Finding Him [in the mess of church + holidays]

church and holiday anxiety I have never been nervous to go to a Sunday morning gathering, to be a part of a church. I have never experienced anxiety towards walking through the doors on a Sunday morning, with the knowledge that I would be sitting among fellow humans who may or may not know that they are beloved by Jesus, worshipping Him with music and songs, listening to a message about His grace and truth, meeting new people, sipping coffee, etcetera etcetera etcetera.

Until this "season" of my life.

There has not been a comfortable or "normal" Sunday morning for me since before October 8.

Today was the first Sunday we attended a church service since moving away from Corvallis. For various reasons, we have been unable to visit a church since moving here, but I knew leading up to today that we would be walking through some doors with the intention of worshipping our King among other humans. Our friends are a part of a young church up here and have been asking us to visit since before we relocated; Loren had promised weeks ago that we would attend their Christmas Service which was today. To say my palms were sweating and my heart was thumping is an understatement and I am gaining an entirely new understanding of some people's story than I would have asked to understand. We walked through the doors, hand in hand, and were greeted by nearly every human being; we were clearly new faces and we were asked the dreaded question, "What brought you to Portland?" Instead of dumping words on anyone, we stated simple and less complex things like, "a job" or "work." I found myself breaking eye contact and wanting to shout, "We are with Will & Annie, so don't worry about us! No need to ask us questions! We will move along now," but instead stood and talked and answered questions and let my palms sweat and smiled.

Who knew that the most basic and natural of questions could stir up so many feelings? The things I am learning these days.

I felt awkward. Because I am awkward.

Church has been weird for us, and that is weird in and of itself. It can be scary looking for a new community to accept you as you are, with all of the broken and whole fragments and feelings that make up you. Neither of us are mad or angry or bitter at The Church. Nor are we bitter or mad at Jesus. Neither of us have given up on The Church or negate its purpose and meaning and importance. If you were to ask us: is The Church important? We would answer, Yes, we believe it is, because Jesus calls The Church His bride - and if He deems it important and lovely and Beloved, then so do weWe may not understand much, but we are confident that He speaks Truth.

Though Sunday morning church has been weird for us, each time we have attended the last couple months, my eyes have welled up with tears and Jesus has moved in my heart and met me there. I haven't allowed myself to feel the weight of what I am processing, not while at church, but I allow bits and pieces here and there because I am afraid that if I do not, I will lock it up inside only for it to explode in years to come all over precious people who do not deserve its volcanic hot mess of an explosion.

As we stood and we sang Christmas carols and hymns in the middle of a cafeteria among human beings who are just as fragile as us, I felt Jesus near and dear, reminding me that He is here and that Christmas is about Him. I felt Him nudging me towards His cross, bowing my heart, reminding me that The Church as a whole is good and very messy and made up of imperfect humans, but it is good. It is beautifully Beloved. And He came to unite us, save us, redeem us, heal us, free us. As my tears silently streamed down my face and the words passed from heart to vocal chords to lips,

"O holy night the stars are brightly shining It is the night of our dear Savior's birth Long lay the world in sin and error pining Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new glorious morn Fall on your knees O hear the angels' voices O night divine,"

I was reminded again how precious this time of year is. No matter what. No matter how messy our lives seem to be, no matter how dysfunctional our families are, no matter how broken we feel. No matter who is missing (I should be sitting here next to the tree snuggling and cradling a one month baby), no matter how many different family members you have to visit separately due to divorce and separation, no matter what, I want to remember how dear and how very precious Christmas is. What Christmas exclaims.

We agreed we were grateful we visited a church again, met up with some friends, and sipped coffee while worshipping our King.

baby loss, miscarriage, ornament

We humans may be fragile and feel like we are falling apart now more than any other time of year, but this is the season that we heavily acknowledge and focus on The King coming to earth in the form of a baby, the most vulnerable and defenseless and humble state of being. God, the Creator of the universe, squeezed Himself into a body. A baby's body. It is in remembering our Saviors birth that our soul can feel His coming's worth; the weary world rejoices because He brings hope.

My heart longs more than I knew it could to meet the baby that has been growing in our hearts, his or her dear and adored Birth/First Family, and know that they are safe. My heart longs to make an ornament with little baby's messy hand print as a Christmas gift for his/her Tummy Mama. It is amazing to me how deeply the seed of adoption and family growth has been rooted as a desire into my heart. But more than that, I long for Jesus so desperately, so fiercely. I long to keep Him close, so near to my heart and soul and conversations. I ache to grow more into who He has created me to be, because I am confident that who He has in mind for me to transform into is a free and beautiful me. I am confident that the same goes for you. But I am also learning to rest in who He has me as today, even with bitterness in my heart and big wounds to be healed, because He is so much bigger. I am learning that it is peaceful to cherish what He is doing today and find delight in His presence here and now, amidst the messy and unknowns, celebrating the moments I find Him in strangers and family and my new home.

So. Though we Brenners are in this awkward but exciting and joy-bringing limbo of re-settling and learning what this chapter may look like, there is hope. Hope for the weary world to rejoice and fall on our knees in humble surrender. Surrender on our knees with hands open, palms up is the most freeing posture I have discovered. I don't know where you are right now, who or what you are longing for and craving during this very emotional time of year. But whatever you are processing or grieving or missing or longing for, my prayer is that you would find Jesus all the more gracious, all the more merciful, and all the more as Healer. My prayer is that you would long for Him too, allow your soul to feel His birth's worth; that you would experience His deep and unending faithful love, which brings more security than any human being could ever offer.

A Wreck to Delight-Filled

It has been two months and one day since our world blew up in our face and then our hearts were crapped on. I sat for about five minutes after typing those words and simply stared out the Starbucks wall-of-window at Sparky's Pizza's sign. There is a piece of the window-pane covering part of the r and it looks like "Spanky's Pizza" and all I can picture is a pig while I think over the last two months and all of the broken pieces of our heart. So there is that.

I am sipping out of an extremely lovely red cup while my abdominal muscles lose their strength and my tummy grows rounder by the week and I cannot believe that there is a tiny and precious and so loved human growing inside of my very broken body. Still. Today. At 16 weeks.

baby pregnancy announcement, coupled with adoption

All I want to do is write and process all. the. things. that has become "us," but all I seem to do instead is unpack the boxes that seem to signify what life was and prepare for a home study update. Oh and also I keep driving to Costco and Target because they are so close to our new life and they have all the things we need want.

Being honest is sort of one of my things. Part of why I haven't been posting on my blog is because what I see blaring loudly in my face as the honest truth is flat out ugly right now. And not honoring. And just yuck and sad. And who wants to read about that? What happens when being honest is ugly and full of really uncomfortable truths and realities? Truths people don't usually want to hear because, it hurts too bad. It doesn't make you feel happy inside. It bursts your bubble of what was. What happens when being honest, I mean to-the-bone gut wrenching honest, means that you acknowledge and come to grips with the fact that every single human being has great capacity to hurt, burn, and wound deeper than we should, in order to save face and keep a perception. Even pastors and mentors. Even friends. Even the "best" of friends. Even you. And me. Do we put up our guards and not let anyone near our hearts? Do we continue to risk being burned because in risking our own hearts we learn what real Love is? Will we whole heartedly see where we fell short and burned someone? Will we be truly repentant or always be justifying it here and there? These are questions that may not even matter. Or they may make the world of a difference. I don't know. I am just me, writing words, and looking for Him in the chaos that has become my heart.

We humans are a big mess of a wreck sometimes. This is a little honest glimpse into where my heart has been the last two months:

>Angry. Fuming with hot red anger. Anger that could punch holes in walls and faces.

>Fear. Fear of the false things people have been told about us and fear of the false things they may choose to believe. Fear of being pregnant again; fear of losing the human our bodies entwined to create; fear of mourning another loss; fear of not being chosen by an expectant birth mother; fear of agencies suspending our adoption; fear of people deciding not to support our adoption now that we are pregnant again; fear of people saying, "You got pregnant after adopting, it happens all the time!" please stop. We became pregnant after the first time of beginning adoption and lost that one. So please, its not a formula.

>If only's. If only people knew our hearts; how we sought wise and trusted counsel; how we spent hours in prayer crying out to God about big and painful decisions. [If only's change nothing. They only change your heart from being in one place to being in a worse place]

>Questioning. Where did we go wrong? Certain strings of days play themselves on repeat in my head and I continuously ask Jesus, "Where did we go wrong?" I can see little bits here and there, but the big stuff, the big decisions? Questioning God and will He be our defender? He has been, in many ways. He is so faithful. Questioning our identity and our careers - are we terrible if we decide not to pursue vocational ministry at this time, if ever again? What are we if we are not Youth Pastors and church staffers? Could we even begin to dare to enter a ministry under our heart's conditions right now? No. We couldn't. So we didn't. We were honest with ourselves and decided to breathe and pray about what "calling" means to us and is it a career or is it character or is it the way we walk about life daily.

>Confused. I am in a weird group that seems to be population me + my friend Shelley who I've never actually met. We tried to conceive and carry for almost 2.5 years. We endured fertility treatments and then loss. We decided to pursue adoption, knowing full well and also expecting, we may conceive again. So I walked the road of infertility for a short couple of years that felt like forever, joined the adoptive parent community, and now am pregnant at 16 weeks and still won't know until June if my body will come through. It just feels weird. Who are my people? My infertile friends are like, "Yeah you make me sad," and that makes sense; my friends who never really endured infertility and loss are like, "ISNT THIS THE WORST THING BEING PREGNANT" and I'm like, "I love you friend, I do. But actually, I feel like I am actually doing something right for the first time and I am thankful for my pain-filled boobs. But yes, being nauseous all the time and vomiting isn't my favorite. But it means my body is doing it right, right?!" I am weird.

>Frustration. Frustrated at dear friends for selfish reasons. This is because, guess what world? I am so much a human.

>Sadness. Sad to say goodbye to so many people that mean so much to us. Our Dinner Club pals. Our older generation pals. Our same-age pals. Our young pals. Our youth groupers. Our baristas and credit union peeps. So. Many. Pals. These are people we built our life around for four years, people we love and people who love us and believe in us. Who have built us up and walked through tough stuff with. A real loss bringing layers of grief. 

But I have also been:

>Hopeful. Hopeful for the life created within me. For our adoption. For 2016 to bring fresh life and healing. Healing that we need deeper than our bones and ligaments. Hopeful for growth and healthy relationships. Hope is good for the soul. Hope brings laughter.

>Laughing. My husband makes me laugh so incredibly hard.

>Thankful. I am so incredibly thankful for the baby in my belly. One day at a time, I am grateful that I see signs of life continue. I am also deeply grateful to be on the journey that is adoption. I am honored and humbled and so grateful that our hearts have opened wide open for God to do crazy things. I am thankful for Costco.

>Joy. Joy for a new chapter. The next chapter. This chapter. Joy for the little belly bean, nugget, peanut, baby with a beating heart within me. One day at a time. Joy to breathe in a new city and not feel trapped. Joy that adoption has grown only deeper within our hearts.

adoption, waiting for you, and pregnancy 

pregnancy & adoption announcementSo as you have read, I have sort of been a wreck of feelings and thoughts. Until about a week ago, I have done a terrible job of keeping my thoughts captive. I have allowed my head to run rampant with anger and scenes and words and lies about my identity and value. Why is taking our thoughts captive so difficult? Why is pushing out the dark and inviting in the light so much work? The answer is: it isn't. I just make it difficult and exhausting.

I am a truth teller and I will continue to be until the day I do not breathe oxygen. The truth is, I am extremely unpredictable. I have good days and I have bad days. I have amazing moments and I have extremely embarrassing moments. I have moments, just like you probably do. But for the last few days, minus a few hours yesterday, I was delight-filled.

Delight-filled because I decided to turn off the radio and instead spend drive-time praying, spend cooking and shopping and teeth brushing praying. Delight-filled because I have been opening the pages of my Bible again, day after day, letting His word comfort and lead me, reveal His unending and ever faithful love for me. Delight-filled because I have been choosing to fill my head and my heart with prayers for our baby in my tummy and our baby in our hearts, for my family members, for my husband, for our adoption finances, for the presidential campaign, for the so valuable humans who are being completely degraded right now, for refugees, for the amazing people who are walking down the street.

I mean filling my head and heart. Not just small little whispers here and there, but reforming a habit that I unraveled too long ago.

It is delightful to be delight-filled.

Henri Nouwen says, "If you want to follow Jesus you [must] control what you take in every day. When you are on the bus or subway, or in your car, why busy your mind with all the garbage of advertisements? Why fill your mind with television and radio? ... I don't mean you shouldn't ever go to movies or watch television, but control what enters your mind and heart. It's not just a question of pushing bad things out but a question of holding on to something really good. It is good to have a prayer on your lips wherever you go. There are so many moments in life when you are free to pray..."

I want to transform this December from a wreck to delight-filled. I consider myself a Realist and my friend Kathleen says that is code for Pessimistic. I don't think its too late to change that part of me, to transform it, to will change and overcome that heavy weight.

I crave for the Lord to renew my broken spirit.

I yearn for moments to turn into days strung into weeks and then months where I am not walking in fear of anything but the mighty God I put my trust in.

I ache for His presence to bring me peace, moment after moment, day after day. Grace abounding, because He can and He will and He does. He brings the grace, my friends.

"When your past memories are bigger than your present dreams your life is in trouble." I saw that today and I am taking one day at a time to breathe and dream about today and about tomorrow. To not dwell. To hold in good things, future things, present things.

I hope to find His heart in the dailiness of my healing. Even when I take one step forward and three steps back.

Join me this December, and pursue a delight-filled spirit?

december 2015 goals

to you, who chose abortion

Camp Tadmor, Oregon I have been thinking about you so much these last few months. Your story that I do not know bounces around in my heart and I wonder what you are doing today, right now, in this moment. I don't know much about your story, nothing at all, except one seemingly-minor decision that was made: abortion. Whether it was earlier this week or 55 years ago, you remember it like it was happening in this moment. You recount that day, that decision, that moment, and you wonder where the freedom that was promised to you went.

Where is the freedom that you were promised? The release and relief, that feeling of rightness and wholeness?

For years I have prayed for you, hoping the best, hoping His grace would engulf you day after day, letting you rest.

We are in the throws of adopting and I think of you more than ever, wondering if your decision will forever change our life too. The reality of abortion has become so much more than a vague concept in the last few years, it has become an indisputable and unavoidable truth that has invaded my heart like the sun invades the darkness, steady and sure, untouchable but visible in all the ways. The last few weeks I have seen post upon post of outrage over the horrible reality of Planned Parenthood crumbling the bodies of babies and selling them for profit. I have shared a few of these posts myself, out of complete uncertainty of what to do, feeling helpless in the way this darkness is happening. If anything, spread the word, get light shined into this darkness, someone stop this madness, is all I can seem to think. But while posting those two video links, my heart stopped and I wondered if you would see it and feel a ping of condemnation, a sting of shame. I do my very best, wording and then rewording, trying to wordsmith the post so that it is clear that I am not pointing my finger at you, at the woman who chose abortion, but at Planned Parenthood and the evil that is being conducted. 

I imagine you battling again and again the shame and guilt and regret. I imagine you walking out of that building, with a piece of you extracted from your very self and exterminated forever, wondering if what you decided was the right decision, wondering if that really was a life. I imagine you remembering that day, year after year, craving invisibility, hiddenness. I imagine Mothers Day being painful, the weeks leading up to it littered in grief. I imagine you wondering if your baby is in heaven with Jesus, imagining if your baby will introduce you to Jesus one day. I believe he or she will; I believe that your baby will be whole, no longer torn apart and crushed from forceps and instruments and tweezers, and ready to shower you in grace and love, the same love and grace that stems from Jesus.

I read these words from you, about how you were 23 when you got pregnant, fearful of what your family would do once they found out about your situation. You were scared, so scared, that you immediately thought of abortion. Remove the tissue, remove the issue - certain that would bring wholeness and healing, certain that was the decision for you, that you could move on forever and not blink. Not carry this decision around with you like a tumor on your heart. You explained that you know God can forgive you, but that you are sure you will be bearing this sin forever on this earth. That you feel shame for what you have done, that you always, every single day, ask the Lord to forgive you and heal you deeply, because you cannot forgive yourself. Oh my dear, He has forgiven you. You explained that you cry alone, so often, wishing you could undo the past, undo the decision, remake that choice, choose life for your baby. You are 28 while you write these words, five years later, and not a day goes by that you do not think of that day. You say that you look forward to the day He blesses you with another angel, but fear your body may be ruined from that one decision that felt so small and insignificant all those years ago.

I am sorry if my unknowing words deepen the caverns of the wounds you carry with you. I do my best to think about my words, but I know that I have no idea what hurts and what doesn't. I know that I do not know your grief the way I know mine, which means that I hurt you without meaning to. I am sorry for the shame that you have had to carry around like rocks on your back, for years, alone. I am sorry that you have been shunned and thrown out, rejected to your core, cast down as worthless.

But today, today I pray that you let His love invade every broken piece of your heart, that Jesus's presence would capture and gently caress the pieces of grief that have taken over parts of your soul. I pray that you allow yourself time to heal, that the healing ladder takes time, more time than we like, and that this is just as much a loss as any; I pray that these words contribute to healing and not hurting. My friend, I wish I were with you praying and holding your hand, praying freedom and peace over you now, telling you the Truths that you are beloved and so forgiven. I hope for you a joy that is impenetrable, only possible through Him.

I am sorry for the lie that was told to you, that you would be whole, that this one decision will not affect or influence or alter you. It angers me, deep inside of my bones, the fabrication, the deception, the lies, the distortion of reality. It infuriates me for you.

I am sorry for ever deepening the wound that has widened your sou, where sorrow has moved in permanently.

You are deeply loved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

finding Him: the healing ladder

healing ladder The coffee shop isn't too full today, but rather a person here and a person there. The middle tables are emptied, no one filling them up as occupied. My side of the shop has two tables which are filled full, except they're not - my table could seat four but seats one, the other only holds two, but they are as inhabited as they will be until the current renters leave. The other side of the small room that has become a second home to me is two more tables, both with one person each, doing their own thing. Computers, devices, books.

David Crowder's voice plays and repeats through my ear buds, singing about how He loves us. About how beautiful He is, how great His affections are for me, how He loves me.

I type letters forming into words translating into sentences into my Word document, I process things that are painful to think about, but need to be put to words, need to be pulled out of my head and my heart so that they can be sorted out and understood or at least known in the small world that exists as me; emptied so that my head and heart have space for more of Him.

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. 

The words that forever altered my life four years ago while sitting on the sand dune that stands at Winema, a camp for students to meet Jesus face to face, repeat and replay, over and over again, and my heart is weaving them in and out and in and out of itself. My heart is grabbing ahold of these words again, like an outstretched hand. Isn't it so important to be honest with where we are, what our hearts are doing and what they are processing, so that we can move forward and find healing, becoming a whole person, so we can then launch into loving others well? The whole person that we are destined to be, the wonderfilled person of glory and grace, transforming into someone so much more beautiful than we would ever have planned out for ourself? The healing ladder, becoming the whole soul we are intended to be, may take a little longer for me than it does for you, and vice versa, and I believe that is okay. I believe that we can be patient with one another.

When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are, and how great Your affections are for me.

I type words rapidly, processing hurts and aches and bruises that have made their home in the whole that is me, and suddenly as his words pass through the tiny cord into the ear buds, traveling through the canals of my ears, penetrating my heart, I am right back at that place where I realize just how beautiful He is, how great His affections are for me. His glory, His beauty, His love for me eclipses and overshadows and dims the afflictions that nag at the soul of me.

How He loves us, so, oh How He loves us. 

I think of those words, branded into my rib cage, forever and always inked into who I am.

And for a brief moment in time, I exist in the beautiful escape of His presence and His love, the grace that abounds amidst any afflictions that I may have.  His glory and His all-encompassing loveliness that is so full of peace and delightful beauty, His affections and care and gentle touch, they dim and becloud, they surpass any grievance that prevail.

It is when I turn my gaze towards Him, to listen to words that will direct and guide me to Him, when we choose to choose Him, choose His presence despite or rather especially because of the affliction, the damage, the infirmity; it is when we choose to choose Him that we encounter the reality of joy amidst the pain. Peace surpassing the understanding.

I am His child learning to play with the chalk all over again, finding delight in the little things, climbing one rung of the healing-ladder at a time.

elsy grace

the coffee date (dos)

the coffee date If we were on a coffee date, I would more than likely show you what my next tattoo is going to be. I have been thinking about it for months and asked my artist friend to draw me up a little something. He is so gifted, like those people you see on TV or read about in magazines or go to concerts..he is talented in that crazy way that boggles your mind and makes you wonder how the entirety of the world is not lined up at his door asking him to create them something beautiful and unique and amazing. This ink so black will soon be etched into my skin until death do us part; but once death do us, this ink and me, part, I will then be able to greet the honorary soul face to face. What a beautiful day that shall be.

If we were on a coffee date, I would share that I am struggling with fear. Fear was absent from my heart for 3 straight years, it seemed, and I believed I had conquered it like you conquer a spider that you step on with a shoe that you aren't wearing, because you don't want to chance it getting on your foot. And I don't mean fear of a spider itself, because I will never be away from that fear; I mean fear of actual humans and their opinions that weigh so heavy on my value itself, as though my value depends on their thoughts of me - but that's simply not true. I thought that fear was to never again touch the face of my soul, like I was immune to it,  much like I thought I was immune to shingles and chicken pox which came back to haunt me twice over already. But no, I did not conquer fear and I don't believe that is humanly possible while living on earth. If it is, I think that we should stop sipping coffee and you should tell me right this instant how the heck you stopped fear from invading you and taking over your life and your mind, stopping it from writing itself on your heart over and over again. I mean, I have a few tricks here and there that involve submitting my heart to Jesus and reminding myself who He is and who I am with Him. In those moments, when I am wrapped up tight in His pure and perfect love, like a blanket swaddling an actual baby, I am free of fear and released of the tension that it brings. I need to let Him do more swaddling.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I have not been back from Europe even a week and yet it feels like a lifetime ago. I kid you not, did I even go or was that a dream? My biggest goal for my return, my reentry into this life I live, was to not crowd out my heart and soul and calendar with things and meetings and to do's. That I was going to spend more time with friends, building and investing in friendships, and that I was going to read more and pray more and sit in silence more and take a nap every once in awhile. But of course, the women's retreat is this weekend and lots of life is being lived and it takes more than one single thought and desire to snap yourself out of a life long engrained habit of BUSYNESS. So, I am back at it again. At trying to slow down and not clog my schedule like hair in the drain, and breathe a little bit and smell the roses. I mean really smelling the roses that are in the vase in my living room. I know, because I have certainly experienced it, that if I slow down and unclog the drain of my calendar, that God will bloom into the quiet space of my home and the shattered pieces of my heart and He will spread Himself like yeast in bread, leavening and changing me completely. Into something beautiful, because when He is involved, beauty just happens. Beauty is inevitable when God is involved.

If we were on a coffee date, I would unfold this magical truth that I have the best group of girls ever. I mean dang. They are glittery and shiny and all the things real and beautiful. They are honest and true, they are in middle and high school and I feel that if anymore of them join this thing, my heart might explode all over the place. We talk about things like Jesus and tampons and boyfriends and non-boyfriends and Bible reading and grief and loss and sadness and anger and love and joy and self image and so many things that I could list them forever in a long string of 'ands'. I would tell you that I love these girls, so much that I forfeit sleep to meet them at 6:30 or 7 am before school just to chat and wipe the sleep from our crusty swollen eyes together and read the Bible and pray but mostly just let each other know how wonderfully loved they are. I would tell you that I make time in my life for them and watch them play sports or sing songs in choir or blow into musical instruments or dance or act in theater; that they sort of have been moving into my heart for the last four years and they take up so much space in my heart, I didn't realize my heart was so big. But it has to be, if they are all in there, because they are loud and noisy and excited and full of just as many feely-feels as I am.

Here are a few of them:

 If we were on a coffee date, I would honestly share that I have come  to grips that I kind of suck at being a friend. And I desperately want to be better at it.  True friendship, I am learning, is sacred and necessary and important..it is necessary to be whole and healthy and human because humans are fickle and we forget to focus on Jesus first sometimes and true friends point you that way. Even if its blunt and painful. True friendship happens when we fall into, or rather we bend our knees, into that deeper level of ourselves and we cross over the brokenness of who we are. Like my friends Bethany and Emily who have crossed over the most broken parts of me at my worst and remained patient and gentle and thoughtful and generous and so many loving selfless things. We are so fragile if we are honest, and when we allow someone to cross over that, releasing our need to appear perfect and whole, because let's be honest, we aren't, then we allow people to prove that they won't leave us just because we are human. I've come to realize how little I believe in my friends ability to extend grace and understanding. Friendship is an opportunity to be Jesus to someone, acting out God's love in tangible ways. Like my friend Jesse - the other day I called to update her on my life because its been actual ages since I have been able to do so...and she just loved me so well and loved me with grace and patience that I don't deserve. She represented God to me and reminded me who He was and I now have a more profound sense of God's love for me. So much so that after I hung up the phone, I started crying so hard in thanksgiving for such a friend as her.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I have a key board safe guard on my new computer and it is annoying and hard to get used to.

I would then ask you: how are you doing with your fears? Are you fearing anything or anyone? What makes you fear them? Is there a lie that you are believing about yourself? What is that lie? Can I remind you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made? That He sees you right this moment and says, "You are mine and I delight in you."

I would share with you this piece that has been etching itself into my heart, writing itself so that it becomes more obvious than the fears that tend to scream themselves at me:

"See, God has come to save me. I will trust in Him and not be afraid. The LORD GOD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation." Isaiah 12:2

Fire away, my coffee date, how are you?

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This post was adopted by me from Amber at Mr Thomas And Me.

 

Upheld in the Deep Waters

trials and tribulations and jesus

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He delivered me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the Lord upheld me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.” Psalm 18:16-19

It is possible that your heart is residing in a place that does not seem to reflect the picture these words are painting. Safety. Deliverance. Rescued. Delightful.

You may be slumping and sagging in a sea of crashing waves that feels so desperately isolated, feeling anything but delightful and rescued; others say they understand and it is possible that they do. Despite their pure-hearted and loving attempts to bring comfort, what may instead be brought forth is discouragement as they attempt to pull you out of the water themsleves. But don't be upset with them; they only love you. You may feel as though life itself, maybe God, is attacking you and you are at your weakest. How can the Lord be upholding me when He is busy dragging me down? You may wonder.

when i am weak then i am strong

[The crazy thing about being at your weakest is that there is so much room to see Christ.]

In those moments of weak, in the days of trials and sorrows and weary dreary aches, Christ is near. He is present. He may not seem like it, but may I assure you and let you know that He is? That doesn’t mean you have to get up and DO. That doesn’t mean you have to say things you do not mean or reside where you are not. But it means you can recognize that He is there in the midst. Recognize that God is not life and life is not God – circumstances are not God. We can yell at God and blame God and ask God why, but He is not our circumstance. He is not to blame, even if He could have prevented. He is not here to serve us, to prevent suffering and pain, He is here to be just that: HERE. Present. With us. God with us. He sees our everything, He sees our naked souls bare and vulnerable. He, above all, is trustworthy with the preciousness of them.

[And oh how He loves.]

When we are weak we have room and reason to call out to Him. When we are weak, we cannot depend upon ourselves. When we are weak, we have no where to turn but to Him. It is possible that you feel you are avoiding Him, you are turning away from Him. It is possible that you are. But as you recognize those things and hear the still small voice, “Fear not, for I am with you,” you know He is there.

I encourage you to let Him reach down and rescue you, to allow His strong hand to draw you out of deep waters. Just because He draws you out of the deep waters doesn’t mean you don’t have shark bites and coral cuts to deal with. But He will be there to heal those too. When your enemies are too strong, allow Him to deliver you, let Him protect and stand to comfort you - use His word, the Bible, to be a source of strength and comfort and protection. When you are weak and lying in the sticky muck, uncertain of what to do or where to go, lacking any ounce of the will-power you once contained…let Him uphold you. Let Him draw you out of the deep and dangerous waters. In broken and empty times you must simply exist and recognize that He is there. Lean into His chest. Hear His heartbeat.

Can you rest in the peace that He is there, with you? Imagine your weak fragile self lying so carefully in His mighty strong and safe hands. Head upon His chest, listening to His wildly beating heart; much like a Father should safely love His child.

Let Him uphold you, because He delights in you.

the safety of His arms

 

When waves come crashing at your feet

a blog post about trials and Jesus Dear girls-

It has been so long since we have met on this space. The days and weeks that have passed since I last wrote to you have held so much life.

Girls. [My whole heart and desire is to show you more of Christ.] I yearn into my bones and back out through my entire existence to point you towards Him, to reveal that He is in fact the very best thing for you, and that you need Him. I don't know how else to put it: without Him, life sucks. Without the Life Source, the Hope, the Joy, the Freedom that only Jesus can give, life isn't all that it can be.

With or without Jesus, you will have trials and troubles, worries and concerns, fears and temptations. Life will still throw itself at you like a whirlwind attempting to drown the joy in your heart, forcing it to disintegrate like sand in your hands. The waves of the ocean may crash and tumble, twisting you all around, banging your precious body on the sandy bottom of the sea. The storms will still show up, tossing your hair up and around, tangling it into a mess of knots attempting to frustrate you.

Without Jesus, crumbling to bits and pieces has never felt so lonely, so desperate, so hopeless.

take heart for i have overcome

With Jesus, crumbling to bits and pieces reminds you that there is Hope for tomorrow, Hope for forever, and Joy amidst the strongest of waves. Amidst whatever waves crashing against your flesh, Jesus is more present than I could ever attempt to explain. Jesus is there and He is close and He is holding your heart. He is safe and secure, He is trustworthy, and He co-suffers with you. Jesus knows, He sees, He loves. He is patient and kind, He understands all, He believes the best for you. Jesus gives you freedom when you accept the Truth that your circumstances do not define you. The truth that when a situation stirs up your world, weighs your soul so heavy you cannot stand, Jesus still defines you as beloved, as His. Jesus gives you worth and meaning and purpose. Jesus remains.

My girls. You may or may not have waves crashing at your feet, threatening the very life you desire, attempting to steal you away into despair. But there will [more than likely] be a day when the waves are too strong for you, too scary, too big. They may not seem fair. And when those waves are threatening your joy and your hope, I pray that you cling to Jesus. I pray you remember that Jesus sees the biggest picture, is piecing together the picture for all of humanity. I pray that you see Him there and you believe that He is for you. I pray and I hope with earnest that you let Him be near you. That you accept the gift of grace and freedom that He so earnestly offers you.

I love you girls. You know that.

But He loves you more than I could ever dream to.

With so much hope,

Natalie

when waves come crashing

Freedom in Forgiveness

freedom in forgiveness With my heart sinking to my knees, I listened to 6 teenage girls share their gut wrenching stories of sexual and/or physical abuse, words spoken to them of threat and hatred, years of jumping from sexually-abusive foster families to  loving adoptive foster families, turning to addictive escape methods, and so many more horrors that 7 to 15 year girls should not even know about.

Camp never fails to bring me to my knees with the realization that I cannot do this thing of life on my own. Camp unburies my own memories from the days I was a camper. I have now stepped into the big shoes of Mighty Camp Counselor - and those shoes are a lot heavier than I remember seeing them as. I have spent approximately 20 weeks at various camps throughout this small life of mine. The last 5/20 weeks have been as a Camp Counselor. It never fails to humble me, reminding me of the significant role I am offered to fill at camp. These teenagers register for camp with the hope to encounter Something Big. I get the absolute privilege of digging deep, inviting these girls into raw and honest conversations, pointing to Jesus in relentless ways...for just a few days. I don't want to forsake that opportunity. The main avenue I choose to skip the surface talk and get to Jesus is by asking if anyone wants to share their story - if that intimidates them to their core, which it usually does, I offer to share mine. In doing so, I strip down barriers that were unnecessary. Barriers such as the fear of being known and unloved, the fear of being rejected, the fear of being condemned. Very real things.

Many of the stories I hear at camp force my actual legs to grow numb and I crumble beneath the weight of brokenness this world carries. I break because the stories shared aren't unfolding the way God planned this world of stories to unfold. That may seem contrary to what you've heard...but I believe it as true. I believe that God's intentions, His desire, when He made this world was for us to live in harmony, in peace, without brokenness. That is His design; but He also gave us this wonderful thing called: FREE WILL. The freedom to make decisions, to have within ourselves a will, a desire, a choice-making ability. With this free will often comes free disaster. Disaster like...abuse (sexually, physically, emotionally), abandonment, neglect, loss, lots of yelling, addictions, adultery, murder, and the list goes on and you know all too well what else the list contains. This brokenness, [when in the thick of it], often feels like hell-on-earth; this is because these things are opposite of heaven, they are completely contrasting with what God had intended for us.

Maybe you, my wonderful reader, have lived through [almost]-hell on earth -- moments where so much darkness covered you, you were unsure that a joyful-freedom-peaceful life existed outside of the walls of your own home. Darkness engulfs you and you feel trapped and you don't know that there is any good; can God even see you?

psalm 139 12

Forgiveness seems farfetched, something for others but not for you. The hurt you have endured is unjustifiable, inexcusable, unforgivable. Forgiveness is for weak people, you may think. Forgiveness is for people who want to set themselves back up for hurt; you will not do that. You will harden your heart if needed, place up extreme boundaries to protect yourself from being hurt in that way ever again. This is where trust and forgiveness differentiate. I am here to tell you that you can whole-heartedly forgive someone, find freedom, without having to trust them. Without having to place yourself in a situation to be taken advantage of, abused, wounded.

Forgiveness of deep wounds does not weaken us, it strengthens us and invites us into a place of freedom. Freedom of peace and joy. You may feel extremely weak, broken to shambles even. But in Jesus, you can gain the unexplainable strength to forgive. 2 corinthians 12 10

Forgiveness may not happen over night. Forgiveness can be a process, but the crucial tipping point is choosing to enter that process. Choosing to ask Jesus for the strength to forgive, to help you hope the best, believe the best, want the best for ____________. My friends, I so want you in on this. I so want you to join me in this freedom of forgiveness. I am telling you, it is free. It is good. It is lovely and delightful and wild and full of Him. And He is good.

How do you begin this process, this journey of forgiveness? You decide to begin; you commit to yourself and to Jesus that you want to walk down this hard and freeing road. Tell someone who is trustworthy, who may even know the deep wounds you are carrying around. Ask them to help you, to pray for you, to root you on in grace. Pray for this person, these people, and ask Jesus to give you eyes for them as He sees them. Ask Jesus for understanding and compassion; it is highly likely they are battling their own prison and are suffering from darkness. I can almost guarantee it. Ask Jesus to reveal a deep understanding and give you a heart for them; ask Him to help you forgive. Every time their name or face pops into your heart, mind, or vision...instead of hardening your heart that spews bitter blood that tastes like sour vinegar, ask Jesus to guard your heart. Lean on His understanding, lean into His grace, and ask for His heart. You may fail and you must remember that Jesus is the man of grace. God is the God of grace. So pray, and ask Jesus to help you through this process.

"Take me into your freedom of delightful joy, Jesus. Help me forgive, help me see _____ with eyes of grace and forgiveness. Guard my heart."

I have walked this journey and am still walking this journey. I choose to forgive those who have wounded me deeply, though it doesn't always come easy. But boy, is there freedom on the other side. I hope the best and pray for these people, I [most-of-the-time] see them with eyes of grace...but I don't always insert myself in a scenario to be wounded again. When in their presence, I always ask Jesus to guard my heart. I give you my word, friends, forgiveness is worth the work.

[If you have any questions, comments, or prayer requests, PLEASE email me or comment below. It is my utmost honor to pray for people and point towards freedom found in Jesus.]

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galatians 51 galatians 513 proverbs 3 5 matthew 6 15

O my child.

O my childI love you so. From above the highest of skies to the brightest of sunrises and throughout the silence of night I see you. I watch you as you work so hard to make My scarred Son famous. He was marred in hopes to save all hearts, taking the charge for many.. even you, which you cannot forget. But there is just one thing, for now, we need to address. Do you disregard my words? I warned you, "people will be boastful and proud" which I do not want to allow My salvation is no reward for what you have done so please stop boasting, for who can boast? Not one.

O my child Do you not see? We have been through this before You are to boast for nothing except the cross that Jesus Christ bore. Your arrogance is a disgrace that I crave to erase and completely shatter with My grace. Please do not hide your face. This grace already covers you. The grace that brought you into this place of undeserved privilege. The grace that will replace your flesh's trace with Mine, a pure love so divine.. the grace that embraces all even through the arrogance you display that betrays My sacred praise.

O my child I accept you, completely imperfect even when you think you're near perfect. Correct you, I will, with patience as we slowly do small operations on your heart; you will admire Me again inspired by the humility of those around you. Their love for you will never expire, and I say that with a proud smile.

O my child please note I was proud of you the moment you said "yes" to me I was pleased the day you admitted your heart's mess. You need not strive to please man but instead thrive to be alive, living according to My plan.

O my child I know what is best for you and that is what I yearn for. I want to bless you as you learn to discern how to live this life. At times I will be firm, but that is out of a pure concern, and desire for you to return to the way My creation was purposed to be, which is exactly why I purchased your heart at Calvary.

O my child Your life has been reconciled So arise and go forth forget the lies about needing to prove your worth, do not blind yourself with self-glory but remember that that is My territory. I love you. I love you.

Embarrassed For Ignoring God.

20131014-094326.jpg As I sit here by the fire and read the rest of Psalm 78, I found myself growing furious at the Israelites. From verse 26-31 God reveals that He powerfully satisfied all of their desires, but they did not respond with gratitude nor faith. "Despite His wonders, they refused to trust Him."

As I read on, I grew in my anger. Not until God began killing them did they repent & seek Him. Not until their physical life was at stake did they care enough to take God seriously. Then, Jesus did the thing He does with the Holy Spirit. He convicted, He pointed out in me, various areas at fault.

1. Obviously, I am just the same if not worse than those Israelites: I became angry towards self as I remembered that I am always provided for, even in abundance, and too often I am not responding with faith & gratitude.

2. Verse 38-39 rocked me. Gods love is so deep..so loyal & indescribable. "Yet He was merciful and forgave their sins and did not destroy them all. Many times He did not unleash His fury ! For He remembered that they were merely mortal, gone like a breath of wind that never returns."

Whaaaaaaat. Can you PLEASE just read that. There is so much there I cannot give it justice. Before I realized it, I was angry with myself. First, God is amazing. He is so merciful when we do not deserve it. Second, we are but a breath of wind. A vapor. Barely here, never to return. Third, the God of all the Earth forgives those who simply give Him lip service, who do not wholeheartedly worship Him. So why can't I forgive someone who cut me in line? Or who appears to be/maybe even is prideful? Since when do I have any room to withhold forgiveness from anyone?

Do I think that I am so holy and so right, that even I can withhold forgiveness when Jesus Christ himself doesn't? Do I get to say whose sin is bigger, whose sin is too big to be covered by Jesus' blood that has been shed for all?

What about you? Are you blinding yourself to see where God is faithfully providing for you? Is there anyone you need to forgive? Maybe even from months ago, years. Maybe from just this morning. Bitterness is purely evil and it will creep into your heart - and I tell you what, it does no one any good. Especially you.

Seek Jesus' face & ask forgiveness, give thanks. Be reminded that you yourself are a mere mortal, gone like a breath of wind that never returns. God is overflowing with mercy, abundantly pouring it out so that it can be poured out of us into others.