A reminder on the days when I don't feel ready.

At twenty-three years old, I had barely even been to an amusement park when the six year old brother spotted a carnival parked behind the mall. I am no adrenaline junkie, and besides, my parents always said those things were a waste of money anyway. But C's parents are slightly more spontaneous than mine, so we climbed the hill to the parking lot, paid what was admittedly a lot of money, and earned our wrist bands. I swallowed hard. The first ride was more or less a gigantic swing that lifted us side to side at dizzying speeds that made me think that my stomach was going to fall out of any number of orifices. I thought, surely our brother will be scared, surely it will be too fast and too high. But he loved every last minute of it. By the time the ride had slowed to a stop, he was ready, hungry for more. I still remember how my shoes seemed to be stuck to the ground, be it from the spilled cola or my anxiety, and how all the sudden I was falling on my face to worship the God who made the sturdy earth beneath me.

Then there was the time that I boldly announced to C that I wanted to go zip lining for our anniversary this year, and before I could grab the words and stuff them back in, he had already purchased a canopy tour. Even though we were never that high off the ground, the walk up to the first platform had me thinking that I had made a huge mistake.

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I ended up going on every single ride at the carnival. If you asked, I would tell you that I just didn't want to be shown up by a fearless six year old, but deep down, I think I was desperate to just let go. What amazing, life altering, kingdom expanding, chain breaking things could happen if I just learned to let go?

Because the truth is, we can never experience true freedom when our anxious feet are cemented to the platform, refusing to jump. We won't ever feel like we can do the impossible, if we're clinging for dear life to what feels easy and comfortable. If I were to get really honest, I think most days I'm not sure if I can trust God to be the harness. Most days, I don't think letting go will really accomplish anything.

But scripture is literally overflowing with the testimonies of what God can do when we get ready and let go: Ephesians says that He is able to do immeasurably more than what we can ask or imagine.

For this girl who likes things to be easily controlled and measured and managed, letting go seems crazy, even irresponsible. But somewhere deep inside, I'm ready. I'm ready to encounter life outside my often smothering boundaries with a God who is absolutely boundless, ready for my story to become His love letter, ready to be changed.

I'm ready to feel His wind in my hair and soar.

Linking up with Kate and the Five Minute Friday girls today. 

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Five Minute Friday // Begin

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Her words have been resounding throughout this season: the thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. His words follow, we are constantly invited to be who we are. 

Its a good thing that the Lord's mercies are new every morning. Every January, we make these resolutions, to lose weight, to redecorate our homes, to get that promotion, to read more, to be more on top of our spending habits. And by the third week, it seems like everything is out of control again, and there's just no sense in trying to fix it, because we're already too far gone.

But that's not what scripture says. Lamentations promises that He is faithful, even when we fall down, and that every morning is a brand new chance. We don't have to wait for the clock to hit midnight on the eve of a new year to start all over again. We are constantly invited to start over and be who we are called to be. But I think sometimes we spin our wheels trying to figure out who the world tells us we are supposed to be instead of being who we were created to be. We build walls, because it couldn't possibly be that simple, could it?

What if we were brave enough to let go of all the supposed to be's and grab hold of all of the created to be's? We were created to be joy bringers and mountain movers and kingdom builders. What if every ribbon of the rising sun was seen as a starting line, a safe place to begin again inside His grace?

It is 8:45 a.m. on August 1. Who do you want to be? Who were you lovingly created to be in this moment, this hour, this day? It took a long time for me to realize that I don't have to wait any more.

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Hard to believe that just shy of a year ago, I did one of the craziest, best things I've ever done since I began blogging. I wrote my first post for Five Minute Friday, on starting small and living the truest thing. The women I've met over the past year have changed my life in so many beautiful ways. I have found sisters who constantly encourage, a community that always leaves a light on. Mothers and daughters and sisters and friends. My story is so much richer because of them, and my passion for the power of testimonies has grown beyond what I ever imagined it could. And now, Lisa Jo is beginning a new season, passing the torch of Five Minute Friday to Kate, who I pray has felt wholeheartedly welcomed.

#fmfpartysnailmail {If you're looking for community, this is for you.}

If you ask me, there isn't enough happy snail mail going around. These days, the overwhelming majority of envelopes found in my mailbox are addressed to whatever resident happens to be current; grocery store fliers or glossy envelopes telling me I'm pre-approved for the latest and greatest deal with a credit card company. Processed with VSCOcam with x1 preset

And its no secret that the bulk of our lives has been slipping away silently, as we become more and more absorbed in the world of followers and friends and likes. We crave community and fill up with cheap counterfeits. The other day, I signed up for a series of emails that promised me if I followed the given advice, I would have multitudes clamoring at my words here. But the more I thought about it, the more I despaired. Would I really matter to those people? How many would subscribe, and leave my words idle and unread in their inbox? I promptly unsubscribed, feeling a bit like a loser.

Its enough to make anyone feel a little queasy, if you think about it long enough. And the truth of the matter is that it isolates you.

I first became acquainted with #fmfparty through a friend. I had just gotten married and moved to a town where I didn't know anybody, so loneliness plagued me. I longed for an authentic community where I could share life's joys and pains with women who really understood what it meant to live real and live raw. I wanted to get beyond the profile photo to the heart. #fmfparty, for me, was confirmation that God heard my prayers, and a reminder that He gives good gifts.

And now, #fmfparty has expanded from an on screen community to an in hand community with #fmfsnailmailparty.

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Once a week, we sit down at our desks and dining room tables and on the inside to write letters. Five minutes a week spent writing an embrace that can be held in the hand; a reason to race to the mailbox in the afternoon. From mamas up late to nurse their babies and college students studying for finals and empty nesters and literally everyone in between. We gather at the altar to encourage one another.

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. -- Matthew 18:20

Its such a blessing to be part of a community of women who live full and real and raw for such a time as this. 

And you, friend, are invited. It would be God's great grace to walk with you throughout this season. 

The Dare to Live the Truest Thing {Five Minute Friday}

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My heart is blessed as I look back to the very first five minutes I spent nervously sewing together syllables on starting out small and living the truest thing. If you had told me back in August that this cup of words would be overflowing, and that my heart would be transformed through this gathering of women, I scarcely would have believed.  I know now that Hannah's invitation to the party was the Lord's tangible provision.

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A moment of confession? I'm not much for having consistent quiet times, but the Lord will often bring to mind a verse or story that I think about throughout the day. Frequently, I find myself asking Him what He is trying to speak into my life through that particular piece of scripture.  Lately, I have been meditating on the story of Gideon.

Gideon was the smallest man in the weakest tribe.  When the angel of the Lord came to him, he was found hiding, crouched down in a wine press to thresh wheat. And all at once, I realize how much of my life, my one and only life here, is spent the same way: in fear of being discovered by that which knows and desires to exploit my weakness.

We have an enemy who revels in stealing, killing, and destroying, and the target is our joy. And he knows so well that if he can just gnaw away at our joy, our strength wanes in tow.

But our hearts are never hidden from the call of the Almighty. He has a way about Him, always reaching into our most vulnerable and dark places.

The angel said to Gideon, "the Lord is with you, mighty warrior."

Um, excuse me, I think you must have the wrong person, Lord. Surely, if you knew me -- if you knew about my anxiety, my depression, my addiction, my baggage,  how I hurt that person; surely, if you knew what other people were saying about me, you wouldn't be calling me mighty warrior. 

We all have our stuff that keeps us from getting out of the boat. Stuff that we think disqualifies us.  Gideon replies that he cannot possibly defeat the enemy, as he does not have the strength.

The miracle of grace is that our baggage is not the banner waving over us {Click to Tweet}. The Lord tells Gideon to go in the strength that he has. He tells Gideon that He will go with him.

And there it is, in front of my eyes in scripture: a dare to live the truest thing I know. The call to step out of the boat in faith, knowing that his voice calms the swell of the waves.

Because the Father's joy is to make a way where there seems to be none, to come to the smallest, the least likely, and accomplish the unthinkable. Gideon went in the strength that he had, and defeated the enemy.

I wonder what strength I have. Is it the strength to say a kind word when I am feeling frustrated? The strength to be patient with the unhurried daycare worker when I am late to a visit between a mother and her child? The strength to speak life into that mother's heart, even though it seems as though the deck has been stacked against her?

Sometimes it takes all the strength I have to get out of bed and come to this job again. But then, I realize that we, too, have been given the ability to reach into the pain in the lives of the people around us and come alongside them.

The most appropriate response to the gift of grace is to give -- give beyond what we think we can, knowing that the Lord will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory.

This, this, is how we overcome.

 

Sharing words and shaping culture with some of the most gracious women on the planet today at Lisa-Jo's place. I guarantee, you don't want to miss out on this party.  

Pssst! Did you know you can get my posts sent straight to your inbox? Enter your email in the sidebar and click subscribe! ♥

A Letter to my Sisters {Five Minute Friday}

rp_five-minute-friday.jpg Dearest, most wonderful Sisters,

Professors had warned me that life outside of my small Christian college would be lonely. They told me that I would never again have that sort of genuine community. In many ways, though this past summer was joyous, it was also one of the loneliest times of my life. I was newly graduated and married, in a new town, and without a job or  a car. Even though family and friends were still close by, I felt heartbreakingly disconnected.

And then, I met Hannah. I don't even remember the circumstances of our introduction, but despite being half a world away from each other at the time, she made me feel right at home. And she invited me to a party one Friday night that would change not only my writing, but the heart that those words flowed from.

For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. -- Luke 6:45 (NKJV)

In the beginning, I must admit I was shamefully wary -- worried that whatever community I found here would be shallow at best, and that life and faith would be portrayed in a woefully unrealistic manner. I thought I would find snide perfectionism,  even competition, and I assumed that no one would want anything to do with life and God as I knew them.

I had beautiful community  in college, but the last semester was laced with hurt at the hands of someone I was hesitant to let in in the beginning. The wound was deeper than she knew and I struggled to let go of the pain and forgive.

But what I found here was everything humble and broken and life at its very best. What I found here was Jesus, again, between the lines of tweets and blogs and comments. I found genuine community to come alongside me in my joy and in my frustration. I found sisters encouraging each other in the wee hours, holding fast to the promises of God. And now there's hardly a Friday night when I don't weep over 140 characters of pure, unadulterated grace.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -- Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

It filled me past the brim. Oh, that we can take part in the restoration of souls. In the past six months, I have made friends that will be kept for a lifetime.

A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. -- Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NLT)

You all are a gift. Living proof that the Lord knows what we need and His timing is perfect. Each of your lives are brimming with evidence of His goodness.

You, mothers, who saturate every character with love for your children. You, wives, who strive to serve your husbands in all that you do. You, who struggle deeply with insecurity and every word is infused with your need for Jesus. You are so important, so magnificent in all of your everyday grit and hope. I admire each of you so deeply for faithfully coming to the altar every Thursday and Friday night. You have made me better.

Jacqui, your testimony of loss and redemption has been such an incredible example to me. Your friendship has made my life so much richer. And Sarah, its hard to paint a more realistic picture of life than you have. I so deeply appreciate your willingness to be broken before the Lord and before others. Dana, your calling to open your home to the broken -- the orphan -- you are doing the Lord's work. And you write it all out with such an incredible, tangible passion. Lisa-Jo, all of this is really because of you -- your faithfulness has brought all of us together. Fridays on the internet are like holy ground.  None of this goes unnoticed. So if you haven't heard the words thank you in awhile, please don't ever forget that your willingness to put your life into such beautiful words has changed mine. 

I could literally go on forever -- there are over two hundred of you. Even as I punch these keys, salty liquid joy spills across my cheeks. I so wish there was space and time to mention each and every one of you by name.

Lisa-Jo wrote this week about how much our words matter. And its so, so true. Another professor of mine frequently spoke of the power of our communication. Our words hold the ability to image the Father.

Because in the beginning, God spoke, and all that is went through the process of becoming. And He's still in the business of collecting the dust and creating something beautiful. He's still the God of miracles -- each of you is evidence of that. He declared that everything He made was good, and He is singing goodness over you, even now. He's so in love with you.

Thank you. Thank you for taking me in, and for being so faithful to encourage me in this journey. Not a day goes by that my prayers are not for you, that Yahweh would come alive in you, that you would sense His presence in your lives and the lives of your families.

Surely, no eye has seen and no ear has heard -- but every Friday night, I see glimpses and hear whispers.

Psst! Obviously this took a little more than five minutes to put together, but it was so worth it. You are so worth it. Back in August, I didn't know the first thing about "linking up." If you're a blogger in search of constructive community, stop by Lisa-Jo's place. You'll find that Five Minute Fridays are about so much more than weekly writing prompts. Linking up this week with 200+ of the most fabulous, brave women on the planet. 

When the world threatens to fall apart.

It occurs to me that I have barely stopped to breathe in the past ten months. And now that I've paused to write, my whole essence heaves a sigh. They say that transitions, even happy ones, cause turmoil in our systems. We have to grieve when we move from one chapter to the next. Turning the pages can be traumatic. Because sometimes, you're catapulted like a rag doll. Other times, you have to place your hand on the doorknob of change and walk through, one baby step at a time. And I don't know which one is more frightening. Its no big secret that life moves so much faster than we want it to.

My last semester of college, I juggled twenty-one hours worth of college classes that included an internship. In February, I got engaged. In April, I got hit with a fourteen hundred dollar bill on my student account and was afraid to tell my dad about it. I graduated in May and got married in June. At one point during the months since, I worked myself into a ridiculous state thinking I was pregnant, despite routinely taking my birth control pills. Because Craig works full time, I spent my days alone for the most part, in search of my own employment, and in late September, I finally heard back from one of my prospects. I got my first driver's license at nearly twenty-three years old. And I now work as a case manager for the Division of Family and Children's Services.

It has most certainly been a year of transitions. And looking back, I have been scared to death throughout the overwhelming majority of it.

There was a day at the tail end of summer that I told my friend Mat that I spent my days paralyzed by anxiety. I don't think I had ever been so matter of fact about it as I was that day. We were in the middle of the woods, hiking down towards the river, and I could barely look up the entire time for fear I would step on a snake.

I'm not proud of my anxiety. It is the most gruesome limitation.

I can only describe it this way: no matter how many storms you've weathered, anxiety is constantly telling you that the next one will be different; the next storm will be the one to steal away your soul. No matter how many times that person has been sympathetic to your needs, loved you through successes and failures, the next one will be the one to strip away that faithfulness.The world, your world, is constantly threatening to fall apart.

Fear shrinks the heart.

Emily Freeman talks about how we tend to glorify people who appear to have it all together, and I think she's right. I have spent the past ten months bracing myself at every turn, gripping my life and trying like hell to keep things together.

The past ten months have taught me that I don't have to keep it together in my own strength.  They have reinforced the heart-knowledge that I do not have to strive.

Colossians says He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together. Romans says He is working all things together for my good. Psalms says He watches and protects me tirelessly, that He is my keeper. It assures me that when I am faithful to follow where He leads, that He will enlarge my heart.

Even when it seems like the world is threatening to fall apart. I am held together. 

Bob Goff says our actions should betray our uncertainty. And sometimes the most difficult action is simply choosing to fill our lungs with oxygen again.