It was a Sunday evening just over two years ago when I received the call.
“Could you please pray? It has been reported one of the students at the middle school took his life.”
He was a middle schooler in our community. Bright eyed, enjoyed sports and loved going to his youth group.
I committed to prayer. My daughters joined me on the bed in my bedroom and we began to pray. I began to weep. I couldn’t imagine.
As Monday rolled around, I was still in shock. If I was in shock, how was Payton’s mother, Ann, feeling? I cannot imagine. She began to lay heavy on my heart. I continued to pray.
Wednesday morning, I made my way to the middle school for the weekly Campus Life meeting. The atmosphere was somber as class and team mates rolled in, heavy with the weight of their emotions, questions and feelings. The young men seemed softer, the young girls in disbelief.
We broke out into our small groups. The girls cried. I asked the grace of God to help me comfort.
As the day went on I had Owen, Payton’s younger brother, Ann, the middle schoolers, and our entire community on my mind. I was led to go to the heart of our county and lift everyone up in prayer. A couple girlfriends, their kiddos, my kiddos and myself joined on the lawn and prayed for Ann, Owen and our community. We prayed for comfort for all wrestling with the pain and hurt.
As the viewing rolled around, my heart was tugged to go and give Ann a hug. Even though I didn’t know her all that well, this mamma had to put her arms around another mamma experiencing the unthinkable. I went. I sat with other women pouring into her. We left.
Life went on. People found their new “normal”. The kids and community healed. The report seemed to change. But it didn’t matter. A young man full of light and love had lost his life and there was a mother and younger brother, as well as a father and others experiencing the void of his presence.
Fast forward one year and a couple months later, to December 2017. Ann wanted to be a part of a small group I was encouraging. You know that moment where you KNOW that you KNOW God simply needs you to say "yes"? I had that moment. There was no doubt, no question. God had moved others and myself to pray and intercede on her behalf. He was moving others and myself to minister and encourage her.
Throughout the first few months of this year, our small women’s group witnessed Ann transform right before our very eyes. She went from a woman sometimes unable to do anything but cry and lament the loss of her son, to, in her own words, “Have HOPE again.” I share this not to pat anyone on the back, but to GIVE GOD THE GLORY for the deep healing work He did in her life through a loving and praying community.
Just around the corner was an enemy ready to steal, kill and destroy the hope she had laid hold of. Bit by bit, life became overwhelming again, the memories of Payton she would never create were vivid, the sadness paralyzing. Slowly she began to disconnect and things began to slip.
One evening in late summer, she and I went for a walk around the high school. She shared she was tired of being under the dark cloud again, and ready for change. With the fall women’s group just ahead, I invited her to once again connect with us. She did.
She came the first night with a restored joy and glimmer in her eye. She was not the same woman who sat before me earlier this year. SHE had become a conduit of hope to others, finding herself one evening going between hospital rooms of two friends in need. God had TRULY transformed her mourning into JOY. She continued, week after week, sharing, opening up – expressing the deep wounds and pains related to the loss of Payton. She shared her hope of being able to minister to others.
This evening, the dark cloud is back and appears darker, blacker, thicker and heavier than ever. She will tell you the truth, she let things slip and she feels horrible for it. She saw, even experienced, hope again. But the enemy was very crafty at causing her to believe things will never be better - she shouldn't have hoped. Hope is again gone.
For those of you reading, I ask you two things. First, please pray fervently for Ann and Owen’s future. I believe God has a glory on the other side of this unthinkable pain and heartache. Second, consider donating to help bring financial relief during the Christmas season – A SEASON TO LOVE even more those around us than we do all year long.
You can can donate via Go Fund Me, by CLICKING HERE.
Words shared from the “Celebrating Payton” event, October 2, 2018:
Payton found join in Christ's love, giving to others and making people smile. We all remember him for his generosity, kindness, and love for Christ. His life made an impact and spread a ripple that can still be seen. Payton's true legacy will come from the ripples of our lives and the choices to serve. The effects of your simple acts will provide a light and positive impact in our world.
This blog and related fundraiser have been created with permission from Ann. If you would like to send your love, prayers, and good vibes, feel free to comment.
“What would you like for Christmas?”
The question my husband asks me every year. Every year I respond with something along the lines of, “World peace, an end to hunger, perfect family nights, and the kiddos to be little again.”
A girl can dream. Right?
I wanted to give him something solid, but I have never been one to focus on material items (although I DO appreciate them!) as my love language. I prefer quality time, notes, experiences and a nice massage. Easy. Right? For him, it’s just easier if he can buy me something. You see the struggle?
A couple rocky weeks together and a few challenging discussions, I knew we really needed to be focused on one another, our marriage and our family. It’s not that we had completely let things slip off the rails, but we were honest enough to acknowledge our personal directions had been diverging. My focus? Kiddos, ministry and work. His focus? Kiddos and successfully growing in his new role in his new career. Some converging needed to be at the heart of our lives for a season.
Holy Spirit was speaking to my heart about balance. Balance in my relationship with Him, living His high calling, taking care of His temple, my relationship with my Hubby, kiddos and the gals He’s called me to encourage and support.
Balance. Something that can seem so elusive and hard to obtain, but God continues to speak to my heart is not only possible, but necessary.
Focus on relationship with Him, the calling and being there for the gals certainly became my top priorities. Hubby and kiddos were right in parallel. His temple? My challenges with complications from surgery and then being sick for several weeks, snuffed my reignited desire to focus on this temple. Then I just fizzled completely. Ugh…
Help me see what needs to be pieced together here, Holy Spirit. Eureka!
I text my husband my Christmas list…
“That sounds like a great idea!!!! Until the last word…” Ha! The excessive use of exclamation points indicated I had requested something we would BOTH enjoy. When we made it home from work, he was excited. We talked about the night we would have for date night, and agreed to hang up a calendar in our bedroom we could cross off each day for keeping our commitment. I would red line one half of an X, he would blue line the other half, and seal it with a heart. Awe……
I’m grateful Holy Spirit did some highlighting for us and we are able and willing to respond. I’m looking forward to the deep work He is about to do. I’m looking forward to lasting transformation in our minds, relationship and bodies. I’m looking forward to the foundation that will be laid as I approach forty and look beyond to half-time in our lives together. We’re looking forward to being intentional and sharing the journey…
If you’ve been thinking about balance and allowing God to make it so, please let me know. I believe I can fervently pray for you from a place of understanding and trust God will piece together His plan for your life as well.
In the midst of Holy Spirit deep dive study, it was shared we may no longer pursue or rely on the leadership of Holy Spirit in our lives for a variety of reasons… theology, distraction, untaught, weird, distance, fear, lazy, no urgency, busy schedules, unprioritized, judgment, and comparison.
It’s apparent the enemy has done a good job at devaluing and dare it be said “demonizing” Holy Spirit influence in the lives of believers.
This is where true POWER resides and is the ONLY way believers will be able to radiate Jesus Christ to the world around us. Perhaps we can become unified around this prayer…
Lord, move our systematic view and thought to be that of the 120 in the upper room, trusting You desire to move today, in such a way. Cause our FULL attention to be given to Your Holy Spirit speaking to us, rather than the voices we find in our feeds. Holy Spirit, TEACH us as the Word says You do in John 14:26; provide men and women YOU trust to remain true to Your Spirit and Word, to teach from human mouths.
Help our thoughts and emotions to align with Your Word, when we think Holy Spirit “weird”. Psalm 25:8 GOOD AND UPRIGHT is the Lord + John 4:24 God is Spirit = Holy Spirit is good and upright as well! Not whack-a-mole weird. Where we allow a chasm to grow between our awareness of Your ever presence in our lives, quickly call us back to remembrance You are there waiting to fellowship, and will not go anywhere. Where we are fearful of what may be asked of us or how You may choose to move through us, remind us perfect love casts out all fear (see 1 John 4:18) , God Who is Spirit, IS LOVE – no fear, here!
Quicken our hearts to gladly call out to You in prayer, Word and worship, rather than remain lackadaisical in our search for more sensitivity to Your Spirit and connection with You. Where no sense of urgency exists to be led by Your Spirit-filled influence? Cause the faces of our children, spouse, family, youth of our communities and struggling in our communities to come to mind. The harvest is plentiful the workers are few (Matthew 9:35-38). Where busy schedules govern lives, remind us of the banquet we may miss out by not pursuing Your Holy Spirit presence, just as in Luke 14:18.
Quicken within us a desire to seek YOU FIRST AND FOREMOST in ALL we do, not just bits and portions. Where we are over concerned and preoccupied with how others may view Your manifest presence in our lives, allow the Words of Proverbs 29:25 to enter our thoughts: It is dangerous to be concerned with what others think of you, but if you trust the Lord, you are safe. Where we compare Your movement in our lives to Your movement in others, help us embrace the command to NOT COMPARE OURSELVES, from Galatians 6:4.
God, You ARE GOOD! Move us to reclaim ground the enemy may think he has a stronghold on with relation to Your Holy Spirit, and be a people living out loud through Love, and the empowerment of Your Holy Spirit! Thank You Jesus, amen.
They had been on my mind for over a week. The imprisoned, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Our weekly gathering gravitated towards meeting a need. Help the addicted. Reach out to the recently incarcerated. Intercede for the youth being exposed to the unimaginable.
The text message came the very next day. Conversations pointing to similar needs right here in our community. A neighborhood demonstrating anger and animosity. Youth expressing thoughts creating cause for concern. Correctional facilities bursting at the seams due to overabundance of delinquents.
God, what does this mean?
Another conversation with a sister on the same page. Another the following week with a sister whose heart had been stirring. Another during our gathering just one week later, sharing their might be a program coming to our area with a heart for reaching the very same souls seemingly on our hearts and minds.
Why do we need a program from across the country, when we have the Person of Holy Spirit living within each of us? Right here, right now.
I woke up feeling horrible on Saturday. I was growing familiar with this tactic. Go after my health – my physical ability to go, reach out, follow through, complete what He had started. Hot and cold, up and down, dizzy and solid. I kept going back and forth all day and finally crashed.
I woke up this morning, completely rested. Had it really been close to over ten months since I had slept so solid? Had I not known a solid night’s rest in so long? It felt like forever since I had slept so well.
The message came. There was a thirsty woman in a community. There was a woman hungry for MORE. More than the menu religion offered. More than the constraints imposed by the culture. This woman was THIRSTY for more and encountered the only One able to provide her with a drink that would satisfy for an eternity.
I saw them in my mind again. The neighborhood just miles outside of town, I had never been to. The gals recently released or still sleeping on the cots in their 6x6 spaces. I knew that space, too. The kiddos subjected to so many things, the best hope they could conclude for themselves was to harm themselves, or worse…those feelings are relentless and often feel unshakable without Jesus.
And then I read the words, “Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, k“Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, l“Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, m“My food is nto do the will of him who sent me and oto accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that pthe fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that qsower and rreaper smay rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, t‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap uthat for which you did not labor. Others have labored, vand you have entered into their labor.”
I was getting ready to leave to grab groceries for my family for the week. It seemed as though the Lord had a couple extra errands for me to run.
Go pray at the jail.
Go walk and pray in the apartment complex.
Go pray in the trailer court.
GO and PRAY. But I can’t find the frankincense… I’m still not feeling well… My daughter will be with me… What if folks see me and wonder what I’m doing… What if they are so bitter they get angry with me being there?
Go and pray.
I didn’t let my daughter know we would be making a few stops before gathering our meat and bread for the week. I simply drove and parked to the spot closest to the jail. Walk and pray.
Strumming my hand along the course, brick walls, I prayed as Spirit led. I prayed loud, with hopes the folks just on the other side of the teeny window could hear. Down and back. Then around. There were more teeny windows on the west side of the building. Oh, cameras. What if the jailers are watching right now, wondering what on earth I am doing? Lord be with me.
Back towards the front, waiting to cross the road, what appeared to be three inmates and a deputy sat on the picnic table. Well that was fast! But really, my intercessory heart was focused on the women. There were some looks and remarks. Lord, bless them with revelation. Cross the street, in the car, my daughter waiting, we drove off.
Pulling into the apartment complex, my daughter remained quiet. I could tell she wondered what I was going to do. Where was I going to go? Invited to come along, she declined.
I’ve never been here, where do I go. Just walk and pray. Okie dokie. Walking through the buildings 801, 601, and around to the back. Who lives behind these walls? What are their lives like? Are the kids doing alright? Spirit, lead my prayers. A few residents caught me – intrigued. Lord give me words if they ask what I’m doing. Up and around and back, I continued on. A couple had been watching, lingering as they entered their apartment’s entry way. I walked and prayed. Back at the car.
My daughter remained silent. I sang the song streaming through my bluetooth’s connection…
You are not hidden
There's never been a moment
You were forgotten
You are not hopeless
Though you have been broken
Your innocence stolen
I hear you whisper underneath your breath
I hear your SOS, your SOS
I will send out an army to find you
In the middle of the darkest night
It's true, I will rescue you
I pulled out onto the road. One more stop. I drove out into the country. Why had I never heard of the neighborhood out here? The houses were gorgeous. The road reflected a picture perfect fall depiction, and then we reached the second community. The signage for the park read, “Peace unto you”, if I recall correctly.
Pulling in, am I supposed to walk around here, too? Now I spoke out loud, my daughter not responding. Nope. Ok, just drive around. Another song came to mind to switch to – The Upper Room’s Break Every Chain. I turned it up, began praying again, waiting for the route. This way, then that way. My prayers were growing more fervent, believing for chains to be broken because THERE IS POWER IN THE NAME OF JESUS! Spirit led prayers and fervency. My daughter looked around, in somewhat of disbelief. She seemed to ask herself what I had earlier, “Why had we not known this community was here?”
We saw a couple out and about, making eye contact and nodding a head. An older gentleman looked over somewhat exasperated. A little girl sat by the road in a rainbow tutu, appearing as happy as could be. She watched as we drove to the end of the road, turned around, and then drove back past. Intrigued, I’m sure.
My heart was arrested just before leaving the souls we had just prayed for. The song coming to an end. Seven minutes. Ha! God you are GOOD. So good I was overwhelmed and began to cry. My daughter only looked at me. We headed off to grab groceries.
As we walked through placing items in the cart, the thoughts began to creep in.
Do you really think that did any good? Pray isn’t enough. The need is greater than prayer.
Then the previous faithfulness of God, countered.
Remember praying for Ann? Just over a year later and the Lord brought the two of you together, I ministered through you, and now she has hope.
Remember praying for Missy? Again, just over a year later and the two of you were connected and I was ministering through you.
Remember circling the courthouse, praying as God led, trusting He was going to do something with the prayers of one woman who chose to rise and pray at the dawn of each Sunday morning for weeks? Now what is the result?
You are connected to the Mayor through his wife, prayers continue to go up. The weekly gatherings are taking place on the square you walked around. One business owner just off the square is now connected and beginning to grow in understanding.
Prayer initiates the process, making the request known. Remaining faithful and connected to the process is where God reveals even more tangible steps of faith to answer the prayer of those who may never know they were prayed for.
Prayer avails MUCH!
I had no idea this would be the way my day would unfold. I had no idea the posts scheduled and shared on social media were actually priming me for follow through rather than a “lip service” only. I have no idea what will come next. I do, however, have an idea regardless of the awkward looks, the suspicious glances and emptiness - I was right where I needed to be praying and God has begun to do a good work.
And I do know, God is crazy about those He loves and is determined to set free. I know He has compassion for the captives, the wounded and abused, the angry and afraid. I know His love for others is just as strong as His love for you and I.
Who are we to keep that from them if from these prayers He will be given an opportunity to make Himself known? Who am I but a woman thirsty and hungry for more? Do you know what thirst and hunger I mean? More and every last ounce of what He has, this side of heaven.
I am going to upfront and honest right now, not all of the content you are about to consume is NOT my original composition. It is, however, in the vein of what Holy Spirit seemed to be speaking to my heart and this message confirmed for me what God was speaking.
Let’s go back a few days into last week…
Wednesday, October 24th the Rise Up Commitment gals were having a very rich and deep conversation during our weekly gathering. The inception of vision was described. Testimonies of God’s love for us by speaking in unique ways through shell messages on a beach for one and provision of transportation for another. One gal shared she sees a theme of the church being UNIFIED and another felt freedom and safety to share her heart’s deepest hurts in a painful two year season.
My heart was full and praising God for what He is doing among His daughters.
Thursday, October 25th Holy Spirit moves me to share a post stating, “He cannot heal our wounds if we are busy hiding them.” I continued to think of the gal who has grown stronger and stronger throughout the course of this year, regardless of the pain she described the night before. This gal’s willingness to be vulnerable and open, without worrying about where her thoughts would go, has continuously brought healing in her life. Her ability to be real, open, authentic, and raw is allowing Him to do a deep work.
ROAR. Holy Spirit briefly reminded me of the Lion of Judah, Jesus, being able to speak to our hurt and dark places and then through those places to help others.
Friday, October 26th I spent my day mainly alone. My husband was gone on business, our kiddos had school and a volunteer event that evening. The majority of my time was spent composing, recording and producing a podcast episode for a project at work. PAUSE. Yes, God has been opening doors in my career as a result of the ministry He began in my life, years ago. Go God! The episode wasn’t dry and what one would think would be created in corporate America, but one attached to giving, faith and the Lord giving voice and song even in the most destitute of places. Destitute according to America’s standards.
The books arrived. Holy Spirit: An Introduction by John Bevere and Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala came. Oh goodie! It felt like Christmas, which is my FAVORITE!
Holy Spirit will be our study material for the weeks following the conclusion of the second session of Rise Up Commitment. A topic He Himself laid on my heart weeks ago! Gals are HUNGRY to not only learn more about Him, but live more abundantly with Him and His leading.
Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire I began to devour after our girls headed out for their event. What a great reminder to always, always, ALWAYS be led by the Holy Spirit and to be real and be YOU. The YOU God made YOU to be, because He KNEW your life would serve a very important purpose for His glory. This book, is nearly as captivating and inspirational as Rees Howells Intercessor. Both document the faith journey and necessity to depend on Holy Spirit every step of the way!
Saturday, October 27th, I had an amazing conversation with a close sister in Christ and the Spirit filled ideas were a firing! The atmosphere was charged with His presence, which is super cool considering we were in our favorite coffee shop and the place was a hopping that morning. So many were walking smack into the presence of God unbeknownst to them. I can’t help but imagine there day was amazing after. I know mine was, God had confirmed so many thoughts dancing around in my mind. After leaving, ROAR continued to come to mind. An image and Scripture.
The Book of Revelation, EEK, scary – to some – not all. But there He is, Jesus, Lion of the tribe of Judah, worthy to open the seven seals! Blessing, honor, glory, power, wisdom, strength, and riches stood out.
Sunday, October 28th, oh wow, God couldn’t be more clear! My Pastor from Times Square Church breaks down into detail a conversation regarding enemies in high places and their schemes to get us to fall, convinced we have no victory. Remember Ephesians 6:12? By the way, this is where the content is no longer mine…
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
He then took the congregation to Numbers 22 where Balak and Balaam are conversing. Balaam is scheming to devour and destroy the people of Israel, in mountainous, or high, places. But he can’t. The Lord will not allow Balak to speak ill of or curse His people. Even though!
Even though in the ten or better chapters leading up to that moment, the people of Israel had seemingly failed miserably. They were given to complaining, gluttony, jealousy, fear, temptation to return to Egypt, forgetfulness of God’s goodness, disobedience, unable to do as the Lord instructed and again, complainers. This was all AFTER deliverance from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea!
But are these the accounts the Lord recalled, when their enemies, Balak and Balaam were conniving? No.
The Lord says, “You are not to curse these people, for they have been blessed!” in Numbers 22:12.
Balam then says in Numbers 23:8, “But how can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I condemn those whom the Lord has not condemned?”
And later in verses 19 thru 21:
“God is not a man, so he does not lie.
He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
20 Listen, I received a command to bless;
God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it!
21 No misfortune is in his plan for Jacob;
no trouble is in store for Israel.
For the Lord their God is with them;
he has been proclaimed their king.
This, this is the part that got me, verse 24 “These people rise up like a lioness, like a majestic lion rousing itself. They refuse to rest until they have feasted on prey, drinking the blood of the slaughtered!”
Holy smokes! The two coming together just like it had in my mind the day before. God is SPEAKING.
The moral of the story? We, as the people of God, have got to see ourselves the way God sees us! Are there ramifications for disobedience, lack of faith and murmuring? Yes. Simply read the chapters eleven through twenty-one of Numbers. There will always be consequences for actions not aligned with the Lord.
But because we do not align with what He sees in us, does not change His mind about the way He sees us. It won’t change. He would have us be victorious! And the enemy knows this! The enemy knows once a believer SEES themselves as God sees them, hell is going to shake.
The Israelites believed in chapter thirteen they would be devoured by the enemy, which is what kept them from entering the Promised Land. God did not want the future they chose in unbelief. He had something better. Just nine chapters later, the enemy is convinced it will be devoured by God’ people because HE KNOWS HOW EMPHATIC GOD is in His mercy, love and everlasting love for His people!
Does the enemy know that about us? That God in US will devour all its schemes and attempts? Does the enemy see victory in and through OUR lives? Or is the high talk in high places going uncontested and even agreed with, keeping us from victoriously standing firm in who WE ARE?
Be encouraged today to read these chapters and allow God to speak to your heart. He sees us as so much more than we see ourselves, regardless of our previous failures. For the sincere heart seeking to be transformed and love others, the victory is already had. Let’s live as such! Let’s live as a lioness, like a majestic lion rousing itself, refusing to rest!
I almost went LIVE with this thought, but decided not. Fresh thoughts can sometimes be so emotionally charged, and Spirit void, the intent may not always be conveyed. But I want to share something, trusting my time processing via writing will allow Holy Spirit to put into Word, once and for all – a very real truth we all need to EMBRACE rather than giving a head nod to.
I could see the tears welling up in her eyes, but she was fighting their flow.
How was your day?
How’d the test go? Quivering of the lip. And then it came. The dam couldn’t hold back the trickle bound back longer than this moment.
I failed. I am failing at everything. I just want to crawl in a hole and cover up…
Woah. Slow your roll.
It was time to sit down, look her straight in the eye, and bring Holy Spirit wisdom into the situation, speak life, and help her see she is more.
That’s not true, I looked at your grades. You have all A’s and a B+. You are not failing at EVERYTHING.
You may have failed at this test, but it is not EVERYTHING. The lip quivered more and then it came…
I know you struggle with not feeling as smart as other people. I know it bothers you your sister seems to get academia while it eludes you. I know you feel stupid and it makes you feel horrible. A tear comes to my eye and she asks why I am going to cry, as if I am disappointed that their aptitudes are as different as their personalities.
Far from it! My tears come from a place of knowing how long you’ve carried this burden and pain of never feeling as though you measure up in this area. Like you’re not good enough. You’re stupid. Lies, lies and more LIES.
And then the floodgates came pouring.
I was shocked, but not. Regardless of the fact our refrigerator has had on its whiteboard “Christ-Loved Ones-Academics-Talents” for over eight years and we do our best to echo and live out the very same values, performance and getting everything “right” has been a very real encumbrance for our children. Even though I said from the time they were in elementary to their now high school years, their character would always be the most important part of who they are, not their athletic talent or academic achievements, performance still seemed to influence their thoughts of worth.
I poignantly asked her…
Do you care about people?
Do you notice when others are hurting?
Do you listen when someone needs a shoulder to cry on?
Do you have advice when people are struggling?
Do you build people up?
Yes, for the most part. Of course for the most part. You’re human. There will be days when you may not appear to care, or notice, or listen, or have something helpful to say, or be able to build up. There may be days when you need to have someone care, listen, be helpful and build YOU up. You’re human, as we all are.
I went back to a moment in first or second grade. She had the wind completely knocked out of her by a young boy unimpressed with her ability to make moves on him. She hit the ground grabbing her abdomen and crying. I was that mom. I stood there waiting for her to get back up. When she didn’t, I walked. I walked towards her while all the parents sat in their lawn chairs alongside the dew kissed grass on a Saturday morning. I didn’t run, I walked with a steady yet persistent pace.
Are you alright?
Can you breathe?
Can you get up?
I don’t know.
You have two choices. I can carry you off this field and you can stop playing. Or, you can get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the game and show them (the feisty boys) you will not be kept down.
She got back up. We exchanged reassuring head nods. I walked off the field. She resumed the game.
Drawing from the memory of her demonstrable strength, I spoke life.
You are more than a number. You are more than the results of some test designed by someone somewhere to provide some metric of what they think is some “smart”. The world may value intellect and place pressure on youth and adults alike to be more and do more, but you are not of this world. You are of the heavenly world. A world where you, while not perfectly so (who can say they do?) genuinely care for people.
If you were to die tonight, people will not care about the tests you did or did not pass or the GPA you held. They will only care about how you made them feel and if you were kind, loving and encouraging. Right?
What did your counselor say about the outcome?
I spoke with the principal because he could see I was upset and stressed.
What did he say?
Everything you just said.
He asked me if I was going to let a number or test define me and my future.
Praise the Lord!!! Yes, thank you Jesus for surrounding our children with adults who DO get it and are not afraid to speak the words I was led to speak. Thank you Holy Spirit. Thank you!
As we buttoned up our conversation, determined the best steps for moving forward, my heart was wrenched.
How many times in just the past week alone had I witnessed and had conversations with gals caught in the temptation of comparing to others. The comparison leaving truth and reality distorted and forward movement paralyzed.
How many times had I observed one disengaging, or avoiding altogether, eye contact, because of the sense of inferiority? On more than once occasion conversations passively indicated the hustle and accomplishment of one was likely unnecessary and must be exhausting, but deep down revealed the lackluster energy of the one sharing the words.
What about the conversations that weren’t had due to fear of not being enough or creating disappointment? What about all the side conversations with others that place folks in our minds either too much or not enough, according to what is comfortable for us, and then there is follow through with reflective actions?
Comparison accompanied by negative judgment of self and others will never be an edifying activity.
Comparison where we positively aspire to challenge our status quo and go a level higher, literally builds up – us, and if done according to Holy Spirit leading, those around us.
We have to be able to graduate from one to the other. We have to ask and trust Holy Spirit to show us how. We have to not assume the Cain role towards our community, because they appear more Able and acceptable.
Family, we have to accept who were are, where we are, and allow God’s wisdom to flow through us as we choose community and compassion, over apparent intellect, achievement and comparison.
God’s values are not the world’s values. He values your heart, mind and love towards Him and others. He will show you how to love and minister in the unique way only you have been called to since before you were formed in your madre’s womb.
Will that look different among each of us. Yes! But it’s supposed to! We are called to reflect Him through our own lives, not through mimicking the lives of others. That’s our offering to Him.
I’m praying this spirit of comparison will fall once and for all among God’s people. There are people craving to see continuity and community are more important than the same weights tying them down and keeping them bound.
Please let me know if I can pray for you. Blessings!
It’s October 2nd. Three months left of 2018. I truly cannot believe how fast time has gone.
As I sit and reflect on the past year, God once again amazes me. Simply amazes me.
A little trip back to January and I recall the Lord speaking to my heart, “This is the year to flourish”. I remember asking myself, “Flourish or flounder?” I felt like I had been struggling. I felt like I was so far from where God needed me to be in order to move through me in the ways I sensed He was calling me to, flourish was the last word that came to my mind. Thank God we don’t move based on feelings. Thank God we move based on His Word, both written and spoken.
I wanted to flourish. I wanted to flourish in my relationship with God, my marriage, as a mother, as an encourager, and in my career. Because I wanted to, regardless of how I felt, I chose to lay hold of that word, like words I had laid hold of in years prior. But more important than my grip on the word, I knew I had to lay hold of the One who spoke the Word.
Early on He shared I needed to keep my gaze fixed on Him. Like Peter stepping out of the boat, I would be tempted to look at the waves around me. But I couldn’t! If I did, also like Peter, I would begin to feel as though it were all too much and begin to “sink”. Early on He also blessed me with a heads up. He spoke to my heart that it was going to get REALLY challenging and rough because the enemy was seeking to sift and devour what God wanted to do, and me. Again, I needed to keep my eyes on Him.
Like the GOOD Father He is, what He spoke began to take shape. Every single time my gaze began to meander from Him, I did feel as if it was all too much. Lovingly He would bring me back – through His Word and meeting me in prayer. The prayer He would woo and call me too. The heads up, it began to take shape as well…
The scrutiny and gnashing began first with my marriage, then moved on to my relationships with my kiddos, and culminated with my career. In one month it seemed as though all hell was coming at me and coming at me HARD.
You see, when we position ourselves to love and obey the Lord with everything we have, hell begins to shake in its boots, and twists and contorts in ways we may think we will be shaken too. But. God. God honors our obedience. He honored my obedience to minister to ten women from five different churches in our community. Because He blessed them with new vision, new hearts, community, contentment, trust, connection, hope and restoration – the enemy thought He would attempt to steal those very gifts from me. Not on God’s watch. Not. On. His. Watch.
While many of the tactics were straight from darkness, God was able to speak to my heart the truth buried in the rubble of lies seemingly compounding discomfort and creating pain. First, we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but with powers and principalities of this world. This is truth. Second, those powers and principalities will do what they can to manipulate situations to manipulate thoughts, to evoke a non-Spirit-led response – and then wreak havoc. Third, God can, will and does allow those attacks and missteps to become lessons in our lives that point us back to repentance, deliverance and healing.
The attack on my marriage led to new conversations and a deeper connection with more support from my husband. The assault on my relationship with our daughters, led to understanding and a realization the time is approaching where they will need to fly on their own. A new dynamic in our relationship is not bad, it’s just different. Different can be good. The battering in my career led to my complete and total reliance on God to surrender and submit in an unfair situation and ultimately did a 180 in a matter of three months, with potential opportunities on the horizon. Opportunities I’m open to, but praying for God’s will to prevail.
God’ will to prevail is the heart of everything I hope for. As the battles raged, gatherings with gals continued. I arrived broken more than I wanted to. Confirmations were received to host a fall Rise Up Commitment session. Deep down? I didn’t want to. I wanted to rest. I wanted to take a break. My flesh was tempting me to focus on me.
Similar to my Gideon moment with the first commitment, I needed confirmation for the second. I needed to know He needed me to do this. After all, soccer season would be in full swing and there’s a whole host of activities to support the team. The first week registration opened, eleven women signed up. Eleven! In my mind there were three I knew were interested and one possibly repeating. But the seven other women? I had no idea they were even watching. I had no idea God was even speaking to their hearts. Four more gals joined over the course of a month. Again, gals I had not interacted with, but who were watching, totaling fifteen. Confirmation made clear.
Then suddenly, something happened. Around the same time things began to turn amidst the career bombardment, God opened doors to discuss matters of His heart with two co-workers. Those discussions led to twelve more ladies joining, in a new community. And then another hopped on board and another. Before I knew it, He had nearly doubled the number of gals choosing to Rise Up, from earlier in the year. He NEEDED this commitment to happen.
How? How does one keep from sinking deep beneath the shoreline and swept into an undertow? How do you keep going when it gets so hard? When you're so tired?
I sit and write this and think of God’s goodness. I think of everything He calls us to and how He equips to make it so. I love how He can increase time and call us to pay more attention. I love how He can take what is an already busy season, and somehow make it all not only “work”, but allow blessings to flow. I love how the same God Who calls us to trust Him with the intensity of one season, is the same God who calls us to step back and rest with Him in another. Which is where I sense things are headed.
There are just under five weeks left of the current commitment. I am trusting God to provide vision, tools to build, and inspiration to press in and press on to our race before us. God has so much in store for these gals. The remainder of the year, God will continue to pour out and into the connections made with all the sister connections established throughout the past year. My hope? They sense they too are flourishing and thriving at the revelation of God’s goodness.
When contemplating and praying about a subsequent Rise Up Commitment, my sense is to learn from the past two and continue to invest in the lives connected with. I honestly don’t know how Pastors shepherd more thirty people at a time. Shoot! I don’t know how they shepherd more than twelve or fifteen! My heart gets so intertwined, my prayers arrested for the needs of the gals I’ve grown to love, more often throughout the day than not. And “celebrity” Christians? Oh my! I would feel the need to reply to and connect with every single message, email and comment made. That’s why I’m grateful God is calling me to a season of cultivating continued connection, encouragement, and support to continue to transform – here in our community.
As He sets my sites on other areas, I know He also needs to do some pruning and stretching in order to allow new life to grow. He desires every area of our lives be submitted fully to Him. This – this is when we truly flourish, when we are fully given to all that He has for us, including His Name being honored through our lives.
I pray you are flourishing and I trust God to move you to continue on in your race and the vision He has set before you.
Where do you find yourself at this point in the 2018 journey? What are you believing God to do with the remaining three months? Do you have hopes and prayers? I would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message.
You know those moments where you are thinking something you believe you SHOULDN’T? There’s a holy conviction, “Yeah, this isn’t right”. “I know acting out this or that certainly will not reflect Christ. Lord, help me keep my mouth shut, my face straight, and give me the grace to not explode in so doing”.
This morning I found myself there. Some things get me going. One of them being when others present the ideas they’ve mined from other people and present them as their own. I recently heard from a fellow creative, Erwin McManus, “Every time someone pays the counterfeit, the thief is receiving the reward”. Woah.
Counterfeits stink. They come with a cost, even though they may seem to be, or even are in many cases, more affordable. Their inception is grounded in lack of integrity. Inevitably compromising the material it is built upon. Eventually it will fall apart and cause the one who bought into it to replace it or perhaps choose to buy the original. Counterfeits come with a cost.
I’m thinking of this and then I pray, “Lord, prune my thoughts. Graft in YOUR thoughts and character for this situation. You be reflected in this situation. Bless me with the words to speak and share, should this perceived injustice be confronted.”
While praying, I saw a tree. I saw a large oak tree. Remain deeply rooted in love came to mind. I then saw branches and even some roots being cut away. Another vine was grafted in. A new sprout and bud popped up on another.
How often do we avoid those uncomfortable places or opportunities for correction? How often do we just stuff the feelings down and move on? How often do we say to ourselves I am going to make right of this situation and confront? How often do we rely on our self, rather than the Holy Spirit, to give us the words to speak?
As the image continued to become clearer, new branches crafted in and new buds popping up, I realized the tree would be bearing new fruit. His fruit. Any fruit now coming from this tree would be the “real deal”, a fruit of the Spirit, not a counterfeit provided by a soul maneuvering from a natural response.
I pray we do not fear the pruning. I pray we trust the Lord will not prune, only to leave a painful, gaping wound or severed limb. I pray we realize He prunes to make room for His character, His will, His BLESSING – His reflection.
I pray we go to Him with our character, in exchange for His. I pray the world begin to see more clearly Who God REALLY is through our lives – because we intentionally choose the REAL DEAL over our natural-world-shaped feelings, thoughts and preferences.
I haven’t written much lately. Not because I have been lazy, but because focus has been pointed at other areas. So many good God things going on, blogging hasn’t been on the top of the requests of things to do.
Yesterday, however, I sat down and wrote for about four hours. It was time I map out milestones for my story, the testimony of God’s overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love for me. If that song is now in our head… GOOD!
Writing while recalling is much different than writing to teach, encourage or perhaps facilitate some level of healing in the life of someone else. It is also different than writing to share or perhaps entertain. Although, my prayer is the pages of my written testimony will certainly encourage anyone convinced they are in a hopeless situation. I also pray it will cause others to see there is healing in the hands of a mighty God if we would but only surrender FULLY to Him! And of course, due to my God given flare, I do pray the method by which it is shared is entertaining on some level. Most importantly, I pray folks are able to live more courageously in Christ and allow the old woman or man to truly pass away.
You see, as I sat down to capture what was supposed to be 15 – 20 milestones and life lessons throughout my tenure (I hope that’s OK Ms. Writing Coach), I ended up capturing 25. I know! It’s hard to believe someone who hasn’t quite reached the top of the hill just yet would have so much to share. That’s exactly why I sense the Lord speaking to my heart it NEEDS to be shared. Exactly.
When recalling the milestones and faithfulness of God, I come to tears. He truly does have a reckless love for me, and I know He has one for you as well! It’s breathtaking. He has pursued and protected His plan in my life since before I was formed. He protected my ability to hear and speak when spinal meningitis threatened to steal both when I was an infant. He was there with me through the heartache of learning my father’s life had been carelessly stripped away by a family member, even though I couldn’t really sense it at the age of five. Even after others tried to hush me by convincing me to stay quiet after their poor choices, or shame me with insults of how my obese body looked at a very young age – He was looking after me.
When pain and depression would not loosen its grip and I chose to bring my own happiness and gratification, He kept watch and let me go only so far. When rejection from the ones closest to me came, He received me with wide open arms like the loving Father He is! God has been good, sooooo goooood!
It amazes me how He transforms poor choices, heartache and sorrow, into jewels of lessons learned, joy and peace. I am astonished at how He WILL NOT LET UP and CONSTANTLY calls us back to Him, even from our own self-reliant, self-imposed captivity. I am blown away that His passionate pursuit is not for our sake alone. No. It has always been and always will be for the sake of the lives we are surrounded by. He came to this life to live wholly unto the Father and sacrifice His life for you and I. We are called to do the same.
As I wrote the milestones and then took the step of sending them to my writing coach, I felt a twinge of anxiety. What will she think? Oh my goodness, only a few people know these things about me, will she even want to work with me? Being vulnerable isn’t easy. In fact, not coincidentally, the subject of being vulnerable has been prevalent in the first week of the Rise Up Commitment. I even completed a mini video study where we looked at the life of Hannah, the woman from Shunem, Adam and Eve, and King David. From them we learned why some folks may offer up vulnerability, why some appear to not be open, the one thing that may be lying at the heart of being able to become more vulnerable, and an example of how we can live when we are vulnerable with both God and man. It may be of interest to you. CLICK HERE TO VIEW and please let me know if it spoke to you!
I pray you have a great week and be encouraged today to spend a bit of time reflecting on how good God has been to you throughout your life. If you don’t know Him, through the person of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and you’re tired, hurting, broken, angry and fearful. Would you do me a favor? Would you reach out and message me? I want to pray with you.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
for His steadfast love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods,
for His steadfast love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for His steadfast love endures forever;
I recently updated the homepage to this site and felt overwhelmed! I was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God, always! Overwhelmed by how He has grown me, stretched me outside my comfort zone, and truly caused me to be a blessing – an instrument called for His GLORY!
It was literally just over one year ago when Rise Up! Devotions was published and released. Thirteen months later and God has penned five more publications! FIVE. And God receives all the glory for it. Every last ounce I have to give, is HIS!
You see, I share often, God will take what little we have offer and multiply it. I share this because this has been my experience. I also share it because oftentimes we may see the vision He has for us and feel like we have to make it all happen at once. This is a reminder – we don’t. We simply rely on Him to receive our offering and cause it to grow.
I am so grateful Rise Up! has been purchased by women all over the country and into South Africa. I’m also grateful He made the way for Rise Up! to be translated to Spanish and shared with Dominican friends. I’m also grateful for the kind words left by book reviewers:
" A great devotional to encourage everyone to Rise Up and know who we are and what God's Word says we are. "
" Such a great book to read if you are looking for a devotional to help you dig into the Bible deeper! You can go through it as slow or fast as you want. You can sense the author's passion and the way God is calling her all throughout this book. Such a great devotional! "
" The Rise Up Devotions are a great tool to help you dig deeper into God's word. If you are looking for a devotional that encourages as it guides you through scripture, this is it! "
I am grateful Rise & Pray has been shared with nearly a hundred women, now encouraged to rise and pray for others in their lives. Prayer. Prayer has been, is and will continue to be the power behind everything God does through this ministry. And when I read a review like this:
" Beautiful done, Holy Spirit led, and simple. Perfect for us Mamas who feel we don’t have a lot of time to sit with the Lord. However, this makes you want to draw close. This makes you realize what you are missing. "
My heart is completely satisfied knowing the Holy Spirit is literally being sensed through the words of the pages He lovingly composed through my feeble hands and soul.
Both Courageous Humility one and two, what can I say?! God seriously showed up in a profound way in the writing and composing of each six week study. He made His will known in that He wanted it to be accessible to millions of people via YouVersion. And, He made it so! Although I am currently working on getting part two uploaded to the Bible app, I love seeing thousands have read and completed part one – in less than a year!
With the Rise Up Commitment Daily Devotional just recently being released, my heart swells. The content Christ penned for the devotional means so much to me. It means so much because I literally witnessed Him bring understanding, awareness and transformation in the lives of twelve very special women in my life, whom I now consider sisters!
Through writing, the Lord has created an unbelievable community! But He isn’t done. Not by a long shot. I’ve recently been brainstorming two book ideas in my mind, both I believe calls from God. One book idea will be the testimony of my life, the other an experiment for Christians and non-Christians alike. BOTH, I believe will bless others and provide understanding, encouragement, and perhaps some level of healing on the wide array of faith journeys intersecting with my own.
The exciting part? I envision this writing being done in a new way. Writing, for many, is very isolating, which may be difficult when you are an extrovert and know you have a call to interact with others. These two projects will be social and interactive. You will be given an opportunity to join me on the journey of composing both. If you are interested in learning more, please leave a comment and I will share what is currently stirring in my heart and how we can connect with one another.
Take care and God bless!