June 27, 2016

Saying Goodbye - Piece by Piece

Yesterday, our friend and pastor stood up on stage and taught our church for the very last time. Every week for the past five years, I have listened to this man teach and challenge and correct me. Even during the really dark months with Harper when he and I could not attend church with the rest of the family, I would watch the sermons online and his words would help me get through another long week. God has used David to soften the soil of my heart more than I could ever explain.

He is the best teacher I have ever had. 

But, that isn't what I will miss the most. I will miss going to David and Sue's house every Wednesday and just doing life with them. I will miss Sue's sheepish giggle when I say something out loud that she would never, ever say... but is gracious enough to still find amusing. I will miss the banter with David. The jabs, the jokes, the back and forth attempt to rile each other up. I will miss the last-minute can-you-find-a-sitter dinners out because someone "has a gift card." I will miss seeing them parent, hearing them laugh, hearing them pray, and eating their homemade cookies. I will even miss the hot flashes. (David's, obviously.) 

You see, I don't feel like my pastor has resigned. Because it's more than that, they feel like my family. And, that might not seem like a really big deal to a lot of people at my church. But when you have gone your whole life terrified that when people discover who you really are, deep down, they will learn that you are not a good girl, that you're maybe too rough around the edges, that pieces of you are missing or broken, that you don't fit the mold... Being loved and accepted by people like David and Sue, is a really big deal. It's that healing kind of love. 

During a time in my life when I had no father in the picture and was living away from my brothers-in-law, David was a spiritual and emotional father and brother to me. This was a healing kind of love.

During a time in my life when I processed through so much hurt and junk from my past, and questioned my worth and the ability to be used by God in any way, Sue empathized with me. She gently encouraged me, and lived out the kind of grace and faithfulness I wanted to emulate. And she loved me in my ugly process. And this was a healing kind of love.

Here's the thing though. They have never been those people that you end up worshiping the ground they walk on because they're so amazing. They are amazing. Maybe the most amazing ever, but you can't fall in love with them without falling more in love with their God. And every second of my time spent doing life with them only pressed me harder and harder after Jesus than ever. 

I have never known anyone in a position of such significant notoriety that I still had this much respect for. Thousands of people have been fortunate enough to listen to the words of David's sermons every week for the past 15 years. But most have not had the privilege of watching him and his family diligently LIVE OUT those sermon words day in and day out. I have so, so loved watching them and learning from them and annoying them along the way. I have loved it, and it has been a healing kind of love.

A while ago, I saw this YouTube video of Kelly Clarkson working out all her daddy issues during a live performance of her song Piece by Piece. I could relate so much to her because I also have a pretty strong track record of spilling my baggage at inappropriate times and nobody knows that better than David and Sue! But the song is beautiful, in it she talks about how healing it was to be loved by her husband  who taught her to rethink what a man could be like. When I heard the song (and literally every time I have listened to it since) I cried like a newborn baby. I cried because I thought of the men I have known who have been a healing presence in my life. I thought of Tom, primarily, because watching him be a daddy has taught me so much about how a father loves his children. I thought of my brother-in-law, Joe, who was my dad and my brother right after I had lost both, and he taught me how a man can love a girl that wasn't his own. And then I thought of David. I thought of how he and Sue have taught me how my Heavenly Father loves me as his daughter. 

Years ago, when one of my little girls was scared in the middle of the night, I prayed with her and reassured her that she didn't have to be afraid because Jesus is real and he is always with her. She said that she knows that Jesus is real but that she just wants "somebody with skin on" to stay with her.

See, I knew that my Heavenly Father loved me, and I knew that I was his daughter. But, sometimes the little girl in you feels alone, and scared, and you just need someone with skin on to show you what that really means. 

David and Sue, thank you for being Jesus with skin on when I was alone and when I was scared and when I was lost. Thank you for staying with me. And thank you for a gospel-centered life filled with truth, grace and above all, love. The kind of love that shines so brightly that it reaches the darkest and most broken places in me. 

June 2, 2016

Giving Purpose to the Past

I broke my rib.

It all happened a couple weeks ago when I fell down the stairs eating a rice crispy treat. 

You might think those two things are unrelated... You may think, "so you happened to be eating a rice crispy treat when you fell, but you didn't fall because of the rice crispy treat." But, you'd be wrong in assuming that. I think I might actually have fallen in response to the rice crispy treat. It was good. Like, seriously good. And I guess when I took that first bite (unfortunately on the top step) it was as if nothing else really mattered anymore. 

Including walking.

So, I fell. And apparently my rib has zero street cred because it experienced one tiny, dessert-related tumble down a flight of wooden stairs and now it's all... just, giving up on life.

The worst part was that I landed ON the rice crispy treat and when I came to, it was stuck to my back, like a jerk.
Peeling dessert off one's broken self is a special kind of low point. But that first break wasn't the worst part. 

It's the constant reinjury.

This past week I had the opportunity to be the keynote speaker at a five day conference for college students. It was an amazing time of learning and worship and shenanigans. I was able to bring my husband and our five kids, which was a lot of hard work but also really fun. Most of you think we are already insane for having five kids, let alone bringing them places... and most people would voluntarily break all their ribs rather than attempt to wrangle that many humans in a new environment. 

I hear that, and it's a toss up honestly. 

But the horse-to-child ratio there was really strong, so that helped. #notevenalittle But they did have a great time, which is good because doing what I did this past week is pretty much my dream job. My mom told me that ever since I was a little girl I would say that I wanted to be a "motivational speaker" when I grew up... so I am thrilled that my family is supportive and looking forward to (hopefully) being dragged to many more events to come. 

Followers of Christ talk a lot about giving, and that is such a good thing. We talk about giving our time (to serve others, to volunteer at church and in various ways within our communities), giving our money (to support the local church, missions, and to extend generosity to those in need), and the giving of our talents (using your voice to lead worship, use tech skills in production, or organizational strengths to assist on the administrative end of ministry.) These are all good and Biblical ways to give, and they are things that I have spent my life doing. (Well, not the leading worship part, because my singing voice makes people throw things.) 

But as I laid in bed this weekend, in tears, over my poor broken rib that had just been freshly kicked by my son on accident, I sensed that God is asking me to give more than my time, my money and my talent... He wants me to give those hidden pieces of myself that He has redeemed, and washed clean. Those broken bits that God has bound back together. Those messages and those wounds that are ugly and sometimes still unhealed, sometimes perpetually being reinjured. He used the image of that broken rib getting kicked to remind me of these spiritual and emotional wounds that we all have... those things that get rewounded by this life, and inadvertently kicked by people - even those who mean well and truly love us. I can attest to the fact that just like a hug can cause pain to a broken rib, even love and kindness can hurt if you have an unhealed emotional wound.

I was reminded of the importance of letting the God of the universe heal those wounds. Not just so we can have relief from the constant pain, but so we can give and receive love in healthy ways, and so we share our stories of hope with others. I was reminded of the importance of giving of my self. And that includes my ugly past. My baggage. My fears and insecurities. All my broken places. God's desire and willingness to make all these ugly things in me become new and beautiful is the overriding theme of my life. This weekend, I wasn't stingy about sharing that message. I didn't hold back from sharing the stories of redemption in my own life. 

Sure, It's hard to give away our money. It's sometimes even harder to give away our time and talent. But, what if, what God wants us to be most generous with, is our story of how Jesus has and is changing us? 

It hurts to have old wounds or splinters bumped. It is scary to draw close to a group of people, and trust them to be gentle with your wound story. But, I think I am all done protecting those broken places, because when we keep nursing our old wounds, we miss out on the privilege of God using our stories to trigger healing for someone else. 

I have always loved to tell stories. Whether that is through writing or speaking, it is definitely how God wired me. Sometimes I wonder if God has allowed me to experience a lot of trauma, grief, and tragedy because he has designed me with an irrational willingness to be utterly transparent. I don't want to waste my baggage, my trials, my insecurities. I don't want to hold so tightly to my life "stuff " that I waste an opportunity to share those stories of His triumph in my life. Because I gotta be honest, it feels like more than a fair share of struggle sometimes. #thereisnoquota 

So, I am resolving to pursue this thing as a communicator. I will write and I will speak, if and when God puts opportunities in front of me. I am begging him to heal those wounds from my past that tell me I don't have anything to give. I am walking away from the pride and self-obsessive insecurity that keeps me too embarrassed to finally launch the website I bought and have been ignoring, eh hem... "working on" for TWO YEARS. I am putting myself out there. I am offering myself and my stories up for His use, however He sees fit.

So there ya go. I am officially available for hire. I will speak at camps, retreats, conferences, small gatherings... shoot, I will do children's parties as long as I don't have to dress like a clown. Because, gross. And because, well, I am not a child-predator. 

I won't have the website going for a while, but in the meantime I will continue to blog here. And I will keep sharing stories and I will keep being vulnerable. And when I start to feel that crippling self-doubt... I will remember that it is fair to doubt myself, after all, I say things like "child-predator" in a blog about Jesus. But my hope isn't in me. My hope is in a God so capable of redeeming, He is even willing to use someone like me.