Friends With Kids…

At this point in my life I have a lot of married friends, and many of them now have one… or more kids. It is both weird, and perfect to see my friends as parents. I joke with some of them that I am allowing them all to get married, and have kids so that I will have the best possible list of options, approaches, and will be able to spend less money because I will just barrow their stuff.

However, it is among some of my favorite things in the whole world to see my friends being AMAZING parents. I love watching them raise their children, and I always find it awesome to see when they are intentional about what they do, and how they handle their children.

Recently I went to visit a couple friends from college, and while I was not super close with them in college, I am so thankful that our relationship has grown and become a solid and mutually encouraging post-college friendship. While I was vising them, my respect for them as individuals, as a married couple, and as parents grew exponentially. The entire time I was amazed at how much everything was a team effort for them, I loved how consistent they are with their children, and there is no doubt in my mind that if I ever have children I’m likely going to be calling them for advice! Because, they have a very smart and active (almost) 4 year old, and twin one year olds.. talk about constantly going! I thought it was great how they continued their lives, and all the things they wanted to do or needed to do, and simply took all the kids with them everywhere they went. Their children have learned to adapt, fall asleep wherever, but they at such a young age have learned patience (at least as much as they can at so young)! AND, then through it all, they cook homemade meals, and find time to play games and just talk… Such amazing people that I am blessed to be friends with!

I loved the entire visit, and while it was busy and exhausting (never ever judge a tired mom or dad haha!) left me feeling so encouraged, loved, important, and it refueled my need for baby snuggles!

My friends are amazing, and I am so blessed to have them in my life!

It is both weird and awesome to see all of my friends and I “grow up”!

Out of The Boat…

I love evenings that are filled with people I am really close with, they are among some of my favorite moments. My friends (and family) bring such a unique perspective to my life, I always feel so much better after talking to them, and especially after telling them the things I am thinking about, working through, uncertain about, and praying about, they just have a way of speaking into my life words of wisdom and healing. Tonight as I caught up my friends and brother all of them highlighted different things, spoke into my heart in a way that only they could.

A few nuggets of wisdom to share from the conversations:
Not only is Jesus our Lord and Savior, but He is also “Jehovah Sneaky”… meaning He does things all the time that we are clueless about when we walk into the situation, and then on the other side are left feeling like He is crazy sneaky in His plans!.. I laughed hysterically at this term for quite a while!

I realized that I sabotage my own thoughts more than I would like to admit out of fear. I am an expert at hiding my defensive walls, and do a wonderful (in a bad way) job of preventing myself from getting hurt, by also keeping myself from walking through a potentially amazing situation or opportunity.

I was reminded that I will look back on all of this and fully understand what God is doing, and on top of that, I will be thankful, and excited at all of the ways my Lord has moved.

Sometimes I am really good at freaking out for a little bit, melting down, and then coming full circle and releasing the stress, anxiety, problem, situation, questions, uncertainty etc..etc.. to God, and other times, I choose to “protecting myself” from further hurt by not taking it all to God. But, every once in a while, I am all in regardless of the outcome, and then I allow God to truly take control, and amazingly, no matter what happens, I end up happy, content or at least understanding of the purpose behind what He was doing. Somehow over and over I forget that my better option is to give it up and be all in.

Despite bouncing between being anxious and stressing over various things in my life, I want to be all in. I want to step out of the boat, I want to fix my eyes on Christ, and I want to take comfort in His voice. Because after all, He told me not long ago “Peace, I’m here.”

My Heart’s Desire…

As part of the leadership training at NCC, each leader is given a coach to help them brainstorm, lift them and the small group up in prayer, discuss things going on, and just be a basic touch point for anything that the leader may need help working through. Not that I am biased, but I think my coach is the best one. Ever. She is amazing, full of wisdom, wit, joy, and has such perception that I just enjoy meeting with her and talking through things cause she is able to cut the insignificant things away and get to the core or the issue. I am beyond blessed to have her as my coach!

Today her and I were meeting to discuss my small group, but really it turned into discussing the changes that have come up and are presenting themselves lately. I spent longer than I needed to explaining all the different things, the perspectives, the caveats, the emotional pulls, my fears, frustrations, and prayers about everything. I went through it all figuring if she did not have all of the information either she would not be able to provide sound feedback or I would dismiss parts of what she said due to her not knowing it all. So, I chose to be completely upfront about it all… And, I am so glad I did!

After I explained everything, and then answered a few of her questions, she asked if I felt I was in a place to make a decision for myself. Meaning, if God gives me the chance to choose, am I at a place where can I choose for who I am and where I am at, based on my heart’s deepest desires, instead of feeling pressure based on others? And then, she asked if I knew what my heart’s deepest desire is. We talked about how I have a serious need for community, and I work hard to cultivate it wherever I go, and how I also desire whole heartedly to serve Christ… I desire a family one day, and I desire to have a career that means something.. But, when it boils down to it, I am not sure I can articulate to God what I want deep down. I am not sure I can explain to myself or others what my heart’s deepest desire is because it feels entirely split into two. With half of my heart I want to forsake literally everything and serve Christ as my main focus, the other half of my heart desires to stay (or go) where solid and genuine community would be found. I mean, I have wanted a family basically my entire life, but I feel like that is something that will come regardless of where I live, go, stay, whatever, especially with all the ways to keep in contact, and the amazing thing that is Skype. And, I have also wanted to change the world my entire life (well, since I was 7 I guess).

So, while I have no idea what is coming, my goal this week is really to spend a lot of time in prayer figuring out where my heart stands in the decision making of it all, so that regardless of what God calls me to next, I will know the desires of my heart.. Which ideally would be perfectly in line with what I feel I am being led to or it could be the total opposite, and serve as a period of time where God is calling me to faith and obedience above other things.

My heart’s deepest desire for my life is tricky… I have a sense, but not really words. It would be kinda nice if God would “aha” moment this all for me!

Always Changing…

I am always amazed at God’s timing. I do not know why His plans continue to surprise me (probably because He’s God..) but still.. they do. What is interesting to me is how He chooses to work in answering my prayers. I have tons of prayers that I pray consistently, asking for growth, to have more of the fruits of the spirit (yeah, yeah, that may have been my first mistake), asking for Him to use me to change the world… And then, somehow in the midst of all my prayers and petitions, I forget that I am not in control, and neither are my prayers. Somewhere along the lines I forget that I do everything for Him, and in the moments that matter, I will likely freak out for a bit, then I will be drawn back to suck it up, pull it together, and follow Him, wherever He leads me.

I find myself at another one of those crossroads where things are going to change, there is a defining moment or two coming my way, and initially I freaked out.. spazzed a little, and in my anxiousness begged God not to ask me to do anything I did not want to do..

Wait. What?!.. Who am I right now?.. This is not me! I go, I follow, I am not afraid of change, so what is this?

This is fear, fear of the leaving behind things and people I love.. again, fear of a couple years of suck repeating themselves… Just fear.

Not so much fear of the unknown or change in general because I tend to love change, but honestly, it is the relationships that I love that inevitably change that has me worried about change.

Thankfully after a lot of prayer, a lot of thinking, and a very real moment of feeling like God was telling me “Peace, I’m here” has caused me to feel like I am ok again. I do not know the future (dang it), but I do know that regardless, I will be ok because my Lord has told me He’s here.

This afternoon I had to take down my hammock cause they are cutting down a few trees in our yard (serious sadness), and beforehand I just laid on it, listened to the birds and the bugs, watched the wind in the trees, and prayed. Prayed for all the various people involved in this change. Prayed for my friends. Prayed for weights on my heart. And, just spent some time being still.

Then, later this evening I sent out an e-mail to some of my closest friends asking for prayer after explaining what is going on, and I get this back:
“(my friend’s) pastor told a story about Mother Teresa. A man was visiting her and asked her to pray for him to have clarity. She said no. He asked why and she said, ‘I will not pray for clarity I will pray for trust.’ This really hit me, because so many times I too have prayed for clarity when what I really needed was trust.  So, I will pray for you to trust more and more the God who is able to do exceedingly more than we could ever ask or imagine knowing that He loves you and will work all things together for your good and His glory.”

Love it.

I am so beyond thankful and blessed by my Lord, by my friends, by my family… Just feeling immensely blessed tonight. Not because the world is perfect, and not because the answers are before me, but because I am loved unrelentingly by my Savior regardless of my situation or emotions.

Life will always be changing. Nothing will ever stay the same, and really I love that. What I struggle with is, change also brings an end to some really great things. But, things have to be let go for new things, so I am choosing to let go, lay in my hammock, and let God direct it all.

Painfully Good Reminders…

I have love hate relationships with the days where it is brought to my attention that I have been entirely too much about myself over the last while (however long). Not in the “I am a terrible person” way (although in some instances I truly lack compassion and tact), but in the subtle things that really matter to people, like a phone call, a message, whatever…

Lately life has been a whirlwind, which does not really surprise me, due to the fact that typically during the summer I attempt to have a summer schedule that allows me to do things with other people more. However, the problem with that schedule is, I have a typical “9-5” job and am in school full time getting a double masters degree, and still work to have enough free time to be able to do most things. Now, if I am being completely honest, I fill my time up with dozens of other things too, reading, movies, volunteering, small group, lots and lots of good food… and almost all of those activities involve friends.

However, that being said, my schedule lately has mostly revolved around myself.. The things I wanted to do, and the things that interested me. I mean, granted I “did” things to help others, but there have been way too many times lately where I have allowed myself to get distracted and forget things that are important to others.

I realize at this portion of my post it seems like I am beating myself up over little things that are “not a big deal.” But they are.

In all seriousness, I cannot put a price on an offense or hurt I have caused someone else, especially someone who I care deeply for.

I was reminded today, in the most loving of ways, and more graciously than I deserved, that I had missed the mark. I had allowed myself to forget and become lazy in my diligence, and in doing so I had hurt someone close to me. How humbling to be reminded that your lack of paying attention to the small things that matter to other people has caused hurt in their life. Boiling it down, I hurt someone else because I did not care enough to make them a priority.


Talk about painful and humbling.

But, it honestly was the best kind of pain to experience because it allowed me the chance to apologize, and then do an inventory of the things I really have been slacking on out of pure laziness or apathy for things other than myself and my own interest… No matter how busy I am; work, school, whatever, I should never be too busy to stop and care about someone else’s needs, cares, heart, problems or whatever over my own.

Such a painfully great heart check for me.

12 Hours of Prayer and Worship…

This past weekend, my church did a night of prayer and worship starting at 7:14 pm Saturday the 14th, and ended at 7:14 am Sunday morning. Sounds extreme huh?.. It kinda was, but in the best and potentially coolest of ways. The entire evening was to kick off a 40 day freedom fast, of which I chose to give up sweets (more on this later I am sure).

I did a post about my view of When Men Worship the Lord, but this post is more about the entire experience for me.

My intention heading into the evening was, to be there until I got tired, figuring it would be somewhere in the 2-3am vicinity that I would actually end up leaving. So, when my friend left around 11, I did not think I would be far behind her, especially knowing how much stuff I had to get done on Sunday and because I had been fairly tired all week.

I have never done all night prayer and worship alone or with anyone else, so I had no idea what to expect heading into the night… Which in this case I guess is a good thing.

When I got there, my first overwhelming thought of the evening was that there were too many people, and they were all too close to me… and it was really warm. I mean, do not get me wrong, normally I love being close to people, I enjoy being surrounded by people, giving and getting hugs, most of the time I do not mind being touched by friends and people I know, and I was really excited there were so many people there. However, when I worship my Lord and Savior, it is intensely personal and private to me; almost more than anything else. Not to mention the fact that, I am a swayer when I worship (thanks Dad for that gene), I move, I raise my hands, I sway, I bounce around, all depending on how the music moves me. But, there were so many people that I literally had no room to move, and I did not want to bump into those around me for fear of interrupting their worship time.

Once I settled into realizing it would be a while before I was able to sway and move freely, I began the task of searching my heart to let go of the things that would hinder my communication with Christ. It took me oh, about .001 seconds to identify the burden on my heart. Lovely.

After my friend left at 11, I moved up next to another friend, mostly because I would rather worship next to someone who knows me, just in case the Lord decides to do some real work and I turned into a blabbering fool. Thankfully by the time I moved to join my friend almost half of the people had left already and I was able to worship without worrying about bumping into someone else’s worship experience.

Every hour or two they would transition into a new worship leader while one of the pastors talked or shared for a bit about what God was putting on their heart. It was really a neat experience, and while somewhat structured, it was actually organic enough to make sense and flow with the Holy Spirit. The neat thing about having so many different people lead worship throughout the night was how it all ebbed and flowed do to the different leaders. There were periods of time when the worship was powerful and exciting, and other times it was raw and seeking, some ushered into praise, while still others lead us into contemplation and reflection. It was a fantastic experience from just the worship leader’s anointing alone!

What amazed me afterwards about the entire thing, and as I began processing through what happened, how in the world did I end up being there the full 12 hours?! The first real thing that struck me was, it took me EIGHT HOURS to deal with the burden on my heart. Eight hours of constantly in the presence of God working through my fears, my anxiety, my desire to control, and finally relenting to letting my Lord deal with it. I spent the first seven hours begging for a clear answer, I just wanted to know for certain what His plan was and where He is leading me. Finally around hour eight I still did not have a specific answer, but an entirely overwhelming sense of “Peace, I’m here.” No form of do this or that, no action plan, but an outpouring reminding that the plan is in motion, my job is to let go and let God, and remember He is with me. However, just before I realized I was at peace I began crying and saying over and over “Abba, Father, I need you.” It was an interesting moment when I realized I was at peace once more because I was beginning to get tired, and had curled up in the chair to listen to other people talk about the various things God had been laying on their heart to share, and in the midst of someone sharing their heart, they mentioned Abba Father, and instantly I realize I was content, full of peace, and God was going to take care of me. What is even more ridiculous to me is that it took until about hour eleven before I really felt God at my core.

What I also find interesting and fairly ridiculous about the entire thing is how long it took for me to let go and relax in the presence of God, my Savior. EIGHT HOURS before I was finally able to relinquish control and let go of my anxiety. That is a really long time, and kinda stupid that it took me so long. However, the truth of it all is that, it took me four hours for the knot and dread in my stomach to go away, so I suppose it is fitting for it to take another four hours to work itself the rest of the way out of me, and then another three hours for God to wash it all away from my memory enough so that I could only focus on Him, despite my almost delirious state of exhaustion at that point.

I was a little surprised throughout the night at the things that made me tear up or cry. Nothing sparked a fountain or waterfall type of crying, but at several points throughout the night, different things touched me or beckoned me to the feet of Christ enough that I found myself tearing up or in a couple instances crying… It is in those moments that I am thankful my bangs cover my face when my head is bowed, it gives me a semblance of privacy; even though I am fairly certain others can see me wipe my tears away. Like I said earlier, worship between God and I is one of the most personal and private things to me, I really struggle letting others into that area… And, I have also had several people on numerous occasions inform me that I am really bad at letting others know how and what I need prayer over… I am working on it, promise.

The other thing that amazed me about the entire experience was how easily I paid attention the entire 12 hours. I expected to really struggle as the night wore on, but the hours flew by, and my attention span remained… I also was slightly surprised that I did not even come close to falling asleep at any point throughout the night, even when my eyes were closed and I was sitting while praying.

Overall I am so excited to have been able to experience 12 hours of prayer and worship, it was not at all what I was expecting, in the very best of ways, and I am excited to see what God does in the next 36 days of my fast!

When Men Worship the Lord…

I have grown up in a family full of strong, God fearing, and loving men. I am so proud of them, respect them, and they have a great deal to do with the way I view men, and the way I feel men should treat and take care of women… Regardless of their relationship.

That being said, I am always encouraged to find, see, meet, become friends with, spend time with or talk to men outside of my family that exhibit the same level of character and love for the Lord. It warms my heart in an entirely unique way.

This weekend I spent 12 hours with a fairly large group of people from my church, praying and worshiping throughout the night, from 7:14pm Saturday (the 14th) to 7:14am Sunday (I will do a separate post about that experience later because it definitely needs its own). And, whether any of us like it or not, a lot can be understood about someone when they are singing worship music to their savior. For instance, you can tell when someone is deeply impacted and moved, you can tell when they are passionate, who is typically expressive, energetic, and when the music is taking them to solemn or emotional places. The nervousness some people exhibit while singing is interesting indication as well. All of these characteristics can be observed while someone is singing. Granted, the thing that is causing these behaviors to be exhibited can vary dramatically, so to assume someone is nervous because they are uncomfortable singing out-loud would be an unfair judgement, and that is not at all what I am talking about. I am merely talking about the basic things that are actually getting communicated, not the cause. And, I do believe in a lot of ways you can tell what type of person they are based on how the worship.

However, for just a few minutes, I want to focus specifically on the men I spent the evening worshiping and praying with. Why am I focusing on the men specifically? Because, while a lot of what I am saying can and does apply to women also, as a woman, I think it is actually easier for us to worship openly due to our natural bend towards being in touch with our emotions. Plus, I think there is a lot to be said about the leadership a man exhibits in the way he worships his Lord and King. Also, just a housekeeping note, I am specifically referring to congregational/group singing, and not at all referencing the worship leader’s gender or particular style of leading worship.

So, here are a few of the things that struck me from my 12 hours of prayer and worship with the men in attendance.

It just feels right when people of all backgrounds, ages etc.. unabashedly worship God together; however, there really is no amount of words that can accurately describe the comfort and “rightness” that comes from being around men who openly and passionately worship Christ. There is just something different about being around men who are excited to worship and not at all worried about those around them, if they are on key, if the person next to them is raising their hands or closing their eyes.

I have always loved listening to men and women’s voices blend when they sing together. When men lend their voices loudly to the group, it adds something that while beautiful, women’s voices simply do not have. There is a weight behind the sound when men sing that carries the song in a way that allows the women’s voices to add the beauty and change the depth of the song (Right about now is when it becomes clear I have virtually no experience and a seriously basic understanding of music making itself).

So, taking all of these things into consideration. Spending 12 hours around men who exhibited a love and passion for God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), was awesome to say the least. There is power behind men who worship openly. Men were meant to fight, strive, protect, and care for women, families, puppies (haha) etc.. they were made that way. It is an amazing thing to watch and hear men sing songs about needing Christ, humbly saying that God is holy, holy, holy, and declaring that if God is with them, then who and what could possibly stand in their way? Being surrounded for 12 hours by this atmosphere creates an entirely different level of comfort and feeling of safety even though I personally only knew a few of the dozens of men in the room.

Throughout various points in the night I watched and listened to the men around me, not because I wanted to judge them, but because I was trying to understand them… What was God saying to them? What were they saying to God? Were they praising or pleading for something? Were they feeling the weight of bondage or set free? Were they declaring victory or needing forgiveness? Were they at peace or burdened? It was such a unique atmosphere to be a part of for dozens upon dozens of reasons, but throughout the evening, I found myself on numerous occasions just smiling as I saw or heard the men around me. There were some fantastic singers, some really excited and passionate dancing, lots of men bowed down praying, and more than a few sobering and emotional moments, all mixed with a lot of singing from the very core of who they are.

While I could go on and on about all the ways the evening encouraged and changed things in my heart with just this one element of the evening; the biggest ways it impacted me were in feeling so proud of Christian men, and being incredibly encouraged to see so many of them leading the way they are supposed to; by seeking first the Kingdom of God. There is a good chance I will never know the names of the majority of the men I spent 12 hours praying and worshiping with, but the ones I did know now have a special place in my heart because of it all.

When men worship the Lord, it is a game changer because it allows God to change them, and then women cannot help but be effected.

I will likely never know even a small portion of the things the men were praying for, through or praising God for, but, they will also likely never know how it spoke to my heart and how 12 hours of worshiping and praying with them changed me. They will likely never know how that small step of leadership has impacted me, and I am uncertain I could even explain it or articulate it well if given the opportunity.

Bottom line, there is something exactly perfect and right with the world when men worship the Lord.