grey squirrel.

my head and my heart are full of words to share in this sacred space of mine, of ours. in this still, quiet moment i have stolen been offered, i just wanted to drop a quick note of thanks to you.

as we come to month’s end, i just want to thank you all again for celebrating my one-year bloggiversary with me. for a girl who spent much of her life feeling only tolerated, who believed the lie in her early years that she was unworthy of friendship, it has filled my heart to overwhelming to share hearts and words and thoughts and encouragement with you, my friends, here.

thank you.

most especially, i want to thank all of my guests-of-honor, folks i have come to adore in the last year brought together only by the twitterverse and the blogosphere, who shared their beautiful hearts and humor here.

i honor you.

p.s. it bears mentioning that my ‘month-long anniversary party’ (aka july) received the most hits to date, but who’s counting? my whole point in telling you, the reason for mentioning it at all, is because of all of you, my faithful friends (and because of your own, who must have followed your scent over here). again, my thanks.

because so many kind friends responded to my invitation to guest-post (for which i am so thankful), i thought i might spend much of july pre-posting all of my worldly-wise and deeply inspiring thoughts for days to come because i am nothing if not disciplined and organized (that is, of course, apart from wise and inspiring).

as it is, my summer has been nothing short of a whirlwind (big surprise there, wish i could say it was because of all the fun i’ve been having…do you ever get over missing the days of summer vacation?) and i have hardly had two minutes to myself to put together two thoughts (more on this later). but while i wasn’t writing, i was afforded space and time i didn’t know i would need to get used to my new schedule. turns out, time away from my computer has offered a renewal of sorts, of both my mind and spirit. (who knew?)

so i look forward to seeing you here again on monday, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to share all the wise and inspiring thoughts, folks.

and, of course, all the fun.

love y’all.

xo

at the feet.

if you’ve been here for the duration of the last year, i think we would all agree that there is none who has been more personally encouraging to me than our friend dougy.

in his comments, he always contributes to the conversation and follows with an affirmation. even in our private exchanges, though few, i am moved closer to god through dougy’s heart.

despite personal and painful struggles even over the time that we’ve known him, dougy remains a gentle soul with a warrior spirit who is committed to personal growth and becoming more like christ.

my life, and i feel sure your own, is better because dougy is in it.

and i’m not sure there’s much more one can say about a person than that.

{according to the liturgical calendar (and dougy), the feast day for mary and martha of bethany is tomorrow, which is why we saved his post for today.}

* * * * * * * * * *

Now as Jesus and his disciples went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

You might think it strange for me, a guy, to compare myself to a woman in the Bible, but here goes.

I am a Martha, also seeking to do something. I like to feel useful. I feel useful when I am doing something. There is no place that this is more true than around church and church related activities. I have a hard time going to a service and simply being in the service.

For the longest time I participated in the ministry of overheads. It was a way for me to do something in service, without musical talent, playing or singing, without title or position to preach or teach. It’s one of those tasks that anyone with basic computer skills can do. It’s not too technical, like being in the sound room requires.

But I found myself distracted from things of God, when I wasn’t doing something in service. If I wasn’t doing the overhead projection, then I was sitting in service staring out the window, wondering what else I could be doing.

Among other reasons, this prompted me to consider my personal spiritual life. Church for me had become a social outlet, rather than a place to come meet with Jesus. So to challenge my Pentecostal self, I took a visit to an Anglican church and never left. I found that I enjoyed the traditional liturgy of the church. I also enjoy the familial atmosphere of the congregation I have become a part.

At first, I simply attended the services, but being a Martha (and having the calling of ministry on my life), I soon found myself joining the choir. I was in the choir, until I decided to take confirmation classes. The classes conflicted with choir practice. The choirmaster thought it important for me, so he advised to take the classes, provided I came back to choir when confirmed.

Then with confirmation came a new role. The Sunday morning after being confirmed the night prior, the choirmaster suggested a different role for me, as I hadn’t been practiced with the choir. He asked me to carry the cross at the front of the choral procession. This was initially to be a temporary thing, but he suggested, after the first service, that I could do this on an ongoing basis, provided I was interested.

And though I have become the full-time Crucifer at an Anglican Cathedral, I find that I am becoming more comfortable being a Mary. Yes, I still have a role to complete for the beginning and end of the service, but being in the service, there was nothing I’m expected to do. The expectation is that I enter into worship.

God has been using this volunteer position to slow down my racing mind. I was a Pentecostal minister years ago and never found comfort in being relegated to the role of congregant, but also am not prepared to go back to the role of Pentecostal minister.

But the calling of God is never changing. Martha had her job and role even though, in the passage above, she let her job and role distract her from the most important role in life: that of sitting at the feet of Jesus. I am learning to do that, in the midst of my role as Crucifer.

Are you a Mary or a Martha? Do you sit in the presence of the Lord? Are you distracted by doing many things?

Doug is an occasional blogger, a photography enthusiast and committed follower of Jesus. He blogs about justice issues at The Justice Journey, has photographed on safari in Africa, and attends church at an Anglican Cathedral in Fredericton, Canada.

ladybugs.

i was supposed to be on a plane to dallas today to speak at a retreat laurie was hosting this week, which is why i picked today for her post. {as it is, we are rescheduling the retreat due to unforeseen circumstances. and God.}

i’m not even sure when or how laurie found me, but she has been a subscriber of beauty for ashes since the beginning and i am better for it.

a true texas flower, she will lovingly tell you like it is with no fear of anyone but god.

and she does fear god, truly.

every time we have spoken on the phone (which is itself  a rarity if you know me at all), i am more refreshed and encouraged than i was before i picked up the phone. god has gifted her to inspire and exhort, which she does without effort.

plus, she’s hilarious to boot.

i look forward to kicking up my cowgirl heels with laurie sooner than later. in the meantime, i love what she’s written for you here today.

an aside: i tried to change my avatar last night and ended up with a faux face. done everything i know to do. am i just supposed to wait for it to appear properly now? does anyone know?

* * * * * * * * * *

Our naked feet face the same direction.

Mine: tan with a fresh pedicure. His: stained bright green around the ankle where his socks have been–evidence that the lawn work is done.

I spy a ladybug sitting on my toe and I tell him. My husband moves close, looks over my shoulder…I lift my foot and point my toe so he can see.

This is how I want to be seen. Perfectly painted toes, pointed and poised, with a ladybug as an adornment; a mark of approval, an anointing–like nature’s way of declaring that I’m initiated, I’m proven…I’m a nat-u-ral wo-man.

I giggle. (It’s a nervous giggle.)  I know why we’re here.

We do it on Sundays...ritually.

He lifts my hair, holds it up, I pin it loosely and I turn my head far to one side and then to the other to expose what’s hidden…so he can see. His finger slides down my spine. His touch is light.  I want this but the pressure is intense.  Standing here bare and exposed I’ve invited him to see me…I’ve invited my husband to search for defects and point out my flaws.

Our doctor suggested this as part of our mid-life health care. Through this ritual my husband makes me aware of what I can’t see and he points out what I probably saw and promptly ignored. In turn, I make him aware of things that have attached themselves to him—things that don’t belong and things that grow and are dangerous when they remain hidden. Things that are cancerous.

I’m aware that my breath is shallow and a bit anxious and I hope he’s not.  It’s not the search for a hidden skin tag that has accelerated my heart rate.  It’s not my exposed body and it’s not Melanoma that I fear–not really.

I glance down and see that the ladybug has vanished—taking my poised, nat-u-ral wo-man image with her.  The intense fire of vulnerability and him seeing me, has consumed both my illusion and my delusion. How I’d like to be and sometimes pretend to be but know that I’m not…it’s all gone.

He turns me with a hand at my elbow, our naked feet face each other now and when he smiles I realize that it’s not in the seeing (because he’s always seen) it’s in the inviting him to see that I experience his care, and it’s in the vulnerability that I experience his protection…his love.

Then from my heart I hear the words of David inviting God to see!

(Psalm 129:23-24)

23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

This is how we practice the ritual of protection from things that attach themselves but don’t belong and sink their poisonous tentacles deep when they remain hidden—tentacles of fear, criticism, and pride and another called, “I can’t forget how you hurt me.”

This is how we become both vulnerable and fearless! This is how we experience His care, His protection…His love!

Now I come with bare feet and wobbly knees to stand on sacred ground and invite Him to see me…naked. This one I’ll do every day. Ritually.

You can learn more about Laurie by clicking here

Laurie is a one of several guests invited to my Bloggiversary Party for the month of July. Click here to read more from special friends I’ve met in the blogosphere in the last year.

divine appointments.

when i planned my ‘bloggiversary party’, heatherly was on the top of my list.

if we had grown up together, we would have gone to each other’s houses after school and swooned over cute boys together.

we would have helped plan and been the first to show up to one another’s slumber parties.

we probably would have been included on one another’s family vacations, or at least summer beach trips.

if we had known each other in college, we would have been roommates.

if we had known each other in our twenties, we would have been in one another’s weddings. {er…i would have been in her wedding, i mean?}

that is to say, heatherly and i would have been as close as sisters all our lives instead of just in the last year.

as god would have it, we met each other in our thirties. in fact, it was exactly a year ago today. i have said before that i knew as soon as she sat down next to me in our speaker evaluation group that i wanted to be her friend. {in fact, i kind of had to play it cool so i wouldn’t come off as the over-eager, obnoxious, new girl in class…have i ever told you that, het?}

as it is, god has knit our hearts together in this last year with such a love that is only bound by his spirit. we haven’t seen or spoken to each other (except through the internets) since we met last year, yet my heart has only swelled for my precious sister-friend.

her heart for jesus spills out onto everything she does. her honesty is refreshing. her sincerity, humbling. and her steadfastness is nothing short of inspiring.

heatherly is just…good. and if you haven’t met her, you need to. in fact, it would do you well to have a friend like her in your life.

{by the way, she told me she would be sending me a different post than the one that follows. i did not ask her to write this and i haven’t paid her, nor do i feel deserving of such amazing praise. in fact, it really makes me squirm.}

HaPpY fRiEnDiVeRsArY, hEaThErLy!

i am *so* thankful for you.

* * * * * * * * * *

From my first exposure to Anne of Green Gables I always searched for “kindred spirits.”

I have been blessed my an abundance of them: roommates and co-workers, prayer partners, and playmates. Relationships carved out over time, slowly bonded over tears and laughter, pain and celebration. I cherish and adore each one, and when I see one of them, even for a brief moment at the grocery, they become the most important person in the world to me, because they have become a piece of me, of my walk, of my history.

het & mk - she speaks 2o1o

Last year at She Speaks I discovered something- you truly can find a kindred spirit a la Anne Shirley- instantaneously and deeply. Mine came in the form of Mary Kathryn “or MK or whatever” Tyson. {Yes, that is how she introduced herself to our speakers’ group. You are not surprised, are you?}

MK radiates Jesus.

With each and every pump of her heart, more grace and love and energy pour out of her. She affectionately dotes on everyone she meets and then casually name-drops in a way that doesn’t make you roll your eyes, but instead causes you to pull in closer and smile, because you know that some day you’ll be name-dropping HER moniker.

{I know that at this moment she is stuck between denying my words and feeling encouraged, so I’ll season my praise with a reminder that we are kindred because we are both so flawed and human, in awe of His grace and grateful for His healing hand… That does not, however, negate anything I said above. So there, MK.}

Sitting next to her in Van’s hotel room was not an accident, or a coincidence, or a lucky break.

It was a divine appointment.

The power of that moment, and the series of brief moments that we shared over the next few days, seeped into my self. I attended She Speaks as one of the walking wounded of the faith- she understood. I was afraid and self-conscious, unable to be myself- she saw through that. I felt out of place- she assured me I was not.

She was Jesus to me, when my emotions clouded His voice. She gave me- in a reassuring touch, a strong, loving word, and the promise to keep in touch- the briefest flash of a reminder of who I am because of what He does.

Each and every encounter we have has the potential to become a divine appointment for someone else. We have the privilege of speaking LIFE, truth, love, grace, peace, mercy, JOY, and hope into others’ lives.

But we can not do it on our own because humanly, well, none of that is in us. Anything good that is in us is because of Him, His redeeming work on the cross, His beautiful, healing Spirit.

Are you willing, with me, to submit yourself to His grace, to His command to love one another? Are you willing to allow Him to use you in such a way that people see your interactions as divine appointments- as gifts from Him?

Oh, that I would be so intimately linked with my Jesus that I would be an extension of His loving heart!

On this, our friendaversary, I am thankful for my soul sister, Mary Kathryn, and the reminder that she is in my life. She has become an Ebeneezer stone- a reminder of what He has done and a promise of what He can do through a willing life.

het & mk - she speaks 2o11

* * * * * * * * * *

Heatherly Lane Sylvia is a mom, wife, teacher, speaker, aspiring writer, and apprentice grace-giver. Her greatest desire is to live a life following after God with abandon, and she hopes to be a blessing to as many people as she can while she figures out exactly how to do that. Het is passionate, loud, addicted to books, and loves her friends, old and new. She adores the blogosphere and would love to “meet” you there. She’s also pretty sure that comments and tweets {and RT’s} are her love language. Check out her blog A Pinkdaisy Life or follow her on Twitter @Pinkdaisyjane

 

a place to exhale.

i am so thankful that i have had so many wonderful guests (including you!) who have come to my Bloggiversary Party! in case you haven’t noticed (and you really might have not, given how amazing their stories have been), this has meant i haven’t posted very much over here at all!

so it was perfect timing for me when the awesome & wise beyond her years heather invited me to guest-post for her today. once you’ve finished reading katy’s incredible post about My Favorite Thing in the World (therapy), run on over to grow up! which is where i’ve lent my voice today, in the form of a letter i wrote to a younger me.

and if you landed over here from grow up! then welcome to our bloggiversary party! we are so glad you’re here.

* * * * * * * * * *

i had seen katy’s cute avi (see picture below) on other blogs before she ever subscribed or commented here, and then was completely honored she would share her voice in this space.

there are few people you meet in the world who are so entirely given over to jesus as katy is. and i’m not talking about those of us who love god a lot. i know you know the kind of person i’m talking about. it is likely this person has spent an extended period of time on the mission field, living among the poorest of the poor. she has cried herself to sleep in the night over the dying orphans she hugged that day. she thinks little about the life she left behind because she knows god’s not an american and his heart is so much bigger than our little map.

not all of us are called to that life in the same capacity. certainly each of our contributions, albeit through prayer, finances or simple short-term missions, are equally valuable when we give with all of our hearts back to god to the widows, orphans, hungry and homeless however we can.

but katy is not like the rest of us.

her heart is made of gold, which is seen plainly through her smile and sparkly eyes and heard through her tender voice over at b’ahava.

i don’t know katy very well, but this i do know: she is a child of the king whose heart is sold-out 100%, entirely and completely to the one who adores her most. i know your heart will be encouraged by hers today.

 * * * * * * * * * *

“you are a daughter of the king of kings and you hold your head up high because maybe when you were born the enemy said i’m getting rid of her and god said no you are not.”

-sheila walsh

Sitting in the 9th row from the front, I found my light bulb moment.

A spotlight illuminated Sheila Walsh as she powerfully commanded the attention of auditorium.  Staccato words reminding us the enemy hasn’t gotten rid of us. No matter our story, we’re still breathing.

In this dance of life, stories written by His hand often twist along paths we don’t intend.

I’ve spent months building trust and relationship with someone I swore up and down since I was little that I would never meet.  I vowed to never find myself sitting in an office across from a counselor.  Oh no. Not me.  Being the daughter of a counselor tends to flip a switch of strong resolve to never end up there.

Obviously, God decided to break me down and take me to my very own “not there” out of my “God, I’ll go anywhere but not there.”  He stripped me to where I couldn’t stand.  Even planted grit somewhere in the depths of my heart to throw my hands up in the air and say, “No, I need you to help me find a counselor because I don’t know what else to do.”

As the threads to my story unravel and twist together, I do it afraid.  Every single time, fear bubbles to the surface and I ask God to be with me.  She sees the fear and my ability to switch on and off my emotions.  She connects the subtle hints and draws out the pieces of the story I fervently blocked out.  Truth speaks in whispers and nods amongst silent tears.  I cringe expecting the backlash of response and I’m loved anyway.  A hard love, but a beautiful love.

I’m doing the hard work of looking back to let go.  Learning to be honest about all even if it means feeling what I’ve denied. Processing and bringing my broken pieces to His hands so He just might make something beautiful.

Because of the hard work, I saw bits of my story in Sheila’s.  I realized the scenes where the enemy tried to take me out:

As a little girl filled with shame from other people’s decisions, he tried to get rid of me. He planted the lies still echoing in my head: you’re not enough. no one sees you. agree with whatever anyone tells you.  do what they say no matter what.

A girl becoming a woman trying to figure out how to walk with friends while stumbling in the dark.  He beat me down and showed me: don’t trust others, they’ll hurt you. protect yourself. people don’t really love god, it’s a show.

Fast forward to the woman who anticipated a ring on her finger and a happily ever after. He taunted me with one more workout to numb the pain of an affair.

His lies: something’s horribly wrong with you, you better fix yourself or nobody will ever marry you, run run run, build up those walls.

Even today, the enemy banters lies to my face: you’ll never get back to africa, give up, you’re stuck, there’s nobody for you.  He throws my sin in my face. He mocks my hopes and dreams.  He sends despair. He laughs when I find a sliver of hope for those secret petitions that I’m not sure I even want to hope for anymore. He tries to convince me God withholds good from me. He calls me unloveable, unwanted, abandoned, forsaken, desolate, ugly, fat, not enough, too much.

These snapshots from my story remind me that I’m still mostly a work of art in progress.  I’m someone still learning how to listen first and foremost to God whispering, “Daughter, I delight in you.” A story with blank pages awaiting redemption in so many areas.  A story written much differently than I intended, but one that will bring Him glory and that He will work all things out for my good even if the story looks different than I expect.

Oftentimes, I still feel like that little girl stumbling in the dark trying to figure out how to even live this life like Christ. So, I sit on the couch I never wanted to sit on so that I can do the hard work of learning to battle.  I learn how to put my armor on and how to fight.  I equip myself because the battle still rages. I’m finding my very own “not there” to be my place to exhale.

See, God’s already won the war even though the battle still rages.

Keep fighting the good fight.

The enemy wants to take you out.
But God says,
“No.you.are.not.”

* * * * * * * * * *

How’s your battle? Has your story turned out much differently than you intended? What lies are you fighting with truth?


T
hat just happens to be me over there getting my face painted.  I’m Katy and yes it’s with a y.  You can find me at B’ahava (means with love in hebrew) and @bahava.  Lately, God’s imprinted this on my heart: “God sees you; see others.” Whether I’m running a marathon, at work loving on kiddos, or hopping around the blogosphere, you’ll find me gathering and telling stories.  I love asking questions and hearing other people tell their stories.  I share my own stories as God prompts and mostly, I do it afraid because they’re messy, hard, and raw. In those places, though, He shows up with love that overwhelms, empowers, and transforms.  He’s in the business of making deserts into Eden because He delights in each of us.

say my name.

Kristin is a part of that club I told you about the other day, the one that Keri started, but we discovered over Twitter a few months ago that we have other things in common; namely, boys.

We have also realized that parts of our lives are similar, which I think offers us true kinship as well as a certain understanding of one another.

One thing I really love about Kristin is her humor. This girl just makes me laugh, with her quick wit and dry/wet humor. (Maybe it’s because she reminds me of someone I know. Ahem.)

Another thing I so admire about Kristin is her gift to turn an every day moment into an opportunity to learn more about God and His character, usually through a funny story.

{She is also The Professor in our funny little Gilligan’s Island family.}

Treat yourself to Kristin and her blog.

I think you’ll find she’s like ice cream on a hot summer day.

* * * * * * * * * *

Having been single (divorcing or divorced) for over two years now, I’ve gone on a few dates and even had two real relationships that each lasted over 6 months. The first of these was with a hunky guy who had a good job and I met while… he was my student. (I teach college! It’s ok! He’s older than me! I didn’t date him during class! I promise!)

Six months after he finished the semester in my class, during which I encourage all my students to call me Kristin, because it’s my name, we started dating. We dated for 6 months, and in that time, the man never, ever, ever called me by my name. That means that from the time I met him on the first day of class until now (we’re still friends), he has never uttered my name in relation to me at all.

He’d ring me with “Hey you!” and, when speaking to me in person, would just make eye contact and start talking. In the places of a conversation where someone would insert the name of their girlfriend, he instead called me by a nickname, Pixie. I was listed in his phone as “K.”

I found out the scoop: he had been married before, to a woman named Kristin. To him, my name was problematic. It held pain and self-loathing for the way he had treated his former wife. It was a reminder of the life he could have had, if only he’d been a better husband, put her wants and needs above his own, went to bat for her. By the time we met, she’d already remarried and had a child, but the name still held power.

In retrospect, that should have been clue #1 that this relationship wasn’t going to work out. Names are important. To be addressed by one’s name creates intimacy. Think about how much better your service is at restaurants where you know and use your server’s name. Think about what it means to be on a first-name basis with someone.

I’m so grateful that my heavenly Father calls me by name, knew it before I was ever born. I’m so grateful that I can search the scripture and that his Word reveals his name to me, I Am. YHWH. The one true and living God.

I’m so grateful that I heard the name Jesus. He is Emmanuel. He will save his people. I can call upon that name and be saved. I have intimacy created through his name.

My name means “follower of Christ.” There’s a relationship inherent in that name, too. My name points the way to Jesus.

What’s your name? What does it mean?

Please tell me you have heard a dating story weirder than this one? Share?

Kristin is a 30-year old single mom to two rather sweet, often rowdy, incredibly cuddly girls. She loves words. She loves scrabble. She loves to read. She loves Jesus. She loves her girls and her family/friends. You won’t find her cooking in the kitchen, but you can find her at her blog, Messiah Mom.

setting captives free.

and then there are some quiet spirits which require no grand introduction.

there aren’t a lot of ‘reasons’ or ‘why’s’ you love this person. you just…do.

beautiful elora is that person.

{i don’t know how or why or what for, but from the moment we ‘met’ i have only called her ‘beautiful elora’, for reasons that have no words but are made plain in this post.}

what draws me most to her is her gift of brokenness and her willingness and desire to be healed and made whole. she’s putting forth the work and isn’t taking any shortcuts. she isn’t pretending like she has all the answers; in fact, her sheer vulnerability is exposed through her daily walk with jesus.

and it is clear where her steadfast hope lies and where her faith remains.

i shall say nothing of her incredible character, her gentle beauty, her tender spirit or her loving kindness.

you will experience that in her words that follow.

thank you, my friend. for sharing this story of your brokenness and god’s amazing grace over your life here in this community. love you.

* * * * * * * * * *

my guest post was going to be anonymous.

i didn’t really think anything of it. the story i planned on telling is a piece of who i am – the reasoning behind some of my hang-ups. but i didn’t want certain people getting a hold of it, and so i requested anonymity.

the more i thought about it, the less at peace i felt. i brushed it off as just cold feet but i knew there was something deeper at work. it wasn’t until yesterday everything made sense.

{i didn’t say anything to you, beautiful elora, about this because i knew it had to be your own, but i didn’t have total peace about it, either.}

let me back track a few weeks. in june, i went to michigan for a conference involving my new position at work. at the very core of who i am as an educator, this position excites me – it involves creativity, collaboration and technology. for some reason though, that week i wrestled with the tendency to fall back behind the scenes. one morning, the sense of heaviness almost got the best of me. words spoken to me years ago were repeating themselves through the actions of my coworkers {unbeknownst to them} and i began to understand, once again, just how broken i am. 

and then i read catherine’s story.

this would be the second time a post from mary kathryn’s blog provided such clarity for me it changed how i viewed myself. never before had i considered invisibility an issue – even though i hate crowds. even though for the past five years i’ve joked with my husband about him being anti-social and me being the social butterfly { it’s been painstakingly obvious these past few months who the real social butterfly is in our relationship}

the clincher? what makes this all so difficult to swallow?  not only do i feel invisible, i don’t want to be known. i fear it.

because if someone knows me, they may reject me.

and my wounded heart just can’t take any more rejection.

i had this moment of clarity a couple weeks ago and the very next week i was writing a post for mk’s blog and requesting anonymity. obviously i learned my lesson. ahem.

so yesterday, i woke up realizing i had an appointment with my therapist. all morning long i dreaded her office. all morning long i fought back thoughts of this is stupid and you don’t need a therapist. i felt detached, numb and ill-focused. i felt guilty for waiting so long to see her. i didn’t want to disappoint her in my progress. my heart winced at the inevitable pull-back of hurtful memories.

and here’s a little something about me: in any situation i’m avoiding or feeling hesitant, my first inclination is to run to the farthest point of contact.

yesterday? i wanted to cancel my appointment and then hide in my bed.

but i didn’t. i held my ground because thanks to catherine’s story, i was recognizing a pattern. and wouldn’t you know i didn’t even make it to my therapist’s office without having to fight invisibility.

on the way, i stopped at a starbucks. as i was backing out of my parking space, i scraped the car next to me. i pulled back in to my spot {having to scratch her car some more in the process} and sat there shaking. i knew what i had to do. i knew she deserved a note. hurriedly, i scratched an apology with my phone number and took a picture of the paint for insurance. i hated that i made this mistake. i hated that i’d have to tell russ. i hated knowing that if i had just canceled, i wouldn’t be faced with this situation.

and then the lady walked out of starbucks and toward her car.

i had a choice then. i hadn’t placed the note on her windshield. she walked around her car and opened her door without noticing the scratches. i could have let her drive away. i could have hid.

but i didn’t.

i opened my door and got her attention, letting her know i scratched her car while backing out of my space. she tilted her head and placed her hands over her heart.

thank you so much for telling me, she said. i’m not even worried about the scratches – i’m just so relieved someone had the decency to let me know they did something. there really are good people in the world.

and then she turned around and walked to her car.

an hour later, i sat on the couch in my therapist’s office. i didn’t tell her about catherine’s story. i didn’t tell her about hitting the car on the way to my appointment. i didn’t tell her i wanted to cancel because i wanted to hide.

but i did tell her about how i’m struggling with my husband standing up and fighting for me.

i did tell her about the voicemail greeting where i’m the only daughter not mentioned.

i did tell her about the moments of pain and the confusion and the shame i still experience. i told her all of this through tears – and she sat there and watched me. noticed me. saw me. 

at the end of my session, she reminded me of my identity in Christ. how even though others built in me a feeling of worthlessness and invisibility {yes – she said the word} He chose me. my abuse and my shame mean nothing to the One who died on the cross for me. 

and even more: i’m worth fighting for – my heart’s worth the effort it takes to heal.

walking out of her office i knew this to be true.

and when i spoke to my mom last night on the phone and once again the feelings of invisibility creeped their way into my heart, i recognized them for what they were and i chose to step into the light.

* * * * * * * * * *

Elora lives in Austin, Texas with her chef husband, Russell, & surrogate son, Devonte. She loves words, orphans, coffee, books, Africa, hip-hop and hope. She believes in playing in the pain, breathing in grace and leaning into Jesus. 

korbin goes commando.

i met keri when dougy invited me to join a faith-based googlegroup she started. in the beginning, we were all fairly new bloggers {i think} and we were able to ask and answer questions for one another. there are eight {i think} of us in the group and, while we don’t all agree on everything and our voices and blogs are so different from one another’s, it’s nice to be a part of a group purposed to support and encourage one another.

but that’s all incidental to the reasons i love keri. you can look at keri and just tell she is pure fun. even so, you can read the words that flow from her heart as she describes daily lessons (pop parables, she calls them) of growing in god.

and still, i think what i love most about keri is how she came over here and told me we could be friends if i knew ‘mean’ by taylor swift. (which i didn’t at the time, but found it pretty quickly and i do now and we are.)

i also knew i loved her because of this post, but especially after this one. {do yourself a favor and visit the latter post. it’s hilarious.}

i love her heart. but most of all, i love that if keri & i were to ever sit down for coffee, it is very likely we would spend most of that time laughing til we cry.

* * * * * * * * * *

On the evening in question, everything was running quite smoothly.

I corralled my Little Bubba {15 months old} and proceeded to wrestle him into his church clothes.

As per the usual custom, he wiggled, he waggled, he teetered, he tottered, he weebled, and he wobbled his little chubby self away from me as I lassoed him with a diaper, shirt, and overalls.

In what was likely his 573rd attempt to tear me down from my throne of WWF Champ of Baby Dressing, he was again defeated and Supermomma reigned supreme.  {crowd goes wild with cheers and applause}

After ensuring that the other 2 boys were dressed, shoes on the right feet, and buckled into the car seats, hubs started up the Swagger Wagon and we were off like a pack of turtles to enjoy a time of worship and fellowship with our local church body.

Settling in to enjoy the sweet presence of God that flows so freely in a gathering of believers, I gave thanks for my healthy children, the freedom to openly worship the One True God, and a community of faith that emphasizes discipleship.

With those warm fuzzies in mind, I decided to have a sit down with Little Bubba because he’s getting about as heavy as 3 sacks of potatoes.

It was in that moment that I realized the unthinkable had happened.

Little Bubba’s {not so} little tooshie wasn’t quite as padded as it should be.

I checked to see if he had a side wedgie, ya know where the diaper has inevitably shifted to one side of the tooshie {yes, babies really DO get diaper wedgies}.

Yet, much to my horror I discovered Little Bubba did not have a side wedgie.  Nor did he have a middle wedgie.  There was no wedgie to be found, because he had a naked tooshie, devoid of the traditional covering known as the diaper.

This can’t be so.  I know I put a diaper on him.

The gravity of the situation began to set in as I suddenly began to panic.  I knew at any moment I could be covered in baby pee or worse yet baby poop.

This situation demanded swift action and…giggles.

Yes, I started giggling.  This is my usual response in stressful situations, awkward situations, humorous situations, or when lifting heavy objects.

I tapped Mike on the shoulder, distracting him from his communion with the good Lord.

Korbin doesn’t have a diaper on. {I whispered}

What?!

He came to church diaperless!  I gotta go get him decent before something really bad happens.

I hurried out of the sanctuary and into the Mom’s room, quickly attacking him with a diaper.  Supermomma wins again!

I wiped the cheesy grin off my face and returned to worship, unscathed.

::

Mike questioned whether or not I had actually put a diaper on Little Bubba before leaving the house.

How is it possible that a baby is able to remove his diaper, especially when he’s wearing overalls?

I have no idea, but I promise you on my iced white chocolate mocha that he had a diaper on when I got him dressed.  How dare you presume that I would fasten his overalls over a bare wee wee!

When we finally arrived home, there lay Exhibit A: a single diaper, partially fastened on the left side, lay in the middle of his bedroom floor.

::

I consider the diaper the most important article in a baby’s wardrobe.

It’s a risky move to allow a baby to go commando, completely unprepared for the worst.  And, while the sheer adrenaline rush of surviving such a feat is rewarding, it is not something I recommend.

I used to go about my business without the most important article: prayer.

But, I tried it once, on a whim, out of desperation.

I said a simple 10 second prayer, “God, I pray that your presence will be real in this situation.  Bless our time together.  Give me Your words to speak.”

And, it worked.

My relationships began to change.

There was more peace, more common ground, more vulnerability, more trust.

It’s not a prayer to secure a miracle, a lucky penny, or even a good parking spot.

It’s a prayer to change the posture of my heart from pride to humility.  To turn the reigns over to God, and let me take the back seat.

I simply offer up my heart to God, that He would give me the words to speak, the ears to hear and the heart to know Him more.  And, most of all, that He would be present, in all of my interactions with others.  That His righteousness would go before me, preparing my heart and the hearts of others for anything we might share with one another.  That He would preside over our conversation, allowing it to be meaningful, edifying and most of all, glorifying to Him.

Now, it’s my usual custom to pray before…well…anything.

Coffee with a friend?  Pray first.

Heated family discussion?  Pray first.

Date night with the hubs?  Pray first.

Every time I take those few moments to invite God into my relationships, He shows up.

And, it’s undeniable that it’s Him.  In the words of the old hymn:

In the midst of His children the Lord said He would be.
It doesn’t take very many, it can be just two or three.
And I feel that same sweet spirit that I felt often times before.
Surely I can say I’ve been with the Lord.

::

Next time you’re meeting with someone, don’t go commando.  Invite God to take over.  I promise, He’ll show up.

Keri lives in the Greater Seattle area, where she can be found climbing Mt. Laundry, loving on her 3 boys, cheering on the Sounders with the hubs, spying what’s cute at Target, or laughing uncontrollably with friends over copious amounts of coffee. In whatever time is left, she loves to read, watch movies, listen to new music, and then blog about what God’s teaching her through it all at Pop Parables.

when the holy spirit makes sure i listen.

you know when god places people in your life and your heart is full of so much love for them, even though you’ve never met and you really don’t know them very well at all?

that’s how i feel about melissa.

and you know how sometimes the holy spirit just moves you to tears in the presence of some people just because you can see how much god loves them and/or because they exude jesus in such great abundance (even if that ‘presence’ can only virtually be felt)?

melissa does that for me.

plus, she’s sort of recognized around these parts as our resident theologian.

also?

today is her birthday. :)

hApPy BiRtHdAy,

you beautiful, glorious, wonderful child of the most high king.

i am so glad you were born to this earth on this day of all days and that i would be so fortunate to cross paths with yours.

* * * * * * * * * *

I chuckled and shook my head the other day as I read my friend’s wall post on facebook.

Okay God, I’m starting to get it.

I’ve been wrestling with the subject of both my internal and external beauty as a woman.  It’s been kinda rough.  And I have been resistant to believing what God says about me.

And like Jesus has done before with my wrestling about my singleness, my calling, my giftings, His love and kindness,and His sovereignty…He will make sure I listen one way or another.

Often it comes in the “stumbling” upon a scripture verse:

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.  Song of Solomon 4:7.

Again…

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Isaiah 43:4

and again…

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

* * * * *

Through the songs in shuffling through my iPod:

I know You have come now even if to write upon my heart; to remind me of who You are.

and again…

I finally found where I belong in Your presence.

and again…

I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about the way… He loves us.

* * * * *

Other times it is the speaking of the still small voice:

I love that you have sought and know Me.  You do this because you have My love, not to earn My love.

and again…

And I do love you.  I created you.  I AM the Master Artist.  With Beauty.  Inside. Outside. Upside down. Backwards.  You have Beauty to offer, no matter how small it feels.

* * * * *

If I continue to be stubborn, the Holy Spirit calls in the special forces.  His messengers in human skin.

Know you are lovely and have inherent value. You are the only Melissa with your set up gifts, beauty, personality, demeanor, boldness, stubborness, femininity, tender heart.

and AGAIN…

I love your realness and search for truth before God. I love that you allow him to shape you how he wants to shape you and take you where he wants to take you… I love your sense of womanness in him!

God is persistent and His love endures forever. He will make sure I listen.  I sometimes think that I should be more receptive.  I should accept the first whispers and believe.  But I wonder sometimes if part of God’s comprehensive approach is to surround me on all sides, to take down the years of defenses I put up and the lies that have controlled me…

...because God can do no less than envelop me in His love and declare that I am His Beloved.

How would I describe myself? I am student and a teacher, a follower and a leader, an introvert and an extrovert, a lover and a fighter, a friend, a daughter, a sister. I am seeking to walk closely with My God, my Heavenly Father; I am fighting for the joy of knowing Him; I am praying because in the Journey, I am utterly dependent on Him.  I am currently in the midst of a year living and teaching English in South Korea. 

You can follow Melissa on her blog: Seek, Fight, Pray.

Melissa is a one of several guests invited to my Bloggiversary Party for the month of July. Click here to read more from special friends I’ve met in the blogosphere in the last year.

help!?

Stephanie & I ran into each other in the blogosphere just after we both started blogging. (I learned only recently that she saw a comment I had made on one of Donald Miller’s posts, which is the only comment I’ve ever made on his blog, which is how she landed here. I could not be more thankful.) It even turned out that we both had picked the same name for our blogs (at the time) and we both felt an immediate kinship.

One of the main things I love about Stephanie is the power of her conviction but also her willingness to see things differently. (Or, at the very least, she doesn’t say, ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ when we only agree 97% instead of 100%.) It is rare to run across someone with that kind of true humility.

Another thing I love about her is that she doesn’t say things tritely. When we discuss a topic, she will research it in order to enlighten us. When we talk about something hard, she is sensitive and open-hearted with each of us, yet she doesn’t waiver in truth.

She is truly one of the most encouraging women I have met in these parts. She has been a cheerleader and trusted supporter of so many of us in the Beauty for Ashes community. I feel so fortunate to call her my friend, as I’m sure you do.

Would you agree to keep our precious friend and her family in your prayers even as she encourages us with her struggles?

* * * * * * * * * *

Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD, 
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

No doubt about it, the past 2 years have been THE. MOST. DIFFICULT. I have ever endured.  I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say a lot has happened.  Month after month we (my husband and I) have needed some kind of a miracle or provision to help with this, or to stop that.

Today is no different.

On the way to a much needed and nearly lost vacation we got into an accident.  All in all, it was minor, but the damage to our car is costing us a $500 deductible.  This comes with no ability to pay this deductible.  My husband works out of his car and we cannot afford to store this car at the mechanic’s shop until we can pay it.

Clearly, we need help, and soon.

I am tempted frequently to give it up and cash it in on God.  I have been a Christian for over 16 years and have seen God come through time after time with miracles and provision.  So, why do I doubt, fuss, whine, and disbelieve my way through my walk with God?

Well, my first guess is that I am human.  I am a frail, fragile, doubtful, fretful, and fearful human being. My second guess is that I am caught between 2 swords. One of which is waging war against the other on my behalf in a plane of existence that I cannot see, hear, smell or touch.

So what of this?  What’s a girl to do?

At any moment a situation can arise that can send us crashing into the floor.  This we cannot avoid.  What defines us is whether we allow it to break us into a million little pieces or bounce back.  Jesus’ salvation wraps us in something that is stronger than steel.  As we fall we have a choice: do I allow myself to break, or do I grab hold of Him who watches over my life and bounce back?

I have allowed myself to break many times in the past.  The process of being put back together (because God is not content to leave us in our broken state) is often painful and laborious, and sometimes there are scars.  Naturally, I would like to avoid this process if possible.  However, sometimes I forget the past and allow myself to break.

Right now, I am tempted to let myself break.  But, as I read Psalm 121 God promises that my help comes from the MAKER of heaven and earth.  And, this Psalm also promises that He will not slumber or sleep, that my foot will not slip and that He will watch over my life.  My job is to choose to believe that He will do this for me.  If I do this, I will not break into a fractured soul.  No, I WILL bounce back, safe and sound.

Today, I choose to believe God and watch for His provision and His miracles that will surely come.

How about you…are you waiting and watching for His provision, or will you break?

Stephanie is a mom, an artist, a reluctant writer (according to her sister) a student, and a wife.  She is currently working through a Bachelor’s in Psychology and aspires to be a counselor after she finishes a doctoral program (which is yet to be determined).  Stephanie is dedicated to helping other’s overcome emotional and spiritual difficulties because the Lord has helped her to overcome so much.  

Stephanie is a one of several guests invited to my Bloggiversary Party for the month of July. Click here to read more from special friends I’ve met in the blogosphere in the last year.

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