A prayer to welcome Sabbath

Today, I welcome my summer sabbatical.

We celebrated last night with a surprise bottle of wine, cheersing to new adventures and romance

– the romance of new beginnings, of heart longings, of rest and play, of beauty in everyday ordinary life.

Along with work, I’ll be taking a break from social media, not because I hate it, but because I love my people more. I’ll still be writing though, because it’s how I treasure up moments in my heart.

This time feels Holy – an invitation to something new- something I’ve yet to discover

My Catholic roots want to acknowledge that significance with tradition- to dedicate it, like an altar.

So, I bless it with a prayer:

Lord of Creation,

create in me a new rhythm of life composed of hours that sustain rather than stress, of days that deliver rather than destroy, of time that tickles rather than tackles.

Lord of Liberation,

by the rhythm of your truth, set me free from the bondage and baggage that breaks me, the Pharaohs and fellows who fail me, the plans and pursuits that prey upon me.

Lord of Resurrection,

raise me to the rhythm of your new life, dead to deceitful calendars, dead to fleeting friend requests, dead to the empty peace of my accomplishments.

To my packed-full planner, I bid, “Peace!” To my over-caffeinated conscience, I say, “Cease!” To my suffocated self, Lord, grant release!

Instead of drowning in deadlines and death chimes, I rest in you, my lifeline…

By your ever-restful grace, allow me to enter to your Sabbath rest, as your Sabbath rest enters me.

 

~Prayer to Welcome Sabbath | The Book of Common Prayer

I’m claiming joy in the moment, peace beyond circumstance, and love that overwhelms, then overflows through me…. rest for my body, rejuvenation for my soul and revelation of the mind and heart.

In Jesus’ Name, I pray.

#romanceandadventure #digitaldetox #rhythmsofrest #sabbathsociety

 

When God shows up at ER

I spent last night in the ER. I did a number to my finger. Needless to say, I didn’t want to be there.

It wasn’t how I envisioned my evening. I had planned to hunker down with “Call the Midwife,” a glass of vino and build IKEA furniture for my elderly neighbour.

Now I was here, in the Rapid Assessment Zone.

My Doctor has told me ample times to avoid walk ins and ER’s at all cost. Ive heard his horror stories about bad docs, wrong diagnosis’ and botched surgeries- so, I prayed continuously to ease the anxiety:

Get me in quick. Give me the best doctor possible. Give them full knowledge of the issue and how best to proceed.” Simple and to the point, but It gave me peace.

A young ER doc walked in. He was cold but did the job. At one point, he admitted he couldn’t see the full extent of the damage and wanted a second opinion, but no specialist was available. Neither was the one on call. So, I prayed again:

Give him discernment, Lord – tell him what to do.

He made an executive decision and went with it. I felt peace.

“I’ll give you the number of a specialist to follow up with in a few days. Be right back.”

Then he returned.

“Did you say your GP’s name is this?”

“Yes,” I replied. He grinned large…

“Oh, just go see him! He’ll know what to do. He specializes in practically everything.”

I felt relief. And then he added:

“And he trained me! I graduated under him.”

I laughed out loud… Of course he did!! Three cities away, in the middle of the burbs and my city-dwelling doctor gave this guy his stamp of approval- quite literally. God clearly has a sense of humour.

We shared a good laugh and I had him write his name on a piece of paper. I knew My doctor would want to know who stitched me up.

I might be biased, but I trust no one like my own doctor. He has years of training and he runs a department of a large city hospital- plus he trains other doctors. He’s legit. So when I’m out of his care, I worry. And believe me, I have reason to…. I’ve been the bad case study and the one who slipped through the cracks. I couldn’t have my doctor, but God gave me second best. Plus I was in and out of ER in under 2.25 hours.. their average is 5!

A glass water bottle is the culprit. It shattered in my hand and got down to my bone. I cut an artery and nicked a nerve. Needless to say, it was a blood bath and my two year old, bore witness. It’s wasn’t pretty.

I’m grateful for community who came running. My nurse Neighbour examined me and my girlfriend played house while I was gone. She even cleaned the murder scene!

The full extent of damage is not known yet. I won’t know for at least a few days. I would love your prayers though: for nerve growth, for full recovery of functionality and speedy healing.

 

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Just be with me | A 4 week digital detox

My word for 2017 is Abide.

It has been for the last two years, but with different intention- a focus on different aspects of the word.

In the first half of 2016, it was learning to be, rather than to doa human being, not a human doing.

Then it was learning to be with Christ. To stay in his presence, to linger longer there in prayer, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I learnt to sit with my emotions, give them to Jesus and be transformed through the act of surrendered trust.

The latter half of 2016, was a call to remainto stay in the tension or the struggle, without running away or trying to fix it.

This has been my practice until recently- until May, when God declared that “It is finished.”… Referring to my three year season of struggle, marked by pain and perseverance. It was a second birth- a journey of healing to wholeness, which I affectionately refers to as,  my “dark night of the soul,” thanks to When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd.

Now, I feel a new season approaching- a new story beginning to unfold, still embodied by my word: Abide.

These words are rising from my soul,  an anthem and meditation:

Remain: in peace
Stay: in the moment
Be with: your people

So, in a brave act of obedience, of listening to my  hearts desires, I will honour my longing and the call of Christ within me. I will abide.

Practically, that looks like fasting social media throughout my 4 week sabbatical from work.

My companion on this pilgrimage is “The Digital Detox Guide” by Morgan Day Cecil. (Currently on sale!). I just love the way she describes the process of unplugging- of detoxing from our digital world:

Love begins and ends in the act of paying attention. We give so much love to our mobile devices and our screens. What if we shared some of that energy with other things in our life? What would happen if for one month we set the intention to pay a little less attention to the exciting things happening online, and a little more attention to the wonderful, quieter things happening in our heart and in the hearts of those we love? – Morgan Day Cecil | The Digital Detox Guide

This isn’t my first rodeo.

I’ve been intentionally fasting social media for years: on weekends and vacations, for instance and setting boundaries around the number of times and hours of day, I use it.

It’s been a mark of discipline- something I believe God honours and is imperative to the Christian walk.

But this time feels different, like an invitation to a new way of life- of living with higher perspective.

And I want it. I’m ready.

In the same way, Simplicity Parenting gave me the freedom to enjoy motherhood again, and Rhythms of Rest have given me my health and joy back,  I sense new freedom on the horizon- from numbing distraction and the anxiety that embodies hyper-connectivity.

My prayer is this:

Lord, teach me to abide: to remain in peace, regardless of circumstance or emotion or volume. To stay in the present moment- my moment- each one a gift of grace from you. Help me unwrap it with wonder and curiosity. To be with my people, loving them and letting them love me in return.

I receive all of what you have for me, in advance and I surrender to the transformational work of The Holy Spirit in me. Use all of it for my good and your glory. Remember me- this brave act of obedience in a distracted world- and bless it. I ask boldly, in the name of Jesus, my saviour, lover and friend.

Wild Freedom and the Dance of my Inner Child

I feel awake, as if for the first time- seeing life with new eyes, ears and taste buds.

Everything feels new… like my senses have awoken from a deep sleep- a hibernation.

This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve been surviving for the better part of three years- the hard work of surrendering, staying, healing and learning to breath. The brave choice to keep going and believing, when it feels like the oxygen has been sucked from your life.

To everything there is a season and these past years have been necessary- Holy and Good. They’ve remade me and birthed in me a new woman- no longer a caterpillar, but a butterfly.

Now, I feel a new story unfolding ; one where the heroine of the story is me, learning to fall in love again- to love and be loved in return…. not just by God, but by my people.

Give me insight, so I can do what you tell me- my WHOLE life one long, obedient response. Give me a bent for your words of wisdom.

Deflect the harsh words of my (inner) critics, for what you say is ALWAYS good!

Let your LOVE shape my LIFE, as I stride, FREELY, in WIDE OPEN SPACES…. as I look for your truth and wisdom there. Then, I’ll tell the world what I find- speak body in public places, unembarrassed.

You are GOOD. Train me in your goodness. Focus my attention on what you are saying, while I DANCE to the tune of your revelation.

Oh, Lord, LOVE ME, right now! HOLD ME tight! Comfort me, so I can REALLY LIVE.  – Excerpt Psalm 119

As I read these words my body unfurls. My toes curl, like a breath of ecstasy. My inner child leaps with joy, a happy dance suppressed for too long.

I once was in a prison cell, surviving pain and holding hope. Now I find myself in a Meadow-  just past the gate of crossroads.

This Meadow is wide open and I am free- free to run and play and delight in all it offers.

The Meadow is Wild…. and the truth is, it scares me. 

The mother in me wants to see, first, the rules sign posted at the entrance, to read the mission statement and hear God’s overarching goal before I agree- before I surrender to this adventure I find myself in.

It feels grey, when my mother heart wants it black and white.

But the little girl? She’s antsy- more like pee her pants excited– to be here. She wants to run with reckless abandon!

She’s begging me to LET GO and watch her RUN FREE…. to cease being a religious helicopter parent over her spiritual journey.

She has the Holy Spirit to do that, and he’s far more gentle and kind, than I. He’s untainted by the world and religious conditioning- exactly the things that have been hindering her for years- the things I’ve unknowingly heaped upon her like a wet blanket.

I see me, grasping her hand tight, she pulling- willing me, to give in- to stand watch, like a good parent would do, while she frolics and plays in the Freedom God has given her.

She wants to dance, unashamed of how her body looks or moves to the rhythm. She wants to sing, loud and proud, regardless of how it sounds. She wants to eat and taste and rediscover food, as a gift and a friend, not an enemy or inconvenience. She wants to explore new sights and sounds- the novelty exotic. She wants to delight in the touch of her lover. She wants to pray in ways I haven’t allowed, and listen to longings of her heart.

Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?! – Acts 19:2 (The Message)

And so I stand, as the mother of a child- my inner child- knowing what I must do:

entrust her to the care of Jesus.

 

—–//

Lord, I am convinced that you alone know what is best for me- my inner child. You alone know what she needs. I release her- my inner child- into your care and protection.  I commit myself to praying for her, everything you put on my heart. Help me not to impose my own will – the will of my guardian and functional heart– onto her. Help me not to live in fear of possible dangers, but in the joy and peace of knowing that YOU ARE IN CONTROL. I entrust her and release her into your hands- your protection, your guidance and your counsel. In Jesus name, Amen. 

 

Making Peace with Who I’m Made to Be | The Enneagram + Living like an Introvert

Eight months ago, I learnt I was an introvert. The discovery blew my mind, because all my life, I had lived like an extrovert.

Outgoing, bubbly and a performer by nature- large crowds don’t scare me and I’m perfectly comfortable being the centre of attention.

I love being with people! How could I possibly be an introvert then?

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Succinctly, Jess Connolly smashed that notion with her definition of the defining difference between the two:

Extroverts get energy and are filled up by being with people. It’s how they recharge.

Whereas, introverts find people and crowds draining. Some may very well love being with people, but they ultimately need solitude, rest and quiet to refuel- and to process.

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BINGO! That was me…

And yet, all these years (29 to be exact) I had been living, working and loving from the well-source of an extrovert.

You see, every three months (and increasingly sooner in difficult seasons of life) I found myself depleted, drained and exhausted. I wanted to quit life and run away… every three months!!! I battled depression because no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t fill back up.

I was empty ALL. THE. TIME.

I battled the shame of being weak and lazy and not good enough – of letting the people I love most down.

I realized in that moment- in discovering I was an introvert -something needed to change.

If I was to find my joy again and the energy I needed to love and serve my people well, I needed to start honouring my body, mind and soul’s need for solitude, rest and quiet.

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God had already started teaching me about peace in solitude, so I was excited to take this next steps.

Slowly and surely, I implemented the following:

  • Creating space in my days, as well as my weeks, for rest, reflection and alone time
  • Prioritizing things that fill me up, like reading, writing, getting outside and doing yoga
  • Working from a place of rest, rather than resting from work  (as my husband put it, “Make rest your priority Kailey, not work.”)
  • Concentrating on one project or work focus at a time, giving it all my energies before moving on to the next
  • Creating an evening routine of solitude and rest, so I woke feeling full, rejuvenated and inspired
  • Pouring into a few people I’m called to, rather than many and everyone
  • Being honest with myself and others about my limitations (saying no to even good things, when I didn’t have the energy or knew I needed to fill up)
  • Leaving blank days on the calendar with nothing scheduled, so I could take them at my leisure

I could write about these in elaborate detail, because quite honestly, it took time and intentionality to figure out how to do this!

It was trial and error in discovering the practice steps and ways of living and loving like an introvert.

Needless to say, I started to breath again. I felt peace return and I could hear my heart sing. It was working!

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Shortly thereafter, I stumbled upon the Enneagram, during one of Christa Black Giffords Webinars. Why did I need to take another personality test? I balked. But with her endorsement, I checked it out.

Thirty minutes into taking the Enneagram test, I was in tears- like someone had opened my heart’s journal and read every entry.

Staring back at me were my longings, felt needs and idiosyncrasies; my fears and insecurity. Like they were normal and very much ok. I was seen and accepted by this infamous number 4 that so accurately embodied my deeply emotional soul.

All my life I’ve felt different, (in both a good and bad way) battling the notion that I am wrong or bad- shame my biggest enemy. And here I was, learning that this was normal for a 4 and that in fact, it was not only my greatest weakness, but also my greatest strength, if I harnessed it.

For weeks, I listened to The Road Back to You, a podcast devoted to looking at life through the eyes of the Enneagram from a Christian perspective. Never had I laughed and cried so hard in forty minutes.

In the same way I felt after discovering I was an introvert, I felt seen, heard, validated, and understood in shared experiences with other 4’s!

Don’t you know these are the basic needs of a four and how they feel most loved?!?!

And my wrestle with shame? The infamous demon in the closet for 4’s!

My goodness…. revelation after revelation. 

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I’ll admit, I am very much still learning and discovering the Enneagram. I am far and wide a newbie at it, but what I love most, is the intricacy and depth of it’s reach.

Not only does it outline my basic nature, but also character development at different levels of maturity and how I function under stress or shame or exhaustion- what the Enneagram calls, your shadow side.

It’s informative, challenging and encouraging. Honouring the person God created me to be, while simultaneously calling me UP, rather than OUT.

With the help of The Enneagram, I’m coming to a deeper understanding of my God given strengths and weakness; honouring them, rather than fighting them. I’m learning to acknowledge the shame that so easily ensnares me, rather than will it away. And I’m discovering how a lifestyle of rest and mothering myself, will help me flourish and come alive in ways I’ve only yet tasted.

My capacity for life these days is SO MUCH SMALLER than I ever dared imagine! But if I want to live in health and joy and rest, it’s necessary and good.

And when I love from that place- from the place of my truest self- I discover the connection, belonging and meaning I aspire to leave as my legacy!

The Enneagram and living like an introvert: my  road back to health; to the wholeness and freedom that’s mine in becoming my truest self- the person God created me to be.

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–//

Get started on your journey:

Introvert Living

Discover the peace and pleasure in solitude and rest- mothering yourself to wholeness of health and mind and joy.

 

The Enneagram

Learn your Enneagram Number and start discovering the way you’re wired. Find freedom in who God created you to be in your truest self.

A New Kind of Courage | Devotion. Emotion. Movement. Breath

Courage these days looks different than it used to…

Where it once was loud, it now stays silent. Where it once was proud, it now bows in humility. Where it once was seen, it now seeks solitude.

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Courage has taken on a new posture in this season of life and the truth is, it’s a dance- one I’m learning the steps to, far too slowly for my former striving self.

I’m fumbling and stumbling my way through it.

And yet, each day, each week, each lesson, I find myself dancing this new courage by heart.

Devotion and Emotion. Movement and Breath:

The basic fundamentals that encapsul this new courage.

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1. Devotion to God through the brave act of showing up

– of coming to him every day just to be with Him, no agenda. To hear from Him, to talk to Him and to read His word. Allowing this time to penetrate my heart and remake me every new morning, from the inside out.

Not in pursuit to “be better and do better”, but to receive, in my perpetual neediness and surmounting weakness- knowing and trusting that in my humanness surrendered, He is strong and mighty and most powerful.

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2. Giving my Emotions to Jesus and Taking Authority over Lies

Instead of willing myself different, I’m learning to be brave enough to welcome my emotions in whatever form.

Be it anger or resentment or frustration or guilt or shame or panic, I’m inviting Jesus to walk parallel to those emotions, feeling His easy lightness alongside the dark heaviness.

Feeling both coexist in the same space- my heart- allowing His presence to fight for me, rather than trying to “fix myself.”

And when His Spirit nudges- when I recognize the lies for what they are – the lies taunting me with untruths about who I am or what I need to do

I’m learning to courageously take my authority in Jesus and send them away… because for too long, I gave lies centre stage and an open mic night in my heart- free reign and an all access pass to harass me and my every thought.

But it stops here.
I will be brave enough to say, “no more”, because I am more: More than a conqueror. More than my mistakes. More than my weakness. More than my imperfections. More than my immaturity. More than my inability to meet others expectations and please every person in my life.

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3. Movement as Worship.

For everything there is a season and this is my season to fly- to learn to fly, anyway. I am no longer a caterpillar in a cocoon, but a butterfly, entirely new in Christ Jesus.

After a season of physical rest- of trusting the good in non-movement– I am finding a new stride: dance to music in my living room, yoga on my patio, running outside in nature.

For a former exercise addict turned nothing-but-walking, these humble beginnings feel awkward and hard.

Every movement is a brave act of surrender and in humility, I’m trusting that with time, I will find my footing and my strength- a new strength, firmer and more grounded than my former self.

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4. Breath as a life line- my connection in every moment to Love and Presence and Life.

Meditation and Centering Prayer and the simple act of intentional breathing.

To stop takes courage.

I’m learning that whatever it is, can wait, because in this moment, what I need more, is Him.

More than to get it done, more than to exercise my rights, more than to be heard or understood,  to fix it or figure it out, what I need now is Jesus.

Breath has become my wordless prayer.

I’m still waiting for the gifts of tongues, but until then, when words fail me or I can’t articulate what I feel, I’m bravely allowing breath to bring me home – to usher me into God’s presence and his heart.

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Devotion and Emotion. Movement and Breath…

All of this feels new and foreign and yet none of it is new or even foreign. They’re old truths and old practices. Ones that find homage in many homes and hearts and cultures and religions. And yet Im learning them with new intensity and intentionality.

I am a student of rest, learning to mother herself back to Love.

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—//

I’d love to know:

  • How do you intentionally connect to Love?
  • What rhythms of rest has God led you to implement?
  • How has sabbath become a lifestyle rather than just a day?
  • How is God teaching you to mother yourself to wholeness?

We’re in this together- sojourners on the pilgrimage to Christ.

 

The new has come, the old has passed away | a NEW creation in Christ Jesus

I stood at the back watching, as 100 twenty somethings waved their hands in the air, jumping up and down with reckless abandon. A wave of emotion overcame me. We sang these words on repeat:

No sin too great, no pain too deep, no shame too real, that His love won’t heal.

In that moment, I knew it was true; not just with my head, but with my heart- I was convinced of it.

And as I cradled the revelation, I remembered God’s words:

Behold I am making ALL things new in you, Kailey-  a BRAND NEW thing. I’m making streams of living water in the badlands.”

Not two months ago, I wrestled for hope on Easter Sunday– I was living in not anymore, but STILL not yet. Waiting. Hoping. Holding fast to faith in what God has promised me, but I still had not seen the fruit of.

Yes, I was changed, but I was not entirely new- I still carried scars on my heart like tattooed reminders of my pain and past. And if those didn’t remind me, shame would – it always does, my mind a constant battlefield.

And yet, here I was fully convinced that these words were true for me, personally: There is no sin of mine too great, no pain too deep, no shame too real, that His love can’t heal.

And like a thunderhold, I heard Him in the recess of my heart:

It is finished.

Then these words fell from my lips, like a prophetic declaration:

The old has gone and the new has come. I am entirely new in Christ Jesus. It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

In that moment I knew:

It was done- all the pain of my past healed, redeemed and made new! God had taken every ounce of hurt- the things that hurt me the most– and used them to recreate me from the inside out.

The things that should have killed me, remade me.

Not a patched up version of my old self, but an entirely new creation in Christ Jesus. I look, sound and act like an entirely different person – because I AM!!

I had just preached for 10 hours over the course of three days, and by golly, that woman WAS NOT THE OLD ME! 

I am no longer a caterpillar in a cocoon, awaiting transfiguration, but a butterfly, emerged and ready to fly.

Friend, you can’t possible understand the gravity of that statement…

I have been living in that cocoon for over two years,  in the darkness, awaiting the day when light would break through. Holding hope when it looked like nothing was happening. Trusting in the process even when it looked and felt like death. When it was uncomfortable, pressing in on me from all sides.

My cocoon was a test of faith and perseverance that matured me and built hope. And here I now stand a new creation.

In my newness, I am leaving behind baggage- the backpack I carried for years, like a penance to pay and protect: insecurity, striving, frantic and tired; the neglect of my soul and body- neither some possession that belongs to the spiritual part of me. I am a whole package, designed to love and be loved in unity- all of them deserving my care, attention and affection. If God can love and accept the whole package, so should I.

I have no notions this journey to flight will be easy – learning to walk out my freedom.

I know there will be days I’ll struggle and revert to old habits or thoughts, but through it all, I will ABIDE.

I will cling to Jesus as I learn to glide with grace.

Because I know who I am now- my identity no longer shaky or built on sand- who the world says I am.

I know who God says I am and that it is my lifebreath and song:

I am a warrior, a princess, a poet and a dancer.

… A warrior battling for myself and others to believe The One we belong to and who he says we are, in Him.

… A princess, beloved bride of the Only One who saves.

… A poet pouring out praises for all he’s done in me.

… A dancer, worshipping through movement- the breath of my body.

I am a writer and a speaker, but also a preacher; my voice is my gift to the world. God has called me to healing and deliverance ministry- something I’ve only just begun to taste.

The Holy Spirit will continue to lead me and guide me to truth that will set me free, so that others can be set free- to be who God created us to be, to walk out our callings, to Know Jesus and make Him known, to live wildly in His love and to love others the same.

Where I once doubted these things, I know them now to be true. Not true in some general, for somebody else sense, but all together true for me- my living reality:

God is able and he is trustworthy.

We can take him at his word.

He is powerful and our authority is found in His word.

Our God is good and he is working EVERYTHING out for our good.

What Satans means for evil, he will use for ultimate good- to show His glory and power- power to save, heal, love and redeem.

—//

Because you can take the girl out of the goal-setting but not the goal-setting out of the girl, this is what I hope for as I walk out my newness:

  • To leave a legacy of love and service, through simple, ordinary, every acts
  • To have loved Jesus more than anyone and anything else in this world
  • To have fulfilled my calling through faithful obedience, not necessarily quantifiable results
  • To have lived a quiet life, keeping to my business and working with my hands
  • For my daughter to know she is loved unconditionally, by me, her dad and Jesus
  • For the world (more importantly my people) to see Jesus in me, finding that beautiful and attractive.

In one year, this is where I hope to be:

  • To have experienced healing in my physical body, uniting it back to my soul and spirit
  • A simpler life: less stuff, deeper relationships and more time with family, friends and Jesus
  • Dancing again, running and yoga regularly, as well as, meditating
  • My health concerns on the mend with new routines and choices that ease my issues and I enjoy
  • Enjoying food and meal time again; uninspired and unmotivated to cook, a thing of the past
  • Minimal, if no TV
  • A spiritual mentor/group feeding, filling and challenging me
  • Regular church attendance that feels organic, routine and anticipated, not obligatory or a struggle
  • Rest as lifestyle
  • Listening to my body and welcoming what it needs

 

Ps: You can bet I’ve added these to my #powersheets and revised my yearly goals.

When you’re weary from trying and you know it’s far from over

For two years, God has given me the same passage to hold onto:

Don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new… It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.- Isaiah 43:18

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In 2016, He gave me the word “trust”, to go along with it.

In 2017, he gave me the word “abide.”

a·bide: stand up against, put up with, endure, tolerate, endure

I knew almost immediately, what He meant- what God was asking of me this year: to remain in the struggle, to be constant without change in my circumstance, to stay in the tension (without running, without quitting, without demanding solutions or insisting things be black and white, all or nothing.)

These words- the single words God gives me each year- are like a theme. An overarching plan or purpose for the unfolding 12 months. They’re God’s focus for my life and my heart, should I choose to trust him and obey.

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If you could see my last two years, you’d call it ridiculous-  uncanny, the way these words have thread the 365 days they title;  a bullseye to nearly every lesson and circumstance that follows…

almost as if God knew what He was talking about and was orchestrating the details of my days, right down to the final letter. 😉 

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Truth is, both years have been difficult- the most difficult of my life. And that’s an understatement!

Without Jesus, they would have killed me or at least, made me a mean, pessimistic, cold-hearted woman. Like the world and God owed me- big time, because of what I’d endured. Instead, they’ve remade me, through surrender and refined me in ways I can’t quite articulate in brief.

My suffering has made me better

more compassionate and less judgemental, more patient and less frantic, more tender and less tough, more present and less busy, more confident and less doubtful, primarily in trust of God and His goodness.

Call it trite, but suffering has been the means to moulding and shaping me into the women He created me to be- the woman I need to be, to fulfill my purpose on this earth.

And for that reason, I’ve now count grief and suffering as gift.

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Before you romanticize any notions of what that looks like, let me be frank:

I’ve battled this out on the front lines, hung in there by my teeth and nails. I’ve kicked, screamed and wrestled my way through- physically and emotionally. These two years have been the fight of my life!

What once came easy in other seasons, has become my battleground to claim. And I’m weary.

I feel tired, beaten up and defeated- depression looming on the sidelines, as if to mock me with my former joyful self.

The girl who preaches joy, fighting for every moment of it- who preaches unconditional love, still striving to earn it- who preaches faith, fighting to hold on to hope.

Behind the pretty posture, I feel ugly- my heart heavy and full of darkness. I feel like a fraud.

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There I am on resurrection Sunday (Easter)- the day Christ rose from the grave and defeated death, claiming victory over sin and darkness- and I’d rather stay at saturday thanks! I want to scream in frustration, remain in the dark and hang around the empty tomb weeping.

So, instead of singing, I remained silent- I resented the happy clappyness of Sunday! But why?! I beat myself up, asking…

Like Jesus’ friends on Holy Saturday- the day after his crucifixion- I wanted to sit at the tomb and wail in grief over a dead body… all the dead things in my life. I wanted to question why they were, despite being foretold they’d happen. Like them, I was wrestling for hope, trying to hold fast to Christ’s prophecy-His promise to rise again on the third day. Because my circumstances scream otherwise, just like Jesus’ did!

On Saturday, friends of Jesus waited in darkness. On Saturday they wrestled their emotions. On Saturday they fought to maintain hope.

And friend, that there, is me.

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In church, I begged God to grab me and pull me out of my pit- I was too tired to help myself and quite frankly, I didn’t want to. I needed hope fast.

Back home, I grabbed my phone – an attempt to numb myself; a fact I’m far too acutely aware of. Why, oh why, must I recognize every nuance and defence I use to try and outrun the heaviness, dull the emotions or taste temporary happiness?!

It’s fleeting and I know this– it doesn’t fill my void. Only God can. But today, I don’t care.

I succumb and silently pray that Jesus would do it with me– that he’d show up in the midst of my mindless scrolling.

And he did.

Some things died this year – Friday. Friday requires faith. Then there was the waiting, the uncertainty, the messy middle- Saturday. Saturday requires hope. Then beautiful new things were born – Sunday. Sunday requires nothing but love. Faith, hope, love. First the pain. Then the waiting. Then the rising.

There is no glory but straight through our story.
There is no resurrection without the crucifixion. – Glennon Doyle Melton

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Like lighting, it shocked my heart back to reality- my reality in Jesus and the promise he’s given me over and over and over again- every time I’ve asked him to remind me.

You see, 2016 was a crucifixion- a dying to my life, my marriage, my pride and my expectations.

It was the first time I fully surrendered to God. I stopped trying and gave up entirely. I threw my hands in the air and said, “I give up!” In waving my white flag, I finally gave Him control.

God had to show up, because I was done saving myself – and everyone else, for that matter!

I learnt trust and through it, cultivated faith with roots down deep- faith build on a solid foundation, unshakable in Christ Jesus.

2016 was my friday; a death that required faith.

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2017 has been my year of waiting and uncertainty- of wrestling the messy, awkward tension- of holding fast in the in-between. Of not anymore but not quite yet.

2017 has been my Saturday. The dark tomb of waiting.

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s cultivating in me hope- an unwavering hope, grounded in his promises. The one He’s given me, two years in a row, that he’s doing a BRAND NEW thing, building rivers in the badlands- Don’t I see it?! (no, FYI: I don’t see it yet!.. okay, maybe a little.)

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Do you see what this means, friend?!

My sunday is coming and so is yours!

This hard and heavy season comes with purpose. It too, is part of the process- part of His plan.

It isn’t a result of anything I’ve done or failed to do- it’s not another thing I need to fix or “heal my way out of.” I can let go and stop trying to make it what it’s not-  stop striving to fix my heavy heart and just trust God. Not my circumstances, or even myself, but GOD!!!

What has come to me, has come through God. This darkness is God appointed and it comes with great intent!

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It also means my heart is still living in Saturday…. There’s a reason I want to stay there and honour it.

I’m all in it- fully immersed in Saturday, sitting by my tomb waiting, grieving and wrestling-  all while fighting for hope.

And that’s very much ok. In fact: it’s necessary.

Because in order to experience the joy of resurrection, we must first grieve the death.

Both are an act of worship and surrender. Both an act of trust and faith. Because our hope isn’t in the tomb, but in The One who raises from it.

And He too, shall raise us to new life!

Our sunday is coming….

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Wherever you’re at this Easter season- a painful Friday of death, a dark Saturday of waiting or a victorious Sunday of new life- be all in it, friend! God will honour and accept your worship, however it looks. He sees you and He’s proud of you- you’re exactly where you’re suppose to be…This season comes with purpose.

The Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Setting up a Blog

This post was inspired by a reader and friend of the Seeking Grace community. After compiling this information for her, I realized there may be others who could benefit from it.

It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a starting point. And where I lack, I’ve pointed you to others who can take you further than I.

After all, I am no expert, but a sojourner on this road.

Q: Have you created your own website or do you know a good resource that’s not costly.

After blogging on multiple platforms, such as wordpress, weebly and vistaprint (among others), I recommend creating a website using wordpress:

  1. I’ve found it to be the most successful at acquiring and building an audience (people finding you)
  2. For me, it’s been the most compatible with google search engine optimization (SEO)
  3. While more difficult to navigate and use than other platforms, it has better functionality and customization. When you run stuck, a quick google search will offer tons of advice and tutorials on how to do things
  4. There are thousands of gorgeous templates to choose from, with drag and drop features; minimal-to-no coding or tech skills required
  5. It grows with you, customizable to the degree you want it to be. As you learn more and grow in your blogging needs, so too can your blog, without having to start over from scratch.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org 

1. wordpress.com 

  • Self hosted (you can get a template and host in one spot)
  • Very easy to set up and use
  • Preset templates with drag and drop features
  • Customizable using their exclusive features and plugins
  • Caveat: You cannot use 3rd party plugins, therefore it can be limiting with intermediate and advanced functionality needs (ex: online shops, email marketing, e-course integration etc.)

Recommended for those brand new to blogging, with limited-to-no experience with wordpress

2. wordpress.org 

  • 3rd party hosting required (such as blue host, go daddy etc.)
  • Easy to learn, but will require some training and/or assistance to set up 
  • Preset Templates available- some require manual setup or you can build a completely custom template using a hired graphic designer
  • Unlimited customization – much requires manual setup 
  • Unlimited growth potential 
  • Advanced customization and functionality (ex: online shops, email marketing, e-course integration etc.)

Recommended for those with wordpress experience and/or the ability to hire a graphic designer, developer or coder to set up blog and maintain aesthetic changes

 Pros and Cons

This website was designed and is maintained on wordpress.com. I didn’t actually realize the difference  between the two, when I set it up 8 years ago! But for the sake of everyday blogging, it has served me just fine. Only now, as I’ve launched a bible study and look towards a book launch, do I find myself toying with starting all over on wordpress.org, for functionality and customizations sake.

My other website- a service based business was set up around the same time, but using wordpress.org. I used a graphic designer to design a custom template, as well as, a coder/developer to set it all up.

I am a self-starter and eager learner, thus I’ve spent hundreds of hours googling, reading and taking webinars, learning basic coding and back end work, so I could update my blog myself. Over the years, I’ve made thousands of changes with functionality and design of both this blog and my service website. Even still, I worked with coders and developers, from time to time, when I ran stuck (or was ready to punch my computer screen in frustration.)

If you have the time and patience, there’s nothing wrong with going the route of wordpress.org. It WILL be trial and error, but you’ll eliminate the middleman and save yourself some money.

If time is precious, you’re easily frustrated and if you struggle with troubleshooting and logistical analysis, then do yourself a favour: hire a graphic designer or a developer to set up and manage your wordpress.org site OR use wordpress.com depending on your long term goals.

Best of Both worlds 

Jeff Goins is a professional writer and educator.  I can’t remember how I stumbled upon him, but suffice it to say, he had me at hello!

His free education, resources and blogging tools were exactly what I needed, without realizing it. 

Before deciding, I recommend you check out the following… it’s worth the time (and money):

Be sure to sign up for Jeff’s newsletter at the bottom of his website- it has proven to be one of my most valuable assets!

Q: Where do I host my blog? What if I already own a ‘domain’ name? Can I merge it with a website hosting platform?

Here’s everything you need to know about setting up a blog, hosting, and purchasing/transferring a domain name. (again, courtesy of Jeff Goins)

Q: I feel overwhelmed with blog templates and styles. Should I consider what I’m writing and offering/ selling when choosing my template?

 In short yes, but don’t get too hung up on this one. Whatever platform you use, there will be pre-designed templates to choose from. Short list ones you’re drawn to aesthetically and then check out the live demo’s for each- see what they look like in use.

Finally, read each templates descriptions for built in features and functionality. Many times, they will say what use their intended for, such as blogging, photos, online shops, etc. 

Q: Any advice for those starting out with a blog, in terms of frequency of posting, copywriting and image use? Any ‘need to knows’ or do’s and don’ts?

Frequency of Posting

The key to finding your voice is simply to write! Don’t worry so much about the topic or even who’s reading it. Just get used to writing from the heart and posting is publically for others to see. This takes some getting used to. As often as you can, make writing a habit, even if it’s just 15 – 30 minutes a day. If you don’t have that time, aim for 2-3 times a week.

Images and Copywriting

Whatever images you use, be sure to give credit and source the owner (not just where you found it.) For example, if you find an image on pinterest, instagram or facebook, be sure you click the links and follow the trail until you find the photographer who took it. Personally, I use all my own photos so I don’t have to worry about this. But if you find that idea stressful, stick with borrowing images.

If you know of a photographer whose photos you like, try reaching out to partner with them. Ask if they’d be willing to provide you with images in exchange for credit and link backs. Ps: I’m totally open to this

There’s also a great website, unsplash, with free stock photos that are contemporary and professional, no credit required.

If you quote writers or other blogs, credit them and provide a link back to their site. (Bonus tip: Email them, to let them know.)

Quick tips and Advice

  1. You’re most creative and open in the morning, so if possible, try writing then. You’ll likely find it’s easier to be authentic, without fear or reservation.
  2. Write and edit in two different sessions- they use two different parts of your brain. Plus, the time and space between gives you clarity and fresh perspective.
  3. If you’re worried about what others think, don’t connect or share your posts to social media right away. Simply write for an audience of one until you’re ready to take the leap.
  4. Find a community of writers you can learn from and possibly collaborate with. I personally like (and am a part of) The Influence Network, A Little Light Community, Our Village and Tribe Writers.

Welcome others in

Invite your trusted friends and family to read your blog. Send them the link once it’s live and welcome feedback.

Don’t forget to post your website in the comments below… I’d love to see what you’re up to and cheer you on! 

 
 


Note: I did not get paid to endorse Jeff Goins. 


When you fear what others think as you walk in your calling

Joshua served alongside Moses, invisible for years, during which, he developed faith and faithfulness that would lead a generation into The Promised Land. – Jennie Allen, Nothing to Prove.

I read ferociously through the book before stopping dead in my tracks. It was as if the line had jumped right off my page. I knew it was for me… not in an egotistical, I’m special kind of way, but a quiet knowing.

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Since I was a child, I’ve known I was a healer- always drawn to helping people emotionally and seeking out Truth, wherever I could find it. I’ve been hungry my whole life, always learning, wanting more; my appetite cannot be satisfied.

I would dance in front of large auditoriums and theatres, feeling at home and like my truest self on stage. And I still feel that way- only now, I feel it when I’m sharing Jesus in front of crowds. I know I was born to do this. It makes me feel, alive at the centre of being and connected to my creator. It feels like worship.

I do it naturally because I want to, not because I have to. Whatever the season,wherever God has me, I will serve with my gifts, to the best of my ability.

Have my motives been questionable at times? Sure! All of ours have and I won’t pretend otherwise. But in the quiet of my closet, barefaced and broken before God, I know with every fibre of my being that I seek to serve from a genuine place – in response to His love and in recognition of His calling.

While not everyone is convinced, I am certain this is how God wired me:

To write, to teach, to speak, all for the purpose of healing – of leading people to His heart, through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

For me, it’s not about quantity, but quality.

I want to profoundly touch another soul, in ways that feel like a lovers stare from across the room.

I want to arrest people’s hearts to Jesus.

And yet, I struggle hard…

I feel the need to prove myself.

I want the world to know what I know about myself, as if their understanding and recognition will set me free to do the Fathers will.

It’s a lie and yet, I’ve believed it for years, unknowingly.

Until today….

1-2 Later Jesus was going about his business in Galilee. He didn’t want to travel in Judea because the Jews there were looking for a chance to kill him. It was near the time of Tabernacles, a feast observed annually by the Jews.

3-5 His brothers said, “Why don’t you leave here and go up to the Feast so your disciples can get a good look at the works you do? No one who intends to be publicly known does everything behind the scenes. If you’re serious about what you are doing, come out in the open and show the world.” His brothers were pushing him like this because they didn’t believe in him either.

6-8 Jesus came back at them, “Don’t crowd me. This isn’t my time. It’s your time—it’s always your time; you have nothing to lose. The world has nothing against you, but it’s up in arms against me. It’s against me because I expose the evil behind its pretensions. You go ahead, go up to the Feast. Don’t wait for me. I’m not ready. It’s not the right time for me.

9-11 He said this and stayed on in Galilee. But later, after his family had gone up to the Feast, he also went. But he kept out of the way, careful not to draw attention to himself. – John 7: 1-9 (The Message)

Like the veil was finally lifted and the lie could no longer deceive me, I saw the Truth in the light of day.

Jesus’s own brothers doubted The Father’s Will for him- Jesus’ calling. They didn’t believe in Him and they masqueraded it as care and encouragement!

Behind their carefully crafted words and sly smile, lies a silent waiting to expose Him as a fraud- their unspoken thoughts lurking in the dark corners: “See, I knew it. It’s all in your head. Stop trying- stop trying to exalt yourself or prove your someone special.”

How often do I sense this in the hearts of those around me?

If I’m honest, a lot.

I sense it when I’m around them, in my resolve to be quiet and contentment not to share. In the way I avoid what’s going on with me or what I’m doing with my life right now.

I hide…. I want to leave, because I don’t feel safe.

Like Jesus, I sense their desire to crucify me.

And yet Jesus responds, without defense, without apology or even, agreement! Because He knows…. and that’s enough!

Oh, how I need to adopt this perspective – to accept what God has shown me and stop apologizing or trying to prove myself.

How I need to stop fearing the unknown thoughts and silent assumptions about me; particularly the ones masquerading doubt, as care and encouragement.

 

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What I love most, is Jesus’ response: “I’m not ready. It’s not my time.”

The world will tell us that time is ours to seize! That if we’re serious about what we want to do, then we need to stop playing small… We need to GO PUBLIC, make it official and show the world what we’re made of. Then, they’ll see and believe! Like it’s our job to make that happen- to prove ourselves… for God’s sake though, right? And for His glory, of course!

Jesus, in one line, debunks that lie with Truth.

Timing is in the Father’s hands- a sacred tool to be used discriminately by Him, for His purposes.

While the world perceives time as an opportunity to seize at our discretion, Jesus invites us to see time as an opportunity to shed light on our hearts desires. – Beth Moore

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If our desire is to do God’s will, we will wait for His timing, even when the wait feels forever- even when ridicule and rejection feels unbearably painful and our circumstances uncomfortable – even when the world doubts or disdains us, including those closest to us!

Because our faith affects our view of time.

If we really believe God, if we trust that He knows best, then we will also believe God knows when is best.

We won’t clamour to prove ourselves in our calling. We won’t fight for public approval or recognition.We will show up and quietly go about our business, careful not to draw attention to ourselves.

Because in the wait, God is still using us- we are still walking in our calling then, too! He is preparing us for the appointed hour. And when that time comes, we will know it!

God will get us there, God will make it happen – we can be sure of it! We cannot miss our callings….

God made it perfectly plain that his purpose is not a hit-or-miss thing dependent on what we do or don’t do, but A SURE THING thing determined by HIS DECISION, flowing steadily from HIS INITIATIVE. – Romans 9:11 (The Message)

Friend, do you see THE GOOD NEWS IN THIS?

WE CAN STOP TRYING!

…stop clamouring our way to our calling

… stop grasping for our position

… stop proving ourselves to others

… stop gaining acceptance and the world’s stamp of approval

We can fully let go and simply go about our business as usual, trusting God with the results and their timing.

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If you feel the weight of God’s calling on your life, I want to say, I get it … I understand the grief that comes with God given burdens – I know what it’s like! They’re heavy- far too heavy for us to carry! And learning to walk with them, without letting them buckle us- allowing God to carry the yoke– is a process and a wrestle. It’s a constant tension, that takes daily dependency and intimacy with the Lord. And that too, takes commitment and discipline!  Sometimes, I feel like my faith is a full-time job!

But I want to affirm what you know down deep- what God made you for. I don’t believe you know this by accident. I believe, it’s God’s gift of mercy and hope- something to hold onto when life feels hard and our circumstances scream otherwise. Don’t let the world cloud your inner counsel with doubt and fear. God has called you on purpose and for a purpose.

But friend, the timing is His.

Let’s walk out this tension together, shall we?

The good news is we’re not alone, anymore. You have me and I have you.

I’m praying for us both, because that’s the only thing I can do- it’s also the BEST thing.

Will you pray with me?

Lord God, Jesus, you so lavishly provide us with your presence, Holy Spirit, working things in us and in our lives, that we could never do on our own. You do it not by our striving, but because we choose, in our free will, to trust you to do it for us.

Like Jesus, we believe you God. Help us take you at your word. By that act of faith, make our life right with you. Bless us as we live by faith, trusting, believing and hoping for things yet unseen. Help us daily, to choose not to live by our own effort but depending on you. Sustain our relationship with you, as we embrace what you have planned for us.

Above all else, let our relationship with you remain our first priority and desire. Don’t let anything distract us, including our callings, or take us away from spending time with you. Doing things for you, is not the same as spending time with you. We want to enter into what you are doing, not the other way around!

Protect us and keep us from choosing religion, rather than relationship . Rule keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith. In fact, it only perpetuates more rule keeping! Christ has freed us from the self-defeating life of living by the law. It leads only to despair and death.

Remind us, again and again, that the purpose of the law was to make it obvious that on our own and in our strength, we are out of relationship with you, God. We cannot possibly will ourselves right! We can only do that by waiting in faith for you to complete your promises in us and through us. For if any rule keeping had the power to perfect, we for certain would have gotten there by now!! You know we’ve tried!

By faith alone, you have brought us into first hand encounters with you, The living God. You didn’t just give us a fresh start, you’re dressing us in adult faith. You’re maturing us, so eventually, we will be complete- Christ’s resurrected life in us- lacking no good thing – the fulfillment of your original promise.

May it be so. We give ourselves to you wholly and completely. May your will be done in us. Amen.”