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Monday, August 15, 2016

Standing in Freedom

Do you ever feel bound by rules and regulations? Tied to expectations? Chained to cultural and societal ideals?

Sometimes, just sometimes, does it feel like the weight of all of those things is just to heavy to carry? That the rules and the should be's and ought to be's outweigh the haves? Do you every feel like you are drowning in insecurity and bound up by feeling like you are just too much and not enough all at the same time?

I do.

All. The. Time.

God has been using fostering, friendships, wonderful women authors, and lots of life and faith shaking transitions to teach me about his grace and freedom. It's been a theme that has emerged in the last few weeks. One that seems to keep rising to the surface no matter how many times I try to stuff it down or tune it out with life's busyness. You know, when you randomly see a title of a book called "Wild and Free: A Hope Filled Anthem for the Woman who Feels she is Both too Much and Not Enough" you know God is trying to tell you something.

Am I enough? Am I too much? Am I doing everything I should be to be a "good christian."

I can't. I'm not. And Heck NO!

I can't live up to those standards, no woman can. From Pinterest to Facebook to Instagram to advertisements. It is absolutely crushing to try to be the "perfect" woman. And for the idealistic perfectionist with a plethora of insecurities you have a recipe for disaster. Utter disaster.

Be fit...but not too defined.
Be nurturing....but not smothering.
Get up early....even if you go to work at 5 am. Figure it out. Get up at 3! (Because everyone loves to get up 4 hours before the sun!)
Work.,,,only if you don't have kids...
Have babies....lots of babies....even if you hate kids or can't have kids.
After you have those babies...bounce right back to your size 6 jeans.
Manage your entire household, even if you and your husband both work.
Have pinterest perfect parties and don't forget to do a science or math focused craft or experiment every day.
Be meek, don't speak up too much or we will label you as a "strong woman" or and we all know what that can mean...you are out to usurp men's authority over you and you are most definitely not "submissive."

The list goes on and on and on.... Maybe you don't struggle with all of these. Or any of them for that matter. But we all feel it don't we? This feeling of comparison, of needing to live up to the expectations we feel have been set before us?

And then I got to thinking...But what does Jesus say? I know what books say and I know what prominent Christian pastors say, and I know what my own husband thinks...but what does Jesus think? How does he see this woman who likes to talk too much and can be awfully opinionated at times? Whose passion runneth over her cup like a toddler carrying grape juice over carpet.

This is what Jesus says...

Woman,.. I have set you free.
You stand in Grace. Not in shame. Condemnation is no longer your master. Stand tall!
You are where you belong no matter what other women (or men) may think,
I've given you a voice and a fighting spirit for a reason. These are gifts. Use them well.
Rejoice in the HOPE you have been given. (Romans 5:1)
No one is justified by rules (Galatians 3:11)
You are no longer a slave, but a daughter and an heir (Galatians 4:7)
For FREEDOM Christ has set us FREE...Galatians 5:1
Love covers a multitude of sins...Spread LOVE (I Peter 4:8)
Be a good steward of God's gifts... he gave them to you to use not to hide! (1 Peter 4:9)

And finally....the creme de la creme of all womanly verses...Proverbs 31.. Lets look at her, shall we?

v 10: She is precious. (Not unwanted. Not unworthy. Not too much. Not hidden)
v:11: Her husband trusts her...he is built up by her.
v. 13 She works hard at whatever God has called her to.
v. 16 She is cunning in business
v. 17 She is strong.
v. 20 She is generous.
v. 21 She is fearless.
v. 25 She is clothed in strength and dignity (notice this is the second time "strong" is mentioned)
v 26 She is kind.
v. 27 She loves her kids and they love her.
v  31 Let her be rewarded for her hard work.


Does that seem like a quiet, meager woman?

No. She is strong. She is brave. She is seen and known. She is worthy of praise and affirmation for her hard work.

She is free.

See, I am convinced after reading Wild and Free that if we got this, if we really understood it, comparison and jealousy would be a non issue. Feeling of unworthiness or obnoxiousness would be dissolved and we would be living the lives God intended for us from the beginning.

Standing in the rain of grace overcome by joy in the truth of freedom.

I think I'm going to try it...will you join me?


Also. Go...Buy this book now. Like yesterday... https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Free-Hope-Filled-Anthem-Enough-ebook/dp/B010R2U5ZU

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Foster Love


Hello world, I’m back. Well, for today. Who knows when I will have a brief moment to write again. My world has been turned upside down since I last blogged. I’ve been changed, our family has almost doubled in size and I’ve begun to view the world in a whole new light.



We became foster parents. I thought I knew what I was signing up for. I thought I knew the system and I still think I do in some respects. However, I am seeing a whole new side to the world of foster care that you simply cannot know unless you have lived it.

I have watched children sit in a car that they had never seen and know that they are heading to a home with people they have never met.

I’ve watched that reality sink in day after day. I’ve watched it hit them and crush them at the most unexpected of times. I’ve listened countless times to the unanswerable question of “when will we go home?”

I’ve listened to a monitor while a child prayed and sobbed to Jesus begging him to go home.

I’ve listened to that child’s sibling proclaim “I can hear God, he’s in my brain” while the other cries that they can’t hear God.

I’ve watched as anger bursts forth and the words “I hate it here” erupt from a broken heart.

I’ve watched as professionals and those most involved in the justice of this case listen and learn and try to do what’s best. I’ve also watched people who seem to forget that these kiddos have just experienced likely the biggest trauma of their lives.

I’ve watched my kids go from calling them the “new kids” to talking about how much they love them.

I’ve been allowed into a family who may often see me as an extension of the people they feel they need to fight to get these kids back. But, I’ve been respected and welcomed even so.

I’ve watched myself grow and struggle and fight to be a gentle parent who uses calm words instead of loud words.

I’ve felt like I was going to drown in my insecurity and fear and I’ve been more bold than I ever imagined.


I’ve fought fear harder, and felt love deeper.

I’ve been changed.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Undone

For me, there has always been this sort of beauty in the broken. This sort of understanding that true beauty does not come without pain, without pressure, without difficulty. True beauty is the result of these things. Pressure creates diamonds, heat refines precious metals, and we all know there are no rainbows without rain. Pain begets beauty. Not always right away, not always in perceivable ways, but it does, somewhere down the line there is beauty from our mess.


There is something about being in the woods that makes this clear as day. From the dead brown leaves crunching beneath your feet, to the uneven steps, the sort of undone-ness of it all. Really, the woods are a mess. You can make paths, you can create trails, but nature does as it pleases with no regard to you or your particularities. Bugs fly in your face, sticks trip you, mud sticks itself to you, relentless in it's grip. However, I know very few people who come away from a walk angry that they made the trek. 



Nature, in God's beautiful design, is a place of peace and calm where you can be undone because all around you is undone. And it's ok. It's ok to be undone in the woods because the trees hold little judgement toward us and our insecurities. Really, wouldn't life be all the better if we treated it as though we were wandering in the woods. Stripped of our insecurities, unbound by our idols, undone by the goodness of our God.



But life. Life is that broken beautiful. That mix of awful and lovely, at times all within the same breath. When you feel everything very deeply, the undone-ness of it all can be overwhelming. It can be downright exhausting because the awful often overshadows the awesome and the broken typically outshines the beauty. Being undone suddenly feels like the whole world has come apart at the seams.



The woods remind us to look at the whole of it all. To allow all the broken pieces to stitch together into this beautiful painting of God's goodness and grace. That all those broken leaves, all those torn pieces fall into this wonderful mess of hues and shapes and forms that outshine the spots and the specks and the flaws of it all. 



When I've come unglued, when I feel as though my world has shifted and nothing remains the same. I just take a walk in the woods and I'm reminded: seasons come and go, but the Lord endures forever. And isn't that a glory to behold?



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Prone to Wander

"O to Grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to thee

Prone to wander Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above."
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson, 1757

Oh, heavens, how that song cuts to my heart. The whole of it brings me to my knees in worship of a God who is steady and unchanging. Something I deeply love about hymns is their ability to speak truth in such eloquent ways. Their ability to use the Word as the sword that it was meant to be to cut hearts into pieces for their Lord.

They speak truth, but like David in the Psalms, they don't skirt the honest human experience. They remain genuine and vulnerable. There is something about wearing our scars as badges on our sleeves rather than hiding them away in our pockets. Those scars built us, they stitched us together piece by broken piece, why would we hide them? People who share their hard with the world are the ones who will inevitably change it for the better.



Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it…

Oh tender hearts, don't you feel it? Our fickleness can be blinding at times. I feel it deep in my bones. This ability to so quickly lose sight of what God has done. So quick to believe the doubts that rise up and forget the truth God has gently spoken. So very quick to dismiss what He may be doing because of my own doubts, my own insecurities. My short sighted, uncertain ways get the best of me.

Let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee… Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.

God, let that be my prayer. Let your grace bind that wandering heart of mine so tightly to yours that the hard, the doubt, the insecurity can't untangle the web of grace that has sewn my heart to Yours. Let that be our cry in an age of self sufficiency, that we would only be found sufficient in you. That our own lives would be so bound to yours that all people see is a mess of Jesus. Where culture, ideologies, and the prevailing wisdom of the week seem so appealing, would you allow us to see you. To really see You. To remember your goodness. God allow our hearts to be tender to the truth, to be open to your grace. Help us to see you, when all we can see is everything but You.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Complicating the Uncomplicated

I am a master over-thinker. My super power is coming to the worst possible scenario in a matter of seconds. If over-thinking were a sport, I would win a gold medal. It’s something many of us struggle with, this ability to over analyze every little thing. I often wonder what it is like to live in someone else’s brain. What it would be like to find quiet spaces within my mind, where no more is being thought of than necessary to remain alive. But here I am. God made me this way for a reason, and as of late I’ve been contemplating the idea of complication.


I was reading an article today about marriage. In it the writer mentioned, briefly, this idea that Christians tend to over-complicate and over-think some things. I don’t even remember what he/she was referencing, but clearly the thought stuck with me. (Because over-thinker)


As I was ruminating (shocker), I realized that although theology is deep and there is much to be gained from truly analyzing and pouring over scripture and theological materials, what God calls us to is simple. So very simple.

It’s almost shocking how simple the Gospel truths are. You were born into sin. God loves you and doesn’t want to leave you in your sinful mess. So, God sent his only son to die for you because He loves you. This salvation is a free gift, one that requires nothing of you, because you have nothing to offer in return, apart from yourself. Which you willingly give because you love Him too.


These truths are uncomplicated. But we, complex as we are, often like to make it so much more difficult. We have a difficult time understanding God’s grace in a way that allows us to live in peace, knowing the goodness of God. We feel we have to do something, to be someone, in order to please Him, in order to be enough for him. The thing is, we can’t be enough. Apart from Christ, we will never measure up. Never. It is impossible. A holy God cannot allow our sin filled lives near himself. That is why “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (thank you Mr. Hopewell for making us memorize that verse in high school) Jesus died with our sin on his shoulders so that we could have life with God.


Vastly complex yet uncomplicated truth at the core. We must be willing to humble ourselves enough to accept that we cannot measure up to God’s standards, so he had to measure Jesus in our place. Imagine standing on Jesus’ shoulders so that you reach the line that says “must be this tall to ride this ride.”


Once we have finally got a slight grasp on grace, we move on to complicating everything else. We dissect each piece of the bible to fit into our finite brains that are infinitely smaller than the one who conceived it. We can’t grasp it because “Great is our Lord, abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” Psalm 147:5 His understanding is far higher than ours, yet we try to match wits with an unmatchable God.

So we think, think, think. At least I do. I complicate everything based on feelings, and days, and moments of weakness. I begin to wonder whether or not Jesus is really holding my hand or if I am a white washed tomb, clean on the outside, dead bones inside. I lose hope. I lose faith. I get lost in my thoughts. I contemplate my life, my faith, and whether or not I measure up.


Because, honestly,who measures up to an immeasurable God?

Gently, Jesus reminds me. None of that matters. He has paid for it. He rid me of my sin, in his view my once scarlet robe is now white as snow. I can’t measure up, but that’s OK because I don’t need to. He points me to Matthew 22:35-40 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  Anda second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”


Love God, love others. That’s it. Everything hangs on those two simple sentences.

At our church, our mission statement is “Love God, love others, live it out.” It’s an uncomplicated, profound call to action. Living under grace does not mean that we get to just say we love Jesus and all is well. No, because of God’s love and mercy we are moved to love him all the more and through that love we are propelled to love those around us.

I have more thoughts, but my verbosity is getting the best of me and I will save those for another time. Until then, in your life, what does it look like to live under this simple grace?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Settling the Ridges

Psalm 65:9-13

You visit the earth and water it;
    you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide their grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
10 
You water its furrows abundantly,
    settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
    and blessing its growth.
11 
You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy


There is something about poetry that stirs the depths of my soul. Putting words together in ways that ignite my often dull sensibilities. This is why I am drawn to Psalms and Isaiah. Both paint broad stroke pictures with eloquent words. Both pour out God's faithfulness and love toward his children.

These verses speak life. They give sight to truths that we can see with our eyes if we can manage to pry off the blinders and take it all in. 

The beginning of this chapter (which you should read, like yesterday) talks about God's salvation. It then morphs into this beautiful imagery of farmers planting and yielding their fruit. I especially love v 10. "You water it's furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth"

I often view the sharpening of our souls as a painful process, refining fire. This failure to see God's ability to move us and shape us gently, often leads to fear of just what sort of fire God will be walking us through next. Yet, in this verse, God's fire is rain and his refining is a gentle settling. 



This vision of a shower falling on a freshly sown field, the rain settling the hard, rigid places and providing the nourishment needed for the seedlings to break through and see the light of the sun. Doesn't that sound lovely? Isn't it so simple? God settles our hard places with his gentle rain. Allow that to sink in, don't let it drift in the shallows of your soul. 

Does God change us with the hard? Does he move in ways that challenge and stretch? Yes. A thousand times yes. But He is also a gentle rain giver who quietly softens our ridges and makes space for life to flourish. He is able to meet us and move us in the quiet spaces of life. Sometimes he will walk us through fire, but often I believe he takes us through healing rains, we just don't have eyes to see. 

How is God settling your ridges? Where is he meeting you in the quiet, simple places?



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Life Feels Like Sleep Walking

"Spirit of the Living God
come fall afresh on me,
come wake me from my sleep.
Blow through the caverns of my soul
pour in me, to overflow" Fall Afresh, Jeremy Riddle

What does one do when it feels as though walking through life has become walking in sleep? What happens when you are in a place of low hanging clouds and fog that just will not dissipate? When words fail to describe the dullness that has blanketed your senses and quieted the once blazing flame that ignited your spirit.

How do you shake the dust from your bones?

You keep going. One heavy foot in front of the other. Stepping through muck and mud, you keep moving.  Keep telling yourself truth, keep praying, keep doing.

I wholeheartedly believe that Satan uses the smog of life to snuff out our flames and throw us into a haze that clouds out the vision and passion we once had. The great threat to our faith is not only the "big" sins, but the little ones that add one on top of another until they have devoured our once bright light.

Those little lies that creep in, the ones that feel easier to believe than the truth. You are not enough. Are you sure Jesus said that? That was all in your head. Look how enlightened everyone is, are you sure He exists.

Slowly but surely, those lies grow into bigger and bigger lies that become our truth, After days or weeks or months, we wake up realizing that we don't know which way is up and the life we built around the Truth feels like a sham.

And we have to find our way back to Him.

A few weeks ago I was driving home from a friends house when I encountered the thickest fog I had ever seen. I was driving through a cloud, at night, on country roads that I knew, but not well. I began to pray: "Jesus, help us get home safe, please God let us get home safe." There was no safer option than to keep going, slowly but surely, toward home. The fog was relentless,  I could only see the lines on the road directly in front of my car, visibility was zero. We were enveloped. My fists clung tightly to the steering wheel as we headed straight, all while praising God that the road had few curves. As we approached the busy highway, I found that I could see lights, but even they were so thickly covered that they did little to illuminate the 4 lane highway stretched before me. I had to go, at some point I had to cross two lanes and go. It was the only way to safety. When it seemed there were few cars, I booked it out as quickly and cautiously as possible and began toward the light. As we approached the city, new fears became apparent. Now there were more cars, which meant more chances of accidents. So I prayed, "God, let them see us!" We kept moving.


As we entered the city, the fog remained but lifted to the degree that you could see enough to feel confident on the road. I entered the house, with my two children, thanking God that we were kept safe.

We were kept.






I have found myself having to fight, scared and broken, to find God. The only thing that has managed to get me to the city is to keep moving. It may have felt safer to stop and wait out the fog just as you would a storm, but where would that get you? Fog, true dense, earth swallowing, fog, is not easily moved. It wasn't until almost noon the next day that the sun had burned the fog away. You have to keep moving to get to the light. So we have to move, to trust Him, and go.

God is loving and he searches for his children, but we cannot be stagnant Christians, paralyzed by fear, doubt, and worry. We have to keep going, the fog will eventually burn off and clarity will return.


For me, this has looked like creating the habit of reading my bible every single day. To fill my mind with enough of God's truth that it had the ability to crowd out the lies that had taken up residence. It has meant praying and trusting God's "not yet." Because we are kept in the hands of the Almighty, do we really need to know everything? Can we not rest in knowing that we are His?



And we pray, we sing, we do whatever it takes to feel for the presence of God. The song I had at the beginning of this post is my prayer, often. God come, God fall afresh, wake me up, burn up this fog that has smudged my vision and blanketed my life. Wake me up from this dense sleepiness that has settled in my soul.

The fog will lift, and when it does I hope to be found standing firm in my faith, not run over by my fear.