California Interstate 5: A Road Trip Watching

24099_1376311454053_6507475_nThere are trees uprooted next to the freeway. Mounds of dirt clod clumps clinging to thick roots sticking up, awkward, misplaced.

I want to get a better look at them, but I am driving on California Interstate 5 to Los Angeles. Husband and kids and bags and I journeying to friends who said, please come. It is overcast, gray sky low, arms stretching out in embrace.

If I were in the passenger seat, I’d take a photo. Or, I’d grab words and try to work out what it is that makes my heart feel so tight in my chest when I look out. Gnarled empty limbs, cement brown, so undignified, these trunks sprawled, broken and exposed, on their sides.

I am familiar with almond trees–as a farmer’s daughter who watched her dad bend low, dirt crusted in lines of tanned skin, watching and listening to the voice of trees. I know the sharp edges of older bark as it breaks off in clumps, and the smooth, knotted roughness of young bark layered on new green. I know the smell of wet earth and the miracle of paper-thin nonpareil shells the dogs crack open and eat from the ground.

These trees were planted once. They were seeds once. They were shoots that laid in dirt brown and hard, softened by drinks of water, aerated by steel spikes pulled by tractors, and visited by furry gray-brown squirrels and jackrabbits that scamper and scurry to limb upon limb or underground.

Hands laid each shoot into the ground. And the shoots grew and limbs stretched, quiet and strong, sprouting green leaves and white blossoms, and then nuts with green velvet shells before the hulls hardened and opened wide. Downy against thumb or cheek as you rub them close.

The day the bulldozers ripped roots straight out, one by one, row after row–violent, sure–was not a decision made quickly. It was not a decision that was easy. It was not a decision that was fun.

But it was necessary, whether due to lack of water, or money. Or maybe the orchard changed hands.

I hope new trees are planted soon. I hope these old trees, their roots so wrongly bent in weird angles outside the land where they belong, are replaced with new, young shoots. I pray their lineage continues, the life of the seeds giving birth to trees, with limbs pruned and the trees growing tall, before being pulled out of the ground.

Death doesn’t look beautiful, from this angle, as I speed by, one of thousands of cars on a January Saturday afternoon. It doesn’t look poetic or kind. It doesn’t look hope-filled or cause for any celebration.

My hands clutch the steering wheel and I memorize the scene, the uprooted orchards, the story of men and of women and of dreams and of life coming so miraculously from hard ground.

I remember my mom’s words to me on the phone the day before. The almonds will be in bloom soon. Just a few more weeks and the blossoms will be on the branches. The trees my father planted.

And here I see only uprooted trees, disaster, disorder, disappointment. And I know the trees my father planted are scheduled to be pulled up soon, too.

The word for almond in Hebrew, is shakeid, the root of the word meaning to watch or to awake. Jeremiah, when he is asked by God what he sees, looks and says “I see an almond branch.” And I think about Jeremiah looking for what God wanted him to see, and how Jeremiah did see, and how what Jeremiah saw was something of so much beauty.

Father, show us what to watch for. Ask us what we see.

Praying God gives me eyes to see what He wants me to see.

How will we answer? What is before us? What is in front of us? How do we see it? What is God asking us to see?

Jeremiah saw an almond branch, a branch of beauty, a branch also decorating the Lamp stand of the Tabernacle, in Exodus.

It is less than a minute and I have driven past the orchard. I am aware, as I look, that it is a memory I want to keep. I knew that I would want to record it.

Aren’t we stirred, both, by beauty and beauty absent?

And in this moment I feel tears fall; I realize I am struggling to see beauty and hope when before me is disorder and chaos and death.

Let us watch with clear eyes, with open hearts. Let us remember there is always newness, always beauty, with God, even when things feel completely bleak.

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it (Jeremiah 1: 11-12).

Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, whatever situation we now face, I pray, sister, we ask for help in being watchful, in being observant, in desiring to see with clear, open eyes, what lies before us, yes–the miracle in the death, the life awaiting awakening, the word of God He is asking us to see, live out, believe.

How are you looking? How can I pray for you?

Linking up with the encouraging and beautiful Jennifer, at #TellHisStory.

What To Do When God Feels Far Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Disco Ball Light and Choosing God’s Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God wants us to abide in his joy.

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

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

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

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

Father, shine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Make Sure that Fresh Start You Crave Never Gets Old

IMG_8552When you read this now, you should know one thing: you are pursued. It’s a weekday, I know, and there is a lot to do. But what feels the most pressing–even more urgent than tasks to complete–is letting yourself recognize how desperate you are for God.  And you are desperate, you know.

Can you imagine beginning each day acknowledging–and then claiming–your desperation for God? Can you imagine celebrating it. Embracing it. Jumping up and down and yelling out with joy, “I am desperate! For I am desperate for love; I am desperate for surrender; I am desperate for rest; I am desperate for hope; I am desperate for joy! I am desperate for these things because I am made to be desperate for God!”

Desperation is, really, such a good thing.

We can get things twisted up around that definition of the word desperation, especially at this time of year, a new year on the calendar, when we’re invited to get our acts together and enthusiastically embrace resolutions that will usher in a fresh start.

A fresh start, yes. That’s always what we want, isn’t it? How can an attitude of desperation be in any way involved in one’s “fresh start”?

I wonder this, as I realize I cry out for a fresh start daily, as I rise each morning to the chill of the house and leave my warm bed. As I greet my children with hugs and kisses at breakfast. As I look in my husband’s eyes and seek his arms around me before we part ways for the day. Each day I am desperate to recognize the Holy Spirit’s presence in me. For, in obedience, when I recognize He is in me, I am more able to claim my desperation for God. And, in effect, I am living in the freedom–the confidence–of believing in who I am, in Him.

Let us not forget what a fresh start, with God, really means.

Let us not forget what a fresh start, with God, really means. And it's more than resolutions scrawled on paper.

For a fresh start is more than hope-filled resolutions scrawled on a piece of paper.

My husband, Justin, is the guy in my life who loves to make things practical. When I share with him my ideas for fresh starts, it is my personality to address the bigger picture–the vague–yet exciting–dreams I hope to realize. And he listens. And then Justin, who knows me so well, encourages me to look at the practical steps for how these dreams can be realized: What steps do I need to implement, what practices do I need to exercise, to experience the dream I have in my heart to live out?

So I talk to God about my desire for a fresh start, particularly in this season, when the New Year rolls around. And as I listen, I am reminded how the realization of any fresh start stems from my obedience to claim whom God has made me to be. One’s depth of relationships with God is tied to our obedience to Him. When we are obedient in living out what God has told us is true about us–that we are loved, that we are complete in Him, that we are perfectly made–we are more able to realize our identity in Christ. And that’s the kind of fresh start I am desperate for; that’s the kind of fresh start that never gets old.

We are each desperate to realize–to live–the reality of our identity in Christ. In community with other believers who know us and who love us, we remember something true about our desire for a fresh start: fresh starts happen each day we exercise faith through obedience. 

Fresh starts happen each moment we claim the truth of who we are, in Christ. Fresh starts happen when we claim the things we know are true but which we cannot yet see. Fresh starts happen through acknowledging the Holy Spirit who lives within us and who fills us with His strength. Fresh starts happen when we claim our desperation for God’s love for us and we listen hard for His whisper to our hearts: you are mine; I am in you; let me show you, through your obedience to me, how you are to live your life specifically, uniquely, desperate for Me.

What will happen, I wonder, if we spend time each day intentionally embracing our desperate need for God? What if we spend time each day practicing obedience, practicing listening to the love song He sings each moment, practicing remembering who, in Him, in I Am, we are?

I bet these moments, piled one of top of the other, will translate to a life of surrender, of freedom, of greater faith. What do you think about this? Want to claim a fresh start, this year, moment by moment, with me? Wouldn’t it be beautiful to do it together? Shall we begin thinking of ways we might, in a practical sense, exercise obedience to God, saying yes to whom He has created us to be?

Before You Look Ahead to the New Year

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

God does not get overwhelmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before you lookahead to the New Year GATHER PIN

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

Rain Your Mercy, or Some Music of Heaven {a new song by Jonah Werner}

Can you imagine the music of heaven? Check out Jonah Werner's new song, "Rain Your Mercy"

When you hear God sing to you, you usually know it’s Him. Because sometimes, you are dancing and you can’t stop. You don’t care what you look like and you spin and jump and you’re not sure if the song you’re dancing to is still outside yourself, or in. The song is a melody you hear, though–you hear it either with your ears or from some place deep inside. But one thing is clear: the music is in you now; it’s the only thing, truly, you can hear.

Sometimes, though, the music manifests as a feeling deep down. It presses in hard, so you feel a bit breathless–except your smiling, too. And the loss of breath begs no discomfort. Rather, it’s short and it’s sweet. The Holy Spirit is pressing in, and you wouldn’t trade anything for this feeling to go away.

And then the music rises, and your body is burning now, each bit of it. Your chest fans flames high and fast, and then your head is hot, too, and your arms have to rise up straight and your legs feel like buckling, but they don’t, and then they do. And then you rise again, and you stand, and you keep dancing–because you can’t do anything else.

When you hear God sing to you, He is close, not far away, not playing games or staring down from some distant shore, disproving. When you hear God sing to you, you are free and you are joy and you are yourself and you just have to dance and shout and sing.

When you hear God sing to you, you wonder if these sounds are ones of heaven–where music fills you and you can’t hold it in, even if you try. Because in heaven, you’re fully yourself now; you are not pretending anymore. You, the daughter God created, sings out who she is, knowing she is delighted in by her Father, her King, her Savior.

There will be music in heaven; there has to be–because, even here, on earth, God is singing. My friend, folk musician Jonah Werner, sings from the inspiration of the Psalms,

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness and let the bones you have broken rejoice! (Psalm 51:7-8).

Jonah is a beautiful musician whose heart sings joy when he gathers up the lost and offers them the hope of God. He writes songs that sing Jesus, that sing love, that sing hope, that sing your Father is here, He loves you, you are not alone. Jonah has spent more than a dozen years as a Young Life worship leader, and he has a new song, “Rain Your Mercy,” available to download on iTunes, that you absolutely don’t want to miss.

Rain Your Mercy, a new song by Jonah Werner

A few weeks ago, when Jonah sent me “Rain Your Mercy,” my daughter and I were in the kitchen, and we blasted it through the open windows in our home and danced all over the kitchen. “Rain Your Mercy” is a song I know I’ll sing in heaven one day. It’s music of worship, of a heart stretched out in song:

I will call upon  Lord, who is worthy of my offering. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy of my broken soul.

I will call upon  Lord, who is worthy of my offering. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy of my broken soul.

O let the name of the Lord be praised. Let it rain down hard on my driest days. It’s my highest call, and I’ve got no choice but to fall, and let the bones you have broken rejoice!

Open up the skies, open up my eyes, open up my life, and rain your mercy down.

I’ll be jumping and singing, letting God keep right on singing in my heart.

Sisters, keep listening hard now–you can hear Him, singing over you. So, let’s keep on singing right back.

How do you visualize yourself in Heaven someday, fully in God’s presence, in worship?

And here’s another post about Jonah I wrote, a few years ago: “When We Sing the Same Song”.

Finally, don’t forget to answer the 8 Questions and enter the 10 Book Giveaway!

Linking up with beautiful Kristin, #ThreeWordWednesday and Jennifer,#TellHisStory.

How Confession, Gratitude and Joy Go Hand in Hand

Confession, Gratitude, JoyA friend reminds me last week, how gratitude is an act of defiance–wielding a sword against the struggles of this world. She searches for beauty, knowing she will find it if she searches for it with God’s heart, eyes focused on Him rather than the pain and suffering the world wants her to focus on–and be pulled down by– instead.

And then another friend, a friend who lives across the waters, this morning–this morning that I am up hours earlier than usual because it is Thanksgiving break here and I feel I have a million things to do and a million things to accomplish before the house stirs. (Because it is launch week for Loop, and did you hear that Loop is releasing earlier–this Friday, November 28–and you’re going to need to come back on Friday to find out some additional fun news? ) And she speaks on the radio (scroll to 26.:13 to hear Nicky’s segment) about how gratitude is what pulls us out from a posture of survival and to one of joy. It is where we see Jesus’ face.

I needed to remember these things.

So, with the voices of my sisters as a balm for my heart, I am reminded of how God sees me–and how it is difficult for me to see what He sees–and be grateful for it–when I don’t confess to Him my insecurities and my distractions by this world. Below are words I wrote in January. They are ones I needed to read again today. I am eager to hear how you are this day, and how He is reaching for you, too.


“You have to confess it. You have to say the lie aloud. You have to throw it to the throne of Jesus. You have to reject it even if you still believe the lie.” My friend looks me straight in the eye, and I hold her gaze for a half second before staring at my mug, wishing I were small enough to hide under the table. Now what? I think she’s right.

I know I had better not stall.

confession, gratitude, joy

When you recognize a lie as a lie, even if you can’t imagine no longer believing the lie, throw it up to heaven.

Renounce it. Reject it.

I heard this message again the other day, on my metal folded chair in church, grasping paper coffee cup fast in my hand: Jesus knows the way out of hell. God’s plan, His desire, is to save us from hell, save us from separation from the Father. And God sent his Son to die and take on every single one of our sins so He could lead the way out. He is the way out for us, sisters. Jesus knows the way out. He knows the way out of whatever you are facing.

He can reveal to our hearts the lies we believe that separate us from the Father. He can reveal to our hearts the twisted truths we believe about ourselves. And here was mine: I don’t want you to like me for who I am. I want you to like me for what I do. And my fingers pause now, as I write this, the tears spilling out. For it is hard, isn’t it, to say the lie out loud? It is hard, isn’t it, to be vulnerable? It is hard, isn’t it, not to wonder, what will she think of me, now?

So I cling tight to Him, His love letter to His girls, reminding us about truth, the truth of us:

The truth of you cannot be articulated in just words. The truth of you is a name and not a name. The truth of you is more than a description of personality, a page of characteristics, a list of mannerisms and popular expressions.

There’s something you must remember: you must live your truth. You must live, with determination and might, your truth. You must know who you are designed to be . . . if you want freedom, if you want liberation from lies, if you want joy.

confession, gratitude, joy

confession, gratitude, joy

So in the coffee shop chair, where I spend my Fridays, I push my ear buds into my ears so the guy in the armchair across from me doesn’t think it’s weird I don’t have a laptop in front of me and my hands are open and my eyes are closed and my head is down, my hair shielding half of my face. ‘Cause once my Father has pressed in and showed me glimpses of pain, glimpses of sorrow, glimpses of damage I cause when I believe lies about myself and about Him, I can’t wait one more second to renounce the lie causing the whole darn mess. Jesus knows the way out of hell, not me. And I cause a lot of mess when I have let myself be separated from God because I think I know better. . . I think I know the way out instead of Jesus.

So I say it right there in that coffee shop on that Friday afternoon, less than a hour before I need to jump in the car to pick up the kids from school. “Jesus, I confess I want to be liked for what I do. I confess I care more about what people think about what I do rather than who You think I am. I want You, Father, to love me for what I do! I confess I don’t want you to love me for who I am! I repent, and I reject this lie. I reject the lie that my value comes from doing rather than being. I reject the lie and I break the agreement I’ve made with the enemy that my value does not come from being a daughter of God. I give this lie to you, and cast it on the throne of Jesus.”

And I stayed there. It was too good to not stay, this daughter He made, at Jesus’ feet. And Jesus offered me his hand, and He took me where He always takes me, in the garden, by the river, through the path where the green grass tickles my legs and flowers perfume the air. I can feel the perfume now on my skin.

confession, gratitude, joy

confession, gratitude, joy

We walk up, up the hill, the grass blades leaning over the path so I can’t see the ground, can’t see where my bare feet fall. I see Jesus ahead of me, His looking back at me, smiling. He knows I love this, this walking through beauty, with water rushing fast, to my left, and sunlight shining bright through arches of trees. He knows I will love where we are going.

He leads me to the top of the hill where the waterfall is thundering, and He knows I want to jump. I want to jump right in. The water isn’t cold and the sun is warm on my cheek. And I turn my face up, and I am in God’s house and I am with my King and I am safe and I doing what I am made to do and where I am made to be.

And then I am alone. I am in a meadow, my back pressed into the soft earth. I lay in the flowers, eyes closed, the sun a blanket on my skin. Then the earth trembles beneath me. The soft ground shakes. I must rise. In front of me runs a giant white steed. It is huge and powerful and beautiful. Its eyes flash, and it whinnies as it stops right before me, its hooves stomping into soft earth. I want to ride it. I want to jump on and go, even though I’ve only galloped on a horse once, in my whole life.

But I can’t.

confession, gratitude, joy

Suddenly I am not in the meadow but in a dark, shadowy place where there are walls and I am standing, cold, alone. My hair is tangled and my clothes are dirty and tattered. Shredded pieces of linen, a grungy robe, filthy and brown, hangs from my shoulders. I lower my head, hands open at my sides.

Then, there are hands lifting each piece of clothing off of me. They were so heavy. I had no idea how heavy each piece was, as it hung on my tired frame. I then feel hands around my ankles, and strong fingers unfastening shackles around my bare feet, shackles I had never seen, attached to chains I never knew I wore.

And I am in the meadow once more. I am wearing a long gown and my hair is loose and clean, the sun shining bright and the air perfumed with light as it falls like love upon blooming flowers. I am on the steed. And I am wearing armor now, and I have a sword in my hand. This. This is the daughter He sees. This is the daughter I am. This is the daughter He calls me to be, the one who is free because she is willing to fight. The one who is dirty and broken and vulnerable and alone when she strives to be what she wants to create herself to be. The one who is actually beautiful and true when she lets herself know freedom, when she lives out the truth of the identity her Father sees.

Come on, sisters. Let’s break these lies. Let’s ride, wind in our hair.

confession, gratitude, joy

confession, gratitude, joy

You, my daughter, are made to be strong, with Me. You, my daughter, are made to do things I’ve prepared, just for you. You, my daughter, are made to go forward, not back. And to go forward, you must fight and break the agreements you’ve made with the enemy. You must know I have come to claim you, the daughter I made. You must know your life has been paid for. You must know you are free. 

And sometimes, with my truth in your heart, you must reject lies about who I am. You must do this. Don’t wait. Do it right now. This it what it means to fight—for freedom from lies. It is rejecting lies and surrendering to Me. It is fighting for your identity, the one the prince of this world wants to take from you.

So, when you are weary, when the world presses in, remember I am here with you. Know I am the warrior who never sleeps. Know I rescue and ask you to trust Me more than anything else. That is how you fight. That is how you know who you are. That is how you are set free.

Sister, how is He pulling you close now? Can you dare to let your heart imagine the wonder of you He has created?
How can I pray for you?

HOW CONFESSION, GRATITUDE, & JOY GO HAND

The 1Thing to Do When You Mess Up

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

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

I forget He is here.

I forget He is in me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turning into Jesus.

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

It’s all we ever need.

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

The 1 thing to do YAMG pin

Wield Your Sword

Wield Your Sword

 

[I]t wasn’t just what she said. It was the way she said it, too. This friend of mine, this sister across the miles with whom I spoke on the phone for hours. This sister whom I have yet to meet face to face.

Her voice and her laughter. Her conviction of how this life can only be living, truly, if we are willing to wield a sword.

She makes me wonder where I wield one–and how I move with my King in battle, a King who goes before, saying onward, go forward, I am with you; you do not need to be afraid.

About your past.

Ab0ut your sin.

About your family.

About your finances.

About your decisions.

About this moment.

Wield your sword when you wake. Wield your sword when you work. Wield your sword with your King who fights before you, asking you if you trust him, if you see him, if you want to follow him and stay with him or cower, afraid and behind.

He will stay with you, if you stay.

He will remain close, his arms circling you, his breath warm on your wet cheek. But he stays here until you are willing to wield your sword. Because to fight on your behalf he asks for your permission.

To fight on your behalf he asks if you believe. To fight on your behalf, he asks you if you are coming. To fight on your behalf, he asks if you will take up your sword, the one he has designed for you and placed, like a glove, in your hand.

It is the sword you are meant to carry. A sword of courage and humbleness. A sword of fearlessness and gentleness. A sword of action, not passivity. A sword of trusting and listening. A sword of leadership and obedience. He leads and you follow and others follow and wield their swords too.

You wield your sword and your sisters and your daughters and your brothers and your family and your friends — they see you with your sword and they believe and they are encouraged and they see him in places they didn’t know he could be seen.

In the darkness of caverns deep, where only cracks of light get in. And your sword lights the way, the sword that reflects his light, your sword that carries with it his voice and his sacrifice. For you. He carries you as you wield your sword and you do not to fight any battle on your own.

But you must fight. You must press in to his light and let it shine all over you. Let it pour down, that light of him. Let it cover you, girl. For you have a mountain to climb. And there are thorns on the path. And there are rocks and boulders. And there are ruts in this road that threaten to trip you up. But keep your eyes on him, girl, and wield your sword and carry on.

Tread that precarious path he has laid out, the one where daughters who are fearless will follow. And there is healing there, when you follow him, wielding your sword.

You are the daughter who is fearless.

You are the daughter who is strong.

You are the daughter who holds up her head; she raises it high, and she does not yield against the enemy who says she is only worth what people say she is worth, what the world says she is capable of.

Wield your sword, choosing to see, choosing to look for beauty and truth and light despite the darkness of the walls that close in.

For I speak to you from one who has been prayed over, who has heard the words of  a sister who goes ahead, radiant in the light of her Father. She wields her sword and says come on now, let’s go. It is good here, with him,  It is good here, where he goes, even though I can’t see the path. I can see him. I can see him. And that is all I need.

My sister wields her sword and I wield mine and together we carry our instruments of battle–his truth, his heart in us, his healing as he speaks and we hear him and choose to see, choose to listen, choose to believe.

He is good.

He is here.

He is on this path with you, right now.

So come on, my sister. Come on His girl. Wield your sword.

It feels good in your hand.

Let’s march forward, our King before us, together.

 

Today? This weekend? How might you be looking for Jesus, raising your sword, seeking him for strength and courage? What is it you face? I’d love to pray for you.

You Think You Have No Voice? Listen Carefully Now

Voice? Listen Carefully Now.[W]hat is voice? How does one discover it, hear it, claim it? Why do we want it? Why do we thirst for it, search for it, wish we had it?

You know what it is. You know why you want it more than anything.

Because it is how you are made, His girl. You are made to live out that Voice.

It is to your voice that the Voice calls, my sisters. It is to your voice that He calls because you are made to sing loud with your voice–the beauty of you, the delicate-messy-wild-wonderfulness of how He made you.

Or whisper it.

Or place it gently around you.

Or wear it, bold and brazen, for the sake of the voices of the ones who believe, still, their voice is not heard. Or not meant to be heard. Or not worth being heard.

Oh, yeah, those are the voices who need your voice. Those are the voices who need you to listen to the Voice in you. Those are the voices who cry silent tears in barred, cold rooms. The rooms where their voice is silenced.

Because the Voice in them is yet unrecognized, unnoticed. They hear only a tenuous hush, a meek murmur. They don’t hear yet the Voice calling, inviting them to sing.

So, that Voice in you? Listen closely to it now.

Listen to it’s whisper. What you love. What makes you smile.

Listen to it’s song. What you are made to do. What makes you angry, frustrated, sad.

Listen to how it is fullness within you, the way it gestures, and encourages, the way it tantalizes and promises only what is true: you are special, here, in this place, with Me.

And you know how you hear it? Do you know how you know it’s song?

You have to practice listening to it. That Voice within you? It is meant to be heard, by you, in the way that you hear, in the way that you live–with your passions and your talents, with your imagination and your faith.

With your voice.

You practice listening to the Voice within you by living out loud with your own voice.

Living out loud in the quiet, deep inside you, in the place where He calls you, deep, deep inside.

You recognize the Voice through practicing–heeding how your voice depends upon the One Voice. How the voice you crave, you need, you chase down, is always in you.

So listen.

And sing out.

Loud now.

In the quiet.

And then.

Then.

We/you need to hear that v/Voice.

What is one challenge you face in trusting God’s voice speaking, living, within you?

Our God is Not Silent, Love

coffee shop

To all the girls

conversation 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay here. Free. Rescued.

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


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


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

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

Break Me

break me flowers fade
From me

conversation 27

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

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

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

And I don’t like to mess up.

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

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

You love me like this, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

She does.

She does.


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

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

I Sing Loud Your Praise

sing loud

For J.

conversation 26

[F]ather, you know how I don’t mind telling the story. Well, that’s not true. I hate to share it. It’s hard to go back and remember what happened when I was so little. It’s hard to look someone in the eye and tell them what was done to me and how at the time I didn’t know it was bad, although it didn’t seem good, either.

I could be bitter, I guess. I could stay angry, stay wounded, let my heart become hard. But this world is too good, Father! You are too good!

Even though the abuse happened to me, over and over, starting when I was three years old. Even when I had to put myself in foster care, leave the home I wished were safe, at the age of 16. Even though I had no place to live. Even though I didn’t know how get back on my feet. You’ve given me strength, my Lord. You’ve given me resilience. You’ve given me a heart that is grateful. I am grateful for my circumstances. I am grateful for you being with me.

I have never been alone, through it all. When I share about the tough times, I can smile through my tears. I keep my heart focused on you. I want to be more like you. I want to love you more. You provide for me. You care for me. You catch every tear that falls. You bless me, again and again, with friends, with people who love me. You provide me with food, with a place to sleep, with work to do so I can love others.

Oh, Father, there is so much for which I am grateful! My heart will surely burst from the joy of being with you! I will keep following you, trusting you, seeking you with my whole heart. This life is not too difficult. My past does not deter me from loving and from following you. You are enough for me, my King, my Savior.


[M]y lovely one, how I cherish you! Oh, how you make me smile! You stay close, always close, and I have walked with you, held you, loved you with an everlasting love. This life is so hard; there is so much evil, but so much good, for I am here. And oh, my darling, how you choose to see me! How you choose to see the good!

So I send you out, watching you go forward with strength and with beauty, with a warrior-strength, noble and beautiful, full of love and kindness and mercy. You walk with mercy, my love.

Every step you take is blessed with mercy, with kindness, with gentleness and love. I bless you, again and again. I love you and pour myself into you. I look at you, and I am glad! I look at you, and I say, ‘There, that is my daughter! The one who walks with calm, gentle strength, into situations that require much. She is not deterred. She know from where her strength comes.’

My lovely one, my precious one, I have more good for you in store. You delight in me, and I delight in you. You make the eyes of my heart smile.


Song to listen to:  “Our God,” Chris  Tomlin


[T]his is day 26 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

[G]od, 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

[M]y 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


[T]his 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)

Then. Always. Now.

Then. Always. Now.For P.

conversation 21

[T]hings have quieted down now, God. All five kids have been gone for years. D has been around more. I’ve missed him, although you know how I don’t like to admit that to him.

When D and I are together, I remember what it is about him that I’d always loved. He had a smile that captivated me, and eyes that made me feel like I was the only one in the room. He was jealous for me, passionate in his pursuit of me. When he got lost and struggled to find out who he was for all those years, I could hardly bear it. And, while I didn’t realize it at the time, I was shutting down a part of myself–the part that desired love but didn’t know how to show it.

I wonder if I am any good at loving him. I wonder if I am good at loving, at all.

It has been hard, these years, trying not to care even though I love with an intensity that makes my heart feel, sometimes, like it will surely explode. I know I have some healing to do about my parents. My grandmother loved me and held me and always wanted me close. But a part of me aches, I think, because my parents didn’t know how to love me like I am.

What do I do with all this love inside me, God? I decided, long ago, that the best way to love is to hold it all in. Is it okay continuing like this, trying to protect my heart? I think I do it at the expense of relationships that need me. How can I be present; how can I be all in; how can I pursue?

How do I show the people I love that I love them when I’m afraid to show all the love that I have to give?


Then. Always. Now.[M]y daughter, watch me coming. Watch me coming to rescue you. Watch me standing next to you, bending low and scooping you up, just like your grandmother did when you were a little girl. Watch me come to you, not holding back my love for you. I am yours. I am all in and I am with you and I am not going anywhere.

You are made with a fierce strength–but one that is now tender and raw and wounded. You have been trying to convince yourself you are okay, and you are. But let me be clear on this: you are only okay when you know that you are loved.

Do you know how much I love you, right now, just like you are, my darling? Do you know I always have?

Return now to the place where we began. Return to the place where  you first knew me. Return to the moments when you knew I was close and when you believed I was so far away. Ask me to show you where I was. Ask me to show you how I held you, what I was doing in that moment.

Because in the moments with your dad, his head bent low, his back to you in his chair, I was with you, my daughter.

Because in the moments with your family all around the table and the chaos and the fight to be seen, I was with you, my daughter.

Because in the moments when the front door didn’t open and you tucked the children in and you slept by yourself, so many nights, I was with you, my daughter.

And I want you to hear this, my darling. I want you to know this and live like you believe it: You were never too much, my dear. You were never too much to love. You were never too much to spend time with, have fun with, dance with, laugh with, hold hands with. You are beautiful and you are cherished. Then. Always. Now.

Let me show you how I cherish you. Let me show you how precious you are to me. Let me show you how you are captivating and I can’t keep my eyes off of you.

You are the one I choose.

You are the one I’ve always wanted.

You are the one I want to be with.

Then. Always. Now.


Song to listen to: “Rock of Ages (When the Day Seems Long)“, by Sandra McCracken


[T]his is day 21 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day.

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Stay Here, My Love. I Stay.

stay here my love I stay

From Me

conversation 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stay here,

my love.

I stay.

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

stay here,

my love.

I stay.

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

stay here,

my love.

I stay.


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

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

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

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

With my voice.

With my love.

With my hope.

With my light.

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

stay here,

my love.

I stay.


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


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

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I Love You The Same

I love you the same

For H.

conversation 14

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

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

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

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

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


I love you the same

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

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

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

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


[S]ong to listen to: “A Little Longer” Jenn Johnson and Bethel Music


[T]his is day 14 of Voice: 31 Conversations: Click the image below to find out more.  Subscribe to follow along each day!

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For You Shine Bright, My Love

You Are Bright

For J.

conversation 13

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

you shine bright


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


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

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How Light Shines in the Dark

For L.

conversation 7

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

Yes, you’re already here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

VOICE a journey towards life (1)

I Know What You Miss

For H.

conversation 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

VOICE a journey towards life (1)