Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Teen Beach and Brene Brown

This blog is sort of my personal dump. A place where I can take all my thoughts and pour them out into the great abyss of the interwebs. It's where I'm starting to work out my convictions and my passions. Some of you sweet friends have been reading along with me for three years now. Having a place to think on "paper" has given me the space to come to grips with my calling - the place where my burdens meet my gifting and talents (in the words of Jennie Allen)
(Also - did I mention I met her?)

The reason I write things like my letter to Anna Duggar is because I have a burden for women to be free. It is for freedom that Jesus set me free. And, as Jesus untangles me from the knots of shame and isolation, I just want other women to know the joy of the same! 

Side note: What is it about the human condition that when we experience something good we want others to experience it too? Well - the reverse is opposite too. As a friend pointed out, you know when you taste something disgusting and the first thing you do is shove the fork at whoever is next to you saying - "here, try this. it's so gross." Why do we do that? Haha. 

I know God has brought me soooooo far in the journey, but trust me, He's still got work to do. In the meantime, I just revel in the freedom He has brought me thus far, and so badly want it for other women. 

Chapter four of Brene Brown's newest book, Rising Strong, says this: 

You may not have signed up for a hero's journey, but the second you fell down, got your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment, screwed up, or felt your heart break, it started . . . The only decision we get to make is what role we'll play in our own lives: Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else? 

I don't want to get into a theological debate about God's sovereignty. His control and our choices play in our lives in some crazy tension that I don't fully understand and won't on this side of Heaven. But, I am determined to live wholeheartedly within the safe parameters of that tension. Again, the ever-wise Brene Brown says, "You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live outside of your story, hustling for your worthiness." I want to own my truth. 

When my life crumbled five years ago, I had to stop and make a careful exploration of who I was. I had built my life on what I was doing. On being a wife, a mom, homeschooling, my theology, going to an Acts 29 church. When I discovered infidelity in my marriage, that foundation crumbled in one fell swoop. (Side note: my ex-husband read my last blog and is fine with me sharing!) 

I discovered that I'd been finding my significance in all of those things instead of in Jesus. All of the above are "good things" but they are still a foundation of sand. When the foundation crumbled, I had to seek who I am in Jesus. It was messy. It still is messy. "The middle is messy, but it's also where the magic happens." (Thank you , again, Brene Brown. I swear you can read my mind.) 

My kids love a set of made for TV Disney movies - Teen Beach and Teen Beach 2. (Please don't email me about the evils of the Disney channel.)  The main characters, Brady and MacKenzie, end up trapped in a 1960s movie called Wet Side Story, all about surfers and bikers. MacKenzie meets the female lead, Layla. Layla sees that MacKenzie can make her own choices, that she doesn't follow a scripted status quo, and that she doesn't live for the approval of boys and the hopes of finding her dream boyfriend. 

In Teen Beach 2, MacKenzie and Brady have made it back to real life, but back movie-land Layla was changed forever by her encounter with MacKenzie. Layla wants to do math and engineering. Layla wants in on the adventure that the boys go on. So, she shakes things up and she does it all. And, the name of the movie changes from Wet Side Story to Layla, Queen of the Beach.
I love the song at the end of the movie, "That's How We Do," 

And there's a fresh breeze headed down the beach
Saving me from the heat
A new beginning on a wave of endless possibility 
I feel a good change comin' round the bend
Can't help but move my feet
It's a different story cause I changed the end
I make my own destiny

You guys. There's a fresh breeze blowing among us. We can't change what has happened to any of us. But we can say a "hearty yes to our adventure." (Joseph Campbell).  We can change the end. It can be a different story because of what we choose to do in the middle. 

I know I'm pouring out a lot of Brene Brown. But, man, she's so good: 

When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don't go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending - to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how the story ends. 

So let's rumble with our truth. I know, I know. It shakes things up. It makes people uncomfortable. It makes ourselves uncomfortable. But, let's press in to Jesus, safe in His care for us, and let Him show us who we are in Him. When we know that identity, it allows us to be brave with our stories and brave with each other. In sharing our stories, God works and make us wholehearted!

Honestly, I don't have a neat and tidy ending for this one. My thoughts could trail on forever. So, I guess go read Brene Brown's books and watch Teen Beach. But, don't say I didn't warn you that Brene's books will change you forever AND the Teen Beach songs will be stuck in your head for days.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dear Anna Duggar

Ever since the most recent Josh Duggar scandal news broke, I've had an aching heart for his sweet wife, Anna. I finally wrote her a letter with things I wish someone had said to me five years ago.

Look. I'm done with the shame that surrounds the women in these situations.

Enough with it. Enough with the shame.

I get together every month or so with some amazing, awesome, beautiful, funny, smart women. We also have an epic group text going. They've been through similar trauma to Anna Duggar and myself. It's bonded us together. It's definitely a cool group to hang with. But, trust us, you don't want to qualify for it.

Not so long ago, we discussed the shame we've felt. The fact that deep down, even if they don't want to admit it, a lot of people think that our husbands' infidelity and indiscretions were ultimately our fault. That somehow, we had some fault that drove them away. Or that behind closed doors we were impossible, horrible witches so really we left our husbands with no choice.

We've felt more shame than if we'd actually done something wrong.

We wonder what people think about us. At times, our insecurities have shot up like skyscrapers.

So, it's time to start talking. Silence creates more shame. Bringing it into the light makes the shame fall away.

I know this letter is sort of dorky. But really, underneath the make-up, skinny jeans and Frye boots, I'm still the same dorky girl with bad hair that I was in middle school. So bear with me. And, if you are in her shoes, I pray that some part of this might help you put the pieces back together.

Dear Anna,

I wish I could fly across the country to Arkansas and give you a giant hug. I wish I could come help you with your sweet kids and give you room to live, breathe and think. Four and a half years ago, I was you. Three babies instead of four - but like your sweet baby Meredith,  my third was only four weeks old.

I wasn't in the public eye. I've never been on TV or been a celebrity. But, I have discovered infidelity, felt the shock and the intense trauma when the bottom fell out. I've cried out to God, sobbing in the middle of the night from emotional pain that hurt so badly, I could swear I felt my heart physically break. I literally wanted to die, and cried out to Jesus that He could come back any time. I was ready.

I've wondered why my formula hadn't worked. Why good theology, homeschool, church and praying didn't "work." I wanted to know why my obedience and my "perfect" lifestyle had utterly failed. I sunk into depression as I faced the devastation of betrayal and mentally combed through my life with a fine tooth comb to find an answer -- what I could have done better, where I must have failed, what I said or didn't say.

I so badly wanted to be able to take the blame, just so I could have the satisfaction of an answer. Or at least make some cognitive peace with a life that now seemed to be nothing more than an illusion. I was disoriented and was grasping at the air, in a free fall, trying to get my feet to land on solid ground. Like spinning on a tilt-a-whirl, desperate to be able to fix my brain in some concrete place. Life had become an intense roller coaster. Albeit, not one I had stepped onto voluntarily. Rather, a ride I woke up on one day. Strapped in by the safety bar and unable to get off.

Sweet Anna. None of this is your fault. Not even one tiny bit. Not a crumb. Not a millisecond of it. True, you are not perfect. You are a vile sinner. Yes, in your human condition, you deserve Hell.

But sister, you do not own one ounce of responsibility for your husband's sin, his deliberate choice to break your marriage covenant. And, don't tell me that if I only knew how awful you were, I would see the truth.

I don't care how witchy you might have been. I don't care how lacking your physical relationship may have been. I could watch footage of your entire life, every moment and every step and I would never be convinced that this is your fault - not in whole and not in part. Your husband's actions were his and his alone. There's a great God in Heaven who has watched it all, and He agrees!

Please, take care of yourself. 

Yes, I believe in God's power to redeem and restore. I believe God is so big that He can restore your marriage.

I also know you are God's daughter - one He cares for deeply. And also a daughter who currently has a big, open wound. When I was back at the beginning, where you are now, I felt torn down to nothing. But, God rebuilt me. He will rebuild you. 

You are Josh Duggar's wife. Maybe you are called to this marriage, homeschooling, and the Duggar life. But those things do not define YOU. God defines you. You are more than your marriage. You are more than a mom to four gorgeous kids. God cares about you. And you are His. And He cares most about you knowing Him and His love for you.

So please. Lean into Jesus and those around you who love you. Don't believe the lies that this is your fault, and that you could have stopped it if you'd been better. 

You are a gem. Your life is not over. God has big plans for you, no matter what the outcome of this big, giant mess. 


All my love, 

Jocelyn (a slightly crazy girl in Oregon who always, secretly, really thought it sounded like fun to have 19 kids)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Give Them the Word

I have some time to write. We'll just call this last week the attack of strep throat and canker sores. Good gracious. All three of my boys had strep throat. And, canker sores decided to invade my tonsils. Pain from the pit of hell. I'm telling you. It's awful. But, it's also giving me some time to type while my busy little 2 year old nugget is actually happy just watching Toy Story (for the first time, by the way. It's magical watching him realize that Buzz and Woody come to life).

A few weeks ago, I had one of those days where I was really ready for bedtime. Meaning the kids' bedtime. I was not overly patient about the million questions that my kids were using to stall bedtime. Maybe I raised my voice. I guess you could call it yelling. But, whatever. It was ugly.

As I tucked Jameson into bed, he told me I hadn't been very nice. I wish I could insert that cringe emoticon right here. Out of the mouths of babes.

By God's grace, I slowed down and apologized. Jameson asked I why I was mean. I explained that just like him and his siblings, I am a sinner who desperately needs Jesus to save me.

For some reason, this broke the dam on a waterfall of questions about what sin is, and why we need Jesus, and how in the world does Jesus dying on the cross do anything to save us. Jameson had very evidently been listening at BSF and church and conversations around the house, taking in God's Word. Like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, he needed someone to explain it to him.

Right there in his bottom bunk, sweet Jameson realized that he desperately needs Jesus.

Thus began his own journey with his Creator, and the angels had quite the party that night.

Sometimes when you say no, it really means yes. Because it's summer. And getting soaking wet in your clothes is just fun.

I went to bed humbled. You know what? Jesus doesn't need me. Graciously, even after my anger toward my kids, Jesus allowed me to explain Him to Jameson. But, it was God's Word that did the work. He was not going to let me and my grumpiness get in the way. He says Himself, "[My Word] shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11).

Give them the Word, moms. Yes, I'm being bossy. But heck, when I was little, the neighbors called me Bossy Jossy. So, I'll just own it. Give them the Word.

You are going to have days where you are struggling. You are going to have days where you are empty. You are going to have days where you are bound by exhaustion or depression or anxiety or anger. There are days when the reality of your human limits is going to feel all too real. 

But, God's Word is not bound! (2 Timothy 2:9) It's just not. It's not bound by anything. In fact, Jesus is free and scandalous enough to use my sin to begin a conversation with Jameson about a Holy God and salvation. It's by His Word that He works.

God has chosen you as your children's mother. It was not by chance or happenstance. But, ultimately, it is God who will woo your son or daughter to Himself. You may be an instrument in the Redeemer's hands, but you yourself are not the Redeemer. There's a reason that God Himself came to redeem your children. It's because you couldn't. No matter how true it is that you would be willing to take their place, you just can't. And no matter how much you sacrifice for them, you can't give them salvation.

So, I'll say it again. Give them the Word. God's Word goes out and moves hearts. It was God's Word that moved a four year old to love and believe in Him. The Word is what will be constant and stay with your kids no matter how old they get, what happens to you, or what trials come their way. 

Give them the Word. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Tell Your Story

Okay you guys. I have something to say.


Please. Tell it. I know it's hard. I know you might not want to. But tell it. I know that some people might tell you not to. They say you're airing your dirty laundry. But, you don't have to tell the gritty details.

Someone out there needs your story. If you have walked it out, and known Jesus more through it, then you have LIVED on so many levels. You survived physically and spiritually and emotionally. If you called to the Lord in your distress and He answered you, then you have a story to tell. If you took refuge in Him, if He was your helper. If you trusted in Him and He was your strength and your salvation then He has worked in your life.

The psalmist said:

"I shall not die, but I shall LIVE,
AND recount the deeds of the Lord." (Psalm 118:17)

Not just live. But also RECOUNT the deeds of the Lord. Tell them. Repeat them. Give Him the Glory.

Your story is Hope. It is Hope spoken, Hope texted, Hope written.

It is Hope.

Real, tangible hope for others who might be going through something similar.

Or maybe not even something similar. But, just something. God comforts us in ALL our affliction, so that we may 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).

So tell your story.

You won't regret it.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Friday Afternoon

Friday afternoon, I found myself sitting on my best friend's back porch. Her boys are Marshall's best friends in the world and he was in little boy heaven spending the night with them on Thursday night. I swore I was just going to pick Marshall up and not stay to visit. Haha. No way. Ever since their family moved about an hour away, we soak up every minute we can get with them. Okay, actually, we've always been like that. I've been known to be at her house for hours past the time I was planning to leave.

This friend is in a small circle of women who I let in on the details of my life. I mean the gritty details. My true unfiltered feelings. My ugly crying and occasional swearing. I've yelled and screamed and sobbed with her. Once when life was really messy, she talked me into going home while I walked around my neighborhood after a run, refusing to go home. She has dropped everything for me more times than I can count. She has been with me on the very worst days of my life. And she always, always, always points me back to Jesus. Always. 

Sitting on her patio the other day, I couldn't help but cry. Remembering when we'd first met at BSF almost nine years ago. We had these lives back then. Charming suburban lives. Beautiful house, nice neighborhood, cute kid, hardworking husband, stay at home mom, Bible study, wrap it up with a bow, pretty package lives. We didn't really know suffering or trials or brokenness. Young moms who talked on the phone about preschools, nap times and avoiding germs. 

It didn't take long before things started to get real. Her family was called to foster care. The twists and turns of that journey have brought joy and heartache that they never could have foreseen. I was walking out a broken and reconciled marriage, then a shattered marriage, divorce and single momhood.  And in the midst of those major story lines were the simple everyday moments, bitter, sweet, extraordinary and mundane moments that make up a life. 

I looked at my dear friend sitting across from me, listening to our 9 (yes, nine!) kids playing together, and was overcome with God's goodness. Sometimes, when we are drowning in the difficult, it feels impossible to take a breath. The waves of sorrow overtake us and seem to pull us under. We wonder how there could ever be an end to the pain - let alone purpose to any of it or even the hope of redemption. 

Yet, there is relief. There is purpose. And there is so much redemption. God comforts us in our suffering so we can comfort others in theirs. 

My friend's path and mine have been so different. Our journeys are not identical by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, this woman has spurred me on. As the Lord has comforted her in her troubles, she has been able to turn around and offer that same comfort to me in mine. I see a woman transformed by the Lord through the trials. I see wisdom gained and Christlikeness emerging. And, I was overwhelmed by all that God has done in, for and through my dear friend. 

If we'd known. If we'd known the pain and the gut-wrenching sobs, the trials and the sleepless nights. If we'd known the paths the Lord had set before us. We never would have taken them. Heck no. I mean, we were moms who were terrified of our kids just getting the occasional virus. 

But we were forced to walk by faith and I'm so grateful for it. I'm so grateful that God had bigger plans than we could have imagined. I'm so glad that we suffered and walked through hardship with Jesus. It's not the Christian life that either of us imagined. We've lost those lives over the years. But in losing our lives, we found them. In letting those lives die, seeds were planted and took root and brought forth new, beautiful life with deep roots in Jesus. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Death Grip on My Kingdom

Let me introduce you to my new friend, a king named Balak.

I recently studied about Balak in Numbers 22-25 and I saw myself. If you know Balak's story, you know that this could prove to be unfortunate.

As the Israelites were camped on the Promised Land's border, Balak was the king of a nation called Moab. Moab's people watched as Israel defeated Sihon and Og, their neighbors to the north. The Israelites defeated the Amorites, who had previously defeated Moab. In Balak's logic, that must mean the Israelites could and would defeat them too.

By faith, Balak could have turned to the true and living God for help. The Moabites were descendants of Lot, Abraham's cousin. (Genesis 11-14; 19). [Though Lot had a messy and inconsistent faith, He is remembered as a righteous man. (2 Peter 2:7-8). Righteousness does not come from being "good," God credits faith as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6).]

Sadly, Balak forgot, either intentionally or through neglect, some truths about the God of his forefathers. He forgot that Lot's God is true, living, active and totally sovereign. If God wanted the Moabites inhihilated, they could do nothing to stop it. Or, maybe Balak intentionally ignored God's sovereignty because He didn't want God messing up the kingdom that he had in his possession and power. Turning to the true God might disrupt Moab's deeply entrenched pagan culture and habits. Balak's approval ratings as king of Moab would surely plummet.

Forgetting God's true character led Balak to fear, worry, and stew over the Israelites impending march on the Promised Land. Rather than being delivered from his fear, Balak was driven deeper into it. Without faith, Balak grasped for control of destiny, seeking help from a well-known diviner named Balaam. Divination uses supernatural knowledge and dark powers to gain control and an advantage in the universe. Balak offered Balaam large sums of money to curse Israel. When Balaam told Balak that God commanded that Israel could not be cursed, Balak spent untold resources sending his people to travel all over with Balaam trying to convince him to curse them anyway.

Balak's efforts were futile. God is sovereign. He can't be manipulated. His plans can't be thwarted.

Balaam not only refused to curse Israel, he blessed them.

God was on Israel's side. No human or worldly power was going to prevail against them.

If we know Jesus, God is on our side. No human power can prevail against us.

In my last post, I gave this definition of fear: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc.,whether the threat is real or imagined. The impending danger to the Moabites was imagined. Unbeknownst to Balak, God had said to Moses, "Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. I have given [it] to the descendants of Lot as a possession." (Deuteronomy 2:9).

If Balak had just waited patiently, God's plan would have unfolded -- a plan that left the Moabites' territory unscathed. Instead Balak wasted a lot of manpower, brainpower and other resources trying to prevent something that wasn't even a real threat. He was determined to stop this "impending" danger that he had concocted in his own mind. Balak would spare no cost, and would stop at nothing, in order to keep his grip on his kingdom.

Here's where I began to sense the similarities between Balak and me. When I forget God's true character, I worry, fear, and stew over the future. I find myself holding onto my life with a formidable death grip, imagining all kinds of impending dangers that could threaten my plans. These dangers are not "real." They might be thoughts that are confirmed to be true later. But, as I'm worrying, none of them have actually come to pass.

As fear spins around and around in my head, it grows bigger and begins to take on a life of its own. Those imagined dangers become my brain's warped reality. Sometimes fear can lead us to do some crazy things. But, it can also lead us to do some things that aren't so crazy. Things that are rational. Things that the world would say are acceptable, even commendable. For example, Balak's use of a diviner might seem crazy to us, bringing to mind late night informercials for psychic phone lines. But, in that culture, diviners were a very logical option. No one would have thought twice about divination's validity. According to worldly standards, Balak was making wise and savvy use of his country's resources in order to gain an upper hand and control.

What seems wise in the eyes of the world is often foolish to the Lord. "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them." (1 John 4:4-5). What God cares about is me having a heart that trusts Him. He wants me to believe and act as if His Word is true. His Word says He is in complete control, He loves me perfectly, and wants what's best for me. If that's true, why would I follow the way of the world by trying to control my life?

In Philippians 4:8, we are exhorted to think on whatever is true, which doesn't leave room for ruminating on the dangers, toils and snares that my brain has imagined. Like Balak, I want to keep my "kingdom" the way I have it, under my control. Also like Balak, any control I fancy myself having is smoke and mirrors. Whether or not I remember or choose to believe it, God is still totally sovereign. His plans can't be thwarted. "He is in heaven; He does whatever pleases Him" (Psalm 115:3).

This truth used to totally freak me out, just like it had Balak scrambling to keep his kingdom. When I first began wrestling with God's sovereignty, I would almost meltdown. The lack of control it gave me was enough to give me a full-blown panic attack. I thought I needed that control. I thought I wanted my life just the way I had it. I liked my husband, children, house, Suburban, homeschool, cookie baking, perfect Christmas card, Bible study life. The thought of any piece of it crumbling was just too much for me.

Then my life blew up and some of the pieces of my kingdom imploded. And it was hard and it was painful. But, I saw God and I knew that He had a plan and that I could rest in it. I would even tell you that I'm thankful for the pain I walked through, because it changed me in the best way possible and I would never go back to the way I was before. I resolved to never doubt again. To hold loosely to things in this life. And I wrote posts about being Fearless and handing all of my stuff over to the Lord and letting Him have His Way.

But . . . as life went on, I acquired new pieces to my kingdom. And, I found myself once again holding on to them with a chokehold that would squeeze the life out of the most formidable opponent. I found myself full of fear and anxiety that something might not go the way I want it to. And I found myself acting in my fear, wanting to control everything, wanting to manipulate things to help God get it "right." Forgetting that those things are not really mine, they are His because "the earth is the Lord's and EVERYTHING in it." (Psalm 24:1).

Thankfully, God has stepped in and said, "enough." He's not letting me keep circling the same mountain of fear and anxiety that I've circled before. Praise Jesus. By His Grace, He's breaking the cycle. He's using the lessons He taught me before to help me choose a different way of doing things. Every time I turn around, He's helping me to be willing to have my kingdom shaken up a little. I'm learning to rest in whatever His plan might be. It takes intentional practice to wait patiently and see what God is doing behind the scenes. He's shown me that I don't want to continue in Balak's footsteps, fighting for a kingdom that wasn't in jeopardy.

For the past week, I've been listening to a song on repeat that says: "So let go, my soul, and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name." The same Jesus who showed me He was trustworthy four years ago, and worthy of being trusted with my kingdom, is still the same Jesus today. I knew I could be fearless because the storm had no choice but to obey Him. Nothing has changed. He's given me everything I need to let go of my futile attempts at control and to just wait for His good plans to unfold.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Strong and Courageous

One of the themes that God is screaming at me is Be Strong and Courageous.

Be Strong and Courageous.

At Bible Study Fellowship this year, we are studying the Life of Moses, which is also the story of the Israelite's journey from Egypt/Slavery to the Promised Land/Freedom. IF:Gathering was centered on Joshua and the Israelites taking the Promised Land. Last weekend's retreat centered on that same journey.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

God is screaming at me. Not whispering. Screaming.

It's a command. Not a suggestion. But, before I depict God as a hard-driving taskmaster, let me say that the beauty is that He does the work in me to make me strong. Just when I think I'm going to cave in fear, anxiety and worry, God steps in and works strength and courage into my heart. This is not a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of command. This is a begging and pleading with God to give me what I need kind of command.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fear. (Psalm 34:4)

That verse doesn't say he delivered me from all of the things, situations, people and places I fear. It says that He will deliver me from my fear. Let's get technical. Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc.,whether the threat is real or imagined. It is the feeling or condition of being afraid. Another definition says that fear is anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur. That emotion, feeling, condition or anticipation is what God delivers us from. 

Jesus says do not be terrified . . . for I will be with you wherever you go. For the past couple of months I have had an intense internal struggle with being terrified, scared that life won't work out the way I want it to. However, God is getting to the root of my heart. He's showing me that I fear because I don't actively remember what difference it makes that He is with me. It's in these times that I have believed a lie that God is just passively there, inactive, just watching as I hurt. Yes, I am thinking that He loves me and has sympathy for me. But, not thinking of Him as doing anything about it. 

But, God cannot be separated from His character and I have to cooperate with the Spirit and purposely appropriate the Truth that I know about Him from His Word. As my friend Sarah said yesterday: "Yes, we need to build that temple to honor Him and what He's done, but we too have to quit circling that same mountain and turn North (Deuteronomy 2: 2-3)." For me, turning North is going to require taking my anxious thoughts captive and choosing to think on who God REALLY is. 

If He is with me then He is totally in control. Totally sovereign. He's not just with me. He is actively and intimately involved in, and in control, of the details of my life. Whatever I am suffering might not look like I think it should or what I hoped for, but I have a fixed blessing from God who said "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5; Deut. 31:6). 

Hebrews 13:6 goes on to say "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid." God is not passive. He is not only with us, He helps us. God wasn't just with the Israelites, He made it clear that it was Him who won the battles. As Moses told the Israelites, "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent." (Exodus 14:14). 

When we start believing the lie that God is just there, an inactive bystander, let's combat that lie with the Truth. Jesus is not made by the hands of men, He is not like the idols that we create . . . idols who cannot see, hear, small, feel, walk, or talk. (See Psalm 115). Instead, He fights, He saves, He delivers, He provides, He leads, He protects, He speaks, He cares, He heals, He creates. Intricately involved in our lives, Jesus changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. (Daniel 2:21). The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a river wherever He pleases. (Proverbs 21:1). 

Remembering God's true character is what causes the knowledge of His presence to give me true joy and peace. It's what allows me to take courage. It allows me to stop being afraid. I'm learning to purposely seek Him, asking Him to help me remember who He REALLY is and what He REALLY does, and in that constant remembering He is delivering me from my fear. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Same Old Song

This past weekend, I had the privilege of getting away with one of my dearest friends, Lauren, as she served as a retreat speaker for the first time ever. God worked through her in amazing ways. It was pure joy to just be there and take it all in. Okay, it was also glorious to sleep through the night both nights and take a loooong nap on Saturday.

During her final speaking session, Lauren talked about Joshua 4, where God commands the Israelites to create a memorial of stones after they crossed the Jordan River. Lauren encouraged us to similarly remember what God is doing in our lives. And, I was reminded of something I'd written almost three years ago:

Last night we sat on a back patio having dinner with new friends. A friendship the Lord brought together in real life via two girls writing two blogs. Sarah and I could have crossed paths in many other ways and other times. But the Lord chose to use now and our writing to cause our families's lives to collide. 

And we get the joy of experiencing the Lord, as He pulls back the veil just a bit so that we can see the way He weaves our lives and days with the journeys of others around us. And in those moments there is just no denying that He places us where we are. That He is Sovereign over our moments, our comings and goings. That He alone orchestrates where we are and who are we with. That He hems us in behind and before.

In Joshua 4, the Israelites finally crossed into Israel, under Joshua's leadership. The Lord told Joshua to tell twelve men to each take a stone from the Jordan River. The men were to carry them across the Jordan River, into Israel. The stones were set up as a memorial for the Israelites and their children to remember forever what the Lord had done for them.

We (thus far in life) don't have a river that needs crossing and we haven't been wandering in the desert for 40 years. We have other wanderings, other struggles. But, God shows up in the midst of it all in so many ways. Sometimes it's in providing a new friendship when we weren't expecting it.  Such a blessing. And as we interact with people who He has placed in our lives, they are almost like a memorial in themselves. They remind us of the way the Lord orchestrated a friendship. Far more fun than a dozen stones, I might add.

And, recording those moments where the veil is pulled back gives us memorials to look back on, later in life, in times of doubt. It gives us another way to remember. And then for our children to know and remember the ways God was at work in their lives, too. Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts, says, "[i]n memory, the shape of God's yesterday-heart emerges and assures of God's now-heart and reassures of his sure beat tomorrow."

Ann's words articulate my heart in blogging and recording our memories. That our family would look back and, in our own history, see God's faithfulness in the biggest details and the smallest. Then, when the next storm comes, we would be able to trust His goodness in the midst of it, even when we can't see clearly what He is doing, because He has always shown up in the past. And that we could live, walking into each of our tomorrows, without anxiety and worry because we know by experience just how Good He is.

When I wrote that blog post, in early summer of 2012, life looked so different than it does now. I had faced betrayal on the deepest level in my marriage, but we were recovering and God was at work. I remember telling Chris and Sarah over dinner that I was just barely pregnant with Morrow. (Seriously, I could never keep it a secret for the whole first trimester). And, I was on the verge of stepping into an honesty and vulnerability in my life that would forever change my friendships and my relationship with Jesus.

Since then, Morrow Isaiah has joined our family. My kids have grown about a million feet and a hundred clothes sizes. Jameson talks now, all the time. God is choosing to redeem my heartache in a different way than I would have chosen. The next storm, has indeed come my way. We've gone through a divorce. My kids are facing heartache and suffering that I never would have chosen for them. The pain has been real and deep.

Yet, in it all, God has shown up. Over and over. Binding up our broken hearts. Already giving me glimpses of the ashes being turned into beauty. Already giving me gladness instead of mourning and a reason to praise instead of a spirit of despair. He has been the comfort in my grieving. He has shown up in His people who have surrounded my kids and me with their love and presence.

So, I need to:

(1) go back and read the things I have written;

and (2) write and record more.

When I went back to re-read that three year old blog post I found myself in tears and laughing. Laughing because three years later, I find myself starting to re-record the same dang lessons. My blog is like a continual repeat of the same song.  And, I was crying because God knew I needed to re-read that. He knew I needed this words: "[i]n memory, the shape of God's yesterday-heart emerges and assures of God's now-heart and reassures of his sure beat tomorrow." He is saying to me what those lyrics to Oceans say: I haven't failed you yet and I won't start now. Going back and re-visiting those memorials just gives me the assurance that this promise is true!

I need to continue building memorials to the things that He is doing because they are breathtaking. God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites and within three days they were freaking out about what they didn't have. I am such a freaking Israelite.  God has parted the Red Sea for me in more ways than I can even begin to keep track of in my forgetful mind. Yet, I get anxious and freaked out and doubt that this time He will come through.

So for the millionth time, I'm re-starting to write. Is that allowed? Can I re-start for the millionth time? Well, I hope so. Because I am.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gather, Equip & Unleash Women (IF:Gathering 2015)

The last four years of my life have brought trials and suffering that I never expected. My path has not been one of "happily ever after." There has been loss and heartache and pain. 

Jesus has been with me every step of the way. He hasn't failed me yet. And, I wouldn't change any of it because of the work that the Lord has done in me through it all. 

If you had told me when I was a naive, big-eyed college student all that I would walk through over the next 15 years I never would have signed up to follow Jesus. No way. No how. 

However, I can genuinely say today that it, all of it, is well with my soul. 

Before my life got messy, I loved Jesus. I wanted others to know Him. 

But, something happened in me during the slow hours of suffering. Jesus brought me closer to Himself. I remember days when I would sigh with relief at the passing of every hour because I knew it brought me one step closer to the end of another day. I clung desperately to Jesus and His Word and the Hope that only He can give. 

I survived. I lived. I made it. I came out the other side with a passion for women to know Jesus for who He really is and to live like He is real. Not just safe, moralistic, right-wing conservative, smiling, happy Christian lives. I have a burning desire to see women know God's Word for themselves and to hear Him speak there. I want women to know Jesus in whatever He calls them to walk through and to have the hope that I have in Him. 

Then I read Jennie Allen's book, Anything, and she spoke my language. Reading her words felt like my heart being spilled out in black and white in front of my eyes. 

Jennie started a conference called IF:Gathering a year ago in Texas, with live webcasts all over the world. Some of you might remember that I had a group of women over to my home for several Friday nights to watch the conference. When I first offered on Facebook to have friends over to watch the speakers, I really only expected a small response. But, the response was huge and immediate and about 20-25 women filled my living room each week. Women stayed for hours after each week to discuss life and Jesus and their hearts and trials. 

IF:Gathering is happening again this year, and there will be a live webcast of the the event here in Salem. The gathering brings together women from all over the world to humbly seek God and to equip them to better live out their callings. The IF leadership team seek to model, resource, and empower women so that they create fresh, honest spaces in their local contexts to wrestle with essential questions of faith. 

I crave real. I crave God. I crave other women to encourage each other on as we follow Jesus and dream about what God can do through the laying down of our lives in obedience to Him. 

And, I know many of you crave that too because I've heard from you that you do. 

So if you do, join me at the local IF:Gathering here in Salem with women from all over the Willamette Valley. The event will be held February 6 and 7 at Church on the Hill (2707 Maranatha Ct SE. Turner, OR 97392). The conference is completely donation based and requires a minimum $1 donation to register, but women are encouraged to give according to their ability. 

Register at

Monday, January 12, 2015

To Live and Proclaim What the Lord has Done

This was one of those mornings that went nothing like I had planned. The Mo-man woke up with a gross, green snotty nose so the church nursery wasn't an option. I may or may not have been thinking "yes! I can get the grocery shopping done with just one kid!" Wait. Did I just admit that? Forgive me, Lord. Pray for my soul, friends.

Anyway - my older babes headed off to church with their grandparents. Morrow and I piled into the Suburban with a loooooong list of groceries and other random last minute Christmas things. I mean, no matter how many times I go shopping at Christmastime there is just one more something that has to be picked up. This was my chance to get it all done quick. Morrow would sit in the cart and no one else would be in tow. Sorry Fred Meyer shoppers for sharing our germs.

But, Morrow had other plans. I knew that dazed, open-mouthed look too well. Just as Fred Meyer came into sight, Morrow's big blue eyes fluttered to sleep and he was out cold with those sweet chubby cheeks puffing up with every breath. Poor baby with a cold, could I really deny him a nap?

So, there I was in the Fred Meyer parking lot. Me, a sleeping Morrow, and a store full of things I thought I needed - so close and yet so far away all at the same time.

What's a girl to do with all that quiet?

This time Jesus and Starbucks won out over Candy Crush.

I found myself in Psalm 40:

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord."

Just that week I had received a phone call from an old friend.  She had heard about my recent struggles and wanted to check on me. I had no idea where she was with Jesus, or what she'd think about me when I started talking about Him. I hesitated. But, He has been so good to me, I had no choice. It was overflowing out of me and I found myself telling her all that Jesus had done for the kids and for me.

Maybe she thought I was crazy. That I am a religious nut who is way too into Jesus. I'm not sure.

I wish I could say that I had no shame in the Gospel. That I never had a moment's hesitation in speaking Jesus's name. That I never gave my reputation a second thought. But I did hesitate. And I don't always attribute praise to Jesus for how well I am doing and for the blessings I have received. Sometimes I don't attribute glory to Him and I just give the easy answer that we are doing well.

So, as I read Psalm 40, I thought, "Lord, by your grace, may it be so. May I live as if you are real, because you are. May many see all that you have done for me. May they hear the new song that you have put in my mouth and may they fear You and put their trust in You."

In the crazy of my life over the past eight months, the Lord's right hand has done mighty things. I did not think I would ever survive divorce and becoming a single mom. I think I expected to shrivel up and die. But, like the psalmist in Psalm 118, "I will not die but LIVE, and will proclaim what the Lord has done."

But, only by God's grace can we live through the unthinkable and only by God's grace can we have such a new song placed in our heart that we will proclaim all that He has done without fear of man and their opinion. Because oh! what a privilege it would be to see many fear and trust the Lord because of anything He has done for me. Grace upon grace upon grace.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jesus at 3:00 a.m.

Here we go. Six days into January.  And, day 5 was a horrendous mess. A difficult situation with one of my kids that blindsided me on a day when I was already emotional because of exhaustion. Me feeling helpless and misunderstood. And wanting to control it all, even though I'm powerless in it. So, I ran from Jesus instead of to Him. And ran to friends and looked for comfort from them. Looked for comfort in human words and reassurance. And then God used a friend to remind me of how much I need Him. And that He is in control of the crazy whether I like it or not, and that ultimately the outcome of conflict is His to determine. And, am I going to trust Him that So then finally I tried to pray, and tried to hand it all over to Jesus, but it's a process, you know?

The day dragged on yesterday. Before the tough-kid-situation popped up, I was already exhausted from an incredibly loooonnnng week of the cold from h-e-l-l that had plagued our entire household.We hadn't been sick like that in a loooonnnngggg time and I was reminded of why I became such a germ-a-phobe when Marshall and Eliza were toddlers. Because having a toddler who is whining incessantly all day long because they don't feel good, and you can't have playdates or go to church because of their gross green nose, and then Mommy gets the virus too and feels like her head is going to explode but can't get the sleep she needs to fight the bug because she's up with said toddler while he can't sleep at night, and you swear that this child has an ear infection and won't the pediatrician please say its true so that amoxicillin can fix it all, but oh nope its just a virus, a stupid horrible evil virus that makes me feel like i'm going to lose my ever-loving mind. And everyone is cooped up inside. And it's too cold for them to stay outside longer than 15 minutes. And the bickering - oh the bickering -and the only place you can go is the Starbucks drive thru. And then let's drive out to the drive-thru dry cleaner. And maybe the drive-thru donuts (wait, did I really just say that?). But the beauty is that everyone is strapped into their car seats and Morrow can't climb any shelves, flood any bathrooms, color on any walls, or continuously ask for snacks that he will then leave all over the house.

Seriously. I would not have made it back in Little House on the Prairie days. Bless Ma's heart. I have no freaking clue how she held it together in that covered wagon with measles, diphtheria and typhoid fever.

So, here I am. Up at 3:00 in the morning realizing my deep need for Jesus and that I don't need to lie to Him. I can be real with Him that the past week has sucked and yesterday was the proverbial cherry on top. And let's just admit it. I have had a shiztastic attitude this past week. I have yelled and snapped. I've been grumpy and emotional. Content is not a word I would have used to describe me. I've been less-than-kind and no, in fact, I haven't been in the Word or praying so much.

But what matters is that at 3:00 in the morning, He pulled me back to Himself. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Yet He never loses sight of the treasure which he has placed in my earthen vessel. So good is His Grace which pulls me back to Him and beckons me to cling to Him. To cling to Him in the long, tedious monotony of sick toddlers. To cling to Him in the loneliness of doing this as a single mom. To cling to Him when I feel overwhelmed by guilt and shame over my less than perfect mothering. Just to cling to Him. And know Him. Which means He has given me gold out of this valley of the shadow.