The First Thing :: Decrease Unbelief

Tuesday, April 01, 2014  ::   4 important comments

There is a stirring in my heart, an awakening. 

Before we moved to Tucson almost ten years ago, prayer sustained me, filled my heart, and provided direction even in our big move. Maybe because my kids were little and napped, time alone each afternoon provided me the opportunity to reflect, ponder, and worship. Throughout the last ten years prayer definitely has not ceased, but it certainly has changed. Thankfully, through God's grace of maturing me, my relationship has become just that... more of a relationship. Talking to Jesus is part of my everyday life. It comes through set aside time, but also during the ebbs and flow of each day.

But over the last few months, my heart has been moving towards more time, more depth, more intentionality. In September I felt like a sleepy bear coming out of a year long hibernation. Sabbatical gave me the time I needed for healing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As I imagine a giant black bear straggling out of the cave, stiff and hungry, I, too, felt ready to come out, but stiff and hungry for more.

December gave the opportunity to focus on Advent. More than ever before, the thought of Emmanuel, God With Us, moved me to beg and plead for God to make his presence known in my life, in my church, and in my city. The desire refreshed my soul.

Second Mile's week of prayer and fasting challenged me deep in my belief. The verse about Jesus not doing mighty works among them because of their unbelief haunts me still.  As a church we prayed for big things, but we must believe! He wants to draw people to himself. He wants to build his church. He wants us to grow in dependence on him. Is it too much to ask him to redeem ten people this year? I think it is too small of a request, but my belief starts to tremble with doubt. God, help my unbelief! If I want him to redeem people, how much more does God want to draw people to himself? So much more.

The If Gathering reminded me of one of my life long truths: To Run My Race! I think maybe I had slowed to a meandering walk.

Finally, this last week I was privileged to speak to a group of women at a church plant/revitalizing conference. I loved it. I would love to serve in this way more often. I love investing in women so much. However, the best part of the conference for me wasn't what I did, but what I received. A pastor from Las Vegas laid it out to us about the absolute necessity of prayer. It was a challenging and beautiful reminder for me. Here are a few of the zingers he threw out to us:

"Prayer precedes growth of any kind."
"Does my prayer life reflect that I believe God is smarter and produces better, long lasting results than me? How much do I pray?"
"Your prayer life should shout, I BELIEVE!"
"Do you want to revitalize your church? Revitalize your prayer life."

Honestly, none of these statements were earth shattering in the sense that they were new concepts, but each of them were convicting to my heart. Do I believe them in the sense that they puff up my head with knowledge? Or, do I experientially live out the belief that prayer is vital.

I'm thankful to be part of a church that values prayer. I can say that we pray often, but I can't imagine ever saying that we pray enough. Friends, let me invite you into continued prayer for our city, for our church, for our friends, for our families, for the nations...the list continues.

Get out your prayer guide and go through it again. If you aren't part of Second Mile, use the linked prayer guide for your own church, or better yet, write one for your church and share it with others.

Read a new book about prayer, or re-read your favorite book. Gather some friends to pray once a month, or once a week, or once a day.

Would you consider making fasting once a week part of your routine? Let's use not eating for one day as a reminder that we long for him more than we long for food, that we are already redeemed, but not yet home, that we need him to increase our belief.

In an effort to help each other, think about what you can do and then tell someone for accountability. Will some of you join me in fasting one day a week for God to draw our friends to himself? Will some of you community group leaders plan a prayer gathering for your group? If you need ideas, please ask me. I would love to help. Are there some of you who would come to church on Sunday afternoon early to pray? Let's amp up our prayers.

1 Tim 2:1 The Message
The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. 

Do you need an idea on books about prayer or belief? Share in the comments if you have additional suggestions.

My heart is stirring, awakening. Let it never be said about us that our unbelief kept Jesus from doing mighty works among us. May it be true of our lives that the way we prayer is the first thing we do, in every way we know how, for everyone we know. 

What do you want to add? How does your life reflect the way you pray? What challenges do you face in praying? What are one or two ways you can challenge yourself in maturing the way you pray? 

In What Shall I Boast

Saturday, February 15, 2014  ::   4 important comments

My soul feels bound up today. Tears wait on the edge of my eye lids while the lump in my throat grows big enough to burst into yelling.

If God is real then...

I've struggled with this question since I first read about the IF: Gathering. The ability to answer the question for myself eluded me. By no means was it the intention of the leaders to create a question that would spark doubt, but for me, deep in my guts I questioned my own motives, years, purpose. All of the sudden I wondered. Too much.

The wondering birthed some unwelcomed cynicism in my heart. Several of my closest friends agreed together to engage with IF and to host a small group through Second Mile. As time grew closer to the event, I felt more and more unsettled. I blamed it on the ambiguity of the conference, the gathering, the whatever it was/is, but it was only today that I finally put my finger on the spot in my heart that birthed the cynicism.

Before I reveal that spot, I want to say I really loved IF. In the moments of each speaker, each song, each story, engaging with 20 or so dear women whom I greatly value, we were refreshed, refilled, reunified. We sang loud. We got on our knees together. We laughed. We shared deep parts of our hearts. I was continually reminded throughout the weekend that we are part of an extraordinary church that challenges one another, that retreats together, that shares life together, that longs for Tucson to know Jesus together. We often take for granted our courageous church. It was not lost on me that only a few short weeks earlier many of the women who gathered for IF had gone without food for an entire week in order to seek Jesus together as a community. These things have become normal to us. Refreshed from the week of prayer and fasting led beautifully into refreshment from the IF leaders who were used by God to speak to our hearts. Beautiful.

If God is real then...

For me, God is real. Was I supposed to still doubt? If I can believe he is more real, then will it change my life more? Will it help me do more? Will I have more insight? Will I then be able to do some crazy humongous thing that will receive Christian world-wide acclaim?

Cynicism. Darkness. Smallness.

It seemed to hide its identity from me until the first discussion time. I drew my question out of the pile available. "What is holding you back?" I asked my group to come back to me because I wasn't sure of the answer. As each woman answered her own question it became so very clear. I was cynical. I confessed to my friends, and said a prayer of repentance to Jesus, but oddly enough, the understanding of it all only became clear today.

When I was 18 I came to the place of realizing I didn't want to live my life without Jesus. The teenage years worked me over like a rag doll. Opting out of floppy limbs, a floppy heart, and a floppy mind, I went straight into battle mode. Praying, reading, learning, and growing in knowing and loving Jesus became an obsession. I wanted to do big things for God!

I went on trips, met with any leader who would talk to me, talked to strangers with passion while standing on tippy toes and smiling about how much he loves us, married a crazy, yet level-headed, passionate guy who also wanted to change the world. We went to another country, shared our love for God, met God-fearing people who showed us God was much bigger than the American God I had created in my mind, studied a language, adopted an amazing kid... all before I turned 25.

We returned to the States telling God we would serve him in specific ways, yet he took us on a completely different path, we had more kids, lived in other states, discipled college students, decided we should start a church with ten amazing friends... all before I was 30.

We began a church called Second Mile, labored with sweat and tears, we've given around 1500 gifts to strippers, parented eight kids, partnered with people who love Tucson, walked with women towards freedom...all before I was 40.

Doesn't it sound braggy? Oh, but I don't mean it to. I'm reminded of the passage that Paul shares all his accomplishments and then so beautifully says, "If I must boast, I boast in the things that show my weakness." In Galatians he says, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Yes. Boast in Jesus.

The cynicism was birthed out of my own soul boasting. How could they ask me, a 40 year woman who has been trying to bust her butt to serve Jesus If God is real then...? Come on, people! Look what I've been doing the last twenty years? Who are you to ask me IF I am living as IF God is real? I. Am. Trying. Can't you see that?

Defeated. Disheartened to think I haven't been doing enough. Too exhausted to consider doing more. Unable to answer the questions of those I lead about what God would have us do.

The truth is I do believe God is real. I see his activity all around me. Sometimes by his grace I get up and join him. Sometimes because of my fear, or stubbornness, or ignorance I watch the marching go by without me.

If God is real then I will press into him in order to be more like him when I'm 41, when I'm 48, when I'm 50, when I'm 67, when I'm 70, when I'm nearing my finish line.

If God is real then he knows my cynicism and wants to right my heart towards his statutes and not toward selfish gain.

If God is real then I will not demand to be used by him, and I will get on my face and dwell his holy presence, delight in him as he sings over me, allow myself to just be.

If God is real then I will realize that Jesus didn't start his public ministry until he was 30 which means he waited 30. long. years to go big for his Father. We've only been in Tucson for not quite 10 years. Easter marks our tenth year of taking gifts to dancers in men's showclubs. Ten short years. Am I willing to wait for 30? If God is real then I will stay the course.

If God is real then my faith must believe that God is who he says he is! Faithful, merciful, kind, just, loving, good, unrelenting, pursuant, almighty, jealous, with us, I Am.

If God is real then I must believe I am who God says I am! Daughter, redeemed, beloved, forgiven, worshipper, entrusted with talents, co-heir, laborer, door holder for his kingdom.

If God is real then I must run my own race and not look towards other leaders and assume they don't know the trenches. My gaze must be fixed on the cross. Run my own race. Run my own race. Run my own race! Run well with my community, cheering one another on, sharpening each other as we go, carrying each other as we need, pointing each friend to Jesus.

Through the week of prayer, through IF, through so much soul searching this week, I've surrendered my cynicism. It is an ugly recurring theme in my heart. I'm asking God to remove it from my stoney heart through his kindness and grace and give me a heart of flesh that fully believes Him. He has mapped out a trail run for me that I fear has twists and turns, drops and rocks, and peaks and pits. As I keep my gaze on him I know he will make my path feel straight and narrow, secure, and enable me to keep both feet on the ground, rooted deep into the Rock that is higher than I.

Will you run with me? If God is real then he gave us to each other. He doesn't want us to run alone. I need you.

What is your If God is real then statement? Let's share together so that we may fix our gaze on Jesus, and together, boast in nothing but the cross.

A Read Your Way to Superstardom Giveaway

Tuesday, February 11, 2014  ::   48 important comments

Many thoughts are swirling around in my heart and mind today. The week of prayer and fasting mixed with the IF:Gathering mixed with Chad's message Sunday night make me feel like I've consumed five energy drinks while carrying a loaded semi up the hill. Energized, heavy, and a little crazy...that's me.

I can't really make sense of it all today. Some of those blog posts will come out in the days to come. There were three specific burdens rekindled through the above mentioned experiences. One of them is to blog more because I actually enjoy it. Another one was to stick to my clearly defined boundaries in other areas of ministry which, incidentally, will afford me to opportunities to blog more. Do you see that little circle of convenience? If I don't meet with all the people in one week then I can blog and do some other things I love. By the way, this is not a commentary on any of you. The problem/awesomeness is I love to meet, invest in, and talk with women. I have to be the one that says, "I would love to get together, but I can't this week because my schedule is full." That isn't your job. It's mine. I own my issue of boundary ignoring.

An area of atrophy in my life since my stroke is reading. You know I've already lamented on my blog about the difficulty of reading. My broken brain just wouldn't cooperate. It usually left me sad, frustrated, and exhausted. The fantastic, wonderful, fabulous news is that my brain continues to get better and better and stronger and stronger. My ability to read longer and retain what I've read is a tangible example of healing.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't have the super power of reading like some of my friends do. (I'm looking at you John W., Steph K, Alisa W.) Some people can blow through a book in a minute or two, but that's not true for me. I would love to classify myself as an avid reader, but it would be a lie. However, I do aspire to be a disciplined reader.

A few years ago I read a quote by Harry S. Truman. "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers." It deeply resonated with my desire to grow in leadership. It fortified a disciplined determination to read.

found on pinterest
Whenever people tell me they don't read because they just don't like it, I'm left a little shocked. Guess what? I don't like it either. I like baking and sipping iced tea, but if all I do is bake cookies and drink tea I'm going to be a fat old lady with brown teeth. Reading will make me stronger, smarter, more influential. If you don't want to influence anyone, then fine. Don't read. As for me, I'm going to will myself into turning as many pages as my brain will allow and after a good rest, I plan to turn some more.

To just blab on about reading, but not help anyone in their journey is lame. Therefore, to encourage the beauty of reading, I'm hosting my first blog give away. You are about to have the chance to win not one, but two prizes.

I don't want to just tell you to read, I want to help you, so the big prize is a $30 gift card to Amazon. You can pick out some books that have been on your wish list. Side note, if you don't have books on your Amazon wish list, change that today. It is an easy way to keep a running list of books you hope to read in the future, even if you don't purchase them from Amazon. Of course I realize someone could take the $30 and buy this or this or this, but I'm hoping you won't.

The second part of the prize is Shauna Niequist's book Bread & Wine.  Many of you in my circle of friendship that hope to win have already read the book. If you win, give the book to someone who will enjoy it as much as you did. I love the way Shauna tells the story of her life. She weaves her words beautifully. I feel calm and inspired when I read her books. That, my friends, is a good combination of feelings.

To enter I'm getting a little fancy pants on you. I honestly couldn't figure out a more fair way to do this thing. Excuse me while I feel a little awkward about it. The first time I taught a step aerobic class I felt quite silly, especially since I was wearing awesome hot pink leg warmers (not really.) There will be no leg warmers for this, but a rafflecopter is about to make its appearance and I'm going to ask you to do things like "follow this blog" and "share on Facebook and/or Twitter." Feels an awful lot like my first step class as an instructor. In that class and in this give away I may feel a little like this:


Anywho, you can enter to win by leaving a comment about what book you are reading or want to read. You can leave a comment with a verse you are memorizing because you all know how that makes my heart sing. You can click on the little follow this blog button on the side for an extra entry. If you already follow it counts as an entry. Finally, you can share this give away on Facebook or Twitter. You can enter six times. There ya have it!

I will do the whole post the winner and stuff on Tuesday the 18th. One week.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'm looking forward to reading your comments already!

On Fasting When You Have to Eat

Thursday, January 16, 2014  ::   3 important comments

This is Second Mile's tenth annual week of prayer and fasting. I know it is cliche to say, but I really can't believe we've been doing this for ten years. It blows my mind just a little. The act of gathering as a church with one heart and mind to start the year praying through the same topics and fasting from a variety of pleasures bonds us, strengthens us, and challenges us.

Through the years I've fasted for different lengths of time from food. One year I skipped the internet for the week, but decided it didn't draw me closer to Jesus in the end. For me, fasting from food forces me to experience emptying myself and relying on Jesus in mysterious ways. The clarity and worship not eating brings to my heart, mind, and soul lifts me up. Therefore, last year when people who love and care for me brought up the fact that I should probably eat during our special week because of the health issues I was facing, I felt crushed and left out. In God's mercy and omniscience, I learned to engage in the week in different ways and I grew in compassion and understanding for those who cannot fast for a variety of reasons.

The excitement for this year's week of prayer and fasting has been building in my heart for months. Go big or go home, right? Since I didn't fast from food for the week last year, I figured I could just go ahead and fast a few days longer than the week this year. To be clear, my motives were not to make up for lost time, but to celebrate the healing that's taken place in my body and to rush into the presence of God. However, my sweet, loving husband who does more than I could ever explain to take care of me, especially since I don't often take care of myself, sat me down a couple of weeks ago to gently bring up the fact that I'm taking blood thinners, that fasting from food may not be the best option considering the potency of the medication, and that I should do some research. If you know me, you know I was instantly in the state of "Whatever! I will deny myself food if I want to!" That's kind of an ironic statement of rebellion if you think about it.

Long story short, Chad was right. Shocker. He's right most of the time. I love it and it drives me crazy. I can rely on him completely, but I can rarely win a debate on details and logistics. Again, if you know me, you're laughing at me debating details and logistics. Let's just say those two words do not translate well in my view of the world.

I'm writing this little blog post for those of you who may be thinking and wondering about how fasting pertains to you. Some of you are on medication, or are nursing babies, or take care of sweet littles and not eating could endanger them, or work in very stressful or strenuous jobs. We are all at different places in our lives. Important notice: This is not a blog post to give anyone an excuse to not fast from food if God is leading you in that direction. There are people in our church who have stressful jobs or take care of sweet littles that fast from food. You must run your own race! You must seek God in this area, ask him about fasting, and obey.

I'm letting you know what I will be doing for this year's fast to invite some of you to join me. I've taken some ideas I've found on the internet, as well as Jen Hatmaker's 7 book to come up with my own personal plan.

Starting soon, I will only be eating apples, chicken, broccoli, and brown rice, using minimal olive oil, sea salt, and pepper to cook the broccoli and chicken. My stomach needs something or my blood thinners will turn on my body. We don't want that. For me, I will be limiting my quantities for each meal, but if you choose to join me, you should check with your doctor about your necessary caloric intake.

Eating only these four foods for a week will force the issue of simplicity, which is important in fasting, will cause me discomfort, which comes with fasting, and will make eating about sustenance and not so much about pleasure, which food is almost always about pleasure for me.

If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or shoot me an email or Facebook message. I will promptly reply. What are your plans for fasting? What has been your experience in fasting and prayer? How can I help, encourage, and pray for you through this walk of obedience? 

Let me end this post with these important words:

Romans 14:17  
The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. 

Hebrews 3:12-13 
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of us has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the Living God, but encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that 
none of us may be hardened by sins deceitfulness. 

Hebrews 10:23  
Let us hold unswervingly to the HOPE we profess, 
for He who promised is faithful. 

Grace in Progress

Friday, January 10, 2014  ::   3 important comments

Pain is the stuff of learning. It either beckons you to your bed to hide, pushes you to the middle of the ring to fight, or forces you to your knees to surrender. It's easy for me to write all about the beauty and wonder of 2013, but when I look back I also see circumstances that caused me to hide or to fight and eventually, to surrender.

To read wistfully chipper blog posts, look at artfully crafted photos on Instagram, and see perfectly crafted confabulation in friends Facebook feeds often leads me down the ugly road of comparison. Many years ago a friend shared a story of well-respected women who became embittered toward each other because of comparison that led to competition. Ultimately, God brought sweet redemption through grace in teaching them to run their own race, to keep their gaze fixed on Him alone, to encourage one another in the race He had set before them.

If you've been around me at all, you will know this has become a life motto for me.

"RUN YOUR OWN RACE" percolates it's way through so many of my conversations, or teaching times, or admonishments to the women I'm allowed to lead. I say it to myself as a mantra whenever the green-eyed ugly sin monster of envy creeps its way into my heart.

Do you not know that in a race only one runner gets a prize? Run in such way as to get the prize.  1 Corinthians 9:23 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1 

My last blog post was full of loveliness, wasn't it? So full of beauty, healing, and peace. Each story is true and full of hope and light and love. I'm thankful beyond thankful for each experience. The lump in my throat as I ponder each moment testifies to gratefulness that overwhelms me.

I summed it up to say the year left me feeling "more grounded, self-aware, reliant on Jesus." Because it was tied to the end of all that peaceful beauty, the implication was those sweet stories took me to that point.

Yes, they definitely had a hand in my feelings of peace and contentedness.

Yes, they definitely leave me in awe of God's continued grace to me through joyful circumstances.

Yes, they definitely speak to only half the story of what God has used in my life that sometimes makes me want to hide, fight, and hopefully, eventually, surrender.

Friends, His grace to me over this last year was also demonstrated through pain and heartache. So many of the lessons are still fresh and raw.

Through 2013 God gave me opportunity after opportunity to be more grounded in who He has made me to be, to stop trying to meet all the needs all the time, to know that He is a God who delights in kindness, justice, and righteousness on the earth. A forced sabbatical left me alone most days until September. To be alone with my thoughts, sin, and grief was terrifying much of the time. To see people around me still struggling and not be allowed to help caused me to question my identity like never before. To see people heal and grow without me caused me to question my value like never before. Through tears, prayer, and trust in His refining through fire, I grew to know that my grounding is in the Rock that is higher than I. 

My soul finds rest in God alone. My salvation comes from Him. He alone is my Rock and my Salvation. He is my Fortress. I will never be shaken. Psalm 62:1-2 

Again, through God's grace, self-awareness came by way of truly seeing how much pain my sin causes the Spirit and my people. Oh, but grace. My heart swells to know that as I become more aware of the ugliness of my heart, it can never outpace the depths of His grace. I'm more aware than ever that apart from Him I have no good thing.

Last year I humiliated myself with extreme emotional reactions. I said hurtful, cutting words to people I love and that love me. I yelled at my kids too many times. I scoffed at the pain of others. I ignored the Spirit's beckons for time in His word. I hid lazily to avoid dealing with life and loneliness. But in the depths of His great love, through seeing all the muck of my heart I became more and more and more aware of grace, that I cannot run full steam ahead to gain his favor, that I cannot earn his love through working harder, that I cannot work hard on behalf of those I love, trying to convince them to run harder, faster, longer in order to know more of God's grace to them.

One of my favorite worships songs says this: "What else can I do but worship? What else can I do but bow? Because all I really long for is you, all I really need, Lord, is you." Yes. Self awareness that leads to much, much God-awareness.

My need for reliance on Jesus came in the form of having too much time alone and then was lit like a fire in the form of jumping with both feet right back into the lions den of relationships . True, ugly confession: In my younger years of ministry I unknowingly believed that I had something to do with people's heart change. It wasn't that I wanted credit for what God was doing in their life, I just believed that if I said no, or didn't speak up, or didn't meet "just one more time" I would fail the person, or worse, fail God.

The gospel I preached was faith through grace. The gospel I lived was work, work, work, plea, plea, plea, carry, carry, carry, and then hopefully, if God is pleased, faith and change happened.

I'm exhausted even just typing out that strategy.

After sabbatical the painful reality of the depths of pain people endure hit me right square in the face. My eyes were black for a couple of months if you didn't notice. As I sat and cried with people, or worked to point people to Jesus, or begged God in prayer on their behalf to change it all, I began to feel the load of work, work, work, plea, plea, plea, carry, carry, carry. The gifts, groundedness and self-awareness, shined the light on the lie of my old strategy. Reliance on Jesus rose to the surface as my greatest need. His grace brought me through many dangers, toils, and snares, not my own work. I'm continually facing the choice of relying on my own work ethic, or my own ideas of right and wrong, or my own desire to see change in the world around me OR relying on the fact that His grace will lead me, hold me, sustain me. The more I believe this for myself, the more I believe this great treasure for those around me.

Asking about my top moments of 2013 brings a smile to my face and a tranquil sigh from my lips. Pure beauty. Asking about my most painful moments of 2013 brings a deeper, thoughtful look to my face and a deeper, longer sigh from my soul. So many of these moments aren't moments at all. They are on-going, still fleshing themselves out, still a grace in progress.

If there was any part of my last blog post that caused your heart to wonder about the pain you may be experiencing in your own life, please know it was a only a window into my life and home. Pain is the stuff of learning. The value of my pain is neither greater nor lesser than others. It is simply my own race, the one God has mapped out for me. And through His great grace I want to run it with perseverance, groundedness, self-awareness, and complete reliance on Jesus.

How are you learning to rely on Jesus? If you don't rely on Him, on what or whom do you rely? What is one thing you've learned about yourself and/or God over the last year? Share your thoughts if you'd like.

Hole-y Orange Focused Lady Time

Tuesday, January 07, 2014  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

The memorable moments of 2013 have been a consistent point of conversation in my house over the last two weeks. Our friends, Matt and Susie, asked us to dinner one Sunday after Second Mile's gathering and engaged our family in great discussion. Susie asked everyone to name the top moments of the year. We all participated, but the beauty of the question came in the days to follow. It led me into some great reflection and introspection which forced my kids into reflection and introspection. It's kind of a fun tool of torture to make them talk about all sorts of things. I'm pretty sure they don't mind.

As you may have noticed blogging isn't necessarily my friend anymore. I'm not sure what the problem is other than lack of motivation and material. I recently googled blog topics and one of the ideas was "What celebrity would you invite for dinner and what would you serve?" Seriously? People actually read that stuff? In my book that's a big fat WHO CARES?! All this to say, I've had this post rolling around in my brain and decided to force myself to type it out. And guess what... I already have another idea for my next blog post that will include a give away, so you won't want to miss out.  (I haven't forgotten that I need to complete this series. I will. I promise.) 

I cannot rank these moments. They are important in 2013 for different reasons. If you attend Second Mile, Chad shared some of these same events. If you would like to listen to a great message to catapult you into reflecting you can watch it here or just listen here.  

Less Hole-y
As we started 2013 we were still very much in the dark of why I had a stroke. I met with both a neurologist and a cardiologist in Tucson that could find no reasons for what had happened to me. Thankfully, my Tucson neurologist was humble enough to share with us that he felt like he was missing something and wanted us to see a stroke specialist neurologist in Phoenix. It took longer than I wanted to have an appointment with him, but once he examined me and all my records he was convinced that I had a hole in my heart and that the first cardiologist missed it. This neuro doctor was also able to explain the process of healing my brain would take. It was a huge relief to hear his words and look at the graph he drew. When I asked him if certain issues I was experiencing were symptoms he responded by reassuring me that anything I was now experiencing that I did not experience pre-stroke was a symptom and that I was not crazy. I felt like I had the "big fat you're crazy giant" kicked off my shoulders and out of my thoughts. It was a tremendous relief, but at the same time a reality check that I was indeed dealing with real symptoms.  

As you know the cardiologist did find a hole in my heart and it was patched in February. I like to say that it is an adamantium patch, but it's really just nickel and titanium. Having my heart fixed is definitely a great point of 2013. All of the nightmares of recurring stroke instantly stopped. I had faith when I was awake to discipline myself not to worry, but apparently my subconscious was not faith-filled. 

Orange and Gray
When we bought our house we knew it needed some love in the form of updating. We chose to purchase a large home with the purpose of hospitality and family fun. Big and new was not an option for our budget, so big and 1970s fit the criteria. For most of 2012 we lived in a shell of a house. We couldn't hire out the work, so it had to be done as Chad had time to do it himself or enlist skillful friends to help. Mixed with all my health stuff meant renovating was slow going. In 2013 we (Chad mostly) finished a huge portion of what we were working on. It's not complete, but it is livable, comfortable, and enjoyable. We are at a great resting point until more time and money show up in our lives.

The Big 4-0 
Yep. I'm 40. People ask if it feels different and my answer is yes, but I think it has to do with multiple life circumstances coming together that has made me feel more grounded, more self-aware, more reliant on Jesus. Chad threw the most amazing masquerade bash ever. To see my friends and family dressed up, smiling at me, dancing, enjoying great food, and celebrating my life with me is something I will never ever forget. This 2013 highlight is most definitely a whole life highlight. It was amazing. If you want to remember or read about it for the first time you can read this post and this post.  

Focused Time
Our family took three significant trips together this year. We went to Disneyland right before my heart procedure. San Diego became one of our favorite places through a trip in July and another one in November. These times with my family recharged and refreshed me. Calling the trips a mere highlight doesn't do justice to how meaningful it was for us. I am so blessed to have four great kids that actually enjoy spending time with their dad and me. We are all a bit crazy which makes our time together joyful and goofy. The older they get the better our relationships. Each stage of maturity requires shifts and change, but Chad and I have committed to navigate the waters of family change with prayer and hope for healthy adult relationships with each of our children. Trips like these contribute to fulfilling our hopes for the future. 

Lady Time 
Retreat de Moxie challenged me greatly this year. More women attended than ever before. The 2012 retreat was a blur because of the health challenges I faced, so I felt fearful as this retreat approached. God blew my socks off with what he taught me through his word as I prepared each session. I was so hopeful it would translate as I shared my heart with my friends. In my opinion, the retreat was a great success because Jesus was lifted high, women drew closer to him, new friendships were made, and old friendships were deepened. Retreat de Moxie will probably be a highlight every year. 

I hope you've already spent time thinking through 2013. Looking back in a reflective way gives us an opportunity to be thankful for the blessings and the trials. We learn and grow emotionally and spiritually with each situation, relationship, experience we endure. My prayer for you is that you will allow God to reveal himself to you as you enter 2014. 

As for me, I'm trusting God for what he has in store for my family and me this year. I know it won't all be easy, but I believe if we allow him to carry us, guide us, mold us through this year we will be more like him as 2015 begins. 

LKM photography

What are some of your highlights from 2013? I would love to hear about something you experienced and/or learned over the last year.  

Because I Said So

Tuesday, November 05, 2013  ::   4 important comments

One of my blog world pet peeves right now happens to be a very popular trend. It actually makes me cringe every time I see a Facebook post with four little words in the title. I couldn't put my finger on the specifics of why it bothered me so much until the last few days.

As I mentioned in my last post Chad and I are currently leading a group of up and coming leaders in Second Mile. Challenging a group to think deeply about different aspects of leadership always challenges me to rethink and relearn, as well as enjoy new ah-ha moments of leading others. One of the exercises we work through in the class is coming up with a list of our own personal core values. Friends, this is not an easy process. I've been working on my list for a couple of years now and it is finally coming together in a more satisfactory way. In fact, I'm ready to share my list with you. Just kidding. I'm definitely not at that point. But I will share one.


I so value understanding. The funny thing is I shared with the group last week that "self-awareness" was one of my values, but in just six short days it morphed into the more descriptive value of my life as "understanding."

Through the lens of truly understanding, I highly value
  • knowing who I am, how I'm wired, how I process the world.
  • when others truly know themselves and seek to be better.
  • the background of those who are telling me stories.
  • the history and context of someone who is hearing my story so that I can fit my words into their framework.
  • the opinions of others. (This is a developing skill. Note I said understanding opinions, not agreeing with opinions.)   

A couple of passages in the Bible have been key in my heart and I didn't realize the connection until Sunday night. 

Psalm 119:33-34 
Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees that I may keep them to the end. Give me understanding, so I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 

Proverbs 18:2 
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing her own opinion.

I've always been a person who wanted to know why. "Because I said so" continues to mean pretty much nothing to me, not because I'm rebellious, but because I value understanding. I want to understand and help my kids understand. I want others to understand. I want to understand the Bible so I can obey it with all my heart. Understanding bolsters my relationship with Jesus and my relationships with others. 

Before I get back to the pet peeve I mentioned earlier, I want to make a clarification so you can understand I don't mind if you've done this. There is no judgement from me to you. I only cringe when I see the posts because my heart to is see the whole picture, a response, an ability to understand. You've seen the posts. You've been stirred by them. You've even sided with some of them. 

An Open Letter To ________________. 

Dear celebrity, 

Dear politician,

Dear moms of younger children,

Dear moms of older children, 

Dear person I've never met and will probably never meet, 

Dear person I don't know how your day is going and you were really rude to me so I'm going to respond to you, 

Did you see me just get up on my little soap box just now? 

Dear lady on her soap box who should step on down from there, 

Please know I get the point of these letters. From my understanding (heehee) they are to make a directed point in an area of disagreement with something or someone we've encountered in our life. And let me just say even those of us who haven't actually written one out have possibly written them in our heads in one form or another. 

The problem to me is a lack of understanding, a lack of dialogue, a lack of response. The verse I mentioned above says that a fool doesn't try to understand, but only airs their opinion. I do not want to be a fool. 

Actually, I want to respond to others with understanding which is perceiving and comprehending. Understanding does not mean I have to agree with everything. But for me to be able to engage with love towards those around me, I want to understand. When I don't understand I find myself responding with fear or hate or apathy or annoyance or extremes. 

But even if I don't agree with a personal political preference, but work to understand someone's point of view, I can respond with dignity, directness, and diplomacy. 

Even if I don't agree with how someone can be so hateful on the road to another driver, I can seek to understand that maybe they are having a bad day or were raised with different manners than I was, and I can respond with dignity, compassion, and directness. 

Even if I don't agree with how someone in my community is dealing with a life situation, I can seek to understand their perspective and lovingly come along side to help, carry the load, bestow dignity. 

When we don't respond to the world with understanding, we set ourselves above others, we steal dignity which is part of being an image bearer of God, we lose our voice to the world around us, we look closed off and closed-minded. 

If you know me you know I have strong opinions. Understanding does not mean you forfeit the right to think and formulate opinions. On the contrary, understanding deepens your personal insight into the world around you as you lean heavily on God's word. Twenty years ago I naively began to ask God to give me understanding into His word and how it applies to the world. His faithfulness to sand paper away the edges of dogmatic opinion has led me to love Him more deeply which has led me to love others more deeply with a desire to understand. 

The great thing about a blog post like this is it only creates more questions for me. How does understanding differ from agreement? How can you seek to understand in split second scenarios without passing judgement? At what point does seeking to understand become a hinderance to action? 

What about you? Have you thought about understanding the world around you on a micro and macro scale? To you, what is the link between understanding and dignity? 

Share you thoughts with us. Send me an email if you want more discussion on this topic. I will work to seek understanding in your thoughts and questions.