Beyond Borders

courage. faith. action.


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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.

headed for allume road to allume

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.

Logan and Sarah Mae IMG_4488 IMG_4489IMG_4498IMG_4512

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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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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Shoes for the Shoeless

The seed was planted in April 2009. All of us. Me, my husband, my daughter, hovering around a tiny screen, scrolling through pictures of children needing sponsors on the Compassion website. How do you choose one child over another? When each ones eyes burn right through to your heart, and all you want is to scoop them up and bring them all home. Here to our home. Then my daughter speaks it, “she has no shoes. That little girl right there. No shoes.” She’s pointing at the screen. My daughter just 7 years old at the time, her heart breaking for the little one on the other side of the world who has no shoes. She wonders how she walks around in the gravel, in the garbage that she sees lying all around as we read about her country. She decides it right then. She wants us to sponsor those that don’t have shoes. Because in her mind of 7 years old, that would be the worst thing ever.

Fast forward to today. 2014. And this post falls across my screen, Losing My Religion, and Logan’s words paint the reality she is living right now in Uganda. I see it through her eyes, and I cannot NOT unsee it. And how did I not know that in Uganda,  “if one parent dies or leaves and the other parent remarries, it is the new spouse’s prerogative whether or not to keep the prior relationship’s child as their own?” Or this, “Parents can’t afford to care for their children, so they drop them off in baby homes where at least they will be fed?” Me. A momma of a little one that we fought so hard to keep. In all regards an orphan herself, she is now ours, and we are humbled that God would choose us to be our parents. These words they break me. As I just can’t see how someone could abandon their child. I don’t understand why I keep going back and reading the post. But I do.

How do I become so comfortable in my little world that I don’t see the big picture? When just a year ago, I spoke the words, of doing right here from my home, because that is all I can do right now. Why I am not doing? What am I not doing?

Logan she is in Uganda with a team of bloggers on behalf of Sole Hope. “A group of passionate, committed people who are putting closed toed shoes on African children, one pair at a time. We are also holding medical clinics, providing education, and jobs for and with the beautiful souls in Uganda. It all started with an encounter with a YouTube video–a video that broke Asher’s heart, took us WAY out of our comfort zones, and led us to Uganda.”

And I still don’t see the connection. Until I do.

It’s a no brainer. Logan lays it wide open right here. She tells of her holding these children, jiggers being pulled from their tiny feet. The pain is unbearable and she feels right there with them. I feel it too. And its a no brainer how to stop this pain.

Carey is right there with her and she says this “What I absolutely love, love, love about Sole Hope is that they have invented a way for you, right where you are, to make a difference AND create community. It is so very simple.” and this, “You may not be in Africa but your jeans can come. Send them on over.”

Now I see it. The connection. And God is whispering it. And I do it. Right then and there. I order a kit. A kit for 50 people, to cut shoes out of jeans from a pattern. Simple. A no brainer. And I don’t even know 50 people. But this is what God is telling me. My daughter and I we commit to ourselves, to God, to these little children… 100 pairs of shoes. One hundred pairs of shoes by the end of April. How do we make it happen? I am not sure. But God knows.

Maybe you want to participate? Bring your friends? Send your old jeans? Supplies? Maybe? God knows. And I wait on Him to fulfill it. In the meantime, the kit is on it’s way and we are planning a party. A shoe cutting party.  And it will be grand.

And I pray it…

Break my heart for what breaks yours, Lord.


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Finding Purpose in the Midst

In March of 2013, I gave this short testimony at our women’s conference at church. And now nearly a year later, I look back and see how much has changed in our lives and I am thankful that I take time to write down moments. These little reminders of how God moves in the little things and the big and finding Him in the details.

The following is what I shared that day…

In preparation of this short testimony, I heard all the reasons why I could not do it. You are sick. You will probably have a migraine, one of those really bad ones that put you in bed for days. And if not the migraine, then a panic attack. The anxiety that comes and shuts you down. You will not be able to do it. You know you cannot make commitments. So just what is the point? Thoughts like these rolled over and over in my head. But the biggest thing I heard, the most threatening was this… there will most likely only be a handful of women that will know who I am, so what will it matter what I have to say. Wow, how that one really stung. Made it difficult to string a thought into a sentence that was comprehensible. But what a lie that is… because it does not matter who knows me. It is not about me. It is all about Him and what He has done. His story being played out through my life. It is all for His glory.

For most of my life I have dealt with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease that left untreated wreaks havoc on the body and all of its systems. It can leave you with cancer, diabetes, and other autoimmune disorders. Thankfully, so far I only live with daily migraines, nausea, hormonal imbalances, digestive problems, chronic fatigue, joint and bone pain and anxiety. My 11 year old daughter who has the same disease, also lives with Aspergers‘ syndrome, sensory processing disorder, sleep disorder, digestive problems, numerous allergies and anxiety disorder. My 2 year old has allergies, has few words and a temper. I have twin step daughters that are 21. And then I have my husband. Greg. Who is my best friend, who lays down his life everyday for me. He loves like Jesus. And he is healthy.

Here is just a glimpse into what an average day looks like in our home…

It’s a race from the moment eyes are startled open with the words “Mom. Stuff. Up. Throat.” No time for a yawn or stretch. The gun has gone off, the race has begun and the finish line is no where in sight.

Through blurry eyes you try to read it. The level of threat that holds the day hostage. The fear. The pain. The sadness. Will they subside? Will this be a good day? Or will it turn to panic? Every second of your time running. Moving swiftly trying to find the solution that will bring relief. Words lifted up. Please. Let. It. End. In between the pace, you decipher the gestures of the little one with no words. You try to hold on to patience as she screams in frustration.

Please. Let. It. End.

A nibble of food here. A sip of water there. Because there is just not time. You have these two that need you. And you beg for the doorbell to ring. Someone to ask, “how are you? No, really how are you?” You pray long and hard for someone that gets it. That really gets it. Because really? You can’t get it unless you live it. Every. Single. Day.

You search for strength to make it to the finish line. The few hours of sleep, the stress and the lack of food just doesn’t cut it in a body that is already beaten. This is one day. They all blend together now, and there are times I just want to throw in the towel. Wave the white flag.

But I don’t. I would not change a thing. Because right in the middle of all of this I found God. Sure He lived in this heart since I was young, but I never really knew Him. I never heard His whispers. Never felt the brush of His hand across my cheek when the tears fell. His arms wrapped tight when there was nothing left to hold onto. Never felt Him walking right there with me. I never knew it was possible to know Him this way.

I was not good enough to be in His presence. Yes, He is my God, my savior, my ticket to heaven. But I was not good enough, and I never would be, it is just not humanly possible… now just learn to follow the rules and most importantly get out there and tell others about Him. This is what they taught me in church.

And I did my best. I was there for every service straight through high school. I followed the rules. I was a good girl. I went out door to door telling about Jesus. Read my bible. Memorized scriptures. And it was never enough.

Nearly 25 years later, having a diagnosis and the healing beginning, when friends and family were going on mission trips, teaching classes, starting programs, volunteering… I wanted to be right there along side them. I begged God to make us better, to fully heal us. Because didn’t He know what I could do for Him if only I wasn’t stuck in this bed? In these four walls?

Instead of healing, I received something so much greater, so precious to me that it is hard to speak of it and not spill tears. It catches right there in the throat, because there really are no words to describe the joy of this gift, the blessing of knowing who God truly is; how He loves me and how His plans are so much bigger and better than mine. How lying in that bed, staring out a window where treetops touch sky. Where sunlight trickles through leaves in its setting and dances across my room. Where bible stories are told and worship music plays loud. And church services stream through screens. That’s when it happened. The connect. Heart with mind. Me to Him. Simple. Complicated. How did it happen? Brokenness. Gratitude. Surrender. Connection. The knowing. Knowing there is not one answer to the how. Each one comes in his own way, His way, for His purpose. The how… individual, unique to all, but still the same.

He showed me that in this home, with all this chaos, there are hearts for me to nurture. Hearts to teach about His love and grace. That each time I hit send on a letter with words of love and encouragement to those little children around the world, I step out on a missions trip. And with every publish of a blog post, I share a bit of my story, His story. It reaches through tiny screens across the world. It answers prayers of that woman crying out just like me, “Send me someone who gets it. Someone who really gets it.”

His plan for me is clear. Growing hearts. In this house and across the world. He tells me I am right where He wants me, and He gives me purpose.

As crazy as it seems, it all works. This crazy house. Each of us with all our own needs. With illnesses, and sleepless nights, running when there is nothing left of us. Even with statistics stacked us against us, it works. Not only does this family work. It flourishes.

Because we are a cord that cannot easily be broken, because “He is wrapped between us, wrapped within us and wrapped around us.”*

And it’s all Him. Right there in every crazy minute of it. In every detail. He gives us a peace and joy in the midst. Heart bursting joy that you just cannot contain.

And on those days when the race has run out of control, when my legs have grown weary and I stumble, I hear Him whisper it…

I’m here. I am right here.

I am learning to be content in all things. ALL things. I press on toward the goal. And I pray it…

Jesus come quickly.

*quote from Jennifer of studiojru


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Learning my Place in this World

October 31, came and went and so did the 31 days series right along with it. I know I missed 1, 2, 3 maybe more days before the end. I am not counting. At least not officially. There is a little voice in the back of my head that plays on… 31 posts in 31 days on the same subject. If you don’t finish, you are a quitter. A failure. It plays on like a broken record.

I hear it, but I am not listening. God’s voice is drowning it out. His words overpowering the lies. Its a hard lesson for me to listen for His voice. All too often I allow my own voice of condemnation to take over and push His aside. He is teaching me this… to listen. Simply listen for His calling.

He reminds me of my mission field. He reminds of the hearts placed in my care. The ones to nurture and build. He is teaching me grace. How to live it. Not just for others, but for me. Grace for me. He shows me my purpose. My place.

And this week with trips to the ER. Little girls wanting to sing big. Facing fears. Silly holidays and wanting to fit in. I am listening. I know where I need to be. I know my purpose. My place.

So the writing waits as I live in my place and tend to the hearts placed in my care. And I am good with that.

And God whispers, I’m here.
I am right here.


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Thirty-One Days Walking Through Darkness Day Twenty-four :: The Day My Daddy Died

20121025-232029.jpgI see the world in colors and song. I write of it often. But today. This day. As we begin the drive. All’s white. White so thick it’s smothering. The music. I know it’s there. The piano… the drums… I don’t hear them. My ears have fallen deaf.

The white it’s enveloping us now. It’s been just an hour since the call. An eternity could have passed and I would not have noticed. All sense of space and time is gone. I am just floating. Numb.

The white so luminous now, it’s blinding. There in the sky, in the midst of this white is one cloud. One. The most vibrant shade of pink. A pink so brilliant I have no words to describe. In that instant I knew. I knew this drive, one taken many times. This time will be the last. I know this. It’s tearing me wide open. I feel him leaving. Going home. He is halfway there. My head is telling me not to believe it. He will pull through… he always pulls through. But my heart knows this time… this time is different.

The fog succumbing to the rising sun. The surroundings coming into focus. My senses returning and I hear the piano, the notes slowly plunked out key by key. Rhythmic. The words. They echo in my ear. You alone can rescue. You alone can save. You alone can lift us from the grave. You came down to find us. Let us out of death. The time is drawing near.

It’s not my life leaving. It’s his. Suddenly the images of my life. My life with him. They flood… digging up potatoes in the garden, bow hunting, snowmobiling, building houses, peanut butter on date nut bread, peanut butter and crackers at midnight watching war movies on a school night, peanut butter english muffins, Charlie pride, creature feature and dr. Paul Berra, Barry Mannilow and wood shavings piled high in the basement, standing under a tree in the rain, home fries and bananas with sugar, exploring the woods and collecting glass, daddy’s little girl and dancing on feet, making dinners from Betty Crocker, fishing from the shore, sunsets and sunburns, walking the mile back to the car in thunderstorms, opening presents at 5 am Christmas morning because he could not wait another minute, birthday banners and pink 10 speeds, the words “I am so very proud of you.”

We are here now. I think I would rather stay here. In this car. I don’t know how to say goodbye. I don’t know if he is ready. There is so much more I want to do. To say. I cannot say goodbye.

It will only take a miracle now. And I know He can do this. God. This miracle. Is it fair to ask Him? To even think it? My daddy. He has suffered long. For us. For me. I watched him stripped him of everything he was. Then I see him. He’s leaving. He’s going home.

Nearly three years ago he asked me to find three songs. He was adamant that I do not forget. He knew then. He was making the preparations. This Easter. Just six months ago. He gave each of us a cd. Told us to listen to them. These three songs. I knew the songs. The words. He was ready.

My dad was not a man of many words. He kept himself guarded. His feelings and emotions. But he was not leaving this earth without telling us, giving us what he always wanted to give. These songs tell the story. The lesson. The hope.

He did not want us to live in regret or bound by circumstance. Never to doubt our worth, the deserving of the love of God. Not to waste a single moment here.

The lyrics of Johnny Cash
“Why me Lord, what have I ever done… to deserve even one of the pleasures I’ve known. Tell me, Lord, what did I ever do that was worth loving you or the kindness you’ve shown… Lord help me Jesus, I’ve wasted it so… Help me Jesus, I know what I am… Now that I know that I’ve needed you so help me Jesus, my soul’s in your hand.

He wanted us to know the truth. That God was. That God is. That God will always be. His promises are true.

The lyrics of Brooks and Dunn
“I raise my hands, bow my head. I am finding more and more truth in the words written in red. They tell me that there’s more to life that just what I can see. Oh. I believe.”

He wanted us to know the hope. Hope of a future. Hope of the freedom from the pain and struggles of this life. The burdens we carry. Hope in the knowing that He is now walking with Jesus.

The lyrics of Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton
“When I get where I’m going, there’ll be only happy tears. I will shed the sins and struggles, I have carried all these years. And I’ll leave my heart wide open, I will love and have no fear. Yeah, when I get where I’m going… don’t cry for me down here.”

Today I stand here as we celebrate the life of my daddy, the joy of him being finally home. I am overwhelmed with sadness. I miss him so much. I wear the customary black. It’s tradition. Etiquette. Black by definition is the complete absence of light, darkness. It represents finality. Sadness. The end. I wear it for my sadness.

But that day. His last day. I was given a gift. The one solitary pink cloud floating in the luminous white. Pink. The universal color of love. A symbol of hope. The embodiment of perfection of something. A single pink carnation says, “I will not forget you.” That cloud. Symbolic. Of my daddy’s love for me. The father’s love for me and my dad. The perfecting of my dad’s soul as he passed from this life into glory.

This scarf. It may offend some. It breaks tradition. But this pink. The pink in the cloud. The gift of his love. And God’s love.. The hope of a future spent in eternity. The knowing that my dad is walking in a new body. Waiting for us to join him. I wear it for him.

I love you daddy. Always.


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Thirty-one Days Walking Through Darkness Day Twenty-One :: In My Daddy’s Words – Part Two

20121022-185745.jpgIn these days leading up to my daddy’s last day. I want to share his words to us, at least my take on his words. The ones he would have said had he been able to speak that day. Three years before he died, my dad asked me to gather three songs for him. He said I would know why one day. And I do know. These are his songs and why I believe he chose them.

My daddy wanted us to know the truth. That God was. That God is. That God will always be. His promises are true.

“I Believe,” Brooks and Dunn

I raise my hands, bow my head. I am finding more and more truth in the words written in red. They tell me that there’s more to life that just what I can see. Oh. I believe.