A thing or two about plants…

“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”  e.e. cummings

Morning y’all!  Except by the time I finish this, it will no longer be morning.  Nothing is ever “quick” with this momma.

As I was watering our plants — mostly shammies on this intensely hot Iowa morn, I was hit with so.many.things.  Just a typical morning of crashing, free-flowing thoughts… (smile)

Maybe it’s an INFJ thing, a psych and English major thing, a spectrum-y thing, or just my kind of crazy — but I’m a girl who constantly and forever sees everything in metaphors.  The tiniest of things can hold the deepest meaning.  And it all just smacks me upside the head, delightfully, heavily, humorously — all the things — all.the.time.  Is there a metaphor filter somewhere?  Somedays I could really use one of those. (it makes a girl t-i-r-e-d)

Like when I was out watering our plants…

First, I do NOT have a green thumb, so let’s just say the fact that these blessed creations of God have survived is a straight up miracle to be rejoiced!  Holy hallelujah every day.  I mean really.  Praise God!  I tend to over water, over prune, and over love — which is also a huge metaphor for my OWN personality (and long list of shortcomings) in itself.  Getting to that…  #foreverhumbled

Our shams were from wedding favors my mother and my former step father brought back for the boys.  Just a few tiny, unassuming bulbs.  And G wanted to plant them SO badly.  So we did.  These things NEVER grew, you guys.  I mean like over a month of tending to a pot of dirt and nothing!  But G had SO much faith.  SO much.  “They will grow, Momma!!!”  And sure enough, one blessed morning, an infinitesimal little sprout.  Then a white flower (I didn’t even know shams created flowers 🙂 ) — and over three years and counting, they come back every year — two giant pots of green and beautiful delicate little white flowers later — they’ve increased in number about as much as Abraham’s descendants  — heh, heh…  Patience, hope, and faith, y’all.  It’s a beautiful thing.  And so is my kid’s heart.  He NEVER gives up!!!  On me, or the possibility of the AMAZING that could come of something small — when cared for and prayed for and loved on.  I think of this every.single.time I water these pots of green.  I’m not sure about this “good luck” business and shams, but that’s their gold at the end of the rainbow…  And that is priceless…

A lovely friend of mine, knowing G’s penchant for shamrocks, gave Griff some big purple shamrocks for his birthday this year.  Heaven on earth for my little man.  They have “heart-shaped petals” (his description) and he’s smitten.  Our friend and neighbor also gave him the bestest gift — knowing his heart and his love of nature, dirt, and planting — and took the time to take him on an adventure — over to her house.   She let him fill up a giant planter ‘all the way up to the top!’ of dirt — and then she let him pick what ever plants he desired.  Really, together these two spent time filling up his heart with happiness.  And G decided to put his purple shamrocks in there too — naturally, it matched the flowers he picked with his Judy.  Maybe it was part of his plan all along.  I had NO idea this planter would grow to the fullness and beauty that it has.  But I guarantee that Griff did.   Patience, faith, and hope, y’all.  This kid is magic.

And every time we water this planter, my heart literally fills all the way to the top too… cause just wow.  How blessed we are to have such love in our lives!  That we have friends that know and love our kids and care about them as much as we do.  That’s what I see in this mix of earth and God’s divine creation of beauty.

What else do I see?  The intricate and breathtaking captivity of diversity!  Purple shamrocks.  We “didn’t even know” there were any other kind until our Shawna.  Here we thought green was all the splendor that there was — and then look — there’s this whole other kind of awesome! All tall and big, yet a little more delicate — with lavender like flowers — perfectly accenting our strong stocks with the daintiest of flowers from our friend, Judy, who knows my child loves digging in the dirt and watching the miracles that can grow from it.  Kind of perfect.  Really.  There are so many different kinds of beauty.  And they all stem from, no pun was even intended there — the overflow of what is in our hearts.  Our guts.  Our insides.  I praise God and say thank you for those kind of hearts.  Just thank you.  Y’all are thanked for every day.  Know that.

And that we can love and appreciate all of that different, right?  SO amazing and awesome!  That we each bring something new and incredible to this big, gigantic and colorful mixing pot of life!  And that our beauty, our “thing” is unique to only us?  Kind of takes your breath away! And we must go out there and not be afraid of shining it and being it and growing it for the glory of God — sharing it — just like Shawna did — or no one will ever know or see our unique super power — our divine super power — our God-given purpose.  Don’t hide your you.  Don’t doubt it.  Don’t be afraid of it or EVER think it’s not good enough.  You’re always enough.  And different?  Wow.  Different is so beautiful.  Grow and be.  Just be.  And all of the insanely hard and wonderful that is…

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you.  Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.  So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”  Neil Gaiman (one of Griff’s favorite people — the author of “Coraline” and many other fantastical books)

What else is in these planters?  Joy, ya’ll.  Straight up joy.  Kindness, sharing — begets joy does it not?  Plants just grow.  They just share and give.  They don’t really ask us for anything, do they?  They just are.  They just share their joy.  And I am blessed with so many friends who have hearts just like that — just sharing their joy out of the love and kindness of their hearts.  I want to be like them.  How awesome to have that inspiration!

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Joys like fresh veggies and time to play with Chance — my boys want a dog SO badly (we’re still working on Daddy).  Judy, we love you so much and appreciate your heart.  You are joy.  For friends that get that they are our family, and the immense joy they bring by just being and allowing us to just be.  Who become our safe places, our soft places.  That know us and our children so well, encourage us, brave the battlefront of life with us, and in so doing we can settle into the graces of who we are.  If that’s not joy, I don’t know what is…

Who drive all the way from Cedarburg and Carroll to spend the day with us, then understand that we need to get doctor’s appointments juggled — AND then take our kid with all of their kids — to the “water park” in Clive all day (even though we can’t go — cause doctors) — and then take us out to dinner to a fancy schmancy place that same night because — well, love.  And joy.  Who love our kids as much as we do.  Really.  Really know and love them.  And count them as joy in their lives.  Who take them driving.  Freaking driving.  Who deal with our obsessive love and crazy.  All of it.  And don’t put us down for it, but love us anyway.  Because they know just how much we love them and their amazing miracles of children too.  It’s all so incredibly amazing, isn’t it?  Yes, I LOVE the word amazing!

And push pops.  Who buy our kids push pops.  Heavens.  Letters and cards in the mail.  Books that feed my soul.  Just showing up on my doorstep.  The most amazing.  At all the right times!!!  And all the wrong times.  Birthdays, hard times, joyful times!  JOY in.my.mailbox.  These have MADE everything for me and my family!  I have a couple of particular girlfriends that are so inanely thoughtful at this!!!!  These little things are the BIGGEST things.  In fact, I’d happen to surmise that collectively the little things really are all the things.  They really are.  Joy.  All of it joy.

And this joy isn’t dependent on what we feel or what we’re going through.  THAT is also what ALL of these GORGEOUS people have taught me!  We can have joy together no.matter.what.  How freaking amazing is that?????????? There they are, just blooming, my friends, the loves they are, amidst any dirt we push through — we can do it together — JOY.  This builds my faith.  This points me to Jesus.  And praying together and for each other? Knowing someone is taking the time to take YOU to God? It is the greatest gift. JOY. Praying for all of you.  Thanks for helping me grow and bloom where I am planted.  #youaremyjoy ❤

And I’m often also reminded that I need to be patient.  In my pruning of these plants on our doorstep, I think of how God often prunes us — getting rid of the dead stuff, the stuff that’s weighing us down, rotting our hearts, not allowing us to grow, holding us back from the creation he intends for us.  The GOOD he wants for us.  He’s the master gardener, isn’t he?  Always FOR us.  Helping us to achieve our ultimate potential.  Wanting the BEST for us and in us.  Pretty awesome and amazing.  And it doesn’t always FEEL good, this pruning and plucking.  But I have faith in his timing — even if it isn’t mine.  Patience.  He makes all things beautiful in his time…  Growing is painful stuff sometimes.  And it takes time that we often don’t have time for (smile).  But little by little.  Faith and patience get us there, in the loving hands of a God that is ALWAYS good. 

Yet I tend to rush things sometimes.  In my haste accidentally pulling too hard, and while my intention was to remove a dead leaf or stem — I rip up a perfectly good one as well.  Slow down.  Look.  Listen.  Breathe.  Give room to grow. Be like Jesus.  Seek him, Ang.  This is not about you.  None of this is ever about you.  And when I feel anxiety creep in, I know that my faith is taking a step back — because the two cannot coexist.  And I’m relying on myself, not God.  And I have to put my ego in check.  It’s not up to me.  It’s not about me.  It’s all in God’s hands.  And I’d rather leave it in his.  I tend to make a mess of things.

Like having a tendency to over water.  If some is good, isn’t more better?  More love, more things, more attention, more time?  In my desire to fix, to care for, to love people, I can over do, over extend, over communicate, over everything.  Learning when and how to give love is a never-ending process for this girl.  Patience.  I’m so thankful that God NEVER runs out of it with me.

Nature is so aesthetically calming and miraculous.  Tiny seed to this fantastic creation.  You can’t mess it up too badly — unless you kill it.  But even decay can lead to greater beauty.  I love that about plants, nature in general.  Planting doesn’t require too much skill, a master’s degree, or fanatic hours on Pinterest.  And plants are beautiful and complete all on their own.  You don’t need to study the “interior design of a planter” to get a lovely arrangement together.  It generally works out…

Unlike decorating homes.  Interior design is not my forte.  But this is where our little fam does our most growing.  Inside this little clay pot of our home.  It’s where all of us seeds get thrown in, the sun shines down, the rain beets down, a few bugs get in here and there… you get the idea…

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And I’m totally fine with the fact that our home will never, even after our kids our grown and gone — be a grown up house.  I’m not one of those people who can decorate.  Not a spacial person.  I love pretty things and I know what I like aesthetically — I’m just not really able to translate that into “real life”.  Our growing pot of family is a bit messy, and totally organic (smile).

But maybe that’s okay… because what I want for my kids is a space for them to feel — well, like them.  Safe, happy, loved.  Just them.  Because so much of this world — the all of it really — is telling them to be someone else.  I want that pressure off here.  So yeah, we have Legos in our living room. A butter box full of letters and cards (Karey, I miss your shop SO much!).  A thankful jar.  Even a mason jar full of rocks collected from a thousand fantastic adventures.  A bazillion and one books.  Various items from nature — pinecones and leaves can look like SO many incredible things!  Several blankets.  A few pillows (trying to cut back as this drives my husband crazy) .  All artwork is done by my incredibly talented friends and my kids (and my preschool loves).  And the most recent addition — a print by Grant Wood.  “American Gothic” is basically a self-portrait of Marty and I — ug. And a million photographs.  Some from a million years ago (smile)…

This is our nesting pot of us.  And it will never be ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ or ‘Traditional Home’ or anything fancy.  Cause that’s not us.  And I love us.  And home is where we get to be us — and grow the all of us.  We don’t have to pretend or keep it all together here.  So all of these pieces?  They’re pieces of us.  They mean something.  Gracious — our home is one GIANT metaphor.

Where faces of those we love smile back at us.  Where we are encouraged.  Where we struggle.  Where we fight.  Where we make up.  Some times days later.  But eventually.  Where we pray.  Where we constantly pray.  Where we put on the full armor of God.  Where we grow and learn and grow and learn some more.  Where we question.  Everything.  Where it’s a safe place to question.  Everything.  Where we love.  Everyone.  Even when it hurts.  Because sometimes love hurts the most.  Where we share our joys.  Every day.  Because there is joy in every day.  Where we give thanks, and where this girl reminds her boys that that thankful jar is really NOT full enough.  Where some days, Mom and Dad’s bed is the best place to be — watching movies and cuddling and snuggling.  You’re never too big.  We’ll just get a bigger bed.  Where we deal with tough things.  Because life is tough things.  But then we remember to laugh too, because life is also freaking beautiful.  And if you can’t see that, then we need to come back and pray together again — because God did not create us to simply hurt.  And if you can not get past hurt — what can we do now — like RIGHT NOW — to make some one else’s day better?  Because that’s why we’re here.  Really.  To be a blessing.  And if we haven’t been a blessing in someone else’s day today, we better get to it.  And if someone, anyone, could PLEASE help me with all.of.this.laundy — that would be really great too… ❤

Plants, flowers, they can’t do laundry — but they sure can teach us so much about life and even about God.  They’re an amazing reminder to me every single morning.  And I’m incredibly thankful for the blessings of reminders they bring me each day I water them —

and maybe — just maybe — even for this loud, meandering, full, and crazy mind.

Love y’all!  SO much!

Namaste.

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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

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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?

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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!!! ❤

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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…

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

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

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

WE LOVE because HE FIRST LOVED US.”

1 John 4: 7-19 

(emphasis mine)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever yours in his love. Ang ❤

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

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Just keep praying…

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

Matthew 21:22

Struggle.

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

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

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

and dammit, (sorry)

I started doubting that…

because of world events

because of things happening in my extended family

because the devil is who he is

because I am who I am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out Of Sorts, Sarah Bessey (96,97)