Dreams, God-sized dreams

On God-Given Dreams

August 24, 2016

Yesterday morning I climbed the stairs to my office room,  sat down at my desk and lit a candle. There is nothing special about this, it’s a near daily activity I like to do before the sun fully rises. This is the space between my waking and my reality, before the kids rouse for breakfast and schooling and too many activities for a tired mama to face without having had some time to think about things other than school and laundry, and what on earth we’re having for dinner. These are my morning hours.

desk

On my desk, sits a notebook, a floppy moleskine purchased in a three-pack at a book store. Its nothing fancy, it’s plain, nondescript. It’s as unorganized as I am , holding within it’s pages everything from workout repetition counts, to my next book idea.There’s a page full of simple math, where I crunched numbers for the upcoming Refine Retreat, and a page full of notes from a conversation with an editor about a different project.  It holds prayer requests and the random grocery list, followed by to-do’s and names of people I’d like to meet. But there are other pages in there, 3 pages in particular, that I hadn’t read since the day I scribbled across them.

I thought I could handle those words. I had just told a friend the day before, how they no longer stung and I had “moved on”, but as it turns out, that wasn’t entirely true.

The sting of a difficult word can be a slow wound to heal.

I have stared hard at those words and prayed about what parts of them (if any) are true, and what parts of them are completely false–what do I need to keep, and what do I need to throw away? I’ve swung the ugly pendulum of believing all of them to be true, and allowed that weight to sink me, and then I’ve flung back to a place where I’ve ignored it all. But the truth, as they say, is somewhere in the middle. And so rather than burn the fragments of a difficult conversation, I hold on to it, I continue to pray over it, while trying not to let the sharp parts cut me too deeply.

What I have decided not to let it do, is kill a dream.

Self-awareness can be both exciting and difficult, because to be truly aware, we have to face our light and our dark. Our strengths and our weaknesses. You can’t ignore any of it. So the discouraging words spoken to me weeks ago will sit here in this journal while I figure out what bits are for growth, and what portion must be rejected.

What I want to say to you is this, if someone has spoken a difficult word to you, I am sorry. If you have sat by while someone has stripped you down of the vision God has planted in you, my heart hurts with yours. I know your ache. But after you have grieved the cutting, you need to bring your people around you, ask them to pray over you, and you need to get up and keep walking out that vision. You need to keep going. 

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The thing about God-given dreams is that not everyone will “get” what you are doing. Sometimes, you’re chasing a unicorn that no one else can see, and you look plumb-crazy to the world. But not to God. Not to the Dreamgiver who has set your feet on the wild path of obedience and hope.

You need to run your own race, no matter how crooked the trail appears to be. God will send you the people and resources you need. You’re not building the dream, your responding to a call. The success or failure of the vision you carry is not dependent on your skills, assets, or gifting, but on your obedience to keep going.

I re-read those difficult words yesterday, and ate 7 truffles out of my birthday box of chocolates. I sat on the porch of a dear friend and we spun our dreams out into the air between us, gossamer threads of a holy tapestry and our tears watered the seeds God has planted in each of us. He is doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it? 

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Not everyone will believe in your God-dreams. Some will tell you flat out, “you don’t have a big enough idea”,  but friend, If God has given you a dream, it is enough.

Just keep going.

 

Guest posting, Struggle

Living Behind The Fence

August 12, 2016

Fence

The other evening I sat down on the front stoop and watched a flock of Canadian geese fly overhead, while my kids scattered themselves down the street, making new friends with the neighbors. They’d been recruited for an impromptu soccer game happening up the street, in the common area between a couple of houses, an invitation unlike any we’ve ever had. This kind of living is completely new to us.

Before we moved here in March, for nearly twelve years, we lived on a noisy, unfriendly street that over the years, became more and more transient with the shifting tides of the economy. Our neighbors changed frequently as houses changed hands, suffered foreclosures, became rentals and so on. The neighbors who did remain we rarely saw, on account of a number of factors.

But it wasn’t all their fault. We could have made more of an effort.

Sometimes it’s easier to hide than to face something different, or someone new.

The 6-foot privacy fence erected behind my old house is not the first fence I’ve lived behind. Or hidden behind. It’s only in the last couple of years that God has revealed to me, what a master architect I have been at building fences.

 

Come read the rest of my confession over at Amber Salhus’s site

Advent, Books, writing

A New Book And A Humble Invitation

August 10, 2016

Many moons ago, when I received the phone call that led to a rather trembling “yes” I had no idea what I was stepping into. I mean I had a small idea, but it was so small, it barely counts, because the reality of that one wild “yes” has become something of a journey, a pilgrimage of a soul even, or like Peterson calls it, “a long obedience in the same direction.”

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Long, being the operative word. Even as I write that I remind myself  that God’s perspective doesn’t look like the time frames I construct for myself, that kairos and chronos are distinctly different, that I live in one (chronos) while God operates out of the other (kairos). I mark time on my calendar, by my watch, logging seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years, while God moves through seasons.

And who knows how long a season will last?

We are a people uncomfortable with and unaccustomed to waiting. Waiting requires a measure of discipline; it demands patience, and if we will lean into that space, waiting teaches us something of our own sanctification. A recent commercial I heard on the radio confirmed our culture’s outright rejection of waiting, when a woman in a banking ad sort of sneered, “to me, impatience is a virtue.” Many of us do not wait well.

It’s been 17 months since that phone call, since that yes, and in so many ways I’ve made what feels like, what looks like, no forward progress. I began with a goal in mind, and if I am honest with myself, I have in fact accomplished what I set out to do. But you have seen nothing of that effort, I don’t have much to show. It’s been a private work of long, humbling, difficult obedience.

There’s more still, and that story is not over–

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While that story continues to work itself out, I’ve lived these 17 months in a waiting season. Who of God’s people doesn’t know about fallow seasons of seemingly stagnant growth, with little tangible proof that God is in fact, wildly at work beneath the surface? Abraham, Sarah, Hannah, Moses, Jeremiah,–these names only a handful of the many saints who waited through long seasons to see fruit of their God-dreams.

Who among us hasn’t known the bitter place of “not yet”?

Waiting is a labor of its own. And not nearly as passive work as it appears to be.

We’re not the first people who’ve lamented the seemingly slow gestation of the Holy. From the first exile out of the Garden of Eden, people throughout the centuries have been waiting for their King to come. Come, Lord Jesus they have prayed, and during Advent we find ourselves uttering the same three words. O Come, O Come, Immanuel, we sing, weary from the waiting.

Amid my own ongoing waiting season, I turned from staring down one project, to working my way through something else. Years ago, this one phrase, “Come, Lord Jesus” rattled around in my ribs like a loose marble, rolling back and forth, never letting me forget it’s presence. Come, Lord Jesus, I heard it over and over again. I knew what it was then, but had no time to explore the idea. It wasn’t the right time, wasn’t the right season.

And now, two years after that phrase first lodged itself in my ribs, its season has arrived.

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I put one word down. Then one more, and more after that until what unraveled before me became something concrete. Something hopeful, something to hold in the waiting.

While the fireworks of Independence day cracked and boomed through the sky, I walked deliberately through Advent–a “coming” season. I transcribed the weight of my own waiting, and those words became a book, an Advent book called, Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting.  

Come, Lord Jesus is a much needed respite during what’s become the chaos of Christmas. If you’re feeling empty, desperately wanting to see Christ in Christmas, pick up this refreshing book and beautifully prepare your heart for His advent.” (Mary DeMuth, author of Worth Living: How God’s Wild Love for You Makes You Worthy.)

Who among us isn’t waiting now for something? A dream, a cure, a promise fulfilled, a hope to be realized, a vision restored, healing, provision, an answer–we’re all holding out our hands, waiting for God, and yet He is here already. He is fully in our midst even as we wait for Him. This is where the tension is, in the now and not yet.

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Come, Lord Jesus is a companion in the waiting of Advent. It’s a quiet invitation to sit with the weight of waiting, and recount the faithfulness of God, to trace the hope of Christmas, and prepare the way for Jesus’ coming into the world, into our own hearts, into our everyday, ordinary time.

With its offering of a daily reading, a reflection, prayer and one, or two reflective questions for you to contemplate, I believe this book to be a suitable, welcome “friend” to readers during the Advent season.

Come, Lord Jesus

…But what if we took just the next few weeks to sit still just for a few moments, to let ourselves feel the weight of waiting? What if we slowed ourselves just enough to whisper Come, Lord Jesus, and then gave Him unhurried space to enter into us?

The Invitation

I’m looking for a few friends to help me share this book. What qualifications do you need? A) You like to read B) You want to help spread the word about this book when it launches on Nov. 2. That’s pretty much it. 😉 Sending a book out into the world is no small task, and truthfully, I can’t do it without you. This is me, humbly inviting you to join me in this leg of the journey.

If you’re interested in joining the “street team” for Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting, simply click here to fill out the google form.

 

Book Reviews, Books, Giveaways

Where We Talk About Books (Plus A Giveaway)

August 8, 2016

All summer long, I’ve not wandered anywhere without a book in my hand or stashed in my purse, or in my pool bag. I’ve even taken books along to places I knew would provide little to no opportunity for reading them, out of sheer hope maybe, or perhaps because it just feels wrong to leave the house without one–like forgetting my cell phone or my wallet.

Books

I’ve read through a stack of good reads this summer, and have a never ending stack still on my nightstand. Every time I start a new book, I tell myself I will commit to reading just one book at a time, but really, what on earth kind of crazy-talk is that? There is no way I can read just one book at a time. No. Way. And so this summer I tossed that sort of budgeting our the window and have instead, gorged on the stories and words of others. Summer is not a time for restricting the mass consumption of readable material. Summer is a time for reading, reading and more reading, all the live-long day, and into the night when necessary. At no time have I suffered regret for having stayed up to read *just one more page*.

So let’s get to it, shall we? I’ll start with what is not pictured, because I cannot write this post without telling you about the beauty that is Wendell Berry’s, Jayber Crow. I heard about this book for years before I finally bought a copy. After I bought a copy, it sat on my shelf for a good 8 months before I finally cracked the binding on it.

I should preface this by saying, that the reason it took me so long to succumb to Jayber Crow is because, (now picture me whispering this…) I don’t like fiction all that much. Perhaps you find this shameful, but I hope we can still be friends. I am a person who lives with an almost overwhelming sense of urgency. Fiction so often feels frivolous and after reading a few mediocre books, I turned to a steady diet of Non-Fiction and never looked back. I lamented the time I’d wasted on formulaic, predictable books that despite their drivel, still managed to climb reading charts. But then Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga turned me on my ear, and S.D. Smith’s Green Ember series reinforced the transition that Peterson had started. All of that goodness combined restored my faith in fiction while priming the pump for me to at last, open my heart to Jayber. Jayber Crow has rightfully landed itself on my “top 10 of all time” book list, and the sheer soul-stirring beauty of it, has further inspired me to give Fiction a second, fourth chance.

I am currently reading Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter, at the recommendation of a friend. We swapped actually, she has my copy of Jayber  Crow, and I have her copy of Hannah Coulter.

On the Stack

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Next on my list (and pictured) is Henri Nouwen’s collection, The Spiritual Life. I originally stumbled across this at my local library, but after checking it out and reading the first two chapters, I’d copied so many passages down that I put the borrowed copy aside and Amazon Primed that baby to my doorstep. My copy is already full of marks and dog-eared pages, and I’ll be lucky if it holds together by the time I am finished with it. It is a hefty book, rich in wisdom and grace. I’m not a new Nouwen fan, but this book has definitely made me a more vocal one. Go and get this one, friends. It is tremendous.

On the stack just below Nouwen is Eugene Peterson’s, A Long Obedience In The Same Direction. This book is like Berry’s, in that I’d heard about this book and seen it quoted for years but for whatever reason still had not explored it for myself. I love Peterson’s book, The Jesus Way, and so I knew that I already appreciated his writing style and voice. Long Obedience is every bit as inspiring and profound as I’d heard reported by others. This book makes me want to purchase everything else that Peterson has written.

Below Peterson on the stack sits The Narrative of The Life Of Frederick Douglas. I chose this book for several reasons, two of which are for personal research and study and also to preview it before giving it to my oldest child to read. This book is of course, a classic, and I do believe I read it once as a teenager in school, but it has been so long, I can barely recall much of the story. Given the climate of our current culture, and my own slow awakening to current racial issues, I am making a concerted effort to read different voices and stories in order to be better informed about the events and actions that have shaped and influenced the lives or some of my dearest friends. Reading about the horrors of slavery makes me feel hollow inside, as if I can literally feel my heart breaking, but the pain of hearing about it cannot be a valid excuse to cup my hands over my eyes and refuse to know. Last year, I read Jaquleine Woodson’s, Brown Girl Dreaming, which was exquisite and eye-opening.

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Next is a brand new book from IVP, and Cara Sexton, called Soul Bare. I had the great honor of contributing one of my own soul-baring stories to this project, along with several other amazing writers. Soul Bare is full of  broken-beautiful stories reflecting on God’s redemption, love and grace. Every page of this book is written from the heart of the authors. These stories will crack open space for the grace of God to flourish in you, if you let them. I recommend this book both as a contributor, but also as a reader. What a bountiful mosaic of the body of Christ this book is! (See below for a chance to win a copy.)

Just beneath Soul Bare on the stack is the latest book from Jennifer Lee, The Happiness Dare, which released in the #1 spot on Amazon last week. Jennifer’s writing is always down-to-earth, accessible and inspiring. Despite the sweet candy cover of The Happiness Dare, this isn’t a fluffy, all-sugar-and-no-substance book. Jennifer comes at The Happiness Dare from the perspective of someone who wasn’t even sure our happiness mattered all that much to God. Because this has long been my own shared struggle, I immediately found kinship with Jennifer in this, and have enjoyed reading her words, and discovering my own happiness profile.

Below Jennifer’s book sits the memoir of J.D. Vance, called Hillbilly Elegy. Had it not been from my writer friend, Rebecca Reynolds, I might never have discovered this book. Vance’s memoir offers tremendous insight into the lives of people living in poor, rural predominantly white communities in and around Appalachia. Here, Vance is telling his own story, but as someone who grew up entrenched in this often forgotten culture, his insights provide a window into communities labeled, misunderstood, and therefore eclipsed by the more culturally palatable metropolitan centers that overshadow these places. I am finding it tremendously insightful and equally difficult. I would consider both the subject matter and language appropriate for adults only, and even then, more sensitive readers may find this aspect of the book a hurdle too tough to manage.  I’m still reading it, and still processing the story. I have a feeling I’ll have more to say about this later.

Next on the stack is Lecrae’s memoir, Unashamed. We are fans of Lecrae’s music here in this house and so it didn’t take much convincing for me to grab this book and get to know the person behind the music. His is not an easy story. I am reading it slowly because between the recounting of abuse in both his story and in Vance’s (see above) I am needing to take breaks from so many hard things. Still, Lecrae’s faith is inspiring, and the ways God continues to use him to share the gospel are incredible. Knowing the adversity he has faced in his life only deepens my respect for him and makes me that much hungrier for God’s grace.

Next on my stack is Martyn Lloyd-Jone’s Studies In The Sermon On The Mount. If time and money were no object, I’d send myself to seminary tomorrow. The more I learn and grow in my faith, the more I want to. My hunger for the things of God only seems to increase day after day, and since I cannot attend Seminary right now, I do my own studying and reading as time allows. This is a perfect example of the power of word-of-mouth sharing about books. This book has been spoken about numerous times in my circles and after reading through a hefty assortment of it’s 5 star ratings on Amazon, I paid my money for a copy of my own. I haven’t even started it yet, but I cannot wait to. 162 4 and 5 star reviews can’t all be wrong, not to mention the people I know who have actually read it and recommended it.

Finally, at the bottom of my stack is Sue Monk Kidd’s, The Invention Of Wings, another fiction title that I read over the last month. (All this fiction, I hardly recognize myself!) Having read and appreciated several of Kidd’s other books, it wasn’t a huge stretch for me to give this one a turn. This book’s handling of the issue of slavery and the devastating relationships between white slave holders and their slaves was both realistic and researched.  It is an eye-opening, beautifully woven fictional account of real people and events that took place during the antebellum period in the southern United States.

BooksOn My Stack

And now for that promised giveaway

I’m giving away ONE copy of Soul Bare to one of you. To enter, simply leave a comment below. If you share this post on facebook/twitter/instagram, leave a comment for each share. Every additional share is an entry, so long as you let me know in the comments.

*Due to obnoxiously high overseas shipping fees, this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. My sincerest apologies to my international friends. 

 

 

writing

When You’re Still In The (Prayer) Closet

August 3, 2016

A few weeks ago I published a post over at (in)courage talking about not talking about your junk while God’s still working on you. In that post, I shared about the value of keeping your business between you and God while it’s still in progress—l used the analogy of not inviting the entire waiting room into your therapy session, because really, who would do that? 

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And since then, (before then, really), I’ve been in such a place, a waiting, refining place, and while Ive wanted to process it here, I have held back for the sake of following my own advice and being the person I say that I am. I have some hard junk staring me down these days, and no, in the grand scheme of life, these struggles are not catastrophic by any stretch. But pain is relative, and while my stuff doesn’t compare to world hunger, sex trafficking or any other legit atrocity, in my small world, the wrestlings are still hard, and still painful, in their own right.

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If you’ve ever carried a dream too big for you to handle, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever wanted something while simultaneously not wanting it, for fear that you will mismanage it, then you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever thought you heard God so clearly, only to find yourself wandering around seemingly lost, questioning the very thing you were so sure you heard, then, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever had your heart broken by the crushing weight of someone’s well-meaning words, then you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever worn your rose-tinted glasses too long in the dark, without taking them off  to survey the reality of your environment, then you know what I’m talking about…being in process with Jesus can feel a little light Fight Club. 

We’re not supposed to talk about Fight Club. It’s the cardinal rule, man. What happens in the (prayer) closet, stays in the (prayer) closet. I’m in the closet with Jesus these days and as much as I want out, as much as I keep thinking that surely, we’re wrapping this session up, He’s standing in front of the door.

He is the door. He’s not exactly saying it, but His posture says, “you’re not going out, except through me.” 

He is the Way. The only Way. And the Way, is standing in my way (Thank God). 

Of course, I am no dummy. I have been singed enough times by the Refiner’s fire to know that though it hurts so good, (“sometimes love don’t feel like it should”) I don’t actually want what I think I want. I know that to ask Him to step aside, is suicide. It’s just that, I forgot how hard it can be to step out in faith. I forgot how hard hope really is. I forgot how hard it is to wait. 

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So I’m still here, sitting in the ashes looking for answers to questions that compound day after day. Swimming at the pool with my kids, sitting in the driveway reading books while they pop-wheelies and hop curbs on their bikes. I’m here, having afternoon chats with my neighbors and early morning coffee with friends, trading words on the internet for the ones penned quietly in my journal. And so it must be. For now. 

Where are you these days? if you can talk about it, leave me a word or two in the comments that describes your season. Can’t talk about it? That’s ok. I understand. I do. Just stay put, eh? Let it unfold in it’s season. You can’t hurry the Holy. 

PS: I’m telling you this now, because in telling you this, I will also be held accountable (wink)–on Monday (8/8), I’m giving away a copy of the new book, Soul Bare. It’s a crazy-beautiful book, I can’t wait to share it with you!

discipleship, Faith, Growth

On Invitations Instead Of Force

August 1, 2016

Growing up with a Dad in the military had its perks. Notably, the overseas travel we enjoyed on a couple of different occasions. One of my most memorable seasons abroad was spent in Italy, where I attended an Italian preschool run by Italian Nuns. Despite the fact that is has been well over 34 years since I ran around in my little pastel smock, giggling and speaking Italian to my little friends on the playground, I distinctly remember several snapshot moments from my days immersed in another culture, speaking another language, as if it were my native tongue.

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Of all the memories of my time in the care of those Nuns, the one that my sister and I can sort of laugh about now, as we recall it with razor-sharp clarity, is the experience of being force-fed some variety of foul smelling cheese. And when I say “force-fed” I do not mean the kind of coercion American mother’s might practice, by which a child is relegated to remain at the table until their dinner is eaten.

When I say “force-fed” what I am talking about here is having cheese forced into one’s mouth, while having one’s nose plugged, and being held in such a state until one swallows purely out of the sheer necessity to breathe. Clearly, despite being a mere four years old at the time of said incident, I distinctly remember the experience as if it had occurred last night. When I say we laugh about this incident, the laughter is not the kind that reflects the humor of the situation, but more the horror of it. We shake our heads in wonder at the differences between cultures, and acceptable child-rearing practices.

 

Continue reading this post at GraceTable

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Hope, Struggle, Worship

Looking For The Light

July 22, 2016

A few weeks back I attended a funeral for a white man, a husband, father of four, who was brutally murdered by a black man. A white man, one of the grieving,  took his 5 minutes intended to honor the departed, and used it to preach the gospel of American politics. He stood up there in front of God and everyone, making sweeping, racial statements, maligning the black community and urging us all in our moment of grief, to look towards a presidential candidate for our hope. My lips pursed with disgust and my mouth went sour as he spoke. A cavern of sadness opened up in me that I haven’t quite been about to sew shut. 

I lift my eyes up to the hills. From where does my help come?

Moments after that man used his 5 minutes to sideswipe African Americans with his words, a black man, a street preacher and friend of the deceased, stood up and offered the grace of his own testimony about the departed, telling us how the white man, whose life had admittedly been stolen by a black man, was the kindest person he knew. I sat there with tears bulging behind my lids, mouth agape at the divide one man cut while another came quickly and filled the ugly tear with grace. With gentleness. With love.

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

I thought I’d put this behind me but sitting here now, I see I have not moved past this. I have not been able to let it go. The additional tragedy’s of recent weeks have only been added to this wound, and what started as a gash has suddenly become something much more toxic, something gross and festering. It’s felt awfully dark in here. I’ve been desperately looking for the light.

Late last night I shared this image I captured on the 4th of July, calling it “looking for the light”. I also called it, “deep breaths”. Indeed, I’ve needed both breath and light.

I'm calling this one, "Looking for the light". Well, that, or, "Deep breaths". Share some light with me, what scripture is keeping you afloat these days? Would you kindly leave it in the comments? ((Thank you)) #hope #allothergroundissinkingsand

I asked for people, for you, to leave me a verse or scripture that is keeping you afloat these days, because I can’t be the only one whose drowning in a sea of hard news stories, and one of the most hideous election seasons of my lifetime. Tell me I am not alone in these steady swells of grief and immense disappointment.

I know I’m not alone, because after just 5 minutes scrolling through my Facebook feed, or my email, I see a steady stream of feelings and reactions to the state of the world and there’s a good many of us walking around, with our hearts hanging out, our veins bulging, and our eyes graying with the weight of a sadness we were not meant to carry.

He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

This week I’ve felt like I’ve been walking around beneath the smothering weight of a blanket. It’s been difficult to breathe, hard to see, exhausting to keep going without the circulation of fresh air. “Take it off”, I want to scream, but the blanket isn’t real, and there’s nothing over me but the invisible burden of ache for a world that continues to crack and break with the tremors and aftershocks of perpetual sin.

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There’s been so much darkness. So much pain. And don’t we all have our own feelings about it, too.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

Every morning this week I’ve awakened weary. Bone-tired of the pundits, the advocates, the activists, the anchors, the talking heads, the know-it-all opinionated bloggers, and columnists telling me how to vote, how to respond, how to feel and who to get behind. I’m sure they are all right about something, but what I want most in these moments, is the hush of lament.

What I want, more than the bossy self-righteous pandering of politicians is the holy hush that comes from a people who confess that the solution to all of our aching and breaking, can only be solved by one Man. Not a candidate, but a King.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life,

Are you feeling this too? Is your heart broken with sadness these days? I asked for light, and you generously poured it out, offering Psalm 37:23-24, Psalm 91:1, Song of Solomon 2:17, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, Joshua 1:9, Psalm 56:4, Isiah 40:11,…These and many others, are the stones on the sure path of hope.

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Take off your shoes, let’s walk together on these rocks. These promises will not be crushed by the weight of a seizing world. God’s faithfulness will not be determined by the swaying of 2-faced politicians or the travesty of racial divides. No semi-truck can mow down and annihilate the unfailing, undeserved mercy of God. No political coup or democratic process can dethrone the King for whom earth is His footstool.

The hard, ugly terrifying darkness of this world cannot,  and will not ever be able to overcome the Light.

The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

We may not be able to make sense of things these days. We may not be able to fix the world and all of her brokenness, nor can we heal the wounds in our own hearts. But we can, (we must) pray. We can fight for hope.

We can keep looking for the Light.

 

Soul-Bare-Camealy-800x800If you’re hungry (as I am) for stories of hope and redemption, grab your copy of Soul Bare, the newest release from IVP. I’m humbled and honored to be among the tremendous contributors to this book.

 

 

 

Guest posting, Kitchen, Prayer

On Pico and Prayers

July 12, 2016

Chopping things in the kitchen is therapeutic for me. The repeat rhythm of my chef’s knife sliding through the food, tapping against the cutting board, invites my mind to wander, just enough. Often, these moments become prayerful ones. With every pass of my blade, my heart whispers another name, that name links itself to another situation, and so the chain grows in my mind, I could pray for hours this way. I hold each face and circumstance out to my very present, but invisible God. The more I chop, the more I pray.

Making Pico de Gallo affords me plenty of prayer time. So much chopping and dicing.

pico

Late in the afternoon, I read the news on the small screen clenched in my tomato soaked hand. It’s all bad. My shoulders slump. The weight of recent tragedies presses itself down hard around me. How small we can feel beneath such enormous heartbreak. I head to the kitchen to prep dinner. To pray. I am a peacekeeper by nature. What I want, is to hold all things together, to calm ruffled feathers and smooth wrinkling brows. I want to bind wounds, and speak life and hope and promise in such a way to cause actual change. I am not so capable. The enormity of conflict can make you feel like your hands are tied, and there’s nothing you can do.

Fresh tomatoes from a local garden stand sit beside a pair of fresh jalapeno’s and red onions, all of them waiting on the cool stone countertop to become something more that they are….

 

I’m hanging out today over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s place, with a few words and a recipe for my favorite summertime snack, Pico de Gallo.

Read the rest over there.

(in)courage, Guest posting

A Season Of Hushed Fellowship

July 2, 2016

The other day I told a friend of mine that, “life is too short to do something that drains your soul.” This bit of truth rolled off my tongue easily that day because in that moment, I was deep in the midst of an extended social media break. A growing restlessness in my soul, coupled with the prompting of the Holy Spirit, whispered to my heart that I needed to pull way back from the unending chatter of the internets. The World Wide Web had morphed from being a space of encouragement and inspiration, to a soul-sucking vacuum that left me empty and heart-achey.

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After trying to re-fill my tank with what 1000 of my closest “friends” had to say, God stepped in and invited me into a secret space—a sacred space, alone. With Him.

This was not my first time hiding away with God, but if I’m honest, it’s a place of both comfort and anxiety for me.The other day while talking with a friend about it, I likened this kind of stepping away to therapy. “It’s like stepping into God’s office”, I told her, “to dump out all of my emotional garbage in order to let Him help me sort it.” We laughed about the visual but for me, it perfectly encapsulates those hidden seasons with the Holy.

I’m sharing this post over at (in)Courage today. Finish Reading here.

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Lent, Refine Retreat, Surrender

It’s Time, Announcing: Refine {The Retreat}

June 20, 2016

Two years ago, 24 women bravely followed God into the woods of Ohio for a weekend called Refine {the retreat}. We showed up at the Lodge on that Friday afternoon, expectant. We came with a hefty mound of baggage between us–all of us eager for a drop of Living Water. These years later, what we agree on collectively, is that God’s presence was palpable in that conference room, and deeply personal. What we can manage to say about the weekend is that we left changed.

For 2 days, The Holy Spirit ministered to us exactly where we were in that moment, and sent us home transformed by the overflow of God’s goodness and mercy that He had poured out over us.

Refine 2014

In the weeks and months after Refine, the chatter among the group of attendees, came always with the question, “Will there be another Refine?”

For a long time, I couldn’t say. What God had made abundantly clear to me, during the preparation and planning for the first Refine, was that the entire event had been His, from seed to sprout. It was only by His hands, that every detail came together. Refine had been God’s weekend, we all knew it. And so I couldn’t say initially, if there would be another one. Refine was never intended to become a thing–the decision to host another Refine, as far as I have been concerned, has always been God’s call. I refused to step into that space without His prompting.

This year, as the 2nd anniversary for Refine passed, the question surfaced again, “will there be another Refine?” I offered my usual response,

“I don’t know, pray about it?…”

Despite the outrageous surrender it took to host it the first time, and the fear I battled in the months leading up to it, I’ve always been willing to host Refine again. God’s help and blessing was so abundant, I know I can trust Him wit this. But up until recently, I didn’t know if God was opening the door again or not. I needed something to go on, some kind of clear nudge. But over a period of 3 weeks, the question came repeatedly from different voices. The topic of Refine cropped up in multiple, unrelated, unprompted conversations.

One afternoon, while listening to a message from a friend, asking about Refine, it occurred to me that perhaps I ought to pay better attention to this. (God often gets my attention through repetition.) I had to seriously, prayerfully consider it.

I did, and God answered.

It’s time.

A week ago, early one soggy morning, a friend and I got in the car and made our way to check out a nearby retreat center in person. As soon as we pulled up to the gate, I felt a flutter in my chest. It felt like hope.

gates

As we slipped out of the rain and into the building, I knew immediately, this was the answer we’d been praying about for the last 2 years. I felt God’s answer in my spirit–it’s time. As we continued to tour the house, every carefully thought out detail about the space, every room we walked into, felt like a crashing confirmation to the long-unanswered question.

One of the considerations for the retreat has been the location–if we did do it again, would we go back to the same place as before? I knew as I passed through the chapel and down the long corridors of this house, that we would not go back to the lodge.

There will be another Refine {the retreat}, with a fresh vision.

God is doing a new thing.

Within 2 days of seeing the space, I signed a contract to host the 2nd Refine on March 24th-26th, 2017.

main bldg

Little details

This space where the women of Refine will gather is a space that I had wanted to use 2 years ago, for the first Refine. But at the time, when I had called, they were booked 2 years in advance, and so there was no availability for the time frame I had open in 2014. But this year, smack in the middle of Lent, the retreat center’s busiest season, they happened to have a weekend open.

Of course they did.

bedroom2

In numerous little ways, God has been answering the question, “will there be another Refine” for weeks, I just hadn’t seen it until now. And in His faithful way, He has already been orchestrating the beautiful details without my help or effort. He is doing it.

As I have prayed about Refine, the passage of scripture that comes repeatedly to mind is Psalm 66:12b

we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

labrynth2

What will Refine be like?–the vision continues to unfold. The plan continues to evolve as God reveals the pieces of the bigger picture. What is already clear, is that this is not a repeat of the last retreat. While some of the original attendees may return, there is room this year for new faces. I know without a doubt, God is making space for some of you to attend. Refine is not a conference. There is no long, pro speaker line-up, or agenda book for the weekend. The heart behind Refine has been, and continues to be a weekend “designed to encourage women to seek the Lord more intentionally, that they might better live out His unique call on their lives”. Refine is about making space for God to renew us, refine us, restore us and rejuvenate us to live the lives He has called us to. This is a weekend for restoration, that we might experience the abundance of God.

Joining me as guest hosts at Refine, are artist and Spiritual Director in-training, Christine Hiester and author and poet, Laura Boggess (Playdates With God, Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World). These two women bring tremendous gifting and generosity with them wherever they go, and I have no doubt attendees at Refine will be inspired and encouraged by what they have to share.

 

What do you need from God? Is He calling you away to meet with Him?

Are you in?

Read more about Refine {the retreat} here, and grab your ticket.
There are just 38 spots open. 

Eventbrite - Refine {the retreat}