8 Questions & a 10 Book Giveaway

8 Questions 10 Book Giveaway--answer this survey and enter to win 5 books for Christmas gifts!

Did you know this blog began, four years ago, as a for-fun experiment? Justin encouraged me to write as a way to connect with God. So, I did. And then we wondered if one woman’s yearning for God might encourage other women to seek God, too.

Community was what got this blog really rolling. After leading traditional women’s ministry at my church, I was tired of all the rules of conventional Bible study. I wanted to make room for the Holy Spirit to move.  So, I started my own group, and we called it My Girls. You can read more about My Girls here.

My Girls was a space of safety and of connection, of transparency and courage. We were women who gathered because we were tired of trying hard, on our own, and in our own strength, to follow God. We wanted to surrender everything getting in the way of hearing His voice in our  lives–and responding to His voice with our lives. 

In that space together, God reminded us, “you are My girls”. So for four years, You Are My Girls has been a place for Christian women to come and be reminded who and whose they are.

Because we forget, don’t we?

As 2015 approaches, I am looking ahead–dreaming big dreams for this blog. There are going to be some changes coming, and I want you all to be the one to spark the change.

So, I was wondering if you could help me make this blog even better by taking five minutes and answering the eight simple questions in the survey below. And then, as a small way to say thank you, I will be giving away a total of ten books (five each) to two people. These books are ones I’ve loved so much that I’ve collected multiple copies of them–and they have helped me grow in my relationship with God. Some of them I mentioned just the other day, in the post on my favorite books and sentences of 2014. What do you think?

Survey Book Giveaway #2

Again, your answers to these questions will guide me as I look to how I can best serve you, here. I am so grateful for you reading here, and I want to do the best job I can. (*The first question, your name, is your entry into the giveaway, when the survey is complete.)

Red Arrow

Here is the survey:

Thank you so much for completing each question! Your answers affect thousands of women! I am so grateful for your help!

I can’t wait to read your responses! And watch Friday’s post, when I announce the two winners of the book giveaway!

What to Do With the Isolation You Feel at Christmas

Christmas tree huntingI have a lot to learn. About kindness. About being slow to speech. About being quick to love–particularly when it comes to extended family during the holidays. I am practicing love with the family I live with–Justin, and our three kids–and even Fulton, our insecure dog whose constant desire for my companionship has driven me (an introvert) into crazy-land more than a few times in the three years we’ve had him. But I crave a softer heart, a deeper gratefulness, for relationships God has brought into my life but I take for granted.

The holidays amplify our decisions regarding the role of relationships in our lives. Feelings of isolation are magnified even while we are encouraged to connect, even when we don’t feel like connecting or we just don’t know how.

Do we pursue connection with friends and family? Do we avoid connection with people in our lives who have hurt us in the past? Do we have people with whom we are close–or do we feel alone and abandoned? Is our mailbox filled with catalogues and empty of Christmas cards? Do we stay home with the television playing and the phone silent from no one having called?

Isolations versus community at Christmas

Isolations versus community at Christmas

Isolations versus community at Christmas

In this independent-driven culture of ours that celebrates the success of the individual, we can forget how desperate we are to turn to Jesus for how to connect with others, for how to pursue community. But there is something about Christmas time that helps us to remember.

Christmas brings the invitation to celebrate the coming of a Savior who was born in a cave, amidst livestock excrement, in the ultimate posture of vulnerability, as a human baby. His parents, Joseph and Mary, leaned on their God with everything they had because they had nothing and no one else. Yet, there was only One who could satisfy their desperate need–for love, for companionship, for inspiration and hope in a world that is dark and cold and rejecting. And I have no one else, either. I have no one else on whom I can depend.

Only Jesus.

But I forget. I forget Jesus’ kindness and his compassion. I forget how He knows what it means to be alone and how He gives me courage to love people, even when I don’t believe I have what it takes to do it well.

I do.

And you do, too.

Do you find yourself telling your family members you love them but struggle to show it during the stress of the holiday season? Do you find yourself isolated because you are caught up in to-do lists this season–or, rather, you struggle to initiate connection in community or you are tired of rejection when you try?

I turn with you now, sister.

Let us turn our hearts towards the baby in the manger who was rejected by the world for whom He was born and sacrificed. Let us turn to the Savior who can bear our burdens and can lift us from our sadness and despair. Let us turn, in our busyness, in our isolation, in our mess, in our pain.

This Christmas, no matter how difficult the situation you are facing right now–let us turn to the King who knows pain and knows rejection and knows isolation, especially on the moment of His birth. In His kindness, He will teach us kindness–to ourselves and to the people whom He has given us to love.

You are not alone. Can we pray and lift each other up? Can we help each other remember?

Love to you, friends.

Jennifer

3 Questions of Friends Who Honor

leaves--3 ways to honorIt had been months since we’d seen them, years since she stood behind me, hands on my shoulders, and Jesus came, showing me his face, his tears, the posture of love underneath a stripped bare almond tree. These are the friends who fight–for freedom, for justice, for love. From one vantage point, it looks like, when they go to work, they are in the business of supplying steel. But behind office doors, they are warriors for the broken and brokenhearted, employing people just discharged from prison or currently living in the homeless shelter next door.

When we walk through the front door of their home, our friend goes down on one knee in front of our eight-year old daughter, a knight before a princess. She has never before had a knight kiss her hand. My son is welcomed with a firm handshake and a look right in his eyes; he is welcomed, respected, seen.

These are the friends who honor. They engage our children with questions and make them virgin pina coladas and let them sit on the couch with their shoes on and dessert plates in their laps and squirt whipped cream in their mouths because when they were little that’s the last thing their moms let them do. They make us dinner and sit with us for hours on the couch afterwards, sharing with us their hopes and their fears, asking us how, really, we’re doing.

pavement--3 ways to honor

They listen. They are present. They create space for our whole family to be ourselves. We are loved here–welcomed in and wrapped up tight. We are safe here, this place where friendship pursues and rescues and loves.

Justin and I need people in our lives who are willing to go into the darkness with us so that we can better see God’s light.

leaves on pavement

Because before Nikki prayed for me, that night, years ago, I was lost in darkness, not knowing there was any way out.

Because the morning Justin met Peter for breakfast the first time, he found a man willing to speak truth, with boldness, to men who needed freedom from lies and healing from past sins.

We need friends around us, sisters, who will honor us, see us, come alongside us and help us better realize the love of Jesus.

boots in leavesThese are the three questions Peter and Nikki asked us that night on the couch that made us feel honored and loved and seen:

Who do you have around you right now who is praying for you, lifting you up, challenging you to be more like Jesus?

Who is pushing you to go deeper into what God has for you?

Who is encouraging you to die (to that old self) so the new self can rise?

I love these questions. I love that there are people around us, friends who love us, who invite us over and ask us these questions. Because I need to be asked them; I need to pursue friendships with people who do this, because I need to be pushed, I need to be loved and encouraged and challenged. And I want to be the kind of friend who pursues my friends with these questions, too.

Do you want people in your life who see you, who pursue you, who challenge you? Are you the kind of friend who sees, who pursues, who challenges the friends in your life?

Which if these three questions would you most want to be regularly asked? Or is there another question you need someone to ask you today? (You know I want to ask you, right?)

3 questions honor

Listening for God? (aka Wrestling on the Mat)

sunriseYou here, my sister?  You, who popped in today? And you, who have been following along with me, listening to His whispers to our hearts, for a while? You are my heart.

It is no small thing that you are reading this now. And when I say “small” I mean it is not insignificant; it is not something to be ignored. For I believe in the gathering together of hearts whom He knows, whom He pursues.

Consider the wounds we lug like a vise around our necks. The sorrows we wear like a black cloak soaked with acres of tears. They are meant to be dropped at His feet, my dear friend. You are not meant to keep on going the way you’ve been going, alone, exhausted, emptied of energy and hope.

And I wanted to tell you that today, partly because I need the reminder, too. And I also because I have a question for you.

When you pray, do you listen to God’s voice to you back? When you pray, do you believe he hears you? Do you believe he is near? Do you believe he is in the room, at your side, within you, delighting in His daughter, his dear one, as she spends time with Him?

When you cry out or you shout loud with joy, when you whisper a plea or you beg for him to turn and hear, do you wait, with expectation, for how God responds?

Do you believe he communicates to you?

We each hear God speak to us differently.

Some of us hear his voice whisper in our heart, deep inside. Some of us see him, letting our imagination be wide open. And then he shows us where he is and what he looks like. We  hang out with him, and he shows us what he sees in us; he reveals to us himself.

Some of us experience him through reading his word regularly, captivated by his living truth. The words breathe life, replenishment to the drought we feel when we try to fix things on our own.

But it is difficult to listen for God’s response to us, when we pray, when we are not believing he will answer. And sometimes, our failure to believe he will answer is because we don’t know him. And sometimes, we don’t know him, because we haven’t let go of false beliefs about him, or we haven’t surrendered something that we love or believe in more than God.

That’s when it becomes difficult to pause and listen.

And wait on God.

And wait some more.

That’s when it becomes difficult to slow down and turn towards him, in the middle of whatever we are doing.

That’s when it becomes difficult to believe we are loved and we are seen and we can live pursuing God and relationship with him more than anything else–anything else at all–that we could be doing.

I know.

And that’s part of why I wrote Voice: 31 Conversations--and why I loved writing it almost more than anything I’ve ever written before.

I loved it because I love writing to you. And I loved it because I love listening to God’s voice to us–more than anything else–and finding words to the wrestling match that is our natural response.

On Friday I posted the 31st post for the series, Voice: 31 conversations. And, like I said, I have never, to this date, loved writing anything more.

The series, Voice, is like the devotional, Loop, but with your voice singing out, too. It is the Spirit’s whisper to his girls. But first, it is the heart’s cry-prayer and God’s response back. It is the whispers I hear when I ask Him what it is He wants to say, in response to the prayers He wants me to hear, on your behalf.

Does this sound crazy to you?

Again, it is my heart.

You are my heart.

To some of you who have been here a while, you know how the very title of the series–Voice–is symbolic for me. Both a statement of defiance and a declaration of freedom. Because for most of my life the word “voice” was something I didn’t believe I had.

And after a bunch of years and lot of wrestling with Him and a lot of healing through it all, I’ve claimed the voice He’s given me. What you experience here, I pray, is the voice of the girl He rescued. And the voice He rescued writes to remind you to listen to the Voice who speaks to you, too.

Because the rescued Voice was rescued to love.

And you are my heart.

And this is what I want to say:

This God of ours is not a God who sits on the periphery of our lives, a God who is distant and aloof, a God who is disinterested in our dreams, our struggles, our circumstances this very moment. He is Voice. He is Life breathed out. He is the Communicator of Love and Hope and Light.

He speaks life into you, again and again.

But I know: it can be difficult to hear it.

So I hope we can keep going to the wrestling mat together, with God, as we ask him to help us to hear him, seek him, remove anything in the way that makes our heart especially deaf to his Voice.

I’m going to be sharing with you some more about the experience of writing the Voice series. It’s just too good to not talk about some more.

But until then, would you mind sharing with me one word that captures how you feel when you hear the word pray, or listen, or voice, or God?

Much love to you, sisters,

 

photo credit: picjumbo 

Our God is Not Silent, Love

coffee shop

To all the girls

conversation 31

There is a circle forming, and I can see it. You show me glimpses of it, when I curl up next to you. Even in this noisy coffee shop where I write now, my fingers on these keys, a long line of people behind me waiting to order. You show me glimpses of the circle, even when the world around me is full and busy and loud. Yes, you are here too.

And glimpses of the circle are good enough for me, Father. I can hear you wherever I am, if you are speaking. And you are often speaking, my Lord. ‘Cause you love us like that.

You love us and appreciate silence but you love communication even more. And your girls, here? Well, I think we have trouble hearing you sometimes. And I wonder if this is why: where you speak to us is unfamiliar. Your voice enters in a place in us we don’t yet recognize, a place where whispers form, a place where healing comes.

Because, for me, the place where you speak to me was a place where only lies filled the space. The space was full–too full–of false beliefs about you and about me. Lies that felt so familiar I didn’t know they existed.

How can I ask you to break a lie and show me truth if lies I don’t even know I believe are crowding you out?

There was no space for you, Father. My prayers desperate scribbles:  Do you love me? Can I love better? Do I even have any love to give? Work harder to be a better mom. Work harder to be a better wife. Work harder to be a better Christian. Work harder to be a better person.

Your girls here? I think a lot of them pray similar prayers, too.

I still struggle sometimes, you know. But now I know where to go when the lies come, when I believe I can’t hear your voice in me. You gather me to you, part of the circle where the daughters gather, the daughters who know they are loved, who know how to dance and sing and be free. It is the place where you gather us and remind us, again, we are yours, we are loved, we are free.

Oh, God, we see your beauty here. And in your beauty we have eyes to see our beauty, the freedom that comes when we claim our place, when we bow our knees and we let you take off the dark cloak of shame that pressed us prostrate to the floor.

You are here, my God. You are here, in the circle, bending low. You are here, in the circle, where your daughters are held and rescued and found.

Help us to hear you. Help us to say yes to you. Help us to let you in, no matter how difficult it feels. Helps us to be daughters who are known and fearless and grateful to pursue their true identity in you, community around us that reminds us of the place of Home, and adventure where we stay with you and go out, always, holding your hand.


I give you words, my love. They are words from a place of love. Because you know you are loved and you are free, you are able to speak. Because you know you are adored and you are pursued, you are given voice to sing loud the cry of the claimed: you are chosen,  you are delighted in, you are the one I wait here, to see.

To all my girls, listen close. I have something to say. In the moments when you feel fear overtake you, let me take your hand.  The circle is a circle with me at the center. Nothing else. It is a circle of hands clasped tight. Where daughters move in and out. But despite all movement, the circle remains. Growing larger, yet staying intimate. It is a circle of understanding and freedom. It is a circle where joy is captured. It rises high.

I am the center of the circle, my daughters. I am the center of the joy, the creator of the joy and the beauty and the light.

As part of the circle, you radiate out the light. You are with me and you go out, to tell people about this light. You show my light in the way you love. You show my joy in the choices you make to see. You express my voice in the way you spend your days. Moments being known. Being delighted in. Being fearless because you know whose you are how you are not alone.

So let me set you free again. Let me tear off that heavy cloak of regret and doubt and weariness and shame. These burdens are not for you. Not here. Not in the circle. The cloaks fall when you are of the circle and you are standing free and tall.

No cowering, my love. No hiding, my love. No striving to fix all the past and fix all the worries of the future.

Stay here. Free. Rescued.

I speak to you and remind you who you are and how there is so much more to you, just to you, I want to say.


Song to listen to: “Out of Hiding (Father’s Song)“, Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cooke


This is conversation 31 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to stick with me, here.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

Who Will Walk Like Beauty?

walk beauty

For the Beauties

conversation 25

Can we all join hands now, Father? She is so different from me. And so beautiful. Her voice resounds and she moves with authority, like grass sways in gentle wind. She goes forward and she knows with each step she will be held. Eyes straight ahead, head determinedly set. But she is looking. She is looking and she is seeing. She has hands calloused and strong. She is sure.

She looks for the lost, knowing her King walks with her, knowing she is led.

She is beautiful. She is beauty walking. Who can follow her? Who can follow beauty into the night? Who can follow her onto the paths where others are afraid to tread? Who will put down what they are carrying, their schedules, their lists? Who will put down their fears, their burdens, their wounds? Who will present them to the King?

Who will lay them down, one by one, and ask Him to put salve on the places of pain, the places where evil came and violated? Who will come and be rescued? Who will come and know there is help and there is hope and there is a place where each daughter can find shelter and be home?


Find the shadow under the wings, dear ones. Follow the path that leads towards rescue and stay. Wait and stay. You will not be disappointed when Love finds you there.You will not be looking this way or that for a different way to be filled.

No longer will anything else satisfy. No longer will anything else quench your thirst. Come, beauties, come and be fed and find shelter and be healed.

For you are asked to go forward, walking resolutely. The beginning of the end and the beginning. I will meet you there.


Song to listen to:  “Chasing You,” Sarah Reeves


This is day 25 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

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.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

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.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

At the Kitchen Table


IMG_7467
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!

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

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.


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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


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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


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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.

photo (64)

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.

image

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.

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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?