Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crazy Lessons - Grace is Amazing

I'm learning lessons in a crazy season...

Lesson 5: I am reminded on this Easter Sunday that God's grace is amazing.

I fell asleep last night in awe of what I have seen the Lord do in the lives of those close to me. Grace is incredible. In the past year, I have seen some of the most amazing people come from the hardest circumstances. And it has bred beautiful hearts!

I've seen prostitutes become passionate proclaimers of Jesus Christ. Those who have suffered abortion become beautiful vessels of God's healing. Drug addicts hit the streets to share the gospel. Sex addicts become passionate about purity.

I've seen two parent homes join together to be as God intended. Single mothers unite with men who love them and their children as Christ loved the church. I have seen the legalistic and entitled become gracious. The prideful become humble.
The angry and hurt find peace. The searching find Christ. The abused and neglected find a loving Father. The lukewarm blaze with fire.

There is LIFE in Jesus. None of these people left their old life on their own. They found something better.  It may be the most quoted verse in the Bible, but it captures the love of the Father for us.

"For God so LOVED the world, that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

My pastor often says that he would take an army of new believers into battle any day over a handful of "experienced" believers. These newbies remember very clearly what their life was like before Christ. When Jesus changes a heart, He changes it completely. It is a lifelong growing process, but man, it's beautiful. May we never forget His sacrifice on the cross. What greater love exists than a man laying His life down to save the life of another?

On this Easter Sunday, I am so thankful that Jesus loved me enough to die for me, for my family, my friends, the world. I am in awe. Happy Easter!

"That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Broken

It's time for Five Minute Friday where a flash mob of writers join to write purely for the joy of it and then share our thoughts over at Lisa-Jo's.

I think I'm broken.

No. I know I am.

I'm a people-pleaser, a mess of insecurities stitched together with good intentions. I can't sleep at night because I'm constantly thinking of what all has to be done. I over-commit and sometimes under-deliver. I don't have the right words. I pretend to be tough when I'm falling apart inside. I struggle with entitlement and pride.

I have Christmas decorations that have been on my floor since December. My clothes are piled on my sister's bed, transforming it into a second closet. I'm a neat freak who is too tired to care.

I give in too easily, sometimes sacrificing what I want for the sake of peace. Some nights I would rather stay in and watch a movie than go out with friends. I suffer from a massive fear of failure, of not being good enough. I like to speed and constantly pray I won't get caught...while maintaining my pace. And even now, I feel this post is a little too vulnerable, too raw.

But I can't leave it there. Neither can I brag about my strengths or "attractive qualities." I didn't come by them honestly. Like Michelangelo's David, I'm a scarred piece of marble in need of refinement.

He picks me up daily. Humbles me through those around me. He steadies me when my brain feels like mush. He inspires me when I have nothing left to spit out on the page. He reminds me...constantly....that He's holding me. He has a plan.

My mess is His message. My brokenness is His beautiful canvas. So I boast in it. I'm a perfectionist who needs the artistic strokes of the master Creator to turn me into a masterpiece. Slowly, but surely, He is molding me. Refining every rough edge. Pulling me out of the fire and sticking me back in again because He can't quite see His image yet.

But one day, this broken woman will gleam. I just have a few spots left at the moment.

Crazy Lesson 4: Passion Fuels Motivation

Learning lessons in the middle of a crazy season...

Lesson 4: Passion fuels motivation.

My brain is usually going 90 miles to nothing. The past month, that is actually a slow estimate. Work deadlines, book deadlines, spending time with family and friends, church responsibilities, and who knows what else constantly keep me on the move.

So when I actually have some down time, I don't want to do ANYTHING. My version of a break is giving my mind something creative to enjoy, specifically something that my brain didn't work to create.

Last weekend, in the middle of work responsibilities, I actually stopped. I slept A LOT. I researched the Navy SEALs for my second book. I love watching stories about these silent heroes who so often don't want credit. They see their job as a duty and a calling.

I drank hot tea, emailed people to endorse my book, finished reading a book, and enjoyed some alone time and time with the Lord. Despite being on my second seven-day work week, I feel more energized and motivated.

Application: Create margin to take care of yourself so you can be more effective and love well in other areas of life.

I very rarely take time for myself because of my schedule. I haven't finished a book since before Christmas and have only sporadically written in my journal. Hello, I'm a writer. Those things help me grow. I have to create margin in my life to fill my tank, or I won't be able to pour into people or give my best at work or with my writing. I'll be surviving instead of thriving. 

I'm learning to make margin for my relationships and for myself. In a crazy life season, that is not a quick fix, but it's coming slowly, and I'm learning that the things that fuel my passion fuel me the rest of the week. Speaking of which, back to work...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Crazy Lesson 3: God Redeems Circumstances

Lessons in the midst of crazy...

Lesson 3: The Lord redeems circumstances for good.

For the record, I hate being the guinea pig, but as the first child, I have been the guinea pig all my life. The benefit is that I am getting pretty good at "winging it" and "figuring it out." I basically expect things to be a challenge and rarely go as I plan. Thankfully, I serve a God who somehow works situations out better than I plan.

In the past several months, my community group has experienced a lot of growing pains. I've seen these women grow. The encouragement and challenge are mutual. Lukewarm has turned to on fire.

We've struggled through some tough life circumstances. Struggles with family, questions on why the Lord doesn't intervene, new relationships and ending old ones, two getting married, processing painful pasts. Apparently at the moment we decided to finally be authentic community, a whole bunch of major stuff hit at once. Thank the Lord we have handled it together. But it has been pretty rocky. Lots of miscommunication, lots of DTRs (define the relationship for you older crowd), lots of wrong expectations, lots of opinions, lots of frustration, and lots of good intentions poorly executed.

While I've led the group for the past 2.5 years, I haven't always done a great job. More recently, this group has stepped up to lead me. In this season where I feel like I am falling apart, they dedicated the entire time last week to writing me letters of encouragement, sharing scripture, inviting me to be honest and open, and just listening and seeking to comfort me in the way that loves me best. I'm pretty sure I cried the whole 2 hours.

We have arrived. And yet we have a long way to go. Every week, we learn what it looks like to be a better community. It is rocky and frustrating.

Application: Vulnerability is painful, but it brings freedom and greater bonds. There is value in letting someone else carry our load for a while.  

I cannot tell you how blessed I am to have these women in my life. Too often, I take it for granted.
If the circumstances in my life are the "guinea pig" to help us figure out how to love one another better and communicate truth to one another, then so be it. It just proves beauty comes out of chaotic circumstances.

My community is stronger for it. I'm stronger for it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Crazy Lesson 2: Memories Don't Bind Us

I'm learning lessons in a crazy season...

Lesson 2: Memories shape us, but they don't bind us.

Three years ago, I watched as my childhood came crumbling down. True they were asbestos-ridden and ineffective. They were a maze of floors woven together with good intentions. But they were my memories. 

I learned to run up and down the sky walk. I could tell stories for every mural in the children's building. I learned to sing in the theater and watched my Dad lead Bible studies in old Coleman Hall. I attended camps and VBS. A guy told me he loved me for the first time in one of our old chapels (clearly that was the vow of a lifetime). I hung out with my best friends every Wednesday night in the old sky walk. I spent time with my youth pastor and snuck countless fountain drinks from the back of his office. I learned to read in the old library and knew exactly where my favorite books could be found. I even had a teddy bear with my name on it every time I visited.

But the buildings are gone. The old hallways and walls are rubble in a landfill. 

Application: Memories are not tied to brick and mortar.

They continue to live on in my daily decisions, in the smiles and discussions with childhood friends, in the pictures in my albums, and the stories in my old journals.

A beautiful campus now stands in the place of these old buildings. Kids will learn to walk and talk and read here. They will find their best friends in this place, the ones that stand beside them in their wedding some day. They will learn the beauty of music and the gospel. They will grow up in the shadow of where others tread before them. 

And I'm thankful for their opportunity, for the memories they will make, just as the rubble of the old shaped mine.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Crazy Lesson Day 1: Hold Things Loosely

You may have heard it said that we need to "stop the glorification of busy." Well, at the moment, I have  no choice. So, I've decided to learn from it instead.

Lesson 1: Hold things loosely.

In the past week, I have wrecked my car, had to redo several work projects, said goodbye to a friend, had a melt down with my community group, and come down with a cold.

Basically, I kissed my transportation, work achievement, relationships, emotional sanity, and physical health goodbye.

I'm pretty sure I place high value in all those things. Unfortunately, I appreciate some of them only when they are gone. In this crazy season, I'm learning to hold these things loosely. Thank goodness for rental cars, second chances, cold medicine, and the fact that life goes on.

In Haiti, I remember thinking that people had maybe one change of clothes, didn't always know where their next meal would come from, and lived under a leaky roof yet worshipped God with their whole hearts. To hear them call God "Provider, Lord, Friend, Good" humbled me. Most of my issues are first world problems. Pathetic on my part.

My car is a blessing. My job is a gift. My friendships are eternal investments. And my health enables me to be my best. I'm not guaranteed any of them tomorrow.

Practical application: Seek the Lord. Develop a thankful heart.

He is good. He knows the plans He has for me. He heals bodies and relationships and provides for my needs. None of this past week's circumstances surprised Him. They just knocked me for a loop.

"Do not boast about tomorrow for you do not know what a day may bring." Proverbs 27:1

Who knows what other lessons I'll learn in this crazy season....

Friday, March 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday - Remember

I remember the smell of coffee every morning.

The gentle cadence of Rachel and Ashley's morning chat and the shuffle of pages as they read their Bibles in the breaking sun.

Brittany's bright laughter that filled the apartment the moment she woke up.

I remember the groggy feeling of too little sleep induced by a night that made me smile for all the right reasons.

The crisp feel of the summer Colorado morning inducing frustration from this Texas girl who believes wearing a sweater in the summer, no matter what the time of day, is a crime.

I remember the laughter filled drive to Focus, the thrill of an unfamiliar day cased in the familiarity of home away from home.

I remember every hand signal for the Signs games that took place in the middle of class, the winks, and smothered smiles, the carry over of a night that bled into morning.

I remember the rush of conversation as we debated worldviews, abortion, truth, and everything in between.

The pen smudge on my hand told the story of hours of furious notes.

I remember the Sh'ma, the unfamiliar taste of Hebrew on my tongue and the heart connection to my Savior who said this every morning as a boy over 2,000 years ago.

I remember the brokenness and beauty of that summer, and I cling in the moments when uncertainty clouds in. I remember a sunrise that brought healing and strangers that turned into friends. I remember that all things work for the good of those who love God.

I remember, and I am strong.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fun. "Some Nights" Defines a Generation

In the mornings, I typically avoid chatter on the radio at all costs, so I channel surf. Many times, I land on one of the pop or alternative stations. The lyrics are catchy. The music is addicting. And the artists are the walking dead.

Yeah, you read that right.

Fun.'s "Some Nights" describes my generation perfectly, and the lyrics reverberate in my head. Driving through a small Texas town last weekend, a convertible full of 20-somethings raced by with this song blaring through the square. My heart sank.

Photo Credit: The Porch at Watermark
"What do I stand for? Most nights I don't know." What an empty lyric. What a heartfelt cry of a generation for something, anything of meaning. The perception is that good doesn't get you anywhere and life is full of heartbreak that can have a beautiful outcome, but it's rare and faint.

Oh, how I hurt for my generation, many who grew up in split homes with an absent father.

The generation more comfortable with living together before marriage than marrying because they have seen the heartache of ugly divorce.

The generation who still hasn't quite grown up because adults were absent in many of our lives as children.

The generation that has a desire to make a difference but often lacks the commitment.

The generation driven by passion which often drives us to painful addictions.

The generation in desperate need of purpose, worth, and meaning,

A generation who needs to know that their Heavenly Father loves them, and wants to take their passions and use them for His glory.

A generation of "accidental" parents who forget that a quick fix to a surprise pregnancy has future consequences.

My heart breaks, and this song perfectly defines us. Oh, how we need Jesus. Imagine if this passion, this desire, this incredible urge to make a difference and be something was met by a relationship with Jesus. Man, Gen Y could change the world.

It looks so overwhelming when I look at my generation as a whole. But when I focus on sharing the gospel and pouring into one at a time, I see hearts changed and passion whole-heartedly pursuing a God-sized calling. We are changing the world. We are shaking our generation. Maybe one day, it will have a lasting impact.

Some of the lyrics from Fun.'s "Some Nights"...

This is it, boys, this is war - what are we waiting for?

Why don't we break the rules already?

I was never one to believe the hype - save that for the black and white

I try twice as hard and I'm half as liked, 
but here they come again to jack my style

And that's alright; I found a martyr in my bed tonight

She stops my bones from wondering just who I am, 
who I am, who I am

Oh, who am I? Oh, who am I? mmm... mmm...

Well, Some nights, I wish that this all would end

Cause I could use some friends for a change

And some nights, I'm scared you'll forget me again
Some nights, I always win, I always win...

But I still wake up, I still see your ghost

Oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for, oh

What do I stand for? What do I stand for?

Most nights, I don't know... (come on)

So this is it? 
I sold my soul for this?

Washed my hands of that for this?

I miss my mom and dad for this?

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Confessions of an Addicted People Pleaser

A month ago, I sank to an all new low.

In the busiest season of my life (huge project at work, book deadline, serving at The Porch, family, friends, attempts to sleep), I couldn't juggle all of it. I felt stuck in the middle of a tug of war, unable to make anyone happy. I was miserable. Maybe that's an understatement.

Jesus Calling
Turns out I am an addicted people-pleaser, even more so since facing rejection with school and jobs in the past couple of years. Crazy how seemingly good intentions can be a breeding ground for unrecognized addiction. But that's no excuse.

I want to make my friends happy by spending time with them and building memories. I want to make my family happy, realizing that they are the ones who are constant. I want to spend more time on the phone with my best friends who live across the country. I want spend more time talking to the girl who needs someone to walk with her through a struggle. I want to invest energy in work so that I can support my team and my boss. I want to write books that encourage and challenge people.

(I also want to sleep.)

Somewhere in the midst of doing all that stuff, all of which is great, I lose myself and the need to please becomes an idol. And I cease to be still and remember He is God(Psalm 46:10).

The last couple of weeks, I've sought to be intentional with changing my attitude when the need to please suffocates my joy. The key to failure is trying to please everyone, and it robs me of my effectiveness and energy to do what I am actually called to do: seek the face of Jesus, to love well, pursue holiness, and make God known. There is incredible freedom in remembering that the pressure is off and that it is not about me or what I have to DO, but about who He made me to BE and how I can best glorify Him. Whatever I set my hands to, I want to do with all my heart. I want to make an impact for the King, and pleasing others will become an added bonus (Col. 3:23)

When it becomes a heart issues, juggling all that is a joy and not a burden, an investment instead of taxing. And I'm getting there.

"But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts." (1 Thess. 2:4)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Time to Retreat

It's been over a month since I posted. Over a month since I signed my contract. And two full months of craziness. This is the busiest season of my life, and it seems like the Lord decided to answer a whole lot of prayers all at once. 

Without the ability to take time off, my brain has existed in a constant state of scrambled eggs. I eat, sleep, and dream writing, editing, and my to-do list.

But this weekend, I tasted the sweet freedom of retreat. No writing, no editing. Just rest and fellowship. 

I am a member of a young adult group in Dallas called The Porch. Without fail every week I am in awe of the hearts of these young adults to change Dallas for Christ. 

I serve on one of several teams that keep the wheels turning every week. This past weekend, we decided to escape the traffic and city noise and distraction and just be still and be with one another. 


For the first time in a while, I realized and tasted what heaven will be like some day. We talked, we laughed, we worshipped...a lot, we prayed, we spent time in the Word. Most of it was impromptu which made it much sweeter. I heard stories that broke my heart and stories that made me want to cheer because of the goodness of God. I experienced the bonds of friendship grow stronger, iron sharpen iron. I learned personalities and passions and preferences that made me value all the more that we serve such a creative God.

Most of all, we dreamed about how to make the Porch better, how to be more effective, and how to change our city - one life at a time.

What does it look like for us to love well and lead well? What if changing Dallas starts with us? What if we are of one heart and mind, united in our purpose, and bold about the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Can 100 plus Porch volunteers change Dallas? 

Yes. It can start with us. I pray this weekend is just the beginning of beautiful things.

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all." Acts 4:32-33