Talitha koum…

 

 

God is good

 

I haven’t written in a long while.  And this is so not what I imaged my first post from hiatus to be. Not that I hadn’t wondered about this day.  What it would feel like, be like…  because I have. 

 

It isn’t anything like I thought it would be.  And yet a little familiar too.  Nothing could really prepare me for this.

 

How could it?  The kind of relationship I had with my father doesn’t beget neatly boxed or mentally prepared moments…

 

My life has always been a whirlwind of crazy and chaos.  That much has stayed consistent.  I’m quite good at waking up and rolling with what ever comes my way. 😉

My mind is fighting myself with each tap tap tap of the keyboard as nothing in me wants to continue this post.  It’s forcing me to be present.  I don’t want to be present right now.  As my sister of my heart is always reminding me ‘that which I fear is often that which I should write about most’…  Love her so much.  She makes me brave.  ❤ How blessed we are to have people in our lives that encourage us to be better and more courageous people??? ❤  ❤ Very…  (love you, Sum) ❤

I wake up early every morning declaring this day a battle against the forces that fight against me — and I push through every single voice in my head that has me defeated already (so many layers…) — before my feet have even hit the floor.  Because I have to keep living — somehow.  This is a blessing.  Yes.  A blessing.  Because it keeps me present.  It keeps me focused.  And I know He’ll get me through another day, like He always does — and I have faith — if I just keep moving and if I just keep walking, I know that little by little I will get there.  Life is a journey.  So I breathe.  So I pick up my mat.  I begin my practice, and I connect my body to my spirit.  And dammit, some days it’s so very heavy and it’s so freaking hard for those of you who do not know this pain.  We all have our “things”, right?  I remind myself of this and pray for all of us.  So many of us.  I know I’m not alone…  (I see you too…  hang in there, loves,  hang the hell on…) ❤  Some days are hard.  Some days are easier.  But every single day is a blessing.  And every single day we get to BE a blessing! ❤

These past few days have been somewhat of a blur of numb.  And I don’t WANT to be present or connected anymore.  This is a slippery slope for me… so.I.write.

After I got the bizarre phone call — because of the nature of the conversation — that went from one story to another as it changed, my sister said she ‘wasn’t going to do an homage of sorts, of course’ (and I was thinking, ‘why on earth would you???’ as my first visceral reaction of procession to all of the contents of the words of what just transpired) but then she put together an Instagram post.  One of which I didn’t even know about until a couple of friends reached out to me and asked if I was okay, and to let me know they were sorry.  So there was that.  Using the word father.  Crediting this person with life and addressing heaven.  It was all just too much for me in this instant of a moment.  Maybe one of her ways or  pieces of healing.  We all choose differently and uniquely.   It’s what makes us human, after all. ❤  And I wasn’t going to write a darn consonant or vowel.  Cause numb.  Yet here I am.  In this head space.  Writing.  Because it’s how I heal…

Huge life events bring out different things in all of us.  We’re human and so unique in that humanity, aren’t we?  In death some of us choose to remember better than it was, some of us choose to remember as it was, and some of us choose to not remember at all.  The mind is interesting like that.  In a way, it ‘takes care’ of us like that.  And equally interesting is the way in which those different ways of remembering can cause pain to those close to us.  It’s not intentional.  It just happens.  It’s all part of the circle of things, isn’t it?  It’s a process unique to all of us.  This is mine.

For me, authenticity is the only path through anything.  My brain is super annoying like that.  It’s super annoying to other people like that.  Really.  It’s a disorder of sorts.  It’s just pedantically how I tick.  I can’t escape it.  I’ve tried — for the sake of my husband and the “awkwardness” this sometimes entails sometimes for his family as well (and social situations 😉 ).  Apparently, there are no meds that really work for it.  😉  Yet — ultimately everyone has their choices in which to deal.  And we all have our lens, we all have our experiences, and we all have our way of dealing with the pain those experiences illicit.  And sometimes our brain tries to save us.  I get this.  I often wish mine would.  Sometimes I wish I never started therapy.  Just kept suppressing.  But then, I would have never started really living.  I would have never been free.

So now we get awkward… (it’s what I do best…)

See, the “creating” part of life isn’t all that difficult to me.  Sure, it’s a miracle — but a miracle that was created by God.  Not by us mere humans.  I’m not so hubristic as to think that we came up with and manufactured this whole process all on our own.  We’re fantastic yes, but not THAT amazing.  Shooting sperm into an egg takes a couple of seconds (give or take).  It’s the process thereafter that means more to me in terms of our significant fingerprint on the relevance of things.  The lifetime process thereafter of raising a child.  How we build up and strengthen our children, not systematically choose to destroy them or use them for our selfish purposes…

In that regard, I had a God that created me — friends, my husband, family, myself, teachers, several therapists (God bless them –really, amazing people, so thankful), amazing people (I do use that word often 🙂 ) and the Holy Spirit — that were involved in my creation.  And part of that creation?  It involved freaking YEARS of surviving and undoing what had been done to me, by my parent’s choice.  And I’m still working on all of this.  Respecting creation, I’ll thank God and everyone who truly had a part in that.  Not the person who didn’t think I was worth breathing and made a point to let me know that pretty much every single day he had the chance.  And if my father had a mental illness, it would have been amazing to know this as a child, young adult, and adult.  I was not made aware of this.  I was only ever aware that it there was something wrong with me.   It was something that I hoped in the exchange for the possibility of my inherent evil, but was not told.  I really thought the voice he was hearing was God’s.

I thank God for breath.  He had me in His plans before the creation of the world.  And how I came to be?  He had a plan for that too.  So I will credit God, who holds the plans he has for me — and always has and always will.  If He wanted me here, I would have come to be. 🙂  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29: 11

I understand peace and transcendence and wanting that for your self … yes, I SO do — but truth doesn’t need to be void from it.  They all coexist.  In fact, for my journey, true sustained peace requires it.  Years of walking THROUGH pain — not over, not under, not around — but THROUGH — has taught me that much.   Again, my journey.  Not everyone’s.  And part of this through? — reading through diaries I had kept since the age of 7 all throughout my college years until my babies were born — then I got too busy and started reaching out to all of you here.  Painful as hell.  Especially the first time.  Yes.  But necessary — especially in my family where things weren’t talked about and are forgotten.  It’s like I have to remind myself that it was bad.  That it wasn’t okay.  That it wasn’t normal — in the scope of your average, typical “family” fare.  That hey, it’s really more than okay that you freaking feel this way, Ang.  Because it  became my “normal”.  And really, until I got out of that “cult” of living and went to college?  I did not truly and fully know or grasp or even understand how messed up it was.  How messed up I was.  And how deeply and utterly self preserved I was — all in my neat little quiet package (because we do not speak or betray the family — my phone conversations were even listened to)  — all of the mechanisms I had used to self cope, to take care of me, to just make it on a daily existence — one foot in front of the other level, to rationalize the abuse — and it all went into self harm (because I needed to inflict more abuse to my body!!!! (ug), and to my brain, because I believed I was so vile) — and I took personal responsibility for absolutely everything (because I had been taught to and told to —  “you were always such an anxious child”). Barf.  All of it.  And I wasn’t really angry about it, on the outside.  That would draw attention.  I didn’t want any attention.  I so perfectly internalized it all. I was a good girl. A good kid. Despite everything being said about me.  So ironic looking back on all of that.

Loves, if you’re angry, rage a little.  Really.  If you’re sad, be sad.  Cry.  Feel it.  It’s okay to feel it.  And you might still feel it from time to time for quite some time.  That’s okay too.  You’re not a bad person for having feelings.  For having a voice.  Have a voice.  I found mine so very late.  I’m just so blessed by the people who helped me find it at all.  Really. For encouraging me to sustain it.   Thanks to all of them.  I still think quite often, is it okay if I talk? now sometimes…  because it’s still scary. But —  We are here to be who God created us to be.  We all have a unique purpose.  No rival.  No one gets to take that from us.  “Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created.”  Esther 4:14.  “For such a time as this.”  Speak, sister.  He’s got you.  ❤

And it’s funny how this is SUCH a hard habit to break.  I actually had this epiphany just a few days ago during yoga.  I am critically hard on myself.  On my awareness of myself.  I expect nothing less than perfection and am acutely aware of my endless flaws.  So.many.flaws.  I’m REALLY good at being flaw-full (y’all get this from my other blog posts, I’m sure 😉 ). I’m a hot mess of mistakes.  I try SO hard to get away from this (hence the yoga — smile), but it is a prison and a bondage I wrestle with constantly.  I demand the absolute best from myself at all times.  And yet, the absolute best has yet to be given TO me by anyone but Jesus (and I realize he’s the only one who will 🙂 )…  I give so much breadth and width to others.  Why can’t I give it to myself???  When those who were supposed to give me love, provide and care for me have  failed  — and I am totally okay with them simply throwing their hands up in the air and saying “oh for heaven’s sake, I did the best I could.  I don’t remember.  I didn’t.  I forgot.  Everyone makes mistakes”  — and my all time favorite — “Just get over it…” and it’s all forgiven — and I, somehow, end up taking responsibility for it all.  I yet I continue to demand perfection from myself, take absolute responsibility for all things (those that aren’t even mine to take), yet don’t really seem to demand it from others…  Why?  Because I don’t ever want to be like them?  Because some one HAS to?  Because I never feel worthy?  Because I believe everyone gets five billion chances? Because Jesus said to turn the other cheek?  Because I always feel like one should have hope?  Or because I am the only piece of this cray fest I can control?

I truly do not know what the answer is to that question…  but I’m also truly done asking it.  We all have choices.  And mine is to get off of this infernal wheel…  I need to let go of feeling like I have to have it all together and be everything to everyone.  And so I write… ❤ It frees my brain, it frees my voice, it frees my soul…

I am at peace.  I have forgiven.  And the shortness and quickness of those words does nothing to show the incredible length and struggle of that process and journey. But forgiveness doesn’t mean I have to make it prettier.   God makes beauty from ashes.  That’s so amazing, isn’t it?  (this journey isn’t pretty, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hold holy beauty. ❤ ) Or that I need to somehow imply that any of  it was okay or just a different way of ‘doing things’ — a mere ‘difference in philosophy’ or ‘lifestyle choices’.  It was pretty ugly.  There was some lovely in it too.  But it wasn’t all pretty.  I’m proud of the work,  I’m proud of the person I’ve become for it, and I’m proud of the voices that have been released because of it…

Forgiveness, for me,  is realizing that the deep pain that person caused really had absolutely NOTHING to do with you.  It had everything to do with them and the kind of person THEY were.  Those were their choices.  That was their walk.  And yes, you gotta pick up all the broken — but you will.  Every single freaking day of your life, you will.  You will make that choice.  For you, and for those you love.  Because that’s the kind of person YOU are.  And your life will be beyond amazing.  Because you are you and God is God.  And that — THAT person He created for good and for an incredible purpose — and that is a holy miracle.  And that is YOUR miracle.  Amen.

There is peace in knowing that someone that evil is no longer taking isn’t here on earth.  That presence is gone.  And that may sound horribly cruel to some of you.  I realize this.  It doesn’t mean that I am “happy”, it means part of my mind is relieved.  One of the weird effects of my PTSD is that I would see him — when he wasn’t there.  Standing on the corner as the kids and I drove to school, in my home, in my bedroom — actually SEE him.  And then I would have panic attacks.  I would sometimes vomit.  I am hopeful that knowing that he is no longer physically here helps with those episodes.  I also hope the nightmares that I would have here and there diminish (they become more frequent with stress).  That I don’t wake up in my own puke, or having sweat through all of my clothes and wet the bed in terror — because I’ve been raped.   Throughout childhood, one of the ways I was punished was having to stand naked for periods of time (as chosen by him) before my father.  If I struggled with taking my clothes off, I’d have “help”.  He’d look at his watch and the minutes would start.  If I tried to cover myself or cried, the minutes would start again.  This happened well into adolescents.  As did timed and watched showers.  Until high school.  This accounts for the rape dreams for me.  My therapist link it to other issues that don’t bear talking about here.  Some things need to be kept private.  And everything is so real in those moments.  Because even though I am 41 years old, I never feel like an adult.  Ever.  And sometimes I am afraid he is going to come and take everything I love away from me.  Because that’s what he did.  Over and over again.  Friends, who I was, my dignity, all the junk that was made up about me, and I was left to fight for myself. Even within my own family.   And yet I would.  And God never let me go.  We are all such miracles…

And because all of that was hardwired into my brain for so long,  I would also STILL have to remind myself this is MY house and MY family and I am a grown up — I am a grown up — and he can NOT hurt me anymore.  I would have to remind myself of these things — when I would get the psychotic birthday cards, the notes stuck in my doorway — just so Marty and I would know that he knew that even though we’d moved he now knew where we lived (each time we moved, from apartment to apartment from house to house) — the calls from various people asking if we had money to help with this that or the other thing, the calls from the ex-wife he was married to for a year because she was divorcing him — could I help? — if not for her, for her boys — the all of the crazy of it all. That was just in the past nine years or so.  That is my reality.  Not to mention after college.  What my husband and  I went through with our wedding.  And helping my mother through the divorce.  After not being so very blessed in the family’s graces for so long up to that point.  Crying three month old in hand (colic is fun 😉 ), Marty and I did that together.  Off to the court house.  Because I wanted to be good daughter.  I always wanted to be good.  So incredibly thankful for my husband.  Through all of our issues (and as much as I can complain about him 😉 ), he has been through and supported me through so much of life (and has seen so much).  I thank God for him.  Going through everything with his mother and all of this has been tough.  Marty is amazing.  There’s that word again.

And Chuck was graciously given opportunities for reconciliation.  I have my own children.  This was important to me.  The “how could a parent do this, allow this, to happen to their child???” hit me beyond hard after having my first.  It still hits me from time to time during big (and small) childhood moments with my own boys.  But what also hits me is the want and need for family.  So I tried.  I tried.  And I feel like I constantly try and give chances in this department.  And I am also so incredibly aware that God gives us family all around us.  That that word is a verb. Not just a noun.  It’s what we do.  Another gorgeous moment(s) in reading my diaries (took a few times) 🙂 — is seeing all of the people God placed in my life along the way.  Thank you, heavenly Father.  You have always taken care of me. ❤

And I do I believe in hell.  I know it’s not a popular theology as of late.  I’m a minority.  And I believe there is some sort of a place for people who choose to crush innocence and mitigate the existence of childhood.  I don’t morn the loss of it, my childhood that is.  I just know I really didn’t get to have one.  And I know it doesn’t really matter what I believe to any of you.  At all.  Not a single bit.  It shouldn’t.  And I am not pretending to be God.  I’m not Him.  I’m not the one who does the judging nor the condemning.  Regardless, I don’t believe in a God who doesn’t have a sense of justice — of right or of wrong.  And that for those of us who can’t scream or have a voice on this earth through epochs of our lives, who are invalidated, smeared, silenced — just maybe those who take our voices away get to do some screaming somewhere else…  And maybe it’s not hell, for those of you for whom that word is too harsh.  Maybe there’s a middle place.  Maybe there’s a place of omniscient understanding.  A place where everything comes together.  Where our pain connects to the place of the hearts of people who weren’t able to feel or understand that pain.  For what ever reason.  A connection room.  I can’t imagine we get to go around hurting people all of our lives and then not learn from that — ever.  That makes this existence the most futile and pointless reason for creation… for all of us.

I can’t honestly cry over the loss of a father.  Because I never had one of those.  That word is reserved for someone precious.  I can’t even cry over the loss of a relationship — because I truly never had one of those either.  It was rather one sided in the trying department.  You can’t really have a relationship with someone you fear.  Someone who tells you who you are, but doesn’t know who you are or even takes an interest in getting to know you — because all of the you is bad.  It was all (and is still, to some extent) absolute insanity.

 

Thanks to the friends that have been with me through this all of this and that stay up till midnight and beyond through my bad times and get me.  Who don’t shame me.  Hold my hand, my tremors, and my heart.  You are so very precious.  I get beaten up and broken from time to time.  We all do, don’t we?  Other times I know I won’t let you in for anything.  In those times, thanks for understanding that I need space.  For understanding that during these times I am not building walls, that I just need space.  And often much of it (smile).  Sometimes it’s too freaking scary in there.  I know you know me well enough to understand that I don’t do fake.  So I just need time.  And all of this?  It’s sometimes just too dark.  And sometimes that dark is even too dark and heavy for me and I don’t want to put that on you.  Or just walk around sad all the time. Because I know it will pass.  It always does.  It never lasts forever.  Nothing lasts forever.  Not even the darkest darkness.  ❤ ❤ ❤

But it’s never too dark or heavy for Jesus.  So I will give it all to him.  Every day.  And what a blessing that is?!?!?!?!?!  And how close we walk.  ❤ And in him there is no darkness.  And he’s been through it all (and then some).  How small are my tribulations! 🙂  I may often feel like a little girl trapped in an adult’s body (smile). Yet HE makes me strong.  He IS the reason I AM.  I KNOW this.  Down to my bones and my beating heart and the soul that is filled with his Holy Spirit.  This.much.I.know.   His.love.remains.  His love always remains.   Again, what holy miracles we are. ❤ ❤ ❤

To hear that the person that gave me the literal sense of  life and then subsequently did his best to destroy it passed away on Father’s Day — and how do I feel, and how am I doing?

I don’t know…

But I do know that the God he claimed to hear and speak to he has finally met.

And I will too. 

So humbling.

I will too.  That very same God.

So, as my tattoo in Aramaic daily reminds me —

“Talitha koum” Little girl, arise! (Mark 5:41).

Because we don’t get to choose the hand we are dealt, but we get to choose how we walk with it and carry it now — don’t we?

And I am certainly thankful for what I went through and daily struggle with in that it has taught me to see people and love them in ways I otherwise may not have.  I know this. It has taught me to be brave.  It has taught me to be humble.  And it has taught me to love and hold onto God in a way I know I would not.  Vulnerable?  Painfully, yes — from a space that is constantly pierced open.  Making lots of mistakes?  Yes.  But I’d like to think, always growing.

Slow is still a pace.

Namaste — the light in me, sees the light in you.

And it’s holy beautiful.

(After having a lengthy conversation with my beautiful sister, I want to reiterate and make it very clear that I did not have any intention of coming off as angry in this post… and I had no intention of hurting or disrespecting my family…  I love them very much. ❤ My father was constantly in my prayers.  And it may appear as if this girl is stuck in the past — but I don’t believe that is so — some memories come back up with big things like death, I believe — but I also believe that some things are ‘forever heals’ — till we meet the one who heals all things.  And that this is not a bad thing.  Not a bad thing at all.  In fact, it makes us strong and present and courageous.  Not only for ourselves — but for others.  It’s kind of like our super power.  It makes us more — not less.  We are not less.  We were never less.  So every day we take the chance to grow and use our healing for others.  To do what we can to lift those who aren’t yet ready to lift themselves.  To let them know that we were once there too.  And that they can.  Maybe not right at this moment.  But one day.  They will.  And that’s not living in the past.  That’s living in a miracle.  And that’s pretty freaking precious.  So yes, when I wrote this — in that space of just finding out all of the everythings of death and what that all brought rushing back for me — some things came up.  But they don’t last forever.  Nothing ever does.  Not even darkness.  It’s not eternal.  But love is.  But.love.is.  Let’s not forget that.  And be kind to each other.  Please.  Love is never wasted.  Ever.  Nor is forgiveness.  Blessings and hope.) ❤ ❤ ❤

You did not waste your love

 

 

 

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Who we are…

adult

I have lately found myself being something I am usually not.  Vague.  Hidden.  Keeping big things suppressed and to myself (I KNOW, what is THAT? 😉 ).  Obsessively talking about things that don’t matter to cover up the all the noise that is in my heart and head (‘oh so THAT’S why you won’t SHUT UP!!!’, says the husband… 😉 ).  Joking about packing up the boys, buying a yurt, and moving to Colorado.

So.dead.serious.  If the opportunity presented itself, I would do this.  In a heartbeat.  Opportunity, go ahead and knock.  I freaking dare you…

Because despite my best intentions of being a together and all feeling yet present and in touch and deeply connected and breathing in and out with my Lord sort of person, I’m kind of suffocating.  Not like ‘panic attack’, whoa is me, the end is near sort of suffocating — because that was SO last year 😉 …

But that ‘had enough’, ready to close the chapters — all of them — and move on to an entirely different book sort of suffocating.

My husband simply thinks it’s a nervous breakdown.  A midlife crisis of sorts.  I know myself better.  I’ve had lots of those 😉 .  Those are freaking nothing.  We INFJ’s have those for breakfast.  This is more.  This is awakening.  This is not wanting to sleep through my life anymore.  This is so far from being tired.  So far from being exhausted.  So far from being used up.  This is so far from being aware of the bullshit.  This is just being done.  Plate’s full and I’ve had so much more than enough, thank you.  Here it is — you can have it back — washed, sparkly clean, because this sister is moving on without taking anything else you have to dish out in this perimeter of my existence, life.

A few weeks ago, who’s counting?  Time has been one giant cluster of no sleep and that cry praying where you’re talking to God and listening and breathing him in so close that you feel held but yet he’s still just too damn far away.  Sometimes I long for home so much it viscerally hurts.  I went to look for a few books and papers and binders full of information I had saved concerning autism and other things from education and behavioral psychology classes at Simpson and some journaling I had done while working at Westminster House and teaching a few preschool kiddos at Methodist as this new preschool year began — to brush up on a few things.  All of this was in a gigantic tote of my personal stuff I didn’t quite know where to put or what to do with but felt I should keep.  So, I dug it out of the basement and opened it up.  Part of me wishes I hadn’t…

Also in it were all of my diaries and journals.  I started keeping one when I was a tiny seven — so close to Griffyn’s age (the connection gripped me and held me and the same grip squeezed when I hit ‘my age’ at Max’s age for the entire time I read).  I named my journals at the beginning — they were “friends.”  Feels sad just writing that.  About ten to fifteen bound books — all various pieces of me.  Also sheets and sheets of poetry–some typed some scribbled, and books I had written when I was little through high school (really quite terrible — not being humble — they are awful).  And magazines I had created with mock interviews with created people, fashion editorials, complete with ads.  I thought I was a designer too? Not really, I just loved to draw and write and pretend to be a journalist 🙂 . And letters.  So many letters.  And everything from graduation –both high school and college — and all the letters from teachers that wrote in to scholarship committees for me (I applied to at least 100 or more 😉 — paying for college yourself is tough, friends 🙂 , when you pay for the everything else of life for yourself too 🙂 ).  These letters from teachers were the first thing I read.  And it was all downhill from there, I guess you could say.  I just lost it.  I couldn’t take the beautiful words.  Why did they hurt so freaking bad?  And why didn’t I know this about myself or remember ANY of this?

“If I had had daughters instead of sons, I would be quite fortunate to have a daughter with all of the attributes that Angela possesses…”  what the hell?

The letters from previous bosses, friends from all.of.the.places from which we had moved, teachers I had kept in contact with (I had such an incredibly close relationship with my teachers), and the friends I still call my sisters today.  Dammit.  They were all such gorgeous words.  I was not this person they all said I was!!!  I was not this person… (Summer, Kari, love you…)

I looked at the stacks of journals looming in front of me.  Part of me felt like vomiting.  I had never actually sat down and went through them all–consciously, present, on purpose, for real.   Seven years old. That’s so little.  I was literally shaking.

I think, no, I’m lying with that ‘think’ word — I KNOW — that a huge part of me hopes  that everything in that “then” box I keep in my brain was actually better than I remember.  That my mother was right, that I cast a darker shadow on that past place than actually was — because that’s human nature, right?  And that’s what little kids and adolescents and people in their twenties do…  And who can trust therapists that ‘help’ you dig up your memories, right?  Hypnosis and REM (rapid eye movement) therapy is just weird and probably does strange stuff to your brain that isn’t right or trust worthy at all.  I mean, all of those highly trained professionals probably even “suggested” some stuff to you and then you just “remembered it that way, Ang”.  It really wasn’t THAT bad at all.  It’s just you.  It’s always been just you.  In fact, it’s just you period.

And it would make sense — because everyone else seems to be just fine.  I’m clearly the one that’s the most fucked up.  Still struggling.  Still quite awful and has so.many.issues (get over them already, would you?) and has to be told how it “really was” despite having lived it and been there–you know,  for all of my actual living of it.

And my mother would often tell me when I was so confused by the chemistry and connection of this mother and daughter relationship that is so difficult for me to grasp, but I will forever in relentless faith forge ahead — trying, always trying — to maintain, to carve in the love that I have learned and know how to give in my own way from an eternal Father– that when I was younger she and I had an “understanding”.  And I must have.  Because I don’t know how a person could let a monster do what a monster does and just stand there.  Just watch it.  Just be present and do so little to stop it — or at the very least, weaken its course.  But we were all doing the best we could, alright?  I swallow that — choke on it sometimes — but I swallow that and I let it burn all the way down until my insides consume it.  Because I want to believe it.  I want to believe it so badly.  But some of us were children, and some of us were grown ups…

And I open, page one of me — it’s my birthday, I am seven, and I just ‘got my ears pirced’ and bought this little lavender unicorn and rainbow diary with money I got from Grandma Sundsvold.  The rest my parents kept.  And I was in the basement with all of these memories for the rest of the day.  Losing my ever loving mind. I came up for tea.  Only for tea. And it sucked more than my worst nightmares.  Because not only was it just as bad as I remember, loves, it was freaking worse.  Dammit.  Dammit all to hell.

And it wasn’t just my family that bled in those pages, in those books.  It was Marty’s too.  His mom.  My marriage.  All.of.that.shit.too.  Because I walked from one inferno of crap, and was just finally finding the recourse to heal from through therapy — so.much.therapy –that I didn’t need to set myself on fire to save my family — but was still simmering — and just learning the everythings of all of that (I can’t even tell you what all of that is like — there aren’t words — your world isn’t even turned upside down, so much — it’s more like you just constantly wake up in a completely different version of hell and acclimate as best you can to who you thought you were and what you thought was real) — and I walked into a family where someone had a gallon of gasoline and yet another set of matches –ready to take full advantage of someone she saw was broken — yet she plays the savior AND the victim both at the same time.  And while I’ve forgiven her, I’m still wracked by the betrayal of the person who let it happen, who KNEW her — who was supposed to protect me — who was supposed to respect, love, honor, and cherish me.  Who I was supposed to be good enough for (God, would I ever be good enough for anybody?).  And I’m so freaking over blaming myself when I was the only voice for so long who would stand up to the truth of that situation–which incited a secret family meeting all about me (in which I wasn’t invited and Marty wasn’t privy to the agenda–and the agenda was full of bullshit).

And yet I still apologized for my part.  Conceded to the very few things that were actually true that were said.  She admitted to nothing.  She hoped I would lay down and die, I think, feel completely over powered by her and accept all of her crap as fact — be the target and move on.  But I still believed in God and what was right.  I always had.  She forgot that.  She didn’t really know me.  Just the version she wanted me to be.  The doormat.  And I wouldn’t take her saying things that weren’t true about me.  I wouldn’t agree to that.  I couldn’t believe that she was basically laying out everything that SHE was on to me.  It was so insane.  I had loved her so much.  I had called this woman Mom.  I had started to question some things and I had started to question her and had asked if she could stop being so negative (mentioned in several journal entries) about several family members (including her son).  And this is what happened.  This meeting.  All about me.  She even blindsided and was dishonest about what the meeting was about to my husband.  It was so surreal.  If I would have been a different person then, I would have walked away from her and all of the insanity then.  But in the grand scheme of how I had been treated my entire life, this was actually kind of “normal”…

Marty and I decided not to lay all of her garbage out for everyone (she talked about it all to him too — it wasn’t just to me), instead we simply asked her to stop lying.  We gave her a huge second chance.  I don’t know that she necessarily thought of it in that regard.  And we continued to go to family functions — but paired it down a bit.  This was an eye-opening experience of the very biggest kind.  Yet the bs continued.  Really crazy shit happened.  Things that made me go into the bathroom and vomit crazy shit happened  — then she would cry, and it would always be my fault and something I did and would need to apologize for because she was just trying to be a good mother and grandma.  And I fought on.  An army of one.  For so many years.  Till I got stronger.  And then I finally said enough.  I realized I was worth more than this, even if I wasn’t to my husband or to this family — I was to me and to what I was teaching my children what family was.  I was for two boys who were watching all of this.  And I had been through this all before.  And I deserved respect.  I deserved honesty.  And I could not live my life without those things ever again.  And asking for those things was never, ever asking for too much. Not because I was an amazing person — but because I was a child of God.  And so was she.  So she claimed to be.  So she was able to do those very things she claimed she was.  And I would hold her accountable.

And it was so incredibly important to me what my children were seeing and hearing in all of this.  We are love.  And love is action.  A person doesn’t get to abuse you because they are family.  They don’t get to lie about you and crap all over you because they are a certain word in your apparent circle of blood ties — it doesn’t give them a free pass to degrade you.  We stand up for one another.  We say, no, this isn’t okay — and we honor and we respect one another.  All of us.  So, even though I was solo once again, I wasn’t afraid.  It didn’t matter to me what anyone else thought or what anyone else said.  And I really wasn’t alone.  Because I was NEVER alone.  I had learned that much in my life. God would be my strength.  And he is bigger than any narcissist — however many tears they shed, however many lies they spread, and however altruistic and wonderful they appear to be to others.   No one really knows what we’re going through in this.  And there that all was.  Incident after freaking incident, letters, all that crap, staring back at me.  Journal after journal. That was, and is, so very real too.

And it all came crashing in.  This.

That I am so tired of surviving people.  I am so tired of surviving my life.

(I don’t mean to sound ungrateful or unthankful.  My life is FULL of beautiful and amazingly gorgeous relationships!  I am innately blessed.  I am.  Please understand this.  This was my initial overwhelming feeling after all.of.this.)

Usually when someone says they feel they have lived a full life, it is full of adventure, travel, incredible and fantastical things, yes?  The oddity and absurdity of me is that I feel that I have lived so.many.lives.  It has been so full.  I feel it has been TOO full.  It’s not so much all of the moving or all of the incredible amount of people I have met and places — nothing so extravagant as oceans away — but the complexity of survival that has completely worn me.  It’s the before and after of who you are.  The contrast of who that person was, yet all the people you carry with you (the you’s of you — and the people you have to say goodbye to, the real ones 🙂 ).  Because I loved all of those people so hard.  I did. All of them.

Reading through teacher cards and notes, I was struck by the fact that in so many respects I was kind of raised by my teachers.  I know this is why I wanted to be one so badly.  Their impact on my life was not missed.  I loved them so much and I truly felt their love for me.  Out of all of the things I have forgotten or suppressed in my life, I remember so many of their names.  This is telling to me. They were the ones who actually told me they were proud of me, they cared about me, and often — so very often — they were the ones that told me they loved me.  From kindergarten all the way up to graduating from Simpson.  And I may have forgotten it sometimes, but looking over all of this paper mess strewn everywhere — it was God’s way of telling me and reminding me through the people he created and graciously placed in my life journey that maybe I was okay, maybe I was something — when his voice was muffled by who my father told me was god.  How absolutely AWESOME is our God?!?!??!?!?!??!?!??!?!? None of that had to happen.  None.of.it.

And my teachers tried to help. They did.  I was reminded of this in a diary of the fifth grade me.  I was so scared because Mrs. Love — seriously her name was Mrs. Love ❤ — called my parents to let them know she was concerned about me.  It all came rushing back.  I remembered all of it (this.kept.happening — dear heaven, it was exhausting! the voices, the smells, the images!!!!). I was deeply anxious, seemed depressed and agitated and jumpy all the time.  I was a perfectionist child and although she appreciated my hard work and eagerness to please, she wanted me to be able to relax and enjoy life too.  She got me a little button (remember jean jackets and buttons? 😉 ) that said “take time to stop and smell the roses” — wrote my fifth grade self.  My parents were furious and completely offended.  My mother was exasperated and explained that I was “always just that kind of kid”.  I even got sores on the inside of my mouth and had stomach aches all the time just because of stress, for goodness sakes.  I was annoying, at best.  And my father told her that “‘maybe she gave out too much homework and should stick to teaching and leave them to the parenting.’ (Non believers.  They think they know everything.  She’s going to hell.)”

And then there was that…  Being told I was “just that kid” — the anxious kid, the kid that worried, the messed up kid, the kid that was sick all the time, the weird kid — and all the other traits and adjectives they would use when teachers wondered if I was okay.  And it would progress to other things when I got older as I was reminded later on in different additions of me.  My father and mother would tell family I had turned my back on God, was an ungrateful daughter (for all the things they had done for me — I was lucky to have such great parents!), I stole from them (my father was so convinced I had stolen the vacuum cleaner and taken it with me to college that he came banging on my door screaming for it and calling me all kinds of lovely names — great memories — thankfully I had an awesome RA right across the hall at Hamilton), was an alcoholic and a slut and other defaming words.  Nothing that was true.  Nothing that was remotely true.  Anything to shame me and make me out to be this awful and crazy person.  ‘Sometimes I wish I had the exciting life they said I led’ — that was actually a line in my journal… They never knew me.  They never tried to get to know me.  That would involve loving someone.  I was fully aware of that and just how awful of a me I must have been for that transaction not to take place…  They wanted to blot all of the me out of me.

So because of all of these pages that are me, I tend to see red when a kid consistently comes into our room with marks that he or she cannot explain.  Or a kid is completely withdrawn and sad and guarded most of the time — or on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, often angry and defiant.  And the parent(s) immediately have excuses or label the kids as this or that.  It’s all neatly wrapped up in a box and tied with a bow.  I may be over sensitive.  I will completely and totally give you that.  I will also give you that I get anxious in these scenarios.  Because I was that kid.  I.was.that.kid.  I’m not bitter because no one tried to help me or be my voice.  That’s not why at all.  I get frustrated because some parents are so very good at silencing the voices who try to help.  And we believe them.  Because maybe we want to.  Because maybe it’s just a little easier for us.

And the kids?  Dear God I love them! ❤ Because despite what we tell them — that this is a safe place — that this is a place where you can tell us anything?  What you can’t possibly know unless YOU HAVE BEEN THERE is that the wrath of home is a bazillion times worse than any “help” they’re going to get from us.  And that’s their normal.  Because it’s our normal.  It’s our crew.  It’s our family.  And it’s betrayal to even wonder if it’s anything but what Susie or George have going on in their home, alright?  It’s GOT to be what’s happening across the apartment hall.  And I deserve it.  I deserve all of it. Because if my own Mom and Dad don’t love me, who the hell does…  Because what YOU don’t get is that you can’t just say the words “trust me” and it magically happens.  You HAVE to grow it — you HAVE to SHOW me.  And that takes time.  That takes LOVE.  It really does.  It REALLY takes that LOVE word, okay?  And for some of these kids?  Well, they’re just not going to let you love them.  They are going to be the most unlovable kids in the history of ever.  And you’re just going to have to show them what love is — because what really, really sucks is when the people who are supposed to love you show you everything about what love ISN’T…  So, stay there anyway.  Please. Don’t give up on them. ❤

And that understanding my mother was talking about?

Over and over within all of those pages I questioned if my mother loved me.  From the age of seven all the way till — if I’m being so completely and achingly honest, even sometimes now (I innately know she is truly doing the best she can and my ‘lack of’ is not her doing — she is giving all she can from her best place of giving).  But I consistently wrote those words.  I always thought I got something then that I didn’t now.  Because I also knew and  remembered that I stuck up for her.  That’s all in there too.  I didn’t like how he talked to her and made her feel less.  And I wanted her to feel strong and smart and brave.  I wrote those things too.  So I couldn’t understand that when I wiped off the kitchen table and accidentally got crumbs on the floor and got the crap smacked out of me when I was just seven — for something I didn’t mean to do and wasn’t done with malicious ill intent — how getting a lecture on my sins and hell and physically “punished” was okay?  Because that aggressive physical punishment came with putting myself in his way for her too — all the way through my twenties.  And I kept doing it.  Because she was my mom.  At what point would it be enough that I was her daughter?

I was hoping to find that “understanding” that we had — that she had told me we had.  I didn’t.  I never did.  Every single journal, over and over again — through all of the hell that was my father, I asked and I wondered if my mom loved me.  And the interesting thing to me is that I never wondered if my father did.  I knew he didn’t.  He wasn’t capable.  He just wasn’t.  So why was I holding on to some shred of hope that my mother was?  Was that the understanding?

And I prayed.  And I did church.  And I saw all the fallacy.  Funny.  Kids are so good at seeing dishonesty and bullshit, aren’t they?  I think we are almost born knowing Jesus.  We look at creation as tinies and we know something bigger and mightier and far more magnificent than us had to create all of this.  THIS, this heaven and all the stars and all the butterflies and all things that make a tiny wonder don’t just happen.  I think you have to work really, really hard to disparage faith in a kid.  They know something, SOMETHING amazing is out there to whisper their hopes and dreams too — SOMETHING is holding the magic and miracles — there is SOMETHING MORE.  I knew this.  And I knew my father’s God and much of the church’s God wasn’t my God.  I knew this because my father was the good guy at church — he was the BEST Christian.  Because all that mattered was what you presented.  Not what you actually lived.  But the blessing that came from that, loves?  Dear Jesus, I vowed every single day of my life to never be one of those people — and to rage, to rage against the Pharisees — to flip some freaking tables — and to try my very best to be love to people.  Not fancy, ‘we’re better than everyone else’ love.  But the tough as nails love that held Jesus to the cross.  I would try.  I would FAIL, but I would try.  And that, all of THAT is very, very good…

And I lived in my bubble of books.  And I wrote on pages in journals and named them and called them my friends.  And I tried to take care of my sisters and I abandoned my Molly and Tim for college — at least that’s what I felt like.  And I was going to run away as far as I could from this place.  And yet I stayed.  So close. Everyone else ran away.

And here I am.  Wanting to run away again.  Is this what they call coming full circle?  For some reason, I don’t think this applies…

And in the midst of all this head stuff — the dark head stuff — life marches on.  And sickness came (I think this dark head stuff makes me sick…).  Who has time to heal physically, emotionally or spiritually these days?  Life marches on.  I’ve never been one to find comfort in that statement — it just seems to trample all over us.

And work is just hard this year.  But I know there is so much hard in education right now.  And I used to love a challenge.  It meant purpose to me — never something I couldn’t do or wasn’t up for.  But I find myself being more spent than purpose filled or purpose full.  And wondering if I’m even doing the right thing by being where I am.  I find myself full of questions.  And crying out to God.  And wanting things I shouldn’t and possibly couldn’t have — but knowing he is SO mighty so having the insanity and selfishness to ask for it anyway.  Because he can and he could, so why not — not making any bargains with him THIS time — just asking ‘if it is your will’…

Yet fully understanding that his will for me isn’t necessarily mine.  It may never be mine.  And getting in a really good place with that.  Because I have to.  I really have to.  Because I find myself getting really selfish lately in all of this tired.  I want an easy button.  Like that big red Staples button.  Yes, I.want.that.  Just once.  I want to push it and whisk my boys and I away to the life “I” design.  That’s pretty disgusting.  This thought makes me want to puke.  This is not how I think.  So I know what this means.  It’s time to read Jeremiah again.  All of it.

Because Jeremiah reminds me that it’s not my beliefs that make me a different person or a new creation in Christ (the devil is pretty freaking fantastic at theology too, y’all — just sayin’ 🙂 ) — it’s KNOWING my God — it’s my personal relationship with him.

“‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this:  that he understands and KNOWS me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.'” Jeremiah 9:23-24

Now, I’m not a boasting type of person — I’m too much of a mess and make WAY too many mistakes for that route (let’s just say, people would laugh — hard 😉 ) — but this verse is one I hold tight.  I get wrapped up in my personal quest with  “autonomous have it togetherness”.  I think I must have it — I think I have to push through and be tough and be strong and take care of everyone and everything and fix it all and save the entire planet from drowning in calamity!  Truly.  I do.  That’s how insanely I suck.  And then I plummet into this black hole of things like having my doctor find bad moles on my back out of absolutely nowhere that need to be hacked out, lingering bronchitis proceeded by the flu for my G and I — all in the matter of a month or so and I try to kick all of it — and I fail — and I don’t feel strong or mighty and I feel like I’ve failed the Philippians verse of ‘I can do all things’ and so I’ve failed God too and I’ve failed those I care about who need me to DO those “all things”– but, dammit Ang, it’s not all about me.  And here’s where I get so lost.  It’s never about me. None of it.

It’s not about my past.  It’s not even about my questions now.  It’s about my God.  It’s about understanding him.  Loving him.  It’s about how he loves me.  And, it’s about his will for me.  And what does that verse say above?  What’s that?  There’s a promise of sorts?  Yes — yes, there is.  God has SO MANY promises for us, doesn’t he?  In fact, we ARE a promise!  It says that he exercises kindness and justice and righteousness here.on.earth.  What does that mean?  It means a great many things.  But in short and sweet terms for this girl it means, he is good.  In all of life’s crap and agony, our God is good.  There is a constant.  There is one thing we can always understand and KNOW about our Father.  Our heavenly father is always good.  And the relationship, this understanding I have of him?  That RADICALLY changes ME…

God speaks so often to Jeremiah about knowing him.  Knowing him before he was formed in the womb.  Setting him apart.  Creating him for a purpose.  Now, Jeremiah’s purpose wasn’t roses and rainbows and sunshine.  It was pretty brutal.  It was tough.  And he wasn’t treated fairly or kindly and he went though some pretty heinous things.  He was one heroic prophet.  Did he sail through all of this smoothly without any human frailty?  Nope.  Of course not.  And that is also what is so endearing to me about this man.

Now, I’m a crier.  Tears seep out of me for absolutely everything.  They just build up and my heart often speaks in tears.  I can’t help it.  Sometimes they stream down my face and I’m unaware until I feel wet stuff.  It’s part of how I talk.  And I love Jeremiah for his vulnerability .  He cries.  He laments.  He even complains and wails from time to time.  But does he give up?  No.  He remains faithful and steady to a God who gave him a purpose that he may not necessarily love — but it was given to him by a God he so fervently does.  And he knows there will be building and planting after the uprooting and tearing down (Jeremiah 1:10).  Hey, it’s another promise!

Working my way through Jeremiah, I cry too.

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3

I’ll keep calling, God.  And even if I don’t have all the answers, I’ll keep walking with you.  Because I know that knowing you and trying to understand you better everyday is what I’m here for.  It’s what I’m breathing for.  The rest you’ll lead me to.  And you’ve gotten me through quite a bit so far.  You must be holding me for a reason…

And maybe this surviving business is to help others see that they can too.  That a rock and a hard place is somewhere you can hang for quite a while with faith.  That words like “comfort” and “happiness” are kind of silly things when you have words like “faith, hope, and love”.  You don’t need the other two.  That joy CAN be found void of circumstance.  Because you have a Father that created your soul — and it can sing and cry out to him.  And that’s reason enough for joy, isn’t it.  That answer is yes.  It is a confident yes. ❤ And maybe it is to be a stronger siren and voice for littles that get lost in the shuffle of voices that say “oh, they’re fine” or “kids are resilient” or “he’s just a weird or bratty kid”.  And maybe it’s to be the best mom I can be to two of the most amazing miracles a girl could ever dream a breath was possible to take for. Maybe it’s to help them understand the miracles and promises that THEY are in a world that desperately needs them to shine THEIR light, to help them struggle, to help them know and understand their God, to help them fail and succeed and be all the mess that God created them to be.  To help them understand that they are forever and ever loved and held by a God that they will see one day after walking and knowing him here, in a kingdom we will all praise him in forever, and that their “this little light of mine” will get to shine forever with a Jesus that bought them with his blood and knew just how much their momma would need them someday (and that’s why she still cries sometimes when she kisses them goodnight and tells them that they are her hallelujah). 

Maybe it is all of these things.  Maybe it is none of these.  Maybe it’s just living day by day in your grace, Lord, as the messiest mess that I am and giving you all of that glory.

Because as unworthy as I am to be called your daughter, you don’t mind that I’m crazy, that I am both too much of so many things and yet so very not enough of others.  God, you love me anyway.  And of all of the things I don’t understand — the trinity, sovereignty, salvation, and a giant host of others — this is one I don’t mind being lost in.  I don’t mind swimming in its vastness, being covered in its mercy, being cloaked in its warmth.  I’ll settle here forever, if you don’t mind.  Till I stop breathing, and even after. ❤

And thank you.  Thank you for teaching me about love.  And I’m so grateful I get to learn about it from you everyday.  And try to show the world what your love means.  I know I won’t do it right or maybe even well, but Father, dear Father — by heaven , I will try.  Thanks for letting me try.  Because I know me, and I know YOU know me — and so that’s kind of huge.

But you’re also so very you (and that’s even huger) ❤ …

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and out stretched arm.  NOTHING is too hard for you.”  Jeremiah 32:17

Nothing.  Even big messes like me.

Love you and thank you (even for nervous breakdowns, or what ever this is…),

This girl you created ❤

 

 

So Loved and SO VERY Wanted…

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“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that WE loved God, but that HE loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if WE love one another, God lives in us and his love is MADE COMPLETE in us.

We know that WE LIVE IN HIM AND HE IN US, because he has GIVEN US OF HIS SPIRIT.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, GOD LIVES IN HIM AND HE IN GOD.  And so we know and RELY on the LOVE GOD HAS FOR US.  

GOD IS LOVE.  Whoever lives in love LIVES in God, AND GOD IN HIM.  In this way, love is MADE COMPLETE AMONG US so that we will have CONFIDENCE on the day of judgement, because in this world we are LIKE him.  There is NO FEAR in love. But perfect love DRIVES OUT FEAR, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

WE LOVE because HE FIRST LOVED US.”

1 John 4: 7-19 

(emphasis mine)

Dear Friends.  I love it when this phrase occurs in the Bible.  It just physically draws me closer to my Bible, y’all.  Here I am, just sitting with a ‘dear friend’ and a cup of tea and the Lord.  It’s holy space.  Me, God, and the millions of other people who have read this letter.  Goosebumps, this legacy of love…

And John, he’s my favorite brother — besides you, Tim 🙂 — (and I wish it was because I felt I was like him in temperament and spirit).  Truthfully I’m probably more like Peter –ever the reactionary, always getting himself into trouble, swiping off a guard’s ear here and there. That.would.be.me.  But John was such a passionate, all about the love man, wasn’t he?  When my heart is all beat up and broken, when I feel like I’ve failed  for the “that umpteenth” time in just today,  when I have to beg forgiveness from my husband and friends, when I need patience, when I need my heart aggressively opened, when I crave understanding, when I’m feeling all of my “whys” and “hows” and “tomorrow is coming and I’m not certain I can” — I go to John.  Not necessarily Revelation (smile), but the books of John.  So, we converse most days… (smile again…).  I hope he doesn’t freak out too bad when I give him a super big hug in heaven.  I’m usually a very timid “I need to get to know you” kind of person first when it comes to men and these things — but John is getting super squeezed 🙂 .

I often get asked what I believe the ‘main idea’ of the Bible is (y’all remember basic English class, right? heh, heh) — what are the guts of it for me?  That’s a hard question to answer, isn’t it?  If you had to direct a non believer to the essential — where would you turn their eyes?  For me, it’s all of those verses above.  And my goodness yes — all the ones before and after are solid words as well — but these for me are the basis of it all.  Love is all of it.  It’s the reason any of us are breathing.  It’s the reason any of us get a chance at anything.  It’s the reason any of us receive this thing called grace.  It’s all because of that bigger than life action word called love.

So as I’m fighting, what I’m assuming is allergies, stress, and not enough sleep lately and reaching for a Sudafed in the middle of church this morning, SO completely ecstatic we sang “How Great Though Art!” (I LOVE and ardently miss real hymns!!!!!) I had lots of heart tugs along with my head that was locked in a vice grip….  Questions are good.  It means we’re listening, right?  We’re listening and connecting…

And now I am listening to the boys bang around upstairs, which I’m assuming is basketball.  And I ask for your patience as I attempt to tie together some thoughts.

None of us come from places of same in our walks, and that’s what makes life entirely beautiful and yet utterly complex.  So I ask that you meet me here, just for a moment, in my place of different.  And if you’ve camped somewhere similar in your background — or live in somewhat familiar digs currently — I want to sit with you for just a minute and let you know that even if I don’t know you, I pray for you every night from a very holy place in my heart. You are held.  ❤ 

And the basketballs bang against the walls just in time to stop the tears…  My sanctuary of home — I never imagined it would be so noisy with boys…  I believe that testosterone must be the loudest hormone…  Hmmmmm, someone might be bleeding as that was a very boisterous “ow!!!!”, but there’s no screaming — they’re laughing — it’s all good… (although there might be a hole in the wall — it’ll just be another place to store dirty laundry…)

God does not need us.  I heard this message today.  This is so very true.  Being in very nature, God, this would completely negate his deity.  He is omniscient, all powerful, majestic, and bigger than we can ever imagine — he defies all human logic.  Him NEEDING us would no longer make him God.  He created the entire world, including us, out of nothing.  He, himself, just is and always was.  He is the great I Am.  That kind of God doesn’t need his creation, clearly.

I grew up never misunderstanding this.  In certain evangelical circles, this is pretty soundly hammered home.  Especially to women.  And my father took this to extents that were abusive in just about every context you can imagine.  I served and worshiped in churches that exerted control with this being their ultimate zeal and focus.  We are worthless.  We are nothing.  God is everything.  (negating power from a people is the best way to harness control, isn’t it?)

And while, theologically, this is actually and inherently true — a very huge, and a very MIRACULOUS piece of this ‘we’re not needed’ relationship with our God is egregiously missing.  Maybe it’s just assumed, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it so it doesn’t get lost or misunderstood for those of us who haven’t heard it enough — because it is so incredibly AWESOME and is worth repeating (smile)…

True, God most certainly doesn’t need us.  But the awe-inspiring miracle, the fantastic and incredible and awesome and blow my mind and move me to tears and drop me to my knees every single time AMAZING is that — he WANTS us!  He TRULY WANTS US!!!  He who always was created us and a perfect world — and we messed up.  Let me clarify — we messed up big time.  We had it all and we wanted MORE.  We threw it all away for a measly forbidden apple, for goodness sake (so I’m over simplifying — but still, you get the idea — the garden was PARADISE — Adam and Eve had it pretty darn good!!!).  And there was nothing we could do, nothing.  I mean, there were a BAZILLION rules — but no one could keep all of those perfectly (have you read Leviticus or any part of the Old Testament — good gracious, how did anyone keep up with that?!?!?!).  So he sent his son into this world to be a sacrifice for us — TO DIE FOR US — that’s how badly he WANTED US (I mean, that’s kind of HUGE, isn’t it?????).  That’s a pretty intense rescue plan!  That is the most amazing love story of all time!  A blameless Messiah — Emanuel — a GOD WITH US — to take on all of OUR sins!  And to top it off,  it’s OUR CHOICE — our choice — whether or not we believe.  He doesn’t even get a GUARANTEE that he gets all of his children back with this most loving sacrifice!  We get to choose…

And he WANTS us, not NEEDS us — but WANTS us — to choose love.

And it’s really the ultimate kind of love now, isn’t it? There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING we can give him that will complete HIS being — yet everything in him completes us.  I think that’s why they call it ‘amazing grace’.

We ARE nothing.  He IS everything.  And yet — and a very BIG yet, we are worth his greatest sacrifice.  All parts humbling and all parts holy.  I’m pretty sure that’s what it means to be human and of the spirit.  It’s a line of knowing your worth in Christ’s ultimate sacrifice made for you, understanding where you would be without him, knowing it is all by grace — and ONLY by grace — and pondering that you began as dust — but that grace makes you forever his soul, his new creation, his precious daughter — and that makes you wanted by a King that really didn’t HAVE to do any of this…  But he did.  For a creation that failed him miserably.  For a creation that continues to fail him miserably.  For a daughter named Angie that fails him daily, hour by hour — not because he NEEDS me, but because he WANTS me.  And I refuse to let that go.  I was bought by his blood.  I am his girl.  And no person, no principalities of heaven or hell can EVER take that away from me…

We are divinely his.  So loved and so wanted. And that is no small thing.  In fact, that is the very biggest of things.  It is everything…

I will confess to all of you something else of which I immensely struggle (I am so massively flawed, y’all)… which most of you know.  My aversion and attrition to memberships and rules — the man-made ones.  I pray about this continuously (at least I’m consistent — ha!).  God breaks me open often.  We’ll just say that.  It’s painful.  Being broken often.  I ask for it.  I want it — because I don’t want my pride to get in the way or anything that is of me.  I want my walk to be authentic, of him and for him — and my rebellion to these things to be real and of the spirit, NOT from a heart that is laced with bitterness.  So I search it and pray about it and wrestle — oh dear ones it often times feels so physically REAL, this wrestling — with this giant thing we call organized religion.

I’ve never, ever understood the need to compartmentalize people–to group them and label them. Maybe it’s because I have never neatly fit into one tidy little box involving Christianity — or anything for that matter. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen so many people misjudged and hurt and ostracized by silly labels.  We don’t as readily get to know individual people — but we sure get to know absolutely “everything” about their labels now, don’t we?  In fact, we get pretty smart and educated concerning their stereotyped ideology to the point where we feel pretty good about just how much we ‘know’ about those ‘other people’.  It’s just easier.  And it’s certainly safer than loving our real neighbors — named Susan and Allison with two kids named Ben and Karen who look just like — wait a freaking minute — US.

And I get that we feel some need to find comfort in sameness.  We all so desperately want to be KNOWN, don’t we?  I SO understand that.  We want to find OUR tribe, don’t we.  So much so that we often find a certain sense of comfort or “togetherness” in making jokes about other labels, other religions and other groups of people.  It’s polarizing and maybe makes us feel “better” and “more justified” in our walks of faith to laugh at “those people”. Maybe it’s because I’ve so often felt the ostracized outcast, or just in general been more connected to the struggling underdog — but I outright bristle at the Baptist, Catholic, Anglican, Unitarian, (insert any religion here) or “don’t get me started on those Mormons!” jokes — as if this puts us on some higher theological ground somehow.  And my heart breaks as I always wonder — what if one of those said denominations just so happened to walk into our little church today and is sitting here right this very moment among us?  What if they came seeking some comfort and solace?  What if they came seeking a deeper connection with Jesus? What if they came seeking him period?  What would they think of all of us and our Jesus we speak of? What if we just missed an opportunity? And just as passionate as WE are about what WE believe?  So is most everyone else (and wouldn’t we hope that they WOULD be?!?!?!?!?  My goodness, YES!) — and I never forget that — because I came from every single church of the zealot evangelical that thought that THEIRS was the only one true way to worship and believe in Jesus.  And those were some of the darkest and most Jesus free churches I have ever been a part of.

Because Jesus isn’t in our dogma, our sermons, our theology, he isn’t in our buildings, our traditions, in our programs, our songs, in all of our Bible studies or give aways or lunches or retreats or this or that or ten billion other things — he isn’t in ANY of it unless he is LIVING in our hearts and our EVERY SINGLE DAYS.  If his presence isn’t in our hearts and reflected in our lives, loves — he isn’t present at all.

And there in lies my issue.  I can NOT separate my spiritual life (what some people call their ‘church life’) from secular life. There is no such thing!  It’s just all life to me, honey — (which does get me into trouble a few times).  And so Sunday is just a day I’m taking my church (my body of Christ) to a building and meeting with other people taking their church to a building where God is because WE are. But God IS every other day of my life too.  And he IS in everything I do and he IS everywhere.  In fact, spirituality is the MOST real part of life.  What we can’t touch and see is the very realist of our reality.  He’s everywhere — unlike Santa who only SEES everything (smile–you can thank my eight year old for THAT analogy 🙂 ) — God actually IS all of the places with us — tap tap on your heart — hello Holy Spirit. So it’s a little more mysterious than that — but you get it — God is everywhere all of the time.  Not just in a building on Sunday.  Doesn’t really matter if you feel him or not.  He’s still there.  Doesn’t even matter if you praise him or not.  He’s still there.  Doesn’t even matter if you love him or not.  He still loves and wants you.  And when we get a handle on that–well, we can’t ever really, but in our limited capacity…  Life blows wide open…  ❤ No fear.  He’s there.  And tomorrow?  Yup.  He’s there too.  As I’m typing hoping for his glory and love to be understood — right here… ❤

And I don’t have to stop and think about the last thing I did for God or JUST for God, because he is the reason I get up in the morning.  He is the reason I do anything.  My ENTIRE life’s purpose is FOR HIM.  There is no separation.  He is, I am…  Pretty simple.  I like simple. ❤

My profession?  Yep.  Felt that calling for the Lord (and you guys, it was so NOT MY PLAN — I would have not so intensely studied for and taken the GRE’s in IC 😉 ).  Motherhood.  Yes and yes (again, so NOT MY PLAN 🙂 ).  Even a very simple thing like how I try to always smile at people — yes (this is actually a difficult one for me because nine times out of ten — just going to let you in on ALL of my secrets — smile — I really DON’T FEEL LIKE smiling — but GOD MADE EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING and THAT IS PRECIOUS REASON ENOUGH to smile at someone whether I FEEL LIKE IT our not — I’m actually insanely shy). What I put into my body, how I exercise (check out ‘fit for his glory’ if you need some inspiration–amazing resource), what I wear, how I feed my family, take care of my children, appropriate my energy, how we spend our money, decorate my home, the books I read, music I listen to, ALL OF IT.  There is no separation.  (and do I mess up?  um yes — like lots of times…) But it doesn’t mean we give up!  God is forever tries — thanks, Glennon! 🙂

So I get really confused about this “what do you do for God?” question.  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…” Colossians 3:23 

We are his, everyday.  We walk with him, everyday. We are church, everyday.  He gives us breath and life, everyday.  We are saved by grace, everyday.  It’s not a pick and chose when and what goes to God kind of life when you become a believer.  You’re all in and you are ALL HIS.  And how I spend my money actively being church?  That’s also led by God–and not by anyone else.  Help One, A21, Hope Now, and women’s shelters in our very own county carrying out these same goals of keeping children and women safe from sex trafficking and violence (rape, sex trafficking and violence against women and children is an EPIDEMIC in this nation of ours — I’d like to scream, where is church?!?!?!? where is church!?!?!??! and thank you Sarah, thank you Rachel, thank you Glennon, and thank you to every sister and every single Momma and woman and daughter and brother and father and human being in these trenches so few people ever talk about — I love you, so very, very much — and I thank God for you every day and pray for every single one of you giving of yourselves every day and all of you so bravely surviving — warrior on!!!!  warrior on!!!!!! ❤ ) – — yes these organizations ARE church to this girl.  Incredible organizations being the hands and feet of Jesus in our communities and around the world for causes that are so often lost in our church buildings today. This is what love looks like. ❤ This is what church looks like ❤ .  This is what grace looks like. ❤ This is where Jesus moves my heart. ❤

The other message that often fails to get relayed is that our ministry, our testimony — besides actually being simple — how we live and give of our lives and give of his love every.single.day — (hey, I’m not going to force Jesus on you brother and sister, but I sure would LOVE for you to know him and see him by how imperfectly I try to live my life in love 🙂 ) — is that GIVING and being GENEROUS for God does not always involve money.

And again, I’m asking you for a moment to please sit in my difference… 

My childhood might have been a little different from yours.  Or maybe not so different.  I grew up poor.  Food stamp and government milk and cheese poor.  Five kids living in a slum house poor.  Like walk around that huge gaping hole in the floor or you’ll fall through to the next level of the house, poor.  And please don’t get me started on Dave Ramsey and the prosperity principles.  I.just.can’t.  I grew up watching poor people who couldn’t even buy groceries and feed their families give and give and give some more.  Couldn’t even pay their bills and give.  Have no electricity or water and give.  Because if they just had ENOUGH faith, God would miraculously provide.  And when he didn’t?  Well, your faith just wasn’t strong enough, Christian.  Did the church help these families?  With stern admonishment to pray harder and be more faithful —  I guess if that’s what you call help, then yes.  But here’s the GIANT thing that’s missing.  Giving and generosity in God’s eyes isn’t strictly confined to the old white dead guys on green backs…

There’s this thing called servant-hood and our God-given gifts — both of which can be given generously (and often on a daily basis — praise God and hallelujah!).  And really, he just wants our heart, y’all.  And what moves from those hearts is our servant-hood to him and all the gifts that flow from it.  It’s pretty amazing — they synchronicity of it.  ❤

My husband is a teacher and a coach (one of the MOST dedicated and hard-working of BOTH that I know and love).  He coaches two sports because he loves coaching AND, let’s be real, his teaching salary doesn’t quite pay enough to take care of the bills and the expense of raising two very active boys.  I am a preschool para-educator.  That is like volunteer work with a little bit of cash on the side–smile (let’s just say I do not even own a credit card 😉 ).  But we both insanely love and have a sincere passion for what we do and feel called and led by God to do it (you’d kind of have to for what we do, right? 😉 ).  That pull is quite an intense one.  When God says do, you don’t say — um, I’ll think about it… 😉 It’s kind of like Jonah — he finds a way to keep drawing you back to his purpose 🙂 .  And so we make it work.  Some months more than others–smile.

My husband often gets teased for being thrifty and is known for hunting down some of the best deals (he’s REALLY good at it 🙂 ) — we also hit up Goodwill for clothes and clip lots coupons (smile) — but it’s the frugal life.  And it’s one we are quite thankful for.  We are supremely blessed on all counts.  And although our professions are filled with numerous stresses, we know that this is what God has called us to do and where he wants us to be — and we are in fields were we are necessary, where we make a positive impact, and where we wake up every day filled with purpose and ready to make a difference (most days we feel ready — smile — the other days we just feel called — ha! ).  And this means everything to both of us. Again — blessed.  We understand how fortunate we are.  We also wake up and go to bed each night grateful.  Our kids may not ever go on exotic vacations or have the most expensive or “it” brands of anything — but they don’t care about any of that stuff either — yet, smile.  And no, my husband does not get his summer’s off.  Just in case any one was under THAT illusion (wink).  He works just as hard during the summer months.  I truly do not know how he does it and I constantly pray for him — I can do all things… Philippians comes to our minds quite often in this house… 🙂

What I’m trying to get across here is that what we do every day can also be of service and a gift to our Lord and to everyone around us (and we shouldn’t trivialize that).  What you do at your place of work if done for God can also be your generous gift to him.  How you encourage and uplift your co-workers.  Small and big things you do for them are blessings.  Think about small and big things you can do for the kids you work with if you work with children.  There are so many ways we can give generously of ourselves to others in our work environments that are testimonies to his love.  ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING you give for God is service.  EVERYTHING done in love.  Nothing is too small or too insignificant to God when it’s done for him.  Example after example is found of this in the Bible.  Live your life in everything you do for the Lord — I believe that’s what this family calls walking with him (smile).  It may not be showy or get tons of praise or get attention drawn to it at the alter, but that’s NOT why we do it anyway, is it?  We do it for the glory and love of our God.  So don’t worry or beat yourself up or think you are less of a Christian because you aren’t often able to give money or tithe.  God doesn’t count you as less.  He really doesn’t.  He’s not solely counting your Benjamins as faithfulness, generosity, or servant-hood.  In fact, if they’re not given in love — they’re nothing.  Giving generously of our menial every day lives may not be as sexy or as flashy or as showy as the green stuff (or easily calculable), but it is just as important to God.  He counts it all as good.

And we are all given different gifts. We are all creative — yes, even me sometimes (smile).  Because we come from a very creative God!   I have friends who are amazing crafters in all mediums.  They bless me, amaze and encourage me and this world time and time again all for God’s glory.  There are also gifts of patience, time, just LISTENING when someone is hurt or lonely is such a beautiful gift isn’t it?  There are so MANY things we can DO in servant-hood, in generosity — so many things we can GIVE (some that aren’t even things 🙂 ).  Other examples: meals, little treats,  if you’re into oils there are some lovely relaxing scrubs and roller recipes to give sick or stressed out moms, teachers, friends going through hard times, babysit a friend’s children, clean her house, plant some flowers for her, weed her garden, get some one groceries when they are ill or strapped for time, read to someone, send a care package, cards of encouragement — really the possibilities are only limited by your imagination (or Pinterest if your imagination is as good as mine — heh, heh…).  Be open, get creative — and see how God can work in you!!!

What I’m getting at is God made you, and he made you for purposes to praise and glorify him and give of yourself and be generous with your gifts.  Don’t be afraid to use those!!!  Use them as often as you can.  Use them to glorify him, to turn people’s eyes to him, and to lift others up, and to bless those in your life and community.  Money may not be something you can consistently give or something you have extra of on a regular ‘laying aside’ giving basis.  And when you do, you will give when you can and where the Lord leads you.  But when you don’t?  It doesn’t mean you aren’t being a good Christian..  It means you’re taking care of your family.  And you’ll be generous in some other way that God has designed for you to be.  And God will love and bless you just the same.  

You may not be needed by our mighty God, but you are surely wanted and you are so innately loved.  Give someone the gift of your time to let them know that too.  Love you.  So much.  You are an amazing creation, a beautiful temple, a home to the Holy Spirit.  Let him shine! I can’t wait to see the amazing way you light up the world with his love!!!! ❤

And remember, sweet friend, you will forever and always be loved by a creator who thought sending his son to die for you was worth changing the story line of eternal damnation to eternal life.  You are living that forever story of love and salvation every day!  I happen to think it’s worth everything.  Worth sharing with others too. Our mighty hope.  And although only God can truly save, we can most certainly share his love.  Give and be generous with his love.  You see where I’m going with all this again 😉 .  It really always comes back to love, doesn’t it? ❤ He’ll make sure you always have enough… ❤ ❤

You are treasured, you are sacred, and you are his beloved, dear friend.  And no amount of money is ever necessary to prove that to him.  Just live your life in love for him.  Walk in love.  Every single day.  It’s just that hard and just that easy.  And he’ll be with you, every breath and every step of the way. ❤ You don’t need a mediator.  Just fold your hands and close your eyes, open your heart and pray.  He’s always listening. Even when you don’t have the words to say. ❤

Forever yours in his love. Ang ❤

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

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Church is a verb…

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I don’t want you to misunderstand this heart of mine,
 I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ever GO to church — what I’m saying is this…
Like all of those big words in the Bible like love, grace, and mercy (just to name a few) — church is a multi faceted word.  It is many things — the very least of which — is a building.  We don’t GO to church because we ARE the church, my silly semantic mind often argues — but I’ve leaned to calm that little voice.  Church — to me — in its largest sense is a verb, it’s a DOING thing, a BEING thing — WE are the church, commissioned by our God (do you feel that?!?!?!?!?!? it’s a PULL and calling like no other, that commissioning — it doesn’t let you go — like ever! ).  Not one for labeling, the man-made necessity for having to put people in little boxes to make ourselves comfortable drives me crazy (or maybe it’s just because I don’t FIT into one that I can’t stand them — there’s no box for me!!!!! wink ) — I don’t identify myself with any one denomination. I have a difficult time with organized religion in general.  I, quite simply, believe in Jesus.  I don’t need to argue theology, rip apart what you believe or I believe, or agree on these bullet points or check any boxes.  Jesus loves everyone.  Even this girl.  And I’ll just follow that guy.  He gave his life for me, and I will spend the rest of my life doing my fractured best to live for him…
“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.  At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth shook and the rocks split.” Matthew 27:50,51
The Bible is full of imagery.  The crucifixion is so dark — the earth reacts so violently to Jesus’s death.  It cries out from the depths of its core.  The natural world feels a loss – a willing and giving up sacrifice — of the metaphysical — a being part God and man.  Therefore, physical and aggressive acts happen.  In the words of my eight year old, “it gets creepy.”
In Matthew there are accounts of tombs breaking open and bodies of holy people being raised from the dead and appearing to people.  I mean, there are passages in books I can’t read to my boys before bedtime because they can’t sleep afterwards.  This.all.happened.   We believe these words.  And these words often move us to tears — because these words also give us life — they give us our relationship with our God.  They give us everything.  And one of the most beautiful images, to me, is the simple image of a torn curtain.  It’s symbolic of so much more than split fabric.  That curtain was torn (I always imagine it to be massive and thick and regal and red, dark blue or royal purple — all illustrious and intimidating and then WHAM — SPLIT and torn from the very top to the very bottom — BAM!) and our relationship with God was changed forever.  It became so very intimate.  It became so very OURS.  No future sacrifices or rituals were needed — no sacred rooms, no high priests, no exhaustive list of rules and regulations (cutting your hair, tattoos, directly speaking to our Lord in prayer — it’s legit now — smile).  Just us and this trinity.  Well, the Holy Spirit was to come — so very soon.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:1-4
These passages always give me goose bumps.  Fire that doesn’t burn outside but inside.  As if the gift of forgiveness and eternal life wasn’t enough, God gives us a gift of himself — he doesn’t leave us orphans.  And that Holy Spirit is real, so very real!  The intangible things in life are the most real, aren’t they?  Invisible does not ever equate insignificance!  And he won’t let this girl ease complacently through life — hallelujah!!! (most days it’s a hallelujah — I’ll admit that on my less than stellar days I want to run and hide from him and beg him to leave me alone — he’s so insistent that I be who God created me to be!) — because even though his yoke is easy and his burden is light, I’m not made for mindlessly coasting.  I’m meant to live fully present in him.  I’m meant to bear witness.  I’m meant to testify.  It’s my Holy Spirit DNA… “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Jesus Christ to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:10. 
What’s your Holy Spirit DNA and where will it lead you, what places will it take you, and how will it keep you busy for the Lord?  Every single one of us has a different purpose and calling created and crafted specifically for us, with our talents, our skills and our hearts — with our entire being in mind.  How absolutely amazing is that?!!?!??!?!  And we get to wake up every single day and embrace it!  So very exciting, isn’t it?  Go ahead and freak out and cry and jump up and down if you want to — I do too ❤ .
We are called to witness and to testify along with our gifts, yes, but that isn’t to say that church is all about racking up members and filling pews (or folding chairs) — with some “now serving” meter that ticks and dings above entrance doors as people walk on through.  There is not a secret “you are now the 100th customer served and saved!” confetti streaming spot to win in our zest for evangelical zeal and conversions.  I’ve been a part of churches like that.  They weren’t churches.  They were factories, machines.  I wasn’t a person.  I was a number.  A number that begot other numbers.  And that isn’t church, my friends, because that isn’t love (which doesn’t keep score and isn’t prideful).  No one is keeping score in heaven.  There is no punch card that gets you a bigger mansion with every 200 souls saved on a street more thickly laden with gold — more than Rachel’s because she only brought 50 people to the Lord.  And the true work of conversion in a person’s heart is totally God, after all.  The glory is solely (and soul-y — smile) His.  We don’t wield that super natural power.  We can be a catalyst for this glorious miracle, yes.  But that true change and metamorphosis of heart, that gift of the Holy Spirit?  That all comes from our Father.  We need to set our egos aside in that department.  We don’t “save” anyone, loves.  That glory goes to our magnificent and holy God who is so very mighty to save.  We can offer the sustenance, the bread, the word, and we can earnestly pray — but God is the life, soul, heart changer — and grantor of eternal life.  “Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.” Psalm 68:20
So, for us to BE church — what do we give and convey through those doors?  Church IS, in the simplest of terms, extending his love–that other massively big and complex and active verb.  Over and over and over again — and never growing tired of that or desiring anything in return for our labor.  “And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right” 2 Thessalonians 3:13 Which would be impossible — if it were up to just us humans (I tend to get tired and like thank you’s — smile).  But it’s not — we’ve got magic.  We have this amazing soul presence intertwined with a heavenly piece of our God.  Which makes me cry — like LEVELS ME!!!  Every.single.time.  Because we are walking, talking, breathing, you know — just your common every day miracles.  Every single one of us!  And we get to, dear God we have to, share that love light, that fantastic miracle of love, with others.  When you have light like that, love like that, joy like that, peace like that, HEAVEN like that — you don’t cover it up and table it for another day — oh dear everything no — you share it!!!
And how do we share this?  By our words, yes.  Of course by our testaments and our stories of what Jesus has done for us — but also — I think even MORE importantly — by our day-to-day.  What do I mean?  By our every day “normal” (what ever that is, right?) . By how we live, by how we love, in every single thing we do — yes, I mean every thing.  Daunting, overwhelming?  Sometimes.  Maybe even a lot of the times.  But not impossible.  Because God is so vastly amazing and bigger than anything we could possibly imagine (and did I mention, we hold a gift — a portion of that awesome God within us?  Seriously… just think on that…  As a side note this is also helpful when you’re frustrated with your spouse — probably only happens to me — smile — they are vessels of the Holy Spirit too ) .
We must BE the church for Christ in our everydays.  It’s not a spectator venue.  When Jesus says, “Follow me” — we actually have to DO the WALKING.  Because, loves, He says, “follow” — not “watch”.  DO as I DO.  And sometimes, I have to pray all day long to do this.  I am that fallible.  I pray the hours.  I mess up over and over again.  And I grab my Bible.  And I passionately write.  And I call a friend and ask her to listen and pray with me.  And I pray some more.  And he loves me through it.  And because of this great love, I am able to show others love.  This is real life.  This is amazing grace and amazing love.  And PS — I have to tell my kids and my husband  and my friends and family sorry often.  I have to ask for forgiveness often.  And we pray and start over so many times.  And people see this.  And people know this.  And I will be accessably fallible for the rest of my life — as well as accessably loved and forgiven.  Praise God again and again.  We aren’t commanded to be perfect, but we are commanded to follow…  “You must follow me.” John 21:22
Sometimes I look at the all of church in this regard (as it gets to be so big for me — y’all know we do home church too and that is sacred and a treasure to me and has its specific place as well ).  I often “go to” church (you know, that physical infrastructure–smile) to better “be” church to and for everyone around me.  I bring my marked up and ‘been to a part of every denomination since I was a little’ Bible and my heart that beats wildly for Jesus (still, after all these years — he’s the love of my life) and surrender myself.  We sing (my eight year old LOVES to sing — and draw pictures for our pastor, he’s moved by the Spirit, what can I say?), and we pray, and there’s blessing and there’s grace, and we may not always agree and see eye to eye (and I hope we don’t always — I really, really hope we don’t — because I think questions only grow our faith and stretch us in our journeys), and God is there — He is most certainly there — calling us and commissioning us to BE His church — beyond the folding chairs, beyond the gym doors, and far beyond Sunday.  Amen, dear loves, amen.  And that — that IS church. 
Church is me, it’s you, it’s the walks on the bike path I have with my boys praising God for His creation (hearing the wind breathe His name), it’s our Bible studies together, our family devotionals, it’s our communal prayers, it’s our prayers in solitude — lighting my prayer candle and praying for my friends, my family, my country, the universal church, for believers, non believers, for all of us that are called to be more than we are at the face of things — more than just this skin and bones structure.  Church is forever finding God in the places where everyone says He isn’t, the places that don’t look so holy, the places that scare me and push me and make me want to run away — because some days I am the Samaritan and on others  I am the Levite.
Church is intimate, church is quiet.  Church is loud hallelujahs and hands in the air.  Church is quiet tears and gentle taps of your fingers and toes when hands raised just isn’t how you praise and that’s really okay too.  God doesn’t judge your dedication and adoration by how loud you are.  Church is God in your heart, on your lips and on your mind — it’s Jesus from your head to your toes.  Church is Jesus everywhere and anywhere, any blessed day, any minute of the week — because God isn’t limited to space or time or places or days — because God is always everywhere — He’s infinite.  Church is here, church is now — being and breathing the kingdom work that needs to be done for a kingdom that is here and a kingdom that is to come.
Church is love.  Forever and always love.  Tirelessly.  Relentlessly.  Holy, perfect, blameless love — of which we can’t flawlessly do — but we can offer, we can point to — in the Trinity.  And we can do our very best to model and give — as a body of believers, that is as diverse as the stories and experiences we bring to this expansive table where we are all welcome to come and sit and have fellowship — as brothers and sisters in Christ — as his church — gathered in his name — in which ever way we chose to gather in it — to share it, to encourage and love one another in it, and forever invite others to his love.  Come and sit — for you are always welcome.  The old is gone, the new has come, and no one gets to label anyone by that old stuff anymore.  “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Colossians 2:16, 17
Happy Sunday, loves.
And happy churching for a Jesus that never lets us go ❤ … (no matter how many times we mess up this church thing…)
Love you all ❤ .
(And the boys and I heard and experienced one of the GREATEST sermons today–which led to more Bible and Sarah Bessey reading and I wish I could say commissioned us to even greater things — but we took a nap, baked some quinoa cherry crisp, went for a walk, and praised God for his beautiful creation, and called it good.  Thank you, Pastor Josh, for being church.  We are so richly blessed by you and your family and the entire family that is Living Waters. We lift you all up in prayer every night as we light a candle and ask the Holy Spirit to guide all of us to be the most we can be for a God who is, as one of G’s favorite songs goes, so big).
PPS:  This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible from one of my favorite disciples — and I know I probably shouldn’t have a favorite from the twelve — but he’s my guy — my John.  I’m more than a little excited to meet this fisherman who was so full of love in heaven.  This is the last verse in the book of John, and it always makes me smile from ear to ear and with all my heart. We serve such a mighty God.
“Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”  John 21:25
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Just keep praying…

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“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Matthew 21:22

Struggle.

I’m a firm believer in it’s what grows us.  Is it pleasant?  No.  It’s quite awful.  Growing is often painful stuff…

I’m one of those stick it out-ers.  Wade through the muck-ers.  “I’ve been through worse” kind of people.  My God is bigger.  There are billions of people going through far worse than you at this very moment, Ang.  I tell myself a lot of things.  And then I pray.  I’m always praying.  It’s like breathing for me.  It’s how I inhale.  It’s how I exhale.  It’s how I stay alive, how I move, how I rest, how I love.  But how do you pray when the being you’re struggling with is God?

Now I’ve been through some rough junk in my life (I am trying really hard to refrain from swearing — I’m told it offends people, and I know God doesn’t like it either.  It’s one of my many sins).  Seriously terrible things.  And in all of those dark hours and years upon years and heaps upon heaps of betrayals and darkness that seemed would never end, I never doubted my creator.  Not once.  Yes, there were times I wanted to die — honestly, yes.  I just wanted to be with him and be gone from here.  So.very.yes.  But I never doubted him and his love for me.  Not ever.  Not once.  I even got to a place where I could completely forgive.  And I could thank him.  Because for all the broken and raw those experiences made me — they also made me so very close to him — and they made me real, always real — and always thankful and aware of grace.  And my heart is always open — which is more painful than not — but I’m here to love and live for others, not myself.  Never myself.  Because I don’t want anyone, ever, to feel those things I did — to not have a single person speak up for them — and to later be manipulated or used by people who find them easy prey — be it men or women.  God uses our pain to make us brave.  To make us kind.  To make us love more than we ever thought possible.  He shatters us and breaks us so wide open, we become so empty of ourselves and so full of him.  He doesn’t cause all of that evil to happen to us.  We live in a sinful world.  But he covers us with grace.  He holds us, and he shows us a love like no other.  He is the love we never got, so that we can be the love that others need to know too.  So that we can point them to his amazing grace and love.  That’s a holy miracle, isn’t it?  We are holy miracles, loves, and never let anyone tell you different…

and dammit, (sorry)

I started doubting that…

because of world events

because of things happening in my extended family

because the devil is who he is

because I am who I am

but God is who he is, so we dug in together like we always do (I cleave, people – smile)…

God didn’t mind my questions.  He’s used to my mind being all over the place.  He created it after all.  He’s used to me scrounging the Bible for “all the answers”, walking the bike trail and praying and listening for him, always listening in the quiet for him.  We’re pretty close.  But my heart was broken.  And he knew this.  Who was this God of the Old Testament, the God of hate that kept spewing forth from so many Christians in the media attacking anything they feared and didn’t understand, my biological father’s God whose voice was filling up my nightmares once again justifying all the wrongs done to me, reliving all of those evils in the name of Jesus.  How does one pray?

Non stop.  Heart wide open.  Humbly.  Earnestly.  Relentlessly. Asking for answers, if you are willing, Lord.  And if not answers, peace.   That I may know and find peace again.  But that I may have some sense of resolution, God, please, if that is your will.  But I understand that faith isn’t knowing and understanding everything.  And if I must sit here and wait, please give peace and balm to my soul.  Crying.  Pleading.  Not giving up.  Because I know God can.  Because I know God is able.  Because I know God will. 

Waiting is hard for me.  I’ve had to do it so often.  It is a lesson I know well.  This waiting thing.  This be patient thing.  I’m called upon to do it again and again and again (you’d think I’d be AMAZING at it by now).  God always comes through.  Always.  Often in ways more miraculous than I ever imagined.  And in this case, it was no different…

I received a book in the mail a few days ago that began this peace journey, this ‘seeing the Bible in a whole new way’ journey — this ‘why oh why in the world have I missed the enormous fantastical miracle and life transforming forever and ever praise of that verse’ journey?  The book (like, you have to get this — please, this is so much more than a must read — spirit breathed…) is “Out Of Sorts — Making Peace with an Evolving Faith” by my Sarah — Sarah Bessey — forward by my other sister, Jen Hatmaker.  Please pick it up and let it bless you.  Men, pick it up and let it bless you.  Churches, pick it up and let it bless your entire congregation — especially pastors and ministers — of which we all are to our living faith in our savior.

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The verse that began it all for me was found in the disciple I relate to most (dare I say love the most?) in the Bible, my dear John (smile).  He wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”  John 1: 17 It washed over me.  The law was given through Moses — that Mosaic law of do’s and do nots and ‘you’ll never be worthy ofs’ — but grace — and even bolder than that, my friends — TRUTH (you read correctly, truth, glorious TRUTH) — came through Jesus Christ.  Grace and truth.  I’ll hold on to those with my Jesus.  Go ahead and read it again.  And spend a little time with John.  If you ever doubt that men can express love or feeling, spend a little time with John…

I’m not going to make this long as my boys need me.  This girl has spent so much time in her head and in her Bible.  They need their momma.  I read all of Galatians this morning.  Let’s just say that Paul is not my go to guy when it comes to the disciples — because I find him to be too much like me (smile).  He’s a hot head.  He’s reactionary. He gets frustrated and angry and isn’t often the most patient of writers.  But Galatians, it’s my freedom song.  And in it, Sarah reminded me of this amazing treasure that Paul writes — “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28   You are ALL ONE in Christ.  Dear Lord, I hear you loud and clear.  And what a shattering turn your world upside down verse that had to be!!!  Thank you, Paul.  Thank you, Lord, and thank you Sarah for reminding me of the way that Jesus sees us, truly sees us.  Not as the world’s cultural dynamic of the time tries to define or sees us, not as the church often sees us, not as I may sometimes see myself.  But as Jesus sees us. We are all one.

Sarah goes into greater detail and speaks to other issues that weighed so heavily on my heart.  I encourage you to take a read — and take your Bible with you.  And remember that Jesus asks us to have faith like a child.  Sarah reminded me of this too.  And what do children do?  They ask a bazillion questions (smile).  Forever and ever.  And that’s okay.  It’s really and forever okay.  God uses them to grow us.  We need to be asking.  It’s a relationship.  It’s active.  It’s a back and forth conversation.  It’s not stagnant.  If you’re hearts pulling — ask.  Pray.

This is the realest relationship I have and know.  Because it’s the realtionship that teaches me how to be in all others.  It’s the relationship that teaches me how to love, how to minister, how to listen, how to forgive, how to ask to be forgiven, and how to give all that I am.  It’s a living and growing and changing thing.  It’s not ancient, lost in traditions long gone and dead with an Israel that was.  No,  it’s very much alive in a Christ that is, in a Holy Spirit that is alive and well in me — challenging me, asking me to be brave and to be more than I was yesterday.

One thing I can always be certain of is my Savior’s love for me.  And although I will never, ever fully know him or the depths of his love for me — I will wake up every single morning trying — attempting to understand and fully love the God-man that does fully understand this heart that beats solely for him.  And isn’t it absolutely wonderful to be fully known?  To be seen?  That is an incredible treasure to me.  I hold that so dear.

Peace to you, in the midst of ever walking with and loving a God who will never let us go — even when we struggle for understanding, he understands us. Love to you all.  I’ll leave you with some words from “Out Of Sorts”.  Take care, dear hearts… ❤

“I hope we all wrestle.  I hope we look deep into our hearts and sift through our theology, our methodology, our praxis, our ecclesiology, all of it.  I hope we get angry and we say true things.  I hope we push back against celebrity and consumerism; I hope we live into our birthright as prophetic outpost for the Kingdom.  I hope we get our toes stepped on and then forgive.  I hope we become open-hearted and open-armed.  I hope we are known as the ones who love.

I hope we change.  I hope we grow.  I hope we push against the darkness and let the light in and breathe into the Kingdom come.  I hope we become a refuge for the weary and the pilgrim, for the child and the aged, for the ones who have been strong too long.  And I hope we all live like we are loved.

I hope we all become a bit more inclined to listen, to pray, to wait.”

Out Of Sorts, Sarah Bessey (96,97)

The Power Of Ordinary…

my story

The school year has ended.  And Marty and I are being hit with the repeated question, “So, are you enjoying your summer?”

And the line from Toby Mac’s song, “Love Feels Like” often goes round and round in my head — “but empty’s never felt so full”.  Smile.  (ps — get “This Is Not A Test” — it is absolutely AWESOME — it’s G and I’s rock out album of the summer — “Mom, can you turn it up?!?!?!??!” YES!  I can’t dance, but when the Spirit moves you, you MOVE — smile)…

I don’t think either one of us have truly been able to digest that this school year has come to a close as our schedules are still running us — Marty is daily working in his classroom with cross country stuff, running to Fourth of July meetings, and baseball is every day — multiple games — along with practices and all the other tasks we’ve taken on that we signed up for and had forgotten — I do that — really well (smile).  However, we are not contending with homework (middle school math is over for an entire summer, y’all — woot woot!!!!!!), reading minutes, and getting to bed on time mixed in with all this crazy — so that — THAT is awesome.  We are truly blessed and THANKFUL!!! We fully acknowledge just how fortunate we are!

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Garage sale time!

Marty ran his 18th or 19th or something-‘th’ Dam to Dam this weekend also.  Proud of him.  Bless his heart.  He’s amazing.  And persistent.  We also decided to take on our first garage sale.  Remind me to do that NEVER again.  Not only are they a giant and colossal expenditure of time, but introverts just should not participate in such events.  My husband is a wonderful people person.  He delights in small chit chat and banter and is so graciously good at it.  To me, it is the.most.painful.  And I’m awkward and awful at it.  Abysmally.  A garage sale is two entire days of the.most.painful.  I opted for sidewalk chalk and bubbles with my eight year old and any other child who wanted to join in with us so that I was present when it got really crazy, but could avoid being in the thick of things when I wasn’t needed.  I know my strengths.  I’m also very keenly aware of my weaknesses.  Talking about the weather or that one game or politics with strangers whilst going through our collection of home goods is not one of my strong suits.  Chalk and bubbles.  I freaking ROCK those!

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We managed.  Late nights and a tad bit stressful, but we did it.  Now we know.  My husband actually kind of loved it.  Being around a constant ebb and flow of different people is rather energizing to him.  I enjoyed getting rid of some things as I really can’t stand all the clutter we’ve amassed through the years.  But it still seems a tad simpler to just drop it all off at Goodwill.  Marty is already planning next year’s garage sale.  It’s going to be epic, ya’ll.  Perhaps we’ll grill hot dogs and have pony rides and Hawkeye tattoos and face painting?  We’ll make it a venue of sorts.  I’m trying to think of an excuse to be gone that weekend — whenever it is…  Sara, Summer, Karen — I think we need to have a girl’s weekend in Wisconsin?

And Griffyn decided to spilt his head open to start our summer off with a bang — literally.  Like, blood everywhere.  Like three dishcloths full and I almost fainted.  He was constantly begging me for yet another freezie pop before we were headed off to Norwalk for yet another day of baseball with Max, and I was telling him ‘for the love of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, NO — you can not have ANOTHER one!’ and he comes running up to me gushing red stuff out of his head because he had turned a corner too sharply and hit the molding on our wall with his head…  It was just.so.other.worldy.  G said I kept using my “super soft, sweet voice”.  I honestly don’t remember.  I do remember asking him if we could please sit down because I was going to fall and opening the door to the garage to rather firmly ask Marty to come inside to help me.

Plus side, our doctor is phenomenal.  Andrea got us in right away, our nurse, Sonja took amazing care of us — we couldn’t LOVE you more.  G got all cleaned up, I was reassured that “heads bleed a lot” and we were off to the ball fields in Norwalk (which I was not too happy about, but we survived).  No stitches necessary.  And Sonja called a few times to check on G and see how we all were doing — because they are just that amazing.  G missed a baseball game because he couldn’t have any pressure on his head.  He couldn’t have it split open again or he would need stitches.  Who wants those to start your summer?  Ibuprofen for a few days and he’s good to go.  Still looks a little rough, but he’s one tough kid.  Still is begging for freezie pops.  Hasn’t deterred him one single bit…

G has also been begging to start Bible journaling with his Momma.  We haven’t had a second of free time, and now that we don’t have to worry so much about bedtime — we can!  My girlfriend, Daphne, made both of these beautiful journals for me — check her out on Facebook at Papercake Creations.  There are lovely lined pockets inside and a few pages of the books in the front and back of the journals.  She is so talented.  They are treasures (as is she)!

I’ve also begun re-reading more of the obscure books of the Bible.  Time with God has been more than calling out to me lately — it’s been more of a scream to my heart.  I can’t put the Bible down and it’s a craving — not just a routine or ritual in my day.  It’s been such a huge blessing to have the extra time to linger in His presence.

The New Testament gets a lot of wear in my Bible, but lately I’ve been drawn to the books of Esther, Joel, Amos, Jonah, Obadiah, Micah (my third baby boy’s name — smile), Nahum, Hosea, you get the idea…  tiny books with names we really don’t hear mention of all that often in sermons or anywhere else — but they pack quite a punch.  I found myself writing, praying, crying, and having fervent conversations with my husband — whether he really was all that into them or not — about these books as they shook up my heart so vehemently these past few weeks.  We hear bits and pieces of their messages in pithy little Pinterest quotes here and there or etched on our Christian calendars or planners, but to grasp them in their entirety, view them in their historical context, and hold them up to our here and nows — it was just so much for this girl…  I was overwhelmed by the awesomeness of God — and that, well, that is just so many things, isn’t it?  #nowords (I don’t know how to use hashtags — but this seems legit…).

What I found especially striking about every single one of these books, was God’s use of the every day man — in some cases, what we would think is even lowlier than that — the commoner, the country boy, the shepherd, the farmer, the fig picker (which was about as menial as you could get in those days–and the evidence was stained all over your hands). And yet, he called these every day Joes and Josephines,  to be prophets — often of not so pleasant news — to stand up to great kings and leaders, to walk right into their kingdoms, courts and castles and to preach the word of God.  It’s all rather mind blowing when you stop to think about it for two seconds.  It goes against everything the world looks at in terms of qualifications and greatness, doesn’t it?  It reminded me, once again, so resolutely, that God looks solely at our hearts. He doesn’t see us as the world sees us.  The world may see us as weird, unimportant, and maybe even as completely insignificant — just as it saw some of these people — but God, our infinite creator, had great plans in store for all of these men and women.  He saw straight into their heart space.  And what He saw there sent them on journeys they could never have fathomed…

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One of the greatest promises of all hope, I believe, is found in the Old Testament in the book of Joel —  his name just happens to mean “The Lord is God.”  And maybe that’s the point of the entire book.  That the Lord is God.  And that we must repent  — to a God that desperately wants our hearts.  All of this in the midst of a locust plague.  And the verse that enveloped me, held me, froze me and stuck in my head and heart for days was Joel, Chapter 2:13 in which the Lord declares, “Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” 

Rend.your.heart.  Rend.  What does that mean?  It’s actually quite aggressive.  To tear apart violently, to split.  God wants our all.  He wants ALL of our hearts.  Not just a piece of it or the part we think we don’t need or want — all of it, and all of us.  And the equally awesome and amazing thing is, He just happens to love the all of us too. 

In talking about this verse and journaling with G (Max just wanted to write about it), we also talked about how God doesn’t want us to dress, or just ‘look’ the part of a Christian.  Our transformation is from the inside out, and not the outside in.  Rend your heart, not your garments.  And the GREATEST HOPE in this verse?  Yes, I had tears.  It is SO beautiful — if we return to Him, He is gracious, He is compassionate, He is slow to anger, He is abounding in love — and He relents from sending calamity.  I know that these promises were made for the people of Israel who had turned from God — but they are oh so true for us as well.  Transformation, restoration, healing, new beginnings, in fact — all things new — are possible because of grace.  And what a tremendous hope that is!  What a tremendous hope we HAVE — if only we will rend our hearts…

Obadiah is about the shortest little book that ever was but it also spoke to my heart in a way it hadn’t before — okay, so when I read Obadiah in the past it was more of a segway to Jonah then an actual preponderance…  But if ever one needs a lesson in pride, this is about the biggest admonishing one can get.  It also rocked me.  In all of my “openness” to others, I can get very judgey — I can get easily hurt — I can read all kinds of meaning into things that are said that were not intended to be — and I can create so many things out of nothing due to this one feeling — pride.  It doesn’t matter if it’s something I feel behind the scenes or in the quietness of my heart — the fact is that it exists and that it is there and that it’s quite ugly.  And Obadiah doesn’t mince words — “The day of the Lord is near for all nations.  As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.” 1:15  If I sit and sincerely think about coming before the throne of my Father tomorrow, five minutes from now — let’s just say soon — will I be comfortable with what I’ve given of myself, the thoughts I’ve processed, all that I’ve done for others — or will pride have gotten in my way?  Will I have gotten in my own way of being everything God has intended for me to be?  Have I given myself completely over to my God?  It’s a little sobering.  Again, rend your heart, Ang.

I won’t go through each book as some of you may be falling asleep by now, and I love you for bearing with me — but I can’t not mention my Micah.  This book has my heart.  Micah means, “Who is like the Lord?”  Micah was a country boy — but he wasn’t afraid of people that had great power or wealth.  He wasn’t afraid of much when it came to the opinions of man.  He also had a very soft place in his heart for the poor people of his land and he called those people out that took advantage of the poor.  I also love this Old Testament book as it prophesies the coming of our Savior in Bethlehem!  It is so exciting to read this in Micah and be able to nod our heads and say, “I know EXACTLY what he’s talking about!,” right?  Okay, just me (smile).  And in the heart of a chaotic world, where life and religion and theories and philosophies and rhetoric can make things all blurry and confusing — Micah breaks it down for us so simply — “And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8  There it is.  And that should keep us busy enough.

In the midst of all of this, I am reading a few of Dr. Schaeffer’s books (old school evangelical for you).  Having lived in the heart of L’Abri growing up and knowing the history of this man and his family and his work, it’s like a little trip back to family that wasn’t blood, but that was family none the less.  These books of the Bible remind me of many philosophical discussions held by Dr. Schaeffer who vehemently held that there were “no little people” in the eyes of God.  This was a man who invited children into his discussions concerning metaphysical, moral, and epistemological necessity–because children were just as significant as adults.  I’m having flashbacks of knickers, goatees, and turtle necks with tea — there was always tea.

I also came across this quote by Madeleine L’Engle (she was such a gorgeous writer–I have a notebook full of her quotes) that brought it all together somehow…

“In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work, to bear his glory.  If we are qualified, we tend to think that we have done the job ourselves.  If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there’s no danger that we confuse God’s work with our own, or God’s glory with our own.” 

He takes our brokenness, our weirdness, our crazy, our hurt, our lacking — our everything the world sees as wrong or not good enough or messy or just not cool — and guess what?  He makes it beautiful.  All in his time, he makes it beautiful.  And the miracle, for this girl, wasn’t that he made it beautiful to other people — because I stopped caring about that when he took hold of my heart — but was that he made it beautiful to me.  To a very messy girl who has always felt broken, weird, strange and wrong and needing to be fixed.  Yeah…. He made all of that beautiful.  Because He made that girl.

And He made that girl to do some pretty amazing things.  And they may be small things.  But they’re HIS small things.  And that is just pretty awesome to me, that I would be even considered for such a task–any task at all.  It’s all for His glory, loves.  For Him I shine.

And you shine too, child of God–magnificent, beautiful and fabulous child.of.God.  And it’s really okay if you’re weird or quirky or not a cookie cutter Christian.  In fact, it’s quite perfect.  People thought those prophets and disciples in the Bible were pretty weird and crazy too.  We’re not of this world.  Why should we so desperately seek to be so like it?  To fit in…  To act or look a certain way so we don’t stand out or freak people out or make them uncomfortable? Maybe we can shake their world all the way to Christ! (psssst — spoiler alert — THIS reality?  it isn’t IT! smile!)

Here’s the thing…  we’re all made the way we are for a purpose, for a reason — and it’s His.  I can’t do what you do, and you can’t do me.  And damn — that’s awesome!  It really and truly is!  That’s God given uniqueness, people — not something man made or fabricated — and there’s a dignity in that too.  He’s got a place, a purpose, a walk for all of us.  My steps may not be yours, because my gifts, my talents, my calling — well, it’s not going to be exactly the same as yours now is it?  How precious, how amazing, how infinite, how divine…  And PRAISE God for that!  We all have to find our own hallelujah with the help and breadth of the Holy Spirit…  Man doesn’t dictate that for us…  That’s encouraging!  And we can encourage one another IN this — to shine and shine some more in the way God intended for each of us to shine…

And when we place a little less importance on ourselves in this “saving people” business — when we look at the mighty hand of God in all of this and give Him the praise while we take on the prayer — I think we can be a little gentler in our definition of ‘how we should appear to others’ as well.  “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God.  On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (7)  We speak the truth to an unbelieving world because it IS the truth, and then we pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts.  Only God can truly bring a person to Him.  This is not our doing.  We bring the word, He brings the life changing power of the Holy Spirit — so let’s just take a step back for a minute and remember our place in all of this.  He is greater.  Always greater.

And then maybe we can pause and remember our authenticity to our calling and to who He made us to be and the voice that He created with that human being is vital to His message.  It all becomes so much simpler, doesn’t it?  “And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Thanks for bringing it home, Micah.  Much love to all of you lights.  Keep shining, keep loving, and keep being exactly who you are called to be.  That takes brave in a world, and often in a church, that wants us all to look and be the same!  And we were called to be courageous!

And if you get a chance, check out those lesser known prophets in the Old Testament.  Those country boys and a Jewish girl who lived in Persia, just might speak to your heart.  An ordinary life can become so extraordinary when God takes hold of it, can’t it?  Rend your heart, loves, and find your hallelujah… ❤

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will rise from another place, but you and your family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 3:14 

All things new…

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Happy Sunday!

Aside from a few bugs, the internal kind, the sun is shining and God is always, ALWAYS good. And we warrior on. Because every day is a battle.

“…this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low.” Ezekiel 21:10

As my seven year old likes to preach and so often remind me, our God is a new kind of God — He makes the old new — He makes all things new — in our hearts, in our souls, and if we have the radical vision to see and embrace it — in our world as well. There is no fear in this new love, in our submission to Him which is akin to Jesus’s care and love for the church, straight up NO fear. We can talk about the fear of God — yes, we sure can. We can talk about His wrath, His might and how we ought to fear him — we can talk about it all we want. But the fact of the matter is — there is no fear in His love. Absolutely none. And for those of us that have grown up with the model of love being that of fear?  Well now, that is all the miracle we could ever need or imagine…

And what freedom then there is in blazing ahead, shouting out His glory and praise with.no.fear, being the ever open and giving hands and feet of Jesus! We’ve simply gotta get over ourselves. We just do. Take off our self imposed turbans! Remove our crowns! It will not be as it was. This is a new kind of God! One that let women sit at his feet. At.the.feet.of.Jesus, y’all! That was straight up revolutionary. Who preached and loved children and saw them as the.most.important. For real. If there was a pecking order, kids were FIRST (the disciples asked, he just answered the question)! A God who thought we were ALL worth dying for. Every single one of us. Amazing, humbling, incredibly real and raw stuff.

Our Jesus wasn’t afraid to get dirty, gritty, talk about the hard stuff. In fact, his life WAS all the hard stuff (and being the son of God, he could have chosen easy, well, easily). That’s the kind of love I’ll get behind.  That’s the kind of love I will choose time after time after blessed time.  That’s the kind of love that I’ll give — and that never comes up short or empty.  My love may be imperfect, but pointing people to God’s love?  Yes, the answer is always yes.

I’m saying this as a pep talk to my spirit. Because choosing to live differently is hard. And sometimes we don’t admit that. We think if we’re doing this grace thing right, it should be easy. We shouldn’t get tired or overwhelmed or both.  But, friends, that spiritual battle we fight every single day is just that – a battle – and we have a real enemy. And he shows up in the sneakiest of ways. And sometimes those ways are even churchy ones – like bickering about theology, or judging who is “fit” to be loved, or making our churches special clubs instead of straight up places for worship and God work—all time sucks from the real love work we need to be doing, right?

It IS hard – in our places of work, in our families, even in our churches. But we have a God who does hard things so expertly – because He is God and He’s kind of bigger than all of it. SO much bigger!  And if we really and TRULY believe that, well then, we never have to be afraid. EVER. And again, in that we are so free. To soldier on, to do the hard, to be his hands and feet – to walk so closely with him and receive that peace from him – that transcends any hard – any circumstance we may face. “When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. He allowed no man to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: ‘Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.’” 1 Chronicles 16:19

We are not of this world.  I often think of one of my childhood favorites in literature when I read this Bible verse — The Chronicles of Narnia.  Every day we wake up and we make a choice — to live with it, or to live against it.  To live for Jesus, or to live as one with the status quo that engulfs us.  It isn’t meant to be easy.  But it will be fulfilling, it will be rewarding, it will be validating, peace keeping, heart breaking along with heart building — and moreover — it will be who you are meant to be.  I know that when there are situations that arise at work, with family, with friends were it is hard and often tiresome to be that one voice that has to over and over seek truth it often grows down right depressing, yes, and it stretches you, often to your limit — but when you ignore it and go for easy?  That hurts even more.  Because it is not authentic, it is not truth, it is not YOU — and when you live by the spirit — you can not ignore truth.  God will hold you accountable.  Your life will change.  And in a world that values truth so little (about as much as a stick of gum), you will be tested time and time again when you solely call for it.

But there is no freer way to live.  And when I meet my Jesus, I want to make HIM proud, I want him to say, “well done, good and faithful servant.”  And everyday, I must make the conscious effort to make THAT choice.  The call to love, the call to honesty, the call to truth, the call to humility, the call to the fruit of the spirit, the call to be his hands and feet, the call to every single day get.over.me.  All of this, every single piece of this — living on this earth in the midst of this without our Father — is hard.  But we have a mighty Savior.  We have each other.  So let’s keep encouraging one another.  Yes, that actually is part of our walk too as brothers and sisters — to encourage one another. “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13.  Not ‘every so often’, ‘during the  holidays’, or even ‘once a week on Sundays’.  Encourage one another daily.   How encouraging are we to each other as Christians?  How encouraging are we to non believers?  It’s a dark, dark world out there.  We are called to be the light.  We are called to shine like stars in the universe.  I will mess this up.  Most likely every day.  But I will also wake up and try my best at this.  Every day.  I know I need this encouragement everyday.  So when I need it, I give it.  My need is my reminder.  Praise God.

“Pure Christianity lives between two dangers ever present; the danger that it will evaporate into a philosophy… and the danger that it will freeze into a form.” C.I. Scotfield

But neither of these dangers can happen when we are actively living our Jesus.  And that’s a conscious decision.  A conscious choice.  A conscious breath.  Every day of our lives.  Not an afterthought.  Not something we save for a few hours on Sundays.  It’s everyday.  It’s how we meet everyone’s eyes, hearts, and hands.  It’s in how we greet humanity.  It’s in how we give up ourselves.  And this humbleness isn’t passive, it doesn’t come with a low self esteem, it isn’t indecisive.  Far from it.  Our Jesus died for us.  He rose again.  We have the divine living.inside.of.us.  Seriously.  That should blow our minds!  Really.  That should make us the MOST courageous warriors for his name!  We are all miracles bought by his blood.  And every single creation living and breathing on this planet is therefore worth the fight of salvation.  And we’ve got some work to do.  Some great love to give.  And every day we GET to do that.  Praise God!

Happy Sunday.  Happy every day.  And what ever you may be facing, know it will be okay.  Our battle ends in victory.  Much love to all of you. ❤

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. ” Colossians 1:17

hope knows no fear