Sunday, February 26, 2017

Let's Get Uncomfortable, Church.

I've been called a lot of things in my life, but today I am going to focus on a select few in the same category (or we could be here all night...ha!). Let's go with "obsessive" or "over the top" or "extreme." 

But you see, while those are generally meant in a negative way, I no longer view them that way. You see, I spent 8 months learning to love myself, and, more importantly, learning to see myself as Christ sees me. So instead of clinging to those words that have been said to me in my past, I now know that I am extremely passionate and that is just part of who I am. I cannot do anything half-heartedly. 

Now, I have learned to say "no" when I need to and I have learned my own limitations and how to take that passion and channel it into the avenues that God calls me to. Nevertheless, my personality remains one that is "all-in" and I hold strongly to my convictions. The funny thing is, when I embraced myself as being passionate, I noticed that I started to hear that word more than those previously mentioned. God purposely created a passionate heart within me. It may come off as radical or extreme to some, but I'm okay with that. 

You see, Christ died a horrible death on a cross for me. Despite my countless mistakes and all of the times that hatred, resent, dishonesty, and so many other things have found themselves in my passionate heart, He still gave His life for me. That in and of itself is pretty radical. And I have this radical belief that to give Him anything less than all of my life, my heart, my soul, and my passion would mean that I wasted the time He has graciously given me here on earth. I can think of nothing worse than to one day reach the end of my life and think that I spent my life as an armchair activist who never stood to my feet to go.

Here's the thing, church. It's easy to become an armchair activist in the day and age of social media. It's easy and much more comfortable to sit behind the screen of a computer or phone and say we believe all of these things and say that we care, but if that's all you do, you are wasting your time. I'm sorry to be blunt, but at this point in my life, I've stopped wasting time beating around the bush. I also don't want to reach the end of my life and look back to think "well I had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed my life" and that be the end of it. Because quite frankly, who cares how much fun I had, how great of a mom I was, how much I enjoyed my life if I did not actively work to advance the kingdom of Christ. Those things are great and I am not knocking that at all - we have a lot of fun at our house - but when life revolves around self-gratification for someone who claims to follow Christ, a point has to come where priorities must be evaluated.

Here's the thing...following Christ...truly following Him is going to require sacrifice. It's going to take faith and trust. It means that people will think you are radical or extreme. They will criticize you for various reasons. They'll try to talk you out of the things that Christ has called you to do. One thing I have learned as a momma, is that for our family to follow Christ, our family has to make sacrifices. And let me be honest...it's not easy for me to make a decision that means my daughters will have to sacrifice even when I know God is calling me to it. My natural momma instinct is to give them the world and never make them sacrifice a thing. But that's not Biblical.

The truth is, it's not easy. The truth is that I have thought about calling it quits on some things this week that I knew God was calling me to. But I know it's no coincidence that we had Global Impact Celebration at our church this week where we work to encourage missionaries, but wind up being more encouraged by them. And then on Friday, God blew me away by going above and beyond anything I dreamed of to provide for needs and to confirm some paths for our family.
In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says: "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations."

Let me emphasize that word "go." We hear it a lot, I know, but I want you to really think about that word and what it means. He didn't say to sit around and wait for hurting hearts to come to you. He didn't say to hang out in your recliner behind a screen and hope someone else does the work. He said GO.  That doesn't necessarily mean He has called you to international missions, but maybe He has. But what it definitely means is that if you claim Christ and you claim to know and follow Him, you are absolutely called to actively serve other people somewhere. Whether you go to China or you go to the homeless shelter in your city or wherever God has placed you and burdened your heart, you are called to go. If you don't know where God wants you to serve, get on your knees and ask Him to burden your heart because I promise you He will. But don't take that step unless you are willing to stand to your feet and go where He burdens your heart to go.

Church, we have to stop being lazy. We have to stop waiting and assuming that someone else will do the work. We have to stop looking out only for ourselves because that's less risky. We have to go and serve and tell and that's going to call for sacrifice and vulnerability. Don't think you're too messy. I'm the girl in the Southern Baptist Church covered in tattoos who has quite a messy story to tell. Here's one thing I know for sure: God takes messes and turns them into ministries. You just have to be willing to go.

Let's get uncomfortable, church.
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Saturday, February 25, 2017

So Often I Doubt

Doubt.

That word exists in my life much more than I would like to admit. It constantly finds ways to creep into my existence. Over and over God proves Himself faithful, yet over and over again doubt has me questioning how things will work out.

We are walking a path that has had me questioning how things would work out. I find myself asking, "God if this is what You've called us to, why isn't it easier?"

Seems like a crazy question to ask, I know, when we have example after example of God calling people to hard things in the Bible, in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us. And yet, I found myself asking that exact question quite a bit this week.

And then yesterday happened. God took moment after moment to tell me: "I've got this. Not only will I provide for you, but I'm going to go above and beyond what you need."

Y'all I found myself sitting in my car just weeping yesterday. I doubt and I doubt and instead of getting angry, He wraps His doubting daughter up in His arms with the gentle reminder that He's got all of this in His hands. "I did call you to this journey, My child. I never said it would be easy. It will often be hard. But I've surrounded you with people to be on this journey with you and I will always, always, always go above and beyond to provide for what I have called you to."

This morning I had the privilege of serving our community alongside my beautiful church family and my two beautiful daughters. There was no place I would have rather been after the profound reminders that God sent my way yesterday. On the drive to the location where we were serving, Good, Good Father came on the radio and it spoke straight to my soul.

He is truly a good, good Father. Not only does He provide, but He goes above and beyond. So often I doubt, yet He never fails to send my doubt right back out the door. 



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Sunday, February 19, 2017

This Thing Called "Motherhood"

I can remember being a young girl and dreaming of the day that I would be a momma. Rocking my baby dolls, I imagined how it would feel to one day hold a baby of my own. I had their names all picked out (and, no, I didn't use a single name I had picked in the fourth grade--go figure!).
Point being, as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a momma. I've always dreamed and longed for a house full of kids. The chaos of them fighting or trying to get them out the door in the morning that often has me sighing and testing the limits of my patience is, at the end of the day, more perfect than I ever imagined. We are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but the chaos, the imperfections, the love and commitment, the struggles, the days when my patience is shorter than usual...when all of it is wrapped together at the end of the day, it's incredible.

This morning as I jokingly (but completely serious) told others at church that my morning could be described by the fact that "Don't lick that" was a phrase I uttered in the car this morning, I couldn't help but reflect on the morning. I thought of how out of breath I was by the time I finally arrived in my Sunday School room after shuffling them everywhere that they need to go. I thought about the car ride to church and how it was a mix between singing praise and worship songs and breaking up back seat fights. I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with how blessed I am.

This thing called "motherhood" is nothing like I imagined as a young girl. I never thought that my motherhood journey would begin as early as it did. I never imagined that I would bury one of my children a few days after giving birth to him and holding him for the first time. I never imagined that I would completely lose my fertility at 26 when my heart was still longing to be a mom again. 

(Side note: And to be honest, that's not something I share often because I worry about the criticism that will come from those who think "we should be happy with our two" [we are more thankful than you could imagine, especially after burying a baby, but that doesn't change the desires of your heart], or "kids are expensive", or any other reason someone can come up with to make the size of your family their business. But y'all that part of my motherhood journey has been incredibly hard for my heart.)
When I was a young girl, I dreamed of adopting internationally one day, but then God said, "not quite". In my dreams motherhood was always smooth and beautiful and instead it's constant chaos and sometimes after a long day, my parenting isn't always as beautiful as I would like for it to be. And it's in those moments that I have to seek forgiveness from my precious kiddos. But all of that to say that this thing called "motherhood" is hard. It's never like you imagined it would be. It's hectic and you never know what to expect (also, I never know what to expect out of the three year old's mouth so every day is like playing the lottery in public). Motherhood is messy.

But it is an absolutely beautiful, messy, chaotic, masterpiece that I never could have envisioned. I never could have imagined the incredible girls that my daughters have grown into. I never could have imagined the legacy that my son's short life would leave. I never could have imagined all of the children that I didn't give birth to, but that I have had the privilege of pouring my momma heart into their lives. 

I'm sure in a few years I'll be saying this again...that I never imagined it could get better. But I know God has great plans for our family that we can't even imagine. For now we embrace the busy, we embrace the messy, we embrace the crazy. And most of all, I wouldn't change a thing.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

When God Hasn't Said "Go" Yet

When God calls you to a specific mission field, whether it be domestic or international, when it's different from what has been your day-to-day mission field, it can bring a range of emotions; excitement, fear, nervousness, anxiety, etc. But I think for me the excitement always won out.

In September I had the extreme privilege of serving in Haiti for a week. When I knew God was calling me to go to Haiti, I felt all of those emotions and more. I travelled solo to a third world country, it was my first time flying in years, and it had been quite some time since I had last left the country. I had fear for sure, but overall, the excitement won out.

Coming home from Haiti was shocking to my body and to my emotions. To go from the life I had grown accustomed to in that short week to being back to the many luxuries I have in America within a matter of hours honestly made me feel like I didn't know what to do. As much as I had missed things like hot showers and ice all week, once I was back here, I desperately wanted to go back. My perfect world in those first few days back would have been to be back in Haiti with  my husband and girls. 

I still have so many days, where my heart breaks to go back and I have begged God to call me back to Haiti, but so far, the answer has just been "not yet". And I need to be real with y'all..that's hard for me. I want to be in charge and make the call and hop on a plane. But He gently and lovingly reminds me of the work He has me doing here in the moment. However, He also continues to heavily burden my heart for Haiti, and as much as it hurts sometimes, it is a comfort to me because it reminds me that He's not closing that door. 

For me, when God hasn't yet said "go" it's a struggle. I don't want to wait. I don't want to be patient. I just want to go. That's my nature. I want to be there holding those precious little children in my arms again. I want to have children climbing all over me for a simple treat like a piece of candy or nail polish that I never thought could bring so much joy. I want to be there untangling goats from the brush or worshipping on a small little rooftop church where language wasn't a barrier. I want to be walking with an amazing team of people praying over those we pass and having children run up to grab my hand. I want to be sweaty and dirty and covered in a greasy combination of sunscreen and bug spray. I want to be sleeping on a concrete rooftop with music in the background and chickens waking me up before the sun. 

But for now, I wait. I work here where He has lovingly placed me and wait for Him to say that precious word, "Go" again. Because when He does I'll be booking a flight faster than anyone you've ever seen. And there are some precious children I will be running to as fast as I can. 

While I'm waiting I will serve You
While I'm waiting I will worship
While I'm waiting I will not faint
I'll be running the race even while I wait.
(Josh Waller, "While I'm Waiting")

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Don't Miss a Haiti

There are few things I love more than hearing God speak to your heart exactly what you needed to hear and I graciously got to experience that tonight.

Y'all I am a people pleaser to a fault. I have been that way for as long as I can remember. Now, I'm not *quite* as bad I used to be in some aspects. I am very opinionated and convicted in my beliefs and for the most part have no trouble sharing them. Actually, at this stage of life, sometimes my struggle is taming my tongue (something that I NEVER thought would have been a struggle of mine). There are times that my mouth opens and words come out before I have even realized that I did more than think them. This is quite the opposite of who I was growing up.

Nevertheless, I am, at heart, a people pleaser. It is a character trait that fed into the struggle of the eating disorder and it fed into my rationale behind hiding my hurts at the root of the eating disorder. And it is absolutely, without a doubt, 100% a spiritual battlefield for me. 

There have been and are times that there is no doubt God is calling me or my family to something that maybe not everyone in our lives understands or is supportive of. That is a phenomenal struggle for me. It is hard for me to do something that people we love and care about aren't supportive of even when I know that the Lord has called me or my family to it. 

One example was Haiti. There were so many people I love and care about who were indescribably supportive of the Lord calling me to Haiti and I cannot ever express my gratitude--including my husband who parented solo all week while I was gone and gave up the opportunity to be with me on my birthday for the second year in a row. But not everyone I love and care about was supportive of the Lord calling me to Haiti. And I struggled with that. I doubted and second guessed. 

I look back at my time in Haiti and I am thankful with every fiber of my being that the Lord's calling won out over the desire to please men, because that week in Haiti was life changing in so, so many ways. Now, Haiti has a huge piece of my heart and I promise you that I will be back because the Lord has kept Haiti on my heart ever since I returned (and side note, my momma heart leaps every time Cathleen tells me she wants to get on an airplane and go to Haiti because bless her little three year old servant heart, when she is old enough, I will gladly serve alongside her in Haiti). 

But I can't help but wonder how many "Haiti's" I have missed out on because my fleshly desire to please people won out. 

Tonight I was reminded of Galatians 1:10. I was reminded that my love for my family should pale in comparison to my love for Christ (and guys I ADORE my children and husband...how much more then should I adore Christ?). I was reminded that answering God's calling as an individual and as a family will always require sacrifice and it will usually be a sacrifice that those closest to us may not understand, and therefore may not support. That's hard and it always will be hard, but that difficulty cannot inhibit God's calling to me as a woman after God's heart or to His calling to my family as a family that seeks to be His hands and feet in a hurting world and a picture of the Gospel to the most vulnerable.

I think that a lack of support can always be redeemed. I saw that some in Haiti...some of those who weren't so supportive saw my heart for Haiti when I returned...a heart for Haiti that could have only been planted by a God who loves the people of Haiti so much that He died for them. Just as Christ has redemptive power in our lives, He has redemptive power to reconcile those relationships that may be cracked because of a lack of understanding. When you follow His calling, there is power for them to see what God is doing through that calling and to switch gears. Does that always happen? No. Unfortunately there will sometimes be cracks that won't be mended. But those potential cracks cannot prevent us from loving Christ with abandon and pursuing His will and calling in our lives without hindrance. That has to come first.

Oh how my people pleasing heart needed this message tonight and to be reminded that this is absolutely a spiritual battle for me. If you needed to hear that too, please know that you are not alone and you are prayed for
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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Today We Played

I find it so easy sometimes to get caught up in everything that needs to be done. My to-do list seems never ending and sometimes, if I try to look ahead more than a few days, it feels a tad overwhelming.
Can you relate? Are you right there with me?
We just moved and I've been almost in robotic mode trying to get everything out of boxes and in its place. Today I finally realized that I am exhausted. I came home from church and fell fast asleep before I had even had lunch.
When I woke up to some news about a dear friend that wasn't what I had hoped for and begged God for, perspective kind of hit me. Everything in the house is going to get put away, just maybe not in our first week here. 

So, I went to the kitchen and sat down with my girls and helped them address their Valentine cards for school. We sat in the art room and colored pictures. They got on their bikes and I walked with them while they rode up and down our neighborhood. The soccer ball was kicked up and down our yard. Cathleen took a few rides on my back and we tried to entice a neighbor's cat to come near enough to the fence for us to say "hi". 
Laughs were abundant. Smiles were contagious. Everyone was having fun together.
Not long after we came inside a flood of rain came beating down on the windows and we all said how thankful we were that we were able to enjoy the time outside before it rained. And it hit me, that to-do list will still be here tomorrow. 
But one tomorrow, Cathleen won't want to kick the soccer ball with me anymore. One day a tomorrow will come when Audrey would rather spend time with her friends than in the art room with mom. One day a tomorrow will arrive and neither of them will be fighting for my attention. So today, the to-do list had to wait a few hours. Today, we played.
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Friday, January 20, 2017

May They Always Remember

The word legacy has popped up several times for me this week and I found it penetrating my heart this evening. 

I have about a twenty minute drive from when I get off work until I pick my youngest daughter up from her preschool. It is my twenty minutes to crank up my praise and worship music and wind down my heart.

But today I kept the music low and had some prayer time as I pondered over the word "legacy" and what it means to me. 

We all want to leave a legacy, but the question is: "What kind of legacy do you want to leave?"

How do you want to be remembered?

When my girls bury me, I hope they remember their momma as one fierce lady. 

I hope my daughters look at their momma and can without a doubt say that their momma loved Jesus, she loved people, and she unashamedly pursued the passions that God placed on her heart.

Our time on earth is limited and I don't want to spend mine just passing through and catering to my own selfish desires.

May my daughters always remember a momma who was passionate and never did anything half-heartedly. May they remember a momma who put Jesus first and valued people over anything else that this earth can provide.

May they remember a momma who loved them so much that she fought fiercely to make the world a better place for them, never being content to sit idly by and hope for the best. May they remember a momma who fell on her knees in prayer and then stood to her feet in action.

May they remember a momma whose voice cried out to Jesus in one breath and then in the next spoke up for the oppressed.

May they remember a momma who was nowhere close to perfect...who messed up on a daily basis...but who through those mistakes gained patience with others and learned to grant grace to those around her.

May they remember a momma who cared. May the word passive never be used in the same sentence with their momma's name, but rather, let passionate be used often.

May they remember a momma who taught them that they could be anything they wanted to be in life, but who also taught them the importance of fighting to make sure that every other person in this world was afforded that same privilege. May they remember a momma who taught them to look out for those who are so often overlooked; a momma who taught them that sacrificing for another person is never an inconvenience and it's always worth it.

I don't care if they look back and say "My momma was successful at everything she pursued" because that will never ever happen. As long as they look back and say that they know without a doubt that their momma loved Jesus and that she always pursued justice and compassion with everything that she had, then I will have been as successful as I could ever want to be.

A legacy of loving and sharing Jesus, loving people, passion, compassion, and kindness. That's what I will actively pursue to leave behind me.
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