Everything Is Changing.

I sat in the front pew waiting for the crowd to disperse and for the specific prayer warrior to be available. I know God hears everyone the same, but I needed Mama Sheryl to pray for me that day. I needed to hear someone say exactly what I couldn’t say out loud. And boy did she…

Everything is changing. I’ve quit my job because God told me to. I’m moving with my parents because I don’t have a job. My parents are going through health challenges that are both physically and emotionally scary. I have questioned almost every one of my relationships in the last 6 months, and I no longer recognize who my community is.

Like I said, EVERYTHING is changing.

Nobody could have prepared me for the last year and the chaos that would unravel in front of my eyes. Nobody, that is, but the Voice that gently whispered…get ready. Get ready to feel your entire foundation shaken, only to remember Who your real foundation is. Get ready to trust Me in ways you have never trusted Me before. Get ready to hear My voice in ways you have never heard before. I have prepared you and I have preserved you. Get ready.

Oh how I wish I knew the end of this testimony. How I wish this was the blog post where I tell you that He has showed me everything He has prepared me for…but the truth is, He hasn’t.

Yet.

So I tell myself the same thing I tell anyone who comes to me for counsel; “What’s the last thing He told you to do? You hear His voice. No matter how it looks, or who says what, you hear His voice. What’s the last thing He told you? Keep doing that!”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all the sermons I’ve heard and Bible I’ve read…God rarely spells it out for us. And even when He did, those closest to Him in the moment still sometimes questioned what He was telling them point blank. So I figure the more my life looks like a Bible story…the better. And if there’s one thing that I’ve witnessed in the last year, our God is a faithful God. He sees your pain in the chaos and change and He will bring a calm to the storm if you remember to focus on Him.

So if you find yourself in a place where everything is changing, I encourage you to lean in and listen. He speaks to us and His sheep know His voice. What’s the last thing He told you to do? Keep doing that!

Today’s Forecast: Change. Lot’s of it.

Silver Lining: The change is not a surprise to Him. 

My-my-my-my my (Non) Poker Face

 

poker face 1

I’m not sure when and where I lost my poker face.

It would be hard to believe I never had one considering I grew up in a family who loves them some gambling. As long as I can remember, holiday gatherings always ended around a poker game. You could hear the grownups laughing amongst the scratching of the plastic poker chips, and an occasional rise in the volume of the game if someone tried to bluff.

If you aren’t familiar with bluffing or a poker face…here’s the easy definition: it’s lying or pretending you have something you don’t. It is knowing you have a crap hand but not letting it show on your face.  In fact, some professional poker players cover their eyes with sunglasses so that the other players can’t ‘read’ them. Other players get really dramatic and act like they have a great hand. The strategy is used as a scare tactic to get you to go out of the game early by making you think they have a better hand than you.

But somewhere around the age of 36, as I became closer to 40 than 30, my poker face disappeared. Not only am I bad at bluffing, I’m really bad at keeping my face from letting you know exactly what I’m thinking as certain words are coming out of your mouth. I finally understood why grownups would look at me as a kid with that ‘you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me’ look as I tried to lie myself out of a situation I didn’t want to be in.

But that’s where I have found myself recently. In the poker game of life, some key players have let me down by pretending they had something in their hands that they didn’t. Comments that “slipped out” in front of me without laying down the entire hand, which only caused more questions and uncertainties in a game I no longer wanted to participate in. And straight out bluffs that have shaken me to my core. Although I know not to expect integrity at a poker table, I’ve been grieved by the fact that I may not be able to expect it from leaders, family and friends. And sometimes, I question if I can expect it from myself.

And that’s when enough is enough. I have worked too hard to begin to pretend again that bad behavior, including my own, is ok. I refuse to put on a poker face and pretend that I’m not being played. And although I don’t plan on yelling “You’re bluffing!” at the top of my lungs while throwing my poker chips at people like my Uncle Vito did back in the day; I do intend to stop hiding my hurt or turning it in on myself.

Today’s Forecast:   Potential of an occasional stank face.

Silver Lining:           Living a life mask free and integrity filled.

 

My First Reconciliation

Reconcile photo

I remember my first reconciliation.

I was in 2nd grade and we were learning all about the sacrament of penance. They taught us what would happen. You walk into a room and sit in front of the Priest. Gone were the days you could hide behind a screen. Father Birch would say something. Then I would say something. Then I would tell him what I needed forgiveness for. Then he would forgive me and tell me how many Our Fathers and Hail Marys I needed to say. And that was it – I was forgiven for hitting my brother. It was the same sin I said at every confession.

I won’t say it was as simple as that, because I was beyond frightened every time I did it. Maybe it was more shame than fear, as sitting in front of the leader of our congregation and telling him my sin was much more intense than telling my Mom or Dad. In my second grader eyes, I saw Father Birch as God’s stunt double. Although I was fairly certain he was always going to forgive me, I did feel better after the act of confessing was over. I did feel reconciled.

So here I find myself some 30+ years later on the 1st day of the year with the word “reconcile” heavy on my heart. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper it in my ear as I pondered what my word for 2016 would be. As soon as I heard it…I knew.

The dictionary defines reconcile (a verb) as:

  • to restore friendly relations between.
  • to cause to coexist in harmony;make or show to be compatible,and
  • to make (one account) consistent with another, especially by allowing for transactions begun but not completed.

Wow God…really? Way to give it to me straight in 2016.

But God knew.

God knew because He orchestrated that I would learn all about forgiveness in 2014. He knew 2015 was going to be tough. He knew there would be days I would wrestle with what He was allowing me to see. And when I asked Him snot-nosed and teary eyed, “Why God…Why am I the one who has to see this?! Why are you leaving me here to see this?!”

He knew that I would eventually rely on Him. He knew that when I prayed with an admittedly mustard seed amount of faith: “He sees it. He’s going to deal with it,”  He knew He was going to do a work in the situation, as well as, a work in me. He knew I needed some refining. And this refining would come from the very act of realizing I had a confession: I had “hit my brother.”

I got caught up in the crazy. When what I was hearing didn’t coincide with what I was seeing, I felt like the very foundation that I had set my relationships on was cracking. What I thought was…was not. I had tried to make sense of a situation that didn’t make sense. I blamed everyone. I complained to everyone. If I was on a steam engine of dysfunction, I was one of those shoveling coals into the fire. I got caught up.

But thankfully, this isn’t my first train ride. And even better than that, someone had put the tools in my hands to deal with the hurt. I didn’t have to be afraid to face my Father and tell Him what I had done. And much like that first reconciliation 30 years ago, I was once again able to walk away from a talk with my Father and a burden was lifted.

I recognize that there are still some areas that I need to reconcile. But I am thankful that God reveals to me what I need and when I need it. I’m expectant that as I focus on further understanding what reconciliation means, I will experience greater levels of freedom. Freedom that I can then share with others.

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. (2 Corinthians 5:18 NLT)

Thank you, Jina.

This morning started out like many Saturday mornings before. My new schedule has put my body into auto-pilot at about 5:00am whether I want to wake up or not. The positive side, I get up and out and do all my errands before 12:00pm. It was just like any other Saturday until a black Mercedes decided to change lanes into mine causing me to slam on my brakes and hit a parked car.

I’m fine. And actually, I’m a really good driver! There is hardly any damage, I’m not hurt, and neither is anyone else. Praise Jesus!

But that car sped off. As it drove off, I was still in semi shock that what had happened just happened. However I started frantically pointing at the cars driving pass me, and miming: “GO GET THAT CAR!!! PLEASE!!”

As the owner of the car I hit came out with his boss, I got out of my car and my body took over. As this “boss” man tried to figure out what had happened and had obviously made up his mind that I did something wrong to cause it, he asked “Were you not paying attention?” As I tried to explain what had happened he would cut me off and ask if I understood the questions he was asking. Thankfully, the owner of the car was much calmer.

It felt horrible. An injustice had happened! This was NOT my fault! And while cars drove by, and spectators just watched, I started to feel helpless. The “boss” man asked if I wanted to get some water – I did. And as I came back out, Jina drove up (same pronunciation, different spelling).

She was driving behind me and saw the entire thing. As soon as she said “I saw what happened, it was totally the other car’s fault” I yelled “thank you Jesus!” at the top of my lungs! She corroborated my story and she also followed the car to get the license plate number. She was in a hurry to leave, but she agreed to give us her name and number.

The police came and took a report, but didn’t seem interested to get any information. I told him “I have a witness!” and he said, “Your insurance will take care of it.”  He never asked if I was okay. He never ran the license plate. He never said “I’ll go get the bad guy.” The one who I expected to bring help didn’t.

After speaking to my insurance company, I wanted to lay down and go to bed. I never wanted to drive again. But I made myself get in my car and finish my errands…even if it was almost 12:00 by this time. As I drove, I looked at every black Mercedes license plate I saw…and I saw a lot of them! If the people I expected to help me wouldn’t, then I would help myself!

At some point during my hunt…errr…errand running, I all of a sudden thought of Jina. As I thought of her, tears came to my eyes. She saw an injustice and she stopped. She did something when no one else did. She was in a hurry to get somewhere, but she stopped because it was the right thing to do. Not convenient. Not necessary. But right. And as I thought of this I was overjoyed. Honestly, if nothing else comes of this but my insurance company fixing this guys mirror (I’m telling y’all I’m a freaking good driver…that’s all that was damaged!) then I was okay with that because Jina stopped!

Not only did Jina stop, but my car was not damaged. I was not hurt. Nobody else was hurt. There was only minor damage to the other car. The owner of the car was pleasant. The insurance company operator was nice as can be. As soon as I could, I texted my “prayer warriors” and asked for prayer. I realized that I was being helped in so many ways! I would come out of this unscathed and vindicated…I am sure He commanded His angels to protect me!

And of course, like God will often do, I realized in a moment that it was so much more. This accident was an accident but no accident…I realize that there have been times in my life recently where I have expected someone to help, expected someone to see an injustice and stop it, expected someone to pull over and say, “No, this girl has been wronged!” And when no one does, I tend to want to do it myself.

In that instance I realized I don’t need to fight. I don’t need to vindicate myself. God is always working behind the scenes…putting the right people in my path. Setting up the right situations at the right time. Loving me through my friends and family and sometimes through a stranger who just decides to say, “you were wronged.”

So I am thankful for the Jina’s in the world who are used by God to remind us that He sees it. He knows it. He fixes it. And He cares.

Happy 19th

Every day is a gift. I believe that with my whole heart.

There are some days, however, that are not only a gift, but change the entire projection of your life. Sometimes your eternity can change in a day. February 2, 1996 was not just life changing, but eternity changing for me.

I was in a really, really bad place. The person I had loved most in the world decided the feeling was no longer mutual, and I was devastated. What I had pictured my future to be had changed in an instant. And as I lay on my bathroom floor sobbing, I thought my life was over.

Little did I know a new life would begin.

That night, my older brother told me about his relationship with Jesus. I knew it had changed him. And I was desperate for something to take away the pain. He had asked me several times before, but on this night, I accepted the invitation.

What I learned that night was about God’s amazing grace. The song flooded my head for the next several days. A song I had heard hundreds of times but never really listened to the words of, started making complete sense to me. I didn’t have to earn God’s love…it was freely given. All I needed to do was accept it. His grace is sufficient and amazing and never ending.

The next several years, I searched for a church – but it wasn’t until I walked through the doors of Oasis in 2006 that I felt like I was home. I started learning my value by listening to the life transforming messages of Pastor Philip & Holly. I raised my hands in surrender to God during service for the first time while Shunna lead worship.  I took my first step of publicly proclaiming my faith through baptism after going through a class that Alex lead. I prayed out loud for others for the first time during Chad & Sarah-Gayle’s connect group. I learned about servant leadership and using my gifts from Bonnie and the Godchicks team.  I took my first steps of freedom from hurts and habits from Anthony in CR and Jocelyn in Grief Recovery. I learned to do my first word study from Ashley during my internship. I experienced a different relationship with the Holy Spirit after one conversation with Justin about their friendship. My understanding of what forgiveness really means and how much God really loves me was deepened under Bill’s teaching. And here I am, almost three years on staff…my first job in ministry, because of Melony.

I’m realizing that I WAS that unchurched person that our mission statement at Oasis Church is trying to reach. I’m proof that God is working through His church and His people and it’s not because I earned it, it’s because God so graciously offered me a choice, and I chose Jesus. I am still excited and thankful that I have the opportunity to lead others to that choice as well.

What a journey! And the best is yet to come…

A New Year, A New Door, A Renewed Focus

You know how they say “When one door closes, another one opens?” Am I the only one who heard that and pictured a swinging door on the other side that automatically flung open? They really should have gone on to say that the open door doesn’t always happen immediately.

I closed the door on another season of life today. As we embark on a new year, on new beginnings and fresh starts…I find myself moving out of one of the best living situations I’ve had as a single adult to one that is temporary and not ideal. I know I’ll be moving again. Although necessary, I was kind of hoping another door would open immediately that would make this door stay open. It didn’t.

I have opened and closed more doors than I’d like to think about in the past year. Some of them were actually closed for me. Some of them I worked hard to close. Thankfully I’m learning to not pry them open and walk through them prematurely.

I’ve actually walked through a couple doors in my lifetime. I mean physically walked through them. One of these times was at a friend’s bridal shower. It was at this amazing house overlooking the ocean. I was walking from the kitchen to the outside terrace with a tray, talking to someone behind me while trying to walk forward and walked right through their very expensive screen door!

I learned a valuable lesson that day – it’s really hard to move forward while looking backward. Especially through a closed door!

So as I walk through the door of a new year, I feel that God is telling me to focus. Focus on where I’m going, not where I’ve been. Focus on health goals. Focus on spiritual maturity. Focus on relationships. Focus on the things that really matter and not the things or voices that try to distract me.

“…I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward…” Philippians 3:13-14

“Who Do You Serve?” ~ God

“Who do you serve?” That simple question, I’m sure, changed my life the day I heard it. Or maybe it’s the fact that I actually heard it…I mean, really heard it.

While I was visiting my parent’s rental house recently (aka the-rental-house-from-down-under-and-I-don’t-mean-Australia), I heard a sound coming through the walls that sounded like running water. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it, but it’s the same sound I heard the last time I was there…and it never stopped…for hours! I brought my parents in the room, “You hear it?” They did. “It’s probably the washing machine.” Washing machine’s not on. “It’s probably the sprinkler.” Sprinkler’s not on. I found myself turning everything off, closing the door, shoving my ear to the wall…whatever it took to hear the source of this sound. I could hear the sound. I just couldn’t hear it clearly because of all the distractions.

There have been times in my life I just didn’t feel like serving. The timing wasn’t right for me. The “ask” was just not from the person I felt like serving. The situation was just so out of order, I didn’t want to enable anyone through codependency. There were times I didn’t want to serve just to prove a point.

I found myself asking many questions when faced with the opportunity to serve the day He asked the question. I was getting caught up in the “who” and the “what” and the “when” of it all. And then God asked, “Who do you serve?”

When I turned off all the outside “noise” I had to ask myself:

  • If I serve God, does it matter who asks me to do it?
  • If I serve God, does it matter what I get from it?
  • If I serve God, does it matter when “a point” is proven?

It’s like I had my ear to the wall and could clearly hear my God remind me that these questions in my head (aka noise) were not about serving Him. These questions were about serving myself and/or others. And that’s not how I want to lead my life. I want to serve God.

When I choose to serve God by serving others, I know:

  • If I serve God, I’m serving Him, and not the person asking me to do it. It doesn’t matter how the person responds to the service.
  • If I serve God, I already know His promise is to abundantly bless those who bless others. It doesn’t matter what the person I’m serving does, or does not, do for me.
  • If I serve God, I’m serving Him, not trying to prove a point by withholding service. That’s manipulation over a person and/or not trusting God in the situation. I can leave justice to Him.

It really is that easy. Next time you are put in a position to serve someone, put your ear to the wall. Once you shut out the noise, the answer is pretty clear to the question God is asking.

Freedom From Want

I put another national holiday behind me. They seem to sneak up with no warning sometimes. I’m not sure why I don’t see them coming. That moment I realize I didn’t make plans that involved any type of human interaction. That moment I realize I wasn’t invited to a table to just ‘be’ with others. I was productive. But I was without community. And it left me feeling…yeah…I’d say it had left me just “feeling.”

In an attempt to figure out what I was “feeling” I came across a Norman Rockwell picture entitled “Freedom From Want” (pictured above). If you don’t know the name Norman Rockwell, you probably just don’t realize you do. He was a very popular American artist whose work has graced many magazine covers, has probably been replicated a bazillion times and is best known for his depiction of American culture. His piece “Freedom from Want” was done after US President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his state of the union address known as the “Four Freedoms” speech. Freedom from want was described as the basic right to an adequate standard of living including food, clothing, housing and healthcare.

However the freedom I found myself seeking from seemed so small when you figure that I have all the ‘wants’ President Roosevelt spoke about. At this time of my life, I have food, clothing, housing and healthcare. And not only am I grateful for that, I realize I have those things mostly because of where I was born and who I was born too. But I still found I had a ‘want’ – a want that I see in Norman Rockwell’s picture. I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to be around the table. I wanted to be gathered around a community of people, or at least invited to the table.

I have been blessed to be the confidant to many. But there are some days I believe the lie that I’m a friend to few. I convince myself that I’m fully content to be alone until I see all the fun people had doing stuff together. And it’s at this point that I realize I’m walking down a road I don’t want to be. If I don’t stop now, I could find myself in the land of self pity (poor me, why wasn’t I considered? I don’t have what I want) and near the river of envy (they have what I want). What do you do when you realize you need freedom from the “want”?

Well, I’ll tell you what I do…I run to Jesus!

The spirit of self pity wants me to believe that I have the short hand of the stick. It wants me to believe the lies of “poor me” so I’ll wallow and get stuck in a moment of emotion. Self pity makes ‘me’ the focus. Self pity makes my wants all that matter. The spirit of envy seems to go hand in hand with self pity, especially in this day and age. Forget the times in which you didn’t know you weren’t invited to the table…now you get to see pictures updated every minute in color and waiting for you to “like” it. The spirit of envy opens the door to offense because now you want what they have.

Once you recognize you are entertaining these spirits, the next step is to speak against them. If you are in Christ, you have the authority to speak to them and tell them to leave. I then speak and proclaim the truth of His word over my life. By doing this, I shift the focus off of me and onto Jesus. By doing this, I seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. By doing this I put into practice the things I have learned and the God of peace is with me. By doing this, I make His wants my wants.

I hope you don’t find yourself needing freedom from the wants today. But if you do, know that you have a Heavenly Father who loves you, and that you are always welcome at His table.

Life is a Mix tape

life is a mixed tape

I introduce the mix tape.

If the only playlist you know of is on iTunes, this all may be hard to understand. A mix tape was so different.

It was the 80’s way of recording songs onto one device so you could listen back to the songs later. Often times, you’d make a tape for someone else…usually your best friend or your secret admirer. You’d wait up all night with bated breath for the radio DJ to play that song. You had to know the first few chords of the song. You would wait for that magic moment that the dj stopped talking so you could hit record. Then you sat back, with a smile on your face and a bob in your head. Until the next magic moment: the end of the song just before the commercial began. Sometimes, if you hit it on just the right night, you’d get a second song mixed into it…and if it was a song you would have chosen anyway…bonus track! (however, you hoped and prayed the radio station wouldn’t SAY bonus track with an echo effect as the song mixed in). And unlike the playlists of today, deleting a mix tape was not simple. Sure, you could record over it…but you would most likely hear your old track playing under your new track at some point. There was no completely deleting a mix tape: unless you set it on fire…I may know this from experience.

If you were a child of the 80s…you totally know what I’m talking about.

I saw the picture above on Pinterest and it got me thinking: If life is a mix tape, I need to choose my playlist wisely.

There are days we don’t get to choose what happens to us or to what we are exposed. There are days where we wish we could delete by just pushing a button. But much like a mix tape, we are sometimes left with little remnants of the tune we’d like to get out of our head, playing in the background muffled by the new song we so long to hear.

In the last couple of months, I’ve been learning a new way to tackle the negative tunes in my head. I’m learning that although I don’t have control of some of the circumstances in my life, I do have control of the thoughts that I’ll let repeat. I do get to choose the playlist.

I get to choose a playlist of words of life or death…and I choose life. I choose truth. I choose faith. I choose love.

Happy Mother’s Day…to Me

 

It’s not what you think.

It’s the eve of another Mother’s Day and I’m trying to figure out a way to celebrate the woman who has made the biggest difference in my life.

She loves me.

She teaches me.

She dreams with me.

She sees the best in me even when I’m not able to see it.

She is my biggest fan and encourager.

She prays for me.

And I thank God for her. I’ll take her to dinner and give her a card that, I hope, expresses how much I love and appreciate her.

But as I’ve gotten older, Mother’s Day has meant something else to me. I’m single and have no children of my own. And I’m over 40. You see where this is going…

I love and adore the women in my life who have become mothers. I’ve went with them to buy the test and have celebrated alongside them when the stick said yes. I’ve thrown baby showers (really cute ones, if I do say so myself). I’ve been one of the first aunties to welcome their little humans into the world at the hospital (it’s a miracle, for sure…but WHOA!). I’ve encouraged them to keep being the awesome mom’s that they are when they’ve only had 2 hours sleep and their nipples are bleeding (It’s probably TMI, but the struggle is real y’all). However, in the past few years, my heart has sunk just a little when I can’t stand during ‘that’ part of the Mother’s day service at church.

So why is it a happy Mother’s day to me this year?

No, I’m not pregnant. But I am expecting.

I’m expecting that God is going to continue to work this thing called motherhood out through me.

I can love.

I can dream.

I can see the best in others when they don’t see it in themselves.

I can be the biggest fan and the loudest encourager.

And I can definitely pray.

I’m expecting that I’m going to begin to see that, although I have not bore a child of my own, I can still be a mother.

So happy Mother’s day to every one of you wonderful and fabulous women who are teaching me how it’s done.

Happy Mother’s day to the one I call Mom (or Ma, most the time).

And, happy Mother’s day to me.