Monday, October 10, 2016

the hand of God

the hand of God.  what do you think of?  what images come to mind?  if i can be honest, i've come to dislike this phrase.  i tend to roll my eyes at it.  not because i don't believe in the hand of God.  i just find the use of this phrase saddens my heart.  makes me weary.

last week i watched in great heartache as hurricane Matthew ravaged Haiti.  most of us were more concerned about our loved ones in florida and the rest of the east coast. i by no means intend to belittle that concern.  it is valid and very real.  in fact i have family that now has a flooded house.

but haiti.

have you been there?  i'm convinced more than ever that unless you have personally visited a 3rd world country you can't fathom the devastation of this magnitude.  here in America we can rebuild fairly quickly.  or at least provide decent protective shelter, clean water, insurance help,  we can board up our homes and businesses and head inland.  in haiti:  none of that exists.  sure you can head up the mountain, but you now ride a hurricane out in the open on the top of a mountain.  is it worth it?  if you lose your goats or garden you've lost your lifeline.  and your life savings.

my heart broke for Haiti.  i've come to love haiti and those i call friends there.  seeing the pictures were devastating.  the death toll, the cholera outbreak already starting, the lack of clean water, the number of homes destroyed.

in the midst of scrolling through facebook i saw this image.  i have to confess it made me sick


some people see the hand of God on florida (the good old USA).  i see a slap in the face to haiti where apparently they aren't blessed enough to have the hand of God between them and the storm. i'm sure that wasn't the intent of the artist at all.  or the people who gushed about God's goodness and faithfulness to us here in America.

i struggle with that.

i struggle when i hear a church say that the hand of God is on them.  it is usually in reference to a growing number of congregation.  isn't the small church quietly faithfully serving the Lord just as likely to have the hand of God on them?

i struggle when i hear someone say a friend that has overcome something say the hand of God was on her life.  isn't the friend sitting the midst of a fire just as likely to have the hand of God on them?

i struggle when i hear that the hand of God is on americans.  isn't the christian in syria just as likely to have the hand of God on them?

here's my thing.  the hand of God is for everyone.  God's hand is always outstretched.  it is always protecting.  it is always loving.  it is always gentle.  whether that hand is holding a mom and her baby in their tin shack in haiti while the waters rise around them in the dark, guiding the small church serving Jesus with everything they have, comforting the hurting friend, or holding tight to the christian in syria, God's hand is on them.

God's hand is IN haiti.  it is there in the determination of its citizens to keep pressing on.  it is there in the humaritian aid.  it is there.  i believe God's hand is there.  Just like i believe God's hand was on my friend in the 12 years of pain before healing.  the hand of God didn't arrive on healing day.  it was there each and every minute in the pain.

i've been memorizing Isaiah 43.  this is one of my favorite passages of truth that God is with me in whatever storms i must endure.  this is how i KNOW God's hand is in Haiti.


Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.


i'm sharing this because it is MY struggle.  it is where i'm at.  the place that God is using to search my heart.  what do i hope to challenge myself with?  choosing to see the hand of God in each and every aspect of life- both the devastating and the amazing.  in each and every culture, church, relationship...for HIS hand will pass through the waters WITH  us

.







Friday, February 19, 2016

walk through hell.....

this blog post has been floating around in my head for awhile.  my word for the year has been "the written word."  it's a bit of a different approach, but here are my goals:  write by hand, send hand written notes , read books, dig into scripture , journal. its been beautiful and since writing has always been a love of mine, fulfilling.

this quest has forced me to also listen to words more.  to really listen to them.

it is no secret that i'm a lover of pop culture.  some may say it's anti-christian, but i work with kids, preteens and teens. and i have teens. since my own kids are immersed in it daily i like to keep myself current.

it is also no secret i'm a lover of music.

it is also no secret (hopefully)  that i'm a lover of my Jesus and following Him.

on a rare occasion there is this brilliant moment when those three loves converge and form something that cracks my heart so deeply that it leaves a permanent piercing.  here is one such moment:

  i was driving along singing to stand by you by rachel platten* one day while my heart was aching for a couple of dear friends.  i'd been praying about how to help them.  then it's like i heard the chorus for the first time:

Even if we're breaking down, we can find a way to break through
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, 'cause I'm gonna stand by you
Even if we can't find heaven, I'm gonna stand by you
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, 'cause I'm gonna stand by you


this is the line that gets me:  
even if we can't find heaven, i'll walk through hell with you.

wow.  read it again.  slow down and really read it.  

i'd been just reading the story of lazarus and begging God to bring healing to a dear friend.  i was begging Him to call her out of the tomb of pain and unwrap the binding.  i was begging God to help another friend walk away from the hell she's put herself in.  i was begging God to let my blessings kids know how deeply they are loved by Him.

here's the thing.  there is literal hell and there is figurative hell on earth for people.  as a believer i long to see people set free from their hell on earth; their despair, their pain, their loneliness, their poor choices, their fear.  i also long for people to be set free from literal hell and give their lives to Jesus.  

here's the other thing:  i CAN'T do any of that.  i can't set people free.  only the Holy Spirit can.  but just like i was reading in the story of Lazarus and in so many other glimpses of Jesus in the gospels, He was willing to walk into their hell on earth and sit with them in the mess.  He didn't always provide healing on earth.  He even let Lazarus die.   He would sit with them, grieve with them, love them.  He looked them in the eye and said "I"m here for you..."

as a believer, I know that Jesus also descended into literal hell for me.  for you.  for the entire world.  He went there to pay the price for me.  He went there to pay the price for people that will ultimately reject him.  

Really?  He was willing to sit in people's literal hell and hell on earth knowing some would reject Him?  Crazy, if you ask me!  But Jesus also makes it very clear that we are to live like him.  In fact in John 17:18 Jesus says, "As you (God) have sent me (Jesus) into the world, so I have sent them (US) into the world.

Because of Jesus death i will not ever have to go to literal hell, but i am called to sit with people in their hell on earth.  this is hard.  oh so hard.  it's easier to say, "i tried.  they didn't want my help.  they weren't changing.  i give up,"  than it is to continue to walk through their hell with them.  yet, i am called to do just that, walk through their hell with them as long as it takes - even if they never find Heaven!

so i continue to beg God for those people.  i continue to serve the blessings kids with love that runs deeper than i ever imagined.  i continue to to do my best to not give up on them.  i do my best to be the friend that Jesus was.  and i'm incredibly thankful for those that have walked through my times of hell on earth with me.  for they truly held me through it. and i pray that God will help me to go where love is needed...


*yes, i know the song is not at all about Jesus, but again,  Jesus used pop culture of His day to speak His truth.  i believe He still does.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

in the stillness


it was just a year ago that i wandered our winter wonderland and snapped this picture.  it was on this walk that i knew God was asking me to "be still and know He is God" in 2015.  i remember in that moment having a conversation about how i'm not so good at being still and our year was looking pretty busy.  God drew me to watch the partially frozen creek.  God drew me to listen to my surroundings.  it was quiet, peaceful, and mostly still.  but that creek - it moved.  it moved under the ice, around the ice, and over the ice.  could i know stillness in the midst of 2015?




the first 6 of the months were kind of normal.  we were busy with day to day life.  i hosted 3 showers, witnessed 3 family weddings, and celebrated 3 nephews graduating high school.  life was busy and fun and definitely "flowing."  the sun would rise; the sun would set. but God had asked me to focus on "be still"  so i did.  i learned that that phrase really means "rapha" or to let go of.  for those first 6 months of 2015 i knew i was learning about rapha, about being still, but the world was still carrying me right on by.  

summer was rough.  in some ways it was lonely.  i can't really explain why.  i just felt lonely.  our pastor had taken a sabbatical for the summer and had asked all of us as staff to find a way to "renew ourselves" during the summer.  if i'm honest, i wasn't really into that.  too much needed to be done to sit back and be renewed.  which translates to:  "i'm much too important to be still and know you God."

summer carried on and i continued flowing in the river of life. 

but there was one day i just took some time away.  on that day i knew God was searching my heart and it was very clear that i needed to stop.  i needed to stop a lot of things.  which deep in my heart translated to "rapha."  let go.  

i made a list that very day.  a list of things to let go of.  i was drawn back to that verse.  read it again.  Be still and know that I am God.
read it this way:  let go of _______ and know God as ________

it was clear that day that my quest for stillness wasn't about actually being still.  God had allowed me to become so messed up with myself that i failed to know Him.  here are just a few things from that list:
let go of... expectations and know God as Enough
relationships and know God as Friend
my rights and know God as Sovereign
self and know God as Giver of Life
hurts and know God as Healer

God was definitely shaping my heart in this area of letting go.  of rapha.

fall hit and well, my body literally hit a wall and i was placed on medical leave for 6 weeks.  i spent those 6 weeks reading verse after verse that had rapha in it.  i learned to know God as my healer, redeemer, lover, friend, and enough.

it was a strange 6 weeks.  it was definitely physically healing.  i'm thankful for my friend (who happens to be my doctor) that was willing to sit me down and say enough.  i'm thankful for my pastor/boss who didn't argue but extended grace during that time.  i'm thankful for people who stepped into take my place.  i'm thankful for a few dear friends that prayed hard for me.  i'm thankful for my family that let me be lazy.  and i'm thankful for a husband that humored me with my gilmore girls binge watching:)

i really believe those 6 weeks changed me.  it's hard to explain really.  but i'm changed.   

i thought back to the first image above.  God called me to stillness and showed me that sometimes stillness exists in movement.  while on leave i experienced much more stillness.  days where all i did were walk and journal.  life became full again as i read scripture after scripture about God's provision for me.  rapha was changing me.

i've not arrived.  i've not learned everything i need to about rapha.  returning to work has filled those days again.  but now i sit more.  now i yearn for friendships of depth.  now i savor moments with my family.  now i truly can sit in the midst of flowing water and hear only the stillness.

in late october my hubby and i snuck away for our anniversary.  one day we hiked through a wooded dune.  it was rainy and windy so we were basically alone.  as we crested the dune we saw the lake.  walking through this little path we could see and hear the waves crashing the shoreline.  and it was here.  here in this place that i stopped.  here that i heard.

"my daughter, I AM powerful.  I AM love.  I AM your redeemer.  I AM grace.  I AM strength. 
I AM"


and it was here where i knew i want to forever seek the art of rapha.  
for in the letting go we are found.  in the waves of life there is a place to 

be still and know He is God.

Hosea 6:1-3
Come on, let's go back to God. 
He hurt us, but he'll heal (rapha) us.
He hit us hard, 
but he'll put us right again.
In a couple of days we'll feel better.  
By the third day he'll have made us brand new, 
alive and on our feet,
fit to face him.
We're ready to study God,
eager for God-knowledge
as sure as dawn breaks, 
so sure is his daily arrival.
He comes as rain comes,
as spring rain refreshing the ground.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

beauty

one of my goals this summer was to journal more.  i have a love for writing and know that finding the quiet still place of writing soothes my soul.  summer was a bit of a flurry.  but as the summer came to an end i took some time to head outside with a writing prompt from the best english teacher ever. although this probably isn't exactly what the prompt suggested....

i've sat on it.  for me it is a beautiful piece.  but i couldn't decide if i should edit and rework it or leave it as is.  it is imperfect in many ways.  yet perfect in others. its a glimpse into just that one day.  not my every day. but a single day.  a single day that revealed a bit of what my every day should be.

one thing i'm learning - let go of what others may think and be vulnerable. so here, in all its unedited mess, is my walk to find beauty

8.3.15
today is hard - rushed, overwhelmed, frazzled.  the harsh realities of life that keeps coming at me.  i realize that when my passion is faded my focus is too.  how can i be over committed when all i do is work, mom, wife, volunteer in one place?  i can't keep up.  i can't be all.  i can't even get the school supplies together?

i feel as if my body is screaming.  its squirmy, tense, angsty.  i hate it.  i long to relax, to just simply check things off my list.  but instead the stress, angst, and busyness leaves me paralyzed.

so i set off in search of beauty.  it is not lost on me that the search itself is filled with pests that won't relent.  broken limbs that poke my toes.  the constant whir reminding me that little creatures want my blood.

in hopes of finding peace and beauty i feel even more frazzled and annoyed.  but as i turn i'm drawn again to this old barn.  not just the barn, but the contrast of its faded red, wrapped in climbing greens, perched below pale blue skies and strolling pure white clouds.

beauty

simple, rustic, still

standing with open wounds.  visible ones, yet wrapped in new life.  new life piercing through the gaping wounds weaving its way in and out.  new life finding its way into the crevices opened by battering rains and wind.  storms of life that rip the boards apart.  it would seem that those gaps would cause others to ignore the plea of the barn.  cause them to leave it alone.  and maybe that's true.  the gaps lead to loneliness, isolation, abandonment.  maybe the gaps are a result of those.  

but God doesn't just leave the gaps. He doesn't even necessarily repair the gaps. but He does bring new life to weave its way through.

the setting:  gorgeous.  on top a hill.  held up for others to see from a mile away.  on its perch.  on display.  there are wounds still open.  boards missing.  but that life, the new one, is still growing and stretching its way.  new life weaving in and out finding its way through the gaping wounds; lovingly filling them.  that's the simple beauty of New Life.




Tuesday, June 2, 2015

still in the chaos

It has definitely been an action packed 2015.  Irony is not lost on me that I chose “be still” as my theme for the year and then entered a whirlwind of beautiful chaos.  I guess not really chaos – just busyness but chaos seems way more romantic than busyness so in honor of my recent viewing of anne of green gables I’m going with chaos.

Rapha:  be still, to let go of


Oh how many ways this has come alive in my soul this winter and spring.  I landed in the er one winter night for a freak thing.  I’m always the one with freak things (so the doctors say).  That freak thing resulted in several tests only to learn that I did not bring a parasite back from Haiti, Indiana ones hadn’t taken up residence either, and my colon is healthy and pretty.  It did however provide plenty of time for being still (or on the move!) Then we had spring break in Florida.  I was ready for the chance to just rapha and that is exactly what happened.  It was a great trip with my parents and kiddos.  Relaxing, refreshing, calm, adventurous and sunny. Just what I needed. 

Upon return, the pace of life picked right back up. From April – July I will have hosted 4 showers and attended 3 weddings along with 3 nephews graduations.  Each and every one has been incredibly special.  Where is the rapha in this you might ask?  Letting go.  I totally let go of the pinterest expectations.  I just had a desire to keep things simple, sweet, and focused on the person being honored.  Sometimes I think we try too hard to make something special that is loses its focus.  Each event really carried very little stress, I focused on each one as it came, and am ready to focus on the last shower this next month.  I found it sweet.  And refreshing.  Stillness is a state of mind I’m learning.  It isn’t about not moving.  It is about being in each and every moment.  It is stilling the mind long enough to fully embrace the moment you are in. 

I think that “letting go” concept of rapha is what I’m learning the most.  My heart aches for Haiti and my friends I’ve made there.  It is a place that wormed its way into my heart and will forever reside there.  I had begged to make the trip during the school year and joined the team, but in my heart I knew God was telling me no.  I argued for quite a while.  Then asked just a few people to pray for clarity – although both of those told me they thought I already knew.  And they were right.  I had to let go.  I knew it.  But well, just couldn’t .  Then I did.  I said it out loud, I sent the letter, and I felt peace.  RAPHA


It’s hard to let go of things.  I really thought when I chose this word I would focus more on actually being still.  Nope – life has kept me hopping.  But, in the moments of stillness I’ve felt God repeatedly give me things He wants me to let go of.  Let go of my expectations of others.  Let go of my expectations of myself.  Let go of my dreams.  Let go of my rights.  Let go of my feelings.  In their place I’ve gripped friendships, inner peace, new dreams, humility, truth.  It’s been beautiful.  And definitely a still in the chaos.



Monday, April 20, 2015

21

my theme for the year is "be still."  ironically, it has been a jam packed on the go winter and only picks up the next couple of months.  but this summer our pastor is taking a sabbatical and has asked all of us as staff to consider a specific renewal plan for ourselves.  honestly, i feel like finding a chance to slow down is near impossible. however, while on a walk last weekend i had the number 21 come to mind.  i also know without a doubt it is somehow connected to my personal renewal, yet have no idea in what way.  i shared this number and renewal idea with a friend that offered to pray about it for me.  that was about 10 days ago now.  

that friend and i met last monday.  she said she had a few ideas:  there are 21 chapters in John and Judges, or was i to reflect on something that happened when i was 21?  i paused for a moment to place myself back at age 21.  then laughed when i said, "i changed my major to kid and youth ministry.  does this mean i'm going to have another big life changing moment?"  we talked a bit more and on i went.  (i had planned to graduate with an english major/creative writing minor go on to law school on the east coast and marry a rich man!)

last week was also my annual evaluation at work.  i''m not a big fan of those.  not because i don't appreciate the feedback.  i truly do...but the whole process just makes me uncomfortable and weird. it went well.  there were some great encouraging things and some areas to grow in, but i truly left there okay.  however, i couldn't shake the 21 thing.

you may wonder where i'm going with this, frankly i am to.  i believe in being real and honest.  it isn't always easy, but it is in the raw honesty that i find i grow, change, and move forward.  this past year has been a year of discouragement ministry wise.  nothing bad has happened.  kids have actually given their lives to Christ and been baptized.  others are learning about Jesus for the first time.  small group leaders are being changed because of their kids.  but for some reason i just felt discouraged. alone. weary.  maybe it is the 7 year itch.  i've been in my current role for just over 7 years and maybe i was bored. maybe i was starting to wonder if any of it mattered anymore?  

so from wednesday to saturday i pondered those questions.  i rolled them over in my head.  i had screwed up the Sunday morning curriculum yet again and was just frustrated with myself.  Sunday morning  came and i woke up determined to have a positive attitude! after getting things settled i decided to pop in to first service and listen to the youth group share about their upcoming trip to costa rica.  they were playing a slide show from 2 years ago and i just sat there crying.  on that screen were my kids.  not my actual birth kids, but my kids.  the kids that drove us all up a tree when they were young and goofing around.  kids that were once into singing songs with motions and shouting bible verses at me.  the kids that i went ziplining with.  kids i sat and made crafts with.  kids that met Jesus by my favorite tree ever.  kids that i wasn't sure would ever "get it!"  but there they were.  with orphans on their shoulders, delivering food to the hungry, sharing God's love with people they didn't know.  those kids now serve in my ministry.  they teach the younger kids. they wipe noses.  they serve snacks. they love.  i've even gone to haiti with some of them.

so as i sat their crying i knew it had mattered.  it isn't about me.  it's about all the people who taught them over the years. it was the storytellers, the teachers, the worship leaders, the small group leaders, the retreat leaders, the church members that stood up and made an impact on those kids.  those same people are now leaving a mark in costa rica because of these kids.  

sunday night, we took our 5/6 graders to serve in a  homeless shelter.  i was sharing these thoughts with one of the leaders on our way.  he has taught so many of those kids himself.  we agreed, it isn't about us, but wow!  to see those kids grow to serve God just moves you to tears.  it's humbling.  it's exciting.  it's life giving. 

so what does this have to do with 21 and being still?  Sunday morning those 2 things collided.  i sat there in awe that God would choose to have called me into ministry when i was 21.  i'm thankful i obeyed.  i'm thankful for the ministries God has placed me in.  i'm thankful.  it was in that moment of stillness that God revealed a bit of Himself through those kids.

and to you, reader.  i'm not sure where you are at in life.  but this i know.  somewhere is a child or a teen.  and they need you.  share life with them.  teach them.  love them.  stay up late with them.  sit in a dunk tank all night for them.  if you go to crossroads, get involved in our kids and youth ministries! a piece of your heart will forever go with them.  here are some of the pieces of my heart....

this one heads off to college after a return trip to costa rica this summer...

this girl in blue...last week i got to meet her sweet baby.  all grown up with an amazing husband and baby!!!

these three?  the middle one is mine.  the girl is my second daughter.  they serve together each week in our 3/4 year old class.  the other boy...he's my go to sub, heading to costa rica, and doesn't know it yet but will be joining my team in the fall!

this boy...he's cool.  he's my nephew.  i've watched him grow, struggle, served in haiti with him twice.  he's heading to costa rica this year, then on to college to become a doctor.  he hopes to be a medical missionary someday.

these girls on the front row....oh my heart!!  all have or are serving in our kids ministry.  all have been to costa rica.  all are going back.  in fact the one on the right.  she's been there all year with plans to return for another year.  the one on the left has been leading a small group on sunday mornings since she was in 8th grade.  she's a senior this year.  that's commitment!

this girl in the blue dress....she's mine.  well not really, but yet she is.  went to haiti with her last year.  she teaches our preschool class with her mom.  she cleans our church.  


these 2 little girls...they just served their hearts out at the rescue mission with me sunday.  the one in the middle.  she's off in the navy.  


this one....he may or may not have been part of the reason we removed our 5/6 graders from our kids ministry!  but he was one of my best small group leaders for 4 years.  now he's at college. loves God.  wants to start a hospital in africa.  seriously???


i'd actually come up with a partial plan for my "21 renewal" on friday night.  then this happened.  this glimpse was a gift from God.  one i needed desperately to see.  one that will continue to be a part of this renewal.  God changed the course of my life when i was 21.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

the word

i have gotten in the habit of choosing a word for the year.  i've done words like change, love, joy, discover, and last year chose to go different and focus on what i called the power of 10.  i basically failed at that. this past year has been interesting to say the least.  it has been a struggle for me in many ways.  i've kept those struggles a secret with only a few beloved friends.  but it hasn't made them any less real.  any less life sucking.

last week i started pondering this whole word idea.  i had a few swirling around in my head, but decided to ask my friends on facebook for some of their thoughts.  what words would they choose for me? some of their suggestions were weird - like bisquit?  others were really pretty good:  thrive, intentional, strive, exuberance, steadfast, faith, and many more.  i let them roll around in my head and heart.  i even had settled on one, or so i thought:  strive.  i started playing with the word.  pondering it.  but  i kept having this conversation with God.

Me:  i like strive
Him:  yes, I know...you strove all last year
Me:  so i should be good at this 
Him:  really?  how did it work for you?
Me:  you sound a bit like dr. phil
Him:  are you avoiding my question?
Me:  yes
Him:  okay.

we had that conversation exactly 3 times.  then i decided to answer His question.  the reality is striving really didn't work for me last year.  i strove for some health to return.  i strove to earn the love of those i love dearly.  i strove to find answers to confusion.  i strove to find my place in this community.  i strove to be who i think i'd like to be.  i strove to loose weight.  oh i strove.  i had that word down.  when i answered the question i had to honestly say all that striving really didn't work.  it left me confused, hurt, frustrated.  so our conversation continued:

me:  yeah, it didn't work so much
Him:  be still
me:  yeah, right?  aren't are supposed to be about your business?
Him:  be still
me: ?
Him:  be still and know that I am God.

uh...that's a verse.  but then i remembered that one of my friends recommended i use a greek/hebrew word.  so a quick word search was all i needed (well that along with agreeing with Him) to know without a doubt what my word for 2015 is:  

RAPHA

hebrew word for still in psalm 46:10.  it means to be weak, to let go, surrender, let yourself become weak, to be healed.  

i love this.  i love that there is way more to this word than stillness.  i love the depth of what it means to be still.  so my plan is to actually study this word.  to read all the other verses where this word is used in the Old Testament.  i think in my obedience to let go, surrender, be healed, become weak i will likely find that i KNOW God way better.  i'm believe God will reveal Himself in so many ways.  there are so many names of God.  so many i've yet to take hold of.  to witness.  to know.  but i believe that if i stop striving, if i cease the struggle and let go that this is gonna be a great year.

i had tried to explain to someone recently that i was tired of dreaming.  i'm a dreamer by nature, but had grown quite weary of dreaming.  he told me that was wrong -that i should always dream.  i really believe this is a year that i won't.  not out of a woe is me mentality, but out of a simple time to cease.  to stop striving. to stop trying to make something happen.  to just be still.  

RAPHA