Lessons in the Silence and the Art of Contemplation

I feel the words bubbling below the surface – my voice, my thoughts, my desires, rolling on low simmer.

Boil is approaching with a life force of it’s own.

God made me this way.

Ideas and metaphors wax eloquent within my mind. Then, they make their way out into the world- their analogy becoming clearer as I type.

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Words have always been my teacher; I, forever, their pupal.

My heart is open and willing- yearning, even– to understand and empathize with their teachings.

But in the quiet, I’ve discovered a new teacher- and I have listened with fresh curiosity.

Her voice is sweet, gentle and compassionate; her lessons pointed and encouraging….

encouraging me to rise higher, to new levels of faith and prayer. 

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Silence, meditation, contemplation and the breath – this is where I’m seeing and experiencing Jesus, right now.

They help me stop, be still and know .

So quick to speak, these practices teach me the art of listening….

and in listening, I’m brought into God’s Presence – the present moment, now.

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For me to know, I must feel.

I must experience it with my heart.

Because true knowledge, for me, is heart knowledge- a knowing, so embodied, that it’s truth permeates my being…. like breath.

These practices – silence, meditation, contemplation and the breath – have helped move truth from my heart down to my heart – to see and experience Jesus in that space.

Like the lyrics of United Pursuit’s, “Head to Heart’:

From head to the heart, take me on a journey- from letting go, to getting lost in you.

More than words more than good ideals, I found your love in an open field.

I first started exploring contemplative practices about a year ago, but it wasn’t until this summer, that God took me to new and deeper levels.

It’s been three months now, since I first logged off and went silent.

I deleted all social media apps from my phone and blocked their use on my computer. My goal was one month, but when the time came, I knew I was just beginning.

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I’m slowly reemerging, but in the quiet, I learnt some valuable lessons I’ll take with me:

While “disconnected”, I feel and hear God clearly – sometimes loudly and in uncanny ways. I see Him present in the mundane and His hand, in the nuances of my day….

As if i’m standing in the centre of a windstorm, declaring:  “Can you see that?! Can you feel it?! This is God’s Spirit moving!”

Before, I was too distracted to notice.

Too stuffed to taste.

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Breath work and meditation help slow me down.

Four counts in …..

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2

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and four counts out ….

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intentionally releasing and letting go.
While focusing on my breath, I consent to work of The Spirit within me. I Feel the moment and whatever it brings, choosing to be still with it.

In time, I hear him. Then I see him or I feel him.

In the stillness I know:

The Spirit is doing a deeper work than my mind can grasp- a healing work I must simply surrender to; be open and willing.

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I’m learning to prioritize rest and self-care- choosing to love from a full tank, rather than refuelling after.

Practically, that looks like working from a place of rest, rather than resting from my work.

It means taking time each day to do the things that fill me up and keep me healthy: things like prayer, yoga, reading, naps, and getting outside regularly. Eating clean, drinking water and getting plenty of sleep at night.

It looks like asking for help and taking intentional time to be still – morning, mid afternoon and before bed.

And I’m learning to reward and pamper myself first, not after I get the job done!

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A funny thing has happened:

My joy has doubled, and my peace magnified. And see Jesus in everything. 

Revelation and wisdom come to me out of no where- and I’m eager to do the daily grind.

I do more in half the time I used to and I’m finally able to leave things unfinished.

I trust that God willl provide- the time, the resources, the knowledge, the answers – everything I need to do His will.

His job is to provide; mine is simply to ask and to trust.

 

Through the art of silence and centering, I’m taking myself off the throne and giving God back his rightful seat in my life.

Because when God puts me somewhere, he’ll keep me there, but if I put myself there, I have to keep me there!

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Where I was once was chasing perfect, I am now choosing present.

Where I once was busy and striving, I’m now intentional and content.

Where my mind was once cluttered, my heart is now calm.

And I finally feel centred in my soul...

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I’ve found the sanctuary and holy ground, where God has always dwelt.

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How I got here | Talking Sex, Love and Relationships

I always felt comfortable on  stage- most like myself, actually- alive and free; whether I was dancing, presenting, competing or public speaking.

I thought I was destined for New York.

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While I grew up Roman Catholic- going to church and private school – I was twenty one before I came to Jesus; largely through hours of driving, listening to Praise 106.5.

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I accepted Jesus in Seattle, in-front of thousands, in a public arena. Somewhere in that time, I stumbled upon this video. It was a complete accident– a divine happenstance. But as I watched it, I began to sob.

In my heart I heard these words, as clear as day: 

This is what you’ll do…

The video was of a fiery Latina, who preaches Jesus to students. She was hilarious and real and honest in a way I hadn’t yet experienced. I was very new to Evangelical Christianity- still ribbed by the staunchness of the Catholic Church.

I laughed. Cried more. Then rewatched the video a dozen times.

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It didn’t make logical sense…. how could this possibly be my calling?!

I was a rebellious, religious screw up, currently living with my boyfriend and sleeping out of wedlock. My sin card was overflowing. I’d barely tasted Jesus and I didn’t know my bible. Plus, my sights were set on buying a wedding business. 

And yet, deep within my heart, I knew it was true.

It was an other-worldly knowing and I’ve carried it’s assurance ever since.

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Years later- perhaps five– I was wrestling with my purpose. I was knee-deep in building my (wedding) business, I was successful and yet, I struggled.

One afternoon, I stumbled upon that video again and just like the first time, my heart responded. 

Then over the course of twelve months,  three different people referred me to an organization- the same organization. I dismissed each one of them.

I saw no connection to myself, my gifts and this non-profit. In fact, I wasn’t sure I even believed what they did!

Then a friend- who I later understood has prophetic gifting- took matters into her own hands. She submitted my name and credentials to them…. and then they called.

So, I relented and went in for an interview

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…. I didn’t even know what for and neither did they! There were no formal openings or jobs posted, but they we’re always looking for volunteers.  For whatever reason, they knew I was meant to be there- I was, “supposed to be part of the organization…” as they put it.

They invited me to a leaders conference with three of their board members. I hadn’t even been hired yet and this was uncommon practice for volunteers.

While there, I became triggered and broke down in the women’s bathroom. One of the board members came in and held me in her arms. I ended up sharing my personal story.

She said she knew why I was there: God wanted me to be a part of Healthy Relationships- a team of presenters that goes into high schools and talks to youth about sex, love and relationships. It was honest, raw and vulnerable work, that took brave people willing to get messy and share their story.

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I had barely begun to process this part of my story- the years of pain and heartbreak in my relationships-  but again, my heart knew.

I was terrified.

I had no idea what this would entail, but I said yes and so I began. 

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I volunteered for two years, when the directors role for the program became available. My boss (and his boss) asked me if I’d consider taking the position. I said no. Three times. After all, I had a successful wedding business to run and that was my plan.

Six months went by.

No one applied for the job.

Then, someone didn’t work out.

Still, the position sat open.

Then one morning, a women sat-in on my talk.  I asked her why she was there and if she was considering volunteering for the team. She said no… She was interviewing for the directors role.

Suddenly, I was nerved. Then I became furious. The whole way home, I yelled at God… about nothing. What was this really about? Then, he showed me:

The position was always mine.

I just had to take it.

And accept His Call.

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When I told both bosses what happened, they laughed. They’d known along along…

I felt like the punch line of a bad joke! Like I’d been kept from some grand scheme!

They told me they’d been praying and patiently waiting…. for my stubborn streak to clear!

We completed formalities and the position was mine. I was now the Director of Healthy Relationships Community Education. 

Shortly thereafter, God told me to close my (wedding) business, but it was six months before I obliged.

I knew then, that God was asking me to lay down my life- the hopes and dreams I had and the vision I’d held of my future….

The choice was mine.  I could choose my will or God’s.

I could settle for a life I could build on my own, or I could choose the adventure and trust Him- even though, I couldn’t see what was ahead.

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It’s been two and a half years since then and my life has changed dramatically.

I am living that video, walking inside my calling.

It’s beautiful and scary; natural, yet hard. But, it’s all together wonderful! I am exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing the thing God made me for… in this season of my life, anyway.

God has used this position to heal and remake me, from the inside out. It was a lifeline in my darkest season. He’s refining my character through it and cultivating in me a humble, servants hearts. He’s teaching me compassion and perseverence in the face of suffering and I’ve become a prayer warrior because of it!

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It’s front lines battle work; spiritual warfare in enemy territory. It’s the lions den – every day- as we fight culture and the lies of darkness: the perversion and deception that has infiltrated our world’s view of love and sex.

But I have never in my life, seen God move like he does in this program.

It’s powerful, crazy, edifying work.

I have more God stories and seen miracles, than I can count!

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I know, every day, that I am part of something so much bigger and I’m making a difference.

I’m fighting for the one, where no one fought for me .

 

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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.”

 

When you’re defeated and desperately want to quit

 

I took this photo going into my counsellors office last year.

I felt hopeless and desperately wanted to give up and call it quits. I thought things would never change. Settling felt easier.

Then I walked in and settled on the couch.

In her own words, She said something like this- and friend, it changed everything…

Courage isn’t found in comfort, strength isn’t build in easy places. Both are cultivated in messy, hard soil, which if you persevere, become holy ground: anointed and set apart with purpose and great intent.

They lead us to transformation.

Don’t give up.

Don’t short change yourself because it feels easier.

Push through.

New life is waiting on the other side.

I decided right then and there, that whatever had come to me, had to go through God.

And therefor, it came FOR GOOD.

And I don’t say that lightly- I say that from the most suckered punched part of my heart-made-whole.

What the enemy meant for evil, God used for good: to bring a newness of life and transformation, I never could have imagined– or seen then! It would take months, until I caught a glimpse.

But for the time being, her words were a gift of hope – what I needed to carry on and push through to the other side.

Today, they’re my gift to you.

Carry on, Warrior.

#justkeepswimming #thedifferenceayearmakes #littlebylittle #newlifeiscoming

My living rooms open | Join the party

If you haven’t joined the party yet, this here is my personal invitation…

We’re talking:

  • Faith

  • Motherhood

  • Relationships

  • Freedom

And we’re missing your voice!

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Afraid you won’t fit in?! Impossible..

Grace Clingers, Deep Feelers, Love Warriors WELCOME.

That’s YOU and you know how I know?  Because you’re here now.

The same honesty and rawness you’ve come to know about me here, is there too.

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As I work to complete two NEW and exciting PROJECTS- my book, “Bleeding Hearts” and my e-course, “Know Jesus; Receive God’s love,” – my blog posts are fewer and far between as I channel my creative energies there.

That’s why I want to invite you to my living room floor on instagram. 

I’m sharing parts of my personal faith story never told before, encouragement that works for me when my faith feels hard, lessons from the mundane of motherhood, and the books that are messing with me.

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That thing you’re facing…

This season of life you’re in right now…

The yuck you’re struggling with…

I promise you, you’re not alone!

There’s a tribe of people waiting to prove it to you too, including me!

Come join us, will you? 

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–//

 

Here’s a peek at what we’re wrestling with:

“I wanted to be cool and if I’m really honest, envied. I thought in order to be liked + accepted, people had to want what I had to offer. They couldn’t possibly just like me for me. And that lie, extended into every area of my life: my work, my body, my house, my relationships, my money + my success. I had to be the best. I tried + tried until I almost died. Quite literally…

Anxiety + panic attacks held me hostage. An eating disorder ravaged my body, my moods + my every thought for 15 years. My need for acceptance kept me running every minute of the day trying to prove my worth + please everyone. And I mastered the art quite well! I was good at it. Proud of it even + fooled people into thinking I had life “figured out”. But I didn’t. I was enslaved- chained to my insecurities + fuelled by my fear of rejection. Until I decided to”… [READ THE REST]

 

“You will always regret something. You will always disappoint someone. But it isn’t going to be my husband and our kids.
It has been, but I’m learning. And I’m making things right. And so this morning, I sent the email- afraid I’d be seen as weak or irresponsible, afraid I’d be pulling the ripcord on a career I’d spend a decade building, praying for opportunities like this one… Do I mean all the things I’ve been saying about worth and rest and what matters most, or don’t I?...” [READ THE REST]

 

“I used to run a million miles a minute. I did everything that had to be done and more. I checked off every box and I finished every goal. The thing was, I was still empty inside. Around every next bend I’d find my true identity and my worth- the joy and meaning I was seeking. But it never came. With every new chapter and every new accomplishment I felt more and more frustrated, desperate for something to change. Why was I not truly happy? I had everything I ever wanted… and more.
Slowly but surely, God showed me the culprit. It was” … 
[READ THE REST]

 

 

If you love something let it go. If it comes back it’s forever yours.

‘Cause what stood before was never yours…

 This is the unmaking; beauty in the breaking. Had to loose myself to find out who you are. Before each beginning there must be an ending. Sitting in the rubble I can see the stars. –The Unmaking | Nichole Nordeman

I read it: That my desire to use my gifts for God’s Glory wasn’t enough.

That desire alone isn’t enough, but for years I believed it was.

According to Andrew Murray, in “Abiding in Christ,” in and of itself, our gifts (and our life) are dominated by the flesh; they are steered by our sinful motives. The only way for them to be used for pure good- His good – is for them to be surrendered to him and given back. To lay them down for a time, for God to take back and claim them as his own.

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If indeed God designed for us to use them, he’ll gift them back in his time and in his way, when our faith is more mature; when we’ve become painfully aware of our ever constant need to abide in Christ and be lead by the Holy Spirit; when our grieving of being self-led is stronger than our desire for do our things, our way and in our own strength. 

I thought about it.

There have been countless things I’ve felt God call me to put down; good things even. Things I believe he gave me or wired me for and ways in which I thought I was worshiping and glorifying him!  

… things like my work, my writing, social media, speaking out, running and working out, my weight, appearance, food, friendships, my marriage, my desire to have another child, even reading my bible!

Each of these things he’s called me to surrender over the years- to lay down, give up or let go of.

At the time, I thought for forever, but in reality, it was a season.

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In an act of trust I obeyed, largely without understanding why. That’s no coincidence though. It’s the way of wisdom:

We must first experience and live out truths before we acquire the knowledge and understanding of it.

And I’m beginning to see it now. 

While yes, before God asked me to lay those things down there was much good coming from them. But the truth is, they were still vastly being operated by my selfish motives and vain conceit, even though I didn’t see it. 

Sure I invited God into them, but they weren’t his. They were mine.

I hadn’t yet given them to him to be claimed and cleansed.

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In his mercy, God saved me from myself.  He knew my heart was for him- to be like him and closer to him. And through obedience, he’s taught me things I never knew. And he’s transformed me because of it! 

Slowly but surely he’s given me back the things I laid down but they hold entirely new meaning. I see them differently. And if I’m honest, they somewhat scare me now, because I see how easily it is for my flesh to creep back in and get in the way!

But it’s that fear that keeps me close to The Lord, constantly seeking him and asking for wisdom and discernment; intentionally choosing to stay tethered to Jesus and asking Holy Spirit to lead and guide me in everything I do, say and choose to engage in.

I pray that my spirit will be grieved each time I steer off course or do something that offends him. I want to run back into his loving arms asking for forgiveness and thanking him that he’ll finish the work he’s started in me. 

Because repentance is sweet, friend and conviction is oh, so gentle. It’s like a loving remark that makes you want to do better and be a better person; to correct your wrong immediately! There is no shame in it, nor is there guilt. And when there is, I know it’s not from God.

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But it’s only in my surrender and embracing my flailing, that I’ve discovered that.  I can only say that having walked through it and out the other side- the other side of obedience and laying down the things he’s called me to.

And it’s not something anyone can convince you of, so I won’t even try. 

But I can pray

–// 

Father, you are a good God who relentlessly pursues us with your love,  patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness and discipline. But I confess our eyes are blinded and our hearts hardened. Would you do what only you can do by the power of your Holy Spirit: prepare us and or hearts to receive whatever it is you have for us today. Tune our eyes to see you, our ears to hear you and or hearts to trust you in and out of obedience. Reveal yourself and your will in the ways you know we can’t deny you. Don’t let us miss it and give us the courage to respond! Let your will be done on earth, in our lives, as it is in heaven. 

All the toil
All in vain
Every image of ourselves that we create
Every dream
Built on sand

Let not any passion be for kingdoms we have fashioned in our own name
For our own fame

Let us not be fooled
And let us not be disillusioned
Let our eyes see You clearly

Not to us
But to Your name be glory

-Not to Us | Nichole Nordeman

When true love requires risk and a sacrifice that feels too hard

We finished watching The Longest Ride and it took everything in me to hold back the tears. It was my second time watching it and twice, I’d read the book; which says a lot. I never read books twice…

But it’s not just the sappy love story that gets me; [albeit that does do my mushy rom-com loving heart good] it’s the story of true love and faith that pulls so strongly at my heart strings.

Because true love requires risk and risk always requires faith…

Faith that what you’re risking is worth the potential of what lies ahead.

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In the story, Sophia gives up her dream job at an art museum in New York City for the chance at love with Luke, a cowboy living in rural North Carolina on a ranch- a lifestyle she doesn’t know the first thingy about. Luke, a professional bull rider, now number one in the world, gives up his career for Sophie because of the danger it puts him in each day.

They gives up everything they know and everything they’ve worked their whole life to achieve, for the potential of a life of love.

Neither of them know what the future holds or how they’re going to make it work. And For Luke, the reality of loosing the family ranch is real with the loss of income from bull riding, but still he does it. 

Fate intervenes and through a series of happenstance, Luke finds himself at an art auction seeking Sophia and bids on a “worthless” painting that lands him the new owner of an entire prestigious art collection worth millions. Luke and Sophia end up using that money to create a life together- to save Luke’s family ranch and to open up an art museum for Sophia to run with pieces that have a story and meaning to her.

Neither of them could have imagined this life for themselves and it FAR surpasses the greatest one they could have built in their own strength!

To me, it could only be divinely orchestrated. 

Because that’s the thing with God: He calls us to lay our life down and surrender everything – our dreams, our work, our plans, our understanding- and instead lean on him. He invites us to trust him because his plans are for our good, always. He tells us that it is his desire to bless his children and to give us abundantly, far greater than we could ever ask or imagine! He promises to give us our hearts desire, if we will seek him first!

But we must be willing to hold nothing back, to trust, and to wait.

He begs us to reach out our palm wide,  holding everything in it – everything we hold dear – loosely; to be willing and ready at any moment to lay it down for love- his love- and to where his love will send us. We must have open and unclenched fists to be ready to receive what’s next.  

I can’t promise to know where he will send us – you or me- but I can promise this:

What’s waiting on the other side of our surrender will far, far outweigh the risk and the sacrifice of what we lay down. 

 Because sometimes when it looks like our world is falling apart, the pieces are just finally falling together. 

And when it feels like we’re giving up everything we have, everything and more is waiting on the other side. 

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His plans are always for good  – the best good – and so I cling to that as I close one chapter of my life and wait patiently for God to write the next.

As I finished my final wedding last night, the echoes of people’s remarks stirred inside me:

“It’s such a shame to see you stop doing this!”

“Why are you retiring? You’re so good at it!”

” Your were made to do this.”

“I don’t understand why you’d give this up, especially at the top of your game.”

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And it’s true. Logically and to the world it doesn’t make sense. In the natural, it doesn’t all together make sense to me either. I asked for confirmation, yet again, on the drive home. “God, affirm that I’m doing the right thing.” This movie was it. 

When I first felt God call me to lay it all down- to close my business- I thought I had heard wrong. It was everything I’d worked towards, more than I’d dreamed off achieving and the thing I’d given the best of me to for nearly a decade! My business was my baby. And I had just hit a point where I felt I could finally celebrate hitting “my pinnacle.” Couldn’t I coast for a time and ride the wave of my success for a while? 

Yes, I could and the choice is mine. But God had made it clear: If I continued down this path, then I would be going it alone; doing it in my own strength. I would be settling for a life that I could build in my own efforts, without God. His anointing had been on my business for a time and he had blessed it immensely, but he was calling me else ware now; where, I had no idea and I still don’t quite know if I’m honest. But I do know this: 

The reward will far outweigh the risk and what’s waiting for me on the other side is SO much greater than anything I’ve even dared to dream before. And I want that… so much more than anything I could muster on my own. 

—-///

 

God, I’m trusting you. I want the story only you can write. I want what you’ve got in store, so I lay it all down. Lead me where my faith is without borders. 

Photo Credit: [Last set] Nadia Hung, Studio Jeanie, Matt Kennedy

When you know where He’s calling you but you don’t know where to start

As we sat eating dinner discussing, I could feel the weight of reality suffocate me. Truth is, I’ve been feeling it for weeks. 

Everywhere I look, every person I talk to, every article I read, reaffirms how deceived, how lost and confused our world is. 

When God puts a soft spot in our hearts, he’s preparing us for a calling and a commission, if we’ll accept it. 

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I just naively thought it would feel good…. or easy.

But he’s sending me to hard places and placed a call on my life that’s overwhelming. If I think about it too long or hard, I want to cry. It feels daunting and all together hopeless; defeated before I’ve even begun. 

So for weeks I’m been praying earnestly for direction- for wisdom and discernment –  and most of all, comfort for my worried and weary heart. 

And then he answered, like he always does.

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My bible sat open to Matthew 10 and upon reading the title, I focused in: The harvest hands. 

It was Jesus speaking to his twelve disciples directly after commissioning them to go out and make disciples of all men. These were his words of instruction, of encouragement and of hope as they set out; a handbook of how to’s and why’s, if you will. 

And like medicine to an aching body, his words soothed and numb my fear. 

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Don’t begin by travelling to some far off place to convert unbelievers. Don’t try to be dynamic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right in your neighbourhood. 

Don’t think you need to fundraise before starting. Travel light. You are the equiptment. Stay modest and content.

When you meet people, be courteous in greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in conversation. If they don’t, quietly withdraw and leave. Don’t make a scene. It’s of no concern to you now.

This is hazardous work I’m assigning you; like sheep running through a pack of wolves. So don’t call attention to yourselves! Be as inoffensive as a dove.

Don’t be naive. People will smear your reputation and take you to authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you good; given you a platform for teaching.

 When that happens (not if) don’t worry about what you’ll say. The Holy Spirit will supply the right words.

Because of conviction, people will turn on you; even family. But won’t quit or cave in. It’s not success you’re after but survival!

Be content when they treat you the same as they’ve treated me and don’t be intimidated. Eventually, everyone will know the truth, so don’t hesitate to go public with it now. 

Don’t be silent because of threats. Save your fear. God has your entire life in his hands.

Matthew 10 – The Message 

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I’m no fool to believe it’s only me, friend, because God calls each of us to hard places! He’s equipped each of us uniquely with gifts, to serve and to bless.

So today, in whatever it is you’re facing- in the call God has placed on your life- I pray that together, Jesus’s words would be etched upon our hearts and burned into our mind. Let’s write them on our walls if we have to!

Because the truth is, he’s already answered our every question and given us the information we need.

So let’s not let fear paralyze us any longer or expectations steal our focus. It’s time we take him at his word. It about time we get going! 

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___________________________

Lord, we confess our fear of man and our pride in expectations. We want to do good and be great for you! But the truth is, we’re weak and our ideas are muddled and confused by the world around us and our own selfish desires. Help us to humble ourselves and go where you are calling us, living out your commission and living by your word. Write them on our hearts and etch them in our minds. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, may our lives and our bodies be vessels of life and light – an offering for the greater good. Amen

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I lay it down once and for all | When you’ve taken the first step and you don’t know what’s next

Lord, my words fail me today, so I will borrow them, sing at the top of my lungs, until my mouth is dry, my cords are sore and I’ve got nothing left to give you.

God I give You all I can today
These scattered ashes that are hid away
I lay them all at Your feet

From the corners of my deepest shame
The empty places where I’ve worn Your name
Show me the love I say I believe

O let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all, once and for all

O Lord I lay it down
O Lord I lay it down
Help me to lay it down
O Lord I lay it down

Once and For All – Lauren Diagle 

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I lay it all down today, Lord; my business, my marriage, my dreams and every fear in between.

May your will be done in me. Take this life. I lay it down.

________________________________________

 

Today, I closed the doors of Kailey Michelle Events. Truth is, I knew it was coming, but it took me six months to finally obey God and take the leap of faith. I’m grateful for his mercy and patience, and most of all his gentle kindness.

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Thank you, Lord, for never giving up on me; for finishing the work you have started in me. I wait with expectancy. Let me hear your voice and your call louder than anything else.