Don’t Keep That Secret. It Might Be Time to Confess

IMG_7852

It was when I confessed what I had done–and what I do–that I began to know Jesus for the first time. Growing up learning about him was one thing. Seeing his face? Hearing his voice? Feeling the Spirit’s heat burning from my insides?

Confessing to Jesus what I was loving more than him–in this case, my pride–led me to experiencing God rather than looking at him from a distance. Confession was letting God create space in my heart so I could experience Jesus living in me.

When we stuff down our sin, refuse to confess our sin to God, we say yes to pride. We say yes to our desire for independence and self-sufficiency. We say yes to everything our culture tells us is perfectly good, an example of strength and success: work hard; keep your head down and try harder when you fail; don’t let on you’re weak and you can’t get the job done on you’re own; don’t let anyone see you when you’re down.

We shout to that distant God up there, somewhere in heaven,”I’m good! I’ve got this covered. No room for you!” And we remain feeling alone. And God keeps feeling distant. And we work harder to live our lives well, whatever that really means.

IMG_7846

You know who we’re listening to when we ignore God’s voice and respond to all the other voices that boom much louder, don’t you?

Oh, Jesus, I pray now that you silence the voice of the enemy right now. For everyone reading these words right now, silence his voice; make his whispers unable to be heard by our hearts. Let us hear just your voice. Let us recognize you and say yes to you, with wide-open hearts.

To do this, to say yes to the Holy Spirit filling us, to say yes to Jesus living in us, we must confess all the ways we are trying to live without God, all the things we’ve kept hidden, all the things we’ve tried to fix in ourselves, on our own, all the things of which we are ashamed, all the things we’d much rather forget than ever, ever address.

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help (Hebrews 4:16, MSG).

It was in college when I–a lonely, overwhelmed transfer student in a new, big school–that I first confessed my sins to Jesus. I was tired of keeping secrets, tired of pretending to have it all together; tired of praying to a God that felt so very far away and not at all like a God who was with me, in me, wanting to whisper love to my heart.

For me, there was a particular secret that I was working hard to hide from everyone. And Jesus was asking me to give it up.

And some of you here, reading? I know you have secrets too. You have things to confess, ways that you’ve been trying to fix yourself, things that happened in the past (whether the past could have been years ago or just a few minutes ago) of which you are ashamed.

 If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God (1 John 1:9).

Can you give it up now? Whether this is the first time you’ve confessed your heart to God, or if this is your thousandth, can we do this together, kneeling together before our God and asking him to show us what it is that we’ve been keeping from him?

IMG_7848

Go to a quiet place and close your eyes. Ask him to search your heart, to put his hand on the one place in your heart right now he would like to claim. What moment still feels heavy? What situation have you been trying to fix? What memory still haunts you? What burden are you carrying, this moment, that brings you to tears? In what area are you trying to be strong, on your own? What relationship is causing you pain?

Now, here’s an extra challenge–and you don’t need to do this at all. But, if you feel your heart beating fast and your chest all hot and you are feeling like you want to step forward even more, trusting Jesus in community around you, would you be bold enough to type up the confession, on the blog’s comments page, right here?

Or, if that feels like just too much–and I love that a lot of you do this–would you feel like typing up the confession and sending it just to me? Because then we can pray for each other and for God’s continued protection of us and our hearts as we confess. It can be a beautiful yet vulnerable place when we confess to our God. We are letting go of the old self and asking him to bring more of his new life in us.

Now, if you do this, there will be opposition. Those other whispers we talked about earlier? Yes, well, satan is not going to want to have you confess a thing. And if you do, he isn’t going to want you to feel good about it. He is going to want you to feel alone and crummy and afraid and doubtful it was ever a good idea in the first place.

So, together, let’s do the opposite of what we’ve been doing before.

IMG_7851

Let’s not hide. Let’s speak aloud our confessions to our God and imagine we are here, in a circle together, doing it together before our God. I know I would be emboldened by your confession. I would be reassured. I would see Jesus in you when you went ahead, saying yes to Him and no to the whispers of the enemy who are telling you to do exactly the opposite.

So, how about it, sister?

Are you with me?

I’ll go first (and here is the confession from that day in college):

Father, I confess I am worried about doing a good job with what you’ve given me to do. And in the evenings, with my children, I often react out of fear of still, not being enough or doing enough,with my job, my work, and I have trouble slowing down and being present with them. I give you my time with them. I give you my work. I give you my relationships. I give you my marriage. Help me to love you and stay here, with you, no matter what I am doing. Help me keep my eyes on you, my heart open to you. Let me see you wherever I go, wherever I am. Silence all the lies about needing to work harder to be loved. I confess I need you. I confess I am desperate for you. Help me stay forever desperate for you. I lay these burdens down. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Time to confess YAMG pin (1)

 

Because You Want More of God

more God

Y ou remember yesterday, the day of waking early, indigo sky etching clouds with traces of cotton-candy pink. It was one of those normal days of wonder, when you rise when the house still sleeps–or you think it does, and you tiptoe out the side door into the writing studio/cottage a total of twenty steps out from the house and you find your eleven year old on the couch attempting to set up a video game when he is supposed to be under a thick comforter, tucked fast.

You climb onto the stationary bike because your calf is sore when you run, although you’re sad to not run because you’re afraid to disappoint your sister and your brother in the race you’re supposed to be running in a few weeks and you’re learning your body is telling you no, actually, you can’t. And you like to be out there, running in quiet, when clouds yawn and sun rises–brilliance stretching like a promise across the sky. But today you’ll be content with pedaling in circles, reading Proverbs from an app on your phone.

And it won’t be ’til later that you wonder about brilliance and glory and how it is that morning time feels so sacred, and nighttime too–and how it feels easier, somehow, to go to that place where glory is pursued, where Spirit is heard, like beauty rustling in a dark, quiet place too often too crowded to hear rustling or stirring at all. In the morning. Or in the nighttime. But not in the day.

Not in the day when you forget to stop and ponder and wonder–about miracles and brilliance and the way light tiptoes through tree branches and over the tips of leafless, black limbs in that same indig0-turning-peach-rose sky.

But you realize that you begin to think about God’s wonder and light–his brilliance, his love, when you are sitting quiet in the most regular and normal place, on the metal bleachers of the football field when your 12 year old warms up with his team. You sit there dressed in black, the color of the day, and you pull out a book that makes you cry when you read just the first pages and you realize why it is that your chest feels tight and the afternoon sun shines glory like a spotlight on a tired, weary heart.

It is a language you are yearning to speak, the first notes of lullaby sung from heaven during the immeasurable moments before you were born. And you sit, thinking about wonder and about light. You realize that you want more of these moments, the time of ordinary and miracle, the measuring of all that is magic, the curl of the crimson fallen leaf by your Converse toe, the trill of the three year old’s laughter, the notes carrying further than the boom of the announcer over the speakers as he tells you to cheer loud and hard at each down.

You are here, in this miracle of moment. You are here, in the middle of wonder and brilliance, and you want to stay. You want to stay here in the ordinary and track the wonders by staying in them, noticing them. And you know there is so much you don’t see–so much between the waking and the lying down at night to sleep that you miss. And you think aboutu what it would be like to go in deeper, tread without trepidation into faith, into beauty, into listening and watching and pondering and noticing.

For you want to want it more. You want to want God more. And you know that in the noticing and the waiting and the choosing God will pull you in deeper, deeper into Him, and that–of course– is the only place you want, really, to go.

So, this morning, when you wake again, you will practice the looking for wonder and you’ll remember the miracle of the moment–this very moment–is sacred space with you and your God, the Creator who sings and dances over you, delighting in His girl come home.

*The book I started reading at the football field is Timothy Willard and Jason Locy’s Home Behind the Sun. It grabbed me from the very first pages, and I can’t wait to read more. What books are you reading or what music are you listening to or what surroundings are inspiring you to think about–and want more of–God?

linking with Laura Boggess: Playdates with God

photo credit: picjumbo

Ready to Ask What a Future Holds?

future holdsTo the ones who no longer want to run

conversation 30

Father, 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.


Song 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)

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.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

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.

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

trapped? how about living the life you’ve imagined?

trapped.jpg

We can wake up, these days, and believe, with all our hearts, that this is the most ordinary day. The alarm goes off and everything looks just the same as it did before. Same bed, same room, same situation as the previous day. There can be comfort in the sameness. There be comfort in knowing the routine. It offers some feeling of control, which can feel safe. And safe can feel good.

I wonder if I think I desire safety and routine, but in reality I desire something I will never receive because I have so little faith. Doing the same thing, day after day, hoping that there will be more time to accomplish a certain task, or that my relationship with my family and friends–and my God–will be closer and more meaningful and awesome.

Or maybe I struggle with the hard work change requires. While Justin and I write how new life comes only after resurrection from death–how Jesus modeled new life only after agreeing to die, and with Him, setting us free from sin–I am convinced, again, something in me may just need to die. For I want to abandon, once more, the feeling of being trapped.

Feeling trapped in the life God has given me–in the life Jesus died for, in the life of freedom He offers–doesn’t make much sense. We’re not meant to feel trapped. We’re not meant to feel overwhelmed. But we can feel that way, nevertheless.  So I stand, in my need, with the Corinthians, as Paul speaks God’s words to my heart:

Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that (1 Corinthians 1: 5-9, MSG).

I have not a thing to lose now. My Father has given me everything I need. Trapped? I imagine this is not a favorite word in His vocabulary. He came to save us as we were enslaved in sin, trapped in greed and pride and lack of faith. Trapped.

I used to feel trapped by the guilt I’d feel by not feeling one hundred percent fulfilled by being a mom who stayed home full time with her kids. I believed there was something wrong with me. There was.

I used to feel trapped in relationships when I’ve felt disconnected from someone I cared about, or  misunderstood. I’ve felt trapped when my desires and passions were not claimed–when I ignored how God made me to love certain things, and I wasn’t doing them, or I wasn’t allowing myself time to believe they were real, or for me to do. Something was wrong in me then, too.

do what you love

There is a life Jesus has fought for me to live, a new life that is more than circumstantial. It is a heart change, this reality of freedom. It is a life that requires faith to realize. It is a life that I want to choose.

So, do I just trust you more God? Do I call out to you, pleading “I believe! Help me with my  unbelief!” ? Do I just refuse to believe in ordinary?

There’s a pillow sitting on the little couch in the front room we had made from the crib our babies’ slept in those first years. “Live the life you’ve imagined.” I like it–all the possibility it reminds me is real and true, and, well, possible to experience. This ordinary day.

live the life you've imagined

But I think it comes down to this for me: I need to believe the life I imagine is possible to live, with Christ, is for me–a life of freedom,where He is capable of taking from me every silly thought and every heavy burden.  A new life bought by His ransomed life. I live to die and be resurrected and live, again, with Him.

So, again, I pray God helps me die.

Die to anger and to self-obsession. Die to my plans and to the minutes that don’t go like I thought they should. Die to resentment and to my  critical spirit. Die to selfishness and to greed. Die to believing the lie I’m not good enough to do the things He’s made me to do, or that I shouldn’t even begin to imagine freedom from worry or fear or pride.

And live to imagine He is here. Live to imagine I am made by a God who loves me. Live to imagine I can handle anything, with Him by my side. Live to imagine, no matter what I face, it’s going to be okay.

Sisters, can you imagine being free?

sometimes you just can’t stay

Five of us on spring break in the big city closest to our home. It is the beginning of adventure now, reminding me how much I love a beginning—all possibility in a thing on the cusp of turning. We have no agenda, on purpose. We are curious what will happen if we let things unfold.

I grab hold of my husband’s hand, watching our two sons and daughter race each other up the steep paved walks, and I think about beginnings. I think about what is required for a beginning to be realized, and the relationship beginnings have with endings. For a beginning to occur, we need to welcome whatever, in relation to the beginning, is supposed to end.

There is such a push and pull in the usual, the trying to let things be what they are. But giving up control? To let things begin? Perhaps a certain amount of courage is required to jump into a beginning, a possibility, while trying to not be the one fully in charge.

Is that it? Is it courage? Maybe it feels a bit like that when, in the discomfort of a potential beginning we anticipate the ending that must precede it. This will be all new territory, and we’re not sure about that. In these cases, a part of us whispers it is safer, saner, better, to go back to the ending, the place where we were before the beginning, and stay.

We want to stay.

San Francisco

Even though we know it is not for us to stay. Even though we know adventure—living in faith—only comes when we are willing to let the part of us afraid of new things, afraid of risk, afraid of not depending on our own strength . . . die. ‘Cause, as my 6th grader would put it (even though I hate it when he says this word)—that feeling of letting something go, something so familiar . . . well, it would kind of suck.

Yep, death hurts. It’s tough to look forward to the unavoidable uncomfortableness that comes with an ending.

Even if that’s the only way we can ever live the truth of beginning. And begin adventure. And begin to feel a little bit more free.

My children keep running, my husband and I following them just behind.

I have been dying a bit these past days, putting down something close to my heart for the purpose of something good and new around the corner I can almost—but not quite—feel and hear, taste and see. I friend was telling me the other day about how dying is the only thing that brings about life. And I remember the death of the seed in the ground bringing forth roots and green sprouts in moist soil, stretching tall toward blue, endless sky.

And I think about us here, we women who want to live out stories of beauty, where yes, the sky is blue, and yes, we are the young girl, heart beating fast, breathing free. We want to be stretching our arms out wide and we want to be laughing long through dancing sunlight underneath speckled boughs of green.

And to be that girl, the girl of freedom and beginning and life, we must let our selves die again, trusting our Jesus, trusting His way to life, trusting death and laying ourselves down. In doing so the relinquishing of all control is our choice, our path to life, our only way to live.

From behind them, I breath in my children’s laughter. I watch their arms pump fast and their strong legs charge resolutely. Their voices call loud as they urge each other on.

Yes, keep going. Even though it’s hard. Together, we’re making it to the top of the hill.

with abundance and laughter and joy, freedom is for you (what I learned at a women’s retreat)

We sit in clusters, sixty women tucked in a log house on a hill in the middle of a Colorado snow storm. Snow presses up to ceiling-tall windows, glistening. Everything outside–the mountains, the distant pine trees standing sentry–washed with sparkling, quiet white. Sunny, the golden retriever who lives here, flies by the window, a reddish blur of fur every few moments, doing laps in white spray. Bounding, bounding.

She makes me smile.

Yes, yes, this is for me; this is for you. We are made to leap and live free, washed with white, transformed, brand new. But how do we get there? How do we live uninhibited, joyful, carefree?
snow 1.jpg Linda, who drove hours to be with us and share what she hears when she pursues and listens to God’s heart, does not hold back when she talks. She knows what it means to live trapped. She knows what is means to believe she is doing all the right things while nothing feels or turns out right. She knows what it means to be hungry, desire newness, crave redemption, risk falling so she can live in fullness that can’t be compared to any one thing.

That’s you, too, right? Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you craving a new life?

snow 2.jpg

I watch the snow through the window behind her when she speaks: it’s beauty, how it’s so clean. But Linda’s voice captivates me, and I turn. She smiles and reaches her arms far, her square glasses framing eyes sparkling blue, brighter than the sky, brighter than the twinkle of ice crusted on each window sill. She knows who she is. She knows the sound of her Father’s voice. And she has come to tell us about Him, and how we miss connection with Him–and walk on too dangerous ground–when we align ourselves with things far, far away, from Him. These are things that can seem so good but might actually open up entry points to the enemy getting in.

How am I vulnerable to not trusting God? How do I choose my own way rather than His?snow 3.jpg

Ang, leading the four day retreat, demonstrates, with her hands spread out, head thrown back, fingers wide, eyes up, back arched, what it looks like to live fully abandoned, fully present, fully awake and on.

Yes.

And what it looks like to live life filled with striving, fear, shame: head bent low, arms hugging torso, back curled forward, eyes down. Oh, no. No. Let’s not do this.

snow 4.jpg

We have a choice. Stay here, in shame, in darkness, in self-pity, in self-protection and false safety and hiding. Or here, risking community, seeking His voice, asking Him in to heal, going for help, laying down the idols we believe in more than our God.

You don’t have to do this alone. You are not made to do this alone.snow 5.jpg

Stand up now. Lift your feet. Straighten your back, lift up your head and then raise your eyes. Look up. Look up, into the eyes of your Savior. Yes, open your eyes; keep your chin raised to heaven; spread your arms. Spread them wide, fingers outstretched. Is this you? Can we do this? Can I do this with you?

I know this feels so . . . exposed. I know being so vulnerable and open is difficult, uncomfortable. It’s hard to not want to protect ourselves from this world. We have been wounded so much. Life has been hard.

Yes, He knows. He knows. And, I promise, He promises, He is not going to leave you here, here where the pain overwhelms, here where the memories are pressed down deep, in a place that feels safer than the thought of dealing with them, bringing them to the light. That would be dangerous. That would be painful. That would take a lot of work.

Yes. Yes, it will hurt. But . . . it will be good. I promise.

I watched Ang,the beautiful organizer of this whole retreat, spread her arms out like this, head back, a dozen times this last weekend. And what it represented–the freedom and complete joy and abandonment of self and focus on Jesus and fullness of heaven in me–is what I want. Everything in me screams yes, yes, yes!

Yes, I want this. I want to live a life holding nothing back.
snow collage.jpgDuring the break I listen, desperate for His voice, the only navigation for my life that is true and sound and good. And I hear Him. I ask Him, what do you have to say to us, Father? What do you have for your girls? And the tears pour fast (as usual) and I scrawl this down:

My daughter, I am holy. I make everything holy. You have nothing to fear. I am bigger than every thought, every ache, every fear. I stand before you in the gap, between your belief and unbelief. I stand before you—your God, your rescuer, your redeemer. I stand before you and you are not forgotten. You are held. Always.

If you want Me, if you want more of Me in your life, I will come. I will not hold back. If you want my love, if you desire more freedom and joy in your life, ask Me to come. Let Me come to the deep places, the dark places, the unknown places.

I know you. I know where in you I need to go. So trust Me. Trust Me. Let Me come. With Me I bring no fear. With Me I bring no sorrow. With Me I bring only hope and newness and life. I am life, for you, my love. With my love for you I bring life. I pursue you, and I will never let you go.

So, come. Come. Ask Me to come. Ask Me to enter in. You hear Me. I am close. So close. And I love you. You are the one I love.

And I believe Him. I believe Him. So I will go. And He will heal me. And He will make me new. And I will live fully awake and filled with His joy.

This white snow falling soft and quiet is beautiful. And I want to run through it. I want to bound through white and spin ’round and laugh, snowflakes dancing in my hair.

 How does it feel to stand up straight, head back, arms out, eyes turned up to God? How can I encourage you and pray for you? 

Also, if you want to get hugs of encouragement twice a week, just like His words above, make sure you check out Loop, by clicking this link right here.

This post is linked up with Jennifer Lee, #tellHisstory.

 

to believe in

My mom laid out the wrapped gifts under the tree while I sat frozen to the couch. My boyfriend was still there and wouldn’t leave. He didn’t have a place to go home to, and I didn’t know how to ask him to go.  It was 11 pm, too late for him to still be here, and now my mom was bringing out gifts from the bedroom, one by one, laying them out.

I  had been to the counselor already, just the day before. The plan was set to return after Christmas and get the thing done. But I was sixteen, and more of a child than I knew then. And while I knew there wasn’t a Santa at this point, or anything else left to believe in, after lying to my parents and the whole world already about who I was, I still wanted to believe in things I didn’t have a right to believe in. Magic and surprises and presents under the tree that weren’t there the night before.

I had been keeping a secret from my parents and my friends about who I was and the price, only now, seemed too great. My mom bending down to place presents underneath the tree when I should have been in bed. I couldn’t bear to ask her if I could help her. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I wasn’t supposed to be pregnant at sixteen and awake when I watched my mom play Santa Claus and she didn’t know who I really was.

to believe in

to believe in 2

to believe in 3

to believe in 4

It feels so much easier sometimes to believe in a God who is distant. Believing we are loved based on our behavior, our merits, leaves us with a feeling of control, of self-righteousness. I was used to earning, working hard for attention and love. Somewhere early on, I had decided the praise I received from doing the right thing meant who I was was good, too. I wasn’t yet ready to believe I was loved without deserving it. I knew I wasn’t really good, wasn’t really pure and noble and kind. Sixteen years old and I was finally getting glimpses of the death that comes in trying to earn love, a gift that can never be earned.

A baby boy was born to save my life and the baby growing inside of me died because I thought that was the only way I might live.

There is no way to breath now. There is no way to live with excitement and hope, a grown woman now, excited for magic and beauty and the wonder of opening presents under the tree. . . without letting in love I don’t deserve, without realizing I am incapable of loving unless I know I am unworthy of it and my Savior died for me because He loved me anyway. Knowing we are loved, still, despite our sin, frees us to love and not strive towards anything not ours to give.

My two oldest children just woke up, and then the third, stumbling cheerfully into the family room where I am under the white fluffy blanket by our heater. They don’t know yet what they are capable of–all the beauty God sees in them, how they are built to love and be desperate in their surrender to a King who arrived the most beautiful in His humbleness, in His knowing He was chosen, He was free, He was loved. We are asked to love like a child, with eyes open to wonder, full of faith and acceptance for things we don’t yet understand. When childhood is stolen, through sin, the Father who loves to be with us, sing to us love songs throughout our day, asks us if we’d like the innocence back.

tree

tree 2

tree 3

Shall we stay here together, a little longer? Shall we wait together, your shoulder folded into my chest. Shall we rest? May I give you rest? It is time to slow now. It is time to stay close to Me. There is so much to do, I know. But is there? Do you trust your list of what needs to get done more than Me? It will not all get done. There will never be that perfect day to spend with Me. But this moment, this moment right here.

When I tell my children what I know about the God who sits under trees next to daughters who strive and strive to be loved, I don’t have to tell them the details of why I know what I know. I can show them in stories of trying to be loved when I was loved already, and in stories of love with arms wrapped around weary shoulders and whispers of love to rest tired heads.

Come close, my daughter. I miss the slowing. I miss the gentle rhythm of moving, my step, then yours, my leaning, then yours. Let this be the season of slowing, of sitting with me. Come, with anticipation. Come, with expectation. Come, with excitement. Come, with time to spend with Me. Come, with desire. Come, with surrender. Come, with longing. Come, with a seeking heart.

Come to Me, and I will sit down too. And we will sit together, side by side, and we will enjoy this day together. You will be so close you will hear the sound of my breathing. You will watch the movement of my lips when I speak. You will know the color of my eyes. And you will know the feel of my skin as I hold your hand in my own.

Can we sit together now, my dear?

I’m not going to miss my King this Christmas, this baby who lived looking to the One who knew who held him. There is too much life, this day, to stay the sad girl, up too late at night, in front of the Christmas tree, wishing she were someone different than who she is.

Does Christmas feel heavy for you this year? How are you doing at slowing and letting Him care for you? How can I pray?

Also, Kay B. won the Sarah Ha pendant giveaway! So happy to get that shipped off to you yesterday, Kay! Merry Christmas!

{The words in italics, above, were excerpted from Loop, “I’ve Written You a Love Song”. Have you subscribed yet? You can, here.}

light all around

I walk through dirt path this morning, my friend’s little girl calling loud, “Come with me! Come this way!” Her little boots scuff crisp leaves and fallen acorns. She finds two pine cones on a picnic bench–her strong, determined fingers grasping hold and flinging fast. I stay close, watching wisps of fine hair flow behind as she pumps little arms and trudges uphill.

Deep breath.

Light Dancing

Yellow sunlight shines bright through leafless trees. Rays of gold, warmth raining hope. I remember, a few days ago, how words–sweet whispers–came fast.

This is not the end, you know. Even though, this day, it may feel like it. This is the day I begin again. The day I begin again in you.

Your weariness is only temporary. Your sadness is fleeting, even though it feels like it will never end, never subside, never go away. You, my love, are sunshine. You are kisses of light upon flower petals when they stretch for light, for Me. I’m here.

I lift her into the swing. Thick black anchors her in and she leans forward, eyes closed, cheeks crinkled, smile wide. “I’m flying!” Her hands grip the front of her seat and she leans forward, then back. “Higher!” And my hands reach, pressing to the swing, and let go. She soars away and back, head down now, watching her feet scuff the tanbark when she lets them stretch long.

I’m here.

In moments. In light. In shoes scuffed. In paths unmarked. In whispers. In laughter. In wonder. In tears.

I am present, my daughter. I kiss your face with my hope. I grasp hold of sorrow with a single hand and I usher it away, bit by bit. I know you want it washed away with a quick brush, a dashing movement. I could do that. But I want you to look to Me, now, child. I want you to wait on Me and recognize Me when I come for you. I want you to practice recognizing beauty and hope.

I lift her out of the swing. It is time to head back.

I want you to wait on moments where hope feels too far away to imagine it as real. And then I want you to throw out doubt, just throw it out to the depths of hell, where sin was cast with the last breath of my Son’s words, choosing Me, seeking Me, looking to Me.

Practice recognizing beauty and hope? Practice seeing You? My efforts, my practicing–will be enough, then? I begin again, this day, by looking to You? By trusting You? By waiting and practicing recognizing You, all around? Will You show me then what You so readily see? 

I cannot stop loving you. I cannot stop. I cannot stop chasing you, pursuing you, looking for you. Oh, girl, you are not my lost one. You are not hopeless or far from Me. I am here, and I come to hold you and lift your head to the light shining brightly on your face. Do you see it? Do you see how light comes to shine? Do you see how it came for you and how it rescued you and how light shines through all darkness so darkness, with Me close, is no more?

You will let me take steps toward You, and I will reach You. You are here. I look to You and wait. I look to You and do not remain passive, powerless, overwhelmed. You give me tools–your grace and strength within me to throw out lies. I don’t have to stay here, weary and sad. I don’t have to stay here, hopeless and lost.

Your power within me, your grace within me. Emmanuel. You are here. You are what is true. . . . But I am scared. I fear I will soon, again, feel so alone.

Do you know how all shadows are chased away with a choice to see Me? You can do this. You can see Me. You can see Me moving you, one step at a time, from this place where you feel you need rescue and I show you how I have already come and I come again. I never stop coming for you, my daughter. You are not alone, and it is not too late, and you have not done anything to chase Me away. You cannot chase Me away.  

I am not lost. You have found me. I am not hopeless, shrouded in darkness. You lift my head. I look to You, and You help me see You. I surrender to You, and You show me your light. I claim your power in me–breaking agreements with darkness and sin and shadows–and You fill me. I choose You and wait on You, and You are here. I begin.

You are beloved and holy because I have made you so. You are lovely and clean because I have made you that way. You are brand new and adored and shame cannot find you. Find your name written on my hand; respond to my voice;  know the name called out to you, in the light–my voice calling out when darkness feels all around but I show you I am here. In the light.  Darkness isn’t around Me. And you are with Me. So darkness is not there, too.

I need You desperately, Father, and this desperation is my strength. I cry out to You, and You carry me, showing me I have what it takes to stand. You have come for me and come again. You never leave me and never forsake me and pursue me with a passion and intensity I don’t deserve.

But I desire You, and I receive You.

Yes, I receive You.

Yes, I see You.

Yes, come again.

Light all around my love. Light all around.

orangesquiggle

I am so delighted you, reading this now, are here. He whispers these words to us, in Loop–and then, a few days later after listening, I use this blog as a place to I dig into what He has said. I share this in community, with you here. For isn’t it important to know we are not alone? I share with you a bit of my own wrestling match with Him as I listen, as I ask Him to help me receive what He has said.

What was it like for you when you read “You Are Not in the Dark”, in Loop? Did you need to hear this encouragement today?

I would love to know what you think. And if you do? If you share a little bit of your heart here, in the comments . . . I’m going to do the next best thing I can do instead of the hug I wish I could give you instead. I’m going to send the first ten people who comment and share their thoughts on “You are Not in the Dark” the Ellie Holcomb song, “Marvelous Light”, the beautiful song that I can’t help but believe God pointed us to listen to when He whispered these words to us, in Loop.

So, in the comments, whisper your reaction to His words, include your email address, and I will send the first ten people the Ellie Holcomb song, “Marvelous Light”. I love it so much.

But especially, I love that you’re here.

Together, in Him,

Jennifersignaturescript

 

 

 

get fear to go running

Sometimes the most difficult first step in surrendering fear to God is recognizing you are afraid. Satan doesn’t want us to recognize we are afraid. He doesn’t want us to name what it is that makes us anxious, desperate, stressed. Here is our habit: We let fear dictate our actions, our decisions, our rhythm of life.

What does a life of fear look like? Well, it sure looks a lot like believing lies.

livinginfear

In my life, fear can look like this:

I fear I will not be loved unless I perform, unless I earn validation from people outside my family. So, I work hard and stay up late and choose opportunities to prove myself, while neglecting what God puts in front of me to do, while ignoring who God puts in front of me to love.

I fear I will fail at the task God has given me to do. So I spend time doing other things–maybe even good things–that are in my comfort zone. I do things to make me feel good about myself, where I can rely upon my own strengths, have control, and predict the outcome.

What are your fears? What does your life look like because of these fears? What are the outcomes?

No matter what we fear, this is what we need to remember:

Jesus already granted us salvation. Jesus already came for us, restored us to Himself, took all sin, all fear, and invited us into His fullness. We are reconciled to Him. All God’s wrath and judgment already came and was laid on Christ.

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God” (Romans 6:10).

Jesus’ death only needed to happen once. His sacrifice, once, was enough.

livinginfear2

When we fear, when we feel overwhelmed and distressed, let’s remember the coming of our Lord, the sacrifice and rising of Christ. While nothing can separate us from the love of God, fear can get in the way of our living in the fullness of God’s love–the fullness He bought for us with His death, the fullness we are practicing living in, each day.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (John 4:18).

As sisters of Christ, daughters of God, we have been given everything we need to live fully. We lack nothing. Nothing.

Our fear reveals how much we are a work in progress. While perfectly designed, we are still being perfected. Our trials, our suffering in this life are opportunities for us to move in the opposite spirit of fear, move in the opposite spirit of anxiety and desperation. We are desperate for Christ, yes–but we are even more desperate to choose Christ.

With each step we take this day, we choose Christ or we choose fear. When we choose Christ, we choose perfect love, which “casts out fear.”

I know what it is like to live from a place of fear. I know what that burden feels like–the heaviness, the walls pressing in. I know what it looks like to work hard to either ignore the fear, or to fix the problem you think is causing it in the first place.

But here is what is causing it. We are filled with fear, no matter the circumstance, because we are not trusting our whole self, to God. His perfect love casts out all fear. He is enough. He is big enough. He is good.

This weekend, I’ll be just outside of Austin, at the Soli Deo Gloria retreat, sharing my heart about God’s restoration for us, when we surrender fear, when we surrender striving, when we surrender lives of trying to fix ourselves. I’m so excited. Here is a song my sweet friend April shared with me the other day, a song I am excited to share at the retreat, and with you, here.

Shall we listen to it together now? And then, can we pray?

Father, you have already come. You have already bestowed to us your fullness, and we ache to receive it. We ache to realize it even more. We want all that You have for us, and we surrender to You our fear, our doubts, our striving. We claim your perfect love. We claim it as enough. Continue to perfect us. Let us see You more clearly. Let us live in the fullness of You, in the fullness of your perfect love. Let us make all choices, this day, from that place, from the heart of knowing who and whose we are.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

the messy and awesome work of letting God in

Going through the hard, dark places of our heart with God isn’t fun. It’s super uncomfortable. It’s exhausting. It’s inconvenient. We want Him to go deeper in, to do anything it takes to free us of lies we believe about ourselves, about this world, about Him.

Don’t we?

We know nothing separates us from the love of God. He pursues us relentlessly. But His pursuit of us is one of a Father disciplining us sometimes. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. He is all-in, and He loves us too much to let us keep on going down a path that isn’t good for us. But the thing is, He asks us to let Him, give Him permission to do the work in us.

We are made. He wants to keep making us brand new.

In C. S.Lewis’ The Great Divorce, (one of my favorite books of all time) we see the beauty of redemption when angels ask visitors to heaven who would otherwise stay in hell, if they would like to be free of their false selves and live, with Jesus, in heaven. The angels reveal to the people the horror of their sins, and the despair that exists when they continue to refuse to let God in to their hearts.

In one situation, a man’s struggle with lust is manifested as a lizard that whispers lies into his ear. The man has become so used to the lizard’s voice that the whispers of deception feel a part of him. He can’t imagine letting the angel rid him of it, creepy as it is. The man panics and promises to keep the lizard quiet, saying that it won’t bother anyone. He’ll keep it under control and no one will ever even notice that he is there. The angel pursues the man, though, urging him to let him kill it, and the man finally relents, with a piercing, scream as the angel reveals a sword and slays the lizard, saying “I promised that it wouldn’t kill you; I didn’t promise that it wouldn’t hurt.”

There is such horrific danger in the existence of the false self. Unless we surrender and let Jesus take that sin within us, we lie writhing, like the man with the lizard on his shoulder. Our false selves are our inauthentic selves. They reveal what we look like without God.

Check out this compelling video by The Skit Guys, sent to me by one of His girls, Nikki. It shares a dialogue between us and God, as God asks us if we would like Him to come and remove the things weighing us down, preventing us from living the life God intended us to live.

It’s a choice. And sometimes, it isn’t pretty. (Subscribers, click here, to see the video.)

The other day,  I shared with you how, in the car on the way to my haircut, I called out His name, rejecting lies I wanted nothing to do with anymore. And I believe He heard me. And I believe His mercy, new every morning, comes with a mighty strength, covering me, protecting me–His Holy Spirit coming with a mighty sword to free me from the entanglement of deception in which I get so easily mired.

But I didn’t wake feeling entirely new. I am still in my earthly body, struggling, in my weakness, to surrender and rely on His strength. And it is hard. But I keep listening. And I keep trusting. And I keep surrendering.

After praying, I didn’t feel like magic fairy dust was sprinkled on my head. The clouds in the sky didn’t part and the sun didn’t shine a spotlight of grace right there, through the sunroof, on my head. But I know I am made, and He is with me. He is changing me. He is shaping me into something beautiful, a daughter even more like Himself.

If you are in this place, of feeling like there is something weighing you down. . . if you want more of God’s freedom and are tired of being entangled by the weight of a sin that prevents you from experiencing His joy, please know you are not alone. Don’t keep silent about it. Don’t try to work it out on your own. Don’t try to fix yourself.

You can’t do it. It just doesn’t work.

Because you are made, you need your Maker to come and bring His healing. And once you let Him in, the process might not be quick. It might not be easy. It might be frustrating in how long it takes and how painful it feels.

But, oh girl, let Him do it. And tell us about it, here, or send me an email, so I can pray for you.

You are made.

Any work He does, painful as it might be, will be good. And it will be worth it.

Promise.

madeday12series

 

madesubscribenew

breaking agreements with the enemy, again {made: day 10}

breaking agreements

It’s been a struggle, looking for words. I’m a woman looking for the lost coin. I scramble, heart desperate. Because when I press in, asking Him more about what it means to be made, to live in that reality of Him, I am reeling. There is something I’ve been bumping up against before this series even started. It’s what prompted me to write it — push in, slow down, listen close, trust more . . . consider what it means to be made. Created. Designed. His.

I want more of Him. For I am so tired, so tired, girls. When I was in a circle of women this week, women open and vulnerable and fearlessly sharing what they don’t want to speak aloud . . . but they do, I was frozen, not myself. I walked in excited to see them; and then I sat there, feeling unable to speak, wishing I had set a fake timer on my phone as an excuse to beat the heck out of there.

But I stayed. Miserable and blessed all at once.

My dear friends coaxed me into His arms, helping me believe, for real, how truly loved I am.

Don’t we all need to be coaxed out of our turtle-like shell, once and a while? Don’t we sometimes forget and need to be told again and again how much we are loved?

And I when we went around the circle, asking each woman to share the one word on her heart right now, I said I wanted death.

I have written here before of the insidious power of agreements–false beliefs we tuck away and believe are true about ourselves, about life, about God. We are so comfortable with these agreements. They feel so much a part of ourselves, we don’t even recognize them. We don’t believe they exist.

But they do.

And what this Made series is churning up in me is this: the need to die, right now (again) to insecurity about my not being enough.

On the way to get a haircut (first time in six months, pretty exciting), I sat in the car at a train signal, my heart heavy. I want to be free to love, unencumbered by self-doubt. So, at the blinking red light I said it loud, right there, “Dear Jesus, I reject the lie that I am not good enough. In Your name, I break the agreement that I am unworthy and I need to work to earn acceptance and love. I agree with You now . .  . In Your name, I agree that I am secure, I am whole, I am worthy, I am loved.”

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

I have broken these agreements before. But I needed to do it again. There is a war on our hearts, making us doubt ourselves, the beauty He has created, the wonder of what He has made.

I search my heart, desperate to find what I am missing. No matter what it takes. I don’t want to miss this, this life, all the possibilities of joy I might miss if I don’t die first, to live.

There is more to say . . . the words coming slowly. But I’m going to trust them.

The next place He invites me to go with Him: when the agreement was first made. . . Want to stay tuned?

Do you find there is opposition when you think of the beauty of you being made? Do you accept it readily, or is there a part of you that struggles to be free within that truth, even when you hear it, over and over again? Is there an agreement, girls, that you might need to break?

madeday10series

madesubscribenew

 Psst. . . I was also over at Allume blog today, talking about Holding Life Loosely. And there’s a free printable I made for you all, over there, too! Come on over!

she

She is the one in the beginning, the one who walked and believed there was no where else, no existence, except by His side. She leaned in close, felt gentle strength holding her up, knew nothing mattered except to be near Him, with Him. She had nothing to remember, nothing to forget. Her footsteps were sure and her path clear.

Rain could fall and it would be only drops of promise, of a future only good, only safe, only hope.

she.jpg

She didn’t know yet, what it meant to look beyond herself, see herself, doubt herself, forget she was the one chosen, the one molded with hands who held the earth and shaped the sun and strung heavens out one after another and then another. It was before she found there were other whispers beyond the voice she knew, whispers that come in bright daylight as well as cold night. Whispers that bring with them separation and doubt and death.

She found what comparison and envy and distrust and ugliness and self-worth is, turned vile and hot. She found her beginning and end, the reality of herself without God, what she is without Him, all corruption before Hope comes again and washes what was her, until beginning.

Until beginning.

Begin.

5-minutes of writing, in community, at Lisa-Jo Baker’s. Come on over to read all sorts of other voices, on “She”.

Praying you have the most beautiful weekend, friends.

condition of the heart

Are the consequences of our mistakes punishment by God?

If we believe we’ve heard the voice of God speak to us, and we ignore it, do we think the consequences of our ignoring His words to us, His whisper of the Holy Spirit to our hearts, is the reason bad things happen to us in our lives?

Or, what if we’ve never recognized His voice? What if we don’t yet know Him–or don’t realize we do–and we live far away from Him, independent, alone? Does God stand back, wait for us to turn? Do the repercussions of our behavior ripple from generation to generation, never ceasing, so that the sin is felt and responded to, without ending, through relationships, through countless family ties?

condition of the heart.jpg

I am in a room of women, and the sharing of story, the detailing of lives and choices and regrets and wounds, make the space both holy and beautiful and desperate and sad. I am filled with questions, with the way one sister’s story can feel both so similar and different than another’s.

My mind is spinning, and I think about what I know . . . and how I know the things I know about God: the Father of mine who relentlessly pushes me, with gentleness and firmness, into seeing how sin, separation from Him, brings only pain.

Yes, sin has consequences. We make choices towards relationship with God, and we make choices away from Him. We recognize pieces of His love for us, and we also reject it, turn our back on Him, believing we are the only god in our lives that we need.

I think of the God of Eve, who created her to walk with Him, beside Him, with nothing to hide. (Oh, to walk with the Father, in a garden of beauty, by His side!) And then how she questioned Him, how she thought maybe her ideas of things were better than His.

Sin is what separates us from the Father, although that was never His intention. That was never His plan. He does everything to let us choose Him and find our way back to Him.

Are we finding our way back?

Our God is a Father of unity, not separation. Our God is a Father of joy and hope, not bitterness and pain. It is sin that causes disunity from God, nothing else.

condition of heart dark.jpg

I listen to the stories of sisters and think about how no matter our life experiences, each moment is an opportunity of choice–love God or not. And when something gets in the way of our loving God, it is the sin that has caused the separation. And God is bigger than any sin or any mistake or any regret. Yes, there may be consequences of sin–and it is our bearing of these consequences that lets the old self die so that Christ in us can live anew.

“In reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4: 22-24).

I know first hand the death of old self, again and again. Yes, I want to die–each piece of me separate from Him–to be made new. And why? Perhaps here, a few glimpses . . .

I know the God I know, the One who had me by the hand, as a child, before I realized He was there. The One with whom I felt safe but didn’t know well, but whom I prayed to night after night, the only hope for one of my family members, whom I feared would die and get sick, because of smoking.

I know the God I know, the One who tickled my face with gentle wind as I ran through rows of almonds, barefoot, with both dogs and cats chasing with me, and the squish of the wet mud between my toes, and the crunch of gravel as rain water rushed through with might, down the creek.

I know the God I know, the One who stood underneath the wall clock, in the kitchen, reaching out His arms for me as tension escalated. In the middle of chaos, He showed me there was a way to be whole, in His arms, and dance.

I know the God I know, who cried, underneath a leafless almond tree, as I believed I was more important than anyone, anything. Two decades later I am tired of running, and, finally, He shows me–knowing I am ready now–to see pieces of the effects of sin upon a life, the torn shreds collected, and mended and stronger now, by Him.

I know the God I know, love who rescues and takes me back to moments in my past where I have believed lies, situations where my perception of myself and the girl-woman I was made to be–and my view of God–had been twisted. I know the God who replays the scene of my memory with a new lens. He wants to show me where He was present, whether or not I ever realized it, the whole time.

I know the God I know, a God who gives second chances, who gives us a new way to see the world, I know a God who presses in and encourages us to die, to all the twisted, broken, damaged habits and beliefs that separate us from Him. I know a God who lets us feel pain and feel the results of living life without Him, if we want. And I know a God who never stops pursuing, never stops loving, never stops caring.

I know the God I know, who aches for this world, for the ways His children are desperate to die and be born again.

Yes, there are consequences for sin, but Jesus doesn’t need to die again to give you life again, in Him. Just once, friend. Just once. The pain of sin, the pain of our past, the pain of our present is where He comes, where He is present, where He refuses to ignore and turn away.

This life is hard, and it is filled with hope. This life is painful, and is filled with healing. This life is brutal, and it is filled with beauty.

I don’t have answers, only questions. But that’s okay. I know what I know. And I will surrender the lies that come telling me my God cannot be trusted. For this isn’t head knowledge I’m talking about. It’s a condition of the heart.

How do you wrestle with these questions, girls? What does your heart know about God?

Linking up with Jennifer and other story tellers.

red

The word gets kind of caught up in my mouth, near the back of my throat, when I read the prompt: Red. I’m not sure why and I’m afraid to think about it, so I just start typing, trusting that it will just come out with the letters pressed down, one by one.

Click. Click.

Oh, yes, I know. I know why. I think I did before I started and now I just don’t want to get it down.

Red

 

 

 

It’s the color of life washed down, of rivers of veins pumping and the salty sticky smell, sweet and sour, the thickness on legs. I went right on to basketball practice the next day, you know. I had the appointment and the cramping, like they said, started in fierce, and this sixteen year old didn’t know there would be pain.

She was doing everything she could to escape it. And she lay on the sofa, in muted colors, pale pink and dusty white and darkish gray, watching the television flicker in and out while her teenage boyfriend changed the channel and his older sister tried to sooth her and pretend she didn’t know a thing about what was going on.

And the red kept coming, but not enough to stop her from doing what she thought was the responsible thing: keep going, don’t change lanes, stay the straight course, the sure one. Keep running where you know the end in sight. Don’t let that light turn now . . .  red.

Writing for five fast minutes, with the community of writers over at Lisa-Jo’s welcoming place.

creaky, old house

The abandoned house stood quiet on the side of the dirt road up in the mountains of Utah, near the border of Zion National Park. The door opened wide, and every window peered out broken, glass shards hanging in empty window frames. We passed it once, in our ATV, on the narrow road heading to the lookout. The second time, on the way back, I made Justin stop the ATV, and we all got out.

creaky old house

There was a history here, a story, a beginning of this little house, a dream. Its standing there, broken, dejected, lonely made me wonder about the plans unfolded within its walls and the hands that touched it, stone by stone, nails hammered into wood, to build it.

creaky old house

creaky old house

There was a kitchen, with wooden cabinets along the back wall, and a wood-burning stove, and windows looking out onto forest. Someone stood here and plunged hands into soapy water, looking out onto layers of snow, or wildflowers or the garden to the right with a wooden fence circling ’round.

creaky old house

creaky old house

creaky old house

Someone warmed themselves by the stove in the corner. And I bet there was a wooden table and a couple of chairs underneath the window by the back door. From there you could feel the warmth of the stove and see, from the corner windows, white clouds passing through blue-gray sky.

IMG_2569

creaky old house

The walls were snug once, with thick walls and layered stone and a front room flanking the dirt road. We are miles outside the park boundaries here. I wonder who pushed back the snow in the winter. I wonder who came to visit. I wonder what meals were eaten here and what music played and what card games dealt and what voices resounded . . . and where they are now.

creaky old house

IMG_2570

creaky old house

IMG_2552

When I was a girl my friend Annie lived in a mobile home next to an abandoned two story house that had stood quiet for decades. We explored it as much as we dared, the floors creaking beneath our sneakers, the gaps between the wood letting us peer out to the almond trees, between the slats. Annie’s family transformed it into a haunted house on Halloween. Bruce, Annie’s big brother, wore a King Kong mask and jumped out at visitors at the mouth of the narrow dark stairway. In October night we wound through dark hallways, forever twisting and turning, grasping plastic flashlights in small, terrified hands.

We see an old house and we wonder about the stories told there. And when it is quiet, we begin to tell our own stories. We see shattered glass and a broken door and evidence of lives lived within its walls. The quiet is loud, and wind now blows straight on through.

creaky old house

And the heart? Is that what we look for? Is this what we miss? I know these places we build with our own two hands do not last, but I know what it means to work, with everything I am, to try to make the old, broken parts of me hold. I am this old house, abandoned, shattered, without my God collecting the fragments of me scattered about, bending low to kiss my weary heart, breaking apart the old foundation and pouring it out again, fresh.

“He established the earth upon its foundations,
So that it will not totter forever and ever” (Psalm 104: 5).

 I just love that you are here. How are you like this old house–and one made new? How can I pray for you this day? 

In the middle of night

I squirm deeper into the bed, pressing my head into the soft pillow. That ache started again, the one of regret, of sorrow heavier than the weight of a simple mistake. I have no opinions about the pain, this heartache. It does not make me feel better, more forgiven, somehow, to feel the heavy guilt of my choice some twenty plus years ago. I don’t make myself think on it, as memory itself. I don’t believe God wants me to revisit the desperate ache that comes with it, just for the sake of feeling guilty. I don’t will myself to remember as some kind of self-inflicted punishment in order to ask God’s forgiveness, again.

But the regret comes, despite His forgiveness. God’s forgiveness about our sin doesn’t make the reality of the sin itself easier to accept.

in the middle of night

The story of my abortion is listed in a little  “About” tab on the top of the menu of my blog. It reads “Testimony“, and I keep it there, though I don’t like to think about it much. But I leave it because for me, it proclaims hope–our Father’s tenderness to us, a testament to His lovingkindness despite a daughter’s desperate brokenness and sin.

And I like to think about God’s lovingkindness. I like to think about the truth of Him and not forget what I am, without Him.

God’s amazing tenderness, His kindness, His presence, renews me. Yet I am never without the weight of this sin, this guilt, despite His forgiveness. Once and a while, even after more than twenty years, the reality of what I did breaks me all over again, and my chest tightens from the weight of the memory, my lungs struggling to find air enough to breathe.

I just finished a best-selling nonfiction book (finally, after starting it last summer, on a camping trip, and putting it down again until this summer). The narrator is a woman telling the story of her experience walking the Pacific Coast Trail, for months, on her own. She mentions in a single sentence within the first chapters that right before she set off on her adventure, she has an abortion. . . And there was no more word about it.

As the author, she is looking back, telling about her experience nearly twenty years hiking the trail. And there is no mention of sorrow, of struggle, of regret. I read that book with curiosity, trying to have an open heart. Chapter after chapter, I wondered if one of the ways she would grow, in her experience, would be to see the truth of what she had done and feel regret. I was judging her. I was confused by her not talking about it, even once, during the rest of the book. I didn’t understand how it could be talked about so casually. I wished she had never brought it up at all.

Perhaps that isn’t her story.

I wonder about you now, reading this . . . I wonder if there is regret from your past that ever surfaces. I wonder if you know you are forgiven. I wonder if the reality of God’s amazing love for you makes your past feel almost impossible to take in.

His love is so great. I am so undeserving of it. I must just accept, in faith this truth: it is impossible to reconcile the past. But God’s woos us to Himself with His kindness.

” . . the kindness of God leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4).

I grow tired, weary of thinking about my sin, the past I would do anything to change. I turn my face to Him. The tears fall faster now, soaking my pillow as I feel His hand on my head, His hand pulling back my hair. His words, so sweet, so undeserving, “You, daughter, are beautiful.”

Looking for space to breathe

I’m out here in our side yard, pulling a paint-splattered brush handle back and forth across white primed wood. It’s quiet here, underneath the green tarp we use for camping and Justin pulled up across the fence to shield me from the sun while I work.

A space to breathe

Since returning from vacation I have been opening too-full cupboards here and tossing upside drawers stuffed with things we don’t need. An unfamiliar, uncomfortable ache surprises me, propelling me toward ridding this little house of things cluttering our precious space. Things making my heart feel tight, worn, distracted.

Shelves of toys. Stacks of art supplies and piles of clothes ill-fitting and no longer worn. My boys and little girl’s collections over the spring need to be tended to–walking sticks, a broken, homemade wooden bow, end-of-school letters, bent paper airplanes, broken plastic army men, Barbies long-since enjoyed. The abundance of things can paralyze me, making a new part of me feel almost sick. And we–the kids and I–spend time each week, these long summer days, clearing things out, making space in our hearts for less–things, clutter, stuff.

I have friends who inspire me with their pursuit of clearing out of their home anything non essential, anything unneeded or nonsacred.  Kristin’s space is a haven of beauty and light and white. Her home is a sanctuary to writers and artists and friends–creatives whose hearts need space to think and feel and breathe. I spend a June morning here, the next to the last day of school, ensconced in a pillowed chair in her backyard, watching sunlight on grass and listening and scrawling down love letters with shaky hand.

I tell her, my sweet, wise friend, upon leaving, “I am wrapped up in peace here. Your home is beautiful.” And I can’t tell if it is the beauty of the space–her wide-open-space rooms–I am talking about, or the way my heart feels when I cross the steps of her front door. She responds, “everything in here can only stay if it has a place.” If there is no place for the item, no matter how beloved, it must be shed. And I realize the physical can manifest peace when married with space for each of us, uniquely, to breathe.

Perhaps, this is peace, a friend who loves and encourages me on–my finding of a space where I am Home.

In the mean time I haul things out of my house and brush on this old dresser what I think must be one of the colors of heaven. . .

This Father of mine is wrestling me–the Artist who fights for freedom with beauty– showing me new ways He wants me to be free.

How is the Father tugging on your heart, this summer?

orangesquiggle

Want to know one way to support me? Pray my heart is stirred–and changed–as my family and I participate, with my church, in Trade as One’s challenge, Hungry for Change.

Also, I am excited to have had two stories approved for CausePub latest endeavor, supporting Blood: Water Mission, which aims to raise money, with the publishing of a best-selling book, for 45,000 people in African to have access to clean drinking water. In a post tomorrow, I’ll highlight the two stories. . . But you can vote for these stories, this one and this one right now, right here. (Your vote gives me a better shot at having my stories approved for final submission.)

Finally, I am just so grateful you are here, sweet friends.

Gratefully,

Jennifersignaturescript

Linking with Jennifer

Tired of Silence

the unearthing 900 2

They sit, these sisters, clasping tea in hands, telling me the story I know. The story of silence, the story of keeping it all hidden, pretending everything is okay.

They sit and share the wounds of the darkness, love muddled in attempt to keep things clean, organized, simple. The problem with pushing down truth is that truth cannot be hidden forever. And there is a cost to silence that is more bitter than the initial pain itself.

Repercussions to silence are felt in new ways–all for the fear of letting light shine.

Avoiding conversations about the tough stuff may mean avoiding the potential mess that occurs when hearts are spilled open, raw. But avoidance–choosing silence–opens the door to believing lies, to making agreements about things that aren’t true.

Do you, friend, have a memory when you, as a child, tried to put together the pieces to a situation you didn’t fully understand? Do you feel the burden of silence, of things unspoken, of relationships strained?

We are made for relationship. We are made for community. We are made to share stories and let His light shine on the places of pain, of fear, of pride.

I’m sharing this story over at the Allume blog today . . . Click here to join me and finish reading.