You WANT this!

i want godWhat do we really want? Sometime we know, sometimes we think we know, most of the time we don’t stop long enough to really answer the question. The words within these pages are so rich, point straight to the heart, and are worth their weight in precious minutes. I needed these words, and wasn’t really aware I needed them. Lisa expresses truth in such a passionate, transparent manner, that I paused, underlined, and thought. Lisa covers topics that include wanting God more than comfort, logic & reason, popularity, and blessing. For this season of my life, not only did these words refocus me, it helped me to share with other family members by starting a conversation that needed to take place. So join Lisa, get in the game, for as she says, “We are at our very best when we make peace with who God made us to be.”

Feel free to clink the picture above, or here to jump over to Amazon.

Here are some of my favorite underlines:

  • The truth is, until the want matches the need, nothing will ever change.  Needing without wanting is just a really good idea that never sees light.
  • Wanting God is not a risk.  Living without wanting Him is.
  • We who have much are often the most in need because we have forgotten how it feels to be desperate.
  • The people who go hard for God are not the ones who try the hardest.  They are the ones who want Him more than anything else.
  • God rarely uses the ones we’d expect.
  • If He asks a question, it’s only to open a narrower mind to a bigger view.
  • The “more” God gives is really about the loss and less and the willingness to do without and yes, the joy in that.  It’s about discipline and dedication and focus and surrender.
  • The more we have of Him, the ore we survive and even thrive.
  • …only He knows the time when are hearts are truly ready to see.
  • He designed us to be capable of going all in.
  • When we want God more than anything, we forgo our control of what life looks like.  We must be ready for popularity lost.  Comfort interrupted.  Reason tossed away.  Self disregarded.  Sin exposed.
  • Wanting more really just means that what we have now will no longer do, and we believe He has better.
  • I want God to consume me more than the mess that is currently consuming my life.
  • We can’t serve God fully while we are all settled in, because God is the great unsettler.
  • He doesn’t want us to settle for sitting on the sidelines and watching our influence go by when He has given us the ability to play ball.
  • If God is ever going to invade our insides and do that powerful work we groan for, we are going to have to stop sabotaging it by insulting ourselves to the point where neither He nor we can move.
  • Things keep us comfortable but comfortable keeps us from God.
  • People who are used by God aren’t born special.  They’ve just tasted something good and kept coming back for it.  They live with a different longing.
  • Let God break your rules.
  • Life with God was never meant to be a calculated risk; it was meant to be an illogical surety.
  • God often calls us to the illogical and unreasonable places to expose what position control holds in our lives.
  • He doesn’t have to make sense to be Sovereign.
  • We will never be qualified to do anything God-sized; all we can ever be is willing.
  • Wanting God over logic and reason comes with an underlying trust on our part and thorough follow-through on His.
  • God is waiting on us to choose Him, only Him, always Him, forever Him…and he will release us from every self-inflicted chain that has kept us bound so we can live free.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for your Word.  Thank you for your truth.  Thank you for your grace and mercy and forgiveness.  Thank you for giving us the desire to Want You.  Lord we get side-tracked, we get pulled, we get off-track while getting on-track.  We mess up.  And yet, there You are.  Forever and always.  Thank you for loving me enough to die, knowing full well the extent of my sin.  Thank you for your servant Lisa who has a willing heart to pursue you, to love you, to want You more than comfort, popularity, or even the blessing.  My heart has been changed and inspired to seek more of You.  Lord forgive me when I don’t.  I rejoice in knowing and believing your truth, and in that truth, I am free.

 

What do I want my girls to see?

athletaWow.  I’m not sure where to start.  It’s been awhile since I felt the nudge to write.  And that’s okay.  I’m learning to be okay with the truth that God states about a time and season for all things.  That includes a time to process and grow closer through writing and a time to shut up, I mean, be quiet.  Lately I’ve noticed those “moments”.  The ones that cause me to pause in the middle of a somewhat normal day.  The ones that tilt my head ever-so-slightly to the left, in a “huh?” gesture.  And most of these moments involve my children.

Today, I found myself stretching near my usual spot at home, prepping for a run, thinking about who-knows-what, when I hear the voice of my 11-year-old daughter.

Just three days earlier, I had an opportunity to shop for the first time at a new store.  While looking for a suit I could wear for a triathlon, I came across this company on-line.  They were a bit pricey, but “everyone said” their items are of high quality.  And so I made a purchase.  And henceforth, we receive a catalog in the mail every few months.  I must admit, I relish looking through all the comfortable athletic wear.  I look, I just don’t buy.  Target and Old Navy are more my price range, and I’m okay with that.

And then they build a store here in Columbus.

And then my birthday rolls around.

And then my ever-so-attentive husband knows about my “practical” nature and purchases a gift card for me.

A month later, the opportunity arrived, and I made a purchase.

Long story short, I decided to baptize new said clothes this morning, and while stretching I hear…

Mommy, you look just like one of the girls from the magazine.

And I scoff.

I did.

The reason for my reaction?  Just 3 days ago, while trying on these clothes, I criticized His creation.

You see, my body image and I have a long history.  During my college years, I became a slave to a warped reality of the “magazine look”.  I had convinced myself I was doing a good thing, I was showing strength and discipline in controlling my food intake and exercise output.  I really thought I was on the right path, so much so, that everyone who spoke contrary to my new focus was completely off-base.  And then God sent me a man who saw through my false reality, and spoke truth into my life, even with all the push-back I dished out.  And through this journey to discover His truth, through His rescue, through his never-ending, always and forever love, I know that I am redeemed and restored.

When He tells me, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”  It’s true.  And when I criticize His creation, I’m basically telling Him he got it wrong.  And I know that that God doesn’t make mistakes.  He has created all things beautiful.  And that includes me.  And you.

And 20 years later, I still get it wrong.

But I am quick to call it out.  Quick to recognize the lie and call out the truth.  It’s a choice.  It’s practiced.  It becomes more common place.

And as I recognize the date, just three days ago.  It hits me.  8 years ago to the day, I clearly heard two words from God.  “It’s time”.  And I said yes, and my running journey began.

The most powerful truth I’ve learned is the source of my strength.  All of it comes from Him.  All of it.  And so, my darling daughter, when you see Mommy, and you see the modestly dressed women who care for their health and strengthen their physical bodies in a catalog, my prayer is that you see the strength of the Lord in me.  May you know that I count it a joy to be dedicated in my pursuit of Him through the clarity and closeness I experience when my body is moving.  I run because God has allowed it.  I run to pursue more of Him.  I run as a reminder that He gives and He takes away (pain), blessed be the name of the Lord.

May you sweet, darling girl KNOW that you are His beautiful creation.  You were divinely fashioned in my womb.  And you are loved simply because you are His.

Thank you for reflecting that beauty to me today.

Life is about adjustments…

Change ahead isolated sign

We just wrapped up basketball season with our son, the seventh grader.  I like to say I’ve grown up in basketball as well, watching him play since the third grade.  If there was one major improvement to the team as a whole this year, it was the way they adapted their play when facing different opponents.  In fact, I’d go as far as saying the team who was able to adapt their style of play, to adjust the most, was the team able to come out on top. Every time.

Our fifth grade daughter is playing this year as well.  We’re very proud of her.  As my husband will say, she had to drink a bit out of the fire hose at first, being a “retired” gymnast, she learned lots very quickly, and yet now, she is one of the most solid defensive players.  As I’ve watched, I notice different things in comparison to the seventh grade boys.  Beyond the obvious, I can predict with a high percentage, what else girl will do with the ball when they have it.  Though they’ve been taught the words of plays, literally walked through the bodily placement of plays, and could even tell you the “whys” of plays, come game time, they have a propensity to get into a default mode.  The reason I know what they will probably do with the ball is because I’ve seen them do it over and over again.  Without the conscious choice to make a change or an adaption, the results continue to remain the same.  And might I say, the ball often gets taken away.

As I ran on the treadmill this morning, I found myself pondering this fact.  How do I react to adjustments that need to be made in my life?  Growing up and into my college years, I craved predictability.  I heavy weighed pros and cons, looked at all angles before making a decision, mostly because I didn’t want to screw something up, but truly I was afraid to take a large risk without “knowing” what consequences would result.  Because of this, I thought I was safe, I thought I was content, I thought I was relatively happy.  What I didn’t realize was that I was choosing confinement.

And then…

The Lord tells me in order to gain life, I need to lose it.  He tells me that He loves me, even before the world began, that He sent His son to a horrible death all while knowing every single sin I would commit in my lifetime, and that no-thing could ever separate me from this unconditional love, no-thing I could ever do would be enough to earn a place at his table, so He made a way.  And over time, I’ve come to believe this truth.  And now I’m a bit further along in my journey, and I can say that I no longer “worry” about these adjustments (most days).  And in worry’s place, know what I’ve found?  Freedom.  Freedom in that I don’t have to be God, play Good, nor handle the things that God handles.  And I have adjustments all the time.  And now I can flow with them, in them, in peace.  Do I KNOW the results of these adjustments before they happen, or even why they’re happening?  Nope I, don’t.  But I trust.

And when I’m floundering in weariness, confusion, or frustration, I stand on what I know.  Truth.  And I choose to trust.  And therein lies the adventures of life.  Had “this” not happened, I wouldn’t have known “this”, or had “that”.  Ironic, but as I type this, my husband comes out of his office, and he has something he wants to share.  I’m mid-thought, and yet I desire to give him my attention at the same time.  Choices.  And then I have an opportunity to see a pre-performance of my daughter’s music program at her school, and my household project vies for my attention to finish.  And I step into the next choice.  And at the end of the day, when sleep begs, I want to let my actions give credence to my priorities.  My daughter’s jump n’ hug was its own reward.  And when they do, sleep comes easily and peaceful.

And do I have this all figured-out?  Not even close.  But today, when faced with work adjustments before my eyes were even focused, I knew that His plan would live out, and I could trust that this was the best plan for the day.  Why?  Because in making the choice to trust over and over again, THIS has become my default mode.  And the fret, the worry, and anxiety just forget to show up.  They no longer are my first visitors.  They may make a guest appearance at the table, but they are easily dismissed, no longer invited to stay.  Others may ask to take a seat as well, doubt, negative-self-talk, and condemnation, but they are dismissed as well.  Those that remain are joy, peace, and contentment.  These, my friends, are the sweet fruits designed for us to partake in.  Are we willing to lose our lives, only to gain them?

Take it from a bad basketball player (and I don’t mean that figuratively), I’ve learned from both my Father and my children alike.  This team sport of life is better lived when seeing the betterment of adjustments.  What are your thoughts?

Organic community…

IMG_5779It was a Friday.  Our group had traveled through 7 days of mission-trip-bonding, and we found ourselves in the community of Las Bresas.  We were told by our group leader that we were bringing supplies in a pick up truck (i.e sand and 8 bags of cement mix).  We would use these supplies to give a family of 5 something they never had before – a floor other than dirt.  But what transpired in our time there was so much more than dirt.  We shared more than a little bit of sweat labor.  We shared life… for a day.

It was late morning as our bus slowly bumped along a path barely wide enough for our vehicle.  It pulled to a stop and one-by-one we filed out and were welcomed by a few of the neighbors, and before we knew it, a large number of children and Mommas were gathered to meet us.  We enjoyed sharing a few trinkets, a few treats, and a few stories and then slowly walked further back to where make-shift homes were gathered under trees.

We met a family.  Dad, Mom, son, and two young daughters.  They did not know we would be arriving today, and at the sight of our truck, Momma began to weep, and then she started tidying her home for her visitors and workers.  Through an interpreter our leader talked about where we were from and why we were here, and then we divided into groups.  Some stayed to help with the labor of the floor, others gathered to visit with neighbors and share about the gospel of Christ, others found themselves playing with the children, and others followed those who had gathered as they invited them to their homes.  Hands and feet.  Those led in the moment of where they felt their hearts compelling them to go.  And it was a beautiful sight.

IMG_5709For those working on the cement floor, water was needed to mix the materials, so with buckets in hand, they walked down an open path to the river nearby.  To get to this River, one passed a field of cows, a horse could be seen walking by, and the smell of pigs were in the air.  When arriving to the river, I looked over and saw people gathered to wash their clothes.  When I looked to the right, I saw men gathering supplies from the river, and a type of pipe system had begun.

It it was a beautiful sight.  Community gathered to use the natural resources provided to their village.  And in a small way, we were there to just be part of it all.

While some worked on mixing the cement, I went with a group of people to visit an older lady at her house.  As we began to talk, we learned of her story.  She’s 74 years old and she’s a Momma to 9 children.  Her husband passed away over 20 years old, so she lives in this home with her son.  She attended a church just down the road, and she had this aura of peace about her.  It made it that much more shocking to learn than three of her sons had been murdered.  Even more so, she leaves the judging to the Lord as one of the murders lives just across the street.  One child died early on in life, and another was “lost”.  Her son came home for lunch and he too carried this sense of peace about him.  In the midst of chaos, ultimate trust in the One who creates all His children was prevalent in such a tangible way.

IMG_5746After lunch we came back to work some more, and we also brought more supplies with us.  We noticed that a family of 6 had a home that consisted of a hammock strung between two trees, and that was it.  Someone had asked if we could create a temporary shelter for them in this their rainy season, and so we purchased a tarp.  With a bit of string we gathered, we were able to secure it to some tree posts to create a roof, and had some leftover to create a wall as well.  I must admit, we stumbled and bumbled and they respectfully watched.  We had no tools, no staple gun, no duct tape.  In fact, at one point, I asked it one gentleman wanted to assist in using some rope to secure one end.  I had a feeling we could watch and learn.  And we did.

While attempting to help, I noticed a Momma watching from nearby.  I felt drawn to her, strangely uninhibited by the language barrier, I attempted in very broken Spanish to ask a few questions.  I noticed she had a fire going and was cooking.  She proudly showed me the meager helping of vegetables she was stewing in her pot.  And she smiled.  And I smiled.  And I gave her a hug.  Well done Momma.  And I asked to see her house.  And she walking me into a small, dark space, dirt floors, well taken care of.  In one corner was a medium bed and a small bed.  In the other corner was a hammock and a few clothes hung along the wall.  And she told me she has 6 children.  And she smiled.  And I smiled.  And I gave her a hug.  She was proud of her family.  Thankful for the home she had been given.

IMG_5724

And then we visited another family.  This morning we learned that twin boys lived in this home.  Their Mom needed to take an antibiotic that had dried up her milk.  It had been awhile since those babies had milk.  So, we brought some formula and some clothes, bought a few toys, and simply wanted to give out of the abundance we’ve been given.  All credit to God because He is the great provider.  And that Momma hugged and wouldn’t let go.  And she said she is grateful to God for bringing us here.  And I wanted to say, “No, sweet Mama.  I am grateful to Him for bringing us here to you, for I am receiving far more than anything I could give.”

IMG_5729And the children gathered.  And I looked into their sweet faces, told them hello, asked them their name and how they were doing, and they reached for my hand and simply wanted to be in our presence.  And they had so much joy!  I couldn’t stop smiling, it was just so contagious.

IMG_5738One precious girl was fascinated with my yellow hair.  She looked into my blue eyes and called me beautiful.  I asked her to see her house.  And she walked me to her humble home where I met her father.  And she was tiny.  Tiny for 11 years old.  And it was as if I could see her future, and see the plans the Lord has in store for her.  Though in human eyes, she didn’t have or own very much, the eyes I looked into held all the hope in the world.  She stole my heart.

IMG_5776And then I looked to my right and I saw her.  She had met us at the bus two days prior, and in the same moment of being greeted and asked their name, she grabbed my hand and walked with me, leading a few others to houses we shared in earlier.  And today she was wearing a school uniform.  And she hugged me fiercely.  And she was a leader.  And I thought to start a game, a game my girls enjoy.  Face-to-face we clapped hands in rhythm.  And her face lit up, and in a cross-cultural moment, we were jiving to a Spanish tune.  And soon others joined.  And then I was invited into the “circle”, literally.  A rousing game of “duck, duck, goose” ensued, and then I learned a game in which each child in a circle counted to 9, with the tenth person attempting a slap to stay in the game, and then someone stood in the middle, and questions were asked, and with the right response, everyone scattered – run, they told me and grabbed my hand.  I laughed so hard, and the Mommas stood around shaking their head at this loco gringa.  And I wondered, when was the last time the Mommas got to play?  And we took lots of pictures.

IMG_5741IMG_5740And my heart was so full as I looked around at the community of God – different colors, different sizes, different ages, different languages – all made possible through the love of Christ.  And as we gathered in closing, praying together and celebrating a day of work and play, this precious family was overcome with emotion as they confessed their sin and welcomed Christ into their lives, receiving His salvation.  Because His love is irresistible.

IMG_5786And my heart was full.  And before parting, the little girls received a small gift of clothes.  These clothes once belonged to a little girl who is a friend of mine.  Her Momma and Father adopted her from China.  Her Momma dropped these clothes off to me just a few days before leaving.  These little girls cherished their gifts and sat down to admire their new items as any other girl would do.  And I gave that Momma a hug, and lingered just a bit longer.  Their lives were changed in more ways than adding a simple floor.  I will she her again in eternity.

And as we boaIMG_5794rded the bus, the sweet leader of a girl ran to me, grabbed my hand, and so proudly wanted me to meet her Momma.  And I gave her a big hug.  And I wanted so much to tell her how proud I was too meet the Momma of this big-hearted girl.  And she humbly looked at me and asked if I had any sandals left for her.  And I JUST gave a suitcase full of flip-flops generously provided through Old Navy to the Great Commission Church, and I personally had 2 pairs of flip flops back at the Mission house, and in an act nothing short of sheer common sense,  I had something she didn’t, and so I gave.  Literally, the shoes off of my feet.  And it was the easiest thing in the world to do.  The Bible talks about a time when people shared all that they had with neighbors.  And it’s beautifully simple.  And it was perfectly natural.  Because that’s the way God’s love works.  No strings attached.  And I couldn’t wait to share with my children, all this Momma had learned from her family in Honduras.  My God is a Great. Big. God.

Sometimes in confinement, we find freedom!

truck to prison

Love this picture… for so many reasons.  As you can see, the sky was true blue this particular Thursday.  The young girl next to me is 14 years old and attends a bilingual school.  She was riding with us to provide her gift of interpreting.  The other two lovely ladies were my roomies this week, one of which shared close sleeping quarters with me and didn’t freak out when I accidentally held her hand one evening 🙂  We’re smiling.  And we’re heading off to visit women in prison.

This decision was not reached lightly.  The evening before we found out that two ladies from the Toledo church that had visited before had other obligations this morning.  When asked about the conditions, they were very frank.  It’s a third world country, and it’s a prison.  We would be in the courtyard with the ladies and the men were free to mingle here as well.  This would need to be a call from God to go.  And so we prayed.  And each of us felt led to contact a loved one – my husband, a father, a mother.  Each one gave us their feedback, and God confirmed it in our hearts with this strange sense of peace.  Would it have been easy to stay near the Mission house and simply continue to work in the orphanage?  Yep.  But in this adventure called life, when God calls you to go, I’ve found I can yes yes with both confidence and anticipation.  And so, we did.  Our group prayed for us and for the ladies we would encounter, and we jumped in the back of a pick-up truck.

First we were driven to the church where we met up with a lady from the church who has been called to this prison ministry for the past 8 years.  I had been invited to her home for small group my last visit to Honduras, and I remember hearing her passion for this ministry.  She had a friend with her named Daisy, and so the 6 of us piled into a small car to drive to prison.  Luckily our young friend could fit on my lap as we bumped along the dirt roads, stalling in our stick shift a few times, but pressing ahead.  We listened to the conversations in Spanish as best we could, and I couldn’t help but wonder what God had in store for us as we enjoyed the humidity all the way till our arrival.

We would later drop Daisy off at her house not too far from the area we were arriving at, so it wasn’t very remote.  There was a chain gate, guarded by two women in camouflage uniforms.  Yolany waved, and they let us in with a smile.  We backed up under a tree, and piled out one by one.  I remember the sun shining and I remember thinking the building looked like any other building in town except for the large letters painted on the exterior of the building.  No barbed wire anywhere.

We walked to an awning where a gentleman in uniform was sitting at a small fold-up table with nothing put a plain piece of paper in front of him.  The two Honduran ladies greeted the gentlemen, showed them an ID and signed in.  We had zero interaction with this gentlemen at all.  We obviously were foreigners, but it didn’t matter.  We were with them… an unspoken trust.  And with that, we followed like little ducks through an open space where a metal door was pulled to the side for us.  The first face we saw was that of an older, robust woman.  Her skin was weathered, she had on an apron over her clothes.  She had this warm smile that simply invited me in.  We were greeted with a lingering hug, and a quick kiss on the cheek.  She was introduced as the “house mama” and led us directly to a small corridor.  And just as people welcomed us into their homes in the communities of Limon and Las Bresas, women pulled out chairs for us and took their own seats on a concrete bench attached to the wall.  In sitting down, we were almost knee to knee, and drying laundry was hanging just behind our heads.

prison 2

And this is where they live, 21 women.  Later we would learn that 500 men inhabit this dwelling as well.  Around the corner was a small kitchen area, and other than a guard who popped his head in once, we sat as members of this small family.  There was no agenda today.  It wasn’t a typical day to attend.  Yolany and Daisy visit every 15 days, but today God had an agenda beyond what any human could concoct on their own.  It began with a nudge.  And I just began to talk.  I don’t remember my exact words, but I do remember looking at a young girl sitting across from me and I asked her about Jesus, and with a shake of her head and mist in her eyes, she could not speak.  And I assured her that it was okay.  And I asked her if I could share my story.  And I did.  And the strangest thing happened.  My emotions slowly creeped up and threatened to spill forth from my eyes.  His presence was just so tangible there, my vulnerability so raw, my gratefulness so deep that in the midst of different languages, His love poured forth as I spoke about motherhood.

And I’m reminded of  Psalm 81:10 – I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt.  Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.

And then one of my roommates shared about her life before Christ and her life now, a past including abuse, and then the other spoke, a past including drugs and alcohol, and as tears were spilled, hands reached out, and toilet paper was passed, and the open building allowed the sun to shine even brighter.  And one by one, the ladies shared their stories.  They shared their name, they stated the reason for their incarceration, and they shared about their God.  Many were mothers.  Some had lost children, some were there for murder as a protection, one mother was even there because she took on the sentence of her pregnant daughter.  One cried as she shared about her six children who were probably wandering the streets.  She has learned to know God as her provider and is desperately clinging to God to provide for her babies as well.

And story after story, these women share about a faith that goes beyond what my mind can fathom.  They share from a soul who was once locked in a prison of selfish sin, but within this human prison, they have found the One who has set them free.  And I weep.  Lord, who am I to  be given such a beautiful, gracious gift of a faith that could move mountains, yet can’t move beyond the cell of confinement?  And I beg my mind to focus, and my tears to stay at bay as I listen intently to the heart of those who know evil and yet carry a peace and a joy.

OlgaAnd we meet a young pregnant girl.  Her name is Olga and she is due with a baby girl in December.  She has a beautiful smile.  The lady next to her nudges her to keep her in line as she speaks.  And she’s able to raise her baby here for 2 years.  And then she must leave.  And her father is in prison as well.  And my heart cries out to you, her provider.  And they will celebrate with a baby shower next week.  And your Love will be enough.

And we learn that there is a young girl sitting amongst us that has been here for two days.  And she is hearing these stories.  And as we close in prayer, we learn that these women pray together every evening and study with the Honduran ladies when they visit, and the intensity with which they pray overwhelms my soul.

And then we stand and hold hands, and in a moment, this song arises.  In perfect unity, with a sound that rises from the deep recesses of their souls, these women sing.  And this heavenly chorus lifts and bounces off the cement block walls, and it’s as if a holy hush surrounds the entire compound and all around people stop to hear.  It’s a song about a bird flying, and it flows from hearts that are free, and the holy privilege of standing there in the midst of God’s tangible love just wrecks me.  In the most beautiful way.  The sadness, the heartbreak of the consequences of sin, the repentance, and God’s complete restoration all swirl above my head in a chorus of angels and now I understand what it’s like for God to sing over me.

And it’s beyond what I could ever ask for or imagine.  In a third world country.  In a prison cell.

prison sleepAnd today I have a question for you.  Will you join me in praying for these women?  For young and old, for new believers and those yet to believe.  They spoke of the loneliness and they spoke of a deep regret.  Will you join me in lifting these women to the heavens, just as they did for me?  The God who created them, loves them with an everlasting love, may they know this today despite the dark place they reside.  May the God of hope continue to strengthen them when they feel weak.  May our God the Healer continue to do a work in their hearts.  May Yolany and Daisy be blessed for their faithfulness to this ministry.  May the arms of those who greeted us so warmly feel the warm arms of their heavenly Father today.  May they sleep well.

Thank you.

prison

Love is Irresistible.

IMG_5835 I had the ultimate joy and privilege to spend 9 days in a country very different than my own.  I had a conversation with my children before I left and asked them, “Why is Mommy traveling to Honduras?” They couldn’t quite answer, so I responded with – God asked me to go, and I said, yes.  I wanted them to know I was clear, I had peace, and when Mom has peace, children seem to have peace.  Funny how that works.

There are so many stories to share from this trip.  As a few of us shared one last meal in the airport during our layover, I asked, “What will you say when people ask you, how was your trip?”  In popcorn fashion I heard, “life-changing” “powerful” “transforming” “new perspective”.  And I would have to agree.  Such a strange notion to feel so at home in a place so far away.  I heard mention the talk of “family” there and in a way only God can bond, I can say I have familia in Honduras.

As the Lord leads, I’d love to take a few moments to share stories as my transitioning brain will allow.  We had the opportunity to each share our story, or testimony, to one another, and over and over again, His redemptive power spoke truth – His story, His love is irresistible.  He gave His life so that we may live, may we feel encouraged and inspired to do the same in sharing His story with those we encounter.

My story today is a personal one.  It took place on an ordinary Saturday, at an ordinary time, in an ordinary way.  Our weekly routine had been to eat breakfast, share devotions, and head out to our project for the day.  This day, however, we were headed to the beach!  So, dressed in swim suits, cover ups, and flip flops, we gathered our belongings to head for the bus.  Before boarding, one of our teammates announced that they were going to deliver 2 beds that were made the day before in the village of Casa Hogar Vida where we were staying.  I was visiting the prison the day the beds were made, but I felt compelled to simply help deliver them – I’m in!

IMG_5718Grabbing the front end of one of the beds, we began the trek.  At first, we walked on soft grass, then we hit a pebbled, uneven dirt road, then we turned a corner and headed down a more narrow, bumpy dirt road, we turned again and headed across a field with a foot-wide worn path, watching for mounds of fire ants, and dodging cow pies.  We slowly turned again and faced a patch of mud left from the evening’s rain.  No way around it, so through we trudged, praying our flips flops would suction to our feet and not the ground.  Soft, earthly mud oozed around our toes and splashed onto the backs of our legs.  Up a small hill we walked, and there before us were two humble dwellings.

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The first group entered the home in front, so my partner and I turned left to head into the other dwelling.  The entrance was not very tall nor very wide.  We turned the bed sideways, and very slowly entered the dwelling.  It was very quiet inside, the environment reminded me of a darkened cave as the only light came through the front entrance way.  In the corner, a small fire was burning, giving off the earthen smell and warmth of a cozy, serene environment.  A small table near the fireplace could be seen where breakfast tortillas were waiting to me made.  The only other element in the small space was a hammock strung from one corner to the other, using up the space.  Just then, something caught my eye.  In the middle of the hammock, was a sleeping child!  He had a dark mop-top-head of hair, he was laying on his back, and his lips were moving in a sucking action.  He mama had warmed him up with a gray, zipped up sweatshirt, and nothing else.  He was sound asleep, so peaceful looking.

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In a instant, I felt led to pray over this boy and for the plans the Lord had in store for him.  It was such an intimate moment, that I didn’t even dare touch his sweet head, but I came close.  His mama had been loving him and his Heavenly Father was tangibly reaching down now as well.  And then we noticed we needed to move the bed so that it would fit into the small space next to the entrance way.  This sweet one was right in the center.  And then I knew, he needed to be moved.

I gently leaned forward, slowly nudged my two hands underneath his arms, and oh-so-carefully picked him up.  Two dark-brown, round eyes popped open wide and he tried to focus on his surroundings.  So as not to frighten him, I moved him close to my shoulder and wrapped my arm around him snuggly.  He quickly gave into his tiredness and nuzzled his head into my shoulder.  And I melted.  Completely.  It was as if I stepped onto Holy ground and was given a moment of sweet irresistible love in the form of small, precious child.  I again felt led to pray, and in a moment of instinctual motherhood, I began to sing over him.  The first song that came to mind… Jesus Loves Me.  And in that moment, no one else was in the room.  It was a moment of sweet intimacy with my Jesus, and in fact, it reminded me of how He so humbly came into the world… just for me.

And the sweet young Momma joined us, and in a language that goes beyond words, we gave what little we had – time, energy, and  effort to extend a moment of love by giving her something she’s never had before in her 15 years of life – a bed to sleep on.  And we said goodbye, and we walked back through the mud, past the cows pies, and through the ants, down the rocky road, and onto the smooth path that led us to our bus.  And off we went to the beach.

And yet, when I pause, I can still feel that sweet child relax in my arms, and press into the warmth and love of His Father, simply because one young woman decided to say yes.  I entered into an adventure of a lifetime.  And that adventure extends to each one of us each and every day.  If we only listen and act.  His arms are wide, His love is great, His love is irresistible.IMG_5800baby2

God is bigger than any “Monster”!

bed pillowWhen I show this picture to my daughter, she will smile wide.  I just know it.  How do I know this?  She’s been traveling through a season of fears, night-time fears, and surrounding her are pillows tucked in all the crevices.  In some way, she is trying to control her circumstances, she is trying to conquer this alone.  And it continues to press in around her.

The difference is she is no longer little.  She is ten years old.  She can think and reason differently than she could at 3.  She has a relationship with Jesus.  She has a gift of memorization, including scripture.  And she had a breakdown while driving in the van with me the other night.  In a cry of desperation she screamed, “I JUST NEED YOU TO HELP ME!”

And I felt this surge of fierce passion.  A passion to fight FOR her while she’s fighting AGAINST me… just like when she was 3.  First, I’m so thankful she is willing to talk to me.  Out of the blue one day, she mentioned the source of this fear.  A classmate that sits at her table shared a creepy story one day.  And it’s stuck with her, ever since.  And this classmate continues to tell such stories, even after expressing that it interrupts her sleeping at night.  And instead of fighting AGAINST said girl and marching myself into her classroom, I found myself fighting FOR her by asking her what she could do about it, how she could involve her teacher if need be and what the possible results could be.

During the van moments, emotions were rising and walls were being built, so a solution could not be reached.  Her desire was to find a quick-fix and fast.  And yet, this quick-fix had to be on her terms.  She feels that she needs a warm body next to her, I know that her only need is to trust in the One who never leaves her side.  In my desire to break the chains of human dependency, I want to create an opportunity for her to practice and experience the reality of Her God being more than enough, completely sufficient, her all in all.  That evening, every suggestion was met with, “I already tried that!”  She used the word “ignore”.  I clearly stated that her fear was real, but someone is bigger.  As I prayed and attempted to hold out His word to her, her exhaustion coupled with a strong-will continued to build that oh-so-familiar wall brick by brick.  So quickly, in fact, that the very words I held out to her were the very words meant for myself as well, “Emma (Heather), sweetheart, you just need to let. it. go.  Release.  And trust.”

I gathered for a women’s study that night to follow, and the topic – fear.  And the Lord brought women to me who expressed their fears and how their minds think, and scriptures were gifted to my mind and my heart, and then I shared a conversation with a friend who has walked with me in a soul-sister season for the past year and her parting words – “Heather, you should blog about this.”  And I doubted.  I haven’t written in quite awhile.  And I knew, God would have me process and perhaps, pass along His word to another.

2 Timothy 1:7 – God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

And even though Emma knows that the pillows will not erase the images in her mind, they continue to lend her support as she practices her attempts at letting go of the image that pierces her mind, and replaces it with a different picture.  Perhaps a picture of her Almighty Heavenly Father that stands tall behind her, handa on hips, gentle expression on His face, no words needed.  Because He stands there, the monster diminishes in size.  Instead of a monster looming, it shrinks, eventually into oblivion.  And the very thing that threatened to take her down will be the tool used to draw her nearer and deeper to the heart of her Heavenly Father.

And this will take time.  Time to not only know His truth, but to believe it.  And the more we fill our minds with truth, the less room we will have for fear to redirect us.  The truth is that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38) – no thing.  Fear, anxiety, doubt, and worry can never erase this, only distance us from His love.  His freedom awaits, His truth abounds, His love is never-ending.  God is bigger than any monster or giant in our life.  Do we believe Him?  Can we obey and “let go”, release it to Him, knowing that He always has our back?

I want to choose this and continue to try, how about you?  How can I pray for you today?

My daughter continues to model to me her child-like faith, Lord may this be the image I take with me to another country this week.  Thank you for teaching me through my children, for it is in them, I see a reflection of my child-like self.

It was a race for the girls!

shirtAnother Saturday, another half marathon race!  And yet, over the past seven years, I’ve learned it’s never just “another race”.  Each race is unique, each has it’s teachable moments, each leaves it’s own mark, both in my memory and in some sort of body ache.  This day was no different.

It started in the dark, as most do.  Three girls met in my driveway, we shared our sleepless nights stories, pre-race Advil was shared, tunes were ready and cued up on our devices of choice, and off we drove.  We arrived, parked, and walked up the incline that was soon to become the finish of our race.  Yes, we walked up.  Oh little did we know…

The girlsHaving some moments to spare we decided to pause for a photo op because, let’s face it, the “before pictures” are so much more cheerful than the after :).  It was a great scene, lots of ladies, and the music was already blaring!  Next to me is my early-morning, go-getter of a dear friend.  Next to her is a friend who’s a newbie – first half-marathon today!  And next to her is my long-time, speedy, and humble-spirited friend.  They each have a great story about today.  Friend #1 celebrated her 13 week pregnancy with #4 while running 13 miles, I know, hero.  Friend #2 is a working Mom of 3, reaching her goals and celebrating her health – hero.  And friend #3 earned an amazing PR (personal record) time on this very challenging course – hero.  You see, this road of life is never lived alone.  Though our “training” runs may have happened separately, and even these race miles were experienced with distance in-between, we ran this together.

My take-aways from this race:

1.  No matter how many training runs I’ve experienced, when it comes to race day, it’s always best just to “roll” with it.  As with life, one is never for certain what may come, no matter how much effort is put into the preparation.  Today brought some humidity, as evidence in light-headedness, frizzy hair that sticks to sweaty skin, and sweat that literally flies.  Nothing you can do about it, but I could choose to be smart.  I needed water.  At every opportunity.  And that meant taking time to do it.

2.  Let gravity be your friend on the downhill, because you know an uphill is coming.  Here enters the “roll” with it part, literally.  Hills are not fun.  You don’t let it stop you, but you do notice a difference – certain muscle groups absorb the extra work, breathing finds a different rhythm, and the mental looks for the top strain to carry you through.  This course had them, in other words, very few parts were totally flat.  Aesthetically, it was beautiful – some urban, wide streets, some wooded scenes on a trail, bridges that took you across the river, a turn-around at the Santa Maria boat.  It wasn’t dull by any means, yet as the miles ticked away, you knew fatigue would set it.

Brynn's hug3.  Voices and faces of encouragement can literally lift and carry.  Around mile 4, I saw the family of friend #1 – lift.  Around mile 5, I saw a familiar face, gave a high-5, and heard the words “lookin strong girl!” – lift.  Around mile 6, you could see the ladies in front as they turned, headed for the second half of the race, lots of “good job”s were uttered, and I hollered at my friends as they passed – lifted.  Around mile 9, I saw them, the ones I love, and my arms reached forward – lift.  And I needed it.  Energy was lagging, legs were heavy, it was a time of questioning my sanity, and yet, I only had 5 to go.

4.  Sometimes your best isn’t something that can be measured.  Though I had a hunger to continue the pace I was able to keep up until this point, the reality of my body’s limitations begged to be accepted.  I could choose to be disappointed, but I’ve learned to choose to delight.  Delighting in the truth tells me the time I receive at the finish line is a gift.  The sheer fact that I am ABLE to start and finish a 13.1 mile course is a blessing.  I’m not entitled to it, I’m gifted with the ability, today.  Today, my best included a mental challenge to finish well, and to finish with a smile.

5.  Running is just a part of life.  For a part of a day, I get to run.  Running helps me to balance all my zones – mental, physical, and spiritual – because when one ain’t happy, they’re all unhappy.  I’ve learned to get-er-done, and then embrace the rest of the day.  After the race, we came home, grabbed packed bags, and headed to our daughter’s first swim meet.  My son and I stood as timer’s on lane 5 where 3 of her 5 events occurred.  And we cheered, and we sweated, and we pressed our timing buttons.  And then we went to dinner to celebrate our son’s 13th birthday.  And then we baked a cake for his friend party the next day.  And life is lived.  And life is celebrated.

And for all these, my heart is full.  1 Thessalonians 5:16 – Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

collageboys swim team