I Accept

The love of God.

The forgiveness of Jesus.

The counsel of the Holy Spirit.

I took the quickest moment, in the midst of the anxiety I felt in my stomach, and I whispered a prayer that messed me up. I’m talking snot and tears everywhere.

I said “I accept Your forgiveness, Jesus.”

Apparently that’s all it takes for the chills to hit, and the tears to pour, and the hands to shake, and the fear to flee. A small acceptance, that meant I admitted I needed to yield my burden over. How often do we try to carry it all ourselves, when none of it is our load? The littlest headache and my reaction is to take a small little pill, instead of asking Him to wipe it. The twist in the stomach, the furrow in the brow. And I keep it? Oh, I keep it. I hide it, and keep it, and name it “my problem” and I own it and feed it. I’m a mother to my burdens, a depleted, defeated, diligent mother. All my little fears are ducklings, following me. The lies about my worth, my future, my redemption story, just quack quack quack. The noise is obnoxious, but what do ya do? Well, I’ve been keeping it at home with me. Yes, the same home I share with Holy Spirit, the mind and the heart.

Yet that little prayer… it shook my body. It vacated my being. I felt waves over me, like when you’re standing on a windy beach and you feel the wind rolling over you. His wind blew, and I bet it was just a small breath of heaven. I was freed by the tiniest breeze of holy.

rsbg

In the last few months, I struggled with my health and my sleep. I started to hope for different hours, but met a lot of slammed doors. Almost doesn’t quite count in the real world. Four almost jobs, no joke. That’s a lot of time and effort, and I was getting bitter. Then that fifth opportunity popped up, and by grace, it’s mine. I’m going to day hours in August. I will be sleeping at night like other humans, and for the first time in years I won’t feel like a zombie anymore.

I got the call, and I should have jumped out of my skin, like old me. You know, all “yay” and 15 exclamation points. I would have posted some kind of selfie with a maniacal giant grin and told the planet about my “finally” and my “breakthrough” and gotten a stupid amount of likes on said post about God’s goodness and timing. But nah. There was a part of me, the defeated mother of my burdens, surely, that felt hurt by God. I refused to yield my pain, then I blamed Him for keeping me under for too long. I felt drowned. I remember thinking “sorry I can’t get excited, I’m still coughing up water” and that… is how bad it got.

I finally broke. I had to choose. Hard heart or tender? Stone or flesh? Did I remember what it was like to sheepishly tiptoe into His presence like a child? I needed to do that. In my head I knew Christ’s forgiveness, but I had to say it. And it wasn’t a matter of asking for it, because I knew it was mine to have.

“I accept Your forgiveness, Jesus.”

Done. I asked for His help. Done. I asked to feel His love. Done. I asked to be covered by His name. Done. I asked for the Holy Spirit’s counsel, even when life feels out of my control. Done. The knot in my stomach is gone. Instead, there’s a calm, like when you hold a sleeping child. I feel like I’m that child, so cherished.

We are all prone to wonder, yes, even the believers that “know better.” The “you know better” guilt and shame can rot a person’s faith. The “if you trusted Him, you wouldn’t be so scared” shame and the “if you were closer to Him, you’d know prophetically” shame and the “a believer doesn’t do this or that so you must not be a believer” shame. Thomas had to touch Christ to believe He rose again. Peter sank in the waves and denied Him three times. Believers have the capacity to royally suck. Don’t let that be the end of the story, if you find yourself sinking in waves. Don’t let it replay wrong in your thoughts. Accept His forgiveness, and try to move forward. If you know the storm is coming again tomorrow, and you know you’re going under again, well… accept His forgiveness and try to move forward.

The worst thing isn’t to be unfit, it’s to purposefully hide from the Lord out of shame and to mother the pain and keep it. If it hurts every single day, cry out. Wear Him out with your repetitive prayers. He will move on your behalf. He will move on my behalf. He will continue to soften my heart. He will restore and revive. He will restore my voice. He will remove the shame, every little bit, real or perceived. He’s already done it, but for our sake, He will do it again and again, as we accept His love, forgiveness, and counsel.

Jesus, we accept Your help.

God Isn’t Willy Wonka

Have you ever found yourself greatly discouraged and flipped through your own notes/pictures/prayers with God, and those scribbles ministered to you? Yep.

I’m discovering through a really rough season that my faith in God is a foundation. You can’t tear down a wall without running into your foundation. It’s incredibly important to solidify your faith, to spend continuous time with God, to read the Word on a day-to-day basis. Take notes. Take pictures. Highlight and underline. Make your ebenezers, your celebratory mile markers. Build your history with God, so that when the storms come (and oh, they don’t stop), you’ll have a deep understanding of God’s nature.

20131209_174020Many times, I’m sad to say, I have doubted His goodness and His presence. It’s the most obvious thing about Him, His goodness, yet we don’t quite know how to reconcile suffering with the goodness of God. We can’t exactly explain slammed doors, and fear, and the long, silent wait. In time, sure, yeah. You can explain anything in time. It’s like saying “I sat at a traffic jam for 17 years, but then I got ice-cream, so it’s all good.” And one thing is completely unrelated to the other, and honestly, disproportional.

We confuse privilege and prosperity with God’s love. When I go to Six Flags to ride the rollercoasters, I buy the gold flashy passes and waltz through the park skipping every line. It’s not like that with God. We don’t get Favor passes, unfortunately. When we’re preached “Favor” gospel, we set ourselves up for pain. You’re not guaranteed your whole dream jar, and that really stinks and it’s really sad. It’s okay to grieve that. The gospel is that struggle is SO real that we NEED a Savior, and we have Him. Jesus! He’s the reason for joy, not answers or gifts or temporary things, even if they’re good things. We need saving because life is really hard. He’s not Willy Wonka, He’s more like Liam Neeson. Welcome to the reason I’ve been silent.

I’ve challenged a friend in the past with the question “why is it better to go through THIS right now versus your best-case scenario?” She met me with a long pause. She started to think about her weakness and how her patience was getting tested. She was on the edge of herself, really. And it made her look at God and point, and have a heated conversation… which is much better than a rushed “thank You” prayer, if you think about that for a minute. I’ve been having those staring, silent prayers with God, where I just get my forehead all crinkled up and pout, and stare like He’s holding out on me, like I’m skeptical of what He’s up  to. And He stares back, I’m sure of it. He stares back with the “OH REALLY?!” face. Like “Really, as if I would hold out on you, to what? Torture you? To tease you? Don’t you think I have better things to do than put you through misery? Really?”

And so we stare at each other. And if I stare long enough, I can see the fire in His eyes, and it eventually, slowly, looks familiar again. Not like some distant jerk or anything, but like my Best Friend. The One who was there when I was all alone. The One who led me through places I never knew I wanted to go. That Guy. He’s pretty good. I remember Him.

Turns out that staring fights are okay with God. He’s not mad about it. Turns out we’ve got history together. That history is worth something.

His ways are higher than mine, period. I won’t get it, and also… I can’t. I wasn’t meant to understand it all. It’s a scientist’s biggest nightmare, the mysteries of God. Why are certain things so easy and why are some so darn difficult? Why do some things happen quickly while others take forever? Why are transitions always so uncertain? And why does pain flash like a camera, in your happiest days? Why is trauma a thing? Why can’t healing happen faster? Why are there so few guarantees in life? Why do we go through times of particular, intentional deprivation? How are we able to be brave in the Spirit when there are so many very logical reasons to be afraid? Why does life so often feel like a gamble instead of a plan?

I don’t get it. I don’t get any of it. Give me some kind of medal for arriving at this particular milestone of ignorance/bliss. I don’t have answers. I know Him, and He purposefully maintains answers from us, probably because they’re just too complicated. It’s like explaining this upcoming election to a 4-year-old. No, thanks! Maybe this is the best way: to not know, to not understand. It was the original way in the garden, before we disobeyed to try to know more. Not knowing makes us reliant on Him, even when that reliance is somewhat forced since we literally cannot understand things with these brains and hearts. At least love isn’t forced.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
-1 Corinthians 13:12

I look forward to that full knowledge and vision, and every day I’m closer. Until then, you’ll find me trying my best to stay the course, reading old journals, and anchoring deep on the truth of the scriptures. I pray you build your foundation with God, so that you know the way to His arms by heart when you can’t see the steps in front of you.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
(Ps. 126:5)

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
(Ps. 27:13)

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.
(Ps. 71:20)

Trolls and My Vain Book Cover Story

Did you know that I put my face on the cover of my first book? There’s a story behind that picture, and I’ll get to that, but first, let’s talk about trolling.

I got some hate mail today.

The sad part is this person doesn’t know me at all. And for that exact reason, I had restricted access to most of my posts on facebook, like I did with a LOT of people. Like I’ve said in the last few blogs, I’m taking big steps to reel back my privacy. My instagram and twitter are now private. My WR blogs are password locked. Facebook is slowly but surely getting cleaned up. Nonetheless, this individual took it very personally when they found their access had been restricted. And then she trolled me.

Truth is, I have a lot of “facebook friends” which really translates anywhere from family members to people I literally met once, eons ago. Facebook gives you a personal profile, which gives curating abilities to each individual user. Coming from a social media management background, I’m very used to deleting comments and even having to restrict users for various reasons, big and small. When facebook originally started, there was no home feed. You didn’t scroll through everybody’s posts like a log or newspaper. You had to type your friend’s name and go to their “page” and write on their wall. Back then, there was a whole lot less trolling.

Capture

 

 

 

There are people on facebook who love to troll. Trolls let their true colors shine through, and write things like this to people who restrict them:

Trollcity

Yeah. SALTY. Cue Taylor Swift, man… THIS is called TROLLING. I just wanted to bring AWARENESS of the reality of trolling and tell you that there are people who should not have access to you online. Period. There’s nothing in the Bible about loving your neighbor by tolerating these kinds of hurtful digs. It’s not healthy. If someone is being deliberately offensive and trying to provoke others unto anger, it’s okay to remove them from your network ONLINE and reduce communication.

If this person had reached out to me and said “Hey Helena, I noticed that I can’t see your posts anymore and it upset me. I know we barely know each other, but could you tell me why I’m now restricted?” Then I would have said “Hey so and so, I’m sorry to hear that hurt your feelings. That wasn’t my intention. I have been trying to limit posts on facebook to close family and friends (it’s a long process) and I’ve been putting a lot of people on the restricted list, so please don’t take it personal. Thanks for reaching out to me, and it means a lot that you’d want to keep up with my more personal posts. I’ll take you off of the restricted list, okay? Keep in touch! I hope you’re doing well. <3” And golly, I would have meant 100% of that if I had received a heartfelt message. But no… they got salty about my book cover!!!!!!!!!!!!

wpid-unnamed-1.jpg.jpeg

SO NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT MY VAIN BOOK COVER.

I wrote a book last year. My first one. It’s a devotional. My heart was to give people fresh ideas on spending time with God. This is what the cover looked like.

book

As you can clearly see, my face is in the picture, outlined. It’s pretty dark. You can see my hair is a hot mess and you might be able to tell I had just hiked up a mountain to see the sunset. I was scouring through all the pictures I’ve ever taken in my life to try to find one that would look cool on the cover. I almost bought a picture, but then I thought “no, Helena, you have had cool Jesus moments and sunrises and sunsets, you have got to find one that’s yours, maybe one you’ve written about” and it was between a sunrise picture from Savannah, GA or this sunset one. The problem with the sunrise picture was that it was a lot of sky and a tiny sun and then water, and the title would have been on the top, and the tiny dot and line of color, then the name on the bottom. It didn’t look pop. This one had the texture of the outline and you can see the faint teeny tiny dots of the Atlanta skyline on the horizon.

Let me tell you what this picture means to me and why I chose it. I had just moved to Atlanta (big city) from Gainesville (small town). I was officially living in a rough neighborhood. I hadn’t made very many friends at this point. I had been invited to a game night that night, but I was already halfway to hike Stone Mountain for the first time, and I really needed to spend time with God. I turned my “new friends” down and said I needed to hike with Jesus. So I did. The whole way up the mountain, God encouraged me. I heard His truth about me. I was affirmed in my identity as His daughter.  I wrote this blog about it. This happened 9/23/14.

Almost exactly one year later, I was editing the book and released in on 9/22/15. I re-released it later due to some printing issues, but it felt like a hike anniversary. If that cover picture had not happened, the book would NOT have been published the way it was. I had to know who I was in order to be able to write about different ways to spend time with God. God reminded me of my identity in a hike, and my prayer was that God would remind anyone who cared to read the devo about HIS heart and THEIR identity. I’m a vessel and I’m not anonymous. I’m a daughter of God. I won’t hide that I know He loves me, and I chose a seemingly vain book cover, designed it in the wee hours of the morning, and decided that it was only fitting that one of my breakthrough moments with God could illustrate the contents of the devotional.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the intro of the devo…

“Spending time with God doesn’t have to be an hour-long reading time. It doesn’t have to be silent. It doesn’t have to be anything like it’s ever been. You can go have a hike with Jesus, or prayer walk the dog, or sing your heart out in the car all the way to work. You can ask God questions, or doodle, or make up your own psalms. We’re gonna try some of these things, but I want you to be empowered to try anything. God is pretty creative. He thought the platypus was a good idea, for crying out loud. You don’t have to sit for an hour every day, or feel like a bad Christian when you miss a day. God is awesome and He is crazy about you, and there are never-ending ideas of how to get to know Him more.”

That’s the thing I wanted to say, in 138 pages or so, in my very first book. I put in a lot of time and prayer into it, and the last thing I’d want is for someone to think I was shallow in choosing a cover? It was intentional, but definitely about spending time with God and being affirmed in one’s own identity.

I hope and pray that you’re keeping a healthy check of who is allowed to speak into your life, and that you know that God sees your heart. I challenge you to be careful with the internet, because people can blast you and embarrass you, and attack the very things you work so hard to maintain pure. Like my little brother said to me yesterday, “You know you’re doing something right if there is resistance” and it’s true. I have incredible friends and family, and my God is faithful and kind beyond measure. In the end, He’s the One we each have to face, and I look forward to that glorious day, because by His grace we have clean hands and pure hearts.

Why the Miss Universe Fiasco Hits Home

They say you can’t lose something you never had. That is, unless Steve Harvey reads the card wrong.

I sat here with my eyebrows to the sky, in disbelief, as I watched the video clip of Steve Harvey announcing the wrong 2015 Miss Universe, then attempting to correct himself. It was so sad/awkward/funny that I realized a few things while I was thinking about it. This situation hits home.

We’ve all been in Miss Colombia’s shoes, haven’t we? We thought we had it, and then it got taken away from us. Shame came, and embarrassment. We had to stand there awkwardly and try to be happy for somebody else. It’s the job you didn’t get but so-and-so got, and the guy you had a crush on that actually asked your friend out. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve felt like the first runner up, the next best thing, the salutatorian, the silver medal. Second-best sometimes feels like dead last. And so we cringe as we watch the crown being removed from Miss Colombia’s head. We cringe because we’ve been there.

And Miss Philippines also shows us a familiar situation. How many times have we been hesitant to be happy, because of fear and confusion, or maybe even out of courtesy for others? She’s never gonna get that moment back. She was announced Miss Universe and she hesitated. She smiled but fear was visible. She didn’t get to jump up and down and have the crowd clap just for her. The moment, her moment, was ruined. I sometimes get scared that this will happen to me. What if my most precious moments are somehow ruined? What if I hesitate instead of enjoying them? Let nothing hinder your joy.

There are lots of Steve Harveys in the world, you know. There are people who make mistakes and cause confusion. They’re given platforms and microphones, and they say the wrong stuff. It messes people up. They sometimes preach the opposite of the truth, in loud, confident voices. And people are misled. I pray that if you ever got misled, that the truth would rise up in your heart and your mind and would begin to lead you. Question the statements that rule your life. Are they true? Where did you learn them? Who said them? Does God agree?

Last but not least, we’ve all been Steve Harvey making the big mistake. We’ve said words that we wish we could grab from the air and stop from reaching any ears. We’ve stood loud and proud, and wrong. Painfully wrong. And it stinks to be wrong. Nobody enjoys it. I hope you learn to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. I hope you release yourself as quickly as you would release someone who made a genuine mistake. If you’re the type to beat yourself up, so am I. But friend, we need to stop it. We need to stop because we are setting an example to others when they need to forgive themselves. Grace flows this way too, perfectly.

All in all, I saw an opportunity to experience growth in that disaster. I have so been there, and haven’t we all? I pray for those who are hurting and angry, for healing in their hearts and release of the repeating thoughts in their minds. I pray for grace to abound in the little fiascoes of our lives.

DAILY DEVOS RETURN…

As you all know, the #ATLdevo began back in September of 2014, and ran until about August 2015. Every single day, I made it a discipline to write what I was learning with Jesus, and posted it ONLINE, and not only that, but delivered every morning to the inboxes of 80+ people. NO PRESSURE!

atldevo6115

The feedback was incredible. Just incredible. Let me quote some of the emails/texts/messages I’ve gotten throughout this year of writing…

“We, your devo followers, are so thankful you said yes. I know you’re growing from it and it’s a big encouragement.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you for your obedience in doing this devotional. This devotional continues to raise me out of so many heart-heavy situations.”

“I look forward to these devotions every day! Thank you for your heart! It is making a difference in my life! Thank you for your obedience!”

“Oh my goodness, you don’t know how your messages speak to me. The last couple of ones I find myself crying and asking God for more of Him!”

“Very thankful for your ministry here. It’s been too long since I journaled about the goodness of the Father and too long since I’ve been still and quiet early in the day. Love the prompts as well! Keep serving faithfully as you are!”

“Thank you for your inspiration and interaction with daily verses and uplifting words. Your obedience to God is one of the many gifts He’s given. You are a treasure to those of us receiving them.”

“Thank you for your daily devotionals. Really great stuff and God inspired.”

“I have been going back and reading the Phylla House devos: SO GOOD! I might use them next year for my class :D”

“Thank you Helena, for allowing God to use you in our lives! Today’s devo… it was exactly what I needed.”

“Your devos are amazing and I can hear your voice as I read them! So great! Thank you for blessing me and so many others with them already!!!”

These are quotes in reaction to the devos I wrote in 2014 to 2015. I picked 100 of those devotionals and published them in a book! You can buy that book here!

book

Why am I charging for this book? Well… I have 80+ people who got it for free, one page at a time, via email and reading the Phylla House blog where the devos were originally hosted. The subscribers actually got more than that, because some of the devotionals didn’t make it into the book. After that, I prayed hard and pulled the devos from the blog, edited them fiercely, and published them in tangible form.

The cool announcement is that I’M DOING IT AGAIN!!! Fresh devos, page by page, delivered to your inbox, free as birds, imperfect  probably, full of late-night/early-morning Love.  You can subscribe to the Phylla House blog and see it unveil one page at a time, as God teaches me over the next year. How does that sound?

And then, God willing, at the end of 2016, I’ll revise the devos and publish them in book form once more, in time for you to gift them to your friends and family, having “already read it” if you know what I mean 😉

I hope you’ll come along with me.

The journey starts again on January 6th, 2016.

Much love,

Helena

Emotional Abuse and Neglect

November 13th. It would have been my 7 year wedding anniversary this week, ya know, had it not been for the divorce.

I chopped my hair off, my beautiful long, blond hair and I felt so free! Of course, I asked his opinion many times, and he approved. I wouldn’t have cut my hair had my husband not approved! I thought that the change would make me more noticeable, more attractive. I wanted to be attractive, so he would look at me. I just wanted him to really look at me, instead of the computer screen he was so drawn to. I remember meticulously curling my hair, and walking into the bedroom to show him. He was at his computer, and he turned for half a second and looked back at the screen before he mumbled “looks good” and kept clicking. I felt a wave of shame wash over me. My eyes teared up. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Nothing I did was good enough to beat the screen. All that clicking wasn’t just for the games, but also for pornography. I never knew what he was really looking at.

Attention and conversation. How demanding, right? I wanted to be in relationship with the person I had  married. I felt ignored and unseen. I felt helpless, angry. I didn’t know how to express it. I was 21, and I didn’t want to be a nag.

I had an alcoholic college boyfriend call me a “bitch” once. Yeah, I typed it. It hurt so much to hear that word that I told myself I would never nag again, and that I would especially never argue with a drunk man who wants the bathroom door CLOSED while he’s puking. I thought he needed some air. My bad. Don’t even get me started on alcoholism. I’ve dated 2 alcoholics and I’d like to say that’s 2 too many. Nothing like having to drive his truck home every single time we went out in public, because Chugga Chugga couldn’t stop, and then cleaning up his puke in the bathroom because Chugga Chugga couldn’t handle his liquor. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. You’d think those were easy breakups, but they weren’t. I loved their families, loved their mamas. Good hearted men who loved me dearly. They just loved drinking a little bit more.

I’m sure I didn’t look thrilled day-to-day. I’m sure my tears got super old. Ew. What a drag! I’m sure my attempts to talk through it all were just SO draining to him. SO draining that he would say it felt like “cutting his chest open with a knife” every time I brought THAT up. Super. Guilt. Bottle it up. Never bring it up again.

devo2

I found out how crippling and painful it was to marry someone who was addicted. Someone who valued a “THING” over their spouse, and any THING over Jesus. It was painful to watch the person you love the most waste their life and hurt themselves. I didn’t want to have children, and yet I wanted them so I could have someone to look at me and see me. Wow, right?

This is how the divorce started. This.

I daresay many divorces start like this. One person feels unwanted, over and over. They go looking for attention, for affection. Rejection leads to adultery. The opposite of the gospel, really. The very thing two people swear to one another at the altar, to be there for each other. Broken vows left and right, man.

BUT GOD… has shown me fantastic, healthy marriages. Men who are powerful leaders, making Spirit-led decisions, praying over their families, and boasting on how hot their wives are. They are the flower-pickers, the ones who hold the woman when she cries instead of telling her to stop. Men who are not perfect, but their priorities are right. To honor and cherish their spouse, to be home for the family, and to be present, devoted. Oh and these men are praised, let me tell you. Their wives go on and on about how wonderful, handsome, godly they are. Incredible fathers. Fantastic lovers, when the ladies are giving TMI! Oh, what a gift. My favorite person. My great love.

I believe firmly that it takes a change of heart to cause a behavioral change. God has to move in the heart. God has to break the chains of addiction, of fear, of rejection. God has to be sufficient. Idols have to be laid down. And grace has to abound. The ones who love us the most will fail us miserably from time to time, and that’s no surprise. But the ones who truly love cannot, cannot, CANNOT think that emotional abuse and neglect are acceptable behaviors. Women have to stand up against it, as do men.

Ladies, don’t marry the little boy who ignores you.

Men, don’t marry the little girl who turns away your affection.

Wait for people who love you well. Commit, then. And if you’re in a marriage like this, frozen cold like Elsa’s castle, feeling all alone in your frosty attentionless and sexless wonderland, I’m so sorry. Get help. Talk to mentors. Talk to a counselor. Talk to JESUS. Talk. Talk before you cheat. Talk before you leave. People CAN change, but they have to want to. That’s where Holy Spirit can come in and do His job.

I pray a blessing over people who are dating, that they have the discernment to lay down communication and their emotional needs out on the table before marriage. That they understand mutually how important this is. I pray a blessing over marriages that are struggling, that God will open up eyes and ears and hearts to LOVE. That those addictions have to go, in Jesus’ name. That sufficiency will be found in Christ, so that we can love other people well. I pray for the divorces that are about to happen and I intercede, Jesus, for the ones who are hurting SO much. If emotional abuse bruised, they’d be purple and black. Jesus, have mercy on their broken hearts. Be near to them. Bring them renewed hope.

7 Lessons I’ve Learned from Ministry

You name the ministry, I’ve probably done it. Homeless. Door-to-door evangelism. Special needs kids. Teaching. Orphanage. Preaching. Healing. Prophecy. Manual labor. Cooking. Worship leading in languages I don’t even speak. Mentoring. Writing. Sunday school. Women’s ministry. Hiking mountains to go visit sick people and do church in their homes. Going into bars to befriend prostitutes. God’s given me the opportunity to start a ministry, and also a glimpse of what it’s like to jump behind the wheel of a ministry I didn’t start. God can use any of us as vessels, and it is His utmost joy to do so. From all that jazz, here are 7 lessons I’ve learned…

1. Let Holy Spirit do His job.

389026_10150915761510194_140302104_nI can’t tell you how many times I’ve approached situations and tasks with my logic, and fell on my face. I’m talking EPIC FAIL. I rushed in with my YES when I should have said NO! The most important thing I’ve learned is to take the time to ask God what He’s doing, and give Him time to be the First Responder. Holy Spirit is gonna do a much better job bringing conviction to a heart than any of us could. Holy Spirit tenderizes hearts. He heals. He gives us information we couldn’t possibly know, which is heaven’s intel for you to do what needs done. Our job is to be willing to agree with what He’s doing and saying. We need to be attuned like Jesus described in John 5, doing exactly what He saw the Father doing. Another example is when Jesus didn’t show up to heal Lazarus, because He was on Father God’s timeline. Had He showed up on time, Lazarus wouldn’t have died or been raised from the dead. Yield to Him! One nugget for you: desperation is an invitation to enter into God’s chill zone. Any time you feel RUSHED, especially in ministry, guess what? Press pause, even if it’s an internal pause. Have a moment with Holy Spirit and say “hey, what’s the big picture?” and listen. Slow your roll. God is not frazzled, because He’s not losing.

2. You can do it anywhere.

compassWhatever ministry you do in Thailand, you can do in Georgia. It breaks my heart when people “come home from the mission field” as if there is such a concept. We’re not home, yet. If a certain people group or ministry broke your heart overseas, don’t stop working with them. You can move somewhere far away to tend to a crisis, and many times God will call on the willing to go. But let me tell you… sitting with widows in Nicaragua and sitting with widows in Georgia feels pretty similar to me, except we’re speaking English. Holding a special needs baby in India and holding one in Texas was the same feeling of overwhelming joy to me. Don’t let your address dictate your calling. Sometimes you’re gonna go overseas, sometimes you have 4 kids and can’t. Doesn’t make you any less of a missionary, with any smaller of a heart. The poor are everywhere. The homeless need hope. Kids need instruction and parents. The broken need a shoulder to cry on. The baby believers need teachers. Same same, but different.

3. You need to be ministered to, probably more.

devo2They should have a show on TV called “So You Think You Can Help People” and make contestants go to counseling for a long, long time. Newsflash: you’re super imperfect and messy and you need a lot of help. Once you get that through your head, you can drop the act and get real. We are vessels, and we can give what we receive from God, that’s in 2 Corinthians. That means we ask for help, and we invite people into our lives to call out our mess and make us deal with it. Mentors, counselors, brutally honest friends… give people the double scoop on what’s going on in your heart and let them minister to YOU. Receive it. When you run into a hurdle, grieve it. Life is hard, yall, especially when you go and put yourself out there to help others. You’ll hear some stories that hurt, and see some things that stick with you. Don’t let pride lead you to trauma. Take care of yourself… on that note…

4. REST.

1526621_10103504744396170_959411098518940348_nBurn out is real. You need time to smell flowers, and stick your feet in the ocean. You need a drive with your windows down, and breaks from whatever is super difficult. PLAN TO REST. It’s not selfish. It’s a commandment, if you’re gonna get technical. The work will be there for you when you get back, I promise. Take the time. Bubble bath. Movie theater. Road trip. Trail run. Whatever it takes for you to hit reset and calibrate yourself to the rhythm of God’s breathing. Jesus would sneak away. Be like Sneaky Jesus and take your time away.

5. Leave the 99.

decaturWe all know and love that sweet parable of the lost sheep that wanders off, and the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 to go get it. What does that mean for you? One time during a women’s ministry meeting, I knew someone was missing. And I knew they needed to be there, and that something wasn’t right. I left the meeting and went to pick her up. She had been having thoughts about hurting herself, and I showed up at her door. Don’t busy yourself trying to get your validation from 99 that you miss the opportunity to do what the Good Shepherd would, which is to know His sheep and take good care of each one.

6. You’re never stood up.

notebookcryThis is kind of a joke, because yes you are. All the time. If you do one-on-one ministry with vulnerable people and set up 4 meetings, and actually end up with one meeting, guess what? That’s okay. People cancel. People sometimes don’t show up. Plans change. All the babies get sick. Sometimes you cook for 5 and end up eating alone, and you cannot take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. I’ll say it again: it’s not about you. Don’t let yourself get bitter and give up on people. God sees your heart, and He gets your frustration. He also rewards you. Keep showing up, just like Jesus does for you, and know that when you pour grace on someone who can’t make it (instead of shame/disappointment/anger/frustration) they will experience that grace, and maybe that was the whole point of the meeting anyway. Check!

7. Don’t wait for permission that is already yours.

oh-manIf you look at the greatest scholars, they started out as babies, pooping themselves. Their brains may be brilliant, but so is yours. Their organs are the same as yours, their hearts beat and so does yours. You can disqualify yourself from contributing to the Body of Christ by comparing yourself to someone up on the stage, but let me save you the time and tell you that’s silly. God teaches you things every day if you listen. Little things and big things. My favorite thing to do is ask people what God is teaching them today, and wait for the answer. There’s always something. You hear Him, too. He teaches you things that He may not have taught me. You have something to bring to the table that is unique and much, much needed. The Bible says you’re competent as a minister of the gospel! Did you know that?! Jesus didn’t have a flashy diploma, nor a rich upbringing. He wasn’t privileged, but He certainly knew His Father. We’re loved equally and there are no favorites. If you’re older, you could mentor a younger one. If you’re younger, you could be a great friend to someone, and have deep conversations about God. You have God’s permission to do Kingdom work, and it’s unlimited. Go do the thing that God put in your heart to do.