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?

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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.

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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.

 

she is the one I despise

We can’t do a thing well unless we believe we are loved. For me, I have struggled with the whisper you’re not good enough. And my frustrated, rebellious heart shouts back, Good enough for what? For whom?

I can crumble, beaten, or I can charge forward, searching hard for His hand. I don’t know any way to live free except to follow. And I know this only after years of rebelling first and wanting, so much my own way.

But maybe there is no other way.

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The night we took the Christmas tree down was a hot whirlwind of living nightmare. It was the night I pushed for my own way. My heart pounding, the words charging fast and loud. Boxes crashed down from the attic like stones, tempers vigorous and burning. Word-arrows hit the bullseye again and again, both ways. I didn’t see it coming. Our first fight, like this, in front of the kids.

I know what it means to go too far. I used to live like this, before getting married. Going too far was a way to judge whether or not I was loved, whether or not I was seen. I have lived much of my life afraid to be meek, afraid to be humble, afraid to be quiet. I have fought for my own way and everyone in my path has suffered.

It is a charade to pretend your life is better when you are the one in charge.

she is the one

Oh, that old self! She is the one I despise. Traces of her fight their way out when I least expect it–the self I wished was killed and gone for good. But still she slinks her way back, her bitter striving creeping out from some deep, dark place. She comes only to bring destruction, wreckage, pain.

The old self, when I look her in the face, the vice of her grip around my heart, her steely eyes piercing me, urging me to fight for the sake of MY self, I sink to my knees and know the world is spinning and I can barely hang on.  For there is no self worth fighting for if it isn’t the self for which my Savior already died. I don’t want this old self. It’s poison to me. I want the new one. The one He died to give me. Yes, the one filled with light and beauty and love.

You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you (Ephesians 4: 20-24, MSG).

I say I  hate the old self, but Jesus dislikes her more. Because He loves you, because He loves me, because He sees us in our fullness and knows our true, new self ready to embrace life with Him, He will never let us go until the old self is good and dead. But we are the ones whom He’s given the tools, with Him, to kill it.

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He gives you tools to partner with Him in killing the old self because He knows you can’t live this free life He has given you with her here. 

The old self is dark and she is selfish. She is envious and she is corrupt. She grabs hold of hope and chokes it, hissing cold breath into your ear. You are not good. You are too far gone to change. You are alone and forgotten. You have never been loved and known. 

Don’t you hate the part of you that fights for her own way, tries to silence the lies whispered in the dark, all by yourself? We can only fight with the tools He has given us.We can only rise and fight with weapons of love. And kindness. And gentleness. And patience. And self-control. We can only fight with a heart that is reconciled with Christ, a heart that wants His way, not our way, with a heart that knows there is no other way to peace, to hope, to joy, to love, to a life free of striving and rebelling and fighting and struggling and cajoling and lying and tearing for what this heart of ours–this heart of ours without God in control–wants.

The steely cold whisper of the old self screams to be heard in the noise, refuses to be quiet, still in the chaos, calm.

For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate (Romans 7:15).

But our God is bigger. He is bigger than any mistake we’ve made. He’s bigger and more lovely and more powerful and more wonderful than any whisper of that old self that tries to bring us back down. You have a Savior on your side who has come to save you, again and again and again. He will never relent. He will never turn. He will never back down. He’s all in.

He is completely, head-over-heels, just can’t get enough, in love with you. You are not alone. You are not out of control.

Because you are held by a God who never lets you go.

It’s time to surrender again, to the Savior who comes and restores you to the new self He died for and promises.

I don’t think, in the end, that old self even has a chance.

How do you struggle with the old self? How can I pray for you?

Connecting with Jen and Jennifer, this day.

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

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to believe in 3

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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 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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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creaky old house

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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?

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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,

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Linking with Jennifer

Tired of Silence

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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.

When part of you is dying

Sometimes, words just need to be said aloud. I needed to do that here, girls. I am a bit serious, but trust me . . . There is joy, at the end of it all.

Apiece of me is dying right now. After all the prayers, on my knees, over the years and all the small deaths I’ve died already, there are always more deaths to die.

That’s the way it is, girls, isn’t it? Death welcomed or death rejected?

I am torn by the question: do I want part of me to die?

He says in yesterday’s Loop, “Planting”,

“My darling, let Me create something new within you today. I plant seeds of hope within you, and I promise to bring you joy. Do you believe I can and I will? Truly, do you believe?”

Why does He ask me that question again? Must He repeat it? And why does He continue to ask me questions about my heart and what I truly believe? It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me pause, and sometimes I just don’t want to pause. I want to keep going my own way. I want to feel comfortable, sure of myself, feeling like I know where I am going. I want to be strong and independent. I want to have it all together and be successful and well-liked and wise.

Is hope what I want? Is more of God what I want? Do I believe He would bring me joy?

He knows how I can so easily keep going my own way. But He also knows what is most true: My heart flails, and I sink, in despair, on my own.

So He keeps asking questions:

“Do you now ask what will it require, this planting? Do you wonder what you have to give to receive gifts of hope? May I ask you—is there somewhere else that you could receive these gifts, on your own?”

Oh, I am wrestling here. . . Do I think I can find joy and hope on my own?

I am good at living like I do.

Perhaps I am worried . . I am worried about what God’s planting seeds of hope in me would require of me. Because I remember Paul’s words: ”What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Corinthians 15:30).  Paul speaks of Jesus dying for our sakes, so that we may have new life. But in the Holy Spirit’s invitation to plant seeds of hope in my heart, I know God is inviting me to die, too. For seeds to grow, for His planting to be successful, I have a choice.

“Receive the gifts—my gifts to you, my girl—or not. But you can’t find hope on your own. And you can’t find joy on your own.”

He asks me another question:

“Do you believe I can give these gifts to you? Do you believe I want to? Why worry about what the gifts will require of you to receive them?”

I hear Him asking me if I believe Him, if I love Him, if I trust Him . . . if I believe He is good and faithful and my God.

My heart wrestles with Him–searching for what I really believe . . . wondering if I am willing to surrender so that I can both die and live. . . live and die.

Deep breath.

Yes. I do. I do. And I want Him to plant these seeds of hope. I am tired of trying to figure out how to find joy and hope on my own.

And then He tells me how to do it.

“The requirement of receiving hope and joy is trusting Me more than yourself, loving Me more than yourself.”

Letting God sow seeds of hope in me means that for hope to be born in me, I must be wiling to surrender and let the sinful part of me die. He is in control and I am not.

His plans for me are good.

He is love and He is light. He is beauty and hope and peace and joy. He is my Father and my Creator, and I want to follow Him.

No matter what it takes.

And I am dying.

And you know what. . . even though it hurts and I have been crying a lot this week, the heart that for so many years I believed was dead inside is now opening up to receive more of Him. And I see myself stepping back from caring about recognition and validation and the world’s standards of success just as I feel Him moving me to a new place of greater strength in my identity, in Him.

This is what I posted at the You Are My Girls Facebook community page yesterday:

“Sometimes, girls, you’re just in a soft place–a place where your heart feels vulnerable and a bit happy and sad all at once. You wonder if there is something wrong–’cause you cry easily, this day, but you can’t figure out why. But it is good, and you are glad–because you are feeling. You are filled with emotion and it makes you remember that you are alive and God is breathing and there was a sunrise today and this heart of yours is beating. I take a deep breath in these moments–because often, when my chest feels tight like this–I feel like breathing is the last thing I can really do. I can hardly catch my breath. And this is when I remember I need God to catch me. And that is what I needed all along.”

He plants in me the truth of who I am, and I am more myself today, this moment, than I have ever been.

There is no going back now.

I will take more death, any day, for more of this Life.

What about you, His girl? Are you receiving Loop in your inbox twice a week? It is His heart for us, here. I have never been more sure of that. (You can sign up right now, right here.) How do His words sit with you? How can I pray?

Linking this post with the beautiful God-sized Dream community at Holley Gerth’s and with the courageous story-tellers at Jennifer’s (#tellHisstory).

One day to live, with gusto

one day
My daughter sings at the top of her lungs the song I am teaching her to sing–the one my dad taught me on our drives in his silver four-wheel drive pickup on the way to the dump in the summer, a few miles into the foothills from our house.

Who put the bomp
In the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
Who put the ram
In the rama lama ding dong?
Who put the bop
In the bop shoo bop shoo bop?
Who put the dip
In the dip da dip da dip?

She sings it with gusto–for the way the words sound on her lips . . . for the chance to use her toothbrush, when she is supposed to be brushing her teeth before bed, as a microphone . . . for the way our voices rise together, in silliness, when it comes to our favorite part:

Who was that man?
I’d like to shake his hand
He made my baby
Fall in love with me (yeah!!)

And when I tuck her in at night, I know that the way to live fully has a lot to do with faith and little to do with enthusiasm, too.

We have a chance to live this day out fully. This day, friends. We are led towards something amazing and beautiful to do with Him, this day.

I wonder what that looks like for you?

I pray you have the most beautiful, grace-filled weekend–lived out with enthusiasm and gusto, friends. Let’s not hold back from entering into what God has. And this song, “Brand New Day”, shares my heart– that we approach all the possibilities before us, brand new, and with hope.

We do none of this alone.

With love to you–and practicing deep breathing, too,

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It might be time to get up now

In the last couple of posts here, I wrote about surrender. This is a topic I write about a lot, in this space. It is what I share here and here. It is what prompts me to ask the Father again, “Remind me how everything I need is within me. Tell me again that You adore me and that I am enough. Strip this heart of mine clean that I may see You and receive You and walk the way my Brother did, my King. I want to be with You like He was while He was here on earth, spending each day by Your side.”

And He never tires of leaning in close, smiling at me in that way He does, to tell me again. “Girl, you are mine. There is not one thing I would do differently if I made you all over again. Please, stay here, with Me.”

Now, it is the staying here with God part that I want to talk about.

One thing I love about blog posts: I can say just a little bit about what I am thinking–in these tidy little snippets here and there. . . It’s super convenient, and expedient, too. But I need to return here to this idea of surrendering to the Holy Spirit within us, what it looks like to stay with God, because I want to clarify something.

Girl it might be time to get up

When I write how we need to surrender our will to God and rest with Him and know that He is the One in control and not us . . . When I write how we don’t need to strive to be more than we are because, in Him, we are complete. . . I don’t mean that abandoning the posture of striving and assuming the posture of being with God means that we sit around with God and do nothing.

I am not advocating doing nothing.

He has given us these amazing lives of ours to actually do something with them. Loving, in His name, is one of the two commandments Jesus shares as the most important for us to follow. Loving Jesus and loving others may begin with us sitting still to soak up God’s presence.  Absolutely. The Holy Spirit is in us, and sitting still with God helps us to remember we are not alone.

We need to sit sometimes, but we need to go, sometimes, too.

God gives us specific desires in our hearts to experience Him uniquely, moment by moment, based on our personalities and temperaments .  . . He shows us what we love to do, and He invites us on adventures with Him so we can experience even more the life He is in us. He marries the desires of our hearts with His invitations to love. We love His children through the things He has given us to love doing while on earth. Sitting still is one of the ways we can help ourselves hear His still, small voice within us and give ourselves the Sabbath rest He calls us to. Resting is an act of obedience to God . . . and it is good for us.

But sometimes, our call to obedience, our call to surrender, is not a call to rest.

Here’s the tension: In the surrendering, we are striving towards God, in the most beautiful way. We are choosing Him. We surrender our old selves and let Him clothe us with His righteousness. We recognize we can’t earn God’s love and grace; we can’t earn a gift, especially one we can never deserve.

Surrendering the old self and believing we don’t need to be the one in control takes obedience. And obedience to God is choosing connection with Him, whatever He calls us to do.

Perhaps obedience is sitting still, watching waves break at the ocean shore. Perhaps it is taking out the garbage and serving our family and driving the kids around and cleaning up after the dog. Perhaps it is packing our bags and going across the world and serving His children in need . . . or simply loving our neighbor down the hall or across the street.

Surrendering can mean sitting still, and it can also mean moving. The thing is, in each answer of obedience–whether sitting still in His presence or clinging to His hand as you rescue an impoverished child across the world–you are moving with God. Each act of obedience, each act of surrendering, each act of believing He is enough and we are enough, with Him, is being with Him, abiding with Him, moving with Him.

Even in our rest, and even in our going, we can abide.

Jesus could do anything in the will of His Father. He submitted His will to God. He experienced the freedom that comes from knowing His Father was the one in charge. He chose that kind of Life, just like we have the opportunity to choose this same kind of Life and freedom, too.

We are called to be obedient. We are called to abide–be with, live in Jesus’ presence, tune our hearts and minds to the posture of the Holy Spirit within us, our Guide that does not fail.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges Christians face is not being willing to surrender our will to God and not being obedient to the Spirit that is within us. We might spend our lives trying to earn salvation by doing stuff for Jesus under the guise that we are doing that stuff with Him.

Let’s not confuse doing things for God with doing things with God. There is nothing worth doing that we can do on our own.

At my kitchen counter, as I assemble a meal for a friend, I hear Kim Walker-Smith sing loud through the speakers: “I don’t want to camp out and stay in one place, God” . .” She seeks His voice, “What are you doing, what are you saying  . . . I want to be with you tonight. . . I need you more . . Your presence is life to me . . . I need more of your presence every day, every day, God.” This is my prayer for us, here.

His presence is the beginning girls.  We can’t do a thing without it.

Oh, Father, I am so thankful we don’t have to.

Do you feel the tension between staying and going, as you abide, girls? How is He calling you to move with Him? I would love to hear a bit about your journey with Him now.

When messing up as a parent breaks your heart

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It’s midnight and we wait for the second email to come in before heading over to the school to pick him up. A week away and it has felt like both forever and just a few minutes. These weeks slip by so fast. Eleven years now of being a mom. I wonder how many more moments I’ll get to wrap him up close, enfold him in these arms that used to encircle him every night. I may have known what bad habits I fostered that first year of life, that dependency on me as I nursed him to sleep every night so that he couldn’t go to sleep by himself and we didn’t get a sitter to go out on a date for a year. But I didn’t care. He needed me. And I loved it.

I loved the way he loved me with that wide-eyed, pure way of his, the way his next word, after “Mama” and “Dada” was “dog” for everything: the moon when it shown bright in the sky, the book he was carrying around, his truck. With determination and confidence he would name what he saw, and while it may not have been accurate, it was perfect and made me smile. It is still one of our favorite stories about him now, especially when we see him on the floor these days, wrestling with one of his best friends, his long-awaited dog.

He has been away with his fifth grade class for a week in Washington, D.C. a long way from California, and the first time he has set foot on a plane without us. We don’t get to talk to him, connect with him in any way while he is gone, and my heart about leaps out of my chest in relief when the email comes with the Shutterfly invitation to view the first photos of their album. There he is, at the buffet, all smiles. He’s made it. He’s smiling. Oh, that boy of mine. So small yet, and so big. How many more years until he leaves? When will it be–that day I can no longer hold him in my arms?

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Our hot tea is caffeinated the night we wait for him to come home–for the shuttle to deliver him at the school, two blocks from our house. We watch the final episode of Titanic and then open our computers and get anxious, wanting to time our going over to meet the bus just right because we hope to sneak over together–even while our two younger ones are home asleep. We don’t want to head over too early and be gone from home more than a few minutes. But we also don’t want to be late for the bus pulling into the parking lot either. So, with impatience, we wait.

And when it is 12:35 and the second email hasn’t come to tell us whether they are still delayed, we don’t walk the two short blocks but jump in the car to get over there as quickly as we can. As we pull into the school parking lot, we scan the area to see if we are early or on time.

The parking lot is almost bare.

“Oh, good, the bus isn’t here, yet! We haven’t missed it!”

And then our hearts drop.

“Oh, no.  Oh, no. The bus isn’t there. . .It’s already gone! Jackson is standing there, by that one car! Do you see him? He’s all alone! We are late! We are late! We missed him being dropped off!”

My mother’s heart breaks right there. I am both mortified by how this looks–that he may think he was forgotten or that we just didn’t care–and full of sorrow, as I see our boy’s tired, sweet eyes, trying to look so brave. wheeled luggage in one hand. He stands there in the dark parking lot, 12:40 am, with his school principal and a dear friend who was picking up her son, too. She waited.

She waited.

We were twenty minutes late. That little boy of mine was standing in that parking lot waiting for his mom and dad to come and get  him, just like all the other parents, and his parents didn’t. They weren’t there.

It is crazy and makes perfect sense, doesn’t it, that when we feel we’ve failed our kids somehow, a piece of our heart feels like it is dying right there?

Oh, how I wanted to rewind time, go back and have left the house twenty minutes earlier, email or not.

I know I am being overly dramatic and have so little to grieve about: after all, he is here now. He made it back safely. The plane didn’t crash. He was cared for. He actually didn’t stand in that parking lot all alone.

But when he walked into the house and uncharacteristically said, so simply, “I’m going to bed now.” I just about crumpled to the floor.

How do we navigate these waters? How do we manage to keep going when we can’t press rewind and do it all over? How do we feel okay when these opportunities to be present, to be available and supportive, feel so much more fleeting than before?

He is still the boy who likes to cuddle, and I crawl up onto that top bunk of his and lie down. His covers are over his head.

“I’m sorry, buddy. I’m so sorry.”

“Mom, it’s okay.”

His sweetness, his forgiveness, is beautiful, and I don’t deserve it. It makes me even more sad.

I stay up for two more hours, my heart beating fast, my husband letting me cry.

How many more days? How many more moments?

Oh, God–I mess up, and you love me still. Let me keep going. Let me keep loving.

Let me be okay with his growing up, and my messing up . . . and with his decreased need to grasp a hold of my hand.

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How have you wrestled with wanting to rewind time? How do you lift up your hands and trust God, knowing that, no matter how we mess up, He forgives us and loves us still?

And the winners of the Love Song Giveaway? . . .

Jennifer, Barbie, and Jean! 

Grateful to be linking up with Jen today. 

Running, with you

[T]his world will spin around, friend, but He’s holding you close.  I know what it feels like to feel you are what you do.  That words on a page or items crossed off on a list or projects completed make us feel like we can breathe a little deeper, relax and rest — then, and only then — a little more.

And I push again this with you, friend, knowing I run a race, a baton of beauty and glory held fast, a promise that cannot be pried from any hands.  I wear these colors with humility, stumbling sometimes, but held.  Oh, how we are HELD.

And I want to hold your hand, too, friend.  Across this screen I type these words in haste, writing in a kitchen with pots still to be washed and laundry spilling from baskets and on my family room couch.  I write with little boys side by side, comparing notes on a game they play, on intermission from the dance party I share with my girl, in between costume changes.   Sugarland plays “Stuck Like Glue” on a speaker three feet from my ear.

I reach across this screen because He reaches around and grabs me, reminding me that if nothing gets “done” today, if piles are still there by the end of the day, if it feels like we are putting out fires right and left and the room feels like it spins . . . I remember, with you, that He has us.

And only because He coaxes me, ever-so-gently– to remember it’s all okay, and He will guide me in all that needs to get done today.  And I can trust Him.  And I can slow down.

You — and I — friend — don’t need to do a thing.

I forget this.  And I remember it now.

And all because He gathers me to Him, in truth, with you.

In the midst of claymation movie-making and banana muffin tins that need to be scrubbed  . . . In the chaos of Alice-in-Wonderland dresses twirling in circle after circle and thank-you note writing and leaning, leaning, girl, with you, how can I pray for you?  How can we say ‘yes’ and let Him connect these hearts, together, as one?

In his love,

Jennifer

So thrilled to be linking up here, with Richella, at Imparting Grace, for the first time:

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