Dead Begin to Rise

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When you walk into the room
Sickness starts to vanish
Every hopeless situation ceases to exist
And when you walk into the room,
The dead begin to rise
‘Cause there is resurrection life
In all You do

 

Sunday morning as we sang the lyrics to the song above, they hit me in a way they never have before. The last three lines rang in my head for the rest of the day. I could not shake the thought of how different things would be if we actually lived like we believed the words of this song.  As a believer, we don’t often question the cross and the message of hope it brings, but I wonder how often we live in light of the fact Jesus brings life.  As a Jesus follower, I bring His light and life with me each and every place I go.

Oh friend do you see what this means?  We should be running to every dark place, every place with the dead and the broken, every place with the sick and hopeless because when Jesus walks into the room, boom. Life, Hope, Healing. When I walk into the dark places, I walk in with Jesus. And when He walks into the room, the atmosphere changes. I can attest to this because I have walked into some dark places. Something changes when we bring the light of Jesus with us.

Because of Jesus there is no place too dark, too scary, too hopeless, or too lost. So let us run into those places with the light and love of Jesus and be amazed at what happens as we go.

 
Read more: Bryan & Katie Torwalt – When You Walk Into The Room Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Savoring Slow

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Dandelion-in-the-morning

 

For much of my life, I have been a morning person. Prior to getting married, I was up and at the gym between 4:30 and 5 every morning. I love the peace and calm of the morning. I maintained my early mornings after getting married for a while, but slowly the early morning gym workouts fell by the wayside. Add a baby into the mix and my mornings became “how late can I sleep and still get to work on time.” They were chaotic, rushed, and anything but peaceful and quiet. I was barely able to get to work on time and struggling. Majorly struggling.

 

Something had to change. And while I think some of my struggles were from some postpartum issues, I think many of them were from skipping my morning rituals I had loved for so many years. My mornings were so chaotic, the rest of the day just seemed to follow until I fell into bed exhausted, dreading the morning alarm. I ran across an e-book I immediately knew was what I needed- The Abundant Mama’s Guide to Savoring Slow.

Each chapter is a habit to work on in order to savor the moments of life. The book is designed to work through over an entire year so I am going to go through it slowly and then in January start over at the beginning.  The first chapter is entitled “Wake Up.” So with my journal, Bible, and book ready, I set  my alarm for 5:30am in order to give me 30 minutes in the morning to read, write, and pray before starting my day.

Mamas and friends, this is the best decision I have made. It is tough. Some mornings, I want to just stay in bed. And I will admit, a few times I have. I am growing in giving myself grace to not to be perfect. But more times than not over the past three weeks, I have gotten up early and positioned myself on the couch for 30 minutes. Sometimes my little one decides to wake up early and interrupts my time and sometimes I end up talking to my husband for part of it, but it has made the biggest difference. Those 30 minutes have meant my days are less rushed, I have more energy, and I feel better equipped to love my family.  I am learning the moments of life to savor are the small ones. The moments when I hear “ma-ma-ma” coming from the kitchen and I drop whatever I am doing to make sure little H knows his mama is right here. The moments when I spend a few extra minutes eating ice cream with J instead of rushing off to bed. I needed my mornings. They are fresh water to a thirsty soul.

Want to join me on this Savoring Slow journey? Sign up for my e-mails or comment below.  What does “Wake Up” look like in your world? Maybe for you it is getting up earlier. Or maybe it is unplugging from your phone. Or maybe it is reading one extra book or playing one more game. Whatever it is, enjoy the moments and learn to savor them.

The Dark Side of Social Media

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phone2For all I love about social media, there is a side a loathe. The side which often rears its ugly head after holidays or vacation days or even some ordinary weekends. Honestly, it’s not actually an issue with social media, but more the way it brings out the dark side in me that I hate.

This morning as I was scrolling through my Instagram, I realized how quickly my internal emotions shifted to anger, jealously, and disappointment. It happened in a moment and when I realized it, I quickly set my phone down like it was on fire. This has to stop. I needed to re-direct before I spent the day wallowing.

Another holiday had gone by and another weekend in which not a single friend had invited us to celebrate. Truth be told, I hadn’t invited anyone over either so I cannot blame this totally on everyone else. Plus, I know life is busy. I get it. But nevertheless, as I saw those in my life celebrating with friends, I felt this heavy weight of feelings. In that moment, I had a choice. I could keep scrolling through my social media or I could put it down and give the weight over to the One who holds my heart.

Hence the dropping the phone like it was hot. As I finished getting ready, I flipped over to a devotional I had been reading and spent my time in prayer. God promises us His burden is light and His yoke is easy.  He knows our deepest thoughts and sacred moments. He saw an almost 30-something feeling like the junior high girl who got kicked out of the popular kids crowd. He saw the heart so desperately in want of community. And He reminded me as I overheard the sweet conversation between my husband and 10 month old of the amazing weekend we had just the three of us. These moments are fleeting and while sometimes incredibly tough, I cherish them deeply.

Although I wish I could tell you I left for work feeling all peachy keen about life, I can tell you I left for work knowing the heaviness of my heart was laid at the feet of Jesus. I re-focused on my sweet little family and how thankful I am to be married to my best friend. I put the desires of my heart squarely in the box of Jesus. He is the only one who can meet the deepest desires to know and be known. He is the only one who can strengthen my soul and equip me in the fight. And He knows. He understands. We serve a Savior who can relate to us in our weakness.

So dear friend, remember today Him whose burden is light and yoke is easy. Remember the One who knows our deepest struggles and who meets us in the low places. And trust He will answer every prayer whispered in the secret.

2015: The Year of Patience

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This time last year, I was considering my resolutions for 2015 and rather than a list of things I wanted to accomplish, I chose a word. Ironically the word was patience. Somewhere along the year, I lost track of my word, however, my word never lost track of me. This was a year of patience. The definition I used last year was quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence. I can definitely see those themes woven throughout the year, even when I may not have even realized it.

Perhaps because I was pregnant a good chunk of the year, patience was consistently a theme. Growing a baby is a slow process. And our sweet little guy waited an extra two weeks to make an appearance. I had to laugh today when I looked back and saw my word for the year was patience. Whether I wanted to learn it or not, my baby boy has taught me a lot about patience and a lot about living in the moment. From his late arrival to his sweet baby coos and snuggly demeanor, I never knew I could love so fiercely. And I have a feeling he will keep me on my toes for the rest of his life.

I also learned a lot about patience through launching and running a ministry to women in our local strip clubs.  I kept telling people it would be a slow ministry, but telling people and fighting the discouragement that can bring are two different animals.  As I look back over a year of consistently hanging out in a strip club, I can tell you I learn more about patience each time I go. I am continuously reminded pursuing relationships with broken people is never easy and takes time. However, this is what Jesus called us to do and time and compassion are exactly what is needed inside those walls.

The list could go on of ways I have seen God build patience in me. And while I am no master at patience, I can honestly say God used this year to grow in me a quiet perseverance. 2015 has not been one of long lists of accomplishments, career climbing, or resume building. However, it has been a year of sweet conversations, baby cuddles, and saying no to a myriad of activities. It has been a year of refocus and new identities. It has also been full of plenty of moments when I wondered what God was doing.  I am still not sure in a lot of those moments, but  I do believe with all my heart each moment was and is being used to teach me patience.

So see you later 2015. Thanks for the memories, lessons, and experiences.

Called to Heart Ache

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Seven months ago I stepped into a local strip club for the first time. Unprepared and unsure of what would happen next, we went and simply asked if it we could keep coming to support the girls who work there.  I believe with my whole heart Jesus loves them and His love compelled us to go. While I believe God can open any door He feels like, I was still a little surprised when we were met with excitement and an absolute yes. In fact, the #1 question I get when I talk about our ministry is “what do the club owners think?” And honestly, I can’t explain it. Perhaps they understand at some level the job is tough and perhaps they are just curious. I think they struggle to comprehend why a group of church ladies would care about them or their club. We are typically the ones picketing outside, not the ones sitting across the table from a dancer asking her about her day and her kids.

Seven months later, going into the clubs hasn’t gotten any easier. As I left last night, my heart was broke in a million pieces once again. I listened to a girl recount a story of incredible loss and addiction and I struggled to respond.  My heart ached for her. Over the last seven months, not only have I worked hard to grow a ministry, I have been growing a child inside of me. Perhaps more than anything in my life thus far, this has changed me. As I sit and listen to the girls we serve, my new mom heart gets so easily overwhelmed. I ache for them. I hurt for them. And some days, I want nothing more than the ability to wave a magic wand and change their lives. But I don’t have a magic wand or all the answers. All I do have is a deep relationship the One who can heal broken hearts. The One who can take loss and hurt and pain and make it new.  So we pray. And we keep going. And we keep loving and pursuing.  And my heart keeps aching. I am confident this is what God has called me to do. To ache for them as He does.  To pursue them as He does. And to point them to Him. Because I don’t have the answers. I can’t change their life. I can’t make the hurt and loss go away.  But I can sit with them in their hurt and listen.  When the words escape me, I can simply be there. And isn’t that what we all want?  Someone to listen. Someone to care about our story. Someone to ache with us or rejoice with us or laugh with us.

So while I will never say going is easy, I will keep going because God has called us. His heart aches for them and He has called us to the mission of aching for the things that break His heart.  It’s messy. It’s tough. It breaks my heart. And it pushes me to dig deeper into Christ and pray hard for my own heart and for the ladies I see week in and week out in the club.

Give In to the One Who Gave it All

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Lent is one of those interesting times in the life of the church.  You have people from all ends of the religious spectrum-Catholic, conservative, to contemporary-who celebrate the season in a myriad of ways. Some people deny themselves something, some take the time to reflect, and there is a growing trend of participating in acts of kindness or justice.

 

Personally, I tend to vary in my approach to lent. In past years, I have sacrificed something, participated in acts of justice studies, and done nothing.  As I head into this Lenten season, my heart and mind are struggling in the world of balancing life, preparing to enter parenthood, work, and a quickly growing ministry. I have a pile of books about 9 high beside my bed waiting to be read, my inbox is bombarded daily with baby e-mails, advertisements, and well-meaning e-mails from individuals wanting to get involved or needed me to do something.

 

As hard as I have been working to clear my schedule and focus on simply being, each week seems to come and go in a blur. Perhaps this is because I have been working hard.  Somewhere in all of it, I forgot I am not in this alone.  I am more aware than ever of my feelings of unworthiness and fears over the future. Something about all of a sudden being responsible for the well-being of a tiny person does that to you! So oh what a glorious reminder it was this morning as Lent begins, I am not in this alone. My imperfections, sin, and inability to manage everything are nailed to the cross.  My fears and feelings of unworthiness are no longer mine to bear.

 

All of this caused me to pause, step back, and focus on something a little different for this season of Lent.  I am committing to carving out a portion of each day to pause, breathe, and spend time giving everything over to the One who does hold it all and who can do it all. He is the hope, the encouragement, and the answer to my imperfections and fears.   And while there are many tools out there to help, the one I settled on for this season is by She Reads Truth.  Rather than giving up, I am giving in to the One who gave it all. Join me in a journey to focus on Jesus and our inability to do anything without His guidance.

A Journey in Generosity

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Our campus pastor challenged us to be more open with our giving stories. I think this was a mini-ploy to help him convince the members of our church tithing was a good thing, but it still caused me to reflect back over my giving journey.

To begin, I have to give my parents major credit for this area of my life. They have always modeled giving for us. Even when things got tough, the church always got 10%. My mom raised us to believe if we wanted something, we just needed to pray about it. I will admit, this may not always be the best parenting strategy, but on the flip side, I have seen clothes and groceries show up on our doorstep, bills mysteriously get paid, and opportunities open up that from a human standpoint simply should not have. They raised me to be generous and to remember I own nothing, God owns everything.

As I grew up and began to manage my own finances, despite all their teaching, I struggled in this area. Not because I doubted the importance of tithing, but because I spent a good bit of time traveling to developing countries and didn’t want my money going to pay electric bills when there were starving children to feed. (yes, I actually thought that) So for a period in my life, I sponsored a few children, supported some missionary friends, and belonged to a collective tithing group. We tithed a portion of our money to the group and used it to meet tangible needs the group brought to the table. It was actually an incredible thing to be part of and although at times our tithes went to pay electric bills, they were earmarked for the broken, hurting people in our lives. I learned about the importance of being in relationship and maintained the practice of giving even as I wrestled with tithing to an actual church.

When I got my first “real” adult job, I also started attending my current church.  At the beginning I was not a regular giver, but I did give occasionally because you were supposed to give to your church right? Then I started getting involved and I saw the integrity behind the finances being entrusted to my church. First off, they give 10% of all their income away. Period. Even in the tough times.  Second, I can assure you, no one is getting rich off my dollar. And at the end of the day, electric bills do have to get paid so the church can continue to reach those who desperately need Jesus.  As my husband and I started dating and got married, we both decided tithing was going to be a non-negotiable.  Thanks to online giving, which makes it super easy, we allocate our money each month first to God.  Is it always easy? No way.  Some months, I would really like to have those few extra dollars. But has it blessed our life? In ways I cannot even recount.

I know, sometimes life is tough and finances are tight and you can’t give as much as you might like. But let me encourage you to start somewhere. The more you give, the more you are trusting God to provide and the less you are relying on your paycheck. As that happens, God can take all the glory when crazy cool things happen like your electric getting paid or the money stretching a little farther this month. He also gets the glory when rough times come and the car breaks down again and the baby is sick and the bills are mounting. When we trust our finances to Him and walk in the principle of generosity, something changes. Is it always a walk in the park? Nope, but I believe with everything in me, no  matter what happens, giving is a reminder we are not in control.

Perhaps one of my favorite verses is Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”  I can assure you, we are not rich in the world’s eyes. Nor do we have all the newest, fanciest stuff. But I can tell you, our marriage is stronger, our faith is stronger, and our lives are truly different because we have been faithful.

 

The Year of Patience

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Normally I make New Year’s Resolutions. A lot of them. And they are usually a long list of big accomplishments and dreams I hope to achieve throughout the next 365 days.  They start out well and somewhere around April or May, I completely abandon them only to return to them somewhere around November to realize I either a) failed or b) unknowingly accomplished the goal.  The new year is a wonderful time to try to kick off old habits or start some new ones and I am not knocking that, but I decided this year I was not going to make a single resolution.  Since I am a chronic overachiever, I have zero trouble adding more things to my to-do list than hours in oh, all eternity.  And I will admit, I like lists. They are neat and orderly and enable you to cross things off them.

But.. not this year. This year I decided I was going to pick a word and operate from said word.  As I make decisions and move forward throughout this year, everything comes back to a single word.  So for this year, the word I chose was..

 

Patience

I like this definition I found- quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence. To me, patience is about being in the moment. It is about allowing myself the space to relax, to be, to mess up, to sleep in, to stay up late, to say no, to love, and to move slow.  It is about having patience with my husband, my friends, my family, and those I encounter each and every day.  It is the quiet, steady breathing in and out of life which allows you to put aside the high goals of achievement and instead embrace the joys of the moment.

My prayer is at the end of this year, I can look back and see not a long list of accomplishments, but moments in which I loved those around me better, enjoyed life more, took time to relax, and invested in Kingdom building.   I may not be able to say I kicked a bad habit or crossed things off a bucket list or succeeded at such and such, but I hope I can say I grew in the art of patience.

If you already set resolutions, continue on, but if you are searching for something different, perhaps it starts with a single word.

Reflecting..

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There is just something about the end of the year and the beginning of a new one that stirs giddy excitement in my heart. I love the hope of a new year, new chances, and a new start.  I also love reflecting on the past, the lessons learned, the triumphs, and the trials.  So take a minute to pause and reflect on your past year and indulge me for a minute while I reflect a little on mine.

This was a busy year full of changes, growth, and new opportunities.  Oh, and a new name!   This time last year, I was in the very middle of planning a wedding, tying together all sorts of details and trying very hard to control my excitement and stress.  The rest of the year was a ride of faith, excitement, and lots of changes. I can pretty easily narrow them down to two big changes defining the past year of my life.

Big Change #1- Marriage.  No one can really prepare you for the adventure of marriage. Sure, we read books and went through pre-marital counseling and financial peace university (all of which I HIGHLY recommend), but then we stood at the altar and said “I do.”  With those two words, everything changed. My name, my identity, my address, my schedule… for someone who doesn’t particularly love change, it’s been an adjustment at times. We have had to learn how to share a home, navigate families, job changes, and we added the most adorable, loving lab to the mix.  A day has not passed in the last 9 months where I have questioned my decision. In fact, Jordan proves to me over and over just how truly blessed I am to have him as my partner in life.  His support, love, and care have been there through the highs and lows of this year and I cannot wait for many, many more to spend together.

Big Change #2- Ministry.   I hinted to this at the beginning of the year and by December, the dream and vision had become a reality.  I convinced three other dear ladies we needed to love on the women in our local sex industry in a pretty radical way.  Their support, partnership, and friendship has been a constant throughout this year. It has not been without difficulties and I have had to fall on my knees in prayer in order to keep moving forward.  All I can say as I look back is “all to the glory of God.” I simply followed a vision and as I cast my heart, other people have gotten on board.  It has been scary. It has been exciting, And most of all, it has been a front row seat to watching God move.  I cannot wait to see what the new year holds and I am very thankful I know the One who holds the world in His hands. Check out www.thehadassahgroup.com to learn more!

 

The big changes have caused me to learn to depend on God and to ask for help. I am learning I cannot do this alone and including others sometimes brings about the greatest joy. I have learned friends can come from the unlikeliest of places and hard times can bring about the greatest blessings. I have also been blessed with an amazing new family who has welcomed me in and never makes me feel like the in-law. 2014 was truly a year for the record books.

Hope your year was truly amazing as well! Happy New Year! 🙂

Divine Appointments

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While I am working on finding my approval solely in Christ and trusting Him alone, I will be the first to admit, it is a true work in progress.  A SLOW work. I still find myself craving the validation of others and rising and falling on their words. I still find myself trying in my own strength to get things done. I have been making more time for praying, writing, and I started a Bible study last week on my own which has proven to be exactly the right words.  In the midst of all of these measly efforts, I am convinced God knows sometimes my heart still needs a little extra urging.  As I am growing in letting go of my need for the approval of others, I am also learning, sometimes, God masterfully uses His children to speak life into each other and the result is beautiful.  It is not about gaining their approval, but it is about life-giving encouragement.

 

Enter my new friend Stefanie.  I am convinced from the start, God orchestrated this meeting.   Last weekend, a church in our area put on a one-day women’s conference. Oh I wish you could have all come!  It was beautiful, freeing, and soul-filling.  When they began advertising for it, the speaker had just happened to start a strip club ministry.  Now, I will be the first to jump in the car and road trip it anywhere to talk to someone who has a tad more experience than I do starting a ministry, but this time, I didn’t have to leave my own town.  Through some AMAZING ladies who happen to believe in the calling God put in my heart (which whoa, why??!), the speaker graciously agreed to sit down and chat with me before the event.  It has been events like this where I can just sit back and say, “All glory to God!”  So I headed to her hotel and was graciously met by the speaker and her ministry partner Stefanie.   Two hours or so later, I left busting at the seams with excitement, boldness, and life.  I left confident in my own inadequacy (because I mean, what better way for God to totally show up right?) and convinced when God calls, He equips.   Stefanie and I had an instant connection. I can’t explain it nor will I try, but what I will say is, God used Stefanie to speak calm to my fears and life to my heart.

 

As I have taken each step forward pursuing this dream, I have seen God show up. I have been on the receiving end of a lot of generosity, encouragement, and support.  And while my heart is to serve women in the clubs, I have also seen some beautiful things happen when the Church comes together to love the lost.  My own heart has grown in learning to love, to forgive, to let go, and to step forward.  And at the end of it all, through the good times and the hard times, through the current successes and the future challenges, I know God is using these moments to remind me He is good. No matter what, He is good.  And because He is good, He will equip, He will provide, and He will comfort.   A precious message my Type A personality needs to hear over and over and over again.