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Saturday, November 18, 2017

my word for 2017

Did you pick a word for 2017?

I picked this tradition up a few years ago when I first saw a Facebook post where someone prayerfully picked a word to represent their own new year approaching. It's not a mystical thing I do to attempt to predict the future, but it's taking the time to listen to the Spirit and say, "God... what would you have for me this year?" and then He answers. Sure, every day we have the opportunity to start fresh, make a different choice, do a new thing... but I love the annual nature of setting goals in a specific season and recognizing the newness that is before us. I was never that way until I watched my dreamer husband gain an excitement for goal setting and vision casting each New Year season.

Maybe it's a little early for me to even be thinking about this topic, since we're not even at Thanksgiving quite yet, but here we are with the end of 2017 only a month and a half away. The word I picked for 2017 is 'RENEW'. I picked it straight out from the longing in my heart for a new season, and the verse Psalm 51:10 that says, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." In my heart, all along, the Spirit gently reminded me that the renewing had to start in me before I could see it around me.

And what a year of renewal it has been.

We moved to a new part of the city, a different Parish. So yeah, we literally had to renew drivers licences, insurance, everything, ha. Kolby is no longer a pastor, but is now a student in seminary! I went from being a stay at home mom to now, a dean of students. Wednesday is working two jobs and has a car she bought all on her own. Natalie chose online school this year for the first time (and she's killing it y'all). The littlest 3 moved schools and ha, oh the irony... their new school is called ReNEW (which is another crazy God story because late enrollment in Orleans Parish is no joke you guys, BUT GOD.)

We're currently in a season of waiting.
There's one piece of the puzzle that hasn't fit like we had hoped it would. In fact it seemed to crumble in our hands and ruin the cool picture we were putting together. I've had bad days where I've scrambled to fix it, glue it back together (what a disaster that would be), or have wanted to throw the whole damn puzzle out. That gentle Spirit reminds me the renewing starts within first and I have to stop staring at that hole, at that broken piece, and notice the gorgeous scene we've already put together. On the good days in this season of waiting I have found more contentment and faith than I've ever had. God has provided every step of the way what we've needed. It's forced me to look a lot more at the moment rather than what's up ahead. Because right here in the moment God has sustained us and the wait is part of the renewing.

Dare I have faith that by the end of 2017 God will renew this final, broken piece as well?

But first, create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Pain management

I'm very familiar with unresolved emotional pain.

The kind of pain that lingers on, when there isn't a happy ending, a sad ending, or a bad ending. There really is no ending. It continues to be there, and it will probably never go away. There's pain you can remove yourself from, and then there's some that you just can't.

Pain management became an area of expertise if I wanted to thrive as a healthy adult, a mother, a wife, a coworker, a friend. I have had to figure out how to keep moving despite the pain.

So overused, but maybe the phrase fits here; perhaps it's the thorn in my side? The brokenness of knowing what could have been but will never be. Voids that can't be filled, and yet I trust in the One who brings wholeness. Obedience that leads to hurt. And it's so incredibly painful at points, it's as if I'm leaning on a rail in a hospital in excruciating pain.

Some hurts will only be completely healed when we leave this world.

Resolution, restoration, and healing in the now are a breath of life that we take for granted.
Aren't they?

What a gift to be able to bring a taste of heaven on earth when we can come together with our differences, our hurts, our pain, and...
the wound heals a little,
maybe completely.

We have that ability within us, and yet don't always use it. Shouldn't we use it, if we can?

I used to be absolutely scared of confrontation, but since I've tasted and seen, I'm really starting to love it because of the healing it can bring.

To meet another person where they're at, empathize, bring my case to the table and be heard as well. To sit in it. See it for what it is. Maybe I'll say sorry. Maybe he'll fix the broken places. Maybe we'll hug. And then we move forward knowing we've been seen and heard.

It doesn't always go that way, but how beautiful is it when it does!

I let go of that rail on the wall at the hospital. The thorn is still there, but knowing I've got a hand to squeeze when it stings again is all I needed to be discharged and walk out of there.

Maybe that's why it's there. So I'll grab the hand when it hurts, and let you hold mine when yours does too. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

grateful when weary from the waves

I'm weary.

Moving a couple months ago was challenging but the right thing. God provided every step of the way and we knew that this is something He wanted. 

The past couple of weeks have taken a turn that has left us reaching for our life jackets. My husband got a large, unexpected paycut. Unanticipated bills and circumstances also came floating up to the top of the water... they haven't quite made it here, but they're right there, on the horizon. A reminder that we won't stay afloat unless some holes in the boat get plugged.

I've settled well into my new job, the kids are settling well into their schools, but my husband has been seemingly left in an unsteady place. It hurts to see him in this position. While not the primary focus, but still an important one, it's hurting our bank account as well. We're doing all we know to do to take steps forward, out onto the water, but we're struggling to keep our focus.

This morning I decided to shift my view to gratitude. I've learned in God's word the importance of praise and gratefulness even in the trials. After all, we know that He's working for our good even when we can't see it. 

It took some work. I think a lot of us have a natural tendency to "fix" or "solve" the problem. But the kingdom of heaven is backwards guys, so instead of striving, I am sitting in it. Sitting in the middle of the mess and saying,

"God, thank you. Thank you for my children having good attitudes when they woke up for school this morning. Thank you for a van with semi functioning AC. Thank you for the wind in my hair. Thank you for food in the pantry today. Thank you for the current jobs we have. Thank you for moving us when you did... I can see now, if we had waited, we could not have financially made it because of this paycut. Your timing is perfect. You always work things out better than we could have fathomed. Thank you for the hard times that have produced endurance, so our faith doesn't fail when the waves grow higher. Thank you for laughter. Thank you for hope. I trust you to take care of this, to show us the way, to miraculously provide." 

And I take a deep breath and sit in it a little more. 

I can faintly hear Him speaking the waves into calmness, and I'm reaching for his hand as he pulls us up to stand on the water. 


Sunday, September 3, 2017

In the valley of vulnerability

This morning we visited a church for the 5th week in a row.

It's a diverse church, focused on reaching the community they exist in (mid-city New Orleans) for who they are and where they're at. Truly a mosaic of ages, races, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds. I've only one other time seen such a glimpse of what the kingdom of heaven will look like when we worshiped with Greeks, Asians, Africans, and other Americans at a small, precious Pentecostal church we visited while we lived in Greece.

The pastor there has been a type of mentor for my husband the past 3 or 4 years, guiding him through the process of being a first time pastor. He offered his church as a safe place for us to heal since Kolby stepped down from his senior pastor position. Navigating the waters of finding a church when you're in a vulnerable place is hard. We went from being pastor, pastor's wife, and a crew of pastor's kids, to people without a church. This is new territory for us. We are thankful for the offer.

This church lives out the calling and vision we saw for our former church. The vision and calling that we never saw come to fruition. 
As you can imagine, it's bitter sweet to see. 

There's a certain validation in our vision and calling from God, for sure.
But grief in that... well...
Why not us, not our community, Lord? 

I've never felt uncomfortable in my place in the global church until the past few years. I always knew we didn't fit the mold, but this felt different. It felt more like... well, like maybe there isn't a place for our shape at all. Since we aren't wanted and don't fit, maybe we're not needed either. 

God's word tells me different. 

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 
1 Corinthians 12:27

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. 
Romans 8:16

I'm clinging to these verses and others. The only thing that never fails us is God's Word. The only one who never fails us is God.  In the valley, He is our hope while we're still in it and He is our way out. I have full confidence in that at this point in my life. 

You could look back at my personal story and probably see why this season stings. Feeling like an outsider, who puts on a good show for the crowds, is essentially my story. Always watching, learning the steps and the right things to say, but never truly feeling like an essential part of the story...it's how I lived for a long time. In recent years I've worked through trauma and sifted through many of those feelings. They kept me alive for a period of time, but they ultimately aren't helpful now. I no longer put on a show. I am who I am.

So when they come up like they are right now, I'm taking a deep breath...
Just letting them pass over me like a rain cloud. They always pass. 

The sun never left, it's still there. 

I am an essential part of the story. My husband is too. God's already let me know that whatever is next will be stretching and weird to the Christian world around us. I'm okay with that. We'll find our place.