Distractions

I sit and write amid trash and crumbs strewn across the table.  One child is sedated by a show, one squirms on my lap and the others are outside, finally making their own fun.  The morning has been full of tempers that have flared.  Tempers that lashed out at each other and the schoolwork that we tried to do.  Forever I will be learning to not lash out at their lashing out because how in the world can I teach them to be calm when so many days I’m like a pressure cooker that’s not properly vented?

For years I’ve been trying to figure out how to do social media well.  Sometimes it’s looked like being off for an extended period of time, others times I’ve felt called to intentionally engage with people instead of just creeping by like a stranger in a white van  (no offense to my friends in white vans, you guys are my favorite).

A friend and I recently spent some time in prayer because we were both felt like we were not giving God our best.  My distraction is social media.  It’s my go to when life feels too consuming (which with five kids feels like most of the time).  I’ve felt this pull, this tension, to draw back knowing that it is taking up too much of my brain space for me to be the kind of mom I want to be, but also the kind of friend I want to be to God.

Naturally, the week after we prayed, I spent much of it scrolling through social media, attempting to engage but doing a whole lot of creeping.  I then felt that guilty pull of knowing that I want things to be different but doing absolutely nothing to change it.  A few nights in this strange anxiety began to hit me, a feeling that I haven’t felt for quite a while and one that tells me to stop and look around at why this old feeling is trying to make a new space.

After a vacation followed by a couple of weeks of sickness I realized my guard was down.  I was tired from mom’ing and from holding things together when Brad and the kids were sick.  The enemy attempted to hit me at a time when I was soothing my soul with social media instead of Jesus, and he almost got me.

Then I heard the Lord tell me to lay low and seek Him until he told me otherwise.  I don’t often hear such direct commands from Him, but I knew this meant to stay off social media until I heard further.

I used to think that being off social media for good would be the answer to all my problems.  If only I could just delete my accounts forever, that would make things better.  Lately, though, since we’ve started the School of Kingdom Writers and I’ve felt a pull to use my personal social media accounts for His good, I’ve realized that I must learn how to do social media God’s way.  I believe that He has this perfect way for us to connect and teach and encourage each other in Christ, and I know that I just need to learn how to do that without being consumed.  It sure seems like I should have that under control before we set out to disciple and teach others.

Last night I began to sense that God was telling me to post online, check and respond and then get back off.  As I began to sense that and wonder if it was really God, I also began to wonder if it could really be that simple?

What if I waited until God told me, posted and checked in, and then signed back off again?  I don’t need to let it consume me, I don’t “owe” anyone a quick response, I don’t need to dull my sense or feelings by looking at what other people are doing.  I can put my content out there, connect with people as I see fit, and then log back off and into my real life where there are real problems that I need to have the courage and fortitude to address.

As my friend Sarah says, it’s so beautiful how God invites us into things with him.  He doesn’t force us to join him, but he will gently remind us that we indeed have a part to play in becoming closer to Him.  The more we seek Him, the more He responds.

It’s really as simple as that.

Devotion>Decency

Decency: behavior that conforms to accepted standards of morality or respectability

Devotion: great love, affection, or admiration for someone

Recently the Lord spoke to me the phrase “the decency is gone”.  As I looked up the definition of decency, I heard the Lord speaking that His standard is here and the world’s is gone.

Later that day the Lord was so good to give me another phrase: “Decency is being replaced by devotion.”  He wants me to look to Him with great love and affection because He is the only one who can show me my true, Christ given identity.

I was reminded of the story of King David, who brought the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem after it had been in the hands of the Philistines.  David was so overwhelmed with the glory and goodness of God watching the ark enter the city that he basically danced around in his underwear with praise.  The daughter of the previous king was watching him with disdain.  Later, she confronts David saying, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would.”

Instead of being embarrassed, King David proudly responds, “I will celebrate before the Lord, I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.”  David had his eyes fixed in adoration upon the Lord and the praise that David exhibited was exactly what God wanted from him.

Let us not conform to the standards of this world, but to adore our father above all else.  Above comfort, above a good name, above decency.

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” John 14:15-17

Foggy sadness

The day is moving along but the fog outside has intensified.  By nine it should be dissipating, driven away by the newness of the day and the sun shining bright.  But today, this second day of the year, it’s worsening.

Sadness crept into my heart in much the same way.  When things should be the most joyful, sadness can be as the fog, thick and relentless.  In some ways I welcome it, that old familiar feeling.  I allow myself to wallow in my surroundings, in the things that shouldn’t be, but are.

I want to feel entitled to my sadness.  I want to feel justification that the world is against me and that life is harder for me than those around me.

Selfishness is the root of sadness.

I needed to climb out of the hole of self-pity, but first I needed to let myself cry.  To feel the feelings that God gave me, even if they are no indication of the life He has for me or the nature of His goodness.

I spent evenings in the ambiance of the Christmas tree lamenting what doesn’t seem quite right.  Selfishness gave way to self-reflection and I could hear God calling me to more.

I remembered years past, the sewing, the painting, the embroidery that I would put my identity in for a while because I saw others doing it and knew I could too.  Then I was tired and burnt out with no time or space left for projects.  These four, almost five, children have taken up every nook and cranny of our small house.

God began highlighting how important creating is for my own, wait for the dreaded word, self-care.  But self-care isn’t selfish if it connects me with my Creator.

I thought back to the prophetic word I received last spring, the one about how I would write and that would snowball into big and beautiful things.  The word that I’ve tucked in my back pocket just waiting for God to make happen.  It turns out sometimes He’s just waiting for us to make the move.

Writing requires nothing more than a pencil and a piece of paper and certainly I have plenty of room for that.  My laptop easily slides under the couch for a few words here and there.

Writing.

Always something I’ve dabbled in for a few months and then lost interest or inspiration, God has prompted me to look past the need for “inspiration” and just put words on a page on a regular basis.  He’s pushing me out of my comfort zone.

I want to write short stories, maybe an entire novel someday.  Not today, not tomorrow, but soon enough that will feel possible.  I just need more practice.

Brad is the writer in this family, but who says there can’t be more than one?  It only makes sense to take advantage of living with the best editor I know, the one who has taught me everything I know about writing.

To top it off, I get a pretty good discount.

A new thing

About a month ago as I was laying down for bed, an image of a fire burning came into my mind.  I closed my eyes to see what God had for me.

I found myself a couple of stories up in an old building downtown.  As I looked out there appeared to be a beautiful sunset, glowing orange and red, but as I moved closer to the window, I could see that buildings were on fire.  However, instead of it being detrimental, I had the sense of this being peaceful and good.

I was moved outside on the street and noticed the fire was burning certain buildings, but instead of destroying them it was making them new again.  This was downtown revitalization, one building block at a time for the Kingdom.

Suddenly, I was back in the room where I began, and there was a line of people around the perimeter of the room (it was large and open) reaching their hands out and praying.  I looked out the window and saw people praying and walking away from the building to bring Jesus to the community.

God is raising this up.  I am certain he is placing dreams in Kingdom minded people’s heads right now of businesses they want to start and ways they can make this community better.  I don’t know if it’s a coffee shop or a guitar store, but I do know for certain that when God is in charge of these dreams He has a big plan for us and for our community.

The School of Kingdom Writers is going to draw 24 people who will live and work in Zanesville, who will wield the power of the Kingdom of God to restore brokenness and bind the brokenhearted.  They will support and encourage a thriving community, while learning about how to claim writing and media spaces for God.

I am so looking forward to what Zanesville will look like in 10, 20, 30 years.  It will be a different place, a place where God manifest presence is known.  We pray and believe that addiction will flee, sickness will be healed and hopelessness with be replaced with Jesus, our everlasting spring of Life.

 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43: 19

Business, not as usual.

Not many know this, but the first business Brad and I ever started was an online hookah retailer.  Yes, you heard me right, we sold hookahs in college.

I can’t stop laughing while writing this out because it seems so long ago and so foreign, but once upon a time this young married couple at Ohio University went into business with a friend because they thought they could get a corner on the hookah business in Athens.  Plus, we enjoyed smoking the fun fruity tobaccos.  They were somehow “better” for you because they tasted good, right?

This isn’t something you lead with when introducing yourself, or even when sharing your life, but it’s an important part of our story because it was one of the first times we decided to do life differently.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t go well and we weren’t able to quit our jobs and lived as the hookah kings of Athens, but we began to learn lessons about what it means to own a business.

A few years later after doing the “normal” job thing we both quit to travel and pursue God in greater measure.  We developed our own businesses because we knew deep down there had to be more for us than working 40 hours a week to make a corporation rich.

We built our businesses, I took pictures and Brad designed websites, and we made them work mostly on our own.  We prayed about them and when things were hard we asked God to bless them and help make ends meet.   The beautiful thing is he always did; we always had enough.  We built our businesses and God was our sidekick.

A few years passed and after many late night front porch sessions it was decided that Brad would build a new company that helped people self-publish their writing.  We were older and more in tune with the Lord.   Through prayer this direction felt right, but it was still us doing the building and the grunt work.  Again, we would come to the Lord with prayer requests when money was tight or when there was a tough situation, but this was still a business that WE made and that WE were in control of.    Despite that, He has blessed this business beyond measure and we have learned to hand over more of our lives, little by little, to the God and creator of our Universe.

God began calling Brad and I to full time ministry this past year.  We explored and prayed for what that would be, and slowly the vision came into focus.

We are to start a School for Kingdom Writers here in Zanesville.  Students will live here for two years, immersed in both a writing and Kingdom living program.

For the first time in our lives, this is all God.  There is no way this school would come to fruition by our own accord.  It’s too mighty and massive and we are not skilled in all the parts necessary for it to thrive.  Oh, not to mention the large cost it will incur, and we are a people that live committed to doing everything with zero debt.

But God has relayed to us in many prayer sessions and prophetic words via our brothers and sisters that HE is going to do this in His power, not ours.  We are merely vessels, but he has assured us to dream the big dreams that he is laying on our hearts because they will certainly come to pass.

This doesn’t mean we sit back as passive spectators in our life, but it does mean that we can choose to not participate in the worry and stress that comes with starting a non-profit.  We get the chance to trust our creator fully and without waver, knowing that even as we’ve held onto parts of our lives for our own, HE STILL PROVIDED FOR US.

This is a defining moment in our lives as we take the leap of faith from in control to His control.  We are all in, ready to look like fools for the sake of the advancement of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His wave of great mercy and love is coming in and it will wash over everything in this land, in this community and The School of Kingdom Writers is going to be one part of how He chooses to spread His message.  To God be all the glory.

Fall leaves

When we moved here my heart filled with gratitude knowing that we had a beautiful sugar maple right outside our dining room window.   It was a deep desire of my heart to have beautiful fall leaves in our yard, and God fulfilled that unspoken dream.  I watched the leaves begin to yellow, turn to light orange and then to a robust rust before letting go and burying our yard in 3 inches of mulch.

Last year, instead of their beautiful show, the leaves simply dried up and fell off.  No colors, no excitement, just bare.

We guessed it was due to all of the construction and digging that happened around it, but it cut through my heart knowing that what that tree showed was exactly how I felt in my heart.  I was dried up, tired, ready to be done and dull.  The fact that a tree could be such an accurate reflection of our life was astounding.  I’m sure I’ll always remember the year that the tree lost its color because it was the ending of one of the hardest years of my life.

This year, our colorful tree has returned and I watch the hues change with awe and wonder.  Our bedroom glows yellow when the sun shines on it.  I can’t stop staring out the window while we eat dinner, knowing how fleeting this orange is.  I want to soak up every last moment before the cold, dull winter sets in.

The tree is turning it’s beautiful colors once again, and I think of how I too have been renewed inside.  Beauty for ashes, I know there’s a gift in there.

 

 

Creative boost

Last week I delivered a short message to our church on creativity.

This week I’ve realized how uncreative I’ve been for months.

God truly has a sense of humor, and I am thankful he can use me despite the fact that I am not qualified nor do I even feel qualified.

There have been times in my life of free flowing, ample creativity.  Everything seems like a new idea, something to start, something to try.  It’s exciting and pleasing and my brain goes a hundred miles a minute thinking about all that I want to make.  It can also be disruptive and frustrating when I don’t have all the time to create all the things I would like.

But, there have also been many times, like now, where I am a dry well.  There is nothing bubbling up inside of me, no desire to make new, no ideas rolling around in my brain all day long.  It’s a struggle to even sit and make myself write.  I haven’t picked up my camera because I don’t see anything worth taking a photo of.

I’ve been waiting this dry spell out for a long time, and it’s hit me that maybe this time I can’t just expect to feel a fresh wave of creativity without giving something of myself.  Perhaps I need to water my well.  I need to drag a hose out, huff and puff my way over and water that dusty hole until it fills again.

So, I’m writing.  I’m going to force myself to edit the 6+ month backlog of photos that are sitting on my hard drive.  I’m going to schedule walks to woods into our days and enjoy this land that we’ve been given, even if the grass needs mowed and the weeds need pulled.

Creativity is more than inspiration, it’s a lot of hard work.

It is one of the most important ways that I feel connected my Creator, which might explain the often disconnected prayer life I’ve been leading for a couple of months.  I trust the Holy Spirit to show me out of this funk, and I’m excited to see the new life that is formed.

If I want creativity I must be willing to give up something else.  My brain does not have the capacity for it all, which means that I just found my toddler walking around with an empty-ish maple syrup container.   Today, I’m giving up non-sticky floors, knowing this feeling of connection and creativity will give me the boost I need to get through the everyday cleaning that has to happen in a house of 8.

This isn’t my best writing, my house is a mess and my hair isn’t brushed, but I wrote.  I’m creating something new and that’s exciting.

Seasons

This will be the third September in a row that we enter into a huge life transition.  Two years ago we took over as owners of a restaurant and one year ago we closed that restaurant.

This September the Lord is leading us to a project bigger than ourselves, bigger than we could ever accomplish or set out to do on our own.  In three weeks, we will no longer have a steady income provided by the work of our hands, but we trust that God always pays for what He orders.  This is exciting, wonderful, terrifying and beautiful.  The Kingdom of God is forcefully advancing, and He wants us all to play a role in this movement.

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When we allow ourselves to live seasonally, not just in the physical seasons, but also with the seasons of life, we begin to appreciate what each one has taught us and how it changes our perspective to look forward to what is next as well as appreciate where we came from.

Sometimes we come from a long, hard and dull winter and we’re left tired and restless.  We can appreciate the newness that is springing forth in our hearts because we’ve been through the wilderness.  Other times we’re worn out and tired from a nonstop summer season and are ready to cozy into a quiet autumn rest.

Seasonal living is a recognition that if we’re walking with the Lord, ALL the experiences we live through are significant.  The negative experiences grow and shift us, and the joyful ones encourage and build us up.

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The year we owned a restaurant was one of the most tumultuous and turbulent years we’ve ever experienced.  There was much joy to be found, but it was coupled with a heavy dose of exhaustion, frustration and feeling a little like God has led us to a place that makes no sense.

When we closed there was a rehabilitation period that we went through as a family.  We were disjointed and quite short with each other while living from a place of stress and exhaustion.  It took time and energy to apply with our children and ourselves to relearn what our priorities are and how to love first.

Just today I realized that I am still readjusting.  I’m learning to get back into routine tasks like walking to the woods on hard days, or good days, just any days.  Getting outside as a family is good for all of us but was one of the first things I dropped during that hard season.

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I parked myself near a patch of butterfly weed this morning and to watch the monarchs, the swallowtails, the cabbage moths and the bumblebees share this glorious plant.  It was incredible and wonderful and reminded me of how much beauty God graced this world with.

We are created in His image and when we appreciate the beautiful butterflies, the stunning flowers of the field and the smells of a late summer walk we are communing with who God is.  He is the most outrageous lover of beauty that ever has or will exist.

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A few years ago during a hard parenting season, God spoke the phrase “steer the ships” to show me what raising many kids would look like.

I got an image of a fleet of old fashioned sailing ships in my mind, some are far ahead, some are a little behind, another might be off to the left or the right but they’re all headed in the same direction.

Sometimes one of us drifts off track, but God reminded me that my job as a parent isn’t to make them exactly like all the other ships but instead to make sure they keep traveling in the same direction as the rest of us.

God has made us wonderfully unique, but he has also formed us into a purposeful family.  We are made to leave a legacy to our children and our grandchildren, and I think the best way to do that is to make sure we are all headed ever closer to the One who matters most.

Seek & Find

I made sauerkraut yesterday and had a bowl of leftover cabbage pieces for the rabbits.  This morning I gave first pick to the bunnies that are growing out, but still had a little left.  As I looked back and forth between the other 10 cages I noticed one of our beloved does, J-bunny, eagerly jumping up and down in a way that just screamed “pick me, pick me.”

I opened her cage and poured the rest of the bowl in; she began chomping the cabbage with vigor and God spoke to me that he gives his gifts to those that eagerly seek Him.

Many expect Jesus to just appear to them out of thin air just because they believe he exists.  Certainly, in his sovereignty he can do that, but I know that the more we seek him, the more we spend time praying, reading his Word, thinking about Him, the greater His desire to fill us with His goodness.

If you believe that Jesus exists, I pray that the desire to pursue him with everything you are floods your heart.  It will overwhelm and invade your life with all the goodness and gifts that a loving Father lavishes upon us.

Past pain.

I woke up with piercing pain in my right thumb. It’s not a new pain and has visited often the past couple of years, making it difficult to do nearly everything from opening toothpaste tubes to writing.

I have received prayer for it and for a time it was healed. I’ll go for weeks not thinking about it but then out of nowhere it begins to hurt again.

I retrace my steps over the previous days. Did I eat too much sugar? Have my phone in my right hand for too long? Perhaps I have a gluten intolerance that is causing inflammation?

I went through all these motions this morning and I even googled arthritis.

Googling, of course, is never a good option and I shut that down quickly. I reached out to a couple of friends for prayer and reminded myself that I am strong and pain is mostly a mental game. If I do things a certain way without bending my thumb it doesn’t hurt, so I rely on my other 9 digits.

Something made me remember, the divine interruption of the Lord I suppose, that this was the finger that I severed as a child, crashing my bike on a steep hill.

Gosh, is that it? Is this an old injury coming back to haunt me?

God told me, “I want to heal you of your past wounds.”

This is a message for me, but I also believe it’s for others dealing with emotional scars. Past wounds can look healed, but are often underlying triggers for pain, hurt and anger.

We think back and wonder if it’s because we didn’t get enough sleep, watched the scary movie, or should have taken a bubble bath instead of mowing the lawn. We feel guilt because we thought we had finally overcome the negativity that was holding us back.

Even when we look healed on the outside, we can be bleeding on the inside.

God’s desire is for us to be free of all pain and to be healed of all wounds. In fact, he already died on the cross for that freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 ESV

The enemy wants to hold us in a place where we think we are OK, but we just can’t place our finger on the rage that wells up, the sadness that grips, or the worry that gnaws. That is NOT the goodness that our God has promised us and it’s time we rise up and take back territory that the enemy thinks he has “claimed”. Good news, the enemy was ALREADY defeated when Jesus died on that cross.

We wait patiently for the day that we get to live in the new heaven and new earth that God has promised us, a place where there will be no more sadness, suffering or pain.  But we’re not there yet and now must contend and fight for our freedom and joy.

He canceled out every legal violation we had on our record and the old arrest warrant that stood to indict us. He erased it all—our sins, our stained soul—he deleted it all and they cannot be retrieved! Everything we once were in Adam has been placed onto his cross and nailed permanently there as a public display of cancellation.

Then Jesus made a public spectacle of all the powers and principalities of darkness, stripping away from them every weapon and all their spiritual authority and power to accuse us. And by the power of the cross, Jesus led them around as prisoners in a procession of triumph. He was not their prisoner; they were his! Colossians 2:14-15 TPT

There is abundant freedom that comes from stepping into the identity that God gives us.  The powers of darkness can no longer accuse us there, the grips of evil can no longer hold us down.  Life with Christ is evermore stepping into the power and authority that he gave us when he died.  There is still evil in the world and bad things are still prevalent, but God in His abundant mercy has made a way for us to move through and around the powers of darkness by recognizing that Christ bore it all!

*If this resonates with you, please reach out to me or someone you trust for prayer. I believe God has healing for you.*