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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Hope… the greatest resistance.

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as you ever can.”

John Wesley

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Dallas Clayton

 

The courage to be.  It is the title of this blog.  It is the mantra of my life.  And it is taking quite a few of us all of the courage we can muster to be who we are created to be in these current moments…

I was created for love, for kindness, and for good.  I was created for kingdom work. And while it is more than okay — while we SHOULD be moved — while I am angry, saddened, disgusted, depressed, overwhelmed, and discouraged by all of the evil incessantly increasing all around us — it is not okay for me to become paralyzed by it.  And I’ll admit, some days I have.  There have been many sleepless nights spent in tears, in prayer, bleeding out, pouring out pain to God.  Sometimes,  if I’m honest — screaming at him.  Why? Why, for the love, why?!?!?  But this is what free will looks like.  This is choice.  This is sin.  And I must continue to be who I was created to be for something, for someone, for a love so much bigger than myself. I must get up and walk.   

Because this isn’t about me.  This has never been just about me.  This has, and always will be, about US.

And that is the root of this problem.

There is the camp of ‘I’ – well, this isn’t directly affecting ME.  And there is the camp of ‘us’ — where there is injustice for one, there is injustice for ALL.

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And it seems really easy and super convenient for us to throw labels around to make these atrocities all the more comfortable and palatable for us too, doesn’t it? To make it an “us” versus “those people” issue. Labels like democrat, republican, pro-life, pro-choice, feminist, immigrant, Syrian, Muslim, Christian, Jew, liberal, conservative, (there.are.so.many–feel free to add your own), that proficiently categorize everyone oh so perfectly and throw them into a neat and tidy little box that we can check “yes, I agree with that” or “no, I disagree with that” and we may even chose to vehemently hate them.  I detest labels.  I thoroughly resent them.  Because while they, on the surface, may be created for the intention to do something good — to give us a glimpse into some one’s theology, background, upbringing, presence — as a society, they have made us abhorrently lazy.  They have made us superfluously stereotypical.  They have made us think we don’t even have to listen to each other anymore, because in our ignorance and egocentrism all of a sudden we have become “the experts” transfixed on one word set to describe or characterize a person.  And we have forgotten this simple truth–  That we are all just people. 

And that is both extremely humbling AND powerful, isn’t it?  Same beating hearts and blood coursing though our veins.  We all need oxygen to breathe. We have the same capacity  for good or evil.  The same propensity for choice.  People.  We’re the ones who decide to take it to the next level.  To judge each other.  To hate each other.  We take it there.

And I have been labeled a great many things in my life time.  Most of them have been yelled and screamed and beaten into me.  I’m still picking at some of them that are annoyingly sticky.  People think they get to decide your labels.  Because sometimes labels determine our value too.  There’s big words full of all kinds of meaning and associations in labels, isn’t there?  But that’s the funny thing.  People really don’t get to decide these things about us.  No one gets to define you or me or the person next to us or even half a world away.  We’re not that powerful really, or that all knowing about anyone.  It’s a form of hubris I’ve never understood…

And maybe that’s because I’ve never been a ‘neatly fit into boxes’ sort of girl.  It pisses so many people off.  What to do with THAT one?  And that frustration and anger creates more labels and violence and so many other names that get thrown at you.  So interesting.  Our fear of not being able to define and label.  Why can’t we just accept each other as people?  Sure, it’s messy.  And it takes more time to get to know one another.  And so much more listening.  And we might just have to make actual, real connections instead of just assumptions.  And we might have to get over ourselves a little and what we think we know.  And then, dammit, what would we do with all of our ignorance and bias and bigotry?  We just might have to unlearn it…

I have to bash through my labels every day.  I am NOT who they say I am, and I never was — one at a time — usually practicing yoga — BAM — one by one they go. And I am free.  This girl is a beloved daughter of God and I am who he says I am.  And that girl is love.  And that girl is pro-humanity.  All of us.  That neighbor thing doesn’t have borders.  It doesn’t have creeds or sex nor is it defined by religion.  I’m pretty sure by the state of our nation that Jesus would not be allowed into our country.  I often wonder if he would even be warmly welcomed into our churches these days.  He was the most radical and revolutionary inclusionary of all time.  And I’m walking in his footsteps.  And that is all I’m expected to do each and every single day of my blessed life.  Walk.  To get up and walk.  For him and for the love of every single child of God.  Which, in case there is any confusion, is every single one of us.  And in the words of my beloved sister Cole Sako, “I must have missed the scripture in the gospel where Christ said, ‘Screw ’em.'”  We belong to each other.

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So turn off those people who keep posting all those annoying ‘political’ posts and blogs in your Facebook feeds.  Most of us aren’t posting political, friends.  We’re just posting humanity.  But go to your notifications and do just that.  I keep seeing so many people posting this comment, and I understand — it’s getting to be overwhelming — it is.  But do you know what I think?  HOW INCREDIBLY BLESSED WE ARE!  How blessed we are that we GET TO DO THAT!  They are reminders to me — in my face reminders, and I am constantly praying for those people who don’t get to hit that “turn off” button.  Because this is their LIFE.  Every single day they are dealing with the horrific ramifications we get to “turn off”, ignore, or “turn away” from. How privileged we are that we get to tailor what we want to see and hear in our daily lives!  We get to choose it for ourselves and tell ourselves we’re going to ‘decide to be positive and not let that negative garbage affect us.  Those people are just whiners and complainers.  I’ll take care of that!  Done and done!’ And we kind of feel altruistic about it, don’t we?  Like we just did something really amazing and kind of righteous?

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Just turn him off and look away…

The truth of the matter is that evil IS happening in our world.  And even if we decide we DO NOT want to SEE it or HEAR it, it’s still out there.  We don’t make it GO AWAY by shutting our eyes or editing our Facebook notifications.  But we also don’t make it go away by screaming f*** Trump every other word either.  That doesn’t make it stop and only adds gasoline to his fire.  Rage and anger have their place, but after so long — they only become noise.  Noise lost in all of his noise.  And they, personally, make me stupid and incoherent.  There has to be a balance.

That balance is in love.  That balance is in hope.  This is our path to resistance.  And this resistance is displayed by action.  It is displayed by what we DO.

We have to get out there and DO.  Not just yell and scream.  Yes, we need to draw attention to what is happening because it is so stark raving ridiculous and awful.  We have to keep speaking out and speaking up.  I am NOT advocating silence.  Because the apathy, the apathy that this nation is displaying is just as stark raving ridiculous and awful.  I’m actually not sure which is worse.  So we draw attention to what is. We speak up. And we resist.

And part of that resistance is hope. And that hope is in the giving of love and the doing of good.  Supporting the good.  Drawing attention to the good.  Being light in the blackest of darkness.  Giving all the more.  Loving all the more.  Extending the very best of ourselves to each other in ways we may never have before.

How?  There are so many ways.  For this family it means donating to women’s shelters, love bombing those that are the encouragers and the supporters and the givers that do NOT get the love and support THEY need to do their jobs (love on your teachers, the activists in your churches, your police officers, your community support staff that are doing so much to BE THE GOOD!!!), giving to organizations that support children with disabilities and give them opportunities they would otherwise not be given (check out DWOL), giving to local and international organizations that are helping stop sex trafficking and supporting the victims of these crimes — this vicious slavery trend that is sweeping our country and the world, donating to the local food pantry, donating to this AMAZING organization called Help One Now (so many ways to get involved — from organizing your own garage sale, to a lemon aid stand, to supporting a child — just look into it, and please, please read Chris’s ‘Doing Good Is Simple’ and get involved — life changing, friends — life changing), to waking up each and every day and doing every good we can in every way we can for a hurting world.  It is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  We have to be tenacious about this — in our jobs, for our families, for each other.

And pray.  God, yes, pray.  This verse in the Bible always brings me to tears because it reminds me of the power of prayer and just how much Jesus LOVES us and how he encourages us, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Luke 18:1.  And he tells them the parable about the persistent widow.  A woman who does not give up.  A widow.  A woman.  Catch that, girls…

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We can’t give up.  This kingdom work is here.  Now.  It is why we are here.  “Once having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20,21  And as we say in this house, BOOM! Now, let’s get to it!

I want to leave you with a little something from Chris’s book, “Doing Good Is Simple”. 

“Imagine what the rest of the world would think of Christians if we fought hard for those who suffer, if ordinary people like us lived a life that is in fact not ordinary at all.  We can love deeper, give more, serve together, and feel a sense of mission.  We belong to God, we belong to one another, and each day we do our best to capture the opportunities right in front of us.  The kingdom of God will be found when we choose to leave the comforts of the Christian subculture and experience joy of life in the middle of the world’s mess and sin and devastation. It may not look clean and tidy.  We may not have nice, pat answers to all the world’s questions, but what we will have is far greater — a story about a God who is willing to lay his life down, and stories about his people who are also willing to lay their lives down.” (Marlow, 201)

This isn’t political.  This isn’t about labels.  This is human. This is life.  This is love and hope and despair and about all of us.  Not us versus them, but we.  The human story.  And some of us have bled the same chapters.  And some of us have not.  But we shouldn’t have to bleed the same history to know right from wrong or good from evil or to have the ability to extend ourselves in love and grace.

And we don’t have to wait for others to get on board or to figure it out.  We can.  Right now.  We are able.  Little by little.  We can’t do it all, but we can always do something.  Find out how you can do YOUR something.  Little by little.  I keep saying this to myself.  Little by little.  Just do something.  Wake up every day and do your best in love and in hope.  And that, that’s the resistance. Louder than screaming.  In fact, it’s the loudest protest.  To.be.love.  To.give.hope.

Little by little.   We can make a difference.

Love you.  So much.  ❤

 

 

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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

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?

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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

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Who we are…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it all came crashing in.  This.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that understanding my mother was talking about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working my way through Jeremiah, I cry too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing.  Even big messes like me.

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

This girl you created ❤

 

 

So Loved and SO VERY Wanted…

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

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

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

WE LOVE because HE FIRST LOVED US.”

1 John 4: 7-19 

(emphasis mine)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever yours in his love. Ang ❤

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

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Church is a verb…

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

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

Matthew 21:22

Struggle.

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

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

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

and dammit, (sorry)

I started doubting that…

because of world events

because of things happening in my extended family

because the devil is who he is

because I am who I am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out Of Sorts, Sarah Bessey (96,97)