Wednesday, January 30, 2013

running through storms

they say a storm's coming.

a tornado may just drop right out of that dark, full sky.  i guess that's what can happen on a 70 degree day in january...crazy.

i had to get my run in today.  the days between me and that 13.1 mile course are shrinking.  it's amazing how you make something happen when there's a deadline...an expectation.  i need more deadlines.  the kind of deadlines that turn into lifelines.

that wind has been whipping on and off all day long.  i watch the furniture on our back porch creeping across the floor.  i see the pillows tumble down from their places.

i had an estimated 45 minute window between joey coming home and the weather getting worse.  we high-fived as he walked in the door and i walked out...the ultimate tag team.  

i hit 'start' on the garmin as my feet hit the pavement.  this one would be quick, but intense.  the goal was speed today.  

my legs settled into their stride and i felt the risk in this run.  i saw the heavy gray clouds looming.  i felt the tiny drops landing softly on my arms.  i kept my wiry frame steady and strong as the winds gusted.  i sensed the power that comes sweeping down from the skies and moves me like a feather.  i was small but i was strong...because that power of the winds and rains isn't just around me...it's inside me.

as i turned the corner and headed back toward home i willed my legs faster and faster until they were spinning with every ounce of energy i could muster.  my playlist landed on these words...
     all the poor and powerless
       all the lost and lonely

my feet hit hard and my stride grew long as i thought of them - the poor, the powerless, the lost, the lonely.  i ran for them.  wishing that with every step they felt rich and powerful, found and accepted.  faces reeled through my mind and then there it was...mine.  
poor.  powerless.  
lost.  lonely.  
all those identities i, too, have harbored.

the wind picked up and swirled around me.  i thought it might lift my feet right off the ground.  the drops grew bigger and fell faster.  and still i ran...harder and harder.
     all the thieves will come confess
       and know that you are holy
     and all will sing out hallelujah
       we will cry out hallelujah

hallelujah - praise Him.

today my running was my worship.
today i felt the presence of the living God in the power of the wind and the softness of the rain.  
and i was reminded...
the God of this storm is the God of my storms too.  the same power that causes thunder to crash and winds to spiral is wielded inside of me...inside of you.  His torrential rains wash over every dirty stain in my heart until they are clean again.

and so i can't help but do this.
i can't help but 
     go on and tell it to the masses
       that He is God

and as i coasted down the last hill i lifted my head up to look through the cracks of blue amidst the gray...the slivers of light that still remained.  i let the rains cover my face and i felt this truth in the depths of my spirit - that...
     all the hearts who are content
       and all who feel unworthy
     all who hurt with nothing left
       will know that you are holy

i know that He is holy.



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

fighting through the crowd

sometimes i get this uncomfortable claustrophobic feeling.  

i'm not talking about that time that i started shaking uncontrollably inside the MRI machine and they had to pull me out.  that was a nightmare though.  seriously...how can you keep from losing your ever-loving mind when you are cramped in a dark tunnel with a metal mask on your face and a loud hammering sound coming at you from all sides.  yep - i marched my freaking-out self right through those double doors and never looked back.    

so this feeling...it's kinda like that.  but it's different.

sometimes i feel like the world is so full that i have to elbow my way through the crowd.  it's slow moving and i can't settle into a brisk pace...sometimes i can't move forward at all.  there are moments when i even feel myself being pushed down by the masses.  i start stumbling backwards.  suddenly i can't even see where it was that i was headed.

i look around at all the people and what they are successfully doing 
and how many thousands of people follow them on twitter 
and how well-organized their websites are 
and how many well-known figures endorse their books 
and how perfectly artsy all their instagram pictures are 
and how hilariously witty all their facebook posts are 
and i feel myself hyperventilating.
  
i think i might just get swallowed up by the masses.
i'm afraid i will disappear and nobody will even know i was there...in the crowd.
i get that freaking-out feeling again.  
i want to start pushing people away from me.  i want my space.  and i don't want it to be cyberspace.  i want it to be the space filled with fresh air that i can really breath and grass that i can really sink my feet into.  i want it to be big enough for me to run and run and run...

social media and the internet has started making me feel claustrophobic.  
i know there is so much value to these tools.  really, i do.  but right now the cost is outweighing the benefits for me.

i am a wife and a mother and a children's ministry director and a writer and a reader and a runner and a friend and a counselor and an artist...
and i don't have time to manage social media.  there is so much living i want to do and so much dying that happens every time i chase a rabbit hole into my laptop.

is it possible that we are becoming too 'connected'?  with every connection that i make i feel the responsibility of that one and then the pressure to make another one and another one...and it never ends.  

i feel quality suffering for quantity.

our culture certainly has a tendency to value more, more, more...and i feel that happening with technology.  i wonder how it will affect my kids.  i wonder how it is affecting me and my marriage and my friendships {the real ones}.

i think today's post contains more questions than answers but i needed to start asking them.  the only real answer for me right here and right now is to take a break...to remove myself from the crowded arena and take a detour down a quiet dirt road in the country somewhere.

so here's how i'm going to do that...
right after i hit publish on this post i am packing up the kids and going to the biggest field we can find and we are going to run...wild and free in this rare january sun.  and then i am going to cut myself off for a little while.  no facebook, no twitter, no instagram, no surfing the web for ideas and inspiration for the rest of the week while i mull this over.

in the meantime - i'd love to hear from you.  how do you make sure that staying 'connected' doesn't sever connections?  how do you keep from being swallowed up by social media?  does any of this resonate with you or am i the only one struggling here in the 21st century? 

Monday, January 28, 2013

when your kids find truth

i stuck to my 5:30am wake up today.  i never regret that decision.

i got a good 20 minutes of reading in before little people began to stir.  joey and i managed to get them potty-ed and corralled back in their rooms until 6:30.  by the time we had finished our quiet time and i was making my way to the shower lucy had made her way into her brother's room...looking for a playmate.  just a few minutes in i heard this conversation...

lucy: oliver - you are going to die.
oliver: no i'm not!
lucy: it's okay buddy.  everybody dies.  it won't be for a long time.  but after a lot of years God let's you die so that you can go to heaven with him.
oliver: okay.  let's play dinosaurs.

wow. 
there are lots of moments as a mom that i fear i am failing my kids.  i worry that i won't be successful at doing the one thing that matters - leading them to Jesus.

and then there are moments like those.

personally, i think lucy did an exceptional job of explaining death to a three year old.  he seemed satisfied with it.  i'm sure there will be more questions down the road but can i just say that i am 100% happy if that is their current view of life and death.

after i overheard the conversation the first thing i did was run into the bathroom and tell joey.  interestingly - there was one word that really stuck out of the whole dialogue for both of us - let.

in her little four year old voice she spoke boldly about death without any indication of worry or fear.  in fact, there was that word - let.  God let's you die...  
i can't remember all the conversations lucy and i have had on this topic.  the girl asks a lot of questions.  but somehow between our conversations and what she has heard at church and school and elsewhere...she has arrived at this truth.  

truth.
she is learning truth.
could it be possible that a child who has just learned to brush her own teeth already realizes that there is more to life than...well...this life?  is it possible that she is living this life with unabashed joy yet doesn't fret the end of it because she has hope for what's to come?  

day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month i see her faith grow.  before i had children i never knew it was possible for someone so young to have faith so deep.  but i see those tender roots crawling down and drinking living water.  i watch her sweet frame growing stronger and bearing fruit.  

i see it as nothing short of a miracle.


no matter how many times i mess up as a mom...i can't mess up His plan for my kids.  
no matter how many times i have gotten in the way...He still makes a way.

when i see eternity set in the hearts of my children...
when i hear words full of hope and faith and every fruit that the spirit offers cross their lips...
when i feel them taking steps away from me and into their own great story...

i see God.

i see that when i speak His truth aloud and when i pray it down deep in their souls something amazing happens...they follow Him.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

finding the words

my head is hurting.

i'm in a fog.

it could have something to do with the fact that my contact lens prescription has run out and i haven't had time to go in for my exam so today i put in a pair that is 4 weeks old {please don't tell my optometrist}.

but there's something else.

on most days i can't sit down at the keyboard fast enough.  my fingers can't wait to fall into their old familiar place as my heart and mind wrap their arms around each other and gracefully take those big sweeping steps that are the dance of writing.

on most days my mind is filled with ribbons of thoughts that come tumbling out soft and long...all color and curl...filling the page with life.

over the past couple of weeks i have had three speaking engagements.  the work of my fingers, my heart, and my mind have gone into the words that would be spoken.  writing those words is different than writing these words.  not different-bad, not different-good...just different.  

i have neglected the ones that cry out to be written.  

now, in this first quiet moment, i sit down to find they have gone missing.  i have gotten up and down from the kitchen stool three times busying myself with mundane tasks like rearranging the flowers on my kitchen table.  
wasting time...waiting...hoping that the next time i pull up to the computer a post will just pour out into that empty box with the blinking cursor.

i can't find them.  i can't find the words.

and so i just start writing.  start looking.
of all the words i have spoken aloud these first new year weeks there are some that i keep replaying.  i keep turning them over in my mind.  i add to them and take away.  i poke and prod them.  i look for what is lying beneath.  within them there feels like a whole book's worth of thoughts and ideas...and somehow i can't squeeze enough out for one measly blog post.

know Him and make Him known.

two weeks ago i proclaimed from a sunday morning stage that this is God's will for us.  i believe it.  i see it written throughout the scriptures.  i feel it pressing into my own heart.  it is not a revolutionary thought but if we took it seriously it could start a revolution.  i can't let it go.  i want to know what it means for me.

be a good steward of your story.

i have shared again and again these words that are whispered into my heart each day.  i know they are meant for me...and for you.  i keep going back to this idea of platforms and i keep praying for the courage and confidence to step onto mine and do that first thing - make Him known.

for me the two are woven together into one bright, strong thread...my story and His.  there are people in this world, in this town, even in this very family of mine who don't know.  maybe i'm the one to tell them...maybe you are.  you can call it evangelism or witnessing or making disciples or telling the world or spreading the word...and there are a million and one ways to do it.  but for me there is only one that makes sense...sharing my story...and how it fits into His.  

just like david who stood boldly in front of the king and those armies of men and that towering giant, i want to stand up and tell them.  tell them about the lions and bears i have battled in my own life.  the ones that took the shape of fear and idolatry and pride and so many other tooth-bared creatures tearing my soul apart.  i want to tell them what it was like for me and then, like david, i want to proclaim with confidence...
     the Lord who rescued me...

i want them to know that my own story has gone from a novel that couldn't keep your attention beyond the first chapter to an amazing adventure worthy of a spot on the best-seller list.
i keep thinking that what donald miller says just might be true - 
your story fills in the empty places.

whether it's over a cup of coffee or from a stage flooded with lights or in a village in haiti or sitting on the edge of my daughter's bed or in this little cyberspace home...i want to fill those empty places.  i want to tell my story.  because i can't tell my story without making Him known.  and i can't make Him known without telling my story.  for me the one doesn't exist without the other.

Friday, January 18, 2013

when you come to a standstill

I have felt paralyzed this week.

paralyzed  

:: partly or wholly incapable of movement
:: rendered unable to think or act normally
:: brought to a standstill due to disruption or chaos

After taking to the platform on Sunday morning I was wiped out.  This was no surprise.  


Speaking is different from writing.


I give a lot to my writing - and writing gives much to me.

I give a lot to my speaking - and speaking takes much from me.
It's been a great surprise how much i actually enjoy preparing material and standing before people to speak it aloud.  i never would have guessed that my love of writing could so easily translate over into speaking.  but...

it.  is.  exhausting.


there is something about looking your audience in the eyes as your words unfold that is completely different than carefully packaging the lines together and hitting 'publish'.


i love people.  i love seeing them in person.  i feel tremendous pressure to connect with every one of them when they gather together in front of me.  that is a heavy weight to bear and so when it is all said and done i take my weary frame and curl up in a ball on the bed where i proceed to sleep for hours...and so i did on sunday afternoon.  i slept.


i feel like i have been sleepwalking ever since.


these past few days i have realized that there is a dilemma writers face when they engage an audience.  


in the very beginning my only audience was me...re-reading the furiously scratched out pages of my journals that i kept under lock and key.  in school my teachers, and occasionally my classmates, were privy to some of the lines i was composing.  when i began blogging nearly five years ago i offered my words up to a small audience.  over the years that audience has grown.  facebook connected me to many more sets of eyes and i began the maiden voyage of being read by strangers.  over the past year i have allowed a microphone to be strapped to my face so that entirely new groups of people can hear my words fresh and real.  and now twitter...the potential magnitude of that audience has me dumbfounded.


through all of these changes i have continued to write.  words flow from my mind and my heart to my fingers today just as they did when i began 30+ years ago.  the difference is that today i now have a keen awareness that someone {besides me and my 9th grade English teacher} will actually read or hear what i have to say.

as a writer i want to engage an audience.  of course i do.  i love the relationship with my readers and the way that words connect us with one another.

but there is a challenge that comes with audiences...especially as they grow.  if you're not careful you fall into the trap of believing you must work equally as hard on expanding your audience as you do on crafting your words.  i stepped right into that trap this week and today i finally realized that the only way to be free was to write myself out of it.


thanks for letting me work it out here.


i recently stumbled upon jeff goins.  i am a stranger who reads what he has to say...and here are some of his words about the tension between creativity and congratulations that have gotten me thinking this morning...


writers everywhere are rediscovering their first love: writing.


not tweets

or publishing contracts
or blog comments.

just writing.


real writers don't write for recognition.

they do it because they cannot not write.  

i cannot not write.  


the paralysis i experienced this week was due to a particular disruption or chaos.  it did render me incapable of thinking and acting normally.  

this week i stopped writing.  
i shifted my energy from reading and thinking and wondering to teaching myself to tweet, researching ways to maximize social media, obsessing over the 'look' and 'feel' of my blog.  these things are not bad in and of themselves but when they consume me to the point of leaving no room for actual writing...
i am paralyzed.
i can't breathe.
i start sleepwalking.
i come to a standstill.

and the only way to get moving again...is to get writing...


if you have come to a standstill this week i hope you will remember what it is that breathes life into you and then...

get to it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

platforms

last sunday morning i stepped up onto a platform and spoke some of my words and wonder aloud.  

it wasn't my usual sunday morning audience of 1st-5th graders.  
it wasn't my comfort zone, but...
i was able to step up and speak with confidence because of some important truths i have been learning.  

{and these words from jon acuff that miraculously popped up via instagram a couple of days before i spoke definitely helped}

God didn't give you a platform so you could hide your story.  
Shine Bright.  
We've got enough night lights.  
We need lighthouses.

for more on this story check out my post over at the new charlotte blog today.
to hear my message from sunday morning click HERE.


Saturday, January 5, 2013

surrounded


It was just after 6am when she found us.  

We heard her feet hit the floor, door open,  little legs running down the hall…to the potty.  We looked at each other, smiled and quickly turned off each of our respective bedside lamps.  Hold your breath…quiet…maybe she won’t  know we’re up…maybe she will go climb back in her own bed.  

Minutes later the door opened.  She walked over and i tapped the light on my phone…it was just enough for her to see us both sitting up in bed with books on our laps.

What are you guys doing??

We laughed…busted.

We were having our bible study time…do you want to get your bible and join us?  

She smiled and ran out of the room.  When she returned she didn’t have her bible but she did have her baby and her blanket.  I scooted over closer to Joey to make room for her.  She paused and cocked her head to the side…too bad i can’t get in the middle of you guys.

I moved back over to make a spot in between us…come on doodlebug – you can get in the middle.  

She dove into her spot, snuggled down and looked back and forth at both of us with the most satisfied grin on her face.

Surrounded by mommy and daddy...a safe little spot to nestle and know you belong.
It’s funny how God is redeeming some of the hurt from my childhood through the childhood of my own kids.

If I’m honest I struggled with where I belonged growing up.  I always knew my parents loved me.  They did a great job of expressing that to me.  But for me there was something difficult about having a mom and a dad in two different places.   I was never sure which place was mine - with Mom or with Dad.  Some holidays I spent with my mom's family.  Others were with my dad's.  And others still were with my step dad's   I was never with one family all the time.  

I don’t think there was anything more they could have done to make me more comfortable in their respective homes to clear up my identity crisis.  Being cuddled down in the bed between the two of them wasn’t an option so I had to figure things out a different way.

As kids we all have situations and experiences that are difficult.  My kids will have them too.  I fail them, disappoint them, say the wrong things...and it hurts.  I never want to hurt my kids but I do - and I will.  They will have to work through it just like I have had to work through my 'where do i belong' questions.

If you are a parent, don’t underestimate the importance of your simple togetherness as a mom and dad for your kids.  When Joey is hugging me tight in the kitchen and one of the kids comes to wedge in between our legs we let them in and let them be surrounded. 

If you are a single parent, know that you may have to work a little harder to help your child develop a strong sense of identity.  It may take a little longer for them to be secure in who they are and where they belong...and that's ok.  God will teach them who they are in Him.  Your arms can surround your child...and so can your prayers.

There are a lot of other things that can surround us in this world - fear, doubt, uncertainty, the opinions of others, society's ideas of success and beauty...

I want the first layer wrapped around my kids to be the arms of Jesus.  And so I pray daily for their awareness of His presence in their hearts and in their lives.

And I know the very next layer needs to be us.  I imagine how strong it must make them feel to be fortified in that way.  To know without question that we started a family with God in the middle of it and now they are included in that circle.  So they can say with confidence...
this is where I belong  
this is where i am surrounded
  with love
    with grace
      with family

Whatever your family looks like I pray this truth for you...  
For your parents...  
For your children...  
Because, really, as hard as we work and pray as parents we will never be able to surround our children the way He can.

do not be afraid, for i have ransomed you.  i have called you by name - you are mine.
when you go through deep waters, i will be with you.
when you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.
when you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
for i am the Lord, your God, the Holy One, your Savior...
...you are precious to me.  i love you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

what's the war you're waging this year?


so i'm running a half marathon.  i hope.
ever since my daughter was born four and a half years ago my physical fitness has seriously suffered.  i have good intentions but that hasn't gotten me far.  

last year my husband tried to get me to run a half marathon with him.  i didn't think i had time to train so i signed up for the 5K instead.  i figured that would still give me something to work for.  it didn't.

with my cross country background, my relatively long legs, and the built-in exercise i get from chasing my kids around...i can run a 5K...any day of the week.

and so without training one bit i went out and ran that 5K last march.  i even finished 2nd in my age division.  a nice accomplishment but it didn't accomplish what i wanted it to.  i didn't want the cheesy medallion {though my kids have had fun playing with it}.  what i wanted was to find a way to push myself out of my comfort zone.  i wanted to rise to the challenge of making myself better in some way.  i wanted to so something that i wasn't sure i had it in me to do.

with two months standing between me and a half marathon i am being challenged.  i like it.  i started training two weeks ago and i'm up to five miles.  that's a long way from 13 so i will have to keep pushing.    

running isn't the only part of my life where i am stepping out of my comfort zone...where i am feeling weak and ill-equipped.  

these words and the way that i write them and speak them are making me uncomfortable too.  i am finding myself in situations to offer them to others on bigger platforms {both virtual and the kind you stand on with a microphone}.  just like the running it's uncomfortable.  it's hard work.  it requires stretching.  it is beyond anything i feel capable of.  some days i don't know if i will make it.  but...it brings me to the place i want to be this year - in desperate dependence on a God who promises to be the strength in my weaknesses.  in this i find my confidence to keep going.

these situations all plant within my soul a fighting spirit.  there are so many battles to be won in my own flesh and i need to come out swinging if i want victory
over fear
over pride
over bitterness
over selfishness
over apathy

as part of my battle plan i have spent some time lately loading my ipod with songs to get me fired up.  if you need a little something to get you going on your new years resolutions {or non-resolutions} try this one.  it's one of the best 'get out there and kick some butt' songs i've found.  and honestly...it gets to the heart of how i hope to live this year.   
{and i bet you never knew john piper was into rap music}
what is the war you're waging this year?