Sunday, March 1, 2015

Where Did You Go February?

 
....and then it was March.

That is how I feel sitting here on March Eve. Where did you go February? I feel like I hardly knew you...or however that song goes. ;)

February has been HUGE. It started off with a slight panic-pause by me as I ended the most restorative month...Of. My. Life. I didn't have time to worry long as I jumped on a plane to Austin for four days...two days of IF:Gathering...and the rest experiencing Austin with friends. Wow! Austin, as simply as I know how, I love you. That is all. I begrudgingly came home and real life smacked me...Hard. I finished an acquisition at work right as I was closing out January and headed to Austin...plus interviews and interviews and new hires and did I mention interviews...at one point, I lost my religion and had a meltdown over the back-to-back interviewing. I love people, but the choices. Choosing people who will love your little dream as much as you love it is...well, Hard. The next weekend I headed home for the first time since Christmas to celebrate birthdays and love and it was fun and relaxing and perfect. The next week brought my first Ash Wednesday Service experience came mid-week along with a dive into Lent. The next weekend I was in Fayetteville for three days for scholarship review combined with time with friends - old and new. It was perfect. So perfect. The past two weeks have been brutal at work due to sketchy Arkansas winter weather. Somehow we were still able to launch a new website and a new partnership, but there might have been a meltdown (or two) in the midst of it....there was amazing grace in it though, and my business partner and I crossed out of the wilderness and into the Jordan (all of my IF:Gathering readers will get the reference), and I knew it by the confirmation God provided me in full body chills and teary eyes (both of us) as it was happening...and we prayed thanks to God for the giant step...and the many to come. Then this weekend....finally...rest. Me (solo) time. Sleeping in, coffee in bed, and a spa day. Mmmmm....Perfection. It doesn't seem like a month's worth, but on the other hand, I know why I am so tired.:)

I just sat here and re-read that entire last paragraph and said a prayer of thanks to God. That is a lot to shove into 28 days especially when that is the cliff notes version (and incomplete at that).

One of the things that is missing in the above is those things that I carried into February from January #restorationJanuary ;)  I carried in my 90 minutes per day of prayer/mediation/Bible reading. It is still precious time. It is still hard on some days. It is still beautiful and adding tremendous value to my life. Some days I get upset when the alarm goes off signaling time is up...that makes me smile. :) I do have to say that as much as this has added value to my life, it has not come without pain. There are people in my life who have/are finding it challenging to deal with a calmer me. I find it funny the people in my life who enjoy "doing battle" and want me "in it" with them. My new response...Ummmm....No. I have spent a chunk of February renegotiating some relationships. It hasn't been easy, but it has been time well spent. There are five alarm fires and there are one alarm fires...and after 43 years, it is high time I learn the difference. Join me in the land of "not everything is a big deal" because it is glorious here. Nearly spa-like. I joke, but I feel like I am more present for the important people in my life. I know I am laughing more. The main thing is that I no longer worry I am going to fall dead of a heart attack before I turn 50. There. Is. Another. Way.

The main thing I have learned in these past two months of 2015 is that I can't simply say I need to take care of myself....I actually have to Take. Care. Of. Myself.  Like...for real. :) I block out time on my calendars. I no longer sleep with my phone and get anxious with I don't return messages or calls same day (now don't joke, I didn't always return them same day, BUT I did always stress over it. :)), and I am sleeping. Sleep has become a priority, but it is one I have to work at. I have to shut the lights down at bedtime and shut everything off. I guess I am trying to learn to cultivate better habits.

The MOST important thing out of all of this though....Jesus. I am not sure I am ever going to be able to thank my friend Heather for listening to the urge about tithing time, and for also being brave enough to share it with our IF:Tribe that meets weekly at my house. It was exactly what I needed to hear and do, and spending this 90 minutes a day with God has been a game changer for me and my life. By making him my number one priority, all the other craziness seems to fall into place more easily. Sure I am saying no a lot more....not double or triple-booking myself...but besides all of that....I REALLY know who is in control, and it isn't me. As someone who believes they have had a relationship with God their whole life and been saved since they were 13....it is humbling to admit that it is only as an adult these past few years that God and I have truly had a relationship...one that goes both ways with give and take...and this past couple of months feels like we just took our relationship to the next level...and we both seem giddy about the relationship status change. If only they had a button for that on Facebook. *Deep Sigh*

I know this all might seem crazy, but to me this is the best time...the most peaceful, sanest, fulfilling time of my life. There are things I want. Things that make me sad. Things that break my heart, make me angry, etc. I still have dreams and plans. It is just that all of those things don't consume my thoughts All. The. Time. and Every. Day. I have peace that tomorrow will be tomorrow, but today is today. I used to hug...everybody. There was a time in my life that I noticed I stopped doing that. This week I bet I have hugged more people friends and strangers alike than I did during that entire previous hug-drought. It feel SO SO good. I am learning to fall in love with people again. To see their good hearts. To love them without fear or pretense.

So maybe February was and is truly the month of love. I fell deeper in love with my life, and the people in it, this past month. I fell more in love with the God that is restoring me...from the inside out. I found joy in the hard stuff.


Proverbs 4:23 (Photo via Pinterest)
 
The above is not only one of my favorite verses (and one that has come to me again and again this past month), but this is also a tattoo consideration for my own wrist (nobody freak...just thinking about it). What I was reminded this month by God is that sometimes the best way to guard your heart, is to give it completely to him.

What big a-ha moments have you had in February? Was it all you wanted? More? Less? What are you dreaming about for March?

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

True Love Is Convicting

Whew. Lent. Who knew?
 
So...Lent is messing me up. Mind. Body. Spirit. Heart.
 
First, I gave up fried foods and alcohol. Now let me be clear I eat a lot of fried foods (fried chicken nearly once a week) and I drink a little alcohol (and not just for medicinal purposes, but for that too...I have had a couple of health things previously written on). I also added two additional Lent-specific Bible studies.
 
Kill. Me. Now.
 
I had LITTLE idea what crutches I had in my favorite comfort foods and a glass of wine. Lent is occurring in the midst of some bad weather which causes considerable professional stress as our firm sends crews across the state of Arkansas and Mississippi daily (M-F). Lent is also occurring as my little family struggles through some changes. Lent is also occurring as my business partner and I wrestle through another expansion of our firm. Lent is also occurring in the middle of LIFE.
 
I am not missing the fried foods or the alcohol; I am missing the comfort.
 
At night, if I don't have plans, I head home and throw on my pjs, climb under my favorite quilt, and I read...the Bible, books...and I journal...and I pray...and I question...God. A. Lot.
 
I am frustrated.
 
I have lots of BIG feelings right now that center around just being FRUSTRATED over I know not what. So I keep asking God, "What is THIS?!?!" Why am I so uncomfortable???
 
"Growth," He whispers.
 
*Ugh*
 
*Deep Sigh*
 
 
Last night I curled up in bed and pouted, and I am ashamed to admit it here...but I did. A full on pout-fest. I looked through old photos of Haiti, my tribe, travel, family, friends...and I pouted. Without a piece of fried chicken in sight and no wine to sip, I was forced to suffer through ALL of the emotions. It felt like torture.
 
True love is convicting.
 
Let that sink in.
 
So here is the confession. When I jotted that phrase down in my journal this weekend, I was thinking of a post-IF blog post on how Jesus convicts sinners with his love not his condemnation. I still think that is true, but the funny (and not ha ha) thing is that God has not given me the time to write until now...and between the time I jotted that and now, God has taken it upon himself to "ed-ucate" me on the concepts of "love" and "condemnation" and how they relate to how I treat myself and how I treat others.
 
Grace.
 
I just love people who argue over grace vs. works. Have they ever done either? Let me tell you, grace IS work. Living like Jesus IS work. Loving like Jesus IS work.
 
Whew...diving in here...
 
I read somewhere once that LIFE is in the messy and the awkward and the uncomfortable.
 
It is.
 
In my uncomfortableness in this beautiful, messy, and awkward season of Lent...God is teaching me about some places in me that truly ache. Places I need healing. Places I need to spend time. Places I need to share with others. {As an aside, I am literally wiggling in my seat as I type this...just the subject matter makes me uncomfortable.}
 
Yesterday I learned that I miss Haiti because I miss the lessons in how to be joyful no matter what the circumstances, and I learned that there are some very real people in my everyday life right here in Little Rock, Arkansas, that can teach me about how to be truly joyful. Case in point the waitress at the restaurant I went to yesterday for lunch (ran away to) and made friends with learning all about something called the Daniel Fast that they did at their church in January. I also learned they work two jobs and in-between handle childcare for two grandchildren; one full-time while their sole parent is stationed overseas. She was COMPLETELY joyful. I was jealous as hell of her.
 
Today my business partner and I snuck away to a hidden dive for lunch. We did it so we could apologize to each other for words spoken in stress late last week. God gave us the space at that little table to teach us some new lessons on grace. In moments of stress, we are now going to always take one step back into a pool of grace (I wish you could see my hands as I try and show this to you) and operate and speak from there. It is another step of growth for two very human leaders who have a company, a team, and a dream that is outstripping every bit of air cover we grasp at...it is humbling and scary and it means we have to be vulnerable with each other...Every. Day. We are stepping into the uncomfortable Every. Day.
 
This morning I texted a member of my tribe and said I need to do life with you...more...deeper. I love my tribe. I love doing life with my tribe. I simply need more. Two years ago what I have now would have felt constrictive/oppressive/suffocating, and today I want...if not...NEED more. Wow. God can work miracles. This alone is proof.
 
I want more time to write/teach/study Jesus. Some days I feel like my professional life is interfering with my prayer/meditation time. Someone check on me. I don't know the girl typing this. I don't know what to do with all of those feelings and dreams. What is this??
 
...and that is just the aching places that have surfaced in the past few days. Lent is 40 days (46 if you include Sundays).
 
40 Days!!!
 
True love IS convicting.
 
I am coveting my comforts (i.e., crutches) to God and tithing additional time to God...and in my coveting and tithing he is revealing the deep aches I hide even from myself and he is beautifully and tenderly meeting me there. It is equal parts messy and beautiful. I am a daughter looking to my good good Father for wisdom and healing and grace. He is giving it to me in heaping spoonfuls. One right after another.
 
#Lent2015
 
*I am a first timer to Lent so I have zero idea if this type of heavy introspection is normal or just another Heatherism. I would love to hear your own #LentStories as we all walk through this Lent season together.

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lent ~ 40 Days in the Wilderness

You know what I love MOST about having a tribe???
 
When you share that you are trying something new, they are the first to jump up and shout their support. I mean WOW to the best tribe ever over my decision to go to an Ash Wednesday Service and participate in Lent....both for the first time.
 
I have been inundated with information, reading suggestions, blog posts, books, text messages, prayers, and I am overwhelmed..in the best of ways. THANK YOU!
 
 
One of the pieces of information I received called the observance of Lent "40 Days in the Wilderness" to which I laughed because I understand that COMPLETELY. I have come to appreciate in the past few years the study of the Israelites time in the wilderness and relating that to periods of my own spiritual walk. So to now experience Lent and look at the wilderness concept through the eyes of Jesus' temptation for 40 days in the wilderness after his baptism...well, I am SO up for that.
 
I am also possibly a little scared....;)

For those of you who are also experiencing Lent for the first time, I hope you enjoy these posts and find them informational...but also funny. It is important for me to maintain my sense of humor as God takes me deeper and deeper into my walk with him. HE clearly has a sense of humor. So...please do not take my lightheartedness at any time as disrespectful. I take all of this VERY serious, but I am also trying to present my experience in the most transparent light. Growth is hard. Growth is sticky and icky. Growth can be funny. Mostly though...growth is REAL. I think it is time to take the blinders off (or rose-colored glasses as I often refer to them) and share the truth of the day-to-day of our walks (as broken people) with God (who is sovereign) in this very broken world.
 
I digress...

Tonight I thought I might share some of what I am reading which was recommended since these scriptures deal with Jesus' temptation in the wilderness and it was as the 40 day temptation of Jesus that is the basis of the observances of Lent:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13; Hebrews 2:18, and Hebrews 4:15.
 
Also, I have decided to give up a couple of things and also take something up. The take something up concept is something I learned from a couple of different friends that some do to aid in their spiritual growth; one today also gave me a list I could choose from. #bless
 
The main thing is that I am consciously observing this 40 (plus 6 when you include Sundays) days leading up to Easter. As someone who has NEVER done this and already in love with the whole thing, I am fighting the urge to regret years lost not experiencing it all. That is pointless though...the good news is that now I know. *Deep Sigh*
 
Isn't it funny how once you notice something new you see it everywhere?!?! It feels suddenly like the whole world is doing Lent.
 
Maybe that is just me...
 
Oh...so here is the funny for the day...my business partner walked in my office this morning and was talking before he hit the door and as I looked up, he stopped mid-sentence and said, "It looks like you didn't get it off (pointing at the remnants of the ash cross placed on my forehead last night)." I said, "Well funny story, I saw this graphic today of the different ways these are placed and there is one really bold, dark one that is called "Father's Revenge" guess which one I got??" Obnoxious laughter. So...the story is I scrubbed my face, as I always do, and when I looked in the mirror as I dried my face off, I noticed it was still there. I use high power scrubber, I think we are all clear about what this means.
 
LOL :)))
 
I am so grateful for the experience of Ash Wednesday and Lent. I am grateful for new experiences. An amazing tribe of people encouraging me as I do something new. Mostly I am grateful for a God full of bountiful grace who is most certainly quite amused as I walk through this...I have a Good Good Father.
 
Are you observing Lent? Any tips for me? I would love to hear your experiences (past or present). I am loving learning about all of this...please share.
 
Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :) 

Beauty In The Unknown ~ Ash Wednesday

Yesterday I experienced my first Ash Wednesday Service at a little church in Little Rock. I knew no one there. I knew little to nothing about the denomination. I had never attended their church. I knew nothing about an Ash Wednesday Service. What???
 
 
I had been thinking about participating in Lent this year. One of the things I love most about IF:Gathering is how it is educating me about religions and denominations outside of my limited scope growing up. One thing I have learned is that I am not as knowledgeable about other denominations and religions as I thought. #humbling

I had been reading about lent for weeks and really felt God whispering to me, "This is for YOU." so I was planning on participating in some form. Then earlier this week someone posted an article about Baptists and lent and one of the people posting a comment mentioned Ash Wednesday services, and I asked the obvious, stupid question, "How do you find an Ash Wednesday Service" to which they kindly and graciously educated me in follow-up comments. So there I was at 8 a.m. on Ash Wednesday in my office googling for services.

SO...there I sat eight hours later in a beautiful chapel on the back pew feeling very, very small. I texted a couple of my mini-tribes like a little girl squealing, "You are NEVER going to believe where I am?! Pray for me." I then turned off my phone and absorbed EVERYTHING.

Let me just say that everyone there was more lovely to me than you could ever imagine. It was so obvious I was lost...with my doe eyes, waders up to my knees (snow day....and thank goodness I wasn't the only one), luggage (you know I came packing everything as I was coming from work), and of course I gravitated to the back-row (which got me a ribbing from one of the reverends). While speaking with me, they even made a point to let me know that I was welcome to participate in communion, which brought tears to my eyes (isn't that silly of me?).

What followed was a service like I have never experienced. It was intense, beautiful, orchestrated (I mean that in a good way), and it was humbling. Let me say this, all churches need knee benches. I think we all need to be on our knees more (preaching to myself here). The opening lesson was on Isaiah 58 which we all know I am completely obsessed with Isaiah so I felt immediately at home.

The sermon was on "Time" to which I felt myself slide down in my seat some. Haven't I been wrestling with that since the first of the year, through #restorationJanuary and this insane season I am in? I looked up and spoke to God, "I hear ya. I am in the exact spot you want me in right now. Got it."
 
"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

I don't know what to say about The Imposition of Ashes portion. There was this little girl about three in front of me through the service and then next to me during the ashes and communion. It was as if...

...let me be clear here....I am not saying that what I am experiencing is for everyone or right or wrong or preaching or anything...this is just the place where I am and my very transparent observations of it...

...it was as if I was seeing myself at three. She was with her father only. She was...a handful...but at the altar...she was near heavenly, and she would look up at me, and I swear she was winking at me. One of the reverends caught us both the first time and smiled so lovingly. I swear, I was in the middle of a film.

I have to say I loved everything about it...the prayers and readings, everything. I felt like I was being emotionally and spiritually prepared for the 40 days ahead. It was very beautiful (did I say that already?).

Communion was intense, and I had a hard time not breaking down. If you know me, you know that I have a real love and reverence for communion. I truly believe it is something that we should do weekly not because of a rule or a scripture (per se), but because it is good for our hearts. The way they handled communion was very sacred and it felt so much more personal than what I experience these days elsewhere.

Everyone prayed together after that, and it was so beautiful, I am including that prayer below:

"Eternal God, heavenly Father, you have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart; through Christ our Lord. Amen."


...and you exit in silence.

I walked straight to my car in awed silence with the biggest smile on my face. Someone could have hit me, and I am not sure I would have felt it. I am still struggling to find words, but I promised many that I would write about my experience so I am forcing myself to write this now (not my best work I am sure), but I am struggling with the words.

I will say this that the only experience that compares for me is the first time I went to church in Marmalade, Haiti. Just like there, you could feel the Holy Spirit thick in the air around you. I want more of THAT. Just like church in Haiti was terrifying the first time, so was this, but I think it is the stepping out of my spiritual comfort zone that is adding such great value to my walk with God. He is pushing me into these unknown spaces to show me something about him, something about others who believe in him, and in the end...something about myself. That is HOLY.

I ran into the restaurant downstairs (I know the owners well) to grab a snack on my way home, and they said what is that on your forehead. I had forgotten the ash cross. I got to sit with them and tell them all about it (they go to another church), and it was a pretty fascinating conversation. Then I started thinking about Ann Voskamp's words again about wearing the cross and how we don't do that. I am still tossing and turning on those thoughts, but it is worth noting that unlike other religions, we don't wear our faith outwardly which means we must really represent Jesus in our actions otherwise how are they to know??? Right??? I can feel more writing (even if just in my journals) about that...that is too deep for this morning after only one cup of coffee. :)


So....I am participating fully in lent this year, and I will do my best to document the next 40 days as best I can....this is a VERY busy season for me in other areas of my life, so I anticipate that God's timing is always perfect so this is going to be a cross between beautiful and brutal for me. ;)

So....what or where are some scary places that God is taking you? I know my IF:Tribe (local and all around the world) is experiencing a lot of this too in their own worlds post-IF (a few weeks ago). It seems to be a "thing" as God moves in all of our hearts in new and different ways.

I know this because I could never have imagined walking into an unknown church, alone, not knowing anything, and just saying, "Here I am Lord. Now what?" as I did last night. As I sat there (15 mins early and everything) in anticipation, my fear changed to giddiness, and I am not kidding...I thought about leaving a few times. It feels pretty amazing to be embracing the scary stuff and even funnier when people say that you are being brave. I guess I am, but it feels a lot more like obedience. The kind of obedience John Eldredge talks about in "Utter Relief of Holiness" where you long to do/be/act whatever it is....pretty intense stuff. So. Worth. It.

I hope you will step into the scary with God...the terror turns to wings of faith very quickly...Promise.

#Lent2015

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ISIS and Matthew 10:19-20

I haven't written about ISIS...well at all...but specifically not since the events of Sunday. Part of it is that I am still in shock. Part of it is that I am reading everything I can find and that has taken a lot of time. Part of it is that I really have no words and those words I do have cannot touch those of others...for example Ann Voskamp's Blog Post on the events from Sunday (I recommend; click on link).

The Wake-Up Call that is ISIS: Who in the Church is Answering?
I am struggling to look at their faces...and read their names.

Yet...this friend of mine (I so love my C7 Tribe) keeps sending me Matthew 10:19-20...like every other text message, every other reply to a question via text, or I write a blog post and her response, "Matthew 10:19-20" so I get it. I get it! Read Matthew 10:19-20....

"But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say,  for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

Have you ever READ the commentary on these two verses?!?! Oh. My.

What does this tell us...well for those of us that are prone to being more anxiety-ridden...take a chill pill comes to mind. It also is a reminder that we have been so warned...persecution is just a part of being a Christian. This is when the chills go up my arms, and I pause. Gulp. Take a very deep breath.

Me? Persecuted?

I don't think so.

Not like what happened Sunday. I don't come against that, but then the thought passes...do you go there?

I know what it means.

Do I stand up unapologetically anytime anywhere for what I believe.

I. Do. Not.

Then...you are probably not going to experience anything close to that level of persecution.

Then I start crying.

When did I become so weak in faith? Was I ever strong in faith? Strong in my conviction? Willing to walk along the edge of the ocean, hit my knees, proclaim my faith, and know that my head was going to be removed from my shoulder so that I would meet my God in that same moment?

I. Don't. Think. So.

At. All.

We don't think ISIS is a problem because we are not convicted enough to make it a problem in our every day lives here in the U.S. We are living a very comfortable life for the most part on a fence of our own design and making.

Don't worry. I am talking to myself here.

For all of my transparency regarding my own walk with God and the transformation that I have been under since January 2012, I am still weak. Weak. I am still way too concerned what others will think about me or my faith or my values. I worry way too much that many know how I was and will compare it to how I am now and will question me, doubt me, or worse accuse me.

So. What.

We are all broken. We have all lost something. We have all made mistakes. We have all been Peter, denying our Christ even after we walked and talked with him.

That last one hurts.

We have all been Peter. Bless him. Bless us.

I don't have to rely on myself or my own shortcomings though...and Matthew 10:19-20 reminds me of that...

 ...the spirit of your Father speaking through you...

Yes and Amen!

IF we believe in God? IF we believe the Bible is true? IF we believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Then what in the world are we doing being anything other than the love of Jesus, sharing the good news, and praising our good good father???

A small digression....

The past few days have been hard. Weather negatively impacts my business and my employees. My mood has been questionable. Big news over the weekend. Lots of big emotions in my family. My tribe is struggling. Spiritual warfare swarming all the ones I love and do life with best. It has been a wild and crazy couple of days. So...what in the world do I know about ISIS halfway around the world killing people I don't know? I can't even process IF: Gathering from Austin a week ago. What? What?

God humbled me today and said, "Heather. Here. This. Now. Your observations. Your growth. The sticky-icky. The hard. The good. The bad. Praying over your family. Rebuking the enemy on the foreheads of your people. Crying and praying over the families of those left behind after ISIS' latest murders. The good Samaritans killed in Tennessee. The love and care for your employees. The reading. The studying. The prayer. The meditation. All of it. This. This. Is. Life. This. Is. My. Life. For. You. *Pause* Live. This. One. Life. Now."

I am not ashamed to say that the tears are flowing.

Our one life matters. I have been so incredibly selfish. Always looking for the next memory. The next conquest. The next thing to squelch my appetite. I am not sure I have ever really just existed in a moment. Maybe while Gail is beating on me during a massage, but other than that...and even then...my mind whirrs.

One day I was convinced I would be the best employee. The best Christian. The best Sister, Aunt, Friend, girlfriend, etc. Never enough. Always disappointing others...myself.

There sat God.

Waiting.

I am enough to only one person. God.

The one person who has been the most loving, the most patient, and who does not condemn me...Ever.

My life does matter. Here in a town in Arkansas in a small business in a little community....it matters. It all matters.  To. Him.

This morning I was typing a text to the C7 and all of a sudden I started typing a prayer....

Let me end that way here...

Lord, help us. Help. Us. We are broken. We are confused. We are complacent. We are consumed with everything in and of this world. We are worried about everything but the most important thing...You. Give us fresh eyes, fresh ears, fresh lips, and a renewed heart for you. The world in big (killing us) and small (laughing at us) ways may despise or shun us, but we are yours and yours alone. Guide our hearts as you guide our steps...Every. Day. We love you. We are honored to call you ours. You are the Lord of our hearts and souls. We trust you to give us the strength and the words....Always. Amen.

Where is God moving your heart today? What is he whispering gently? What is knowing at your spirit and just won't let go? Press into it...even if it feels icky. There is something (or someone) for you there.

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

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Workers Are Few


Something has been gnawing at me since IF:Austin...and it isn't easy or pretty or comfortable.

So...this morning after a strange day yesterday (long story...family matters) that included weirdness and joy in equal measure (welcome to my family)...I wake up from the hardest night of sleep I have had in say weeks, and it feels like I have been asleep for weeks yet the realities of life present themselves pretty quickly...my Sis' house is a constant buzz of activity, especially on Sunday mornings.

I grab a cup of coffee, snuggle up under my quilt, and grab my Bible and start reading...it opened to Matthew on its own and my eyes fall to 9:9, The Calling of Matthew, and I am punctured...

"On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."


I keep reading...

...and then like a slap, 9:35, The Workers Are Few...

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."


Ummm...

God wasn't done...because while I was letting his words soak in and grabbing a gulp of coffee...I see that Ann Voskamp posted this...Jason Gray's With Every Act of Love (click the link for the You Tube video that includes lyrics).
 
My Favorite T-Shirt "I need a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus" and this photo is on my way to Haiti, October 2014

Allow me a digression....or two..;)

I have always been an avid reader. In grade school I was highly competitive (shocker) in reading competitions...how many books can you read?...as many as you will put in my hands. There would be prizes, but I didn't care because the reading was my prize. I credit my parents, especially my father, for giving me the gift of books because before the bottom fell out of our family, my memories are full of photographs from them reading to me, teaching me to read (before Kindergarten), and encouraging my reading...thank yous abound there.

So...it is no surprise that when God was looking to grab my heart and shake it up a few years ago (i.e., take me deeper in my walk with him then I had/was/am comfortable with), he started with the place he knew he could get my attention...books. He didn't go easy on me either because he started with John Eldredge who I had never heard of and Eldredge definitely had thoughts on...well, everything, that I in my own spiritual upbringing had NEVER heard of...he introduced me to a Jesus I had not been raised with, and a concept of circumcision of heart over legalism that was so foreign to me, if I had been trying to read the Bible in its original Greek, well it would have been easier for me. So...as I fell in love with the concepts of Eldredge's words....it was the tone and cadence of his writing that lulled me in first. I mean it felt like he was reading right to my heart. It was powerful. What God started with Eldredge lit a match because I started consuming everything Eldredge had written as well as other Christian writers...especially ones that challenged my heart, mind, and soul. I needed to be challenged; God had set the hook. Perfectly.

What has transpired since 2010 has bordered on obsession after I purchased an obscene amount of books and digested them. By digested I mean, I can't share them because they are highlighted, bookmarked, tagged, and battered. I have read books from writers I had never heard of, would have NEVER....loving some, loathing some, and being challenged Every. Single. Time. It has been a journey.

When I have fallen in love with a book, I search after the author...it is easy these days too because most of them have a platform in one way or another...so you can learn about other things they have written, learn more about them, etc. It is a blessing and a curse...for you and them.

I had not realized until IF:Austin how much we have created a culture of idolatry around some of the writers and speakers in the church today. It borders on the obscene. I also had to face a hard reality that I too am susceptible to it. With some, I am the absolute WORST about it.

When I met John Eldredge the first time it was with a lot of hesitation that I approached him, but I felt the need in my heart to simply say thank you. What transpired was a very REAL conversation between two people completely in love with Jesus. It was a brief interaction that will stay with me the rest of my days because it was real, brief, and important. I think it is important for a writer to hear that something touched someone's heart (I write, and I love to hear that.), and I think it is important for readers to say thank you. Win-Win.



What I saw during a couple of moments at IF was a sort of hero worship that made me uncomfortable and by the sound of some of the speaker's words...they weren't too comfortable with it either...

"That ALL men and women. And hear me, I also said women, can now enter into the Holy of Holies and can never be separated from the love of God. People, stop idolizing man, and man, stop being made an idol. Stop rushing back to your green rooms. Church is not a rock concert. Stay and minister to everyone that asks. Because it is a PRIVILEGE AND A GIFT TO MINISTER. Pray over people until your heart has bled dry. And then ask for another measure of anointing to keep going. You should be SO FORTUNATE that God has entrusted you with this task to minister."


That snippet was from Rebekah Lyons' teaching during IF:Austin and if you think it is powerful to read (and I recommend you click the link and see the whole thing), you should have been in the room. #micdrop

Speakers....did you hear that??

Heather....did you hear that???

She wasn't the only one to address it...and it was striking out to both those on stage and those in the seats. Have we lost our way a little seemed to be an undercurrent of the teachings. Where is our focus? Someone's platform? Building our own?

One of my favorite moments was when Christine Caine pointed out that Joshua had been serving God and his people for over 40 years before he was called to lead. What. A. Great. Point.

Church...did you hear that??

Heather....did you hear that???

I have been searching my heart HARD since IF to determine where I am both idol worshipping authors/teachers that I love, AND where I am out of touch with my own people (friends/family/co-workers/neighbors/etc) in my own life that I have been given the opportunity to minister to.

My friend Lee has been beating into my head for nearly two years that we are all ministers, and God used IF to show me that.

Platforms are dangerous.

I don't want a platform. I want to be so busy ministering to others and being Jesus that I don't realize that others have given me a platform, put me on a platform, or the world has deemed that I am worthy of a platform.

God doesn't need leaders, he needs workers.

We already have a leader, and he is pretty amazing...I think he's Got. It.

I was in a bowling alley last night with the kids and all I could think was....there are a lot of people on this earth. How many of them need some good news?

The Workers Are Few

I just read Matthew 9:12-13 again..Jesus said, "...but go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'...and 9:37-38 "...the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few....ask the Lord to send workers..."

That is you and me. That is the great author. That is the pastor. That is the part-time employee at your office. That is your sister. That is your child. That is the stranger. That is ALL of us.

The Workers Are Few


So....I love that people read my words and find something in these words that helps them; it still surprises me. I hope that the authors I love feel the blessing that others love their words. I don't want to be a rock star though, and I don't want to do that to others. I am satisfied simply being a worker. I am going to keep reading other's words and writing my own....and I still secretly want to have coffee with John Eldredge and hear the whole story about how God did and continues to completely wreck his life, but I am good with that happening on the other side of this life in the coffee house that I am confident there is in heaven. On this side of heaven, I just want to do my part in living out Jesus' love in every part of my walk. That means being as obsessed with the Bible and its author as I am with those who put their pants on one leg at a time just like me. It also means being as obsessed at being a worker as I have ever been with being a leader.

"...do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

Matthew 10:19-20 nailed it....it isn't about me or my words...because they shouldn't be my words anyway....I am but a vessel.

Use me Lord. Fill my heart with a never-ending love for others. Let me never tire of speaking of you with others. Let me be a light. Let me be a worker.

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

Monday, February 9, 2015

Good, Good Father


I just returned from four days in Austin, Texas at the IF:Gathering conference. I am still trying to gather my thoughts, process everything I heard, my body is so spent, and my heart is undone. I am a mess.

Yet among all of that are glimpses of sunlight which are bringing me fresh clarity on some long-held struggles.

Here is some rapid-fire thoughts on one....

I have a Good Good Father (link to the You Tube Live version). When this song first played at IF this weekend, my heart hurt. I was so cold in this area...it took me until yesterday to process through the iceberg.

I do not have a good good earthly father. I have a deeply flawed earthly father whom I adore and idolize YET I cannot figure out how to have a day-by-day relationship with after 43 years of putting myself out there only to fall short. I spent the first nine years of my life worshipping at his knee and believing he was the most perfect and wonderful person who walked the face of the earth. I spent the next few months and years trying to figure out where he disappeared to and grasping to hold onto him and our family which was dissolving around my nine year old body. I spent my teenage years trying to love his replacement as a father only to find myself a disappointment to him too. This led to most of my 20s where I hated and resented the replacement and went searching for the original. More disappointment and missteps on both sides. During my 20s I came across Search for Significance and I devoured it, but the mountain of work to become whole was overwhelming to my very damaged faith and self-worth. I was a wreck, and I knew it. I so wanted to be strong, and I worked hard...VERY hard...to project strength in every area of my life. I had everything under control. Inside I was broken and cracked and bleeding and weeping, but no one knew.

There is a lot of story still between then and now, but what hit me this weekend was that I have not fully dealt with my own father issues and it is reflected in my poor choice in men and relationships as I try to find acceptance and unconditional love somewhere with someone...anyone. I have spent the past three years telling myself I am fine and healing, but I am not. The absence of painful relationships and the avoidance of romantic relationships is not healing, it is hiding, and I for one know better. I. Know. Better.

It is time for me to find true healing. My earthly parents are broken and they brought their brokenness to their parenting. I am a broken product of that, but I am also the product of a whole and good God who loves me unconditionally. He has remained with me, in me, every step of my life. It is time for me to trust him with ALL of me and ALL of my brokenness...not simply the ones I am "ready" to deal with...but these hairy, gnarly places I am so NOT ready to deal with....

Ugh.

Deep Sigh.

Ann Voskamp spoke at IF this past weekend and she challenged us with I Samuel 7:3, and I would do ANYTHING to get those words unspoken because they are wrecking me and dredging up stuff that I would rather walk over hot coals than confront, face, and generally deal with....but I know...I KNOW that on the other side of the work that simply Must. Be. Done. there is great healing for the nine year old girl that still wants a family, her family, a love, her love, to be known, to be remembered, to be cherished, to be valued, to be seen....

Ugly Crying

Weeping

#growthsucks

I got to see my Haiti girls (as I have nicknamed them) while I was in Austin, and it was so good for my soul to simply listen to them speak to others and each other. They are smart, funny, thoughtful, and full of love for others and Jesus. They are passionate. Over ice cream yesterday, I was speaking with one of them about her youth group and their needs...later between flights we were texting about passion and renewal....then I played Good Good Father on repeat for the final leg of my flight home. I knew that God was trying to get through to my heart. My heart that has been closed to healing in this place. It took my Haiti girls to convict me to do this work that I must do....they see a strong, single woman who loves Jesus. I am very much all of those things, but I want to be able and worthy to show them the whole story...the hard stuff...because one day the hard stuff will present itself to them in their lives. Their faith will be shaken. Someone(s) will disappoint them. They will question God's love for them. They will be challenged past their possessed wisdom. Life. Will. Happen. and Growth. Will. Be. Waiting. On. The. Other. Side. and I want to be a lantern to them in their walk to share wisdom and love them unconditionally and generally let them know that God is real and that he loves them and that They. Will. Make. It. Through. I can't do that if I haven't owned my walk...and met with God in this place of brokenness.

I have a good, good Father and he has been waiting a very long time for me in this space...in this garden where beauty resides at every turn...where hard work is confronted...where He and I walk hand-in-hand together.

The scars are so deep...they touch so much of my life. This isn't about my parents or my childhood or the whatmighthavebeens. This is about my life NOW. My future. My walk. My gifts and calling...and honoring and acknowledging that God can make beauty out of the ruins...those inflicted upon us AND those self-inflicted again and again. This isn't about imperfect parents, but a perfect God.

I am undone, but I am hopeful. Maybe not hopeful...yet...but I know that soon I will feel that hope again. First comes my surrender...then healing...and maybe after that hope in the new day that will come with the sunrise on a fresh season. Right now I need to surrender to the winter that is upon me.

My God and I walk through the fields together.

Here we go...

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