Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Thoughts

This year, I have stood by hospital beds watching cancer and strokes and heart disease touch the lives of loved ones. I have watched friends walk the painful road of losing a parent. I have witnessed friends whose dream of holding their new son never came to be because the birth mother vanished. I have felt the heart ache of friends loose their battle against addiction. I have witness the embarrassment of a veteran who no longer had use of his hands. I have cried for those who had a second chance, but now face another time behind bars. I have shared tears with those who feel rejected by their own faith community. I have seen friendships crumble. I have helped carry the burden of infidelity and divorce of friends who never saw it coming. I have prayed for those who left the hospital and returned home to a nursery that would remain empty.  I have listened to conversations of frustration and self-hate with men who call the streets of Richmond home. I have been on the sidelines of friends who month after month long to hear the words "you're pregnant" verses "I'm sorry, not this time."

I could go on.

It's not challenging to find gratitude as you prepare for a wedding, or in Sunday morning baby snuggles, or in nights spent around fire pits with friends. But in times of loss, fear and loneliness it's easier to question a God who is suppose to be good and we often find ourselves wrestling with counting it all joy. This afternoon, as my soul finds silence, it's the faces and the stories of those above that have over-flooded my heart with thanksgiving for a God who is faithful and who is good.

Through walking the rocky roads with these loved ones, I have witness unshakeable faith. I have felt the presence of a faithful God. And I have seen my own faith deepened. It's the funerals that have challenged me to live a life that selflessly serves others. It's in hearing the prayers for that birth mom, that have challenged me to live a life of forgiveness and grace. It's been in those dreadful moments of rejection, that I have been reminded of God's unconditional love and acceptance. It's in the lost battles of addiction that I have remembered God's timing is not my own and to pray with expectation, to pray without ceasing, because God is a God who breaks unbreakable chains. It's watching a family serve only two weeks after burying their new born, that reminded me that God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. It's in the uncertainty of a healthy future, that has shown me what trust in God should look like. It was in the eyes of that red headed veteran, that reminded me God's love overcomes all disabilities and differences. It's in those crumbled friendships and in those failed marriages that I have seen God make beautiful things out of brokenness and be the Healer of the hurt.

It is now Thanksgiving Day as I try to wrap up these thoughts ... everyone is sleeping, the dog is snoring at my feet and I sit here in the dark letting these words pour out from a soul that longs to thank Him. A soul that is grateful for the many extravagant blessings that have been lavishly poured into my life... but perhaps even more so for the faces, the stories, and their testimonies that have guided my soul to go deeper, to lean more into His faithfulness and to remember that even in the shadows of this life He is a good God and He is forever with us.

What a Mighty God we serve!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The church isn't perfect

The church isn't perfect. But sometimes we have expectations that it will be, don't we? We yearn for it to be. We hope that the church would live up to its claims to love unconditionally, to show grace mercifully, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus. But it gets messy. Instead of finding this community that lives in perfect unity, we find hands that do not offer healing, but that cause hurt. Instead of unconditional love, we see a love that demands conditions. And we often exchange His radical grace for judgmental righteousness.

I've been reminded recently of how easily we lose sight of our story, our calling, of who we are...more importantly, whose we are.

In the opening acts of Genesis, we are told the story of Adam and Eve. They are living in perfect community in a perfect world; with each other; with God. But they are faced with a choice: to continue in this perfect harmony or partake from the forbidden: the tree of Life and the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The goal and the obstacle. And just like Adam and Eve, we, the church often confuse our goal as Christ followers with the obstacles of this world.

Like Eve we get tripped up, tricked by the questions "Did God really say...." and forget, first and foremost, we are His chosen people through whom God is looking to reveal His character, His mission, and His radical love story.

In the New Testament we read that Jesus prays for His disciples to be one. That we would be a people known by our love, united in Christ. In all honesty, at times, we as the church do so poorly with this. I, do so poorly with this. As the family of God grows, we see it diversify. We all are created uniquely different from one another. We all come from various walks of life, and instead of this serving to unify us and to strengthen our claims of Christ, it has turned messy. The family of God gets broken. We split, we argue, we point fingers, name each other's sins, condemn each other to hell. We drift apart and become inclusive to those who look, think and live like us. We become unfaithful as a people to God, forgetting that we have been called not to defend Him and His character, but to reflect it.

It has been sobering this week to be reminded that even though we, the church continue to miss the mark, God continues to be faithful. God continues to be Sovereign.  No matter how pure or noble our intentions are, at times, we get it wrong. The church isn’t perfect. But God is.

In Matthew, Jesus says that He will build His church, and not even the gates of Hell will overcome it. I can't help but think, if the gates of hell cannot overcome it, then the recklessness of men cannot overcome it, the pride and insecurities of our church leaders cannot overcome it, the unorthodoxies and hypocrisies of us who claim to love the church will not overcome it. What a humbling reminder that God's faithfulness always trumps ours.

Despite our hiccups, our wrong turns, our hurtful words, and our forgetfulness...God keeps building His church, and continues to ask us to be a part of it. We won't get it right on this side of His Kingdom. We, as a messy people, will make---do make God's church imperfect. But perhaps by refocusing our eyes on the goal, not the obstacles, by keeping in mind our promised future--an eternally perfected community living in the presence of our Almighty God, and becoming more mindful that it is our calling to reflect His character and not to defend it, we will be able to find unity in Christ and will become a people know by our love.  

Today I am humbled by a perfect God who continues to call this imperfect woman, to serve, to love, and to be an active member in His church, proclaiming His remarkable story of redemption and faithfulness to the ends of the earth.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Holy Opportunity

110 days!

It will not be long now, before we board our train, step out in NYC and make our holy covenant of marriage in Central Park.

A holy covenant.

It’s territory uncharted for us both.

A promise to not only one another, but to God.
A promise to express the unbreakable bond of love between Christ and His people.
A promise to live a life of ministry that brings glory to God.

This seems to be the “culture war” of the day. You can’t read social media or turn on the news without hearing another state deeming same sex marriage as a legal right to it’s people, and in return, there is almost always someone throwing God’s words and judgement right in behind.

I remember growing up... tattoos, men with long hair and woman leaders were the culture wars of the day. Funny how now, in our culture, we do not bat an eye at such things. Nor do we hear teachings from the pulpit that tattoos are unholy, that men with long hair are not choosing God’s best, and that woman leaders are being disobedient to God’s law.

I cannot tell you how many sermons I have heard telling me that my marriage will not be scared. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from friends how they cannot find God’s blessing on my marriage or that I am not walking in God’s will or that my lifestyle is detrimental to the definition of biblical marriage and what a Godly family is suppose to be.

And as much as their words hurt, and as much as I wish their theology was different, I have learned that it’s ok to disagree. It’s okay to land on opposite sides.

After years of wrestling with this particular topic, I have found peace in believing that God will bless my marriage. I believe that my covenant will be sacred. I believe that on our wedding day we will be standing on Holy Ground—in the presence of God.
And I believe that He will show up.

Perhaps pastor’s will not change the message that has been preached for generations about  homosexuality or same sex marriage, but perhaps their messages will begin to open up doors of communication, dialogue, and the opportunity to sit across from one another, to hear one another’s story, and to wrestle together over God’s Holy Word together.

You see, gay christians are still very much a minority in the mainstream Christian church, but (and I hope this comes as no shock to you) we are there. We sneak in and sneak out before anyone notices us. We have been coming for months and long to get involved, but are too scared that we won’t be accepted once we are known. We join small groups and only share our “public persona” each week because rejection gets old. We come in, unashamed of who we are because we have found peace in the presence of God. We are even serving on ministry teams and maybe you just don’t know our story yet. . .never the less, we are part of this story too. We are part of what God is doing, a part of His Holy people.

Perhaps it is in these moments where we are giving the opportunity to wrestle in His truth together, to seek God’s face with one another and to learn to radically love each other in our differences that Christ has the chance to be most beautifully seen.

May we all find grace and mercy when those opportunities are laid at our feet.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Who Will Love Me As I Am?

It was 1998 and I was ending my junior year of high school. I have to admit, there was very little that ever got me excited about being in the halls of Manchester, but this time, I was.

You see, ever since I was that wide eyed little girl sitting on the cold floor of my elementary’s cafeteria, I had been enamored with the “cool” show choir kids performing Broadway tunes on our stage. I have always been a dreamer and I dreamt that that one day I too would be singing and dancing with them, even if it meant wearing a big sparkly twirly dress and the possibility of having bows in my hair.

To this day, I am not sure how I mustered up the courage to try out, and I regret that it took me three years to do so, but me and my mediocre talent somehow made the cut. I would spend my senior year not only having a blast singing and dancing, and making life long friendships, but I would develop a deep love for music and for the preforming arts.

High school, for most, is an awkward time of self discovery, and I, unfortunately, did not escape that boat. I was a quiet girl, one who never quite fit in, one who was shy and who trusted very few. Ms. Tyndall’s class provided an escape through music that I will forever be thankful for.

In our competition show, we sang the ballad from the Broadway Musical Side Show. A musical based on the true story of Daisy and Violet, conjoined twins who spent their lives touring and performing as a vaudeville act and their journey of searching for love and acceptance.




I fell in love with the song and everything about this show. I was captivated by their story, and their desires to be “normal.” Throughout the years, I have often popped in this sound track and sang out my little heart at times where I too felt like a freak show. Where I too wondered if I could change the laws of nature. Where I too longed to be normal, and loved and accepted. 

Of course, I had grand plans to go to NYC and to see this musical that mesmerized my heart. But being a poor college student I did not get a chance to make it to the Big Apple before the doors of Side Show closed. 

Two weeks ago, however, as I worked on our itinerary for our wedding week in NYC, I discovered that the show had been reopened. 



How fitting!

The night before I make a promise of forever, I will be sitting in the St. James Theatre in New York City, sharing this musical, who’s words over the years have seeped in to the depths of my struggle, of my self discovery and gave understanding where none could be found. 


I couldn’t be more excited. 

(Click here to listen to Who Will Love Me As I Am)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Being Engaged

It's crazy to think that our wedding is about 5 months away. 154 days to be exact. Sometimes it feels so surreal to be planning our wedding. I am so excited about so many things and as much as I want the next few months to fly by, I also want to savor them as much as I possibly can.

I've heard it said that being engaged is one of the best times of your life.

Perhaps it's because everyone is constantly congratulating you and sharing in on your excitement. We have had our fair share of nay sayers, but these days they seem to be outweighed by those who have come along side of us and have showered us with love, support, blessing and who share in our excitement. And I won't lie, hearing a "Congrats," and a "I'm so happy for you guys," is pretty darn fantastic!

Perhaps they say it's the best time because you get to make a long list of things you want and then people actually give them to you. I mean who doesn't love making a "wish list" when it's not even Christmas?!? However, for us, you won't walk into a store and find our names on one of those wedding kiosks. We really don't need, or want more "stuff." Our wish? It's simple really! We just to want to share our day with those we can't imagine doing life without. Those who will fight with us for our marriage. And those who will walk this journey of a lifetime alongside us in love and grace, and laughter. Yeah, definitely laughter. That wish coming true will be splendid.

Perhaps it is the best time because you taste yummy foods and try on big fancy clothes that you would otherwise never get to wear. Planning an out of town wedding makes the tasting yummy foods a challenge for us. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to hop skip and jump to NYC, sit down and have some, what we hope is, out of this world deliciously good eats, but in reality this will not be happening. So after hours of research, reading multiple food reviews, and chatting with the absolutely adorable Jim, we have chalked this up as, "It's going to be perfect." And as far as the fancy big white you know what . . . well, I will let your imagination run wild.

The list could go on.

Being engaged is a marvelous time.

For me, it's been the conversations. I wouldn't trade them for anything. Yes, planning the venue, the reception, the rings, the you name it, have been a lot of fun to plan. But I will forever cherish the conversations, the heart to hearts, the hard questions, the what if's, and the dialogue of defining our marriage.

I'm thrilled about the next 5 months of our engagement and I plan on enjoying all of the days that will make up our path to our promise.

How about you?

What was your favorite part of your engagement?
And what is your favorite thing about being married?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The journey is not one for the feet, but one for the heart.

Hey You, 

I've been thinking about you, us, and the past two months of our journey. 

It's been quite a ride, eh? 

And by ride I'm not talking about your arms spread out, carefree to the side, flying through the air like a peaceful bird, kind of ride. 

No.

It's been more like that ride where you have to fasten fifteen belts and strap every last inch of yourself into a small plastic chair. It's the ride when you start to pull out of the "safety zone" you soon find yourself on your back with your face to the sky and you know just on the other side, you will see the drop where you will try, with all your might, to hold down your lunch. Yeah, that ride. The one where you are screaming inside "I WANT MY MOMMY," but don't because you are a BIG girl now and you have to suck it up. It's the ride where you swear to yourself, "If I make it off alive, I will never ever ever ever do that again."

Lately, I am sure we both have come pretty close to screaming "MOMMMMMMMMMY" and hoping that the ride would come to a stop and that we could climb off.

In the quiet corners of this house tonight, Bible in one hand and A.W. Tozer in the other, I read these words: "The journey is not one for the feet, but one for the heart." 

Lately it feels as if this ride has not been one for excitement, or fun, or celebration. We haven’t followed the norm of getting lost in the details, the planning, the rings, the venue, the ceremony, the attire, or the congratulations. 

Rather, it's been one that has brought us to our knees.

Continuously.

And the more I think about that, the more I think . . . how perfect!!!

There is no doubt that our journey will be filled with exciting adventures, wild voyages, fun times and memorable rides. The journey of our feet will take us to amazing places where I’m sure we will meet fantastic people along the way. But may we never think that that is it. 

This journey of life, this next chapter of our journey is one of the heart. One that I pray will always bring us to our knees before Him, heart in hand. Ready to go deeper. Ready to be used. Ready to be changed. And ready to point all glory and honor back to Him. 

So, even if the world continues to crumble around our feet may we “never lose heart---even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day” by day by day by day!!! (2 Corinthians 4:16)

I love you,
Me

Friday, August 22, 2014

I am the Champion!

I have been winning every day since last Saturday.

Does that mean I'm awesome?

Probably.

But it also means that I am really good at forgetting that I am playing a game when it's my turn to find the hidden "cat" and really good at remembering when it's Melinda's turn.

(Except for the last time I hid the cat and Melinda found it, and I had no idea it was moved for what she "claims" was 3 weeks, but in reality I am pretty sure she was exaggerating and it was only like 7 days.

This said cat, HAS STILL NOT BEEN FOUND.

For the record, she has been very bad about keeping eye contact during any conversation this week! Her eyes have continued to roam over every inch of every room in the house, and yet, she is losing!

I think the fact that I pulled a Babe Ruth, called "game on" and taunted her with the fact that I have a, and I quote, "Killer Spot, " has led her to new lows of name calling.

You heard me correctly. Name calling. 

I got accused of being a cheater.

It's poor sportsmanship really, but let's be honest, losing sucks and she's trying to hold it together.

I am NOT a cheater, in case you are wondering. The cat IS in the house, it is NOT hidden in a drawer, and it CAN be seen if you happen to be looking in the direction of where it is hidden.

Obviously, she has not been.

But I am feeling generous today, and am offering a picture to:

a. to prove that it is visible

and

b. I realize some people are not champions and need a little more help than others . . .cough cough Melinda.

:)


(Melinda, "Meow" the odds be ever in your favor!)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

For such a time is this

Thursday and Friday I spent time at The Global Leadership Summit. A two day conference hosted by the Willow Creek Association. Powerful leaders, Preachers, Best Selling Authors, and CEOs of major companies all gather together with thousands of people to share their experiences, convictions and advice on how to be an equipped leader in our workplaces, in our churches and in our world.  I walked into Atlee Community Church  ready to lead the change in the culture of our churches today and was hopeful of gaining tools to help do so, but in 3 hours a challenging conversation over lunch, left me wondering why bother?

Returning to the afternoon session, Bryan Loritts, Pastor of Fellowship Memphis, a 1,500 member, 65% white and 35% African American church in one of the most racists cities in the country, had me undone.  In the church culture that makes up our world today, I too feel his frustration and the passion to make churches a place where EVERYBODY gets to play ball. Where EVERYBODY has the access to see Jesus Christ.

This morning I read these words from Bryan:

"Lord help me.

Lord help us.

I have a love hate relationship with boldness, especially as an introvert. I shy away from boldness because it makes me uncomfortable. Yet I'm inspired by it. The people and stories that stir a fire in me to attempt bold things for Christ, aren't the shy, timid ones. They're bold.

It's that athlete playing hurt, yet risks everything to play in the big game. 

It's the person at the casino betting all the assets from their fledgling company, hoping to make payroll.

It's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. walking down the long highway towards Mobile Alabama. 

It's James Meredith's first day at Old Miss.

It's Deitrich Bonhoeffer's refusal to stay and enjoy the security and comfort of America, but to board a ship to return to Germany, like Paul, knowing that his return could cost his life.

In 1939, Bonhoeffer wrote boldly of the need to risk it all to his friend Reinhold Niebuhr:

'I have come to the conclusion that I have made a mistake in coming to America. I must live through this difficult period of our national history with the Christian people of Germany. I shall have no rights to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trails of this time with my people . . .Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make that choice in security."

That's inspiring. Had Bonhoeffer played it safe his life would not have had the impact it did . . . it still does. But because of his boldness lines from his pen like, "When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die," have a force of bold authenticity that moves us. 

We're drawn to boldness… Boldness isn't the absence of fear, it's just the refusal to be paralyzed by it. The same Jesus who boldly went to his death on a Friday afternoon, was described just hours before as being distressed as he poured out his soul to His Heavenly Father in the Garden of Gethsemane…."

Throughout the rest of the conference various speakers spoke of doing what's right, even when it's hard, even when it seems like you might lose everything--to stand in that gap that has separated people from Jesus Christ. Being a gay Christian I have witnessed up close and personal how wide that gap is and how few are standing in it's midst. 

Yesterday afternoon, Tyler Perry spoke these words: "I wish the local church would let me be a soul in need of a Word…." and I know that there are the same cries within the gay community. Through the tears, the doubts, and the frustration, God has used these past two days to refuel me, to reminded me that this is His bidding for my life. To be the tree that gets climbed on, carved in, and sat on all in hopes that someone gets to see Jesus. That anyone who has the courage to walk into the doors of a church where most likely people will not understand them, will have the same opportunity to serve where they are called, to seek Godly guidance when it is needed and to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus without inhibitions.

The Summit was closed out with this charge . . . "There's no quitting." 

There are going to be times when quitting is the easy option, but I can't loose sight that it's all about Him . . .it's all about just one getting to see Jesus, to encounter the impact He can have on one's life. It's about bringing the Kingdom of God to those gaps. There's no option B. 

**I'd be remise if I didn't mention another Brian who has impacted my last two days. A house guest, a new friend, who words of wisdom spoken in exhaustion has challenged me to keep Kingdom minded, to be the tree and to pick back up my paper shield and wooden sword for the cause that God has placed on my heart. Brian, The thoughts and ideas that I have heard from various men and woman would not have impacted me as greatly if you didn't help to prepare my heart to be open for all that God had in store. I appreciate your faith, your vulnerability, wisdom, and friendship.**

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Life is short!

I sat in an auditorium earlier this summer enjoying some incredible talent at a benefit concert at local high school. They were raising money for a cause I knew little about. While waiting for the show to start, I perused through the program and was reminder how precious life is and how things can change in an instant.

I read the story of Jason. A  young 30-something theatre teacher. Excellent Health. And performing at a local theatre when it happen. In the middle of his performance, Jason suffered from a stroke. He was carried off stage and rushed to the hospital. Three months later there we sat, watching remarkable talent in order to help Jason and his partner raise money for the treatment center where Jason was temporarily living in hopes of learning to speak again.

It was a sobering thought---in an blink of an eye, Jason's life was drastically changed.

There is no doubt that I held Melinda just a little tighter that night.

But those sobering moments of enlightenment often fade quickly.

Life moves on, schedules get full, and our minds wonder onto those "to do" lists that seem never ending.
We set aside those "I should go visit," and continually push back those. "I'll call tomorrow."
We let silly things such as running late, or shoes by the door get under our skin.
And at times we get so self-absorbed that we forget to say thank you or notice the sacrifice of others.

Why is it so easy to live with the expectation of tomorrow? To take our days for granted?

This past Saturday, I was excited to head to Eagle Rock, Va to spend a day with a family that I love, but in all honesty, rarely make the time to go see. Despite an over cast rainy day, the evening was pretty darn perfect. There was a lot to celebrate that weekend. A beautiful wedding, an 80th birthday, and a new engagement. There were babies to hold, and hugs to be given. There were stories to share, memories to relive, and photos to be taken.  As I sat by my mom, it dawned on us that it had been over a year since we captured a photo of us together. 

We remedied that!

I was mindful that night. Of loved ones. Of making time. Of listening. And enjoying the short time we were there.
But it didn't take long for me to fall back in the mental list of to do's once we were on the road heading back to civilization.

We didn't anticipate crashing at mom's but we got back later than expected an neither one of us felt like driving another hour and a half in the middle of the night with 2 dead cell phones and no chargers. But our plan was to skip our bright and early so we can begin to tackle our lists before Monday rolled around.

As we picked up the guest room, and quietly left the house, we never anticipated that only 5 hours later I would receive the call that mom was on her way to the hospital.

It was a long day not knowing what was going on. Phone calls and text. CT scan, EKG, blood test. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Overnight hospital stays. MRI. Heart Echo. More test, test, test. and waiting, waiting, waiting.

Even after learning of Jason's story, a stroke still resonated in my mind as something that happens to an "old person." Not Jason, not my mom.

But that's the thing with life, nothing is guaranteed, it often doesn't play by the rules.

Forty-something years olds aren't supposed to get pace makers. Thirty year olds aren't supposed to die from heart attacks. Cancer isn't supposed to find the young. Fifty-something year old mom's aren't supposed to have a full blown stoke. Planes aren't supposed to crash into buildings. Shootings aren't supposed to happen in our schools. Babies shouldn't just be left on the subway platform.

But they are, and they do.

Not only has this summer been a reminder that life is short and the unexpected happens often, but it's been a reminder to be ready--to stand firm and "steady the boat" no matter what comes my way. To hold fast to the Truth and to let His love penetrate through me and radically touch those I encounter. It's been a summer of trusting the One who can see the unseen and following Him one step at a time. It's been a summer that has reminded me to live a life of gratitude. Of enjoying life's little blessings as much as the big ones.

Mom gave us all a scare this past weekend, but considering everything, God was close by and watching over her.
Even though I think we'd all rather not have experienced a stroke up so close and personal, I pray that it  is a moment that will stay close to our hearts and will serve as a reminder that life is too short. So hug the ones you love a little tighter, and be grateful for this God giving day, no matter what it may hold.

**If you want to learn more about Jason's story click here http://www.gofundme.com/7odo30

**For those of you who stopped by the hospital, who prayed for my family and who sent texts and calls of encouragement, I am overwhelmed by your generous hearts and appreciate you more than you know.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

We live a thousand lives in one lifetime

"We live a thousand lives in one lifetime."

A fascinating quote from Emily P. Freeman that has stuck with me since I came across it.

I remember being that 7 year old little girl who once lived on a quiet street in Chesterfield, building forts in the back woods with my childhood friend. The fort had one rule and one rule only: "NO BOYS ALLOWED."

 I remember falling in love with baseball at the age of 10 in my red jersey (proudly sporting the number 8) when I hit my first double.

I remember running through the winding roads that always brought me home with my dad and being able to escape from whatever was bothering me in my 14 year old world.

There was that season where I fell in love with being at church--being a part of my youth group and I decided to give up playing with my traveling softball team in order not to miss so many Sundays.

I remember being that nervous 17 year old trying out for show choir, and that terrified 18 year old who stood alone on VCU's campus trying to figure out this new world before me.

I remember being that 21 year old taking on a second job just to make ends meet and realizing for the first time I was good at what I did.

How could I forget the season of my first crush. A season of self-discovery, of a broken heart and wondering if I would be single forever.

I remember that season of loss. Of grieving. Followed by a season of healing and forgiveness.

There was a season of bad choices and ugly consequences. A season I decided to live for me and where I turned my back on God.

I remember being 27 a living in a season of false reality. At 29 I found myself crashing into the season of reality, of hurt, confusion and betrayal.

I remember the season of turning back, letting go and trusting that God would bring good and that He would restore.

There was a season of serving, of giving back and dreaming big of making a difference.

There was a season of fatigue and of struggle.

There was a season of pretending. Of trying to be normal.

There was a season of retreat and of discovering who I was in Christ, who He formed me to be and feeling His peace overwhelm my soul.

There was a season of falling in love with His Word and waking up at the wee hours of the morning just to get a taste.

There was a season of new love and of wondering would this be the one.

There was a season of late night phone calls, early morning text and many miles traveled to visit (even if it were just for 10 minutes).

There was a season of disagreements, of learning to communicate, and the stress of work.

There was a season of new adventures.

There was the season of puppy love, and potty training and sleepless nights.

I am thankful for the season of "falling" into a sucky small group, where I have learned to open up and how to become part of a community that gets it.

And I find myself in a season of wedding planning, of becoming one flesh and dreaming of a life where God can use us beyond our wildest dreams.

I am here.

Now, living my thousand lives. Moving along, one step at a time.

It is in these moments when I stop and remember, that I feel like life is passing me by. And lately it's been passing me by. Today, I will intentionally steal moments here and there. Seeing my life as I know it and the blessings that have been graciously poured upon it.  But tomorrow, after I clock in my four hours and steal a few moments with the bestie, I plan to come home, to turn off the phone and put away the computers. I will love on the cutest puppy I know, cook a fabulous dinner and soak in this beautiful moment in life beside the one whom I love.

I do not doubt that my heart will full of gratitude and of humility and in awe of the One who has given me more than I could ever deserve: fullness, and hope, and love and grace upon grace upon grace over the thousand lives that have so far made up my lifetime.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Candid thoughts

My mind has been running nonstop since the wee hours of this morning--meaning,  I cannot finish one thought without ten more barging in. I'm left with fragmented sentences lingering in my mind, disjointed ideas that scream for my time and an uneasy soul waiting for resolve. Some thoughts are light hearted and carefree, others carry a weighted burden, and some cannot even be placed into any particular genre.

So I write.


I write because it makes me:


Stop
and
Think.


Process
and
Finish.


There may not always be a solution or an answer, but there is always order and sometimes clarity.


And I share.


I share because it keeps me:

Real
and
Vulnerable.


Well-lit
and
Accountable.

So, be forewarned, if you continue to read, you will be sure to find random ideas, unfiltered thoughts, real struggles, and an open me.


1. This past weekend I saw Heaven Is For Real. This movie would have never been on my list of things to see, but with the suggestion of a friend, I found myself there. And even though I didn't walk away as the movie's #1 fan, it was still thought provoking. In the movie the dad says "If Heaven is for real, wouldn't we all live different lives." A powerful line that has played over and over in my mind since. Then add to it Monday night--our small group was planted in Matthew 13. Parable after parable we read . . . "And the Kingdom of Heaven is like...." we saw that Jesus was revealing that heaven is here. It started with the baby in a manger and it is now--that truth should radically change how I live my life!! Sometimes I just wish to shake my finger at myself and say. "O ye of little faith."


2. It's Bernie's birthday today. Some of you laugh, thinking she's just a D.O.G. And some of you are wondering where your invitation is to her birthday party. Well, there is no party, for fear of the friend's who live in the first category ragging on my until the end of time. With that being said, I will take any reason to celebrate over that little ragamuffin. I've had 2 dogs that have been up there on the 'love scale," but there is just something about Bernie and the crazy that she brings to this life. I know she is "just" a dog, but I sure am smitten!


3. Soon I will be spending Wednesday evenings studying A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study by Jen Hatmaker, with some cool ladies--that I don't really know! I hope I still think they are cool once I get to know them!! (Ha--that was a joke ladies if any of you are reading this). All jokingly aside, I am extremely excited about this, but for as much excitement, I have as much fear. I always find it terrifying to come around God's Word in an intimate setting with people you don't "really know." Perhaps not the way I am suppose to feel, but it's the truth.


4. Spring is here, which means love is in the air. It is unreal how many weddings have or will be taking place in the coming weeks. Weddings that either directly or indirectly involve the people I love most in this world. I'm a sucker for romance, especially weddings, but this year each picture, each invitation, and each spoken "I do, " leaves behind a twinge of pain in the depths of my soul. Like many young girls, I too planned out my wedding day. And if it were to happen now, even though my vision has drastically changed as I have matured in my understanding of this commitment, there are some key players who would decline to be a part. So as I see them celebrate with my friends or preform the ceremonies of acquaintances, my heart aches and my stomach always seems unprepared for the blow. Maybe things will change by the time wedding bells are ringing over me, and if not then I will continue to pray for a softened heart and grace upon grace upon grace.


5. Time. We all are given the same 24 hours. But lately, I have needed...wanted more! It's selfish really. I'm sure if I stopped and examined my daily routine it would be littered with poor choices and wasted hours. But here, right now, I wish I carved out face to face time with the bestie like I use to. I wish I cleared off more weekends to visit the family I rarely get to see and miss often. I wish I had time to sit and study....like really study, hours upon hours study and not so I'm equipped to lead a discussion, but because I long to know Him more. I wish I had more time to serve, to volunteer and to give back. I wish I made more of a habit daily giving myself vs just on Thursdays or every other month. I wish I had time to pray more....more than the prayer before I hit the road, or when I silence the car radio or scribble my lunchtime request--but like leaving indentions in my prayer closet kind of praying. I wish I cherished more moments and slowed down the pace of life. I wish ...


6. I wrote a song about a tortilla. We'll actually it is more of a wrap. :)


7. "Above all, remember that the meaning of life is to live it as if it were a work of art. You are not a machine. When you're young, start working on this great work of art called your own existence." --Abraham Joshua Heschele


Ahhh....and now my mind travels with one foot slowly in front of the other...this is a pace I can do.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A slab of concrete doesn't have to worry about weeds

There are a lot of things that are on that list of “can’t be _____, if I’m a Christian.” Sometimes we are taught them at home, in the church, or by those we look up to, and sometimes we aren’t taught them at all. Sometimes it’s a mystery on how “those things” have made their way to that list, but they are there nonetheless. This morning, I had the privilege to sit under the teaching of Angie Frame as she shared from her heart about being angry toward God.
 
Growing up, I was never taught that I could unload on God. And for the record, I don’t believe I was ever taught that I couldn’t either. For so long and in my limited understanding, God was up in heaven and I was down here on earth. He was a good God, and I was to live a “good” life. I was a good kid and never found myself or life to give me many reasons to be mad at God or to question His goodness--or so I thought.
The reality was that life had given me plenty of reasons to be angry, and I had just adopted this poor theology that if I called myself a Christian then it was wrong to show, express or even share my anger, disappointment or hopelessness. I was to stay strong, put on a happy face and continue moving forward even if deep down I was bitter and mad. I learned that I had a huge capacity to stuff and hide and to not deal.
 
But I remember when my capacity hit full. I remember sitting in the living room of a friend for this thing called “small group” with people I had recently met, but did not really know, the Frame’s being among them. And boy did I break. I don’t remember what started the crack, I just remember all my doubts, fears, hurts, anger and questions pouring out. And to my shock . . .it was ok . . . even encouraged.
 
I remember leaving that room more embarrassed that I had let those words of anger and doubt fall from my lips. But more importantly I left that room feeling intrigued by their challenge to unload this all on God. I was told “He can take it.” And over the next year I tested that theory. I trusted their counsel and borrowed their faith, for a time I had very little.
 
This afternoon, I spent time digging through old boxes and reading journals that I kept during this time, and boy was I angry---angry at the world, angry at God. Page after page after page, I shared that anger, my confusion, and my doubts. On some days, “ANGRY! I am so angry at you!” is all I could muster. As time went on, and as I continued to unload and He continued to take it, those pages read of healing and were once again filled with hope. My life didn’t get put back together--not the way I hoped, but He was there by my side through it all. The more time I spent opening up my heart to Him, the more real He became, and the less angry I was.
 
“A slab of concrete doesn’t have to worry about weeds--but it will also never be a garden,” was written in my journal about a year after my small group helped me understand that God was BIG enough for me to unload. My anger was keeping me down, unable to move forward, unable to change and to grow into something beautiful. I wish I could tell you I have all the answers, and that I understand why such pain needed to be a part of my journey. I wish I could tell you that looking back things don’t hurt. I wish I could tell you that moving forward anger isn’t a part of my relationship with God. But it’s not the case. In my past, there still lies unanswered questions, there still lies sadness over the broken pieces, but anger isn’t to be found. Moving forward, I am no longer that slab of concrete, there‘s now life, growth and an open honest relationship with a Gardener who hasn‘t given up on me and who won’t give up on me, no matter how much I need to unload.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Stretch Out Your Hand

I don't take for granted that I get to study the Bible with my best friend. To be able to sit and read and share and discuss and question and dig in with her has been one of life's greatest gifts. I hope that she will not mind me telling you, but when her life hit "rock bottom" the Word is where she turned. She devoured it. Drew hope and strength from it.  And the wisdom and insight that God has laid upon her is simply incredible.

Together, we have been facilitating the study of Matthew on Monday nights. Now Matthew, for me, will forever hold a special place in my heart. It's where I found myself planted during my "rock bottom." It's where I met Jesus, and where I drew my strength and my hope during those dark days. So to revisit it with her and the new perspectives she has brought has made for one incredible journey.

This past week as we were preparing for Chapter 12 we got lost in the story of Jesus healing the man with the disfigured hand. I've read this passage several times and never before saw what she did.

"Why did this man stretch out his deformed hand?" she asked. She went on to explain that if she or I had a broken, deformed or disabled hand, it would most likely be second nature to stretch out our "good" one.

But this man didn't.

To be honest, I've wrestled over this this past week. You see, I can remember clearly the times where He has said "Mel, stretch out __________," and instead of holding out my weakness, I laid forth my strengths. Instead of trusting that He would love me no matter what, I tried to save face and lived in the denial of my failures. Instead of mustering up the courage to believe that He would break the chains that have held me captive,  I resigned to live in their misery and bondage.

Because . . . .
It's easier for me if He does not open those hidden doors of secrets.
It's easier for me if He works in my comfort zone.
It's easier for me if He uses me where I feel equipped.
It's easier for me if He calls me to safe places.
And it's in the easy, that I stay stagnant and unchanged.
It's in the easy that the greatest blessings of this life are missed.

As I am learning, I see . . .
It's behind those doors of hidden secrets where freedom is found.
It's out side of my comfort zone, where my faith in Him is deepened.
It is outside my feelings of readiness that my trust in Him is strengthened.
It's outside of those safe havens where I learn that He is always with me.
It's in giving Him my weaknesses that I find the strength in Him to overcome.
To change for the better.

In the midst of Matthew 12, among the attempts to trap and angry plots to kill Jesus, there lies this beautiful story of an out stretched hand. One that represents fear and faith, shame and salvation, repulsiveness and redemption. A story that reminds us that in our weakness He is strong and in our failures He is triumphant.

Be bold, stretch out that hand--the disfigured one, and watch what a merciful God can do with the messes we lay before Him.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

What are three memories that you never want to forget?

"What are three memories that you never want to forget?"

This was the question that was asked in my house yesterday.
A question that is still lingering today.

Only three?

That's not only difficult, but it's impossible.

In my 33 years there have been more than just three memories that have changed me, challenged me and have been the catalyst to bigger and better things.
There has been more than one memory per eleven years that has resurfaced in my mind and refilled my heart with emotions.

And even though I'd rather say, "to heck with the rules," this time, I will comply.

After much thought, here are my three:

1. Playing lawn darts in the front yard of my childhood home, with my mom, my dad and my brothers.

2. September 19, 2010 in Cartersville under the waters of the James River & March 17, 2012 under the stars of Blackstone. Don't call me a cheater! Yes these are two separate events, but together they connect what I knew in my head to what I knew in my heart. Life changing!

3. Music was coming from the office. We were sitting in the bed room, talking and filling each other in on our past and life stories, the good times and bad. There was a lull in conversation and you must have heard the words of the song playing in the background. Your eyes filled with tears, as you closed them, a smile spread across your face and your hand went up high in praise as you sang the words "Hold on don't you ever let go, let me Jesus lead, I guarantee you He knows. When the road is rough, the going gets tough, the hills are hard to climb, looking for peace of mind, Hold on don't you ever let go . . ."

Yup!

Those are three I never want to forget!


What are your three?