Monday, September 24, 2018

Moments vs. Movements

As I was speaking with someone close to me recently, I was reflecting on what the last two years have looked like in our lives.  Yesterday was my two-year anniversary of leaving corporate America and it is hard to believe it has already been that long.  It feels like the last two years have happened in the blink of an eye and yet there has been so much life and change during that time. 

When the Lord placed me in my job at an up and coming (now successful and established), amazing non-profit right out of the gates of corporate America I thought I had found my place.  I was convinced that it was where I was meant to be for the long haul.  After all, God organized the whole thing (still such a crazy cool story). During the time that I worked there, my local church offered me a contracted admin position in an effort to re-evaluate what the needs of the church were in an administrative capacity.  We had just walked through some changes and it was the perfect time for me to step in, be an extra set of hands, and it was God’s miraculous provision in meeting our needs financially. 

I worked there for 9 months when the Lord called me to step away and commit all of my time to the non-profit.  I had anticipated that the Lord would open the floodgates of provision and make a way through that job but that wasn’t quite His plan.  Nonetheless, we remained obedient.  As a result, we walked through some tight financial months as well as major heartaches in our personal life after the miscarriage.  In every tight month though, the Lord provided our daily bread, emotionally, financially, and so forth.   It wasn’t until months after walking away from working at the church that I realized how at-home I felt being there.  Surprised?  I was!

At the beginning of the summer the Lord began to stir even more strongly in my heart and call me back to our local church but I was unsure of what that would look like.  Long story short, after months and months of seeking Him and His will (and admittedly resisting), I finally realized, in yet another abrupt way that the time to act was now!  There were only a few people that I confided in during this seeking time because I was so uncertain as to what it even meant and I wanted to see the Lord prepare the way.  Sure enough, he did.  After three months of personal and private seeking and ultimately saying yes to the leading the Lord placed on my heart, it didn’t take more than three weeks for everything to fall into place.  Every single prayer that I prayed during that 3 month time period, every argument I made as to why this wouldn’t work and every resistant movement I attempted was addressed and then some! 

Over the last couple of years there have been a series of moments that God has walked me through but now I’m able to see that as God was walking me through moments, he was preparing me for a movement; a movement in my heart, a movement in my expectations, a movement in my plans. 

More recently, He has put me in positions and places in which he exposes me to things I never expected.  I am slowly learning that before I react to these things, it is necessary for me to ask, “Lord, was this just a moment or is this the beginning of a movement?”  Trust me when I say that he is faithful to answer that question in bold and powerful ways. 

Depending on his answer, I can tailor my prayers accordingly.  When I know that it was a moment then I can pray for release, willingness and obedience, or forgiveness.  When He shows me that it is a movement then I begin to seek Him in the process and ask for wisdom as far as my involvement and role. 

Listen friends, I know the Lord can take us in unexpected and uncomfortable directions but we need to trust that our presence there is not a coincidence.  It is up to us to be responsible with that placement.  Anyone close to us knows that there has not been a lot of comfort in our lives over the last two years financially or materially but I can sit and tell story after story after story of the bold movement we have participated in.  And this life of obedience is absolutely a life worth living. 

So here I sit, working in a place I never anticipated, doing things that only the Lord can qualify me for and trusting God in the moments and during the movement. 

I challenge you today, if there is something taking place that has rocked you or made you uncomfortable, ponder whether it is simply a moment you need to pass through or it is a movement you need to participate in.  Believe me, God will give you the answer and He will be faithful in the process.  

Moment or movement aside, remember Proverbs 19:21 “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Hole-Hearted yet Wholehearted

Am I willing to be wholehearted even when I feel hole-hearted?  That is what Jesus is asking me this month.    

Throughout this last year we have walked through scenarios, circumstances and loss that has left me feeling as though my heart has been pierced and left with holes in it, some gaping, some like a sliver, others as small as a pin-needle but nonetheless there.  I am in my early thirties and I can say that there have been a number of times where I have said, “Lord, this is not what I pictured my life looking like.”  Or I’ve uttered the words, “Jake, I just didn’t expect to be here.  I thought this would be different…”  Enter in any scenario you are currently going through.   Maybe you are in the middle of a break up and you thought this person was “the one.”  Been there.  Maybe you are trying to have a baby and God’s timing isn’t quite fitting into your timeline.  Been there.  Maybe you are grieving the loss of someone, a spouse, a parent, a friend, or a child.  Been there.  Maybe you are waiting for direction in your career and that raise, or promotion, or other job opportunity isn’t appearing.  Been there.  Maybe, just maybe, God’s placed a calling on your heart and all you can think is, “Lord, you must have this wrong.  Do you know who you are talking to?”  Been there.     

Whether the holes in your heart are there because there is a missing person or the holes in your heart are there because it feels like there is a missing piece – its ok.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be wholehearted. 

I was recently telling a friend that this year feels like it has been overshadowed with disappointment and honestly, not just for me, for a lot of people close to me.  Our God sized dreams are changing or our real-life experiences just aren’t what we expected them to be.  Life is hard.  Loss is hard.  Marriage is hard.  Again-it’s ok.  It’s real. 

While in one conversation I told someone the year felt overshadowed by disappointment, in another, just today, I told someone that the last two years have been the most exciting chapters of my faith journey because I’ve felt God the closest.  Want to know why?  Because it’s been all I could do – seek him.  I might not have the energy to work out, I might not have the motivation to eat healthy, but I have my Jesus.  I might not be the best version of myself in relationships but Jesus still gives me his best.  Jesus doesn’t care if I’m not in peak physical condition right now or the epidemy of health, or very engaged - he just wants my heart - holes and all. 

To shed light on another perspective, I realize that there are things taking space in my heart that I have clung to white-knuckled because I believe they are supposed to be part of the intricately woven tapestry of my life and without it my heart may fall apart.  This can come in the form of unrealized dreams or unmet expectations.  Has someone let you down?  Have you lost relationship with someone you thought would be there for the long haul?  Have circumstances changed, whether financially, relationally, otherwise?  I am slowly coming to realize that it is when I have come to the point of full surrender, in relationship, in dreams, in finances, in expectations, that is when God far exceeds my imagination. 

I have had to give God access to those holes in my heart in order to become whole-hearted for Him again.  I have had to release unmet expectations, realized losses, and grieve and process through relationship changes I never saw coming.  And yet, here I sit – wholehearted. 

I wholeheartedly love Jesus and trust in His good for my life and my family.  I wholeheartedly believe that He loves each and every person on this earth and He has created him or her for a purpose that far surpasses his or her wildest dreams.  I wholeheartedly know what Jesus is calling me to and I know without a shadow of a doubt it will exceed my wildest expectations.  You see, I wholeheartedly realize that this life is not about me but about what God can do through me. 

In a year that my heart has felt heavy with disappointment and I’ve felt distance in relationships and levels of loneliness that I haven’t known in a long time – I can still say that I trust that God’s path is for my good. 

Tonight I just want to encourage anyone that feels hole-hearted and remind you that this is not the end of your story.  Yes, it may be the end of a chapter, the end of a dream or the smack dab middle of a struggle, but God is still good and he is still there.  He sees your heart, holes and all and wants to fill them in with more love than you will ever know.  He believes in you – even when you can’t, don’t or just won’t right now.  He still sees those God sized dreams and guess what the key to unlocking them is – every single hole in that heart of yours.  It is still possible to live wholehearted even when you feel hole-hearted.  Trust that in the midst of that emptiness – God sees you, the real you, and still pursues you and loves you.  

Psalm 147:3
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Come Sit at the Table

Its July 30, 2018.  Today is the day that I thought I would be done.  I thought I would be done having kids, done being pregnant and done with the childbearing stage of my life.  Yet here I am and I have no idea if our family is complete as it is right now, Jake, our two sons, and me, or if there is more in store for us.  I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to get pregnant again, whether through IVF as with our first son, or naturally, as we did with our second (and third). 

There is a trickiness to being a c-section mama.  You see, I know without a shadow of a doubt that this would have been the day we would have met our third child.  I could tell you what time we would have woken up to go the hospital, the exact time pre-op would have started and the approximate time that the baby would have arrived.  As a result, there were certain times of the day today that stung more than others.  4 a.m. when the alarm would have gone off, 6 a.m. when we would have been expected to arrive at the hospital, and 7 a.m. when pre-op would have begun.  If all had gone well, the baby would have been here around 8:30 and by this time we would have hoped the boys would be arriving to meet their new sibling.  But here I am, sitting at home, writing while my sons nap and tears welling in my eyes. 

There is a release for me today.  A release of the expectation for things to work out on the timeline that I expect.  A release of what the redemption of this hurt should look like on this side of heaven.  And as a result of this loss, a release of my expectations of how God heals me and changes my heart.

There were a couple of months that I expected God to grant us another pregnancy because, well, that might ease the pain or distract me from this loss.  I’m not trying to sound insensitive or diminish the impact of the miscarriage; I’m just being honest.  There were other months that I thought God would work things out in a different area that would be to our family’s advantage in continuing to pursue His will for us.  Yet, none of those things have come to pass.  I am not pregnant.  We are still very actively working through some things for our household and our budget and I know that I need to stop putting God in a box outlined by human outcomes. 

I’ve tried to negotiate my way out of this pain in so many different ways in my walk with the Lord.  I’ve tried to negate the pain or distract myself from my hurt but that is when God has drawn closest.  I now realize that it is in fact during our times of greatest weakness that the Lord can press in and fill in spaces of our heart that we thought were unfixable. 

I now know that in this rawness and vulnerable heart space that the Lord has such immense love and longing for each of His children.  I consider it my greatest purpose to simply show people how much he loves them - just as they are.  Not because of anything they have or haven’t done.  Not because of a specific level of strength or weakness.  Not because they know the Bible by heart or sing well during worship.  Just because.  Love has been my most powerful lesson because that is exactly how He has healed me. 

There have been moments in the last six months that I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t pretend to be ok.  I couldn’t pretend to feel fulfilled or know how to move forward.  I couldn’t sing or worship and I couldn’t pretend I wasn’t upset with God that things worked out the way they did.  Don’t get me wrong, I know where fault lies in all of this – this isn’t a debate on theology and spiritual warfare.  Its an honest portrayal of walking through and battling for faith after loss in my life.  Its coming to the jarring realization that no matter how you’ve served or what your faith walk looks like – bad things still happen to you, bad things happen to anyone.  And yet, here I sit – knowing I am deeply and passionately loved by Jesus.  I know just how true it is that he will leave the 99 and pursue me.  I know that I will not be abandoned by Him. 

Grief can make even the most connected person feel lonely and isolated by humans but with Jesus, healing is possible.  I miss this baby with everything in me and unlike anyone else ever will but I can’t neglect to highlight exactly how far Jesus has gone to pursue my heart over and over and over again in the last six months.  He has shown me and unearthed a level of compassion and love for others during this time that I would have never known without being broken apart and slowly put back together again. 

It is so very hard to walk through difficult times and it is even harder to press into faith and Jesus during those moments but when you do – there is a level of love and surrender unlike anything you’ll ever know. 

My heart is broken but it has finally been broken by Jesus.  I can confidently say that I know the Lord is going to use this broken heart for bonding with others through brokenness and building stronger faith.  Our table has seen and felt heartache this year that we never knew before but because of it our table has new seats of understanding and compassion.  With each new journey, God expands my empathy and it will be used for His glory.  So please, don’t ever feel alone - come to the table – I pray we never tire of serving His grace, love and forgiveness through the sharing of heartache, brokenness, joy and laughter.   

Monday, July 9, 2018

Humanity in Emotion

Throughout the last few months I’ve wrestled with an expectation of myself in that I assume that when I grieve I lose joy.  Slowly but surely I am realizing that is an absolute lie.  Just as healing can only come from Jesus, the same is true about joy.  Joy is considered a fruit of the spirit and its something gained when you are in right relationship with God regardless of the earthly circumstances you are walking in.  It is not something that is of our own strength.  It can also be present during the most unusual and difficult times.  The presence of grief does not mean the absence of joy.  In fact, I would even argue that grief opens up a new level of joy that wasn’t realized before because of the gratitude that comes during the grieving process.

Think about the times that you have truly grieved something in your life.  It can be a season that you grieved such as ending college or changing careers.  It can be a person that has passed away or a relationship that ended.  In each of these circumstances, the grief over what has ended or been lost does not negate the joy that existed or exists as a result of that season, person or experience.

I feel that this is often a misconception about faith and relationship with Jesus as well.  Just because someone is in relationship with Jesus does not mean that they have all the answers, nor the ability to be carefree.  The presence of faith does not mean the absence of doubt.  The presence of faith does not mean the absence of human emotion or even sin for that matter.  It does, however, mean that there is a direct line of information, spiritual gifts and forgiveness available to you through God’s Word and the Holy Spirit that will bring healing and wholeness through Jesus.   

I think that often we set ourselves up for failure in thinking that we can only experience one emotion at a time, which is absurd.  It also frustrates me that when a person is open and honest about the tough emotions (anger, sadness, grief, jealousy) society assumes that those are the only emotions that person is capable of feeling and sometimes they become ostracized.  The fact of the matter is that when someone is open about the tough stuff it simply makes other people uncomfortable and that’s on them not the person trying to be honest in processing their emotions. 

Jesus did this so well.  He walked this earth and challenged the common way of thinking and he made people uncomfortable for all of the right reasons.   There will be times in our own lives that if we are really allowing God’s light to shine through us – others will be uncomfortable.  At the end of the day, that is on them – not us.  If something you are walking through or experiencing in your life or your faith walk makes another person uncomfortable it means that they have some digging, processing and healing to do on their own time.  It does not mean that we need to coddle their discomfort, mask our emotions, and/or play a part of some kind in order to fit in. 

We have all been created to experience the full range of emotions differently and to do so in community and in love.  As I continue to read the book of Job, I see that Job’s emotions and wrestling with God made his friends uncomfortable but why?  It is because they had their own preconceptions and ideologies of what being in relationship or in favor with God meant.  Even Job had to wrestle through and question what he defined as God’s favor. 

Ever since the loss of my own naiveté of what it feels like to live without suffering, I have come to realize that the depth and breadth of my own personal emotional understanding and relationship with Jesus has vastly been changed.  I now have such an appreciation for what it meant for Jesus to walk the earth, deeply engage in relationship, experience loss as well as opposition and continue to treat everyone with grace and love.  And while I am not called to sacrifice myself for any of you, I am willing to sacrifice myself for Him in an effort to show just how deeply loved you are.  Plus, the simple fact that he himself experienced all of the hard emotions that we walk through here on earth deepens my love and appreciation for him and the effort He put in to saving me. 

I’ll end with this.  Today when I felt myself beginning to feel sadness and grieve our angel baby I simply allowed the spirit to pray for me and in that moment I was overwhelmed.  The Lord spoke to me and said; “you know the tears you’ve shed over your lost child and the joy you have in your other children – imagine the tears I shed over all of my lost children and the joy I have in those that are found?”  I wept.  I simply wept.  If the world only knew how much God loves us!  If you only knew how cherished you are – goodness, would your life change.  I realize a lot of my Jesus talk and God moment stories and Holy Spirit references make people uncomfortable, but if even just one person can sense, feel and turn to the grace and open arms God has for them, this is all worth it.  Today I pray that you know God’s heart for you, I pray that you realize that He knows EXACTLY how you are feeling and He loves you just as you are.  Don’t be ashamed to feel – God created you for just that and when you feel that its time to know Jesus – don’t be afraid of that either.  He is waiting for you. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Lessons in Grieving

As we enter into what would have been the birth month of our third baby, due date July 30, there have been a few things laid on my heart to share regarding living with grief.

The best way for me to describe grief would be in terms of a fog.  Fog can be debilitating and cause you to stop in your tracks, it can be distracting or disorienting in the sense that you no longer see the lines that typically guide your path, and it can be dense enough to block out everything around you so all you can do is just focus on where you are at right in that moment and take one step at a time to proceed to your destination.

Grief works the same way.  Throughout the last few months I have experienced all of the above and the key has been to simply keep taking the next step.  The tricky part about grief is that it sneaks up on you in the most unexpected moments.

Please hear me when I say that grief and joy are not directly correlated.  It is possible to still be joyful and yet have grief be a very real and present emotion in your life.  Proverbs 14:13 says that "Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains."  Additionally, grief and gratitude are also not directly correlated.  In what I consider to be one of the most powerful chapters of the Bible, Job, Job 1:20 states "Job stood up and tore his robe in grief.  Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship."  This imagery hits directly into my soul.  The most powerful thing I've been able to do during this process is worship despite my grief because that is where the Lord meets me and brings me joy. 

For anyone who has lost someone, the fact that they are grieving does not negate their gratitude and appreciation for the loved ones that remain here.  While there is comfort drawn from those loved ones - it does not take away the pain of the loss they have experienced.  I write that because there have been many moments when friends or family note how blessed I am to still have my sons and yes - I am extremely blessed to have them, however, it doesn't mean I didn't still love and long for that third child.  As Jeremiah 10:19 states, "My wound is severe, and my grief is great.  My sickness is incurable, but I must bear it."  Grief is not curable, however, it does change, it does become more manageable but its not going to be according to any personal timeline.  It just takes time.

While my loss appears differently than the loss of others, these are lessons within the grieving process that I feel are applicable and unless spoken they will not be understood or recognized by those who have never been in the trenches of grief.

Finally, I know that it is uncomfortable to ask people about their loss because you are afraid of stirring up some negative emotions or sadness but can I ask you to do something?  Don't be so afraid of someone's tears that you aren't willing to see their heart.  Yes, it can be uncomfortable to see people cry but when people who have lost someone don't feel that they have the ability to be vulnerable or honest about their emotions, it can be an incredibly lonely feeling.  While I appreciate the fact that you care enough not to hurt them - can you care enough to be willing to help them bear their hurt?  For many people, being able to talk about the one they lost brings healing.  It may not be in a way that you understand but sometimes the most meaningful thing you can do is to willingly bring it up, talk about it, and ask questions.  If they don't want to talk about it I can bet they will tell you that and ask for grace in giving them their space.  I know that even if I am not in a place to talk, I do appreciate the effort made.  While no one else on this side of heaven got to know my baby the way I did - it doesn't mean that it didn't effect me. 

God has been faithful to redeem the heartache of my loss one step at a time and I can genuinely say that I am in a good place with a peace that surpasses my understanding.  I know Jesus in ways that I never knew him before and I am continually learning the strength that is found in weakness, loss, and vulnerability.  Today I challenge you - have the tough conversation and ask the hard questions, your temporary discomfort is nothing compared to the lifetime of grief that person will experience.  Move forward with a Holy Confidence that there is healing in the hard and wisdom drawn from hurt.

Thanks for your time. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Kingdom Dreaming

I have been convicted lately in feeling that I've been highlighting the negative of my life more often than I have been giving praise for the good that exists right now.  While I believe in transparency and being honest with my thoughts, I also believe in pressing into the positive and I'm tired of not being able to do that so this is my active effort to shift into positivity, joy and hope.

I wrote a while ago that Jake and I were functioning in SERVE-ival mode and I'm happy to say that while we are still in a season of seeking our daily bread on a daily basis, the Lord has given us the ability to dream once again.  Although, this dreaming is not in regards to our personal lives but in regards to dreaming of how WE can make a positive impact on God's kingdom with our time here on earth. 

I believe Brian Houston would refer to this as kingdom dreaming and it is far better than any dreaming I've ever been able to do on my own.  These dreams that are laid upon our hearts are dreams that are not of us but ones that we are called to participate in.  We have no idea how they will happen, when they will happen, or our exact involvement in them besides the fact that we are called to steward them and when the time is right work with in the Lord's strength and provision to make them happen. 

Kingdom dreams come from hearts of complete abandonment and a deep deep desire to simply honor God with all that we are.  All that we have. All that we can do.  In the pursuit of God's calling on our lives He has highlighted giftings within us that almost feel foolish yet, we can be encouraged that they are there because our Creator has put them there.  Do you know what it feels like to have a spirit-filled self-worth?  Amazing. 

In kingdom dreaming, the Lord highlights how past experiences and current experiences are leading you and forming you for something greater than you could imagine.  My friend so beautifully prayed yesterday, "thank you, Jesus, for giving us God-sized dreams as humans because we know that they can only be accomplished by you working through us." 

The best part is that our Kingdom dreams almost take us entirely out of it and we can wholly put it on God to help us foster and steward their development in His time.  It takes one step of obedience at a time.  One day of serving at a time and a faith-filled boldness that seems foolish to the world but yet - God is faithful.

We are in another season of waiting to see exactly how God will bring the evolution of these dreams to pass. My goodness, you guys! There is some seriously exciting stuff that God has planned for someday and such a time as this.  God has such a heart for us all and even more excitingly he is calling my husband and I into these dreams together.  What a sign of faithfulness to the covenant of marriage.  God is so good. 

Today I simply write to express my gratitude for the ability to kingdom dream and to do so with my husband.  I'm grateful for the opportunity to sit front row and watch my husband's heart and passions evolve into something that will revolutionize relationship.  Thank you, Jesus, for this life and showing up in the midst of the trenches. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Missing the Miraculous

The last few weeks have been difficult for me emotionally.  Yesterday I couldn't hold back tears that came for what felt like no reason.  As my sons played in their toy room upstairs I stood at the kitchen sink doing the dishes and cried.  Finally I simply uttered, "Lord, help me.  I feel weak.  I don't have any strength in this on my own.  I need you.  Be my strength."

Our pastors over the last two weeks have been discussing creating margin and taking time away from distractions so yesterday I decided to take that into consideration and switched up my devotional time.  It is no coincidence that I haven't been in the word much over the last week and my emotional load has been heavier, just saying.  

As I walked away from my sons' bedroom I simply asked, "Lord, what do you want me to read today?"  I simply heard, "Luke."  Spontaneously I grabbed my husband's Bible instead of my own and opened up to the Gospel of Luke.  I literally SHUT OFF my phone, no do not disturb, no ringer on vibrate, I shut it off completely - what a concept.  Before I really got to dig in my four year old son came in and tried to delay his inevitable nap but I told him, "Buddy, mommy's attitude hasn't been very good lately.  I really really need my quiet time with Jesus today."  He immediately understood, gave me a hug and walked back into his room.  Thank you, Jesus, for moving in that moment and granting him that understanding.

The thing about my husband's Bible is that it is not a commentary Bible or "study" Bible unlike mine.  Its just the word.  God's word.  As I read, I simply said, "Lord let your word speak."  I read Luke 1-7 and realized exactly why the Lord had me there.  This book of the Bible records Jesus' conception as well as a large number of miracles he did among the people in his time on earth.

I knew what he was telling me.  He was reminding me of his faithfulness to so many others and of all the miracles he has performed.  He was reminding me that I am not forgotten and He will continue to work for my good - I just can't see it right now.  This is all for a purpose.

You want to know my initial thoughts after reading it?  I miss the miraculous in my life.  I realized that I have clung to my pregnancies so firmly because they have been such a living testament to the MIRACLES that God has done in my life.  I miss the pregnancy, not simply because I miss that baby that I will not meet but I miss the tangible example of the miraculous in my life.

Hey guys, guess what I realized this morning!?  I have two living, breathing, daily reminders of the miraculous in my life.  I have a husband that is a daily reminder to me of someone's capacity to love without end, even in my worst of moods.  Our home is tangible proof of God's hand over our decisions and finances.  The food on our table, the heat, air conditioning, and cars in our garage are proof of the miraculous provision from him over the past couple of years.  Even my husband's job is an answer to prayers and circled back into our path in a miraculous and unexpected way.  Are you tracking with me on this? 

What I realized this morning is that I don't need a human growing inside of me to see God's hand and covering over my family's life.  My pregnancies are not the only miracles I've ever experienced.  Yes, they were some of the biggest and most apparent but they aren't the only.  I just need to open my eyes to the goodness surrounding me.  The miraculous is always around - if you open your eyes to see it.

Today I am grateful that the Lord took me to a place in His word that reminded me that miracles don't always come in the ways that we comprehend but that the miraculous and God's presence are there in the subtleties of life.

Being able to write this week feels like being able to actually breathe again. I'm so grateful for the subtle grace of God showing up in times of extreme weakness.  Can you feel it today?  Can you see the miracles?  There can be strength found in the subtleties of your life.  Look for it.  The miraculous is there, I promise.