Go Gently …

She was audacious and impulsive. Not the reckless kind of wild you might imagine, but more the kind of just passionately seeking to live to her fullest and embrace every opportunity.
She saw margin as something that needed to be pushed, gently but insistently, as if life itself depended upon it.
She was determined and tenacious; steadfast and strong willed; purposeful and resolute,
yet kind and gentle; sensitive and generous; endearing and precious.
She was bold, adventurous and brave.
Hindrances were not struggles, but simply opportunities to press in, overcome or get creative.
She was so much in one tiny package and on this particular day, this tiny three year old of mine was pushing all my “non adventurous” mom buttons.
Yeah. Three. LOL

This girl has grown up into one amazing woman because all these character traits turned out to be wonderful strengths and leader qualities, but on this particular day, this particularly overwhelmed, stressed out Mama, thought this particularly beautiful 3 year old,
was maddening!

We had been out for an afternoon of errands and everywhere we went, Anna had to explore. She had to investigate and argue and sow her seeds of strong will. Grocery stores became endless possibilities of foods she wanted to try.
Office supply stores looked like creative art centers.
Shoe stores were wild explorations of style, demanding cowboy boots “53” times too big just because “Dey will fit me when me a big girl!”

The drive home was no better.
Her “pitch” began; not loud, not screaming, not a fit, but an earnest plea with the kind of whine that only 3 year old little girls know how to do.
You know that kind, don’t you Mama of baby girl toddlers… You know.
Answering every whine and pitch with replies of explanation, rationalization and argument, I tried to reason with a 3 year old.

That’s it. I’d had it!
I hit the brakes and pulled the van over.
Throwing it into park I looked in the rear view mirror and near tears, hollered “THAT’S IT Anna! I’ve had enough. I’ve asked you to behave all day!!” Immediately her little arms threw up in the air and looking to the ceiling,
she replied with equal passion, “ME JUST DON’T KNOW WHO HAAAAAAVE IS!!!!”
And with that, this precious being of mine, burst into tears herself…evidently, she’d “had it” too.
Stunned, I couldn’t even reply.
OH my gosh.
She didn’t’ know who “HAVE” was.
In my own frustration, I had been asking her to “BE- HAVE”, this unknown person, all day and she didn’t know how! She didn’t know that “person” named Have. She couldn’t understand how I’d expect her to be that when she had no idea who that was!

I can laugh now 21 years later. LOL But then? I wasn’t laughing. I was stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated and legit – I can remember it was during a time when so much was going on in my marriage, our life, our finances… and more.
I can hear my words all day long.
“Anna, put that notebook back. Would you just BE- HAVE.”
“Anna! NO! You can’t have that bag of grapes! BE- HAVE!”
“Anna, I know you love them, but they won’t fit you until you’re Mama’s size. Now put them back. I’ve asked you twice, now just BE HAVE!”

Here’s the lesson I can bring with me though even this many years down the road and… Mama in the trenches? Yes you … I want to share it with you now.
Isaiah 40:11.
“He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs in his arms;
He will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.”

Mama. Can you let that verse hug your tender heart?
It’s going to be ok.
You’re going to get frustrated.
You’re going to be overwhelmed. You’re going to do things “wrong”. You’re going to feel like you messed up and yes, those little buggers are going to push all your buttons;
but Sis,
He will carry them, He’s going to hug them to His bosom safely when you’re feeling like running to your closet and barricading yourself in there with a cell phone, candy bar and tissue box…
and maybe even what’s more to your tender, weary heart right now is this:
He will gently lead you.
He sees you in that closet, proverbial or not, and He’s not going to leave you there.
He tends to your mother’s heart just as passionately as he tends to your babies themselves.
You.
You’re precious to Him too and He sees you.
He will lead you gently, so go gently on yourself too Mama. Go Gently.

FREEDOM

I woke up to my alarm early Saturday morning and immediately thought…
“WHAT have I done?”
I needed to get up and get going fast! I had an hour drive to my third 5K of my life.
“Oh man.. seriously. What have I done?”
My mind started to contend against the excuses:
I’m in no shape to do a 5K… even walking it will set this inflammation “game” I contend against into overdrive!
It’s Saturday… literally my only day ever to sleep in and it’s been a weeeeek.
My head is throbbbbbbing.
I have so much to do anyway; I really need a full day at home.
My husband’s going to be gone all day too; the dogs will need walks.

You see my dilemma? LOL …Bottom line is, I just didn’t want to do it.
Why?
Because it was going to be hard.
(And because my bed was comfy. LOL)
It was going to be hard because I’m in a health journey against autoimmune “dis- ease” and honest, even walking gets challenging at times. My feet swell. My joints inflame. My muscles get attacked. And, well… excuses, excuses, excuses…
The exact thing that would be hard to “walk” through, was also the exact thing my body needed to overcome the hard.
Gah… that’s just like dumb math. LOL I don’t like math either … haha!

I rolled out from under the down comforter and said, “Just get up, Kay. Just get going. You’re doing this to RID your body of these things. You’re doing this to pursue wellness. You’re doing this for “Freedom.”

Truth. I was doing it for those things. In fact, after a good talking to myself and a real heart check with my Spirit a few weeks back, I actually ended up signing up for four 5K’s through the end of the year! LOL …
because “Freedom.”
Walking these 5k’s was something I knew was difficult for me. I had done two others once before, just a year ago… and I struggled with them, not even sure I could finish. The Lord convicted me of that word “Struggle”, tho, and as I looked back at those other two 5K’s, I decided right then and there that I needed to re-frame them. I needed to do another and not claim it as a struggle, but call it out as something I was contending for! I was going to do a walk to contend for FREEDOM.
What I didn’t know my “yes, Lord” was going to be though was the start of something more… the conviction that if I could contend through one more 5K, maybe I should just keep contending for freedom in doing one each month, through the rest of the year…. gulp.

And so I did. I signed up for four.
Four pushes toward moving my body in ways I knew was hard.
Four dates with myself to celebrate what my body CAN do, not get in agreement with what it finds hard to do.
Four events to “contend” for Freedom against this “dis- ease” that wrestles against me.
Four times to show up for myself.
Four times to lean into God for strength.

So, it should come as no shock that the very first one, unbeknownst to me, was actually a 5k being run to respect the first responders, to honor those who had fallen in 9-11; and to remember FREEDOM.
I stood at the starting line while the trumpets played and the flags were being flown and the emcee was reading the names of the ones from our State who had been lost in the line of duty on 9-11.
I bawled.
I mean , ugly cried…
I know people were looking at me, but I didn’t even care. I couldn’t believe that “somehow” this 5k race, that I just signed up for because it was close to home, was for “Freedom”… and I didn’t even know it.
The intention God was using this for in my life, was not lost on me.
I was contending for freedom in my own way, by participating in a race honoring freedom.
Whoa.
It still undoes me.

I wiped my face on my shirt, just as someone handed me something. I thought it was a kleenex because legit.. I was a mess.. lol. I took it and humbly mumbled “thank you.” When I looked at it though, it was not a tissue. It was a small laminated ribbon with the name of one of the first responders who had paid the ultimate price for freedom. I was to pin it to my runners bib and think of him throughout my race.
Cue the tears again.
Where was that dang kleenex? LOL .. My shirt was snotty before it was sweaty!

All through my event, I kept him, and freedom in mind and I became even more grateful with each step. Even when the police car that was supposed to be bringing up the rear of the racers, passed me… lol … I was grateful.
I was out here.
I was doing what my body could do.
I was showing up for myself.
I was walking for freedom… in more ways than one.
It didn’t have to look like anyone else’s “race”.
It was mine. And it was already doing a big work in my heart. In my mind.
Within my Spirit.

As I watched the back end of that police car, I thought about first repsonders. They race. Without hesitation…
To the call. To the danger. To the emergency. To the need. To the thing that is trying to take something down.
For freedom.
They show up.

And so will I.

My call to this freedom in my body is not small. It’s for my life. And so I must be a first responder in my own life; actually, FOR my own life. No longer can I let excuse, shame, regret, feelings of insignificance, fear, panic or anxiety be first responders on my behalf.
They are not heros.
I am.
They are not freedom fighters.
I am.

It also wasn’t lost on me that the timing of this FREEDOM race was right in line with the timing of the 21 day sugar fast I had signed up to do with Revelation Wellness. It was starting the next day for me too.
A Fast.
Not a diet.
A prayerful entering into losing what weighs me down.
Not a plan to lose weight.
A calculated step aimed at dislodging the comforts of food that I tend to go to first.
An intentional turn to God instead.
Not a restriction.
An invitation…
To Freedom.

Man, the Lord is doing a work. It’s a hard work, Sis, I’m not gonna lie. And I’m kinda resistant to it… like the drowning person is sometimes resistant to the lifeguard swimming out to save her… kinda like that.
But this I know – in the “end”, it’s going to be worth it, and my “race” toward it should be without hesitation.

What might be set free?

Me.

The Ministry of Presence

I have two very vivid “feeling” memories from childhood. Feeling memories are things tied sooo closely to what your heart needs to hear; They are not a memory of an event or an instance or even a thing. They are a memory of a feeling, and I have two that conflicted and battled for a place …. one born from longing, the other born from fear. I remember them both well, and if I’m honest, in ways even today, they war on. #ButGod

To be seen

and 

To not be seen.

Let me explain. 

All I longed for and was desperate for, was to be loved and wanted; to feel important and significant.

I longed for it; yearned for someone to be with me, see me, show me love; but my home was anything but this type of atmosphere… so, out of fear from the bad things that I knew could happen, I tried not to be seen.

It was conflicting . These were “my people”- the ones who should make me feel safe, loved, and wanted… but instead I feared them and what they did to me.

I’d come home from school and go straight to my room, trying to escape before I was even noticed. If I was out of sight, I was out of mind, and if I was out of mind, bad things couldn’t happen to me. So on one hand, I longed for what I hoped I’d receive, but on the other, I feared what might actually happen, so I tried to become invisible. 

It was tormenting. And I was just a child. I didn’t understand or have any real frame of reference to expect things to be different. This is what I knew. I just also somehow knew there was supposed to be “more.”

 

From the late 60’s to the early 70s, this fear was what I knew. Loneliness was what I knew. Neglect was what I knew. Abuse was what I knew. But even in my child’s mind, I KNEW there must be more… I was sure of it.

“Kevin Hatfield” was proof. He was my next-door neighbor and when his mom got wind of me being home alone every night, she started sending Kevin over to ask me to come play. It was amazing. I loved walking in their house. I can remember so much about it…the dark wood floor in the entry; to the right the golden staircase banister that went up to the second floor; and to the left, a large living room with a fireplace and a big framed picture over it; a round, red braided rug on the floor and cozy pillows on a well-worn brown couch. I remember the bright, cheery kitchen in the back of the house, with wheat stalks on the wall paper, and a huge window that looked over a pretty wooded area and had a sweet dog that loves to play catch. I remember Kevin’s mom always in there getting dinner ready for her family. 
It’s crazy my vivid memory of this home, because if you ask me about my own, there is much I’ve blocked out. There is much I can’t remember. I can tell you the lay out, but nothing personal within. I can tell you the door to the stairway was dark panel and the basement itself always had a smell of something I could only then only describe as damp wood, skunks and flowers that had somehow rotted and developed their own kind of body odor. I now know, that smell was a damp dark basement mingling with pot and patchouli and various whiskeys. And I remember the door because fear struck me every time I had to use it.

I can tell you where the Christmas tree always stood because I actually met Santa at that tree one year. Late one Christmas eve I heard this horn , like that of an ahooga horn on an old time car. I ran to the window to look at the driveway, and sitting there was this old fashioned car, complete with a large red bag in the rumble seat and a large “red” man with a huge white beard sitting in the front. He waved and I ran to the front door and threw it open! Yes. It was in the dead of a Michigan winter and it was freezing, but folks, I was home alone on Christmas eve and SANTA just arrived!!!!  He came in and brought MEEE cookies, and then proceeded to place all kinds of gifts under the tree for just MEEEE !  I got hugged by the man in the red suit and I remember him crying…. And for a split second… I felt seen.  And very very loved.

I still don’t’ know who that man was. My Mom was in the hospital and who knows where dear ol’ step dad and the boys were, but this man… He somehow knew I was alone and he told me he had to drive his car this Christmas and not bring his reindeer because reindeer could only fly if it was snowing. It wasn’t snowing, so in my child’s mind it all made sense and I believed him. He told me to wait for morning and then open all my gifts. I did… and while I’m sure someone was there to have Christmas with me, I can’t remember them, I only remember getting the best gift ever: My Easy Bake oven. I didn’t even know it was a toy. I just know it is what I used to make dinners for myself. A lot of bologna went through that oven! Lol… And sometimes Graham crackers. Sometimes white bread and mayo sandwiches…. Whatever I could find to feed myself. This I know, Santa… real life Santa himself…saw me. Knew me. Knew what I needed and gave it to me. And I felt loved. 

Back to Kevin’s house. I can even remember the worn path in the grass of my back yard where I walked to his house, crossed the dead end street, and joined the sidewalk that led up to the “Hatfield’s” porch. I remember a black lantern post at the edge of the sidewalk and I knew if that lantern was coming on, I needed to be getting home to grab what I could find in the kitchen and get to my own room before anyone who lived at my house came home. Remember, I needed to be unseen.

Here’s where I’m going with all this. 

PRESENCE

There is ministry in presence. 

Santa ministered to me.

Kevin’s mom ministered to me.

Both ministered to me, just by making me feel seen and by entering into my aloneness and make me matter. Oh my goodness… those two people alone, in fleeting moments, were what I drew hope from, strength from, good from, in many times during those young years. 

Santa’s presence made a difference in less than an hour. He knew just a moment in my life, mattered. He saw a once in a lifetime difference making opportunity, and he took it. I’m sure it was inconvenient. I mean, the man went to sommmme lengths to pull off this “moment.” But because he did, for a good few years, I got to eat “hot” meals. I got to remember “that one time” Santa came just for me. I got to recall feeling seen and loved and like I mattered . I mean, let’s be real, Santa can’t stop and bring cookies and show little girls how to use an easy bake oven at every stop! Right? That meant I was special! And I hung on to that with my life.

Kevin’s mom’s presence made a difference every couple of days. Just by seeing a little girl with a need, and inviting her in to her own everyday she changed the fear of aloneness in my week. She didn’t have to talk to me or feed me or do anything for me… she just let me be with her… and that was enough.

She entered in; “Santa” entered in; and I’m telling you friends, it gave me strength for all the in-between times. It gave me hope for all the other “unseen” times. It instilled in me a spark of hope and it created a space in my heart for down the road when “faith” would make an appearance. 

Wow. 

Read that again. “It created a space in my heart for down the road when ‘faith’ would make an appearance.” 

The ministry of presence. 

Just “being there”… sometimes with a gift, a conversation, an act of kindness, or even, moments of silence… your presence into someone’s hard space, is more of a gift than you’ll ever know.

The ministry of presence.
It’s seed planting. 

I didn’t know faith. I didn’t know God. I didn’t even have a good example of people in my life that I wanted to grow up to be like someday. I only knew what I knew…a desperate longing and a paralyzing fear: to be seen and unseen. It was torment. 

Enter, two humans who were kind. Who came into my space and made a place, if even for a moment. 

Who invited me to their table.

Who made room to have room for me. 

Who saw a need and filled it. 

Who did a little thing that changed my whole world.  

Who tucked into a cranny of my heart, the possibility of hope and a seed that would nestle down into the depths of me to be remembered when the time came, that I first heard about a God who loved me. 

The Ministry of Presence. “We will never be able to effectively tell them a God story, if we are not leaning with compassion into their human story.”  (~Homesteader Kay)

It’s a lesson well learned. 

When we take time to hear, to listen, to dwell, to reach out, to minister, to feed, to have compassion, to understand, to meet a need, to sit with in silence, to hold a hand, deliver a meal, send a handwritten letter, call with a real life voice… to seeeeeee with unbridled compassion the human story people are living, we open doors to plant seeds for a God story so much bigger than we ever dreamed!

I WISH I knew “SANTA” now. I WISH I knew Kevin’s mom’s name. I wish I could find these two “presence Minsters” and tell them:

“LOOK!”  LOOK where lil Kay landed in life! LOOK at her happy! LOOK at her SEEN. LOOK at  her loved. LOOK at her in this GOD STORY she never imagined possible! 

A seed.

A ministry of presence. 

Made a way. 

Friends. Don’t discount the value in seeing humankind, and then

being “Human Kind”.

It may promote you to “Minister of Presence.”

It may mean more than you ever dreamed to the one longing and fearing in the same breath.

Above all, it may just be the beginning of someone’s God story.

Difference making doesn’t have to be extravagant… it just has to be intentional and from a heart of love.

The ministry of presence. A small seed with a mighty purpose.

 

A Street Named Straight

Oh, man. I can look back now and smile; but then?

Then I was sweating.
It was cool within the air conditioned room, but I was sweating.
I was shaky and unsure and scared and yep… all the thannngs.
I couldn’t breath. The air was sucked from me.
In fact…
I felt like throwing up.
Oh my gosh….

gulp.
I was going to prison.

If I back this story up even more, I can say it started in church. Yep. Church.

I was just innocently sitting there, listening and nodding and amening, like good “Susie Christian” should, and next thing I know, I’m socked in the gut. Not just an elbow from the squirming person next to me, but a full-fledged sock in the gut that I didn’t see coming!!  That’s what started it. And there was nothing slight about it. It was meant. And it was powerful.

And I came unglued.

And by unglued, I mean, I tried to suck in the sob that wanted to escape.
I tried to keep the flood of water building up in my eyes from streaming down my face.
Composure escaped me and dang it… unglued,  the racks started in my shoulders and the wet stains hit my shirt.

I was going to prison. I knew it like I knew I was sitting there. God was up to something.
I mean, He doesn’t sucker punch people, right? Like, not in a mean way, right? But legit. It felt like a sucker punch because
I didn’t see it coming.

And I knew unlike other times when I wondered if He was speaking to me, that this time…
this time. He was.

Purposefully. Powerfully. Impact-fully.
He was sending me to prison.

The guest on my church’s stage that day was Gina Hanna , and she had just delivered a very powerful personal testimony, followed by an introduction to a ministry she had begun within a local women’s prison. She was telling the story, giving the details, describing the ministry, casting the vision- to everyone in that room… but – really.

She was talking to me.

Least that’s what it felt like.

And, like I mentioned… that’s when I felt the “sucker punch” from God.
LOL
I laugh now, but I’m telling you… He wasn’t playing. Ok. It wasn’t a sucker punch. But it was powerful and took my breath away and I didn’t see it coming… so, you call it what you want. LOL
*******

“God, why am I feeling like You’re saying, “Start a Prison Ministry, Kay.”?

“You know I’m not qualified, right?”

“Ok. I know. You’re in the business of using unqualified candidates. I know.”

“But, I mean, I’m realllly not qualified. I’m not even close to knowing what it would look like.”

“I have no confidence about my smartness”

“I have no idea of where to even start.”

“People don’t like me.”

“I’m scared.”
“Ok. I know. I’m scared of everything… stop smiling.”

“Yes, I see that woman on stage talking to us, inspiring, casting vision.”

“Yes. I know she’s equipped.”

“I KNOW where you call you equip.”

“Yes, Lord, I understand you said to visit the one in prison as if we’re visiting you.”

“uh huh.. I know Hebrews 13:3 … can I say I’m legitimately trying to forget?” Meep

“Yes. I hear you… Pretty much felt the gut punch too.”

“Yes, …”

Wait. “Did I just say yes?”

And thus began a 4 year journey that took me to prison.
A place I didn’t see coming.

A place I had no idea how to navigate

A place full of women I had no idea how to talk to

A place where I walked in scared.

A place where I wasn’t sure I belonged.

A place where there was much I didn’t know.

Where many could come against me

Where I could mess up

Where I could get it wrong…
Where…   (meep)

God could make the blind see.

I’m telling you in short snippets, many of my thoughts and most of my fears, but let me explain one more thing; one truth that God gave me that undid all the excuses. A truth that HE can take my YES, and change lives, mine included, and create new parts of people’s broken stories and give them a God story. A truth that He can meet anyone in prison,

but maybe…

just maybe,

it takes others going TO that place to be used by Him to help open eyes,

to help see blinders fall off,

to help restore sight.

This Truth?
It’s in Acts 9 and most of know it as Saul’s (to become Paul) encounter on the Damascus Rd.
I’ll forever know it now as…

Straight St.

See, Saul was a hate filled enemy of the Christians in his time. It was literally his job to hunt them down and rid society of them. He led the literal attack of the Church on staggering levels. He rose in rank and prestige among the Romans all while raising the fear and persecution among Jews. He was goooood at what he did; but it was for no good. It was evil. Pure evil
One day, in search of more Christians to threaten and murder, the Lord met Saul traveling on the Damascus Rd and blinded him, saying “Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Confusion and fear and many emotions swept this seemingly powerful man. Fearful and trembling, Saul said, “What do you want me to do, Lord?” And the Lord said, “Go into the city. I’ll send someone to you and tell you.”
Saul’s, guards helped him into the city and there, he waited, unable to see. No appetite to eat. No initiative to drink. No energy. All vigor, steam and powerfulness, lost.

Then the Lord said to Ananias, a disciple living in Damascus, “Go to the Street named Straight. To the house of Judas. There, Saul is waiting for you. Lay hands on him. His sight will be restored.”
Hold up.
This is Saul.
Saul killed Christians. He hunted them down and did terrible things to rid the planet of anyone believing in Jesus. It was more than his job. It was his mission… and he was good at it.

God saw beyond the evil, the wrong doings, the corrupt thinking, the harsh hatred. God saw what no one else could ever see and because He could see that, He met Saul on one of his missions and interrupted evil’s plan. Confused, scared, blind, and powerless to help himself, Saul sunk into a depression of darkness where he refused to eat or drink.

Have you heard the hashtag #butgod ?  Friend, this is a perfect place for it to apply.
#butgod

This man, enraged against humans who loved God, a hunter of those who believed in Jesus, who had done sooo many wrong, despicable and evil things…was SEEN by a God who loved him and had a plan for him.
God met him as only God could!

But then-

God “sucker punched” Ananias.

Ananias.
A disciple in Damascus. A good man, living his simple life, loving Jesus and teaching others about Him. He was a man of no repute really. No big “job” or title. “Just” a Disciple of Jesus…
and when God said , “Go to a Street named Straight”, Ananias did what most of us would do.
Actually, what I did…
He questioned it.
If you were a Christian or a Disciple of Christ, you avoided this man and his cronies. You didn’t just waltz up to them with a message from the Lord.

Or do you?

Let me paraphrase:
“But Lord. STRAIGHT STREET? SAUL? The HOUSE OF JUDAS? I’ve HEARD about all those things !”
Saul. (* see the last few paragraphs. I don’t need to recap again.) Ananias knew him on a level we can only imagine. He lived it.

Judas. The House of Judas. It’s not completely clear, but some commentators believe that perhaps this was the family of the one and only JUDAS, who sold Jesus out. Judas betrayed Jesus for silver… and well, perhaps this money positioned Judas’ family amongst the same crowds Saul traveled in…the upper echelon of the Roman community; a place amongst the wealthy, the rulers and teachers and army leaders, the political people… If this is true, the “House of Judas” didn’t seem like a super great place to knock on the door and ask to come in.

STRAIGHT STREET  – Both Saul and the House of Judas was on the Street called Straight. I read that in Acts 9 and was so intrigued. Straight St? I mean, not very often does the Bible actually call out the actual directions. LOL
I decided to do some digging on it.
Straight St. was actually a street name in most cities of this day and age. It’s kind of like our Main Streets in today’s world. Kinda of. Just meaner.

It was called Straight, because it was, well… straight. It went right down the middle of the city and was usually the only road that was cared for. Every other street around the city was uncared for, shoddy and a curvy web of confusion. Straight St was also where the dignitaries often lived, so it was maintained and “paved”. Rich and wealthy merchants had store fronts and no poor, no beggar, no leper, no low society, no unruly rebel or needy child, walked Straight Street. The ones who came on Straight St either had business to do, lived there, or were being brought there to be tried, accused, and imprisoned.

Straight St.

Ananias had no business on Straight St.
I mean. He did. But it was the Lord’s business, and welp. That wasn’t exactly approved by those who lived and worked on Straight St, if you know what I’m sayin.

“Go to STRAIGHT STREET , GOD? Excuse me, but … are you sure?”

“Go”.

 

**********

Friends.

This is where the story becomes ours. Or at least, where it became mine again.
Prison may as well have been Straight St.

I didn’t want to go to Straight Street either.
But Ananias did.
He went. He obeyed.
He prayed. He spoke. He laid on hands.

And Saul, became Paul… and he regained sight.

Saul had met God on a whole ‘other road, But he needed Ananias to walk Straight St to help remove the scales from his eyes.

Mannn. What can God do with that kind of obedience? I’ll tell you what:
He can change Sauls to Pauls!
He can take the blinders off , the darkness can disappear, the scales fall away..
He can change a whole world, through one act of obedience.

(Meep) I typed that and just got goosebumps.

Look at what GOD can dooooo with our obedience.

With our agreement to do it afraid.

With our lack of understanding on the how and why.

With our inability to understand.

With our YES.

Ananias walked down Straight St. That place he feared, because the calling on his life to obey God, outweighed the anxious thoughts the enemy tried to make him embrace. Can you , can I , give faith, that much weight? Can you imagine a world where Paul hadn’t been given “sight’?
Can you?
I want you to.
I want you to think about it. Think about what it might have been like, if Saul had never become Paul. How many books in the Bible would not have been written? How many sermons would not have been preached? How many prisoners not reached?

Wait.
That just hit home. Prisoners not reached. I was talking about the ones Paul stayed with as a prisoner himself… but that just brought me back to my point.

Prison.
Going there was like Straight Street in so many fearful ways for me. But I went… and Lord, I pray the “scales fell off”. God, I pray the sight returned to some! Jesus I hope the LIGHT shone !

I know it did.  And this last weekend I had the blessing to actually have a picnic with some of the women I met in prison. Women who are out now… and living for Jesus. It was an amazing time to sit under a pavilion with them, in freedom, and talk about the victory they are walking in! It was so awesome to hear their own “Paul” stories and see how the Lord is using them in powerful ways, now, on the outside! OH it was sooo gooood!
And I also got to sit there with many of the volunteers who walk in the ministry with me. (Pictured above) … those who walked down Straight St. Who also went in, even though, confused by the call, and a little or a lot afraid of the journey… but who alllllll continue to do it now as if its how they breathe!

Jesus.   He’s the one who does this… makes the blind see… the Saul’s and the Ananias’s and the “Kay’s”. We all had some scales that needed to fall off. We all needed blinders removed in some way.

It’s amazing what can happen when you walk down Fear St. (aka Straight St.) with Jesus.

They say, Prison ministry is not for the faint of heart, but then, is any ministry? I say… yes. Yes it is. It IS for the faint of heart! My heart was faint. I was scared. Like our friend Ananias, I bet. But that’s where the power comes in to make it God’s story. He can do it. And He will. Do it “faint”. Do it afraid. Do it with Jesus and watch as “Sauls” become more than they ever dreamed with blinders off and on fire for the God who made them soooo new!

I can’t tell you where He’s taking me with this ministry now. I don’t know all the little off shoots of Straight St, but I do know this. I’m walking them. I’m looking for the “Saul” to pray with, teach, lay hands on, and help them to see. It may not be within the prison walls as much now, because after this picnic this last weekend, getting to hang with the ones released and the ones pictured above as the other “Ananias’s” – I’m sure I’m supposed to keep working with the women on the outside. The ones who come out to no one. The ones who need direction and a friend in their re-entry.

Let me ask you tho, friend.

What is your Straight Street?

Maybe it’s not prison.

Maybe it’s completely different.

What is that place God is asking you to walk that seems scary?

That you don’t understand?

That seems like a mistake?

Or even like maybe you don’t belong?

Is He calling you there?

Go there.

Friend. Go there.

And take Jesus’ hand, and walk right up to “Saul” like you mean it! The world needs more of them but sometimes… it’s take an Ananias … a YOU…to say “YES”. Give that yes and before you know it, that thing you feared, becomes an adventure you’ll be glad you never missed. It becomes a ministry that you will see was for you, as much as it was for others. Both , all,  gain “sight” as you share the God Story that changed your lives.

 

 

 

 

 

#whatdoesyourheartneedtohear? YOU WERE BUILT FOR THIS!

What does your heart need to hear?

YOU WERE BUILT FOR THIS.

I was blessed enough to be able to go to RISE conference in Minnesota this year. Rachel Hollis is a wild fire and man, that girl can speak to your heart and make you get honest and intentional with yourself in ways many can’t. And she does it from a place of faith, un-apologetically and raw. And I learned so much…About myself. About my why. About purpose. And about love … however, it was something that her husband Dave Hollis said that hit me deep. I actually went into this conference with a prayer that it would grow me in ways that would draw me deeper to Jesus and his purpose for me. And it did.

Insert Dave Hollis’s speech, and this quote he used:

“A ship is safe at harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

It struck a chord. And the chord sounded off key at first. Like one that doesn’t get played often. Like one that has a part of it out of tune. Like one that needed some attention.
So, I gave it attention. The spirit within me kept pointing to it… and I haven’t been able to let go of it.

It’s music is starting to sound sweeter. But it didn’t at first.

Mannnn…

At first.

And for awhile…

It was awful

and unpleasant

and I was afraid it would never sound sweet…

I started playing it more tho. “It” being that truth that Dave’s speech hit. The Truth that… gulp… I liked the harbor. The truth that I was made for more, but had come to love the safety of an anchor and a sea wall and the company of other “ships”, who embraced with me, the comfort zone of harbor.

That was the chord.

It’s called “I’ve settled”.

It’s called , “I’m comfortable”.

It’s called, “Lukewarm”.

It’s called , “Afraid to pursue”.

It’s called, “I don’t believe in myself”.

It’s called, “FEAR”.

And I didn’t like it.

That truth sounded like a terrible tune but I forced myself to lean into it.
If you don’t like a truth about yourself, if you don’t like the tune of a chord, if the music of your life isn’t sounding pretty…

Change it.

Decide that’s not the song you want playing in your head!!!
As I leaned in to try to hear it’s true tune, with each strum, it whispered more and more loudly, the real.. underlying truth I needed to hear. I needed to remember:

Girl. FEAR is keeping you in the harbor… But you’re built for more.

Believe– YOUUUUuuuuu were built for “THIS”!

Write it down, speak it out loud, place it in all the places you look … but also… HEAR it.

Every time you read it, every time you speak it, every time you see it… HEAR it and believe it.

This call, this dream, this goal, this purpose, is placed in you by your Creator and He equips you for it!

Stay in the harbor and be safe. Play off key and out of tune.

Or

Leave the safety of the sea walls and go to the deep and hear a symphony.

C’mon girl. You were “built” for this.

Like I said, my goodness how I’ve been revisiting this thought over and over since conference. It’s a hard truth I’ve had to make myself face. I’m a ship. Built for more but anchored at harbor.

Let’s dive into that.. it’s raw. But I think some of you may relate, so here I go with some transparency.

I’m afraid.

I like the harbor.

The other pretty ships and vessels bob and sway and stay safe at anchor, close by, like good friends who are gonna be there… even tho they are there because they are afraid too.

And hey, you know what, even if a storm does arise, you’re so close to shore, you can abandon ship and get to the safety of land, right?  I mean abandoning ship is finnnnne if it looks like it’s in danger of sinking, right?

 

Ugh. I don’t like admitting this. I don’t like confessing the “off tune chord” of, I like the comfort of “LOOKING” like a seaworthy vessel but am too afraid to sail. I can’t stand that I’m saying out loud that this “harbor life” is a comfort zone I don’t want to leave.  I don’t like disclosing that truth that I’m afraid of the deep. I’m anxious over sailing into a calling that is over my head, away from my security of shore and company of “likeminded” ships and that perhaps scary things may arise out there that look a lot like circling sharks, big waves and fierce storms I can’t handle. I hate that music.

 

Yuck.
I don’t like that girl. I don’t like that song.

That’s the girl that believes the lie. That’s the girl that gets in agreement with who she used to be. That’s the girl that looks at a past that tried to define her, and instead of believing for more… she believes what was. That’s the girl that lets all the fear that poured into her from childhood, keep her anchored to the thing that weighs her down. Thats the girl that lets the enemy storm the battlefield that her God has already won.
So , I’m not playing that tune anymore. I refuse. I’m not staying in harbor any longer than I have to. I’m sailing into deep waters… with my Creator

Because:
I was built for this.
I was made for more.

I was created on purpose for purpose

and, girl… so where you.

Here’s where we decide. Here’s where we don’t just AGREE, but rather, GET IN AGREEMENT with this truth: What you were made for… you are equipped for.

If you’re as ship, baby, you’re made to sail.
You might feel like hiding in safety. You may like the comfort of harbor. You may not mind an off key chord now and again… but the truth is, if you’re not walking in your calling. If you don’t sail into the deep, you’re only keeping yourself anchored to things that weigh you down. Things like your past, friends who are going nowhere too, opinions of other people, those attempts you made that failed, that insignificance you feel, that debt that whispers unworthy, that mistake that seems like a brand, that voice that says you’re incapable, ill equipped and not “sea worthy”… Those things are in the harbor and they feel “safe” because we know them. They feel safe because we know what to expect with them. They feel safe because we know how to drift with them. But they really… just have you anchored. Weighed down. Unable to sail into your purpose and dream.  That anchored is tied to an enemy of your soul who is bound and determined to keep you anchored.

Cut yourself loose.

Hoist anchor

Set your eyes to the Sea…  go deep. There are scary things there, but also, there are some of the most amazing and beautiful things waiting for you there too because that’s what you were built for… navigating those things to get to the deep and beautiful things you can’t find or give, in harbor.

You were made for more friend. You are built for more. And so was I.
What does your heart need to hear?

I think it needs to hear that you are built for this.
“This” dream you have. This goal you set. This purpose you see. This idea you develop. This plan that looks promising. This desire you crave…
Was set in you before the beginning of time by your Creator and you were MADE FOR “This”!
It’s not just in you to want it, it’s OK to want it. And that makes it more than ok to “sail” after it.
You were built for it.

 

Write it down.

The Mask of “Fine”

Hey #sisterfriends. I’m talkin to you today.

Specifically,
You.
The one who’s “fine.”

“I’m so glad we can be “fine” together.

And by “fine”…

I mean “un-fine”. It’s what our hearts need to hear, I think.

It’s a thing, you know…

this being un-fine.

It’s is a courageous deep breathe to continue on,
among the hard things,
through the unfair things,
in the in-between messy things,
and amidst all the hurtful, betraying things.

Those things.
Those very real, very icky things.

It’s is a nod to the vulnerability that the messiest of messes leave you feeling. Yeah.”I got this”.. when really. You just sorta do.

You recognize it.
Acknowledge it. Are aware of it. Of All the UN “ness” of it.

But,

You refuse to allow that “UN-ness” full access. Full access is shut down, and it’s not where we go when we’re “FINE”.

Instead, it’s a straightening of the will, a beckoning to the spirit, a resonating voice of power that keeps you from succumbing, and a conviction that you are stronger than you realize.

It’s a warrior thing.

It is.

It’s the brave pursuit, when the exhaustion has set in and the weariness is real.

It’s the heroic resolve to weather a storm and walk wounded.

It’s a neatly packaged story, full of very untidy pieces of ourselves that have been tumbled and turned and have been fired in the sacred furnace of “even if”.

It’s often a gaping and bleeding place, raw and seeping, but you can rest assured, no one will see through the perfect covering you’ve adorned.
It’s like an invisibility cloak, and the only ones who can even see the one you wear, are the others, who also, bravely wear one.

I see you my “fine” friend. Our “Un-fine- “ness” is bonding. My cloak has connected with yours and there is no need for conversation beyond that one word speaking volumes with no other uttered syllables…

“Fine.”

I get it.

And I just want you to know …
You’re in “good” company.
In fact, you’re in a safe place,
a sisterhood that embraces all the things NOT SAID with an understanding and compassion of a fellow soldier.

I’m blessed to be “un-fine” with you.

This “un fine” is not weakness… it’s tenacious, steady, determined and unmistakably powerful.

And friends,

I promise you…

When I see your cloak coming off in my presence,

I will always be authentic too.

I will always be present and feel with you, understanding even when I don’t exxxxaccctly understand… and I’ll make you know that you’re valued.
And I promise,
I will not rushed to leave your hurt. So many people do that, don’t they? It’s stripping and leaves me feeling unwanted and undervalued in soo many ways. I’ll make your hurt matter to me. Because it does. And hey… If I miss it? Because lets be real.. I can miss things sometimes…Let me know? K? I’ll humbly say sorry and rush back to help you heal.
But mostly.. I’ll try not to miss it. Promis.

I will be encouraging, not trying to “fix” anything or give you answers,until you want them or need them – but simply enter in to a posture that enlivens you, comforts you, supports you and empowers you, embraces all your “UN – ness” – because I have all those dwelling alcoves my “UN ness” likes to take up residence in too.

Above all…

I will be planted in Christ and help you remember that HE is where your roots are too.

We’re fine. REALLY.
We’re fine.
You know what I mean.
I know what you mean too.

So,
I see you “warrior”.
I hear the hurt.
I recognize the effort. Mannnn , it’s effort. I know.

And Sister…
Let me just say,
I’m proud of you.
I’m proud of you for taking those things you keep inside and let them not become the things that break you , even when they weary you.

Can we just make that “UN-fine” pact right now? The one that says even when our conversations want to halt and we put FINE at the end of them like a period…
even when we usher in all the feelings that feel like the beginning of nothing or
the start of no good thing…
that we at least agree with each other
that we can let each other in.
It can be quietly.
It can be just a toe in the crack of a doorway trying to slam shut… but let it be a toe.
At least.
Let’s keep each other “in”.

We need each other.
Warriors don’t fight alone- we fight side by side.
And if by some chance a sister does start to fade into the background, disappear from the front, get quiet in the fray… we go looking for her.
Let’s not let our fellow warriors go missing.
FINE doesn’t get to do that to us when we pay attention to one another. Keep you a few of those people , those sisters, who find you when you go missing… because those gals? They understand FINE too.

right?

RIGHT?

Let’s re-define FINE!
Let’s give it a medal. Let’s set it on a mantel. Let’s parade it down main street. Let’s not let it become lost in no man’s land of “UN- Fine.”
We earn this in hard ways.
Let’s decide it’s a badge of valor!

Unmask it. Wear it with courage. And #sisterfriend, help “her” wear hers too.

K?

Shame OFF ME!

If there is one thing we all need to learn how to do more – it’s let go of Shame.

*********************

I don’t like to talk about “it”.  You know; You have one too.

“It”.

That one thing that Shame tries to tell me I’ll never get to re do,
and therefore, there’s only wreckage.
It’s that thing, I’ll never get right, so why keep trying. Failure is my story.
It’s that thing of which I should always remain ashamed, so Regret comes in to park and take up space
And gosh… if I let myself get too deep into the waters with “it”,
even still,
even now,
even with my Spirit’s growth and my #Jesusgirl heart, “it” tries to drown me. “It” tries to coax me into troubled waters, where I am in over my head and where I believe the next wave of regret that hits me, will be the one that tows me under; undoing me.

Ohhh, but then,

mercy.

Blessed Mercy.

And Jesus ushers in grace, and reminds me of all the ways He loves me, who He calls me, and then tells me from the midst of storm tossed waves, that with my eyes on Him, I can walk on water. I have the SAME Power in me, that raised Christ from the dead (Rom 8:11) and “Shame” has no anchor tied to my soul that has power mightier than the Power I have thru Him.
Oh, “Sister Shame” will try her best to make me believe she can drag me under, make me believe the cause is lost; but let’s remember friend, she’s also “sister” to the Deceiver, so she knows his game well. She can play that deck with the skill of a crooked card shark.

#notetoself:
I can walk on water.
Jesus. Let’s keep our eyes on Him, hearts tuned to the sound of His voice over the crashing waves.

That’s where our peace is.

***********************

Back to “It”, though. Because, let’s be real.  “It’s” real too.

“It’s” still a thing.
“It” is even still truth.
“It” happened. And if I listen to Shame, she likes me to identify with it and use words like “Broken”, “Wrecked” and “Ruined”. Shame takes a truth and then plants lies all around it! Those lies grow up and build this hedge around it, trying to prevent any other truths to penetrate like light.

The roots of Shame’s hedge run deep and the lies become so firm they can seemingly withstand any approach of mercy that tries to uproot them, as well as any weed killer of compassion that tries to kill them. Shame knows how to tend her garden of lies. She walks among the hedges with her sisters “Comparison” and “Fear” and together they make allies with “Regret” and “Unworthiness”. Then they dance, swaying and swinging to the wind’s whispers of that song they adore: Broken.

That sad song becomes a chant and pretty soon it plays like a jingle saying, “Like a good neighbor, Shame Farm is there…” (You just sang that didn’t you? Lol. See… jingles know their game too)

Broken. My “it” defined me that way.  That was the whisper that became a chant that became a jingle in my head. But, “it”, that horrible thing that had some truth, but was surrounded with lies, was no longer the thing.
I was the thing. I was broken. I was irreparable. I was wrecked and ruined and no good, all because of my no good thing.
Broken no longer felt like truth. In reality, it became my “safe word”… the one I used to mask the real damage I believed, that I was “shattered”. Irreparable.
I was defined.
It felt cemented, but mostly it felt permanent. And with its permanency came more whispers on the swirling wind and the crashing waves. Whispers. Chants… of discarded, unwanted, useless, pointless, unlovable and most definitely- unforgivable.

Dang.

When Shame has done all she can to get you to the point where you believe the hedge is impenetrable, the roots immovable, the truth unreachable and your worth intolerable…she comes in with the final lie of
you are unbearable.
She wants you to believe that “one thing”, that IT, that she started this whole mess with, was just the tip of an iceberg, but really now… it’s about allll the thangggs. Shame’s tiny ripple effect of that “one thing”, builds a wave, that changes a tide, that floods your mind and grows to such proportions it can threaten your heart and soul like a Tsunami threatens an ocean side city.

See how powerful She thinks she is?

#Sisterfriend.

You can walk on water.

I can walk on water.

WE have the SAME Power, in us that raised Christ from the dead! Why do we let her have so much power over us? Why? When we can plant tiny little mustard seeds of faith, all around the hedges and lies that Shame planted!
Guess what?
Our “tiny seeds” hold more power and they can choke those lies out! They are gonna uproot them! OUR seeds of FAITH will THRIVE and draw in the SONlight that Shame tried to hide! New companions, of Truth, Faith, Hope and Love move in and make room for alliances with “Wanted” and “Worth” and “Enough”, and give them room to grow! Now when Shame tries to erupt and bloom, because she will, we can yell, “Shame OFF ME!” and allow Truth to usher in that grace and mercy that squashes her lies.

I still hate thinking about all the wreckage “IT” caused me. Shame tried to convince me I was ruined, and if I’m honest, the battle ground is still real. I get on it daily. The difference now is, I’m “armed”. I’m wise to her ways. And now, I know my Power. I know I can stand! I know I can plant seeds of faith and grow trees in oceans and
Shoot,
I can walk on water!

I found this ability to say “shame off me” and quit giving her power, by hanging out with my friend Jesus. I meet with Him every morning. I start with HIM before anything else can form in my morning brain. I have to . My battles start early. If I don’t get up and get with Jesus, I’ve seriously allowed room for old thoughts and ingrained pathways in my brain to take the wheel. Those ruts are deep and easy to fall in to and if I don’t put Jesus at the wheel right away, Shame and Fear and I take off on a road trip like we’re the 3 Musketeers- inseparable and on our way to trouble!  LOL But, that’s just me… Maybe you get it, though?

************

Jesus has been teaching me to let go of Shame. To let go of all I am not. To all the ways I feel “less than”. Of all I cannot keep up with. Of all I regret and of all I have let down. Of all the failure.
All of it.

Shame tells me, “I am bad, unacceptable, never enough, flawed and beyond fixing.”
But Jesus has been telling me in my mornings with Him, that:
1) I am not condemned.
Romans 8:1- There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
That’s me. I’m “in” Him. So, nana nana boo boo, SHAME !
SHAME OFF ME!

2) I am redeemed!
Psalm 34:22 says that the Lord redeems the life of His servants!
That’s me! I’m His servant… so nana nana boo boo, SHAME ! SHAME OFF ME!

3) I am FREE.
2 Corinthians 3:17 tells me that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
He’s in ME, so… yep. You guessed it. I’m FREE. SHAME OFF ME, Shame! You hold no power to chain me!

4) I am protected!
Romans 10:11 says that everyone who believes in Him, will not be put to shame! THAT’S MEeeeee… LOL  I believe in HIM!

Are you seeing a pattern here? Are you grabbing my excitement over this?
Sit back , friend. It’s about to amp up even more with this final point that my friend Jesus has sown in my heart during our time together.
Whoa.
It blew my mind.
… so here you go:

5) Because of Him, I win.
Hebrews 12:2 tells me to look to Jesus, the founder and the perfector of the Faith, who, for the JOY that was set before Him, endured the cross, DESPISED THE SHAME, and now, sits at the right hand of God!

Can we just unpack that for a minute?
Jesus endured the cross for us. There was so much He had to endure. We’ve seen the movies, heard the Easter plays, read the Word..we know the awfulness that He went through for US…  But shame was included as an agony of the cross. Shame.

And He despised it.

Despise means to have great contempt for, to have a deep repugnance for, detest, loathe, hate, abhor, be repelled by and find intolerable. That’s what He thought of Shame.

See, she tried to come after Jesus too.
Shame said, “I’ll strip you of all you have and take it away!”
But Jesus despised it. He detested it.  And from the place Shame could not touch, He rebuked her and found her intolerable.

Shame will tell us the same; that it can take away everything of importance and that at the bottom line, you do not matter.
REBUKE her, detest her and find her intolerable. Despise the Shame.

Shame told Jesus, “You are abandoned by your friends. Alone.” She tells us that we are not worthy of meaningful relationships and friendships too; but that we ARE worthy of abandonment.
Friend, despise the shame!

Shame told Jesus His reputation was ruined. And she mocked Him. Shame will tell you that other people’s opinions of you define you, and that you are less than if you are not the popular girl.

Jesus was stripped naked, and Shame made a joke of His decency and mocked Him in an utterly undignified parade. Shame will strip you bare and tell you a story of humiliation, dishonor and disrepute and make you believe it’s all on parade for the world to see.

Despise.

Shame took Jesus’ torture, and tried to create a display of brokenness, painting a picture of a powerless, fragile, incapable man thru weakness and ragged breathes of pain. Shame will torture you; making you believe that you are frail and powerless and incapable too.

Rebuke.

Jesus saw the lies, and despised them. All that Shame tried to make of Him, he rebuked because he saw the JOY that was set before Him.
You do know who that JOY is , right?
Sisterfriend, it’s you. It’s me.

He saw us.
So He:

Endured

Despised

And then, having taken His stand, won, and took up His rightful place in victory.

He’s waiting for us to do that too! He already won it for us! It’s time we start despising our shame too! Let’s rebuke the lies that bad “chick” tries to call out over us and take OUR Stand, and claim our place.

Romans 8:38-39 says:
FOR I AM PERSUADED that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I need to ask… are we?
Are we Persuaded? Are we Sure? Do we have no doubt? Are we Convinced… that there is NOTHING shame can do to separate us from Gods Love?

It’s time to despise her, friends.

It’s time. So below, I want you to take that same verse and insert the things that try to stand in your way of Gods love for yourself. Insert personal things. All those things Shame has been trying to whisper to you and take your stand.
For me, one was my “it”… my divorce.

Rebuke the lies.
Despise the shame and say, SHAME OFF ME!
Fill in the blanks.

It’s a powerful exercise and I hope you see it’s significance.

FOR I AM PERSUADED …

that neither __________nor ___________, nor ___________nor _________ nor ___________, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

NOTHING.
No thing.

Shame is a liar. Call her out with me! I’m done giving her space in my life.

Who’s with me? #whatdoesyourheartneedtohear? Shame off ME!