declare my beauty where people think there should be only darkness and ashes. You will speak to others of beauty where they think only ashes are possible."

When we are planting our gardens and making our landscapes beautiful, we are simply mimicking the beauty of the wild. We take these big, beautiful pots and carefully place beauty where we think it should go. It is perfectly planned. It is carefully maintained. And yes, it is pretty.

Wildflowers on the other hand are wild. They appear everywhere. They are unmanageable. They are unpredictable. They are wild. They are scandalous - insisting on appearing where they have not been planted. They exist and shout beauty with wild abandon. They aren't just pretty, they are jaw dropping, awe-inspiring beauty.

That's what He is calling me to to join me? Want to be a wildflower? Forget the pots and pretty lines. Forget the manicured lawns. Let's exist among the weeds. Let's fight through the ashes and the rock to shout His beauty. Let's love and live and shout beauty with wild abandon. Let's be unpredictable and unmanageable :)

Me...after climbing a 14er....admiring the wildflowers on the hillside
In the end, right before we finished up, He reminded me of one more thing. He reminded me that not only does HE love the wildflowers....but I do too. The wild abandon thrills my heart. It really is ME. It's what He loves about me. It's who I want to be. It's who He is.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wake up sleepy one....

SheLovesMagazine is doing another synchroblog - this time on ALIVE. What does it mean to be alive? To FULLY live? How do we celebrate a movement of women, of people, coming alive and living their authentic story of God's grace in our world? These are the questions I've been pondering today....
Created by Melody Ross of Brave Girls Club (you should follow them on FB :)

In many ways, I feel like this entire blog has been about me coming to life. It's my story of learning to dance. It's my journey of Jesus breathing life into my dry bones. So today, I want to breathe life into you. On my hardest days, I needed others to speak life into and over me. To remind me that I would breathe and dance again.

But first....I need to validate your sleepiness. If you feel like you've been sleeping for a long time, like you haven't been truly ALIVE, there is probably a very good reason for this. You probably needed at some point to go to "sleep" emotionally to protect your heart. Maybe you were sexually or otherwise abused as a child? Maybe you've been living in an abusive or oppressive marriage? Maybe your church upbringing has oppressed you and told you lies about yourself? Maybe you've lost someone near to your or been abandoned in some way? Life is hard and there are a million reasons why we might let our souls go to sleep. It's safe when you're sleeping.

It reminds me of someone who is in a horrible car accident and their body goes into a coma. This coma protects them. It allows them to diminish the feeling of pain. It allows them to rest. It doesn't however, allow them to LIVE and run and dance and do all of these things that their hearts desire to do. I think some of you might be in this coma. This coma has occurred because trauma has happened in your life and pain has come. To protect yourself, you have gone inside of yourself. This was smart. I am in no way saying that this is always a bad move! Often times, this is what allowed you to survive!

Sweet friend, it might be time to wake up now. It might be time to do more than survive, but to thrive. 

Waking up from a coma can be hard, I bet! Can you even imagine? One minute, protected and sleepy....the next, awake and realizing what has truly happened to you and that now you have to learn to walk or talk or eat again? The crushing realization might make you want to be back in that coma. Yes, you know that running and laughing and dancing and swimming and eating with friends will be day....but the path to get there might be very, very difficult and painful.

The same might be true for you. Waking up may be very hard to do. One does not usually awake from the kind of slumber that you have been in and dance that first day. Often times, a hard road stretches out between waking and dancing. The path of healing and realizing what has truly happened to you. The path of surveying the wounds. The path of slow healing of all of those wounds and learning how to dance. This is a path I have taken and I know the pain of it all too well. I know the devastation of realizing what has been done to you. I know the agony of walking through those memories again so that they might be healed. I know the difficulty of learning how to dance with my Jesus after so long being oppressed. It is a painful, beautiful journey.

I am here to tell you that the path is worth it. Waking up is worth it. YOU are worth it. The world needs you to be ALIVE. Jesus wants to breathe life into you. He longs to hold you and heal you. He longs to teach you how to dance.

So....precious, amazing one...are you ready to wake up? Are you ready to LIVE? 

Monday, September 24, 2012


At about the 100th time that one of my kids tells me that their boo boo hurts, I sometimes get annoyed. There. I said it. My patience is not infinite. I get overwhelmed sometimes by the complexities of my children's needs. I get annoyed at times by the frequency of them.

It is here, in my inadequacies as a mom that the analogy of God as a parent falls short. Because God is like our parent...but not like us....thankfully :)

He NEVER gets annoyed at my pain. Never.

Sometimes I have to be reminded of this truth.

Sometimes I think I need to hide.

When the pain hits....again. When the same ache takes my breath away that took my breath away almost 2 years ago...when I hurt again in the same way. I begin to think hiding is my only option.

In fact, when pain hits so hard that I feel the need to reach out to another, I will often find myself asking 'who did I confide in yesterday?" Needing or wanting to protect others from my pain. Surely, they are annoyed? Surely they are thinking "Seriously, Bran? Get over it already....Move on. Pick yourself up." Surely Jesus must think the same thing? Surely He must think "I've spoken to you about this. I have spoken hope. Live in it. Stop hurting so much" or "seriously? you are crying about this AGAIN?"

but no....



That is not what my Jesus thinks. Nope. He always wants to hear my heart. He knows already....and He is already desiring to hold my heart here. When I DO go to Him, I often hear Him whisper "I know it hurts sweet b, I know and I'm sorry" He holds my heart there. He whispers again the hope and the life and beauty He has promised me. He tells me that this mountain does have a peak. He tells me that high places are just ahead. He lets me cry. A lot if need be. Even if I had just cried a few hours before. He tells me that my pain is valid. He whispers through groans that I wasn't supposed to be treated that way or that of course I miss that person or that He knows this or that is hard and painful. And then He goes back to speaking sweet truth and helping me stand to walk again.

So today....if your heart's ok. He STILL has compassion on your pain. He hasn't tired of listening to you cry. He isn't annoyed by the fact that all is not always sunshine and butterflies in your heart. He is pleased to sit with you in your pain and hold you there.

He wants YOU. the good. the bad. the hard. the ugly. the painful.  he loves being in relationship with you. And pain...the bad times....they make the good times all that much better and more filled with depth.

So crawl up into His lap today if you need to. ....(I'll scooch over if need be, since I'm already up in His lap :)....and let the intimacy that comes from sharing tears be yours....

Friday, September 14, 2012

No More Answers

A few of us have started reading through scripture together. We are trying to do it in new fresh ways. Attempting to explore the text and notice things we haven't noticed before. We are asking questions of it that we may have been afraid to ask before. After growing up in a Christian home, having read the Bible for as long as I've been able to read, it's easy to think I know what each passage is saying.

Ok, so we've only been doing this a week, but already it's blowing us away :-)

We are taking one chapter each day to dwell on. We read it first in the message version....then often times we will read it throughout the day in other versions or search different commentaries or sermons on that scripture.

As we are working our way through John, I am noticing a theme in what sticks out to me. Boundaries.

Jesus had some impeccable boundaries!!! In John 7, his brothers try to get him to go into town for the festival. They even reason with him that if he wants to be a big deal, he should get a move on and perform publicly. Jesus, however, stayed back and did it his way. He was not peer pressured, even by those who had the best ministry tactic.

As I read through the stories of His life and interactions with people, I am constantly drawn towards Jesus' "sense of self". I know that might sound silly. I mean, He IS the God of the Universe....why wouldn't He be pretty self confident? :) It's a quiet strength. He knows who He is. He is humble and doesn't feel the need to beat people over the head with it. He never smacks someone and says "don't you know you're talking to your creator, son?!" He quietly goes about his business, knowing his place, knowing his calling.

In fact, it is that quiet confidence that allows him to NOT answer every single person's questions. People misunderstand him and it seems to roll off his back.

This quiet confidence amazes me. 

In the past 3 days, I've read John 7-10....people question him, disbelieve him, accuse him of horrible things.....half the time he doesn't even RESPOND!

I'm pretty sure somewhere along the way, I read this verse:
1 Peter 3:15 "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"

and somehow thought that it said:

"Brandi - whenever anyone questions you, you better have an answer for anything you do, say, think or feel. If not, you should listen to them. They very well could be right.Allow anyone to say anything and respond every single time." least that's somehow what I ended up believing.

I think I was so far on to one side of a seemingly good pendulum that it became a horrible bondage in my life.

Is knowing that my own heart is sinful and deceitful a good things?  yep.
Is having people speak into my life a good thing? yep
Is being able to explain my heart or actions to someone good? probably

But none of those things gave me the quiet confidence that I see in Jesus and all of them left me in bondage to others' swinging opinions. Some people thought I was awesome....some that I was too much or should find balance in this area or that.

I was left straining to be myself while feeling frustrated because others didn't understand me and thought I should be something else. Neither option left me with quiet confidence. If I was who "they" wanted me to be, I wasn't me and I knew it. If I was fully me, I felt judged and sinful or rebellious for not conforming.

I want to be like Jesus.

I want to live in quiet confidence of who I am and what I am called to.

I want to do this with others speaking truth and life into me (so thankful that I have more than a handful of people who not only speak truth, but recognize and affirm the Spirit of God within me!)

I want to continually be presenting my heart to JESUS for examination....not to others.

Being accepted and understood isn't exactly a Biblical concept! So why was I pursuing it?

Did I think that Abraham's friends would have understood if he told them "so, hey....God told me to go sacrifice Isaac"  ummmmm no.

Do I think all of Noah's community thought that a flood was coming and building an ark was pure brilliance?  nope.

Did the religious leaders approve of Jesus' actions? Miracles even? Nope. Nope. Nope.

So I think I'll settle for being misunderstood.  Let's be honest....I'm often misunderstood anyways, might as well settle into it :) Might as well continually go to Jesus for my worth and my assignments in life and live that out with quiet confidence. No need to explain or beg people to understand. Just live, love, give and be who He wants me to be.

Wanna know what question He always DID have an answer for? "what must I do to be saved?" and "will you heal me?"

And the question I will be ready to have an answer for....will be about the HOPE that He has brought to me. Beauty. Hope. Life. Freedom. Let's talk about those things with gentleness and respect like 1 Peter actually says instead of quizzing each other and then living for approval and understanding :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thoughts on sin, holiness, self care and the misconceptions of freedom :)

**warning, multiple analogies may appear in this blog as I process visually as I write :)

I've been pondering and processing sin and holiness lately and I have some thoughts that I'm going to throw out there. These may seem a bit edgy to you. I understand that. They would have seemed that way to me a while ago. I had my thoughts and ideas about holiness and believed them to be thoroughly justified and reinforced and without need to budge. Unfortunately, I also have seen them to not really I've been doing some pondering with Jesus lately :)

I think there are some misconceptions about me floating around here lately. Because I am absolutely passionate about freedom and healing and how Jesus absolutely adores us right where we are at....and because I don't talk a whole lot about sin and the need to be holy....some people think I'm sliding down a slippery slope :)  With freedom comes sin, right? With absolute love and acceptance comes no "accountability" and more sin? With boundaries and self care comes selfishness and a living for self.

nope. not necessarily.

I believe that freedom is a lack of bondage. I also believe that sin is bondage. I don't think Jesus randomly says to avoid things because He just thought it would be fun. I think the things He tells us to stay away from are damaging to us. They are choices we make out of wounding. So, true freedom would never lead into sin! Freedom is about being so dearly loved that I don't NEED sin anymore. I don't need to choose bitterness or anger because I am freely loved and safe enough so say those things aren't good for me. The more healing and freedom I get, the LESS appealing sin is in my life!

But you are right....freedom gives the OPTION of sin. Jesus allows us to be free to choose. Without that freedom, the choices are silly. He wants us to CHOOSE Him and healing and freedom. So I can see why freedom is scary. It's like telling someone you love "you can walk away from me if you want". I've done that....actually quite a few times....and quite a few times they've taken me up on the offer! But the truth is, that my friends now who have chosen with absolute freedom to stand by my side, are much more valuable. They didn't stay my friend because they HAD to....they CHOSE to and that is a precious thing.

I remember being so scared of boundaries. "But wait," I would think, "I'm supposed to die to myself." I couldn't understand how boundaries could actually promote selflessness. Simply put, however, they do. Of course they can be misused for selfishness, but that is not their goal. The goal of self care and boundaries is to recognize that what Jesus says about me is true. I am uniquely made, called, gifted and worthy. He has made me a beautiful temple chosen by Him as His bride. Therefore, I should treat myself as such. I need to take care to make sure that I am resting and taking care of my heart and soul. It is not ok for me to be destroyed at whim. Most of the time, when we don't have boundaries, it is not because we are more selfless, it is because we think Jesus needs us to work that hard. Taking breaks and resting affirms the truth that He is God and He can take care of this world! Shockingly enough, in my own life, the more I have taken care of myself, the more of me there is to pour out onto others! I think that the friends of mine that live in relationship with me on a regular basis would say that I show greater levels of self sacrifice now than I ever did in the past. I have it in me to give now. I am filled up and taken care of so I can pour myself out at times. I also know that it's Jesus' deal to heal you - so I can walk alongside more hurting people without taking the burden on me. My friends regularly joke that my only advice is "have you asked Jesus about that?" :) I am not in ANY way saying this to brag that I'm selfless.....I know I have a long way to go to serve and love like Jesus does....but I say this to calm your fears if you have been afraid that if you approach self-care and boundaries that you will surely be a self centered person before too long :)


Here's the bottom line: I think holiness is a by-product of a life lived in intimacy with Jesus.

It's like everyone gets upset because I don't talk enough about the cookies (either the sin or the holiness, pick your cookie) and I want to scream "that's because I think it's better to talk about the process of making the batter!!!" Cookies are a by product!

Jesus said "if you love me, you will do what I command". He did NOT say 'If you do what I command, you will love me". Nope. Obedience does NOT necessarily beget love. Pursuing holiness doesn't necessarily mean you are pursuing Jesus.

However, if you pursue loving Him more, knowing Him more, walking with Him more, allowing Him deeper and deeper access into your soul.....the natural outcome is obedience and holiness.

So yeah....I don't talk about sin and holiness a bunch....because I think they are byproducts of our lives and how our hearts are oriented. I think they are problems that in large part take care of themselves if I am really seeking Him and allowing Him greater access into all areas of my heart and having Him heal and redeem those areas.

We become like the people we hang with - Alicia and I took our 6 kids out to dinner the other night. We tease that we are like sister-wives without the husband :) We shared a meal. We ordered for each others kids. We even went to discipline one kid at dinner and both said the same thing at the same time! Is that because we are twins separated at birth? Nope. It's because we spend lots of time together. We take on each other's mannerisms after a while. Just a few minutes of listening to me talk in Uganda will prove that :) I've got a killer Ugandan accent (which many, many people tease me for ;)

So it just makes sense that if we pursue Him, holiness will come out.

I read 1 Peter yesterday in the message and a few verses jumped out at me:
1:13-16 So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.”

Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. (vs. 18)

5:6-7 So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you.

It seems like so much pressure and guilt and striving is taken off of my shoulders in these verses.   Be pulled into a life of holiness. I see that as a beautiful invitation to a fabulous party. Being pulled by the arm, gently and with excitement....I can hear Jesus say "come to the party! be holy as I am holy!" This is Him desiring to share of Himself. Not, "hey, you be this because I am". I get this. I always want my friends to be in on what I'm doing. I want them to join me in anything I think is exciting. "come do I am....because it's amazing" Its not because I think people should be like me, it's because I want to share my life with my friends.

I especially love the verse about living carefree before God because of how careful He is with me. You see, with Him I am free. Free to be me. Free to be loved completely. And you know what? When you are loved well by a person who is even more amazing than you are, you are compelled to be the best version of yourself. Sort of like in the movies when the man says to the woman, "you make me want to be a better man"  sigh :) Have you ever felt so loved by someone that you felt accepted with all of your flaws but also like they saw what you could be too? It makes you want to soar. It makes you want to blossom and bloom and be and do everything God has planned for you. This is how it is when we spend time with Jesus. We don't need to seek out holiness to make Him more happy with us. Nope. He loves us wholly and completely right where we are at....but for some reason....the more time we spend with Him, the more we want to soar and be everything He has for us. We want to get rid of the things that hold us back (the chains, the sin, the ick in our lives) and be free to dance and soar with Him.

Do I believe we can be lazy about holiness? Yep. Of course. But I think the solution is in the question we ask.

Instead of asking "are you pursuing holiness?" Maybe we should begin asking our friends "Are you traveling life as a journey with a deep consciousness of God?"  Are you taking time for your relationship?  Just like any relationship....marriage or friendship or even the beginnings of a good business or workout schedule.....are you putting the time into growing your intimacy with Him? Giving Him greater access to those areas of your life? Are you learning Him and loving Him more?

Because when we focus on intimacy - holiness is simply a beautiful by-product :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Where Miracles Lie

Confession time: this last week has been hard. On multiple levels.

Personally speaking, I look around and I see ashes on many levels. While this whole "I'm not hiding any more" thing is great and's also scary as hell. I am triggered at many turns and still live with wounds, especially the wounds of people walking away from me. I find myself afraid of what will be said of me now that I am not hiding. I find myself afraid of people walking away. I get tired of doing life alone. Being a single mom is hard. Leading a ministry of any kind is hard. I am created to do life in community. Yes, I know that's true for most....but it's way true for me :-) I want a partner in this life and in this journey. I live in the longing and ache of that. I live with the wounds. I live among the ashes.

In ministry, I get overwhelmed. So many needs. I woke up Friday morning to word that we have approx 25 more kids in our school fees program than I originally thought. I woke up to news that 3 of our mamas need surgery and one of our kids does. I woke up and was overwhelmed with the need of it all before I even had both eyes open. So much pain. So much suffering. So much need. How can I do it? I know it's His responsibility and not mine, but it weighs heavy on my heart for I am the one who has looked into their eyes and now must be their voice.

Within my circle of friends is much pain. Friends walking out of abusive relationships. Friends staying in abusive relationships. Pain all around. Ashes that seem to grow by the day. Memories that they process aloud with me that are memories no person should carry. Christians turning away from beautiful people in their moment of greatest need and vulnerability. My heart breaks.

This morning on my way to breakfast I was listening to my new New Life Worship cd and the song "Great I Am" and all of a sudden, just like perspective changed.

"We want to see dry bones living again - singing as one "Hallelujah"

Yes, my heart screamed! That is what I want! I LOVE to see people come to life. I LOVE watching hope come where there was once hopelessness. I LOVE watching beauty grow from ashes. I LOVE watching "dry bones" live and dance again.

And I knew as my heart soared a simple truth to see dry bones live again, you must hang out in the cemetery. You have to hang out among the ashes, in the cemetery, with the dry bones if you actually want to see them rise to life.

You see, the beauty of "dry bones living again" is the dry bones part. That's the miracle part. Dry, dead, lifeless bones coming to life.

The miracle is often in the chasm. It's what makes it a miracle. It's what makes it astounding. This is why we love stories like this in the movies: of a pauper made king. There is no great emotion and wonder tied to a princess becoming queen. No. It is when the young prince decides to go out among the people and find himself the most unlikely (by the worlds standards) girl and make her queen. That is where a movie script lies.

We are enthralled by wonder and enraptured by miracles.

Let me tell you - if you want to see miracles, you've got to hang among the desperate.

So among my ashes, both personal, ministry and for my friends, I have hope. I will humbly and gratefully stand among the ashes with my friends here and with our mamas in Uganda....because, this is the stuff miracles are made of. These are the people God redeems and does glorious things with. These are the situations that are ripe for the kind of wonderous miracles that enrapture my heart.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

oh, let 'em talk.....

We are very aware of our reputations these days. Ok, maybe not just these days. In fact, my Granny used to tell me that when she was little that she wasn't allowed to walk on the same side of the street as the movie theater, just in CASE someone thought that, God forbid, she had seen a movie. We avoid people of ill repute. We make sure to avoid scandal at all costs. We protect our reputations because your "name" is all you've got, right?

The more I read about Jesus, the less I see Him doing any kind of reputation protecting.

He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors and just sinners in general. He didn't apologize for it either! He didn't offer mercy to the woman caught in adultery and thrown before Him and then turn to the pharisses and say, "I mean...we are friends and all....but I surely don't condone what she has done.  Maybe I'll make sure she knows that."  What about when He was having dinner with the religious elite and a woman of the night walks into the house, directly up to Jesus and begins washing his feet with her tears and hair. Oh the scandal! Do you see anywhere in this story where He pulls Himself up, coughs a bit, looks around nervously and says "uh, yeah, I don't know her from her job or anything.....I don't know how she even knows who I am.....don't touch me girl, we know where your hands have been"? Nope. He loves her. He offers her grace and mercy. Heck, He calls out Simon's judgment even though Simon hadn't even said it aloud! He affirms her for her faith.

We never once see Him apologizing for who He is spending time with. We never once see Him make SURE that everyone knows He doesn't approve of all of His friends choices. We never once hear Him say "i love these sinners, but I hate their sin". We never once see Him tell others that the reason He is hanging out with this crowd is for ministry sake.

He simply loves.

"Let 'em talk" He must think.

He's used to the talk anyways. When the God of the universe looked around and determined the best way to enter the world, He chose to come in scandal. I know that today we look back at the immaculate conception of baby Jesus in the virgin Mary as a miracle, but I'm pretty sure that the people of the day just saw it as a scandal. You think they believed Mary or Joseph when they said, "We didn't have sex. God impregnated her!"?  yeah right. This baby had to have been the talk of the town.

He entered into mess and scandal. He chose to enter the world, innocent, and yet being gossiped about.

He chose throughout time to use the messiest of the messy for HIS glory. Mess and scandal don't bother Him a bit. He's not ashamed to be called my God b/c of my mess. Not one little bit. And He's not afraid of your scandal or mess either.

I see this in how He chose to use Bathsheba as the mother of Solomon. Rahab as the mother of Boaz. He saw their hearts. He loved these women. He chose to use them to parent some of the greatest men of all time. (and as for Bathsheba, to be loved by one of the greatest men of all time. Sure their relationship didn't start out right....but the Lord never walked away from them and instead blessed their union beautifully).

I want to love like that. No apologies.

Because people know if you love them .... even though. We feel it. I have felt it. I have known people who wanted to stand beside me even though they didn't agree with my choice to leave. They loved me even though....but it didn't feel like love.

If you know that someone is embarrassed to be your friend, it hurts. We don't want secret friends. I have a few actually. People who I am friends with in private, but who I can tell don't want to let the whole world know we are friends. That kind of love isn't freeing. That kind of love doesn't make you feel safe to be fully yourself.

The kind of love Jesus gave accepted people FULLY. He loved them completely right where they were at. This is the kind of love that frees. Being fully loved makes you feel safe enough to want to get rid of the chains. Being fully loved allows you to put down the weapons you have used to protect your heart. Sin is bondage. Being fully loved makes you want to be free from all bondage. He didn't need to tell them about their sin always. Loving them well allowed them to want to put their sinful ways aside so that they could live in the fullness of love.

I want to love like that.

I want to enter the mess of the world with no apologies and without fear for my reputation or what people may think or say.

I want to love people with the kind of love that can only come from Jesus and that frees them to be more them than they've ever been....with the kind of love that allows them to feel safe enough to put aside their weapons....with the kind of love that heals wounds....with the kind of love that calls people to live the great adventure with Jesus, allowing Him to change us and then to use us to change the world. 

So if you see me in the mess. If you see me being friends with people you don't understand. If you don't understand me or my story. If you think I get too close to scandal and choose at times to walk into it. Go ahead and talk I guess.....because this is where I find my Jesus.