Tuesday, December 29, 2015

what was and what is coming

The prospect of a New Year has always been something that causes me a wee bit of anxiety. There is something about it - the finality of an ending, the newness of space and time FULL of the unknown. I feel like I'm torn between two concepts - what WAS and what is COMING. I feel like I'm forced to move on to the new year and maybe I'm not really READY. True, I've had 364 days to prepare myself... but even then its sometimes not enough.

I try not to spend a lot of time in what was for fear of losing myself in that space. The comparison I end up creating makes me feel insufficient and unworthy. The thoughts that say 'remember when...' creep in and suddenly I can't see any good and perfect thing that has come from it. I can only see lack. And usually, its an abundance of lack. And though lack is NOT my reality, it seems to be the place I get stuck in.. and usually I believe it even when I KNOW not to. 

I try not to spend a lot of time in what is to come for fear of the cyclical thinking of making a decision and wondering if it is REALLY going to be the right one? And what if its not right? How can we recover? Will it cost us time? Money? Will be we spending emotions that we can't afford? Are we ready to take on what is coming? What are the risks? What are the rewards? Are we hearing Him right? What if we aren't? Will we be OK? ... OVER and OVER and OVER again...

The concept of the New Year forces me into thinking about these things. About what has passed and what is coming. This goes against my current philosophy of 'just do today.'  Just pay today's bills. Just deal with today's emotions. Just handle today's problems. Today. Only today. 

I find that the New Year also forces the idea of resolutions. WHY? This concept makes me crazy. WHY should I force myself to do something that I didn't want to do the previous year? Why should I HAVE to join a gym on January 1st because society says I'm morbidly obese and that is the only way I'll ever 'fix' myself? Why should I HAVE to resolve to be more kind or less of a door mat - shouldn't I be taking inventory of these things as the year goes along and just deal with them then? I've heard it said that 'my resolution is to not have a resolution' and as cliche as it sounds, I agree with that. January 1st shouldn't dictate a 'new you'... YOU should be evolving as the year goes and as you approach January 1st, then you should be just a little different than you were at the previous one. If this is true, then you're BETTER and it wasn't from your own resolve, it was from your experiences and the life you ACTUALLY lived throughout the year. #rantover (I wasn't planning on writing about that, but I guess I had to get it out.)

2015 was a crazy and unforgettable year. I call it the year of the lost and the found. It was a year that I lost who I was, but actually found that who I am is MUCH better than I thought. It was a year that tested relationships, grew and lost friendships. It was a year that reminded me that I have an AMAZING husband who loves me for ME and who trusts what I hear from God as though he heard it himself. A year that ripped me up, tore me to pieces, and then began the process of taping me back together. A year that I took the BIGGEST leap of my life and found myself nestled safe in God's plan for my family. And though every single day I wonder how long it will last, I KNOW that it was right. And necessary. And the single most courageous thing we have EVER done as a family. The year of the lost and the found. 

And so as I leave behind a year of MUCH change, I find that I'm not prepared for what's ahead. I feel like I'm standing at the top of a mountain. The view is nice here. Actually, its the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. The broken branches, the muddy slopes, the dirt smeared lines across our faces - all symbolic of the treacherous, unpaved road we walked. It's because of that I find our family in a place of beauty - even IF battered, we are STILL victorious. 

Logistically, when you're on the top of a mountain, you have to go down the other side if you want to forge ahead. You have to go from mountaintop to valley and then back up again. Sometimes? there isn't a trail to walk down and we find that we have to carve our own way. No two family would take the same road. We have to play to our strengths and minimize our weakness...but most of all we HAVE to trust that each step will bring us closer to God's perfect plan for our family. And so hand in hand, with provisions enough for just the day ahead, we test our footing and get ready to step. We press in to what SURELY will be our 2016 verse: Isaiah 42:16 - I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them" (I find it uncanny that the verse number is what it is...but God is ever surprising and ever resourceful and EVER eager to let it be known that He is unequivocally in charge of even the smallest detail of our lives.)

And so I find myself torn between what was and what is coming. I am teetering between embrace and avoidance; disapproval and pressing in; keeping and letting go. I can't say for certain that January 1st will be the day that I tip towards one side or the other...but I will say it won't last. At some point I'll realize that I have gone from one side to the other, naturally, and part of the way the year goes. Until then, I will take each day as it comes and do my best NOT to be torn between what was and what is coming. 

Proverbs 4:18 - The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Part 3 - The Song and the Prophesy

In case you missed them and need to catch up: Part 1 and Part 2

As you can imagine, at this point I'm just about undone. We have NOT EVEN BEEN TO THE WORSHIP NIGHT YET and I'm beside myself entirely. We left the breakout and I couldn't even really form the words that were in my heart. It was like I could ONLY communicate in emotion as the human language could not contain nor understand my feelings at all.  

On our way to dinner, we didn't really say much. What could we say? Disbelief was the predominant feeling. We reached for normal - such as, what do we have on our pizza? Lemonade, or soda? Are we getting dessert? We called our families and checked in. We 'stole' electricity to charge our phones - well, we ALL didn't do that, but one of us did :)  We reached, but we feel a little short. 

On the walk back, I said that the one thing that would tip me over would be if someone were to prophesy over me at some point this evening. I remember laughing at how greedy that sounded - the first half of the night was so incredible that even IF it didn't happen, it wouldn't have tainted my experience. Little did I know that my desire WAS something that God had put in my heart and WAS something that He had for me. 

As we were walking back in to the venue, I was getting a little overwhelmed. I LOATHE crowds - especially gigantic auditoriums full of strangers - and so I jokingly said to one of my friends that I really hope we can find 3 seats together - and maybe on the end so we don't have to be next to people. We walk in, and what do we see? A FLOOR, SIDE SEATING section with ONLY 3 CHAIRS THERE. Meaning, we each get one. Meaning... NO ONE else would be sitting WITH us. I could have cried. I swear the angels all gave a resounding hallelujah and pointed us directly to those seats. 

So we sat. We chatted. I freaked out at how pumped I was. We took selfies and posted on Instagram - as any normal person would haha! We talked some more. As we sat, soaking it all in, I turned to my friend and said - I really think they are going to play the song Closer (it holds a special place in my heart - but that's another blogpost for another time). She smiled her beaming, beautiful smile and said that she hopes they do (for me, of course - because she's amazing like that). 

Remember my #fangirl worship leader? Well, she couldn't sing that night. I was B U M M E D O U T but I couldn't really be mad after all that had happened already. So the team comes out and propels us right into heaven. Being a pourer-outer of worship, it felt weird to be on the receiving end (live and in person with a band. I personally lead myself in worship OR listen to Bethel or other worship teams online).  At one point, I felt FULL of JOY! I mean - the kind that radiates from your heart - I felt like it could possibly look like a Care Bear when they do a Care Bear stare (google it if you don't know... shame on you if you don't haha!). I mean - the dazzling, leaping, shining, reaching, cascading joy. Never have I felt anything like it. Ever. 

I remember at one point having a vision of people returning to churches in droves. Crowding at the doors on a Sunday morning - much like we did to get into the venue to see this concert. 

I remember at one point praying these prayers that I didn't know were in my heart. Out loud. I feel like I was yelling them pretty loudly, but my friends say they couldn't hear a thing. I have never EVER felt so sure that my prayers were being heard. Sometimes we pray and we wonder... this night I prayed and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my God heard me...I could feel that He is our faithful Father, our constant friend; He is closer than our breath and despite the fact that He made the UNIVERSE, He still knows me. And You. I've had encounters with God before... but this one wrecked me.

We worshiped our way to 'half time.' The lights came on for a little while. I was really anxious to get started on the second half considering what happened in the first. The girls were good though - keeping me busy during the brief intermission. 

The lights dimmed. The songs began. I got right back in to the throne room of heaven. I knew this was it, so I threw my WHOLE self into it. It was near the end when I heard the piano begin. I threw my hands up and turned to my friend next to me - and I said - THIS IS IT!! That song? That song 'Closer' that I was waiting for? They were starting it. And I was beside myself. 

As the leader sang out the first line of the song, I settled in and decided I wasn't going to sing this one, I was going to just let it wash over me. As I surrendered to it, I felt what I KNEW was a man's hand touch the top of my head. As SOON as it happened, I felt the surge of the Holy Spirit run through the tip of my toes. I slowly lowered my arms down and turned to look. It was him - the worship Pastor from earlier. The one who was pointing at me without knowing. 

Here I am. In Portland, Maine. In a crowd of about a thousand. In an auditorium. In the dark. During a song that I knew in my Spirit was going to be played - and at that moment realized that it was going to be the trigger to hearing the prophesy that I knew was coming all along. 

I looked at him. He introduced himself to me. I smiled, nodded, and inclined my heart and ear. Before I tell you what he said, I have to tell you this: after he introduced himself to me, he got a perplexed look on his face. He said 'have we already come to you?' and I said no. THAT was the confirmation I needed that what was about to be said was DEFINITELY for me. He felt like he had already done this - well, he hadn't, BUT it certainly WAS a divine appointment because my Spirit knew that someone would be coming. 

It is a very VERY powerful and moving experience. 

Before I tell you what he said, I will tell you THIS - there is absolutely, positively NO WAY that anyone could have made this up by just looking at me. Not possible. He just didn't come up to some random person and say some random thing that made no sense. NOPE. He came up to a random person, and said some specific things that made TOO MUCH sense. NO ONE could have guessed these things. Not without God's help and guidance. 

Some of this is quoted, some of this is paraphrased - but here it is: 

In a firm and sure voice, he said "I see You. God wants you to know that He sees you, but He also wants you to know that I (insert his name here) See. You. I do. You are SEEN. You are free from being behind. You are freed up from the back and you're being pushed to the front. There are people who you hold in esteem above you - and that holds you back - but that is BROKEN TODAY. That is NO MORE. NO. MORE (caps indicate intensity and urgency). You are seen. People SEE YOU - and I want them to. Its time to come out of the shadows - ALL of them - and move to the front. 

And then he walked away. And then I COMPLETELY LOST IT. With shoulder shaking sobs, I collapsed in my seat. I couldn't believe that had just happened. I couldn't believe what he said. I still don't. I processed for a minute, and then took out my notebook and dumped all those words on a page so I wouldn't forget. 

I gathered myself back together just in time for the song to be over. Honestly though? I'm not upset about that. I realize now it wasn't the SONG that I needed to hear. The song was the catalyst for the word. 

So - I am FASCINATED by the idea that God is El Roi - the God who sees me. I've even blogged about it before (find it here) .. That the lead in would be "I see you" is incredible. Another fun fact: When this pastor introduced himself to the breakout group earlier in the day, he said 'you guys all need to know me because I will be hanging around today. I am ____ and I do ___.' I believe he mentioned music production. I gave a quick chuckle and turned to my friend and said - I think I DO need to know him since being a published artist is on my bucket list. And then for him to follow the I see you from God with an I, Pastor ____ see you made me wonder ... I hope that doesn't come across as me thinking I have a 'network' with him - or even a chance of ever meeting/seeing him again - BUT it did make me think...

I struggle with confidence issues. I know a lot of people do, so I'll spare you the details - but it is a definite struggle for me. I am sure some of you who know me just said 'no she doesn't'... but trust me when I tell you I do. I just make the conscious decision every day to push through them. Some days are easier than others. Because of this, I am VERY MUCH content to be in the background. I don't need center stage. And here he is, telling me that I am seen. People see me and I can't hide anymore. Bummer haha! But as much as that scares me, it also gives me a great sense of wonder at what God would want to do with me when I'm not 'hidden.' 

This one thing though - the one about the people I hold in esteem and because of that I am being held back. THAT is what broke me. There are a select few who know this (more now, obviously haha!) - but there are a select few who KNOW that this inferiority is a VERY real issue that I have - but only with certain people. And he was SO RIGHT that it holds me back because I fear rejection from them... And that he would say those chains are broken? I never thought it possible........................................................................................................................I'm here to tell you, it WAS possible. Because for the first time in my life, the people I hold in this esteem no longer have that stronghold of authority over me. Let me be clear here - these people have NO CLUE of their position in my life - meaning - they have NO CLUE that I struggled with that. These are people I love to the ends of the earth and for some reason, I put them on a pedestal that I thought would always be too high for me to reach. And I can see CLEARLY now that the esteem actually held me back. It smothered me. It made me believe things that were  NOT TRUE. It was broken that day. I am free from it. And I am SO grateful for a God who sees me. 

The rest of our night was pretty uneventful - I mean, WHAT could possibly compare to what had already happened? My girls were in shock with me. I couldn't sleep. The tv at the hotel was TERRIBLE so I couldn't even use that to take my mind off of what happened. I ended up spending the night reliving every single event that happened. I ended up spending the night in awe of our Father who knows our every want and desire - and who meets us right where we are. The whole experience was such an incredible blessing. I can't imagine God outdoing that one. Even if I never have another day like that day, it was powerful enough that I would be ok with that. 

That day changed my life. Forever. Since then, I have taken more chances. I have written more spontaneous songs. I have pursued Jesus harder. I have spent more time in worship and prayer. I have leaned IN to my calling instead of bending away from it - and He has blessed that over and over again. I have cemented the reality that there IS a God and He is all knowing, all powerful, and all seeing. I pray that one day, you can have an encounter that does the same for you. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Part 2 - The Dream, The Point, The Wisdom, and The Experience

* In case you missed yesterday's Part 1 post, Click Here to get acquainted *

I pretty much floated in to the venue after what had just happened. I honestly could have gone home and been ok with that. We picked up our tickets at will call and headed in to the breakout session. 

The breakout session was a small group - MAYBE 60 people - and the worship team. We had an AMAZING time of acoustic worship where we sang some of my favorite songs and where I found myself praying fervently that ANY walls around my heart would come down so that I could really immerse myself in what was going to happen. I could feel something stirring in my Spirit even then. 

I need to jump back for a second though - Before the girls and I left in the morning, we stopped for breakfast. At breakfast, I told them about this crazy and VERY real and VERY weird and VERY scary dream I had a few nights before. I am a 'dreamer' - I dream as though its real life. I dream vividly. I dream in color and I dream with emotions. This particular dream, however, was a new kind of experience - too wonky to really get in to via a blog post, BUT, I had to tell them because I felt like I did... and I honestly needed to talk it out. 

Fast forward...

We are at the breakout, we have AMAZING worship, and then the team files in and has a seat. We open with prayer and the questions began to trickle in. Remember my #fangirl worship leader? WELL. At one point, someone had asked her a question and she started talking about a prophetic dream that she had and then she stopped dead in her tracks and said - We need to pray against dreams that are from the enemy - and she prayed this MIGHTY prayer that really came up against those kinds of dreams. Coincidence? I think not. Not for ONE second. She could have been praying for ANYthing. There were MANY needs in that room. And yet she prays for the dreamers? I just can't even handle it. I looked at the girls, they looked at me and we could only muster a small shake of our heads. We knew. 

After the breakout with the worship team, the Bethel worship Pastor came out and began to talk to us. He had a word of knowledge as he was speaking, so he stopped to share. At first, he asked if there was a Maria there - and there was a couple. He also handpicked a couple of other people from the group. As they stood, he was talking to them. As he was talking to them, he began to point. At me. He wasn't looking at me. Not once. Not ever. But I would move, his finger would follow me. Side to side or staying still - it didn't matter. We couldn't believe it. I remember looking at one friend and giving the 'are you seeing what I'm seeing' look - and she gave it RIGHT back. I'll bet you're wondering what he said. Well.. He said that "the time of darkness and depression is coming to an end. He said we are a diamond, and we've been hidden in a cave. What we used to only see from afar, we will now see up close. As the diamond is taken from the darkness into the light, it will shine and the rays will reach impossible lengths because of the Son. We are going to be propelled to places beyond our current reach."  This is not an EXACT quote of what he said, but its pretty close. And again - ALL THE WHILE that he is saying this and looking at the people standing, he is pointing to me. Unknowingly, I am 100% sure. The FUNNIER part? The part that really showcases God's sense of humor? For the past couple of years, my brother has nicknamed me "Maria" (said with a Portuguese accent)... And so, it doesn't REALLY strike me as THAT odd that he was pointing.  Additionally, this word was VERY VERY timely for me. I'm waiting on the second half of it, but I have seen glimpses of stronger light lately. 

After the word, I was honestly a little overwhelmed. My heart was racing, my mind was racing - I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time - it was a large conflict of emotions. As he moved into his preaching, I thought that I would have to emotionally "check out" as they say to preserve the rest of my sanity, but about 2 minutes in, I KNEW I needed to hear this message. While I can't steal all his thunder, here is my takeaway: Picture a stage in your mind. Now, I love a good visualization - so here is mine: My floor is beautifully marked and scuffed wood that shines in some places, and not in others. It's slightly higher than most stages, and there are three ways up - two side staircases and one center one that gets wider as the steps get closer to the top. The curtain in the back is deep, deep black - the kind of black that you aren't even sure you can see. The side curtains are a vibrant red, they are velour; they are heavy. The tiebacks are sturdy and strong. The curtains, though old, are in great shape - they hang perfectly like my favorite dress would. On that stage, for this particular scene, there is a box that creates a stair and another platform. On top of that platform are 3 chairs, side by each. The chairs have a rounded back and a wide seating area. They are old and faded burgundy. The wood is smooth and still rich in both color and scent. There are tarnished studs holding the cushions together. In front of these chairs is one spotlight. It sits in the center - so it shines on the center seat, but the corners of the light overflows on to the seats on the side. I am the only one in this audience that can see this stage. I sit middle row, middle seat, middle section. 

So he tells us to picture a stage in our mind. On that stage is 3 chairs. Each one of those chairs represents one of three ways we respond to any situation - fear, pride, and from the position of our identity and calling in Christ. DURING this preaching, I got a text message from the worship leader that was supposed to lead on Sunday. He had an emergency and had to go out of state to handle it. This meant I had to lead - this is an important part of the story that I will resurrect in a little bit. Anyway - so you will always respond to a situation with fear, pride or identity. He said that we need to ALWAYS position ourselves in the identity/calling seat. So, when we feel fear, we need to visualize getting up OFF the fear seat, walking over and sitting in the seat of our identity/calling. Same goes for pride. The goal is to consistently find ourselves sitting in the identity/calling seat at any given time. He said that if we commit to doing this, then we will only grow closer to the Lord. 

SO - lots more happened that night, but I'm saving that (the best!) for part 3. Maybe tomorrow :) 

HOWEVER, before I end this, I have to fast forward you to that Sunday where I had to unexpectedly lead worship. 

Worship leading... oh worship leading... UP until this point, it was ALWAYS an act of obedience. I can't recall if I ever wrote about how worship leading all came about, but let's just say that I call it my 'accidental gift.' The one I never even knew I had. TO THIS DAY (3 years in to it..) I STILL get unbelievably nervous before I lead. Upset stomach, the flight response in full effect. Good thing I have an AMAZING and supportive team. Anyway - this particular Sunday found me leading from the piano and with a drummer who is really a backup vocalist/saxophone player so it was not the usual set up. I was SOSTINKINNERVOUS - honestly. I got there early, we were warming up and I could feel myself sinking into my fear. What if I blew it? What if church couldn't connect because I was doing so badly? I'm just not good enough to do this today... And then I remembered the preaching. I took a minute, closed my eyes, envisioned myself getting up from the fear seat and sitting in that middle seat - the seat of my CALLING and the seat of my IDENTITY in Christ. I opened my eyes and decided that I would lean in to my Jesus instead of my flesh and the WHOLE atmosphere changed. 

It was in that moment that I truly believed - for the FIRST time - that God gave me (literally - gave/gifted me a talent i didn't previously have) the ability to lead worship. He gave me the ability to share my heart through a melody. He gave me the desire to connect with people in a song so that we can go straight to His heart and rest there. And so from that seat of my calling and my identity, I decided to give God back the gift HE gave me and surrender completely to it. 

Instead of a half-hearted attempt at leading that day, worship THUNDERED forth. It burst forth - like the spring time at its peak. I felt the shift. My team even felt the shift. I believe church felt the shift - it felt like we were finally moving forward and pressing on. Remember that vocalist/saxophone player who is also a pinch hit drummer? He dubbed this "the Bethel Effect." And you know what? It fits. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Bethel - Part 1 - The Drive and The Meeting

Consider this fair warning. I have a LOT to say. A LOOOOOOTTTTT. If I had to guess, this will probably be the LONGEST blogpost I've ever written. I actually may put it in parts/separate blog posts - THAT is how much I have to say. Because what I'm about to write about doesn't even seem like it could have possibly happened. Even now, 2 months removed from it, I STILL look back and absolutely CAN. NOT. BELIEVE. IT. 

It all began on the day I found out that the Bethel Church worship team was coming to the Northeast. I had actually put a trip to Bethel on my bucket list (it's still there!), but this was a way that I could satiate my appetite to worship with them in the meantime. When I purchased the tickets, I just KNEW that something big was going to happen. Didn't know to whom, but I KNEW KNEW that it would be something that none of us would forget. Before I forget though - I went to this concert with two of my dear friends - and thank GOD because they can vouch that every single word I am typing here is the truth! 

My dear, sweet friends dubbed me #fangirl for the day (well, honestly for the weeks before) because of the way I would spill over excitement and expectation when anyone even started saying ANYTHING about this worship night. If we only knew...

On the way up there, or perhaps just a little bit before, I had mentioned that there was one worship leader that I was REALLY praying that I could meet one on one - or at least have the opportunity to tell her - that she was such a MAJOR catalyst in my life. I 'grew up' these past couple of years watching her worship and being able to connect with it - and by proxy, being able to connect with the Father. I had this VERY strong NEED to tell her this, but the main message that burned in my heart was that I needed to tell her that SHE was the one who gave me permission to worship in Spirit and Truth in the way it felt right to me. I can't really explain it much more than that - it was her ability to worship with absolute abandon that permitted me to do the same. Do I still hold back when I'm leading, of course (working on it...) ... but I will say her example has helped me open up a little wider each time. 

Despite the fact that I could have crawled out of my skin from the excitement of what was to come, the drive up to Portland was uneventful - just a few friends, talking and encouraging and speaking truth in love. When we got there, we didn't really know where to park. We stumbled on this parking lot - it was one of those pay to park deals. We pulled in, I was getting VERY anxious because it was creeping close to the time we had to be there for the early breakout session and I did not want to miss one second. One TEEEENY parking space (for my friends NOT SO TEEEEENY SUV), two attempts at the parking ticket machine, and three or more questions to the lot attendant, we FINALLY were able to head over to the venue. A solid 30 minutes later. Those 30 ridiculous minutes? Divine intervention. 

As we were waiting for the parking debacle to be taken care of, I said for the 1,637th time that I really REALLY hoped to be able to tell this worship leader the profound impact she has had on me. 

Now - Portland is a hustling, bustling city. People everywhere. Prius' and food trucks abounding... There were many people walking up and down every street. Each going in their own direction, here and there... <- an="" fact.="" font="" important="" is="" nbsp="" this="">

As we are walking and we turn the corner on to the street that the venue is on, there are suddenly NO other people around. It was bizarre considering the amount of people we had just been with. I have a bad habit of looking at the ground when I'm walking. And so as we turned the corner, I happened to look up. In the distance, I see these two ladies walking towards us. One with red hair, the other with black. From far away, I couldn't REALLY tell... BUT ... my Spirit leaped  - sort of like I imagine the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaped when her sister Mary greeted her. I KNEW God was about to give me the most amazing gift. 

Everything was simultaneously speeding up and slowing down. I panicked. I turned to my friends in disbelief and I said - that is HER. (#fangirl, remember?). I said to them that I couldn't say what I had to say to her because then I would TRULY be a #fangirl - but they encouraged me and said I HAD to... In hindsight I really did HAVE to... I think I needed to tell her just as much as she needed to hear that. Why else would God orchestrate this whole thing? Why else would God delay our parking, clear the street, then put them STRAIGHT in my path so that when I lifted my gaze, I saw them? 

And so.. I pulled them aside - MIND YOU - there are STILL NO OTHER PEOPLE on this street or near us. It was like we were in a bubble. Speaking of, I bubbled over with all of the words and feelings in my heart. And she stood there, smiling and twirling the hair of her sleeping baby that she wore...and at the end of it all, I could have gone home and been satisfied - worship concert or no worship concert ... 

Little did I know that was JUUUUUST the beginning of something spectacular... 

** Clearly, I decided to split this up .. come back SOON for part 2 **

Friday, August 21, 2015


She reminds me of lavender. I am not entirely sure why. When I close my eyes and conjure up an image of her sweet and surprisingly smooth face, she is surrounded by it. Perhaps it is because lavender is one of those overlooked colors - the kind that is often complimentary to something more bold; and yet it is because of that lavender that the brighter color looks dazzling. The color it self is soft just like she is since the years have passed quickly and time has settled in to the corners of her eyes. And yet, her Spirit is full of youth. Not the foolish, haughty kind of youth that thinks it knows better, but the joyous part of youth that has its eye on the prize - although earthly trophies are no match for the reward of heaven that awaits her. 

She reminds me of lavender. The calming scent of it. The fragrance that soothes even the most anxious of souls.  Just dab it on, rub, inhale, and exhale. All will be well in a few moments. She reminds me of this. Her very presence is calming. The fragrance of her interceded prayers heard by the Mighty One causing peace to pour upon those she lifts up. Just be with her. Hold her hand. Share a smile and you will find yourself new again. 

Her Spirit spills a lived out faith. The kind that most long to experience. The kind that surrenders over and over and produces more fruit each time. Her prayers carry the weight of a saint - and she is not afraid to share them. She is not afraid to share her faith - her Jesus - and what He has done for her and through her. Word by word, her story unfolds in the most remarkable way and you cannot help but get caught up in the wonder of just how much Jesus emanates from her heart. Instead of feeling like you could never achieve a faith like hers, she makes you feel certain that you CAN - encouraging, helping, smiling, loving with an unfailing love like Jesus does. 

She reminds me of lavender. The soil drinks deeply when its watered, pulling down the life giving source right to the roots - and then using that source to put forth more fragrance and flowers and outward beauty. She drinks deeply of the Word and from the source of Life that is our Father; her roots remain in Him. 

Just like lavender reaches for the sun, I also long to reach for the Son as she does. In a way full of grace and abounding with love. In a way that draws others to Jesus. In a way that grows deep roots that remain watered with the Word. In a way that will surely have her hear "well done, my good and faithful servant." 

Monday, August 3, 2015

I'm No Longer a Slave to Fear

Before you read this post, you might want to take a look back at my last post in case you missed it. This one might not make sense to you otherwise.

SO. It is official. I am a stay at home Mom. I want to capture as much of the 'stuff' that is in my heart about this, so if you're interested in my otherwise normal life, please feel free to read on. If you were wondering if I finally left and don't really want to read on, well that is OK too. Go and enjoy the rest of your day or night :) 

I will be honest: the night before my last night, I had a moment of panic. I  packed up my desk a few weeks ago, but I kept it in my car (#lazy). The night before, I brought it inside to start going through it. For a moment, I wondered what I was doing. Was this REALLY the right thing? Was this necessary? Isn't there ANYthing that could be done? After some prayers, I reached out to my friend and spilled all of the panic in my heart. Her response (perfect, as usual)  "I think that is normal. The next phase of your life is going to be fulfilling and exciting." And suddenly, I realized that I was focused on what I was losing instead of what I was gaining - perspective is everything. The enemy would want me to do that. I am a child of God, no longer a slave to this FEAR of losing out...I need to just trust in His promises and trust that the still small voice that has been whispering sweet encouragement to my heart KNOWS what is best for me. 

My last days of work were not met with much fanfare. No parties. No extra emails.. just the quiet connecting between me and my favorites. We knew it was not going to be good bye, but rather 'see you later.' If there is ONE thing I am VERY grateful for, it's that these few people have been pillars for me. They have taught me things about myself that I didn't KNOW but they could see. They have challenged me, encouraged me, loved me, called me out, and accepted me just the way I am. They are permanently weaved into my life and I do not want to undo the stitching. It was my bittersweet pleasure to have these people walk me out of one season and into another. Surprisingly, the tears never spilled past their welling place and smiles outweighed any sadness that threatened to intercede. 

It feels surreal. My heart is simultaneously filled with awestruck wonder and disbelief. I am feeling unusually steady despite the unknown - a byproduct of being in God's will, for sure. It seems crazy, no? The whole thing. Even when I take an unbiased view of the decision that our family made, I wonder if I'm crazy (LOL!)... but I will say this. I have never, ever, EVER been more sure of something in my entire life. Never. God has cemented this in my heart. He has called this change good. He promises not to leave me. He promises to provide for us the things we need. He has started to water desires in my heart that have long been buried - desires that will fulfill my heart more than ANY man-made thing could; than anything I could buy with my salary. I can't see exactly what is ahead, but the Lamp that shines the path one step in front of me is bright enough that I KNOW my next step is secure. 

I ask myself what this next season will bring. It will bring challenges and it will bring opportunity. There will be an adjustment period - an adjustment to the budget and an adjustment of TIME...these are the two biggest challenges. BUT the opportunity is endless. I've always said that I'd like to write a book. Why not? If it goes nowhere, at least I can say I have done it. God has stirred up a desire to record a CD (despite my lack of confidence and mediocre skill). Why not? If it goes nowhere, at least I can say I have done it. I have always wanted to PhD in something. Why not see what is out there and consider diving in? Homeschool? Sure - maybe 6th grade will bring that about. Blogging more? Yup. Spending more time with God and His word? ABSOLUTELY. Maybe a little working out? Strongly leaning towards it. 

One of the thoughts that I had on my way home from my last day was this: NOW I have the opportunity to say yes more - especially to my girls. While I don't like to admit this, I often times would say no to avoid something - even IF I knew it would be something that we liked. For example - if the girls wanted to help me make chocolate chip cookies, I would think "ugh. that means I have to wash and put away 3 cookie sheets, 2 bowls, some measuring cups and spoons, a spatula." Lazy? Yes. But I will say it was more of a survival thing - it was more like - do I even have the emotional and physical capacity to do this (45 minute) activity? Same thing goes with things like bed time. I would often say NO you can not stay up 15 more minutes because we have to get up early tomorrow for work.  These things may sound small, but they were MAJOR stresses to me. And while we will remain on a routine, I feel like for the first time ever, we have wiggle room. And for the first time in forever, I do not even feel close to emotional and physical capacity. And yes, it has only been 5 days.

In a recent conversation with my (ever-so-honest) children, I realized that I was anything but joyful. That they had not recently seen my eyes dance with delight or my heart brim over with great happiness. The more I prayed about that, the more I realized that my work circumstances were truly robbing me of joy. I know that I am in control of my emotions and I know that I have the power and the authority to CHOOSE joy, but when the weight is unbearable, choosing ANYthing (even what is for dinner) is a larger-than-necessary task. I feel like I was robbed. That my joy was taken blindly from me...small portion by small portion. And I feel like I LET THAT HAPPEN - and that's not OK. Shame on me. However, the lesson in this is that I will NO LONGER let the foxes in the vineyard steal my joy. It is mine. Fully inherited by being a daughter of a King. We are His joy and His delight and its about time that we lived up to that calling. 

So today? We laugh a little more. We swim a little longer. We watch an extra show. We snuggle. We simplify and pare down the extra things so we have what we NEED - and we are overjoyed and full of gratitude that we have what we WANT. We make cookies and wash ALL those extra dishes. We read a book and then talk about how cool it was. We learn how to cook over easy eggs; and how to load the dishwasher the right way. We ALL pitch in to help so that we can spend more time together - un-rushed. Sure, we will not have as much as we are used to, but we will undoubtedly find that there is satisfaction in these lean times and contentment abounding. Because what God is shepherding in my heart will surely overflow - my cup runneth over, indeed. 

"Your goodness and mercy shall follow me all my life... I trust in Your promise" ~Good To Me, Audrey Assad

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I Quit

I suppose the reason that I cannot sleep is that these words need to be 'penned' to this page before my heart and my mind can rest. Why waste perfectly good writing time? Its 1:00 in the morning. I need to be up in less than 5 hours - but I don't think this will take me too long to sift from my heart. 

I quit my job. 

After almost 15 years. 


As in, by the end of the summer, I will no longer be employed there. 

I KNOW you're thinking one of two things: 1. You're CRAZY or 2. What happened? I will answer them both with maybe and it's a long story. If you want to hear it, read on. 

I have been feeling for while that there is change in the air. I could never put my finger on it. I found myself in a constant state of aloofness - like I had one foot planted and the other tapping around to find the hole that I might fall in to when I took my next step. I'm tired, I said. I'm overwhelmed, I said. I'm in a rut, I said... and while all of those things may have been true, they were JUST excuses. There was more to it than that. 

Our church hosts a women's prayer nights (monthly, most of the time). They are a time of prayerful songs and a powerful word from a powerful woman. In the month of September, I had the opportunity to attend one rather than serve at one. This day LITERALLY changed the course of my life. 

Prior to this, I had been battling work. Knock down, drag outs. It wasn't healthy for me...but I NEEDED this job... or so I thought. During this prayer time, God said to me - Look AT me. Don't look TO me, look AT me. Don't look to the left or to the right - look AT me.   I tried. Really. It was one of the hardest things I have ever tried to do. I realize there might not be a huge difference between AT and TO, but when it comes to looking at the face of God, I can ASSURE you there is. 

He gave me the scripture of Psalm 39:6 which says - "ALL this busy rushing ends in NOTHING...we heap up wealth not knowing who will spend it." Basically - you could work for wealth all your life, but it will cost you a LOT to do that. We all die at some point - and you could die before you even can ENJOY the wealth that you are building.

After that day, things began to change. As I fasted and prayed over what to do, I felt God calling me away from what I was doing. Towards what? I don't know. Something. But it was the CONSTANT reminder to look AT Him. I mean - it was EVERYwhere. And so I said I would. And I began to practice that. 

During that 'discovery' time, I realized that my dream to stay home was closer than I thought it ever was. I began to crunch numbers, pray, and pray some more. Would God be calling me to stay home? Could He be granting me the desires of my heart? The more I prayed about it, the more I was sure. 

My husband is an amazing man. Sure, we clash like ALL married people do, but he truly is someone special. (Let me precursor this with - I had been praying all along that if this WAS God's will for us, that somehow, someway, my husband would be on board with this. . .) As I emptied my heart of ALL of the emotion and conflict and uneasiness it could possibly contain, he listened to hear me. Not just listened, but listened to hear. He said let's pray about it some more and just make sure that God was whispering to him what He was shouting to me. 

As the holidays went speeding by, I found myself drawing from a well that was running dry. It was a hard season. I tried to see the bright side of things. I tried to soak up every smile and laugh that poured from my family's hearts... but it just didn't sink in for me. I felt as though I kept digging the hole deeper and deeper with no way out. 

About a month or so ago, I was in between asleep and awake on a weekday morning. I love that state. And as I was just resting in that place, I heard the sound of a door unlocking. It was an audible CLICK. And at first, I wasn't sure what that was about, but as the day went on, I realized that I was being unlocked. Unlocked from my employer. Unlocked from the chains that seemed to smother me. I FELT it with my whole being. It was exactly what I had been waiting for. 

Now - I will NOT in any way say anything negative about my employer - that's not my style. But I will say that I had a conflict. And I had a solution to the conflict....yet it didn't seem that my solution was being considered. Ultimately, without this solution, I felt like I was being set back in my 'career' instead of being propelled forward. There came a day when I realized that things weren't really going to change unless I made them change. 

Coincidentally, that VERY weekend, my husband and I had scheduled a trip to our favorite place. Just the two of us and 3 glorious days. We laughed a lot. We talked even more. The one question we mulled over and over was this: In five years, will we wish that we had taken this chance? The answer was an overwhelming YES. I don't deal with life or death. I teach. I have good experience. I have a good education. At the end of our 3 days, we knew it was the end of my 15 years. 

So we poised ourselves to jump. We stood on the edge, hand in hand. We closed our eyes, bent our knees, sent up a quick prayer and launched ourselves over the edge. The funny thing? We didn't even fall too far before the Father's hands caught us. He held us tight and reassured us that this IS what He has for us in this season. 

Funny thing is that the goal was for me to stay home. We'd foray in to homeschooling (we probably will) and do more 'homesteading' kind of things. Ironically, since then, I have gotten two part time job offers and a per-diem job opportunity. If that's not God proving His faithfulness once again, I don't know what it is. 

And so... after all that... I quit. At the end of the summer, I will walk out of comfort and in to uncharted territory...but we all know that a ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what it is made for. 

Proverbs 4:23-27
Keep vigilant watch over your heart;
    that’s where life starts.
Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth;
    avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.
Keep your eyes straight ahead;
    ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step,
    and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left;
    leave evil in the dust.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

No One Gives to the Giver

** This is NOT in ANY way directed towards ANYONE I know. It is simply an observation I have made over the past few days. I am sorry if anyone who reads this takes it the wrong way - that is not my intention. As in anything, I am just as entitled to share my opinion as you are - both are equally valid - none more right than the other ** 

Now that the above disclaimer is out of the way, let's get started - shall we?

Giver (n). One who gives; a donor or a contributor. 

I am a giver. I always have been. It is not unusual for me to be doing my regular, day in and out, overwhelming things AND other things for other people. I do like this facet of myself even when it sometimes taxes me above and beyond what I KNOW I can handle. Need a meal? I'll just make more than what I usually do and share. Need a phone call or a chat to get something off your chest? I'll fore go TV or whatever pleasure to make sure you are all set. This God I believe in? He loves a cheerful giver. I try to be one all the time.

I love to give words - I love to give encouragement and hope. I love to share my faith. I love to talk about how much I love others and concepts and things and experiences... I love to give gifts and hugs. I love to share who I am - faults and all - ... I suppose all of that encompasses a 'giver.'

I had my wisdom teeth out yesterday. I didn't make an enormous fuss about it because I tend to blow things out of proportion (even though I had TOTALLY blown it out of proportion in my mind). I have never been under anesthesia - yesterday was my first time. I am never really out of commission at all... so this is all new to me. This feeling of.... I CAN'T BE THE GIVER. Its like - I can't be who I am. <- any="" but="" don="" feels="" i="" it.="" it="" its="" know...="" know="" like="" me.="" nbsp="" need="" normally="" now="" of="" other="" others.="" others="" p="" say="" sort="" t="" to="" way="" weird="" who="">
My husband works a lot - he is an amazing provider and takes pride in being able to support us like he does. I don't do anything to hinder that. He had to work today (couldn't get out of it) so I just went along with it. I figured I would be able to manage the things that need to be done if I kept it to a minimum. I woke up this morning to three squawking baby birds (i.e. my children) asking for food and needing who knows what from me. I nipped that in the bud but quickly realized that this would be far from the easy day that I had hoped for. There is laundry to be done, there is food to be cooked for dinner, there is picking up that needs to be done. Can my girls help with this? Yes... but the control freak in me wants it all done the way I do it. <- a="" and="" another="" as="" bit="" blog="" br="" children="" delight="" disappointed..="" don="" emotion="" feeling="" here="" i="" in="" is="" itself.="" kind="" listening="" m="" my="" nbsp="" of="" other="" outside="" post="" really="" right="" sit="" snow="" so="" some="" squealing="" t="" that="" the="" there="" to="" understand.="" with="">

Disappointed in myself that I just can't rest. Its almost like I don't understand that concept. You'd think that not even 24 hours after anesthesia, I'd be gentle with myself and do my best to take this opportunity to really do NOTHING. Nope. Because I know that if I don't stay on top of things, they get out of control. Then if things are out of control, I FEEL out of control. If I FEEL out of control, I go in to panic mode... and we all know that Dina + panic mode = absolute disaster.

Underneath it all, I feel like no one really gives to the giver because they assume that the giver has plenty reserves. I know a few givers and they make it look EASY when in reality, it can be hard. It is hard to put yourself/needs aside and include others. Yes, it gets easier with practice... but still. I think that maybe the assumption is that I always have my ducks in a row. I always am able to give more or do more... and so in this vulnerable time of what I might dare to consider 'need,' I find myself wishing that someone would give to the giver.

Yes, I have had plenty of  'let me know if you need anything"s - but lets be honest - who actually cashes those in? I mean - I've thrown them out there a TON, wishing someone would cash them in, but they never do. Maybe someone comes through for them and I don't know it. Maybe they just go without (which makes me sad)... but regardless... I  feel like no one really says "I will let you know" and means it. You don't want to make someone have to do extra just for you. Such a backwards way of thinking...although I imagine that sometimes we say it out of obligation to whatever relationship you have with that person.

I also am not a big fan of the obligatory "let me know if you need anything" either. If you don't mean it, don't say it. If you're going to feel guilty if you DON'T say it, still don't say it  <- a="" am="" and="" certain="" easy="" expected="" from="" i="" is="" it="" its="" lot="" myself="" now.="" of="" off="" people.="" right="" roll="" saying="" the="" this="" times="" to="" tongue="" u="">But if your heart isn't in it, what is the point?
I believe you should do things because your heart desires to do them, not because you think its the 'right' thing to do. Maybe, in that same situation, it is someone else's 'right thing to do' and not yours.

Which leads me to this...

From now on, I am not going to say "let me know if you need anything." Because no one is honest about it (most of the time) and then when you really need whatever 'anything' is, you don't want to ask for it. Instead, I am going to assess the situation, FIND a need that I KNOW will be there, and then execute. Getting your wisdom teeth out? I will tell you that the night before I will arrive with a pre-op hug and some chicken soup/a homemade heating pad/some italian ice/ice cream and that will be that. Odds are good that 1. you will appreciate it the next day more than you could have imagined on the day it was delivered and 2. you will be relieved that it is one less thing that you have to do and 3. you will feel cared for, loved, and taken care of even when your face feels like it was repeatedly hit with a baseball bat.