Letting the Pieces Fall

Letting the Pieces FallFor J.

conversation 18

I grew up knowing you, God. I would curl up next to my grandmother and she would tell me about you. Her Bible was worn and beautiful. Next to her, hearing her talk about you, I believed you were real. I believed you were with me. I believed you loved me.

And I needed to be loved.

She would read scripture and then talk to you like you were the only one there, even when I was in the room. She saw you, right next to her, and I learned you are a friend I could talk to. Not remote and strange, but close and good and present.

You know how mom wasn’t around as much and how my grandparents were my rock. They loved me. On weekends I would crawl up in the big bed and grandpa would let me talk to him about everything. I was the only child in the family, and when my mom wasn’t ready for me, my grandparents decided they were.

Letting the Pieces Fall

God, thank you that you’ve never left me. I have felt lost many times, unsure about the decisions I’ve made, particularly since I am married now. You know my husband and my two children and how I feel completely overwhelmed most of the time. You know how I wonder if I’ve made a mistake that can’t be rewritten, with my marriage that can’t seem to get fixed, with my one child who struggles to find joy and find his place. Yet while I am lost, I have never felt incapable of being found.

I need to be found again now, Father.

So I will curl up next to you, just like I did with my grandparents, as a child, and I will let you hold me here. I will read your words and you will quiet my heart and I will know you are present here. I will let you guide me and bring hope and direction here.

For I need you, God. I drop my hands and everything I hold. They are empty now. Please, pick up these pieces and put them back together, God. I don’t even know how.


Letting the Pieces Fall

There are some things I want to show you, my dear one. There are some things I want to whisper to your heart. There are some things I want you to know and believe and live out. For you are treasured, my love. And you are not forgotten.

I hear your words, and I see beneath them. I know that little girl you speak of. I know her heart. I know the turmoil she endured, the way she felt lost, the way she felt abandoned.

Is that when rescue becomes even more realized? Only when realizing one is lost can one appreciate how she is found?

Yes, you are found. Yes,  you are dear–and perfectly designed by me.

Those eyes of yours, my love, what do they look on each day? Those ears of yours, my love, what do they choose to hear?

I know how things were so hard when the cancer came, when it spread and they had to operate and you were so sick, so sick for so long, my darling. I know how alone you felt and how you tried so hard to be strong.

Now listen: I know you want to love your husband. I know you want to hold up your family. I know you want to be strong. I know you want to do what is right. But there is a point, as you know, when trying to be the strong one just doesn’t work. (I know, through these ordeals, this is what you’ve learned.) But now, my girl, now . . . yes, I say you can do it. You can be strong. You just need to be strong in your weaknesses, strong in your love for–and strong in your reliance upon–me.

Letting the Pieces Fall

You are needed. So go forth. You are beautiful. So let your beauty be revealed.

Yes, I want to tell you something about your beauty. My darling, don’t let your beauty hide. You have been changed, yes, by the disease, but you are glorious in your beauty and you are glorious in your strength in me. You are called forth now to stay here with me and recognize my whispers to your heart and know that I give you what you need to love your husband and your children. I give you what you need to teach and to be a friend and be a daughter and be held, too. I know you know you can’t do a thing on  your own.

So, yes, curl up here with me, my love. I will hold you, and I will refresh you. I will restore you, and I will nudge you now, to step into places of discomfort for the good of your family. I will ask you to step into places of uncomfortableness, because you need to heed my whispers now. I am asking you to rely, even more, on me.

My girl, you are so much more than you think you are. Let me show you what I see.


Song to listen to: “Endless Years“, United Pursuit Band


This is day 18 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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When Your Whole Self Sees

Alaska Kennicott

For B.

conversation 17

My Lord, I wish my words could write out the vision I see. For I see you. And I feel you close.

Your arm wrapped around my back, the touch of your palm behind me. Your other hand wrapped around mine. I recognize you, while we dance.

I know what it means to have you look at me. You draw me deeper, where it is just us two. It is the place where I am myself. It is the place where I am free.

I might seem beautiful here. But it is only the reflection of you. You, my Lord, overwhelm me. How can I be in your presence and be able, still, to stand?

I fall on my knees, my head bowed, knees trembling. I can’t raise my eyes. But I see you, in my heart. I know your eyes, though I am afraid to look at you, straight on.

But I must.

Your fingers are under my chin now, and you tilt my chin upwards until I can see you. And you are bent so low, leaning down over me.

Why do you bend so low, my Lord? How do you do it? How can I remain here with you? For you are so amazing, so fearful and mighty. Yet you are gentle in your fierce love for me. You are tender in your steadfast pursuit of me. You are not reckless but careful and wise in your determination to stay here, in this place of love, with me.

Oh, my Lord, how do you stay? How do I stay? Can you continue to teach me who I am and who you are and how to keep within me where you are?


Close your eyes now , my child. Can you hear it? Can you see it ? I know you do. You are surrounded by love. You are surrounded by beauty. You are surrounded by joy. You are surrounded by voices raised in singing. It is time to worship, my love.

Stand tall now. Raise your hands. Lift your voice, your whole soul singing out. You can’t help but do it. You are made to sing. You are made to dance. You are made to be, completely, with me.

In this place where I am there is no separation between us. And my presence may overwhelm, yes. But it is what restores you, heals you, fills you so love overflows from your whole self. You are whole here. You are complete here. You raise your voice and shout out loud the truth of hope that you can’t keep to yourself anymore.  You can’t help but worship and respond to me with your full heart.

Your complete self.

Your whole self.

Stay here? You can’t not stay here with me.

And when you stay, you worship. And when you worship, you see.


Song to Listen to: “Heaven,” Daniel Bashta, featuring Mac Powell


This is day 17 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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At the Kitchen Table


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For J.

conversation 15

I remember me as a little girl, God. I would wake and the sun would not yet be up. The house was still, only dad awake at the kitchen table. And I would sit next to him and wonder about what was coming next, how if I asked him the right question he might see me. The paper would be open and I would scoot up close, wanting to read the words he was reading, wanting to know what was so interesting, what captured his attention.

I wondered what it would take for me to get him to turn–how I could get him to see me, ask me a question, notice, that I was wearing my favorite shirt.

Music would flood the house, later in the day. The piano open, the guitar out. And we would sing, the five of us, me and my parents and my sister and brother. The weight of the morning would lift and I knew everything, then, was okay.

I wonder, now, God, about the timing of all these moments you bring. I wonder about how you shape us, how you create for us families, how you speak into us and create environments that affect the way we act and think.

How did you make us each so differently? And why is it I forget, so easily, how you crafted each one of us, with your breath? I think about your crafting of me, wondering about how the way I was raised affected the choices I made later, as an adult. Is this what you planned when you made me and you designed me? When you created this heart, this soul, this miracle, were you fine with the outcome of me?

When am I fully mature, Father? When am I done being crafted? When am I done being shaped? Was my birth just the beginning of the development of my soul? Do I keep growing and changing and becoming beautiful, like you, even after I’ve breathed my last breath?

Oh, God give me a childlike faith. You have made me so I am filled with questions, and I both love it and I grow weary of them all, too. Let me not worry so much about the answers but let me be satisfied with whatever it is you want to teach me. Help me know you are here and you’re in control and that yes, everything is going to be okay.


at the kitchen table

My darling, each of those mornings, I was there, sitting with you. I put love song in you, the tender heart to love others. I crafted you to notice when someone was hurting, when another person, even someone you didn’t know, was in pain. It is so good to ask questions, because then we can have a conversation. I ask you questions and you ask me questions back. I fill your mind with questions and your heart is stirred and you wonder how to piece it all together. It is my joy to watch you live this life, my darling.

You are my daughter, and I love you as you are. And who you are is who you are becoming. Only, with me, can anything be complete.

You know how you loved to jump and spin? How you loved to push yourself and watch your body grow strong from hours of work, hours of discipline, hours of practice? You still love that, I know. You still love being outside, noticing the burst of purple as hydrangeas bloom, the smell of pine as you walk under canopies with me, in our garden. I have made you to love pushing yourself to learn and grow because it is how you are being made to be complete, in me. You are doing the things you love to do and you see me with you. You are growing  in your completion when you are seeing me, noticing me, engaging with me.

Oh, can we go on a walk together, right now, my darling?

Let’s keep doing this, talking about questions and wondering about answers–especially answers found only through communication with me. You, my daughter, are my treasure. You can always scoot up close. I am always interested in what you have to say.


Song to listen to: “Can’t Outrun Your Love“, Ellie Holcomb


This is day 15 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day!

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How Maybe We Can Be Brave

conversation 12

Jesus,

You know Justin  is collecting things he’s grateful for, writing them down on a little notepad he keeps with him all the time. He listened to Ann Voskamp speak at a Q Commons broadcast the other day while in the company of friends from Cityteam Ministries, people who want to bring you, Jesus, to people just down the road, on the streets, who might not see you or know you yet.

He knew about her book, One Thousand Gifts and the physiological, psychological, and spiritual benefits of intentionally seeking out and documenting what a person is grateful for. And now he ‘s doing it–documenting all the things he’s grateful for and he’s loving it.

Justin’s choice to seek you and see you is helping me, too, to see.

I like that about him, how he heeds you, Father–by listening to his surroundings and finding words to explain it all. He hears you through the listening he does when he’s writing. And it was a big deal when he used those words and responded to your heart and wrote down some truth he thought might help some people. He wrote how he discovered the life he was chasing, the one he thought he wanted, wasn’t the life that helped him to see you. He rocks my world when he is brave like that. Choosing you. Being brave.

When my husband chooses to be vulnerable and share his struggles, I want to, too.

It was an even bigger deal when he wrote, last week, at our marriage blog, about his struggle with pornography during our marriage. It’s his story, and he shared a bit of it on the on-line space we share. I am so proud of him. I am so proud of him for going forward and choosing not to hide.

We need each other to not hide, God. We need to not hide from you and we need, sometimes, to show others around us what it looks like to not hide, too.

Hiding is not awesome. The opposite, sometimes, is sharing our stories with one another. Or, sometimes, the brave thing is being ourselves and charging ahead, using the gifts we’ve been given to bless others like crazy.

Speaking of crazy, we have friends in this crazy place we live, Silicon Valley, California, that see you and seek you and take those big degrees and that intelligence and their determination you’ve given them to work hard and give their money away. Gather Ministries is supported by friends like this. Again, these friends rock our world.

It’s so good to not pigeon hole people, assuming that where they live or the kind of job they have, reveals the reality of their heart–specifically, how he/she thinks about you, whether or not he/she loves you.

I need people around me, Father, who love you in a crazy, full-on, way. I am so grateful for these women here, your girls, who come and gather and want to listen to you, too. They are beautiful, God, aren’t they? They are brave and amazing, aren’t they?

How, Father, are you asking us to be brave?


My daughters, I love how you run to me. I love how you desire to trust me. I love how the moments with me feel fleeting to you and that you want more. I am enough, here, for you. I am available and present; I am not coy or distant. If I feel distant, ask me about why I feel that way to you. I know it can feel I am far away. . . .

Oh, yes, let’s talk about how to be brave.

My son, David, was brave. And my daughters who risk and choose to seek me and serve me rather than pursuing only the worldly things right in front of them, are brave. Being brave requires knowing there is more, here, in these days you live, than moments that are actually tangible. There are more to the details in a day than what yours eyes can see. Your emotions respond to what you see. Your brain is created to respond to what you see. Your emotions feel flooded with reactions to moments, to words, to circumstances–all things you can see.

But what if you lived for what you cannot see? What if you lived knowing the things you can’t see are the things that matter most? What if you lived abandoning the tangible for the intangible–but used the tangible as a way to bless people whom I love, so their intangible reality is made more tangible to them?

Is this faith, and service, and worship? Could it be that being brave is how my children might, in a beautiful, wild way, feel loved?


A song that speaks to the tangible/intangible, maybe? I know you know this one. . . “Oceans“, by Hillsong United.


Join me here each day, sisters, for this 31 Day series. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

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The Middle Place is an Okay Place to Stay

For P.

conversation 11

I keep watching those ocean waves, Father. I walk out there, letting sand push soft in between my toes. It goes on for miles; I can’t see the end. There are days I walk this sand and that clear blue sky above me can’t distract me from the storm I feel within. I think this storm will take me right under. These dreams, Father, are ones I struggle, so much, to let go.

Can the plans you have for me be the right ones, God? Are you sure?

I want a child so badly, and it’s a dream I just don’t know how to let go. How can I give up what I’ve always desired, since I was little? How can I believe you care about our desires and you want to know our prayers and you don’t hear my heart cries to be a mom? I don’t know who I am without the dream of mothering. I don’t know who I am without this dream directing my every step.

Isn’t it good, Father, to have dreams? Isn’t it good, Father, to be tenacious and faithful with our prayers? What is the give and take here? How do I trust you when I cry out, for years, and it feels that you are silent? What is this life you’ve given me, with so much goodness and richness and I try, truly, to be grateful for what I have but yet struggle to deal with the ache of wanting more? Why can’t I be satisfied and let this dream die? How do I do it? How do I pursue you more than any desires of my own? How can I desire you more than anything, so I realize I am not in want, that I have everything I need–everything, in fact, I desire?

How can I forget myself and yet know who I am and how I’m made and not pursue a dream I believe you’ve given me to pursue? How do I have faith and walk surrendered?

I am going to sit here on this sand and watch these waves crash hard on shore. You are powerful and good. You are my strength and my guide. You quiet me and bring peace to my troubled heart. There are so many things I don’t understand. So, I’m going to keep asking you questions. I’m going to keep pursuing you, and I know you’ll teach me how to wait, how to trust, how to be here with you when I feel my heart breaking. I know you understand and you love me. I know it’s okay that this place, right now, feels so hard.


Daughter I could walk this beach with you forever. Did you see those gulls swoop down over there? They are looking for fish. I love watching them, how they glide, wings spread, so beautiful. And then they dive, seemingly so unexpectedly. I love how they sing, and how they fly with confidence, steadfast, intent on where the fish are, what they need to do, where they need to go. The wind lifts them, as they glide, and they swoop down again, searching the waters for food. Those waves are what promise them sustenance, and so they return again and again, to what brings them what they need to live.

I could watch them this whole day, with you–as I stay, walking next to you, on our beach.

My daughter, you can hold my hand or you can let go. I will be here all the same. But I want you to look around and enjoy this place, this place right now, in the midst of the wondering and the searching and the questions–the beauty of where you are, even in the midst of pain.

Can there be beauty in pain? Can there be hope in suffering?

Can there be joy in the hard places, the places where there is no clear answer and this middle place is the last place you want to be?

Look to me, child. Look at where I am, in the midst of the hard things. Look to me, and how I am here, present with you. Look to me, at my truth that I place in your heart. For I am with you even when you can’t see me. I am with you, even when your questions aren’t answered. I am with you, offering my hand and my heart and my presence and my light when all around you is only night.

This beach can be where we go, where we stay, even in the yearning. My presence will bring you contentment, if you let it. My presence will bring you hope, if you want it. My presence will bring you joy, if you seek it. I am your guide, your landing place—and oh, daughter, I will teach you soon, to fly.

I will teach you, in this hard place, to look to me and to see me and to desire me above anything else. And your story will be a story of hope for daughters who don’t yet know me or know that, in this middle place, I stay.

And all those answers to those questions, my love? You’re going to know those answers soon. But I also know that soon, the question themselves, as you’re with me, will change.


Song to listen to: “Who Can Compare?“, Jesus Culture, feat. Mary Kat Ehrenzeller


Join me here each day, sisters, for this 31 Day series. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

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Let’s Have This Be a New Season

For A.

conversation 8

Holy Father, I stretch out these arms of mine and close my eyes. It’s early, light falling softly through cracks in the shades. My soul is quiet, my mind searching for you, wondering where you are, if you are with me, how you might delight in me. I want to run to where you are.

The children are gone now. I remember when the house was so full–full of noise and energy, of movement and song. That boy and girl didn’t sit still and they drove each other crazy and they loved each other with a fierceness. I miss them–his voice and his smile; her laugh and her wit. This tender heart of mine you’ve protected. And you’ve held my hand as I questioned my role, wondering if the children I teach in my classroom now will see you in me. I pray my own children did and still do, even though they’ve moved out. Sometimes I hate that they’re gone.

What do you have for me now, Father? How is it I keep going through these seasons, feeling the same while everyone around me is moving on, changing so fast? Am I changing, too, God? I listen for you and I gather up women whom I know you love and whom I know you know are hurting. I try to love them, Father. I tell them who you are and how you are here and how this pain they feel is not, ever, too big, for you.

I thank you for strength and for your whispers. I thank you for your showing me beauty and how I have it, I think, to give to your girls, too. I am unafraid to speak, now. You’ve given me a heart that’s healed. You’ve come and rescued me from fear, rescued me from insecurity and questions about my worth. The young girl in college who felt alone and confused and wasn’t ready for the life growing quiet inside her, has been rescued and changed.

Yes, I’ve been changing, because you love me. I am whole, even if everything around me feels like it is moving so fast.


I love how you stay here. I love your quietness with me. I love your gentleness. I love your desire to love.

Yes, you have a desire to love. This is you, claiming who you are–how I’ve made you to be.

I love seasons, the changing and the turning. In the changing there is newness and rebirth.

Can you say yes to that again, my love? Can you awake this day and see the sun shining forth and ask me to come and bring newness to your heart? You have seen where I’ve been with you. You’ve heard my whispers to your heart. Want to ask for more of me? Want to let me in even further?

I wait and stay, filling all the spaces where you let me in. Is there any place in your heart, in your past, that is not yet fully surrendered to me? Let me press here some more, child. Do you know where it is, this place where I want to heal you still, more fully–and fill you, even more, with me?

I know these places in you. I love you. I hope no part of you wants no part of me.

Let’s have this be a new season, a season of beginning again, a season of growing again, a season of letting me in again. Let’s have this be a season where all the old is thrown out. You are beautiful, my darling, and that beauty is more than external. It is the beauty of your heart that I’ve claimed, that I’ve rescued, that I say is yours to use to speak, to teach, to love. For there are daughters in a different season that need you to say yes to this season–this season of rebirth  and newness I’ve given to you.


A Song to Listen to Together: “Sons and Daughters“, by Allman Brown & Liz Lawrence


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I Love That About You

For A.

conversation 5

Oh Papa, I don’t want to be afraid anymore. Daddy, please come again–come agin for your girl. You are beautiful, how you laugh, how you take me where you go. We don’t just stay here together. You walk towards me with care, knowing I can only go with you if I feel safe. But I know you.

I know how you love me and how you love to be with me. I know your laugh. I know the sound of it and how you don’t hold back in loving me. You are all in, and I need you to be all in, Daddy. I need you to be my everything. I need you to fill me in all the broken places. For I am afraid, still, so often and so much.

I am afraid to venture out. I am afraid to speak. You are my only safe place. Is that okay? Is it okay that I feel like the world around me moves too fast? Is it okay that I like to run away with you and stay there with you and that the loneliness in other places is overwhelming sometimes?

How do I stay here, in this world, where you have me, when I only want to be with you? How can I trust you more, living this life you’ve given me, when I still, just want to hide? Can I just hide with you? Can I just stay with you?

You know I love to let you take me on adventures with you, how it is beyond this earthly world where we go, and I love to think about all that you’ve created, how vast you are, how complete. You are too much for me and yet I am not too much for you. You want all of me and you delight in me and you laugh and you dance and you whisper jokes and you throw down beauty–love bombs we call them–when you show me glimpses of how much you love me, how much you love us, and how this much love could never–never–be contained.

You are too good to be contained. And I love that. I love that about you.

I know you rescue you and I know you carry me. I know you know my heart breaks a bit, each day. I know you know I need you to put it back together. And I’m okay with that.


You are the little girl who stands at the door wide open, and isn’t afraid to go through. You are the little girl who holds up her arms, fingers stretched wide, and asks to be picked up, heart wild and beautiful.

You are wild and beautiful, my darling girl.

Your little girl heart–in the beautiful woman you are–is glorious. Yes, you are glorious to me. You are also precious and dear and wild. And I love that about you.

I love your soft heart, your gentle trust. I love your tenderness towards loving others, your sisters, your children, your husband. You are precious in how you love. You reach out with your hands wide open and you keep them open. I know you think you don’t. I know you think you huddle down, clasp those arms around you tight and feel afraid to go out and take risks. But you do take risks, my dear.

You take risks and are courageous and bold with me. You are not marked fearful. You are not marked timid. You are not marked careful and sad and meek.  You are bold and beautiful in your love. You are boisterous and powerful in how you love with your whole heart. You don’t hold back, my love, and it is to that heart that people are drawn.

You love my girls with your heart bursting wide open for me. You see me and you let me take you with me and you invite everyone around you into the places where we go together. Would you like to do that some more?

You know me and you know my laugh and you are filed with me. So, can we go further and deeper? Can we go to new places together? And can you share about it with those I bring?

Can you speak with my heart and can you trust me? And can you sing your words through the courage I give you, the sound of my laughter in your heart, the feeling of my hand holding yours fast? You are my darling girl and I love you and I know you trust me. So let’s go. Let’s keep going. Yes, you are safe when you are with me.

So stay. And let’s go.

Stay. And let’s go.


Song to Listen to: “Out of Hiding (Father’s Song),” Steffany Gretzinger


Join me here each day, sisters, for this 31 Day series. Subscribe and you will get each day’s Voice slipped quietly into your inbox each morning. And click here to read Voice, from the beginning.

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Where I Ramble and I Ask You How You Are

soda straws

We bumble our way a bit, don’t we, as we try our best to love people in our lives well?

In the circle where I sat the other day, with women I’ve known for years, I shared how I’m not sure I’m giving it all I’ve got in the loving department. I think about Justin and how to love him. The bumps in the road throughout our 18 years of marriage have helped me learn, the hard way, how to love him.

My friends know I’m still learning.

It’s definitely been a wild stretch for Justin and me to write alongside one another this last year and a half –me with Loop; he with WiRE. And Holy Entanglement?–a blog about marriage?–it’s a whole crazy story how that blog ever came to be. It actually started with a conversation between the two of us about rebranding You Are My Girls. And I thought I was going to let this blog, here, go.

Ouch.

We love how Holy Entanglement is a place where we, together, can encourage married folks in the three areas we love to talk about most–seeking what Jesus thinks about our identity, community, and adventure with Him. But I was drawn to keep writing here, too, focusing on our identity as God’s daughters. So, I keep seeking His heart and listening and writing down what comes. And You Are My Girls has not yet gone away.

Trying to love? Trying to love well? I guess we just keep trying.

I told these women how I think about you all here, a lot. I pray for you and ask God about you. I wonder about your days. I wonder what it would be like if we got to hear each other’s voices and see each other face to face and give each other a hug. ‘Cause I hug my friends. And you all, well, you’re sisters. I know we’ll see each other one day.

For now, I’m wondering what’s ahead here, for our time together. I wonder what God is up to with us and I marvel at how He brings together His daughters. It’s crazy how He says, “You are My girls.” It’s crazy how He loves to laugh with us and heal us and hold us and show us how beautiful we are to Him. ‘Cause you know, He just can’t help it: He can’t help but tell us the truth.

We are adored.

And I wonder how we can speak truth to each other here.

I wonder how we can speak truth and love well, even more than we do, from behind these screens. What are your ideas?

I was listening to a podcast about sin and brokenness the other day, while on a long five hour drive in the car all by myself last weekend. The two speakers focused on how it is the voice of our culture to be comfortable with each other’s brokenness, when sometimes, our brokenness isn’t being called for what it is sometimes: sin.

Anything that we choose instead of God is sin. But we often just call it our own brokenness. (Is this an excuse to be okay with sin?)  I wonder, now, if I need to call my failure to love well by the name it is. Not brokenness in me, but sin.

What do you think?

I know it’s okay to not have this all figured out. He leads us, always, to Him, if we let Him. So I will keep listening for Him and seeking Him and pressing in to Him.

Want to join me?

It’s pretty cool how we get to do this together.

Three Things I Didn’t Know About Being Still With God

photo (58)Being still before God these last four days has made me realize a few things.

Number One: Being still before God doesn’t need to be complicated.

Number Two: I can still be in God’s presence even though He feels completely far away.

Being still before God requires no perfect chair, no perfect time of day, no perfect moment. It requires no perfect frame of mind, no perfect attitude, no perfect night’s sleep. It requires no perfect outfit, no perfect set of ears or praying experience or wisdom.

It requires one thing. You.

It requires you showing up.

It requires you being alert.

It requires you wanting to see God.

A few days ago I shared with you how I wanted to do an experiment–spend a few set minutes every day, for a week, being still before God. I wanted to discover what it would be like to experience a week intentionally sitting still for 15 minutes before God, without doing a thing (no writing, no listening to music, no talking to Him, no even trying to actively listen to what He might be saying).

I wanted to just be with Him. I wanted to sit next to Him. I wanted to be near Him, at His feet, curled up so my shoulder tucked up against His chest. I wanted to close my eyes and focus on Him, His goodness, His completeness, His wholeness, His safety, His hugeness (yes, such a sophisticated word, I know).

And I asked if you wanted to do it with me. And see what happens. And a lot of  you said you were ‘in’. (You are so beautiful.)

So I decided to jump in here and share with you how it has been going for me so far–especially as there is a bunch of you who are doing this experiment with me. (Do you know how awesome that is?–that we, together, as sisters, are sitting together, with God?) I really hope, in a comment, you share with me how you’re doing with this so far.

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For me, my experiences on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were pretty fun. This is what I did: when no one was around me and the house was quiet–because the other family members were at school or at work or, in the early mornings, sleeping–I set the timer on my phone and crawled up on the couch in my writing studio or into the chair in our family room and closed my eyes. That’s it. I just got in a quiet place and closed my eyes and desired to sit still with God.

Rather than speaking to Him–and rather than listening for His voice–rather than listening to music about Him–and rather than reading scripture–I simply sat down, with eyes closed, and thought about God. I attempted to not communicate to Him. No desires. No worries. No fears. No confession. Rather, I tried to sit with Him, sit in the same space with Him, wherever He wanted me to be. I wanted to simply be aware of His love–both His love for me, which, of course is amazing to think about–but also, His love, in general.

Amazing.

In the stillness with Him, I waited for Him. And I thought about Him. My desire to turn my every thought to God’s love kept me more present with God.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him (Psalm 37:7).

On those three days the time flew by. I set my timer for 15 minutes and I was present with Him, in the moment. My soul was quiet and awake. It was open space, uncrowded by distraction or unwelcome thoughts. I centered my mind, my soul, my presence on being with God, being in the presence of Jesus. And for those three days, I was.

And it was amazing.

And then Sunday morning happened.

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It was early, the house completely quiet–the dog passed out on the floor, and those 15 minutes were not at all the same experience as the previous three days. My mind could not stay in one place. I could not rein in my crazy thoughts; one annoying thought led to another. And these thoughts weren’t at all about God, but about seemingly random stuff that I really didn’t want to be thinking about so early on a Sunday morning. That wasn’t the plan!

I listened to Bill Johnson say once how one’s thoughts during times with God are perhaps not so random. A thought that occurs to us during our time with God–about a situation or a person–might be God actually whispering to our heart about something good He wants us to know or take care of. A thought about a person might be because that is someone whom the Father actually wants us to be thinking about, loving, caring for. Sometimes, these thoughts during times in prayer are God’s whispers, and an opportunity for us to respond. But, not always. And that wasn’t what I think was going on with me on Sunday. At all.

I think I was distracted and tired. I think I didn’t feel God close, even though my head told me He was. I think I was wanting the same awesome, beautiful, intense experiences I had had the other days with Him. I wanted to think about His hand touching my cheek. I wanted to think about His smile, His tenderness, His compassion, His all-consuming love that I can barely begin to comprehend. But I didn’t. Not even close.

Which brings us back to my realization Number Two:

We can still be in God’s presence even though He feels completely far away.

And I think that’s okay. But I also know this: I know that sometimes, when we are hurt and when we are scared and when we feel totally alone, God’s apparent absence doesn’t feel at all okay.

Not one bit. I know.

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But on Sunday, when I felt just empty space and the frustration of experiencing random streams of thought rather than the peace and joy and fulfillment of God’s presence, I remembered two words that God whispered to me on Friday: “Please stay.”

So here is realization Number Three:

When your heart has trouble feeling God close, your head can help you remember He truly is.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

Sister, I pray you know God loves you and delights in you being with Him.

Isn’t His love simply, the most amazing thing?

So, this being still and quiet before the Lord? Let’s keep doing it.

Tell me how it’s going. Let’s encourage each other on.

STILL

What have been your realizations or experiences so far? We need to hear what you have to say.

I Want to Stay in the Stillness with You

Pine Mountain Fire Lookout - 2011 (23)

It’s silent. I hear only my own breathing. And then Michelle’s puppy presses his paw against my bare foot–cute, clumsy paws gently brushing the thick carpet.

I’m not sure what I’m listening for. The right prayer? A whisper from God to my heart? I think, actually, I’m relishing the invitation to not think any thoughts. I think, perhaps, I’m enjoying not listening, not searching for what to say, what to do.

A few minutes prior, we read scripture; we layered praise together to our God; and then, in silence–here now, in the silence–we confess our sins. I love this part, this sitting together, in this circle of sisters, not saying a word. It surprises me how much I love it.

Silent confession? Fun? Is it the confessing I love? Is it being in the presence of these dear friends who know my heart so well? Is it the almost tangible silence I find mesmerizing? What part of this is so inviting?

I think it’s all three.

Dolly, who, for almost seven years now, has led our little group through the experience of praying together for our children, guides us deeper into the silence. She loves to sit with her God. She loves to stay.

She helps me, here, by her example, with my sisters, to stay.

When we confess, privately, what is on our hearts, to our God, we stay there for minutes that stretch longer than time. We close our eyes and we sit and, well, I don’t know what goes on in the heads of my friends. But I love this confession time because it’s in this stillness, this quiet, that I breathe: My confessions to God are the act of emptying myself to be present to Him.

I spend a moment giving Him all the burdens of my heart, the ways I’ve messed up, the things I’ve tried to carry on my own. Through the act of confession my spirit is quieted. In the presence of my God I am quieted. The stillness is sacred space; this space with my sisters is holy. We are attentive to this presence of our Father.

Oh, I am thirsty for Him–although I struggle to seek God lately. I struggle to stay here, in the quiet, seeking the presence of the only One who can bring me exactly what I need.

Even with the kids in school now during the days, I jump into housework and errands and writing and work as soon as the house quiets down. Or, I’ll take the dog for a walk or I’ll talk to a friend on the phone or I’ll exercise–and in these moments I am listening to a podcast, to my friend’s voice, to music.

I am not quiet. I am not still. I am not inviting the emptying my spirit needs to be present to the Holy Spirit who makes me whole.

I work hard filling myself up with things–information, thoughts, media. It’s my own pride that chooses activity over being still–I keep going and moving and working, believing productivity will bring joy and contentment and fullness, not my soul quieted while in the presence of God.

I am missing something.

Are you, by chance, missing it, too?

I am wondering if you might want to join me, your sister, sitting in the quiet together each day. How about we try it, say, for a week? This is what I propose we do: how about, for fifteen (or ten or five or two!) minutes a day we just sit. In silence. With God.

How about we don’t have a pen or a journal handy. How about we don’t listen to music. How about we don’t read anything, not even scripture. How about we just find some place of relative stillness and stay in it.

That’s it.

LET'S SIT TOGETHER IN SILENCE PIN

How about we try it today? And then tomorrow, and then the five days after that? I’ll check in on Facebook after I’ve done it each day, and that would be great if you wanted to check in, too.  I might post about it again–well, yeah, I probably will. And if you could leave a comment here, on this post (subscribers, click here to go on over to the blog to leave a comment), to let me know you are here, sitting with me, in the quiet, well, that would pretty much make my day.

This is an experiment, for sure. But I think it’s going to be pretty cool. I don’t know what to expect, and I’m not going to get all freaked out if I struggle to slow and settle into the quiet, at first.

But I am going to expect Him. I am going to know He is with me. I am going to sit with Him and be quiet with Him. If He wants to speak, He will. If He wants me to speak back, I will. But I think there isn’t going to be a lot of talking.

Let’s quiet, knowing we don’t, for a few minutes, need to do a thing. Let’s remember, in the silence, He is the only one who makes us full.

saying goodbye

saying goodbye She’s leaving, moving a few states over, and it’s for real this time. I’ve shared here about how we met.  And now, after months of praying and waiting, she’s moving back home.

It’s really happening. God is leading, and they are going. I’m excited for her–knowing she goes where her King is leading her. But I will miss my friend.

Saying goodbye and trusting God is both so good and so hard. It’s one of the most difficult things, to say goodbye.

Over the last four years, many of you have written me, sharing your experiences with goodbyes. Goodbye to a spouse, a boyfriend, a friend, a child. You have shared glimpses of the ache of change, and the ache of sadness and the ache that comes when hoping, day after day, becomes weary and difficult to do.

I don’t pretend to understand how difficult it has been for you to say goodbye.

Mostly, in these notes to me, you’ve shared the ache of missing. And I anticipate the missing her, the friend who rescued me five years ago when I didn’t know I needed rescuing, the friend who loves with His fearlessness in her and who fights for the hearts of His girls.

Father, how should we think of goodbyes?

I know what it is like to say goodbye. I know change is hard and how it is difficult to imagine there is more ahead, just around the corner. Don’t cling to what you know, child. Cling to what I teach you. Cling to future hope, and today’s goodbye will feel more temporary.

For I am here, and I don’t say goodbye. So all the years and all the memories are not going to fade. Everything will only become brighter and more clear and more beautiful. You can let go because I never let go. For a goodbye is never a goodbye with me.

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To whom or to what have you had to say goodbye? How can I pray for you?

 

turning towards God isn’t just about quiet

fighting for quiet

My phone vibrates on the table near my bed, and  I grab it quickly and shut it off. It’s one of those misty California Bay Area summer mornings–gray blanket thrown gently across quiet sky. Everything feels quiet. I picture God tucking me in still, even as I stretch my arms, rising slowly out of bed.

I know every creak in the beams of this old bungalow, nearing 100 years old. So, my steps into the kitchen are careful, ginger. The rest of the house still sleeps. The stillness is tangible–so amazing and beautiful and rare I can hardly believe it. I coax my noisy, excited dog out the back door and sit on the couch in the family room, right off the kitchen. This is sacred.

Oh, God, thank you.

I sit for a while, breathing in the beauty of this space–and then I lay down on the couch. Oh, I want to drink in this stillness. I want to wrap myself up in this quiet. This is no small thing.

For each of us, our time with God looks different–and different situations call for different experiences with Him, too. This moment–in the stillness? It was one I didn’t want to forget. So I grabbed a blank piece of paper in the kitchen cabinet and a pen–and I wrote.

How rare and precious it is, this quiet, this time with you. I love my family around me, and I would be sad to be alone for days. But periods of quiet, of complete silence, when things, even the air around me, feels completely still? I am grateful. And I want to stay.

I have trouble desiring to hear you, Father, in the noise. It is not that I think you can’t speak to me in loud cacophony. But I am so easily distracted by sound around me. I know, this morning–the stillness–drew me to you. You can use anything–and you desire everything to draw me to you. I wonder what atmosphere you like to inhabit most? What is your favorite place to be, Father? You must enjoy it all.Or, are there places or situations you don’t like?

In the margin of the paper, I write a little heart–to remind me, when I read this page again, where I wrote down my words–and what I heard God say back:

I don’t like distraction. I like focus and intentionality. I like rest and play and laughter. I like stillness, too.

I fill every space, child. Look what and where I inhabit. Practice turning, so your mind, so distracted, can fix itself on where I am. And your heart awakes. It knows what it wants and needs.

Within you, seek the quiet space, wherever you are. I love noise and music. I love the joyful calling of voices. I love praise.

You are most yourself and at peace in the inhabitance of praise.

In noise and in quiet, I can be present in all things. But it is the turning towards me, in all situations, which lets your mind be focused on me–so your heart and mind cannot help but praise. And in praise you are not distracted and you are most yourself. And when you are most yourself, you are free; you abide in freedom. And that freedom is my love.

It is no surprise that we crave things that feel scarce. And quiet, for many of us, can be one of those things. For me, with summertime and three kids and our little house and our dog, quiet happens–but rarely. I fight for it sometimes, managing to cajole the kids to join me in our studio in the backyard, where there is a big couch and my writing desk pushed right up against Justin’s. There’s a big windowed door that stretches across to the patio and there are tiny lights strung across the ceiling beams. This converted garage is one of the sanctuaries He’s given us, and we use it as a place of escape from noise–even as it doubles as a mini-gym and occasional video game haven, too, with our exercise equipment near the door.

And sometimes, in the still, still quiet of early morning, I practice listening.

We need to do whatever it takes–and it will be different for each of us–to practice listening to God’s voice in our hearts. And as we listen, we are filled with praise. And when we praise, our hearts are turned to God. And we are most ourselves. And we are free.

The Father’s words encourage me to fight for whatever it is that will help me turn to him. He says, “In noise and in quiet, I can be present in all things”. But it is my choice, as his daughter, to practice turning.

TURNING TO GOD PIN

 I want more of that. How about you? How do you practice turning towards God?

 

looking home, inspired by Emily Wierenga’s Atlas Girl

This post, inspired by Emily Wierenga’s new book, Atlas Girl, is part of the Atlas Girl Blog Tour.  To learn more and read the other posts inspired by Emily’s beautiful book, CLICK HERE!

Emily Wierenga's blog tour: Atlas Girl

Three years ago, the afternoon of Mother’s Day, we scrap the bike ride plan and decide to cuddle close. All five of us on the bed, three under the covers, two at my feet.  My husband and my oldest grab the two edges of the big bed first: one with plans for a nap, the other with his book. I climb into the middle, and the two youngest begin silent paper airplane building, steadfast and determined. Their attempt at book reading–burrowed in between us all, under the covers–lasting a good five minutes.

We had planned to take a road trip to surprise my mom for Mother’s Day, but when that got complicated and we didn’t get to go, a day together was what we found God had planned for us anyway. Time together, just the five of us, is what we often need when the world around us feels like it is beginning to swirl.

This isn’t a usual practice of ours, all climbing up on the big bed together to read or to pursue a quiet activity, on a spring afternoon. The May temperature had turned unusually blustery cool, though, the wind spinning the leaves of the trees, and I loved the excuse to pull in close with this small flock He has given us.  I know it will be soon when we won’t all fit up here, and the kids’ idea of “quiet time” on a spring afternoon may include something far different than this.  We’ll see. But I wouldn’t be the mother I am without these four souls, here.

So on this day that happened to be Mother’s Day, when these three little children, still soft and sweet, are open to cuddling together with Mom and Dad, I jump at the chance to be close.  I soak them up and stay, my heart celebrating what He gives.

This moment, this moment now, and the next one He brings, so full of beauty and love and hope and joy–I know. I know, in my head, this is true. I believe, in my heart, this is real–the gift the Father offers, the gift He gives through hearts that give thanks in the moments that seem like details, accessories to the larger moments of  a day. But I need reminders to take in the beauty of the small. I need reminders to be present where I am. For I so want to be present with God.

***

Emily T. Wierenga, award-winning journalist and author of 4 books, has released her first memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look. It is described: “Girl Meets God” meets “Wild” meets “Eat, Pray, Love.” I am loving every word. You can grab a copy here.

Girls, what moment for you triggers the recognition of “home”?

summer days turned inside out

I wonder, these days of vacation, how we react when we hear the lovely poetic promises of summer days stretched long and schedules free and calendars wide open. I wonder, these days, what our expectations are when school is out and the kids are home—or the pace of the workday is less intense and hopefully more tolerable. I wonder if we think finding time with God will be easier.

I wonder if we think we will more readily hear God’s voice, then.

I wonder if, when things are supposed to slow, we think we will be able to breathe more deeply. I wonder if those breath prayers we’ve read about would be something we practice, too.

I wonder.

Abby at beach

I wonder, these days, as I imagine sipping lemonade through striped paper straws in cute mason jars or holding crystal stems of wine, under an umbrella as the sun sets, and swaying on the patio to strums of mandolin or acoustic guitar. I wonder, as I imagine days of sand between toes and dirt on scuffed knees and skipped showers and long walks with the dog and holding hands under still-warm, star-filled night skies. I wonder, as I look for days of sleeping in and not having appointments to keep and having books dog-eared and worn with much-loved and turned pages.

I wonder.

I wonder if I will be gentler, softer, more ready to be open and listen to God’s voice then.

I wonder if the longer days, with less on my plate, will make me want to listen more intently. I wonder if having a calendar more free will prompt deeper thinking, propel me towards contentment, surrender, peace.

I wonder.

I wonder if it is just me who feels the weight of expectation as vacation begins. I wonder if it is just me who can turn something beautiful into something about which to be worried. I wonder if it is just me who gets tired of one-dimensional-Pinterest-beauty and magazine ads of perfection and social media photos of what summer is supposed to look like. I wonder if it just me who grows tired of trying to figure out if I am doing the right thing, as I try to not worry about doing the right thing. I wonder if it is just me who hopes she will finally rest and let go and let God, a little bit more, in.

I wonder.

Our family is away this week; we threw bags in the car on a last minute trip hours after the kids finished up school. We are in a little cottage in a beach town, an hour from our home. We are reading a lot, and laughing. We are taking walks through town and kayaking in the ocean. We are skipping traditional meals and hiking and orchestrating scavenger hunts—with ice cream treats as rewards—around town. And in this season of slowing, I find I can feel guilty about not resting correctly. I feel guilty for not reading enough, for not relaxing enough. I feel guilty for not making the most of my time—whatever that means. I feel guilty for not listening to His voice, enough.

And that’s it.

I know I sound ridiculous—maybe a little crazy.

But I like that I can share this with you here. I like that I can wonder aloud, in this community of His gathered daughters, and know, as I wonder, you might be wondering it too.

I like that I can tell you how I wonder if, in the slowing, in the twisted expectation of slowing down correctly, I even find myself missing His voice.

I like that I can tell you how I fear I will miss Him by not doing, even, vacation, well.

I like that I can tell you I fear I will not see Him, and not look for Him.

Just by telling you, by sharing my heart in this community, I hear Him. I hear Him whispering love-song straight to my heart. This day. Oh, I am thankful for you, His gathered girls.

And now I turn, and I hear Him, and I answer back, and I pray.

I turn and I hear Him

And I pray for you, as you struggle. And I pray for you, as you face a relationship that is strained. I pray for you, as you feel alone and beg for arms around you. I pray for you, as you worry about finances and for the unmade decision that feels so heavy, as a lead weight. I pray for you, as you bend over family members who are sick. I pray for you, as the storms rage. I pray for you, as children run far. I pray for you, as He gathers us, telling you He is close, reminding us He is here, in the midst of hearts breaking. He is here, cupping our cheeks in His palms. He is here, saying I see you, I know you, I delight in you. Stay.

My daughter, do not run away. Do not run from my presence. Here, here, my love, is where your safety is. Here, here, my love, is where your fast beating heart will slow. Here, here, my love, is where you are captured, fully captured by my love and free, all at once.

My love, turn your face to mine. I take my hands underneath your chin and raise your eyes to meet mine.

Don’t close your eyes or look down.

Look into my eyes, child (Excerpt from Loop, “Where Your Safety Is”).

I wonder.

Yes, this is where I will be.

How do you think about summer days? How do you listen for His voice in this summer season?

in the pain and the wonder

Two and a half years ago they began documenting the journey towards Home. The cancer prognosis, “treatable, not curable,” and the church saw the family clinging to Jesus. Emotions sinking low, hearts reaching high.

So many trials those years–with other family members leaving, a life ending unexpectedly soon. All while the fight to live continued on.

Oh, God, how we want to live, and how we live to trust you.

how we want to live.jpg

We read the news reports of families searching for strength–claiming the body of a daughter, a brother, a mother, a son from the ocean deep. We continue reading other stories: lives tortured, spirits almost ripped in two–through slavery, through mutilation, through physical, emotional, psychological abuse.

Oh, God, how we need you, and how we need to see you.

From the outskirts of hope, from the periphery of understanding, we cry out or stay silent. We grow angry or we feel nothing. We beg for answers or we hurt too much to care.

And you are so vast, God. You are too great for our small understanding. And we beat against your chest, or we walk away from you, or we stand fast, not needing to know what you know, trusting that not knowing all your ways is okay.

It is okay.

And we remember we are small and we are loved and this heartache, this dying, this suffering is what you feel, too, And maybe we can’t understand it all–all this pain, but let our hearts settle right down into you, hold us as we cry. Remind  us how we are here to love as you loved. Remind us we are here to let these hearts of ours break and break again. Remind us we are here to have our hearts do what yours has done, Father, over and over again . . . 

For the stone has been rolled away.

And while we can’t understand and can hardly bear the ache from people we love suffering so deep, we trust you more than ourselves. We stand in the middle of the grief and we see your face. We stand in the middle of the marriage failing and the children crying and the friend dying and we trust the answer we can never come up with on our own is you.

You begin again.

The stone is rolled away and we begin again. The stone is rolled away and we see that anything we thought was secure, that mighty stone dust in your hands, is only our arrogance, our pride, our desire for control causing grief layered upon grief.

Yes, we will feel the pain; we will bear it.  But take away our pride that makes us want to have you all figured out when things don’t go the way we think they should.

We lay ourselves down. We mourn and we shake our fists and we fall broken on weary knees.

Oh, God, you are our strength. You are our hope. You are the resurrection. You are the life.

So, yes, forgive us for the ways we doubt you.

We lay ourselves down.

what it means to have a good day

This is one of those posts where I type words with eyes closed. It’s the only way I know how to slow down. I want to hear. I want to not be on a tread mill. I want to breathe deep and know freedom is real.

It’s not just a dream is it?

what a wonderful world

We do work, and we do love. We do going and moving fast and it is oh-so-hard, to stop.

I struggle to let soft breezes blow on my face. I struggle to feel sunshine. I struggle to sit down and know I am captured, here. I am chosen, here. I am pursued and wanted, here.

So many words fly by in this internet space. I love it, and I tire of it. It amazes me how information is so readily available to us–how we know the news a second after it occurs. And we fill up our minds with information so we can be educated and informed and with-it and smart. I do this. I want to be filled up and smart.

And I struggle to let Him in. I struggle to let in my God, the one here, right here–but whom I ask (when I remember), to stay close, to keep up. I’ve got a lot to do and I want to do it with Him and the day is going by so fast and the list of things to do is long and the kids are almost home.

Has this been a good day, Father? Can you show me what it means to have a good day?

You closed your eyes last night, telling Me you missed me. You rolled over and you asked Me to tuck you in. So I did.  I pulled the sheet up close around your face, and I leaned in ever-softly and I whispered it so you could hear it: Yes, my daughter, I am here.

You tell Me you miss Me and how you feel the days are flying by. You tell Me you miss Me, and you feel like you’re on a treadmill and is this any way to live?

You tell me you miss Me, and I want to dry your tears and tell you I am here and you are okay.

Really.

You can miss Me. You don’t have to chase Me.

I am right here.

But you need to know something. You love something more than Me.

You know what it is.

You love success more than Me. You love achievement more than Me. You love accomplishment and victory more than Me. You push and pull for the task to get done and you worry if you are smart enough or good enough for the thing to be completed. And that’s what you care about. Because you worship something other than Me: Success. And that is what makes any person weary. That is what makes any person work and work with little feeling of accomplishment.

I am your strength, my darling. I am your captain, your friend, your Father, your King. I am your hand holder, your path walker, your trail clearer. I am your guide, your hope, your need taker. I am your vision, your desire, your rest, your soft breeze. I am the one whose kiss at night soothes you, whose hand holding yours strengthens you, whose walking next to you emboldens you.

My daughter, breathe deeply now. I am here. Let’s work together; let’s walk together; let’s be together.

Yes, you miss Me, but no more. No more missing.

You are found. When you feel missing because you think I am missing but you are the one missing, remember you are who is found.

So, I am here. And you can feel the breeze on your skin and let the sunshine fall on your face. In every darkness I bring light. In every crowded room I bring fresh air to breathe. It is time for new thoughts, a new way of doing things.

Try Me. Choose Me. Want Me.

I am here.

Do you fall weary into bed most days? Oh, how this makes a lot of things clear for me, about why I do. And now, I’ve got some things to lay down. . . It’s different for each of us, I know–these things that make us miss God. What about you?

why I like you here

I think about you a lot.

When I write here, I wonder what it is you most need to hear. I wonder what is the current desire of your heart. I wonder where you are sitting, how you are reading this–if you are at home or on your phone. I wonder if you are tired or if you feel hopeful. I wonder if you are encouraged or if you feel sad.

why I like you here

And I love writing here because I know God has you. And just me writing that truth down now makes me remember it for myself, too. When we are together, here, in this space. I remember He has me, too.

So, thank you. Thank you for being here with me. Thank you for prompting me to look for Him and listen for His truth and think about you and then think about Him (or maybe it’s the other way around?)

In any case, I love how you help me to remember what is true. So, I’m going to just write it right here again:

God has you.

God has us.

So, let’s say it aloud to our stubborn, hurt, frustrated selves and take a big ‘ol deep breath when we do it:

God has me right now pin

Oh, there I go . .  my heart beating fast and my eyes blurring from those tears again . . . because that’s it–everything and all we ever need to know. . .

In Loop just yesterday, I heard Him say how much He loves beginnings. And it is my favorite thing, I think, when He says that. The word “begin” and “beginning” have just got to be the two most beautiful words ever.

For no matter what the heck was in the past, God isn’t concerned with that now. He knows all we’ve gone through and all the hurt we’ve collected along the way. And yet, the mess isn’t what He sees when He bends low, real close, and cups His hand around our face and looks right into our eyes and into our heart.

He sees our beginning.

He sees us fresh, clean and beautiful.

He sees what is true and what is bold and what is to come.

And He sees it all right now. 

I love the story of this world, and I love the story of you. I love the wedding for which you are being prepared. And I love how you get a glimpse, now, of the beauty of the wedding day and how it is the ultimate beginning.

Beginning happened the day the light was formed, the day my Son was born, the day the Word came down. Beginning happened the day all story began to be told.

Beginning happened before you took in your first breath, before your lips shaped into a smile. Beginning happened before the pain came in, before the regret shaped you, before sin was taken off your shoulders. Beginning happened when my Son chose to die so He could marry you.

Beginning happened the day He rose. Beginning happened the day you opened your eyes this day. Beginning happened the moment you sought Me, the moment of the wedding, the moment you trusted Me, and the moment you loved Me, and when you donned your wedding dress and you saw Me and you joined your sisters and brothers—like I ask you to now—to be with Me and call out to Me and be the wedding song I’ve made you to sing. This is the celebration. This is the beginning.

I am the beginning. Stay close, my daughter. I am where beginnings happen. Here, now, the moment you breathed your first and last breath (Excerpt from Loop, “Let Me Tell You About Beginnings”).

You are beginning now, my sister. We are beginning. And I pray this promise sinks deep into your heart and you breathe long of His love and you smile.

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P.S. Congratulations, Emily Simmons, you won Love Idol, by Jennifer Dukes Lee! Email me your address and I’ll send it to you right away! Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway!

some kind of vulnerable

this kind of vulnerable 3

I get to lead a day retreat at my friend’s house for her women’s group next week. I love listening for Jesus’ love song for His girls. So, I have been scratching down His whispers, trying to listen close. And every time I listen, I am brought hard to my knees.

There is nothing like telling a group of women, His girls, that they are astoundingly lovely, breathtakingly beautiful. There is nothing like your heart breaking for the one who believes she can’t imagine being worth another person’s attention–because that is what she has learned, that is what she has been taught.

And this is why I love writing here.

The way He whispers to me is different than how He whispers to you. And I long to hear His voice. Here. There. Everywhere. How each of us hear God’s voice and how we individually live it out propels us, in community, toward Him. We need to encourage each other to listen for and respond to his voice, for then we know who and whose we are.

And we are free then.

Do you see?

His voice is what frees us to be ourselves, known and abundantly loved.

If we let ourselves believe it.

this kind of vulnerable

Jesus has come to save you. He has come for you. For you. He loves you–a love that penetrates you and will never let you go, when you let Him in. You are not yourself, the beautiful, whole you He designed you to be unless you let yourself see Him. And sometimes, to do that, you’re just going to have to let yourself go.

You’re going to have to let Him in to the places where there are no rules and there are no boundaries and there are no schedules and lists and responsibilities. Your job, your life’s mission, the only way you can be free and have joy and love–the love you are designed to live–is to let yourself go and be present with the Lord who made you and who adores you.

And it’s simple, friends. It’s just so simple.

And hard.

It’s simple in how He wants to just be with you, without expectations. It’s hard in that to do this you need to let yourself be vulnerable–because being with Jesus is the most vulnerable place we can ever be.

And, oh, sister, I want to learn to be even more vulnerable.

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There’s the kind of vulnerable when your friend rings the doorbell early and you’re still in your jammies and you feel crummy and she gives you a hug and brings you the best food in the entire world: homemade banana bread. There’s the kind of vulnerable when you think you might die but you have let yourself die already so it doesn’t matter anymore–and you tell the people you trust the thing that you believe will surely change how they think of you forever, and they love you still.

And then there’s the kind of vulnerable when you are with Jesus, in his arms. There’s the kind of vulnerable when you give him your mind and your heart and you let him free your imagination so you can go places with him you didn’t even know you loved to go.

This kind of vulnerable brings freedom. This kind of vulnerable feeds imagination. This kind of vulnerable frees our minds and hearts to connect and let go of all expectation. This kind of vulnerable lets faith lead. This kind of vulnerable knows what God speaks is what is most real. This kind of vulnerable ushers in courage and quiets any deadly whispers of this world.

It is just too beautiful to imagine, truly, the way our God sees us. But more than anything, in this life, I want to try.

It may be too much for me to believe–but I must. I must believe in what He sees. I must let His truth be my truth. Everything else I thought I believed needs to be destroyed, given back to Jesus. Jesus, on his throne, burns the old lies about who we are and our nightmarish past and brings purity and fresh, clean, white-washed beautiful all over again.

There is a lot more God whispered to my heart the other day . . . in Loop. Each word is a favorite. Here is a glimpse:

Me in you? That is what is captivating. That is what shines. That is what brings people hope. That is what lets you care less about productivity and more about being with Me. When you are with Me, you are loving. And when you are loving, you are experiencing my freedom; you inhabit my space. It is what you have been designed to live.

Joy. Freedom. Hope.

So don’t second guess how I’ve made you. I only made one you. Only one. You are the only one, my daughter. So inhabit my love and you will love in abundance without having to try. Because you will be being yourself. And, oh, that’s just the best now, my darling.

God’s love is so amazing, so complete, so astoundingly HUGE I want to jump and run and fall down all at once. And sometimes, when I am alone, and He fills me up, that is just exactly what I have to do. Jesus’ love is not one prompting us, always, to sit politely and stay still.

Being vulnerable may be pretty awesome, after all.

Is this idea about your imagination being set free to see Jesus more clearly something that stirs your heart? Or, what is the most difficult thing for you regarding being vulnerable with God? I’d love to know. But, mostly, I’m just glad you’re here.

Gratefully,

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this post isn’t just about sex:: a giveaway

No Shame in Longings -Moody

It’s been a while since I’ve written about sex here. Although it’s woven into my story, a threaded needle I used as a weapon to hurt boys who should have stayed just friends.  Six years ago, when I  finally began to pursue God with my whole heart, He showed me, bit by bit, how many lies I had been believing about sex. I had used it as control, I had used it as a weapon. I had used it to gain attention. I had used it replace a low self-esteem. The biggest lie I let myself believe was that sex with these boys didn’t mean anything. I didn’t yet know that sex is not just a physical act; it’s a soul connection, too.

God wants our whole heart, and when I had sex outside of marriage, my soul was connected to each person I had sex with. It wasn’t just a physical thing; it was a soul thing, too:

There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, “The two become one.” Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never “become one.” There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for “becoming one” with another. Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body (1 Corinthians 16-20, MSG).

Just two years ago, more than twenty years after being in sexual relationships before marriage, I prayed and broke the soul ties I had with the boys with whom I’d had sex.  My sexual activity before marriage was affecting the intimacy God was inviting me to share with my husband when we became married. It has been a long road of healing for me around sex: for much of our seventeen years of marriage, sexual desire prompted me to feel shame.

Not Separate- Moody

The thing is, it doesn’t take a past like mine to get women to feel confused and frustrated around the idea of sexual intimacy. It’s difficult to even talk about, face to face. With all the Christian friends I’ve had over the years, there are only a very small handful with whom I’ve opened up, and whom have been open with me–over kitchen counters with mugs of coffee, over walks through trees with muddy shoes slipping on wet trails. The topic of sex is usually a silent one. We reason we don’t like talking about sex, I think, is less that the topic itself is embarrassing, but more because we struggle talking about desire.

101-  The church has majored on playing defense on the topic of sex. In an effort to keep teens chaste, women modest, and men monogamous, the primary message coming out of the church is DON’T: don’t look, don’t touch, don’t think or feel sexually. This has resulted in Christian women who are confused about whether sexual pleasure is really okay (Pulling back the Shades, 101).

We are made to have desires–desires for God, desires to be loved, desires to be fed, physically and spiritually, through sex within marriage. And when we feel shame around sex, or we feel our desire for sex is not being met, women may be tempted to satisfy that desire in other ways. And this is why Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery have written a book on this topic–because they found women were turning to erotica to satisfy deeper unmet needs. For books selling to women, erotica is the fastest selling genre. Specifically, the erotic novel series,  50 Shades of Grey, sold 70 million copies in its very first year.

Their new book, Pulling back the Shades, is a reaction to the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, but it is also much more:

Not only do we want to pull back the shades of Grey for you to see God’s truth about what it and other books like it can do in your life, but we also want to pull back the shades on your own sex life. This book is not meant to be merely a reaction to Fifty Shades of Grey. Ultimately it is about YOU—your longings, your questions, and your wholeness as a spiritual and sexual woman. We hope to offer you something you deeply need (Pulling Back the Shades, 13).

 

And, friends, I think we do need a book like this. We need women coming alongside us, listening to our questions, bringing light to our confusion about sexual desire–our bodies and our hearts. Here are some awesome quotes from the book, to get you thinking:

Erotica strategically and masterfully pulls you in by exploiting what your heart secretly longs for.  Your longing is legitimate. We just believe there are ways to get what you are looking for without compromising God’s standards (Pulling Back the Shades, 18).

Women love a great romantic escape, but be careful how you escape, because some fiction or online relationships promise to satisfy, but in the end they lead to more dissatisfaction. We have met with women who started reading erotica to awaken their sex lives with their husbands, but it actually caused them to be less satisfied in their marriage bed than ever. Single women have told us they used porn as a “sexual outlet until marriage” but it suffocated their desire to pursue a relationship at all. And we have counseled hearts wounded deeply by online relationships gone bad. What seemed innocent to them ended up being harmful (30).

We’ve got news for you: God is not about just playing defense on the topic of sex. His message doesn’t just include a big, fat NO. He created sex and He is all for it! In fact, God is for great, pleasurable, and frequent sex within the context of marriage. . . God knows you are a sexual being. He made you that way (101-104).

The bottom line is this: sex is sacred and deserves incredible honor. We cannot afford to speak of it in hushed tones, but must walk in full freedom regarding this beautiful gift from God. If we can do that well—as difficult as it may be—we will not only prepare the way for sexual fulfillment, but the world will see the love of God in the mystery of marriage (114).

This book is not ultimately about Fifty Shades of Grey or even about erotica. This book is about the spiritual battle for the hearts and souls of women. Our prayer is not just that you throw out the junk that enslaves you to the world’s thinking but that you join a call for revival among God’s women (147).

Does this book sound like one you’d like to read? I love the site Authentic Intimacy, which has a team of awesome Christian women focusing on these two things: encouraging women in their intimacy in marriage and their intimacy with God.  It’s a safe environment to come forward with your honest questions around intimacy.

Can I be Spiritual & Sexual-

I wanted to let you know about Authentic Intimacy and all the good they are doing there–so go on over there and check it out. And also, let me know if you’d like a free copy of Gresh and Slattery’s amazing book, Pulling Back the Shades. Authentic Intimacy is giving away 5 copies to You are My Girls readers. Just leave a comment before this Friday March 14, at 9pm (PST), and I’ll enter you in the giveaway!

Want to read some more posts I’ve written about marriage and intimacy? Try these:

marriage bed

crumbling sand

when getting intimate is hard to do

Love that you’re here.

Gratefully,

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when you’re waiting on God’s plan for you

We bow our heads in prayer, the eight of us. We are women who’ve known each other for years now. And we’ll tell you we’ve been seeking God a lot longer.

We’ve spent weeks sharing with each other our stories. We’ve bent low, weary, as details from the past are said aloud for the first time. We want to see where He is now, so we look back to where He’s been.

It’s not easy.

God's plans

Even in the looking back it can be hard to see Him. We want to see Him. But our hearts . . . well . . . our hearts struggle going back. To the time when our parents split up and we felt we weren’t wanted. To the time when our dad got sick and we felt we needed to keep it all together. To the time when we made ourselves believe our choices, away from God, lead to condemnation and punishment.

We can read about God, we can talk together about God, we can go to church and listen to worship songs and lift up our hands and not know Him one bit. Not at all. Because knowing God is not about knowing His plan. We complicate things with our desire to have everything figured out, especially the things that are futile to try to know, the things we are never designed to fully understand.

But we can’t help but ask Him anyway: God, what’s the plan? I hear you have a plan for me that will make all this heartache worth it–that will help me decide my next steps? Can I get a peek at it? Can you whisper to me what’s ahead?

Do you ever beg for God’s plan for your life, and it feels like you get no answer?

Maybe we’re asking God the wrong question.

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It is a false comfort we seek when we believe joy and peace come in having control over the unknowns in our lives. But still we ask, and we make plans ourselves when it feels like He doesn’t say a thing.

It’s the same reason we fear slowing down and listening to God and trusting in His healing. It’s the same reason we want to take matters into our own hands and write our story ourselves, have control of the details. God may have a plan for us, we say, but it feels vague, which makes us uncomfortable. We soon give up on God, give up on listening, and plunge right into making up our own plans, by ourselves.

‘Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all’ (Luke 18:17).

I tell Justin, my husband, I want to be a person who thinks simply. I want to be fine with not knowing the details of what’s ahead–not knowing the intricacies of God’s plan for my life. If God bent close, his loving eyes looking at me and whispering soft, his hand stretched out, holding a map, saying, “Here you go, here is the plan for your life, here is where I hope you’re going, here is where I hope you’ll be in ten years, in fifteen, in twenty. . .” I think I would hyperventilate from the weight of the responsibility. I don’t want to know. It’s too much for me to know all the details of God’s beautiful plans for me, as He looks at me in my fullness. It’s too much for this simple head of mine to try to carry around the weight of His plans.

For I would try to carry them.

God’s plans for us are too good for us to imagine and comprehend. They are too glorious. . . and I wonder if we would surely twist their goodness and feel pressure to try to not disappoint Him if we knew more than what we are supposed to know. I wonder if we would strive to live up to the plans He has for us rather than rest in knowing He’s got our lives completely under control.

So, shall we try this? Shall we focus on our God rather than worry about all we don’t know? Shall we linger in His presence rather than talking about chasing Him down? Shall we praise Him for not telling us the details rather than worrying out the plans of our lives ourselves? Shall we rejoice that we get to live a life where it is simply about being with Him?

The details of His good plans for us–and all the awesome adventure with Him–will follow.

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‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor 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).

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9).

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11).

And here is an excerpt from what He said in Loop, “Do You Wonder About the Plan”:

What if I told you the plan I have for you is not for you to worry about? What if I told you there is only a small part you can understand of all the things I know and the things I want you to know and the things you just don’t need to be concerned with?

Here is my plan: I have good for you. It is my desire that you know Me, that you love Me, that you follow Me, that you serve Me. It is my plan, it is my desire, that you want to be with Me, that you want to talk with Me, that you stay here, in this moment with Me, and concern yourself with knowing Me now, this moment, and not considering all the details about the future that I know and you don’t.

What do you want to know? What do you want to know that you think I am holding out on you?

Here is what you need to know: I love you, and I never forget you. Your life is my preoccupation. You are part of my plan for this world, which I love and which I desire to heal and bring to life and have know Me. I don’t want this world to miss out on what I’ve always had for it, as I hold out my hand . . . as I hold out my hand.

 There is more to talk about on this topic for sure. But let’s pause here.  Do you struggle with wanting to know God’s plan for your life? How can I pray?

Much love to you, sister,

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