Just Across the Bridge…for when you move toward life

Mid-BayBridgeIt had been a long day of driving. With the goal of dipping our toes in the ocean before sunset, we had set out with our friends before dawn and pushed hard through the day, only stopping to use the restroom and refuel.  The last fours hours were filled with the cacophony of children cries- “How much longer?”  and “I wish we were there already.”

We finally began to see palm trees and sand and signs for our destination and our hearts began to wake up.  As we paid the toll at the Mid Bay Bridge, the weariness of a day of driving fell away and the “Are we there yet’s” turned to “Woohoo’s” and we opened portals in our car to the salty air and in our heart to beat of the beach vacation drum.  We lifted arms out the sunroof and waved like madmen to the cars passing by.  The freedom was as tangible as the humidity in the air.

We arrived at our God-gift of a last minute condo as the sun was beginning to set.  We didn’t even go inside, instead, we slipped off shoes and started across the beach walk to the ocean.  Realization broke over me like a wave as we crested the dune. I grabbed my husband’s hand and jumped into his arms, “We’re at the beach! I can’t believe we’re at the beach!” He smiled and kissed me sweet and gave me that “I know, right?” look and we took off running to the surf.

We hadn’t planned this vacation with our dear friends. Come to think of it, neither had they really.  They had decided to get away just three days prior and it had all fallen into place in a beautiful way.  They were sharing their plan with us as we prepared our church for Sunday morning services.  “We are leaving for the beach tomorrow!” They told us.

Jealousy mixed with genuine happiness for our friends flooded into us as we celebrated with them.  Then the inevitable conversation.

“I wish we could go with you.”

“You should, there’s another condo available. All you would have to pay is food and gas.”

My husband’s eyes met mine.  He was already burning vacation for the week.  I began running the lists of “We couldn’ts” in my head….I mean could we? That’s crazy….just take off for the week…to Florida? The kids are in school and only have 2 weeks left, the dog- we’d need someone to take care of her, Charlie’s off- but I would have to tell my Mom/boss that I am taking an extra week of vacation and we’re right in the middle of a big project, we’re not packed, I don’t have any laundry done and I had planned to lose twenty pounds before anyone saw me in a swimsuit- we couldn’t, just couldn’t go….right? But, oh dear Jesus, how my family (and I) could use a break…

And then God started knocking down the dominoes….one. by. one. As He did,my husband and I started smiling, more than we have in a long time, even as we packed at two in the morning for a 4 am leave time.

cari and alisa on the beach

And I still don’t believe it.  Each time we cross that beach walk to the white sand of the Destin beach…I am in awe of how God brought us here and is ministering to our hearts.  It’s beautiful and restful and I am blown away by His love and generosity. We were floundering in the midst of our everyday existence and were beginning to be suffocated by the tyranny of our schedules back home.  God has been guiding us to rest more, but we keep pushing Him back- “after this event, Lord, I’ll rest.” “When school’s out, we’ll take a little break.”

But then He extends this beautiful invitation to LIFE and REST, and the siren song of it was more than we could resist.

xan and jacob on beach

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”- John 10:10

From the beautiful beaches of Destin,

Yellow Jeeps- A Touchstone of Love…for when you just need to know

The drive home from Little Rock was quiet after his heart broke and shame spilled out into the space between the his perch in the back seat and mine in the driver’s.

“I must of done something wrong, Mom, I’ll try to be better….to be better. Why did they take all my food away?” He cried and said he was sorry…that he would try harder. I did what moms do- I comforted, I quieted…I told him it would all be all right.

But when he finally slept- exhaustion and the after-effects of anesthesia taking over- I wept fear.

We were traveling home from Arkansas Children’s Hospital with news that crushed my little boy’s heart.  He had been so good….he had followed all their rules…eaten only chicken and rice for six weeks, but the little section the surgeon had snuck in and stolen from his insides and the pictures they’d taken while they were there told of story of an overactive immune system that was attacking any food.  They wanted to take it all away…stick a pipeline of goopy elemental formula straight into his stomach and fingers crossed pray that would reboot his system.

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Xander at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Oct 2008

I was outraged at the words the doctor used in front of my seven year old child.  Words like “it’s clear he just can’t control himself” and “I am positive he hasn’t been sticking to the diet we prescribed” and “you are killing him with his food.” Words full of fear and shame.  It split me open and awakened the hibernating bear-ess that was inside and I fired that man on the spot.  I walked away from the appointment not knowing the ramifications of what I had done…the black stain of the doctor’s fear weighing heavily on my heart.

As Xander slept heavily in the back seat, I prayed.  Dear God, heal my son…show me what to do now.  This doctor was our hope.  And then my prayer got really real…God, why is this happening to him? Don’t you love him? Don’t you love us?

I was deep in a wrestling match with God.  Tuned out to any words of comfort He might actually have for me…the angry woman beating the chest of an embrace with her fists. Quietly, from the back seat comes my answer –

“Yellow jeep, God loves me.”

The “yellow jeep game” began as a leadership devleopment exercise my partner, Tim (bulletproofteams.com) and I were using to help demonstrate the power of “noticing.” We would go into a group and ask how many yellow jeeps they had seen that morning.  Generally, the number was low for a the group- two or three.  We would release the group for the day with the charge to count yellow jeeps. The next day the numbers would often be in the teens.  We began to notice yellow jeeps everywhere.

At the time, I was at a place in my life where I needed to be consistently reminded of God’s love for me.  So I prayed for God to send me a tangible sign of His love at the times when I most needed it…the Yellow Jeep.  When I see one, I say out loud, “Yellow Jeep, God loves me!”

There are few other times in my life when I have needed to know God’s love for me than that moment.  I looked out the driver’s side window, expecting to see a single jeep passing by on the highway….instead there, at the roadside jeep dealership, was a long row of them.

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With each one we passed, Xander said “Yellow Jeep, God loves me!” Twelve times he said it….and then he said, quietly and full of grace-

“And guess what, Mom? He loves you, too.”

What’s your yellow jeep?  Do you have a sign that reminds you that you are loved?  

To Be Faithless and Repent

“In the time of his distress he (Ahaz) became more faithless to the Lord..For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said ‘Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.’ But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.”

–      2 Chronicles 28:22-23

Oh, Lord- I have more than a little Ahaz in my heart. You, too?  When life really gets hard do you look around and make idols of the gods that are working for other people?

I make idols of lots of things. Of Mexican vacations that bring friends back refreshed and relaxed…of  Law of Attraction philosophy that ‘brought’ wealth and health to a business colleague…of dream houses with granite countertops and in-ground swimming pools…of size six jeans and 6 min mile splits…of all the things that I want  that I don’t have. Of all the things that I want, but that I am not really willing to work for.

So instead of going to God with these desires- instead of seeking first the Kingdom… instead of surrendering my dreams, big and small at the foot of the cross and letting my King work all things for my good- I seek out all the tiny little gods of this world and sacrifice to them.

I sacrifice peace to the god of escapism.

I sacrifice contentment to the god of scarcity.

I sacrifice gratitude to the god of covetousness.

I sacrifice joy to the god of the narcissism.

They are my ruin.  They don’t bring life. With each sacrifice, I silence the voice of the true King in my heart, and doesn’t it seem worse when the chips are down?  At the very moment when I should be surrendering control to God, at that very moment is when I mostly tightly clench my fists around the desires of my heart and seek out an idol that puts me in control.  I wrestle with the Spirit within that quietly asks for surrender…I gag Him with rules and doctrine and drown Him out with loud music and sparkly shoes.

And then, one morning, when my sacrifices have brought weariness, I turn back to Life.  I open this love story looking for hope and find a diagnosis for my soul-sickness.

“In the time of his distress, he became more faithless to the Lord…he sacrificed to the gods…that had defeated him.”

Scripture’s truth and application ring over me like a courthouse bell rings over the town square.

Gong…when you were down, you turned to the world.

Gong…you followed their ways to find success.

Gong…you put all these things before me.

Gong…it’s destroying you.

Gong…Come back to me.  I will provide for you.

And so I choose to turn today- from all the idols I have created trying to be a ‘better’ person and from the ruin of sacrificing to the world’s little gods and their formulaic systems of success.  I choose to listen to the still, small voice that whispers words of grace and love over all the things I would change about my life.  I choose to read up on the promises made by a benevolent and compassionate King, the one true King- promises to give me the desires of my heart, to provide for my every need and to never forsake me.

And when I turn, I taste it….I hear it….I see it….I touch and feel it….

Life. 

“ I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

-John 10:10

Captivating Heart was awesome!

 

 

There were 31 of us….women from all walks of life….beautiful women who came for rest…who came for restoration…who came for redemption.

And after a year of planning and  and working….the weekend was amazing!

 

We had adventure..

We had friendship….Join us for the rest at www.captivatingheart.com

Re:Mix- The Divine Love Story

I forget and then He reminds me…I needed this today- maybe you did too?

Strings Attached Ministries

I wrote this post several months ago and was recently rereading my posts looking for a good post to link to (In)Courage today. I had forgotten I had written this, ironically enough, to link to (In) Courage…and well it spoke volumes to me today.  I hope it will speak to you as well.

 

 

It is late. Or early (depending on your “half empty/half full” viewpoint. About 4 am.  I  have been lying awake for nearly an hour now…restless…and repentant.

I have been working this ministry for the last 7 months now…taking this God given message and kneading it like a piece of dough. What happens to dough when you work it over too much and don’t let it rise within the pan…yep, it gets all stale and hard and not at all appealing. Dear God, I am so sorry…

I am haunted this morning by a post I…

View original post 330 more words

Haunting Ache

“The ways we find to numb our aches, our longings, and our pain are not benign. They are malignant. They entangle themselves in our souls like a cancer and, once attached, become addictions that are both cruel and relentless. Though we seek them out for a little relief from the sorrows of life, addictions turn on us and imprison us in chains that separate us from the heart of God and others as well. It is a lonely prison of our own making. Each chain forged in the fire of  our own indulgent choice. Yet, “Our lovers have so intertwined themselves our identity that to give them up feels like personal death… We wonder if it is possible to live without them.” (the Sacred Romance.) Yes, we are, each of us, to greater and lesser degress still in bondage. But the good news is that “God has not  deserted us in our bondage.” (Ezra 9:9)

We need not be ashamed that our hearts ache; that we need and thirst for much more. All of our hearts ache. All of our hearts are at some level unsatisfied and longing. It is our insatiable need for more that drives us to our God. What we need to see is that all our controlling and our hiding, all our indulging actually serves to separate us from our hearts. We lose touch with those longings that make us women. And the substitutes never, ever resolve the deeper issue of our souls.”– Captivating, John and Stasi Eldredge

To understand addiction of any kind, we must accept that all of us have vices….”other lovers” we turn to; to hide, to indulge, to control our lives; “other lovers” who are not God. This realization can helps us return to the heart of God….this ache, this longing is designed to drive us exactly there….to God–the only one who can fill the void.

Just A Little Redemption Story: Reflections from Advanced Captivating

Redemption- the act of purchasing back something previously sold; the recovery of an item previously mortgaged or traded.

“When the Bible tells us that Christ came to “redeem mankind” it offers a whole lot more than forgiveness. To simply forgive a broken man is like telling someone running a marathon, ‘It’s okay that you’ve broken your leg. I won’t hold it against you. Now finish the race.’ That would be cruel, to leave him disabled that way. No, there is so much more to our redemption. The core of Christ’s mission is foretold in Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, – (v 1)

The Messiah will come, he says, to bind up and heal, to release and set free. What? Your heart.” –John Eldredge, Wild at Heart

I’ve heard this over and over.  I believe it wholeheartedly.  Christ came to heal the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, to release from darkness the prisoners. I believe He came for me.

To heal MY broken heart,

to proclaim MY freedom and

to release ME from darkness.

BUT

I think I always believed that redemption was something Christ was about in the big things in life.  I think I always believed that He wanted to heal the big scars on my heart, the ones that affected my daily life and everyday relationships. I believed He was about healing, even about my healing, but I guess I underestimated what He thought was important enough to recover….to redeem.

Something beautiful happened at Ransomed Heart’s Advanced Captivating Retreat….God set about redeeming all sorts of memories from my past.  Some of them difficult, some of them challenging, some of them were just tiny little pin pricks in my heart- scars I was never aware of until God set about His healing work.  Most of them linked straight back to the spirit of fear in my life.  God set about smashing fears left and right…

 Fear of Heights:

The Screamer, Frontier Life Ranch, Buena Vista, Colorado

 

Fear of new relationships (yep, I said it…the covenant relationship ‘guru’ is afraid to reach out to new people…interesting, huh…I promise to tell this story soon!):

Allison and Ashley…new and very dear friends.

 And probably most significantly a fear of horses (clearly a work in progress-:)

My new friend, Amigo

This fear, the fear of riding, is something I’ve battled for years. When I was fourteen, I spent the weekend at a friend’s farm.  I had always loved to watch horses (but had never been around them), and my friend offered to go riding with me.

Long story short, I was thrown from the horse, was spectacularly banged up, and it set in play a series of events that wounded me deeply. I have struggled with a fear of horses since.  I never really understood it all until God pushed me to sign up for a 2 hour trail ride during this trip. I obeyed.  I leaned into trust that God was working. I leaned into new friendships and prayer. I leaned into a beautiful bay named Amigo who was awesome.

Honestly, it was hard to start.  I was terrified in the beginning (mostly when we were waiting, and it was up to me to keep my horse from doing things he wasn’t supposed to). Ashley and Allison prayed- over our time, over our horses, over our hearts—and I felt peace start to seep in.

As we rode out onto the trail, through the aspens and over streams…I was transported…God’s presence was so real in those moments.  I could sense God’s healing touch like soothing balm to wounds that I had lived with so long I didn’t remember I had.  Wounds that didn’t seem like a big deal, that didn’t seem like something so important that God would go about healing, wounds I had discounted.

Why did’nt He?

Because Christ is about healing my heart….all of it.

 

This song….oh, man this song, has been such an encouragement to me during the “re-entry” process (you know- the coming home from an awesome, real time experience with God to the busyness and craziness of our daily lives?). This song so reminds me…I am more than these ashes say….I am the rose…I am the Bride…