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.

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.

 

It’s ok to grow “quietly”

I have a favorite tree.

I call it the Sentinel.
It’s huge and towering , stationed at the very end of our property, up a rolling field and at the top of a hill; standing guard; watching; observing; challenging any who might stray on to the property or any who may try to harm the land.
I love that tree.
In fact, I love it so much, I almost always just look at it. When I come out of my home my eyes go straight to it. When I pull up the drive, my eyes are drawn to it. Floating around the pool, mowing the yard, tending the chickens, walking the dogs, giving treats to the horses, sitting on my porch… I always look at it. And love it. It’s in the center of every sunset, it’s dark silhouette striking; unwavering; formidable’ strong; demanding to be seen.

Have I mentioned I love this tree?
LOL
I do. I love watching it in all the seasons. Glorious is all of them.

But recently, I noticed another tree. It’s next to the Sentinel. And now that I’ve seen it, I can’t believe I never saw it till now!  When did that tree grow? How did it get to be so big and yet remain unnoticed for so long? Obviously it’s been there growing for some time. Obviously… but man, how’d I miss it?

And it made me think… in some seasons, it’s ok to grow “quietly”.
All this time it’s been there. And I haven’t noticed. The Sentinel “spoke” loudly. The Sentinel demanded attention. The Sentinel captured my eye and my heart and my love.

And all the while, “Little Tree” was there.
Silent in her growth. A whisper of a sprout , maturing and progressing quietly.
She went unnoticed. Unseen. Undetected.
And she went through seasons just the same … quietly, softly, unassumingly.
Gaining her ground, firming her roots; standing taller and straighter and more purposeful herself … just quietly,
flourishing.
Until one day, the Sentinel’s shadow was outgrown.. and she made her debut. 

She can’t be unseen now.
She used her season of silence to become a beauty all her own.
She used her quiet growth to mature herself, firm herself and root herself.
She used her time unseen, to develop a beauty all her own,

and now that I’ve seen her.
I can’t unsee her
And while she is not a Sentinel… it’s not her job; Her position or Her purpose…
She is a queen.

And I love her.

Hey Friend.
Let your unseen season… grow you. Go deeper. Root further. Stand firmer.
RISE taller.

You’re a Daughter of the King. You’re a Queen. Your silent season is not for naught.

 

The lie of empty.

I don’t like to admit my relationship to food very often, because, well…
It’s a struggle.
Food was always my “go to” for comfort.
It was my “feel good” when life was hard.
The “soother” to my woes.
The “forget it all” to my problems.
The straight shot to the epi center of my brain that released all those “magic” feels that made me feel good for a moment, forget for a while and appease the pain and pull some sort of wool over my own eyes.

It was my “drug of choice.” A sweet, delicious, mostly sugary, usually processed, “drug” of choice.

And when you choose that, something happens in your brain.
Just like with other drugs.
A brain hormone called dopamine is released. It floods you with “feel goods” and creates pathways that make you want to go back to that “hit” over and over.
It feels good. Literally. Because that is dopamine’s job-to make you feel good.
Reward you with pleasure.
Satisfy an addiction.
Fill you with bliss.
And when you seek that “hit” over and over, to FILLLLL you…
You’ve welcomed a pathway to addiction.
And an addiction, always needs more. There is never enough.

For me. It started with food.
And, It started at age 6.

Even at age 6, I felt empty. I felt like there was a void. I felt “less than” and not enough. I felt insignificant, unimportant and unloved. But, that’s to be expected when you are in a home filled with drugs and alcohol abuse. You don’t just “feel” invisible; you often are.
Your people forget you’re there. And the times they don’t forget you’re there,
you wish they had because bad things happen.
And so you begin…
I began…
to look for things to fill me up.

I was 6. And my easy bake oven became a source of “filling”.
For most six year old little girls, an easy bake oven was a toy. For me it was how I ate hot food. My people often forgot to feed me, because- you know- they were not sober and
I was invisible;
so, I’d scour the kitchen looking for things to put through my easy bake oven to warm up!
Somedays I scored bologna! That was huge! Other days, I found graham crackers and put them through to heat up for dinner. For whatever reason, we always had graham crackers and marshmallows. LOL
I don’t know why… Back in the early 70s was that the “munchies” pot heads and alcohol abusers sought? LOL I don’t know… but I do know, I could usually make a dinner out of them and that’s all that mattered really to me. However, I did learn a valuable lesson.
NEVER
I mean, NEVER…
put a marshmallow through an easy bake oven.

It swells and puffs and smells amazing and makes you believe you’re about to have a very mouthwatering treat in about 55 seconds… and then…

it betrays you.

It grows so large it touches the lightbulb, which is the heat source for your oven, and suddenly it POPS and the burned sugar on the lightbulb becomes a horrendous smell and the plastic housing of the precious oven starts to smell like it too is melting and , well…
your first fear is that someone is going to come looking for that “source” of the smell because legit… you KNOW what burned sugar and melting plastic smells like, right? LOL …but then, even at 6, you realize,
no one is sober enough to even know there is something that smells different than the pot they’re smoking! So, whew… You’re SAFE.
The second fear is that, oh, shoot… you now have to leave your room to go on a search and recover mission for another light bulb! This means sneaking into another room unnoticed and stealing someone’s lamp bulb! This feels “not so safe”… but desperation for hot food and a full tummy wins over fear and let’s just say by age 7,
I was a professional, undercover special op’s “agent”, stealthy in using my powers of invisibility to my advantage! LOL

Goodness…
Age 6.
Food mattered.
It was not a given.
I found myself filling up at school to the point I’d have a tummy ache. I wasn’t sure what dinner would hold, or breakfast even for that matter, so lunch…
became my friend.
I don’t know how the “system” worked back in my day. I was just a kid. I know we weren’t poor, but I don’t know who paid for my lunches or how it worked… I just know, whatever I chose in that school cafeteria hot and cold line, I could put on my tray and go fill myself up to my hearts content.
And it felt good. It felt like contentment and refuge…
And it soothed.
And it comforted.
And it felt like a companion.

And I developed a relationship with that “companion” that lasted in to my adult years.

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

I’m still in a struggle if I’m honest. There are days that the old pathway feels like an old friend, and I travel down it with a donut in one hand, a sugary coffee in another and the plan for a pizza at the end of the road. I welcome that hit of dopamine like it’s a hug, and I feed that addiction like it was starving.
I just don’t have to put things through my easy bake oven anymore. The pleasure center is much more easily fed these days.

But those are the “somedays”…. Because as I’ve aged. As I’ve grown. As I’ve healed from sooo many hurts… I can see clearer. I can see a food addiction that became a weight problem, and a weight problem that eventually became a health problem and it all …
really just stemmed from
a “filled” problem.

What?
A filled problem?

yep.
See, that food dopamine addiction? I let it “fill” me.
And, I let it take the place of what needed to fill me.

I ate…. NO. I eat, even sometimes still
when I get pulled back into the pathway,
because I’m seeking to be “filled”.
That pleasure center of my brain has a strong pull.
But that’s where I’m taking down strongholds.
That’s where, now,
I see that there is emptiness in that kind of “filling”.

*******
I don’t believe any of us are really “empty.” “Empty”, is perhaps a lie.
I mean, lots of people will say it though, right? They’ll say , “I’m empty”, “I can’t pour from an empty cup”, “I need to fill myself up”.. And while to an extent, that can be true…. I think the real truth is…
We’re all filled,
or filling ourselves with something.

Something.

Either something that will not satisfy- leaving us FEEL as though we are empty…
Or
With something that IS satisfying. Nourishing. Wholesome. Beneficial. Health giving. Life Giving.
Needed.

You do know now, I’ve quit actualllly talking about just eating? About just food? Right?

I’m talking about the filling we need in the depths of us, that we sometimes try to fill with all those dopamine inducing things:
like food…
like drugs….
like alcohol…
like retail therapy…
like working out…
like a job …
like a boyfriend, or a girlfriend or…
like ____________ …
You fill in the blank.

Are you seeking whatever you can find to put through your proverbial easy bake oven to fill yourself up?
It’s never going to be enough, friend.
It’s eventually going to give you the low that comes from the false high. It’s going hit the bottom of your light bulb and start a stink and then an undercover search for a new bulb.
Your dopamine will crash. The sugar will burn to the heat source. The search will come with cost.

************
The only fuel to fill… is found in a relationship with Jesus.
No matter how much we try, or do or, get, there is never going to be enough of anything to fill a void that only Jesus can fill.
We were created to be filled by Him alone.
The woman at the well in John 4 is an example of this.
She knew she was coming to the well every day. Filling and refilling and yet, no matter how many times she came back to that source…
Shortly.
Later.
Eventually.
She would be empty again.
Needing a refill. Needing more. So, she’d trudge back to that well and gather again, refill again, carry it away again. Never having enough. Always using up what she had poured in. Always needing to fill again.
Then Jesus told her she could never thirst again. That He had Living water! Water that would not leave her empty; not leave her needing; not leave her seeking out more, but rather,
satisfy and
instead,
leave her filled!
She had a hard time believing.
She was used to the all the other “means” to fill her up and yeah, I get that.
I do.
Dopamine has played a part in that for me. I just shared how.
But, I’ve also looked to friends and family; sought approval and affirmation;
tried to be un-invisible; filled my closet with clothes, my home with things;
I’ve made my gardens show worthy and my accomplishments shiny;
I’ve piggy backed on victories of others and found importance with my job; and ….
Are there more blanks you can fill in? What does your list of “FILLED UP” look like?

We’re not empty. We just feel empty.
We’ve filled ourselves so full of the wrong, unsatisfying, momentary things… that we are not empty. We’re just fueled and filled wrong… And it is never going to be enough.

************
Only Jesus.

He is the only
“enough”.

*******

Like a deer pants for the water, so my soul, pants for You. My soul thirsts for the living God.
Psalm 42:1-2