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Room for Earth-Shakers

“I don’t want to be just one thing.”

Can you relate to that statement?

I don’t want to be just a worship leader, or just a mom, or just a graduate. I’m more than the sum of my achievements and I refuse to live in a box. I need room.

You are more than the sum of your achievements too. Did you know that? Have you lived aware of that today? It’s so very easy to forget. To forget that you’re not on this planet to impress anyone.

Isn’t that so freeing?! You don’t have to hide behind your resume! You don’t have to hide behind or desperately grope for a title! I say, if you want to label me, label me God’s girl. Being His is the only shoe that fits. It’s the only one big enough.

You are His too. Wear it proudly and forget to care about the labels, the titles, and the recognition. Do what you do because you’re heart beats wildly for it. Love because your heart burns with God Presence. Labels don’t stick to wildfires and peer recognition doesn’t satisfy an earth shaker.

Tending Your Dreams

This summer I was encouraged to invest in myself. After years of dreaming big and still seeing so little fruit in certain areas of my life, disappointment was beginning to contaminate my thoughts of the future. Invest in myself? What, like get a pedicure?

I realized in my tunnel vision I’d allowed my heart to neglect other dreams while in pursuit of this one. Because my heart was broken over the one, I’d found myself distancing myself from people and from my passions. I could sense the distance from my heart and home increasing and knew something had to be done immediately. After all, what of the dream I’d held for so long of family? Was I going to let this one assault on my career keep me from pouring into and enjoying the loves of my life?

I began to simplify my schedule and become intentional about my time with my daughter and with my husband. Saying “no” to others has never been my strong suit but when there is something as  precious as family on the line, you rally the courage. Since doing so, I’ve felt my daughter’s little heart beam in the knowledge that she’s captured my attention. And the response in my husband has been similar.

You see, they were my first and dearest dream. It’s funny how once we’ve attained a dream, we tend to neglect investing in it with the same fervor we did before it was in our possession. I realized that investing in my family was an investment in myself. A human being pouring into their dream is deeply fulfilling, whatever that dream may be, but especially if it is fulfilling for others.

On this journey of investing in myself I also began to search out those passions which had laid dormant, allowing myself to engage with and revive them. I’ve found a new vocal instructor and am taking lessons again.  I’m drawing, and decorating, and taking care of myself. And I’m doing these things for no one’s benefit but my own. And it feels good. And unsurprisingly everyone around me benefits from the change in my attitude and the releasing of my gifts.

Don’t be afraid of investing in yourself on your journey. It will not detract from your destination. As long as you know who you are in Him and what you are about, no time invested in growing yourself and tending your dreams is wasted time. Even if they do not seem to pertain to the end you have in mind, every element of who the Father has created you to be, is valuable and worthy of attendance.

So, in the waiting, release your gifts and explore your dreams. Leave no rock un-turned in the quarry of your passions. You may be surprised at what you find there. You certainly won’t be disappointed.

Laying Down

Last year I was determined to cultivate a space for worshiping in my home. For me, that meant purchasing a new rug.  I wanted to be intentional about designating this rug as my special place before that Lord. It’d represent for me, a season of intentionality. Now, when I sit down on that rug, the Father and I both know it’s a sanctified and special time between us. Much like going on a date with your spouse, sitting down on my living room floor, Bible in hand and heart open, has become my space for practicing intentional intimacy with the Father. It’s what I call learning the art of laying down.

Now, I don’t mean physically laying down, though I highly recommend it during moments of worship. I’m talking about the laying down of your heart and life before the Father on a regular basis.

At the beginning of my semester at Charis Bible College, we were worshiping when I had a vision. In it, I saw myself falling face-first at the feet of Jesus. Falling. In slow motion. And even though I knew that the impact of my face to the floor was coming, there was no hesitancy, or fear, or struggle. I simply fell. In fact, there was an overwhelming sense of peace.

Then, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “naturally, when falling, you’d do whatever necessary to avoid hitting your face. You’d lean toward either side, backward, or you’d catch yourself if possible.” As He spoke these words, I watched as at the very moment my face hit the ground before Jesus’ feet, the ground gave in like a pillow. Then He spoke, “[falling face-first] won’t hurt like you think it will. The only pain will be in wishing you had fallen sooner.”

I realized in that moment the Lord was issuing an invitation into greater intimacy, as His words so often do. He was inviting me to lay down those vulnerable places, the places in my life I often try to protect from the impact of His grace, out of fear, a lack of understanding, and a resistance to discomfort. But vulnerability is uncomfortable. If it weren’t, we’d be better at it. Opening up before the Lord, relinquishing our plans, being honest with Him about our thoughts and motivations is a painful and uncertain process. But it is the process that releases His victory in our lives and it requires practice. Laying everything down until you’re so in love you’d do whatever he says do, and go where ever he says go, is a process.

Often times we want to do what God says and go where he says because we want God-results in our lives. That’s an excellent desire! But we can easily begin to desire the benefits of sonship apart from relationship with the One who’s made us sons. We simply don’t have the time or patience enough to figure out how to hear from and interact with God, so we settle for what He can do for us, missing out entirely on our inheritance, which is God Himself. However, this too, is an empty pursuit. Life is found in knowing and being known by the Father, and this begins at the feet of Jesus.

There is an art to laying down, to falling in love with the Lord’s feet. It is what John the Baptist understood when he spoke the words, “I am not fit to untie his sandals. ” And yet, at the word of Jesus, John baptized the Son of Man.  It is what the woman with the alabaster jar understood when she washed the Lord’s feet with her hair and tears. It is what compelled her to pour upon his feet that perfume of great price, even in the face of those who would scoff and accuse her of wastefulness.

If you will pursue a place at Jesus’ feet, beyond your own hang-ups and the hang-ups of others, with less regard to time spent than love exchanged, and if you will pour out the perfume of praise and adoration (especially when it’s costly), you will come to know true and lasting fulfillment. You’ll wish you’d fallen sooner. Your life will be a testimony akin to Isaiah’s, proclaiming, “beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring the good news.” Let’s be a people that practice surrender, and like Mary, find our home at the feet of the Teacher.

Small Beginnings

I was putting away dishes this week when a revelation the Lord has been working to impart in my heart seized me and finally began to sink in. I’d been living in my home for the passed 2 1/2 years, just passing the days here until I can finally purchase my dream home and life really begin for my little family. But in that moment of putting those dishes into the cabinet I finally saw what the Lord has been trying to speak to me for weeks.

Home has always been high on my list of priorities. Cultivating a space in which my family feels inspired, at peace, and a sense of belonging has been a dream kept at the forefront of my mind since I was a little girl.

This time last year we were expecting our daughter, and I remember the nagging worry I felt about not being able to give her all that she’d need. We currently live in a one bedroom home. I can’t think of the square footage off the top of my head but I’m sitting on my couch in one corner of my house and with the bedroom door open, the corner furthest from this spot is not too far away. We live in a tiny home.

You can imagine the anxiety I felt at the thought of bringing a newborn into such a small place. It’s amazing though what love does. When she came into our lives, having space was the last thing on our minds. We wanted no space. Being as close as possible was the only appropriate response to having so much love placed in your arms. There is truly a multiplying power at work when the love between two people creates a little life. Love exponentially increases.

We have a sign above our stove that says, “love grows well in little houses.” Each home that Tuck and I have lived in has been tiny. There has never been room enough to escape during an argument. Never room enough to enjoy hobbies apart from each other. Never room enough to miss the little idiosyncrasies of the other. And because there has been so little space between us we have unearthed the trash and the treasure in one another.

I can’t imagine not having had this time of living close. I don’t know that Tuck and I could have made it this far if the space in which God placed us had allowed for distance between us. Every sigh, every word spoken under our breath, the sound my face makes when I smile (yeah it’s a thing), my attentiveness to the movements my very quiet husband makes, all became a part of an exchange between us that forced us to deal with one another. It’s the best thing I could hope for any couple willing to put in the life-long work it takes to cultivate a stellar marriage.

Though our daughter is about to be a year old and sleeps in the kitchen, I’m falling in love with our home all over again. I know we won’t always be here so I want to appreciate this house for the life that has unfolded here, the love that has grown well here, which seems to have been absorbed in the laminate floors I can never mop enough, and the walls we painted grey last year.

I’m finding the little nooks that have daily spoken “home” to me so that I can remember when we are in our 3 bedroom home one day, the conversation we had with this house, the life we lived within its dry-walled arms. I encourage you to treasure the small stuff in your life while they’re small.

“Do not despise small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10

In Step with the Father

I took a bit of a sabbatical from blogging. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t miss a month of posting and yet, February breezed by with no posts. I was disappointed in myself for fizzing out so quickly. But the humbling process of getting on the same page as Holy Spirit has been so healthy and encouraging to my soul.

Last December I started conducting interviews with women whose stories I hoped to share on my blog site. I began mapping out future stories and was so pumped about all there was to glean from these amazing women, but as I sat down with my notes and interview recordings, I began to feel overwhelmed.

I realized I hadn’t structured my interviews in such a way that would allow me to easily share our conversations. I’d hoped to provide detailed Q&A’s with my readers and instead, heard such richly detailed stories that so stirred me, I got swept up in them. The impartation that took place in those meetings has changed my life, but when it came to my trying to culminate those interviews into bite-size blog posts, I was completely in over my head.

My 3-month blogging streak came to a screeching halt. I labored over those interviews for months trying to decide upon a template that would best present the information while honoring the women who shared their time and life experience with me. It’s funny how something so small, immobilized me. All writing ceased. I stepped on the Father’s toes, so to speak. I’d been experiencing a flow in my blog writing, like a dance. I felt led by the Holy Spirit and I was seeing fruit and then BAM! A single mis-step and I was on my face.

I’d already advertised the coming interviews on my social media accounts and now I couldn’t deliver the goods. I was disappointed to say the least. Have you ever been on a roll and then found yourself sunk? Have you ever taken a word from the Father and tried to make it happen prematurely? The Father breathed an idea in my mind and I took it and ran. There, I found myself in a sea of pressure to perform beyond my ability to perform. I jumped the gun. Ever been there?

This week the Lord sat me down and simply told me to breathe and try again. Getting in step with Him is not as hard as we sometimes make it. If you’ll only wait a moment and let Him lead, you’ll find yourself dancing again.

If you feel you’ve hit a wall in an creative or ministerial endeavor that you know the Lord placed upon your heart, then I encourage you to push pause. Wait a moment. Hear Him. And try again. Maybe it’s not time for some aspects of your vision to unfold but don’t allow a failure to stop the flow of your purpose being released in the lives of others. People need you to do what God has called you to do.

Deeper

As a kid I loved to nab one of the few pair of goggles at a pool party so that I could dive down deep into the water. Below, all of the laughter, conversation, delighted screams of children splashing were instantly muffled and distant.

As you’re introduced to this new space beneath the surface, everything you know about breath and balance above the surface are changed. I remember being mesmerized by the strange quiet and the way the light shone through the endless blue and how everything slowed down. 

Losing track of time I’d emerge from the water, made anxious by the thought I may have missed something going on at the party. Why didn’t everyone want to dive in? Isn’t this what we came for?

I believe in life we are often reluctant to fully surrender to God because of what we may miss. We are made anxious by this need to follow the crowd and as a result we often sacrifice depth for relevance. But what could be more relevant than time spent diving deeper and deeper into the Father’s presence?

 I’ve realized that there will always be something else to do instead of worship. There will always be tasks to perform and people to see but we can’t live satisfied with surface level revelation of the person of God and miss the beauty of the depths of His heart. We must learn the rhythms of daily surrender.

In the Waiting

Naturally, entering into this new year felt like stepping over the thresh hold of an entirely new realm of possibility. I love new beginnings. Fresh Start is my middle name. I have come into this new year positioned for the impossible to be made manifest in my life. I’m carrying a word from the Lord like I’ve got gold in my pocket, a promise that’s sacred and priceless and…I don’t know what to do with it! Anybody been there? Anybody carrying a promise from the Father? I stepped into this new year believing it was delivery time, only to find that I’ve merely entered a new trimester. Anybody waiting? I’m in the promised land but there are giants here and the land is uncultivated.

When you’ve waited, what does waiting some more look like?

I’ve been decluttering my house today. There are tied up bags and boxes everywhere. Every surface of my house is occupied with odds and ends I can’t remember ever having had a purpose for owning. What’s funny is I just did this about a month ago believing I had finally gotten rid of all the excess only to find hidden junk in just about every nook and cranny of our tiny house.

The site of it all, piling up around me, made me feel anxious. Why is this stuff still here? I thought I’d already taken care of it. 

Our hearts are a lot like that. One day we make room for Jesus only to find that a week later He’s become cramped by the junk that we should’t have been carrying. Junk like doubt that leads to hopelessness. Junk like frustration in His process. Junk like disinterest in His presence unless I get something for abiding in it.

All the junk has led me to return again to the place of laying down. When I thought I had already laid down everything there was to lay down, I lay me down again. Instead of having a heart that demands the promise, I desire to have a heart that is continuously laid low. To have a heart that seeks to relinquish every space to the Father, so that He may have full authority over what fills each space of my heart.

The Lord is saying, when the promise has come, will you? Will you still come to abide in my presence?

It’s easy to begin to fall in love with the wonderful things Jesus reveals to you, losing site of His face. It’s easy for a person with a heart for giving, to use times of worship for receiving songs, prophetic words, a message to preach, a post to share, or a blog topic to write, rather than for heart-to-heart connection with the Father. Often, relinquishing control of such moments means our reputation is sacrificed on the altar, but this is the price we must pay to live captured.

As I scooted around the boxes on my bed tonight to find a place to sit and type, I heard the Father whisper, “permeate.” He wants to permeate every space. So the answer to the question, “now what?” is, now you soak. Now you soak in the presence and forget the promise for a little while. Go again to that low place at His feet and love it there again. Love that lowly place like you did when the promise of high places was light years away.

Seeking direction for this new year, I prayed for a fresh vision concerning worship. The Lord showed me an operating room and a person laying on a gurney. I heard Him say, I want to perform open heart surgery. I believe the Lord deeply desires to address those needs within our hearts that have gone long ignored. He knows that in order for our hearts to have space to receive His promises, they must be free from the clutter, cleansed of the corrosion that sin and pain have wrought.

I used to feel condemned that I could not spend more time in the Father’s presence daily. I have since been made free of condemnation, and if you’ve beaten yourself up for not spending more time with the Lord, know that you’ve been made free too. I have also discovered that I cannot live life to the full if my heart is empty of time spent soaking in His presence.

I know that you are eager for the promises of God to be made manifest, as I am. And I believe that what is being made manifest in the lives of God’s people is big, loud, and powerful, but let us not miss this quiet invitation to surrender. Allow the Lord to permeate every space as you give Him access to the hidden places of your heart. Allow yourself the freedom of being captured once again by the face of Jesus.

She Laughs

Proverb 31 infamously describes the super woman every Christian lady aspires to imitate. She has been studied in small groups, spoken of at conferences, written about, and meditated upon as the perfect picture of Christian feminine power, but if I’m being honest, I share little resemblance with this spiritual giant. I’m not all that resourceful, I’m not the greatest housekeeper, and my entrepreneurial endeavors are dwarfed by her successes. However, I’ve come to discover our heroine’s secret power and it is this, “she laughs with no fear of the future,” Proverbs 31:25

One day last year I was doing my hair, thinking on all there was for me to do that day and how overwhelmed I was, when those old familiar voices came rushing into the room saying, “look at you, you’re nobody and you have nothing to offer. You’ll never get ahead. You take one step forward only to take 2 steps back.” Have you ever heard anything like that? As I looked at my face in the mirror I could see my soul sinking into oblivion.

Then, like a hand reaching out to draw me out of deep water, my spirit rose up within me and I boldly declared over myself and to any enemy listening, “I will never quit! I will never stop worshiping. I will never relinquish the promises of God. I won’t stop. Ever.” This went on for several minutes and as each declaration left my lips I saw the strength of the Lord wash over me and my countenance was changed into that of a relentless champion, and do you know what, I began to laugh.

Your greatest weapon of spiritual warfare in this life is your joy. When we begin to speak and think from a place of victory rather than identifying with defeat, we make way for joy to flood the soul. What could be more deflating to the enemies of our soul than for us to counter each attack pronounced upon us with genuine laughter? Does any other reaction speak more exuberantly of the transforming nature of knowing who we are in Christ? What could be more satisfying than to lay waste with laughter the very enemy who tries daily to lay waste to you? Joy diffuses the fiery darts of Satan and makes a mockery of him as much as it gloriously displays the goodness of the Father.

Joy is as beautiful a mystery as the Holy Spirit himself, but it is a treasure he labors to help us uncover. Because I saw the word J-O-Y so often in the culture, on bracelets, t-shirts, stationary, you name it,  I found that the word itself held little meaning to me. I couldn’t pin down what gave it relevance, but in as much as the subject eluded me, I was drawn to search it out and discover its application in my daily life. The book of Nehemiah says, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” Having a proper understanding then, of what Biblical joy is and how to walk in it, is paramount. These few things that I have come to understand concerning the joy of the Lord have emerged from my own study and are in no way exhaustive.

One of our greatest misconceptions about joy is that it is an emotion. Though joy effects us on an emotional level, Biblical joy is not an emotion. Joy is not natural, it’s supernatural. The joy of the Lord is indeed meant to transform our mind, will, emotions, and personality in a profound way but joy itself does not come from any of those places. Joy comes from Holy Spirit. It is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22).  And because it comes from Holy Spirit, it cannot be fabricated. That’s one reason why we shouldn’t pressure others to exude Christian joy when they have no revelation of what joy really is. This is both foolish and insensitive on our part and can be detrimental to others. I mean, you try living a life with a smile on your face when you’re broken within. Maybe you’re there or you’ve been there. The last thing you need is someone telling you to “wear a smile anyway.” Christ didn’t call us into a life of “fake it ’til you make it.” He has called us into a life of exuberant joy.

If we could really come to understand by revelation that joy isn’t an emotion nor is it altered by any circumstantial experience we face, I think we could experience a lot more freedom in the body of Christ. I know I have felt pressure over the years to appear happy, smiling, and content when I was anything but on the inside. If it can be manufactured, it’s not joy, it’s just uncomfortable. Joy is the very nature of Holy Spirit spilling over from the inside of you. And like Holy Spirit, you always have access. Joy is not something we are reaching for. Joy is the seat upon which we have been seated in Christ Jesus already. Not one day. Now.

Picture it. That moment at the end of a boxing match. You know, when the bell dings and the referee is holding your fighters glove high in the air. The crowd is cheering. He’s won the fight. And because he’s won, you’ve won. Nervous anticipation gives way to exhilaration. That’s what takes place in the spirit when we identify with Christ’s victory over death, hell, and the grave. Our fighter has knocked the socks off our enemy. Our opponent is shouting threats at us but he’s on his way down to the mat. The fight is over. It’s already won. This was the joy set before Christ, that we would identify with his victory and live a life transformed by that identification. He fought the fight but we receive the title. Champions. That’s what we are. When we live from his victory, we counter every attack with joy because we know we win!

So how do we access joy? How do we get more of it? How do we identify with the victory we’ve been freely given in Christ? Proverbs 31:26 goes on to say, “she opens her mouth in skillful and Godly wisdom and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” Open your mouth. Fill it with the word and the let ‘er rip. It’s not enough just to read the word. You’ve got to speak it! Boldly declare over yourself who it is that you are and whose you are. And do it every. single. day.  Identify with Christ’s victory over every enemy that tries to put defeat on you and you will find yourself laughing.

 

Partnering with God

I love the relationship I see growing between my mom and I. We are at the threshold of crossing over into what is one of the most powerful friendships I’ve ever experienced but we are still very much child and momma. What I’ve observed in my mom over the years is a relentless hope to see her children step into the fullness of our individual callings and her care for my being fully equipped to do so, occupies our every conversation.

I’ve witnessed my mom POUR OUT blessing for her children over the years. Anything I have needed in order to fulfill what  I’ve heard the Lord speaking to me to do, she has helped me to achieve. Be it through finances, coaching me through job interviews, encouragement, a roof over my head, her time, her resources, there has been no end to her willingness to “sew seed into me” as she likes to say. I know that she does it all in hope  to one day see me standing on my own two feet. Not because she no longer wants to be a support in my life, that will never change, but because the greatest reward for her as a parent is to witness her children applying the principles she has taught and modeled and enjoying the victory we were destined to enjoy.

That is when the relationship of mother and daughter evolves into that of a victor and a victor. This is a parent’s dream for their children, so naturally this is what the Lord desires for us in our relationship with him. He desires a partnership with you.

The Father would be so bored simply dictating to us for our entire lives about what he thinks we should do and where we should go. He longs to see us stand in our inheritance. Personally, I came to know the Lord as Father at an early age and that is one of the revelations I’m called to teach, but I am only just now coming to know what it is to be his friend and equal partner.

See, God in His goodness has made us sons and daughters so that we can partner with Him in the earth. My Mom invests her time and resources into me because she loves me, but I want to endeavor to earn her investment. I’m not saying I want to earn her love. You can’t earn what’s freely given. I’m saying I want her to trust me. I want her to gain a return from all that she has invested in me. I want her to be excited about sharing vision with me because she knows I will faithfully carry and nurture it. I want to be someone my Mom would go into business with. Likewise, when the Father pours into my life because He loves me, I want Him to expect, based on a history of good returns, that I will be faithful to tend that seed and bare much fruit.

Walking in your inheritance means taking up the authority you have in Christ. The authority through grace by faith that boldly declares, I am who he says I am. I can do what He says I can do. I can go where He says I can go. And I can work with him and when need be, I can make decisions in his stead because I know his heart and I walk in Godly wisdom. This is partnership. This is what I desire most to cultivate with the Father in this new year.

Happy New Year to You and Yours!

Grace to Grace

As a recovering perfectionist I understand the immobilizing effect of setting impossible standards for yourself. Some of the most talented individuals on the planet walk around full to bursting of potential that goes unrealized, because they fear failing their ideal. When I realized that whatever I can sow in faith, God can multiply, I finally felt free to simply be and do the things I love without putting pressure on myself to perform.

I’m learning for the first time that there is power in completion. I remember agonizingly wading through the murk of English papers during college. Why I chose a major dependent on complete thoughts and meeting writing deadlines, I have no idea! It feels so good to now be able to write quickly and concisely and after one edit, share it and be done. It’s a little bit addicting. I find myself writing constantly now, when before I’d labor over a single concept for weeks on end and still never share it!

And that’s what happens when we lean into our own understanding and fail to acknowledge the Lord’s leading, His grace, and His multiplying power at work in us. The greatest revelation of my life has been in knowing what is in me, is not my own. Likewise, what is in you has been given to you so that the Lord can love the world through you.

I want to do my best in all I do, but I no longer withhold my work from the Lord because I’ve deemed it unworthy. I no longer presume to call unworthy what the Lord has called worthy. I simply release what I create in faith and let the Lord take care of the rest. As I’m faithful to offer the little that I can offer, I know in time I will see increase. I will produce fruit!

By simply finishing what we set out to do, our faith is bolstered and our confidence increases. As we are faithful to step out on grace, grace increases in our lives. Our complete inheritance in Christ is realized when we learn the discipline of follow-through. We move from grace to grace. So, to all my perfectionists out there, you have permission to release what the Lord has placed within you. You were born to be fruitful.