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!

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

Change of Plans

Today was a stressful day. It shouldn’t have been. I like to say that when life bumps you, what’s inside spills over. Today, I got a reality check, and what spilled wasn’t pretty. It was worry, anxiety, and frustration. I was able to hand more of that over to God, and the hand-off was not super graceful, but it’s in His hands now.

My boyfriend and I have been in conversation for about 2 months about going to Brazil to visit my family. The trip was going to be in the last week of December/start of January. That was the original plan.

Then, my job declined my vacation request. We had sort of decided to go the following week, but he just started a new job and has no idea what that schedule holds.

We hit another roadblock in planning, and you know how I love those? I love those. Yeah no, this is the most frustrating thing.

The airfare prices went up while we waited to hear back, and then they went up again. The window of visiting while my brother was there is over. I can no longer afford the airfare to go visit my family as per planned. The trip is loosely postponed until our availability at work matches, and the airfare prices are reasonable. My brother will just have to visit me when he’s on spring break next year. This is what life is like living away from everybody you’re related to, and trying to bring a significant other over. It’s not easy, or glamorous. There are a lot of tears and dropped calls, and savings tapped out, and conversations about mileage. There are plans laid down, and delays that hurt, and one very chubby baby I can’t wait to hold again, and one super wonderful aunt to laugh with, and one beautifully comforting grandma, and tall cousins, and the mountains I grew up with, and pounds to gain from the best food in the world. I’ve never brought a significant other with me to Brazil, so you could say I look forward to giving him that honor someday. Just a little bit. Okay, it means SO much.

Today was the day I accepted that this trip wasn’t going to be when I wanted it to be. It may not even be in January at all, God only knows. I’m one tired girl with a heavy heart, but I know that God’s timing is perfect. What’s a few more weeks or months, right?

I thank God that everyone is healthy and that there’s no rush, but I also plead with God to not delay this too much. He sees my heart and He loves them infinitely more than I ever could. He’s the One who chose them to be my family, and who led me all the way to another continent at such an early age. He had a grand purpose for all of this, and He will continue to redeem every difficulty.

I lay my plans down, along with my hopes, heart desires, and expectations. God’s will is better. I will wait for that. Please be in prayer for peace, clarity, and rest. Grace for changes. And then more grace for changes.

Love,

Helena

The Fear of What If

I’ve been through it all.

Most of you wouldn’t know how hurt I’ve been and how low my lows were. I will spare you from my resume of pain and suffering, and just say pain has a scale and definition to me. I know and trust in God’s goodness to me, but I am also acutely aware of the brokenness of this world and the freedom that others have to do as they please with no regard to the wellbeing of those they hurt. I made the choice a while back to not let the hurts change me into a hardened person. I asked God to help me remain tender, soft, kind, and sympathetic. I asked Him to fill me with hope and give me a positive outlook. I’d like to think I’m remaining true to this, since I guess I’m practically a carebear. I cry when I’m happy and I try to feel, even when feeling hurts. I stopped beating myself up for “not knowing better” or being too trusting, when really I was just trying to love people well. For all intents and purposes, we shouldn’t be expecting to be betrayed all the time. The word for that is paranoia, and that’s not for me.

Lately, I’ve had a lot of good things going. I got a good job, and I like my city. I have a nice boyfriend, and I’ve been making new friends. There’s a lot of peace and quietness, and you know what happens when there’s a lot of peace and quietness? Well, the enemy hates it. Thoughts tend to run wild. And then that old fear comes along, you know, the one that worries I will lose it all again. It brought up so much anxiety in me, but then I decided to do the opposite of what I normally do. Usually, I will tell myself all the positive things and drown out the dark with sunshine, rainbows, and glitter.

This time it’s different. I decided to take a minute to get really honest with Jesus, and get right down to it. Jesus, if I lose it all again, will You carry me? Will You patch my heart together again? Will You give me just enough strength for the day again? Will You feed me, clothe me, hold me, and love me?

It felt like vows. For better or for worse. For richer or for poorer. In sickness and in health. I gave Jesus my worst case scenario, and He said “Yes” and now I’ve disarmed the enemy. The bomb is deactivated. The nightmare has no sting. If I should lose it all and find myself where I’ve been before, guess who will be with me then as He is now? My Jesus. My feet have found the solid ground again, the unchanging part in the storm.

This gives me more grace for others. That means I’m not so scared of them anymore, because I’ve made my peace with the risk and with my Guarantor. I can love a little harder, and try a little longer. I can breathe a little deeper, because I’ve already wept for the possibility, and I have surrendered all the control to Jesus.

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Though I hope and trust that things will be good, that the day will be sunny, and that God will fulfill my heart’s desires here on earth, I have my peace in knowing that He is my portion. He’s my inheritance, and all that is good in the land of the living. Apart from Him, there is no good thing. I am living Psalm 16, my God, it is my heartbeat, my breath.

Father, strengthen my hands to receive Your promises, but train me to cling to You. Sharpen my eyes. Refine my words. Make me hunger  for the things of You, only. Do not let me get distracted by anything that isn’t for Your Kingdom, because I do not want it. I don’t need it. Let me root down and be immovable in Your truth. Make me so brave and powerful in the Spirit, that the things that do not belong cannot coexist with me. Clean house, Papa. I give You full permission, and I know the cost.

Let me laugh at the days to come, with full confidence, not that the outcome will be pleasant or easy or favorable for me, but that YOU will be unchanging through it, and the punchline of my life. I can laugh at that. Oh death, where is your sting?

Re-receive

After stepping out of the “regular world” and immersing myself into the wild abandon of the lifestyle Jesus had, I came back really different. Maybe it was the selling of pretty much all my stuff, watching my washer and dryer get loaded up on a dolly and wheeled out. Watching my couch get carried away. Loading up my big flat screen into my car and then putting it in a friend’s car, never to be seen again. I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t purchase another tv for the next 4 years and counting. I didn’t know I was done watching “all my shows” and that I was done collecting crosses to put on the wall. I thought those things were really important. Then it was all gone and I realized they weren’t important.

I used to feel super entitled to my paycheck. I thought there was a separation between ministry and “work” and I didn’t see my job as holy. Which is a problem, because then I didn’t see my check as “provision” but as my earnings. My money. As if. As if! As if God wasn’t sustaining my every breath, my every scientific thought while I made decisions at work. As if God hadn’t breathed on me so I could have enough strength to get out of bed every day, as if He didn’t guide my car on the highway, as if He hadn’t held me together 24/7. My Sustainer. If He ever was uninvolved, I would cease my existence. I didn’t know that. I thought I was independent.

I came home from my trip and lived in abandon for a while longer. Community house with 25 roommates. Volunteering my time at a nonprofit. Learning in every way and shape possible. Living on sheer kindness and whispered prayers for paychecks.

Now I tell you, it was so worth it. I learned to see my day-to-day as holy no matter what. I learned to recognize Jesus in every situation, the Source of my contentment in the “even so” scenarios. I’m a full-time Medical Laboratory Scientist again, and I’m getting blown away by Jesus showing up at work.

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I see His reminders around the hospital all the time. He’s all over it. He’s doing heavenly things in the midst of my earthly things. In the blood bank, I used to stamp with bright red letters “RELEASED” on forms for returned blood. And I saw that Jesus stamped over me with crimson as well, that very word. I used to allocate the due portions of blood to patients, and I saw that Jesus was faithfully allocating to me what was due me, according to my needs. I used to have to look in the microscope to confirm a result, to see cell by cell flowing freely so I could be sure my eyes weren’t fooling me. And Jesus looks into our hearts to the cellular level, and He sees everything so clearly. He set us free, cell by cell, and we must agree with that freedom.

As I put on gloves and a coat and pull shields to separate me from the things I am examining, I am humbled that my God does not feel the need to separate Himself from us any longer, that our problems and our failures do not make Him wince or shrink back from us. Jesus reached into our world, without gloves, without a coat, and got messy with us. He got infected with our death and our sin, and He indeed died from it on our behalf. Yet He conquered it all, so that we might not ever feel disgusting or separated. We are no longer infectious with death, but LIFE. We are no longer offensive to God’s holiness, but carriers of it. That’s crazy.

As I put tubes of blood in the centrifuge, they spin and spin for a certain amount of time, at an exact amount of revolutions per minute, and they come out separated: the plasma/serum stays at the top, which is the part of the specimen we use for our Chemistry tests. As the Lord places us in difficult situations, we emerge more sorted out. He uses the things that rise to the top. That part of us is able to receive fresh revelation. What rises to the top of you when you’re spinning? Is it a strong faith? Is it persevering joy? Is it a patient grace? Is it a wise word? He uses these things to give you holy answers to questions you’ve been asking your whole life. What rises in you when you’re centrifuged?

And the latest Jesus moment I had at work, out of many many many ones, was this morning. So, all the computers and analyzers are constantly talking to each other, relaying information. When we receive a tube of blood on a patient, someone scans it in at the front and “receives” it. It goes on record that we have it, and now the clock is ticking for us to test it and result it. This one particular test goes on a certain analyzer called the Architect. The Architect talks to the computer up front, and gets a list of all the tests that are coming its way. It makes a to-do list on the screen. You following? Okay. So this morning I had a tube in my hand that had been received. I walked up to the Architect and checked the to-do list and: uh oh. That patient was not listed! That meant that 1) the Architect didn’t talk to the front computer about this tube and 2) the Architect wouldn’t know what to do with that tube if I loaded it in. So I asked my coworker what to do, and she said in a nonchalant way “Oh, just re-receive the specimen.”

Um what? What’s re-receive?

And she said “you go back in like you are going to receive it for the first time, and you change the receiving time by one minute, just to make the computer think again. And voila, the Architect picks it up. It’s a glitch.”

And so I did, and it worked. I checked the Architect screen and there it was, the patient I had in my hand had “come across” the system after I re-received the specimen.

So what’s the holy point?

Sometimes we receive things and we have them, but part of us still doesn’t RECOGNIZE what we have. It’s a GLITCH of our earthly nature. We have something wonderful and we don’t understand it. We don’t know what to do with it. And we have to RE-RECEIVE it, as if for the first time, so that we can align ourselves with the reality of having it. Because we so have it.

I wanted to remind you today that you HAVE God’s approval. You HAVE His permission. You HAVE His love. You have TONS of grace, for yourself and for others. You have enough grace to forgive everybody who has ever wronged you, big and small. You have been forgiven for your mistakes. Yes. And you HAVE peace. Patience. Kindness. Self-control. Goodness. Faithfulness. Yes, you HAVE them. You don’t have to ask for them any longer. You have a peace and patience factory bubbling up inside your heart, called the Holy Spirit. And you have His fire and His power.

If you don’t feel like you do, you might need to re-receive it all. Re-receive the Holy Spirit. Get Him like you’re getting Him for the first time, just so that you can grasp the reality that YES, He’s all YOURS, along with all His benefits.

These are the kinds of thoughts I have at work. This is why my journey was worth it. I came back different. I stepped away so I could see Jesus. And now I see Him everywhere. You can take the girl out of the “mission field” but you can’t take the mission field out of the girl. I pray for your eyes to pop open to every little piece of Jesus around you. And if you must, I pray you go on your journey to seek Him, as far and wide as you need to go. You’ll find Him.

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photocred Dura McKnight

#11n11 worldrace.org

Started From The Bottom Now We Here

We look at stories of people who started from scratch, and we admire them so.

Self-starters! Visionaries! The world applauds their determination to succeed against all odds, and honestly, I can relate a little bit. When I moved to America, we sure didn’t have much. When I first filed my FAFSA, which is the form you fill out for college financial aid, the government expected my family to be able to contribute $0 to my college expenses. That was accurate. I studied and I worked, received scholarships and grants, and a few loans. I came out with an honors diploma. Cue celebratory rap song.

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Not only do we celebrate this kind of hard path, we look down on the other one… you know… when people are given stuff by their parents. We call them spoiled. We question their appreciation for what they have, because well… they didn’t “earn” it, but instead they were given these things. And we judge them. We judge them, even though they have to steward what they’re given with the same amount of responsibility as anybody else who comes to own those belongings. When you own a car, whether you bought it or not, you have to take care of it. You still have to understand what you have, and know how to manage it. And if you don’t manage it well, soon enough you’ll be a pedestrian again, right?

The world makes life about “earning” stuff. People both ignore and celebrate the orphans who have no parents and no inheritance… the orphans of the orphans of the orphans…. and all the while, all those orphans want to build is an inheritance. They want to build security for themselves and for the next generation. They ultimately hope that their kid will be judged and spoiled, a child who has an inheritance, who has an easier path… a child who doesn’t have to start from the bottom of the pit and claw their way up.

We should take a long, hard look at our theology, then, if we judge the children of families and we admire the disadvantaged, but only when they manage to break the mold. We judge the disadvantaged when they fill our prisons, when they prostitute themselves, and when they become addicted. We don’t celebrate their predictable outcomes, do we? We don’t take even a moment to pity them, to put ourselves in their shoes, to adopt them, or to visit them and tell them of a Family they can belong to. I promise you it’s the most humbling thing to befriend a prostitute and hug them, and tell them how worthy they are of love. I promise it’s life-changing to go to a prison and look into the eyes of the condemned, and tell them about a Guy who did away with condemnation. That’s the kind of thing, though, that only children of God can do. No self-starters get these kinds of perks. We have to lay ourselves down to become His children. And then He begins to blow our minds with what it looks like to belong to Him.

All this hit me while I was thinking about inheritance. What does it look like to have God as my Father, truly? What does it look like to steward the inheritance He gives me, aka gifts I DID NOT HAVE TO EARN?! I have so many of those, you guys. It’s ridiculous. And the funny thing is that I TOTALLY DESERVE THESE THINGS. You read that right. It’s no typo.

I deserve what the Father gives me because I’m His kid. You ever give your kid an ice cream cone and send them on a whole “I DO NOT DESERVE YOUR LOVE VIA ICE CREAM CONE!” rant? Nope. Not even a little bit. Kids will just say yes and more, and happily dig into it. And are we not called to be childlike? I think this is what it is. To stop beating ourselves up with the gospel of false humility, to stop questioning so much that we are worthy of His love, because obviously we are worth dying over and He says we belong to Him. We are so very worthy, in ways we may never understand, but that’s okay. We are loved and we are His. And because of that, we have an inheritance, and we deserve one. Once we get over these things, we can move on to thinking of how in the WORLD we’ll actually steward this thing properly.

What does it look like to open our hands and say “Okay, let’s do this” and accept something bigger than ourselves, given to us to love and take care of? I’m learning.

I’m learning how to steward hearts. Jesus gave me keys to a whole bunch of hearts. I have access to the deep parts of so many people. It’s like a counselor and a friend and a sister, all mashed up into one. I have keys like that. I get to love so many women, truly love them. I get calls and texts and messages from total strangers, and once we get on the phone, I ask “Okay, how did you hear about me?!” and hear their various responses. Then I hear their hearts. I hear bits of their stories. I ask how I can serve them. I give them my best gold nuggets of wisdom, unafraid of their reactions haha. And I am blessed, BLESSED to get to pray with them. Sometimes we walk through inner healing. Sometimes they forgive people while on the phone with me! Can you just imagine that kind of breakthrough! Tears, y’all. Lies coming off. Trust issues addressed. Anger shoved aside. Prophecy and revelation for their lives. THEIR HEARTS ARE TREASURES and I get to step into them! The honor is heavenly. If you want to get a call, you know you better just ask right now!

I’m learning how to love deep and wide the man of God in my life. He’s a TREASURE. We’ve both had birthdays in the past couple of weeks, and it was the sweetest thing to plan a fun date and buy him gifts, and receive his sweet gifts. He gives great gifts, just like his Father in Heaven.

What got m1240504_10101870265764450_579034297_ne on this inheritance roll, though, was this season of graduation of my first year of ministry school, and the opportunity I’ve been given to step into leadership of a nonprofit widows and orphans ministry. I get to be their Executive Director, and they’ve been going as a nonprofit for 7 years. That’s a huge inheritance, fam. I see God honoring my faithfulness to step into a learning season, and then giving me this giant graduation present of loving on Ugandan widows and orphans and reminding them how incredibly WORTHY they are. They are His Pearls, and my new sisters and jjajjas and kiddos. I have so much family now, and I love them. It blows my mind that Jesus trusts me with them, but He totally does. He’s like “SURPRISE!!” and His face is so full of excitement, and His eyes dance over me, watching my joy rise to meet His, my awareness coming in to fully absorb the fresh heavenly reality of a new piece of my inheritance. I had left a piece of my heart in Uganda, and now I realize it was a seed. It has grown!

And I forgot all about my orphan days. I forgot that I started from the bottom, and now I’m here. I forgot that I put in any kind of work, because my Father is the best Father, and He gives me extravagant gifts, like hearts and sunrises and nations. He walks me across bridges I’ve never been, and tells me secrets. He takes me up high on hot-air balloon rides, and to exquisite gardens. He clothes me with dignity and strength. And I tell you, I promise you, I never ever have to work for this kind of inheritance. Not for a minute do I need to worry, or labor, or behave as to earn anything. It just is mine because I have the Family name.  And it’s yours, I tell you.

On the sidenote of service: knowing who you are in Christ makes you better at serving, because it revolutionizes service. Jesus was King AND washed feet. He did it from utmost royalty, even the most humble of acts of love. That…… that’s the example. That’s not a self-starter, but a servant-hearted Son. Nothing was beneath Him. He didn’t HAVE to, but chose to. He could look people in the eyes and truly love them. That’s the heritage of a really really good Father.

What has He given you? With what piece of the Kingdom have you been entrusted?

Don’t buy the lie for a second that you have to build it yourself, earn it yourself, or keep it yourself. You can work hard, you can appreciate, and you can steward, but you too will forget that you ever started from the bottom.  You know how to receive and how to give. You know how to release gifts back to the Father, and know He’s trustworthy to keep them for you. You are His beloved. You are His chosen. You are favored. Oh, and you are trustworthy with the treasures that are most precious to the Father’s heart.