Feeling all the Feels

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Recently a friend and I were catching up over FaceTime.  Sharing what was happening in our lives.  Both of us had some pretty big changes just happen or that were about to begin.

With changing seasons and fresh paths most likely comes a roller coaster of potential emotions so how do we move forward and be fully present when the “past” is only a half-step behind us with it’s dirt still clinging to our boots?

How can live in the present with vision for our future and the next generation in a healthy way?  How can we transition well or even brace ourselves for upcoming changes when we’re still in the trenches of our current seasons of life?

As we were discussing the future and challenges and emotions my friend encouraged me to “feel all the feels.”  

Translation: Don’t stifle and stuff.

Grieve as you go.  

Live fully in the moments and take nothing for granted.  Bawl your eyes out when you’re feeling sad.  Pause and take in the scenery and soak up all the warm fuzzies when they come.

Embrace the pain.

That’s the really icky part, but when you realize that you cannot selectively shut down  your emotions, then you’ll learn not to numb the painful ones.  As excruciating as it is, we must allow ourselves to grieve and to feel  the pain of loss and transition.  I believe that to the depth that we experience pain we will also be able to experience joy and peace.  We cannot selectively numb and be whole and present simultaneously.  

We need to “feel all the feels” no matter how uncomfortable some of them may be.  

Sure, we may temporarily feel better about not being a mess at the time, but we know that when we look back we’ll be disappointed that we shut down, disengaged and removed ourselves from the present in order to self-protect and avoid.
It may seem silly to cry over a spatula, but I’ve done it. You can read about that one here.

And the thing is, if  we’re ever going to live abundantly and fully in our lives then we’re going to need to deal with our demons and face off with our emotions and the deep corners of our hearts that we want to pretend aren’t there.  Sooner or later as most of you know, they will find us.  

Someone will rip off that bandaid to reveal a gaping wound that you never attended to.  That inflatable beach ball will pop up out of nowhere and blast you unexpectedly.  You’ll end up being in a new season or a fresh relationship with so much of that old undealt with stuff that you’ll miss out on the joy of the moment and being fully invested right where you are.

It’s not easy and there’s no magic recipe for soul tending and transitioning well.  I think the main thing is to pay attention to our hearts, be kind to ourselves and to live a courageously intentional life.  We shouldn’t compare or set a bar for how we should be feeling.  We must allow ourselves to grieve.  We must admit when we’re afraid.  We shouldn’t try to gloss over those sad feelings.  We mustn’t take the joy of the moment for granted.  I believe we should pause and feel and be right where we’re at.

A big part of this for me has been to start being more honest with God and shift the way that I pray.  I’ve been uncertain if it’s okay to tell God what I actually want, afraid that somehow this means that I’m being disobedient or believing that I’ll taint the grand plan and miss the mark because of my desires.  That has left me with abandoned pieces of my soul that for the longest time felt like a graveyard instead of a garden.

I didn’t want to touch those place because it felt too painful and dry and revealed areas of hopelessness that were messy and easier left unattended to.  I didn’t want to “feel all the feels.”  But I’m come to the point where I want to be whole.  I want to be fully alive.  And that means embracing all of who I am and trusting God with all of me. 

The Father, my Father, doesn’t want a canned prayer of submission without an ounce of faith in it.  I’m coming to believe that He actually cares about the desires of my heart and wants me to share them with Him.  Not in a “genie in a bottle” sort of way, but in a Father/daughter type of way.  Where I’m real and raw and honest.  Where I’m cracking my fragile heart open and trusting Him to handle it with the utmost care.

Sure, it’s way easier to live an ankle deep life instead of diving into unknown depths.  But after wading around in the shallows for too long, life gets boring and predictable and down right unfulfilling because in our gut we know that we’re made for more.  That gnawing feeling (the Holy Spirit, perhaps) is trying to tell us something.
We must embrace all of who we are and who He is.

Do you ever think about that verse, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

There is a joy set before us.  We must endure the hard things.  We can’t skip them.  Jesus didn’t skip the cross and go straight to the right hand of the Father.  He felt those nails in his hands.  He looked Peter in the eyes and felt the stabbing pain of denial.

Jesus could filter all of these emotions through the truth that was rooted and grounded in Him and by the security of His relationship with the Father.  He also had long-term vision.  In the midst of the physical pain and rejection and mockery and being misunderstood by the masses He knew who He was and the greater plan far outweighed His current circumstances.

If you’re in transition or a changing of seasons, don’t let the waves of emotions drown you or callouses to cover your heart.

Be in your life.  All day every day.  
Let the dry bones come to life and let faith replace fear and doubt. 

Let’s have vision for eternity now.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him,”  Philippians 3:8 

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

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Who Should I Vote For?

With the election in the U.S. only a week away the question looms, “Who should I vote for?”

The debate is heated.  The country seems divided still.  Most of us Americans appear to loathe the thought of voting for either of the two primary candidates.  Some will decided to not vote at all.

I don’t usually write about politics, even though it’s something that I strongly care about.  There is a great deal that I don’t know or understand.

What I do know is that I’ve never felt so much turmoil inside about previous elections as I have this one.  Watching the presidential debates was excruciating.  This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt sincerely embarrassed for my country.

I do not think that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are accurate representations of what the majority of Americans want.  A lot of us feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, with seemingly no way out.  What are we to do?

Like I mentioned earlier some will not vote.

I personally completely disagree with this.  As an American I feel honored and privileged that I have the opportunity to have a voice in my government.  Too many have died for this freedom and the many others that Americans enjoy.  It feels to me that it would be dishonoring to the fallen to cast that costly vote aside.

A friend of mine reminded me once that they also died, giving us the freedom to not cast a vote.  Fair point, so I’ll recognize this as true, but it is my conviction to not be silent when I have the unique opportunity as a middle class woman to be involved in government at its highest level.  I see it as a responsibility to steward well, and I would feel negligent if I chose not to vote.

I think of millions of oppressed people around the world that can only dream of having the freedom to have a choice, to cast a vote, to be a voice in their nation.

It was a 70 year fight for women in the U.S. to be granted the equal right alongside men to vote.  The 19th Amendment to The Constitution was added on August 18th, 1920.  That’s less than 100 years ago, yet its something that we so quickly can take for granted.

So I ask you to please, VOTE.

Decide to vote and then choose as wisely as you can.

Look at the issues.  I don’t like either candidate.  I don’t really respect either of them.  Overall, I don’t think they have good moral character or are the most qualified people for the job.  But one of them will become the next Commander in Chief.

For me, it came down to looking at a few key issues that were primary concerns for me.

I suggest picking a couple of issues that you feel passionate about or at least are the most important to you.  I would also dare to go beyond just what you’re passionate about but actually think and weigh what is holistically vital for our nation in the long run.  There are many things to consider:  immigration, Supreme Court Justices, the economy, abortion, national security, healthcare, energy, international relations, patriotism, leadership abilities as well as many more.

Then consider:  Why are these issues important to you?  Potentially how will these issues affect our country and the world in the next 4 years and beyond?  Why is one issue more important than another?  Which candidate advocates for the primary issues that you feel are important for our country?  Do you think the current system is broken enough to take a risk with your vote?

Even after all of this you might still feel conflicted.  I think a whole lot of Americans can relate!

I believe that we should not despair.  I believe that it is not too late.  I believe that the character of our country goes much deeper than who our next president is.

As a Christian, my ultimate hope is not in a safe and comfortable country led by a righteous leader.  That would be nice, but let’s be real, it’s not an option at this point with this election.  When fear and anxiety threaten to overcome me in regards to the direction that the U.S. has chosen to take over the last several decades, I must go the Rock.  I must remember who He is and that He is if far above all governments and authorities.

No matter what the result of the election, God will still be seated on the throne.  Jesus will still be at His right hand interceding for the saints.  The Holy Spirit will still be dwelling in God’s children and empowering them to change the world.

We will still be among the most privileged and free people in the world.  We should still be proud to be American.

I say we stop complaining and moaning about what’s before us and start being thankful.  Let’s pray for our leaders and speak life over them.  Let’s begin paying more attention and doing our part as citizens to steer our country in a better direction.

After all, the country is not in the place that it is merely because of who the president is.  Let’s look within our own hearts and see where we need to repent.  How do we need to change?  What is God inviting us to do to be an agent of change?  How can we begin to work together, to serve and to love rightly?

Nominal Christianity has become dominant in many of our churches.  Maybe that is one of the core problems.

There are many praying for a third Great Awakening right now. What are you doing?

One week from today will end potentially the most important presidential campaign in history.  It could drastically change the landscape of our nation and the world.

So I encourage you to go vote and continue praying, and don’t be hateful if your candidate doesn’t win.  That’s not going to do anyone any good; and believe me, I’m saying these things to myself just as much as to anyone else.

Let’s move forward together.

We will not lose hope.  We will not be overcome by darkness.  We will believe the impossible.

Let’s stand strong together!

It’s time to shine, Church.  It’s time.

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

I Peter 4:7-11

Standing in the Gap

What does it mean to “stand in the gap” for someone?

Biblically, there are physical and spiritual examples of this concept.  (Ps. 106:23; Ezek 13:5, 22:30, Nehemiah 4:16, Isaiah 58:12, I Timothy 2:1)

When the Israelites were rebuilding the wall in Nehemiah 4, half of the people literally stood by the ones working, with weapons in hand, in order in order to keep the enemy out and the men protected so that the wall could be rebuilt.

Many other avenues pertain to interceding for one another, waging spiritual war for our brothers and sisters and government officials, etc.

The thing is, we really can’t do it all on our on.  Sometimes we desperately need people to intercede for us or even to physically stand between us and an enemy.  When we are weak and vulnerable in specific areas, we may need someone stronger than us at the moment to help cover us from the lies and of the enemy while we “rebuild our walls” with truth.

At one point or another there will be areas of our lives that we kind of lose hope for.  There will seem to be a deficit of faith for God to show up or break in.  There will be a sphere where we are not strong or hopeful or courageous in.

If you’re like me, then you probably try not to focus on it.  You put it on the backburner and try your best to keep your eyes on Jesus, avoiding the pain of hope deferred and addressing the lie that God just won’t come through for you in that area.  Maybe even, like me, you pretty much stop praying about it altogether.

At some point, you will be confronted with the sin of unbelief.  The Father’s love will gently touch that tender area of your heart and you will have to choose whether or not to repent and have faith and believe that God is who He says He is and that He is for you OR to continue in your unbelief and deny the Holy Spirit access to change things.

Honestly, I know that on my own I can’t always seem to find the strength to muster up faith or belief.  Try as I might to renew my mind and stand on His promises, it doesn’t seem to revive my soul.

I know (head knowledge) that God is good, He is in control and I “trust” Him.  I was in Sparks and Bible Drills as kid.  I grew up Southern Baptist.  I know the Christianese things to say and do.  But you see I believe that sometimes we need the Body of Christ to come through for us in a very tangible way which will spur us on in our faith.

Sometimes I need a brother or sister to declare some life into dead areas of my life.  I need a reminder that He is the God that speaks life into dry bones and calls the things that are not as though they were (Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 4:17).

I need family to believe for me and spur me on to take hold of the goodness of God.  I need a friend to pray for breakthrough in seemingly hopeless situations.  I need a shoulder to cry on and an arm to lean on when I feel like I’m going to fall.  I need someone to lock arms with on the battlefield.

I need someone to stand in the gap for me.

What a powerful thing.

This past week I had someone do just that for me.

It took me by surprise.  It stirred my faith.  It gave me fresh hope.  It challenged me.  It wasn’t even something I was necessarily looking for to happen, but it did.

Then the aftermath:  I’m faced with my response to this invitation.

It’s a bit scary to have hope after rejection.  It takes risk and vulnerability to believe in something that seems impossible.

You see this wasn’t just a thing for the moment.  He actually left me with a challenge and invitation to press in for myself, to spend time in prayer, to specifically ask God for what I wanted and declare His Words true.  He challenged me to believe God for something greater than I could see at the moment, to “rebuild my walls” if I can put it that way.

He encouraged me just how I needed it in the moment and gave me a springboard to jump in afresh for myself.

Now it’s up to me to share with my close friends and have a team that can rally with me.  It’s my turn to spend time with the Lord fleshing things out.  It’s up to me to set aside time to pray and declare truth.  It’s up to me to expose the new little springs of life to sunshine so that they will grow and to pull up the weeds when they pop up.

What incredible opportunities we have to bless and strengthen one another!  Let’s open our eyes, see what God’s doing and be a part of the solution.

Who will you stand in the gap for today?

Who is the Lord putting in Your path to strengthen and encourage?  Who is God asking you to speak on His behalf for?  Who is He asking you to pray for regularly?

We may have to stop and take a little time to listen.  We may need to give up a few minutes of our day and tend to the needs of others.  It’s a part of serving and entering into one another’s sufferings.  It’s a part of being and active member of His Body.

How can we minister the love of God to each other and impart courage to raise up a generation of believers with unprecedented faith?

Friends, we are not  meant to journey alone.  We can’t do it on our own.

So who will you stand in the gap for today?

 

 

God – the Supernatural?

I had an interesting experience recently.  I began to pray something to the effect that Christians would be open to the supernatural.  Then all of a sudden I realized, mid-prayer, how ridiculous that sounded as it came out of my mouth – praying that we would believe that God could work in supernatural ways.

Merriam-Webster defines God as this:

1 capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality: as 

a : the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe 

And the supernatural as this:

1 : of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially : of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil

2 a : departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature

The Creator and Ruler of the universe implies to me that He is indeed supernatural and completely other than man and our human ways.  

Why is it a stretch for us to believe that a supernatural being, the Ruler of the universe, could manifest Himself in unexplainable ways?  I’m not meaning to sound judgemental at all to those that believe that He doesn’t work that way any more or to those that are struggling to believe it.  I’m simply trying to look at it from a logical point of view.

I believe that humans are supernaturally created.  Our bodies are absolutely miraculous and shout intelligent design.  I don’t think there’s a chance we got this way by accident.

The earth and the universe are indescribable and so perfectly placed it’s undeniable to me that it wasn’t purposeful.  

These two things alone display that God is extremely supernatural in His ways.  They are are so beyond us.  He created something out of nothing.  He breathed life into dry bones and put a living soul in each being.  Seriously, how amazing is that?!

I believe He is far more capable of things than we think, and that He is longing to co-labor with us to display His glory in the earth.  The question is not “can God work supernaturally,” but “will we make space for Him to move?”

C.S. Lewis hits the nail on the head:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We are too full on the things of this world which leaves little to no hunger left for things of God – His supernatural ways if you will.  

Just to clarify:  I am not saying that we should merely seek after the supernatural for the sake of seeing unexplainable things and experiences.  My heart in this is for the church (the sons and daughters of God) to walk in the fullness of all that He is and all that He extends to His family.  We are co-heirs with Christ, walking with the deposit of the Holy Spirit inside of us!  Let’s not settle for less, friends.  There is always more to know and experience and discover.  We will never exhaust His love and wisdom and grace. 

Andy Byrd recently said:

“If you know how to do it, your dream’s probably not big enough.”

We should need God to come through for us.  We should need the Holy Spirit’s guidance and empowerment daily.  We should need more than we can dig up within ourselves if we are actually living a life of faith.  Our dreams should bigger than what we can accomplish on our own.  Where’s the faith in having goals and ideas and dreams that are within our limits?

May our hearts and minds be open to all that God is and what He does and not just the bits that we can make sense of. 

I personally don’t want to worship or give my life to a god that I can fully understand and put in a nice tidy box.  I need more than what I can conjure up and explain.  I need supernatural wisdom and strength and grace to make it through each day.  There’s gotta be more to God than what I see and know.  

His Word is filled with stories of His supernatural ways.

Think of Jonah being swallowed by a whale and living to tell the tale.

Remember how He led Israel by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.

Recall how He parted the Red Sea for His people when they were trapped by their enemies.

What about that time He spoke to Moses through a burning bush that didn’t burn up?

And how about when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a firey furnace and came out not even smelling like smoke, but the guards that threw them in died because of the extreme heat???

Then there’s David and Goliath (I Samuel 17), Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6), Sarah and Abraham conceiving as an elderly couple (Genesis 21), Samson’s supernatural strength (Judges 13-16), Solomon’s gift of wisdom (I Kings 3), God extending daylight in order for His army to have victory (Joshua 10:12-14), and we haven’t even made it to the New Testament!

To me, I just don’t see how we can create a logic and a theology that says that God doesn’t work the way…well…the way that He’s always shown Himself to work even before He gifted all of His children with the deposit and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

I sure as heck don’t have it all figured out, and I don’t really care if I ever do.  I just know that I want to get ahold of all that He is and what He does, as much as I possibly can.  He’s the source of life and peace and love and joy, and I want to dive as deep as I possibly can into those realities.  I want to really know Him, kind of like David did in the fields as a shepard boy and like Mary listening at Jesus’ feet.  I want to walk in step with Him and be a part of what He is doing each and every day, and that’s going to take something beyond me, something dare I say…supernatural.  

Waiting on “Real Life” to Start

Turning 30  has made me quite reflective as of late.  Probably in part because my life looks pretty much nothing like I thought it would at this stage.

My plans were to be married, already have my 5 children and probably have a little nook of a house in the country somewhere in the U.S., hopefully in the mountains and near a river.

Today I find myself living on an island near the equator in SE Asia.  Still childless.  Still single.  And living alone on the 13th floor of an apartment complex.

Apparently some things didn’t quite pan out like I’d hoped.

But I’m here to honestly, 100% say that I’m OKAY with that. I really am.

I’m actually THANKFUL that my life didn’t turn out like I planned.  And here’s part of the reason:

In my late teens and early 20s I somehow came came into agreement with a lie from the pits of hell that whenever I got married my real life would start.  That’s when life would begin.  That’s when I would be worth something.  I was waiting on a man to show me that I was valuable, and so at 18 years old I was already desperate to get married.  The thought of being alone would shake me to the core, and I had to push back that awful fear with extreme force because the possibility was just too much for me to even consider.

Now I don’t know when exactly I decided to believe these lies or precisely where they came from.

My parents never pushed me to date or told me that marriage was the highest goal.  My relationship with my father was solid so I didn’t have “daddy issues.”  My mom encouraged me to actually not be so focused on that.  But somewhere along the lines of daydreaming and struggling to find identity I believed the lies of the enemy.

Maybe it came from all the Disney movies that I was obsessed with as a child (and maybe still am…).  The prince comes in and rescues the damsel in distress and they live happily ever after.  One glance, one kiss, is all it all it would take and then BAM.  True love and happiness and security.

It could be in part that I grew up in an environment where a good majority of people that I looked up to got married in their late teens/early 20s. Isn’t this what’s supposed to happen?  I’d also get comments like, “By the time I was your age I was married with 2 kids.”  They weren’t meant to put me down, but they were careless remarks that should’ve been left unsaid.

And let’s not even get caught up on all the books and tv shows and commercials and magazines that place women’s value in the hand’s of a man’s glance.

Wherever the lies came from, they were deeply ingrained in my heart and tell all of us what our 20s are supposed to be like.

I felt like the odd one out.  I was doing everything “right” as a good little Christian girl.  I was saving myself for marriage.  I was reading my Bible and going to church.  I was active in my youth group.

I went to college after high school because that’s what I was supposed to do.  I was really just biding my time until he came along, and I could start living my real life.

Because you see, that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up – a wife.  Even though I was a good student, I never had big career goals and had little interest in a Bachelor’s degree because I had no vision for it, therefore no drive to obtain it.

Things started shifting for me in my early 20s when my singles Sunday school class (of about 3/4 people) went through a study on singleness.  It was though this study that I realized my “real life” was NOW.  I couldn’t wait around for this prince charming guy to come along.  I mean, where in the world was he anyways?!  My life had to shift as this new perspective began to take over.

Things didn’t magically change in a second.  It actually has taken years to reveal the depth of the lies that I believed, to uproot them and replace them with His truth.

I had opportunities to be in relationships or at least explore towards that, but I just never had peace about it so I’d always bow out when the opportunity came up.  I felt like I was always trying to make it fit, but it was never right.  And I had determined long ago that I would never settle.

It wasn’t until I was almost 25 that I was able to trust the Lord with my singleness and let Him lift that weight off my shoulders.  Cue signing up for the World Race.

Something shifted when taking that leap and being okay with guaranteeing my singleness for yet another year of my life.  I finally felt the freedom in being single that I’d only heard people talk about.  It was real!  I really could be okay with being single.  Wow.

New chapter.

As the journey has continued it’s been quite the roller coaster.  There have been so many moments and experiences that I achingly wished I could share with my future husband.  Things I longed to talk with him about.

Through these difficult times of feeling left alone, I now realize that the Father was drawing me to Himself.  He has actually been showing me who I am, who He has created me to be.  It’s been a beautifully painful journey of discovery and healing and taking courageous steps when I had no courage of my own.

He’s shown me that I don’t need a prince to rescue me.  I don’t need attention from a man to have value.  I don’t need a husband to fulfill me or complete me.

The Father has taken me through a journey of actually coming to a place of liking myself, of finding my value in Him, of taking away the fear of being alone by filling me in my deepest parts with His extravagant love and showing me that He is trustworthy and dependable.

Thank God I didn’t get married 10 years ago!  I would’ve set some poor man up for complete failure.  He would’ve never been able to fill my insecurities the way that God does.

I still believe that I will be a wife and a mother one day, and I’m filled with joyful anticipation for that season.  It’s not the desperate need any longer, but it’s a deep desire in it’s proper place in my heart now.

But as a friend recently told me, now I will be more than just a wife.  My identity will not be rooted in being a wife or a mother because it’s firmly grounded in who He declares that I am.

He is making me whole.  He is making me free to love and be loved.  He’s inviting me to dream big dreams.

So I’ve learned that we absolutely CANNOT compare one life to another.

Single or married, we’re all on a unique journey.  Whether you’re a stay at home mom with children hanging off your limbs and dark circles under your eyes, or a lawyer living in a high rise in NYC or a woman traipsing around the world with Jesus – your life is important.

This season is purposeful.

Don’t skip today dreaming about tomorrow.

As the lovely and wise Betsy Garmon once admonished, “Be women of faith and not fantasy…Be in your life.”

So take heart dear ones.  Take courage all you single ladies and men.  Lift your eyes to Jesus.

It’s actually not so much about what we’re doing, but it’s all about who we’re becoming in the process.

I know it’s not easy.  There are still theses deep longings inside of us.  There will still be those lonely nights, those dateless weekends and those solo trips to the movies.  Let’s not avoid the pain, but let’s press into it and allow Him to form something valuable in us.

You are loved and valuable and capable because of Jesus, not because of anyone else.

He created us for eternity.  This life is just a breath.

Let’s live it to the fullest and not sit around and wait for someone else to tell us we’re okay before we start living fully.

Through the blood of Jesus we are enough, we are loved and we are valuable. 

Don’t wait another minute.

Live fully and joyfully today.

 

 

An Orphan No Longer

Lately I’ve been thinking about something that I learned from my parents while growing up. I’ve really been struck with the fact that both of them are givers, one of those “caught not taught” ways of life. I mean I’m sure we talked about these things, but the real impact came from just watching and learning from their actions, not just what they said.

They are givers in different and similar outlets.  In each of their own ways they give their time and their money and their skills away to serve others and fulfill needs around them.

My mom has the biggest, most tender heart you’ll find out there.  She’s a servant to the core and willingly gives so much of her time to serve others – like spending hours baking and meticulously decorating cakes for her friends’ kids, teaching Sunday school or coordinating kids’ choir.  In a pinch she’ll keep the neighbor’s kids no problem.

My mom and dad both have an eye for spotting a monetary need within a family and discerning whether or not the Lord wants to use them to meet that need.

I’ve watched them give money and make purchases for others in need countless times.  It’s never been something that they’ve used to exalt themselves, but it’s just one of the ways that they walk in the Spirit and spread Jesus’ love to the world.

The way that they cheerfully and generously give has taught me so much about how to live my life and how to love others.  I find myself being filled with thankfulness for this valuable fruit of the Spirit that was and is still so prevalent in my home.

It’s in direct alignment with what the Father has been showing me the last few years about what it looks like to be His daughter, belonging to Him and not an being orphan on the outside any longer.

As an orphan we have the mentality that there’s never enough to go around – love, attention, affection, money, possessions, friends, talents.  We have a poverty mind set and feel that we must grasp tightly to whatever comes our way for fear that if we give it away or share it with others it might not come around again and we’ll lose it forever.

This mentality leaves us as selfish scavengers, desperate and needy.

When we come to know Jesus in a personal way and step into the family of God we become His sons and daughters, co-heirs with Jesus.  We are adopted and grafted in.  Everything that the Father has given Jesus is a part of our inheritance as His sons and daughters.  We begin to recognize more and more as we step into this reality that there is more than enough of everything to go around.

This allows us to give without fear that we’ll end up lacking.  It empowers us to celebrate others because we know that we are valuable and loved.

Obviously, the decision to give monetarily and in acts of service is between the person and God.  Saying no can be the best decision that you’ll ever make sometimes.  We do have to remember that we are not the saviors of the world and set up healthy boundaries according to our needs and the needs of our families.

What I’m talking about is living an abundant life and having a sons and daughters, Kingdom lifestyle where we don’t strive and grasp and compete with one another but one where we give, love and serve abundantly from our hearts.

We can only give away what we’ve received.  We can only love God because He first loved us.

It takes God to love God.

We can only love others if we love ourselves.  An encounter with the Father’s love will leave us wrecked and overflowing and therefore spilling out onto all we encounter.

To be able to give we must first receive for ourselves.

Father, please open our hearts to receive your love for us so that we can then in turn give it away to all we encounter in this hungry world.  May we be ridiculous givers and unrelenting in our love for one another.

“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8

6 Months

Yesterday marked 6 months since I arrived in Penang.

So much has happened.  So much has been stirred.  So many tears have been cried and moments celebrated.

This season has been unique, as each new season usually is.  There are familiar aches and growing pains that come along with moving to a new place.  This I knew.  It takes a while to settle in.

I know that I still have a lot to process.  As we look back weeks, months and even years later we can usually see more clearly what the Lord was doing in each in season.

Yesterday as I was reading Bittersweet I began to reflect on particular seasons in my life.  I began to remember the emotions and experiences and most of all the people that came along with each one.

The one I reflected on the most was my season in Lake City, Colorado.  

When I first went to Colorado back in 2008 “just for the summer” I had absolutely no idea what the Father had in store and what He was preparing me for.

1915677_1276897004878_3478632_nThat first month was filled with tears and homesickness and fear and almost everything just seemed to be too difficult.  It was the hardest summer of my life.  I stepped out of my box in so many ways. Part of the time that was due to just because being pushed out of it by my circumstances.

It was also one of the most life-altering summers of my life.  The raw community that I was grafted into took me by surprise, and I got a taste of something real that would leave me satisfied with nothing less from that point forward.

I was having a particularly tough time one week as a camp counselor.  Everything seemed hard and overwhelming (and it was only day one if I remember correctly).  I stepped away from my kids for a minute to try and gather myself and most likely shed a few tears before sucking it up and getting back out there.

As I sat outside the mail hallway one of the full-time staff that I didn’t know came over and prayed for me.  Rebecca, (who would later become my housemate) simply took a few minutes out of her day to care for me, speak some life and encouragement, and pour the Father’s love over me.

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This simple act impacted me to my core, and it’s something that I’ve never forgotten.  At that point in my life I couldn’t understand how a complete stranger could be so loving and concerned with how I was really doing.

This was my introduction into authentic community among the family of believers.  It was one of the things that drew me to stay in that special little nook in the mountains for the next 2 years.

Colorado 8

During that time I developed some of the deepest relationships that I’ve ever known.  I found more freedom to just be me than I ever had before.  It was a time of exploration and discovery and of diving deep.

We had late nights of games, good food, hot drinks, movies and the most interesting conversations during the long and sometimes lonely winter nights that only 9,000 + feet up and freezing temperatures can offer you.

1625800_1198104235108_5587383_n We would drink in the mountain views and bubbling streams while hiking or taking someone’s 4-wheel drive vehicle over the passes during the summertime.

We would enjoy the local live music at Mean Jean’s while sipping hot coffee on the back patio huddling around heaters but loving being together.

We laughed and cried and worshiped and just lived life together.

1918588_372721457153_8329265_nPeople came in and out of our little circle over the years.  Life as well as death touched us all and knit us together the way that only deep joy and unexpected tragedy do.

At that time my friends and I would talk about how unique and sweet of a season it was, and we knew that it wouldn’t last forever so we tried as best as we could to savor the moments and write the memories on our hearts

I am truly grateful for that season, even though at the beginning I desperately wanted to run back to Mississippi and hide under the covers of my comfy bed.  I’m thankful that I didn’t.

My loving Father took my hand and led me every step of the way. I know that His hand is still present where I am today, and I fully believe that He is very present in your life, whether you can feel His presence or not.

It can be hard to appreciate a season when you’re in.  It’s a challenge to stay engaged and not wish the past back into existence or on the flip side want to rush ahead into the future.

I’m finding a simple sweetness in just being present lately.  I’m trying to enjoy each moment as it comes.  I’m taking time to watch the sunset and actually see the people in front of me for the special gift that they are to me in this season, whether they’ll be there in the next or not.

At this 6 month mark I am filled with thankfulness for the goodness of my Father.  His provision is overwhelming and His love is deeper and wider than I could’ve ever imagined.  I sure don’t know exactly what’s ahead, but I know He’s going to be with me.

Cheers to the next 6 months!