The Climb

climb

My heart is crushed.

I was just sitting here looking at Facebook and stumbled upon an old school mate.  I didn’t really know her very well but I know we went to school together for many years.

I was Facebook stalking her page (don’t act like you don’t do it) and looking through her awesome pictures.  I liked this girl.  I never knew her or what she was passionate about but I never heard anything bad about her.  I honestly cannot ever remember hearing anyone mention her name.

As I completed my stalking fest I thought to myself, “I should request her as a friend and connect with her.”  I went to click on Add Friend but realized I didn’t look at her wall.  Every good Facebook stalker knows to view the wall as well … but there was a problem.

This girl passed away a few years ago.

I felt crushed.  I read all the wonderful messages on her wall that people have been posting for years! They were sharing how much they miss her and what a wonderful person she was.  I cried as I was reading through comments.  People really love her, a lot.

I never knew her and I never will on this side of eternity.  She was never a person that I heard of at school.  I don’t think I have ever heard her name mentioned.  After graduation and into our adult years my mind never brought her up … but this doesn’t mean she was insignificant.

I think about how often we want people to notice us.  We strive and perform to make amazing things happen … but what then?  Amazing moments pass and then we spend our time searching for another amazing moment, and then another amazing moment.  We can get so caught on seeking the mountain top that we’re missing out on the amazing climb – [queue Miley].

I’m in a season where God is teaching me to enjoy the climb.  This season is changing my life.  I’m learning to breathe and live in the moment. I’m learning that our purpose is not “out there” somewhere.  We don’t have to seek after it and run towards it.  Our purpose exists right here, right now.  Your purpose exists when you’re changing another diaper.  Your purpose exists when you’re grabbing coffee at Starbucks.  Your purpose exists when you’re putting laundry away (if you’re actually a person who puts laundry away … does anyone really do that or just live out of the clean clothes basket like me? ha!)

Your purpose is already with you.   It’s what you have inside to share with those around you through a smile, a simple word of encouragement, a mundane chore, or an act of service … not striving but just by existing … by being YOU.

This girl left this life a few years ago and today I was touched by her.  She’s not even physically here anymore and she’s still touching lives.  THAT IS LIVING.  Right? That’s living a life that’s bigger than you. That’s leaving a legacy behind.

From what I gather about her, she loved and she loved well. We can’t love people well if we’re so caught up on our own junk all the time, complaining about the climb, and seeking a purpose that is farrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr away on the mountain top.

I’ve been on the mountain top many times.  I’m sure you have too.  Do we stay there? Nope. No matter how hard we try to hang on, we always have to come back down.  Life is truly lived during the climb.

My heart was crushed when I saw that this beautiful young woman was no longer present among us physically.  I was sad to know that I’ll never know her beyond her Facebook page that is left behind.  But I was also incredibly inspired.  She seemed like a chick who knew how to live life abundantly even during the climb … especially during the climb.

May we be encouraged, content and loving others well as we climb.

You are loved!

April

Locker Room

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Have you ever hit that point where you feel like you’re going to explode if you hear one more negative thing?

Ughhhhhghhghghghghghghghghghghghghg!! <– That was me exploding.

It’s only Tuesday.  I’ve had enough and I’m ready to go live under a rock for a couple of weeks.  :o)

Ladies … you …. you reading this post right now …. tell me something good.  Just one thing.  You can tell me more if you’d like but at least share with me one good thing.

I heard a teaching the other day that compared the locker room of a winning team to a losing team.  If you go into the locker room of the losing team it’s quiet.  The faces are disgruntled.  There is no hope. It’s sad and depressing.

If you go into the locker room of the winning team it’s a whole different story!  They are shouting, chanting, high-fiving! They are laughing, dancing, jumping around.  The energy is insane!

Which locker room do you want to be in?  Which team do you want to be on? The winning team, right?! Guess what?! We are on the winning team!  We will always be on the winning team.  Jesus said, “It is finished.”  Guess what that means?  That means … it. is. finished.  All of it.  Every bit of it. Finished.  Done.  Compete.  WIN!

We are spending way too much time focusing our energy, thoughts, conversations around the negative things that are thrown our way instead of surrendering the need to control, setting appropriate boundaries, speaking truth to the chaos, and giving God the glory for all the amazing things He is doing in our lives.

We can compare crap stories if you’d like but I’d rather compare redemption stories. I’d rather compare the blessings.  We are way too focused on what’s going wrong rather than on what’s going right.

Which locker room are you in?  It’s your choice to pick which locker room you stay in. I don’t know about you – but I’m already on the winning team so I’m not hanging out in the loser locker room.  I’ve spent way too much time there in my past.

Today is a new day, friend.  Ask The Lord to shine light on the areas of your heart and mind that are distracted by a negative perspective.  He will shine light in the darkness and He will change you from the inside out.  He is faithful.

So lift your eyes up off of your circumstances, off the drama, off of everyone else’s drama that’s not even any of your business – and shift your focus back to Jesus and the victory that we have already …. and tell me something good.

Love to you!

April

The Cheese Stands Alone

alone

I did not grow up in a Christian home.  I mean, my parents were ‘Christians’ but … the kind where Jesus is an after thought and God is spoken about only during crisis.

We had a Bible laying around somewhere but honestly, as I typed that I was trying to remember where I saw the Bible but instead my memory went to where someone had Playboys hidden.  My brother and I knew where those were.

When I was a teenager I was so hood.  I laugh when I type that.  I really wanted to be black.  I had black girlfriends who lived next door and they were so cool.  They weren’t hood … so I don’t know how I became hood – but I was.

I loved Tupac! I remember printing a picture of Jesus hanging on a cross.  I cut out a picture of Tupac’s head and placed it over Jesus’ and then hung it on my wall along with all the other cool stuff I had up.  [Side note: Back in the day we had a REAL wall where we posted all the stuff we like instead of a digital wall.  Dang! I may be getting old.] Anyway – my mom FREEEEAKED out when she saw that picture.  I mean, straight up went off on me!  “Okay, okay … point taken- don’t put Tupac’s head on a picture of Jesus hanging on a cross.”

Christianity for me in my teenage years looked like this: “Oh! I’m a Christian.  If I die I’m going to heaven.  ….  So let me go drink, tear my friends apart behind their backs, and have sex with my boyfriend.  [<– Told you I would talk about sex and if you only came here to read this post because I mentioned sex … A) You’ve got some soul searching to do or B) You’re like me and just got really excited that a Christian was going to talk about sex from a Christian point of view … how to be freaky with your spouse without feeling sinful! BAHAHA!  You already know YOU were wondering the SAME DANG THING!  That’s for another time, though .   Either way.  Sorry to disappoint.  HAHA!!]

So there- that’s what it looked like for me.

At 20 years old I gave my life to Christ (like for real) and that changed everything. Although I was a new creation, I didn’t feel like I was.  I became incredibly insecure. I felt exposed.  In church circles I didn’t feel good enough.  I would sit in church and have NO CLUE what the pastor was talking about.  I wanted to belong and be accepted.  Queue the striving and queue performance.

10 years of walking with Jesus and I hit a brick wall.  The performance had become too much.  I just could’t go through the motions anymore.  My whole life I have worked really hard to be ‘somebody’ and to belong.  I would continuously muster up energy to be the go-getter and schedule hangouts and insert (force) myself into places that I was never genuinely invited to be.  My. Whole. Life.

These past 6 months have been really tough but amazing.  Actually more so amazing than tough. But when I really bullet point all the crap that has happened over the past 6 months I see how the world would view it as tough.  Heck, I would have viewed it as tough too … BUT GOD…

God makes a way in the desert.  When we choose to focus on the promises of God, we can see clearly even if we don’t see a thing. When we choose to believe God, we can feel the peace that passes all understanding.  The Lord told me in July of this year, as I was standing at the airport, looking out the window at the planes, “In order to experience the peace that passes all understanding, you must first give up the need to understand.”  God was telling me I had to surrender.  Not just say I surrender, but wholeheartedly surrender.

There is nothing more freeing than knowing Jesus and knowing who you are in Him. Being okay with you is monumental. I look out into a vast sea of people and the ones that stand out the most are the ones who stand alone.  They are the ones who don’t look like the crowd.  They are the ones who operate in their God given talents and gifts and bring something different, they bring a new flavor to the world. The thought of blending in exhausts them. They make life look easy … it’s not that life is easy but they’re not striving, they’re just experiencing life as it comes. They are the ones who shine the brightest because they’re not hindered by insecurity, arrogance, or any other ‘self’ stuff that gets in the way.

The past week I’ve been singing a nursery rhyme, The Farmer in the Dell, in my head.  This is what I keep singing – “The cheese stands alone. The cheese stands alone. High Ho The Dairy O, The cheese stands alone.”

I decided to look up what the history of this song was all about.  There are different resources that give insight to the song but I like what Wikipedia had to say. I never played this game as a kid but apparently there is a game that goes with the song.  It goes like this:

“The players form a circle holding hands around one who is designated as the farmer, singing the first verse while moving around. When the verse is over they stop and the farmer makes his choice of a wife (sometimes without looking). The wife joins him in the center for her verse and so through the verses until only one person is left to become the last character.”

If you’re familiar with the song you know that the farmer chooses a wife, the wife chooses a child, the child chooses a cow … and so on and so forth until you get to the cheese.  The cheese is selected last and the cheese stands alone.

God is so good! He even uses nursery rhymes to speak to my heart.

“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” – those are Jesus’ words in Mark 9:35 as he was talking to His followers.

I am completely leveled. I am completely overwhelmed that God loves me enough to speak to me with such detail.  I didn’t do anything to deserve Him.  I didn’t grow up with parents who mapped out my journey to know The Lord.  I didn’t even have an example of what it looked like to follow Jesus.  I have a broken background.  I’ve done really bad things. But that didn’t stop God from drawing me close to Him.  That didn’t stop God from rearranging my whole life.

There is nothing that can separate you from the love of Christ.  Nothing. (Romans 8:39).

I pray that this message gives you hope.  I pray that you step over that line and stop holding back.  I pray that you’ll be recklessly abandoned to Christ Jesus, in complete surrender … and be okay with being the cheese.

You are loved!

April

Reaching Out

hands

Because my marketing friends tell me my last post was too lengthy and didn’t get straight to the point quick enough (translation: you went on too much of a rant instead of just dropping the main details, lol!) I decided to share a “to the point” post.

I was making a comparison about how 2 months ago my gay brother asked for help for his dog’s medical expenses due to a brain tumor. My brother created a Go Fund Me campaign and had multiple shares, encouraging comments, and donations.

2 months ago my friend, who is a believer and connected to the local church, was (and is) struggling financially after her husband decided to walk out on her a little over a year and a half ago. In a desperate and humbling plea for help she created a Go Fund Me campaign to help with expenses for a down payment for a car.  She got a few donations, which I know she was grateful for,  but if you looked at her page in comparison to my brother’s you would see the significant difference in the community around them.

I was writing to express a deep hurt in my heart and to ask if anyone else saw this?  I just couldn’t comprehend how my brother’s dog could be more supported than a single mom who follows Jesus and is plugged into the local church?

Which then led me to share with you Franklin Community House.  This is a house in the Franklin community that will provide a second (third, fourth …) chance to disenfranchised men who are wanting to do better and contribute to society even though they may have hit a rough patch.

The project needs $225,000 to secure the house that will be used for this amazing purpose.  Thanks to gracious givers in the community $24,000 has been raised.  As you can see there is a still a large gap to fill.  I know that God can use our community to provide this miracle.

I just keep seeing the image of God asking Moses to hold out his hands and staff. When Moses was leading the Israelites out of Egypt they came to the Red Sea.  They were trapped.  There was no way out and the Egyptian army was closing in on them.  God asked Moses to raise his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea to divide the waters. (Exodus 14:15-16) A few verses later the scripture says: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided,and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22)

God provided the miracle but he needed Moses to move in faith.  I believe that we, this community, can move in faith and watch God provide the miracle that will bless the men in this community that have been forgotten, that have been tossed aside … the least of these.

Would you pray and believe?  Would you please consider giving and sharing this message?

I have sat in a church service where over 3 million dollars was raised by 1500 followers of Christ (with a 6 month preparation period)… but that’s just CRAZY, right?!  I have seen the glory of God shine through His people and I believe God wants to provide this miracle.

I’m providing links below where you can support two needs if God impresses it upon your heart.

Franklin Community House

precious, single mama who could really use some support from her brothers and sisters in Christ. **UPDATE** Since originally posting this blog she has met her goal of $1000.00 due to a very gracious donor, PRAISE GOD!!  But don’t let that stop you from pouring out more on her and her boys.  

I pray that God would move mightily in the hearts of His people.  We are unstoppable when we’re focused on Jesus and united together as one body.

Bless you!

April

I Need YOUR Help

Help

I’m writing this with tears and I had to stop in the middle of some Sunday chores to sit down and get this off of my heart ASAP!

Church … help me.  I need your help desperately. I’m inviting you to help me understand something that has my heart all knotted up right now.  Christians, my dear sisters and brothers in Christ, what has happened to us? Franklin, calling all Christ Followers in the Franklin community, where are you?

Let me start with this short story and then I’ll get to my question.

A few months ago my brother’s dog had a brain tumor.  The tumor was extremely serious and in a desperate plea, my brother created a Go Fund Me page asking for help.  In 2 months my brother has raised over $1300 and received 545 shares through social media.  People were jumping at the opportunity to help him. There were donations big and small and lots of encouraging notes for my brother, his partner, and their sweet dog, Charlie.

Did you notice I said “his partner”?  That’s right.  My brother is gay.

Which leads me to this:

2 months ago, around the same time my brother created his Go Fund Me page, my dear friend, in a desperate plea for help, created a Go Fund Me page.  My friend is a single mother of two children.  Her husband decided a while back that he didn’t love her anymore and walked out on her. Do you know what that does to someone?  I have personally walked the journey with her and sat numerous times with her and just cried.  Your life as you know it is all of a sudden ripped out from under you.  She had to move and rearrange her whole life, all while STILL being a mom and trying to keep her sanity.  My friend is a believer.  She attends church and has many friends. She gives back to the community and she’s always willing to lend a helping hand.  2 months ago she was struggling so bad financially that she swallowed EVERY ounce of pride that she had and publicly asked for help.

5 people responded.  5 people.  $435 was raised out of 5 people.  0 shares.  She’s STILL struggling.

I’m lost.  I’m just completely heart broken.

Today took the cake though.  I can’t even type this without crying.

Franklin Community Church in Franklin, TN is pastored by Kevin Riggs.  He has a vision to launch a housing ministry called Franklin Community House.  The mission and vision of Franklin Community House is to offer affordable housing, emergency housing, transitional housing, and a home for disenfranchised men.  Their desire is to see lives transformed through housing, occupational training, prison release & reorientation, and education.

$225,000.00 is needed to secure this house. $24,000 has been raised. Because the money was not raised quickly enough, Community Housing Partnership resubmitted an application for a grant through THDA (Tennessee Housing Development Agency). If they do not get the grant, then the project will cease and the $24,000 will be returned to the donors.  Come on, Church! Where are you? Why have you not helped with this?  Where are you?!!?

David Hampton says it best in his book Our Authentic Selves: “I am all about praying for things I am not willing to personally invest in.  I’m tired of hearing myself pray for God to meet the financial needs of a family when I won’t turn loose of a hundred dollars for them.  

I’m irritated with myself when I ask God to heal marriages , yet I don’t want to spend an hour talking with one of the parties and sit in their pain.  I have grown very impatient with myself these days when week after week I hear people in our church tell me they are alone and all I offer is to pray that they find community.  What if I also invited them to dinner?  

Honest prayer is willing to grow legs.

If we are not willing to tackle reconciling with others, taking a fierce personal inventory of our resentments, or addressing the things we have done to break trust, then we can’t just get into a holy huddle and expect God to happen to us.  

Are we willing to get our minds out of our infirmary mentality, the place where we pray from a passive posture, and instead start participating in what God has already called us to be about?

The more we view investing ourselves as a form of prayer, the more we will see lives changed.  That is renewal. It is intentional.  It is already in front of us, but it doesn’t just happen to us.”

Please.  Please do something.  If you feel your heart stirred by this message – then I beg you to move.  God moves through His people.  He provides through His people. We live in one of the richest counties, with a church on EVERY corner, with professing Christians everywhere you turn and yet we can’t provide housing for those in need? We can’t help a single mom get a car and get caught up on her bills?

We can shout, and protest, and fill social media with why gay marriage is wrong and how Jesus is returning … and yet, my gay brother can raise money in a heart beat for his dog from a community of folks who don’t even believe in Jesus?!!?

When I saw my friend struggling and saw my brother receiving donations like crazy, I wept. I’m glad he raised money and I’m very happy his dog is okay but my heart is crushed by the local community who claim to know Jesus and have not helped the Franklin Community House project.

You don’t have to give a lot in order to bless those around you.  You just have to give something and God will show up with the miracle.  I pray that you would search your heart to give something … anything …  and may God receive ALL THE GLORY for the miracle that he can bring through his people.

If you just absolutely cannot give, would you at least share?  Please share this blog or the links below so that the message can get to those that can give. You would absolutely be doing your part if you share this message.

Because I know that our community is full of amazing Christ Followers, I have seen this with my own eyes, I’m going to assume that many of you just don’t know about the opportunities that I speak of, so I’m here to give you direct links:

Franklin Community House

A precious, single mama who could really use some support from her brothers and sisters in Christ. **UPDATE** Since originally posting this blog she has met her goal of $1000.00 due to a very gracious donor, PRAISE GOD!!  But don’t let that stop you from pouring out more on her and her boys.  

I pray that God would move mightily in the hearts of His people.  We are unstoppable when we’re focused on Jesus and united together as one body.

Lastly, pray. Lift up our community in prayer but don’t forget, as David Hampton said, “honest prayer is willing to grow legs.”

God bless you all.

April

From The Inside Out

worship

“I’m remaking my way of living from the inside out” – Shauna Niequist

So much can change in a short amount of time.  April 27, 2015 changed the course of my life. My season as a Corporate Human Resources Manager for a very successful company had come to an end.  The morning of April 27 I had prayed that God would show up on that day and do something amazing.  He showed up, alright! I was no longer working in the corporate world and my dreams and vision for working in ministry full time were in clear sight.

I spent weeks fine tuning my business plan for ministry and living on the adrenaline of everything finally coming together UNTIL – God changed the plan.

Within 5 weeks I had gone from full blown ministry leader, designing a new website, new logo completed and ready to share, book edited and ready to finalize, successful jewelry line with packages ready to mail out – to surrendering it all. Just like that … it was gone.

That was the start to learning about surrender.  Not just saying I know how to, but actually doing it.  How better to learn about surrender than to have God knock on your heart and ask you to turn over the one thing that you have worked REALLY hard for and have actually had some sort of success with?

I’m tellin’ ya – I handed it right over.  No kicking, no screaming, no whining, no calling all my friends to ask for their advice or to talk me off the ledge.  I was home alone, standing in my bedroom, and I got down on my knees, held my hand out, wide open, and said, “Take it, Lord. If you have more, I don’t want less.”

That was seriously one of those moments where you’re like… holy crap! The Lord has REALLY changed me.  I could / would NEVER do that on my own accord.

Giving up Healed Whole New was so vital.  I grieved it for three days and then I started to feel relief.  I started to feel free. My husband pointed out that I was actually in bondage to the ministry.  Wow! Here I am trying to make a point about living in the freedom that Christ has already given us and I’m in bondage … to ministry … to good works!  Shocking!

Over the past few months I have learned how to breath.  I have realized insecurities in me that I didn’t even know existed.  I have learned that the more you talk about anxiety, the more you think about anxiety, and the more you think about anxiety, the more you feel anxiety.  I decided I didn’t want to live on God’s blessings from 2011.  I wanted to be present TODAY.

It’s amazing and may God receive all the glory for healing me from anxiety and depression but you don’t need me to tell you tips and tools on overcoming anxiety and depression – you just need to be pointed back to Jesus. He has your answers because He is the answer … and might I suggest professional counseling as well?

I realized that through my story of God’s healing power in my life people started to turn to me for help.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to help people but trying to hold up a ministry and do good for God just left me exhausted at the end of the day.  The exhaustion and work took away from my family and friends. My mind was more focused on helping people than it was on Jesus.  Let me tell you, if you’re more focused on doing good and helping others for Jesus than you are on Jesus Himself – you’re off.  You’re going to get tired, you’re going to wear yourself out, and you’re going to miss out on opportunities that God has set aside for you. Opportunities that will bring Him glory and bless your socks off because you’re trapped under the burden of good works and human effort!

Nothing is wasted with The Lord and He did use Healed Whole New.  I’m grateful for that season but I’m also very thankful that God asked me to let it go.

Now, instead of creating ministry and good works to bring glory to God, I’m just resting in Him.  And let me tell you, the life ministry opportunities that have shown up in just the every day, mundane moments are mind blowing! I don’t have my own agenda anymore.  I’m just seeking God, surrendering to Him, and allowing Him to be God and me to be April.

Once I got out of the way God started bringing new vision to me.  I know they are not my plans and vision because they’re just too good and way too cool to ever come from me!  I also feel steady.  I don’t feel the need to rush into new ventures and build websites or gather followers … and that’s SO not me!  That stuff will come in its own time – if it has a time.

I’m resting.  As Shauna Niequist says, “I’m remaking my way of living from the inside out.”  That’s the way God has always intended it to be. As we spend time with Jesus, He fills us up and then we can go pour out – without even trying, without striving, without wanting something in return.

I’m seeing more and more Christians entering into this place of rest and I believe God is shaking The Church. We are in a culture now where we can post something awesome and go viral within hours!  We can promote, add “purchase now” tools to our websites, self publish books, pay to have followers on Instagram – we can make ourselves famous and known (in the name of Jesus, of course) but trust me when I say, it’s exhausting if it doesn’t come natural.

You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.  I have never felt more alive than I do now.  It’s not the most incredible season of life, in fact if I shared all the crap that has gone ‘wrong’ during this season I would have to help you pick your jaw up off the floor.  I’m not walking around on bright, fluffy clouds at all! For two months straight I cried every day and I’m not much of a crier AT ALL.  Only a couple of people know the details of those tears that were shed and the way my heart was breaking day after day after day – but I knew the God was removing some old pieces.  Those old pieces were dying off and I was grieving the loss.  Surrendering to God is scary, you have to completely release control, but He’s good and He’s faithful and He never lets us down.  I choose to believe Him.

So here’s to living from the inside out!  May we surrender the things that are holding us back (even good things) and allow our sweet Heavenly Father to fill us to overflowing and pour out in ways that He has predestined for us.

Blessings!

April