What To Do When God Feels Far Away

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When you feel far away from God, it can feel like forever until you find your way back. You don’t feel like you’re home.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling, darker than loneliness for its emptiness. For you feel hollow, forgotten even. Your head knows you are not forgotten by God, but the ache of your heart tells you something different.

Your heart tells you it is what you can trust, not your head. You are not free to be rational. You are not free to remember who you are–a beloved daughter who is delighted in. You want only to heed your heart, a heart that, actually, feels so untrustworthy now. A heart that may lie and a mind that wants your heart to listen to what must be true–despite it not making logical sense.

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For it tells you, once more: Dear one, you don’t have to keep chasing God. You need only know Him. Walk with Him. Listen for Him.

And you quiet, wanting to believe this could be true: God is close; God is here, despite the state of your heart and its untrustworthy whispers. For God gives away clean hearts. And it’s not because you deserve it, but, rather, because you totally don’t.

So you let your mind relax and your heart open up now–for you are unwilling to stay in the dark, where emptiness feels like death and God is life and hope. It is true: it is God you want, more than anything.

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So, these lies about not being okay have to go. There’s no room for them in a heart washed out bright and new and clean.

No more battle then, please. Instead, let’s choose God’s rescue and our obedience. Let this be a rebel’s determination to choose life rather than death, to choose God and fullness, not hollow, empty space.

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Come now, Father, mend these broken hearts. We are the rescued now, the fearless. We do not dread the quiet with you; we dread life without you, and our full hearts are what inform our minds now: stay here, where there is beauty, where it is safe.

 

Afternoon Hunger: Finding the Miracle Deeper Still

Afternoon Hunger and Looking for GodOn these regular normal, ordinary days, I can forget not one of them is ordinary. All night I rested, slept long and hard and awoke. To this day. To this moment.

A miracle.

I awake too many days taking for granted the moment of right now. We have so many descriptions of time. We talk about how it marches or it flies. We describe how it drags or runs away.

We want to seize time. We want to rustle it; be the boss of it. We watch it. We regret it. We chase it. We rebel against it.

I want to mark time as holy, as sacred. I want to worry less about what I do with my time and enjoy more the moments, one by one, I get to live with God.

Holy Spirit, come. Show me how you are in this moment. Right now. With me.

It can take stopping, pausing, recognizing our breathing, even–in, out–to see a hint of the miracle.

It can take looking–determined faith that if we search hard enough for God we will see Him; we will hear Him; we will know more of what it means to have Him.

For if we want Him; we have Him.

And in this moment, as I type these words. My eyes are not on the keyboard, but looking out, past plates of glass to see tiny sparkles flit about near the stone bench in our yard, little bugs dancing above water droplets on green grass.

And I see, but I stop looking out, and I look in, my heart hungry to be filled.

Pull me in, Father. Pull us in, deeper still.

For the Daughters Who Need God to Come In

IMG_8580 2It’s here, isn’t it, Father, where you want to come in.

Yes, come.

Yes, come in.

It’s the word in we want.

Father, come in.

Holy Spirit, come in.

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Grab hold of this heart that is weary.

And grab hold of this heart that is drowning.

And grab hold of this heart that is hopeless.

And grab hold of this heart that is skeptical.

Rescue, Father.

Come in.

Rescue this heart that is aching.

And rescue this heart that is searching.

And rescue this heart that is grieving.

And rescue this heart that is jaded.

Come in.

Holy Spirit, we pray, come in.

There is more for her, your daughter, the one who bends low, and the one who keeps going, and the one who has given up, and the one who has lost her bearings and doesn’t know which way to turn.

There is more for her, your daughter, the one feels tossed about at sea, and the one who doubts her self-worth, and the one who has been hurt, and the one who feels it is too late, and the one who is tired of trying anymore.

Supply her with more, Father. Pour out the heavens upon her. Holy Spirit, equip her.

Come in.

Father, come in.

We stand, together, hands to heaven, hearts open-wide.

Father, come in.

We trust you. We need you. We will take one step, and then another, seeking your face upon us, choosing to believe we are not alone and we are beloved and we are daughters who are chosen and this day is no ordinary day.

Today is the day we are seen. Today is the day we follow. And claim courage. And practice faith.  And endeavor perseverance. Because we say yes to rescue. We say yes to surrender. We say yes to you.

Holy Spirit.

Come.

In.

Want to sit down, close your eyes, and pray this with me, this day? (Subscribers, click here, to come on over and listen to this song.)

Disco Ball Light and Choosing God’s Joy

I am stretching high on chairs and bending low with dustpan, putting away Christmas garland hanging in the dining room and brushing up piles of pine needles from the Christmas tree being taken out the front door. A disco ball, bright globe of whimsy given to me from a smiling Justin, scatters light over the walls of my dining room. I watch light dance and spread as the ball turns, polka-dotting hope upon dark corners. Specks of mercy, paint-brushed love-dots from God.

Oh, how He wants us to see–to bathe in–His light.

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I tell friends how I can breathe a bit easier so far, this season. I feel like I am trying less to reach some goal just out of my reach. Rather, I am resting a little better, a little more. And I can’t point to another season in recent memory when I have been able to tell you I am doing that, really, at all.

Rather, I can point you to year after year, month after month, of striving and stretching and longing. And the longing wasn’t the kind of longing that is good–the kind of pure-hearted freedom when we stretch our hearts out to heaven and claim the beauty of truth we know is real but which we can’t, otherwise, see. For too long, the longing has gotten twisted up a bit–twisted into something a little darker, a little more like bindings stretched tight across my lungs and less like the sweet, fresh breath of freedom from wide-open windows that stretch to hope that never ends.

I am realizing something now: I think I have been dying.

I think another part of my false self has died. I didn’t begin seeing this happy truth until yesterday, when I verbalized it to friends. We sit in a circle, asking the tough questions with gentleness: how busy do you feel right now? Do you feel like you are stretched too thin? Are you filling your plate of to-do’s too full? How are you resting in God? In what ways are you anxious? How are you choosing to see God in the moments of your day so you feel like His strength is what you lean on and not your own?

I am surprised by my own excitement to join in the discussion, and I can’t help but jump in first (a bit uncharacteristic of me, by the way). But I was bubbling up with joy and thanksgiving as I realized I actually feel so filled up with God. I felt restored and jubilant, even. And it is simply because of two simple things that I am saying ‘yes’ to now. These are things which, for much of my life, I struggled to give myself permission to do: (1) get enough sleep; (2) do something fun and relaxing, regularly, that I love to do.

These past two weeks, during the holidays, something in me just let go. I stopped getting up early, never set an alarm, and slept in as long as I could (who knew my body actually wants eight hours of sleep, when it can get it?) We also, as a family, started turning off all electronics, all technology, all noise-making devices, at eight o-clock every night, and retreated to the front room of our house to sit together, our own separate books in our laps, and read. I think it has been since high school, when I would happily curl up on my bed and read novels that stirred my heart, just for fun. Not for work. Not because I had to. Not because it might be “good for me” to do. I did it because I found rest in doing it. I did it because it was fun.

And I think that my saying ‘yes’ to letting God restore me–by choosing to make changes in how I live, how I use my time–is restoring me, is creating space for God to fill me, is killing the pride in me that enslaved me to a life of doing and striving.

God wanted to kill another piece of the false self in me that was pulling me away from Him. And I didn’t even know He was doing it.

But looking back, this makes sense. He wants our whole heart. He wants us to rest in Him. He knows what is best for us. He knows his presence fills us, and overflows onto others, when we trust how he has made us. We are made to get rest; we are made to love God; we are made to love to do things that help us to see him and worship him, with our whole lives.

God wants us to abide in his joy.

And we have to fight for it, sometimes, His girls.

So, I sit in my dining room and position the disco ball so that sunlight streaming through shutters reflects off the hundreds of little mirrors and shines light all over the walls, all over the dark room.  The ball only shines, illuminating walls, when it is positioned to let the light hit it just right.

And, girl, remember this: that disco ball is made to shine.

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Shall we stay here, in God’s whimsical, beautiful, jubilant light? Shall we let God’s light for us bring life to our hearts? Shall we let light dance all around us, covering us, filling us with bright, shining joy?

Father, shine!

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

Is there a place in you where you think God wants to shine his light? What is one way God fills you with His love for you?  What action are you taking (or you plan to take) to seek the light for you that he has? How is God inviting you to receive his joy?

More than whimsy, joy is a weapon we use to fight life's battles. ~Margaret Feinberg #fightbackwithjoy

Here is a book, just released January 5, that you don’t want to miss: Fight Back With Joy: Celebrate More. Regret Less. Stare Down Your Greatest Fearsby Margaret Feinberg. Fight Back with JoyI got to meet Margaret at her Writer’s Bootcamp, in Colorado, in October, after reading all of her previous books and loving her heart for God. Fight Back With Joy is a powerful and beautiful encouragement from a woman who chooses to fight life’s battles with joy, rather than succumbing to fear. She writes from the experience of knowing what it is like to stare death right in the face, but choosing God’s hope and joy for her, while she battles cancer.

Don’t wait to check it out and be blessed by Margaret’s story, as well as her encouragement, faith, and wisdom. Here are two of the places where you can find the book Fight Back With Joy: Amazon and Barnes & Noble. And here, you can find the Fight Back With Joy, 6-Session Bible Study Kit.

Fight Back With Joy 6-Session DVD Bible Study Promo Video from Margaret Feinberg on Vimeo.

Before You Look Ahead to the New Year

Before We Consider Any Plans for the New YearI can forget what it takes to get through a day. I can forget it is up to me to choose whether to go right or left, and how God is in it. He is in the choices. He is in the moments before the decision making. He is in the space of indecision, especially, reminding me how He holds my hand and does not leave when a moment is too difficult and I feel frozen in what action to do next.

God does not get overwhelmed.

This week Justin and I were talking about the tug we feel this time of year, when we are on holiday, these precious days between Christmas and New Year’s Day–the pull to reflect on the past year while thinking ahead to the next. We both appreciate the thought of a fresh start, the invitation to set goals and define thinking about vision, plans, dreams.  Yet, the reality is we are smack-dab in the middle of moment when we just want to be present and slow, these last few days of 2014.

While we talk a lot about what are hopes are for the next year, we don’t want to rush there to thinking about them too quickly. Before we look ahead to getting down on paper our dreams for 2015, we want to look around a bit at this day, and the next, and the next, too. We want to notice the condition of our heart–and when I say condition, I don’t mean the miracle of its beat, the glorious wonder of it pumping blood all through our bodies and keeping us alive without us willing it to. We want to notice what, at our heart, at our center, we are made of–how we are restless and lost and unfulfilled without our whole self turned towards God.

No plan, no vision, no dream will be worth a thing–or even get off the ground or be realized in any way, really–without taking moments each day to recognize what it really takes to get through a day. I love what God whispers in Loop:

My daughter, it is a fight to stay close to Me. It is a choice you make each moment. Pay attention to the rhythm of your days, the way you wake–what you do when you first get up, what your first thoughts are, how you approach what is for you to do. Right when you wake, try turning over the plan for your day to Me, first. Before you attempt to accomplish one thing, ask Me what I think of your plan. Can you imagine wiping your list clean, the details scrawled out, and then rewriting it, in my hand, my fingerprints upon the page? Are you willing?

Before we look back at 2014, before we look ahead to 2015, let’s spend the next few days of 2014 resting in God, looking to where He is in us–how we consider him, how we think about him, how we look to him. Does he feel far away? Do we feel him close? Do we begin our days, right when we rise, thinking about him first? Or do we begin our day with worries, with schedules, with plans about how to get from A to B?

What is on your heart when you rise? How can we possibly begin to consider what a day holds–or begin assessing what the last year held, or what we hope to achieve in the new year ahead–without recognizing our heart for God right now?

Justin and I will be talking about that a bit tomorrow, on our podcast on Holy Entanglement. And we’ll be sharing, also, a challenge we have for each other, to complete as a warm up for considering any plans or dreams we have for the new year.

Let me give you a hint: it comes down to your heart . . . and considering how you are made . . . and if you are letting God restore you . . . so you can feel His presence in you . . . . It involves the simple question some of you have heard me talk about before . . .What do you love?

So listen in tomorrow morning (you can subscribe right here) and let me know what you think. And until then, let’s not hurry off to make those big plans yet for 2015. Rather, let’s ask God how we can be present to Him and all the wonderfulness and hope He has for us now, this moment, this day.

Before you lookahead to the New Year GATHER PIN

Do you look to the New Year with excitement and expectation? Do you like the idea of a fresh start? Would you like to join me, these next few days, and noticing where God is taking residence in our hearts, before we scrawl down any goals for the new year? I’d love to know what you think.

Advent and What You Should Expect When You Sit With God

Leaves brightSun shines golden through gray storm clouds in California sky. We need this rain–replenishment for this parched ground. A squirrel tightropes across our backyard fence. I watch him pause and select berries from tree branches drenched and low. Water has been pouring from heaven this week, and we are grateful. Keep raining, God. Soften the dry land. Fill the lakes and the rivers. Let the creeks run, overflowing with drops falling steady and swift from your sky.

I sit amidst boxes of Christmas decorations not yet unpacked, thinking about what it means to sit with God. I consider what I expect when I am with Him. How does he show up? How do I know when I am with Him? If He is an invisible God, the Holy Spirit within us drawing us deeper to the Father, what do I see when I am with God? How does He manifest himself? How do I stay with Him, in His presence, no matter where I am?

During this season of extra-busyness, I can easily feel like a failure. To be a good Christian I am supposedly required to read an Advent devotional every day, do my best to decorate the house and boost up my hospitality. I am supposed to consider how to give to others, like Jesus did, have my heart be broken for the lost and lonely and the sad. I am supposed to listen to Christmas music and do fun Christmas-activity-stuff with the kids. I am supposed to be extra happy and not stressed and organized and filled with inspiration and gratitude for all that God has given. Oh, and I’m supposed to bake, too.

I want to do a lot of these things. I want to have a house sparkling with color and good smells when my kids get home from school.  I want to read beauty-filled words near a Christmas tree and watch the lights dance through fragrant boughs. I want to encourage people and speak truth and let the Father’s abundant love flood me so I overflow with his love to others. I want to walk into a room and be a blessing, remembering that I am a daughter of a King who has fought for my heart when He came as a fragile baby in the not-so-quiet-chaos of an animal-filled barn one night long-ago.

But how?

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Justin wrote this week about our family’s desire to serve and bless others this Christmas–to forget ourselves and receive Christ when we love others as much as ourselves. 

But how can I love another person if I don’t spend time with the One who is love? How can I love anyone this Advent season when I haven’t let God’s love to me pour in?

This Advent, there is one thing I need to do more than anything else: I need to spend time with my Savior, just us two. If I am to love anyone, especially during this extra-busy-Christmas season, I might need to strip everything else away And from there? From that place? I will have a lot of love to give. Maybe gifts will be given, maybe cookies will be baked, maybe lights will be strung, maybe carols will be sung. But one thing is sure: I will be equipped to love.

So now, here’s the question I get asked a lot: what does it mean to wait for God? What does it mean to expect him or pursue him? How does this invisible God manifest when we are sitting alone with Him?

Although we each experience God’s presence differently, I most often experience him when I am in a posture of listening for his voice. And to listen for his voice requires me to be quiet–my soul within me to quiet–so I can think of him. It is simply my choosing to think about God that turns me towards where He is.

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chairs on wall

rainy red and gold

The Holy Spirit in me is awake and stirring, waiting for me to turn towards God, waiting for me to want to be with Him, look for Him, listen for Him, see Him.

When I am desiring to be with God, and I am in a posture of stillness in his presence, He helps me be open to Him. Open to hearing Him, in my heart. Open to seeing Him, in my mind. Open to going with Him, in my imagination. I allow Him to cleanse me of distraction; I surrender to Him my presence, and He helps me be present to Him.

This Advent, in my waiting for Jesus, I will be choosing to be present with Him, thinking about Him, looking for Him, longing for Him. Practically, I will go to a quiet place each day of Advent, for 15  minutes or more, doing nothing but being with Him. And in that posture, in that active choosing and desiring to be with Him, I will see His face; I will hear His voice; I will be restored. I will remember who and whose I am.

How do you feel about Advent this year? What do you expect when you sit with God?

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Also, come on over to visit me at my friend Dolly’s place.

Finally, Friday is the last day to purchase Loop and receive six 8 x 10 art prints, for free! Click here for details.

Loop launch free gifts pin Christmas

This Advent? You Have Permission To Stop Doing

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It’s been a long time since I sat down and tried to not do a thing. One month? Two? Yes, I think the last time might have been in September.

Truly, I hadn’t sat in stillness with my Father for two months. And when I say “stillness” I mean sitting down in a place with no input (music playing, internet beeping, phone buzzing) and having no agenda except to be in the presence of God.

I know there is a lot to do now. I can feel it. The pressure to do is almost tangible, isn’t it? Write those Christmas letters. Wipe the cookie flour off the counter. Decorate the house. Call that friend. Make sugar cookies and smile the whole time while you do it.

Do.

For a few minutes a day, this Advent, can you join me in rebelling against all that pressure to do?

Contemplating stillness

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Even in this beautiful invitation to celebrate Advent, I can twist all the beauty right on out of this season and try to do rather than await, with open heart, the presence of my Savior.

Let’s keep this simple: will you join me each day, this December, and sit with me with our Father?

Just a few minutes.

Mute and turn off all electronics.

Turn your to-do list upside down.

Go to a room or a corner where you can be by yourself. (I know how this is tricky and nearly impossible with little kids at your feet, but be creative with the when and the how and the where. You can do this!)

Get comfortable.

Close your eyes.

Put your hands in your lap, maybe even with your palms open. Keep your feet flat on the floor.

(Of course, lying face down, I know, works for some of you . . . but just don’t fall asleep . . . )

And just wait.

Wait on God.

Listen to your breathing. And as you listen, let God draw you in deeper. Let your imagination go.

Let.

It.

Go.

He wants to show you where He is. He wants to show you where you are with Him.

Right Now.

I’m doing this.

Every day. Just a few minutes.

It’s going to be good.

This Advent

Are you with me?

*Join me over at my friend Kristin’s today remembering “I am desperate for you, Father, and this desperation is my strength.”

Also, don’t forget that this Friday, December 5, is the last day to order Loop and guarantee delivery from the publisher for Christmas. AND, if you order by December 5 and you email me your receipt (jennifer@gatherministries.com) you get 6 free 8 x 10 free arts prints and/or a free Loop audiobook (if you order 10 or more Loop books)! You can order at Amazon or lots of other places where books are sold. Click here to learn more.

Loop free gifts incentive (5)

Ferguson and Holding Light

Ferguson and holding light

It’s into silence where you are willing to go. It’s into places dark and heavy. It’s where anger lives, injustice an iron vice around one’s neck. It’s where your people are trapped, souls chained like animals to a steel bar where freedom only seems to go so far. We are here, chained, the weight of the metal we forget to feel, see.

Where are the chains, Father? We are blind, forgetting we wear them when we forget you. We forget you walk into darkness, wanting to remove each and every chain.

We are created in God’s image. We bear His image. We walk around, beauty turned evil when we forget we are to bear light, in His name.

Carry us deeper into the darkness where you are, Father. We are in it but we forget. We forget where light is–and when we forget where light is, we are stumbling around in darkness and not even knowing we’re doing it. We think things around us are pretty good, until they’re not. And it’s because we are focused on creating our own light, our own lives, planning our own escape from the chains that we don’t really even see but think we can escape all the same.

Strip us of self-reliance, Father. Strip us of blindness and deafness and selfishness. Plunge us deeper into darkness, where you are and where you bear the light so we can remember you are the only one who is light. And when we forget and walk around holding high candles of our own making we are ignoring it is you who rescues and brings justice to the oppressed.

But we have a part to play.

You are here, and you are not removed from despair. You catch every tear, but you cry tears too big for us to ever catch, tears for the children who ignore injustice. Tears for the children who turn away from pain. Tears for the children who forget their brothers and sisters and are blind to their own chains that lead to indifference and turning away.

We are injustice too, when we don’t follow you into the darkness, when we don’t look to your leading for love and for rescue. We, too, then, are not truly free.

We are not free if we continue to forget who carries the light. We are not free if we forget we reflect God’s light only if we stay close to his light. We forget we can be candles in the window for the people who suffer and know they suffer. But we can’t bear God’s light for the suffering if we refuse to see how our only strength is the light that is His, within us. We falter when we try to create light on our own.

Suffering remains, darkness remains, when we think it is our own light that illuminates our way and not God’s.

For He stands in the darkness, a light created from nothing. God, you are the Word come down, light in darkness. You illuminate corners where pain walks, and injustice screams, and despair lies huddled long in shadows. Show us where you shine and how we can go with you, to shine. Show us how to see, how to hear, how to walk.

You come for us, freeing us in our chains. Help us stand with you, walk with you, in darkness with you–shining light where chains still exist. Help us go with you, removing chains, one by one, your hand in ours. Only in your light. Let us stay and shine in your light.

We continue to watch you shine. We continue to call out your name. We continue to forget ourselves and seek your face, in the darkness.

Oh, God, let there be light.

Ferguson and Holding Light YAMG pin

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The 1Thing to Do When You Mess Up

The 1 Thing to Do When You Mess UpThe day started off fine. But we didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before. So, we do the awkward stumble of trying not to be irritated at one another. In these situations we hold it together pretty well, for a while.  But it doesn’t take much for a light-hearted conversation to turn into a discussion we never wanted to have.

Early morning at the coffee shop, we get in the wrong line and silently blame the other one for not moving over to the right one fast enough. And then the silent blaming isn’t silent any more. And I wish I didn’t do what I do, so easily, think about winning an argument, justifying my position, rather than seeing where Jesus is, in that line with me, observing His posture, feeling His hand reaching for mine.

I forget He is here.

I forget He is in me.

I forget I am filled with light–when I choose Him.

I forget I am more than this, what I see, what I feel, what I hear, what I speak. I am all these things, but I am more, too. Because I am the warrior-daughter who is called to follow her King and lead with fierce, tender love.

When I, in my weakness as a human, do not use the Holy Spirit’s strength in me to rise about my present circumstances, I neglect the crown He places upon my head. I deny His life in me. I reject His sacrifice, His strength that is mine.

Justin and I sit across from each other in the chilly upstairs room of the cafe and I ask for his forgiveness. And I ask for my King’s forgiveness, too.

I confess I am, at my core, selfish and weak, without the light and life and hope of my Savior.

So I begin again, not trying harder, in my own strength, to do better. No, I am through with attempts to try harder at loving. Rather, I surrender. I lean back into Jesus and turn into him.

I don’t ask Jesus what he wants to say. I don’t ask him to help me do a better job of loving my husband. I don’t ask him to help me be more giving, more considerate and selfless. I turn into him. I choose to turn. I choose to remember him.

I choose to see Jesus–not choose to look for him, but choose to see him.

For our Savior is not hiding. And he is not aloof. And he is not disappointed in our mess ups. He loves and he loves and he loves. And it is in the act of his loving that we turn into him. And we are healing here. And we are safe here. And we are ourselves here.

So, this day, want to join me in practicing turning?

Turning into Jesus.

After all, it’s all any of us can ever do.

It’s all we ever need.

May I pray for you, His girl, as you turn towards your King? What prevents you from turning? Or, how does it feel to turn? Can you respond here, with one word? And I will pray.

The 1 thing to do YAMG pin

Collecting Conversations With God–and Loop, My New Book!

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[T]here it is, the hollow emptiness of silence. The slight sliding of my hand as pen scratches across lined journals. The pressure in my throat as I whisper silent pleas at God. Prayer means me talking to God, and then feeling only a cathartic release–if it is possible to call the effect of journaling, searching for words to describe the state of my heart, cathartic. Either way, I pray with expectation that God is present, but in a distant-sort-of-way. To a Lord who feels to me intimidating, and a little aloof, a Lord who turns because it is his duty to turn, not because he wants to.

I get it.

Praying can feel like a mighty lonely thing then. A desperate, sad affair. Because if we feel God is distant from us, but we pray anyway, it is because we are at the end of our rope and don’t know what else to do. We are in a fix; we are messed up; we need help and a sovereign Lord who will care. And we read in the Bible that he cares, he loves, he sacrifices, he is completely all-in in his love for us. But it can still feel like he is a God that stays on the pages in our Bible when we pray, when we are on our knees in our living room, when we are at the kitchen sink crying those help me prayers.

No matter how earnestly, in prayer, we choose our words; no matter how often we read the Bible; no matter how many songs we sing in worship or how dutifully we complete our homework for Bible study, God feels far away when we don’t hear him answer back when we pray.

Which makes me wonder: What does it mean to hear God, to know he is present with us, to sense him, or to believe he is here, even if we can’t detect  his presence?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God (Hebrews 11:1-6).

And as this message, in Hebrews, continues, it teaches us of the faith of the persecuted, the hungry, the tired, the weak. It teaches us of the perseverance of faith, of continuing to pursue God and believe in his goodness and his presence even when it cannot be tangibily or even, readily, seen. Abel, Abraham, Enoch, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses . . . they all continued to have faith even though they, “commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11: 39-40).

Further on in Hebrews we are reminded of the One who founds and perfects our faith. We learn that following God—believing he is with us and he loves us–is a decision. And with that decision is a desire to lay aside the sin that prevents us from living, praying, in faith.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

And this gets me thinking: I wonder if confessing our sin precipitates the transformation of prayer life. I wonder if surrendering our sin, in faith, to God, is necessary for prayer to stop being static, rote, impersonal. I wonder if this is how prayer changes from talking to God to listening for himI wonder if this is how prayer changes to conversation? After all, he is the Word come down.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

The continually laying down our sin, letting our old self die, is neither fun nor easy.  I know. But when I slow down and I get quiet. When I think about God and how I want to be more like Him, I want to confess the ways I have loved other things more than him. And when I confess, I am thinking about him, and when I think about him, I think about his demeanor and his face. I think about his character and his love. I think about how he wants to be with me, despite all that I’ve done. And that makes me want to be with him more, which prompts me to want to spend time with him and listen, and expect, because he loves me, he wants to speak.

And sometimes God’s speaking is not in words. And sometimes God’s speaking is not even a whisper I sense inside me. Sometimes his words to me–his voice–is his presence, his eyes, his arms spread out to greet me, his extended hand, his walking beside me, his catching each tear and staying with me, no matter what.

A conversation with God can be an unspoken one, for his words are more than words. They are life and light. They are beginning. They are God.

So, how do we converse with God? How do we not?

Some of you here have been longing to hear God’s voice, too. And some of you here have been joining me in my listening for God and have been receiving email devotionals in your inbox each Monday and Thursday morning. These email devotionals I call Loop. (And you can sign up here.) And now, these devotionals are collected in a pretty, hardback volume for you to carry around with you everywhere you go.

Loop book

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Loop book

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The book, Loop: What Women Need to Know, is officially releasing on Monday, December 5. And I am so excited, so thrilled, that you will soon have the opportunity to grab one of these books and be reminded of his whispers to you, his presence with you, his ongoing conversation that he wants you never, ever, to forget. Are you excited, too?

Do you think of prayer as a conversation? When you have prayed this week, has God felt close or far away?

P.S. I’ve been sending out special behind-the-scenes emails to subscribers about Loop the past two weeks. Make sure you subscribe to get the latest scoops–especially, as you’ll be the first to know when I have Loop’s new book page up . . .  . and you’ll learn more about Loop and why folks are so excited about it.

P.P.S. My dear friend Nicky Cahill, writer at Salt and Sparkle, interviewed me for her blog. I loved her questions. You can check it out here.

Hearing God in the Wilderness

hearing god

[F]riends, I have a treat for you. My beautiful, encouraging friend, Kristin Taylor, who knows a few things about listening for God’s voice, particularly while in the midst of personal, medical struggles, has written an ebook, Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith and My Family, to bring encouragement to anyone in the midst of a tough situation while waiting on God. Kristin’s journey was one of infertility and of God surprising her in the midst of heartbreak. One of her deepest desires was to be a mom. I’m excited to have Kristin guest posting here with us today:

[F]or almost two years, trying to become pregnant monopolized my life. I had a job. My husband Greg had a job. We had friends. We went on trips. But trying to have a family dominated my thoughts.

Twenty-one months after I stopped taking my birth control pills and declared my readiness to get pregnant, my doctor referred us to a big-city reproductive endocrinologist. By this time, we also had learned Greg’s contribution to the pregnancy equation wasn’t helping our odds. The reproductive endocrinologist talked about the possibilities of pregnancy given the issues in both our bodies and, of course, scheduled more blood work for me.

The most basic explanation is my body doesn’t make enough of the right hormones to sustain my eggs, meaning the quality and quantity was low. Along with the endometriosis, the specialist strongly suspected I had poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, a condition that would explain my imbalance of female reproductive hormones.

My new doctor helped us connect the dots and eliminate or correct any variables that were standing in our way. While he talked about sperm, eggs, ovulating, implantation, I thought about how perfect conceiving life is.

The precise timing necessary to create a baby is more exact than anything we as imperfect people can control. In fact, it’s perfect, which is proof enough to me that God creates babies. He aligns all the variables and perfects a process inside our imperfect bodies. That is why I believe every baby has a purpose.

With that said, somebody could argue: Why ever go to a doctor if God is in control of conception? I’ll tell you: We need hope. God gave these doctors minds to help people like me that want to make sense out of what is – or in some cases, isn’t – going on inside our bodies.

Even so, God is most certainly in control of making living miracles. And I was weary from the waiting.

In the following weeks I grasped for more answers and hope, so I read a book called Infertility: A Survival Guide for Couples and Those Who Love Them by Cindy Lewis Dake. What stuck with me was a chapter on boundaries. I don’t really remember what Dake said, but I do remember coming away with the desire to set some emotional, financial, and physical boundaries.

I finally heard God through someone else’s words. Yet it’s not her words that stayed with me. It was hearing God tell me to draw some lines for my own well-being that changed me.

Having Type 1 Diabetes, I knew pregnancy was going to be physically hard on me. There would be additional insulin shots and probably more blood sugar ups and downs than I had in normal life. I also knew infertility left me emotionally drained.

While talking through all of this with Greg, we realized we needed to create boundaries for ourselves before we went to our follow-up appointment with the specialist in Nashville. And this was it for us: If the doctor recommended in-vitro fertilization, we would stop trying to get pregnant and turn our attention, money, and energy to adoption.

In October 2006, after 22 months of trying, a doctor who knew far more than we did told us our best odds of getting pregnant would come with IVF. We thanked him for the information and headed home. In those two hours in the car, I had more peace than I’d had since I threw away my package of birth control pills.

We had absolutely no idea what throwing ourselves into adoption would mean, but for the first time in my life I was experiencing the peace that passes all understanding. And I had yet to learn about a teenage girl who was just a couple months into her unexpected pregnancy.

God didn’t give me my way in December 2004 because his way in May 2007 was even better than I could imagine. Less than nine months after I stopped trying to become pregnant, I got to hold my daughter.

Infertility was my wilderness, but I heard God as he led me into my Promised Land. Turns out, adoption built my faith and my family.

For months and months, I begged to be pregnant and struggled to hear God, but God heard the desire of my heart, which was to have a family. It’s a lesson I still hold close: Even when we don’t say the right words, God knows. In his timing, we see a glimpse of his masterpiece.

We’d love to hear from you. How would you describe your season, now, of waiting on God? How can we pray for you?

head shot_20131115_5_1_1Kristin Hill Taylor tells about the two adoption processes that followed the hard season of infertility in Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith & My Family, which is available at Amazon. She believes in taking road trips, living in community, and seeking God as the author of every story – many of which she shares at www.kristinhilltaylor.com. She lives in Murray, Kentucky, with her college sweetheart husband and their two kids.

Ready to Ask What a Future Holds?

future holdsTo the ones who no longer want to run

conversation 30

[F]ather, bring it on. I want all of you, and I hope you hold nothing back. I can take it. I can go back to those hard moments, those moments when the world was spinning and I couldn’t find legs to keep me up. ‘Cause I know you want me to. I know you want to heal me, bring me Home to you. I know you want me to trust you more, let you grab hold of this not-so-sure hand of mine and take me to a place I’ve never been.

I’ve never heard your voice, at least not that I can remember, not a voice I recognize as yours.

I’ve never seen your face, even though I close my eyes and I try to imagine you.

I’ve shirked from surrendering to you, and I have trouble in the quiet, distracted and afraid it will swallow me up. Would you meet me there? Would you teach me to not be afraid?

Because I want to be bold and fearless, with you.

Because I want to stand tall, letting your words to me in this stiff Bible of mine dance right off the pages and into my heart.

You’ve made me to hear you, right? You’ve made me to want to be with you, right? We’re made to be together, aren’t we?

Oh, come on, Father. Come on in. I am choosing you, no matter what that requires. I am tired of running. I am tired of trying to fix this life of mine on my own.

Take it. Take it now. And I’m going to come running right with you now. Not away this time. ‘Cause I want to be with you. I am tired of running away.


[I] am here, child. I wait as long as it takes. I wait as long as you need me to wait. I’m in no hurry. I’m not worried about your next step. But I do know the next step you should take. And I do know how each step takes you in a direction towards what is good for you or towards a distraction from who you really are.

When I speak to you, child–because, yes, I speak to you–it is to the daughter whom I see underneath the layers of wounds, underneath the shrouds you wear. You radiate light, my love, through the shrouds. But it only peeks through. And I speak to you and I guide you and I give you glimpses of what it looks like, what it feels like, to have the shrouds be removed completely.

Oh, daughter, you are not meant to wear these shrouds. They are heavy and dark. They are restrictive, the way they bind you and prevent you from seeing glimpses of what, in you, I see.

But whether you hear me or not, know that I keep speaking.

Whether you see me or not, my love, know that I am here.

Whether you feel me or not, whether you sense my nearness or decide for yourself I am far away, I am close; I do not leave. My love for you keeps me in you, the moment you said yes. But for more of me, for the lightening of your load, for freedom from doubt and worry and chasing, yes, let me come on in.

I hear you. I am coming. I am going to heal in you these places that have not yet seen light. I love your readiness, my darling girl. I love your willingness, my daughter. I love your soft heart and your courage, letting me be your courage and the director of your future now.


[S]ong to listen to: “Endless Years,” United Pursuit Band


This is conversation 30 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

Break Me

break me flowers fade
From me

conversation 27

[F]ather, why is it the people I think are closest to me are the ones, sometimes, that I actually feel understand me the least? Or, is it, really, that they understand me the most?

I was confronted the other day by someone close to me who said that my priorities aren’t straight—that I should surrender my days to you more, that I am not giving of myself like I should.

Father, I dread being told that I need to change. I dread being told by someone else that I should probably go to you and ask you what you think. I think it is because I fear that I am messing up somehow.

And I don’t like to mess up.

And I don’t like being told what to do.

And I especially don’t like someone telling me I am messing up and I need to surrender something in me. Rather than listen to what they have to say, I want to attack them with my words. I want to deny I am doing anything wrong. Instead, I want them to change to accommodate me.

You love me like this, right?

In the garden of Gethsemane your Jesus bowed and surrendered, modeling, even before he ultimately let himself be sacrificed for our ransom, what it means to completely trust in you, completely surrender to you. Jesus shows me what it means to love you. What it means to be your child. What is means to know you are here and you are listening and you want to know how we feel about things.

To be a disciple of Jesus means we trust you, Father, more than ourselves. It means we trust your will is what is best. But—now this is important—being a disciple of Jesus requires knowing your will first. Otherwise it is impossible to surrender to it.

Is that right, God? Must I know you will before I am able to surrender?

Does wisdom necessitate surrender? Or does wisdom follow willingness to surrender?

I know this: my rebellion stems from the same pride that Satan had when he rose against you and wanted to be better than you, thinking his way was best. He didn’t want to get any closer to you; he wanted to remove himself from your presence because he didn’t like being told what to do and he believed he was smarter and more beautiful and wiser . . . than you.

And I am doing the same thing as Satan did when I turn away from wise counsel and I use harsh, rash, unkind words in an attempt to fend off the person who loves me and believes, for me, it is good to pursue change.

Father, here is my confession then: I am the rebellious daughter who wants to come home. I am the prodigal, the mess-up, the prideful girl who needs to fall, who needs to get low.

Take me like this, will you? Your will not mine be done?


And this time my friends, there are no words to the conversation. Sometimes, you know, there are no words. But, rather, it is His presence that fills us in response.

And with His presence, I am before him, on the ground, a heap of rags in a background of turquoise and shadows. He stands before me, a Father who faces his daughter and knows that sometimes it isn’t words she needs to hear.

Sometimes, she needs to be allowed to cry at his feet, to be given permission to let her tears fall over him. She is unworthy and she is loved. She is broken and she is mended. She needs to pour out her heart to the One who knows her and adores her, despite her wretchedness. For she is loved by the One who loves. And she is remembering who she is.

He bends low to touch her face, reaches his hand underneath her chin. She knows He is asking her, with his movement, to raise her head, to look up. So she does.

She does.

She does.


[T]his is day 27 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

Stay Here, My Love. I Stay.

stay here my love I stay

From Me

conversation 20

[F]ather, I can’t hear you when the day moves too fast. It’s been too full. And I know there are days like this, but I miss you when I don’t slow. There was a time when I was restless and I sought to be filled up, using whatever was near me to do the job. Internet shopping was my go-to when the kids were little and they used to nap in the afternoons. And gummy bears–the big Costco bags, too.  My mind and body were filled with things that never satisfied. They could never fill me like you do.

I can feel the tension in me as this week is filled with things to do, Father. I can feel in me the self-inflicted pressure to want to please people, too, as things get so busy. Their expectations of me drive me to make decisions I often later regret.

But each decision I make out of fear of not being liked, out of  the desire to be perceived as successful or responsible or whatever, leaves me empty. Because you aren’t there, in these places I chase down. You aren’t there, where I seek validation and fulfillment outside of you.

I confess to you my brokenness. I confess to you my worry about messing up. I confess to you my pride–how it drives me to get less sleep, the false and fleeting reward of productivity, efficiency, success.

Help me seek only your face, your whispers, your voice in me. It’s your voice in me, Father, that sustains me. It’s your voice in me through which love for me is received.

For your voice is not just a voice that I hear. Your voice is a presence to which my soul responds. I am lost without your voice. I can’t find my Home without you leading me there.

I give you the remainder of this day, my Lord, my King. I give you all of me. I let you wrap me up and lean back against you and stay. Oh, Father, I can’t hear you, I can’t hear your voice, unless I desire, with all my heart, to stay.

Justin gave me rings a few weeks ago that he had stamped with my favorite lines you’ve whispered. They are written in Loop:

stay here,

my love.

I stay.

And I gave these rings straight off my hand to a friend to wear because she, too, needs to remember.

stay here,

my love.

I stay.

And she wore them and then she gave them back. And now I continue to wear your words on my hand. Your words. Your voice. My prayer.

stay here,

my love.

I stay.


[T]ake my voice deeper in now, love. Take me in deeper. Walk with me. Listen more closely. My voice is how you awake. My voice is how you dream. My voice is how you stir and seek the more I have planned.

You know there is more for you, more of me to realize in you, to experience in you. Awake a bit more, now, love. Awake and get to dreaming, get to seeing and hearing. Let me quiet you and help you run. Run hard. Run fast. Run straight into me and don’t pause to look around–and especially, don’t look back.

I will lean in close and tell you more. I will lean in close and draw you deeper in. I will lean in close and reveal more of this language you want to know.

Speak this language with your heart. Speak this language with every move you make. Speak this language with your love. Let it overflow, love. Run straight into me–deeper now–and let me overflow into everything you, and onto everyone you touch.

With my voice.

With my love.

With my hope.

With my light.

And in this running? And in this seeking? . . . In this speaking loud the language and love you pour out with my strength and might?

stay here,

my love.

I stay.


Song to listen to: “Remind Me Who I Am,” Jason Gray


[T]his is day 20 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

For You Shine Bright, My Love

You Are Bright

For J.

conversation 13

[O]h, it’s been cloudy here, God. This heart of mine drifting, unsure of what it feels. Sleeplessness can do this, I know. For I am so tired, stumbling through days with this precious life, my newborn, swaddled close. You journey me back home, where family is, and I am sure you are here.

Take me up close now, God. Take me in deeper. Take me where I hear you, where I feel you, where I recognize you, through the haze of my sleep-deprived state.

There is color all around and I want to step out into it. There is music singing. I can hear it in the trees, the aspens stretching gold fingers to blue sky and shouting aloud your name.

Help me shout with my whole heart, my Father. Help me to sing out loud this beauty you give me. Help me to inhale your rest, ingest you food. Let your words sink deep into my heart, your presence all around letting me rise.

You shine so bright, my Lord. Your holy presence fills me and equips me for standing. With you I sing and I stand.


[M]y bright shining one, there is color all around you. You radiate hope my darling. You illuminate me.

I see you. I know you. You are given rest. You are loved and not forgotten. You are found and held.

You are my darling one who speaks healing with her words. You are my song, my poemia, my crafting of beauty when it stays and doesn’t fight and lets me show you how special you are, in my name.

My lovely one, close your eyes now. For I am here, in the turmoil. I am here, in the chaos. I am here, in the uncertainty. I am here, in the wondering of what’s next and when and how.

You, my shining one, know how to rescue because I’ve rescued and I am here, in the beauty of this moment, asking you to let me hold you close. No searching for me is required, just an acknowledgment of your desiring me. For you are made to desire me, and here, in the desire, I speak love and restoration into your heart.

There is more for you, in the staying close, in the trusting me, in the letting me hold your heart.

you shine bright


Song to listen to: “I Am Yours,” by Misty Edwards


[J]oin 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.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

Because You Love and I am Fierce

For B.

conversation 10

[O]h, God, I feel so alone. This boy I thought I knew is moving far from me–living in the same house and not talking and not sharing with me what is really going on. I miss him. I miss our relationship. I miss talking to him and being close to him and doing the things together that we used to do.

Why does growing up have to be so hard? Why does parenting have to be so confusing–and so isolating, too? I am scared that I am losing him, that something is going on with him and I don’t know what it is and I don’t know how to reach him.

I pray for community, God. I pray for friends who know him and who love him. I pray for opportunity to be present with him. I pray for my heart to be soft and for me to look to you and listen for you and hear your whispers as to what to do, when I am with him, and what to say.

I am impatient for change, God. I am frustrated by how stuck I feel. I am miserable here, feeling unsupported and unheard. I feel the weight of the responsibility in parenting my son well, all the while I know he is yours and you have good plans for him. But is he going to make it that far, Father? Am I going to lose him before those plans are reached?

I am afraid–afraid of messing up, afraid I’ve already messed up so much that our relationship can’t be fixed.

Come, Father. Come and rescue me. Come and rescue us. We are desperate for you, desperate for you to come and speak your truth and let us be gathered close, in the shadow of your wings.


[M]y darling girl, you are here, choosing me, choosing to seek me. Look to me and I am here, always, when I am sought–even when it doesn’t feel like it. How you feel and what you know are not what I feel and what I know. I see you. I see your darling boy. There is a future here that is good. But this journey now? I am sorry it is so hard.

Let me take you deeper in. Let me show you where I’ve been, with  you, and how there are things I so want to let you know about your past. I am here, gathering you up, and I want to show you where I’ve been. Because then it will be easier to see me, seek me, listen for me, in the places where we are going.

You are beautiful, my dear one. Let me take this fear. Let me take this worry. Let me show you glimpses of what I see, hints of what I know. That boy of yours? That boy who is mine? He was chosen. He was designed by me. I know he looks unprotected. I know his future looks  uncertain. But give him to me. Give all of him to me–and listen for me as I teach you how to surrender your mother’s heart again, and again.

I have made you to love with a fierceness that is good. I have made you to love with a desire to fight for him, to fight for this boy of yours whose life feels so fragile. Just lean on me, watch me. Ask for wisdom. Look for my truth. Eat up my words and let them nourish you. I am what will sustain you through trials. Nothing else.

You are not forgotten. You are not lost. You are not alone. I can’t even get enough of you, my darling.


Song to listen to: “Lord Come“, United Pursuit Band


[J]oin 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.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

 

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.


[W]hat 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


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

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Let’s Have This Be a New Season

For A.

conversation 8

[H]oly 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 Know What You Miss

For H.

conversation 6

[D]ear 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.


[M]y 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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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,

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