Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy Fall, Y'all.

This past weekend my family came over and we had a big work day outside cleaning up and pruning trees.

My mom taught me how to prune a certain bush that was spilling out of the planter. This was the coaching she gave me: "look for the newest growth and then cut it back to the place it came from. In the spring, new growth will push out from that same place. This is the time of year we prune so that there are enough nutrients to grow new growth while keeping the whole plant from becoming unhealthy."

I didn't think of it then, but.... did she know that she would speak to me in such a metaphor?

Nature's change of season has brought a season of wrestling fear for me. And the Lord is challenging me to bravery. But being brave requires me to look my fear in it's face and that feels like this cutting off of that which is comfortable to me. Ironic, isn't it? How I think of my fear as my comfort zone. I know my fear. Fear demands no faith from me. At it's first whisper, it seems easier to my flesh. 

And then it slowly sucks the joy and life right from my days. 

So the Lord gifts me this metaphor of pruning and it's not the first time He gives it(John 15) but it moves me in a powerful way. He takes me back to the last time, not more than a year ago, when I learned to believe Him more and to trust Him deeper. That time I felt like I'd remember forever just how enough He is and how satisified I am in Him. How brave I feel in His embrace. 

And He says "Let Me take you back, cut you back, to where that knowing came from. For then, when the seasons change again, new growth, more fruit, will come."

So will I say yes? Yes to Him and yes to brave. Yes to facing my fear because there is no way to be brave other than to stare it down, see it for what it is, and choose trust instead. Choose trusting the Father's heart even if those fears become reality and believing that where He leads will never be out of His Plan or His tender arms.

As the leaves fall and the trees are stripped in preparation for winter, I can choose to be laid bare before the Lord in a season of brave vulnerability. May we all embrace the gift of pruning He offers.

Happy Fall, y'all.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Michael's Story.

So today I have a guest on this little blog of mine. A guest pretty special to me. His name is Michael and he is my husband.
Over the seven years that we have been married, there have been times I've questioned God about our marriage, I've experienced every emotion possible toward this man, and  I never would have believed that this day would come. But I need to say this: When I read these words, my heart and eyes overflowed. Because it isn't at all possible that this is either of us. And it makes me believe all the more in the goodness and grace of my Father.
I've never been more grateful to get to stand next to this man and walk through life with him... the good and the hard parts. This guy makes me proud to be his wife with these words that take God-blessed courage to write. And then I asked him if I could share them with you all. So here they are: Michael's Story.

I always thought it was my appearance that mattered. Now it's my shattered appearance that draws me to Jesus.

Be warned...this is ugly.

As I write, so many emotions are overwhelming my heart. It's weird because I never was a guy that wore his emotions on his sleeve. I was too tough for that. I was a real man ya know? It all changed when reality really, I mean really, dawned on me that I was a completely broken, needy person, that was behind the bars of sin, pun intended. In May of 2012, the walls I'd built up, the fortress I'd created, the masks I wore, it all fell. Not in a pretty way either. Behind the mask was a man that spent about ten years relying on pornography to meet his deepest need. A constant let down. A man that had been married for five years and had multiple affairs. A man that visited strip clubs. A lying, manipulative, secretive, self-seeking man that thought he had it all together. A man that went to church and professed Christ outwardly, but inwardly was a prisoner to sexual sin. My appearance was in tact, but inside I was a mess.

Told you it was ugly.

I always thought a weakness meant being a failure and failing was not an option. Now I shout my weaknesses to the world.

There's a story in Luke 8 about a woman with a hemorrhage. For 12 years this uncontrollable flow of blood plagued her. One day, in what seems to be a last ditch effort, she reaches out to Jesus. In the Message Version, Luke tells it like this: "When the woman realized that she couldn't remain hidden, she knelt trembling before Him. In front of all the people, she blurted out her story---why she touched Him and how at that same moment she was healed (8:47-48)." It's crazy how much I relate to this story. When I used to read the Bible I wanted to relate to David slaying Goliath or Peter walking on water. But the lady with the hemorrhage? Really? Oh well...

In May of 2012, when I realized I couldn't remain hidden anymore, I knelt trembling before my Lord. For the last two and a half years, and still today, I choose to blurt out my story. Not because it feels good. Oh, absolutely not. It sucks really. It's painful. But the magnification of my ugliness leaves an immense amount of room for the magnification of God's glory. I get to share the healing power of our Lord. It's not that He made me completely perfect. No, I am far from that. It's that He has shown me I am perfectly complete in Him. And the best part about the end of Luke 8, Jesus replies with "you took a risk in trusting Me, and now you're healed and WHOLE."

I always thought that I had to come to God whole for Him to be proud of me. Now I know it's the broken Michael He desires.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (Psalm 51:17).

As a culture we don't like things that are broken. Broken glass, throw it away. Rip in the couch, get rid of it. Old car, buy a new one. Chip on the tooth, get it fixed quick before family pictures. I recently heard about this Japanese form of art called Kintsugi.

The idea is to highlight the imperfections of pottery. The cracks are traced over, but not just with anything. They are traced over with gold. The best artwork is the one that has the most flaws. Why? More room for the gold embellishment. The illumination of the cracks is the true beauty. The master artist traces over the once broken parts with gold, and a piece that was at one time ugly, becomes extremely valued. Not because the cracks were removed, but because they now shine bright with the handiwork of the master artist. The cracks in my heart, the broken parts of me haven't been removed. No, they are still there, but now they have been traced over with the glory of the real Master Artist.

I always thought I had the Holy Spirit living inside me. Now I realize I had a room deep within my heart that I never allowed Him access to.

Revelation 3:20 says "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to Him and eat with him, and he with Me." So this was at the end of the letter to the Church of Laodicea, meaning to professing believers. My question is, what if the door He is knocking on isn't the front door. What if He's talking about already being in the house, and He's knocking not on the front door, but on the door to the hidden room we never let anyone in to. He promised me that if I opened that door He would come in and dine with me. Right in the middle of the filth, the mess, the most broken part of me, Jesus wanted to set up brunch. I want to dine where it's the cleanest. Jesus seems to meet me right where it is the dirtiest. That stuff doesn't make Jesus uncomfortable like it does me. A prostitute poured oil on Him and kissed His feet. I would have been extremely self-conscience in that moment, wondering what the others around me thought. Jesus thrived in those moments. Seemed to, shall we say, "live" for those moments. We don't change and then come into the presence of Jesus. We are changed by coming into the presence of Him. I never was going to have that filthy room cleaned up good enough to open it willingly. My only option, when I couldn't remain hidden anymore, was to open the door and cry out to Him for help.

Andrew Murray wrote once that "we are to always meet with God as a God who desires truth in our inward parts. In all your confession of sin, in all your religion, in your whole existence, let truth in your inward parts be your desire as it is the desire of God."

Psalm 69:33 says "For The Lord hears the needy and does not despise His own people who are prisoners."

While I literally did spend time in prison because of my sins, I believe this is talking about those incarcerated to their sins. When I finally cried out to God, when I told Him that He could do whatever it took and I didn't care what it would cost me, He was faithful to rescue, to bail me out. When I finally valued the presence of Christ in the darkest room of my heart over what people would think of me, over future pursuits, over appearing like a godly man, the chains of sin lost their power.

I always thought it was best to keep my struggles to myself. Ya know, between me and God. Now I think that the prayers of a righteous person have incredible power and my struggles need to be confessed to them.

Only when I am courageous enough to allow others to dive into the depths of my darkness, am I able to experience the freedom of the light. The ironic thing about our life is that generally we think for our light to shine bright we need to make sure everything in our life looks good and spiritual and healthy. If it's all in place people will be like, "wow, look at him!" And I'm like "yeah, look at me." But if people were to see the broken things in me and see God work gloriously in and through them, people will be like "wow, look at God!" And I will be like "yeah, look at Him." But too often I want people to look at me. But I can't make much of God and me at the same time. "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

I say we choose to no longer walk in the dark. What if we choose to be glow sticks. Yes, glow sticks. The only way our light shines is through brokenness. Then and only then are we moldable clay in the hands of God. If not, we are simply stiff, dark individuals walking around this earth. My prayer for myself and for others is that we would take a risk in trusting Jesus. That we would open up that secret door to Him. That we would ask God to reveal to us the broken areas in our life so that He can trace over it with gold.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Payslie Rae {5}

The one that made me a momma was born 5 years ago today. 

At 1:55am, Payslie Rae made her grand entrance into the world after a 38 hour induction. Let's just say there were a lot of reasons I was glad she finally got here.

Even though I still owe Mercy her birthday update, I decided I'd make myself proud and post one on time this year! ;)

So, in keeping with the theme... Payslie, you get a letter too.

My Payslie girl,

5 years. I still can't believe it... time moves too fast and more and more Daddy and I look at you and are blown away that you are growing up so quickly. 

This past year has been a big one. Can I just tell you that you are such a trooper? I've loved watching you interact with your friends, be THE best biggest sister, and excel at so many things that you try. We've cried tears this past year and we've needed Jesus. 

The highlight of your fourth year of life was the night you and Felicity were in the tub and you were talking about Jesus being in your heart. I asked you if you had ever asked Him to be in your heart and you said 'no, but I want to right now!' and you prayed the sweetest prayer my ears have ever heard and then you looked at your little sister Felicity and you asked her if she wanted to be with Jesus forever too..... she said 'yes' and you said, so excitedly, 'THEN ASK HIM RIGHT NOW!' And we had the biggest celebration right there in the bathroom and you told me you wanted to tell everyone that you were going to be with Jesus forever. And we made a dozen phone calls to share your news. It was the best.

Your imaginative play has blossomed and the forts you can build are just so.... messy. haha. You like building "cottages" with multiple rooms. You are quite the little artist and spend hours creating beautiful artwork for all your loved ones. 

Pretty sure you got this from your daddy, but seriously, you are my little athlete. You amaze me with the way that you have excelled in acrobats and how quickly you catch on to new things. 

You like maxi skirts and high heels and painting your nails and jewelry. Your favorite thing is one-on-one time with anyone. And girl, I think you may be the pickiest eater in the entire world.

I've picked this scripture out for you this year:
"On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul." Psalm 138:3
This year, you have battled with anxiety and fear. And I just love the promise that The Lord gives to make us bold with soul-strength when we call to Him. That's what I want for you my girl. That's why I picked this verse.

My prayer for you this year is that you be BRAVE. Because fear will suck the life and joy and peace right from you and I want more for you than that and I know you want more. I want you to always know that I am for you, to have the freedom to struggle through the learning of this courage, and to be confident that we have your back in those times of fear and anxiety.

Your tender heart towards Jesus is where it all will begin, my precious one. None of us can be brave without Him. Not truly brave, anyways. Let's learn together to get on our knees at the first whisper of doubt, the first glimmer of worry.... and we will find victory in Jesus, Pays. Cuz that's how His story always goes.

I'm so excited for all the new adventures we get to take this fifth year of your life. We will hold hands and skip and laugh and learn and fail and cry and ask Jesus to walk with us the whole way. It's gonna be one for the memory books.

I love you with my whole heart, my Payslie Rae.
~your Mommy

Monday, May 19, 2014

{s e v e n}

So I'm kinda a hater of syrupy love posts. But I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed with gratitude.

Today, Michael and I celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary.

And celebrate is the miracle here. Because 2 years ago on this day, neither of our broken selves could imagine that would ever be possible. Not the way we had before or the way a couple hopes to.


"And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" Rev. 21:5

And He surely is.

We've walked the valley of the shadow and there have been days we thought for sure we would die right there in the middle of the desert. There are times we wanted to. But in a place with no circumstantial water, it drove us with desperate thirst to the Living Water.

I've seen the profound beauty that comes from an ugly-messy marriage transformed in the hands of the Lord and I've been profoundly blessed by a husband who hit his own bottom and let Jesus grab hold of him with His gracious, merciful arms. And you bet it surprised this self-righteous wife when at the bottom of the pit, for the first time in our marriage, I experienced what spiritual leadership could be in a marriage. Because there is nothing like watching someone fall in love with Jesus. And as I watched Michael run desperate to Him and be satisfied in Him, I wanted that. It led me to dare to drop the pursuit of perfection and instead to desire the hope that is found in His all-sufficient grace.

And although I've battle the 'what-ifs', I am glad that the future is unknown to us and that I didn't know all that was to come when I walked that aisle. Because my flesh avoids pain...

But today, I can say with grateful tears, it has been worth it. And THAT is pure God-grace.

And so today is a celebration. Of all that our God has done in my life, in Michael's life, in our marriage. It's a day where we take a time to look back and remember all that He has already done because the road is hard and we are weak. But praise be to Him who is faithful and in whom we are complete!

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we’ll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
-Matt Redman 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Celebrating a Miracle-filled Year.

"Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs on out me... And I don't ever have to be afraid, cuz this one thing remains : Your love never fails."
Sitting here this morning with a cup of coffee and listening to ^that^ song on Pandora. And I've got a smile on my face.

So I don't know if this is an actual thing or not, but once someone said that the birthday when your age matches the number of your birthdate, is called your 'golden' birthday. I specifically remember because I was 10 at the time and my friend was having her 'golden' birthday turning 11 and I couldn't help but feel like it wasn't fair that I had to wait all-the-whole-long-lifetime until I actually turned the ripe old age of 26.

And here it is.

Wish I could tell that 10 year old me that 26 is hardly the antique age I thought it must be.

Anyways... I've been thinking this past week about the last year and all the ways that God has loved me to Himself and the treasures He has given me in revealing His heart toward me and for me. And I've had an overwhelming sense that my 25th year of life has been a year of MIRACLES.

I was just reading my journal from one year ago and remembering how deeply I was struggling with surrendering to God's desire for me. His desire that I trust Him. I was scared of the future and what God  would ask me to walk through and I was terrified of the pain that would accompany that. I had my list of "worst-case scenarios" and all of them, in my mind, couldn't possibly be God's best for me. My fear was that God might actually allow those things to happen because they were apart of His 'Great Big Peferct Will for the World' but that I would get lost in the 'grand scheme of things' and I would be left wounded, bleeding, and forgotten.

And if someone had tried to tell me that I would learn to trust my Savior's heart through the very thing I claimed that I could never do... well, I just wouldn't have believed it.

So, when the past year brought a season of solo-parenting, I learned that I was right. I couldn't do it. Not on my own. But with Christ as my strength, my rock, and my stronghold, I learned that I could trust Him to meet me at my limits and when I couldn't continue another second, somehow I made it one more minute, one more hour, one more day, one more week. And although at one time I thought I could get this parenting thing licked, I now realize that even in a two-parent home, I don't have enough and can't be enough to do this thing without Jesus. (heck, there could be a dozen parents working together and I'd still be a wreck.)

So the miracle? In what I deemed would not and could not be loving of God to ask of me, He worked in my heart and through my circumstances to make me a better mom. He took the realities of my loneliness, my exhaustion, my 'at-the-end-of-my-too-short-rope' feelings and drew me to Himself and to dependence on Him and His grace. I love my daughters more deeply now that I have seen that my flesh's weakness doesn't have to mean guilt or defeat in child-raising but has birthed a path to victory through humbling mothering my daughters, not in perfection, but in His power.

In addition to being terrified to parenting alone, I had a gripping fear of loneliness. The thing is, I've experienced this lonely feeling for most of my life, even when in the midst of a crowd of people. And maybe I thought that it would swallow me if I found myself literally alone for an extended amount of time. (of course, there were usually 3 little ones around, but I think you get my point.)

So naturally, when I felt the Lord leading my to sit in my 'aloneness' and not fill it with social media, television, food, girls nights 3 times a week, and whatever else I could schedule, I. DID. NOT. LIKE. IT. But God had something for me there too. In the quiet and in that pain, He met me in a way I'd never known Him truly before. I met Him as Friend and as Husband. And I experienced the miracle He had for me when I let HIM complete me. And He makes me full and so very satisfied.

And of course there are the anonymous gift cards that allowed me to buy Christmas gifts, and the garage sale money that seriously, I'm postitive mulitplied like the loaves and fish, and healed family relationships, and friendships that are the most real I've ever experienced, and provided vehicles and housing, and support from so very many people.


Yep. I'm telling you.... it's been the year of MIRACLES for me.

And He gives beyond which I could ever imagine.

"And they who know Your Name [who have experience and acquaintance with Your mercy] will lean on and confidently put their trust in You, for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek [inquire of and for] You. [on the authority of God's Word and the right of their necessity]" Psalm 9:10AMP

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Confessions of a Food Addict.

It's been about a month since the Lord told me to write this. Yes, that is what you call delayed obedience (or rather, disobedience). But I really haven't had the words until tonight so maybe I've actually just been waiting on Him.

I'm a food addict. {one who seriously can't believe I'm writing this... on the freaking internet.}

Eight weeks ago I asked for some accountablity and some help to start eating more nutritiously and living healthier. Honestly, I thought if I just acknowlged that I had an 'issue' and told someone, that it would get easier and I wouldn't be so quick to indulge myself. And at this point, I really had myself believing it was just an issue of not eating healthy.

That was a BIG FAT LIE. The next 3 weeks were some of the worst 'acting out' of my life. The chains of bondage felt like they were choking the life out of me. I was completely powerless against whatever whim I found my flesh desiring.... engaing in the sin of gluttony completely willingly and without hesitation.

As more days passed with my 'trying' and failing and failing again.... I started feeling so completely defeated. I am disgusted with my lack of self-disipline and lack of self-control.... and my still-present struggle to believe that my Jesus can meet and satisfy ALL of my desires.

So then, a little over 4 weeks ago, I reached out for a prayer intervention and confessed my ongoing sin of gluttony. And it's been pretty up-and-down since then.

And I know the Lord is really trying to get my attention. And I want to want(yes that stutter was intentional) Him enough that I keep asking Him to not give up until I give in. 

And for real. I WANT to hunger and thirst for Him more than a warm maple bar and a cold diet dr. pepper. But the truth is that I settle for what tastes good on my tongue and deny His power to change my heart. The reality of this frustrates and grieves me. And it's not just food. It's Facebook, and television, and social time, and candy crush, and crafts and it goes on because there are so many things that I say 'yes' to in order to satisfy when it's HIM that I'm so desperate for! 

And I'm sick and tired of wanting 'comfort' more than wanting the Comforter.

So here is the deal: I'm making some changes and I'm gonna beg God to change my heart as I do. Because I really don't want to change anything. I don't want to say no to myself or deny myself. And that scares the hell out of me. [that's supposed to be a metaphor, not a curse word... but I feel like such a rebel typing that.] Right now, I'm studying Jesus' message to the Church in Revelation and I feel the holy fire of conviction and the need to repent! And contrary to what I used to think 'repent' means, it's more than telling the Lord "I'm sorry".... it's actually changing!!!!

Tonight, I took another step forward in this "change". And I'm hesitantly excited about it.

I'm going to be working on 'eating responsibly' and doing some intentional exercise. And the Lord also convicted me about this tonight: I'm going to stop complaining about my body and making jokes about my addiction to food. Because the truth is that it's not funny. It's idolatry and it shouldn't be taken lightly. And I've spent far too much time justifying and excusing my sin.

So... out of all of the things that I've shared on here, this is possibly the most difficult. This is ugly truth.   And it's MY ugly truth. I'm so thankful that Jesus has shown me the miracles He can work with ugly. I'm choosing to trust that He can do the same with this. 

Here's to FREEDOM. *cheers*

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Word for the Lonely on Valentine's Day.

Sometimes there are certain days that ache more. Days that mark milestones and days that hold special meaning.... birthdays and holidays and anniversaries.... 

So Valentine's Day is upon us... and maybe you feel an ache. Maybe things aren't the way you wish they were or maybe there is a certain way you imagine the day and you know once again that you will most likely be disappointed. 

Maybe you don't currently have a significant other and this day magnifies that reality and you wonder when it'll be your turn and you kinda(just a little bit) want to throw up in your mouth at all the ooey-gooey mushy pictures and phrases and reminders of what you don't have.

Or maybe you have your 'valentine' but there's hurt or distance or regret and when you think of celebrating you feel a little.... bleh. And maybe this 'day of love' holds painful memories that you just can't quite get over or good ones that the 'now' can't measure up to.

Maybe you wonder how he doesn't know which are your favorite flowers or your choice chocolates or the fact that you'd rather get a pedicure then add inches to your waistline or you feel like you should have it all and then some for the birthing of the babies and the washing of the underwear and the cooking of the meals. 

And maybe with all the hoopla surrounding this commercialized day that awakens desires for romance and whirlwind and fairy tales and all that jazz.... maybe you feel really lonely.

I sure can.

And maybe not... maybe things for you are great, but maybe you want to dare to ask for more than just candlelight and candy and ridiculously expensive cards. 

Now, Valentine's day may just be a modern excuse for a bunch of people to make more money and for an extra pinterest board and a whole lot of stress for moms and males alike....But what if we took this day and celebrated the Love that loved us so extravagantly that He came and died and lives so we can know this LOVE???
"The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 4:8-10

What if we asked Him to open our hearts so that we'd fall deeper and deeper into a wildly adventurous love affair with Him?
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit." Psalm 51:10-12
"This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." 1 John 5:14
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:14-19

What if we let Him pull us close into His tender embrace and bask in the comfort that He offers?
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

What if we sit adoringly at His feet and let Him delight fully in us and listen as He joyfully sings over us?
"The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17

What if we stare long into the eyes our Bridegroom.... finding safety in the intimacy of being completely known and completely loved....
"I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." John 10:14-15
"O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it." Psalm 139:1-6

The God who hears us, Who sees us, Who created that very flower we enjoy so much.
The God who doesn't forsake, never abandons, cannot betray....Who is gentle and patient and kind.
The God who gives Light to our darkness, strength to our weakness,  redeems all of our failings, and satisfies all of our desires.

Oh friends, when we stop and meditate on how He loves us... surely there will never be a Valentine's day romantic to-do that will ever beat that.