Good Grief

A local pastor here in Castle Rock attended Christianity 21 in Denver a few weeks ago – he had heard me present on “A New Matriarch” and sought me  out the next day to ask if I would consider doing another spoken word at his church. He was preaching on Paul’s letter to the Philippians and wanted to incorporate more creative expressions of our response to remain confident in the Lord, even while we may be suffering.

I love it when God does this. He prompts us to extend an invitation to another, without even knowing how or why they were highlighted to us. And then, we hear their story, and go,” Oh wow, that was so God!”

Welp, this was one of those moments.

For many who know my family, this message to the Philippians to hold fast to the Joy of our Salvation, is completely in line with our journey through Leukemia. There were so many testimonies of Gods faithfulness, supernatural peace and unrelenting joy – that we were able to remain steadfast in our faith, and eventually stand victorious.

So, I chose 10 words from the passage in Philippians that he was speaking on (verses 12-26) and chose photographs of our journey that matched our stance in response to Paul’s invitation.

I have posted the link to the video presentation here, but I thought it would be neat to write out the words with the pictures.

At first I thought this would be easy, until I started rooting through old photos. It was tough. Memories of fears, worries and weaknesses surfaced even though the pictures were full of joy and peace.  What a miraculous triumph and a sweet reminder of how good our God is.

Be blessed….

LOVE
LOVE

LOVE: I pray that your love will overflow– more and more – and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding …through the testimony of my family.

GOOD NEWS
GOOD NEWS

GOOD NEWS: We must ask ourselves, does the good news remain good, when news we receive is bad? Can the goodness of Christ stay at the forefront when all else is overwhelmingly devastating?

CHAINS
CHAINS

CHAINS: We find ourselves bound in chains: whether a diagnosis, circumstance or a limitation – defining and restricting our freedoms.

IMPRISONMENT
IMPRISONMENT

IMPRISONMENT: The truth is: our limited abilities will never be a limitation of our faith. What this world may take from us, our faith – it cannot touch.

DEFENSE
DEFENSE

DEFENSE: And so we stand. Rooted in our Savior, for our strength comes from the Lord.

REJOICE
REJOICE

REJOICE: And the glory of a living God remains a triumphant celebration – though we may be walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

HOPE
HOPE

HOPE: And just as David cried out amidst his suffering, “As for me, I will always have hope”. So must we proclaim our trust – our hope – in the goodness of our Father

COURAGE
COURAGE

COURAGE: And through this hope, we grow courage. Courage to face another day – whatever it may hold –wherever it may lead. Allowing our hope to overshadow weaknesses and fears

REMAIN
REMAIN

REMAIN: And we remain… rooted in community, surrounded by those who’s trust in the Lord intercedes on our behalf. We carry one another’s burdens and lead each other towards greater unity

BOAST
BOAST

BOAST: So that we may boast, in the goodness of the Lord. We may proclaim his mercies… his provision… his supernatural peace, in our life. Our testimony is a living sacrifice – painting a portrait of hope for this world to see.

XOXOXO,

M

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Reconciled

I’m sorry. I’m saying it again, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for calling you stupid. I’m sorry for treating you with such carelessness and contempt.

These few weeks without you were tough. I am not going to pretend that I was strong and independent, I was not. I missed you, terribly. I was able to see the mess I had made and when I needed you most, you were gone.

I’m sorry that I took you for granted. Those times you were screaming at me to change your filters and I ignored you. When you overheated and I told you that you were weak and pathetic, I regret speaking those words, really I do.

vac1

You are so right, I never took the time to figure out what you needed! And by the time I finally gave you some attention and investigated the heart of your issues, I discover that your belts were run down; the damage had already been done. Please forgive my neglect.

These past few days spent waiting for your parts, I began remembering the day I brought you home. That one rug in the house, you know – the red one – that has been a every vacuums demise. The one with the hairs of 2 dogs a cat, 3 kids and 2 rowdy parents; that one. You were the only one who cleaned it so magnificently! All the vacuums that came before you could barely handle even one set of multiple shedding, yet you – you – when you came along, my life was forever changed.

You showed me what a real vacuum can do. You introduced me to the power of the wind tunnel. Oh, the way you would gracefully glide over each layer of fuzz and fir, sweeping and rolling and picking it all up, every last bit. Pure poetry in motion, you were.

It’s always been you, always.

I’m sorry about the squinkies. I know it was all in good fun that I would push you over them instead of picking them up – I just wanted to teach the kids a lesson! I didn’t realize that they hurt you so bad.

I’m the stupid one here, its me.

I’m sorry that it has taken me this long to appreciate your strength and value. All you needed was a couple of new belts. Four dollars. That’s all you asked, to get back on your feet, four dollars and we could have been a team once again.

Well, this time it will be different, I promise. This time I vow to keep your filters clean. I promise not to force you to suck up coins, bobby pins and various small toys out of my own inherent, laziness. I promise to trim all the hair on your brush so you can continue to forcefully sweep, because I love you and I need you in my life.

Thank you, my friend, for taking me back. Thank you for showing me forgiveness. This mornings adventure together proved to me how much I adore you – how great you truly are. You are strong. You are capable.

Here’s to another season of keeping this home free of clutter! Here’s to another day, working together, to protect this family from grime. Here’s to a new season of fresh.

Welcome back.

XOXOXO

M

 

 

The Word

One Word
One Word

Sometimes its good to look back for just a few moments before we move forward.

Reflection is healthy. It is sitting behind a glass window, watching our life’s highlights and expressing emotions to release the memory. Letting it go.

The confident “I did real good” smile; the eye rolling “oh brother, what was I thinking”. Perhaps you had the popular “ok, ok, I get it now, I really do” palms in the air exasperation, or how about the head in the hands “goodness, where is the fast forward button”.

Expressing is good. In our house when someone starts to get sick, we say they are “expressing health” because believe it or not, when our bodies shoot out symptoms it means we are alive and well and our bodies are simply communicating with us. We understand that a fever is good, its nature’s way of burning off virus and bacteria, so in our house we don’t immediately suppress the fever, we let it run its course. We know the heat expressed in a fever holds great purpose.

Looking back at my one word for 2013 I realized how truly amazing this year was. My word was nurture. I posted it on the chalkboard on my kitchen cupboard and left it there in full view all year. I received my word. I welcomed the opportunity to shut out the world for a while and focus solely on those immediate things I am responsible for.

Things that had never really been a top priority for me were now going to  get all of me, for the entire year.

Not only did my one word keep me focused on the pulse of my heart, it also gave me clarity on the disciplines necessary for sustaining it. Nurture drew in practices like: comfort, feed, clothe, listen, water, sunlight and fertilize. Yes, fertilize. If you are a good gardener and your plants flourish it is because your soil is nurtured with manure.

My  heart became the soil that was nurtured this year:

  • I learned how to fertilize: embracing grace for effectively facing and confronting conflict and turning it into something good.
  • I learned how to prune: letting go of things that served no purpose or bore no fruit.
  • I learned how to feed: engaging in meaningful relationships and being vulnerable enough to give healthy relationships room to mature.
  • I learned how to water: daily and consistent soaking in the only living water.
  • I learned how to bask in the essential light of the Son.

It has been a good year. Good does not mean it was painless, fancy free and footloose. Good means it was beneficial, cleansing and refining.

A pretty container does not usher in maturity – it is the quality of her soil and robustness of her roots, that enable her to… grow.

Grow. My word for 2014.  It seems fitting and natural, gentle and simple. I was hoping for a word that was beautifully poetic and rhythmically expressive. I immediately went to the thesaurus, searching for a similar word that would identify more with my bohemian nature. Other words felt forced and fake. I sat with it for a few hours; opened up my new day planner to the month of January.

Ah, a fresh clean page with only a few delicately jotted appointments. The ones that were placed there with slow, intentional handwritings with a choice ballpoint pen. A month on paper that has yet to be tainted by little scribbles, crayons and dried out sharpies. And there it was, the quote for the month.

“If we’re growing, we’re always going to be out of our comfort zone.”  – John Maxwell

This simple word has already expanded my world to consider a continual journey outside of what I know. It’s adventure. It’s risk. It’s thrilling. It’s outrageous.

Its mine.

There is a word that is waiting for you to discover. A word that will lead you and guide you forward and deeper. Ask for your word. Listen for your word. And watch its beauty unfold before you, like a secret whisper, or a breath of hope.

Happy New Year.

XOXOXO

M

p.s. ~ {Do you come alive when you write? Is it time for you to nurture your gifts and talents, growing in your calling with strength, courage and purpose? Join the sisterhood of Story Sessions and  discover the red tent of  all things writerly.}

Unspecial

Its called a breakup because it’s broken.

Breakups can be extremely devastating, months or even years spent trying to “make it work”; toiling towards a thriving connection.  It ends when it can no longer merely survive.

And then there’s the aftermath, where we feel absolutely entitled to indulge when dealing with the pain: food, wine, fitness, laziness, shopping, “dating”…feeding our feelings with whatever brings pleasure, whatever will numb the pain. After a bender of “extremes” we begin to get a grip on life again, regain perspective and address the state of our self-esteem.  Eventually we realize our worth, deal with our issues and consider raising our standards in regards to who we choose to “do life” with.

Because, really, he was just not that into you.

About a year ago I went through one of the most crushing break-ups my poor little soul has ever experienced. {cue violins}

I broke up with my church.

I could go on and on about the unhealthy and manipulative experiences my husband and I had, but that would only be a futile attempt to get you to dislike them and feel sorry for us.  We have no desire for that. Similarly, I could also tell you all the stories about my oldest daughters biological dad and his less-than-tolerable “fathering”,  the common ground here is this: they were both broken relationships.

Why we choose to view one relationship standard differently than the other is beyond me, but we do. The reality is that people will get hurt and offended within community, but relationship is relationship and authentic love will listen and seek to understand; authentic love will also feel safe enough to speak and share. Unhealthy relationships will take, take, take or give, give, give without reciprocation, leaving one person unfulfilled or even feeling abused.

worthy

God is the only one who fulfills us and people are not going to ever make us happy nor should we hold them to such grande expectations, however, out of love my husband desires to know when he is doing things that are hurting or causing turmoil in our marriage. He wants to know if he is meeting my needs or if there are areas he needs to improve upon. That’s love.  And out of love, I ask the same in return.  We regularly engage in communicating the needs in our relationship, growing it stronger and deeper.  Because neither of us are broken people operating out of love deficiencies, our marriage is thriving.

What helped me move on from this tragic division was recognizing that my church was just not that into me.

“Don’t spend your time on and give your heart to any guy who makes you wonder about anything
related to his feelings for you”
― Greg Behrendt, He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys

This simple book ridiculously changed my dating life before I met Mike. I read it as if Greg was the older brother I never had, telling me how beautiful, smart and capable I was and how I should not settle for anyone or anything less. He reminded me that dishonesty, unfaithfulness, manipulation or intimidation are not expressions of love. Duh.  And so, I raised my standards in seeking relationships and guess what, I found that a healthy, loving, honest, dependable and faithful man exists. {and he put a ring on it}

   “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” – John 17:21

Unity blooms within communities of healthy relationships. Relationships thrive when all hearts desire love and respect;  listening out of love and speaking in love are the ebbs and flows of a flourishing community.

Our pastor had suggested that we were perhaps searching for a “perfect” church.  That’s funny, I’ve heard that before..oh yeah, from an old boyfriend with major issues, who was justifying his harmful conduct.

I understand messy, don’t get me wrong, but careless and sloppy are red flags when it comes to evaluating the health in a relationship.  Conflict is inevitable, but after seven years serving within a church, one would only hope that these “friends” would express interest in laboring towards unity; definitely an unhealthy relationship and potentially harmful culture.

Here are a few more succulent quotes from the book He’s Just Not That Into You that I claim in reference to any unhealthy relationship or community:

“I believe in love the verb, not the noun.”

“..he may love you, he may miss you, but ultimately he’s just not that into you.”

“The quickest way to rectify that mistake (choosing the wrong person) is by learning from that, moving on, and choosing much more wisely in the future.”

“And above all, if the guy you’re dating doesn’t seem to be completely into you, or you feel the need to start “figuring him out,” please consider the glorious thought that he might just not be that into you. And then free yourself to go find the one that is.”

I am so thankful for this past year of solitude and quiet stillness with the Lord; allowing him to heal our heart and speak affirming words over us.  We have tenderly began looking for a new home church after purging our disgust and moving past bitterness.  We are more conscious, yet less hesitant;  forgiving, yet less intimidated; loving, yet less tolerant.

Are you in an unhealthy relationship or community?  I encourage you to continue the labor for peace and unity until you find it is not being reciprocated.  Then, my friend, that may be your cue to leave. You are worthy of unconditional love.  You are worthy of honesty and accountability.  You. Are. Worthy.

There is hope for community after deep wounds, there is hope for love after a devastating disjunction and there is most definitely hope for healthy relationships amidst it all – because …

“As for me, I will always have hope.” – Psalm 71:14

XOXOXO

M

Holy Schiz: in response to Tony Jones

A few days agoTony Jones posted a thought regarding the idea of considering a divorce between you and the churches that remain in conflict around gender issues and women in leadership. The solution was clear:  just leave.

“The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.”

The uproar is hilarious, quite frankly. Men of great theology thrashing their viewpoints about. However, the few responses from  women quite beautiful and peaceful, partly because most of them had already done so. It really made me reflect on the issue of any red flag within relationship or community where one essentially must decide what issues are worth staying for and which ones may, in the long run, potentially cause us harm.

I  cannot tell you how many girlfriends I have had over the years, myself included, who have stayed in oppressive relationships with men because, well, they were good in bed, they were funny, had lots of money, or some other excuse that overshadowed the fact that the relationship was not healthy. We have such history of low self-esteem in relationships, that at times we overlook our own needs to fill the needs of those we love. What we often miss, is the courting stage.  That time devoted to discovering the other person before settling into relationship. Where we put the person to the test of circumstances and emotions to reveal their true heart.

divorce

While Mike and I were living in children’s hospital, fighting alongside our daughter as she battled cancer, we witnessed many separations and divorce occur between parents of the other children undergoing treatment. We knew how absolutely essential it was for us to stay united and passionately devoted to one other during this time for us to make it through unscathed. This excruciating time revealed so much about our individual hearts and our tenaciousness to keep love at the forefront. I knew after only one month in that if I had married a previous boyfriend, the marriage would not have survived; there were too many unhealthy issues that would have gotten in the way. It was because of the time Mike and I spent dating, expressing our heart towards many issues, as well as beliefs within our faith, that we realized we were both in unity regarding primary essentials needed for a thriving marriage.

I belive what Tony is suggesting is to consider that you do have a choice where you worship,where you grow deeper into your faith and in discovering your calling. It is an intimate relationship, between you and your church, a place where deep hurts are exposed with the hopes of it being within a safe place and nurturing environment.

Why do you think the book-turned-movie, “He’s just not that into you” was so popular among women? Because women are loving, caring and nurturing individuals who, unknowingly at times, place ourselves within relationship with others who do not respect or value our presence. It is only when we truly regain a posture of love and acceptance and celebration for ourselves that our standards for love, leadership and community are raised into healthy levels.

Mike and I recently “left community” with a church in response to similar considerations. It was when we came alive in Christ that we experienced fuller, more defined  and beautiful acknowledgements of who we were and what we were called to, in ministry. That changed our perspective and perception of those who we entrusted to “lead” in our faith life. We became more aware of their contradictions to the heart of Christ and also increasingly intolerant;  rather than slinking away and mumbling our disagreement, Mike and I spoke up about them and searched for their response – the heart – to determine if we were to stay or go. In essence, it was not the offensive behavior that compelled us to leave, it was the unloving, hardness of heart within their response to us, that “sealed the deal”.

I agree with Tony to one extent, let us remind ourselves that we do have a right to seek healthy church community and let us not overlook and grow passive to the red flags. Also, to suggest the importance of courting a church, visiting and speaking to elders and congregation alike. A leader is not qualified to speak of the “culture” within the church, it is the congregation that ultimately decides that. Red flags are red flags, to you. Intuition is within our nature. I pray that we open our eyes, our ears and consider our presence worthy of healthy community.

Yes, community is messy at times, but it is also sloppy – messy is accidental and sloppy is just plain, intentional disregard.