To us, you are perfect

A love letter: On behalf of all small business owners in Lexington and across the world, thank you.   Thank you for shopping small all year and especially this holiday season.  Happy thanksgiving, we are so deeply grateful for you.

opportunities to serve- Downtown Lexington (Holiday edition)

Hey Lexington!

Our church partners with several ministries downtown that serve those in need in downtown Lexington. Our family has been fortunate enough to serve with these organizations in the past and it has been such an honor to tangibly love those in our community.  What better way to start this holiday season, than to help those in need? So I thought I would provide you with two opportunities to serve in this season:

 

Lighthouse Ministries Thanksgiving Dinner:

When:   Saturday, November 18th at 3pm
Where:  Sayre School Buttery

  • Volunteers are required to arrive at 1:45pm and expected to stay around 4-5 hours
  • You must be 11 years old to volunteer
  • There is no seating available for our volunteers
  • We need our volunteers to stay for clean-up 
  • Each person must fill out a Volunteer Registration Form (link below), even if your with a group
  • We are asking volunteers to donate $5 to help support the Lighthouse 

For more information, email stephanie.werne@thelighthouseministries.org

http://thelighthouseministries.org

 

The Nest's Reindeer Express

The Nest's 40th annual Reindeer Express event is right around the corner on December 15th!  This year will serve 600 families with children five-years-old and under...that is nearly 900 children! During the event, the families will be provided with brand new toys, winter coats, books, and art supplies for their young children, as well as a food box for the whole family.

There are several ways to donate:

1) You can purchase items from the Reindeer Express Amazon Wishlist and have them sent directly to The Nest!  Just follow this link: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/39UULI6K7S5KA

2) You can personally bring donated items to The Nest by Thursday, December 14th, which is open from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday – Thursday.  

3) You can make a financial contribution designated to be used solely for Reindeer Express on The Nest website: www.thenestlexington.org.

If you are interested in volunteering for Reindeer Express, there are several opportunities in the weeks and days leading up to the event, as well as during the event and the day after.  Please click this link for more information and to sign-up to volunteer: 

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/409044da8af28a0fb6-volunteer

 
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"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 John 3:16-18

 

Lets not just talk about it this season, lets get out and do.

The week I quit social media and no one noticed

I felt it stirring within me for a while:  This unsettled feeling in my heart. Before this week, I could not really put it into words. I just knew that when people would ask me how I was doing, or how work was going, I would respond with "it's fine."  But deep down, I knew something was not fine.  To be honest, I just felt "lost." And that is what I started to replace "fine" with. 

I needed direction. I needed to find my calling and figure out the "thing" that was going to thrust me forward in life.  I was coming up empty with my creativity and I was coming up empty with my relationships.  Nothing seemed enough and I was drowning in my flood of needing more.

We've been listening to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on audio books lately. I have found myself getting lost in the story again while I'm doing the dishes and cleaning the house.  There is just something about this story that has me raptured. Mostly because of how much it points to the gospel : The battle between good and evil. Light and dark. 

As we were listening one day, It came to the part where Harry found the "Mirror of Erised," which is essentially a mirror that allows the looker to view themselves how they want to see themselves. When Ron, Harry's friend, looked in the mirror, He saw himself as the head boy while holding the Quidditch cup trophy.  When Harry looked in the mirror, He saw his entire family.  Mainly, He saw himself with his mom and dad.  The thing to remember about the Mirror is that it showed you what you wanted to see. It showed you what you dreamed you would see.  You see, Harry's mom and dad died when He was a baby. So to sit there and stare at this mirror that showed himself as something He so desperately wanted- well,  He never wanted to leave. I imagine he felt stuck to the floor.  As he was there one night,  Dumbledore showed up and gave the famous line to Harry as he warned him to not stay put there. There was life to live and he could not stay in front of this mirror dreaming about what could have been or what could be.

And so Dumbledore told Harry, "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."

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As soon as I heard these words, it kind of stopped me in my tracks.  After all, It kind of summed up my life. I am a dreamer. Heck, about 99% of small business owners on social media platforms such as Instagram pivot their marketing around being those "dreamers, movers, shakers."  And by all means, they are. We are. But what I fear is that this special platform of social media and the culture we live in, is the ability to form an outside world completely under your control, which in turn, completely undermines your actual real life, day to day activities.   You find yourself longing to check your posts, your likes, your comments, your followers. You find yourself checking your phone in every stale moment and dreaming of the next worthy moment to capture and tell your friends. All of a sudden your life is measured on a scale of checks and balances. Real relationships are thrown out the window for a perfectly aligned mirage of beautifully placed pictures and a perfectly wrapped package of your "life" to either affirm or destroy your self worth: your place in this world.  After all, if it's not captured, did it really happen?  

And not to spoil the ending or anything but, YES. It did happen. Even if you didn't get a picture of it. Or talk about it. It seems like in today's culture we are needing affirmations for our experiences when our experiences were always made to just be an experience for ourselves. When I was ten,  I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. lt forever changed me and stirred this adventurous spirit inside of me to go and explore and do.  I have a picture from that moment with my brother and sister sitting dangerously close to the edge with a mouth full of braces.  It is one of my favorite pictures because it was a moment I will never forget.   However I feel like if that picture were to happen today, that magical moment would get smeared when I publish that picture on social media and begin to see who all responds. My thoughts are no longer on the moment-  my thoughts are also, who thinks this moment is great?  I need to find joy in my experience, not find joy in what other's think of my experience. 

 

I recently read an  article about "Recapturing the Joy of Awe."  A man named Mike Cosper was interviewed about his book entitled " Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World"  (I have not read this book, just this article).  He gave some wise insight as to our struggle to find contentment and joy in today's society.

"We are inherently religious creatures. Every culture finds a way to be religious, whether it’s by worshiping a lizard god, worshiping impersonal forces, or making gods out of human beings—god kings, priests, oracles, and so on. The transactional nature of religion is always the same: worshipers make an offering of some sort in exchange for a blessing. The gods promise health/fertility/power/safety, and we seek those blessings through various sacrifices.......

.....Another has evolved with social media, where every post is sort of an offering seeking the approval of the “mob.” The offering goes out, and the mob, we hope, smiles back with “likes” and “favorites,” demonstrating approval of our lives.

In a way, it’s an anxiety-reliever. We need to know we’re in good standing with the world—and, without transcendent categories, we can only gain that affirmation from one another. I believe it’s what makes social media so addictive, and so predictable. Selfies, food photos (I’m guilty there), vacation photos, sunsets—they’re all a way of saying, “My life is good; my life is interesting.” And the likes and favorites are a way of hearing back from the mob, “Amen. Go in peace.” 

 

This was a swift punch in my gut. As an artist and someone who uses Instagram as a platform to show my work as well as a platform to talk about Jesus- the lines get murky sometimes. Sometimes I make things for myself and show it to talk about what the Lord is doing in my life. What I found was happening, was that as soon as I would show it, it was no longer about what the Lord did. It was about what others thought of what I just wrote about. You should just know, that this is not easy to write out. And honestly, It's a little embarrassing.  I always prided myself in not caring what others thought and using my platform as a way to reach the masses and to be a voice of transparency and authenticity and hope.  But what I found was that I was  beginning to pull my worth from what others thought and how they responded. And slowly but surely this began to deteriorate my creativity and my drive to speak hope. It began to deteriorate my worth. It did start my drive to find "instagram worthy" photos. It did start to drive this anxiety within me to have the "next big thing." Or to keep up the pace.  And before I realized it, I was that of a homeless beggar asking for more while continuously empty. 

As I began to reveal this new found revelation to my husband and my neighborhood group at church, it became very clear that I needed to step away for a time in order to give my heart and worth back over to the One who rightfully owns it. 

"But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.  Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror," declares the Lord.  "My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." Jeremiah 2: 12-13

I found myself digging a broken cistern in Instagram and social media and coming up as dry as the desert. I am just like the Israelites. "They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves." Jeremiah 2: 5.  My worth had become black and blue by the blows of what I wanted  the world to think of me. I gave my worth over to Instagram and took it away from the spring of living water that made me, formed me and breathed life into my lifeless body.  

So there I was, holding my battered and bruised heart and walking back to my unfailing love.  

With my head down, laying my phone on the floor, the Lord lifted me up saying "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "For I am your husband. I WILL CHOOSE YOU."  

The Lord was giving me my worth back, but not without feeling the sting of the damage I had done. On my first day of "no social media," I felt the need to tell everyone what I was going to do. After all, they would probably wonder what was going on, right? But you know what? I didn't. Mainly because I knew my own wretched heart and my motives. If I was going to give it up, it needed to be about handing my worth back to Jesus and not care what anyone else thought. Even if that meant that I was putting my business in "jeopardy" or heaven forbid, becoming someone that people would forget about. 

And the beauty of it all? No one cared. I left for a week with no words, no pictures, no updates.  And not one response in return. It was a fitting image of what I was giving my heart to, and what I was finding my worth in.  After all, social media was no longer being a platform to share my heart of what The Lord was doing in me. It had become a feeding ground for my worth and accomplishments.

I believe the first day I picked up my phone to check it almost every hour. I caved twice the first day and opened it up to see the first image, immediately feeling shame for needing to know what was going on.  It was like a microscope into my heart. I had no idea how much damage had been done that it would leave me desiring social media like a hungry man desires food. It became the steak on a plate that I feel like I needed to survive.

After the first day, I half expected the Lord to dig in with "how could you's" and shame.  But what I received was quite the opposite. What I received was a slow and steady pour of water.  He was filling my cup and reminding me where my worth was found. The absence of my phone was allowing opportunities for the Lord to speak into me through His word, music and a overwhelming wave of grace over my life as I began to create again. I picked up a paint brush and I began to therapeutically spend time with my creator while I did what I loved. He was meeting me where I was at and calling me close to Him in the process.  As if He was saying "let ME fill you up, let ME show you your worth, let ME love you unconditionally."

I spent the week in repentance as I realized this strange thing of social media had become an idol I was worshipping.  And in the middle of the week with not one person noticing it became obvious I was wounded and there would be no healing found from my abuser, my idol. I handed my worth over to an Idol that would never fill me the way I needed to be filled.  What better place in scripture to figure out what was happening, than in Jeremiah.

"This is what the LORD says:

Your wound is incurable, your injury beyond healing.  There is no one to plead your cause, no remedy for your sore, no healing for you.  All your allies (our idols) have forgotten you; they care nothing for you... Jeremiah 30:12-14

 V. 17 But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness. I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful" Jeremiah 31: 3-4

My joy that had been slowly deteriorating from my need to find worth in what other people thought was being restored by my God who loves with an everlasting love. My God who notices me. My God who loves me with a jealous love that will not stand for His beloved being enticed by other lovers. 

So here I am, at the end of this fast. I am filled up. But I would be lying to you if I told you that I wasn't nervous about entering the world of social media again. What If my heart threatens to be unfaithful again? O Lord, Bind it.  Now please hear me on this. Social media is not evil. It truly can be such a place to glorify the Lord, live in community and encourage those around us. I truly believe this.   But in all things, we must not forget our first love. I must not forget the truth of where my hope and worth is found.  In the words of Dumbledore, "it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to LIVE." It's all great to dream and pray over what the Lord has for my life and this tiny space on the internet, and my tiny space on this earth. But I must not let that overwhelm my living. It must not overwhelm my day to day life of loving Jesus and loving others.  If my social media use is a means to create an image of how I want to appear, then I am better off signing off forever.  This thing of social media cannot be my Mirror of Erised.  It will surely destroy me.  

After all, His love is better than life, and my image is found in Him and what He is doing in my life. Right now.  I am writing these words down to remember. So that when my idols threaten to take hold of my heart again (and I know they will), I will remember what the Lord did here. And for you, I pray that these words would be a healing balm to your battered heart. Sometimes the worst damage is done when we don't even realize it's happening.  Dear friend, Let us take back our hearts from the idols that abuse us.

And for this space? I promise to continue to run after Jesus. Therefore I promise to always keep this thing called "social media" in check. Because Real life is worth it. Real Joy is worth it.  Real love and real worth is...... worth it.  Jesus' love and authority over my life is way better than any Mirror of Erised could ever offer me.

To the survivors

Did you know that 1 out of every 6 american women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime?  That statistic makes it clear to me that a good portion of you know what I am talking about. More importantly, you not only know what i'm talking about but you have survived a horrific part of your story. Not the whole story, but a part of it.  And what i've noticed more, is that there are not enough christians talking about it.  We need more people to stand up and say "ME TOO," because how are we supposed to know that we are not alone and that even this most deafening hole inside of us can be healed?  Justice is needed and the Lord knows I will go down fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves. But sometimes, we need to know that at the other end of it, there is healing; there is peace.

I recently watched Kesha's new music video, "praying."  I was not prepared for my emotions that came while I watched it. After all, I understood it.  I was watching so many emotions being played out in this music video.  She is a survivor. And we get it, don't we?

And I was so thankful that I could relate with someone. After all, sexual assault is not something people talk about. I had no idea how much I needed to hear some words that I could relate with in my day to day living.  Now, I am normally not a fan of Kesha. But as you know, I can get down with some words that ring true. And these words, I could resonate with.  But what you also need to know, is that they only resonated with me because of John 10:10.

 

I could relate because I actually felt the words that she sang:

"I am proud of who I am. No more monsters, I can breathe again. And you said I was done, well you were wrong and now the best is yet to come."

I felt them every time Satan lied to me saying that I was "done."  That I was "not worthy." I felt them every time I told myself that I was not worth loving and that I was damaged goods.  I felt them every time I turned to every single thing or person that would numb the pain that I was feeling.  To fill the void that my attacker dug deep into me. 

I felt them every time I heard the Lord give me a promise that the best was yet to come:

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness of the prisoners... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a plantain got the LORD for the display of his splendor.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.  They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated" Isaiah 61: 1-4

"For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity.  In my faithfulness I will reward them and make an everlasting covenant with them." Isaiah 61: 8

"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desrt and speak tenderly to her.  There I will give her back her vineyards, and will amok the Valley of Achor a door of HOPE.  There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of egypt.  " In that day," declares the LORD, "you will call me "my husband" Hosea 2:14-16

Dear sweet loved one who has survived an unthinkable horror, you are LOVED. Not the cheap kind. But the authentic, whole hearted, no strings attached love.  You are loved by the God who hates what has happened to you. You are loved by the God who fights for you.  The God who holds you close as he heals all of your dark and broken places.

Because dear one, you need to know that there is not enough justice in the world that will compensate what has been done to you. 

You need to know that justice is worth fighting for. But more importantly, healing is attainable and worth running after. Real healing; the kind of healing that takes your deepest pain and turns it into the most beautiful story. One of freedom and redemption.  Healing that takes your chains that have so tightly held you down, and throws them the hell off.   You know that deep pit of emptiness you feel? You don't have to feel like that again.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

Do you know that is why I made this temporary tattoo? Because Christ has given me this freedom that I thought was stolen from me when I was 18 years old.  Because this Love grabbed my heart and did not settle until every ounce of it was His. Dear one, there is freedom to be had.  You have a God who not only wants to heal these dark wounds, but wants to REDEEM you.  Not just this one horrific thing that happened, but every single wound that has ever been inflicted on you.  He wants to give back what your attackers took. And he does, my friends. He truly does. It's about time you heard from more people about the God who passionately wants your heart and redeems all the places that were once devastated by the sin of this world.  

The enemy will try to steal and kill and destroy you. He will try to tell you that you are worthless. That God does not care. That how could a good God let something like this happen?  But you need to know the truth that these are LIES. After all,  satan is the father of lies. But what you need to know MORE is the truth. The truth that your Good God loves and adores you. And He is Hell bent on setting you free. He gave His own life so that you would not have to spend one more more second in this earthly hell.  

"I am proud of who i am. No more monsters, I can breathe again."

Jesus has come to give you life to the FULL. And that means a full and healed life.  A life where you can breathe again.  And my sweet friends, what better place to receive breath, than the God who put it in you to begin with.

Breathe easy sweet survivors, The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still. (exodus 14:14) Freedom is waiting. 

grave clothes

John 11: 1-43

As I sat down this morning to read, I was raptured by this story of Lazarus. But not just with Lazarus; specifically with Mary.  

Mary, whom we would later know as the woman who busted in to a party with Jesus and his friends, only to break the most expensive of perfume (probably her life savings) at Jesus' feet and then proceed to wipe his feet with her hair.  An extravagant act to match a deep Love that she had for her Savior.  

An obedience and passion that would also lead to her being known as the woman who sat at Jesus' feet, listening to all He had to say.  All while her sister Martha, would be busy preparing for the party complaining of Mary not helping.  What I find interesting about this, is Jesus' response : "Martha, martha," The Lord answered, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)  Martha did not seem urgent for Jesus, which will counter her response to John's account of her brother, Lazarus.  We'll get back to that in a moment.

In John 11, we find out that Mary and Martha's brother is on his death bed.

 "So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."  

And His response? "This sickness will not end in death. No it is for God's glory so that God's son may be glorified through it."  John, the writer, goes on to clarify how much Jesus loves mary and martha as well.

So here we are. We know Jesus loves Lazarus. We even know He loves Martha and Mary. 

His response must then be to cure their brother. Right?  At least that is our belief in our most honest and vulnerable state. We associate God's love for us, with what good is happening in our lives at the moment.  Things are going so bad- God must not be there.  Things are good- God must love me.  

We know Jesus loves Lazarus. We know He loves Martha and Mary.  

Yet, Jesus let Lazarus die.

He died. I wonder what Mary thought the moment her brother gasped for his last breathe.  Or as she wrapped him in grave clothes. Or when 4 days had passed and people were starting to move on.  Where is Jesus?  How could He let this happen? I wonder if she started to question every claim he had given.  I wonder if  her trust for her Savior faltered when He was not there to save her brother.

I wonder if this is where bitter roots start to form?  When bad things happen and we allow the seeds of distrust to enter in.  After all, distrust causes us to retreat.  Which is the opposite of barging in on Jesus and his friends to pour your life's savings at His feet. 

But as it goes on, it confirms all things I know to be true. We are not God and we are not in control. Jesus' response was to go four days AFTER he died. "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but i am going there to wake him up."  His response was the opposite of human logic.

These words have to be some of my favorite. Here Jesus absolutely flips it on his disciples and soon to be Mary and Martha.  It's hard to relate to Lazarus being rose from the actual dead.  It's hard to imagine the possibility of life after 4 days dead, in a tomb, covered from head to toe in grave clothes.  

But what is not necessarily hard to imagine, but hard to believe, is feeling so far gone spiritually, that there is just no redemption.   No redemption for our friend who could not be further from believing the truth of Jesus.  No redemption for our lost family member who would believe in Big Foot before believing in a Savior who died to save you from your sins. No redemption for our own sinful lives; dead to feeling and hope.

But Jesus. (don't you love that sentence?)

Jesus goes to WAKE HIM UP. I don't know about you, but I know this feeling of being woken up.  And listen,  I was ASLEEP (so to speak). The lost cause. The adulteress woman.  I was Hosea who sought after lovers. And My Jesus said "NO. MY FRIEND ANGIE HAS FALLEN ASLEEP, BUT I AM GOING TO WAKE HER UP." I get emotional every time I see this verse. You are never too far gone. He will never stop his fight to WAKE YOU UP.

But it's here that I notice how good our God is at multitasking.  He is on his way to raise Lazarus, literally, from the dead. But on his way, He wakes up Mary and Martha as well. 

"On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. " John 11:17-19

When He arrived in Bethany at the home of Mary and Martha, Martha came out to greet him immediately. The same woman who was too concerned with "doing" rather than "being" with Jesus. The same woman who seemed to have lost her need for Jesus, was running out to greet Him with anxious expectation.  

But the line I noticed the most was this:  "When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home." John 11: 20

Mary stayed home. She retreated.  It's like you can see her hardening up to the Jesus she once loved as her world comes crashing down. As I read these words this morning, an overwhelming feeling of "me too" came over me. I understood it, after all. I understood the retreat. I understood the "stand still" as maybe she debated whether or not Jesus could be trusted.  How often do I let my fear or distrust sit me back down- cutting me off from my run to my Savior. 

"Lord , Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."

 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. "Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this? " 

"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." 

And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside.  "The teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you."  When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.

 

And she didn't just go to him. She ran to Him and fell at his feet. You see, when Jesus calls you; you run. There is so much comfort in that. My own sin, my own junk. My own trust issues. There is nothing that will stop Jesus from calling your name and calling you back. 

Even in our disbelief and distrust, Jesus still pursues and calls us by name. 

He can take it. After all, this all proceeded what would be the most ultimate act of love in the face of our ugliest of sin. But in the midst of all this, he goes directly to the tomb of Lazarus and calls him out. 

"So they took away the stone.  Then jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me. 

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. 

Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

I think sometimes our distrust in the Lord can send our hearts straight to the grave of numbing bitterness. Maybe things in your life have led you to believe that God is not good or that he cannot be trusted. After all, your story may not have ended up exactly like Lazarus and Mary's. However what is true and what I will shout at the top of my lungs, is that Jesus is after us. All of us.  All of Mary. All of Lazarus. All of us.  

He wants to unstrip the layers for us to raise our hands again.

To raise our hands to our God that loves us and is holding us tightly in our hands. The God who held my friend Jenna as she went to be with him this past October. The God who healed my best friend's son in nothing short of a miracle.  He is good.  And He can be trusted. And he's big enough to take your fears, doubts, anxiety and everything in between.  I once heard Louie Giglio say, "Jesus is not offended by your stink."  He calls you out to wake you up.  Whether your stench smells like mary's distrust, or the threat of spiritual death and decay. 

He will never stop calling you by name. Reminding you of His unfailing Love and his promise to never leave us or forsake us.  Through the Good, the bad and the decay. .

waves of peace

It was a wednesday morning on vacation. I got up to run on the beach to clear my head and my heart. The night before, we had lost our son in a sea of people for 8 minutes.  For 8 minutes, my world quickly began to cave in all around me as my anxiety flooded my lungs, leaving me gasping for air.  As my husband began his way to the stage of this outdoor pavilion to hijack the band microphone, the crowds parted and I saw my sweet boy crying while being led out by a God sent stranger. All at once I felt a surge of gratefulness, sorrow and the intense feeling of needing to vomit.  "How could I have let this happen?"  and " I am the worst mom" were the string of sentences that were blasting my head and heart with every step we took back to the car. I was consoling my son, while assaulting myself. 

Running has been therapy for my anxious heart. However I only started running 6 years ago when some friends and I committed to running a half marathon to raise money for our friend Libby, who had just been diagnosed with cancer. (I had never even run a mile) The Lord knew that race would essentially change my entire life.   After all, that was the year that I finally began to deal with my past and sift through some trauma.  I needed something that would steer my concentration and let out some steam. After all, when you are running, you really only have the option to concentrate on your breathing and whatever song, sermon, silence you are listening to. And YOU get to choose what you put in your ears, which inevitably will ALWAYS reach down to your heart. 

Unfortunately, anxiety is something I battle with on a daily basis. My natural hard wiring coupled with my life's chain of events has bent me towards a daily acknowledgement of what cripples me the most.  The Lord and I have done a lot of work in this area. And yet, somehow It can still cripple me in 8 minutes. It seems like this will be something I will forever cling to with my Jesus.  Now, it would be weird if a mom were not anxious about her missing child, I know that. But anxiety will take that moment and slam you to your knees in the comforts of your own living room with all of your children playing a board game by your side.  Anxiety sets off every trigger in your mind and begins to feed a steady stream of lies to your thoughts all while tightening straps around your heart.   It can hit you anywhere, anytime- using any memory, any fear that it chooses.  You can try to control it. But then you realize, you have absolutely no control over anything and then crap hits the fan; all hell breaks loose. 

So I run. I run and let it out and I talk to the Lord. I listen to truth so that I can combat the lies.  As I began my run on wednesday morning, I decided to run the beach. I HIGHLY recommend this. I turned on the "Of Dirt And Grace" Album by Hillsong United and went off. With every step I felt the Lord stripping off layer after layer, chain after chain until I was bare.  Exposed by my heavenly father gently telling me that HE is in control. Not me. Not ever. And that is equally terrifying and calming. 

As the music played, "Prince of Peace" came on.  I listened to the words and felt hot tears stream down my face.  

Your love surrounds me when my thoughts wage war
When night screams terror, there Your voice will roar
Come death or shadow, God I know Your light will meet me there

When fear comes knocking, there You'll be my guard
When day breeds trouble, there You'll hold my heart
Come storm or battle, God I know Your peace will meet me there

Again and again
Oh, be still my heart
I know that You are God

Oh, fear no evil
For I know You are here

It seems i'm constantly praying for peace. I'd say these are my loudest and most repetitive words to my Jesus. Peace to not cripple me. Peace to focus.  As I began to see this image of Jesus roaring over my fear, surrounding my feeble body, I saw this hunk of a log on the edge of the ocean floor.  

On my last lap, I stopped to stare. I watched the waves crash over it as it laid there heavy. And I thought, "Even if I am a log on the sand and can't even manage to climb into the ocean, the waves of God's grace will STILL crash over me."  All at once I was overwhelmed at the thought that I do not have to have it all together. Even when anxiety threatens to leave me paralyzed like that log, The Lord will still reach me. He will still hover over me, washing me over with his Love and grace.  He meets me where I am at. And friends, I have SEEN it. I have seen it in my dear friend,  in her last week on this earth. I have seen it in my deepest wound. I have seen it in my friend who lost a child.  I have seen his All encompassing power and His unconditional, unfailing love.  I have seen His PEACE that transcends all understanding. 

I want the waves to be the first thing you see in me.  I want to be honest about the hard stuff. But If there was ever a picture of what I want to be known for and the truth I want to drench my bones with- It would be this image of the waves crashing over the log.   Whatever my log looks like for that day- let the waves of God's mercy and control be the thing that others see. Let it be the image I see. Let it be the image I remember when my thoughts wage war.  My Jesus who meets me where I'm at.  Takes the anxiety and floods me with His peace.

 

Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!  The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.  The LORD sustains the humble. but casts the wicked to the ground.  Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp.  
He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.  He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.
His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.  Extol the LORD, O Jerusalem, praise your God, O Zion, for he strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your people within you.  He grants peace to your borders and satisfies you with the finest of wheat. 
Psalm 147: 1- 14
                                                               @thirstyheartsdesign

                                                               @thirstyheartsdesign

For the hurting & broken

I wrote this post three years ago to the day.  As I read through it, I just kept thinking about how much has happened in these three short years. So much more pain; so much more joy.  And maybe I didn't fully understand God's goodness then, in my heart. But I knew truth. And you know what? That truth carried me through even more dark times when I didn't feel it in my heart.  I had no idea what was to come three years ago. And I have no idea what more will come in the next three years. But what I do know, is that God has never left me.  This truth carried me until I could see the real, gracious and GOOD Father that He is, TODAY.  And it will continue to carry me tomorrow. 

__________________________________________

3.25.2014

It's been a year, friends.  Here is what life is looking like these days:

 

 

We are doing well.  Our daughter is one and our son is 4.  My heart hurts when I write those ages because it feels as though time is flying by entirely too quick.  But I am overwhelmed with gratitude and am filled with humble awe at the gift of having two healthy, loving babes.  

I do not take this for granted.

To be honest, I sat down to write with a heavy heart. So many things on my mind and so many feelings this morning.  The Lord gave me some quiet time and it feels like I couldn't open my computer and dust off this old blog fast enough.  

On the night of my daughter's first birthday, the kids were tucked into bed and I found myself turning on the TV to zone out the melancholy feelings. Thoughts of the party being over and venturing off to elle's 16th birthday, when she gets married, my babies leaving the nest.  She's one and I am dramatic.  There's really no other excuse.  However the movie, "John Q" was on.  I love that movie.  Somehow watching that movie after being a mom has rocked me to the core.  If you haven't seen it, it's about a father, John, who is trying to get his son on the heart donor's list at the hospital.  His son was dying and no one was helping.  So he took matters into his own hands and took the hospital and doctors hostage until someone would put his son on the donor's list for a new heart.  *spoiler alert-  It eventually escalades into this scene where the father insists on killing himself so that the doctors would take his heart and put it in his son's body.

 

JOHN Q VIDEO

 

I just sobbed as I watched it.  As a mom, it grips me in a way that I "get it" at the most honest and vulnerable level. When I think about my friends who are going through such horrific and devastating real life nightmares- miscarriages, to heart defects, to news of even the possibility of their child not surviving- they get it more. And it is heart-literally, breaking.  My chest hurts as I write it.  Why do these things exist?  Where is God?  Isn't that our real question?

But to be honest, I was sobbing at this part not just because the thought of silas and elle- but because of what my heavenly father has stepped in and done in my life.  As a college freshmen, my heart was in shambles.  A rape that stole my voice and gutted me from the inside out. A lifelong venture of filling my life with anything just to numb pains that led to a lifeless body.  My heavenly father stood and yelled "accept what? No I don't accept that, EVER. No I reject that.... maybe you don't understand what i'm talking about, my daughter is going to live, maybe you haven't figured that out by now, i'll do whatever I got to do in order for her to live." (John Q reference)

Or in his more literal words, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." romans 5:6-8

" who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: "for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."  No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  romans 8:35-39

And here I sit sobbing. In thankfulness and awe over My father who loves me and fights for me in this way. And not only for me, but my sweet friends who are going through these heart-gutting trials.  For their sweet babes who are living and for their sweet babes who have gone home to Jesus. To my college girls who are learning how deep our Father loves us and that at the root of it all, nothing else matters.  As one wrecked person to another, whether we are crawling or running in life, our Good God has chosen us and and is carrying us through this life that is flawed and in need of a rescuer. Do we realize we need to be rescued?  Because I can't get this image of him grabbing us up in the midst of our crawl, in the midst of the hard and bad stuff... running as fast as he can, carrying us through the storm and covering our heads.

 

"You are a people holy to the Lord your God.  The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his TREASURED POSSESSION. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other people. You were the fewest of all people.  But because he LOVED YOU and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors and brought you out with a MIGHTY hand and REDEEMED you from the land of slavery, from the power of pharoah, king of egypt.  Know therefore, that the Lord your God is GOD.  He is the FAITHFUL GOD.  Keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments." deuteronomy 7:6-9

We are chosen.  We are His treasured possession.  Just because he loves us, no other reason. He redeemed us from our lives of slavery.  He is faithful.  He will never divorce us.  Our great rescuer. Not only forever to be with him in heaven, but even in the midst of hardship here on this earth.  He is with us in our darkest places and in our darkest moments, holding us tightly in his grasp.

Oh i hope you needed to hear this today as much as I did.

 

"Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.  Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am he who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."  Isaiah 46:3-4

 

To my daughter on her first birthday:

elle, The same God who loved the israelites and brought them out of slavery, is the same God who loves you and has carried you since you were in my womb.  He is the one who fights for you and stands there saying "no, my daughter is going to live."  He is all that matters, my love.  Through all of the uncertainties and trials in life- He is the only constant.  And He is a good, strong, never failing, never giving up constant.

 

[a prayer in the waiting]

You flick your light in the dark and my heart beats fast. And before I realize it, the light is a blazing fire of assurance. Assurance that you are God. That You are Good. And you are HERE. You are here in my mess. In my darkness.

You know full well, who you have come for, and, oh God, you know every part of me. I am overwhelmed by you. Oh God, would you remind me that your love is unfailing and your light is never ending? Oh God, would you rescue me, would you release me from my own helplessness? Because boiling inside of me is this “knowing”. This resting. This confidence that no darkness can drown out your light.

I see it.

In the darkest room. In the face of death, in the face of heartache, in the pit of despair, we SEE it. We are not in the dark, but in a rescued room where you lead us out, hand in hand. Oh Father, hold my hand. Carry me, actually. Because for the rest of my life, I want to feel the heat from your glow. I want to feel the weight of your glory and the freedom from your goodness.

Thank you for never stopping your pursuit of me. Thank you for waking me from my sleep. Thank you for coming into the chaos of the night and being the constant of grace and truth. Oh God, how fitting that your life, your light, that came in the darkest of nights, was the very thing that woke me up from the greatest slumber of my life. 

It is here that I will dwell when the dark gets heavy. It is never too heavy for you.

Oh, what a night we are celebrating. The night you shattered darkness and shattered my chains. The night that saved my life. The night my king came, and justly took back His beloved.

 

Thank you father. Thank you for this love that is better than life. Amen.