Open Letter to the Woman Hearing Voices

Dear Sweet Starbucks Lady,

I accidentally overheard your conversation with a friend at Starbucks: the one about your marriage. I didn’t want to listen, but there was so much trouble quaking from your voice that the fingers of my spirit wouldn’t uncurl themselves from your tiny square table. I successfully looked away. But my ears did not. It seemed there was trouble in Candy Land. He was no longer the person you’d married oh-so-long-ago. The children infused distance. The job cultivated tired bones. Oh, and the money too. He was no longer the same person. You are trying, though. The both of you: counseling, is what you said.

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Still, I was listening without looking.

Then your voice shifted to low tones, just as your chair shifted against the floor. You told your friend that you’ve been hearing voices: A word, actually. This one word: Divorce. At first, it was just playing in your head like a record stuck on the same song. But then, the other day you said you heard it quite audibly. Loud. Distinct. Real. Two times you said you heard the words, “Divorce. Divorce.”

I am now listening and looking.

I watched you inch closer to your friend, you shake your head and your eyes slant in confusion. You said, “I’m not making this $*!T up!”

I felt the current of something mystical fill the air. And my stomach flips. I want to pull up a chair and tell you that you’re not crazy. Despite your friend’s advice to consider the prompting of this pushy word and move toward embracing divorce, I might lovingly encourage you to consider a few other thoughts:

  • Is the voice speaking life or death?
  • What seeds will be produced by the outcome of listening to the voice?
  • Can the Living Word back up this counsel?

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I want to encourage you, sweet Starbucks lady, that you are not alone. We all live in this world that is both physical and spiritual. And in the invisible realm there are forces of light and forces of darkness. Always at work in our lives because they have a plan. One is to bring death and destruction and confusion. The other is to bring life and fruit and freedom. If you’re feeling confused about the voice, just look at the fruit it will produce.

I pray that you will open your eyes and gain clarity, turn your head towards God and really gaze, then, listen for His voice to lead you.

Peace and Blessings,

Your Fellow Coffee Drinker

[Note: I know first hand the death of divorce. It is from this painful past that I lovingly write this letter.]



Choose Joy

Her name is Natalie Joy.

When I first met her this weekend at the Winsome Retreat in Pennsylvania I observed the most delightful woman. Smiling. Bright spirited. Joy filled. I thought to myself, surely, her name suits her well.

But later on she shared her story with me and I learned that life for Natalie has not always been filled with joy. She’s suffered a great deal, in fact, when a marriage she loved for many years ended in divorce. Natalie describes this painful season with a quake in her voice, still searching for all the right words to wrap around this hallowed ground.

It is ground, I believe, because the most raw moments in life feel so much like dirt; barren and black. And yet we know that it is only from the barren and black earth that a seed can grow.

New life emerges if the conditions are right.

The conditions, though, are often like a season of drought under the hot, sweltering sun. We know what is needed. Cleansing Rain. But the fiery trial is unrelenting, leaving us withered and tired. Where O’ where is the rain?

“I’ve discovered that when everything is taken away, when nothing is left but the core of who you are, that’s when you have to make a choice. I can either hide inside and let the fear of getting stuck by lightning paralyze me, or I can stand out in the rain to be washed free of everything but the comfort of a God who would never let me fall. I choose every day to be washed free.” -Sara Frankl

We find the rain in Isaiah 54 when the “barren” woman is encouraged to sing. We feel her pain because her barrenness is like ours. It’s every unmet longing and unanswered prayer. It’s every choking circumstance and dreadful disease. It’s every betrayal linked to our deepest fear. To sing while still and yet barren is choosing to receive the Cleansing Rain.

“Sing, O barren woman…” -Isaiah 54:1

We find the rain in John 11 when Jesus who is deeply troubled and moved in spirit rolls the stone away and calls his dead friend Lazarus to come out.

“Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” -Jesus

But not everyone who sees believes. For it is written that some scoff Jesus for allowing death and suffering (vs. 37) while others decide to see its purpose through the lens of abiding love (vs. 36). And the same is true for you and me: to see and believe in Love while the sting still and yet burns is choosing to receive the Cleansing Rain.

Barrenness knows of its need. Stones keep from proceeding. What response will we choose while we wait for the miracle?

When Natalie looked down at the divorce decree she stared at the empty box awaiting an inky name. She says she knew in that moment that she needed to choose a new name: Joy. It was the only way to begin again. The conditions were right.

Dear friends, may you sing your heart out despite the barrenness. Take off the grave clothes and believe. And may you always remember to…choosejoy

Amen.

(Side Note: Needing to define your joy and clarify your purpose? Check out Natalie’s business here.)



A Story of Freedom: 7 Years of Sobriety

Freedom isn’t free.

A lesson I learned about 7 and a half years ago when the Lord took my life on a wild, unplanned detour. My life at the time was simple and good. Oh, but it was chaotic too; in the throws of parenting littles and wrestling with finding my purpose in the position of stay-at-home-mom. But in that space, it was good. I was meeting with God regularly, spending time in Word and in prayer; studying, learning to listen, and such.

There was however one little (big) thing in my life that God kept bringing to the forefront of my spirit.

“Lay it down, Love.”

Wise instruction coming down from Heaven and landing on Spring soil after the frost. Ready for cultivation. But oblivious to the growing season ahead.

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Oh, I knew what God meant. Lay it down, the drinking. Lay it down, the spirit of rebellion. My way. My flesh. My folly. I tried and tried. I attempted to control myself, but I couldn’t. Because the spirit of rebellion throws a tantrum for just one more. And that’s how is was for me, the gateway to fun. Just one more. Just one more. Just one more. Damning and marring my most precious household treasures for just one more. All in the name of fun…

Until the next day.

Folly wreaks. And a thirsty spirit that kicks out the Spirit for just one night, pangs with regret and sadness and loneliness. That’s how it always was, for me, until the morning after my last binge.

I woke up half dead. Mostly dead.

A prisoner of betrayal once more. But this time the cut was so deep, I couldn’t stop the bleeding. It was trauma to my soul. Catastrophe. My life felt as though it were careening out of control. The air felt thin, and I could. not. breathe. I’d been stripped bare, exposed. I was desperate.

I was the hemorrhaging woman desperate to touch the cloak of Jesus. (Mark 5:25)

Desperate for healing.

Desperate for forgiveness.

Desperate for nothing else, but Jesus.

Surely, freedom isn’t free. It always costs something. It always requires a laying it down, letting it go. It’s about living life abundantly, without hinderance. My hinderance might look different than your hinderance. None-the-less, I believe we’re all on a journey looking to live out life with purpose and freedom. It’s a great hope, indeed.

So, when I raise my hands on Easter morn and cry tears of awe and wonder, it’s simply because I remember. I remember the way His hand pulled me up and out of the pit. I remember the way He gave me new clothes to wear, tailored to suit my new self. I remember the strength in His words, spoon fed because I was so weak. I raise my hands on Ever morn because I remember. And I am thankful.

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” -Samuel Lover

Just when I thought the sun wouldn’t rise, His glory broke through. Truly, we can’t understand light, if we don’t understand darkness. And freedom means so much more when the prison door flings wide and those shackles fall.

 



A Dream and Visions from The Valley of Dry Bones

Over the past several weeks I’ve been training to run a half marathon. I love to run. Except, that is, when I cannot breathe. I’ve pushed through a lot of obstacles while training; dehydration, a sore ankle, blisters, throbbing hip flexers, and yes, even that one time I peed my pants. But, if there is no breathe in my lungs, I’m done. All running stops. The race is over.

Have you ever experienced a time when a certain word, phrase or message seems to envelop you? It’s sung on the radio in nearly every song, written in the book your reading, plastered on every billboard, and enters your conversation with strangers. It’s everywhere!

So, when this happens, we start paying attention, right?

This is my word on repeat: BREATH.

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, ‘well duh, it’s obvious why this word keeps cropping up…because your running a half marathon and you simply can’t breathe.’ Sure, that might make logical sense…but I have a feeling the word-stirring is only the beginning of something bigger.

Recently, while I was spending time reading from the Word I found myself deep in story about The Valley of Dry Bones [Ezekiel 37]. This is the story of an Old Testament prophet named Ezekiel whose given a vision from God, showing him a valley, full of dried-up-human-bones. It’s really quite gruesome; a picture of death. There is no life and there doesn’t appear to be any hope. That is, until Ezekiel hears God give the valley of dry bones a series of instructions, namely, that He is going to make His BREATH enter them so that they may have life. Bam. With a powerful breath, Ezekiel witnesses the bones begin to rattle together and grow muscle and tendon and flesh, becoming living human beings once again.

Whoa. Can you imagine? I wonder, too, how many of us might feel as though we relate with The Valley? Dry. Feeble. Dead. In part, because of this text, we can see that when we have BREATH, we have life.

And I believe that if we have life, then we’ve still got a race to run. 

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” – Psalm 150:6

Another thing; sometimes I dream. A few months ago I received the most brilliant dream; the kind etched in the most fantastic detail, flowing with the most elaborate pallet of watercolor, and a storyline that figuratively took my BREATH away. When I woke I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I journaled it in its entirety. I’ve prayed over this dream, believing it actually came from the Holy Spirit. Let me share it with you, because I’m most assured that this is a word of encouragement for each one of you. A picture gift: from Him to you. 

Dream: I saw a ragged man running a race. He was grimy with sweat; his clothes were tattered like rags, dirty and draping off his body. He’d been running a very long time. And now, I was watching him run what appeared to be the last leg of his race. As he ran across a bridge, a few spectators began to cheer the man on. After crossing the bridge, he rounded the street corner, where I was standing, and that’s when I notice that he is bare foot. Running without shoes this entire time. I look at his feet and wince. They are tore up and bloody; the man is in so much pain. Yet, he keeps running. I look ahead, he is reaching the end, though his last stretch is uphill and I notice that the road is suddenly covered with sharp, jagged rocks. The pain he endures as he continues to run uphill, over the piercing obstacles is so grotesque to watch. The man falls to the ground moments before he reaches the end, but then he gets up and appears to pick up speed. He is sprinting to the finish line, completely pushing through the pain and the rocks and his ravaged body. His chin is held high; and I witness a slight grin touch his mouth and his eyes, his focus is firmly fixed ahead. And then, finally, I witness him cross the finish line. He did it!

Immediately, another figure, a man, is standing at the finish line. The man, it seems, is a dear friend, like a brother or a father. The man embraces the weary runner with a solid, loving hug, as if to hold him up. The Father-Brother is proud; both of the men are smiling and happy and filled with joy. He did it; he finished the race well! -End-

We all get one unique life. As long as we have breath, there is hope, there is life. The race is long and tiresome, but it isn’t finished yet. Keep going, keep running. We haven’t got long, the finish line is just ahead.

 



Wholehearted Living: Courage, Vulnerability & That One Time I Peed My Pants

I met a woman at the gym the other day and we really connected. As we ran side by side, each on our own treadmill, our conversation seamlessly carried on and on. I’d say about half way through my run an alarm went off in my mind, reminding me that I should take a break and use the bathroom. But I ignored the reminder and kept on running. So, here’s the deal: I’m going to be vulnerable and share that I’ve wrestled with a little issue many women face, but not too many discuss. Let’s call it: I’VE HAD THREE BABIES AND MY BODY ‘AINT THE SAME [Aka: Bladder Control]. Ok, there, I said it.

Do I dare finish the story? I’ll bet your capable of crafting a dramatic ending. So, yeah, I PEED MY PANTS, right there, at the public gym, on the treadmill.

<humiliation enters the scene>

The end.

 

treadmill

 

Wait, I do have a meaningful application…I think. 🙂

Call me crazy, but don’t we all have issues? Issues we’d rather ignore: we think we’re doing fine, so let’s keep on running. But the truth is, these issues are deep seeded, below zero, and often play into almost every area of our living.

Here are a few common conditions: perhaps you identify with one or more.

  • The need for certainty or the right to know.
  • Comparing your grass to the greener one down the street.
  • The need for more because it never feels like enough.
  • Always worrying about what others think.
  • Work productivity (list maker/checker) as a measure of success.
  • The need for control, order and a constant plan.

Any of these sound an alarm for you? Yeah, me too.

I’ve been reading  DARING GREATLY by Brene’ Brown, a book all about vulnerability and the courage to live and lead a wholehearted life. In her book, Brene’ says,

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think…I am enough.”

We can nod and say yes to the definition of wholehearted living but, to actually live our lives in this fashion is something entirely different, right?

If we’re honest, admittedly, a lot of our issues often leave us feeling ashamed, afraid or confused. None the less, we’ve become masters of disguise, pros at running for cover. And the domino effect we face, over time, has a tendency to wreak havoc on our sense of worth. We live in a society of “never enough” and from the moment our feet hit the floor, we’re scrounging for our manna. Never enough sleep. Never enough money. Never enough attention. We live in a culture that screams YOU WILL NEVER BE ENOUGH.

So, what’s a person to do?

I believe that if we want to reclaim our worth, we’ve got to take pause from all the running, and start cultivating.

[Please hear me: running the race is oh-so-important. It’s our metaphorical mission, to run the good race, to keep on persevering. It’s in our DNA! My suggestion though is cause for pause. How much more could we receive, what more could we believe if we actually invested in listening to and understanding God’s heart for each one of us?]

Cultivating is a matter of tending to the “issue” by giving attention to it. Spending time with it. Digging up the earth around it. Writing a letter to it. Speaking to it, letting it speak to you. Soaking up wisdom in the ever loving Word of God [Think:Proverbs, Ecclesiastics, Song of Songs, Psalms..] And lastly, pulling the weeds.

I know a helluva lot about worthlessness. I’ve spent many-a-moons beneath the soil, digging for God loving truth. Know this, He’s got you right where He wants you. When Jesus said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and lear from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,”

He really meant it.

Did you know that you are worth far more than rubies? [Proverbs 31: 10]

And you are Chosen, Royal, Set Apart, and you, dear friend Belong to God! [1Peter 2:9]

If cultivating wholehearted living speaks to your heart today, please connect with me. I’d love to hear your story and pray with you. You are not alone in this race, not ever.