Empty to Full :: Lessons from Romans 8

Friday, February 14, 2020  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

People often declare "I'm so glad such and such year is over" or "Such and such year was the worst year yet." I'm not one to proclaim such extremes because every given year has victories, defeats, joys, and heartaches. This is my disclaimer as I head into sharing how God used January 2020 to fill me up after the emptying that was 2019.

I would never give details as to why I ended 2019 depleted, but I can say God stretched me through ministering to others in both brutal and beautiful ways. As many of you have heard, I studied Isaiah last year. (Hopefully soon I can muster the courage to write about some of what I learned through the study.) I'm confident God equipped me to do what he asked me to do by meeting me in the depths of Isaiah. He truly strengthened me with his power in my inner being through his Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). Nevertheless, December arrived and my heart was heavy and sad. There were no reasons/words to explain the sadness. It just blanketed my heart. So I read Scripture about Christ coming once and Scripture about Christ coming again. His promised return was the hope I clung to through the jingle jangle holiday noise. I looked to the change of the decade with trepidation and leaky eyes. 2020 would prove 15 years of leading Second Mile, 25 years of marriage, and would usher in an empty nest.

Separately, Chad and I both felt prompted to set aside the month of January for some intensive spiritual emptying and replenishing. I floundered a bit after studying Isaiah, my head spinning, some of the dust settling, and not exactly sure what next step to take. I tried to work through a Bible study by a famous author and it only annoyed me (because of me, not because of the study). I looked into some other in depth book studies but felt frustrated and overwhelmed. In desperately needing something for my soul, I gave up all the "I shoulds" and simply read a few Psalms and Romans 8 every single day. (If you aren't familiar with Romans 8, stop right now, go open your Bible or click on the link and read it.) I knew it was a meaty, beautiful, redemptive chapter, but I couldn't have known how God would use it to completely revive my weak, depleted self.
My current Bible study tools 
May what God showed me through these January lessons from Romans 8 encourage you. Do not compare your own journey to mine. It pushes me to pursue God when others around me tell me how and what they are learning. My motives are to humbly strengthen your faith as I show you how God strengthened mine.

As January began, I didn't know what or how to pray for myself. He showed me that it didn't matter, that not only was the Holy Spirit interceding for me (vs 26), but Christ himself is at the right hand of God interceding for me (vs 34). Immediately he put me at ease that he knew exactly what I needed and was praying on my behalf.

One reason I couldn't escape the exhaustion of the last year is because I replayed conversations, events, and situations over and over in my mind, sometimes through prayer, but often simply because my brain was stuck. Through verses 1-8 he showed me how I had set my mind on things of this world and on things of the flesh. He very clearly says to do so is death. There is no life in dwelling on what I cannot understand or change. In the kindness of God he rebuked me, led me to confession and repentance, and reminded me that to set my mind on the Spirit is life and peace (vs 6). Prayerfully with God's help, this verse will forever be written on my heart. When I start to despair about the past or the future, he brings this verse to mind and leads me to life in Christ which is peace. Thank you, Jesus.

He reminded me of how secure I am in Christ. He reminded me that to be led by the Holy Spirit is to prove that my adoption by him is secure (vs 14). When the Bible speaks of a follower of Jesus being secured in his eternal family because of adoption, it resonates with me because adoption is momentous in my earthly family. But the passage goes on to say because we are adopted we can cry out to our Father (vs 15). Through a little more study, I learned the word 'cry' (krazo) means to scream, to cry aloud. This isn't a soft little whimper. This is a guttural "I NEED HELP, DAD!" He knew I cried out in this way many times last year and then he met me in the moment of reading this passage to hear my deep cry for restoration. I've continued to find healing from shame concerning emotion. The Holy Spirit removed yet another layer of shame as he invited me to cry aloud to him because I'm his daughter.

And then, the whole next section bolstered my understanding of deep guttural groaning for God! Our sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us (vs 18). What a promise! Then he says creation groans for Christ's return (vs 22), we groan for his return so that our bodies can be redeemed which means no more suffering (vs 24), and that the Holy Spirt himself groans as he intercedes for us (vs 26). I can't even express how these words describe how I felt over the last year, how I groaned for an end to suffering and for his return over and over. I can hardly make it through a song about Christ's return without tears streaming down my face. But then he reminded me through verses 24 and 25, that as his adopted kids, we hope for his return, but we hope for it with patience. Groaning through grumbling and complaining is entirely and completely different than groaning with longing and expectation. The line is easily seen and crossed when my disgust and discontentment is woefully disguised as hope. My God-focused hope is displayed through groaning that longs for God's glory in the whole world, for God to make all things new, for God to wipe away every single tear, for God to end suffering forever SO THAT every knee will bow in worship and WE WILL enjoy our one, true, holy, righteous, loving Lord God forever and ever. Come quickly, Jesus, and we wait for you with patience.

There is more I could share, but the final lesson I want to explain is the most personal. As I stated above, this is a big year for Chad and me: 15 years at Second Mile, 25 years of marriage, and launching our last two kids resulting in an empty nest. One of my main strengths is that I'm a very present person which enhances my relational abilities. I don't dwell on the past and I don't look to the future; I'm mostly fully present. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? What this means in real life is it is difficult to see myself in future circumstances. The short story is for more than 20 years, I've been very present with my kids. I would say being their mom is some of the best of who I am. Yes, I know I won't stop being their mom when they leave home, but it does change. I can easily see with Kyle and Esther that our relationship has only gotten better, and I'm believing the same will be true for Morgan and Carah. I'm not afraid of it. My fears come out in the very practical thoughts of what will I do? As I stated earlier, I am present. I can't see myself in the future without the daily grind of caring for my kids. My heart feels squished when I try to envision it. It's vulnerable to tell you I've asked God to speak to me through his Word about this for many months now. On one of the last days of this emptying and filling Romans 8 process, he answered my prayers in the simplest, most beautiful ways in a passage I've read probably a thousand times (literally). "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" At this point in the month, my heart was FULL of God's love. He met me, healed me, replenished me, rejuvenated me, and refilled my emptiness. He then whispered to my heart that nothing will separate me... things present OR things to come. The same love that I'm experiencing in the present moment is the same love that will carry me in all things future. It truly is such a simple idea, one church kids hear in Sunday school. But, he so lovingly answered my prayer to speak to me through Scripture and not my own knowledge about launching my kids. He will uphold me because I am secure in the steadfast, unfailing love of God. The sure-footing of his love will ground me as Chad and I launch our last two kids. Simple and still profound. He is good and his Word is living and active.

Through the emptying process of January, emptying of fatigue, of expectation, of myself, God faithfully filled me back up, with his love, his presence, and his Word. I'm ready for what's next, but not because I'm confident to achieve anything for or through myself, but because my confidence is in Christ. May he continue to establish and strengthen our faith and cause us to overflow with gratitude. I will never ever stop telling you that God faithfully uses his Word in our lives. Do not give up. Keep reading. You will reap a harvest if you do not give up.

Please Come With Me

Thursday, December 05, 2019  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

At the end of my last very long blog post, I offered a book giveaway. Around 30 people entered, which I think it great odds. Most giveaways on social media have 877 bajillion entries and so I rarely bother which is the downside of pessimism. I trained in being pessimistic about giveaways the hard way. When we had a season of being the parents of eight kids, I faithfully entered my grocery store sweepstakes every single week. I was convinced I'd win the $5000 grocery gift card if I kept up the good work. Alas, optimism didn't win out either. But I digress...

I'm pleased to announce that Suzie G and Dawn E won a copy of Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus.  Ladies, I hope you enjoy it like I have. I'll bring it to you on Sunday.

This book is not for the faint of heart. If you are looking for a happy happy joy joy merry merry Christmas it isn't for you. But, if you are looking to be reminded of why Jesus came as a baby and will come again in glory then join me in reading this fantastical, soul-bolstering collection of sermons. I'm currently re-reading it and it is exactly what I need for this month. 

While I have you here, I've decided it's time to share the Retreat de Moxie videos with everyone. It is a difficult process for me to release them because I can't redo the mistakes I see in them. (2w1 problems, if you know what I mean.) It requires humility/humiliation, but I do trust I did my best to honor God in what I said. Be assured, if you hear a mistake, I heard it, too. But, I also know you will hear that God loves you deeply, has taken your shame, and that he is worthy of all you have. What else would even need to be said? 
I love these women and many more who couldn't join us this year.
Can you feel the zeal?? 
Here they are: 





Each session begins with an intro about what is happening during our retreat. You may want to skip ahead to get to the teaching. Also, if you would like to have a copy of the retreat booklet with notes and resources, please email me and I will send it to you. 
Picture yourself here as you listen to the messages. 💛
You may already know this, but I am passionate about helping women love God with all they have, find freedom in Christ, and remain faithful to him for their whole life. I'm confident you already know this: Life is really, really hard. It sucks, in fact. Even when things are smooth sailing people around us are struggling, and then when sailing turns smooth for others, giant waves rise up and smack us in the face. This is one reason I won't give up "meeting with people as some are in the habit of doing. But [I] will encourage you all the more as we wait for the Day when we see Jesus face to face." (Hebrews 10:25 paraphrase added)

Enjoy the teaching sessions whether it's the first time you are hearing them or you were at the retreat and want to watch again. You can be confident as you watch that I mean what I say, I'm striving to live it, and dragging/pushing/hoping you'll come along with me. 

Please come with me, 

Angel 

Going the Second Mile for Fifteen Years

Thursday, November 14, 2019  ::   4 important comments

On a cold November day in 2004, we said goodbye to Lincoln, Nebraska and headed to sunny Tucson, Arizona. In preparation we prayed, gathered a team, strategized, and wrestled with God about what it would look like to drive across the country to start a church. From scratch. With no job. In a city we had never lived.

For whatever reason (the Holy Spirit shielding my normally worried heart), I had no fear. Through prayer, I believed God had revealed to me that Chad would obtain a management position at Starbucks (he did), that our kids wouldn't suffer from lack of fancy kids ministry (they didn't), and that our friends moving to help in this process were our allies and teammates (they still are).

The early days of church planting were exciting and difficult. Our team of 10 was on a steep learning curve. Everyone scrambled to find jobs, to make friends, and to invite any and every person we met to be part of a new church in Tucson we called Second Mile. Our growth seemed super slow in the beginning, especially because I had naively and stupidly asked God to give us 1000 people in the first year. My DNA was infused with the truth that "more time spent with fewer people equals greater lasting impact for the kingdom," but the American mega church culture tricked me into wanting the numbers. But God, as is always true, had a better plan.

Second Mile is now 15 years old. Thankfully, by God's mercy and grace to me, I've learned some stuff through the years. A "15 lessons I've learned in 15 years" list would be so nice right now, but my brain doesn't work like that, so here a few thoughts rumbling around in my guts.

One major point of learning is that books are my friends. A bit of critique that Chad and I received when we were young leaders is that we weren't readers. It stung and I was indignant so I've spent all the years from that point working to prove that person wrong. My motives maybe weren't great, but here we are. In the 15 years of Second Mile, I've read many books, good, bad, and mediocre. I pray I will always be able to read and implement good lessons into my life and leadership. Currently, in the middle of my life, I think I'm reading better than ever, and that's pretty fun. Recently on separate occasions, two women I admire told me I was smart, and it blew my mind. Self-doubt comes easy for me, so their words were a bolstering gift and encouragement to keep reading, learning, and growing.

To be more specific about reading and learning in the last 15 years, the Bible is absolutely necessary for me and for our church. You may have heard this, but when we were just trying to start a church, Chad went to a conference and felt God telling him to preach Scripture, word by word. All these years later, he's still at it. His discipline spurs on my own personal discipline. I can't imagine doing anything I do without the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Bible. It is life for me.

Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. 
Jeremiah 15:16 

The next area of growth for me came through the many times I wanted to give up. The name, Second Mile, lends itself to us being put to the test fairly regularly. Jesus told us to not just go one mile with people, but to go two. In the first couple of years, my family was faced with a challenge that showed me the depth of my weakness and how God would work through us to love people and honor him. One late night, I said to Chad, "Maybe we should have named our church "One Mile Community Church" or "Easy Street Church" because I'm afraid the 'second mile' will be the death of us." And it has been. Over and over, dying to my own rights, laying down my life, focusing on Christ's strength in my weakness.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me. 
Galatians 2:20 

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Luke 9:23 

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, 
so that Christ's power may rest on me. 
2 Corinthians 12:9

Last year, God very clearly convicted me of my verbal sin of saying, "I don't want to do this anymore." What we speak out loud becomes our reality. I knew I couldn't/wouldn't quit because I'm stubborn, but my words soured my heart and disposition to obeying God's direction in my life with reverent joy. Stubbornness would never sustain long-term obedience. I had to quit quitting with my words so that my heart would stop being tempted to really quit.

Let us not become wearing in doing good for in the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9 

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not give up. 
2 Corinthians 4:1 

Recently, God clearly showed me one experience that helps me not give up. I know this will be difficult for some people to read. Please don't let it heap shame on you. Instead, let my life and words encourage you to press in and keep going. Sunday morning gatherings with my church jolt me with the ability to wake up each Monday and continue on in the battle of life. I hate missing it. When I show up on Sunday, I feel like we look in each other's eyes with an understanding that life really sucks sometimes and then gently remind each other that Jesus is our everything. When we worship through singing, it feels like I'm pushing back the darkness and reminding our enemy that he's defeated and Christ is King. When I open the Bible to receive teaching, it feels like my parched self from the long week fills up with the Living Water. When I see people I love, whether I personally know them or not, it reminds me that I'm not alone, that we are in this together, that I need my brothers and sisters and they need me. Through the years, I've learned that not everyone feels this way about Sunday worship. If you are in that space, I pray God redeems gathering with his Church for you very, very soon. Sit and weep, stand and sing, watch and pray, whatever is necessary for your heart to be bolstered for the daily, weekly, yearly battle until we finally see him face to face. The gathered Church is our reminder that this is not our home, that Jesus is coming again, that he will make all things glorious and new, and that God's glory will rest on us for eternity. Come quickly, Jesus.

Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 
Hebrews 10:25 

One of my favorite fruits of longevity in Second Mile is deep, deep relationships. People have hard lives and when you are in community with one another it leaks out and you can't stop it. It amazes me how many people love me anyway. Chad and I have walked with people in joy, suffering, and grief, both theirs and our own. You cannot go through life's valleys and mountains with people and not love them more. For me, it is impossible. When I close my eyes and scroll through 15 years of faces, my heart swells. A few years ago at our women's retreat, as I shared from Ephesians 1:16 the phrase "continually thankful and continually prayerful" came out of my mouth over and over. This will always be a major theme of how I feel about the people of Second Mile.

However, the years have also had moments of great relational difficultly. When we started Second Mile, we had heard many stories of "post-moderns" leaving churches because of hurt and pain caused by the church. People continue to come to us not sure they can engage because of wounding of past church experiences. It grieves me. However, what I did not anticipate is we would become the source of pain for some, that people would leave us with wounds we caused, that we would not always be given the opportunity for reconciliation. This has grieved me so much more. What I've learned is that, in most cases, there truly are two sides to the story. I can easily say Chad and I and other Second Mile leaders are doing the best we know how to do, but we are sinners and make mistakes. I never thought we would be a perfect church, but I didn't anticipate just how imperfect we would be. When we receive hurting people in our body who have left a church, I now appreciate and experientially know the people they left are also hurting. There have been times I wondered if my relational heart would survive another person leaving us. It has been deeply painful and it takes continual work to prevent my heart from building walls to protect itself. Living up to people's expectations is a false burden I constantly have to lay down. I do hope to continue to love people with Jesus' help to the best of my ability, even though sometimes they will leave. Which leads me to the best lesson of all:

All of these 15 years, ever single one is for Jesus alone. Every meeting, every book, every late night, every early morning, every shared meal, every event, every training, every conflict, every friendship. Everything. It's all for him. Sometimes I'm slow and my motives turn to myself, to Chad, or my kids, or the people I serve. When my vision is skewed and I look to anything other than Jesus, I lose perspective, joy, and the desire to continue. He alone is worthy of my service and worship. Whatever comes out of my life and flows to others must be from Jesus alone. He is the very center of my affections. This will be a daily, life-long choice: Jesus is better.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is he beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:17-18

This list could go on and on. Chad and I believe we are just scratching the surface of all God will continue to teach us through leading Second Mile. We pray God grants us years and years of serving him in this particular family. If you are part of Second Mile, I'm thankful for you. If you have been part of our church in the past, I'm thankful for you. I've you've ever prayed for my family, my church, or me, I'm thankful for you.

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members so not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Romans 12:4-5 

If you could each experience in your hearts and minds how serious I take this verse, it would certainly overwhelm you and possibly freak you out. But I believe it. We belong to one another. There's no escaping. We deal with it now or in eternity, so I plan to keep working it out in this life in order to more fully enjoy the life to come.

With so much gratitude and love,

Angel

Congratulations on making it all the way through this long post! As a form of reward for your diligence I want to give two of you my current book obsession. I love Christmas (more on that later) and to help me truly focus on why I love it, I read books. Last year I read Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ, and this year I'm reading it again. A good friend of mine described it as fantastical and he is not wrong. So, so good. I wish all of you would read it. 

If you'd like a chance to win a copy, all you have to do is comment on the blog post, on Facebook, or on Instagram. One catch, you have to leave a real comment. None of this "What a nice post, Angel. So sweet and precious." Um, no. Give me some meat. Did anything in the post challenge or encourage you? What have you learned in your time in Second Mile or in your own church? A legit comment. My guess is your chances of winning will be high because the requirements are too high for many people. Doooo it! 

For My Daughters, Sisters, and Friends

Thursday, October 24, 2019  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

Chad and I have been working on a research project for a year and a half. I can honestly say it is the deepest I've ever studied one single doctrinal topic. Through the years I've read a variety of theology books and countless nonfiction books on numerous church, biblical, and historical subjects. I like to learn and feel it is my personal responsibility to lead with growing knowledge and accountability. Books written by brilliant scholars from diverse backgrounds and perspectives widen, deepen, and strengthen my own learning and leadership abilities.
For my daughters. I will strive to model strong femininity for them all my days. 
As long as I can remember I've been singled out to be a leader. In first grade, my lovely teacher often praised me for my good work in front of the class. She would point to me as a model student. In middle school, I was a little rougher around the edges and one of my poor teachers who couldn't control me/the class, sat down with the principal and me to explain that if I would just stop being a brat, the class would probably follow along. (I don't remember if I complied or not, but maybe for a week or two?) I lost my footing a bit in high school, but still remember leading in different ways. In college I led small groups, mentored underclassmen, and went on summer missions.

Chad and I have been in full time ministry for 23 years now. I can hardly believe it as I type out the number. We've been side by side for most of it, although my ministry focus was different than his when our kids were younger. We are both wired to help people grow in depth of love for God, to provide presence for people in their deepest sufferings and greatest joys, and to counsel, listen, and provide outside resources to questions I could have never dreamed being asked. Our motivation for all of this is to honor God above all else.
Do you want to know one of the frustrating struggles I've had through the years? It's really dumb and inconsequential on the surface. Why does it matter? Who cares? Where does my validation lie? Who calls, confirms, and equips me?

Here it is:

What is my title? When people in polite conversation ask "what do you do" how do I respond?

"Well, I'm a women's ministry director." (Like an event planner?)
"Oh, um, I'm a life coach for women at my church." (Can you help me find a job?)
"You see, I'm a discipleship strategist" (Sounds scary.)

I most often tell people one of two things: I mentor women at my church or that I lead women's ministry at my church. Still pretty vague though, right? It definitely doesn't give a clear picture. Let me tell you, whatever answer I give, it's a real conversation killer.

Part of me knows it's vanity to care about my title. My motivation certainly isn't in a title. However, part of me also knows it is bolstering and validating to be able to explain unapologetically that God has, in fact, called, confirmed, and equipped me to lead, minister, and shepherd in my church. To be able to succinctly, boldly, and lovingly say exactly what I do would be a gift, not necessary, but beneficial.

Many of you know a torrent of hatred and slander flooded the internet over the weekend against Beth Moore who is a Jesus-loving, strong, female leader.*  The world is full of cruelty. This wasn't the first time and it won't be the last. I pray most of you ignore the vitriol that takes place on social media specifically in the American church. It's so so ugly and sinful. I do pay attention for a variety of reasons, one of them, if necessary, is to be prepared to watch over the women I love and lead. In loving response to the malice towards Ms. Beth, many strong leaders are writing about a woman's place in the Church. It's beautiful. You can read this one from Ann Voskamp or this one from Jonathan Martin or this one or this one from Beth herself. It's also partly why I'm writing today.

Dear daughters, sisters, and friends, I want you to know I see you, I'm with you, and I love you. But you already know this. And you know it about the elders of our church, too. I'm so happy that none of the four elders of Second Mile spend any amount of time at all on social media. Just because they don't respond on Facebook doesn't mean they don't care. Which brings me back to the research project, my title, and women in the church.

This project started after many years of conversation between Chad and me and then with a podcast and then we read one small book which led to another and another and another. We are looking closely at what the Bible says about women specifically. We've been asking God to show us our own cultural and denominational lens that has possibly/probably skewed our ability to see the depths of Scripture. We've had deep discussions and heated arguments about specific verses, translations, and all the interpretations of which we are trying to make sense. We felt this topic was so huge and so important and had so many implications for our own local church body that Chad asked the elders to read and study, too.

We aren't quite ready to share any resources or results of our research. However, I did share some during the second session of our Moxie retreat. Of course we will certainly share our findings with our beloved church when we are ready. And I can't wait. In the mean time here's the video of the session in case you missed it or want to watch again:
I'm giving you this research project teaser for a few reasons.

First, I'm grieved over how regularly, loudly, and terribly powerful men (and women) publicly ridicule and mock women who clearly love Jesus and are doing the best they can to honor him. It moves me to deep prayers, but it also causes me to set my jaw and clench my fists to continue running as hard as I can after God.

Second, I want you to know we are continually doing hard work behind the scenes to learn and grow doctrinally and then to practically apply it in our actual church. If we are honest, we aren't personally affected by what happened to Beth Moore over the weekend. It grieves us, but we show up in our actual lives to do what God has asked us to do. But, this research has affected Chad and me which means it will affect our body. I can assure you, the biggest result is that we love the women and men in our church more than ever. We pray and strive for personal wholeness and we also pray and strive for wholeness in Second Mile.
These are some of the faces that compel me to keep laboring in the gospel. Oh how I love them. 
Third, please pray for us as we move through the final stages of hashing it all out. We have lists to make, pages to write, debates/discussion to have. It will be good, but it will also be hard.

The Church could not exist without women, but you already know that. But maybe you needed to read this post to be reminded that your leaders' heads aren't in the sand. We are with you, praying for you, and hopefully pointing you to Jesus.

Contending for the gospel until death or until Jesus returns,

Angel



*I won't link the video. You can google it, but it really isn't necessary. It's gross and sinful.

Out of the Trench

Tuesday, July 16, 2019  ::   1 important comment

Do you ever have times when you just can't shake the negative thoughts, the sadness and tiredness, and/or the wet blanket of shame?

A week or so ago I woke up weary, emotional, and wiped out. My eyes were puffy and my brain was on hyperdrive. Sometimes I wallow in the despair (eating the bread of anxious toil) and sometimes I remember what to do to reorient myself to Jesus. Maybe the words I'm about to share will help you try something new when you find yourself in a muddy trench.


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I stumbled out of bed and made my way to my kitchen table and sat down, Bible, notebook, and pen in hand. Sitting in the solid wooden chair made me more aware of my need for God to soften my heavy heart. Holding out my hands I prayed: "I'm feeling pretty beat up today and believing some lies that I'm not worth much. So let's find some Scripture. Will you help me, Jesus? I'm struggling."

Turning to as many familiar passages as came to mind, I began to write:

Ephesians 1
vs 4 - He chose me
vs 7 - I am redeemed and forgiven
vs 8 - He gives me wisdom and insight
vs 13 - I am sealed with the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 3
vs 16 - He will strengthen me with power in my inner being
vs 19 - He loves me so much it surpasses knowledge

Ephesians 4
vs 11 - He gave me to Second Mile (a prophet, teacher, and shepherd) to equip the saints for ministry, to build up our body

Ephesians 5
vs 8 - I walk in the light of the Lord

Ephesians 6
vs 10 - I am strong in the Lord
vs 12 - I am wrestling against spiritual forces

1 John 1
vs 5 - He is light so I am in the light which removes all darkness and confusion

1 John 2
vs 1 - He is my advocate. (He advocates for ME!)
My necessary and simple tools

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There are 5 other chapters of Scripture I utilized that I didn't share with you, but hopefully you get the picture through this sampling of what I covered that morning. (Many things God speaks to us through his Word are just for us and not meant to be shared with the world. Intimacy and privacy in relationships are so important in our media frenzied culture. But that's for a different blog post.)

Sitting at the table for over an hour with the balm of the Holy Spirit speaking through Scripture is exactly what I needed... not a pep talk from a friend, not a book by my favorite author, certainly not the distraction of social media or housework or errands, not putting on a 'brave' face and pretending everything was ok, and not even my favorite worship playlist. Getting up early enough to have uninterrupted time provided the needed space for needed heart change. To be sure, I felt raw and sore throughout the day (and maybe even a few days), but nothing else could root out the lies like time abiding with Jesus in Scripture (John 15:7-11).

God revealed and reminded me of his truth that morning. Then I faced the choice to take hold and believe it or fall back into the muddy trench. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit enabled me to repeat these passages to myself over and over until they began to transform my thoughts. Hard work to be sure, but the payoff far exceeded the effort. Many of you see me as a woman of strength for which I'm humbled and thankful, and you've heard me say it a million times and I'll say it a million more while I still have breath: God, through his holy, perfect Word, has changed my heart a million times over. I pour through the pages and flip through my memory packet like my life depends on it because it does.

Do you believe me? Have you experienced the transformation he brings through it? Have you only dabbled with a plastic spoon or have you dug deep with a pick ax? How much time do you spend? Do you expect overnight expertise or are you up for the task of life-long study?

What passage can you turn to today that will speak truth to your heart of his glory and your worth in him?

You know I love the sky because of Psalm 19. If you want to hear me teach about this passage click here

My Heart and My Home

Thursday, February 28, 2019  ::   4 important comments

"What's your personal style?" A question that always brought me discomfort and dread. For years I had no idea. What were my favorite colors? In an ideal world how would I decorate? If money was no object how would I arrange, paint, purchase, and fill my home? Who in the heck actually knew? Certainly not me.  

Some people have a knack for knowing what they like and bringing it to fruition. I was not one of those people. Hand-me-downs and take-what-you-can-gets filled every room of my house. I didn't notice most of the time until someone asked me about my personal style, implying that surely the green carpet and dirty red sofas they saw couldn't be my heart's desire. 

My family has been situated on our little cul de sac for a little more than ten years now. We bought the biggest house we could get for our money so we could host large groups of people, but it also meant we chose to live in a fixer upper. I often tell my poor Chad that he knows how to do so much that he gets stuck doing too much. We've (he's) torn down walls, ripped up flooring, dealt with frustrating troubles, and now we are finally representing my (our) personal style. 

Through trial and error, age, and a fixed up house, here is what I've discovered: 

I like neutral walls so I can change decorations whenever I want. (I went through an orange accent wall phase. I liked it for approximately one minute. Ick.) 

I like bright decor to stand out on my neutral walls. 

I like texture on the walls. Wood, metal, fabric, anything interesting. 

I like to fill my shelves with memories, keepsakes, meaningful words, and lots and lots of books. 

I like bright open spaces with large, comfy furniture that whispers, "Come take a nap" and/or "Someone in this house is glad you're here." 

I like for people to feel like there is space for them when they enter a room... a chair, a clean floor, space at the table. 

Now that half my kids live in two places (home is still home), I really, really like for them to come home and know it will be full of peace, laughter, and deep comfort. 

We recently moved out our pingpong table and reoriented the entry room as seen below. The walls are covered with reminders of people we love. My artist and maker friends give me cool stuff and I love it! One print is a hand caligraphied piece we received as a wedding gift way back in 1995. Other prints are hand drawn or graphic designed. Each one makes me smile. Even Chad's childhood Donald Duck bank is displayed. Photos, Scripture, and important words fill the room. 
I change and rearrange these shelves regularly. I like the stable consistency of the wall color and shelves, but also like the reminder that change can be good in how I can rearrange the stuff on the shelves. I've caught everyone in my family grinning at me as I try to work the arrangement just so. 
Again, I can change the shelf in the middle (which is actually an old desk drawer. HOPE.. yes, I need the giant constant reminder that my hope is eternal and not temporal. And if you look at all the photos, you'll surely see a rhino or two or ten. Chad is a big fan of rhinos hence our whole family enjoys them prominently displayed everywhere. Sometimes the punks like them a little too prominent for me. They tease me often and I love every minute of it. 

Moving to our main living room in the photo below. Chad and our friends, Phil and Stuart, helped build this lovely fireplace and mantel. The mantel itself is reclaimed, hand-hewn wood. The piece above the fireplace is a reminder for Chad and me to be a place of refuge for our kids who will each be world-changers in their own ways. I pray we love, support, and continually launch them into the world so they can do the hard work of loving and helping others and that they continually return home for a refilling of love and support. A beautiful cycle. 
As Chad collects rhinos, I collect unique Nativities. Chad found this one on a recent trip to Las Cruces. I usually keep a few Nativities displayed year round. The framed Scripture is the passage that God used to hold me up during my stroke and recovery. 
Look at the cutest, tiniest Nativity you ever saw! My friend, Britt, gave it to me. I love it. And of course, my kiddos. 
I recently purchased this metal sign from Magnolia Market. If you've been around me lately, you've heard me say far too many times that I'm in a time of transition with my kids. For as long as I can remember, well-meaning people have spoken ill-meaning words over me as a mom. "Oh three daughters, just wait unit they are teenagers. It's going to be awful." Or, "Kyle is so smart and good-looking, he's going to be a heartbreaker and it's going to break your heart." Or, "You were so rebellious I bet your kids will be the same." And as they leave the nest, I've heard a few too many times words that sting deeply like, "How great it will be to have the house to yourselves" or "When they leave the house, they will leave relationship with you, too" or "Life gets harder and harder and lonelier and lonelier." 

On good days, I can understand that those words aren't about me or my kids, but about some pain in the person speaking them. On bad days, fear can grip me like a vice and I play out every dark scenario that comes to my dark mind. On days I choose to trust God who numbers my days rightly as I fix my eyes on him, I remember no one knows how the years will turn out except Him alone. The best is always yet to come because someday I will see him face to face. I'm going to keep opening the doors of my home as long as I physically, emotionally, and spiritually can to family and friends, therefore "The Good Ol' Days Are truly Yet to Come." This isn't a rose colored glasses sign for me. It's a reminder every time I come in my house and leave my house to look to the future with hope and expectation instead of fear and dread. 

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." Proverbs 31:25 

Just as my heart is in constant remodeling, so is my house. Lest you think everything is how we want it, here are a couple of photos to the contrary. 
The remainder of the orange-ness and what will be my future office, reading, sitting, daydreaming room. We are building a pantry and making this little space cozy. I can't wait. Electrical work is first which means Chad needs a friend's help. Slowly but surely.
And, alas, our ugly, ugly bedroom. My kids tell me regularly it should be our next project, but I don't care too much about it. The walls still have patched holes from when we had to replumb our whole house and the carpet is still a 'delightful' shade of green. But whatcha gonna do? Eventually this will be remodeled, but I'd rather have a pretty back yard which is my current campaign. 

Hello to those of you who actually read all the way to the end of this post! It seems like just a few years ago we had people in our home nonstop. Life changed in that regards somewhat because my teenagers participate in many activities and I wasn't about to miss anything. But, I can feel a change coming where we will host more consistently again. We don't know what it will look like just yet, but I hope "my personal style" in building our home puts people at ease, beckons my kids to come home to replenish, and fills Chad and me with love, joy, and contentment for years and years to come. 

Now tell me, what is your style? Do you like to fix stuff up? Do you like to have people in your home? What do you look forward to in the future? One more question, do you look at the links I include in my blog posts? Just curious. 

Desire, Motivation, and Discipline

Thursday, February 07, 2019  ::   1 important comment

When women speak out their desire to learn theology (the study of God), my heart flutters and I may even do a little dance. If you've ever heard me speak in any capacity, you know I'm more than passionate about challenging and teaching women to be strong-willed in Scripture, word, and deed as opposed to weak-willed and willy-nilly, following the winds of culture. 2 Timothy 3 speaks of weak-willed women allowing false, misguided love and ideas worm their way into their homes. Heck no! Not my house! Please help me, Jesus!

My good friend, John DeSoto, recently preached a message on Psalm 112 titled Righteous Stability. In his message, he mentioned that he is digging into theology this year. It's only been a few days since he spoke and I've already received more than a few inquiries about the when, what, and how of studying theology from some of the amazing women I'm honored to lead. I love it! So, for the sake of everyone who may be curious but not asking, here is a quick-start nudge for you.

First, know this: Theology is for everyone. If that mean girl voice in your head just said, "Uh no, I can't/don't want to learn about this... It's not helpful for my daily life or I get too confused or I'm not smart enough or blah, blah, blah," tell that voice to shut its mouth and choose to believe that we all learn with different strategies, at different paces, and with different benefits. I am not an intellectual academic at all. But, through the years, I've disciplined myself to dive head first into complicated topics.

This past year Chad and I have been working on an intensive doctrinal deep-dive. Through this doctrinal study, God has been gracious to also show me new and wondrous theological concepts, as well. I'm currently muscling my way through my fifth book for this project, a couple of text books even! The last book I read had whole chapters dedicated to one Greek word and I thought my brain would explode. The point: It takes desire, motivation, and discipline. My desire is to grow my brain and heart, to work through a hard topic with Chad, and to not be left behind in learning. My motivation is to have a deeper understanding of what Scripture says about this particular topic for my own benefit as well as for the benefit of my church. My discipline is to ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten the eyes of my heart and to give me endurance and stamina to pick up these seemingly impossible books and read a few chapters every week. It is not easy, but it is so, so rich. (I will not be telling you the topic until we are both ready to articulate what we've learned. Don't you just hate that?! Hahaha!)

So where do you start?

Gather a few friends in order to read and grow together. I have a small book in my office for $10 to offer any of you at anytime called Practical Theology for Women by Wendy Alsup. I've read it at least half a dozen times with various women in Second Mile, including my oldest daughter. It is a great place to whet your appetite for theology. Most, if not all, of our Moxie mentoring relationships begin with this book. (Some women don't like that it is called a theology book for women. But come on, I'm a woman, am I not? I continually and gladly pick up this book written by a woman for women. Please and thank you.) For theology, I also highly recommend None Like Him and In His Image by Jen Wilkin. Again, both books are in my office waiting to be purchased and read by you.

If you are ready for the next challenge, find a fatter theology book and get going. When we moved to Tucson to start Second Mile, a large portion of our team read through Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology together. There were tears, debates, frustrations, and more personal growth than any of us realized we were experiencing. John mentioned he is reading a different theology book. It is Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof. I can't remember if he mentioned this, but the elders are going through it together. Together in theology is better than theology alone. Our minds and hearts need the accountability and insight of others. If we hate an idea that is actually true, we need our sisters and/or brothers to gently help us surrender our feelings in order to trust God.

At this point Second Mile does not offer any theology specific classes. (However, Chad teaches us theology on the regular in his messages.) But please do not let the lack of formal classes stop you from diving in the deep waters of theology if your interest is piqued.

  • Gather two or three trusted friends. 
  • Buy a well-known, trusted book; start with this one if you've never done this before. 
  • Set a goal of meeting once a month for a couple of hours to discuss 2-4 chapters. 
  • Finish in a year or so. As you often hear me say, this is a long obedience in the same direction for your whole life. I pray we are growing in our faith and understanding of God until the day we meet him face to face. 
  • Talk to me or a trusted leader as you progress for encouragement, trouble-shooting, and accountability. 

"We must make a study of our God: what he loves, what he hates, how he speaks and acts. We cannot imitate a God whose features and habits we have never learned. We must make a study of him if we want to become like him. We must seek his face." -Jen Wilkin

"In the long run, careful theology may slow you. But in the long run, it will sustain you." -John Piper

"Sound theology is not an end it itself but must be turned into praise. Ethical compliance without fervent worship means you've given God your will but not your heart." -Timothy Keller

Also, don't forget about the giveaway I'm doing as we get ready for the Matthew message series! There are only dozen or so entries and I'm giving away three books! I'm confident we will learn deep theological truths as we study the life of Christ through Matthew.

Are you intimidated by the study of theology, do you embrace it, or somewhere in between? What is one aspect of God you wish you understood better? Have you ever read a theology book? Tell me everything.