Freedom in Health & Wholeness – Freedom Series part 3

If you’ve landed here and haven’t read my last two posts… please stop what you’re doing and go read them now.
This is the third in a series on Freedom… and the other two lead up to it.

Freedom. It was the word I felt whispered to me as my word of the year in January  2020. 2019 had been a year for me of re arranging life, renewing thoughts, and re doing some of the ways I did things and in all of that re shaping God had begun, I started looking at ME from the inside first… the things He was doing… and for the first time in my life I started to feel “unashamed” in many areas.
One, included my health.
I had been ashamed of this girl for so long;
I didn’t know how to see past her body, the vessel that had stored all her hard things;
But God did, and in an invitation to me to just learn more about Him, He actually taught me more about “me.” And, as I began to love Him more, I began to love me more. This was a good good body. She had done hard hard things. She had risen from many occasions that seemed unlikely to get past, and all along the way, I finally realized, she had some hard things dealt, but you know what? Through all of it, she had never quit giving love…

Except to herself.

Whoa.
I started to look harder at her. Deeper.
What had made this girl store so much bad in her good good body?
What had made her stuff down?

I have said for 3 years, “I’m in a health journey”… but last year… I realized, it wasn’t just the weight I needed to lose. I needed to lose what weighed me down. I needed to go deep, inside, before I went “hard” on the outside. No amount of physical exertion was going to heal the deepest, unfit areas inside.. that was a deep work I needed to do with Jesus. First

I needed a health journey still, yes,
but I needed to approach it from the inside first;
from the aspect of Spirit , Mind and Body … in that order. NOT Body, mind then Spirit.
I had some deep work to do with the Spirit and heal some very old wounds so that I could then, align my mind with that new way of thinking and get in agreement with it, and finally, begin to sit back and watch as my body began to come along.

Enter Revelation Wellness.
Just at the time I was coming to this deep realization myself, God had my path cross this amazing Ministry who was already commited to this way of thinking and doing and being! REV WELL began to speak into my life too… “Love God, so you can love yourself, so you can love others well” … became the order of thinking they spoke so often. Fitness was important , but a sacred fitness was needed first… and I began to go on the journey with them; reading “The Revelation Wellness” book, joining challenges and groups, following them on Instagram and all the places, downloading podcasts, and whatever else I could consume. I friended many of them and for a year, watched how they lived their life in LOVE… not just to God, and to others, but to themselves. Some have become real, dear, friends and I’m so so grateful!
And quickly, it was like a switch was thrown . I suddenly got it. I understood.
This good good body needed to be loved too.
She had done some very hard work and was doing all she could to keep me healthy,
but she needed my help.. and that “help” started with Jesus helping me see I needed to  love her.
OH, friends! Don’t hear me being a “freak” about Revelation Wellness… it’s not a cult or crazy christian fad, or some weirdo ministry… LOL
but God did, and IS, using it as a tool in my life to kick this health journey into a place that honors Him, embraces me, and loves on others. And that is so soooo good.

Enter Valentines week.
I’d decided my “word of the year”. Freedom
I’d been pondering the places I felt God was pointing me to in that freedom.
Shame. Fear. Finances. Writing. Health.
And I was ready. for. it!!! Bring on the freedom God! C’mon , lets gooooo!
First, can I just say, how kind of God to begin to give me glimpse of all these freedoms in Valentines Week!  It was as if He was speaking to me LOUDLY, “see how I love you?”

“Bring it on”… I said. LOL… boy, was He about too!
I was sitting at work just before my break, when a notification popped up on my phone.
A Revelation Wellness notification that they would be going LIVE on Facebook soon.
Perfect… I could take my break and pop it up to watch.
When I signed on , it was Alisa Keeton, founder of Revelation Wellness, saying that she was going to do the drawing for the last challenge and someone was winning a prize!
I had entered a few times for this challenge and so my interest was peaked, but I thought. “Eh… thousands and thousands did this challenge. I’ll never win anything.”
But I watched anyway.
She was calling out 10 names that were going to go into a drawing for this prize and at number 7 I had this thought, and I can’t even tell you why I was so sure, but I was…
“I was going to win this prize.”
WHATTT? My name hadn’t even been called yet! Where in the world did that thought come from?
“And number 8!” Alisa said, ” Kay Gleaves! ” and she smiled at the camera.

I screamed!!!!  Co workers poked their head around the door, asking, “Are you ok?”
Yup!  I’m fine! LOL 

She finished calling the last two names and honest folks. I started crying.
I whispered to God and said, ” You’re up to something aren’t you Jesus?”
And I felt Him say,
“Freedom”

Oh man….
The next few moments were surreal as she did indeed, pull my name from the “hat”!

“KAY GLEAVES” she exclaimed excitedly, “You’re the winner! You’ve won the retreat ‘REST and RESTORE!”

This retreat was a week with Revelation Wellness instructors and minstry, geared to slowing down and diving in- resting and restoring- and I thought, “That’s amazing! This retreat will be such a way to let Jesus just enter in and finish His good work in me and I’ll have more knowledge about what it might be like to be an actual Fitness Teacher Gospel Preacher”… because legit Friends, I had been feeling the stir to say yes to that too. A school, weeks of classes, a new approach to wholeness and wellness that started with LOVE over any fear; a pouring in and taking me new places in my own “FREEDOM” that ended with a week long retreat with Alisa and the Rev Well Instructors in Phoenix Arizona. I was secretly holding the “want” in my hands, but I hadn’t let go of the fear of my yes yet. I wasn’t “free” in that place yet… it felt too scary. Too big. Too beyond me still.

SO this? THIS prize!? Man… it was gonna lead more toward the “real yes” I wanted to give eventually, and it felt like the perfect baby steps towards it. I was soooooo excited. I was sooooo humbled and in that moment I felt soooo KNOWN by my God. He KNEW I needed this! He KNEW me … HE saw the journey to sacred fitness I had been doing and the health journey I had been on; He saw the girl that stored bad things in her good body and He was making a way where I didn’t see one!
I bawled.
More co workers came running.
“I’m fine. Still fine. Go away.”
LOL

Somehow I made it through the last part of my day and I was drained. The kind that felt like a crash of adrenaline- I was overwhelmed and overcome by LOVE.
I sat in my car to go home and before I pulled away, another notification chimed.
I glanced down.
A message.
What? A voice message?
Whoa… A voice message from Alisa Keeton herself!  Wow!
“Hi Kay! It’s Alisa! I wanted to just jump on here in person and let you know there has been a bit of a mix up.”
(My heart fell. What? A mix up?)
“I’m soooo sorrrry… You didn’t win REST and RESTORE Retreat! My brain was just so tired I miss spoke.”
(I felt the tears come up. It was ok. I was gonna get a hat or something. That’s cool. I’ll be fine.)
“YOU WON INSTRUCTOR TRAINING!!!! ALLL OF IT! THE BOOKS, THE LESSONS, THE CLASSES, THE LEARNING THE RETREAT! ALL OF IT!!!!!”

I wish I could insert an emoji or something at this point that would demonstrate the level of disbelief and joy and wonder and complete undoing that this did to me in this moment, but one doesn’t exist.
I began trembling.
I played the message again , cry-sobbing out of control.
I opened my car door and puked in the parking lot.
No kidding
Goose bumps actually hurt me, I felt them so strongly.
It was crazy.

I went from thanking God for the baby steps He was giving me, to full on freaking FREEDOM like a parachuter out of a perfectly good airplane!

What was evvvvennn happppeningggg..
Did she just say INSTRUCTOR TRAINING?
I heard God laugh.
Like the parent who is soooo blessed their daughter loves the good goooood gift they just gave her and is watching her antics in JOY.

He was waiting.
He was sitting back with more than I could ever imagine or expect and He was ready to undo me with abundantly more.
Wow.
I still get those goosebumps.
I’m going to Revelation Wellness Instructor training.
I’m going to be a Fitness Teacher Gospel Preacher. Yes- one long run on title, not separated by commas like it’s two different things. Because it’s not. It’s one. It’s a bringing fitness through the lens of the Gospel and I . AM. HERE. FOR. IT!

There’s so much more to this story, but it’s too much for now, but let me say this:
How is this FREEDOM in Health?
God walked right up to my every day lunch hour and said,
“I see you, Kay.
You are KNOWN…
and this gift… it’s going to help you walk even more, toward a #sacredfitness
that will bring about the real physical health in your good good body.
We’re coming for her together.  You and I .
You’re free to love her right where she is, but Daughter, chains are dropping off!
FREEDOM is here”
**************

Update:
I’ll be starting my Revelation Wellness Instructor Training late summer early fall, and going to AZ in November, right before Thanksgiving. HOW TIMELY is that!!!? I’d love if you’d all pray with me as I journey toward this time too… in the meantime… be watching for more about my #sacredfitness journey!  I can’t wait to see what He does in this undoing and remaking

Freedom from Shame- Freedom Series part 2

I looked in the mirror and I felt it.
The shame my body told me to believe.

I looked at this girl and saw her.
Not the body at first,
but her.
Then I let my gaze move from head to toe and I  whispered,
“Hang on body; I”m coming for you too, Sis.”

See, “Sister Shame” had been lying to me for years.
Since I was a kid I  felt shame; believing that I was not wanted; insignificant; unimportant; unloved.
I believed something was wrong with meeee because of how the treatment of me, made me feel.
Later, I felt Shame keep whispering to me all those unworthy thoughts and I found the best way to silence them was to stuff them down… literally… with food.
I quickly learned to eat my feelings.
Hurt? cupcakes, donuts, candy…
Fear? bags of chips, dips, ridiculous amounts of buttered popcorn…
Unwanted? all the thannngsss…all of them. Didn’t matter what. Just eat. Just stuff. Just numb. Just get that “feel good hit” to my brain as fast as possible.

And I carried it with me into adulthood.
Adult me did it too.
Rejection? stuff it
Unseen? Unknown? Unwanted? stuff it
Insignificant? Unimportant? Unloved? stuff it
Broken? Messy? Misunderstood? stuff it
Divorcing? Broken homes? Ruined Dreams? Disease? stuffffff itttt…
“Stuff it” because the SHAME was too personal.
It spoke loudly and pointed mean fingers and rallied troops to get in agreement with “her”.
And like I said, for years, I thought she was truth.

“Stuff it”. Maybe that should be the title of a book I write someday because I sure became an expert.

But enter this last season I’ve been in … the one that began an inner healing in ways I didn’t see coming.
I looked in the mirror again.
I didn’t feel Shame any longer.
I could look at her, the girl in the mirror, with kindness; with love; with compassion- for all she had been through; all she was so so brave through; all she had witnessed; felt spoken over her and had stuffed down.
I saw how her body had stored it, and honestly, still felt it now as real psychical pain;
and while it was still a good good body, operating as designed to try to rid itself of dis-ease,

I saw…
it, “she”, was in crisis.

I spoke gently to her. “Shame has been chased off though, girl;
“She’s” gone… you’re free;
but hang on good body,
I’m coming for you and I’m bringing my Friend Jesus.”

He “despised the shame”.
He was carrying a cross. It was heavy.
But Hebrews 12 tells me,  He despised the shame…
The shame that tried to point to His friends abandoning Him;
The shame that tried to get Him to worry about His reputation;
The shame that tried to rub His goodness in the indignity of it all; the degradation of it all; the mockery of it all…
Shame didn’t win though… He despised it… and carried that cross, with His eyes on the Joy set before Him.

Friends.
WE were that Joy.
We ARE that Joy.

So, “SHAME off” us too.
Let’s walk in the FREEDOM we have because He endured that cross and despised the shame.

Do you have a “girl” to go after?
Do you see someone who stored up a lot of things in her good good body ?
Are you stilling hanging on to the lies of shame?
Maybe like me, you’ve learned to “stuff it down”.

Friend, Go after her. All of her… because there is JOY set before her too.

Freedom Series – part 1

I haven’t mentioned my “word of the year” yet.
I’ve been holding on to it.
Not sure why, except I just felt like God needed to show it to me more before I released it out into the world.

Whoa.
And did He ever!
I pondered many words. They were all good. All had meaning… but I landed pretty hard on two: “unashamed” and “freedom”.
Pondering them  both, I took them to prayer. .
Me: “God, I want to live unashamed , of You, of me, of my walk, of my life, of my writing and my family and my health and .. alll . theeee. thingggggs.”
Whisper in my heart: “Sounds like Freedom.”
And that was that.
Word of the year: Freedom
Freedom from shame
Freedom financially
Freedom in my voice, and in my writing
Freedom in my health
Maybe even a Freedom from my job
For sure, Freedom from Fear…
All these began to roll in my soul as real and tangible and able, and suddenly what was born, was a belief that somehow, 2020, was going to be like walking into my promised land. I can’t explain it. But I knew it. It was as if God Himself said,
“Kay, this ground you are standing on is Holy.
You’ve been through Egypt, and are no longer slave to that time.
You walked with me through the wilderness, not lost, but following Me,
getting it right somedays, and getting wrong other; but
all the while, learning and growing.
And now, We are crossing over “the Jordan” on dry land…
and Daughter, this ground, this promised land,
is Holy.
This is where I’ve been leading you – to bless you.
I’ve been preparing you for what I’ve prepared for you!
So take off your shoes. You’re standing on Holy Ground.
We’re walking into your promise!
There will still be enemies to fight and giants to face,
but “this land”, is flowing with milk and honey and it’s for you.”
OH MY Goshhhhh… Friends, I might sound like a lunatic, but I guess that’s the first part of my “freedom”… because I don’t care. LOL
The conversation in my heart around this “word of the year”, at the beginning of the year, was as real to me as typing the words into this computer screen right now.
He’s been preparing me for what He’s prepared for me and I’m telling you,
“FREEDOM” was not a word of coincidence.
All those things that have been piling up inside this body, inside this girl, forever… had a tight grip; but it was all just held tightly by a lie! The lie that it was always going to be this way; that broken was always broken and that I wasn’t going to ever be completely “free.”
Then, as only Jesus could do, He beckoned me to listen to the truth, this time, almost as a command and no longer an invitation…
“Kay! YOU ARE free. Walk in it. You don’t have to get free- You ARE. FREE.
The lie is a chain from which you can step out! I’ve made the way…”
Freedom.
It was going to be my word and I believed for it like I haven’t believed for something in a while…
I’m telling you , I KNEW this was my word.
The walls of my Jordan river parted and God Himself, was leading me across on dry land…” My promised land … His purpose for me… My longing… My dream… His Mission;
I felt it.

Free from the chains of the things that weighed me down;
Free from the chains of the lies I’d believed since I was a kid;
Free from the chains of shame and regret;
Free from worry and angst;
Free from a past that bound and gagged me;–
Free from health issues that distressed me and my good good body;
Freedom in finances;
Freedom in speech and writing and becoming who I’ve always dreamed of being:
AND Freedom from fearing so much … all. theeee. timeeeeeeee.
I felt the chains dropping with my decision to say, “yes… I’ll walk in my freedom, across dry land. You have my “yes” Lord… finally, completely, and it felt like a mini revival in my own being.

Free.
I knew what I wanted it to look like. I knew what I thought it was supposed to be. I believed for what I thought He had designed for me…yet I didn’t know what it all would entail to get there… and honest, was there even an actual “full” arrival this side of heaven?
I just knew it involved me ,
1) Saying “yes” and then
2) Taking that first step on the dry land, while God held back the River, and I looked at both those things in awe and worship.

Let me just stop here for a moment to ask you if you remember the Children of Israels story?
If you thought that coming out of Egypt was the biggest part of their freedom story, I might ask you to read Joshua 3-4. Here is where I get a glimpse of a freedom story that makes me have goosebumps. God led the way. As soon as the priests carrying the Ark, stepped into the flooded waters of the Jordan, the river stopped flowing and formed a great wall so the Children could cross over to their promised land …on dry ground.
Imagine it. Rolling river, flooded, wide and fierce, suddenly walled off and the river bottom DRY. God then told Joshua to have his men take up 12 stones, ones so big they’d carry them on their shoulders, and put them at their camp that night.
He said, “In the future when your children ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean? ‘ Tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan ( at flood stage) on dry ground… so that all might know that the hand of God is powerful.”

Friends. I gathered some “stones” … I’m setting them up in my camp… and they are going to tell the story of GOD setting me free!
I can’t wait to share them with you… I have several more blog posts coming, so staytuned.

I chose this word in January, and like I’ve said, I’ve been holding on to it for awhile now, and trusting Jesus with how it would manifest in my life this year in 2020…and also, when to release it to you…

Whoa…
Last week, Valentine’s week, Of course that’s how He’d rolll…He started mapping the promised land for me and I believe it’s time to share!

I picked up those “stones”… you know, the things that represent how BIG God is and how powerful He is moving…. and what that looks like in my own “personal” freedom, and I’m readying to share them with you!

I’m telling you … it’s no joke when you give Jesus your WHOLE yes, He swooops down with WHOLE ness!!!  I can’t wait to tell you more!

FREEDOM…

Dry land

Stone stacking in my camp

Holy ground

Promised Land

It’s so kind of a good goooood God to be my Deliverer, my Father, my Gentle Shepherd, my caring Counselor and the Orchestrator of this beautiful symphony I get to call my life…
Man. Who is this He is making me?
Freedom from SHAME is up first in my next blog, then
Freedom from FEAR, then
Freedom in Writing and Voice, then
Freedom in Health and Wholeness
and friends…
I know more is coming. Stay-tuned for all the blogs. LOL
They are telling a story of how He is preparing me for 
what He has prepared for me!

I hope this wasn’t confusing.
I know, it’s long. This whole “freedom story” is going to be long:
And I don’t know if I have all the words for it yet, because I know the stories are still coming…
know what He’s already doing, how He’s already making a way to freedom in so many ways in my life, and I’m just trying to set you up for them…
Truth is, I don’t know what it all looks like yet, but I do know,
I came out of the wilderness and I crossed over on dry land while walls of water helped form a deeper truth that this God, who knows the way, is going to be pretty audacious about it!
I picked up some big stones to bring back to “camp” to tell about His audaciousness
and that He is still on the move to show HOW POWERFUL He is, and how well He loves and maybe mostly right now, I’m undone by the gift… the knowledge… the crazy goodness and unspeakable “more” of… #whatdoesyourheartneedtohear?:
I am standing on Holy Ground.

#wonthedoit

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.