Moving from mountains…

5df2ff77444077ebb626399576b736df

Dropped Max off at football practice this morning.  (beware — gushing Mom ahead…)

Can’t begin to tell you how proud of am of this kid.  He’s set his alarm every morning this summer.  I’m tired from just running him around his busy schedule!  Holding on to these next four years with both hands.  God, I love him.  And these past 14 years have flown, just FLOWN by.  I can’t imagine how absurdly insane these next four will speed past… I also can’t imagine not seeing his precious face every single day.  He shrugs it off, “Mom, it’s not like I can’t Skype you in college…”  same.thing.

And I don’t want to get lost in all this busy, his busy, our busy, just plain life busy.  But it kind of just happens, doesn’t it? Despite our best intentions to be present.  It’s like this inevitable suck of our attention — time’s busy nothings and everythings…  Just staring at him across from me in the car and wondering “how the hell did we get to here?” Till I’m jolted by his deeper than deep voice — “Mom, you’re doing it again…”  Right, there’s no crying on the way to football practice…

And I think of a family that is laying their boy to rest today in our little town.  Holding them so close in prayer.  As I can’t imagine their pain, and when I do — it swallows me whole.  Completely guts me.  NO momma should ever, just ever… and I can’t.  I can’t breathe, so I just pray some more.  And I count these moments cherished, blessed.  Because we always think we have this thing called time, don’t we?  And we lament the moments we have not yet had that will go by too fast like we already have them saved up in some future arbitrary bank…  so maybe the key is to enjoy the seconds.  And not assume we have the luxury of stored time at all — a future of “then” moments…  Prayers for this family for whom death cut time all too short.  Our hearts break for you.  ❤

And in all these thoughts and tears I grab my coffee and my Bible and find some solace in the quiet resting place of the morning.  Just the din of the neighborhood kids playing outside.  It’s been a summer.  And as someone who tries desperately to see the good or some sort of lesson or opportunity for growth in everything, we’ll just say for this family and so many of our beloved friends — we’ve all done lots of stretching…

So opening my Bible and sighing I just prayed upon everything, so selfishly, that God could PLEASE speak to my heart.  I didn’t want to be that “Encourage me!  Encourage me!!!!” needy daughter to my Lord — again — but there I was —  Dear Jesus, I need salve for this soul — and like NOW would be ever so nice.  And I was prepared to sit there and read all morning if that’s what it took…

And there it was, in a rather unlikely place — as I’m going through the Old Testament again — Deuteronomy … the second law…

“The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain.”  Deuteronomy 1:6

Yep, that’s it guys.  I broke.  Cried.  It all came out.

And of course, there is context with the Israelites walking through the desert and so on and so forth.  But this verse spoke to me about transition.  Or the need for it.  And perhaps, sometimes, our fear of that necessary change.  So we become stagnate.  We become stuck in familiar patterns,  whether they be thought ones or physical ones or both.  We get stuck on mountains.  High ones.  And sometimes it’s scary to come down from such high places.

You have stayed long enough on this mountain.  You’ve done your time. You’ve learned what you’ve needed to learn.  You’ve struggled, you’ve had it out, you’ve wrestled all.the.things.  Now move.  It’s time to take hold of my promises.  It’s time to TRUST that they are true.  It’s time to KNOW and BELIEVE that good things are waiting for you.  Go get them.  Go to the good things!  “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 1:21c)

And not only do we ‘need not be afraid’, but we don’t have to have it all figured out.  The older I get, the more I realize this.  God is a God of order, not disorder — but he’s not expecting us to organize it all and make it all right.  People are complicated.  Life is a giant mess.  And so often times, we take that mess on when it doesn’t need to be ours and it’s not meant for us to carry — we more than likely have to deal with it, yes, but we can pray on it, make boundaries, and give it to God and he will fight for us (faith, yes?).  Walk down that mountain and throw a few things out of that backpack you’re carrying — heck, throw the backpack off the mountain altogether. He will fight for you.  And he’s got good things in store for us!

“Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.  The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert.”  Deuteronomy 1:29,30

Throw the heaviness off the mountain as you go.  You are no longer tethered to it.  And that is really the gorgeousness of God’s grace, isn’t it? He lifts our burdens while he carries us. 

I can’t solve all of life’s problems.  I’d really, really LIKE too (being the problem solver, type A that I am 😉 ) — but I can’t.  Not mine, not my family’s, and not my friends.  I can’t make people understand me who don’t really want to — because they would rather tell me who I am, what I’m really thinking, and what I’m really feeling — instead of just listening.  And I don’t have to try to figure out people for whom reality isn’t consistent — the truth of events and time ebbs and flows for what works for them and feels right for a given situation.  It’s relative to their perception.  What is sometimes is and then sometimes they can decide that it isn’t.  It’s maddening.  And I can be hurt and frustrated and sit in that, or I can realize none of this has anything to do with me.  I can see the long history of the none of this having to do with me.  The insanity and crazy that has caused.  The constant forgiving and giving on my part.  The longing to be understood, to be validated.  And realizing that my worth has nothing to do with that mess.  With their mess.  And I can choose to not be a part of it.  That is their journey.  That is their walk. And I can forgive and love some more. Because so much has been given to me.  And I can chose to see love for exactly what it is, and to embrace what I am meant for.  And all the holiness, grace, and utter humility that comes from that existence and purpose — so much humility 🙂 .  And it certainly doesn’t entail constantly fighting for the definition or validity of mine. ❤

I can rest.  I can move freely.  I don’t have to be afraid of falling.  “You have stayed long enough at this mountain…”  It’s time for a different view.  With easier air to breathe.  It’s time to move on.  I don’t have to be afraid of shining his light…

Love you guys.

Praying for all of us.

Much peace as we hold onto promise.

Ang

“To let go is to lose your foothold temporarily.  Not to let go is to lose your foothold forever.”  Soren Kierkegaard

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

 

 

 

Radical, subversive love…

I been worryin’ that my time is a little unclear
I been worryin’ that I’m losing the one’s I hold dear
I been worryin’ that we all live our lives in the confines of fear.

Fear – Ben Howard

loved-world

 

Good morning, beautiful loves…

Happy Sabbath ❤

Breathing in and out as I give this day to God in the stillness of this morning, re-releasing all of the things that have kept me up praying.  Every day is a ‘do over’ and ‘try again’ and ‘start anew’ beginning for this girl.  I’m always a work in progress.  Never done, never anywhere close to perfect.  But always his daughter.  Always His Beloved.

And every day is another day to live for Him and show and teach my boys and love on my boys and inspire them to do the same…  Amazing, daunting, incredible, precious, hard — all.the.things.  And to be and do all of that for others too.  We are to be Jesus.  Just that.  Some days that smacks me in the face more than others.  Lately, it’s been hitting me pretty hard.  Maybe that’s why I’ve been having so many headaches…

Our world has always contained so much evil.  Sin entered in and it took off like pink eye in preschool. Along with the rest of you, this girl has put on her armor and fought these Goliaths for so long — but this new apathy, this new level of ignorance, this new blind following of hate has shocked even me.  But none of this is really new at all now, is it?  In fact, it’s very, very old. And maybe that is what makes it even more heart breaking and disturbing.  We’ve been here.  And the cost to humanity has been horrific.

I’ve always been told to be the “good evangelical Christian girl.”  Be quiet.  Look nice.  Memorize your Bible verses.  Go to church.  Do the right thing.  Be the good daughter, sister, submit and serve.  Always submit to and do not question authority.  That’s what being a good Christian is all about.  Whether that authority is beating you, raping you, and emotionally abusing you — you just take it.  Because that’s your cross to bear.  Because you are less than as a daughter of Eve.  In fact, you are quite nothingless.  Shut up, and try not to breathe so loud.  Don’t cry.  And maybe if you prayed more and thought better thoughts and tried harder to be a better person, you wouldn’t make your Dad so mad and people would like you a little bit more.  Don’t rock the boat.  You’re blessed to be on it.  God didn’t make this world for you.  You were an afterthought.  A need for a man.  And you will be used accordingly.  Did you say something?  Did you have a question?  An idea?  Didn’t think so.  And if you did — it was wrong and stupid.  And you will be punished for it.  All of your thoughts and ideas are bad. Do not be subversive. You will be silenced. This ideology was my life for over half of it.  I daily fight these voices. Minute by minute, breath by breath, by the grace of a very mighty God.

Yet, miraculously, through this all — God was always there.  And every morning I get to wake up to Him.  And every night I go to sleep and he holds me and he reminds me of his never-ending and never stopping love for me.  And the even BIGGER miracle in all of this is that somehow, every day growing up in this mess of lies and abuse and filth of untruths — He never let me go — and a fire burned in my heart for MY Jesus (not for who my Father and Mother said God was), and I dared to question my parent’s God and I held on to my faith–white knuckles as they tried to drive it out of me.  I understand now that the fire — which danced on the disciple’s heads and Jesus promises his followers and all of us in John — was and is the Holy Spirit. He was always my peace, my protector, my comforter.  He was and IS always with me.  I am very aware of this very real relationship.  It’s one that I thank God for daily.  Through tears and so.much.joy.  I was raised by the Holy Spirit. 🙂  I owe my God so much! I truly AM because HE IS.  My living and breathing is a testament to his existence.  I am nothing but his girl.  No other strength but His scraped me through all of those days upon days and years upon years.  I will praise His name forever.  I would have never known love or known how to love without his mercy and grace.  He is my forever miracle, my savior.

This world is a battle zone.  It’s been for me since I was a little.  And yes, I get tired of fighting, but we’re not ever alone — ever — and we’re not here solely to make cupcakes and ride unicorns (although, I DO bake a lot and really, really love unicorns and all things magical 😉 ). And we can and SHOULD experience and take in joy.  Yes, of course, YES!!!  But we also can not be ignorant that a battle rages on every day — and this battle takes the full armor of God.  It always has, but we need to be even more aware and mindful now.  Which can also be viewed in a positive way.  I am even more mindful of what I say and am trying to be even more giving and active to show what I believe and BE that.  Love is a verb, after all.  I want my boys so see this, not just hear it come out of my mouth in our Bible studies and devotions.  I want our home life and action to drown out the hate — or at the very least, be their daily example of good. ❤

And I want to encourage them to be subversive in a world that is championing blind following to hate spewing leadership.  What does that word actually mean?  Webster defines subversive as “an adjective meaning tending or intending to overthrow”.  We are tending to or intending to overthrow evil and injustice every day of our lives on this planet.  Yes, yes we are. And there are SO many evils and injustices every where.  It can be absolutely overwhelming!   And our Jesus was one of the most subversive leaders of his time.  This can be done respectfully and lovingly.  It doesn’t involve violence or meanness!  I want them to be subversive and brave — to fearlessly raise their voices in the face of injustice and cruelty — to never, ever just stand by when civil rights are threatened or when any one person or people seem to think it is acceptable to place value or call “better than” status on human beings for any reason what so ever.  This is never okay.  This will never BE okay.  And we will be called all kinds of names for standing up in love. For being love and giving in love to others who are deemed misfits and marginal.  Because bigotry, sexism, racism, etc. — those words are filled with hate and blame.  They are exempt of love, justice, or peace of any kind.  But we don’t back down from that kind of evil.  Because that’s not why we’re here.  We’re HERE to be like Christ…

And what does the Bible have to say about these things?

bible

First and foremost, we have only to look to the cross and Jesus’s sacrifice for us.  ALL of us.  Not just white, privileged men.  But all of us. Jesus was neither white, nor privileged, himself.  He was about as big of an outcast as they come.  Even by the church.  Our subversive Jesus.  Our rebel Lord.  ❤

Galatians is an excellent place to go.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 3:28  We are all one.  Doesn’t get any clearer than that.

And this:   The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love you neighbor as yourself.'” Galatians 5:14 (not just your white neighbor, not only if you believe in your neighbor’s religion, not if your neighbor isn’t gay or disabled, etc. — just LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR).  We’re all neighbors.  And we don’t get to pick who’s worthy of that love.  Jesus died for all of us.  And since he made that sacrifice, I’ll leave the judgment part up to him.  I’m pretty messed up myself.  And loving people, just as he did, is the BEST way to bring people TO him.  I’ll follow HIS example.  ❤

Look up the word love in the Bible.  It’s everywhere.  It’s a humbling experience to read all of those verses. Very humbling.  This family has LOTS of work to do.  We have not even remotely TOUCHED the surface of these verses.   ❤

I also appreciated these thoughts expressed by Stephanie Lape:

  1. In terms of ethics, I don’t care who is President or what they say or stand for – each of us stands before God, accountable for our actions. I am the most imperfect person saying this, so I do not intend to speak from a place of superiority or hypocrisy. But let it be known that racial hatred is crystal clear in Scripture. It is not okay. Neither is denigration of women. Neither is oppression of the poor or “alien” among us. There is a lot unclear in Scripture, but not these things. God makes a preferential stand for whoever is the outsider, so get on their side in solidarity and – in concrete, observable ways – stand with the oppressed for their dignity and justice. Refuse to speak words or commit actions of hatred, but stand for courageous love of neighbor. Jesus did this even unto death. This is the Christian call.
  2. Again, I am not your model, God knows. I fail many more times than succeed. But if you are a Christian, Jesus is your model. Kingdom values are very clear. Get up again with me and by the grace of God let’s live them out in our real lives. This is not partisan. This is Gospel.

 

We are called to be Christ. Period. ❤

And I have began to think about some of my other subversive heroes in history, and talking to the boys about those people, those soldiers of his light and love.  Corrie ten Boom was one that came to mind immediately.  If you ever get a chance to read “The Hiding Place”, please do so.  Life changing, faith building of the most resolute kind. She, herself, was not Jewish (she was very much a Christian), but she stood up to the genocide and hid them and saved so many lives.  Subversive, radical love!!! ❤

hiding_place351

One thing I keep reminding my children and husband is that we’re really quite fortunate to feel safe right now.  As a woman who has experienced sexual violence, abuse, and assault, I have felt traumatized by Trump’s words in ways that others do not understand and don’t even remotely try to understand (rape culture has become so mainstream like so many integrated and culturally accepted evils — ‘just get over it already, bitch, every guy talks like that’)– but I also am fully aware that I don’t feel the intense gravity of this situation like so many of you do.  This is where all of that incessant prayer comes in.  It’s our greatest power.  It really and truly is.  Don’t diminish that, loves. Our God is all-powerful and He is the one in charge. ❤

Ultimately, my family GETS TO feel this way–this overall sense of safety.  So many people are not experiencing this same feeling for their future and their children’s future.  However, that doesn’t mean we don’t speak out and speak up and be a voice in all of this evil noise.  Wrong is STILL wrong even if it’s not directly affecting us.  Because, actually, loves — it is.  We are ALL a apart of humanity.  We are ALL we.  So this IS us.  We all belong to each other in that we are brothers and sisters in this thing called life — connected by the air we breathe, the hearts that beat with purpose towards the goal of living this thing out together in some sacredness of existence — can we at least agree that life has some sacredness left???  So when you come for all of the excluded, you come for us.  And as a girl who has always been one of the excluded — even by her own family, by God, you come for me…

And even if so many of our neighbors (and we love you so much too, we love the ALL of us ❤ ) are screaming and yelling at us — ‘quiet, you bunch of cry babies, what he’s saying isn’t really THAT big of a deal’ — I ask you, what if we changed those words around in Trump’s ‘not so big of a deal’ hate rhetoric?  What if we replaced the word “Christian” for Muslim, if we replaced the word “white” or “Caucasian” for Hispanic or Black or alien, if he made fun of disabled or beaten or raped “animals” (ex — cute little puppies, as we seem to have more sympathy for animals these days) instead of humans — how high would our meter of outcry and outrage be for the things he has said and is saying?!  ‘Well he wouldn’t be THAT dumb!’ (this was an actual conversation I had with someone…)  And then they came for me… 

My point is — and gets lost when trying to explain it but is really SO very simple — you do NOT trample on the sanctity of what it means to be who and what we are and the beauty and ornate preciousness that is in that diversity.  You don’t mock that.  You don’t disrespect that.  You don’t get to assign VALUE to that.  You are not God.  We may believe in different versions of that being, but YOU — you, sir — are not Him.

And I have to believe, I have to hold on to the faith that we — as God’s children — can be better than this.  We will be courageous and brave and I know, I know that ultimately LOVE wins.  I know the ending to this.  It’s not dark, it’s not gloomy — it’s actually quite full of light and victory.  We are overcomers.  “And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.” 1 John 5:4.

Yet while we’re here, we’re growing and forever learning how to be more like him — and oh how much growing we can do in all of this, right? How much MORE we can learn to be like Jesus! ❤

“What ever we learn here on earth, however we grow or do good, it is all to become more like Christ.  When we wait, we have the particular gift of allowing the Holy Spirit to build in us the fruit of His Spirit.  When you abide and wait, you are uniquely pliable because you are living in trust and fixing your eyes on what is unseen.” (Connolly and Morgan, Wild and Free)

And as Corrie ten Boom states to eloquently in “The Hiding Place”,

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Amen. ❤

And He has always and forever been my hiding place, when this all gets to be too much — as it invariably does from time to time.  We are to live in the world but not be of it.  To carry each other’s burdens, but not to be all consumed by them.  To love, to have empathy, to feel and have compassion, but not let is swallow us alive.  This is so deeply, deeply hard for me.  Darkness can be so engulfing.  We must make a minute by minute, conscious effort to walk and live and breathe with him — for this girl, it is holding his hand all.the.time.  Because it’s not by my strength or by my fixing. And I try to do this without him if I’m not reaching for him constantly.  It’s all Him. And I want it to be all OF him.  “His will is our hiding place.  Lord Jesus, keep me in your will.”  Corrie ten Boom

Because this isn’t about me.  It’s never about me.  Or it gets bitter.  It gets angry.  It gets to be about what I deserve, what I’m owed, or what I want and what I’ve been through.  And it’s not about any of those things.  Ever.  It’s about living Jesus.  It’s about love.  It’s ALWAYS about love.  It’s about giving.  It’s about making sure others see him and know him and feel all of that never-ending, never stopping, never giving up love. It’s about my me-ness not getting in the way of all of that.  It’s about humility.  And wow, there’s just not much example of that anywhere so I really, really need to be mindful of that for my children.  It’s also about forgiveness.  And again, that’s not by MY strength.  That is also an incredible and miraculous gift from my Father. “It is not on our forgiveness anymore than our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His.  When He tells us to love our enemies He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” (Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place).  He gives us so much.  And gives us the gifts we need to keep on giving, loving, and forgiving.  ❤ All of this is nothing short of everyday miracles. Can I get an halleluiah? ❤

And praise God for his miracles.  That happen every single day.  In you.  In me.  In our children.  When we show up for Him.  When we show up for each other.  When we bravely and courageously choose to be subversive disciples of love.  When we understand that His kingdom work is hard, but his walk and sacrifice was harder still.  We will never understand pain or persecution like that.  And we want to make him proud.  So proud of us.  Even though he is.  And we don’t have to.  We just love him so much we want to.  And we love our brothers and sisters so much we will.  We’ll love them ALL — all the way up to heaven.  Because I want us all to be there.  Praising our heavenly Father.  In whom we are ALL worthy.

So, let’s try this love thing.  Hate has played itself out in history far too many times.  It’s never turned out well.  I’m pretty sure that’s the biggest understatement I have ever made.  Let’s fearlessly and relentlessly love.  Just like our Jesus.  Who also fearlessly died.  So that we COULD do this love thing.  For him.  All for him.  Not just for certain people.  But for all of us.  Because he had the subversive and radical notion to see the world as an us.  I really, really love that God-man. ❤

Prayers for all of us.  He’s got us.  And we’re good.  Even when the world screams otherwise.  Take care.  Take heart.  Remember, the battle’s already been won.  But we’ll continue to walk in his footsteps to remind the devil that his day is coming… ❤

Love you.  ❤

Warrior on…

Angie

with-jesus

 

So Loved and SO VERY Wanted…

9144655d17f9fcfb7313fe111c1d00bd

“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

269509_10151140195136961_89363563_n

 

Just keep praying…

FSCN0021

“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.

20160625_150056

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)

Searching for Canaan…

12919765_595032950653879_859845243886174606_nHere goes…

“We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.”  Madeleine L’Engle

(Authenticity in my walk is rough, but vitally necessary.  This is a big share for me.  This is me being very raw and vulnerable.  This is full of grammar issues, it’s imperfect, it’s a mess — just like me.  I’m leaving it this way.  I’m tired.  Tired isn’t even the word.  This is my precious open God space.  From ten pm till after 7 a.m. we walked this out.  This sun is now coming up.  I guess I was up all night.  I’m always the cracked clay pot.  He’s forever working on me.  As long as I have breath, he’s not finished and I have purpose.  Thank you, Lord.  Please keep me open to hear you.)

So, it’s been a rough couple of weeks, months — let’s just say the world has not been a place from which to gather encouragement as of late.  It’s been quite dark.  I want to hole up and avoid it completely.  Yet we are called to be the light.  For someone who is always preaching — SHINE — this little light of mine has been struggling to stay lit…  Holy Spirit, breathe anew in me…

And the church’s response has rather been lack luster in the shine department.   Worse, it’s been cruel — ranging from preachy doomsday wrath and judgement in matters involving homosexuality  to out right silence when it came to a woman, rape, and an erroneous slap on the hand of a conviction given to an arrogant, unapologetic young man.  And then there’s my family.  Some semblance of history seems to be repeating itself.  I guess minor versions of hell may  be worth reliving to some people, it seems.   And I’m standing on the outside of it all.  Hands clasped in prayer.  Praying, always praying — and for the very first time in my life — feeling lost.  Walking in circles in the desert.  Doubting…

Because I think it’s okay to talk about the things we know of God.  I mean, that’s theologically acceptable.  Even if we don’t agree concerning our truthiest truths.  But I’m not sure it’s okay to talk about our questions–our unknowns.  Because that’s just plain unfaithful.  And who does that?  Certainly not Christians — or GOOD Godly ones anyway…

And lately, I have too many — too many questions and unknowns — and I’m not comfortable with all of this anger.  I’m not comfortable with the fact that I can’t just glean over passages or complete books of the Bible like I used to as “oh those are just awfully uncomfortable words for me because, you know, I’ve ‘been through some stuff’“.  Or, “You’re not meant to understand everything, just to accept it.”   I’m really not comfortable with any of the generic answers I’ve been given.  I want real answers.  I want authentic explanations.  I’m not okay with just blind faith ‘because that’s what faith IS’ anymore.  And if I’m perfectly honest with myself, maybe I’m not completely okay with God…

Those are words I never thought I would see staring back at me.  And this is not the post I had meant to write.  These are not the pages and pages that are bled out into my notebooks.  No, THEY are full of the Stanford rape, my nightmares, the Orlando massacre, the book of Numbers, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Judges, Genesis — mixed in with rape statistics, Madeleine L’Engle quotes, porn and violence/abuse causation –nights and nights and nights of no sleep (what’s one more?).

FSCN3915

I was waiting for the church to address violence against women now — or ever.  To address this rape culture our patriarchal system within the church perpetuates, waiting for someone — anyone in the freaking Christian community to say a damn thing about this — and I almost passed out holding my breath — until the women preachers and pillars of the community spoke.  Those unholy, vile, ‘shouldn’t be preaching woman’ spoke.  Thank you.  This woman, this nation of hurting women, this humanity of people needed to hear you.  Thank you.   Thank you, Ann.  Thank you, Emme.  Thank you, Sarah. Thank you, Glennon.  And the female authors, those “f” word feminists that took the time to stand in solidarity against a culture that accepts that every 2 minutes another sister is raped, that one in every three of us will experience violence and abuse at the hands of a man at one point in our lives — an unholy epidemic in this culture — an epidemic that is SO vile and pervasive that we give empathy to the perpetrator and blame the victim. Because the little slut was drinking, she was dancing, she was possibly flirting — and she was even wearing a cardigan.  Thank you.  You are brave.  You are what courage looks like.  You are what the word church means to so many of us.  You were made for such a time as this…

And Orlando.  I just can’t.  All those mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and friends and lovers — grieving the sacred loss of their loved ones — grieving a precious journey, an entire entity, being, life — that is void and gone.  Grieving empty space that was once so very, very full.  All of those beautiful beings purposefully and hatefully eradicated — and the enormity and gravity of all that loss.  And that anyone anywhere in this creation felt the need to verbalize that as God’s will — I threw up — so many times.  I had been asking God for clarity on this issue personally for years in my own walk and life — and well — it all became quite lucid to me through all of this.  The evil is not coming from the LGBT community.  The evil is coming from the people who so magnanimously profess the name of God.  And in both of these instances, it took absolutely everything in me to pray for the church as a community.  Because in both cases, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it…  Because hate doesn’t drive out hate.  Only love does that.

And there was love expressed by people who claimed to be Christians in both instances.  Yes, yes there was–very real love.  But there was also such disgusting hatred and judgement spewed out against those very people.  Those people who were showing love were reminded that God was a vengeful God full of wrath and if “she hadn’t been drinking” and “Adam was made for Eve” and “how could they be THAT Christian” and “God would judge them just as he judged the unsaved sinner”.   I disconnected.  I had pretty much decided that the anti-Christ was going to be the most devout right-wing Christian you ever laid eyes on. So.much.ugly.  Never mind, all the while, that real people are suffering — while we’re arguing, blaming, making all these political statements — REAL live human beings are going through the.worst.pain.  Go get ’em.  And make sure you let ’em know they’re going to hell.  (and that she deserved it, if only she hadn’t been this, that, or the other thing…)  Vomit.  So much vomit…  All from those called to love…  Just keep loving.  Just keep shining…  Please Holy Spirit, breathe anew in me…

So I sought refuge in my Bible, as I always do…  it seemed to offer little respite.

Bible study isn’t always butterflies and rainbows.  It’s often work.  Hard work.  I’d been avoiding this.  I asked God to open my heart for wisdom.  I ended up bleeding all over the place…

I was taught a great many things I’ve tried to ‘unlearn’.  The Old Testament is a plethora of what those of us who have been through trauma call “triggers”.  It’s full of them.  There are certain books of the Bible I often avoid to keep my faith solid.  Judges, Number, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy being the most difficult to deal with for me.  Honestly, Moses really isn’t my favorite guy (dodged lighting bolt).  Sure, he was faithful, but his patriarchal system was atrociously disparaging to women.  And this stuff was all God breathed, people.  How do I, as a woman, see God as a loving Father — having survived my own abusive Father, having survived violence and abuse that was never and will never be accounted for — how do I see God as mind fully caring about women as a gender at all?

I mean, do we really believe this stuff?  Do we take these words to represent and thoughtfully illustrate what they say? Have we thought about them in terms of us, our friends as wives, our daughters?  Do we even care???

Let’s start with Numbers…  that big ole census…

I remember getting SO frustrated with the Israelites when I was a kid.  They wandered around in the freaking desert for forty years!!!  FORTY years because of their lack of faith!!!!!  And it wasn’t like they didn’t have some pretty MAJOR miracles smack them upside the head for the ENTIRE journey — um, parting of the red sea, burning bushes, manna from heaven, water from a rock, their clothes and sandals like NEVER wore out that WHOLE ENTIRE TIME (that always got me — like  NO ONE questions that???).  Miracle after miracle after miracle…  For real.  What the heck was their problem?  I mean, if I had just a PORTION of that stuff, I’d SO be on board the God train.  I’d be in Canaan like yesterday.

Now my forty-year old self totally gets them.  Fist bump, Israelites.  God has shown me time and time again in my life that he has not, will not, nor has he ever failed me.  And here I am, still questioning him.  Here I am — all “Israelitish”– not content with just walking in faith.  Angry as hell.  Bitter.  Discontent.  I want answers.  I want to know why.  Why did you so belligerently neglect your daughters?

I have a friend who went to seminary, studied Hebrew for five or six years, then decided that being a preacher wasn’t for him.  He’s an awesome Daddy.  He’s also the guy I talk to about this kind of stuff.  He doesn’t make me feel like I’m going straight to hell when I ask “Does Jesus love me?” instead of stating with complete conviction “Yes, Jesus loves me!”. 

And he just happens to know the history stuff.  And he lets me know, that actually, Mosaic law was much kinder and more compassionate concerning women then what was going on in the surrounding areas at that time.  It was a kinder code, a far gentler code.  The punishments (mostly stoning to death) were not as harsh and — for the first time — introduced complete forgiveness from a loving God.  We do not tend to see completely eye to eye on this.  This “not as bad as” scenario doesn’t give me much consolation.  Maybe turning the world completely upside down was too much for that time and space.  Maybe.  Maybe Moses and God were working it all in and out slowly, working within the confines of a world were women were nothing,  property, a means to procreate and satisfy men and nothing more — they were working within the milieu and order of a very fallen and sinful world.  Maybe.  But God is God.  The Great I Am.  (I know, I have the tattoo — In Hebrew — smile) And nothing is impossible for God.  He could have totally shaken it all up, right?

March 2016 Phone Pics 724

Read about the test for the unfaithful wife in Numbers 5:11-31 if you aren’t familiar.  I always thought it was a magical potion of God’s when I was a little — sweepings from the dust of the tabernacle floor she’s made to drink and the priest curses it.  There’s a few more steps with barley and grain and offerings.  Basically, if it causes abdominal swelling and her thighs waste away, she cheated and she will become cursed among her people.  If not, she’s free from impurity.  No mention ever of any such potion test for a man’s infidelity.  Bummer.  It only matters if a woman is unfaithful.

And Leviticus…  I pretty much steer clear as I can hear my father’s voice in this book and not God’s…  PTSD sucks, to put it very, very nicely…

Chapter 12 — Purification after Childbirth — A women has a son — she is ceremoniously unclean for seven days.  A daughter?  Two weeks.  Those daughters were just extra dirty.  To keep this in all of it’s glorious context —  you also weren’t supposed to cut your hair, wear clothing of two different kinds of material, plant two kinds of seed in a field, clip off the edges of your beard, get tattoos (I have four–hell isn’t hot enough), and all kinds of other good stuff.  Those rules made sense for that time and place, in that historical context, for reasons very specific to that culture that worshipped God in a very specific way.

And what’s also important to remember is that those laws were done away with when Christ died for us.  Those rules were done away with when GRACE entered the picture.  They were temporary rules and regulations placed on a very ancient Israel.  But it’s still wrong to make a false image of God and worship it and to have idols, right?  So how do we understand what regulations still apply or no longer apply because of New Testament principles?  I am SO tired of hearing Christians say that we can’t ‘pick and chose’ the verses in the Bible that we want to follow — because it’s ALL true and ALL from God.  It IS all true and it IS all from God.  As part of linear history, culture and context.   But God also gave us a brain.  A brain that can closely and clearly look at those divisions of history and context and content.  Surely we can agree that slavery is NOT okay, that polygamy was not okay, that God was speaking to a cultural construct of that time — just as he was within the construct of patriarchy.  No man had any right to own another child of God — be it a slave or a woman.  No human created in the image of God should have been reduced to such a state of being.  Yet slavery is extensively written about in the Bible (as was selling your daughter) — and I’m sure that masters were instructed by God to treat their slaves better than what was “standard” for that time — but what this DOESN’T mean is that God thought is was JUST or RIGHT just because it was a man-made LAW.  The Bible may be un-evolving (meaning we don’t get to ADD to it — it is what it is).  But history is not.  We should learn from history — and in that respect — history does evolve.  Polygamy.  That was a huge thing.  Should we bring that back?  Dear God, I would hope and pray we learn from sin and our mistakes.  I would hope we would not continue to aimlessly wander in the desert for an infinite number of years.

13133137_610479162442591_5118513608565338702_n

Chapter 27 — Redeeming what was the Lords — placing monetary value on males and females — from child to the adult — a male was worth more shekels than a female.  A male between the ages of five and twenty  was worth twenty shekels — a woman of the same age — ten.  Each age range is indicated with the price that could be paid.  Boys were of more value than girls.  Period. Pretty clear.

In Exodus, Moses speaks to the Hebrew law regarding a man selling his daughter.  If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not allowed to go free as menservant do.  The ten commandments themselves even become misogynistic as wives become clumped in with property (manservant and maidservant are male and female slaves — just to be clear) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, or his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17  This is a listing of belongings — a listing of things…

Two of the toughest books for me?  Genesis and Judges.  I cry.  Often.  I get sick.  Often.  Ask yourself, ‘do I really believe this — or is this just a little collection of stories for me?’  These are events that happened.  Really happened.  These are views that were held of women pervasively throughout the Old Testament — throughout the Bible.  Jesus, the rebel and subversive that he was, began to challenge these views in the New Testament.  It’s our job to continue to challenge them now.  Women as playthings, as objects of lust for men?  It’s all around us.  You don’t have to look  very far…

Most of us grew up knowing the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot who was spared, along with his family, by two men who were actually angels.  They come as visitors to the town of Sodom — and Lot invites them to stay in his home.  “Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom — both young and old — surrounded the house.  They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight?  Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’ Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, ‘No, my friends.  Don’t do this wicked thing.  Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man.  Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them.  But don’t do anything to these men, for they have protection under my roof.'” Genesis 19:5-6 The strangers he had just met had protection under his roof, but not his own daughters.  It was vile and disgusting to rape the men, in fact — it was down right wicked.  But his daughters?  Do with them ‘what you like’.  Women were expendable.  More than that?  His flesh and blood daughters were expendable.  Play things.  Sex things.  Things.  Digest that.  Really, really read that and digest that.  Don’t just glaze over it with a ,’ yeah yeah’ or ‘yes, thus speaketh the word of the Lord.’  The other thing to remember?  Lot was the decent guy.  He was spared.

There are so many, and I know I am treading on extra holy ground here, but chapter 16 — I lament for Hagar who bears Abram Ishmael.  Not that she has a choice.  She’s just an Egyptian maidservant to Sarai, Abram’s wife, who is unable to have any children.  So, Sarai tells Abram that since she can’t have any children, he should go and sleep with her maidservant.

How many times have you just read over that verse.  Breezed right on past it.  I don’t.  I can’t.  I think about it — every.single.time.  Because I know that Hagar didn’t have a choice.  She had NO voice in the matter.  Abram just walked right in that room — and,  guess what — he didn’t lovingly sleep with her.  Why?  Because they didn’t have a loving relationship.  Why?  Because she wasn’t IN a relationship with Abram!  She was Sarai’s maidservant — her SLAVE!

So Sarai gives her maidservant to Abram, take her as your wife — cause that makes this all holy in the eyes of God — no choices for Hagar because she is a slave (let’s not romanticize this) — and Abram “sleeps” with her — which is a really nice way of putting it.  Hagar gets pregnant and despises her mistress, Sarai — I don’t blame her.  I’d kind of despise her too.  Sarai mistreats Hagar after Abram tells her to “Do with her whatever you think best.” and Hagar runs away.  An angel of the Lord finds Hagar, tells her to go back and submit to Sarai and promises to increase her descendants “they will be too numerous to count.” Hagar doesn’t even get to name her baby.  Abram does.  He’s 86 years old when Ishmael is born.  (Abram’s name is changed to Abraham when he turns 99 and Sarai’s to Sarah.  There is no further mention of Hagar. Her duty was fulfilled).  The entire thing leaves me so empty.  If Hagar had a voice in the Bible, what would it have sounded like? I wonder that so often.  I wonder that of Bathsheba too.  She had zero choice.  She lost her husband and her baby.  How broken she must have been.

Judges 19 — A Levite and his concubine — She leaves (so she probably deserves all that is to happen to her according to the common law — little tramp —  right?).  She stays at her father’s home.  He goes after her.  They stay at her father’s a few days.  Then a few days more.  They head back home.  An old man takes them in on their way back to the hill country of Ephraim.  They stay at his house.  “While they are enjoying themselves, some of the wicked men of the city surrounded the house.  Pounding on the door, they shouted to the old man who owned the house, ‘Bring out the man who came to your house so we can have sex with him.’ (sound familiar so far? — this must have been a thing back in the day–town gathering gang bangs to ‘welcome’ strangers…)

The owner of the house went outside and said to them, ‘No, friends, don’t be so vile.  Since this man is my guest, don’t do this disgraceful thing.  Look, here is my virgin daughter, and his concubine.  I will bring them out to you now, and you can use them and do to them whatever you wish.  But to this man, don’t do such a disgraceful thing.’ But the men would not listen to him.  So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go.  At daybreak, the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.  When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold.  He said to her, “Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer.  Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.  When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all areas of Israel.” (22-29)  Ahhhh, what a sweetie! She was raped to death.  He cuts her to pieces.  Imagine that.   What a statement.  Because that was SO brave of him!  I mean, because standing up for her, or at least checking on her ONCE throughout the night would have at least been something.  But she wasn’t even worth that.  She was cattle.  Fuckable cattle sent out for slaughter.  Oh they get all mad and go to war — again.  Just go ahead and read over those verses one.more.time.  Think about your wife, your daughter, or your girl friends if you are male.  Then think about that, just for a second, what it would be like — if you were a female.

I don’t know if I have the strength for Deuteronomy.  There’s lots of amazing in here with all of the down right awful.

My heart has trouble reconciling women and children being completely destroyed and slaughtered in battle (Jesus SO LOVED the little children) — “At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them–men, women and children.  We left no survivors.” Deut. 2:34 — (I mean, ya win, you got all the plunder and livestock — do you have to completely destroy everyone — even the people who can’t hurt you?) — and then “do not murder” is, literally, a chapter away.  But women and children — legitly justifiable–not so much. Full on admit — I don’t understand that kind of God.   I don’t understand that kind of people–or a kind of people who would praise that kind of  a God (but it was different times, Ang).  But God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  And I thought he was a loving God.  And murder was something reserved for absolute necessity.  Wiping out kids.  Wiping out their mommas.  I walk away from my head space because I can only cry so much…

And I get the feeling that God isn’t speaking directly to me so often throughout this book through Moses.  I feel like I’ve felt so often at certain churches when I’m reading this section of the Bible — like it’s a special club and ‘sorry, this really isn’t intended for you.  You can read it, but no goodies for you’. You can use any metaphor you want to stretch it and make it fit — nope — not your bag, honey.   He’s speaking to a very select and special group of people here… his chosen people “Has god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by wars…”  “But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron–smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.” “The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.  The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples.  But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers…”  maybe this is for a really special group of people.  I’m feeling marginalized.  I’m not feeling quite so included any more.  He didn’t swear anything to my forefathers.  I don’t even know who my forefathers were.  I just know they’re not these people.  And I’m just a girl…

Then there’s the poor women who are taken captive and not killed.  The ones who the Israelite men find attractive.  They get to be taken as wives.  “Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured.  After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.  If you are not pleased with her, let her go wherever she wishes.  You must not sell her or treat her as a slave, since you have dishonored her.”  21:10-14  I’m told this is kind.  I’m told this is considerate.  Seriously.  I’m told these things.  After you have killed her mother and her father, her entire tribe, village, what have you, capture her and take her home with you.  Make her shave her head and cut her fingernails.  Completely shame her.  Make her take off anything left she has of her culture, her heritage, her customs in the clothing she has on.  Make her leave everything of home, of what she loves.  Let her cry for about a month.  That’s it.  That should be enough.  Then you can make her be your wife and rape her.  If you don’t like how that works out — once you’ve desecrated her — you can set her free into a world where she can’t support herself and has no one to support her (since you’ve killed them all off) and no one will have anything to do with her since you have defiled her.  So kind.  So considerate.  Wonder how many of those women either killed themselves or became prostitutes — which would end up in them being stoned.  Because it would be their fault if a man slept with them and was unfaithful to his wife.

Chapter 22 — Marriage Violations

I just can’t…

So the moral of the story here is — just don’t get raped INSIDE of town, okay?  You’ll be stoned to death because you didn’t scream loud enough for help.  It’s inside of town.  I mean, someone should see or hear you.  It will be your fault.  You’ll be stoned.  Hope you get raped OUTSIDE of town.  Then he’ll be stoned, NOT you — because “this case is like that of someone who attacks and murders his neighbor, for the man found the girl out in the country, and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her.” Duh.  Doesn’t really matter anyway.  She’s totally ruined and trash.  ‘found her out in the country’  The language.  There she was — just sitting there for me to rape…

“If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver.  He must marry the girl, for he has violated her.”  Lucky little lady.  I mean, if he just ‘happens’ to meet her — and he just ‘happens’ to rape her — he’s gotta pay Daddeo and marry her.  That’s the start to a great marriage based on love, trust and respect now, isn’t it?  One where God is surely involved and playing a part.  One where any boys brought forth are going to be reared to respect women and wait, it THIS how Brock Turner’s parent’s met?  Poor girl is punished not once, but twice.  Raped AND has to marry her attacker…  How did ANY woman have ANY shred of dignity or self-respect?  How did they survive?  They were seriously amazing…  They endured.  All that they endured…

The divorce chapter is interesting too.  It’s pretty flippant.  A man can write a divorce certificate to a woman when she becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her.  No mention of a woman EVER divorcing a man for the same thing.  Nope.  Apparently only women are indecent.  Or displeasing.  And I’m just going to stop there.  I’m tired.  I’m tired of hearing my father’s voice…  I’m tired of hearing my father’s church.  I’m tired of it feeling so close when I thought we were more than this by now.

It’s not hard to see that women were not treated equally — that’s not even the correct word — I would go so far as to say they were not even treated as seen or rightful or respected heirs to the kingdom of God.  There are little glimmers of light every now and then, but the Old Testament is not a time where women were able to be everything God intended them to be.  God had much more in store for them.  Purposes bigger then man could ever imagine.  The world (man), at that time, just wasn’t ready.  I believe that.

Why?

Because it becomes a very dangerous and slippery slope  when we begin to assign value to another human being as the all-knowing voice of God (when we restrict God to our cultural understanding of where people “fit into” this space)–

— not value in terms of stars shining in the universe, in terms of precious worth in his sight, in terms of our ordained breath and unique and glorious purpose and plans —

but in terms of our human and very limited sense of value as less than and greater than — in terms of inferior and superior.

Only God is greater than any of us.  Only God is greater than I.

And the absolutely amazing thing about understanding that you are a beautiful child of God –and ALL that truly entails — is realizing that everyone else is too.  It gives you incredible confidence while instilling tremendous humility as well.  No better than.  No less than.  It’s a we’re all in… 

So, what DO I believe?

With white knuckles I’m holding on because I do believe in SO much…

I believe that when Jesus died for me, so did this archaic belief that some sort of patriarchal hierarchy was necessary to exist for me to be worthy of worship at his feet.  In fact, Jesus was radially allowing women to worship at his feet even in HIS own time — and how very radical that WAS!  He was speaking directly to women in the very rooms where he preached — he was allowing them to participate in discussion!  He was not only doing that — he was also healing them, allowing them to touch him, he was preaching to and with them, he was allowing them to prophesy in his name, he was born from one named Mary, and he first appeared to women after he rose from the dead — women were the very first evangelists!  Would God abore women SO much that he would trust one with his very Son — with part of the deity, the very Trinity itself?  With the greatest rescue the world has or will ever know?  No, no — none of that makes any sense now, does it…

And he knew women were used to adversity, being the underdog, the outcast — that Mary could handle the jeering, the pointing the staring — the disbelief of people — “Sure, it’s GOD’S baby — right…” and the enormous gravity it would mean for her to be pregnant and unwed.  But Joseph, what a guy — married her anyway …  God knew women were tough.  Because they had it pretty rough.  Mary could do this.  She would do this.  And humbly she would give all the glory to him — because as a women?  Well, she really had none of her own now, did she… He could have come any other way.  Any.other.way.  He was God, after all.  But he was born of a woman.  That’s something.  That was a God choice.  Women, we were a God choice.  That’s no small thing.

I believe that “God does not judge by external appearance…” Galatians 2:6 and that we’re all equal in the sight of God.  No matter our gender.  That we are all his children.  And that patriarchy is a man-made, and one made in a very sinful world at that, institution — and that the Bible and it’s people — quite simply — were written and framed within the  culturally constructed context of this world.  Why wouldn’t they be? It’s a recording of history!  And this very imperfect world.  Which is limited by the human mind and brain.

And there are many battles left to fight.  Many inequalities we still must rage.  Our culture is so embedded with subtexts we must question. Just because it’s IN the Bible doesn’t mean it’s OF God, that God blesses it as his own — God doesn’t endorse slavery, God doesn’t endorse rape, God doesn’t endorse some things that were legit back then–that were socially acceptable constructs back then — slavery, many wives and concubines (so very, very many), so many rules involving dress and customs of the tabernacle, stoning laws, etc .  I would hope that none of you husbands or fathers would think it was acceptable to send your wives or daughters out for a group of men to “do with as they please”.

I believe “The entire law is summed up in one single command; ‘Love you neighbor as yourself’.  If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Galatians 5:14-15 And that neighbor?  It’s everyone.  And that each other?  It’s anyone. (pssst — even the people you don’t agree with or don’t get along with — smile — reminder to myself as well).  It’s easy to love the loveable.  Loving the unlovable.  God help me.  Please.

And it’s all grace.  Grace upon grace.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10  By grace.  A gift, not works.  Not ‘only if you have a penis.’  WE are God’s workmanship.  That’s ALL of us.  And God has amazing things in store for us–like ALREADY PREPARED AWESOME STUFF.  For WE — not HE — not ‘just the guys in the tabernacle that are clean’ — ALL of us.  Read it again if you need to.  Sometimes I need to.  No boasting.  We’re all equally blanketed by his amazing and powerful grace.  Can I get an HALLELUYAH?  Can I get an AMEN?  Grace is we. 

That curtain ripped in half.  It literally tore.  The ground might have even shook or something.  No more sacrificial lamb, draining blood, offering your best parts of your best grains every certain day to the high priests and setting some aside for the Levites.  Daughter, you’re good.  You can boldly walk through that temple.  You don’t even need to enter a temple, sweetheart!  Drop to your knees, wherever you are — right now — and just say, “Dear Father”…  even if your voice shakes… mine has been shaking…  sometimes I just cry…  He gets it either way.  I know this.  Without a doubt — I know this.

Because…

“But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.  And if some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Philippians 3:13-15  Never perfect.  Always learning.  Moving forward.  Seeking guidance.  Humble.  This much I know.  That, YES, Jesus loves me.  Even when I don’t feel like it.  And YES, the Bible does tell me so.  Even us girls.  Maybe even especially us girls. Because he knows, our walk hasn’t been easy.  We’re not just casually leaning on him.  Dear Lord, we’re completely trusting and giving it all to him.  Our hearts our rendered.  Ripped out.  We get this giving thing.

And maybe it’s really okay if I don’t know.  I’m just kind of hoping he’ll make it clear someday, sometime — and I’m trusting that he will.  Knowing that he will.  Because he always has.  He.always.has.  I’m clinging to this.

And in the meantime?

Canaan, well, it’s not for me…

Nope, it was for the Israelites all along you see.  God’s got even bigger and better plans for this daughter of God whom he knit, whom he fearfully and wonderfully made, who’s hairs are counted, whos days are known — just as her thoughts and her heart are all his…

He holds my yesterdays, my todays, and if he so desires — my tomorrows — and that is more than enough for me…

And by all of this grace — and by the love of Jesus — and by a miracle so beyond anything Moses, the Israelites or any law could have ever imagined — we are all forgiven — and although we all have sinned and fall so terribly short of his glory — we are all enough.  Regardless of gender, race, creed, regardless of anything — and we are all neighbors.

Maybe we’re all just trying to find our own Canaan.

Meet you there.

Love you all.  ❤

 

“You hem me in — behind me and before; you have laid your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

…even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Sections from Psalm 139

3b395ebfd24b10dc952ed177ae33fe2b

 

 

 

 

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!

DSCN3833
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!

FSCN3836

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…

March 2016 Phone Pics 712

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