Saturday, March 25, 2017

For The Love of A Savior

Israel 2016
I had this amazing dinner last night with a new friend who I met through a mutual friend that recommended my blog to them....that last fact alone gives me grateful pause. I could not have EVER imagined people reading this thing....much less recommending it to others. So humbled.
We had been trying to find a mutual time to meet for coffee or dinner since New Year's Day. So #finally was flashing in our heads last night as we finally fell into our chairs at the restaurant. Nothing to see here - just two busy professional women fighting for ourselves in a world of BUSY.
I had just come off another week of ridiculous highs and lows with one low happening 30 minutes before our dinner, and she was headed into storms (literally) post-dinner so we were just a brewing hot mess from the word go. I had to fight all of the things I had just experienced and be fully present at a dinner I had been looking forward to for months. I thought my head was going to explode as all that was running through my head were flashes of me in the ER over the weekend with chest pains. Ridiculous, yet every woman reading this right now is relating to that feeling of let me be present right where I am while also fighting the good fight in your head of what you just walked through and/or what you are about to walk into. Women's minds are INSANE.
Our dinner was a lot of Q&A about my journey, parts of our stories, how and why I had made some of my past choices, and what had (and was continuing to) shape me.
It was intense.
I loved it.
I would have loved it better if I had not just had to reprimand two wayward employees which was a mere 30 minutes after learning that I had permanently lost one of my longest and dearest employees. All one day after learning about the dangerous antics of yet another (now former) employee. Entrepreneurship is heartbreaking. I don't know what else to tell you.
I digress.
I am working on a piece right now entitled "Two Paths Diverged In The Woods....and you took the wrong one. Now What?" - don't judge; it is a working title. LOL
The funny thing many of us feel that way TODAY, or have before, or will (again) someday? I would lay odds all of us. Choices are hard. Truly. a world that tells us that we need to find our passion(s), calling, or simply choose the "right" path, well now we have crossed over to the land of insanity.
Speaking of which, this morning I posted that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing again and again expecting different results, and that I was tired of being insane. #word 
So...who is with me????
It is time to be brave and step forward.
So before I dive back into some planning that I have been too busy to do, let me inject some raw honesty into the discussion around paths and callings and thoughts of "is it too late for me"............
The road to find your way back to the relationship with God you old dreams or new dreams.....
It takes work.
It takes time.
You cannot look at my story and be impressed (I would be shocked if you were...first of all) without acknowledging the intense time and work that has occurred over five years. Five! I didn't fall into this place. I clawed my way here. With God. From the initial position of my body flat on the floor with my face pressed up against his feet. All of the story, the journey, of someone that God is helping to rise up IN HIM. He is able to do that because I am committed to letting go....of every last bit of me - the old agreements with the enemy, the old shame, the mistakes, the sin, the angst (read that as anxiety)...and even more, I am committed that when I fall backwards, I will not wallow, but once again fall at his feet and drink from the fountain of restoration. A fountain only he fills. Only. God.
I'm not perfect. I am simply restored in something way bigger than my simple life - Jesus.
I can offer a roadmap to you - one that I only see through the rearview mirror because while living it, I surely was oblivious to what was forming. I can share guidelines, books, speakers, conferences, ideas, and the like that have helped me grow this past five years. Of all of it though, nothing has mattered more than the sheer fact that at some point over the last five years, I stopped being mad at God (which was somewhat a lot of blustering due to my intense shame), forgave him, and I fell in love with him. Madly. Deeply. Truly.
I don't know what the days and weeks and months and years look like for me...exactly, but what I do know is that if it is not of God, I don't want it. I am also not going to take anymore crap about my convictions, my brain, my dreams, or my emotional intuition. What makes me ME is not happenstance, God did that. He designed me, he gifted me with certain talents and skills, and I can either acknowledge and cultivate them OR deny them. You can be sure there will be no more of the latter. {Side Note: if you see me deny them, slap me silly.}
So here is what I have to offer you today. You drowning in the busy. You drowning in unfilled dreams. You drowning in an office full of mean boys/girls trying to create a do-over of their high school years gone wrong. You with the broken heart from the love you knew would never end.
Give up.
Get on your knees.
Lay. It. ALL. Down.
Sometimes you have to give up in order to get up.
Open your Bible.
Open your palms.
Enter. In.
The only well worth drinking from is the one Jesus made for you. All others will leave you thirsty. I know. I nearly died from thirst.
Kim Walker Smith has a new album coming out. There is a song entitled "Throne Room" on it that you can download immediately if you pre-order the album. Let me be clear, download the album. The words will take you out - in the best of ways.
I run to the throne room.
I run to the throne room.
Next month, I head back to the 2012 catalyst for me, Captivating. God has mapped out a beautiful pit-stop on the way followed by four days of me and him in one of the most beautiful places in the United States. I am trying to not have expectations for the trip and time there, but God keeps opening things up like flowers in the spring so that with each passing day I get a little more giddy about it all. I believe in going back, but not like I once did that was so unhealthy. Touchstones. It is all about the touchstones. In 2012, I landed at Captivating a broken, hot mess unsure of everything. Next month, I return healthier, restored, grateful, dare I say whole......and with deeply rooted anticipation for his promises. His promises. Not mine, not others....His.
He goes before me.
He stands behind me.
The Well.
It is time to drink up.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Fire

We are at two OR seven....I have lost count....but God is sending people to speak into me an idea so fundamentally crazy it is brilliant.....and I am sitting here in the lobby of the Omni Hotel in Nashville in between sessions at my conference, a roaring fire to my left and beautiful sunshine pouring into the windows across the lobby to my right....and I am breathless.

For the second time this morning.


Part of me is wondering why I never thought of it before, and the other part can hear my friend Rachel (when talking about her own dream), "I wasn't ready."


....and that is why we need God.

Why we need tribe.

Why we need to grieve and purge and unshackle ourselves from the yokes that are not our own, that might never have been ours, but most certainly not ours TODAY. We need room to dream, to hear God, to hear those God is sending to us IRL to speak truth into us, to feel joy, and have a clear head.

I have shared with both my friend Sherri and my counselor over the last several weeks that I felt like creativeness was POURING out of every pore of my body. I didn't understand what was happening, but I was trying to capture as much in Moleskine journals as I could...and now I have a pile of them. This morning I am sitting here realizing that there is a theme to what has been coming out of me...and I think God is leaving or has left me a trail of breadcrumbs. So a few minutes ago I wrote in my Moleskine (after writing out six pages of ideas), "God what would/could this look like?" is the deal. This is the WHOLE ballgame.

I don't want ANY of it. None. Unless it is of God and from God. Period.

I have hustled and achieved everything I (as in I) thought I wanted and none of it has served me. Then I proceeded to take three years to unyoke myself from what it took me 20 years to acquire (external focused). I have now spent an entire year doing the same thing to the inside (with more to go I know) of me (internal focused). So here I sit as "unyoked" as I have EVER EVER been, and I can feel the earthly desires nipping at my heels and whispering in my ears, and I am all HELL NO (sorry if that offends you). I have NOT done all of this work, come oh so far, only to get yoked up again to a bunch of stuff that does not serve me....but even more, stuff that is not of God.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

So....I am praying for discernment because the dreams are flooding once again, and I am going to let them flood. BUT, but so are opportunities. God will show me which one(s) he wants me to ride out.

When I was a little girl, I used to have these crazy inventions/ideas. I designed an enclosed bike that you could ride in the rain (we had a long walk to the mailbox). I developed a "system" for cleaning and organizing my room and playroom. I ran my own church, school, and hospital. I had the most saved, educated, and healthy stuffed animal and doll collection In. The. World. LOL I had dreams. Lots and lots of dreams.

I have never ever lost all of that, but what I did lose is the faith in myself to ACT on them.

Here is what strikes me this morning.

I have a good nose (thinking of Miss V right there). I can sniff out a good idea. Whether mine or someone else's, I am really good at discerning what "has something" and what does not. As such, I have become the ultimate encourager as I find people are a lot like me and while they might still dream, they are too scared to ACT. Enter Heather and her A+ pushing skills. ;)

God what would/could this look like?

God just gave me the title of this post.

I have packed in a month with my friend Rachel and her family in the past 36 hours. They have been precious and beautiful and EVERYTHING for two friends who have seen a lot of miles in the past 17 years.

When she talks about her daughter she discusses "the fire" in her.


I hear you.

God, I am trusting you wholly to light me up inside. Light me UP.

I am not ready. Not by a longshot. YET/BUT.....that is perfect. I don't want to be ready. I want this to be YOU. All YOU. I want to throw my arms out and cry out to you to make the way, put the ground underneath my feet right before they step...the words in my mouth just as I open it....orchestrate the people, the time, the places. You. Do. It. ALL. I just want to obey. I just want to be your hands and feet. Just me and you God. You. And. Me.

I love you.

There is about to be a mess here at the Omni as this woman is typing 90+ words a minute and crying and there is this fire....and #scene.

The Fire.

Holy Ground just started playing in my ears. Let me tell you what I know to be true, in this moment, it is ALL Holy Ground. Everywhere God is placing my feet has become Holy Ground. I am undone.
Show us Your glory
Show us Your glory
In wonder and surrender we fall down
Show us Your glory
Show us Your glory
Let every burning heart be holy ground

The Fire.

Game. On.

What is God stirring up in you? Sit with him. Ask questions. Wait for him to answer. He will. In his time.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Open Arms

I'm sitting here listening to Journey's Open Arms.
Grief is a funny thing. It sits on a shelf. Right where you put it. And it waits.
And waits.
And waits.
Until one day you go digging for it, remove it from the shelf, brush away the dust, shake it, and then ever so slowly open it. If you are smart, you have someone with you. If you are really smart, you have a professional with you. If you are neither really smart or even a little don't go digging for it insomuch as it gets tripped (like a live wire on a bomb) and then it goes BOOM.
I am neither version of smart, but I am lucky...because my BOOMS came across like a string of bottle rockets slowly lit over time....except for that whole part about 'no one (including me) knew what was going to be the thing that lit them.' Bless.
This afternoon I sat with a professional (getting smarter) and we detonated (in a controlled setting) one of those grief bombs.
....and it did in fact....go....BOOM.
I brain-dumped in a text to my "people" a snippet of the hour (counselor's orders), and their reactions were enough to give me further pause....."Was/Am I doing the right thing?"
I believe I am.
The truth is on any given day, I am a normal, happy, well-adjusted woman. I have a GREAT life. I am immensely happy and fulfilled. I have worked hard and certainly had more opportunity than one person deserves. I have opportunities to serve and give to others. I have great family and friendships. I am in a great place with God and our relationship. I feel...good. is the days that I don't that concern me. The days when I struggle to separate the reality of my little world and circumstances connected to the anxiety that brews beneath the surface of my mind. Do I deserve to be happy? Should I handle that differently? I'm uncomfortable, unworthy, or simply too much. What is that nagging sense that the other shoe is going to fall? Why can't I do enough? Everybody needs me OR nobody needs me.
Those days zap every bit of hope or energy from me, and I struggle. Deeply.
I'm tired.
The truth is that I have been tired for a very long time, but I numbed my life so well with work, alcohol, food, drama-filled relationships, volunteer activities, treasures, houses, responsibilities upon responsibilities, taking care of well everybody....that I could easily blame my being tired on....well all of THOSE things. Not me. *aghast I am* Of course it wasn't something with ME...inside of ME.
Here I am with a fully detonated grief bomb in my lap, and let me be is all about what I have been holding inside of me. It ain't pretty. I am relieved to have this disgusting hot mess out of me.
Now what do I do???
Now I process.
Now I start, others, God....and I invite God into the BIG hole inside of my heart where this crap once was stored....and I let him fill it back up....with something better...
"So now I come to you with open arms....."
God can even use Journey to heal.
You know "Open Arms" feels a lot like my relationship with God. Just keeping it real here.
One of these days....I am not going to be tired. Not like this. The truth is that I had convinced myself that the tired was ALL the "other" things, but the truth is that the tired is purely emotional (don't hold me to that....I am working this out while I type). I have a hamster wheel spinning in my head ALL the time. I'm all leaned in (shoutout to my friend E.U. on that reference), and really I need to relax, let go, and lean back. It is time for me to not be "on" ALL the dang time. I'm not Wonder Woman. No one is going to die if I set my cuffs down on the dresser for a minute...or forever.
Somewhere along the line the enemy convinced me that everything bad that happened in my life was somehow my fault. If I had been more, done more, loved better, been a better kid, a better daughter, a better sister, a better granddaughter, a better friend...a better fill-in-the-blank....then ALL the bad things that happened and set the dominoes in motion could have been prevented. When that train of lies stopped working so well....then it was go back, fix it - you can get a do-over, begin again. Lie. BIG lie.
For five years I have gone to the altar....again and again and again, but still...STILL....I could not shake the demons. Not all of them.
Today I realized....the demon was me....IN me.
A burr...that had latched to my insides.
...and it looked like little brown craft-paper wrapped boxes with red bows sitting neatly in rows on shelf after shelf after shelf....inside my heart....and inside them....GRIEF. Unresolved grief. Just sitting there.
I'm sitting here just staring at my words. I wish I didn't have to write them. In many ways, I wish this wasn't my story. No one wants to look back at their life and admit that they are an orphan. That people who once loved them no longer do. No one wants to admit that time marches on, that there are no do-overs, that choices have consequences and as such must be dealt with and then you must move on. The nine year old in me is panicking. Just pure PANIC. If I heal, if I move past this and on, what happens to her?
I can hear my counselor in my head....."...she comes with you. She is finally able to grow up."
After intense sobbing for a bit, I just said a prayer asking God to tell me what he sees in me, and I heard, "You are lovely."
"Really?" I questioned.
So....there is that.
Here is the deal...I know that I am not the only one out here who has a giant hole in their heart where life did its damnedest and then the enemy took up residence in the gap. I guess I am siting out here planting a flag not only for myself, but for anyone else reading this going, "I am tired of feeling wrung out by my life."
Also, there isn't any magic potion or pill. I am just NOW here....and it took me five years to get to this little island of healing, and I have more work ahead of me.
I am here.
I made it.
I have crawled and clawed and worked and wrestled and put one step in front of the other....I made it to here. I am going to sit here for a moment and let the joy wash over me. I keep thinking this process of healing is going to kill me....and for a bit it does, but then I cry and grieve and write and worship God....and I feel my strength return. Also, today there is this ridiculous monkey sitting here in my lap while I type (that is a story for another day)...and he smells like lavender which reminds me of a promise. The promise.
So what is the point?
Life goes on.
As ridiculous and cliché as that sounds to me in this moment (and that is saying something because again...there is a monkey in my lap), it is so very true.
In the past two weeks, God has given me CONFUSION on some big things in my life, and yet perfect clarity and direction on others. The clarity on one is ALL about the future. All about a new dream that has a red string back to an old dream that I could have never imagined would really come true. It involves my favorite people. It is proof positive that God absolutely can restore all things, but in his own way and time. It feels so sacred and holy, it will be a long long time before I ever put words to it...if I ever do. It may simply become my own secret garden and something I keep private...for now. In a life that I have opened up and made so transparent, it feels good to have something sacred for myself. The truth is God made so clear that this dream was from him, and I never doubted...but after today, I know that was a gift to me, for my heart...he knew today was going to shatter me into millions of shards of glass....but that gift....out there waiting for an example of how he loves me, he loves my people, and he (again) makes all things new. I can't hold that new gift though until I empty my hands of the old - the old pain, old dreams, old wounds, and simply having my feet in 2017 and my heart in 1980. All of me needs to be 2017.  
I turn 46 this year. I am 46 with the heart of a nine year old.
*shaking my head* step in front of the other...
Jesus, you never gave up on me....even when I gave up on you for a bit. I am forever grateful. I am forever grateful for your open arms.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Kairos Season

Winds in the east, mist coming in, / Like somethin' is brewin' and bout to begin. / Can't put me finger on what lies in store, / But I fear what's to happen all happened before.
Bert // Mary Poppins
I haven't slept well since Wednesday.
That is to say that I am either sleeping ridiculously hard or not at all.
Hello old friend.
*insert eye roll*
I texted a friend the other day that maybe I DO have the gift of prophecy...I mean how many times have I said, "This is how it works - you pray and pray and pray - worry that God doesn't hear you - then out of nowhere BAM! God shows up and does the thing you need/ask/want him to do - then you whine - Too soon God. Too soon!" We are incredible douches that way. I offer up the Israelites circa Red Sea miracle times as exhibit A, B, and C.
So hear I sit weighing out the delivery of said prayer request and wondering what the bloody hell am I supposed to do now?!?!?! {Siri's voice is now a British accent - thanks Haiti Girls - so I sometimes bounce into the accent.}
First, I keep praying. Praying through the fear, the anxiety, the sleepless/restless nights, and in those prayers of whining, I praise God because he is always good....he always comes through...and he is sovereign (ergo In. Control.).
Second, I make a list...and then another....and then another. I am a list maker. That is who I am. That is what I do. 'Make the plan; work the plan' was an off-shoot of 'Make the list; work the list..' God expects me to use my gifts; especially now.
Third, I write. I am going to write until my fingers bleed because THIS is the story. This is my story. This is the good stuff. I don't know who or if anyone will EVER read any of this hot mess (or the hot mess being saved in journals and hard drives; I know shocker - this is only a snippet, what I share here), but that is not the point. The point is to write. To document. I was here. I lived. I loved. I overcame. I did all of those things from the 'foot of the cross posture' because once life brought me low, I realized I needed to be there not from a point of shame, but one of praise. Documenting this journey has been part of how I have survived (and continue to survive), and how God continues to teach me. I can go through a thousand exercises, but none works more than when I sit down here and just start typing and the Holy Spirit shows up and comes out of my fingertips. I literally 'active write' so, in a nutshell, I am as surprised by what I am reading as you are....LOL
Fourth, I am going to remain faithful and calm even as I step out in faith. The whole point of faith is to have it even when you cannot see or touch or feel or maybe even understand it all. Mine has and will continue to be tested. I plan to honor that. I plan to ask others to hold my hands,  pray for me, encourage me, and push me when I need it. Faith is watered in community.
....that is a start....
Last night my niece wanted to watch "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days" so aunt that I am, I obliged. I love that movie too. Imagine my surprise as the movie wrapped and this song played, Weight Of The World by Chantal Kreviazuk, and I really heard the lyrics for the first time. Ever do that??? It happens to me...A. Lot. Freaks me out a little....actually.
I digress.
So...I am listening to the words and then have to go search for them. I ended up posting them on Instagram because I like to share the songs that are setting my heart free in this season. The photo though, I loved even more....see below...

'Unstuck: She moves gracefully from one season to the next.' Anyone else see that one above??? Well....that my friends IS a LOFTY goal for me.
I will say this....please pray for me....hang is going to get interesting around here. I promise to share as much as I can, when I can, but a lot will read vague for awhile...BUT the undercurrents of what I am feeling, my decision-making process, and the lessons will be crystal clear. If any of that helps you in your own journey, my heart swells with blessing for you. If not, feel free to laugh along with me as I bumper-car my way through another season of transitions (yes, plural).
Finally, I have never asked people to post comments or enter their email address on my main blog page so that they could be notified of new blog posts when they arrive, but this morning on a writing break for more coffee....I sensed I was supposed to do both of those the hot mess of a life you have (and trust me I know you do), if I could ask this of comments here or on my Facebook writing page - share what you are loving or hating; what you find challenging; what speaks to you OR simply say - 'press on Heather, you are going to be okay.' I anticipate the spiritual attack on me that is coming will be intense. Also, if you go to my main page, there is a place in the upper right-hand corner where you can enter your email address so that every time I publish a post, it goes right to your email. I want you to stay informed of this journey, so please take 30 seconds and enter your email address and join me for the ride. As nervous as I am, I am also giddy. As I said to my friend the other day through laughter and tears, "Only Jesus." So whatever anxiety and nervousness and long road that is ahead of me....I know why I am here and for whom. I am going to honor that with ALL that I am. My arms are no longer wide open for myself, but for others. I want to serve others the rest of my days. In whatever way God wants me to. All for him.
This morning my friend Sherri sent me the word 'Kairos' to which of course I went and looked it up. She is out at Bethel and one of the speakers spoke that we are in a Kairos time. So after reading the meaning, the Biblical references, and looking up to God for a bit with some sass, "Are you kidding me?" I can say here, I could not agree more. I believe we are in a Kairos season globally, and let me be clear....right here in my own little heart and world. So as I read and pray and mull over that word and the lessons there awhile longer this morning, I am praying that whatever season YOU are in, that you realize this morning that seasons come and go...but that God is constant and in control. He loves you. He is for you. There is no better cheerleader. Let me raise both hands and testify.
If you are looking for inspiration or love or hope or joy or rebuke or restoration, let me offer up the entire book of Isaiah (not to mention II Samuel) for your weekend reading pleasure. I could read Isaiah all day every day as it is the most beautiful, convicting words for my heart. Of all the Bible, Isaiah is the book that has been my go-to throughout these past several years. In times of stress or celebration, anxiety at my doorstep, brokenhearted, new adventures, purging of the old, and walking into new freedoms...there it is. Perfectly said. Every. Single. Time.
I don't know what season you find yourself in, but as my heart rate quickens with every next step in my own Kairos Season...I am going to slide up as close to God as I can get...burrow myself under his arm, next to his side, and hold on...because I know to whom I belong and who I want guiding every step, every decision, every move.
One more thing....if you need a soundtrack today, Brian and Jenn Johnson's new album After All These Years is AMAZING, but my song I type is THIS, and the lyrics to Gravity are included on the video. You. Are. Welcome.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Speak To Me

I need a lot of grace on this post....this "thought" is not fully fleshed out, which is really saying something since my writing process IS fleshing out the thought while I type....
*laughing out loud nervously*

I digress.
This one is REALLY not fleshed out.
Maybe the promise is finding it in little moments within the chaos.
I know.
A year and a half ago God gave me what I lovingly call "The Promise" and I have had enough confirmations to know that God is in it, so I continue to dream about it and focus on watching God unfold it in his time. I am so patient....I never get anxious. LOL *insert eye roll*
In the past few months, I have been having these "Spidey Sense" moments where I almost feel like I am....wait for it...."in the promise" experiencing it in real time. How crazy do I sound??? So...the promise is about time and space and place and God (that is all I am going to share right now..."Vague much?" you are thinking). It is VERY personal and frankly, in order for it to happen, some pretty transformational things must occur in my life. Like BIG things. God-sized things.

So, this morning after church I am listening to THE most beautiful song (I am currently obsessed with (listen to it HERE)) and though I have heard it a dozen times already over the weekend, while it is playing this time I am thinking about The Promise and hoping for it sooner rather than later - just a small moment to HOPE. Then I feel it, BAM! I am in it....yesterday as I rested and today in church... I am in it. I am in the feeling of The Promise. What I mean by that, is that I can feel what my spirit will feel then - Good Grief - I sound insane!!!! *face in my hands*
Then I realize...maybe part of The Promise is the ability to find it in the little moments of the chaos of the now BEFORE I fully experience it. Maybe God is trying to teach me something here and now about the bigger story he will show me then. Maybe, just maybe, I am losing it. LOL
I have a lot of "secret" writing going on right now (no need to get excited), and I was working on a piece before church this morning from some notes in my journal and this line popped out, "finding and loving God in both the beautiful and the brutal" and I felt suddenly dizzy.
My Sis is worried about me right now. I am going through some pretty heady stuff in counseling and it is taking me back to people and places I would rather leave neatly packaged up on the shelf. I worry about me too when I think about it too long, but that is the deal you make when you reach out and claim the baton of healing. You walk boldly into the backyard where you buried all the dead bodies and you dig them all back up. You face them, you forgive them, you forgive yourself, and then you bury them properly (with all of the pop and circumstance), and then you move on - one step in front of the other - in full healing. In my case, you also document this hot mess because God told you it would help you 'get over yourself' and maybe help someone else too. I'm super duper happy about all of that too (that is sass - hear my tone as you read it). In all seriousness, if this helps someone avoid three decades of self-hatred, I say read on and claim healing for yourself. God didn't mean for you to live like that...not ever.
Boy....what a digression.
My point is that I crested a few waves this past week, instead of being crushed by them, and so even sick as a dog like I was, it was a great week for Heather's heart and soul. Yay ME! I also needed the "wins" as I am anxious to finish the work in the backyard so I can focus on the front, so to speak. Actually the analogy looks more like finish the backyard and step into a whole new neighborhood; there is a lot of open road out there. I am anxious to explore it.
Back to The Promise.
I hear you God. I see you God. Keep speaking to me. I am listening. I hang on every word you say.
God is right here with us in the every day, every moment. In the sick days stuck in bed. In the crazy times at work. In the sermon that breathes fresh life into your lungs. In the thank you notes written. In the journal pages filled with dreams, to dos, and doodles. In the song you found by accident and played over and over. In the laundry you finally got caught up on. The orange juice you are enjoying like you just discovered it for the first time. In the denim shirt you finally ordered (took four years) so you could finally throw away the one you have had for 25+ years. It is in the photos you finally went through and packed away. It is in the to do lists you finally conquered, and the trash you finally emptied. The words you finally wrote. The letter you finally sent. The sin you finally forgave yourself for committing. The friend you finally called. The person you finally forgave. The check you finally mailed. The gift you ordered. The flowers you sent. The loss you grieved. The bed you made. The food you tried. The words you gave life to. The conversation you finally had with someone you love. The dream you finally allowed yourself to have.....and on and on.
God is in it....all.
Speak to me.

When I was a little girl....
I loved Jesus and people. I loved singing and writing and reading. I loved playing house, church, and school. I loved snuggling and bear hugs. I loved being loved well, and I loved loving others BIG - big hugs, homemade cards and gifts, over-the-top, stand at the window for hours waiting, sign-making - ways.
Most of all of I typed....come with pop-up memories from the age of 3-9.
My "before" years.
Before I knew real pain, real loss, and abandonment.
Before the enemy took my family out behind the woodshed and whipped us...but good.
On my bad days, even now at 45, the "before" years mark me. They mark my doubts, my emotions, my reactions, and the real crap-fest -- they mark how I see myself, how I see my very heart.
The core truth is though....I still love of all those things, and dammit, I want them back!!  I want my six year old heart back in my 46 year old body (46 is just a few months away)....and I want to LOVE from that sweet place of "integration" (counseling term) which comes from a place of healing and wholeness I don't have a lot of experience with....but I want it....I am fighting for it...Every. Single. Day. I want The Promise and part of that promise is no longer wandering in the desert as a brokenhearted nine year old wondering what the hell happened to my life, my family, and God forgive own heart. I know what happened. Life happened. The enemy happened. Humans happened. I was collateral damage in the third act of a play I didn't sign up for....and neither I, at the age of nine, nor anyone around me, was equipped to deal with what happened to us....or what would continue to happen to us as the waves crashed on top of our family again, and again, and again, and again.....and again.
I met a nine year old girl at the children's home last week. I was there to help. Funny how that works, you go to help someone in "need" and they help you MORE. I was waiting on someone at the swing set, so I started swinging alone when a little girl walks up and sits in the swing next to me. We start talking. She is nine. Nine. I look up and take a long, slow deep breath. The kind of slow breath you take right before, and full-on knowing, God is about to teach you something. I am taking a deep breath now just trying to type this out. My heart is still raw from the encounter. This girl tells me about her dreams, what she loves to do, and about her 'hot mess of a family' story. She is as matter-of-fact and calm, cool, and collected as an 80 year old man who went to war, came back, and lived a full life. She is fully present. I am....undone and in awe. What is the difference between her and me? Ponder that because I have for a week and am still working it out.
Here is what I know to be true. Today.
Healing comes from community....with others.
That means I have to be open and honest with others...about and with my life while also giving others the time and space to be open and honest with their lives. Daily.
Holy Spirit Come.
Speak to me.
Healing comes when I finally get tired enough of being broken, that I allow God to be God....In. Me.
Speak to me.
Healing comes when I believe in The Promise...every day....more than I believe in the lies I have swallowed as gospel....for years....about myself, my life, my calling, my future.
Speak to me.
Healing comes when I choose the best of me over the worst of me, and I operate from that place. Daily.
Speak to me.
Healing comes when I am no longer the Israelite needing God to part the Red Sea in order to believe, but faithfully and obediently put my foot in the Jordan River BEFORE and while the water is still rushing along, ready to sweep me along, because I KNOW God will MOVE.
Speak to me.
Healing comes when I stand before God and say, "I am 46! I am still as strong today as the day you sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that you promised me that day." {I usurped Joshua 14:10-12.}
Speak to me.
The voices in my own head and heart have been YELLING at me for over three decades. Quieting those voices, those lies, the pain that came from a result of them, and even the pain that started the difficult. Maybe, just maybe the hardest battle yet. Maybe it is really has been the core battle all along....these past several years. Quieting them so I could hear God, and now trying to kill them so there is only God. So, imagine my surprise when a nine year old girl demonstrates for me that the trick isn't killing them, it is knowing WHAT they are and simply not letting them DEFINE me.
I just sat backwards and looked up...there it is...the lesson.
Speak to me.
Those things that hurt me. They really hurt. I didn't imagine them. They didn't happen to someone else. They hurt me. They happened to me. They defined me.
BUT...they don't have to define me...still.
Speak to me.
I wish heaven were here. I wish that people didn't get hurt. No one got sick. Injustice was not a word, much less a reality. I wish pain were no more and death an old wive's tale.
Someday it will be.
Heaven is real. It simply isn't
What is here is this odd space continuum where pain and joy coexist. Where we live at war and fight for Eden. Where love and hate are spoken in the same sentence. Where God is real, but so is the enemy. Where we are challenged daily to overcome and then throw our hand back to help our neighbor do the same.
Speak to me.
I am grateful. I am siting here utterly and ridiculously grateful that God is sitting right here with me cheering me through this hot mess of healing.  I am grateful that I have a tribe, a community, a family, and strangers everywhere being used by God to hold my hand and walk with me a bit before handing me off to another "angel unaware" to go along together on the next bit of road. {I see the visual in my is breathtaking. Suddenly I see that dirt road in Haiti I wrote about HERE.}
We are all out here...together....fighting for our own healing, fighting for other's healing, loving, learning, and grabbing joy with both hands. I hope that you are letting God speak to your heart....maybe even to the parts wrapped up on a shelf or buried in the backyard. I won't lie to you and say that it easy, but it is worth it. For real. The Promise, whatever your promise might be, is real too. God has something for each of us, but no friend or foe can unearth that for you; only time with God - listening for/to him, reading the Bible, meditating and prayer, and mostly (maybe this is just me) learning to walk with him....Every. Day.
When I was a little girl....
I loved the song "My God and I" goes "My God and I go in the fields together...We walk and talk, as good friends should and do. We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter...."
I found a video of it - listen HERE....Beautiful.
Praying for you a beautiful Sunday full of rest, walking, talking, and listening....with God. Where is God? Right there next to you....waiting.
Speak to me.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Moment of Reflection

This morning I am just minding my own business scrolling through Twitter and come across someone's repost of Brene Brown TED Talk on Shame, and so I go and grab another cup of coffee and settle in to watch....again. The truth is that I have not watched it in a couple of years, but this morning all I could think of (after yesterday) was the first time I watched it in early 2013. Back then, coming across Brene (who was unknown to me) and watching her (two) TED Talks was like some surreal, out of body experience. I was undone and giddy simultaneously. Now, four years later I have devoured four of her books, written and spoken on my own journey with shame and vulnerability, and after three years of that....cannonballed into counseling last year.
So....I am sitting here listening to this accepting how far I have come and realizing areas I still need to work on.
When she gets to this quote and reads it aloud.....

The Man in the Arena
 It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 
....I am undone.
So I started listening even more mind working through the visual memories of the last few I am incorporated her words into my daily life....and then...
"If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path. And I know it’s seductive to stand outside the arena, because I think I did it my whole life, and think to myself, I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and when I’m perfect. And that is seductive. But the truth is that never happens. And even if you got as perfect as you could and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster when you got in there, that’s not what we want to see. We want you to go in. We want to be with you and across from you. And we just want, for ourselves and the people we care about and the people we work with, to dare greatly."
...that was me, and honestly, on my worst days (now), that still is me. It IS seductive.
Here is the ballgame....
Are you willing to leave everything at the door (or alter) and cross the threshold into unchartered territory and peel yourself layer by layer until you find your true center....and then, gasping for air, sit a spell and start operating from the very center, the heart, of Who. You. Are. ???
Who you REALLY are.
I have barreled through my life like a yesterday morning in a meeting when I caught my own posture - relaxed in the chair, softness in my face, normal breathing, fully present - while in the middle of frankly a crap storm, I smiled all the way to my insides. When I recognize these moments in myself, they leave me breathless...even now. I know they are more frequent and some probably think it is silly to take stock of them at this point, but the truth is I hope I never ever get over the thrill of feeling peaceful. My pastor says all the time, "I hope I never ever get over being saved." Me too, but I also hope I never ever get over being healthy.
Yesterday someone spoke some good old fashioned truth into me about what they had seen in me over the past year; this is someone who sees me five days a week, but doesn't know my "story" (per se) so their words had an authenticity that your heart believes on a different level because they "don't have to love you" - LOL. Their encouragement on the heels of yesterday morning was refreshing to my soul.
Which leads me to this point....
We need to spend more time encouraging each other.
We need to encourage the person who looks like they have it all together....the one obviously struggling....the person who we see trying to do better....the person we love....the person we struggle stranger across from us at Starbucks....the person taking our money in the parking garage....anywhere, with everyone, All. The. Time.
We need to be encouragers.
We need it.
They need it.
Sure I am better. Sure I was having a decent day. Sure I am getting over a respiratory infection so healing is coming. Sure, sure, sure.
I still needed those encouraging words. They still pierced my heart.
The enemy wants me to believe I am not improving OR when I do acknowledge improvement, the enemy whispers to me about how long it is taking and "are we not there yet?" kind of nonsense. Imagine a person who never admitted weakness turning into me - writing about all of their weaknesses. There is, in essence, a bulls-eye on my back for the enemy. Sometimes his lies are deafening as they ring in my ears.
So....don't let the time it takes scare you....or the mountains still ahead deter you. Accept the encouragement when it is offered. Sit a spell, catch your breath, and then...keep moving forward. One step at a time.
Growth is hard....the waves crashing against and over you so when you crest one - savor it.
Savor. It.
Yesterday I crested the waves so I threw open my arms, leaned back, looked up, felt the sunshine on my face, and whispered "Holy Spirit come".....if even for a moment. It was the best.
Now...who can I encourage today???
Who can you???

Holy Spirit come. Again and again and again. Come.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Yoke : Freedom // Gravity // Perspective

It isn't the yoke, it is what is attached to the yoke.

It isn't the load, but the way you carry it.

Is that true??? Are either of those true???
I don't know, but it is something I have wrestled with for years now as I tried to figure out how to do more, faster...and even better. Clearly I was doing it wrong I would tell myself not knowing exactly what IT was but convinced it held the secrets to my personal productivity and success.
Many watched me wrestle for three years through a purge of my life - possessions, yokes, pain - nothing was off limits during that season, and by nothing - I truly mean NOTHING. Then last year, thinking I had been exploded out of a giant cake into the promised land, I found myself one year ago today sitting in a pile of tears and anger dumbfounded by why my "posture" was still "off" - read that jewel of honesty HERE. Sadly, even after writing all of that (and I reread it again this morning), I would wrestle for another month before someone in my tribe said (ever so gently), "Have you thought about finding a counselor?" So started the excavation of my insides throughout 2016 (and it continues...because that is what happens when you open yourself up to healing, you find that you need more of it than you know....).
When I was a little girl....
Last night I sat at dinner staring out the window as that phrase rolled through my head in waves. That little line has been running through my head for weeks now. Out of the blue, I will hear, "When I was a little girl..." and then nothing - BLANK. What is that???? *insert shaking head* I have NO idea.
This is what disruption looks like people. It looks like crazy. Certifiable crazy. I am also hear to say, it feels like crazy too. *insert nervous laughter*
My counselor is not too fond of the words I use to describe myself. My internal narrative is definitely not PC...or as it turns in kind To. Me. *Ugh*
Everybody raise both hands because I am betting your internal narrative isn't kind either. We suck. *LOL* Adding levity here...laugh or cry.
You know why our world is unkind...because we are unkind to ourselves which in some deep, dark, sick way gives us permission to be unkind to others. Then every once and awhile, we pull our head out and something truly awful pierces our heart, and we feel empathy and compassion...once again...and then we overreact out of guilt.
Just me????
The secret may just do we train ourselves to be truly everyone....Every. Single. Day.????
This isn't rhetorical.
Kindness Matters.
When I was a little girl....
When you have trauma at a young age...and stuff (oh yeah the word in my head was different) happens...and coping mechanisms are shaped...and life goes on....whatever innocence you had gets buried or simply packed away on a shelf in a neatly wrapped box with a bow. One day....many years from way back when, you open the door to a room (lets call it a maze (or city dump (I will write about that visual someday)) as my room looks more like that) and as the cracked door lets in the light you see shelves for days filled with tiny wrapped packages with perfect little red bows.
counseling = cracked door into dark room full of shelves with boxes
....anybody catching on to the visual God just gave me?
Well, I did. As. I. Wrote. It.
I have been writing about "straggling items" this year/month - HERE and HERE. I am wrestling through my list, but I have completed more than I had hoped/dreamed...still so much more to do in these final few days of January.
There is freedom on the other side of that door, those boxes, and even that list of straggling items. I am realizing that I am terrified of not what is on the other side of the door, but what is on the other side of dealing with what is on the other side of the door.
Anybody still with me???
I just paused for a moment to reflect....
The truth is I am still afraid of what is on the other side of that door. I am not enjoying EMDR or what comes out of it...At. All.....but the truth is that at least I know how to be broken.
Oh. Shit.
*Tears.* least I know how to be broken.
Did I just write that?
Dear Lord.
*Deep Breath*
Being broken is like sitting on the don't have to commit because are a HOT MESS. I mean everybody knows it...they just don't say it to your face....well some do....but those people LOVE you and pray for your healing every single day (side note - those are YOUR PEOPLE and you need to hold them dear and close and praise God for them Every Single Day Of Life). I hate the fence, but I know the remaining there looks really appealing right now. Being broken also means I don't have to really get involved in other people's messy...because you know I have my own hot mess so I don't really have time for your hot mess. Anybody tracking with me? Someone raise their hand please - feeling alone out here.
My name is Heather Nelson, and part of me is terrified to get healthy.
...not because healthy isn't appealing....oh how appealing it is....but because I don't know or understand it. I mean I have my face pressed against the glass like a caged animal at the zoo looking at all of the people out there walking around unyoked....and I see that little girl with a sucker in her mouth waving at me wildly...loving me without knowing me....and I want to get out and play with her, but there is safety in the cage. There is safety in the cage.
...I am going to let all of that marinate for a bit. I am having a Maya Angelou awakening moment. (going to be rereading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings again tonight)
So...what have we learned today boys and girls?
How we see ourselves is the same filter with which we use to see the world? If we want people to change the way they see the world, we first have to help them change their own internal filter. {now before you rail that is NOT true of ALL people...I will concede to only this...maybe, maybe not}
I have lived scared a good deal of my life, and I have hid that fact behind a lot of bravado. In the ripping away of the bravado, I am not liking (me no likie) dealing with the source of all of that fear. Some of that fear is trauma-based due to a lot of what happened TO me, and some of that is based in what I did to myself. I need to be honest and always clarify that point (for me and for anyone looking in at my walk).
When I was a little girl...
I don't know exactly why that phrase continues to haunt (and yes it feels haunting) my mind, but I am working to be brave to face it head on. I have come a long way these past several years, and I am proud of myself for being brave and vulnerable...and doing The. Work. I have still more work to do, but I think the counselor is is time to stop looking at each week as "the hardest week ever" and find more positive words to describe myself, my days, my weeks, and my life. Growth still sucks, don't get me wrong.....BUT it also feels like FREEDOM....scary, purposeful, beautiful, terrifying, intentional, God-infused....
When I was a little girl....
On this beautiful winter morning, be brave and peek around the door, then past the room full of your brokenness, and take a gander even further past that at the freedom that awaits you.
...and while you do, you might listen to this new song from this new album...G R A V I TY (video) by Brian and Jenn Johnson (Bethel).
Perspective is a beautiful thing.
Lake Michigan, Chicago, January 2017