Beyond Borders

courage. faith. action.


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God gave you the sun.

The sky has been gray and dark and the rain has fallen for days. I am not sure when we last saw the sun cast shadows. It feels like Seattle with the cold and the rain and the dark. Except it’s not. And seasonal affective disorder might just being setting in, or maybe I am just weepy. And the last thing you said last night before bed? “I wish the sun would come out for my birthday.”

And then here it is, the morning of your birth.

It is still early and you are still sleeping, but you have to know that God brought the sun. It was only for a moment, but the sun glowed through the clouds and the fog. I didn’t know if it would last and I wanted you to see. I grabbed my phone and snapped some pictures right through the window. But they just dId not do it justice. The brilliant glow and the brightness that was spilling through the cracks of the blinds and dancing across the floor. I almost woke you from your dreams so you could breathe it in. But you were so peaceful.

I sat down next to you on the bed and brushed the hair from your face. I watched as your breath came and went. A steady slow rhythm. Memories of how I used to watch you breathe as a baby, how tiny you were, how I held you in my arms, how I could not believe that you were mine, how deep a love could really run, they all raced through my head.

Today, you are thirteen. If you want to be technical you won’t be thirteen until 4:45 pm, and yeah I am going to do just that. Be technical. Hold you to these last few hours of being twelve. Because I have to. Because once you turn thirteen I think it might all just be downhill. That i just might blink and you will be eighteen. The state will consider you an adult. We are closer to that than we are to you being that little baby that I held in my arms and watched breath. And I am just not ready.

I can’t help but wonder where all these years have gone. And what if I got it all wrong and what if I missed something, and that clock is about to roll over and you will officially be a teenager. Officially thirteen. Then what if it will be too late?

But there you are.

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This amazing young lady with more wisdom and grace than thirteen years can carry. I could tell you the obvious of the beauty that you are, but you can see that in the mirror. As you grow through your teen years I pray that the mirror does not become your friend. Because that mirror is a lie. It distorts and misaligns. And it’s all a lie. The only true beauty is that of your heart. And your heart sweet girl is full of beauty.

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Your heart is pure. And it shines. And this is not my doing, but God’s. You invited Him in and let Him fill all the secret places. You etched His words on your heart. And you trusted them.

And now I see you brave.

Conquering fears that once crippled you. Trusting that perfect Love that casts out fear and jumping in.That time you stood and sang His bow is on the strings… the time you sat through a thunderstorm without ears plugged tight with fingers… the time you danced in the puddles after the storm… that time you danced across a stage… It was right there on your face. A smile. The confidence. The brave.

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I pray you remember this feeling. I pray you always jump!

The clock is ticking and there is no stopping it. It’s not mine to stop. Time is always moving forward.

And there you are thirteen.

sydney

birthdaysun

And on this morning God gave you the sun.


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Sally, tears and her new book.

So today, along with a slew of other women, I get the honor of announcing Sally Clarkson’s new book, Own Your Life.  It’s releasing in January 2015. I had the humbled privilege of getting a sneak peek into the book. I cried. Like ugly cried. Because… it’s Sally. And her words always fall like rain and wash over my soul. Comforting the hurting places, encouraging the scared places and because I secretly wish she lived next door. Right here everyday pouring into my life. But since she is not, I read her blog and her books, and her Facebook posts and pretend she is right here with me. And she always knows exactly what I am feeling. She is cool like that, because she and Jesus are super close, and He whispers to me through her. And this book, in so many ways, is going to be her best yet. I am so thankful she thought to write a book just for me.

Oh wait, I forgot, she wrote it for all of us. She says, “I want every woman to be renewed and refreshed in a personal life vision with the conviction that you can say with Paul : ‘I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus'”

Sally, I thank you for pressing on. For always pressing on.

For more information about her book check out Sally’s blog. To preorder “Own Your Life” go here…

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1414391285?ref%5F=sr%5F1%5F1&s=books&qid=1414120740&sr=1-1&keywords=own%20your%20life%20sally%20clarkson&pldnSite=1


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Christmas trees, Charlie Brown, and Advent.

It’s an unwinding of lights today. The Christmas tree stands with spiders and dust and broken lights and odors you just do not want in your house. It’s an unstringing. And Charlie Brown’s voice catches my ear. It’s full of sadness and longing. He wonders is Christmas all about money? About what and how much you get? He is searching for the real meaning of Christmas.

tree lights

tree with lights

The lights are a tangled mess. Who strung this pre lit tree? With each tug on the branches the dust billows around us like pig pen as he walks on to the set. Dust of Christmases past. This tree found it’s way into our home just a year ago, but it has known many Christmases. And Just like all of us it has a story.

As I unravel strings and cut clips the linger of stale cigarette smoke fills the air. Definitely a heavy smoker. A string dangles from a branch and I wonder what it held. The hint of air freshener wafts for a moment. Was it sprayed to mask the odor of cigarettes? I pull twisty ties that held newer lights tight to the branches. Did they want more light or was it because the lights lost their burn? Did children swarm on christmas morn filled with anticipation? Or, did the tree sit alone, haunted with memories of long ago? My arms are tired and my back is straining and all I want to do is toss this tree and go buy a new one. But Christmas trees don’t come cheap these days, so I press on.

tree clips

Charlie Brown’s voice echoes my frustration now, and where are you Linus? Where is your recitation? The words that bring the hope of glory. We desperately need those words.

I use the scissors against the lights, trying desperately to rescue the branches. With each snip, my head fills with events and headlines and controversy. I can feel the weight of darkness. The weight of judgments as to what is the right way to celebrate Christmas. I feel the weight of the self imposed pressure of the social media images of with perfectly decorated mantles and doorsteps. I feel the weight of the argument of who owns Christmas. Did the christians really steal Christmas? I feel the weight of the whispers in desperate times about cities that fight against themselves and whispers of doubt that there never really be peace on earth.

I’m pleading with Linus now. As if the words he recites will bring the peace. Renew the hope. Quiet my mind.

With branches finally freed from the shackles of string lights, I soak that tree with soap and water and vinegar. Washing away the dust and the dirt. The water flows muddy and the branches glisten in the sunlight.

tree clean

Today, the beginning of advent and I am unraveling. Unravelling Christmas lights, and the hopelessness and peace within myself.  And Ann, she reads these words, on the first Sunday of advent, as she invites us in and shares with us through video. She tells us how she wasn’t comfortable in doing so and the yes didn’t come right away, but God kept pressing and there she was because this…  “that If one person could have a more meaningful deep relationship with Christ this Christmas, that if somebody could experience more of an upside down Christmas and encounter Jesus in a fresh way than it is worth doing.”

Because this is advent. A Latin word meaning coming. Waiting. Waiting for the coming of christ. And we are the perpetual advent people. Always waiting for the coming of Christ. And she talks about the Easter people. The hallelujah people. The advent people. Always waiting for the coming of Christ. And I want this. I want to be this person always living in the wait. Always saying yes, even in the uncomfortable, because if just one person…

Charlie Brown is still searching. Where are you Linus? I am pleading with him as if his reading changes everything.

But isn’t this what Christmas is? The renewing of hope? Of the One who came to save the world from all its suffering? The only One who can bring peace on earth? The coming of Jesus, born in a manger? Do these words not change everything?

Because each year as we walk into advent and sit in the wait for Christmas morning, we sit and wait for the reminder. The celebration. Of He who came. Born in a manger. Of He who brought the hope of glory. Of He who died and rose again and is coming again.

And the arguments can beg who owns Christmas. And we can worry about all the unrest and when or if it will end? And we can judge and feel judged on our Christmas traditions, but really there is only one Christmas…

As Charlie Brown returns to the auditorium with his tiny little sapling, the Christmas tree for the play, he is ridiculed by the children. Their laughter trails as they walk away. Charlie Brown is desperate now, he is screaming it, what is the meaning of Christmas? Linus the only one left in the auditorium says “I can tell you…”

“‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.’” (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)

“…That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

 


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I tasted the Grace and it was good.

I left my home on Thursday morning an Allume Newbie and in just three days I returned home an Allume alum. What I learned in the days between went far beyond anything I could have imagined.

Nearly a year ago when I felt God saying He wanted me to go to Allume, I thought He might just be thinking of the wrong person. Why would I, a girl who plays a writer on a blog, need to go to a blogger’s conference? A girl who has not been away from home in over 12 years without her husband and kids in tow? And not to forget that I would be going to a conference in which I did not know a single person that would be attending?

I didn’t have the answer, but I listened. I bought my ticket. Booked my room. And I waited. I waited seven months for this conference. As I followed Allume on Facebook and Twitter, I quickly identified myself with the hashtag #allumenewbie. Social media became my friend, and I began to learn what this blogging conference was all about. Or, so I thought.

In the weeks leading up to the conference, schedules were announced, twitter parties were had, and it became a reality. I was headed to this conference and I was in over my head, because these women were rockstars and I was an impersonator.

In a meager attempt to plan my weekend (you can read that as control it) I selected the sessions I would attend, bought more than enough food just in case I could not eat anything, you know, because of my multitude of food allergies. I packed piles of clothes. Clothes for when I felt good, clothes for the migraine days (because, well, I left my house with one) and clothes for the in between for when I was just felt blah. But most importantly, I planned to be inconspicuous. Just to blend. If I blended then no one would realize I was not a writer, and the writing police would not find me and quickly ban me from this event.

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The morning of the first day, migraine raging, I left my house with just enough time to make it for registration. I rushed in franticly. Found my room. Dropped off my bags and out the door to the welcome mingle I went. It was kind of overwhelming, in fact, I must have had a neon sign flashing over me “Allume Newbie!” Because the ever amazing word weaver Jennifer Lee meets me in the hall and asks if this was my first year.

Of course, when I opened my mouth to speak, my words sounded kind of like Charlie Brown’s teacher… wha wha wha wha wha wha… yeah like that. Then I might have even said I have your book, The Best Yes, insert foot in mouth here, this is so not her book! Love Idol! It’s Love Idol! I have it on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I knew those writing police were on to me and would only be a matter of minutes before I was tossed out onto the street. Yup. Allume newbie I was indeed.

Jennifer, she was ever so gracious. She smiled and nodded at my sheer embarrassment, took my awkwardness in stride and led me to the welcome mingle. She even told me that if I found myself without a dinner partner to come find her. She is a Jesus rockstar.

In the hours to come as I sat at dinner and listened to Logan’s opening keynote, my world turned upside down. God did not bring me to Allume to become a better blogger or writer, He brought me there because He loves me. He wanted me to feel that deep in my heart, to never doubt my importance to Him.

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He wove that thread through every keynote, every session, every chance meeting with another blogger… He loved me. At times I could not feel my breath, the weight of His love was somewhat overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to look real love in the eye without looking away. It is a love so holy, it seems shameful not to avert the eyes. But He would not have any of that, He was chasing me, pursuing me. He wanted me to see, to feel, to breath in His love. He was not going to let me go engrained in my soul.

He sought me through the sessions and keynotes to come and I scribbled notes in my notebook, trying to hang on to every. Single. Word. Why is it I do not know shorthand?

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the weekend…

Rachel Jackson – We need to live everyday as if we are killing the enemy, even if that means just getting up.

Annie Downs – Lies – I have nothing to offer, no one is following me. Truth – Even if you have one follower you are mentoring them!

Sara Hagerty – God says I see your hidden moments and I like what I see. We have stories you and me, let’s build a history of just you and me.

Emily Freeman – (my paraphrase) Embrace wonder – as image bearers of a creative God we are called to fight for wonder.

Emily Wierenga – You are not defined by your story. You are not denied by who people say you are, but rather, by who God says you are. And He says you are loved. God does not allow Pain in your life to you there. No, He allows pain because it is the secret to your purpose.

Timothy Willard – (my paraphrase) Live in the new Narnia, because the further up and further in you go into God, you discover there is no end to Him. So choose each day to live in the hope of glory, to live in the magma of Christ who is in me and to tell the most dynamic story which is the gospel. It is what is making me beautiful.

But don’t get me wrong, this conference did not disappoint. In that notebook with notes scribbled long, amongst all the love notes from God, there are words upon words of tips and advice for writing well. For loving my audience, no matter how big or small, for showing them hospitality. 

It was bittersweet driving away on that Sunday morning. As much as I longed for home and my husband and girls, a part of me wanted to stay to soak it all in. Let it all break through my skin where the words of the weekend spread like salve on open wounds, strike straight through like arrows to my heart. To let it all become my heart.

I lingered in the hotel drive in the traffic jam that filled the circle. I watched as some of the speakers gathered on the shuttle to the airport, Logan walking to her car. We were all suspended in this circle waiting for the lead car to move on. It seemed a little surreal. Crowder was playing in the background, his voice breaking the silence “There’s hope for the hopeless and all those who’ve strayed, Come sit at the table, Come taste the grace, There’s rest for the weary, Rest that endures, Earth has no sorrow, That heaven can’t cure…”

I sat at that table and tasted the grace. As I watched and listened and spoke, the grace washed over me. It filled holes that had gaped for years. I gained a confidence that had vanished long ago. I found that I am not just a mom, I am a writer. I am a writer because He gave me a story to and He wants me to tell it. He wants me to tell it well. It is gospel.

 


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Just to Finish Well.

31 days a writing challenge

 

It’s October 19th. This means I should be writing my 19th post for the 31 day series, but I am not. I am only on ten. I would love to say this is because we have been so busy there was barely time to breathe, that my migraines came and I had not felt good in over a week, that my three year old was beyond… well, beyond. And while all of this is true, these are not the only reasons I am behind.

There are two reasons I can name, apart from those listed above, that have kept me behind.

1. On day six, God threw me a curve ball. I know with every 31 days there is a lesson for me, something God wants to show me, but I always miss it. That is, until I write it out.  In the past it’s been nearly the whole month of writing before He reveals it to me, or before I actually see it. But this year, It was early in the writing, His teaching me about our unwillingness. That really took me a couple days to process and then put into words. This is where my behindness began. (I know. I sometimes make up words to fit my situations. It happens.)

2. In all the chaos of the past few weeks, as I began writing this series, I watched my self. Cluing in on my reactions and I learned I am not qualified to speak about finding quiet in the chaos. What gives me the authority to speak on a topic that I fail in on a daily basis?

Hold on. There are three reasons I am behind.

3. Being apart of a Facebook community for the write 31 day challenge. This group is packed full of some amazing and encouraging women, but, it is kind of intimidating. These women have beautiful blogs. Beautiful writing. They talk about their stats and their posts with the highest visitors. About getting comments and not getting comments. And I feel like I am 12 years old.

When reading back through my posts, I see all the misspelled words, grammar mistakes, incomplete thoughts. It’s like elementary school, where you have a topic and you have to write 3 paragraphs on the topic. Then the teacher marks your paper all up in red and you have to write again. Or, even more so, it feels like 5 minute Friday, you know, you write for 5 minutes with the prompt of one word? Five minutes and done. No editing. That’s the rules. Yeah it feels like that, except it’s five minutes everyday, because I just want to make it through the 31 days. I just want to say I finished.

But really, deep in my heart I want to finish well. I want to say out loud… I. Finished. Well. That I wrote the words God gave to me. That they were used for my purpose or even for someone else. I don’t want to write just to write. I don’t want to worry about stats and comments and traffic. I just want to write what God calls me to write. So I can say I finished well.

Ok, number three was a long one I know. And now I give you permission to call me a liar. Because I am. I am such a liar. There are four reasons I am behind. Four!

4. The fourth reason is this, just simply being behind. Because this being behindness (there is that word again) is creating chaos in my mind. Should I write a bunch of posts and get it all caught up at once. Or just keep posting one day at a time? Or write as I feel led to write? Am I being lazy? Am I just afraid? Am I playing the comparison game, again? Chaos, right?

As I ponder all these reasons, it is evident I am listening to voices that want to see me fail. Those that tell me I am not enough. That I am not good enough. And the one that really gets me, why start it because you will never finish. They flashback memories of the past and bind me to it. Bound in shackles of past accusations, long since proven false and my heart races to be free. It beats loud in my ears, reminding me of the only voice that speaks truth. If I would push aside the chaos for just a moment and listen to the quiet I will find the truth.

There are only two reasons listed above that have any merit. The first, I have been really busy. I am learning a new routine, as my oldest daughter is taking baby steps out into the world with voice lessons and dance lessons, and I with my youngest’s new diagnosis we now have 2-3 therapy appointments a week. I haven’t figured out the finesse to juggling a busy schedule and getting things done. This is new territory for me and I can’t seem to find my way through it yet.

The second, God threw me a curve ball. On day six! Wow! Day six! I know I I just said that, but yeah, I was not expecting that one. With this revelation of my unwillingness, I have to learn, I have practice my willingness. Daily. For the only way in finding quiet in the chaos is practice. Practice until it becomes habit. Practice until it becomes an involuntary behavior such as inhaling and exhaling.

All these other reasons are lies infiltrating my mind. Nothing more than my own self created chaos used to fill my already chaotic day. I know I don’t need anymore chaos. It’s not healthy. Nothing good comes from chaos. It’s time to refocus.

Remember the reason He called me to write for 31 days. Remember when I felt Him nudging me to publish my words in a public place. It wasn’t for building platforms or driving traffic, an especially not for me to worry over comments or followers. It was simply to share my story. Whether that be for my healing or someone else, it is simply to share my story. Because really this story is not mine to hold on to, it is His. It is His story that He has given to my life. It’s gospel. And He has called me to share it. He calls us all to share it.

 

And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. Revelation 12:11

 

This is day ten in 31 one days of finding quiet in the chaos. To view the whole series click here.


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But We Were Unwilling.

31 days a writing challenge

 

Our house is filled with chaos and it answers to many names. Autism. Aspergers. Obsessive Compulsive disorder. Sensory processing disorder. Celiac disease. Hormone imbalance. Migraines. Food allergies.

This chaos is like a vortex that sucks you in without warning, and there appears no way out. The more you struggle, the deeper you go, and you fear you might just drown. We fight against it, drawing escape plans, creating ways to wrangle it, but really there is no fighting it. It is uncontrollable. Unpredictable. Undeniable.

For years we have lived in this chaos. Always running just on the edge of that vortex and for years we have continuously been sucked right into it.  We always say we need to find a way to stop this. We need to learn how to live. We need to learn how to stop the chaos.

This is where we erred. 

These things we bundle together and call chaos, they cannot be stopped. Sure we have doctors, therapists, medications; all tools to assist us in the chaos. But this chaos is and will always be a part of our lives. The answer is not in finding a way of stopping the chaos to find quiet, but finding the quiet in the chaos.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, Isaiah 30:15 (ESV)

This verse in its context is a warning to the rebellious. To those who have light, but choose darkness. Thinking themselves wiser than God and pursuing their own measures to salvation, but this path leads only to hasten their ruin.

This is where we erred. 

We rebelled. We took matters into our own hands and we sought to put an end to our chaos, instead of embracing it and turning toward the only one who could provide true quiet in the chaos. We rebelled. We were unwilling.

Pulpit Commentary puts it oh so perfectly for our circumstance.

“in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength; in a quiet submission to the will of God, and in quietly waiting upon him for the issue and event of things, abiding in their own houses, and not in a hurrying tumultuous manner, running here and there for help; and in a holy and humble confidence in the Lord, and in the power of his might, where they should find such strength and security”

In all of our church going, bible reading and prayers, we have not simply sought Him for the quiet. In all of our hurrying and running we created more chaos. How simple would it be to return to God and seek Him in our chaos?  

To trust in His promise that  in returning and rest, you shall be saved, not the salvation we already have in Christ, but salvation from our chaos. Not that it be removed, but in that returning to Him, resting in Him, being quiet and waiting on Him would we not find quiet in our chaos?

 

Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. Psalm 116:7

The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. Isaiah 32:17

My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Isaiah 32:18

 

This is day six in 31 one days of finding quiet in the chaos. To view the whole series click here.


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When the Soul Breathes Quiet.

31 days a writing challenge

 

It is Saturday morning and thanks to my wonderful husband, I got to sleep in for a bit. This sleep was much needed as the week was full of on the go errands and endless nights of toddlers not wanting to sleep and then waking much too early.

One thing my body does not do well is handle and process stress. Whether it be physical or emotional it does not recover well. It may takes days to gain back strength from one day spent running errands. Even with the extra sleep this morning my body is tired, longing to crawl right back into that bed. Every muscle fatigued and bones aching, my body sits in a slump as I type. My fingers stop every few words and rest. Oh how they long for rest.

Knowing the toll that physical and emotional stress take on my body makes it that much more important to find the quiet in the chaos. Not just the quiet that gives my body rest. But the quiet that gives way to freedom. The quiet that unlocks your spirit and allows your soul to breathe.

Without this quiet no other form of quiet will be satisfying.

This quiet takes place only when you are practicing the presence of God. When every moment of your life is filled with the acknowledgement that He is in control. No matter the storm that is raging around you, He. Is. In. Control. That no matter what is happening in your life it is of no surprise to God.

This practice takes practice. Every single day. If you do not take time seeking His presence in the good and quiet times, it will be difficult to find Him in the chaos. It is that simple and it is that complicated.

The complicated :: Finding the time to seek Him when each day begins with chaos as soon as your feet the floor.
The simple :: Make a plan. Make it flexible enough to bend around the chaos. Flexible enough to squeeze in the cracks of a day that is running at full speed. Stick to your plan.

Finding the way that brings you into His presence, is unique to all of us. In his study of Philippians, Matt Chandler said for him to feel near to God, to feel His presence, he needs to study the Word, really study it. Spreading all the reference books and commentaries across his desk and digging in deep. But, he has a friend that just turns on his music, whether listening or playing he worships and this is all He needs to draw close to God. Just as we are uniquely created, finding our way into His presence is equally unique.

Let’s stop for a moment. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying we are not to be reading God’s word daily. Because we are, it is the only way to get through life. Right now I am talking only of what little thing you can do to bring Him close to you, right in the middle of your chaos.

I know what the simple things that draw me close to Him, much like Matt Chandler’s friend, it only takes a note of a song, a string of words, the sunlight coming in slanted, the rustle of the leaves as the gentle breeze blows, and I see Him. My breath slows, shoulders release as I feel Him pull me even closer. Because I looked for Him. In all the chaos, I sought Him out with all my heart. I have my eyes wide open and my ears tuned to His whispers.

And just like that, there is quiet in the chaos.

 

This is day four in 31 one days of finding quiet in the chaos. To view the whole series click here.