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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Nature of Callings

It's been a while since I wrote something specifically for the purpose of posting it here.

I am a crappy blogger. It's ok. You don't have to assure me otherwise. Let's be the kind of friends that are honest with each other. I'm really just not good at this. 

See, since before I could remember, I was always a journal girl. In the years since I opened this blog and have struggled to post in some semblance of regularity, I've filled dozens and dozens of journals. I may possibly be pushing triple digits. Writing is my therapy. It's where I talk to Jesus and it's where I allow Him to work out the tangles my soul has a tendency of getting itself into. 

But I've never been one for the stage, and let's be real, this is as much of a stage as any wood framed thing. This blinking curser carries as much power as any microphone. Sometimes, even more. 

I think I'd probably be content to forsake all of it. There are days I seriously consider deleting every media account I own and just focusing on the flesh and blood in front of me. There's enough of it to keep me busy. Just the laundry produced in this full house of mine could count as a part-time job, one with 30 hours a week of work and no benefits. 

But the thing about callings and mandates is very simple. They are not easily abandoned. 

Tonight, I made the kind of dinner that makes foodies like me cringe. It was hot dogs and goldfish crackers served on paper plates, and I found myself standing at the counter, in my pajamas at 7 p.m., sighing at the sight of it. The kids had to eat on the living room floor because my kitchen table is covered in heirloom seeds that will turn into a years worth of beautiful, healthful food. I'll be planting the garden this week and I've been so engrossed in the preparation of it, that we've eaten total garbage for days. Ironic? Maybe a little. 

In moments like that, the little voice that sings of my failures takes the stage and the house lights go dim. Then Tobias came in, as if by cue and said, "Mom you're the best maker and the best planter and the best mom." The spotlight shut off, house lights came back and I carried the plates to the living room. 

Then, as I stood in the midst of a scene where love had silenced the voice of the one who accuses, the One who Identifies spoke up. See, callings do not stay quiet. And my calling has always been to be real, and honest and vulnerable in a world that tells you no one could possible love you if you are.

I took a photo of my dirty, half-dressed boys then and there. Them, licking their lips to what they considered a fine meal that was surely much appreciated since it was an hour late. Both couches were piled with clean laundry in the background. The floor hadn't been mopped in at least four days. Ezra was smearing copious amounts of mayonnaise on Ben's hot dog, because Ezra is on a mayonnaise kick, eating it on everything from eggs to blueberries, coming up with creations like Peanut-Butter-Jelly-Mayo Sandwiches and frankly, I've got bigger battles than to try to stop him. And Ben, I don't know that he's even that fond of mayonnaise but he's really, really fond of his big brother and I figure they'll work it out. 


It wasn't really a romantic moment at all, but that pesky calling tells me in moments like those to take the picture and then to drag it out on the fairly substantial social media platform He's given me. 

There's a dramatic part of me that would like to declare that this has been the hardest year of my life, but I think that would be an exaggeration, and here we've agreed to be honest with each other. 

It has been hard, but probably not harder than the year that included crippling postpartum depression, or the year that I earned the title "divorced" or the year that I watched my friend bury her kids. No, this year hasn't been that kind of hard. But it's had its moments. 

I can confidently say that I've never before faced the amount of rejection that the last twelve months have held. I've never before experienced the kind of character assassination I have this year. And though I've experienced a handful of times what it feels like to be the hot topic of the church's gossip-mill-masquerading-as-a-prayer-chain, I'm pretty sure this last season breaks the record for that as well. 

Do you know that the enemy comes after the very area of your life that God intends to thrive you?
As a gardener, I've become incredibly familiar with seeds. Given a mixed bag of seeds, I could easily separate out the tomato seeds from the peppers, the watermelons from the cucumbers, the squash and the lettuce. Without the label on the package, I'd have no way of telling you the color of the fruit or the size of the plant but I could easily identify the type. 

I am confidant, when God set to knitting us in our mothers wombs, it might not have been obvious to anyone but Him the exact details of our fruit, but I think it was detectable what we were made to be. I think the enemy is able to tell from the time we are in seed form what we will become, and he does everything he can to keep us from reaching the mature stage that will see our intended fruit brought into the world. 


Recently,  I went to God in the sort of prayer that looks a lot like a temper tantrum, the sort where you ask indignantly, "Why is this allowed?!" He responded in such a precious tenderness. He told me if I would take my eyes off myself and trust Him to protect me from the shots being fired at my character, I could take advantage of seeing where my adversary was shooting from. 

When Satan comes at you in accusation, take note. He's giving away his position. He's showing you were he
is afraid for you to believe God. He's seeking to destroy your very destiny. 

So I looked up. And I saw that the giant of fear had pointed his sword at the very place God was using to bring Himself glory in my life. 
If I believed the lies, I might become afraid to be real and honest, because I might assume I was already dismissed and diminished. If I believed the lies, I might be tempted to ignore my calling and instead pick up the role as my own defender, as if my Father was insufficient. If I believed the lies, I might be tempted to consider myself disqualified. 

I might have chosen silence over obedience. 

Well, my answer is very simple. 

No. 

No, I will not be silent. 
I am not disqualified and I am not perfect. 
I have made so many mistakes and on the same hand, I have done so many things right. But the real fact is, the things I've done wrong matter no more than the things I've done right when the hand in question is nail-scarred. 

Years ago, a friend of mine told me in a time of turmoil, "Rest in your Righteousness". I took it to heart, but in all my wrong mindsets of God, I thought it meant I could trust Him to be on my side because I had done all the right things. I've lived a lot since then, and I've learned a few lessons. Like that my own righteousness was nothing to rest in, but I've been cloaked in the righteousness of precious Jesus, and that the fear-driven voice that comes against it is the same voice thats been questioning the validity of Jesus long before I lived and breathed. I've learned that not wresting with flesh and bone means releasing myself from my own grappling. 
I've learned that if the enemy comes against a voice, the attack in itself identifies that voice as valuable.

You know,  I don't even know why I'm sharing this. Maybe someone needs to see my laundry or hear my struggle with the fear of sharing it. Maybe they need it today and maybe they need it a year from now. I guess that's the nature of Callings. They don't give you the stipulations. They don't tell you the worth of your "yes" on the front end. They demand you come out a little further. They don't let you settle into comfortable. 

When you stand in your pajamas and put hot dogs on paper plates, Callings send blog posts reeling through your head. And when you walk in obedience, you take the photo of your laundry and your dirty floor and you post it alongside the almost worked out tangles of your heart. And you believe, that surely, somehow, by some reason far beyond your understanding, it matters. 









Wednesday, February 28, 2018

002//

002//

Your heart is my undoing.
Could I dive into the depths of your love?
Could I go, in my brokenness, to the deepest place where I can survive?
And there, could you heal me?
Touch the broken places so I can
Breathe a little deeper.
So I could go a little deeper into your
Wild
Jealous
Relentless
Passion.

Take me to a revelation of You that requires You to
Live there.
Show me the bounds of my own understanding,
That I might tiptoe to the edge,
Outstretch my arms like the wings of a bird
Or maybe like your arms on the cross.
And then,
With a recklessness made in the image of
Your own loving abandon,
Might I throw myself headlong off the edge of
My own understanding.
Into the realm of Your understanding.
Into the wild and roaring sea that is the revelation of You.

See me, Abba.
Know me, Bridegroom King.
Unravel me in your presence.
And then hold me together with your merciful grace.
Allow me to drown in your heart,
So that you might breathe your very breath
Into my living water-filled lungs. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Fear and Foot-Washing

Being a parent is terrifying. I used to live in so much fear that something awful would happen to my kids. Every news story was a one-way ticket to the Land of What-If. And it was a land I visited often.  It was a land in which I held duel citizenship.

I’d wake in the night and hover over their beds with my hand gently resting on their chest, making sure my imagined horrors had not spilled over into reality and, in fact, stopped their lungs from rising. Every time we were in public places, I scouted out the exits and planned my escape from attackers. Every stranger could have been a kidnapper, every bump or bruise could have been the first sign of a dire diagnoses, every moment of calling their name and not getting an immediate response could have been the moment that everything changed for the worse. 

I remember after the Sandy Hook school shooting, I checked my boys out early. They were in kindergarten and first grade, the same ages of the children slain by the shooter. We laid in bed and watched movies all afternoon. We ate ice cream for dinner. They thought it was the best day ever and I hid my tears as not to change their mind.

School shootings were added to the looming list of threats, alongside the rest of the possibilities that might snatch them away from me. This list was a vague and nearly palpable thing, whispering daily its intention of proving me in my worries right. I loved my sons so much that it seemed only right to worry with the same fervor. It felt like love to worry like that, even though it killed my joy.



A few months after Sandy Hook, in April of 2014, a tornado tore through Central Arkansas. It missed our house by about three miles, but it did not miss my friend April’s house. My sons slept peacefully that night as I laid awake in horror. The next day we told them that their best friends were dead, and the Land of What-If was no longer some imaginary and vague place. It became an inescapable reality.

It took a few days for God to break in. I was so mad at Him. His character was standing trial and I was judge, jury and executioner. Then I visited April in the hospital, and in her brokenness and newfound childlessness, she proclaimed the goodness of God to me and it sent me reeling. I simply could not process her faith. That night I laid awake again, this time not in horror but in a weak and flickering hope that maybe my fear could be overcome.

The next morning, from the end of my kitchen table, while I breastfed my son Ezra, I wrote a blog post about a tornado and a mother that knew the goodness of God. It went viral. So much so that four years later, it still receives a hundred hits a day. Beauty began to emerge from ashes, and I was set on a path into deep and meaningful relationship with the creator of the universe. God used a tornado to teach me about His goodness. In the faith of my friend and her unsurmountable peace, I found freedom from the chains that had bound me my entire motherhood.

It was in the midst of loss, pain and tragedy that I learned a lesson I had not been able to grasp before. Gripping my children suffocating tight while fear dictated how I raised them wasn’t changing the fact that our days aren’t promised. So I decided to be certain in His love and actually, really, fully live. The opposite of fear isn’t in nonchalance in the face of threats. The opposite of fear is found in love. That is where bravery and freedom exist. The knowledge that He is good and trustworthy is the only place unshakable by What-If.

Last week, while yet another school shooting was still trending in the headlines and while a tornado watch buzzed on weather channels, we met with a group of friends in our home. We get together weekly, a living room expression of church and community, and we teach our children to worship and to know Jesus. That night we sat before them, us completely aware of the state of disarray of our broken world, them completely oblivious to it. And we taught them about the bible story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples.


We didn’t expect it to be profound. We anticipated something of a zoo, one with seventeen children and several pitchers of water. As the story unfolded and we talked about what love looks like, the children settled. They began engaging in conversation, and when we asked who would like to help wash their friend’s feet, hands went up, some quickly, some apprehensively. Within minutes, even the hands that hadn’t gone up at all had taken part. Before we knew it, everyone was washing feet, praying over each other and receiving the same.

We wept that night as our babies carried out an act of love they were only beginning to grasp.  It may not seem like much, a handful of families in a living room doing something so menial as foot washing, but it stood for something incredible. It stood for the belief that the bad things happening in the world do not measure the goodness of God. It was a picture that grace means having the ability to navigate through brokenness with love and the ability to still have hope. 


My heart still breaks at the headlines. I am not under the delusion that I am immune from tragedy. I know that I can follow the traffic laws, and make my sons wear their helmets and follow every precaution to keep them safe, but ultimately I cannot protect them from the world. So I have decided to trust the heart and intentions of God, and to find my assurance in the promise of eternity. No matter what, He is good and He loves my boys more than I do.

So I will love them with a worry-free ferocity. They will never learn fear from me. It is my earnest hope that when tragedy brushes them in this life, they will be the ones that respond in certainty to God’s goodness. That on the foundation of His love and mine, they might be the ones that loose the chains of fear off their fellows by their own fearlessness.


Maybe, just maybe, they could be the ones to bring a little healing to this broken world. Maybe they could live as duel citizens to a different Land of What-if, one where only one question was begged, “What if the world knew that God really is, always and undeniably, good?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

001\\

I've been working on a project that the Lord put on my heart. It is a devotional of poetry and prayers, but I feel led to share some of them here.
I believe, in this hour, Jesus is asking His friends and lovers to rise up and teach people the way to the secret place.
Jesus preached the sermon on the mount, which is undeniably one of the most powerful sermons ever preached. But people did not say "Teach me how to preach." However, they did see the way He interacted with His Father and they said "Teach us how to pray." So He did. By praying and allowing them to hear so they could learn. If we go after the preaching, and the miracles and the works before we go after the relationship, they will be empty things. If we become familiar with the way the the secret place, though, all of these things will flow in power. 
I've shared before how I learned to pray by praying the Psalms. When my soul was tired, I borrowed David's words and became familiar with the nature of God through them.
When I first felt the Holy Spirit urging me to make parts of my prayer journals public, I wrestled. I couldn't imagine cheapening those precious conversations by allowing anyone else in, lest they bruise my heart with their opinions and point out my flaws as they saw me in the vulnerable place of being before God. But then that still small voice came and asked, "Aren't you glad David shared his psalms with you?"
So I'm going to share. Small snippets, poems and prayers. And I'm encouraging you to do the same. Those of you who know Him well, share that place of intimacy. Lead the way that those who are unfamiliar can follow you onto waters they have not charted.
001\\
Today is grey and I’m longing for you. 
Sometimes this world feels so completely separate from who I know you to be.
You, with your thundering and lightning.
You, with your emerald rainbow and your woolen hair.
You, with your eyes ablaze with passion. 
You are seated on a throne in a realm I can’t even fathom, surrounded by creatures declaring your holiness.
And I’m seated in a rickety coffee shop chair, surrounded by your beloved. Largely, they don’t even know your name. 
When the sky is grey, as it is today, and winter has stripped the world of her green, I feel like a foreigner more than ever. 
In the Summer, when I can plunge my hands into the earth of the garden and breathe in the thick, hot air that teems with life, I can feel you close.
Then, you cling to me like the sweat on my skin.
Then, the screaming cicadas and the call of tree frogs could be the distant echo of a throne room.
Then, the trees and the grass and the moss on the chicken coop all grow vivid green. So much so, that even a green tint hangs in the air and I think maybe I can understand how a rainbow could be called emerald.
But it is not summer.
It is not green.
I cannot feel the warmth of your breath of the weight of your right arm embracing me.
I cannot hear the echo of your throne room.
I cannot see you in heavy fruit-laden vines.
I cannot feel your eyes burning in the kiss of the sun.
All I see is barrenness.
All I feel is cold.
I miss the green so badly it hurts.
And right now, I am sustained by the fact that Truth does not wither as a summer garden does wither. 
Your kiss is more consistent than the sun.
Your touch far surpasses my capacity to perceive it.
Your goodness is everlasting. Never fading. 
You are good, God of everything.
You are sovereign, imaginer of the seasons.
You sustain. On grey days and green.
You sustain me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Yes.

I just walked in the door after 14 hours of travel. The day was full of shuttles, trains, planes and then topped off with a nice three-hour car ride just to round things out. I am so tired.

The weekend was perfection. I wailed in prayer with thousands and worshipped as others stood their posts around the clock, lifting their praises right there in front of our nation’s capital. Do you know God is enthroned on the praises of His people? That means King Jesus took a seat at the National Mall this weekend. I got to help build it for Him.

Leaving home is hard. I have no doubt at all, due to the faithfulness of God to speak and confirm, that He desires me to go. And due to the lengthy process of submission, pruning and refining, I trust His timing. I trust His will and the intention of His heart. He is so good to me.

Even with His goodness in mind though, every time the mandate to go arises, I have to make a choice of obedience. Planes, and trains, and road trips were never what I dreamed of. In fact, every time I pack my suitcase, which has been a lot more frequently lately, I’m packing it to leave behind my dream come true. The boys and the farm, that’s what I asked for. For years I prayed and He heard me. He literally gave me everything I ever wanted and asked if I would take the microphone and answer the call and because I trust His heart and His intentions, I said yes. It isn't always that simple though.

Don't get my wrong, it’s always rewarding. I get the privilege of seeing God move in His body and I get to hear Him cry out to His bride. It is always, always worthy of my yes. Even on days when it makes me so tired I want to curl up and cry.

The moment of coming home is a hard shift, a tough transition. I was bombarded in the driveway by two boys, greeted at the door by one, largely unacknowledged by another and then screamed at by the two-year-old because he didn’t have a nap and I declined his request that I stand on the kitchen counter with him.

The to-do list is long here. My dream-come-true came with early mornings and a lot of chores and after four days gone, wonderful as they were, there is little time to rest and recoup. And when I walked in this evening, I had that overwhelmed and mildly defeated feeling that often presents itself in my moments of weakness.

Five weeks ago, I was invited to go to India with Heart of David (co-founded by Rick Pino and Jose Diaz). My immediate answer was a firm no, quickly followed by all the reasons such a trip was not feasible. But then, that still, small voice began speaking. And when I said, “Absolutely no,” I heard the whisper ask, “Why not?”

Sometimes, I think people have an entirely wrong view of my spirituality. Maybe it’s the cost of transparency, maybe it gives people the wrong idea that when you talk about things openly it means they aren’t that hard for you. A lot of the time, I feel like I’m not nearly as strong as people seem to think I am. All the time, I am certain that without God’s grace, I would be a hot mess without a hope. I know, because I used to be one. And now I’m a girl with all her dreams come true that struggles to pack the suitcase but in the end, always does. Because there is a yes in my heart and He is a king and a lover and a friend that is worthy.

When I realized God was actually telling me I was going to go to India, I yelled at my sister-in-law to shut-up (I really am sorry about that, Sarah) and then binge ate an entire bag of caramels. In five minutes. It was not cute. Sometimes my yes isn’t bubbling at the top, ready and willing to volunteer itself as a response to the call. Sometimes my yes is a small and feeble thing, buried somewhere down beneath a bunch of no, and it takes a bag of Chewy Werther’s and a couple of emotional outbursts to sort it all out.

Tonight, I dragged myself in the house, coaxed the two-year-old off the counter, listened to the run-down of how the kids did all weekend from their saint Aunt Mikela, who held down the fort for us to be gone. The whole while, I was desperately trying not to lose my footing as doubt and exhaustion washed over my mind. Then I saw an envelope on the counter. I opened it, and in it was a card with a small bird on the front, one with words filling the inside that overflowed me with hope and alongside them, a check for one hundred dollars.

It was sent by one of my Instagram followers. A couple that knows me only from my social media and the life I share in little squares. 100 dollars from someone who is practically a stranger because they feel anointing on my words and have deemed me good ground to sow into. Do you have any idea what that means to me? The Word says that where a person's treasure is, their heart is also. Do you know, that every dollar I've received has felt like people binding their heart to this call I so feebly responded to? And with every single dollar, I feel more and more brave.

Five weeks in, with three left to go, and I only have 1200 or so dollars left to raise. Five weeks in, and I have seen such a wave of generosity, and such an overwhelming evidence of favor, it’s begun to confront and reconfigure my underestimations of my God. Do you know how many strangers have given to this thing? Do you know I’ve been handed money by people who don’t believe in God but they love me enough to stand behind me? Can you grasp the implications of that in a Kingdom where sowing brings a harvest? Do you know that when I first told God no, it’s because I genuinely, honestly, truly was afraid He might not do it. I was afraid He might leave me hanging. Because I live in a world where thousands of dollars don’t exist on my bank ledger, a world where extravagant giving flows from the barely-enough, not from all-the-extra.

But He’s doing it. From all the right sources, at exactly the right times. And every single dollar has been like an arrow to the heart of my NO. It has been the evidence that this is a body and I am not alone. It’s been a confirmation that my Father funds the yes, every single time.

He really does. So can I encourage you tonight? Though I’m tired and my feet hurt and my laundry won’t get done until tomorrow because I chose to write this instead. But I need to urge you. Listen to the voice of the whisper that asks, “Why not?” when you say, “I can’t.”

Uncover your yes. Moses stuttered his. Mary questioned how it could be possible before she gave hers. Esther considered silence. Even Jesus asked for the cup to pass from Him. But in the end, they, along with the rest of the world-changers and history-makers sorted out their no and found their yes.

So please, hear me. Right now, where ever you are, take a minute to consider the call you have been hearing. The urging to go or to establish or to embark. To learn, to teach, to grow, to be challenged. Whatever it is, only you know for sure. But give Him your yes and let me tell you, He will work out the rest.

Even if you have to answer the “Why not?” with a whisper, the hosts of heaven are waiting and the eyes of God are seeking whom He might be shown strong through.

Repeat after me.


Yes, Jesus. I am yours and you are enough. 
Yes, Jesus, I am yours and you are worthy. 
Yes, Jesus. I choose to trust you with the details. 
Yes, Jesus. I choose to believe your heart for me is good. 
Yes, Jesus. You're love has never left me wanting. 
Yes, Jesus. Yes. I say yes.

If you'd like to sow into the gospel being spread through the country of India and a throne of praises being established for King Jesus there, you can give through Paypal here. Thank you so, so much. Every single dollar speaks volumes to my heart.