Changing Slowly…

Lately I have been taking time to reflect on where I am internally compared to where I was almost five months ago.

Throughout each year, there are markers that serve as points to pause, reflect and compare to a year ago… Yet, this time, rather than reflecting on a year ago, I find myself processing how much has happened inside of me since July of this year. I went into Uganda struggling very much internally, but not even really in a place to recognize it because of how hard and hectic May and June had been in every regard.

Before we left, I had begun asking God to reveal the lies I had been believing, and to restore hope where I had lost it… Then I closed that box of my heart, and got on a plane and launched myself to another continent.

Twice on the flight over I was asked how my heart was doing because people who know me, are aware of how much I struggle and have to actively work to link my head and heart well. I have had a habit of locking my heart up and setting it aside, especially if I am uncertain or overwhelmed by what I’m feeling.

Perfectly timed, around that same time before we left for Uganda, I also began asking God to help me navigate my head and heart well together. I had started to realize that Grace and Truth as well as Head and Heart are the balance of the Holy Spirit. God is perfectly both sides in unison, and in order to be more like Him, and more sensitive to His guidance, I too needed to start learning how to balance these things rather than setting one aside.

I was not prepared for the answer God was going to give me, nor the longevity of what it would mean to get the answers to these prayers.

I actually think if I had known how long and hard this all would be, I would have peaced out and quit right from the beginning. I am fairly confident I  would have shut my heart down and opted out of the process to protect my heart had I known the pain and struggle involved. Yet, one of the many graces in this whole journey has actually been my lack of knowing God’s timing. – I struggle with it all the time (as in allllll the time), but not knowing has also created a reliance on Him that I simply did not have before. Not knowing God’s timing has been so good too because I was unaware of the depths of intensity it would take to fix and heal certain areas of my heart, and just what it would mean to restore the trust and hope in God that I had lost. – Back in July it was as though my prayer for help balancing my head and heart caused God to lock my heart in the open position; it has been exhausting and overwhelming almost every single day since.

Even still, almost five months later, I regularly feel overwhelmed by how I am feeling, the ways I am changing, and how far I still have to grow. About once a week I have a late night meltdown over how exhausted and weary I feel internally due to actively processing every day. I am given the option to choose to grow and learn more about who I am supposed to be in Christ, and to face the ways in which I lack in trust/faith/fruit of the spirit (throw a dart at some character trait and I’m probably working on that too)… I assure you, it is Not. Easy. Nor. Fun.

But, God does not force me, He allows me the freedom to choose to face these things or quit… However, because of who God has made me, I will not give up, and I will choose to daily engage in this process of growth and change.

My journal of prayers is getting record use (literally). The current one (each one is 40 sheets/80 pages) is my 4th one in just about four months…

But so that there is no patting me on the back with congratulations: My prayer journal just makes me look like a crazy person.

Seriously, going back and reading the day-to-day prayers, they just swing widely back and forth, it’s embarrassing, but also they are incredibly intimate and real. These prayers reflect my struggle, my anxiety, my fears, my heart wide open and effort that it all takes, but also the ever so slow changes that are taking place, and just about every emotion possible finds its way into my prayers.

These journals are very how I am choosing to press closer to God and processing all of my tension, thoughts, and emotions.. But, in all honesty, they just really make me look like a wackadoodle. I wish I could share about how sweet the prayers are, but no. The sheer level of back and forth my prayers exhibit is ridiculous; the overwhelming emotions, the joy, thankfulness, the over analyzing things, the confusion and uncertainty, the copied scripture trying to help me grasp onto solid truth amidst the chaos of feelings, the waffling ebb and flow with how I feel vs what my head knows… EXHAUSTING.

Yet, I am also currently reading through the book of Psalms: I feel like my journal looks a bit like David’s prayers and hymns.

Some are so sweet, loving, encouraging, full of thanksgiving, while others are all raging and demanding that God do something (usually an overreaction to an emotion or situation). Some are declarations of praise, faith, love, and hope, while others are full of anger, sorrow, and despair. – This could literally be the description of my prayer journals AND the book of Psalms… So, I guess that is comforting?

At the end of every journal (about every six weeks currently), I go back and review it. I re-read things I have prayed for, asked God about, passages of scripture I copied, and then compare them to my calendar and remember what was going on that day. Every few weeks I am amazed at all that the Lord has done, how I feel about those days after the fact or in light of things that happened a few days later. I marvel and thank God again for answers to prayers, and for His continued patience, grace, and tenderness as I try to press in, learn, and grow.

But, let’s be honest: It. Is. So. Hard.

Several months ago I felt like God told me three things:
Hold Steadfast.
Persevere.
Be Obedient.

Then about a month ago I felt like God added Faith, Hope, Love.

As I review my journals, I am amazed at what it looks like to hold steadfast, persevere, and be obedient, and how these three things play out (and don’t). Previously I never would have been able to accurately identify what it truly looks like to hold steadfast and persevere, because I struggle each day with them. – Before all of this, I would have felt as though the level of my struggle daily would clearly indicate I was not in fact holding steadfast; yet as I go back over my prayer journals, I realize in the long haul it absolutely does. Holding steadfast and persevering doesn’t mean a lack of experiencing emotions or struggle, it means turning to God with every single little bit of it, and remaining there with Him.

I have learned that holding steadfast and persevering throughout scripture leads to faith, hope and love… but also proven character. It is in the journey, the long haul, the process that we refine, create, and prove who we are at our foundational core. But, let’s not dismiss how much proving character takes time, and is incredibly difficult and oh so awkward of an imperfect process.

In the last couple of months I have begun to see the transformation, and just how much I am changed forever because of the time pressing into the Holy Spirit and expressing all the things to God. Choosing to return back to Him with every little thing has changed the way in which I handle joy, hope, failures or despair on a daily basis. Because of the difficulty of modifying who I am on the inside, there has been an increase in desire to spend dedicated time every day with God; I am not entirely sure I can name any period of time in my entire life that I felt this way for months on end… I am so incredibly grateful (and hope it continues, recognizing seasons of life and all).

I long for connection with God, I need time to tell Him how I am, ask for what I want, and process everything that I’m struggling with. Every day there is a nuance to the areas He is work on growing in me, and whatever is heavy on my heart or mulling around in my head that day also gets some much-needed time laid before Him.

Now months into this whole process, I realized this week, on one particularly intense and emotional day full of stress, frustration, anxiety etc.. I still had the clarity and presence of mind to actively choose my responses. I was not swept away in any explosion of emotion and even the intensity with which I experienced my feelings was still there just like before, but despite it all, I found myself able to actively chose grace and patience. – Well that’s new… and not easy.

I have started to realize over the last couple of weeks that the force with which I feel and experience my emotions has not changed at all. God has not lessened who I am or the passion and intensity that I process, feel or express things; instead, He has changed my ability to see perspective, have understanding, and respond in grace and love. It is as though the spring that feeds into my heart-well is different, and therefore what is coming out is also distinctively changed, but that I am who I have always been in many ways, just a better version of that person.

A couple small excerpts from one of my prayers at the end of a particularly difficult day recently:
Thank you for being with me and giving me the extra measure of grace, patience, and presence of mind to choose my responses…
Help me to follow your leading better tomorrow. Give me more wisdom and understanding, and bless me with a greater capacity to love well…
Forgive me for the things I said and did today that did not line up with you. Forgive me for the things I missed…
Show me how to trust you more and be confident in your faithfulness more…

It has been an interesting experience reading through my prayers over the last few months, I would never have chosen this ahead of time had I known how hard it would be. I also have realized that I would never have been able to predict beforehand the ways in which I would respond (good or bad) to how God would grow and make me new. Yet, through it all, I am starting to recognize the small ways He has shown up and proven Himself trustworthy and faithful. But, above all, recognizing this gaining familiarity with Him as I spend more time communicating with Him. His presence and “voice” feel different to me now than they did in July (or previous to that).

My daily struggle to hold steadfast, persevere, and be obedient is still going strong.
Learning how to love well is not easy.
Finding and growing my faith and hope feels ambiguous, but slowly I am realizing that it is creating a foundation I did not have previously.
Making decisions against my own insecurities, and choosing to share my heart rather than shut it down and set it aside is still incredibly hard.

I am not the same person I was a few months ago.
My heart has changed. I have changed.

It has been a slow sometimes arduous process, and it certainly is nowhere near complete, but I am also incredibly grateful… and exhausted.

I am learning that the process and journey is full of challenges and pain (there are good and joyful times too, but let’s be honest, we don’t need people to identify with our good times as much), but it is worth it to become more of who God intends for you to be.

Choose to face it all head on, experience every emotion, and sift through them with the creator of your heart; it will change you forever and it will be so good.

Accused of Thinking…

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I have been processing through so many comments I have heard or read on social media over the last couple months spanning almost every topic you could imagine.

People assuming the thoughts and intentions of myself (or others) and making grandiose statements of what the reasoning is behind it, and substituted truth for what they have decided must be facts.

“You think ____.”

“Obama/Trump/Hillary thinks ______.”

“Refugee’s think _____.”

“Women/Blacks/Whites/Rich/Poor blah blah blah, all think ____.”

Stop. It.

You have no idea what anyone is thinking, you are not in their head, you do not have to make the choices they do, and you do not have all of the information. Not to mention, it is poor form and terrible logic to try to create a false process for someone else’s actions.

Stop telling me what I think and what my motivation was for something.

Because at best, your thought process is what you would have done in my shoes, with your background and with the limited information you have. And, at worst, it is the classic case, “when you assume, you make an @$$ out of U and Me…..” mantra.

But, just so we are clear, the opposite side of this coin is that, if you are making assumptions and judging me or others based on what you have decided we/they/someone is thinking, then you are likely also judging yourself based off intentions alone. Oranges and Apples.

What’s the solution to this flawed way of operating?

Ask. Questions.

“Why did you do ___? What was your thought process behind ____?”

Learn. Gain perspective, play devils advocate to your own views, set aside your desire to be right. Just because you disagree with your limited knowledge, does not automatically make them wrong.

Be humble.

You do not have it all figured out, and there are likely hundreds of reasons behind someone’s decision. Making an assumption of what anyone must have been thinking is going to create a wider gap between you and everyone… Not to mention lower the respect others have for you.

It is possible to disagree and be kind about it.
It is possible to hate the decision, but understand the process.
It is possible to learn from those we don’t like.

We do not have to be a people or culture of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

We absolutely can be a humble people, with the intention to learn, gain wisdom, and perspective and still disagree.

Sometimes all that matters is that we understand the why behind something, and it changes our whole view of the situation.

Step aside from your arrogance, take a humble posture of learning, ask questions, listen, seek wisdom and understanding before elevating your own voice and opinion.

Stop seeking for others to see and hear you first, and instead choose words and language that invite others into a safe place of learning and discussion.

Iron sharpens iron… But, only when both are equally willing to be sharpened. It falls apart when only one takes the perspective of learning and humbling themselves enough to be willing to be wrong.

There are differently blessings in life for those who humble themselves, and sometimes blessings for others because of our own humility.

Just to share a small portion of the scriptural basis for my perspective:

“Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the Lord.” – 2 Chronicles 34:27

“He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way.” – Psalm 25:9

“When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:29

“Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:4

“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” – Matthew 23:12

“He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.” – Luke 1:52

Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: ‘He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us’? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – James 4:5-7

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.” – 1 Peter 3:8-9

Read more here.

There are two things I pray for almost every single day, and have for as long as I can remember:

Wisdom:

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – James 1:5

and Understanding:

“So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing.” – 1 King 3:9-10

So, stop assuming the thoughts and intentions of others. Ask them, learn from them, be respectful, and learn to use your words better.

What is it you ask God to bless you with every day?

What could you do to make your communication better?

 

Practicing Hospitality..

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Showing Hospitality for me often takes the form of sharing food with others.

I have half a dozen blog posts that are half written and not yet posted, full of ideas, thoughts, and things I am working through deep down. But, today, as I love my Monday routine (I’m convinced I’m the only person who loves Mondays), I am mulling over “Practice Hospitality” from Romans 12:13.

I have been contemplating the idea of how so much of my life revolves around practicing hospitality. Learning to get good at it, adjust it, improve weaknesses, and identifying the type of hospitality that each person needs.

My job entirely revolves around this idea of practicing to get good at hospitality, and then helping to lead an entire community towards being good at it as well.

Today I am mulling over the order and process of how passages are put together. I find it fascinating is the types of things put together in scripture… Why are these things linked? What is the importance behind why they are listed like they are?

For example, practicing hospitality is listed like this:

so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:
if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;

if service, in his serving;
or he who teaches, in his teaching;

or he who exhorts, in his exhortation;
he who gives, with liberality;
he who leads, with diligence;
he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be without hypocrisy.
Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;
give preference to one another in honor;

not lagging behind in diligence,
fervent in spirit,
serving the Lord;

rejoicing in hope,
persevering in tribulation,
devoted to prayer,

contributing to the needs of the saints,
practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Be of the same mind toward one another;
do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly.
Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.
Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

I do not think it is happenstance that “practicing hospitality” falls in the middle of this, serving as a transition point. The first half of this seems to be talking to believers, for believers, and how to operate with other believers… But, then after practicing hospitality there’s a pretty clear shift in the conversation.

The second half of this depicts life: The good and bad, the ugly, hard, gritty, un-fun, and difficulty of being in real relationships with people. And then, it ends a few verses later with: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

There are three main points that stand out to me in this passage that seem to be what hinges on overcoming evil with good:

Let love be without hypocrisy
practicing hospitality.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

I think the reason I love these, and see them as anchors within this passage is because they point to real relationships. The beauty and struggle, the intentionality, and how authentic relationships are supposed to look.

Let’s be real: Life. Is. Hard.

But, life is easier if we love well, practice hospitality towards one another, rejoice and celebrate, and weep with those around us.

Life becomes less hard, less sucky, and more tolerable, enjoyable, and fulfilling when we travel it together.

We want real relationships, hard conversations, people who make us grow and allow us to fail miserably. There’s nothing quite like deep meaningful relationships to boost our spirits. Life feels a bit more manageable when we enjoy dinners, laughter, and silence with people who extend us grace and mercy throughout hard seasons because it creates a safe place for us to heal from wounds of our past. – Whether they are of our own doing, or at no fault of ours.

Life is hard, but practicing hospitality is important for everyone to learn how to do well; it is a skill that needs cultivation. Each person has their own flavor of hospitality, but most do a poor job of trying to hone their own style of hospitality to convey love without hypocrisy, rejoicing with those that are rejoicing and weeping with those that are weeping.

We must all get better at hospitality.

True, authentic, welcome to the real life of me, type of hospitality; not the fake Pinterest, better homes and gardens, Martha Stewart style hospitality.

The thing I love about this passage in Romans is it also prevents selfishness. Loving without hypocrisy, practicing hospitality, rejoicing with those that rejoice, and weeping with those who weep etc..etc.. prevent us from focusing on ourselves. – We must focus on others.

Life and community suck less when we are focused on others. We stop feeling alone when we enter into the ups and downs of the life of those around us.

People find hope and a place to learn how to be healthy if we live like this passage in Romans calls us to fulfill.

I love that my job requires me to be intentional about understanding hospitality, learning about it, and then creating space to practice it both professionally and personally.

How do you practice hospitality?

What does that look like for you?

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More often than not, hospitality and loving well looks like me freely giving my time and sharing food or drinks with someone!

Generosity is the Key…

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I have always sorta known that being generous was important. Without realizing it, I saw it growing up in my parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents etc.. I understood that they were kind and loving, but I do not think I interpreted their actions as generous at the time because it was just sorta how they were.

Grandparents on both sides of my family were generous with food… Literally feeding everyone who came and went from their house. People in my family seem to be known for taking people in to live with them… and feeding them. They always had things to give them, and lived a life that repeatedly said “people are more important than things” – Sometimes actually repeating this mantra.

Now that I am grown, and trying my best at this adulting thing, I have realized so many of the ways that my parents were generous. My parents never ran out of time for you. Hours upon hours have been spent talking and spending time with people in my house growing up. Sometimes it was me and my siblings that needed the time, other instances it was cousins or other family members, students, co-workers, friends; regardless, my parents have always been generous with their time.

Growing up it would drive me bonkers because we were endlessly late places. – Why? Why could my dad not stop talking and get in the car so we could go?!… Looking back, so many hours were spent in parking lots and at restaurants giving people what only my dad could give, and what people needed most: his time. People are drawn to my parents, to their kindness, to their wisdom, to their knowledge, to their genuine authenticity, and to the joy and love that they spill out to everyone. Whether people realized it or not, they have always been drawn to the way that Jesus exudes from my parents.

Thankfully, I feel like these traits of my parents has been passed on to me and all of my siblings.

I never totally understood growing up what was happening because generosity was just a part of our family… But, because we did not have money, I had separated in my mind that generosity was supposed to mean with your money, everything else was sorta just how my family was.

As an adult, I realize how flawed and totally wrong that perspective was. So totally wrong.

Being generous certainly can include money.. which is why I think tithing and gifting is so important. It helps you separate yourself from the control that money can have on you. But, in reality, generosity is so much more pervasive and multi-dimensional that just currency.

Generosity of any kind changes people’s lives.

Generosity has a rippling effect that impacts people we will never meet face to face.

I find that as I get older, I take note of the generous people in my lives and are drawn to them, respect them, and desire to surround myself with them at an ever-increasing level.

Two of the most generous people I have ever met are my lead pastor Mark Batterson and his wife Lora. I do not really understand how they always find the time, money, and attitudes of generosity, but they do, endlessly. Pastor Mark says all the time that he wants those who know him best to respect him the most; and it is true. The more you get to know him, the more you respect him; I am fascinated by how true this fact plays out, even working at the church that he has been pastoring for 20 years! He and his wife’s giving spirits are so built into their lives that I do not even think they realize some of the ways they are generous. Interactions with them are teeming with graciousness, kindness, and generosity… So much so that it is tangible!

Sometimes, I think my friends get tired of how much I love and respect this next person (who I have only met once); but Josh Garrels is another person whose generosity has made a huge difference in my life. I shared once a while ago about how much his generosity weathered me through a horrible season because he put his albums up on Noisetrade for free. This week I was once again reminded of his double blessing generosity; he put out on Noisetrade an anniversary album that included bonus tracks, and instrumental tracks from his album Home. While the album is free until April 28th, he also included a note that any tips you leave him on Noisetrade will be donated to World Relief and One Million Thumbprints (Check them out, it’s pretty amazing).  – All I could think is of the abundant generosity that exhibits of him and his wife!

Here I am as an adult, finding that the most generous thing I have to offer is my time, my joy, my kindness… and a little food certainly doesn’t hurt. People are more important than things, and letting people become more of “my people” and join my community is one of the most generous things I can do. And, oh how I love it.

I cannot always give money, but I can always give time. – Especially as I become more diligent with my time management.

I think the world can absolutely become a better place with more kindness, more generosity, and more stepping into community that is hard to love people well.

Generosity is the key to changing the world one impactful moment at a time.

Hospitality To Strangers…

I have this fantastically challenging job that has forced me to dig deep to figure out what scripture says about Hospitality, welcoming, and loving those who are not like us…

Simply put, as believers and followers of Christ, “How do we care for everyone else?”

Because I have gotten so many people asking me what I have learned and discovered, this post is the basic scratching the surface of the information I have gathered for you to explore. This is by no means the end of my thoughts nor the information I have gathered, but it is a start.

Throughout the process of figuring out how to do Hospitality and Connections well, I have taken a few steps back and decided to base much of my beliefs and approach on scripture; not a new concept, but compared to what I can find in materials currently out there, this is not a topic explored much.

As I have connected with other churches working through this same topic, here are the thoughts and questions I keep coming up to:
“Anyone can do hospitality.” – (Theoretically, but not practically.)
“If you don’t know where to serve, join the hospitality team” – (This is a poor way to help people step into their giftings)
“Why does a church need to pay attention to ‘first impressions’?” – (Because God cares about it, cultures are based around it, and you funnel every decision you make through it.)
“Is there any scripture backing up hospitality?” – (Yes. Loads and loads of information.)
“Hospitality and connections always seems like such a fun feel good ministry.” – (It absolutely IS a fun ministry, but it carries the weight significantly more than a feel good ministry.)

Each encounter and discussion has created more questions, but more than that, a resolution to understand all facets of this ministry.

God HAS to care what the hospitality of His people looks like and how they act.

I found cute little google sayings about how you should show hospitality to everyone, because you may just be entertaining angels.
It is so cute.
It’s also scripture. 

So, then, we have to back up and find where the concept of Christian hospitality actually comes from and what does it mean? Only when we truly understand how we should approach hospitality as a church community can we begin to move towards healing relationships we have broken.

I started the only place I knew to when researching scripture, my dad.

The word “hospitality” is directly descended from the Latin “hospitalitas”
Meaning, “to be friendly or kind to strangers or guests.”

The Greek words φιλονεξία and φιλόξενος are translated “hospitality” in scripture,
Literally mean, “to show love to strangers.”

Both words derive from two Greek words, “philia,” which means, “love,”
and “xenos” which means, “foreigner, stranger or guest.”

So, that’s a start.

Straight up, hospitality means at the root, to show love to strangers.
This gets deep and complicated quickly from here on in.

Then I shifted my searching to BibleGateway.com.

I prefer the NASB translation, although I looked up all the same words in the NIV knowing that it is quite popular as well, and some words appear more or less in various translations.

80 Bible results for “Doorway” NASB – (16 in the NIV)
73 Bible results for “Entrance” NASB – (147 in the NIV)
25 Bible results for “Threshold” NASB – (18 in the NIV
24 Bible results for “Greeting” NASB – (46 in the NIV)
14 Bible results for “Doorpost” NASB – (7 in the NIV)
12 Bible results for “Welcome” NASB – (40 in the NIV)
6 Bible results for “Welcomed” NASB – (18 in the NIV)
3 Bible results for “Hospitality” NASB – (7 in the NIV)
3 Bible results for “Hospitable” NASB – (2 in the NIV)
2 Bible results for “Welcoming” NASB – (0 in the NIV)
269 Total Bible Results in the NASB – (301 in the NIV)

(Not every single reference is applicable to this topic, sometimes it’s merely a spacial reference)

So, why did I look up so many different words if hospitality or welcoming is really what I was aiming at? Because, I think there are elements to the physical setting prepared ahead of time that create a feeling of comfort and welcome.

I liken it to this, when I invite people over to my house, I clean, I prepare food, I ensure there is seating, the lighting is inviting and warm. I do as much as I can to be prepared well ahead of their arrival so that when they knock on my door, I am ready with my full attention, smiles, hugs, and the preparations already completed.

My entire goal is to make them feel comfortable, loved, cared about, and welcome in my home.

While we are under new blood because of what Jesus did on the Cross, I do not believe that God no longer cares about presentation. No portion of any culture does not still currently care about presentation. Where I think the shift has happened is that God has transitioned to the importance no longer with His physical tabernacle, Holy of Holies, but to us, his people.

You see, hundreds of references to the doorway, doorpost, and entrance to his temple are in the old testament. Right down to the decoration, carvings, colors, timing of and what sacrifices were to be done at the entrance. And then, if things were done incorrectly, he could choose to kill you on the spot.. Instant death.

In Egypt, the doorway/doorpost was where the angel of death decided if the first-born would die or be passed over.

There is no way that something so important simply ceases to be important, it just shifts to being applied differently.

Then, you get to the New Testament, and there is reinforcement of what happened in the Old Testament. There is a shift in the focus of ministry, we are told repeatedly to love our neighbors, which in some parables were people entirely different and disliked by us, including those who persecute us, it even goes so far as to say be hospitable without complaint.

484 Bible results for “Love” – NASB (686 in the NIV)

I am working through researching the trail that in order to show Hospitality to strangers, we must first submit ourselves entirely to love them without rules or stipulations. It is assumed that the stranger is not a believer, which means we have no space for comments or judgement on their life.
Instead, we are to love them wholly, completely, and in the process we create space for a relationship, which then gives way to sharing where our Hope comes from, and then we have the opportunity to show them Jesus, and then Jesus changes them from the inside outward.

The place I have started my search is through the intersection of love and hospitality is 1 Corinthians 13.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but do not have love,
I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy,
and know all mysteries and all knowledge;
and if I have all faith,
so as to remove mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor,
and if I surrender my body to be burned,
but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient,
Love is kind and is not jealous;
Love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly;
it does not seek its own,
is not provoked,
does not take into account a wrong suffered,

does not rejoice in unrighteousness,
but rejoices with the truth;

bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Love never fails;
but if there are gifts of prophecy,
they will be done away;
if there are tongues, they will cease;
if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child;
when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

For now we see in a mirror dimly,
but then face to face;
now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

But now faith,
hope,
love,
abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Hospitality and Love cross completely in Hebrews 13:

“Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”

Like I mentioned at the beginning, this is merely the beginning, but because people have begun to ask what I have found, I thought I would compile some of my findings and thoughts. Soon I hope to continue to share what I find as I grow and learn.

To Be Continued…

2014 in Review

I love reviewing my year and looking forward to the next one to come. Each year the review looks different and takes on a vast array of feel and styles. But, I love taking the time to pause and really look at how the year went, what I did, learned, went through.. friends I made, experiences I had, but mostly the growth that happened.

I think this year was one of the most difficult, different, and unique years I have had to date. So, to prevent a bit of rambling, here are 29 things from the year I was 29:

1. I was unemployed or not full-time employed for 50 of the 52 weeks this year. – I applied for more than 400 jobs, got rejected from almost 100 of them, didn’t hear back from 200 something of them, and finally got a job!

2. I started pursuing consulting work in February, and made the transition to doing it full-time in August. I discovered that I absolutely love consulting work. So much so, that I plan on continuing it part-time on the side even with a full-time job.

3. I made a list of 29 things I wanted to do this year, I accomplished maybe half of those things.. Some of them were hopeful, some are sad that I was unable to do them just because of my financial situation, and others I am surprised and pleased that I was able to do them.

4. I had three late payments this year, but didn’t miss a single bill all year. I actually have no idea how this happened. Knowing my lack of money all year, I am totally and completely blown away by this fact. Astonished.

5. So. So. So. many people literally stepped in and prevented me from:
being homeless,
starving,
without a car (three times),
pursued for the money I owed the IRS,
in severe neck/back pain,
and a plethora of other things.
I am so shocked and amazed at how so many people stepped in and helped me with so much love and support that came out in so many ways.

6. I was able to have so much fun this year despite lacking finances to have any fun. I played for my birthday, went to New Orleans with some of my favorite people in the world, visited friends, grilled out, game nights, long talks, surprised friends for their birthday, and I got to hang out and watch movies and tv shows with family and friends.. Just so many fun things.

7. I had my sense of self and identity destroyed by being incapable of taking care of myself. It literally shattered my understanding of who I was, and what I had to offer the world to not be capable.

8. God strategically placed old and new friends in my life this year to slowly speak life back into my heart and soul. And, with their voices over the course of many many months, he slowly began telling me and showing me who I am and what my identity is once again.

9. I got more family time in the course of the last year than I have in probably the last ten years combined. Just so many fun memories, long conversations, laughter, joking, annoyances, tv shows, movies, date nights (with various family members), good food.. Literally so much wonderful quality time.

10. I have watched more tv in the last year than I have in probably the last ten years combined.

11. Last year, I had someone give what I have come to describe as a prophecy over me.. It was the awful hope that I clung to throughout the year.. Things were going to get so much worse, and I was going to look dead, and then I would grow back more fruitful and with more blessings than I would have otherwise been capable of beforehand.

12. I gained weight and was incredibly unhappy with my body.. Then I made some changes to my lifestyle and lost weight, and became much more content with how I look.

13. For the first time in my life I decided to be intentional about properly rehydrating myself. It was one of the best decision I made this year.. That is until the days I forget or am unable to consume the water my body needs/is used to.. those days I now feel awful.

14. I drove hundreds upon hundreds of miles this year. I loved every mile, and the time I got to catch up with friends or pray or contemplate and mull over things going on in my life.

15. I was able to see and re-connect with several old friends, and make a bunch of new friends.

16. I didn’t dye my hair for TEN MONTHS. Ten whole months I went (mostly cause I was poor) without dying my hair.. I spent the whole time telling myself I was giving it time to “heal” haha

17. Vormund and I spent so much time walking and traveling throughout the year. I am amazed at how much a dog can become such a place of comfort and stability.

18. I was able to spend quite a bit of time dancing this year! It had been more than a year since I was able to dance consistently so it was so nice to finally get to dust off my shoes and practice!

19. I got some pretty cool clients that are super fun to work with/for… Plus, it’s given me such great insight and knowledge into so many other industries.

20. I was reviewing my Facebook timeline for this blog post, and kept laughing at things people posted on my wall that were funny, insightful, interesting, and just overall engaging. I love the things that make my friends and family think of me, and how much they go out of their way to share those things with me! So much fun.

21. I got to take my two nephews out for birthday adventures. We had so much fun. I think I am going to try to make that a new tradition whenever possible!

22. Vormund put on around 30lbs this year, and turned two at the end of August.

VormundandToy10.12

8.5 weeks old

IMG_1386

Just over 1 year old.

 

IMG_0549

Just over 2 years old.

23. I feel like this year was a year of pain and hurt.. but with a purpose at the end (that I do not currently entirely understand). Throughout the course of even just this year I have been able to encourage someone and completely understood what they were going through. It was weirdly encouraging for me as well to find people who we had struggling in common, as if not being the only one experiencing the issues helped.

24. My faith and relationship with God has been dramatically different in 2014 than it has ever been previously. We did very little actual talking, but a whole heck of a lot of sitting in silence together experiencing pain and just being in each other’s presence. I did a lot of sharing my heart, but more just pushing my heart towards Him and with a distinct lack of words to describe how I was feeling. My comprehension of who He is, and my faith in His unfailing love has grown into an unmoving solid understanding

25. I have never in my entire life stressed and worried or stayed up at night with straight up fear as much as I have this year. I spent countless nights just laying in bed physically stressing over money… I hope to never repeat those feelings or nights.

26. I gained a greater understanding of how frustrating cliché answers can be to someone truly going through a season or situation. There were days that cliché answers just made me see red and want to punch someone in the throat. When something is so profoundly emotion, cliché answers are not encouraging, but rather frustrating.

27. I learned so much about hope, hopelessness, strength, faith, pain, joy, anxiousness, stress, peace, and patience even without understanding. I would never choose to repeat this year, but I also am very thankful for how I have grown because of it.

28. It is hard to explain the level of relief I felt when I got the job in DC… To be moving back to a city I love, and to have a job, to work for a place I have loved for so long, and to finally feel like I have direction.. Huge amounts of relief… Followed by the stress of trying to figure it all out. I have been cycling through relief and stress on a regular basis for about a month now. Repeating to myself, God has carried me this far, He cannot let me go now.

29. Despite everything, love has been overwhelming this year. Friends loving me. Family stepping in and loving me, even when I was about as interesting as a little blank grey piece of paper. Loved when I couldn’t love well in return or had nothing to offer.

As I reflect on 2014, I am amazed. So many things went wrong, yet I am in a state of awe for the way that God has done things this year. Thank you to those of you who reached out and loved me, supported me, encouraged me, gave me money, did fun things with me, talked to me for hours, told me how much I mean to you, prayed for me, hugged me, took care of me and/or my dog.. Thank you for loving me strongly, gently, fiercely, and when I did not deserve the love. You all made this year possible (as in actually made it possible). I do not deserve the love and I am humbled knowing how little I had to give in return.

Thank you.

 

I Am Capable…

IMG_1699I have been thinking, praying, mulling over, stressing over, and distracting myself from putting this blog post up for a while now. Something changes when you not only admit the problems you are facing, but when you invite others to peer into your heart and see them too… there is always the chance that it will come back to haunt you later…I have discovered the haunting part the hard way several times in the last year.

Yet, here I am, writing and sharing again anyway because I firmly believe that it is important for my story, although intensely personal, to never be private.

I do ask one thing from you however, this will be a long post, please read all of it or stop reading now. Half of the story or skimming simply will not work this time…

I have always viewed myself as capable.

But, not long ago, I realized that I am broken.

Not a cute or blasé broken, but a deep down all the way to center of who I am. I am a broken person.

Kind of a funny revelation as I think back through my life, and while really I have known my brokenness all along, this time it is distinctly different. It is not as though I have lived a sheltered life, a glamorous life, or even one void of pain and heartache. However, the current result of brokenness aches in places that have never hurt before… It is a solid soaking through brokenness. But, I think it is also important to point out that I purposefully did not say the “end result” is brokenness, because this is far from the end; I am certain of that fact.

Yet, broken is certainly where I sit tonight.

The problem is that I am capable.

For as long as I can remember, being capable is the largest perspective I have of myself apart from my identity in Christ.

Christ is definitely first, and through my relationship with him I view myself and the world. The problem is when I pull away, and stop focusing on Christ, capable is my automatic fallback to place. Capable is my “old man” struggle when I am not focused on pushing into Jesus, and while it definitely causes me to teeter close to pride often, the difference is rooted in my ability thus far to handle whatever comes my way.

I have always been able to handle the good and bad of life. While I definitely cannot claim to have experienced things even close to “the worst” like so many friends have, I can point to my fair share of awful things. Most of my life I have been strong because I know who I am, but also because I must be strong. Sometimes I get through simply by grit my teeth and forcing my way through whatever I am facing. But, as an adult single woman, if I am not strong and capable, who will be for me? Thankfully I can say that I am secure because of God’s Truth, regardless of what I am facing, I just often struggle with the plan (or really the lack of knowing the plan). I would also be remiss if I did not also admit that I am able to press forward and through often because of the support and love of those around me. It is also helpful that while stress affects me a great deal in certain aspect, it has never been an immobilizer…So, I am capable even in stress.

However, a little over a week ago, my stress level collided full force into an immovable object, which shattered the last remaining fragile belief I had in my capability to get through this season and these struggles.

Suddenly, it felt like this was never going to end, I had no way out, and I am trapped here until it all overtakes me.

Over and over recently, I have faced problems and issues that were not my doing, but am forced to deal with anyway. Some of the problems come down to bad luck, others a clash of world views, or still other instances are simply life just dealing out some craptasticness. Yet, regardless each of them must be worked through…

The problem is that so far, to date, I have been able to sidestep most of them, oftentimes thanks to someone coming to my rescue and helping me, other times it has been things just working out exactly perfectly in the nick of time, or just flat-out gritting my teeth and doing whatever I need to in order to deal and move on.

But, this time there is no easy fix, but worse than that, there is no end in sight. There is no hope that if I hold out long enough this will soon be over… This really could go on forever (not logically of course, but from what I can see, it has no reason to end either..).

So, I found myself sitting there flipping through options in my head, and not seeing any possible way to get through the problems before the allotted time I have. I felt my chest tighten, my throat close, my jaw clench, and my eyes begin to burn with the need to cry… only, I was in a place where crying was not really an option… So, I did what I typically do, I took a few deep breaths, swallowed, and forced myself to control my emotions enough to prevent crying. I would deal with the flood later.

However, the reality is that this time, the problem could not go away, nor be forgotten about, so the tightness in my throat did not go away either. In fact, that constricting feeling you get in your throat from swallowing the desire to cry stayed for days… No one could see or feel it, but, it was a constant little personal reminder with no evidence outwardly of my constricted throat. I could talk, eat, laugh, and even sing totally normally, but inwardly nothing I did would get rid of the feeling or emotions.

So, one night I laid in bed and began strategizing and trying to think of ways to get out of my situation. I mean, surely there is something that I can do to fix this mess in my life despite the fact that I did not cause this one.. or the last few. But, as I thought through everything, the more I realized, I have no way to save myself… and on top of that, the real crushing blow was realizing that this had broken me; it shattered the last little bit of belief I have in my capability to handle whatever came my way.

As I laid there, all I felt was fear and failure.

A typical mental exercise I go through to calm myself down is to think back through each situation or thing systematically because it forces me to focus outside of my emotions. So, this time, I started with the most recent problem and worked my way backwards through each difficult thing that has happened over the last couple of years. With each situation, I realized that things have been piling up consistently for a very long time, and as hard as I have tried, worked, smiled, prayed or laid in silence trying to listen to God, nothing was going to force things to change or get better.

And, things would certainly not happen the way I had constructed in my head as the amazing way God was going to save me. He is going to do this His way, His timing, and.. despite what I know to be true, from my vantage point it seems as painfully as possible in the process.

How is it possible that someone as stubborn as I am, as dedicated, hard-working, experienced, educated, and willing to go wherever I need to is incapable of fixing my situation? I am supposed to be capable.

Yet, here I sit, totally, completely, and utterly incapable and broken.

So, in that moment I replaced capable with devastated. Devastation is how I feel.

I was created to be capable. How is this helpful for God to take everything away from me?.. (And, if you cite Job to me, I may throat punch you.)

If one of the key ways I view myself has been forced out of me, slowly over a long period of time, no amount of nice or words or kind things said from others trying to encourage and lift me up can help the shards of brokenness that surrounds me. No attempt at distraction can remove the looming realization that I am not capable and in actuality, I am totally broken and helpless.

I mean, I can function, I have no option. But, aside from the days upon days of constricted throat to remind me, I am surrounded by deadlines, bills, work, problems, much of which I do not share with others… And the looming thought:

If I am not capable, then who and what am I?

Where do I go from here? How do I begin to pick up the pieces when my circumstances have not really changed? I know that it is ok for me to not be ok… but I also know that it is not ok for me to stay this way. I simply cannot stay here in my brokenness, but I am not sure how to move forward knowing that I am incapable of fixing this immovable object before me.

What an interesting place for me to land. After all this time, and all these years to be whittled down to wondering who I am without the key way in which I view myself.

……..

The only thing I know for sure is, despite how I feel, and regardless of what is right in front of me,

I waited patiently for the LordAnd He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction,
out of the miry clay,
a
nd He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear And will trust in the Lord
You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.
For evils beyond number have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me,
so that I am not able to see; 
They are more numerous than the hairs of my head,
And my heart has failed me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
Make haste, O Lord, to help me.

Psalm 40:1-3, 11-13

Tonight, I do not see the dawn, I cannot see the blessings, I struggle to remember the harvest, and I work very hard to prevent bitterness from taking hold. But, no matter how my heart feels or my emotions sway, my head knows that I will not and cannot be left here forever.

Despite the fact that the pain makes it hard to focus on much else, I can recognize and be thankful for the compassion that is being born in me. The reshaping who I am at the very center. I realize how much I am learning to accept love and help.. and even ask for help upon occasion. I am blown away by the love and support of those who around me, and they way others have stepped in to fill the gap. When all is said and done, and on the other side, I will be amazed at the way my faith was grown.. even in my unbelief. I will marvel at the this journey and proudly carry these scars I have gained…

But, tonight is not the other side, and I realize that I must go through the pain in order to get there.

This post was written, edited, re-written, re-edited, left for a day, and now I have finally decided to share it with you. Please know that this post is one snapshot into my heart, I am not in fact full of despair, this is all just a part of my life that I must work through and figure out how to blend capable with broken in the hands of my Savior.
Also, this post is not one shared because I am in need of nice words of encouragement, I would much rather your prayers.