Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Beauty In Leaning Into My Anxiety

I have anxiety.

That sentence alone takes more courage to write than I am comfortable admitting....which is to say I don't like that I have anxiety, and I like even less admitting that I do. So...there is that.

Anxiety was something other people had....right up until the moment my counselor used the word in a session with me....to describe what was happening to me. Me?! Me.

I have mentioned it a tad here and there, more alluding to it than owning it. You might say that I looked at it as something else in my life to be managed. Some days, like anything else, I was winning the battle, and others....not so much.

My coping mechanisms for my anxiety are as varied and awkward as I am. Funny, huh?!

There is the stuffed monkey I occasionally have to sleep with....awkward.

There are the ice cold washcloths that I have to apply to my chest, and if the attack is bad....my entire body.

There are the numbing mechanisms that range from a glass of wine, a glass of scotch, a cigar, a bacon double cheeseburger, a cherry sprite with light ice from Sonic, a M&M blast no whip from Sonic, Popeye's fried chicken, or just a fried food smorgasbord.

I have spent the past year and a half adapting healthy "coping" mechanisms and limiting or wiping out my "numbing" ones. I have learned a lot about my body, my mind, and I have tried to be open that I am working to re-learn what is "comfort" and what is "numbing" - and ALL of it makes me feel like a big loser because can't I just be normal.

*insert eye roll*

I can't. Neither can you. There are crosses we all have to bear, and this is one of mine. The truth is I have had functioning anxiety probably since I was eight years old. That too is hard to admit. The truth is that in the brokenness of my life back then, anxiety manifested, and coping mechanisms were born, and some of them helped to save my life....and others led to bad habits that I am now alerted to in my 40s and working to unwind as quickly and in the most healthy manner available to me.

Here is why I am writing this....

The enemy is coming at me now, TODAY, in new fresh ways that it has taken more than a hot minute for me to catch on to. So today I am laying down a fresh line in the sand RIGHT in the throes of what can only be described as an ongoing anxiety attack that is picking up steam by the day. I am actually typing right now even as my chest is exploding and my mind is ON FIRE. I am in the middle of an act of defiance. This is me giving the enemy the bird. So to speak.

This morning I watched Sarah Wilson talking about her new book "First, We Make The Beast Beautiful" and fell out in the floor. First, let me say, I am not sure how I even got to You Tube and the video. I was on her site looking at some travel photos because we all know that I have the world's worst case of wanderlust, and I follow her because she travels and blogs and takes amazing photos. She is also known for quitting sugar, but you know I don't follow her for that - don't even play. See above paragraph regarding my numbing mechanisms. Anyway, I watch her video and find a couple of snippets from the book, and I just am tripping out. Let's be honest. Tripping. Out.

Then for some reason, I go and find this book I have been reading entitled "A Theology of the Ordinary" by Julie Canlis which I started last weekend and for whatever reason did not finish EVEN though I talked about it ALL weekend. It is a great, fast read, and I highly recommend. Check out Amazon to snag a copy.

Anyway, suddenly the conversations I have been having with "my people" (and they all know who they are) since January of this year (and really for a LOT longer than that) just started falling into place.

I have been doing this ALL wrong.

The writing.

The counseling.

The creativeness.

The consulting.

The work.

The storytelling.

The....fill-in-the-blank.

Somewhere along the line my anxiety (or the enemy - you determine for yourself) had convinced me that while all of this STUFF coming at me like a tsunami was of God, I had to somehow corral it, guide it, get fixed (i.e., counseling) for it, manage it, run it....oh and fix myself too don't forget....because the eyes were on me, or they would be. It was about me.

Jesus Wept. (here is looking at you Jon)

I am not sure how I got that all distorted and jacked up, but I did because as soon as I got done with church (great lesson out of Thessalonians) - I sat down and sent the most long-winded dissertation to two friends that I knew would stop me if what I had "heard" was too far gone. Then, because something in me said, "Don't wait one minute longer." I didn't wait for their reply - I started lining up and out what was going to be needed to launch some of this creative hot mess that has been bubbling for so very long.

ALL the while, my anxiety rumbles on. I took a hot bath....resisted the urge to go buy out Popeye's and prayed.....and it would not let up. I got out and checked my messages knowing it was too soon for a reply....I mean one of them is in France.... #forthelove ....but it wasn't. Both of them...BOTH had replied...."Keep Going" and then I posted on my writing page. If I am going to be held accountable - that group is going to do it. Ten seconds, "the text" - if you don't have a Lesley in your life, you are missing out. I could see her silly grin through the text. She knew.

So here I am in the middle of an anxiety attack that is NOT letting up, and I am crying joyful tears - writing ALL the hard words - saying just enough that I am now accountable and not too much to ruin the surprises that will be unfolding. AND I am going to be okay. Why? Because God has me...he has my heart.

*as I wrote that I just got a text message from someone who saw a heart in a tree and sent it to me*

*another text from a friend starting counseling soon; first appointment made*

I hear you God. You love them. You love me.

Breathe pretty girl.

We are all out here living out our stories, and I for one think the beauty of life is in the sharing of those stories because God is ALL in them. Every wink to every laugh to every anxiety attack. He is in the icky sticky, the messy, the beauty, the loss, and the growth.

I am done fighting this anxiety. The fight is a distraction from the cause which is new creative growth. I am done fighting against what God is putting inside of me. I am opening the floodgates come what may.
 
"The Spirit gives us gifts to add to the body of Christ, so that the whole body can be on its mission together (Eph 4:12, Rom 12:4)." {from A Theology of the Ordinary}

On mission together.

I am leaning into that promise which results in me leaning into my anxiety.

How about that?
 
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. // Genesis 50:20

I have always admired Joseph faithful perseverance, but this verse is a reminder to me that God has the final say over my life, my circumstances, and yes....even the gifts he has put inside of me.

So here is to embracing what the world says we need to fix about ourselves and letting God use it for whatever his will dictates.

I am leaning into him.

It is time for the enemy to take a seat.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Writing. An Offering.

Hello.
 
I think this is how you start a blog post when it has been two months since you publicly shared....Here.
 
I have missed this...yet THIS seems to terrify me these days. Do I share EVERYTHING (or close to it) that is rumbling around in my heart, my brain, my soul? Do I work to keep things private, tucked close?....read that as safe. So, instead I have done nothing. Micro-blogging here and there...on Instagram and my Facebook writing page. Mainly I have been writing privately - journals, notebooks, my computer, and even in notes on my phone (imagine typing over a thousand words in one single note?! I. Did. That. There is something different though about writing here...in this sacred space where long ago I started writing.....just because...for me.
 
Who knew?
 
So here I am.
 
These days I am equally terrified and joyful of the steps ahead of me, but this living in the present is not for the faint of heart. At least not like this.....healthy.
 
Healthy. Who knew I would ever use that word to describe myself. I am though. Truly. I am as healthy as I have ever been, and no one is more truly surprised than me. Healthy has its own troubles though....as I am learning. I am struggling through those as artfully as I did unhealthy, which is to say that I am ALL the awkward and like a giraffe fresh from the womb wondering what in the world these four sticks are underneath me.
 
*deep breath*
 
The truth of the matter, and I didn't realize it until I left counseling, drove to my favorite park, spit out a little micro blog post on Instagram, and then took a breath. It was if just peeling it back a little wasn't enough today. So I started a list of ALL the things we had discussed in counseling....was something there unsettling me...still?
 
Then I started writing....
 
"....if I am honest -
 
I don't want to do anything. I am tired - literally. And living on purpose, healthy, and intentional in all ways is exhausting.
 
When can I sleep without a giant to do list over my shoulders?"
 
 
...and now we are getting somewhere....the heart of the matter.
 
....and here is the rest of it.
 
I am doing too much.
 
....and if you are really honest....so are you.
 
Why are we doing too much? I don't know EXACTLY as I am sure it is a little different for everybody, but I started reading this little quick read this weekend called "A Theology of the Ordinary" by Julie Canlis, and it is freaking. me. out. in all of the best ways.
 
There is a part I read aloud to a friend this weekend....in talking about Moses post the big Red Sea moment it reads....
 
"Moses must have been fairly disappointed upon realizing that, after leading a people out of Egypt, his work had only just begun."
 
{I want to pause and let that sentence sink in....}
 
"For four hundred years they had been steeped in the cosmology of the Egyptian gods and goddesses. Without doubt they were God's people - but which story would seem to reflect reality? the one about humans being made in God's image? or the one they were living - that humans were created by the gods as slaves?
 
{Whoa.}
 
"So Moses was faced with a monumental task: not only to free the Hebrew slaves from Pharaoh, but from Pharaoh's story. His task was to re-story* their understanding of who they were, who God was, and what the world was meant to be."
 
{*emphasis added by me.}
 
Pick. Me. Up. Off. The. Floor.
 
Where had I heard that before? I went searching. Of course a favorite author of mine, Mary DeMuth, has written about it....and after reading through her new website, I knew she was ahead of me on this path learning about the power of re-story, but I digress.....
 
So....I am relating with Moses in new ways....both on a professional level as I see a lot of this in my work, and most certainly in my private life as I am beginning to realize I am having to re-learn who I am anew....who am I healthy? so to speak....
 
So who am I? Who are you?
 
Well....sometimes God takes us to our knees, then he strips us down to the foundation and the studs....and then - and sometimes only then - does he begin to grow us back up. What that looks like for each of us is COMPLETELY different. Our God is nothing if not personal in how he relates to us.
 
So here I am being completely honest....God took me to my knees, we definitely found the foundation and the studs, and he has even started growing me back up....but there....well, I guess just like the Israelites, I am weak, and I have unfinished business to attend to. I have a few gold idols stuffed away in an overnight bag that I need to dispose of....and they are some biggies. Like the BIG ones. The ones I just couldn't bring myself to deal with....because.....I am weak, and it is okay to admit that.
 
So....for all of my growth, healing, and blessings upon blessings....I am still undone by the things I haven't let go of....EVEN though I know in the depths of my heart, I will be happier and more free on the other side of laying them down/giving them up.
 
So here is the funny thing, and yes, it is okay to laugh in the midst of deep growth.....If I wasn't continuing to grow, I wouldn't even notice the fact that the idols are still in my bag. The truth is I keep noticing them because they are keeping one leg in the past. I don't get that leg, unless I let go. There is no shaking it off. I have to cut it off and Let. Go.
 
My counselor asked me today, "What keeps you from being fully present with both legs right where you are?"
 
Hmmm.....I had to have her repeat it. Not once, but three times.
 
My heart knew what she was REALLY asking, but my mind was feverishly trying to figure out how to dodge the question.
 
*How is that for truth?*
 
The end.
 
The end keeps me from being fully present. I cannot say "The End" to those items, people, places, etc. that have made me who I am today - for better or worse - for I know that to lay an idol DOWN....truly means I will not ever take it back up. Can I let those idols go? Even more, can I forgive myself for the role I played in the life of those idols?
 
Deep thoughts for a shallow mind fresh out of a counseling session.
 
Important thoughts though.....for God has given me a taste of healing, and I want more. Do I want it more than I want the other? Isn't that the real question we all have to ask ourselves? Isn't that where the rubber meets the road? We want God, Jesus, healing, restoration......but just as long as we don't have to give up TOO much or change TOO much. I am guilty of those thoughts, the late night negotiations with God. I am also guilty of holding back these final slivers of trust that I have secretly (in my mind) withheld from God....can I trust him with these deep wounds, these specific wounds that have become idols all unto themselves? Those wounds that will break wide open when I lay them down. Will they be my undoing? My heart's undoing?
 
....and so who am I to judge the Israelites? After 430 years in slavery, maybe we can have a little empathy that being re-storied took a hot minute. Maybe we can have a little empathy for Moses in leading them through the process. Finally, our God is patient and loving....and he knows us. The gifting and the idols. He loves us and he is gracious in how he waits....and waits. While we keep running....
 
So, the final a-ha of the night.
 
Writing is a part of my worship. I just finished that last paragraph and "Broken Things" by Matthew West was playing, and I opened up my arms, palms up, and I offered up ALL of these words to God. I did all of that without pause or thought....because these words, these words are from him, coming through me, and I lay them down to him as an offering.
 
Heart Rocks, Haiti // Hearts...My Love Language w/God
 
Thank you God for giving me this outlet to process ALL that is happening inside of me. I am humbled if it helps just one. I am equally humbled if it helps none. It is his to use as he wishes. Where you go I will go. That is the promise.
 
SO.....this is ALL the words. So. Many. Words.
 
It feels good though....it feels good to write. Here.


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Adventure // Keep Making Me

One of my new favorite places to write is the airport. I arrive early so I can get all of the logistics taken care of (to know me well is to know that TSA has a fondness for spending extra time with me #bless ) before my flight.

I settle in at the gate with all of my stuff around me, everything charging, put on my earbuds, and just like that a song finds me like a gift from God (because IT is), and the words come....like magic...God-type magic.

Today I arrived at the airport extra early - even with a detour to pick up something for my friend Amy who lives full-time in Haiti - with the hopes of catching the Sutherlin Family before they boarded their first of a few flights to France. That is right....after months and weeks of intense prayer, spiritual warfare like I have NEVER seen, and a rollercoaster with real estate closings and Visas.....the Sutherlin Family is GOING back to France permanently. How about that!?!?!?! {I missed them due to a parking snafu.}

My friend Sherri and I already have our plans mapped out (for the most part) to join them for a spell in late September/first of October for their Open House event to kick off the Restored & Renewed Ministry officially this October. I am going to be sharing, writing, and documenting their work and the subsequent journey because many of you will be inclined to USE their FREE services as you serve overseas in the mission field via a church and/or NGO. Others may want to help support their ministry with a donation. Finally, some of you may want to simply plan a visit to them while you are in France. All of those things are AWESOME, and I want you to have all of the details so you can pray and GO as you feel led.

That said, I have written so much this past 6-9 months about my personal struggle with #envy as I have watched dear friend after dear friend step out in faith, in ministry, in love to GO and do and serve and walk wherever God leads. I am in awe of my friends across the miles, cities, states, countries, globe that are doing the HARD things....but more, the faithful things. Living a life submissive to the will of God is hard, and I am deeply honored to lift them up in prayer, write and share their work with others, give financial support, or simply cheer them wildly from the stands. Let me pass from this world and others remember me as an encourager and a door holder for others; my daily prayer.


So....the Sutherlins are flying back to France today, and I am flying to Haiti via an overnight detour in Miami because #logistics and I am in awe of God - you are AMAZING and true and dear and faithful. Six months ago Heather S. and I were wondering if she would ever get back to France and I was bemoaning if I would ever make it back to Haiti. To see us today, you would never know the tears and prayers and shouting at God (or for that matter, whoever was in shouting distance) that has gone on with us two. I mean #seriously - God loves us and is beyond faithful; more than either of us deserves.

So....that was a MAJOR digression, but we are a couple of women who back in June 2012 wondered what in the world could or would God ever do with us.....and these days, well....WOW.

The song.

I am in the car on the way to the airport with SiriusXM radio on and "Keep Making Me" by Sidewalk Prophets comes on; I know this because suddenly it hit me that I was singing it at the top of my lungs. Around the final verse I knew that this was THE song for the trip. Have I ever mentioned my Haiti Playlist on my iPod? Maybe not in awhile because Apple erased it during one of their upgrades, and I am still bitter (clearly). Well the playlist was all of the songs that God gave me on or during my Haiti trips so that when I came home, I could meet Him....THERE in worship. So I had wondered what song he would give me this trip, and he didn't even wait for me to get to the airport. Listen to the song and let the words wash over you.

Keep Making Me

 
Make me broken
So I can be healed
‘Cause I’m so calloused
And now I can’t feel
I want to run to You
With heart wide open
Make me broken
 
Make me empty
So I can be filled
‘Cause I’m still holding
Onto my will
And I’m completed
When you are with me
Make me empty
 
‘Til you are my one desire
‘Til you are my one true love
‘Til you are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me
 
Make me lonely
So I can be yours
‘Til I want no one
More than You, lord
‘Cause in the darkness
I know you will hold me
Make me lonely
 
‘Til you are my one desire
‘Til you are my one true love
‘Til you are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me
 
‘Til you are my one desire
‘Til you are my one true love
‘Til you are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making
I know you keep making
Lord, please keep making me
 
Songwriters: SAM MIZELL, DAVID FREY, BEN MCDONALD
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., MUSIC SERVICES, INC.
 
 
Let me tell you that I have lived every word of this song. I have lived EVERY word. I have prayed every word to God. I have felt the heartbreak that comes from living these words out. I still hold the desire to LIVE them out.
 
While I was in Israel last Oct/Nov 2016, I purchased a ring in Jerusalem that on the outside has "where you go I will go" in Hebrew, and on the inside I had engraved the date I was (re)baptized in the Jordan River and the words "Jesus + Heather" because I felt called in my heart to do it. I have worn it every day since. There is a lot more to that story, but....fast forward to my flight to Colorado in April for Captivating...I am re-reading my Captivating 2012 journal and I stop cold when I read the words I heard God say to me that final day "....where you go I will go....." and with that, I die (in a good way) inside. You have to remember that this was before I had ever heard of Global Orphan Project, Haiti, Israel, or any of the number of adventures he has taken me on since 2012. I could NOT have imagined what God had in store for me when I heard those words. NOT by any stretch of the imagination.
 
To hear those words today....."....'til you are my one desire, 'til you are my one true love, 'til you are my breath, my everything, Lord, please keep making me..." causes chills to run COMPLETELY over me.
 
THAT is the adventure I have been on since 2012. That is the heart of all of the letting go, taking up, purging (#threeyearpurgefest ), adventures in foreign lands to foreign circumstances next door, counseling, entrepreneurship, writing, IF, Captivating, and on and on.
 
Lord, please keep making me.
 
....until you are my one desire.
 
I don't know why I had a run of bad luck in getting back to Haiti this past two years. I don't know why it worked out THIS time. The timing odd as it is the four year anniversary of my first trip to Haiti. I don't know why God has blessed me with work that I love (though it makes me INSANE at times). I don't know why he has given me so many heart adventures these past four years or has rolled out so many for the upcoming months. I don't know why any of the challenges, blessings, or adventures have come to me and my one life.....BUT I do know that I want to live out my one true desire, and I want that one true desire to be God. I want to trust him with my everything - whatever everything might be. I want to leave it all on the field so that when I take my last breath, I know that I did all I could for him....and that on the other side of that breath I will be standing before him. I say that ironically sitting here on a hard chair in the airport with my back suddenly aching, and I can almost hear God ask, "Even if there is pain?" *pause* "Yes Lord. Even if there is pain."
 
Phew.
 
I needed to take a minute and let that sink in. That last few sentences took my breath.
 
*deep breath*
 
There it is.
 
Whatever IT is....I need to be willing to give THAT up.
 
Am I? Are you?
 
What I know....keep making the next first step and trusting God with it and everything that comes as a result.
 
The next first step.
 
Haiti here I come.
 
*Four years ago yesterday I flew to Haiti for the first time. It came after a year of being prodded by two different friends; I finally relented and three reschedules later I hopped on a plane. The rest is history. Of all of the things that have changed me this past 4-5 years, Haiti is in the top three, if not the top; difficult choice. Someday there is going to be a book and in that book there will be a chapter about Haiti because it has changed my relationship with God, with people, my work, and mostly it changed my heart. In the same way people talk about the change after a heart-bypass surgery, I talk about Haiti. In counseling, as part of prep for doing EMDR, your counselor will discover your "happy place" so that when things go askew, they can "normalize" (not the official term) you/bring you back to center. My happy place: the third story balcony overlooking the next door orphanage at sunrise (the most spectacular vision you have ever witnessed....the sun softly rising behind the mountains and then as the sun crests it becomes a FIREBALL in the sky) listening to the kids singing as they rise and get ready for the day. OMG.....you cannot EVEN imagine it. Tears come as I even TYPE the words; time machine it is. Friday morning at sunrise I will be in my happy place, and I am breathless even typing the words. There are places and people that embed so deeply into you that they become part of your very DNA. I am here to tell you that Haiti is that for me. It is in my very DNA. I love it with a passion I don't even understand myself. I add this footnote because somewhere out there a place like this exists for each and every one of us, and when you find it - whatever age or reason or circumstance - God will use it to make you or remake you - and you will never be the same....and don't worry about it.....it isn't about anybody but you and God...so relax and let God keeping making you....and enjoy the ADVENTURE.
 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Haiti. My Heart Breaks A Little More.

My heart has a HUGE capacity for love.

I know that.

Now. Certainly now. More than ever.

It is still guarded though....and easily confused or caused to flutter....it still can mislead me....and sometimes it goes MIA for awhile. My heart is a strange thing, and I am still learning how to understand it, let it be, and protect it...in a healthy, not harmful, way.

With Haiti, all bets are off for my heart. The closer I get to my trip, the more undone I feel. Let me correct myself...how undone my heart feels. I almost afraid, I am going to step off that plane in Port-au-Prince, smell the air, and start weeping. My emotions are just THAT close to the surface.

*deep breath*

Tacura // May 2017 {photo by Amy}

Last week my friend Amy in Haiti posted a photo of Tacura and tagged me with a "this is for you" and I am just staring at it - her thoughtfulness touches my heart and then there is this beautiful boy staring at me, this boy who is growing up, and I am missing it. My heart breaks a little more.

I am at a luncheon this week and I see an old love across the room and I am surprised, yet not, and last time we spoke was all wonky because he got weird, and then I got weird....and I am learning to love someone and yet let them go. Counseling and God have (and continue) to teach me how to "go"...and how to "let go." My heart breaks a little more.

We had a partner meeting last night and my heart came undone, and I wasn't sure why. It had gotten all weird in the discussions, and I got weird...and change makes us all a little wonky. My heart breaks a little more.

I am scrolling along on a social media app and see someone that once loved me so deeply that their love changed me AND changed how I love others, but time moves on as only time can and circumstances and geography change....and it all gets weird. My heart breaks a little more.

....and I could keep going.

My heart breaks a little more...and a little more....and a little more. What I am learning though is that all pain is not catastrophic, and that to love BIG is not the end of the world. In some respects, my big heart is my superpower. *insert laughter* Just like any superpower, you have to learn how to wield it....and also what is it's "kryptonite," and so it goes.

I didn't realize this as I was planning this trip to Haiti, but it is going to land four years to the week of my very first trip four years ago. Let me tell you those posts before and after that June 2013 trip are worth the read (you can search on the right hand side of my blog). My heart was contracting and stretching so much, I am surprised I didn't have an actual heart attack. Our bodies are AMAZING!

Here is what I know now that I didn't know then.....I was never ever going to recover from experiencing Haiti. I was going to meet people there who would change how I see the world, myself, God, family....everything. That God's plans for our lives - the things he wants us to experience with him - are so much grander than our minds can imagine. Mostly, that even when I couldn't breathe from crying so hard and thought I would surely die - that I would breathe normally again...and that what God broke open that day was a canyon worth of scar tissue on my heart...and it was ALL for my own good. He loved me enough to let me hurt.

Think about that.

My heart breaks a little more.

God is ridiculously good to us...and for us. Even in the dark days. Even.

Here is what I want for you....find the thing that you cannot imagine....and do that. THAT. God is in the BIG things, the little things, the scary things, and the beauty.

Hang on Haiti. I am coming. So...my heart can break a little more.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Leadership and The Need for Show and Tell

This is going to be a fast one....

To know me well, as many dear friends do, is to know that when the urge hits to write, I start scribbling on whatever is handy....whip out my phone or computer....I simply MUST write.

Last night over dinner with an old, dear friend....I could feel a topic and words bubbling up so I scratched out a few words to remember....and now here I sit on my bedroom floor, dressed for work, wet hair, and I simply MUST write it down NOW.


// dinners with old friends who push you are the best //

*deep laughter*

We are surrounded by people and companies and politicians and even "leaders" that simply are terrified to actually LEAD. As a result we are being "led" by those who have no qualms to lead and/or those who have made operating in and from the status quo....well, an art form.

Once upon a time I had quite the reputation as a revolutionist. I was pretty proud of it too. I had some moments of bad*ssness, but I also had some pretty douche-filled moments. Either way, no one has ever accused me of being afraid to lead (though no one ever knew how terrified I was...and trust me, every leader has doubts).

I am continually shocked by those who are simply scared to lead. The costs too high....or the risk?!?! I simply don't know. It is an epidemic though, and if you don't believe me....look at your schools, Washington D.C., your church, your companies, and sadly....even our families.

To this I once said (oh that might have been two days ago...LOL), "Lead, follow, or get out of my way." Clearly....sometimes I still do. I get frustrated....still....sometimes easily. *deep sigh* I am trying to be more understanding...even when I see poor leadership from a distance so far I have zero influence over it.

I will say this though....we need to start conversations in our homes, our businesses, our churches, our schools....everywhere....on leadership. We need more people leading....leading well....but heck, I would take more people attempting to lead....At. All. Sure, you are not going to win a popularity contest leading. No one is going to call you their favorite or buy you gifts. You won't always be the "good guy" (male or female), but what you will be doing is breaking up the status quo and moving the ball down the field. We need great minds, innovators, pushers, big hearts, brave words, and in and amongst all of that we need leaders. Broken, flawed, transparent, vulnerable, bold leaders.

I once sought popularity. I did, and I am not proud of that.

Today?

Today, I want to change the conversation, move the ball, do the thing others say cannot be done, use my voice, know my worth, share my truth, throw out the crazy idea into a room or table full of smart people, try the unthinkable.

I hope you do too. We need more of YOU.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way. It is time for more of us to step up and out, knees knocking, voice quivering, and heart exposed. Someone needs what you and me have to offer. Our gift. Our crazy idea.

Show and tell starts today.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

In Search of Beauty and Rest

This past weekend, I re-read the posts I wrote back in October 2012 when I was journeying to Captivating in Colorado for the very first time. I then read every post I have written since January 1, 2017. On the plane yesterday (I was in route from Little Rock - Dallas - Denver), I read my journal from Captivating 2012, cover to cover. Then, when I arrived in Salida, Colorado, yesterday afternoon, I got checked into my hotel and then walked straight down to the Headwaters of the Arkansas River. First. Thing.


Headwaters of Arkansas River, Salida, Colorado

Then I breathed.

My chest hurt. My eyes were moist. I felt a bubbling of joy inside.

It hurt to breathe.

So I just kept breathing.

My phone rang.

My business partner calling.

*can't a girl get a break*

We spoke...actually he spoke....and then when he finished, I advised him on the topic at hand. Then, quietly and calmly, I said this...."I love you. We have a lot of decisions to make. Strategies to consider. Right now I am worthless to you, to everyone. I have poured out of myself until I am dry. Dry. I need these next four days to get filled back up. I need to hear God. I need assurance that the words I am sharing with you, with our team, are from him and not me. I need wisdom and rest and a word from above. As nicely as I can say this, 'I need you and the children to leave me alone.'"

He responded with, "Go. Enjoy. I won't call again. We got this."

Thank you - I half said/half breathed.

My View While On The Phone

Why is it so hard for us to ask for a hot minute to rest?

Why is it so hard for those in our life to recognize that we cannot go at full throttle 24/7 without becoming dry?

Why??????

I love my life.

I love my healing.

I love the firm that I co-founded and built.

I love the promises God has put in my heart.

I hate that I still pour too much of myself out before filling back up. I hate that I let myself run dry.


...soaking it all in...

Colorado takes my very breath. I mean, still on the plane, as it comes into view, my mouth whispers, "There you are Colorado all blue and brown...and beautiful." It is spring. I have never been here in spring. It is equally as beautiful, and I am equally left breathless by it.

My chest BTW...still hurting this morning as I watch the sunrise over the water. It is something about the beauty being poured back into me. I let myself get so dry that it is like putting on stretchy jeans right out of the dryer....you have to sit in them a bit before they form to your body again.

Beauty is my breath.

It is my life force.

I need it. I need to capture it in photos. I need to write about it. I need to breathe it in. I need to touch it. I absolutely need to talk about it and share it.

I need beauty.

In beauty I also find rest.

Rest.

I have been tired for so long now, I am sick of hearing myself say it. It is not an "I need a good night's rest tired." It is a, I need to sit in quiet and breathe in nature for a month tired. It is an I don't know what to do with myself when I first get a bit of quiet. Yesterday, last night....oh my....you should have seen me. Ridiculous. I simply practiced taking deep breaths in silence as I walked around Salida, as I stared into the water, as I sat in my hotel room (which is beautiful)....just me and my breath. No music or television or distractions. Just me...and....my breath.

I am suddenly laughing as I type. Who admits to such ridiculousness? Me.

So here is the deal. I am driving into Captivating later today where I will spend four days on a mountain at a women's ministry retreat that 4 1/2 years ago recalibrated my life. It was the first time I felt God speak to me. It is where I met the C7. It is where I came to love silence. It is where I began to forgive God (which as some might recall, I didn't even know I was mad at). It is where I began to forgive myself. It is where I started learning about beauty and my soul. I am in desperate need of a refresher course...especially on that last one.

I am in love with so much of this life and healing God has given me over these past four years, but there is so much I have left to learn. Like what does a life unstructured look like for me? I have lived my life on a calendar for so long....specifically on a calendar where I built my life around my work instead of my work around my life. Can I even change that? If so, how?

My first experience with John Eldredge (founder of Ransomed Heart Ministries) was a CD a co-worker made me entitled "Spirt of the Age" and it was a teaching by John on busyness. I believe that was around 2009-2010. Imagine my surprise (*aghast I am*) that I feel like God is taking me back to the beginning....back to that first lesson because maybe while all of these other lessons have been VERY important. That one, that very first one, is the one that will help me now crossover from a life twisting in my brokenness to a life operating from wholeness and healing. Maybe that is the lesson I can hear, as if for the first time, TODAY with fresh ears, a fresh heart, and a broken/contrite spirit - none of which I had back in 2009 when I was living a life full throttle by my own volition. Maybe, just maybe, this is why God moved me to come back here now.

I just took another one of those deep breaths. My eyes are still moist, but the breaths are not hurting like they were yesterday.

Downtown Salida, Colorado - Perfection

Four years ago I didn't want to live. That is the full truth of the matter. I wasn't suicidal insomuch as I just wanted to crawl in a hole and never come out. Life had taken me out behind the wood shed and spanked me but good. After the conference in 2012, I decided to drive through Salida, Colorado, so I could see the Headwaters of the Arkansas River (river buff that I am), and I remember like it was yesterday the feeling of leaning over the bridge and looking in and feeling hope for the very first time in a long, long, long time. The beauty was magnificent, and still today I get comments on the photos I took that day (no one believes they were real). I guess coming back here (a day early and six hours out of my way) was really about reminding me of that hope, how far God and I have come, remembering beauty and breathing, and in some spiritual way - reminding me of the source of my LIFE - where my heart and love and breath - comes from, who it comes from....and maybe he is showing me the 'why' for this life of mine.

I am hearing a lot of "GO!" lately, but before one can go - sometimes they need to revisit. I see it a little like a rubberband being stretched backward before it gets projected forward. I think this retreat is the pulling me backwards before God can project me forward in the direction he wants me to go.

...and with that sentence my heart started racing.

*Deep Breath*

I look down at the water again. Isn't it amazing how it just keeps rolling, through different cities and states, expanding as it rolls on. Then it flows into the Mississippi, merging with others to become something bigger than itself, and it rolls on into the ocean, bigger still. Breathtaking really to think that the water I am gazing into now will in time be part of the ocean. What a journey it will have had, playing its part, nourishing the land and the wildlife, leaving a mark on both, refreshing and renewing, ripple after ripple.

I want to play my part. Well.

My wish for you this morning is to step away from the every day happenings of your life and soak up some beauty. God gave us this beautiful planet and beautiful people across it, and I want more of ALL of that in my life. Maybe you do too.

Now I need to go wipe my eyes and see if I can stop grinning long enough to brush my teeth. ;) Another side effect of beauty for me - giddiness.

I am so grateful God. Truly, spectacularly grateful.

More views like this for me today as I drive up to Captivating.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Seven Days and The Next First Step

I love the number seven.

Love.

There is a lot of symbolism in it for me. I guess you might say it is my lucky number, but even more...somehow like hearts, the number seven has come up in and where I needed it....like a tap on the shoulder from God to "look up."

Seven days ago I knew I was in the midst of what some might call GO TIME{click the link for what the urban dictionary has to say about it}, and there was going to be two clear paths and no going back whichever one I chose.

I never in a million (years) thought seven days later there would be resolution (of sorts), or that it would take seven days to fully play out, or what all would result from my simple decision to 'hold fast' to what I knew to be true.

Yet....seven days later.

Joshua 6.

I recommend it.

So here is the lesson in the past seven days that seems oh so clear this morning, yet seven days ago looked simply like 'was I willing to take the first step'....in faith'?....

Sometimes when you take the first step, and the next, and the next, and the next....seven days later....the walls fall....just as God promised they would. Amazing.

I think that is the part of the Bible I forget about in the midst of the lessons in the great stories....we know how the story ends, but they, in the moment, had no idea if those walls were going to actually fall (for example). All they knew is the faith it took to take the next first step.


The next first step.

***

I got pulled away with a work emergency (I know. I know. It is Saturday. *insert eye roll*) and then had brunch plans with a friend. So....here it is hours later, and I decided to come out to the park and sit in the sunshine and write. Finish. Write and finish what God started this morning...

"Even If" by Mercy Me just started playing in my earbuds. Isn't that the truth of the matter. Even when we don't know how our story within the larger story will play out. Even IF it does not play out the way we want it to, or even how we believed God was going to map it out. Our job is to trust. Even if. We trust.

"What will I say when I am held to the flame like I am right now."

Man! That is a powerful lyric.

Seven days I had NO idea how the next steps were going to play out. I am now looking to the next step, the next steps, and I also have NO idea how they are going to play out. Yet, that is okay. God is teaching me....in the step.

Last night I ended up spending time with my business partner, his wife, and their kids. After a few weeks, a week, and certainly a day for the record books. I think there were words left to be said, and healing in the hugs of children and sidewalk chalk drawings, and in the midst of a lot of ALL that.....suddenly there was this moment where one of the littles could not draw a "2" and they stated to their mother that they could not draw it. Their mom asked if they wanted help. The child replied yes. She asked if they wanted her to "dot it out" and the child said yes. Then the mother dotted out on the page the numbers, passed the sheet back to the child, and then the child traced the numbers out on the page following the dots. I stood watching this....absolutely fascinated. I said, "I have never seen that teaching method, but it makes so much sense because you aren't doing it for them, but giving them a roadmap that they then still have to execute. Brilliant.

I told that story over brunch this morning and looked my friend dead in the eye and said, "That is EXACTLY what God is doing with me." For the past few months, I have gotten caught up with completing the lessons, the straggling list, finishing well, etc. That wasn't the point though...the process was the point.

Would I say, "I can't do this God."

Him, "Would you like my help?"

"Yes, Lord."

Him, "Would you like me to give you the next step?"

"Yes, Lord."

Him revealing the next step and pushing it back to me, "Take it."

Me taking it, and then, "I can't do this."

....and repeat.

Again and again.

He has been teaching me to ask...teaching me submission....teaching me obedience....teach me to listen to HIM and cancel out the rest of the story...focus on his next first step.

...and the children will lead us.

I am in awe.

There is something amazing that happens when you start laying down your strongholds. I have to be honest. I had no idea how much grief and anger and trauma ruled my life, my emotions, my heart, my actions, my judgement. It did. I thought I trusted God, but I was a fraud. I trusted only whatever emotion ruled me in any given moment. I have watched myself transform from the inside out this past year, but none more than the past several weeks as attack after attack tested all of the lessons learned this past year. How would I react? How would I feel? What would I trust? Who would I trust? Would I take the next step? Would I choose what was right over what was easy? I wish I could say that it gets simpler; it doesn't. What it does get is more clarifying. What I mean by that is that as you start walking in trust, it begins to look and feel more natural. You recognize it. That doesn't mean old habits aren't around the corner, so you pray for discernment. You pray that you recognize those habits faster so you can once again correct yourself and step back into trusting God...With. Everything.

So....are those things that God gave me to do important?

Absolutely.

What is even more important though is did I learn how to listen, to trust, to apply, to step, to follow, to discern. HOW I complete the lessons is just as (if not even more) important than the completion itself. THAT is what God has been trying to teach me since the first of the year. It only took three months. LOL

Wow.

I don't even know how to end this....

I guess I want to tell you that I am exhausted. That this process is exhausting. Yet...

The work is worth it. Absolutely worth it.

I feel it. As in feel it inside my bones. Even more, I have some amazing people who have prayed me through this past five years like BOSSES and they are stepping into every single gap and encouraging me onward. They still believe in what God is doing, and will do, in me and through me. I am so grateful. I bet I could write a book on gratitude and publish just their text messages alone. I wish for everyone, for you,  a tribe of men and women who believe in you, speak truth into you, and hold you up and together when the enemy comes at you with all he has and leaves you for dead.

....and finally, the enemy is never ever going to stop. The attacks in the past seven days have been brutal, deliberate, and executed with precision - but, BUT I am still standing. Tired? Yes. Wobbly? A little. Breathing? Better than ever. Broken? Not even close. I did shed some tears yesterday.....well, some daily, but even that is progress - no more stuffing it down for me. Process! Process! Process! I also allowed myself to feel the attacks; I simply didn't allow them to take me out. My faith is growing and with it my armor. Hear me well - armor - NOT walls. Such a difference that only did I start figuring that out last Sunday. Also, sometimes armor looks ridiculously similar to a steel backbone. ;)

So....the enemy is coming. Be ready. Life goes on.

The next first step.

I am SO excited.