Why I’ve Been Silent

I used to write about once a week, sometimes twice. I also used to write a devotional every single day. All these things went out to a set list of readers, straight to their email inbox.

Then life got a bit more complicated for me on the emotional zone. I began to feel that this would spill into my writing and change my voice. I didn’t want anxiety or any root of bitterness to seep into a single word, so… well… I stopped writing. I asked God to prune away what needed to go and help me to heal, so that when it’s time, I can step back in and be more effective and fruitful in ministry.

Taking time to pray hasn’t been wasteful yet. Reading the Word after prayer has proven to be both helpful and hilarious, if you’re into that sort of thing. Just yesterday, I was praying for the Lord to help me, and afterwards I found myself in Isaiah  41 reading these very words, like a direct answer:

I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

When these “coincidences” happen, I laugh and cry.

I’ve been silent, also, because I’m praying about beliefs and actions. You don’t have to ask someone what they believe when they open their home and heart for a foster child, or adopt a child, or spend their time volunteering at a community pregnancy center, encouraging and loving others through some of the most difficult parts of their lives. There are people serving in the most dangerous parts of the city, selling their nice homes and moving in to where NO ONE wants to live, to change the damaging culture created by absent fathers, substance addiction, and violent gangs. That’s a lived-out belief, not a hashtag trend. I want to live out beliefs, and that requires sacrifice. Also known as dying to self.

Once upon a time, I sold all my things and jet off around the world and “did that” and I came home all messed up, but with great intentions. I thought I could “do that” here, and I think I somewhat did. I reached out into people’s lives and did a lot of praying with them, and a lot of writing. I planned things, but then I said yes to things I shouldn’t have said yes to, like OTHER STUFF that wasn’t the original “that” I was gonna do. I put my effort and energy in other cookie jars of different causes and I burned out. I mean, I really burned out.

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Even in this, I can feel God’s love and pray, but I can also sense a humming frustration inside me that longs to DO things. The “yes” versus the “I can’t right now.” It’s like an injured athlete on the sidelines, watching the game. I want to, but I also know this is a time to heal and a time to be silent. It’s a time to listen and inhale, and wait. God’s truth and love for me are the same now as when I was living in a tent in a foreign country. When I get the green lights from Him, I will gladly spring forward again.

In all of this, I ask for prayer. Prayer to discern WHAT God is asking ME to do, and not do the “holy scramble” that is driven by guilt and fear. Prayer to boldly step into the lives HE is asking me to step into, via friendship or fellowship or service. Prayer to be patient and listen to God’s leading, so that I can know I obeyed HIM and not any external or cultural pressure. Prayer that God will help me “reset” and that 2017 will be a fruitful year after this time of pruning, waiting, and silence.

God will be glorified through this time, and in time, I will see the purpose of it all. I can trust He is working all things for the good, and sustaining me in the silence.

Fighting For Peace

There’s a fine, dotted line between letting something go and standing up for oneself. It feels like a seesaw, where it’s not any fun when you’re always letting things go and becoming a bitter pushover, and it’s no fun at all to make a fuss over every bump on the road. A wise man once told me to pick my battles, and that’s still a challenge for me. In poker, it’s the difference between knowing when to fold versus staying in the game to win with the bluff. It’s a skill I haven’t acquired yet, but I’m learning. I’m learning how to fight for peace.

If it sounds like an oxymoron, that’s because it is. Jesus sometimes turned the other cheek and preached on forgiving 70 times 7, but He’s the same guy who walked into the temple and turned tables over with a whip. He’s the same guy who wasn’t afraid to ruffle the feathers of the religious leaders and call them white-washed tombs, and goats, and all these pretty harsh terms. He defended the adulterous woman from the stoners (haha see what I did there). He fought for our peace by laying down His life on the cross, and then rising again. That’s pretty tough and bloody.

I used to think the higher road was the quiet road. I used to think that the stronger person was the one who was able to bottle up their feelings and donate them to Ariel’s thingamabob shelves in the bottom of the ocean, never to be brought up again. I thought that people who stood up for themselves picked fights, and were labeled emotional and ill-tempered. And who would want to do life with those people?

Thinking like that, unfortunately, caused me a lot of harm. I tried to control situations that were never mine to control. I internalized frustrations, which grew to hurt me over years and years. I made up rules in my head of what to say and what not to say, and I believed lies about myself and others. I judged people on the inside and tried to do life with them on the outside. I began to expect failure out of several friendships and relationships, and by golly, I was right. Failures galore. All because I didn’t speak up when I should have. I let problems grow.

When I didn’t have health insurance, I only went to the doctor when I really needed to. Now that I have insurance, there’s this lovely thing called a well visit. I can go to the doctor on a sunshiny day, on a somewhat regular basis, and see just how well I am. It’s maintenance, not repair. Speaking up is a lot like maintenance. Good communication shouldn’t be procrastinated for the crises. It may feel like a confrontation, but it’s normal. Conflict is actually normal, but how we view it is what makes it grow exponentially into a negative experience.

We’re technically supposed to consider conflict a joyous thing, if you want to get Biblical about it. Conflict comes into the picture carrying a little silver tray, to serve you with maturity and depth of character. Your character shows. Do you get scared? Do you yell and say horrible things? Do you hide? Do you get defensive? Do you listen? Do you speak with kindness? Do you look for exits of grace, ways to move forward? Conflict reveals what’s in your heart, because it usually flies out of your mouth and circles your thoughts. It can turn into a well visit with God, or a surgery down the road, if we keep ignoring the problem.

dac738fc0d99f3fd891635167f44f0cdMy latest heart check revealed that I am a scaredy-cat. I have also grown a bit into a pessimist. Maybe I’ve been watching the news more than letting my mind dwell on what heaven is doing? With every layer, I find myself having to forgive people from my past, over and over. I never realized how much of an influence their actions and those events still have over me. The fear of those things happening again? Ridiculous. Wanna know what I learned from it, though? Every time we increase in trust, we also have to increase in courage.

Courage and trust are besties, inseparable. When we get moved up a notch with the Lord, and He asks us to surrender bigger pieces of our hearts and dreams, we have to ante up with courage. Match the bet. Cough up those chips to play the round. We have to remind ourselves that we have been given a Spirit of courage, not of timidity. We weren’t made shy, but confident. It’s not a bluff play. If you’re suddenly feeling more fearful, you might be swimming in a deeper pool. It might be a good thing. You might have gotten upgraded in faith, and you may have to accept the fact that yes, you will need to grow, and yes, you will need to get braver.

The Lord is within her, she will not fall. He is with you wherever you go. He has your right hand. He doesn’t let your ankles turn. He hears your voice. He speaks to guide you. He strengthens you. He gives you rest. He takes those heavy burdens from you and carries it like a total pro. It’s easy to Him. He can reach it. He overcomes it.

I pray you know how and when to speak up, that you don’t let yourself wilt inside. I pray you don’t let problems grow because you’re scared to rock the boat. I pray you know that God is not trying to torture you or hurt you in any way, because He delights in you. If anything is trying to steal, kill, and destroy you, it’s not Jesus. He’s the fullness of life Guy. He’s the complete joy Guy.

That’s all I have for now… I pray God multiplies it and applies it where you need it.

Overflow and Fairytales

As a child, it was so easy to believe it all. I wanted to be everything when I grew up. Well, now it’s here. I’m grown up. This is the age when adults do adult things. I’m turning 29 in less than a month, and the people I babysat are grown up, too. As for me, I’ve been cleaning a lot, giving away some things, and making space for my reality.

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I backed off of the internet big time in the last few months, if you’ve noticed. I deleted the Facebook app and deleted a lot of people off of my “friends” list, and made my Instagram private. I almost stopped writing blogs altogether. Crazy, right? The truth is that Facebook isn’t ME. I’m a person, flesh and bone. I live in Atlanta. I have a phone, and an address. I drive a car, and I get coffee and meals with friends and my boyfriend. If you want to be my real friend, I’m available. I’ve been available since 1987, whereas I only got on Facebook in 2005. Back then it was just for college kids, and I wish it had stayed that way. It was much more useful to message someone in the same chem lab and get a study group together, instead of sifting through hoards of cat videos and awkward political posts that fill it up now. What’s the use? Pictures. Information. Announcements. Gender reveals. I would hope that my friends would tell me directly, right? When my best friend got engaged, I heard directly. When one of my best friend’s grandfather passed away, I heard directly. I don’t need the birthday reminders to tell me when my family has a birthday, or when one of my closest friends is turning a year older. It’s almost like we’ve settled into an audience seat instead of being IN other people’s daily lives.

I’m backing off of that so that I can make room for reality. And this is what I wanted to write about: reality.

This is my reality: I work over 40 hours pretty much every week between two jobs. That’s overtime. I get home and sometimes I’m wired, and sometimes I’m super tired. I have a few best friends, and I am head-over-heels in love with my boyfriend. I write a devotional on my spare time, because I think there are people who are willing but want direction. I secretly enjoy teaching, but openly enjoy writing. I think the Bible is inviting and approachable, and it makes me want to go there. Women’s ministry has blurred more into relational ministry than anything else. One friend is finally selling her wedding dress, and is praying that the buy is finalized soon. One friend is going through a tough divorce. One friend is looking at moving to a smaller place. One friend is celebrating that her child is finally cancer-free. You see? It started out as “ministry” but now it’s blurred into friendship. I’m working on boundaries and praying through what that looks like, but I’m beginning to understand that what started out as a “mission” and “calling” is slowly becoming my lifestyle and not something I switch on and off. This is me, and I have a heart for women and discipleship. I am also learning what parts of my life are reserved for only my closest people and mentors.

Now let me tell you about fairytales and overflow: they’re real. It’s a thing. Psalm 23 talks about God’s anointing and His perfect ability to shepherd us unto overflow. Overflow is a real place and a real concept for you and me. If you’ve been on the struggle bus like Job for years and years, don’t forget to read the last chapter. Don’t forget God’s punch line to that story of suffering: double restoration. That’s overflow. Jesus was crucified and buried, but He rose again. Overflow. Don’t get it twisted to call it a fairytale, and roll your eyes, and discredit it as naiveté. Don’t get embittered to the point where you despise the promise of God’s very real abundance. The only thing that could ever disqualify you from God’s abundance is your unwillingness to receive it. SO. I have three little words for you:

OPEN

YOUR

HEART.

You might need to tell your mind to shut up. You might need to tell your mouth to shut up. You might have to change everything you have, and start wearing bright colors again. Paint a wall sky blue. You might need to start hanging out with younger people who sing pop songs and eat lollipops, because you need hope. Roll down the windows of your soul and stick your head out. Play in the rain. Believe that it can happen again, that love can happen, and grace can happen, and that a new adventure can happen for you. You might need to get your passport and go somewhere insane, just so you can get over yourself. I challenge you to it. I challenge you to overflow, or rather to believe in it again. Believe in laughing til you cry. Believe in stomach butterflies. Believe in moments you can’t photograph, like a hot pink sky as the sun rises and little snowflakes fall down. An afternoon rain, falling on the greenest of grass. Counting shooting stars on a rooftop in the middle of the night. Digging your toes in the finest of sand, wondering just how the water could be so blue. Holding that person’s hand that feels so warm, knowing what an insane blessing it is to be in love and to be loved in this short life. Having a little child tell you that they love you, and giggle at you, and pull you to play. THAT. You can only have these things, truly, if your heart is open to appreciate them.

I thought my plant was about to bloom, but it took 22 days for it to actually bloom. Sometimes we think things are just around the corner, and we get disappointed in the waiting. Rest assured, that bloom was worth the wait. Whatever it is you’re desperately waiting for, expectantly, I pray you don’t lose heart. I pray you find your brave moments of joy while you wait. I pray you keep your heart open and stay willing to receive it from God in His perfectly unrushed timing. If it took 22 extra days for a tiny yellow flower, I believe the Lord is also working inwardly and purposefully on your promise’s reveal.

There’s a tragic thing that sometimes happens to people who have been through so much pain, and that is they forget what carefree and happy looks like. They’re traumatized and that trauma traps them like a bug under a jar. The good news is that we are made new in Christ. New means new. New means stop replaying it over and over in your head. New means stop dwelling there and move. New. New looks different and even acts different, and it’s not faking because it’s… new. You have permission to be new, you know. It’s not cheating on your past to be new, it’s giving your present a purpose and your future a chance. Jesus has the gift of “new” for you, and he wraps it with carefree paper and ties it with a ribbon of happy.

This life is only so long, and I pray you’re alive in yours, with the powerful ability to make an impact as an adult, yet the wonderful privilege of receiving overflow like a child.

Heart On Fire

Today I had a conversation that lit my heart on fire. It was about the things of God. It was about carrying the essence of home, namely heaven, here on earth. It was about being a servant, being honoring, and trusting in God. We sat there in that pinteresting coffee shop, buzzing about what God had done and what He would do. Hope was stirred up. I’m supposed to be sleeping right now, but I am WIRED. And I don’t think it’s the latte caffeine. It’s pure passion and hunger for God.

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My friend got a picture of me being in the eye of the storm, where it’s perfectly peaceful with everything swirling around me. Then as I saw this, I realized that the storm was happening but it couldn’t touch me, hence I was causing an “eye” in the storm, while walking forward through it. My season of “waiting” quickly changed in my perspective into a season of walking through the storm. I’m in motion, but I am in a process of overcoming. It’s not easy, but every day I’m closer. You cannot imagine how much it helps to think of it that way. I am covered by God’s goodness and mercy, and I’m pushing forward with my signet ring on. There is some major action happening and there will be a big result from this time of obedience. I can barely handle the excitement and the encouragement that my friend’s prophetic words stirred up in me. I feel victorious, which is a miracle. I was feeling rather victimized and powerless, but we know well that isn’t how I roll.

God made it a point to tell me that it’s time for me to begin to host people in my home, and also drive people to the airport. I am driving someone to the airport tomorrow morning, as she launches on a mission trip. It’s happening already!

I got a call from Adventures in Missions asking me if I’d like to lead a trip to Haiti. My heart skipped a beat, but I had to say no, as I’m already scheduled to work that week. But oh, the invitation was sweet. Just a 10-day trip, but OH MY GOSH. I long to step on new soil and make disciples. God willing, it’ll happen soon. It was a delight to be thought of, and to be offered the opportunity. What a sweet honor.

cdfwThe beat is turning around. I am skipping to it. I am confident that God is doing something crazy, and just in the last 3 days, I’ve felt extremely sought after. I don’t know if God is just sending out a “text and call Helena” beam to my people, but I’ve been overwhelmed by requests to hang out, calls, and texts. Coffee dates, worship nights, encouraging phone calls, and quality time. I feel like God is trying to make a point through this sudden outpouring of invitations, trying to wow me in a way. It’s working. I am blown away by God’s kindness and compassion, His concern for me, and the way He goes all out to show me I’m on His mind.

My love tank is full this Tuesday. My heart is on fire.

Lean

You’re gonna laugh, but tonight I needed a hug. I started to type about how much I just wanted a hug, and that’s how this blog was going to start. My love language is physical touch, and sometimes at the end of a long day, I just need a big hug. There’s an unspoken reassurance in it that I can’t quite explain. So I was sitting in the lab, thinking about how I hadn’t had a single hug all day, and I told God I wish I could hug Him. At once, the doorbell rings and it’s  one of our blood delivery guys, who is basically my Kenyan Dad. He’s all smiles all the time, and his name is Jeremiah. You won’t believe the words that came out of his mouth. He said to me from across the room “You are my sweetheart! Receive a big big hug!” and he opened wide his arms and gestured a hug to me. I fought back a giant lump in my throat and wobbled my way over to him and got my big big hug. He said it again “You are my sweetheart!” and I knew exactly what he meant. I felt so very understood by God in that moment. He sent me a hug via a very, very excited Kenyan Dad. It was the perfect timing.

God knows what you need. He knows what you want AND what you need. Sometimes the want isn’t a need, but sometimes it really is. God knew I needed a hug, and He provided. I could go curl up in a ball and cry about the kindness and the sweetness of God. He understands me and He knows how simple of a creature He wired me to be. I am dismantled, absolutely dissolved by a simple hug. If He knows me this well, I can guarantee He knows you just as much.

Not only does He know what you need, He also isn’t delayed or holding back from you. Sometimes I’m tempted to think that I’m doing something wrong to delay God. I sit there and drive myself into a tizzy thinking that I’m “in the way” of God doing something. I say things like “God, if I’m doing something wrong here and messing up Your plan, then tell me and stop me!” and then, almost as soon as the words come out of my mouth, I realize how ridiculous of a concept that is. I can’t mess up His plan. I can’t get in the way of it. And when I’m sitting there, heart busted open, ears straining to hear His voice, and eyes squinting to see His face, how much more surrendered could I possibly be? Be it so unto me, Lord. Do what You need to do, Jesus. Here am I, Lord, willing and able by Your grace. Let’s do this, whatever “this” is. I have to trust that I’ve done my part, and that the ball is in His holy court. Then comes the fun part: waiting.

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MY. LEAST. FAVORITE. THING. EVER. is waiting.

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I will come up with 1000 distractions, some fruitful and some not so much. I find myself literally making things up as I go. Gee, I guess I’ll study for this test and try to take this certification. Gee, I guess I’ll write another book. Gee, I guess I’ll google beaches in Crete, yolo. I’ve read 2 books already within a month, which is a lot for me. I beat a Sudoku puzzle on the most difficult level–without cheating! I have no problem filling up my time, distracting my brain from the fact that I didn’t plan for this. I didn’t plan this far out. God sure did, though. And I’m waiting on Him to send me a fax with my 10-year plan.  Until then, I celebrate the hug I got from my Kenyan Dad, and I trust in the Father who provides for my every need, without fail. He makes all things beautiful in His time. How tightly we cling to the Guide when we cannot see!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, right? Here’s to leaning into hugs, waiting, and truth.

The Fear of Emptiness

There’s a selfish fear that lurks around and keeps us from doing the very things that bring us the most life. Yep, I titled the blog with it, so it’s no surprise. Emptiness.

If you narrow down your surface level fears to the core, it might just end up in the same place… you don’t want to be empty/alone/weak/exposed. You don’t want to fail. You don’t want to feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again.

Baby, you wanna be a firework.

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I’ve done ministry a lot and it can wear and tear at you like a sport. It can hurt you if you don’t take the time to stretch, if you don’t adjust your posture, if you don’t make sure you’re doing God’s workout and not your own crazy flash diet.

Here’s my situation: I thought I could kinda slide into a small corner and hide a little bit. I wanted to lay low. I wanted to live normal and not lead for a little bit. I thought that sounded restful, and that it would feel good without the pressure.

The problem is that if you’re not pouring out, you’re stagnant. If you’re not giving what you should be giving, and not speaking what you should be speaking out into the world, into the ears that are listening for it, well… you’re holding it in. And the words are fading with you, and weighing with you. They are rotting in there, waiting to get out. And there’s a timeline, too. Words do expire. God does give you a theme for a season, and if you shy away from sharing it, you have to let those words go and listen for the current thing. It’s a painful cycle if you’re not releasing what God keeps teaching you!

The fear is that the effort of mentoring/teaching/leading/healing/working/showing up/committing is going to change your normal and your life to a point that it spins out of your control and is no longer enjoyable. The stress will then build, and there you go: empty. But it’s not true, is it?

The times in my life I can remember I felt fullest were the days I showed up with nothing and God provided everything. I remember driving to Phylla House meetings half hyperventilating, half crying, half complaining that I would probably get stood up, and show up to see 7 faces smiling at me and ready to go. My fears were wrong. I never even got fully stood up, as the other leaders would come and we’d do our own worship night, and it would bear fruit anyway.

The feeling of “I don’t know how to do this” walking in, and the feeling of “I was made to do this” walking out. That’s when I recognize God’s hand, enabling, teaching, giving me wisdom in ways I couldn’t possibly expect.

553810_10101301170126670_1201333140_nSo what does the enemy do? He lures us to the thought that rest equals no ministry. Wrong! He lures us to the thought that leading is a job position and not a lifestyle of influence. Wrong again! And worst of all, he lures us to the thought that if we give, we will have less, and if we teach, we’ll be disgruntled, and if we pour out our love, time, gifts, wisdom… then we will not be filled again but rather be empty. These are the cruelest lies.

God does not fill for us to hoard. He does not give for us to keep. His kingdom is backwards, and His blessing flows like a river from heaven. It floods over us, as deep as we’re willing to advance into it. You cannot go into the depths of God while holding on to the false security of ankle-deep exposure. The safest, most logical, most delightful and life-giving thing you can possibly do is obey God, pouring yourself out like an offering for Him.

If He’s called you to write, what are you doing if not writing? Don’t kid yourself! Write! What are you doing stalling? How dare you stall when this is the gift He has given you to share with His people? WRITE! Let your words flow out. Tell your fear to take a hike and never come back.

Are you called to teach? GOOD! We need teachers. We need so many teachers. We need people who can say “God has been teaching ME! Let me TELL YOU what He’s been teaching ME!” and they just teach THAT. That’s plenty good. Pass what you have. Pass the little lessons you understand along the way. Trust me, it’s plenty, plenty good. You don’t have to learn Greek and Hebrew to talk about God and about His faithfulness to you. You don’t need a degree of any kind to teach about Jesus. Jesus is a person you have a relationship with, who just so happens to be the Son of God. If you were to teach a whole room about your mom, you wouldn’t be like “OMG, what if they ask me something I don’t know about her, what would I even say?!” Chill out. You know Him because you spend time with Him. Teach that, ye who are called to teach and are so burdened with raising up the next generation. Congratulations! You care! It’s great! Stop waiting for someone to tell you you’re allowed to do the thing you were born to do. Just go do it, for crying out loud.

Are you called to heal? Counsel? Go to those dark places? Are you called to crawl into the pits and sit with the hurting, just sit with them? Yep, it doesn’t sound too fun, does it? Because you can’t just clap your hands and make them better, can ya? YET you are SO compassionate and SO understanding of the pain of others. You know just what to say, and what NOT to say, which is the better part of that gift. You know how to sit in the silence and hold a weeping person. Their snot doesn’t gross you out that bad. You are a tear-wiper, and you make people laugh-cry, which is the best kind of laugh, the one on a puffy crying face, when they feel a little bolt of joy in the middle of their super intense grief. You love people really well, and you need to do just that. Don’t isolate yourself, and don’t let the enemy lie to you about your rest. Get your rest from Jesus, and keep saying “YES” when He gives you someone to love. He is always bringing the hurt ones to you, and it’s your choice and your reward to keep stepping into the low places and lifting chins to heaven. Or not! You can go weeks, months, years without operating in your gift of healing and your gift of mercy, but it’s like breathing to you, and you should want to breathe. Darling, you should want to breathe like this.

Oh and if you think I’d let you off the hook, you artists and worshipers of God, nope. YOU need to paint, to create, to sing, to dance, play your instrument, please. Please. Because earth does need to look like heaven, and heaven has the kind of beauty God hid in you to create here for ME and I want it. We want it. Please. Don’t be afraid that it isn’t perfect. It’s the right kind of perfect. It’s raw and real, honest. There’s a beauty in imperfection that makes it just so… perfect. Put it out there. Don’t let them tell you it’s not real because it’s not numbers and cold hard facts. Doodle on, doodler. I need you. We actually NEED you. You’re priceless and you hold a priceless piece of the Father’s heart. Don’t let the cubicle jobs and the pressure choke the creativity out of you, okay? Okay.

I pray away the fear of emptiness that would keep a saint like you from doing the holy thing you were made to do, the very thing that fills you up, and the exact shred of the heart of God you carry in your DNA. You will not, by God’s grace, ever run empty. You will not, by God’s mercy, ever burn out. You will shine like a city on a hill, with a light that was never meant to flicker or sit hidden. Your confidence will be like a wave, as you crash consistently unto the shore of your core purpose. May it be so, that your life is lived to its utmost, for the glory of the Almighty God who has gifted you with competence, authority, and identity. You are His own, never alone, and never forsaken. Pour out all your love, and watch as He fills you back up, over and over, and to overflow.

2015 Recap & Sweet ’16

I had no idea what was coming for me in 2015.

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For starters, I realized who my true friends are. They call, they care, and they answer. They ask the hard questions. They visit me, too! They choose me. They pray for and with me. They give me a ton of grace for those ‘in the middle’ situations, when neither of us truly knows what to do. Some are far away, and some new ones are near.

wpid-unnamed-1.jpg.jpegIn that, I realized some people lean on the side of convenience, and fade out into acquaintances. They only reach out when they need something. From being a missionary myself, I know the feeling of reaching out to someone with the sole purpose of asking for a donation, but I didn’t let that be the only time I talked to them. Now that I’m on the other side of that spectrum, it’s a little gut-wrenching to see it done differently. If you’re a missionary or fundraising in any way, take that into consideration. Don’t fake friendship for a donation, because that’s about as cheap as it gets. Hard truth to learn in 2015!

DogehospitalThis year I stepped back into the ‘working full-time’ American rat race. I paid down over half of my debt, by God’s grace. I got a great job, then I got a better job. I eased up on the first job when I took the second. I work 45-50 hours a week, which slides into overtime. I’ve been diligent, but I also feel like I said ‘yes’ when the Lord asked me to trust Him in giving outside of the norm, both financially and with the offering of time. By no means do I preach a prosperity gospel, but I know that God has consistently rewarded my life after times of testing, after times when I had to respond with a borderline illogical obedience. God has asked me to trust when I didn’t feel it was safe, and I did. Sometimes I did so begrudgingly, but I’m learning to trust cheerfully.

devo2It gets easier to trust when you understand what a failure is. I believe it is only possible to trust God with such great improbabilities when we realize the impossibility to fail within His hands. There is no room for regret when we hear His voice clearly. There is no room for fearful hysterics when I find myself hanging out inside His heart as if it were my living room. That’s what His presence is like. I learned much of this in 2015.

I cried a LOT in 2015. The best kind of tears and the worst. I had to learn how to discern whether to sit quietly and wait versus getting up, getting dressed, and taking a bulldozer to a wall.

I learned my safe places. I learned that I have a counselor who is beautifully available and powerfully wise. God put women into my life to mentor me and to listen. I have friends who can have a 2-hour conversation and empty out every loose thought from the attic of my mind, and vice-versa. We process verbally. And then there are those magical unicorn people, who take about 5 minutes to crawl into your heart and stay there until the next time you talk again for about 5 minutes 2 months later, and still manage to be in that top tier of best friendship, by God’s perfect grace. NO IDEA how that works, but it’s real.

10993419_10103282990183390_1811311628009497953_n-2In 2015, I met Buddy! It’s the coolest story, and this year I was given the gift of falling in love with him. God put us together and I have no doubts about that. He’s the INTJ to my ESFJ, and I can’t describe properly the spark we had when we met. God’s grace has brought us this far, learning to communicate and overcome fears. God’s gifts have the wrapping paper of courage, and the ribbon of God-dependency. They’re worth receiving, worth keeping, and they fully require God’s maintenance and alignment.

bookOh and in 2015, I wrote a book! You can get it at this link. I knew it would happen, but I didn’t realize it was happening this year. I had made it a goal, but it still felt lofty up until I got to it. It may be so with some of your dreams. They may seem ridiculously out there until you get up close to them and pin them down. God takes over and pushes you over the threshold when it’s His dream too.

alernterm1In 2015, I lived alone for the first time in 4 years? FOUR YEARS! If you didn’t know by now, I’m one of the most extroverted people alive in the sense that I function with people. I find that my habits and preferences like to submit to accountability. If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? If I’m living alone and I lay in bed all day and “sort of sleep, sort of watch movies all day” does it make an impact on my life? WELL. These are things that normally don’t happen at all when I’m in community. I wouldn’t pass up a kitchen conversation, or a Target outing, or a park jog if I have the people to join me. Without people, the silence at first felt really strange. I figured out that we’re constantly looking to be INFLUENCED. We can’t just sit still and stare at a wall. We want to watch a show to make us laugh, or we want to read a book to make us think. We want to have a conversation to stimulate us, or workout to engage our bodies. We rarely ever “do nothing” and that’s a relief and a little scary at the same time. What do you tend to do with your time when you have the choice and you are all alone? Is it constructive? Does it agree with your values, your goals, your character? I learned a lot of this in 2015. Living alone was really hard, and sometimes detrimental to what I know is best for me.

In 2015, I kick-started Phylla House online, and it’s a sweet little private group on facebook. God adds to our number ever so slowly. We have conversations on the phone and in person, too, but having that level of connectivity has been a huge blessing.

SO… for 2016… here are a few things I’m hoping for and praying for:

  1. Ministry to grow in unexpected ways, through God’s prompting, and for us to grow closer together as a community of women. That also entails me being more intentional about social media. Within that, the #ATLdevo is returning January 6th! Be sure to subscribe here.
  2. I want to be more involved with my church, and that means I just need to step forward and be willing.
  3. I want to be more intentional about my health, and that right now starts with sleep. I ordered a gorgeous new hammock, and will be sleeping on that again, instead of a bed! It’s the most comfortable I’ve ever been, especially working nights and sleeping during the day.
  4. Studying for my Specialist in Blood Bank exam. I want this added certification, and I want to take the test in 2016. Whether I pass or fail, the goal is to study and attempt it.
  5. Being debt free!!! I am so close I can taste it.
  6. Sweetness. God will surprise me this year with sweetness. Fulfilled promises and completion. I’m going to learn more about delighting in the Lord.

Okay, that’s a wrap.

Love yall.

Happy New Year!