Carry It On, My Love

carry on my loveFor T.

conversation 24

God, remember me, your little girl? Those were the days of pursuing perfection, the days when she was sick and the mom I knew, the mom who laughed and planned, the mom who loved and filled a room with energy and life, lay prostrate for hours at a time. I missed her.

Me, this girl of hers, her only child, the one whom she whisked away from one side of the country to the other, the one whom she protected and shepherded and led to Jesus. She was my strength; she was my rock; she was my everything. And then her body began to fail. And I decided, when that diagnosis came in, that I needed to do what I could to make her better.

Be quiet when she was sleeping. Come home right after school. Get good grades. Don’t go to parties. Don’t get involved in sports. Keep my room clean. Be present. Be available. Don’t make her worry. Be the good girl and get everything right.

Carry it on my love

carry it on my love

I loved her, God. I loved her and I wanted her to stay. I loved her and I don’t understand why she had to suffer. She never complained. She never asked me to be perfect. That was my decision. I loved her with all my heart, and I didn’t know what to do to help her. So I tried to be the best daughter I could. Did it even do any good? Did she know how much she was treasured? Did she know how much she was adored?

I ache inside, God. I ache for her smile. I ache for her voice. I ache for her laugh, the laugh that would fill me up and make me feel safe and let me know, without a doubt, I was found and I was home.

With her, wherever I was, I was home.

I have spent years trying to find my way back to her, to feeling like I did when she was here. I was loved, God. I was loved and I was cherished and she was what I needed. I need her still, now.

Take this heart of mine, Father. You have been chasing me down, and I have trying, these past years, to turn, to listen, to not try to do everything on my own. I know, now, I don’t have to be perfect. I know now, I never did. But the part of me that still misses her, that still wishes it were all okay (because it doesn’t feel okay that she is gone), struggles to not try to do everything right. That little girl inside me wants her sons to know they don’t have to be perfect. She wants her sons to know their mom is strong and their mom is safe and they have a safe place, if they need to, with her, to fall.

When I was little I didn’t let myself fall. And I don’t know what it would look like to let my boys fall. I confess, I want to do everything in my power to not let them fall. (I don’t want to imagine what that would look like, God.)

So take this heart of mine, God. I give you all of me. I give you my fears and my little girl heart. Make me whole. Grow her up . .  . and can you tell her something for me? Can you tell her she doesn’t have to be strong?


carry it on my love

carry it on my love

My daughter, take off your shoes. My daughter, come with me. My daughter, let me show you a place that is holy.

When I made you, you were crafted to look like me. You have within you my breath. My words breathed on you and in you. And what I see when I look on you, what I see when I stand with you, my shining one, is what is holy. You are pure and you are untarnished. You are shining now. You are glorious now. You are filled with light now. My daughter, I’ve never let you go.

I filled the room when I cared for your mother and I cared for you. I filed the rooms of your home, walked with you at school, guarded you while you slept. You are precious to me, and I know it was so hard when she was sick. I know how you were scared and you didn’t want her to worry. I know how you tried to be strong and do the right thing.

Do you know I am so proud of you? Do you know I stay with you and I watch you and I fill you with me because I love you? Do you know I have even more of me to give you? Do you know I have amazing things to show you?

So remember that little girl within you, yes. But do another thing, too. I want you to talk to her. I want you to tell her this, straight from me:

It is not your fault. It is not your fault your mom died. It is not your fault she got sick. It is not your fault and you didn’t do anything wrong. I am the one who carried your mom. I am the one who protected her heart. I am the one who guarded her and stayed with her and filled her with peace. That joy she had? That love she had, for you? It is because she knew me. It is because she trusted me. You know me. You trust me, too.

You carry within you her inheritance, the blessing of being known, the blessing of being loved, the blessing of being protected and filled with joy.

You are my joy-carrier, my darling. I fill you with my joy. Carry it on; carry it forward. It is me you are carrying. It is me you are beholding. It is me you are showing to your sons. Just point to me, living out freedom, not bondage. Living out joy, not striving to keep it all together.

Remember, I am the one who holds you together. Letting yourself go is the only way to carry that joy in you forth.

You can’t try harder now, love.


Song to listen to:  “Like an Avalanche,” Hillsong United


This is day 24 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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Your Eyes, Your Hands

your eyes your handsFor J.

conversation 23

My God, you are close. I lift up prayers for family and friends, and I know you hear me. You gather me up. You’ve gathered me up my whole life.

I have tried to be dutiful. I have tried to be faithful. My friends tell me I have a servant’s heart, that I forget myself and I give of myself and I can be counted on, no matter what. Is that what it means for me to be your daughter, God? Is this how I am made? Are you happy when you look on me? Do I make you smile?

I’m not sure I’ve heard your laugh, Father. Do you laugh? Do you play?

Do you ever do that, with me?

Where are you when I am serving? Are you standing beside me? Are you sitting and leaning close? Are you picking up dishes and whispering in my ear? Where are you at 8 pm and my patience is gone and I am wondering how to have strength to keep loving when I feel completely spent? Are your hands on your hips? Are you in the hallway or the kitchen? Are you just outside the kids’ rooms, or leaning, relaxed, on the stairs?

Fill me up, God. Fill up all these spaces of my home. I want no place to be empty of your presence. I want to feel you and follow you and hear what you are whispering to me.

And may I see you, too?

I have peace within me, knowing you have made me to love loving others. I have joy within me, knowing you teach me patience, you teach me wisdom, you teach me how to stay close to you.

I wonder what it means for me to walk even closer with you, Father. I read my Bible. I read books about you. I wake each morning and think about how I can love my family and friends. I don’t sleep until I have prayed. Is this what I’m supposed to do?

This is the life I’ve pursued, the life I have strived for, the life in which I have endeavored to be steadfast in my love for you.

I give myself to you. I give you my family. I give you my marriage. I give you my decisions and all my plans.

I am yours, my Lord. I will wait. I will wait on you.


My dear one, I love how you spend time with me. I love how you pursue me. I love how you search for me. Want to do something new? Want to go on an adventure together? What if we went away, just us two? It could be quiet, yes, or it could be loud. I know the quiet is not what you love best. But I know you want to hear me more. I know you want to know me more. So, what if you took my hand and I showed you some things about you that I just love?

Your hands, my darling, first. Those hands of yours are precious, the way they touch and they hold and they comfort the ones you love and keep them close. Also, your eyes, my darling, sparkle, and I delight in looking at them. They have warmth in them, and when I knit you together, your eyes were a part of you I crafted with care and intention. You use them so beautifully, my dear–how you seek ways to see beyond yourself, how you perceive hearts of people who are hurting. And together, your eyes and hands? You love people and show them they are not alone.

It is your heart tying all this together now. It is your heart that ties together and makes beautiful the eyes and the hands.

And yes, my girl, this is what makes me laugh. I can’t help but jump and run and spin fast with joy when I see you. I can’t help but rejoice over you, delighted in being with you. Your love is the love I’ve given you, and the most perfect thing is that you know you can’t help but pour it out. My love is only for the opportunity for you to keep on loving others. And you see me and you feel me and you know me more with the experiencing of my love. As you love, as you serve, as you claim the gifts I’ve given you and you give them out, to others.

My love, you have been my girl since before you were born. You have been my girl since before you could speak, since before your lips curved into their first smile. I have adored you from the beginning, my darling. And the beginning, with me, is always the best place to be.

Beginning: always, the reason to laugh and jump and sing loud.


Song to listen to:  “Intimacy,” Jonathan David Helser (one of my very favorite songs EVER)


This is day 23 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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How She Loved You

How she loved you

For C.

conversation 19

I watch these trees change outside my windows, God. The leaves turning from green to bright orange and red. There is quiet here, in this new place where all six of us moved. We are far from the city now.

The countryside sings tunes sweet and low—the creak of the branches in the wind, the frogs when night blankets the hills. There is music here I wish she could hear too, God. I miss her. I miss her voice and her smile and the way it felt when her arms were around me.

My mom.

She’s been gone now, twenty-one years. Remember how she battled? Do you remember how she believed—and we all believed—she would be healed? My heart aches for her. And I look at my daughters and my sons, three of the four whom she never met. Oh, how can I take it in how you let her meet my daughter, my firstborn, her first grandchild, in the same hospital where she was staying and where she died ten days later? Oh, God, you let her meet my daughter.

I wish she weren’t so sick so that she could have held her, too.

That daughter of mine is growing up so fast, Father. I can’t believe she’s moved out and on her own. Twenty-one years old, the same number of years my mom has been gone. How is it my daughter is already grown? Is this the same little girl I used to carry around and cuddle close? How is it so much time has gone by and I’ve raised these four and my mom has been gone this whole time?

Where am I going, Father? Am I doing okay? Am I raising these children in a way that would make my mom smile?

We’ve moved so far away from what I knew, and it feels right. But I still worry and wonder and hope this is all going to turn out more than fine.


how she loved you

Oh, my darling how she loved you. She loved you with an overwhelming love, a love that came from my heart in her. And she showed you that love, because I adored her too, my love. I know what it is like to give up something you love. I know what it means to have a beloved suffer and you wish it didn’t have to turn out the way it did. But I have been present with you, my love. I’ve never left you. All the hours in the hospital. All the nights when you were at home alone. All the times when you stayed up late at night in your room, worrying and wondering how to fix this, how to pray hard enough to make her well.

I know.

I know it was so hard and your heart hurt and you didn’t want her to go.

I know.

I give you new beginnings, my daughter. Each time you turn to me, each moment you surrender to me, I begin again in you. I gather you up, my love.

Those were my arms you felt, too, when she held you close. Those were my words of love, too, when she looked you in the eyes and told you it would be okay, that she was there, that you could tell her anything, that she loved you and she would never stop.

That mother’s love is a fierce love. It is a love that would give anything for her children. And she hated that she wasn’t able to keep staying here, loving you. But she knew me, and you know me too. Her prayers, again and again, were prayers of love for you. Prayers of yearning for you. Prayers of desire on behalf of you.

She loved you with a love that surrendered you to me. She loved you with a love that would have given anything for you, because of me.

how she loved you

Those children of yours? This love is passed down, my darling. That love she showed you? That love I gave to her? You are showing it to your children. You are blessed with my presence. You are blessed with my love in you. You are blessed with my hope in you.

If you know me, if you hear me, if you follow me, believe me now. Believe I am here. Believe I help you to stand. Believe I am your steadfast anchor, your rock.

You are not slipping. You are not falling. You are not alone and fragile. You are given a love that holds you and protects you and goes before you. You are the one to keep leading, my dear. Keep leading them to me. Keep leading your children to me. By my love. By my words in you. By my whispers to you and my love upholding you. It is the only thing on which any family can stand.


 Song to listen to: “Majesty,” Caedmon’s Call


This is day 19 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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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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I Love You The Same

I love you the same

For H.

conversation 14

I have heard you call my name, in the night, and when the sun rises bright and quiet through the white window frames. I am stirring, Lord. You have called me and I am waking up. You whisper to me, through pages, through letters of typed black, in scrawls on paper, in song and the quiet whispers settling gentle in my heart.

I am your dear one, I know, although I struggle to feel that way sometimes. Are you happy with me, God? I know you love me, but are you happy with what I’ve done, with my choices, my decision with time? I am uncertain about how my days are supposed to be spent.

I want to be the wise woman. I want to be the certain one. I want to go forward with confident certainty. Don’t be frustrated with me, God. Don’t let me go through these days and not stop me if I am doing something wrong. I want to know. I want to know if I am messing up, if I am turning right when I am supposed to turn left. I fear not being faithful. I fear going through this life and not doing enough, being enough. I crave contentment, certainty, a knowing, deep within my heart that I live, with a full heart.

You have made me brave; let me be brave. You have made me intelligent; let me pursue you with fire and delight. You have made me fierce; let me seek you and set on fire the hearts of the people around me—that they see me and see that gentle, quiet contentment that comes from knowing you and following you.

I am yours, Father. Let me stay here, in that knowing. I am here. Let me not run away and search for hope and meaning anywhere else.


I love you the same

My daughter, deep breath now. I have chosen you, and yes, I come and bring soft places for you to land. My arms, here, are where you find who you are. I love how you ask me questions. I love how you stay here with me. This is so good. Will you stay, here, a little longer, child?

You are my treasure, a light shining in dark places. Take me with you, my heart within you, as you speak, as your walk, as you serve. And that serving, my girl? It isn’t something you need to strive to do. Just love me. Love me first. Be with me first. Stay with me first. All the answers to these questions will be clear.

You know how to stay here. Your heart is quieted with me. I smooth back your hair and I am quiet, with you. You don’t need to do a thing, you know. You are with me and you respond, naturally, to me in you. It is what you breathe. It is how you feel free.

So lean back against me, my love. You are my precious one, the one in whom I delight. You will be loved tomorrow the same as I love you now, this day.


Song to listen to: “A Little Longer” Jenn Johnson and Bethel Music


This is day 14 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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You Have the Map, and It’s Awesome

For H.

conversation 9

I‘ve been here a long time, Father. I told you I’d follow you anywhere. I told you I was all in, that I wasn’t going to pretend to follow you anymore.

When I first made the trip to Africa, I didn’t know how my heart would break. I was going for the adventure, not for my heart to be changed. I wanted to love, with your heart in me, but I didn’t know how ill-equipped I’d feel when I couldn’t find words to tell my new African sister and her daughter there something I’d just realized: I’d been looking for them for a long time.

I knew there were sisters on the other side of the world that you loved and that you wanted me to love, too. And I went to Africa, because you asked me to go. But I didn’t know I would be able to love the people there, even a little bit, in the same way you love them. I didn’t know you would show me how.

But then there was the day we walked into the village for the first time. We had bumped for hours on the dirt road, in the van, and when we turned onto the village road, the children came out from behind the trees and they were running and they were smiling and there were babies being carried on children’s backs. I didn’t know children so small could carry infants on their backs and smile.

But you had more for me than the laughter of children. More than the nudge to obey and go on a trip. You were showing me your heart. You were showing me a glimpse of your heart split open. You were showing me how you were here too, on the other side of the world from where I lived. You wanted your daughters to know each other. You wanted your sons to be saved. You wanted families–your children across this world–to not be separated. You wanted communities to be born from the decision to connect despite barriers of language and economics and geography.

You asked me to surrender what I thought I knew regarding what is safe and what is good and what is responsible. You turned my world upside down and I haven’t looked back and I can’t imagine any other way to live now, but to live following you and listening for you and wanting to go anywhere–anywhere– you, my God, ask me to go.

What now, God-

What now, God? What do I do now, after listening to you and going there, loving my sisters there, these years, loving the friends and brothers and sisters you’ve brought me? I return, again and again, leaving my family back here, to return to the family you’ve shown me is here, in Africa, too. I will keep going, Father.

I will keep following you and listening for you. I will stay attentive and be courageous, with you by my side. I will fight for the hearts of these girls of yours, these boys of yours, the daughters and sons who need to know they are loved and they are known and they are fought for–and that your sons and daughters across the world love them and fight for them, with you, too.

I am with you, my God. I am willing. I am unafraid. I am resolute in my choices to follow you and love you. You are the map. You guide me deeper in and I am unafraid. Bring more healing. Bring more connection. Bring more trust. Bring more communication and communion of hearts.

You lead. I follow. I will go, your daughter, your fearless one, your girl.


What now, may I say? What now, can I whisper to your heart, as we go, as we walk together, as you lean in close and let me search your heart and let my words to you sink in deep? You are my beloved, my darling one, who, yes, is fearless. I stand with you, my daughter.

Let us go together, and I will show you what else we get to do. Let us go together, and I will bless you and I will bestow you with my generosity, my love pouring into you so you are never in want, never in search of my love and not finding my hand in yours.

Because you love me, because you know me, I will tell you more. Because you love me, because you desire me, I will remain even closer–for you are asking how you can love my children, with me in you, with me never leaving your side. And that, my darling, is a request I love.

I love how you love. I love how you want to love. I love how you want to go forward or stay, to listen or shout out loud, on behalf of the ones who are hurting. For you want more of me. And you want more of me for my daughters and my sons. So I will not hold back my love, and I will give you what you need to continue the work we do together.

Go forward, and I am here, my whispers nudging you in the way we walk. Look down, at where your feet stand. The path is clear, each step marked out, even though it feels perilous.

I am your map, yes. I am your steps, I am your foothold. I am your guide. Follow me, and I will lead you and I will give you nourishment for your heart. You will give this nourishment to my children and they will know they are loved and they will seek me and find me, too.


Song to listen to: “You Make Me Brave“, Amanda Cooke & Bethel Music


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How Light Shines in the Dark

For L.

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Jesus, I sit here in the dark, looking for light. Everything feels still, but inside I am churning. Can I just curl up next to you? I tuck my knees underneath my chin, bare feet on wooden floor. Yes, sit here, too, will you?

Yes, you’re already here.

I can lean up against you, your chest rising aginst my shoulder, your breath against the top of my head. And I listen to my breathing. In. Out. It’s the only thing I’m going to focus on now. No thinking. And I feel your breathing, too. Yes, keep your arms around me, will you? Will you let me stay here? Because I am tired and I don’t have answers for how to fix me, how to fix him, how to change this mess.

Oh, God, can I go back to the beginning? Can you let me rewrite that one day, and the other one too? Can you show me what I can do, how our hearts can be wiped clean and taught to trust one another and have joy with one another? Oh Jesus, can you remind me what it means for my whole heart to feel light and free and joy-filled? It is possible for a heart to know how to smile?

I’ve grown up knowing how to smile, how to fix, how to make things beautiful, but this isn’t the beautiful I want anymore. I want your kind of beautiful. I want your kind of real life. But I can’t bear to step outside, away from your heart beating. I am scared and I am tired and I just don’t know how this whole thing is going to get better.

For it is still dark here. And it is still still. Can you fill me with your laughter? Can you fill me with your hope? Can you fill me with your strength? Can you fill me with your light?

I crave wisdom, Jesus. I want to see the path and see my feet on it and hear your voice in my ear. This is the way. Walk in it. I don’t want to leave you. I want to stay here with you, your arms wrapped fast around me.

Do I have what it takes to love with a new heart, God? Do I have what it takes to start over, believe in light flooding in to dark places, even the places I can’t transform, on my own?

Oh, God, I want to change, but does it make a difference if he doesn’t change, too? What do I do? How is this going to work?

But it has to. And I know that anything is possible with you.


My daughter, I will stay here with you. I will stay here as long as it takes. Holding you, drawing you in close to me, is what I love to do most. I’m not going anywhere.

I love sitting here, too, you know. I love having you close. I will stay her with you. I will never leave you, if you want me to stay.

Yes, it is nice here. I love to comfort you. I love to remind you how precious you are to me. I stay here, with you, listening to the rise and fall of our chests. It’s nice here, you know. You with me.

See that window there? Do you see that hint of golden shining through, as the sun can’t help but come in? You can’t close out light, child. You can ignore it, or try to escape it. But if you want to see it, you see it by knowing it’s there, even if you only feel darkness all around you. The light is large enough to cover everything, each piece of darkness that wants to remain. No darkness stays dark. No problem stays the same, when the light touches it. Even if the darkness looks and feels the same, upon our touch. It is being changed. Darkness can’t stand against the light.

I stay here with you, watching light come in. I stay here with you, helping you choose to desire light. I stay here with you, teaching you what light feels like on your skin, upon your face, how it can reach all the dark places–in each corner of this room and all the places in your heart.

Ask me where you want the light to shine. Ask me how you can make it shine in places, too. Take my light in you and raise it high and nothing can stand to not be changed. Nothing can stand to not be affected by light shining bright and tall and wide. In my name, child, light challenges all darkness and battles and wins.

I have come and given you light and I hold you in it and you are filled with it and you are not the same as you were before. And all who see you and hear you and stay with you are responding to my light in you. And that light, my darling girl, let’s nothing stay the same.


Song to listen to: “The More I Seek You“, Steffany Gretzinger {Friends, this song, is one of my favorite, favorite, favorites . . although the quieter version by Kari Jobe, is the one I listen to all the time.}


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I Know What You Miss

For H.

conversation 6

Dear God, it’s quiet here, and I think I’m okay with the quiet. But I miss him, that boy of mine who had to go to you, so soon. He was so little, God, and I’m not sure I understand why some people have to experience so much pain while others seem to go on, in this world, with little tragedy striking. Is that true, that some of us experience more pain than others? Or, do we each experience similar degrees of suffering, but just different kinds?

Why did he have to suffer, God? And is it okay that I miss him so much? Is it okay that I struggle to not be sad with his being gone? Oh, God, he was our son.

Do you know pain, God? Is it love that causes us to feel so deeply, to be filled with so much sorrow and distress, when someone we love goes away? Would we not feel this pain if it weren’t for love? Sometimes I wonder if I can bear this pain, if I can keep going—and I feel guilty about this when you have given us other children to love and raise. And when you have never left my side.

Still, why do some people’s children live long lives and others die? Why do some people not get sick and others suffer? Why do children die and why do their parents live?

It is interesting how we use words, so carefully, to describe something terrible happening. We use the phrase “tragedy striking”—like the experience is something removed from us. But this is not removed from me. This is not far away, but real. And I know it’s real to you, too.

You brought him to us and you took him and I know you have him but I miss him. I miss holding him, God. I also miss how he smelled. And I miss the feeling of his skin on mine. I miss his cries and his smiles.

Oh, God, you continue to heal this heart of mine. You have not given more than I can bear. But I miss him, and I know he is with you. Please, keep healing me. Please keep me close and protect my heart.


My daughter, there is something I want you to know: I never left him. I held him each day. I was was with him before he was born. I was with him the day he breathed his first breath. I am with him, even still, beyond the moment when he breathed his last. It isn’t over, my darling.

Your heart, I know, feels like it will burst some days. Your heart feels too heavy for you to rise, on some. But I made you, my girl, and I made him, too, and I am with you, from the beginning, to the end.

I want you to know something else, my dear: with me there is no end. This suffering, this pain and stretch of time when life feels so long and so hard . . . there will be an end to this pain. And I have come, and I have restored you, and I have called you mine. You are mine.

You have seen me hold him. You have seen me with him. You know you have never been alone, and that I’ve walked with you and that his laughter will never be forgotten by you, his smile will be what your heart, forever, knows.

But I want you to know this, too: I know your smile, and I know how you love, and I love your questions and your yearning. I love your desires and your dreams. Those dreams of yours are ones I want you to give me. You are made to be with me, trusting me, letting yourself believe in what feels possible because anything is possible with me. I have held you, in the hard moments, and I have never left you. I know his absence feels so much to bear, but you also know I’ve given you a strength that you recognize as mine, in you.

I give you faith. I give you hope. I give you the ability to dream and seek me. There is so much more I have for you, my daughter. Want to come and see?


Song to Listen to: “God So Loved,” United Pursuit Band


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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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Lay Me Down

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

For R.

conversation 1

I don’t know why it had to happen that way. Things got so complicated. I didn’t think he would really leave. This wasn’t the plan, God. We had dreams and plans. We knew where we were going. I thought I knew who I was, what I was doing. I thought I saw love and, that I held it, that I breathed it, that I knew pain, yes, but that this love you gave us would sustain us, would hold us, would carry us through anything.

Why, Father, didn’t this marriage last?

I am tired, Father, and I am confused and worn out. I think I’m mad at you, or at him, or at this life. Why, God? Why did it have to be this way? Why did you have to let this happen? I know you are here, that you are bigger than anything I face, that you are good and you are present in all circumstances. I know you made me and you bring forth love, even when it seems, for love, there is no way.

I miss love, God. I miss the way it held me. I miss the way it looked at me. I miss the way it made me feel safe and protected. I want to feel safe again at night, God. And I don’t feel safe now. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt safe.

Wake me up to what you have, Father. I am tired of sleeping alone. I am tired of staying in this dark place. The darkness feels so loud and so silent, all at once. I am lonely and I am scared.

My kids are scared too, God. I don’t know what to tell them, how to tell them it will all be okay when I don’t know what’s coming. Can you help me tell them, God? Can you help me tell them it will all be okay, so that I have the words to help them believe it?

I believe you. I believe your heart for me. I believe your presence for me. I believe in your sovereignty, your completion, your healing here. Yes, you can heal me. You can heal this. You can bring light to this dark night and bring hope to any despair.

There is no night with you, no night of darkness, no night of sadness, no night of loneliness, no night of death. You are life and you are new things. Always new things. I will listen for you and trust you and look for you and choose to believe you.

Yes, I will choose to believe you. For you are strong and you are my hiding place. In you is my safety and m my light.

Lay me down.


My daughter, I lift the hair covering your face, your hair falling forward, covering the beauty I made. You are beauty here, even in this pain.You are carried and you are whole, even here, in this broken place.

For when you are broken and you are worn, I carry you, and the pieces of you, the ones that feel scattered all over the floor, are the pieces of beauty that I collect, that I’ve known, that I restore. You know I only make beauty, don’t you?

My darling, I am here. You are not alone. And in the night, where the quiet is loud, I come and whisper lullabies in your ear. I speak them straight to your heart, the ones I’ve sung to you since before you were born.

Let me show you light in a new way. Let me show you light in dark places, the places where pieces of brokenness form mosaics of beauty that never existed on their own. For I am beauty, my darling. I am beauty, in you.

And let me tell you glimpses of what’s coming. It is good. And I don’t leave you, my darling, in the darkness, in the quiet, in the pain.

I know your every ache, your every question. I hear your every cry. There is no blame here. There is no condemnation. There is no regret. I bring newness. And I bring hope.

Let me come into the dark places you’ve tucked away, far away, the ones I see and you’ve wanted to keep hidden. I can bring light to memories. I can bring light to future plans. I can bring light to dreams and show you how to do it again. Keep dreaming, my love. Keep hoping, my love. Keep listening for love songs, for love is safe with me. I can show you how, even in the places of pain in the past, I was there.

And beauty shows up in dark places.


Song to listen to: “Open Up, Let the Light In” Steffany Gretzinger

 

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I Want to Choose to See

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He is a tough one to figure out, this little boy approaching teen who grabs my heart with a smile and pushes me away the next day. A lot of conversations around this house are about how to be kind, how to love well, how to think about the heart of another before oneself.

But I think it is the talking less and showing more that matters most. And I am grateful how he lets me hug him in the mornings, the dark still resting on the house like a blanket hushing us back to sleep. But I’m awake, and he’s awake. And we sit side by side in the dark room just off the kitchen. When the rest of the family sleeps and there is only that one crazy bird outside calling the rest of the neighborhood to wake on up.

I sit here, in the dark, with my son, and I read a note from a sister in England who reminds me “how different God sees!” I can try to begin this day asking Him how He sees. For I can charge right on with my expectations for this day without heeding and listening and waiting.

I push God away so much, without even realizing it much of the time. I get so caught up in whatever it is I want to be doing, not even thinking about Him, that I don’t see that I am doing it. There is that young place in me, still–the girl who pushes back against her Father’s pursuit, His gentle nudge, His arms-out-greeting each morning as I rise.

Come on now, sweet girl, turn. Let me help you see as I see.

So for a while, this day, I will put way words and typing. I will put away cleaning and planning. I will put away wondering and thinking. For it is right now–my right now with Him, that matters. And to be in communion with Him–to even practice being with Him so I can notice how He is with me at all times–is the most important thing for me to do, this day.

In what way, this day, are you choosing to see?

 

Want to Know How to Remember the Most Important Thing?

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This is one of those  posts where I close my eyes and write. I am in that mood where I feel used up, distracted. But I know if I take a deep breath and ask for help, if I ask God for words for what I am feeling, He will give them to me. He does that for us, you know. He wants to restore us and give us glimpses of our true selves. We wants to help us understand our hearts.

Last week I wrote about how being with God doesn’t mean you have to be in a place of quiet. But I am learning how, while my surroundings don’t always have to be quiet–and my actions don’t always have to be quiet–my soul needs to be quiet. I need to be in a state of seeking God, if I want to be most awake to the whispers of God.

Now, I believe this is true: He loves it when we are quiet before Him. He loves it when we choose to put everything down and listen rather than try, so much, to do. I used to believe a good day meant one filled with a completed to-do list, with accomplishing. But now, I am believing the best days are ones when I seek Him and I let Him find me and I desire Him, even when I feel depleted, a mess, or my mind just can’t seem to quiet or slow down.

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

I like the days when there is space. And I like the days, particularly, when space feels impossible to find but I ask Him to give me some anyway. 

Because He always does.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

Have you ever tried this?  Prayed for more of God because you desire to be with Him? I am guilty of praying for more of God because I’ve hoped that by spending time with Him I will be a better person, a better version of myself.

But what if being with God is the only way we can experience moments of the fullness in us God sees? What if  the “us” spent away from God is not us at our truest, our most pure and clean?

Now, I know you know this: If we never spend time with God we feel stuck, alone, frustrated. This is because we are not giving our souls what they crave most: God. And with God, when we are in a state of seeking Him, we do what we are made to do: worship God.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).

I am learning, when I am with God, that the me without God isn’t the person I most want to be. I am learning, when I am with God, I love being with Him. I am learning, when I am with God, I want to be with Him simply because I like being with Him. No other reason.

But the problem is that I forget this.

I forget that being with Him is the best place I could ever be. I forget that being with Him is the only thing that brings me peace. I forget that being with Him is the only place of light and freedom and joy.

And I want these things. And I forget these things when life gets too loud.

It isn’t just in the quiet spaces that we find God. However, being with Him in the quiet spaces helps us recognize Him when life around us–and in us!– feels loud. Finding Him in the quiet helps us hear Him and recognize His voice. Then, when we are loud, when we can’t slow because we feel it just wouldn’t be responsible or prudent or whatever . . . we need to heed our soul’s desire to quiet. We need to heed our soul’s desire to worship Him. 

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1).

There is a clamor in our souls without God. It is the clamor of hearts who are lost without their Maker. We crave time and adventure with the One who designed us. We can’t do a thing on our own.

But we forget that, don’t we?  We forget how good it is to feel desperate for God. We forget this desperation is beauty. We forget this desperation is freedom. We forget this desperation is peace. We forget our strength is found in being desperate for God.

We forget our strength


Father, help us stay desperate for You. For in that desperation we are most able to breathe. We are most able to think. We are most able to remember the things You have created us to do, the things You’ve created us to love to do.

Help us to dream, God. When we are with You, we are more able to dream. And we like those dreams with You, because in them anything is possible. You increase our faith.  You help us believe that we can do anything with You, too.

We are so loved.

Father, help us here, your girls, to crave you with our whole hearts. Give us glimpses of beauty and delight as we stay close with you.

We remember you said it so perfectly once: “I am your home.”


Is there any other way I can pray for you, His girls? How do you feel about being quiet and seeking God? I’d love to hear . . .

When We’re Afraid What Will Happen When We’re Alone with God

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Father,  you called me to quiet recently, and I don’t want to ignore it. I can’t hide that part of me that wants to achieve and to produce. I can’t hide that part of me that likes to run hard and loud and fast.

I trip a lot then. And I tire. Again and again I try to run a race all on my own, and you love me so much you let me do it.

So I am here, telling you I am tired of running a race alone. I am tired of trying, so much. I want to run hard this race you’ve given me to run, but I only want to do it with you.

Loneliness comes from shutting you out, from not opening the door, from seeking for the lost piece of me that is only found in you.

I want to love well, God.

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And I want to be quiet with you.

I am yoked with you, and I want you to set the pace.

My friends, here, these girls of yours who gather close and desire you to gather them even closer, are longing for quiet, too. They want to be with you and hear your voice and stay, as long as they can bear it, in the quiet with you. But it’s hard, sometimes.

I want to be married. In the quiet, will you ask me to lay that down?

I am scared of what will happen in the quiet, God. My heart is too heavy, my head is too full. I am afraid to quiet, because the noise inside me feels too loud.

My daughter is hurting, Father. Can I stay here, in the quiet, with You? She is suffering. It is so hard to bear.

I have allowed the busyness of this age get to me so much lately . . . my soul is aching to sit with You.

What do you have to say, God? In the quiet with you I haven’t been speaking. I have been watching you, these pictures of you and me, often as a little girl–sitting in tall grass, yellow wisps of stalks bending near my cheek. Or we have been running, your hand tight around mine. And the hill below is so beautiful and vast and there is water down below and we head to it, and you are laughing. So often, you are laughing.

But, Jesus, I know you cry, too. And I know you ache, too. And I know you draw us close to you with this love of yours that is sometimes too much for us to accept. But we want to see you. And we want to hear you. And we want to know you.

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What do you have to say to these girls of yours, Jesus, who want to sit with you, in the stillness, and be reassured by the presence of the only One who brings hope and light and calm?

My darlings, there is no right or wrong here. (And there is no way you can outrun me, my love.) There is no way you can sit with me and do it wrong.

Yes,the quiet can feel like noise, sometimes. Everything feels amplified when you are trying hard to not be distracted. Or, the noise is welcomed distraction, when you are afraid to sit with me. Don’t be afraid to be with me.

There is not one word I can say now that will convince you to sit with me. There is not one word or story I can share–or encouragement I can offer–when your heart doesn’t want to hear it.

You know I want to be with you. You know I delight in having made you. You know I rescue you. You know I have plans for you that are better than anything you could ever dream up on your own.

But to hear me? To really hear me? That is to simply be with me. You can’t hear me unless you want to be with me. You can’t see me unless you want to see me. You can’t feel me unless you believe I am here. I am here.

I want to be with you, and I am with you. But you have to let go and trust me more than yourself. Let your mind go. Let your emotions open up. Let your heart guide you to deeper places with me.

There are no rules where I am, with you. I take you to deeper places where you are known and you are free. Time with me stirs you to know yourself more.  You see glimpses of who you are, how I see you. No words can convey that. No words can convince you you are mine and you are loved; only time with me will. Only time with me can bring your heart to me. Only time choosing me–time choosing me above anything else–can rescue you, can let me rescue you.

And I want to show you how I rescue you and how I love you and how you are safe here, with me. So take a risk–something new and exactly perfect: Be with me. It is who you are. It is what you are made to do. Be with me. We will stay and we will go and I will awaken in you parts of yourself that have been dead and asleep.

Wake up now, child. Wake up and see the light. It is on you. It is with you. I am here. Sit still with me and we will go places you have always needed to go.

I can’t wait.

LET'S NOT BE AFRAID to be alone with God

Sisters, let’s keep staying in the stillness with Him–a little each day? How amazing to do it together. It may be quiet, but there’s a lot of action here we don’t want to miss out on. What do you think?

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.

The Astounding Effect of a Single Yes

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I believe we are all called to do something, just not everything. Focusing on our one thing and doing it well to His glory is both liberating and life changing.

Kristen Welch, Rhinestone Jesus

Kristen Welch, author or Rhinestone Jesus, has me over at her place today. In my post I share a glimpse of the seed that started Gather. It is amazing how one yes to God can lead to another, and then another.

I’d love for you to come on over and read the rest . . .

Can you hear the invitation to say yes? (Sometimes we don’t know what we’re saying yes to yet, and that’s okay.) What is your invitation?

 

When You’re in the Middle of it All and You Just Have to Dance

Abby & Jennifer hiking

There’s a project I’m working on, and I’m excited to tell you about it soon. But that’s not why I’m writing here. That’s not what I’m eager to tell you right now.

You see, in the middle of my typing, in the middle of working on the project, a song played through my computer speakers–music that made my fingers freeze over the keys.

It happens to be a song written a couple of years ago to play in the credits of a movie about, well, vampires.

Teenager vampires.

In love.

But vampires or not, this song is just romantic, just beautiful, and I have to keep it on repeat now, because this is what happens sometimes, when music grabs my heart and I have to pause.

(I know this happens to you, too.)

Now, I’ve told you about this before. I’ve told you before how I sometimes just need to stop what I’m doing–even if I’m in the middle of something that feels kind of important–and dance with Jesus.

I’ve also told you before this important fact: I’m not a dancer. Well, at least, I’m not the one at parties who feels comfortable being the center of attention. So, you know, at weddings, when everyone gathers in the middle and celebrates on the tiny dance floor? I do it . . . but I have to almost close my eyes to have fun.

So I do that, too, with Jesus. I close my eyes, and, in my head, I’m dancing. It’s just the two of us, in the garden. (I’m trying to get comfortable in calling this place my garden, or, better yet, our garden, as it’s where Jesus and I are almost always together.)

No matter what adventure Jesus is calling us to with Him–wherever you are with Him is the place of freedom, the place of movement, the place of beauty, the place where your heart knows where and who she is.

So, what else can you do?

You just have to dance.

And you are going to do it differently than anyone–anyone–else.

And you’re going to be amazing at it.

And that’s why I had to pause that thing I was working on . . . the thing I get to tell you about in a month or so . . . and tell you how good it is, how necessary it is to stop whatever you’re doing sometimes and listen to that music He wants you to hear. (And it might not be the music playing through any computer speakers, or even, music heard audibly at all.) The music that is most important to hear–the music to heed above all other noise going around you, is that music He’s playing, right now, to your heart.

Jesus is music within you, my sister. He is playing it in you and for you. He is orchestrating the whole darn thing, and He is reaching out His hands, His arms stretched out wide. For you. Oh, wow, because He loves you. He loves you so much.

You’ve just got to listen to that music.

It’s just for you, you know.

YOU HAVE TO DANCE PIN

And when you do . . . when you stop and you ask Him to play the music for you . . .and you close your eyes and you see yourself dance with Jesus. . . where are you? Wouldn’t it be fun if we shared with one another what the place looks like, or how we feel, or what we are doing, when we dance? You can read more about my heart for dancing–and Jesus’ invitation to you to dance with Him–here.

And one more thing: do you know that I love to invite sisters to come alongside me and listen for Jesus together? Do you know I’d come to you, come into your house or some other place where we can get cozy and be quiet and share together, and facilitate a retreat with you and your friends? You can find more about that here.

Wouldn’t it be amazing and wonderful to see each other, in person? (I’d so love that.)

Until then, get on with that dancing.

Love to you, my beautiful dancing, sisters,

Jennifersignaturescript

Red Scuffed Boots and Holding Hands

Red scuffed boots

The walk to school isn’t long, just two blocks. Three houses down the sidewalk to the left. Then a turn towards the house with the dog that barks through the gate and next to the oleanders with the pink and white blooms floating like fairies down to the dirt.
Her red suede boots are scuffed at the toes, and when we cross the first street, her blue backpack, the one handed down from her big brother—the one that still has his initials monogrammed in white on the front pocket–bumps over the pavement. She still lets me hold her hand.

It’s one more block before we meet the crosswalk, and the street is sardined with cars. Drivers attempt patience as kids and parents and bikes and backpacks stream across the crosswalk to the school. We make a left turn, where the street turns into sidewalk, and then a right at the metal fence. I have walked this route, twice a day, almost every school day, with my three kids, for eight years.

She is quiet during the walk; her usual chatter distilled to abbreviated answers—responses to my questions about what she thinks this day will hold.

“I wonder where you’re going to sit this year—where your desk will be?”
“How do you feel about your brothers not being on the same campus with you for the first time?”

blue backpack

We pass the school office and recognize one of her best friends standing near the office wall, her formerly long hair newly cut into a bob and purple sunglasses from the dentist with the plastic lens pushed out, perched jauntily onto her little nose.

“Hi, Abby!”

Oh, those sparkling eyes and that fast-waving hand at my girl. This day is excitement for these kids. And for the parents? How do we claim the roller coaster of emotion we are feeling, from one second to the next?

Abby grins and waves back, her hand still holding fast to mine. She follows me, as I lead, heading into the main hallway between classrooms where parents–and kids in cute, new first-day-of-school outfits–are going every direction. It’s a sea of energy and anxiety, excitement and joy and fear. We find Abby’s third grade classroom through the hallway, on the other side of the school.

This girl of mine, eyes bright, stiffens next to me when she sees her classmates—as well as another best friend who is in her class again this year. Just as quickly as she took my hand as we began our walk to the school, she drops it and gets in line with her class. I stand at the pavement, my husband next to me. We stand elbow to elbow, watching our girl. Another year beginning. Each day practice in letting go.

Her head bends a bit to the right as the line begins to move. She glances back as she moves up the ramp into the new classroom, her eyes finding ours for just a moment, her lips pursed together into a tiny grin. And then there’s the back of her head, the hair I brushed from its tangles as she stood in the kitchen. Another five seconds and the red scuffed boots turn the corner into the classroom. She’s in.

I’ll keep letting go, Father. She’s yours. I know.

I’ll keep letting go, only to hold ever more tightly onto you.


You women here? You sisters who gather here, so beautifully? Whether you have children or not, whether you are married or not, you each know the discomfort of letting go–in so many ways. I am praying for you now, in your place of letting go. You are seen. You are loved. You are not forgotten.

Red scuffed boots pin

Father, help us hold fast to your hand. Show us the new thing you are doing, right now.

How can I pray for you, His girls, this weekend?