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.