Saturday, March 25, 2017

For The Love of A Savior

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

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Fire

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

For the second time this morning.


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


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

Why we need tribe.

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

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

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

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

Nope. Nope. Nope.

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

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

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

Here is what strikes me this morning.

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

God what would/could this look like?

God just gave me the title of this post.

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

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


I hear you.

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

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

I love you.

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

The Fire.

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

The Fire.

Game. On.

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Open Arms

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