How's Your Sight? | Reflections from Luke 11

Whatever color you want to call them, if we’re not intentional and vigilant, we can throw these colored glasses on without even thinking twice. And this is where I want to talk about this thing that the Lord was so patient and purposeful in showing me, and in doing so reminding me that I have a choice in this.

“You need a light to see. Only an idiot would light a lamp and then put it beneath the floor or under a bucket. No, any intelligent person would put the lamp on a table so everyone who comes in the house can see. Listen, your eye, your outlook, the way you see is your lamp. If your way of seeing is functioning well, then your whole life will be enlightened. But if your way of seeing is darkened, then your life will be a dark, dark place. So be careful, people, because your light may be malfunctioning. If your outlook is good, then your whole life will be bright, with no shadowy corners, as when a radiant lamp brightens your home.” -Luke 11:33-36 | the Voice

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Stop & Take It In | A Call To Pause

The best piece of advice I was given before my wedding was to pause and take it all in. To quite literally stop, look around and let my mind take in what was happening at that given moment. I vividly remember sitting at our little head table, looking out over a beautiful, warmly lit ballroom filled with the sounds and sights of significant people in our lives, all gathered to celebrate two lives becoming one. In that moment and in this one today I am grateful for the advice to pause and take it in.

 

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This morning as I fed Hazel her bottle I found myself mindlessly staring at her eyelashes--taking her in without even realizing I was doing it. I then began to intentionally take in this miracle girl as she dozed off into her beloved and trusty morning rest. My mind then wandered back to my time of worship last Sunday morning. How I had to painstakingly bring myself to sing with i.n.t.e.n.t.i.o.n.a.l.i.t.y. Even with the good and beautiful things, our minds have been made in such a way that they jump right into what is familiar and well practiced without much intention or effort. I can worship my Almighty God and still wander about in my thoughts regarding what I'm wearing or what we are going to do later or the tray of donuts that are always calling my name a mere handful of feet away. To worship Him, really worship with my entire being, required the effort intentionality calls for.

The pause to take all of Him in.

Pausing takes a lot of effort if you really think about it. We are wired to go, go, go. So today I paused and took in my daughter. "She is really mine. She has been given breath and life and a soul that will long for the Savior the same way mine did and still does even now. This life with her is real and happening now and will never happen in this same way again."

As I walked throughout my home, I was acutely aware (as I usually am) of the amount of toys, socks, and randomly misplaced items strewn about each room. Usually this causes me to swing into a flurry of irritability, frustration, and panic while a rain cloud of "should's" begins to pour over me, drowning me in my apparent "failure at life and keeping it all together". But this morning I was given the incredible gift of pause.

There will be a day where there are no toys strewn about.

There will be a day when all the things stay in their place because little hands are now big and responsible and have their own things in their own places.

There will be a day when neither my arms or my provision will be required for that daughter of mine to fall asleep or find the rest she longs for.

There will be a day when that son of mine will help himself to snacks and shows and decisions and mistakes. Neither my ability to create adventure nor my opinion on what is considered adventurous will be required because he will have become a man of his own ideas and faith and living.

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So today I took in all the toys, the sounds of his laughter from the other room while he watched Curious George, and each and every demanding and exhausting detail of this current life. Each day I have a choice: wish my life looked easier/prettier/freer or love every single raw and real bit that is now.

I'm pausing today for the days ahead. The days when:

Fake tattoos become real ones

The cries of a bumped noggin become the ones of a broken heart

The nonexistent "me-time" becomes a search for a new passion and purpose in this calling of motherhood

The two little sets of feet crawling about our bed find their own place to land and the two of us that started this thing become "just the two of us" once again.

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Can you see the weight of beauty and glory that is this one life we get to live? If you cannot, the best advice I can give you is the same that was given to me at the start of this all.

Pause. Take it in. This thing that is happening is yours.

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To My Grown Daughter | On Your First Birthday

(Actually, 7 days after your first birthday. Let that be a big exhale for you, darling daughter. You can have the best laid plans, but you can only do what you can, and in reality, it's ok to write a letter to your daughter 7 days after she turns one, instead of on the day.)

I don't know where you are on this day, but I know where I am today, and I think it might release a little something in you that will allow you to live a little fuller and freer in your skin and your life, being reminded of who you really are.

Today I am 32, and most days feel like a game of tug-o-war; being pulled this way and that, between my dreams and life's demands. Majority of it's demands are good, and come from the mouths of the people I love the most. Hazel, while it feels exhausting and often times too much, it's all really good stuff--the stuff that makes up a life. It is beautiful and holy and completely ordinary. What's more, it is intricately laced with the love of God. If you find yourself in a moment of emptiness, feeling as if you are giving to those you love from a source already depleted, know that you are walking on holy ground--the very ground your mama walked before you. Drop to your knees and receive from the One who's supply is abundant. Sometimes you'll need Him just to get to the next moment in life, and other times you'll find yourself going far too long without looking to Him to be filled; if that is the case, don't walk back to him--run. Hard and fast. Because I promise you, all those other things pale in comparison to what He longs to give you and allowing Him into the every day "mundane" of life is the very thing that turns the mundane into a life of adventure and magic and whimsy.

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One thing we have learned about you in your first year of life is that you have these magical eyes. They radiate love. They draw others in. And I like to think they reflect, even a fraction of, the joy found in the eyes of the Father. I pray your eyes stay magical and that they develop the ability to see the love, joy and whimsy in others, and that in your growth you develop the strength and courage to call those things out in others--to be a voice of truth in their lives that tells them who they are and to Whom they belong.

I've discovered recently that the change happening in my heart, the one that is making my heart more like Christ's and less like my flesh, is a bit disjointed from my lips. The thoughts in my head rarely come out of my lips the same; something I am asking Papa to grow and change in me. I pray you will grow to be a woman who speaks eloquent words full of grace, truth and conviction. That you would reflect the heart of God with the way you speak to others, and with the way you speak to yourself.

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I'm sure you've known for quite some time now about the one who strives to keep you small. The one who tells you your voice is insignificant and that your reach is limited. He's the one who clouds your eyes, silences your lips, and deflates your heart. I'm learning today that life is made up not of falling in defeat to the enemy's arrows of deceit, but of falling to my knees before my strong and mighty God, expectant that He will lift me up to stand tall as the woman He fashioned me to be--the woman I am on this very day--who is far more than she believes, withholding greater strength, love and joy.

Beautiful girl, I think this is what makes life so holy. The continual choosing of God, of your original design, of mercy and love and acceptance of others. It's this beautiful, dramatic dance, and He invites us in every day. As I watch you waddle across the floor, I envision you walking confidently into the arena that He has prepared for you. As I hear you babble and tell us what is on your mind, with such confidence and joy in your eyes, I envision you commanding a crowd of eager men and women, proclaiming the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. As you wrestle and fight for what is yours, and keep your eyes on your limitations, waiting for your chance to take new ground, I pray you will carry that same tenacity into the land He has prepared for your adult years. That you would see greater freedom for your family and run hard towards it at the first opportunity. That you would see the places where the enemy has laid strongholds and that you would fight your way in and break them with confidence.

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Hazel, your life is one of my greatest joys. Papa has used your life as an invitation for me to take new ground, to settle a little deeper into my own promised land, and to proclaim greater freedom over your life and over the ways you grow and the realities you take as your own. On this day, I am proclaiming the words of Timothy when he says that God has not given us a spirit of fear but of POWER and LOVE and of SOUND-MIND. This is my promised land, and it's yours too.

Darling daughter, I am fighting my fiercest fight so that you can live free. I promise you that I will never stop fighting for my own freedom from sin and bondage and generational sin so that your life can be filled with all of the joy and whimsy and purpose that He set out for it to. Life won't be "perfect" by the world's standards, but in the holiness we find His perfection, and in my experience that's immeasurably better.

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I love you, Hazel. I pray that every single day of your life you know that. But even more than that, I pray that every single day of your life you know that He loves you. He loves you with a fierce and wild and strong and merciful love. I pray that His love will continue to cover over every single moment my love has fallen short. I pray that you will take for yourself your own determination to love those in your life with even greater tenacity and determination than I did--that the generational bonds would not only be broken but reversed and made to reflect the character and love of God in an even greater way with each generation that comes after us.

If, when you read this or any day thereafter, you find me living a defeated life, I give you permission to remind me of these very words. I implore you to challenge me with the Truth of God's word and my very own testimony--and yours. Don't ever feel that you cannot tell your mama a thing or two about life. Ask your dad--I've always said I wanted us to be teachable by our kids. So if my attitude says otherwise, hit me with my own words. I pray I raise you to be a woman who does not back down out of fear of ruffling feathers. (This one might be a lesson later in life, as I need to figure it out myself first before I can teach you.) It's ok to ruffle feathers when it will bring a person face to face with the Truth.

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I could go on and on about all of the things I hope and pray for you. What's incredible is that my hopes and dreams pale in comparison to your Papa's. He loves you, my sweet girl. It will be my greatest joy to watch you discover that with each passing year, and I cannot wait to see the woman that you are when you read these words.

I love you, my darling daughter.

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Lord, she is wild and strong and so full of love. Let me never take an ounce of that away from her, but let me be a source that You use to feed the woman inside of her that You so delicately and purposefully designed. Lord, may she have lips of conviction--lips that cannot help but speak what she knows is true and right and lovely. And with each word may she demonstrate the kindness and grace found in the One who made her. Lord, let her grow to not only appreciate but to understand the very purpose of her physical being--that she is a vessel that houses Your very Spirit, and with that she has been given the invitation to join You in the miraculous and adventurous life written for her. Lord, let her love with abandon and a complete unawareness of what it feels like to need to be loved by someone else first. Let her just love. Love and love and love and know that the love she receives from You is the real stuff of life. Lord, let her teach. Let her teach the future generations, her generation and mine, especially. I know that she will have so much to teach us women in those days, and I pray in advance for Spirits eager to hear Your heart for us daughters. Mostly Lord, I pray she will know every single day of her life that her life has incredible purpose, and never for one second has it ever been or will it ever be "just another life." You set out for her to be here, and You made a way for her to come. With that let her live a life of bold and unwavering purpose. Let it be because of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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And a few more photos because they are too good not to share: (Photos by ((the INCREDIBLY talented)) Renee Johannesen--@photographybyrenee

 

To My Grown Children | On Making Plans and Keeping The Faith

I've been where you are. Dreaming. Making plans and piecing all of the information you have together into some sort of understanding of life as it has been, as it is now, and as it will be in the days, months, and years to come. You do what you can with what you have. You take the information that God has given you and you say, "ok, this is the plan I'm setting out on because it is what makes the most sense."

Maybe that will be your story--I pray it is. And maybe it won't be. I'm banking on the latter, as that seems to be the story for many of God's chosen. I think it's because He wants us to depend solely on Him, and not on our own understanding. And, shocker, I'm not the first one to come to that conclusion (shout out to Solomon)-- "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Right now you are 4 (almost 5) and 11 months (almost 1) and Dad and I are as wayward and squirmy as you two combined when it comes to abiding in this instruction. Which is why I felt it pertinent to jot this down for you--I'd hate for you to believe the lie that you are the only ones who aren't on the path to success in your generation.

big. fat. lie.

Dad and I experience that, too. When we look around all seems to be right in the lives of most, and yet here we sit. Asking God so many questions and hearing so few answers. Just abide. Just sit and watch. It's hard, my loves. It's hard on this day and it will be hard for you on the day you read this. Also ask questions. Get to know those around you--the ones who's lives seem to together and forward-moving. I bet you'll feel better about your lot and be built up in faith and fervor when you do. When you really get to know those living their lives for God, He will give you a grander scope of life and success and the reality that life is raw and, at times, ugly for everyone. Not just you.

Just as the struggle doesn't change over the ages, neither does the faithful hand of God. Keep trusting Him. Force yourself. Move yourself, step. by. step. by. step. to the altar of God. Dad and I are doing everything we can to leave behind us a legacy of faith--the example (however messy and imperfect it may be) of people who drag themselves before the throne, sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes desperate and raw, and sometimes proud and stubborn. You might find yourself asking the question, "what if it's all for nothing?" I asked that question, too. On this very day. And it is all worth it. It just has to be. I don't have the answer for you today, but on the day you read this, I know without a shadow of doubt that I will have a fiery joy as I tell you how it was all worth it. You won't understand, and my story might leave you feeling just as you did before it began, but I promise you one day you will understand. You will see the faithfulness of God in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).

Just like Dad and I will, too. 

So make plans. Piece together what you know, but hold it loosely. He is going to ask you to trust, and it is going to be hard. Probably one of the hardest things you'll ever do. He is not a safe God, and Dad and I have just begun to scratch the surface of how He is both unsafe and yet a mighty fortress and shield.

When you doubt that He is listening--that He isn't moving and pursuing you and your deepest need and desire, remember that when Jesus comes back He will have a new Name-- Faithful and True. Those traits aren't awaiting the title. He is both faithful and true now and forever.

Maybe today, as you read this, you are twenty and think you know it all. Maybe you are thirty and are desperate in your absolute lack of understanding of all the things. Maybe you are fifty and feel like the ground has given way beneath you. Keep making plans with what you know, and keep choosing faith--forcing faith, abiding in faith, pursuing faith--because He is Faithful and True, and my darling loves...

He sees you.

We Asked For Adventure | Two Years Later

I'm sitting here with a bowl of chocolate chips, a big mug of herbal tea and an anxious and desperate heart. Here's why:

Two years ago we got this idea. We wanted adventure with God. It sounded and felt so dreamy. At least, that's what I vaguely remember it feeling like when I am reminded of my own words two years ago.

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"I'm itching for adventure. And not the kind that I can come up with on my own. I'm praying for big, beautiful, only-God-could've-done-this adventure. I believe that if we ask Him to write a beautiful adventurous story with our lives He will deliver. He's so creative, and I'm desperate for Him to showcase His skills with my life and my family... We live one life. I want to live it the best way He allows."

Words straight from the heart of a woman just beginning her adventure towards understanding.

I'm two years in (maybe even more) and on the outside life looks a lot like it did when I typed those words, just with one additional little person. Still waiting. Still hoping. Still white-knuckling my way towards the promise and the secure future that I know is mine.

I think I believed that if I just gave God permission to move me to the beautiful mountains and give me this dreamy life that He would do it--like I was the one keeping Him from getting that ball rolling.

Apparently He wasn't waiting for my permission.

Do you have a dream for your life? A thing that, if you close your eyes tight you can see it play out before you? I do. And it's that adventurous life that I "gave God permission" to write for me. It's frolicking through His highest mountains and twirling with my eyes raised towards the sky in His grassy valleys. But as I sit here and write this I'm realizing that He's never told me I can't frolic on the mountain tops and twirl in the valleys.

It might just take place in my heart and not in my body.

To the one who craves adventure with God--who is ready to throw caution to the wind and let God take them wherever He wants: don't do it unless you're ready to let go of the reigns and really go wherever He wants. Because where He wants just might be where you already are.

At least it is for us. For now.

Jesus informed me in John 14 a few weeks back that He doesn't give gifts the way the world does and that I should not lose heart. I'm a sign-reader by nature, a trait that I try desperately to squelch because I know who my God is and He is not confusing or mystical. He is clear and firm. Loving and generous. Sovereign and Holy. So when I read this in John I had to fight hard against my tendency to read all the signs in my life and see how this gift-giving strategy of God's holds up against all the things I've received.

I can't help but think of Malachi.

Kids have a way of trying to make a gift out of anything. And they usually end up enjoying the thing that wasn't intended to be the awesome, expensive, super-thought-out gift in the first place. 

Jesus also tells me to be more like the little ones, and if the world gives the awesome, expensive, super-thought-out gifts then I guess I'm finding joy in the box it comes in. 

I'm still drinking my herbal tea (in desperation that it will bring the peace and calm it is widely acclaimed for.. pshh), I'm on my second bowl of chocolate chips, and my heart is still processing this place we are in.

This place we are in is an entirely new place, a new and promised land, where we believe with little hesitation in the character, love, provision, goodness, mercy, sovereignty, might, holiness, and love of God. We want adventure, even now knowing that it isn't going to look like what we first imagined. We are even more desperate for and sure of the provision and promise of God.

We are in new land, and it's spacious and beautiful just as He promised it would be; I need only take heart and receive.

If you're craving adventure, keep on keeping on. If you are afraid of adventure, don't just dip a toe in--cannonball. This life of adventure with God is raw and real and vulnerable and hard, but it's also vibrant and full of real life and love and joy and commitment. It's the beautiful, adventurous story I asked Him to write for me.

I will not wait around--push pause on living vibrantly and with a receptive heart-- until He brings me to the place I thought we were setting out for two years ago. I will live this adventure wherever I am and with whomever I'm with, because He is the One who makes my heart skip a beat with excitement and my eyes gaze with wonder at His glory. I will explore His beauty, dive deep into the souls of His beloveds around me, and fall even deeper in love with Him because this is the adventure and I've been living it all along.