Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Beauty and Lessons In Touchstones

Within the past few weeks, I have consciously felt God bringing me back to touchstones from my past 43 years of life. Places, things, people, and when it happens (like a Deja vu feeling), something (or someone) will happen where I know that God is there in that moment and he wants me to remember. Every. Single. Time.

The past two days, my friend Jen and I have been in Leiper's Fork, Tennessee, for our annual girl's trip. It is a different trip for us as it is longer than we have done in the past and bleeding into our work week (couple of workaholics here). The whole trip was planned around Diana Krall's show in Nashville as we both fell in love with Diana Krall's music around the same time and still love it. Her music is a relaxation point for two people who move at full throttle. The setting also happens to be where I spent a year of my life, Nashville, and the house we are renting is in the quaint little hideaway of Leiper's Fork which is everything a small town should be, and in your dreams, is...and as it is protected by certain Tennessee laws, it literally has not changed in the 15 years since I lived in Nashville and spent weekends roaming this area.




So...Nashville, Leiper's Fork, friendships (many whom I won't even get to see this trip to my dismay), and my journey/life post-Nashville are all being laid out bare for me (and I am about 24 hours in).

God. I see you.

I see you in the redbud tree with the heart-shaped leaves blooming right in front of me even as I type. I see you in the rolling hills of bright green grass (we seriously landed here on the most perfect weekend in the area all year). I see you in the faces of those that remember me and the ones who don't, but hug me like they do as they are pure sweetness. I see you in the birds whose chirping has not ceased for one single second since we arrive. It is a symphony. I see you in the new life that has been born in my absence. Miss V is simply a dream. I also see you in the pain that I have missed. I see you in the old dreams that once ran strong for me here...a front porch just like this where I would swing and write and breathe. I see you in my friend as we squeeze a year's worth of happenings into this few days. I see you in the changes in us...spiritually and physically. You are working in her, and it is so clear to me as I have seen that look in my own reflection when you were in the throws of something with my own heart. I see you in the breeze that has blown for 24 hours straight that feels like you are bringing fresh life into my lungs. What are you up to? I am wondering. My heart is fluttering a bit. I saw you on the drive to pick up Jen as songs from an old playlist that I hadn't touched in three years played and you gave me fresh ears for the words and melodies. What are you up to? I wonder again.

When you feel God moving, stop...look...listen. He is up to something. I am siting here very still on this old porch swing grinning because something is coming...there is a bird that won't shut up...another sign. I am breathing deeply.

Peace.

I can feel a fresh peace washing over my heart.

Maybe it is just the beauty and serenity of a couple of days away in a beautiful place.

I know better.

It is that....and oh so much more. I simply can't hear him until I stop for a hot New York minute.

Last night in the shower as the water fell over me, I thought of all of the places I lived...the people I have had the blessing to meet...the lives who have touched mine...the adventures. The journey isn't over, but the ride to here has not been all bad or even half bad. I would like a couple of do-overs, but if I got those, I would have missed so much. If I had stayed in Nashville, I wouldn't have met Jen.  What a HUGE loss for my life. Her friendship has been such a blessing.

The roads not taken.

Sometimes I hope that there is a day when God will bring me to a little house surrounded by green grass and water, a porch with a beautiful swing, and neighbors who I know deeply and truly and who know me the same. I want for that and long for that, but the ride continues...I need to come to grips with these touchstones of my past. Remember the roads I have taken. Experience the gratitude. Make some peace with past choices and mistakes.

The next door is ahead of me...I can see it in the distance. I just have some things to do before he lets me go through it.

This feels good though....smiling with pure joy at the touchstones of my past. Saying a little prayer over each of them as I pass. Giving them back to God for what they were. There is a reason for these moments he is giving me...


This post feels so unfinished...funny how right now that feels okay too.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Art of Vulnerability


Tonight as I was on the phone with one of my C7 just baring our poor, sweet souls...it hit me....there is a true art to vulnerability.

The thing is...it is that type of art that looks like a Sherwin Williams store exploded in a room. Exploded.

I think I am so sick and tired of us all trying to get shame and vulnerability "right." I mean really??!!! Hell, it took most of us 40 years (ummm...just me?? :)) to succumb to the act of even showing vulnerability...now we have to do it "right"...Just. Right.

I don't think so.

Look.

It is hard. It is ugly or at a minimum not Instagram-cute. It is raw and messy and dirty.

I have been trying for two weeks to write about the simple fact that I had misplaced my joy, and I simply couldn't do it. I couldn't write about it. I was terrified that people would go there it is...she has lost it or she is depressed or whatever...so I suffered in silence. Silence.

....and that is how the enemy got me. Bam!

So he sent a big hornet's to my front door yesterday in the form of a friend and then a foe, and God waited...and in the midst of those two situations he reminded me that HE was in control. HE was there. HE heard me. AND...my joy literally bubbled up inside of me and came out as giggles in the most inopportune moment. That is how my God works. #bless

Guess what?

I don't have this figured out.

Don't worry. I know you don't have it figured out either. None of you. Whether you are Jennie Allen or my Sis or Jen Hatmaker or one of my C7 or a complete stranger. None of you have it figured out.

AND....that is the dadgum point. You can't do this. I can't do this. ONLY he can do this. We are but a vessel. Whether it is in having the right words for a friend. Handling a touchy situation. Finding your joy. Making a career decision. Whatever it is, it is HIS to handle. The big lie is that free will means he is giving us wisdom and control...and he is, but it is so we will choose him...give it up to him...love him. NOT so we will do it all; have it all; be it all.

I mean really?!?!

Are you with me?

Have you fed this lie to yourself...like DAILY...that it is on your shoulders to "get it" right?

Yesterday when my friend needed me and e-mailed me, my first thought after reading her e-mail was, "I don't know what to do with that. I got nothing." and closed my e-mail. Next. A few seconds later, God had me re-open it, read it again, hit reply, and start typing...not my words, but his. Because I, in my wise, human self had NOTHING to offer her, but I was only needed to be the vessel for God to speak to her. Not my words; his words.

I confessed all of this to her tonight as she died laughing through tears on the other end of the phone.

The further truth is that she knew the answer before she even e-mailed, but she needed confirmation...and God gave it to her.

...and the circle continues.

We don't need each other to say the right things or do the right things or be the right things. We need each other to operate as conduits for God's heart and voice to come through for each other.

Being vulnerable...really vulnerable...means walking into that space completely open - open arms, open hearted, open minded...and just letting God show himself...through you...to others.

That is terrifying.

When Peter stepped out of the boat to get to Jesus waving from the shore (after the resurrection) he walked...for just a moment, but he walked on water...until he remembered who he was and forgot who Jesus was...he didn't lose his enthusiasm though...but he had already forgotten the lessons...so Jesus reminded Peter, and all of them, of the point. You are vessels to share my story, my death, my resurrection...for the breadth and depth of your life. Peter was worried about Jesus' love, his own death, the death of others...I mean that poor man took forever to get it (sounds familiar). None of that matters, for you Peter are just a vessel for me.

I am reading and studying Peter a lot right now via Sunday church and Bible Studies...and it just tears me up...I weep and laugh because Peter is so relatable to me and so many of us. He is just the example of all of our so-human struggles. Bless him. I just love Peter, and I didn't always...learning true grace and what that means has led me to love Peter more...as I am learning to love myself more. Funny how that works.

So lets all make a pact that we are not going to worry about getting all of this newfound vulnerability just right. Instead we are just going to encourage each other to continue to live their truth with not only others, but for the love of all that is good and holy...live their truth with themselves. With. Myself.

I got my joy back yesterday. I am still a teary mess (can cry at a drop of a hat). I am still struggling with some wounds (old and new). I am still terrified from time-to-time. I still want more of what I don't have in relationships and work and tribe. I am still growing and struggling. God reminded me that this is messy though...and even in the messy he is there and I can laugh there too (not simply cry) and that is okay. I'm okay.

Thank you for those that come to this space and laugh and cry and pray with me. Growth sucks; no doubt. Growth is also awesome, and I am tickled pink to be at this place in my walk and in my life. It has been hard-fought and worth everything. I hope you feel the same about your own.

We are just holding hands and walking each other home.


Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Heart Spilled Over


Sometimes my heart is simply TOO full.

Full of emotions and junk and questions. 

Sometimes my heart is too full to talk to God. 

*Ouch*

I simply don't know how to talk or express or explain or lean into him. 

Those are hard days. 

Isn't that simply ridiculous???

What is worse is when you feel guilty for it...like these are "good" days and so you don't have permission to claim they feel hard.

Good. Grief.

I am there.

Right there.

I am post-Lent. I should be ecstatic. Ecstatic. I'm not though. I am stressed and worried and unsettled and questioning and everything feels HARD right now. Not in the Lent way, but in a LIFE way.

I know. I know. Deep. :/

We don't talk enough about these days or seasons where life isn't joyous or full of drama, it is simply bleh. No one wants to talk about the bleh. 

I miss God in these moments...these days. I have been trying to find reassurance for these BIG feelings in my tribe or Sis or my business partner, but their assurances are falling short...because they are not God. 

I need God.

It took just a colossal ick situation at the office today for me to slide down a wall to the floor and head in my hands, cry out to Jesus. I simply have to have Jesus in me, with me, surrounding me, and immersing me 24/7. I have spent a week post-Lent disillusioned because somehow I made it about my ability to "snap back" and be "okay" after Lent. Go back to before, but you can't..I can't. It doesn't work that way. The point is to be completely dependent upon Jesus always. Like as in ALWAYS. The point is to sacrifice with the addition and subtraction of worldly numbing agents every day as we walk closer and closer to him.

He is my joy. 

I left him outside the tomb Easter Sunday. I forgot to have breakfast with him on the beach. Isn't that why Jesus did that...wasn't it those visits post-resurrection to the men and women who would spread his word that he used to remind them this isn't the end but the beginning. I'm not here, but yet I am with you always. Don't go back to your old jobs, you have new jobs. 

I feel pretty foolish right now. Eyes red from tears that fall as a result of my short-sightedness.

The cross and resurrection were the confirmation of the old story, the old law, the prophecy. Breakfast on the beach was the promise of a future with him...the work to be done...and a promise that they would be called to sacrifice too. It was the future. I was so busy celebrating the conclusion of Lent and the gift of the cross and resurrection, that I forgot my part. I have a part. He is still here. In. Me. 

A friend today emailed a prayer request. I responded back with what God immediately put on my heart and typed without thought. Not my words; his words. He is in me. God is with us; within us. 

I love Lent and Easter, but the best part is the promise and the breakfast and the charge to us. Spread the word, do my will, abide with me in you, sacrifice, and remember...Me.

I'm sorry, but it simply doesn't get any better than that....and I nearly missed it...again. 

My heart spilled over today...God has been waiting for it...and for me. Finally.*

*Disclaimer: I cause God to faceplant a lot. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lessons of Lent

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I have been thinking of this post nearly every day of the last 40 as I have endured my first season of Lent. Now that it is here, I am so tired...so in awe...so in awe of my Jesus....that I don't know that I can give a "Lessons of Lent" post justice.

So forgive me...if this is not as inspiring as you feel it should be...

I closed out the season of Lent with new and unexpected challenges at work...more changes in my personal life....another major "event" in the three-year purge I end this year (2015)...and a reminder that there is family and there is FAMILY. Mostly I learned that if I simply give it all up to God...every day...every moment...every worry...He will meet me there...Every. Time....and while he will not negate the hard, he will stand by me through it to the point that I am surprised...Every. Time....by him and me both.

*Deep Sigh*

The truth is that I have whined my way through Lent. The Bible speaks of quiet endurance. That I am not. I have not...Been. Bless my heart. Mainly bless those that love me as they have endured such keen observations as, "Did you know that Lent is HARD?!?!" Deep thoughts over here. LOL :)))

Amidst all of my whining, God has been teaching me....as much to my surprise as it might be to yours. He has taught me that all of us need humor in the struggles. Life is hard. He taught me that being vulnerable and honest is not simply annoying to others (and sometimes it is), but that even more it connects us. We are ALL struggling through stuff in our lives. It is sometimes nice to know we are not alone in that.

God has taught me that facing my fears...facing past mistakes....facing the enemy head on...is easier with a tribe...with my people. Long before I determined tribe amongst my "people" there was a tribe of three little kids (brother and sisters) who conquered the world....two of us are left in that little tribe....and with one's husband and three amazing kids....we make a new tribe of six...and let me tell you, I will put our tribe of six against the devil himself. We show up for each other...even in the hard stuff, and let me tell you that we have shared some dark, tough stuff as of late, but there in the midst...they/we and God are there. I couldn't be more grateful. Truly.

God showed me what the end of my Lent needed to look like, but I couldn't see how it would happen, and then he finally convinced me to share with my Sis...and poof it all started falling into place. Like. A. Miracle.

The kids asked Sis what in the world was going on with Aunt Heather?? Her simple answer..."She is trying to find her happy place." and the truth is that is more true than even she knows...I am in search of the path and place God wants me...where my life adds value to the kingdom instead of value to my "life" and that is HARD. It is hard to do and hard to explain and even harder to understand (bless my friends and tribe for trying).

I digress.

The lessons...

  • Sacrifice is good for your heart and your life.
  • Sacrifice is hard.
  • We all have "numbing" mechanisms built into our lives...work, alcohol, food, hobbies, drugs, volunteer work, cleaning...anything that you are using to "numb" yourself from dealing with whatever in life is confronting you any given moment.
  • There is the family you are born into and the family whom God grafts into your life; sometimes they are one and the same, and sometimes they are not. Pay attention. It matters.
  • Rose-colored glasses once broken cannot be repaired, and the result is called GROWTH.
  • #growthsucks
  • Jesus never leaves our side. Never.
  • Never. Ever.
  • Ever.
  • We have a greater capacity for pain than we know.
  • We have a greater capacity for fear than we know.
  • Often the two are correlated.
  • They both generally come from one person.
  • The Enemy.
  • Jesus allows fear and pain, but it is not his core nature.
  • Don't confuse Jesus and Satan; they are not the same. No matter what Satan whispers.
  • You can survive a broken heart.
  • The old tales about one month for every year or one year for every year...listen to them; surviving a broken heart means taking the time to heal, figuring out how it happened, and learning from it.
  • Did I mention #growthsucks ???
  • Good work in this life is important, but a good life is more valuable.
  • It is a lot harder to build a good life than it is to do good work.
  • I have done some really great work in my life, but I haven't always worked to build a great life.
  • God is teaching me the difference and how to build the latter.
  • His way; not mine.
  • Forgiveness is harder than anyone explains.
  • I am a Forgiveness Master, and I still SUCK at it.
  • Take that for what it is worth.
  • Jesus loves me...Any. Way.
  • Any. Way.
  • I desire to be truly holy more than I desire to be truly right.
  • Realizing that in the middle of Lent has Changed. My. Life.
  • God. Is. Good.
  • All. The. Time.
  • I thought I was a good Christian; I was wrong.
  • I thought I was a good friend; I was wrong.
  • I thought I was a good fill-in-the-blank; I was wrong.
  • God makes all things new though...and I can do and be better.
  • I will do and be better.
  • By the grace of God, I am better.
  • I cannot fully comprehend what Jesus did for me.
  • I sit here and am not sure I ever will.
  • I am okay with that.
  • My "job" is not to understand.
  • I am not a "Good Christian" BUT I am a fantastic student and child of The King.
  • A Learner.
  • A Worshiper.
  • A Tribe Builder.
  • I love Jesus with my WHOLE heart.
  • I am in awe at how I have half-assed my love for him for so many of the past 43 years.
  • He loves me ANYWAY.
  • I am a student.
  • I am so in love with his Word.
I could go on and on and on....

Truly.

Lent has been awe-inspiring, and I will never again not take full advantage of the opportunity to participate in this season. It has been such a gift to learn more about something I simply was not taught growing up, and I have loved being a student of it these past 40 days. I am tremendously grateful to friends and family and strangers who sent me information, shared their past experiences, and simply encouraged me along the way. I am especially grateful to those who helped me laugh at myself on the hard days when the whining was INTENSE. Thank you to them for loving me anyway.

As darkness falls on this Easter/Resurrection Morning, I am in awe of the gift of the life I have been given. I am simply the luckiest girl alive. I have people who love me WELL. I have a full LIFE. I have an amazing TRIBE that love and challenge me. Mostly, I have a God who loves me WELL..Every. Single. Day.

I hope that you have had a beautiful season of Lent. I hope the lessons have been many and life-changing. I hope your relationship with God has deepened through it. I hope your life ahead is forever changed. I hope you know you are loved.

He Is Risen

He. Is. Risen.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Playing Church

I am sitting here on my couch staring at a blank screen wrestling with the words I know need to be written. Sometimes I sit down to write and stop myself from continuing because I am fearful I don't have the time to fully explore where my heart wants to take me.

Tonight feels like one of those nights.

How do you write about the single most spiritually powerful weekend of your family's life? Where do I start? How do I explain? What do I reveal and where do I protect other's feelings? Where does the story bleed between theirs and mine?

When I was a little girl, all I ever wanted to do was teach and play church. If I wasn't playing teacher, I was playing preacher. I mean I was church planting in the living room of our farm house before church planting was a "thing" as I did the preaching, teaching, song leading, prayers, communion, etc. for a room full of my stuffed animals and dolls. My mother provided me with crackers and grape juice for communion. At the time, there were always a variety of hymnals laying around, and I loved to sing. One of my favorite memories from that time is the story I have heard so many times I wonder if it is a tall tale, but supposedly I cut my own hair (bangs) as a sacrifice somehow confusing the Bible stories of Samson and Abraham (hair and sacrifice). I have been told that my parents were not amused. Can you imagine?

In 2012 if you had been close to me and asked, I would have told you that I was finally ready to walk away from corporate life and go back to school to complete a Ph.D. so that I could finally study and teach. I felt like it was where I was supposed to be and that I was finally going to "get it right" and follow my heart...and that it was what God wanted me to do. I had been given a "vision" in church one Sunday morning, and I felt it was the next step. Scary as hell, but somehow it felt right.

The thing is that I was on my knees at the time....so there were no next steps....anywhere. I spent the rest of 2012 honoring the commitments that I had made two years earlier. If I had been smarter or healthier or just a little bit selfish, I would have washed my hands of it all. No one would have blamed me...if for even a half a second I had shared the personal and professional hell I was enduring to stay. I didn't share though, and to this day I have kept the bulk of the nightmare that was those two years to myself.

I don't know what I have learned or suffered more from...the original circumstances or making the choice to suffer in silence...then and now. Too close to call at this point.

This past weekend I found out that my niece had been suffering in silence...probably for close to 10 months...certainly for approximately six weeks, and we landed somewhere in the latest/thick of it last weekend. The circumstances of her story are hers to share...and hers alone. What I will say is that when you see the circumstances of your past playing out in real time in the face of your own niece, something happens...or it did for me. The bulk of what I remember from Sunday afternoon is leaning forward in my seat and stating emphatically that the legacy of "this" in our family was going to stop then and there...right before I proceeded to share parts of my story that my niece had never heard (by my choice). That is the problem...somewhere in my ill-founded wisdom, I thought not sharing my own shame protected my family, but it didn't...and doesn't...because some of the demons I struggle with are built into my DNA. They are battles that are passed down through our family and hidden like a vampire from the sun. No. More. We ripped open the shades and shined the bright light of truth and God all over the messes of our pasts. We invited God into the middle of it and prayed over the messes and each other and literally fought the enemy to get our girl back. It cost us too. Time. Energy. Sleep. Old wounds. Shame. Buried stories. Guilt. It was worth every last bit of it. It took us the better part of two days nearly continuous before we literally saw her spirit transform before us. I have heard talk of a spirit of oppression being over someone before, but I have never witnessed one being there, being removed, and then gone. I can't even describe it other than to say it was miraculous. It was God. God defeated the enemy for her heart and won.

I want to teach and I want to preach and I want to do church All. The. Time.

I have been bemoaning Lent and this season that I willing stepped into. I have felt numb and lost and unsure and tired and ill-equipped...and did I say lost? Part of it has been the weight of this family issue that we have been so deeply entrenched in intense prayer over for the past month, but even more it has been my own faith in God waning as I wondered what he might have for me in this season of Lent. I felt a little like a small boat in the big ocean. Did he still see me? Why didn't I feel him? The tears fall writing this today as it seems so silly, but yet so real because I spent the first half of Lent peppering God with questions and wrestling with him. Then this past weekend he just guided us through this battle in hell for our girl, and he never left us. We were drowning in what to do...what to say...how to pray...how to help...and he just kept showing up for us guiding our thoughts, words, actions, prayers, and he helped us walk her through this nightmare. We were walking her, but he was walking us. I shake my head even as I type because I wish I were the kind of writer who could explain and express those days in a way that was worthy of what God did for her...for us.

I think I have been playing church my whole life.

I don't think I want to play it anymore. I think it is time to live it. This weekend I saw a glimpse of what truly living church could look like, feel like...and I want more. I want to help these kids...heck, these adults...who simply need someone to help them walk it out, unpack the situation(s), and find their way back to God. I never had that. Never. That is a wound that I had buried so deep that it took my flailing niece to force me to unpack it. I am not the only one either. There are a lot of us who simply didn't have a parent or an aunt or anyone who would fight for them....go to battle with the enemy for their heart or soul. Every child needs that...every adult needs that. Spiritual warfare is REAL. On some level I have known it since I was 18, but never like this...

I don't know what all of this means for my day-to-day life other than I know that a switch has been flipped that I cannot undo....and I don't want to either...what happened in our family this past weekend was precious and beautiful and healing.


Our stories matter. The enemy lurks in the shadows that shame casts over our lives. He wants us to be silent and alone. We have to fight for each other...in those dark, messy, uncomfortable places. God is in the messy. Fighting for us. Fighting with us. The battle is not ours to win, but ours to give him to win on behalf of us. Ours to give to him to win on behalf of others.

As I woke at dawn the day after, I leaned into kiss my niece's forehead as she slept, and with both hands laid on her, I prayed,
"By the cross of Jesus Christ I now sever all soul ties with {her name} in the Name of Jesus Christ. I am crucified to her, and she is crucified to me. I bring the cross of Christ between us, and I bring the love of Christ between us. I send {her name}'s spirit back to her body, and I forbid her warfare to transfer to me or to my domain. I command my spirit back into the Spirit of Jesus Christ in my body. I release {her name} to you, Jesus. I entrust her to you. Bless her, God! In Jesus's Name. Amen."

...which is the Breaking Soul Ties Prayer from Stasi Eldredge's fantastic book "Becoming Myself" which I recommend to EVERYONE and have gifted to a lot of the young women I mentor. {Click on link to go right to her site to purchase.} This prayer has changed my life as I tend to worry wart over everyone and everything...owning everyone's battles...#martyr  *Ugh*

I prayed this prayer after days of intense prayer and spiritual work with her and our family because I knew enough to know that I needed to not take all that we had unearthed back home with me....I knew that even as I also knew that I was headed home to find a counselor/therapist to help me unpack the wounds that God had shown me in the thick of her battle.

Photo Credit: stonegableblog

I also have been led to Psalm 51 as I work to reconcile the past few days...and I am reminded that
"...Against you, you only have I sinned...Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place...Create in me a pure heart...Renew a steadfast spirit within me...Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me..."


Wisdom.
Pure Heart.
Joy.
Willing Spirit.

God gave me this Psalm in January during #restorationJanuary and I have had those four words/phrases on my bathroom mirror ever since. Then tonight he took me again to read those words.

This is what I asked for in January...here is where he has taken me in March.

Whoa.

I feel like God is cleansing me from the inside out...I wish it were easier. I wish it didn't have to be so painful. I wish the seasons were simple and brief OR long and lovely. I have been wishing away the hard these many weeks, but he knew he what he was doing. He was teaching me wisdom. Chiseling away to find the purest part of my heart. Restoring my joy. Testing to find my willing spirit.

...and he is not done.

Not by a long shot.

"...The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart..." {vs. 17} as I learn to look to him when troubles crush me and plead for mercy for the wounds and strongholds of sin that shackle me, my heart, and my life.
....and he will use whatever it takes.

He did.

I sit here tonight and try to remember the little girl, 4 years old, head full of soft brown curls, a couple of dimples....I try to remember what thoughts were in her heart as she set up that church in the living room of her family's farm house. What joy and dreams were floating around in her heart. What was Jesus whispering into her then? Oh Jesus, what are you whispering to me now?

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin."


I am resting tonight in God's unfailing love...not just for me, but for every single one of us. There is something more available to each of us. Something more even then those of us who have been a part of a church our whole lives have known. There is love anew, fresh grace, new mercies, deeper healing, and more restoration.

I can play church OR I can live church.

Call me crazy, but I want more of the latter.

#Lent2015

Bethel | {Beautifully} In Over My Head | Video http://youtu.be/KkoCaZrvAQk

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Seas of Crimson Across An IF:Table

I should have known that God was about to move...His signal to me is always the gift of a song...right before.....Wham!

This song jumped out today, and I am attaching a LINK here to the You Tube video, but I am also listing the lyrics below...

Seas Of Crimson
 
For every curse, you’re the cure
For every sickness, you’re the healer
For every storm, you’re the calm
For all that’s lost, oh, what a savior
On that cross of Calvary
Every burden has been defeated
Every wretched heart redeemed
You drown our sins in seas of crimson

Hallelujah death is beaten
Christ has risen from the grave
Hallelujah it is finished
All to you the highest praise
Hallelujah death is beaten
Christ has risen from the grave
Hallelujah now and forever
All to you the highest praise

On that day of utmost glory
All of darkness cannot carry
Every shackle will come undone
My solid rock thine is the kingdom
Where there was sin your love rushed in
Where sin runs deep your grace runs deeper
For all enslaved the ransom paid
Light of the world, yours is the power

Where there was sin your love rushed in
Where sin runs deep your grace runs deeper
For all enslaved the ransom paid
Light of the world, yours is the power
 
For every curse, you're the cure.

I should have known then...right off the first line.

A few minutes after that I was on the phone with my Sis and then pulling up to our monthly IF:Table.


I could not have imagined...

What IF God is real? What IF everything in the Bible is real? What IF Jesus really did pay the ultimate price for us? What IF Jesus' commands to us to love, walk, talk, act, and live like His example was real? What IF???

Well....then out of the mouth of one of two college-aged girls who joined our IF:Table tonight...EVERYTHING changes. Everything.
 
Allow me a digression...

I was SO excited when two of my girls asked to come to my IF:Tribe's IF:Table tonight...Of course! I had extended an invitation in a private Facebook group I have with them, but didn't know if any of them would accept...what college kid wants to hang out over a meal with 20, 30 and 40 year old women and talk about Jesus? Well, tonight, at least two. ;) :)

Note...these college girls are part of a small group (around a dozen) that I mentor/minister to via our group (and met through a camp here in Arkansas I have counseled at the past three summers. They are 13-22 years old and deeply searching for more of Jesus. In their words, they are not getting spiritually fed...so I am trying in some small way to help fill that gap.

So...for them to come to our IF:Table was a first...and I hope not a last....because the children shall lead us. Oh my! The wisdom that came out of their mouths...and they are so hungry for God...

The IF:Table questions tonight....


Loneliness...Connection...Relationships....
 
Kill. Me. Now.
 
Sorry...that was what I was thinking...as I slid down in my seat...
 
God?! What are you trying to do to me? Have I not been whining and moaning and groaning and generally making a complete JERK of myself about how HARD Lent is? Didn't I stop short of ripping my clothes and rolling in the ashes the other night as I wailed (I am ashamed to say that is NOT an exaggeration) and shook my fist at you (Again...wish I could deny the literalness of this)? Don't you remember??
 
"Yes."..I heard him whisper and then..."I remember you whining about lack of relationships and needing more deep connection and being lonely."
 
Damn.
 
He didn't stop.
 
"I also sent you a couple of angels (two of my college girls) because you may hide from the others, but I know you can't hide from two of the ones I sent you to help."
 
Double Damn.
 
"Sit up."
 
"Dig in. Do the work. Trust me. Trust them. Just a little tonight...then a little more...and then it will get easier and easier."
 
*Pause*
 
"I have got you."
 
*Deep Breath*
 
I remember only snippets of a snippet of my story I shared, but it was enough for a point to be made in my heart....It. Is. Okay.
 
So much to unpack...So much to see through the lens of grace instead of my broken, battered, and worn lenses. I am physically ill tonight realizing what lies ahead of me, but I am going to be okay.
 
It is okay.
 
Tonight I also realized that my uncomfortableness with Lent is partially because it is taking me back to three years ago when I started this latest spiritual odyssey with God. It feels like I am going backwards somehow, but my tribe beautifully spoke a different truth into me tonight...as Heather S. said, "I think this is a sign that you are about to birth new growth as you did back then." New growth. My first genuine smile in days.
 
I am on #Day20 of #Lent2015 (and yes I am "owning" the hashtags), and I am relieved to be at the halfway mark. Tonight was the spiritual shot in the arm I needed to encourage me to keep going...dig in....do the work...learn the lessons...let God in deeper...
 
I was reminded tonight as I looked around that table at my tribe that Jesus suffered and endured through 40 days alone. ALONE. I have the gift of tribe. What was Jesus thinking at #Day20? *Tears Falling* I long to hear his story of those 40 days; I can just see me sitting with him hanging on every word. The funny thing is that right now. Today. Sitting here on my couch in the middle of this messy life in the middle of this broken world...I am hanging on His every word. Begging him to come for my heart in a new and deeper way. Begging him to reveal himself to me afresh. Begging him to answer some of those old prayers and a bunch of new ones. Begging him to tell me again why I need to do this. Begging him to heal me. Begging him to give me better words...better prayers....better gifts...more compassion...more wisdom. Teach me. Tell me. Show me.
 
Pause.
 
Love me.
 
That is what happens...
 
We get so busy begging and whining and striving...even in and with Jesus...that we forget to simply stop. Stop. and let him LOVE us.
 
On that cross of Calvary
Where every burden has been defeated
And every wretched heart redeemed
You drown our sins in seas of crimson

In this second half of #Lent2015 let me lay down my measuring stick (thank you Ann Voskamp) to where I should be, how I should be, what I am not....and simply and gently lean back and rest in the arms of Jesus. There in the nook of his neck, where his chest and shoulder meet, is a place for me to lay my weary head and breathe.
 
Amen.

"So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word." ~ 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 {Emphasis Added by HRN}
How is your Lent journey going?

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Why Water?

Photo Credit: www.freewaters.com
As I wrote about in January, I started this year taking a weekly "spa" bath, and just like other rituals of restoration I worked to make habits of in January...this one has taken on a life of its own. What I mean by that is that I need, I MUST take the time for one every week...It has become an uninterrupted time of conversation with God...It soothes me mind, body, and soul.

This morning before church, I was laying in the tub having a VERY intense conversation with God about all the things I don't understand about my life...why I am in this season here and now...why it feels so hard...why I can't control my emotions, questions, yearnings for answers...why at times I have felt so very dry spiritually in the midst of Lent no less...why I can't stop myself from allowing the world to make me numb from time-to-time...why I just can't hang onto the JOY that I know is mine in him..Oh the questions...the water grew lukewarm.

As I sat up to run more hot water, I suddenly started thinking about Jesus' own baptism. Why water? Why did God have us baptized in water?

I started thinking of a mother's womb, how a child grows for nine months, all that fluid, the immersion of life in this cocoon, the water breaking, and the bringing forth of life into the world fresh and new...

Is baptism the closest we can experience to a physical re-birth?

I was reading a post this morning by writer Seth Haines entitled "Take. Eat. Remember" and it moved me so much I shared it on my own writing page (I heard about Seth via mutual friends, so I guess I am now a stalker...That said, check out his work; very good.). I guess I was still marinating on his words because I am suddenly struck by how beautifully God intertwines the body, the spirit, the earth, and our minds. He takes such a holistic approach with us, marrying these things so beautifully...it really is like poetry.

I think I needed the reminder by God (and Seth) of the beauty of the processes...the water, the wine, the bread, the LIFE.

It is so easy for me to get numb in the searching and the studying of God's words and in my walk through it. I truly loathe that about myself, but didn't God know that I/we would be that way? Didn't he provide for us the rituals to remind us of the meaning? Didn't he know we would grow weary and numb? Didn't he know that after years and years of watching his people ebb and flow out of following him with great fervor only to deny him in the next breath? Didn't he send Jesus, his own son, to make it so intimately personal that even our jaded human hearts could recognize the sacrifice? Doesn't he crave our sacrifice and our pursuing of him because he knows that where our treasure is, there also is our heart?

Doesn't he simply..Know. Us.?

During this season of Lent, I am learning the very HARD about having a daily walk with Christ. The intimacy of it feels like any other relationship...overflowing, dry, weary, joyful, nourishing...it is a RELATIONSHIP. I am not necessarily the very best at those. I am not necessarily the very best at one with God. I think Lent has been a reminder of what I am not good at, but the water is a reminder of how much God loves that I continue to go to the well. I continue to seek him...to seek the relationship....to dig into the healing I need...the healing that is mine...God sees my pursuit of him even at the cost of my own comfort....emotionally, physically, and relationally.

The thing is that even when I was not pursuing him, he was always there...waiting. Patiently. I think of the years I spent trying to go it alone with little more than a half-ass relationship with him, and it is hard to bear. Even now. Especially now. Lent reminds you of that. Ugh.

Yesterday I was reminded in one of my tribes how we are all at different places in our walk...and I was also reminded that many of us have guilt and shame associated with the feeling that we are not as far along in it as we should be. I was reminded too that I bear that shame and sometimes, unfortunately, I act from it. There is no set timeline on when you should get saved, be here or here spiritually, hear from God, know all the rules...I mean, for the love of all that is good and holy....shouldn't we the church be the one place where there is no ladder, no tick marks of who is where, no competition? I think so.

I have had to lay a lot of shame down at the altar. I have had to lay a lot of my "competition" read that as competitive heart down at the altar. Know the most Bible verses...win the Bible for saying the books of the Bible...read the Bible all the way through...how many books have you read...how many Bible studies have you done....and that competition wasn't always external, in fact rarely so...it is inside. The enemy knows I like to win...to be the best.

...and then here Jesus comes with the water.

Be made clean. All who are weary, find rest. Give up the idols. Follow me.

So simple.

My worldly heart that resides in my worldly body is at war with my good good heart.

My God is fighting for me...Every. Single. Step. Of. The. Way.

He is fighting...and cheering...and loving...Me. All the while, I resist that love.

It is the irony of ironies that what we crave most in this life...Love...is what he is offering...and what we fight against.

I am never going to be the same post-Lent. (BIG ugly crying now)

Thank you God.

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)