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God, Identity

I Am a Storyteller

March 25, 2015

kels (145 of 165)For as long as I can remember I have had an affinity for words.

Not just individual words, like, “Today I discovered the word splendiferous and now I want to use it all the time in everyday conversation.” (Though I really did come across that recently and have since tried to use it every opportunity I get.)

I’m more fascinated by what words can do when they are strategically ordered to form a song, a poem, a script, a prayer…heck, even a grocery list! But the power when those words become a story…now we’re talkin’.

I used to be obsessed with reading. I could get lost in a good book for hours on end. When I was younger I could be very persuasive in having my bedtime extended because I simply couldn’t stop at chapter 25 when Harry was just about to face Voldemort in chapter 26! And if I had a dollar for every time I got caught in bed with my book light under the covers at midnight…let’s just say I wouldn’t have college debt to pay off right now. As I got older, my dad would always tell me I was going to be a horrible navigator once I started driving – I couldn’t learn directions if I always had my nose in a book while in the car. He was right.

But I couldn’t help myself! My vivid imagination ran wild as I flipped each page. Each word came together to create a world that I could see and step right into. I valued the details. The big ones that built up the important parts of the story…and the little ones scattered throughout that just brought it all to life.

It didn’t take long for me to become quite the storyteller myself. Everything was a story. I’ve always joked that the biggest difference between my sister and I is that when asked, “How was school?” her answer was always, “Good,” – short and sweet – while I spent the next hour diving into what I ate for lunch, the hilarious thing my friend said in the hall, which teachers were actually cool and why, and how many times I got in trouble for talking in class (shocker). Every single mundane detail of my day was important to me.

Sadly, not everyone saw it that way.

For a while, any time I would start to talk to my friends, I would get things like, “How long is this going to take?”, “Is this the Reader’s Digest version?” or, “Ok, skip to the point.” There was eye rolling and laughter, all inserted under the safe bubble of sarcasm. But it wasn’t safe. It hurt. And it conveyed to me the message that there was something wrong with my attention to detail.

I let this get to me for a while. I tried desperately to change. I stayed silent a lot and wouldn’t contribute much to conversation.

But guess what?

I was miserable.

Details are a part of who I am. Storytelling is both a quirk and a gift. Sure, there are times when it’s a bit excessive. I realize that. And I do still try to reign it in when necessary ;) But at the end of the day, I truly believe that the Lord made me a detail-oriented Chatty Kathy for a reason. I notice and appreciate the little things more than most people. And I value the intricate stories of others – I love to listen and discover what makes people who they are.

I’ve grown to understand the heart of God in such a unique way. He is the master storyteller. Maybe He could have summed up the Bible into a short article, but He didn’t. He gave us 66 books of very specific words, each word having a purpose. Sometimes the details seem irrelevant and we want to skim over them to “get to the point.” But think of your own story. He wrote that, too. How unexciting would our lives be if God didn’t include the little things?

Everyone has a story. It’s your testimony. And it’s still being written. There are big, climactic moments, and there are the “fillers,” the seemingly insignificant memories and happenings. All of which God is using for His Glory.

So let’s embrace the details! Because there’s nothing wrong with being a splendiferous storyteller ;)

Identity

I am an Anomaly

March 18, 2015

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I was the wild child. Not in the sense that I made terrible choices or lived recklessly, and I wasn’t the hyperactive kid…I was a wild spirit. I could day dream for hours and get completely lost in another reality.  I had my own sense of style and couldn’t be fit into any box, I was a girly girl who was covered in mud and wore pants under my dress. I owned Carhart coveralls and had forts in haylofts and then would get fancied up for dance recitals and tea parties. I’m even ambidextrious. I love good music but also have a weak spot for riding in the car with the windows down and some country or cheesy pop music blaring from the radio. I’m super OCD about very random things, I am very particular about how I clean and how I present things when staying at other people houses, but then I am a creative mess and have “organization” on my computer that makes no logical sense to anyone but the voice in my brain.  I hate going to sleep in a messy bed, so I make the bed before I go to sleep, but I rarely make it in the morning.   I watch Law and Order and Criminal Minds at night when I am babysitting or alone in big dark houses, and then spend the rest of the night analyzing every noise and going through scenarios in my head of what steps I would take if someone jumped out at me. I am deathly afraid of sharks and under-water things and swimming in oceans or even lakes often results in hyperventilating and picturing something eating my legs off. As a child I was even afraid of the grates in pools because surely there were alligators or sharks in there.

Oh where my imagine could take me.

I would even tell my friends who slept over about the elk or other wild animals that would come through the windows in the middle of the night…my stories were so descriptive that I would then believe them and not be able to sleep.    At 28 I still find a giddy joy in being home alone, playing spa night, eating ice cream out of the tub and watching shows like High School Musical or Dance movies. I grew up with dreams of being a missionary in Africa…and also playing a role in Newsies and being a back-up dancer for a famous singer…on the side I was going to be a pediatrician.

I’m an anomaly.

I don’t fit in.

I get into weird, annoying moods and act like a five year old needing attention because I’m bored (just ask my husband).

I hate being alone for more than a few hours, but I don’t like big parties and crowds. I’m an extroverted introvert. I love one on one and small groups.  I work best in a busy coffee shop with noise around me…partly because I love to people watch and partly because it makes me feel less alone in the world.   When I am excited or passionate about something or I am just really tired, I fumble my words like a kid with a stutter and then get even more flustered and look extremely, socially awkward.

I’ve gone through seasons of wondering why I am the way I am…sometimes even wishing I was created differently. But as I’ve walked through this life I have continually come to the realization that, not in a cliche way, I am who I was created to be. The years of dreaming, fighting, laughing at silly things, seeking adventure and excitement…have all prepared me for the steps ahead. They’ve molded me to be the person needed in certain jobs, certain friendships and even in marriage.

I’ve been told over and over in life that I cannot do something or I would not succeed at a venture…and it only fueled the fire in my wild soul to prove that if God calls me to something I can succeed no matter what failure is spoken over me. I find laughter in times that most would deem inappropriate, which allows me to laugh in the hard times as well. I find adventure in life, and reason to celebrate anything from successfully getting through a crazy day to landing a dream job. Our moto is “there is always something to celebrate” and if there isn’t an occasion, we will make up a reason. Because of who I am I have lived a crazy full life….every week feels like a month. I have met incredible people and dreamed up incredible things. I have traveled to beautiful places and lived in rich cultures. And I am constantly having to remind myself that those experiences happen because God created me with this personality. This fighter, free-spirit yet even-keeled, odd ball. It allows me to get out of my own way and jump and laugh (sometimes cry) through the stories and the moments life brings me.

I sometimes wish I could be the cool extrovert, the super smart brainy girl, the trendy fashonista, the emotional sensitive one, the skinny, small chested, fit into anything girl…but then I wouldn’t have my story, my own sweet friendship with Jesus that has come from those intimate, sometimes hard adventures. I would be living someone else’s story. I want my strong, spirited, odd personality to allow me to do great and brave things, to be bold and make waves. I want my grand imagination and dreams to trail blaze a way for others to find their dreams, and be encouraged to step out with courage.

So girls, let’s laugh at our quirks, let’s not take ourselves so seriously, lets embrace our gifts and use them to be brave women with unwavering relationships with Jesus.

Identity

I Am A Horrible Dancer

March 11, 2015

I am a horrible dancer.
The worst.

It’s not so much that I can’t dance…
it’s just, I have measurably zero rhythm.
and that’s sort of necessary to dancing-
or so I’ve been told.

And this wouldn’t be so terrible-
except I. Want. To. Dance.

I’ve wanted to dance for a really long time.  When I was thirteen my mom finally signed me up for a dance class.  I took ballet and jazz- but surrounded by girls who had been in “baby- ballet” and “toddler- tap” I didn’t last very long.  I danced for a year, but didn’t sign up for another after our spring recital.

Years later, the number of Friday night, “I just want to dance” texts sent out from my phone while I was in college is absurd.  Embarrassing even.  What’s worse is what inevitably happened next.

We would get downtown, and I would choke.
After all the getting excited and getting ready and getting downtown…I stood to the sides and watched the dance floor from a high top table.  I couldn’t get myself out on the dance floor.

It seems silly to admit being emotional over dancing, over movement.
But being a terrible dancer is something I define myself by.
I measure myself with a failing dream.

If I’m choked up over wishing I could live a life with a little more rhythm,
I have to wonder- what seemingly short fall do you define yourself with?

I’m a little bit older now, but my [lack of] ability to dance hasn’t changed much at all.
My desire to dance hasn’t changed either.

Praise The Lamb! my understanding of God the Creator has-
and He has been patient with my slow understanding of being an image bearer.

 

We have an amazingly creative God.
Literally, He created all the things.

So when I think about Him creating man and woman in his image (Genesis 1:26)
it’s easy to think about the creatives in my life-
the musicians, and artists…and dancers
to see them as images of the Divine.

But love!
We are made in the image of God.
All of us, every single one of us.
Individually created with an identity that points back to The Father.

When I focus on my terrible dancing I forget my image bearing origin- 

We are fallen image bearers, feeling guilty for things we ought to embrace and embracing the things that ought to bring guilt.

We may be displeased with the ways he wants to reveal his glory through us because they don’t look like the ways he reveals his glory through others. We’re uncomfortable with the implications and become confused about our own desire.

-from Emily P Freeman’s, Million Little Ways

 

Take heart sweet girl! Dancer
Christ came to reestablish our identity-
showing us what it means to be fully alive,
how to live on earth as we were intended to live-
A life of complete dependence on the Father.

Dancer, or poet, or engineer,
terrible singer, or cook, or athlete-

It’s time to remember the Spirit of power and love and a sound mind who lives within us.
It’s time to live as though we believe we have something to offer.
It’s time to release our authentic terrible dancing selves into the world.

Faith, God, Identity, Spiritual Life

I Am A Dreamer

March 4, 2015

 

beautiful woman traveling on a vintage car

I guess you could say that I’ve always been a dreamer. When I was seven I pretended that one of the canopy bed posts on my bed was Tom Cruise. We were dancing at some fancy gala, of course, and as the entire place had their eyes on the two of us, he dipped me real low and gave me the most glorious and life-altering kiss my young heart could conjure. In reality, when I leaned back for said mega dip and kiss, the post on my bed (AKA Tom Cruise) snapped and my entire canopy bed broke.

Through most of elementary and middle school I would sing as I walked to and from school so that if some famous movie director or talent agent was out mowing their lawn or getting their mail they would hear me and make me famous. I even went so far as to write a fan letter to a boy I saw in a movie, convincing myself that we’d become pen-pals and then eventually fall in love and get married and have famous actor babies. Side note: said actor only did the one movie and never acted again, so bullet dodge. ;-)

As I grew older my dreams became less outrageous and a bit more grounded. It went from celebrity fairytale love stories and fame and fortune to just mild success with an epic everyday-type romance thrown in. Every relationship became THE relationship-every job opportunity became THE job I was supposed to do. My dreams may have moved out of the clouds a bit, but they were still very far from reality.

Life moved on as did many of my dreams. I began to see that so many of the things I had dreamed for myself weren’t coming true. Jobs weren’t working out, relationships were ending, success preceded failure and my desire to dream started to fade.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

For most of my life my dreams were set around me. How could I be happy? What would make MY life great? Although my dreams may have been praiseworthy, heck, even Jesus focused- they were missing one key element, Christ himself.

A dreamer can never reach the end of their rainbow if they first can’t acknowledge the Dream Giver. 

Look at the creativity of the Father. The way He paints the sky in oranges and reds during a sunset. The way a tiny seed can bring forth trees that provide food and nourishment. Humans who can think and feel and create just like God. He IS the original dreamer and He is also the giver of dreams.

We are constantly in a hurry to get to our dream-fulfilled that we forget to stop and look at where our dream began. 

Who gave you that love for music? Who put in you a fiery passion for missions or business? Who gave you the ache for a husband and family? The Dream Giver!

God is not out to destroy your desires. He’s the one who put them there! The place we tend to get so lost in is that He puts those desires there not so that we seek out their fulfillment but rather that we seek Him and allow our fulfillment in Him to bring about those desires.

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way” Psalm 37:23

Friends, let’s be women who dream big with God.

Women who live in huts in Africa.

Women who preach and teach to the masses.

Women who fight for injustice and poverty.

Women who act, write or sing words of truth and hope and freedom.

Women who are faithful to their husbands and loving to their children.

Women who take risks and don’t live in the safe.

Women who aren’t afraid of the impossible because we know that with God, ANYTHING is possible.

We have been granted the greatest of gifts my friends. We have been allowed to dream alongside the One who hung the stars and soothed the seas. All He asks is that we delight in Him, handing over our finite earthly dreams and allow the immense mind-blowing plans HE has for us become our dreams. Because whatever His best is far outweighs anything we could ever hope for. So will you give your him your dreams?

I may not understand a lot, but I do know this:

Who am I? I am a dreamer.

Faith, Fear, God, Identity, Redemption, Relationships, Spiritual Life

Remain

February 25, 2015

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“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17

On January 31st, as those words covered the gathering, my heart grew and my life changed. Brendon and I stood at the altar, surrounded by the dense tropical forest of south Florida and more love than I have ever felt in my life.

Everything is new. My last name. My official state of residence. My college degree. 2014 was a year of discovery in my life and God began clarifying my dreams for His purpose. Since we all rang in the New Year with sparkly dresses and noisemakers, or for me, my parents and their friends eating chocolate cake and playing ping pong, life has been a flash mob of wedding planning, marriage, settling our home, and living on a tour bus.

So much change. GOOD change! And in all of this movin’ and shakin’ I realize that there is one single thing in life that is constant. And that is the truth of the gospel of Jesus.

God remains. That’s it. He is steady. He is faithful.

 

“…as surely as the sun rises, He will appear…” hosea 6.3

 

To the ladies of A Girl Like Me,

The six of us writers are for you. We are for you because God is for you.

We want to challenge you and walk with you in life.

He cares about you deeply—deeper than what we can possibly know.

In times of distress and in times of joy, admit it!

Let your community bear burdens alongside you and celebrate with you.

God remains in every instant of our lives,

in every country of our world,

in every cry of our souls,

in every promise that He has said.

Rest in His faithfulness today.

 

Choose to speak life.

Choose to be encouraging in a society of criticism.

Choose to reject hate and replace it with compassion.

 

May we be a group of women- quick to run to Jesus, ready to obey God, sensitive to the Spirit working in this ministry, confessing our dirt and sharing our joys, embracing the growing pains and always armed with the Truth of the gospel of Christ.

Whatever changes you are facing, whether it be moving to a new place, switching schools, stepping into a new season of any kind, may you face that new season of life with such grace. Grace that Jesus laid down His life for.

So here I sit, in the back of a tour bus somewhere in north Florida, feeling like a baby calf that was just born- covered in goo and awkwardly wobbling around on my new blogging-legs. Honestly, I just want to write something that will stick with you.

And all I can think of is a Snowy Owl. Snowy Owl parents fiercely protect their young. They know their babies weaknesses and defend their nest. They perch on the highest branch of the tree to look out over the community seeking to provide adequate food. Instinctually, they adapt to change in the climate. They know when their babies are ready to fledge… to fly out of the nest for the first time. To courageously start the next part of their story.

Isn’t that like God?

To protect us and love us in our weaknesses.

To provide for us and prepare us for change.

To be ever-present and all-knowing.

To be our guardian as we face new beginnings.

And remain with us through all time.

 

“…the Lord will fight for you. you need only to be still…” exodus 14.14

 

May we all be fledglings.

Ready for what is to come.

Consumed by His love.

With faith to fly.

 

 Here are a few lyrics to the song “I Will Follow” by Vertical Church Band:

When the sea is calm and all is right // When I feel Your favor flood my life

Even in the good, I’ll follow You

When the boat is tossed upon the waves // When I wonder if You’ll keep me safe

Even in the storms, I’ll follow You

I believe everything that You say You are // I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart

In the good things and in the hardest part // I believe and I will follow You

Faith, Fear, God, Identity, Spiritual Life

Out With the Safe

February 18, 2015

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Oh dear daughter, why do you think you must choose to shrink back, take the safe road, and hide behind your insecurity? Why are you so afraid of what others may think of you IF you fail? And why do you think of them as failures at all, isn’t that just the term the world has conjured up to beat you down, the word Satan has whispered in your ear to cause you to think less of yourself, resulting in comparison to those who seem to succeed and have it all together? Especially when those “failures” came from a heart so beautifully wanting to honor and serve your Father. Do you think I would nudge you to move if I thought you could not walk?

Did I not call you a child of Mine?

Did I not call you by name to rise up and be life and light in this world? Just as I was with Esther in her chambers as she prepared to risk her life for her people, just as I blessed and honored Ruth as she courageously chose the path of integrity and compassion despite the risks that came with breaking culture, just as I was with Mary as she humbly accepted her role to carry the greatest gift of all…when she could have said “Oh no God, you’ve got the wrong girl”….I too am with you as I ask you to step out and move. I am the same God today as I was then. You are no less a daughter of mine than they were. My dreams for you are not any smaller.

The dreams you dream are beautiful….but just imagine those ten fold, as my creativity stretches far beyond what your sweet little dreaming mind can fathom. All I ask of you is to step. Step towards the unknown, the less “safe” route, the risk that goes against the grain. Dare to believe that great things can happen with your obedience. Dare to believe that every “failure” as the world labels it is just a perfectly created opportunity for growth, gained wisdom and motivation to keep jumping to the next stepping-stone in preparation for the miracle because there is no end point. Finishing the book is not the neat and tidy end, getting the degree is not the last chapter, starting the orphanage, serving the mom, winning the gold is not what finishes and leaves you with a “success” badge. Choosing the adventure is the success. Choosing to get back up is success.

 You get to choose.

You can choose the safety of decisions that can be wrapped in your control, tied up neatly with a bow and leaving you with a small content little life or you can chose the great adventure of throwing your hands up and leaping into the unknown, listening to my still small voice urging you ahead, resulting in dreams and victories only possible when you give me your tiny fist of control and let me breathe life into dreams unimaginable.

Daughter, dare to believe that I will weep when you weep and I will hurt when you, my child, hurt…but I will hold you through it if you let me, so that your heart, that has now experienced the pain, hurt, fear, and joys can be prepared to serve and live and dream without limit in the great story I am writing for you. So you can then use the strength gained to walk alongside and shoulder the burden of others in those pains and hurts.

You get to choose to step up and be part of a generation of change. To no longer shrink back and let others take your dreams. YOU get to choose to be a woman of boldness and courage, to face the insecurities, tear through the walls of fear and feelings of unworthiness and grasp hold with all your might the miracles God wants to do with you and use as the vision and example to others.   Your choosing to jump gets to be an open testimony to those around you and in the moments when you “fail” you get to decide what those around you see you do as a result….get up and keep leaping? Or stay defeated on the ground and miss out on what was waiting just beyond the next bend.

I am not calling you to live in the safety and comfort of the fluff that settles in a cloud over your culture, I am not calling you to just get by and do the minimum so you can check off a list the little things you accomplished in your own strength. NO.

I am calling you to a recklessly abandoned, relentlessly passionate, overwhelmingly out of your control adventure that will blow your mind.

I am challenging you to act on those small nudges you feel from me without hesitation, taking the risk of failure and defeat….knowing without a doubt that no matter what the world may say, you are walking in victory, because you are Mine. You are moving. You are living. And you are choosing to not just live safe, but to live free and alive.   Daughter, you get to begin new. You get to choose today to start a new way of living. A new way of shining my light…no longer from the cracks in your fists holding tight to the safety and comfort of control, but instead bursting from every inch of your body and soul.

 

 

 

“Let’s be women unafraid to step into our role as His children, let’s own that role and carry the responsibility of what comes with it….being living examples, modern day Esthers, Marys, Lydias, Sarahs, Ruths….Let’s continue the legacy they began.”

Identity, Spiritual Life, Suffering

Keeping Up Appearances

September 17, 2014

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“You have no idea who I really am. No one does.” 

These were the words that poured out of my seventeen year old mouth one night while sitting on a curb with my best friend. And I meant it. No one really knew me. At least, not the real me.

You see, I grew up in an environment where I believed that good or bad, you always put on a good face. To be weak was to be the unbelieving and faithless Christian. So I faked it.

I had the smile, the giddy personality and the super “I love Jesus forever and ever” persona down to an art form. I was the poster child youth group kid. On the outside, it looked like my life was perfect and I was lovin every minute of it. Inside, I was screaming. Hoping that somehow, someway someone could see through the facade. See me.

Fast forward to three days ago. Husband out of town, one sick kid, one wild preschooler and one worn out, stressed out, plain done mom. I wasn’t in a good place. I yelled at my kids when they didn’t deserve it. I swore to the heavens. I lied to my kids. I was lazy and disconnected and wanted nothing more than to just crawl into a hole and hide for a week. I was a mess.

Sunday came and I was barely able to muster the energy to take my kids and I to church. But I made it, all the while making sure they looked spotless, smiling and happy..and I did the same for myself. I smiled. I sang. I shook hands. Hugged my kids and greeted my friends with a smile. I put on my good “face” because that’s what I thought people wanted to see. But it wasn’t what I feeling. Not in the least.

Masks don’t take away our pain and struggle..they just cover it up. 

I think I believed that if I tried hard enough to keep up the appearance that my life was good, somehow it would magically get better. But it didn’t, and I always ended up feeling worse because I felt hidden. I felt like no one knew, and even worse, that no one cared. But how could someone care for my pain if they never knew it was there in the first place?

Girls, I know some of you are desperately hurting right now. Your pain is kept locked up deep inside your heart as you fake your way through your day with a smile on your face. But that is no way to live. We both know that.

Showing our pain is hard. It’s vulnerable and exposing and scary. It let’s everyone know we don’t have it all together and maybe aren’t the pillar of strength everyone thought we were.

Pain kept hidden kills the soul. Pain revealed sets the soul free. 

There’s a reason addresses pain so much. Because it’s real. Because we can’t escape it. And because we are never ever ever meant to walk through it alone.

“Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2

Let’s break the chains of keeping up appearances. Let’s set ourselves free from the expectations that we have to be happy and perfect and good. Let’s show and share in one another’s hurts. Let’s cling to Christ and one another, reminding ourselves that we are never ever alone in the fight.

I am not a theologian or a scholar, but I am very aware of the fact that pain is necessary to all of us. In my own life, I think I can honestly say that out of the deepest pain has come the strongest conviction of the presence of God and the love of God.  ~ Elizabeth Elliot

What are you hurting from today? Hold my hand and let’s walk into the storm together.

Identity, Spiritual Life

Serve the Servant

September 10, 2014

 

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God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)

I had grown accustomed to the loudness that seemed to engulf the house as 22 babies/toddlers ran around during our morning play-time. I sat on the floor between the living room and the kitchen, with clear view to the entry door that gave a beautiful view to a Guatemala mountainside. My sweet little chunk sitting on my lap begging for yet another horsey ride…which always resulted in the best gurgling, contagious, laughter and a line of kids waiting for their turn. I watched that morning and took in my surroundings, observing our house mom care for her own three children and then continue to care for the other babies in the same way, no special treatment, you wouldn’t know they were not hers…you would never know they were orphaned, abandoned, given up…she treated them like her own. She loved them, fed them, and even disciplined them. Doing her best to raise them up in a Christ centered home. The door creaked and I knew our day of being peacefully our own “little” family of 22 babies, three honorary house mamas and two house parents would end and the attempt to keep sanity would begin.

Our little spit fire two-year old had bitten someone once again and was being led to time-out…right as two older women walked through the door.  I sat and watched. One stood looking somewhat uncomfortable, not knowing what to do, the other walked straight to the child who had been put in time-out. She took him in her arms, sat him on the couch…and began to “comfort” him…saying “you poor baby, being treated so meanly by the people here, you poor little orphan, let me just show you what love is.”    My heart ripped in two as I watched my sweet house mom put her head down as she over-heard the cutting words. She had made so many sacrifices, as did her family to be here to raise these babies. The women didn’t stay long, just long enough to give some hugs and snap some photos and then they were off to the house upstairs. Never stopping to encourage the woman who spent day and night meeting the needs of these children.  Just as I breathed a sigh of relief a group of giggly, teenage girls stepped in the doorway…they never came in. Simply stood in the door with their cameras…taking pictures of only the cutest babies. Never asking their names.  My heart began to sink…they probably had some skills we could use.

My days continued like this, people bringing in buckets of donations for the kids to be added to the overflowing shed, people wanting to simply play with the kids, and I watched as the house parents of each house seemed more and more worn out, struggling to scrape up money for their own children and family needs, never having time to refresh, breathe or take timeto themselves. Always giving. Always taking criticism from outside groups. All the groups with good intentions, just many with poor actions. That was the summer my heart felt called to the missionaries. The ones giving up the comforts and safety for their children, to serve the least of these. That was the summer I realized I was not called just to love the orphan and widow…I was called to love the missionary, to serve them and help enable them to do what they are called and gifted to do. So many intentions are so good, yet we have an epidemic of fitting God’s calling for us in a box. We have a list of what we are supposed to do, what needs we want to meet instead of asking where the need is and then using our gifts to meet those needs. We forget that helping fold clothes, cooking dinner, or even taking time to stand in a tortilla hut and let the tortilla lady teach you how to make them…are all ways to serve. All ways to meet someone where they are at and show them that they are important, what they are doing is needed. Realize that you have something to offer, to help them be more successful at serving where they are called. You have the ability to sit beside, take their hand, and let them know they are not alone.

A few years later God led me to nanny for those who were on stage and I continued to feel the draw to serving those who were serving their audience. Enabling the ones who felt called to have a voice to a larger group, by helping care for the little, behind the scenes details that make that possible. Giving breath and refreshment to the ones who are exhausted from serving.

Girls, I’m writing this because so many times I have had to stand up and defend my calling. And I know many of you have such needed skills to offer as well. I know how easy it is to get lost in watching others have a big purpose that is noticed and we think that should be our goal as well.

So many times I have had to explain why my heart is for those who are serving others. I’ve fought to explain that they too, need people behind them..we aren’t all called to have our own audiences, our own big, shining task to reach out and do something that will be recognized. Some of us are called to be behind the curtains. Just like a show can’t happen without a lighting crew, sound crew, caterers, and someone to clean up the mess…just like a game can’t happen without someone caring for the field, taking care of the players, making the uniforms…the big missions and callings can’t happen here on earth without the supporters, the prayer warriors, the ones giving the front men a night off….

Don’t get stuck thinking there is one formula, one way to love, one way to serve.

Don’t ever see yourself as not worthy because you aren’t on a platform. Because you don’t fit a comfortable box. You aren’t on the field. You aren’t on the stage.   See yourself as worthy because you have a crazy skill for cleaning bathrooms, organizing, caring for children, mowing a lawn, making a good cup of coffee….whatever you are gifted at..use it. Serve those that are also serving. Find your worth and realize that God has gifted you very specifically, with no mistakes…so that you can offer your gifts to those who need it. Be wary of those who will take advantage of those gifts and give freely to those who desperately need it and see it as part of their ministry tool.

Faith, Identity, Spiritual Life

So Long Summer

August 20, 2014

 

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The end of every summer always brought a mixed sense of sadness and joy for me. Sure, I was going to miss sleeping in, spending the day doing whatever I wanted and the general freedom of the season. Yet the end of summer also brought me something else…a chance to start over.

Even if I was going back to the same school, there was something special about a new school year. It was as though three months of summer hit some kind of reset button and everyone got to come back fresh and new without any of the crap from the previous year. I could be new, different..better, even.

As the beginning of my sophomore year of college was about to drop, I knew I needed to make some changes. I had spent the summer trying to recover from all the vices I picked up the previous year. I was dating a guy who had abused, ridiculed, cheated and then eventually dumped me. I had the beginnings of a serious eating disorder, and a total loss of who I was as a person. I was a hot mess. I needed the summer to purge all of this out of my life and start fresh. Make this next year nothing like the one before it.

Many of you are about to or are in that same boat. A new year, a new chance to be something better and different than last year. You’re plagued by the mistakes of your past, and in a way, feel doomed to be that girl from now on.

My first day of sophomore year was hell. I remember struggling to eat that bite of food, knowing I needed the nutrients more than my ability to feel in control. I struggled to not look at my ex as he walked around campus acting as though I was nothing and that all he had done to me that had destroyed my soul was no big deal. I was determined to change. I needed to change.

Our approach to change can either cripple us, or set us free. 

I spent my sophomore year unable to let go of the things I had vowed to rid myself of. I went back to the abusive boyfriend. I continued to restrict my eating so that I could feel like I had a hold on my life. I was outwardly happy, but in inwardly dying.

What things are you holding on to that you know God is wanting you to change? A relationship that’s become an idol? An unhealthy friendship? An obsession with your looks? Or maybe an attitude of bitterness, anger, or pride? Whatever it is, are you willing to make the change?

Not every “fresh start” feels great. Starting over can often feel like giving up everything for the unknown- for the possibility that things might be better. And who wants to give up everything for a “might?”

I let my fear of change and failure lead me back down a path I never wanted to return to. Another year of mistakes, hurts, and abuse. My need to control, to resist the pain of growth made me more burdened and scared than I ever was. The year that was meant to be my chance to be free, to be who God saw I could be, was instead one of possibly the most painful years of my life.

“I am God—yes, I Am. I haven’t changed. And because I haven’t changed, you, the descendants of Jacob, haven’t been destroyed.” Malachi 3:6 (The Msg)

Thank God that He is unchangeable. Though our lives ebb and flow, peak and dip; He is constant. He is always faithful, always present, always loving, always forgiving, always believing in what we could be and not what we think we are. Our failure to embrace change, to take that step to freedom doesn’t alter His love for us one bit. He’s still our greatest champion, cheering us on; knowing that if we just turn our eyes to Him, nothing can shake us.

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him;” Psalm 37:23

“In the same way I will not cause pain
    without allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord.” Isaiah 66:9

Listen ladies, we weren’t called to be the meek, mild mannered, silent observers of this world. We are warriors. Brave, fearless, strong, and bold. When we believe we are the less than, the unchangeable, the forever broken; we are robbing ourselves of the beauty of becoming the more.

Don’t let the mistakes of your past declare who you are going to be tomorrow. 

Summer is coming to an end. A new season is on it’s way. So let’s seize it while we can. Let’s hold on to Jesus and run fearlessly into a new beginning. Throwing off all the crud and baggage that keeps us from being anything less than the glorious perfection that He has proclaimed us to be.

I’m ready for a new beginning. I’m ready to be more because I am more. Because HE IS MORE. Are you?

So long summer. This girl’s moving on.

God, Identity, Judging, Relationships

Judging Stephanie

August 13, 2014

Back in the day I used to know this girl named- well lets just say Stephanie.  Stephanie lived in my neighborhood.  There was a group of us that would always hang out and  Stephanie wasn’t one of them.  She was different.  She wore really short shorts and cropped tops usually showing most of her bra.  Her long blond hair was always hanging down the middle of her back and her face was hidden somewhere beneath all of the makeup.  I remember my friends and I would talk about her a lot.  Things usually like- “I can’t believe she is wearing that.  Who does she think she is?  I can’t believe she smokes…. that’s so wrong.  She’s really bad and we shouldn’t be associated with her.  So glad we’re not like her.”  Words like these were exchanged for a whole year between me and my friends.  But one day we stopped seeing her around.  We didn’t think much of it until we met another girl who used to be friends with her who told us what happened to her.  Stephanie had moved away because she was a foster kid.  Apparently she would stay with a family until they got sick of her and then she would be shipped off to live with someone else.  Most of her life she felt unwanted.  When I heard this I remember feeling sick to my stomach.  Here I was judging her without knowing anything about her.  Without knowing her at all.

“Judging others is a blindfold.  Judging others is a blindfold that blinds us to our own grime and blinds us to the GRACE which others are as eligible and entitled to as we are.” – Voskamp

 Everyone has traveled their own road.  Everyone has a story to tell, pain they have had to suffer, and life experiences that has shaped them one way or another.

Matthew 7:1-5- ” Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your (sister’s) eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your (sister) Let me take the speck out of your eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your (sister’s) eye.”

Phew!  Girls!  Where is your heart?  Is there someone that you may be presuming assumptions upon because of the way they look, because of their attitude towards you, because of the choices they have made and all of the outward things your eyes may see??  Ask yourself do you know their story?   Do you know them at all?  Or are you just sizing them up to be the very thing you want them to be in order to make yourself feel better about yourself? Have you looked at your own heart lately?

 “Do you hold other people to a standard of perfection instead of letting them all be held in the arms of grace?”- Voskamp

Oh sweet grace.  We can rejoice because we are covered by GRACE!!  We can rejoice because they too are covered by GRACE!!  I am dancing and singing with my arms outstretched because of who I am in Christ!  The more I believe in His love for me the more I am able to love everyone else regardless of who they are or who they seem to be.  We are called to love and we are ALL entitled to grace.

And then there are those of you who find yourself on the other side of it.  You feel alone and isolated because you have been accused of being a certain way.  Or other girls have their opinion about you because they are only looking at your outward appearance and not taking the time to really get to know your heart.  Maybe you’re the one who has had to travel a dirty road leading you to a pain so deep that the only thing you know to do is to inflict pain onto others.  Maybe you’re hurting others because you yourself are hurting.

There is hope for you dear friend.  “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”- 1 Samuel 16:7

The Lord sees your whole story and sees the very depths of your heart.  He is lifting up your head, staring into your eyes and carrying through the weight of each day.  You are not what everyone else says of you… you belong to Jesus and He says that you are His child!  You are His friend. – John 15:15  You are justified and redeemed. Rom. 3:24  You are a fellow heir with Christ.  Rom 8:17  You are a temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor. 9:19  You are joined to the Lord and are one spirit with Him.  1 Cor. 6:17  You are a new creation  2 Cor. 5:17  The list goes on and on.  Who cares what others say about you… who does Jesus say you are?  The one who knows everything about you actually calls you one with Himself!  Hold on to this truth and be careful to not find yourself judging those who judge you.

In whichever situation you find yourself in, go to Jesus.  May he open our hearts to our own sin and dig out the filth that has been piling up needing to be plucked out.  I pray that pride will fall and shame will be thrown to the ground.  I pray our eyes be taken off of ourselves all together and placed on the cross. I pray we live each day with kindness on our lips uplifting one another, encouraging one another and loving each other because we have been given kindness and love when we do not deserve it ourselves.  May we not find ourselves assuming the worst in someone but may we find ourselves always seeking to understand.  “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord: keep watch over the door of my lips.  Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil….” Psalm 141:3-4

I wish I could go back to that little neighborhood where all my time was wrapped around my friends like my feathered bangs wrapped around my head, and Stephanie sitting on her front porch with a cigarette between her fingers.  I would do things a little differently.  My hope is that I would walk up to her and say hi.  I would tell her my name.  I would sit down next to her and maybe ask her questions about herself.  I would try to get to know her.  I may even risk being associated with her.  After all- Jesus was associated with sinners.  The tax collectors, the drunks, the prostitutes……hmmmmm….. even me.

I was no better than Stephanie.  I am no better than you.  We are all just children in need of Jesus.

“When this life ends we will all see each other for what we really are.  There will be surprises.  One of those surprises will surely be how ill-willed our judgements were.  Another will be how much suffering we caused others through wrongly judging them.  Yet another will be how often we were guilty of the very thing we judged another for”. – Anonymous