Change Happens

Monday, August 22, 2016  ::   1 important comment

Even though my friend, Alysa, lives in a different state, I think she sensed my current heart struggle, so she re-posted a guest post I wrote for her blog a couple of years ago. When I read it again this morning, as if right on cue, the tears leaked out once again. Tears easily fall from my eyes these days. My kids say that I cry all the time which I think is a slight exaggeration, but I will admit it happens more frequently than it used to.

One of my parenting goals from the beginning has been to embrace each stage as better than the last. Let me tell you, this goal is really being put to the test in this current season. The launching kids out into the world stage does not feel better than the everyone sitting around the table eating, talking, and laughing season. My heart and mind feel confused often. Because God allows us to feel multiple emotions at one time, I can be excited for the adventure and maturity awaiting my kids outside of my home and feel sad about them not being down the hall at night safe and sound in their beds. Life keeps on moving. Even though people told me the days were long and the years were short I didn't really know just how short the years would be. I hear the years just keep getting shorter, too, so I must continue to work to discipline myself to be present, engaged, joy-filled, and purposeful. But it is stinking hard.

So do not fear, do not be dismayed. I will strengthen and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10

For I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 1:6

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. ~Hebrews 13:8

Change happens, indeed. There are only three years between these two photos. We are all smiling, but if you could read the story through each and every moment between the lines you would see joy, pain, laughter, doubts, success, failure, hurt, apologies, time spent well, time wasted, family together time moved into launching them out time. All of it combined is the change that continues to lead all six of us to become who God intends for us to be as individuals and as family. Chad and I seek to be good, good parents as an example to them of God as the good, good Father. He never freaks out in the midst of all our human changes, so I'm on my knees asking him to help me not to freak out, to be steadfast in him, and overflow with thankfulness and security when it all seems quite wobbly. 

I have two tattoos symbolizing my family. The one on my leg is a good representation of the family season. We are all stars surrounded by a swirl of community support and togetherness. The one on my arm represents Psalm 127, my quiver full of arrows. We spend intentional time to craft and hone each arrow to be unique, to love God, and to love people. When you shoot them off, you pray so hard they will fly straight. The permanent marks on my body represent the permanent prayers of my life. I pray my life demonstrates deep love for my family and the ability to launch them well. I long for them to continue to love God with all their hearts as he shows them how to love and serve people. May it be so, Jesus. 

The End of a Season

Thursday, February 04, 2016  ::   1 important comment

To be jolted out of my sleep when the pitch black night still lingered didn't surprise me even though the clock glared, "4:00am." When you set aside a significant amount of time to pray and fast strange things happen. I shivered with deep cold in my bones all week. My sleep had been restless. My muscles ached. But, my soul was still and listening.

Deep, resonating conviction thickened the atmosphere of the room, so I sat up and dangled my legs over the edge of the bed to listen. 

Immediately I knew my time on the Cord of Hope giving team was over. 

Have you ever fought a battle for so long that you actually gave up fighting? Within minutes of quiet listening, God established a resolved ordinance in my guts, and showed me how tired my soul had become through 11 years of visiting clubs and leading this ministry. 

"The time is now, Angel. Let it go." 

"But what if..." 

"What ifs are not yours to carry." 

Relief came instantaneously as I thought about releasing the going, releasing the burden, releasing the chaos. And then relief gave way to conviction. 

"You've been carrying such darkness in your heart and mind, Angel." 

"I know. I'm so tired and I don't know how to make it all go away." 

"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." 

Tears streamed down my face as the Spirit of God used his own written word to ask me to share my deepest struggles with a friend who would pray over me. I so hoped he would give me someone who would/could just fix my brokenness, but all he asked me to do was confess so she could lay hands on me and pray. Recently I read that communal confession is a forgotten discipline. We go through the motions of confessing our sin to God, but we find no freedom because we are really only confessing to ourselves. True confession and repentance brings heart change. Isolated confession always allows for an out. Communal confession allows for prayer, accountability, and true healing. In a moment, God took knowledge which had puffed up my head, and asked me to work out authentic faith through action. 

Many times as a leader I find myself in conversations I would rather not have... confrontation, a call to holiness, pointing out scripture people would rather ignore, and conflict for too many reasons. It sucks actually. One of my biggest fears as a leader is pride. I regularly struggle with the "who do I think I am" question. In order to combat this fear in my leadership, I consistently ask God to purify my life, my thoughts, my heart, and my actions. I ask him to teach me to obey his word, to be my main affection, to help me delight in him above all else. At 4:00 on a Thursday morning during the week of prayer and fasting, he showed up to answer my prayers. 

His kindness leads me to repentance. (Romans 2:3-5)

His law is perfect and revives my soul. (Psalm 19:7)

He strengthens me in my weariness. (Isaiah 40:29-31)

He illuminates the dark in me. (Psalm 139:11-12)

His forgiveness allows me to stand. (Psalm 130:3-4)

Friends, there are days I simply want to give up. It's all too hard. I want to go to work, come home, put on stretchy pants, turn on the tv, and zone out.  But, I know deep in my bones it wouldn't lead to the full life God wants for me and my family. 

May I count everything a loss compared to knowing Jesus more and more and more. May his name be lifted higher in my life every single day. May I point people to him through truth and love. When I have done everything I can to do to stand against that which seeks to destroy, may I still stand firm on Jesus, the name that is above every name.  

What about you? What or who is your greatest affection? What is the evidence of your claims? What are you learning and how do you plan to put it into action and not just puff up your head? 

On Fasting, A Review

Thursday, January 14, 2016  ::   2 important comments

In just a few days, the people of Second Mile will join hearts/hands, tighten our grip, and seek God together through prayer and fasting. So many new people joined our body this year and I've wonder if the thought of fasting is intimidating or overwhelming to some. I decided to give you a glimpse into what the week of prayer and fasting looked like for me in the past to encourage you as you engage this year, whether it is your first time or you've been doing this for years.

One of my go-to verses, one that is in my head almost every time I pray (no exaggeration) is Jeremiah 33:3. It says, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know." What a beautiful, encouraging, and focusing promise! I continually claim this for myself, my family, my friends, and my church. I'm praying it for you, too.

As you consider what it means to fast, let me remind you this is not a legalistic, reward-based pursuit. We deny our stomachs as an act of worship. The emptying of our physical selves allows us to empty our wholes selves in order to be filled up with God. If you've never fasted from food, don't start with not eating for a whole week. Choose one or two days to go without food. If you've fasted before, challenge yourself to extend your fast by a couple of days. Whatever days you choose, let Sunday, the 24th be your last day because we will break fast with communion during the gathering. The experience is unifying, worshipful, and beautiful. (Chad will teach on fasting this coming Sunday to provide further scripture, instruction, and help.)

Take a look at some of these stories of my past fasting experiences. I hope it helps you as you look to the coming week.

This specific post walks through four personal lessons of fasting. My favorite part of the post is explaining how fasting tangibly shines light on the fact that we are exiles on this earth. If you don't read any other linked posts, read this one.

Sometimes we make excuses about how we have to eat, that fasting isn't reasonable. It is definitely true for some. If you are performing surgery on someone, please don't get the shakes from lack of food. However, our bodies have a way of convincing us to make excuses. Personally, I've been making excuses for a couple of weeks about why I don't need to exercise. I'm lying to myself. Don't lie to yourself about how you just have to eat. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Eat or don't eat, just make sure it is out of obedience, not excuses.

And sometimes you absolutely need to eat, and going without food would be completely legalistic and irresponsible. In that case, figure out a God-glorifying, flesh-denying alternative.

And finally, sometimes we need someone else to challenge us in prayer and say things like, "Do you want God to revitalize your church? Revitalize your prayer life." Zinger.

Dear ones, I so hope one or more of these posts encourages you for the coming week of prayer and fasting. Several of us have worked diligently on the prayer guide and we are expectant for what God will do in and through our prayers. Ready yourself. If you have any questions, please email me!

Hebrews 12:12-13 
Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. 

From Transition to Peace

Friday, January 01, 2016  ::   Be the first to leave a comment!

I've not often chosen a special word to mark a particular year. It's definitely a good practice and I enjoy hearing about people's words and how God uses it in their lives, but for whatever reason I have been unable to carry the discipline through for an entire year.

However, looking back at 2015 two words very clearly stand out to me.

Transition and Change.

In ministry, Second Mile gained our very own building which may be the biggest change our church has encountered thus far. Renovating the facility and moving into being the caretakers took grit, determination, stamina, strategy, and so much communication. After talking with key leaders in the moving process, many of us are still a little shell shocked. I believe we are just barely scratching the surface of experiencing "to whom much has been given much will be required" when it comes to this building. The good, good gift of our own home will continue to require transition and change in our hearts and ministry.

Relationships within ministry have also been laden with change. The longevity of ministry in Tucson provides my family with the opportunity to be the ones who are left when for the years before Tucson, we were always the ones leaving. The juxtaposition of leaving and being left created chaos in my heart. Shutting out new relationships in self-preservation became a burdensome temptation. Change and transition of relationships affected my whole family like never before. In terms of this specific opportunity for growth, I'm happy to see 2015 go and I hope to bring what I've learned about longevity and perseverance into 2016.

The change in my family of Esther launching from our home continues to challenge me. If you know me you know I desire to be a parent who claims, "Each stage is better than the last." Up to this point, I could confidently declare it; toddlers better than babies, elementary better than preschool, teenagers better than preteens in terms of not lamenting about the past, but being present in each chapter with my family. I've loved every single stage. The transition from all my arrows being safely tucked in my quiver to taking the oldest one and launching her out knocked me off balance. Learning a new normal of time and conversation with her and the family as a whole takes work. The good news is we move towards a beautiful new groove each day. I'm beginning to see ways I will be able to say this stage is better than the last.
So what about 2016?

Interestingly enough, two words swirl around in my heart and mind as I think and pray for the coming year. This is a first for me and I'm curious to see how it will play out in the coming months.

Peace and Focus.

Change and transition really struck a blow to my contentment. So many days in 2015 were taken up with tears and melancholy contemplation. To prayerfully shake it off, I've spent the month of December reading Psalm 77, specifically asking God to help me remember/meditate on his "mighty deeds and wonders of old." (If you are feeling tired, worn out, or in need, read it and pray through it. Do it every day until your soul finds release and relief.)

The fruit of meditating on this beautiful Psalm is growing peace. I'm asking God to put peace in my heart no matter what circumstances come my way. I'm sad to say this was often absent in my life during 2015.

Much to the annoyance of many of you, I've hinted about a big project I've felt God prompt me towards since last February. This year I'm asking God for the focus to make it happen.

The first verses I'm going to memorize in 2016 is 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. It is so, so good and inspiring.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (italics mine)

In this task I believe God has set before me (I will tell you about it soonish. I promise. Please forgive my vagueness. I just need a minute more to get my head on straight.) it is imperative I trust that only he will fulfill this resolve of faith I feel with his power so that he will be glorified. Yes please! It's the only way it will happen and it will take a tremendous amount of focus because I can tell you, I feel incredibly inadequate to complete this undertaking. Will you please pray for me? If you aren't sure what to pray ask God to help me to love him with everything I have and pray 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 over me. I seriously need both.
I won't be continuing consistent Moxie Memorizers posts for 2016. Please continue to take in God's word. You and I desperately need it. As Beth Moore says, Jesus saved my soul, his word saved my mind.

Let's encourage each other with some comment responses. What stands out to you about 2015? Do you have a word or two you're praying for 2016? What is the first verse you are going to memorize this year?

As always, I'm continually thankful and continually prayerful for you, friends.

A Beautiful Mysterious Cycle

Tuesday, November 24, 2015  ::   2 important comments

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  Ephesians 1:16

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and strengthen in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with thanksgiving.  Colossians 2:6-7

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

A little over a month ago, I taught about some verses in Ephesians chapter one at Retreat de Moxie. On my knees, I begged and begged God to do deep, rich work in the lives of the women with whom I would journey to the mountain. Now, I imagine him smiling at me while I prayed, whispering, "Just wait until you see the deep, rich work I'm doing in your life, dear one." 

During the retreat the theme "Continually thankful, continually prayerful" came up over and over again. I can't begin to express what these words have come to mean to me. 
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me. The one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!  Psalm 50:23

I've questioned the meaning of thanksgiving as a sacrifice since I memorized the verse over a year ago. What could it mean? How is being thankful sacrificial? Sacrifice means to give something up that you especially want to keep. What would it look like in my life to be sacrificially thankful in order to glorify God? 

Bitterness, envy, and selfish ambition sometimes taunt me. James 3 uses these words to describe the wisdom of the world that is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. Comparison, hurt feelings by not being considered the way I hope to in friendships, frustrations as a leader, or even simply wanting to be included rob me of experiencing wisdom that "comes from above." 

As the Holy Spirit worked in my heart over the last few months, I'm experientially learning deep in my guts that thankfulness increases wisdom. 

          Wisdom in how I respond in relationships.
          Wisdom in keeping my gaze on Jesus and not on the world. 
          Wisdom in joy as I journey this life. 
          Wisdom in thankfulness as I pray for anything and everything that pops into my mind.

Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17 

Offering thanksgiving consistently, sincerely, and continually teaches me to give up to God what I hold most dear. Thanking God for my family reminds my soul they are his. Being thankful for the ability to run, cook, host, mentor, and do all I love to do reminds me that he created me and I belong to him. Offering thanksgiving for the people in my life, the people I pass day to day, the bagger at the grocery store who talks with me each time he sees me reminds me God loves people more than my mind can fathom. Thanking God for the times of great difficulty in my life reminds me he works through adversity to make me like his Son. 

The sacrifice of thankfulness continues to acknowledge all we have is his. He gives to us out of his goodness. He takes from us out of his goodness. When we are thankful it is an act of acknowledging apart from him, we have no good thing. And then, all he gives to us, we freely sacrifice back to him as a worshipful act of thanksgiving. It's a beautiful, mysterious cycle that glorifies God. 

Is it beginning to make sense? Are we thankful for the sake of gaining our own warm fuzzies or are we thankful in order to testify to his benevolence in our lives and our sacrifice of all things we hold dear to follow him? 

In my experience these few months, as I've been more thankful, prayer has increased. As gratitude increases contentment increases. As appreciativeness grows I'm more open to reason, full of mercy and good fruit. When contented thanksgiving fills my heart, I feel peaceable and gentle. The fruit of his Spirit increases, and bitterness, envy, and selfish ambition in my life decrease. 

Thankfulness grows, prayer grows. Prayer grows, thankfulness grows. And the fruit I didn't anticipate in all of this is wisdom from above which is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere."
How are you growing in thankfulness? When you find yourself frustrated with someone or something would you be willing to try to spend a moment being thankful instead of hurt? In what ways have you grown in your ability to be continually thankful and continually prayerful? 

I'm so thankful for you, dear one. It blesses me richly when you read my words. 

Static Stories Die

Tuesday, November 17, 2015  ::   1 important comment

A few months ago my good friend, John DeSoto, preached a message at Second Mile about the power of story. As an Emmy award winning camera man, he continues to cultivate his craft of story telling, mostly through video. John's temperament is gentle, compelling, warm, and engaging. When I'm around him I find myself calm and content. His videos of the story of people's lives create the same calm, content response in my heart and mind. Here is one of my favorite examples:

ADVENT 01_HOPE from John DeSoto on Vimeo.

One sentence from John's message endures in my mind:

"Change is fundamental in stories. If things go static, the story dies."

I'm constantly a walking paradox, and in this instance the truth of my inward battle rings true. On one hand, the thought of a life, a family, a church that lacks movement and vitality makes me nauseous. Stagnant water stinks, therefore, I believe a stagnant life also stinks. On the other hand, I often balk at change because of fear of the unknown or lack of control it creates. But, at the end of the day would I rather swim in a mirky, green, smelly pond or a beautiful, clear, fresh water oasis?
The answer should be obvious, but the truth is I often desire to choose the stagnant life.

As my family grows and changes, the unknown freaks me out as I obsess about the future.

As my relationships grow and change, insecurity rears its ugly head.

As my marriage grows and changes, difficulties in learning to communicate effectively challenges me to my core.

As my church grows and changes, fear of 'can we even keep up with it all' overwhelms me.

I know I'm not alone in these sentiments. Change is so very difficult for some of us. It threatens our sense of belonging, our entitlements to how we've always done things, our desire to be in the know, and our perceived importance and rank.

But, thanks be to God he did not leave me as he found me.

Philippians 1:6 
Be confident of this that he who who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion unit the day of Christ Jesus. 

Isaiah 43:19 
Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wildness and streams in the desert. 

1 Corinthians 6:11 
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God. 

He calms my soul in the midst of great change as I rest in the fact that he never changesHe is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and he never changes his mind.

Rest assured, dear ones, change is good. If relationships and circumstances go static, the story dies. Let's link arms and celebrate change in each other's lives as it is the goodness of God working and acting in us to make us more like Jesus. Let it be so of me!

Here is an incomplete list of good, difficult, refining changes happening in and around me:

  • My kids are growing more and more independent.
  • Kyle is about to be driving.
  • Esther no longer lives under my roof.
  • Our house is in constant renovation.
  • Chad and I have been married for 20 years and our communication, especially in conflict, provides opportunity for growth.
  • Friends move away.
  • New friends come into my life.
  • Old friends leave my life.
  • Second Mile is growing in people, in responsibility, and in depth.
  • Second Mile has its own building which provides great change in so many areas.
  • Learning to lead in the big picture and not only in relationships stretches me.
The list could go on, as I'm sure your list of life changes could, too. And, by all means, my heart and soul eagerly hope for the fresh waters of change, but the weakness of my heart and flesh often jump in the murky waters of sameness.  Our only hope is to trust God who wills and acts in our lives according to his good purpose.

"Change is fundamental in stories. If things go static, the story dies."


How do you deal with change? Do you embrace it or flee? How do you train yourself to get out of the stagnant waters and embrace fresh water? What changes are you facing now, personal or otherwise? What character trait of God do you cling to in times of change? 

Comments are my love language so feel free to jump in and add your two cents and/or answer one or more of the questions. 

Many blessings to you as God brings change in your life to help you depend on him more deeply! 

Bandwagons and My Crazy Flag

Wednesday, November 04, 2015  ::   5 important comments

For twelve years I sweat my way through teaching a wide variety of fitness classes. Step aerobics, weight training, spinning, and even chair classes. Engaging with people and learning their stories was my favorite. Helping people grow in physical health by kicking their butts in class gave me great pleasure.

Every January I had a love/hate relationship with the various clubs in which I instructed classes. To see so many newly resolved exercisers bearing down with grit, determination, and focus created the best kind of fitness energy. But, I also experienced loss when all my new bffs fell off the work-out wagon in March.

It's all too easy to jump on a train bound for personal growth. However, when you realize the train is actually only going around the corner to drop you off with some gloves, a shovel, and an instruction manual detailing the fact you have to work it out, grit disappears, determination turns to dreariness, and focus blurs to indifference.

A month ago, 80 of us retreated to the mountains for our annual getaway. For a few months leading up to the retreat, God stirred in my heart a desire to spur women towards deeper intimacy with him through scripture, prayer, and community. To be honest, I had pulled way back on my wearing sackcloth and eating locusts in the desert raving lunatic way of life. I feared I was wasting my breath, getting on people's nerves, or worse, wounding people who struggled deeply.

Thanks to the work of God in my life and to my good friend, Beth Moore, I'm over it. I've put my itchy prophet clothes back on and I'm out waving my crazy flag again. Aren't you so glad?

Through the teaching of Beth, God reminded me that loving people isn't enough. Truth is an important part of the equilibrium of investment. Without truth, love becomes an idol, an excuse, and even an enabler. Truth is not oppressive or crushing. Truth and love bring restoration and rest for our souls.

So, friends, let me say it again with fresh fervor: discipline results in growth, health, contentment, and freedom.

As you know, I believe scripture memory is a key discipline in taking in the Bible. When you use it in conjunction with reading, studying, hearing, and meditation, your life will be transformed. I know too many people for whom this is true, so you cannot argue with me. You can try, but I won't listen. Make all the excuses you want, but while you're wallowing in the mire, I'll be over here beckoning you to get out of the poop and into biblical life/mind/heart transformation.

At the retreat, around 50 women shocked me by showing up to a little side seminar to learn my scripture memory system. Yesterday someone told me that a young woman is still at it, and has jumped to two verses a week because I said if one was too easy, add another! Yes!

When you are sitting around with a bunch of friends, the scripture memory bandwagon beckons. But, being back in your job, studying for exams, taking care of family quickly jumps in front of the importance of caring for your own soul. Like all my bffs in my fitness classes, let me compel you to keep at it. Don't give up. If you are tempted to give up, memorize Galatians 6:9 this month. The train has dropped you off with your gloves, shovel, and instruction manual. Don't be surprised. Just get to work. I'll be right beside you. We can cheer one another on.

Are you still at it? How's your grit, determination, and focus? How many of you still need a packet? Does anyone need more cards? Do you need help? I love to help with this because I can't do it for you. It's all you and Jesus, the very best teacher and only true life-changer.

Through November I'm memorizing a couple of verses. I took my own advice after the retreat and memorized an extra one in October because my brain was up for the challenge. Maybe I can do the same in November. We shall see. Here are my November verses:

2 Timothy 4:7 
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 

I so want this to be true of my life, so I'm writing it on my heart to focus my hopes into discipline and determination.

Acts 2:17 
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 

I often focus on the last days being difficult times, so I'm memorizing this as a reminder that the God gives us everything we need for life and godliness through his Spirit.


What about you? Let's encourage each other by posting our verses. Comment here or leave a comment on Facebook. Again, please let me know if you need help. 

I'm so continually thankful and continually prayerful for each of you. I'll keep asking God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts!