Give it all away

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My current job is a ministry job. I work at a homeless shelter that believes that Jesus is Lord and when he changes hearts, he changes lives. I work at this job 8:30am until 5:00pm Monday through Friday. My husband and I also lead a married small group every Monday where we provide dinner. We volunteer at church a couple Sunday’s a month. We continue keeping in contact with friends near and far, and my dad spends almost every other weekend in our 750 square foot apartment. This is a lot of people and a lot of time. I am telling you all of this because I am an introvert; I refuel by being alone. Most of the time I can wiggle in one or two nights of rest. I can choose to say no to things most of the time. I tell myself I should say no because I already do “too much.” Though, I’m starting to wonder if this is more a selfish attitude than an attitude of Christ.

The implementation of boundaries is being preached on more and more. Saying no to something that may make you too tired or too busy is often encouraged. Let me first say there is a balance, and I do believe we need to take care of ourselves and our mental health. I’m not promoting burn out, but I am promoting being interruptible.

I am a very selfish person. I almost always choose myself. It requires the Holy Spirit to make me want to think about other people. I’ve picked up the idea of boundaries, used it and abused it. I have built walls around myself so that I don’t have to give too much, I can give just enough without being hurt. I can love Jesus and love my neighbor, but only when it is comfortable for me and when I am not too tired or when it is convenient.

Four years ago I was doing overseas missions. I was gone for about a year. Every day I was spent. I was pushed to my breaking point. I was asked to give more than I had. More time, more energy, more food, more money, more passion, more prayer, more praise, more effort, more everything. Every day I would go to bed exhausted because every ounce of me was being given. That time in my life was where I felt more alive and the closest to God. I was living and breathing the scriptures. I couldn’t do anything before first being filled with the Spirit. That’s what I think I’m missing, and maybe you’re missing it too. I’m not filling myself up. I’m not allowing God to “pour me out like a drink offering” (Phil 2:17). I will allow just enough to be poured out, but don’t pour out too much, Lord! I need to save some for myself, I need to take care of me, no one else will, right?

I’ve picked up expectations and boundaries like luggage, carrying them around with me, never letting anyone forget that these are mine. You cannot touch these.

Jesus asks for more.

He asks for me to lose my life to find it. (Matt 16:25) To love others so much that I forget about myself. He asks me to seek first his kingdom, not my own. (Matt 6:33)

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)

Jesus lived his whole life submitted to what his Father wanted. He was interrupted time after time.

I’m reminded of the story of the woman who touches the hem of Jesus’s robe in Luke chapter 8. He is walking with his disciples through a large crowd and so many people are grabbing him, including his disciples. This woman who has been bleeding for twelve years reaches out and touches the hem of his cloak and is immediately healed. Jesus, in the midst of this chaos asks “who touched me?” The story continues with a conversation with the woman. I urge you to read it on your own, but, what I want to highlight is how Jesus stops. He stops in the midst of a crowd that the scripture says is “crushing him.” He allows himself to be interrupted. He allows himself to be given to this woman. I don’t do that often enough.

I want to live my life in submission to what the Lord has in store for me, for his family. I want to be able to come home from work and still be available to be taken from. I want to say yes to someone who is in need and desires my time instead of pushing them away because I’m tired or because I need my “alone time” first. It is all an excuse. Jesus promises to be living water. We have access to that water any time we want, just as he promised the woman at the well. (John 4:14)

I believe when we are giving ourselves and serving others, Jesus is going to provide for us. He is going to fill us because he is the well that never runs dry.

That’s what it was like while I was doing missions. Living to the fullest, and pouring it all out to be filled again. I want to know I am living at my full capacity, loving with no agenda and serving without expectation. To give all I have of myself. To love so boldly it is impossible for me to keep any for myself. None of what I have is mine. It’s all his. All my gifts, all my talents, all of myself. He’s asking me to give it all away, and that is what I am going to do.

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Planning the Unplannable

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For months i’ve been fighting against unknown territory. I’ve been fighting against things not planned and not laid out in bullet points.  Trevor and I have been on the edge of something new, but just far enough from the edge to make us crazy. We have not been pushed over the side yet and we don’t really know what’s at the bottom. We’re not quite sure where we are headed and lists aren’t helping us at this point. We know God is moving us into something, we feel it, the air around us is thick with promise, but my head is going to explode planning the unplannable.

I’m with the majority of people who like to know what’s going on every second of  every day. I like to know the plan before the plan exists. I wasn’t always like this. Three years ago, while I was overseas doing missions, I was the ultimate go-with-the-flow girl. Over there you aren’t given a chance to be anything else. If you had plans, they most likely would be ruined, which is why we had to learn not to make plans and just let whatever was going to happen, happen.

My hands are clenched so tightly around control: clenched around this perfect list so it looks like I have my life together, or create the illusion i’m doing something special. Ultimately, by trying to have so much control I’m not listening to God or his plans. I’m focusing on what I can see and what I can make into nicely color-coordinated schedule. I want to let go of this false control. I don’t want to lose my sh*t every time something goes wrong or we’re running late (gasp!).

If you’re in our close circle of friends you may know how hard this season has been for Trevor and I. It’s hard to explain without making it sound like we’ve hated every aspect of our last two years in Kalamazoo. We’ve had good days while living here and I’m so glad we have met the people who have chosen to invest in us, but most of the time has been us fighting hard against this shallow community.

I have avoided talking about our experience with church because I don’t want to step on toes, but i’m not sure it’s the healthiest response. Our first year in Kalamazoo we deeply invested our whole-selves into a local church. We served in the youth group. I interned in the office. Trevor performed in a play.  We did everything extracurricular we could enroll in and volunteer for. From our experience; if you wanted community you had to invest in the people and in the church. We invested, we planned parties at our apartment, we did everything we knew how to do to build community. Now, before I go on, Trevor and I have fully owned up to any wrong on our part. We turned down some opportunities that we probably should have taken. In hindsight, we believe we did everything we could to become part of this community without burning ourselves out. After a year with no real interest from others in reciprocating investment in us other than attending Sunday’s services, we decided to leave that church. There were also checks in our spirit about the gospel they were preaching but I think less is more on that subject. Since we’ve left, I’ve seen multiple things happen that have confirmed for me leaving was the best decision. One being, not a single person from the church has tried to reach out and see how life has been going for us. After a year: nothing!

Even moving churches we have yet to see any form of intentional relationship building. One of my friends from out of town said to me recently she believes Kalamazoo is “spiritually apathetic.” After two years, I can see it. Despite the great lack of genuine community out here, we have made a few authentic relationships at work and through our new church. Even so, our community is dry.

For me church isn’t the building: it’s the people. Church will still exist if every church-building burns to the ground. The Holy Spirit lives inside of a believer. I have had the unique experience to personally see what genuine community is and what church should look like. I don’t think I will ever see it again until Heaven, but I want to at least try. Trevor’s and my heart are so invested in intentional community and no matter how many people deny our invitation we are still going to give it out. I will continue to invite people into our home even if only one person shows up. I will continue to invest in the ministry of a church-building because I believe it helps broken people see Christ.  I’m aware there is no such thing as a perfect Church; i’m not looking for that, believe me. I’m looking for a church that talks more about their weaknesses than their strengths. I’m looking for a church not afraid to cry, not afraid to admit when they are wrong. I want a church that doesn’t cover up failure.

This new thing God is doing is getting closer, but we are still in the unknown. This unknown is giving me inexpressible joy. Joy that only comes from a God who is planning my life more beautifully than I ever imagined. I know we are moving out of this season. I know he is bringing us into a new place of rest and understanding.

I think I grasp so hard at control because I can’t control what is hurting us. I can’t control the way people invest in us. I can’t control the fact that my husband doesn’t have a community of men. I’ve wanted some sort of control and I made it my mission to make our lives seem fine with a I-don’t-need-you-anyway type of attitude. The truth of the matter is we were hurt and some days we are still hurt. I think a lot of the time when we are hurt we cling to what we can control instead of an unchanging God. God isn’t a broken church or a lacking community. God isn’t a yes than a no. God never disappoints and never fails.

My heart is for community, and I know God’s is too. He’s been teaching me a lot about saying “anything.”  He’s been teaching me a lot about “yes” and about “no.” He’s been teaching me about how to show up broken, but to allow him to do it despite all of the mess. Trevor and I have come to the conclusion that we don’t really want what we thought we wanted. We’re praying the prayer, “God, we will do anything.” We are saying yes to things that help us see Jesus and no to things that are too much, too soon. We are learning to take breaks and to breathe. We are learning that God is in the resting, just like he’s in the going.

The new thing is coming, and I’m excited. I’m excited because I know I didn’t plan this. It’s not on a color-coordinated schedule. A plan unknown to me, but held by an unshakeable God. I know whatever it is, it’s out of my control and I think i’m finally ok with that.

I’m going to stop telling myself “I’m enough”.

“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.  Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.  Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”  He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.  Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.  Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
John 6:1-14

 

I’m constantly preaching to myself, and making sure I believe that I truly am enough. I am enough for my husband and for the ministry I’m in. I’m enough for my friends and for my family. Who I am is enough.

I’m starting to question that.  I’m wondering if allowing myself to believe who I am enough is not causing me more stress and anxiety.

If I am enough than I could do all the things I’m supposed to do.  I could fulfill all of my husband’s wants and needs. He would never need to do anything else because I am enough.
If I am enough my family would understand my love for them and know that I am always there for them even when I’m far away, because I am enough.
If I am enough than I would always know that my body is beautiful and I would never believe lies about myself, because I am enough.
If I am enough than I would always feel competent at my job and know that I’m making an impact because I am enough.

All of those things leave me dry because I’m trying so hard to be “enough.” I’m trying to live up to expectations that are unrealistic.

When Jesus feeds the five thousand they have five loaves of bread and two fish.  What does he do? He says “give me what you have”.  After everyone eats, all five thousand of them, they have leftovers.  They have more than enough, they are overflowing.

I am starting to realize that I was never meant to be enough.  Jesus is asking me to give him what I have and he will do the rest.  He is the one that is enough, not me. I can be the person Jesus has called me to be, but, it will never be able to fill the people around me because that is not my job.  My husband is supposed to fill himself by going to the Lord, my family is supposed to rely on the knowledge of Christ to get them through the day, my friends are supposed to trust the heavenly power of Jesus to bring them to redemption.  I am not the savior of the world, Jesus is.  I can work my hardest at my job, but at the end of the day I am not the one who carries the ministry, Jesus is.

I think it’s time for me to let go of being enough, maybe it’s time for you to let it go, too.  I’m ready to trust Jesus again, I’m ready to have twelve baskets full of leftovers from my fives loaves of bread.  I’m ready for Jesus to take the small amount of hope and joy and love that I have in me and multiply it to extend to thousands of people.  I think it’s okay if we let go, I think it’s okay if we disappoint people and say no sometimes, because we don’t have to fill everyone all the time.  We can just be and know that Jesus truly has fulfilled every desire inside of us. It is exhausting trying to always enough.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6

I can let go of being enough, and know that I’m not and that is okay.

The light shines.

“The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.”
//John 1:5

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I had a whole different blog written out. It was full of hurt and the lies I have believing and yes, some of that will spill out onto this page but I’m starting over. I’m starting over because the light who is Jesus himself shines in the darkness and guess what? The darkness flees, it cannot overcome it, and it cannot overcome the Christ, the God-man who defeated it forever.
For a second (which has been a couple months) I have been living like the darkness had a lot of power, like the light wasn’t enough to help, to free me.

I’m not quite sure how to put into words what exactly has been happening inside of me but it has been bloody. The enemy has been attacking me for so long I almost gave up. Every moment was a moment of weakness. I was never good enough. Every single thing I did was just another opportunity for him to tell me I wasn’t worth anything. He was trying to pick me off. He wanted me to become so apathetic I stopped fighting. That is ultimately the enemy’s goal. Anyone that is doing anything for the glorification of Jesus he will try to pick off. He will try to make you believe anything so you become so inverted and consumed with your own hurt that you forget about the goal.
I forgot about the goal. I was licking my wounds and feeling sorry for myself because I was living like I wasn’t worth anything.

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Last Sunday at church we started a new series about what kind of story you want to tell. We were asked what kind of story we wanted our life to be telling. The kind of life you live when you believe the lies isn’t a life and it wasn’t the story that I wanted to be telling.  I want my story to be an adventure filled with courageous deeds and bold statements. I want my story to ask hard questions and to challenge the ideas of culture. To be in that kind of story, the kind that comforts and moves and changes, you have to be secure and confidant in who the writer is. Who is the writer? The writer is the same one who beautifully and awesomely created this world. The same writer who told the ancient couple Abraham, and Sarah that they would birth Isaac and that Abraham would be the father of many nations. He is the same writer who called little tiny David to defeat the monstrous goliath.   The bible is the most exciting adventure, and Jesus was the most courageous man. I want my life to look like that. How do I make that happen? I trust God, the one who created me, who knitted, molded, and breathed me into existence.

 “Every day God invites us on the same kind of adventure.
It’s not a trip where He sends us a rigid itinerary, He simply invites us.
God asks what it is He’s made us to love, what it is that captures our attention,
what feeds that indescribable need of our souls to
experience the richness of the world He made.
And then, leaning over us,
He whispers, “Let’s go do that together.”
//Bob Goff, Love Does

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Our whole life is a battle and we have been warned of this, even given armor. (Eph 6:10-20) We should never be surprised, but ready when those attacks come. We are children of the great I AM. No story is complete without a little friction. We like to see the hero overcome obstacles; we want to see the hero win the battle. Are you the hero of your story? Are you going to fight for your story? Are you going be courageous and bold? Let’s live in the confidence of the light that cannot be overcome by the darkness.

Grace in the unknown

I’m walking into a new season.  A season I didn’t expect, but kind of really like.
As I walk into a new season, April is starting and so is spring.
The snow has melted and sun peaks its head out of the clouds every once In a while.
I’ve placed my sweaters in a box and my coat hangs unused in the closet.
This season is beautiful because it’s full of grace.  Grace that is being retaught and relearned.
I woke up this morning to a dreary, gray, rainy day.  I couldn’t help but smile.

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You see, rainy days, especially rainy spring days, are my favorite kind of days;
Rainy days remind me of grace.
They remind me that God never forgets to refresh, to restart, to renew.
They remind me to rest and remember to cuddle.
They remind me to love and be loved.
They remind me that I am never forgotten and I am always taken care of.

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God takes time to refresh the earth.
To quench its thirst for him.
I like that idea, because He’s doing it to me.
He’s reminding me of how cared for I am,
and how much he knows and I do not. 

The father has torn my plans from me.
I’m not surprised because that’s what he does.

I was planning on moving to Ireland in August to be a part of the ministry that is happening in Coleraine, Northern Ireland.
I am no longer planning that endeavor.
Instead, I’m walking into a much scarier place, home.

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I tend to find security in unwavering plans.
God likes to remind me that He is in control of my plans, not me.
My plans for Ireland were good, and they were glorifying to Christ.
Staying home is also glorifying to Christ.
One is not better than the other.
But something He is teaching me is that sometimes it’s easier to keep moving
and never look back instead of standing up to your past and not letting it define you.
He’s teaching me how He redeems and defines me. 

So, in this new season I’m going to curl up on the couch and listen to the rain.
I’m going to watch as God refreshes the earth just like he continues to refresh me.
I’m going to learn as people hand me grace and remind me of my Savior.
I’m going to listen as I hear the promises that are engrained in His word.

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I am taken care of, and I see His grace clearer than I’ve ever seen it before. 

 

find the beauty.

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I love driving this time of the year in my town, it’s such a simple thing that I always forget I enjoy until it comes back around.  Twinkle lights are up and the chill in the air makes everything seem quieter.  Norah Jones hums softly in the background as I let my heart swirl in the softness of it all.  The holidays start to roll around and my mind always goes to a softer place, a place where things really aren’t that bad.  I know it’s the “Christmas cliché” to be jolly and thankful during this time of the year and people get their panties in a bunch because they want people to be thankful at all times of the year, which I agree with, but have you lived life?  Have you listened to the news? Do you live inside your own mind? Sometimes it gets so clogged with agenda’s, and bad relationships, and sucky bosses, and natural disasters, and babies that cry, and sometimes you forget life is meant to be enjoyed, that being thankful isn’t a burden but something that actually allows the weight of the world to lift from your aching shoulders. 
I think the pantie bunchers are right, but I also think it’s good to be reminded, to be quieted and softened so that you can hear the bells, or Norah Jones, or sometimes just a friend.  Sometimes your mind needs to be cleared out of all the “me, me, me’s” and it needs to be replaced with the “look at how beautiful your grace is, Lord, look at how much you love me!”  Wonder is something I’ve noticed I’ve lacked lately.  Wonder of God, and wonder of the small things throughout the day that actually would allow my day to look a little brighter.

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I put a candle in my room, It’s called “Christmas morning latte”, I’ve never been in a family that has latte’s on Christmas morning but I enjoy that my room smells like I am.  Every time I walk into my room my heart lifts a bit and somehow I’m reminded that life is ok, that I’m not the center, and it’s ok that I want to take a very long nap. I’m a smell person, people remember moments and events by food, or a song, or maybe even the colors; I always remember things by smells; The way someone smelled, or the smell of a house, or even the smell of the road we walked on.  I can be brought back to that moment in an instant as soon as I smell whatever aroma is passing through.  This candle tickles whatever memory sensor of mine and reminds me of peace and stillness. I’m able to think without my own self getting in the way, and I’m able to relax and see things beautifully, which is so important to me.  I’m able to let The Lord whisper his plans into my ear and I hear them, I hear his soft voice and my heart is full and happy and I smell the candle and the twinkle lights in town are glowing and Norah Jones is singing and my sweater is soft on my skin, and my eyes are open and I’m able to see. 

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Life is beautiful, even in the chaos, in the typhoons, in the family breakage, in the baby cries, in the horrible days at work, in the news of cancer; there is always a light, a hope, bigger than me, bigger than you.  This hope has called you His, let that be beautiful enough to carry you through.