Faith, Obedience

Hold The Door {My Declare Conference Podcast}

April 23, 2015

Several months ago, the beautiful women behind the Declare conference reached out to me, and invited to serve as the keynote speaker at their conference this summer.

The invitation came as a complete surprise on the heels of returning from Refine {the retreat}. This opportunity is an outlandish gift, and a divine opportunity that I never saw coming.

One of the challenging lessons God continues to teach me about is humility. If you’ve read my book, you know some of this story already. You know how I’ve battled pride and how God has transformed me through His generous refining process. At Refine, God asked me to be a “door holder”, which comes from Psalm 84:10. It’s been a year since God pressed this message into my heart, I am still learning what this means. Already I can tell you that the journey so far has been astounding and beautiful. god repeatedly reminds me that when we serve in the specific places and ways that he has called us, the burden is lighter because He enables us to do the work. The freedom that comes through obedience is life-giving.

I am both excited and completely humbled to be traveling to Dallas in July to help hold the door for the attendees and share a message that God has burdened my heart with for a long time.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Heather about some of the ways God has asked me to step out in faith over the last several years. You can listen in HERE.

I pray you are encouraged and inspired to step into those places where God is calling you. Let me know if I will be seeing you at Declare. I’d love to give you a hug in July!

Community, Giveaways, Women Of Faith

You Are LOVED: Women Of Faith

April 22, 2015

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. ~Jeremiah 31:3

Do you need that reminder as often as I do?–To be reminded that God LOVES you. The truth is He is CRAZY for us–loves us unto death.I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need to be reminded that they are loved on a regular basis.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend Women Of Faith in Columbus. It was my first time at the event and after 2 days of preaching, teaching, storytelling and worship, I came away from the arena stuffed full of inspiration and goodness that I hadn’t even known I needed.

I came away from that weekend reminded that I am desperately loved by a God who would do anything to draw me closer to Himself–reminded that He has done everything, including dying for me.

I needed that weekend more than I ever knew. It changed me, friends.

Changed. Me.

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Women Of Faith is currently hosting their LOVED 2015 Farewell tour in many cities across the country. I’m sharing a little more about my experience today over at GraceTable.  

Women of Faith has generously invited you, gracious readers, to enjoy a $20 discount on your ticket purchase to an event in a city near you. Simply use the code, KH20 at checkout.

Finish reading this post at GraceTable

Books, Faith, Obedience

On Making Space

April 21, 2015

Standing at the sink in the pre-dawn light this morning I caught myself staring at the mulched patch in the back of the yard–all that remains of the old Ash we had chopped down last year. It had stood tall all of the years we lived here, and many before. This house has stood here well before we did, carrying within her boundary lines, an unknown history.

making space

We’ve spent a decade making our own history here. Our story, rolled into the paint on the walls, bits of it buried by our children out there in the yard, beneath the shadow of the now missing Ash.

For all of the years my babies were babies, they played beneath her upraised branches, in the cool of her summer shade. We loved that tree, even when we knew she was dying–eaten slowly from the inside out by a parasite. For the longest time, we couldn’t see the damage that was being done.

Silently, she stood dying, while we laughed and played and lounged under her covering.

Now there’s just space. A scar in the dirt is all thats left from where her stump was ground right out of the earth. Just a few chips of mulch in brown contrast against the fresh spring green.

Ash Tree

Of course, this isn’t really about a tree. God used the remnants of that old tree to remind me of the burden of dead weight in my life. He reminded me that growth sometimes means a cutting away.

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2)

Standing there in the dim light, pressing against the countertop, gazing out at the space left behind, I remember the grief of my sons as the men chopped at her limbs and carried bits of her off. My middle boy stood angry at the same window watching, with a deep set frown and tears brimming.

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4)

We didn’t have a choice. The tree was diseased and in time would eventually crumble. Her weakened limbs had already become a hazard in the windy afternoons, breaking free and crashing to the ground without warning. My mama imagination always saw the potential for one of those limbs to crush one of my babies, and in a minute, I’d have burned her to the ground for such an occurrence.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

So we carved her out and made space for something else. Space for games of tag. Maybe space for a chicken coop. Maybe space for soaking up sun where light had rarely reached.

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We cut out the thing that carried disease, that posed a threat, that deep inside, was no longer living and we grieved the loss, and trace the scars from where it had been.

Life is like this. So often we willingly live burdened decaying things that need to go.

We’re holding on to the memory of what was unwilling to face the truth of what no longer is.

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. (John 15:9)

Pruning seasons are never fun. The hard work of cutting away the dead breaks our backs, breaks our hearts–leaving scars.

It’s true, we won’t be the same without it.

We will be better off.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

It’s part of the process.

Let it happen.

And then, let it go.

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Let go of the things that hold you back, that pose a threat, that are no longer fruitful. Make space for new adventures, new callings, new visions and dreams of things you do not yet know.

let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… (Hebrews 12:1)

Christin says, “You can let the past define you or confine you. Or you can let it refine you. You can also choose to let it go… and leave it behind you.”

These days, as spring unfurls in the yard, and we work tirelessly to clean out our house, I feel the steady sweep of God’s hand, clearing away the dead things, making room for new life. He’s calling us to lay it down– the stuff that so easily entangles. the things that have become too important to us–the things we don’t think we can live without.

Leave it behind you.

That’s what he’s saying.

Let. It. Go.

and LIVE.

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*This post was inspired by my friend, Christin Ditchfield’s new book, What Women Should Know About Letting It Go: Breaking Free From The Power Of Guilt DiscouragementAnd Defeat. Get it. Read it. Be encouraged. {This is an affiliate link}

Allume

See You At Allume

April 14, 2015

Allume friendsIn the last several years, I have been learning the value and beauty of allowing God to orchestrate my calendar. Last year, while I wanted to attend the Allume conference, I felt absolutely compelled to attend instead The High Calling retreat, and following that *feeling* led to several divine appointments that once I was there,  I knew God had planned all along.

This isn’t the first example of this happening for me. God has been prompting me for years, regarding my schedule–it’s just that I haven’t always listened to Him.

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I can be such a slow learner.

This year, as I prayed about the Allume Conference, I knew the Lord was saying “yes” to it for me this year, and honestly, I couldn’t be more thrilled to be going back. It’s been 2 long years since I have been around those whom I affectionately dub, “my people”, and I am eager to hug some familiar necks and enjoy the physical fellowship of my (mostly) online friends.

If you haven’t been to Allume before, I want to encourage you to pray about attending. Ask God if Allume is on your calendar this year.

I’m sharing 6 tips for attending Allume  over at GraceTable this week.

Read the rest HERE.

Allume, writing

How To Succeed

March 24, 2015

Keep your eyes on God_Allume

It’s 4:30 when the alarm goes off. Admittedly, I am a morning person but even at this hour, I groan at the thought of getting up. Most days it’s closer to 5 when I finally roll back the clovers to make my way to the coffee pot, and the couch for time in prayer, and the Word.

This is how most days begin partly because I like it this way, but mostly because I need it this way.

This time in the quiet with God, before the day stacks up around me is what helps me focus. This time of communion with my Maker is what centers me before my looming to-do list has time to knock me sideways. Any hope to succeed in my day starts here.

We live full lives. Most of us (ahem) don’t have a lot of margin in our day. There’s not enough whitespace and in the steady flow of things that need to be addressed, handled, managed, sorted and processed, it’s easy to lose our focus, to get distracted, to forget why we do what we do–and how we ought to do it.

Join me at the Allume blog for the rest of this article

 

Broken Body, Growth, Obedience

Get To Work (How To Beat Envy)

March 23, 2015

The crocus sprung up this past weekend while I was away. When I’d packed up the car Thursday morning I’d seen their tips peeking up, all green with promise. Sunday morning when I returned, in my rush out the door to go to church I saw them–blooming buttery soft against the dry, gray mulch. They are the one redeeming quality of our otherwise neglected front beds.

Our flower beds are not what I’d call beautiful. I’ve moaned for years about the various plants set deep in the soil there, right in front of the house. And Every spring as I clip and bag and mulch these overgrown shrubs, I wrestle envy over those perfectly groomed beds I see in the glossy gardening magazines.

But the truth is, when I could be working in the yard, I choose to write. When the house is quiet in the middle of the day for 2 short hours, I don’t run for my rake and trowel. I clamor instead, to my desk, to this space–to write. And so the front beds have looked that way for the 7 years we’ve lived here. I grumble about them, but all the while resist the work of making a change.

envy

Today, I read of another writer wrestling envy over the gifts of others and I immediately thought about my own green seasons, and how in the world I have been able to lay that down enough to be truly content.

The secret to beating envy is this: Stop looking around and get to work. (<–Tweet this)

There are a thousand other writers out there whose ability to weave words can easily be declared superior to my own wordsmithing. Sometimes, this fact has been paralyzing. I have nearly drowned in the waves of discontent and jealousy. When this happened recently, I prayed for deliverance from this unhealthy pattern–and God did bring me through it.

What He told me was simply, do the work–get about the tasks I’ve called you to.

It’s so obvious and yet I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see it, because envy is a malignant tumor over the eyes of the heart.

A heart at peace gives life to the body,

but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:30 NIV)

Beat it back, friends. Get about your business and do the hard work. Admire those who are gifted, encourage them in their own art, and get on with yours. You’ve no doubt been called to a specific task in this season. Serve the Lord faithfully. Your unique gift is needed–your qualifier is Christ.

Set your eyes steadily upon the Lord.

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5 NIV)

 

*edited from the archives

GraceTable, Obedience

Discovering Who Your Neighbors Are

March 2, 2015

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” ~Fred Rogers

Moving every two years as a kid meant that besides changing homes, I changed communities too. New school, new neighborhood, new church, new friends–it was all foreign for a season, and then it became home.

And then we’d move again.

For most of my life I associated the word neighbor only with those in close proximity to my residence, namely, the people living in the houses to the left and right of my own–they were my neighbors. Occasionally, I’d extend this parameter across the street or down the block a house or two.

I’m the first to admit how narrow my scope has been.

It has only been in the last several years that relational and world events have forced me to consider what exactly Jesus meant when He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Who is He talking about? And how on earth do I love a stranger, or harder still, someone I’ve deemed to be my enemy?

The short answer is, I don’t entirely know…

Today, I’m writing over at my second home, GraceTable.

Come sit by me at the table and finish reading this post.
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Lent

Ashes To Ashes

February 18, 2015

I sit in the back row, beneath the balcony where it’s always darker than the rest of the sanctuary. The church is full, but I  feel alone. Solitude, a welcome comfort at the end of a day run wild with kids and school work, and all of the other things that rise up demanding attention between dawn and dinner.

The service is too late for the little one who will be antsy and melting by 8PM, so my husband keeps the whole brood home and sends me to church. He knows me well, loves me generously.

I scratch a handful of notes during the service, but when I look down this is the one that stands out; “Ashes to Ashes”.

It’s been 2 years since I sat in the ashes of the Refiners fire. Stripped of my pride, I had wept for days, raw from the rubbing of the fullers soap. I’ve never felt so exposed, so utterly bare–and free.

I would go on to write that story, not by desire but out of sheer trembling obedience. By God’s grace, it continues to pass through so many hands. But I have not forgotten the burn, I remember the cost. All along I see it, “ashes to ashes”.

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:4)

It’s dangerous living when you forget where you came from. Only a fool lives as if their days aren’t numbered, as if they aren’t shaped and molded out of the dust. I lived foolishly for so many years.

With my back pressed into the chair, in the dim of the hushed sanctuary, I remember this truth: Our days are just a breath, our lives, merely a wisp in the greater cosmos.

for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)

This aching season calls me to remember what I am apt to forget–that I am ashes, that my life is not my own, that a price was paid, and apart from my Maker I am incapable of any good thing.

Ashes to ashes.

With the mark of remembrance swiped in oil and ash in the shape of a cross on my forehead, I step out into the bitter cold. The weight of glory pressing in, the cross of Christ.

Thy work alone, O Christ,
Can erase the weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine,
O Lord to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest,
And set my spirit free.

(Horatius Bonar, Not What My Hands Have Done)

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For a limited time, you can download both Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement and the Companion Workbook for FREE from Noisetrade books. My prayer is that somewhere between the pages, you would meet Christ, and enjoy a deeper communion with Him.

You are loved, friends. Let Him love you.

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Compassion, Dominican Republic

The Unexpected Reason For Change

January 21, 2015

“You’ll be changed by this,” That’s what they said.

“You’ll never be the same,” I heard repeatedly, as the time for departure grew closer.

“It’s going to be a hard trip”, People told me.

TOMS

The only other experience that even comes close to this adventure with Compassion International, was a trip I took at 18 years old, to a reservation in the middle of North Dakota. That was my first brush with third world level poverty, and a measure of spiritual oppression I’ve not seen before or since. The reservation was a dark, hopeless place.

And so in packing for the Dominican I tucked my North Dakota experience into the corner of my mind. This was not that. This place would be different, I felt sure of that–though, how different I could not yet know.

city street

I went as empty of expectations as humanly possible. I begged God to just make me open, so that I could fully experience the trip in the way that He intended for me. From the first day we set foot on the tile floor at Compassion Child development center 126, I knew already that I would be changed by this trip, but not for the reasons most people implied.

When you encounter extreme poverty, you gain a perspective that you otherwise cannot manufacture. Reading about it in books is one thing, but smelling it, facing it, and having a meal among those who truly have nothing, is an experience impossible to convey in writing. Words do not suffice. Standing in a 10 foot by 12 foot home, and realizing that this is all there is, does something to your heart and head for sure. I came home to abundance–or by many standards, excess, and I don’t know how to reconcile the haves and the have nots.

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But the more we interacted with our Dominican brothers and sisters, the more I saw Jesus. I didn’t see their poverty the way I assumed I would because more than their lack I saw what they did have–

A.W. Tozer said, The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.

I saw a people that treasured Christ, and because their treasures are laid up in the One by whom all things were made, I saw an unspeakable joy and passion for God that lessened the lack of the physical things. I experienced a level of love and hope that superseded the notion that these are a destitute people. Physically, they live in a poverty most of us can barely fathom. Spiritually, their wealth exceeded most of my fellow American friends and colleagues.

josiah and baby

I continue to ask myself, which is the greater poverty? Is one worse off without food or without Christ? If one is starving, might they miss the opportunity to know Christ, should they die from physical starvation?

But the Word says that He is our portion, our daily bread–and so I wonder, can we not feast on Christ alone, and be filled? Is Christ enough?

Instinctively today, I want to say yes. But I have never been starving, or limited by income. I have never gone without in the way that my Dominican friends have, and so I wonder too, if that makes me unqualified to answer these questions. if my children went to bed hungry every night, would I still say Christ is enough? Every day we have to ask our selves, whatever happens today–is Christ enough?

sunset reflection

I hope that my answer is always a confident “yes”. C.S. Lewis said, in his book, The Weight Of Glory,”He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only.”

During Sunday morning worship with our friends a few steps down the street from center 126, the roof was absolutely raised by the heartfelt worship that unfolded. These people, the ones whom we say say lack everything, demonstrated a wealth of love for God that moved me to tears. I could not speak but to watch and be humbled by their outrageous joy for a God who allows them to live with limitations most of us would find unbearable.

I believed this trip would change me, but I didn’t realize it would be the unbridled joy that would turn me inside out.

DR

The people working alongside Compassion and the children at the center exhibited a passion for nurturing and giving like nothing I’ve ever seen. They say they are servant leaders, and refuse your compliments because they know it is by Him, and in Him and for Him that they live and move and have their being. The recognize in their physical poverty, that it is God who sustains them. And for this they rejoice continually.

I sit here now, with all of this in my lap. Picking through the definition of poverty, and combing slowly through the images of the beautiful people I had the opportunity to encounter. When I look at them, I see God. I see the beauty of the body of Christ in action. I see servitude towards one another that honors the dignity of humanity and the divinity of God.

sunset in the DR

I am changed because of joy. I am different because I realize now what Nehemiah meant when he said, “The Joy of the Lord is your strength”.  (Nehemiah 8:10)

I don’t ignore the magnitude of their physical need. I don’t pretend that living on less than $2 a day is acceptable. But I have seen the power of praise and the satisfaction of souls that hunger and thirst for righteousness, and I have seen a fullness that any measure of food or things can never achieve.

mid-air

God is enough–He is everything. The man who has God, has all things in One.

 

 

Compassion, Dominican Republic

When Your Hands Are Empty

January 18, 2015

The day before I boarded the plane for the Dominican, I wandered around Target gathering a few last minute things–bug spray (Malaria!), Hand sanitizer, baby wipes, a few boxes of snacks for the trip. I purchased stickers and crayons for the kids at the Compassion center. I bought dish towels and a small set of frying pans to present to the women during the home visits.

I left the store with my hands full. Prepared.

Gifts

At home, I added my purchases to the already mostly-full suitcase holding baby clothes, and construction paper, sticker books, and other recommended items. I planned to check the bag that would carry my gifts, and carry my clothes with me on the plane. The risk of losing my luggage has been a major source of anxiety for me when I travel.

Compassion

The next morning at the airport, I checked my giant gift bag and made my way to my gate. Weighing in at 47lbs, just below the limit for the higher bag fee, I smiled proudly at the baggage checker.

This first leg of my trip is when I heard God so specifically reminding me to open my eyes–to be open to this experience. No longer worrying about my suitcase, my thoughts shifted to what God wanted to show me on this trip.

Children

Compassion Children

I knew without a doubt that God himself had swung this door open for me. I never questioned this invitation to travel with my favorite ministry. Though I was slow coming around to Compassion, once I signed on 4 years ago as both a sponsor and an advocate, I knew this was the place for me.

God had every thread and detail of this trip in His loving hands. I knew it on the plane when he spoke to me at sunrise, and I would need to remember that when I landed in the Dominican without my bag of gifts.

Gifts

Somehow, instead of coming with us to Santo Domingo, my bag stayed behind in Miami.

My worst travel anxiety realized. It’s interesting to me that my personal fear when traveling is not that I will die, but that I will not have my things at the other end–

I think this is precisely part of the reason I ended up on the trip, without my things.

Compassion child

little boy

I made the necessary calls, filled the claims, and asked (repeatedly) for my bag to be forwarded on to the Dominican. For 4 days, my bag remained in Miami, for inexplicable reasons. When it becomes clear that my bag would not make it to me in the DR, I advised the airline to keep the bag, I would simply pick it up on my way home.

Juan Carlos

Every time we met with the children and their families at the Compassion center, gifts were presented.

I had nothing to give.

I was constantly reminded of how even as I had prepared and planned and spent, still, I arrived empty handed. The members of our team were generous givers. Multiple times people opened their own gift bags and offered me something to share with the children and their families. I gave out of what others had, rather than out of my own personal wealth. And it was humbling.

little boy

little boy

My struggle with pride is well documented. For me, giving is always easier than receiving. I am uncomfortable with empty hands. For 3 days, I received hospitality from people who had very little, knowing that comparatively, I had so much–but not really, because as I was there with them, I had in my possession 4 outfits. That’s it. In some ways, I feel like God leveled the playing field temporarily. I know that financially, and physically, I live with more than many of my Dominican Brothers and sisters. I know that I can’t even begin to compare my 3 days without luggage to their lifetime without basic provision, like steady food, clean water and safe shelter. I know that and so I don’t pretend the say that our poverty is the same. But I came with the intent of blessing others with things, and God allowed that opportunity to pass without my ability to rectify it in time.

I came empty handed to the Dominican, but left with a heart aching with the most unexpected and fullest measure of joy.

door

The people I shared time with on this trip continually gave to me. Right up until the last minute of our airport goodbye’s I was still in the position of receiving, as a new friend bought my lunch in between flights.

I am sure for all of my initial unpacking of this particular piece of my trip, I haven’t even begun to understand all that God is doing in this. The unbridled generosity of not only my trip mates, but the Compassion staff and community in the Dominican is only a foretaste of the generosity of God towards His children.

It is only when our hands are empty that He can fill them. Whatever our plans are, His ways are even better.

suitcase

I’m home now with my missing suitcase–it didn’t show up until 2 days after I got home from the Dominican. Slowly I’m unwrapping the gifts I received during my week traveling with Compassion. In time, I will share more stories with you. But for now, maybe it’s time you started your own journey by sponsoring a child through Compassion International. 

Open your hands, friends. Offer them for God’s kingdom. Let Him use you in the life of another in need.

It’s not about what you have to offer. Just be open–available, willing.

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