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,

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…

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A Party in the Garden

Oh! It was beautiful!

Photo by Beckey Mwaba

The day…the garden…the tea cups….

Simply a beautiful, elegant Saturday morning.

We had lovely entertainment:

Aren’t they sweet? “I’m a Little Teapot!”

We had lessons on the proper way to “take tea.” The most important? “Always speak with kindness.”  I think we will add tea to our daily routine just for that.

Carried Away Crafts gave us these divine bath fizzies for each of our guests.

We had wonderful give-aways and gallant young men to serve us. We had sweet  babies and beautiful music….and cupcakes…did I mention we had cupcakes?

But the most breathtaking thing of the whole beautiful garden party? The most captivating thing….was all of these beautiful women…women in their finery and sundresses….women in their fancy hats and tiaras….women in their Captivating Hearts.  They were stunning each one.

On Saturday, June 9, we had our first fundraiser for Captivating Heart.  We had a wonderful group of ladies in attendance.  We raised over 900 dollars! This will provide partial scholarships for several women!

 

When Fear Rushes In…

Courage can’t see around corners, but goes around them anyway.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

I haven’t been posting around these parts for a while. I am sorry for that. Life has rushed in…no wait, not so much life…fear has rushed in.

I have been experiencing quite a few medical issues lately. Neurological medical issues. The good news is I have a team of doctors…doctors who love Jesus and pray diligently over each patient…who believe that these issues actually stem from an old injury that is healing. This would be a wonderful God promised miracle.

Image

But still there are moments…moments when a hand tremors uncontrollably and mind-numbing fatigue rushes in…moments when words are hard to remember and letters get hopelessly jumbled in my head…moments when fear sweeps in and doubt creeps up my spine and I wonder where God is in all of this.  I wonder  how to live a witness of faith and hope when what I am feeling is lost and alone.  I wonder if God is really Jehovah Rapha and Jehovah Jireh and all those other things that His word proclaims. And then I wonder if I am a heretic for wondering and a sweet mentor who loves Jesus reminds me that I am simply human.

And in the midst of all this fear rushing and doubt creeping, I cry out to Jesus, “Lord, help my unbelief!” 

Then I remember what a friend taught me a long time ago…

“When in doubt….WORSHIP.”

When doubt and fear overtake you, and questions and worries begin to rush over….worship.  Focus on the awesomeness, the wonder, the amazing love of God.

And so I turn up my radio and I sit in the floor of my kitchen and I sing loud enough to make a voice crack and I hug my knees to my chest and feel God’s presence fill the room.  Weight from shoulders lifts and heart begins to tentatively flap wings and by the end of the second song, I am soaring. Prayers fragrance the room and tears wash worry lines from my face and me and God…well we are on speaking terms again.

So next time fear takes over, or doubt yells loud its questions in your head, remember the antidote to fear is not always courage….is not always pull yourself up by your bootstraps and walk on….the truest antidote is WORSHIP

The Sound of Silence: A Quick Fall

There were eight of us on retreat.

Eight beautiful women seeking rest and restoration. Seeking presence and guidance and an un-opposed word from the Lord. Two fearless spiritual directors made the journey with us….women who quietly challenged us to unplug, unfetter, unmask.  To disentangle and listen and be intentional with our time with the Lord.

We went around the circle, saying names that wouldn’t be spoken again in conversation for three days, but would be prayed in hearts every minute. We each told why we’d come and shared how we were feeling as we entered in.

As the circle rounded to me, as hearts were spoken and deep desires named, I cringed at my true feelings. I worried that speaking my heart would open others to the same bad feelings. I shrank back from sharing too much.

But our leaders, they were good.

They saw the unspoken fear and questioned…gently pressing in as if to say, “does it hurt here a little?”

“I’m scared to death. I’m afraid of what God will say and what he won’t say. As I drove up here, I felt all the entanglements of life start to fall away, and that’s good because I got here and I feel free, but I’m also afraid of letting go of all those things that root me.”

I felt a tangible sigh of relief from some of the other women.

There…I said it….No, I am not excited about meeting the Lord here- well, I am, but that’s not the overriding emotion. I’m terrified about meeting the Lord here. I don’t know why I came…why I chose this thing….why I PAID for this…this silence that I am no good at- this locking away of words that makes me so uncomfortable.

We entered silence about 4 pm after all the questions we could possibly think of had been asked. I was like a toddler at bedtime with the questions, “Mom, I’m thirsty.” “One more story, Mama.” “Mommmyyyy, I need to go potttttyyyy!”  But Gail seemed like a talker too…much like me, someone who led with words…I thought, she does this all the time…I can do this too.

Gail asked us to turn off our cell phones, but there was no alarm clock and I hate to miss dinner.  This seemed like a perfectly good excuse to keep it on.  Gail conceded and told us to put them in airplane mode.  Like a crack fiend jones-ing for her next hit, it took less than ten minutes to find myself on Facebook.  The hysterical irony that I was about to post on a comment someone had posted offering to pray for me on my silent retreat was enough to jar me out of my tech-induced high.

Shame rushed in…I turned the phone off, through it across the room, and broken and in tears, started to pray for help.  God said to trust that he had it under control…I said I did trust but kept my ear out for the dinner bell….it never rang….I was twenty minutes late for dinner, and very disturbed.

Our first meal together was excruciatingly awkward.  First, I was not first…I was twenty minutes late.  I was last and didn’t know what to do.  Regardless, eight women sitting around tables trying to ignore one another while eating dinner is just awkward.  Add to that slurping of soup and crunching of salad and silence gets REALLY noisy.  Since I had nothing else to do but listen to others eat, I started chatting with God (I guess that’s the point or something J ) and apologizing for the whole FB/Cell Phone Rule Breach and promising I would do better and he hit me with his first grace.

He whispered, “Charlie’s watch is in the car.”

Huh? OH MY! A watch? Really?

Unbelievably, my husband’s watch- that he took off and put in the console AT CHRISTMAS (5 months ago) is still there….ticking away perfect time.

I practically skipped back to my room to put away my phone.

After dinner, I put my husband’s watch around my wrist, it was heavy and it’s weight against my arm reminded me that God really had prepared this for me. I made some green tea and found a sweet perch on the swings on the far side of the property.  I drank tea and swayed back and forth and could feel my body begin to relax and suddenly realized I was smiling.  It’s been a long time since a smile bubbled forth from my insides, but there it was.

And it was good.

 

 

Downward Mobility

“The society in which we live suggests in countless ways that the way to go is up.    Making it to the top, entering the limelight, breaking the record – that’s what draws attention, gets us on the front page of the newspaper, and offers us the rewards of money and fame.

The way of Jesus is radically different.  It is the way not of upward mobility but of downward mobility.  It is going to the bottom, staying behind the sets, and choosing the last place!  Why is the way of Jesus worth choosing?  Because it is the way to the Kingdom, the way Jesus took, and the way that brings everlasting life.”

~ Henri Nouwen

Choosing last place….

Can I do that?

Can I intentionally set my heart to choose last place? To downward mobility? To servanthood for the simply the sake of being like Christ?

I waver in my belief that I am holy enough to do this….to choose this life for me. And if I’m truly honest, on most days, I don’t choose Christ’s way over the world’s.

But then, God whispers grace and love and peace and an invitation to abide in Christ.  The encouragement that while I am not holy enough, Christ abides in me, through him I can do all things, and being a Princess in His Kingdom is far more valuable to me than being mogul in this world.

So today I choose the last place…the behind the scenes…the Way of Christ.

Will you choose downward mobility today?

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”~John 15:4

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” ~ Philippians 4:13


Love and Grape Jelly (and a SheSpeaks Scholarship)

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.  ~St. Augustine”

We were in a hurry.  We were late for school.  I was rushing and pushing and striving and, well maybe-just a little, yelling.  I had woken up as “Drill Sergeant Mom” and was fully committed to the role at hand.

Xander was making his breakfast toast.  Gluten-free brown rice bread with soy-free, vegan butter spread and Welch’s grape jelly.  A big, giant, brand new, (did I mention full?) glass jar of grape jelly.

“Come on, guys. We are going to be late for school! Let’s move!”

“I’m coming, Mom!” Xander exclaimed as he put the lid back on the jelly and shifted the giant jar to his left hand to open the fridge. I turned to give him the “don’t-sass-me” look, and time froze. In the painfully slow motion instant where you just know what is about to happen and are powerless to stop it I watched the giant, glass jar of jelly teeter in his hand and-

fall

to

the

floor.

The dull spl-thwack of the jelly glass snapped the space-time continuum back into full speed.  I leaped into action as I watched tiny shards of glass spray across the floor- lifting and swinging Xander and his bare feet out of the blast zone.  As I sat him down, I looked into his eyes. Tears were streaming down his face. With huge, remorseful brown eyes he looked up at me.

“Mama, I am so sorry. I have made such a big mess, and it’s all sticky and it was a brand new jar and now we’re late and it’s all my fault…”

You know what my first reaction to his repentant heart was? Was it  I can’t believe you made such a mess? Or clean this up right now? Or even an exasperated sigh and when will you ever learn?

It was none of those things.

Upon seeing his heartbreak and repentance, I melted. I immediately gathered him in my arms and held him. Loved him. Soothed him.

“Aw, Baby…it’s ok. We’ll clean this up together. Everything will work out just fine. Ok?”

Sniffing back the last of his tears as he started to calm down, “Ok…”

And then, “Mom…I love you.”

“I love you, too, Baby.”

I just want you to hear this one thing-

GOD LOVES YOU LIKE THAT.

With Mama-soothing-her-broken-hearted-baby-love.

I have lived a good deal of my life with a voice of accusation that I sadly labeled as God. Always believing that He sent his son for US to cover our sins, but, in some way never fully understanding that Christ came FOR ME…FOR MY SINS…and that nothing that I do could ever change the fact that He loves me so much that He would lay down His crown, put on our icky man- clothes, walk among us on this fouled planet, innocently die a horrific, tortured criminal’s death bearing up under the weight of all the sin that ever was and will be, conquered the grave and ROSE AGAIN (He’s alive, my friends- isn’t that the most amazing thing?)…HE LOVES ME that much- andHE LOVES YOU that much too.

The moment that jar of jelly hit the ground, and I looked into my son’s eyes and saw his despair at what he done, I felt the immediate, instinctive reaction to soothe that despair, to forgive that mess he had created, to forget it. In that moment, God changed my entire understanding of grace and forgiveness.

He spoke His word to me, “And now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..” Romans 8:1

I knew that God loved me like that- no, beyond that. That as long as I have a truly repentant heart about the mistakes of my life, God is stirred to soothe. To forgive. TO FORGET. It is the promise he makes us. I knew that the accuser of my soul was not my Lord, my Savior, but an enemy.  THE enemy.  There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He speaks to us with words of love, and joy and encouragement.

Thank you, Jesus for ransoming my heart on the cross. Thank you, Lord for rescuing my heart with a broken jar of grape jelly! I love how you use the tiniest of moments to teach us truth….Keep teaching, Lord. I am listening.

What small moment has God used to teach you about His love?

This post is an entry for a full scholarship to the 2011 Proverbs 31 SheSpeaks conference. The She Speaks Conference is about women connecting the hearts of women to the heart of our Father God and my heart is to serve Him and His daughters, as He leads.

I have so wanted to attend for many years, and love that my word sister, Ann Voskamp is offering an opportunity for scholarship to this awesome resource. If you would like to be considered for scholarship, check out her blog post here.

Love and Grape Jelly

I posted this earlier this year, but still this image is so deeply ingrained in my brain.  I just love it when God uses the simple, everyday life things to teach us deep lessons about who He is.

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.  ~St. Augustine”

We were in a hurry.  We were late for school.  I was rushing and pushing and striving and, well maybe-just a little, yelling.  I had woken up as Drill Sergeant Mom and was fully committed to the role at hand.

Xander was making his breakfast toast.  Gluten free brown rice bread with soy free, vegan butter spread and Welch’s grape jelly.  A big, giant, brand new, did I mention full? glass jar of grape jelly.

“Come on, guys. We are going to be late for school! Let’s move!”

“I’m coming, Mom!” Xander exclaimed as he put the lid back on the jelly and shifted the giant jar to his left hand to open the fridge. I turned to give him the “don’t-sass-me” look, and time froze. In the painfully slow motion instant where you just know what is about to happen and are powerless to stop it I watched the giant, glass jar of jelly teeter in his hand and-

fall

to

the

floor.

The dull spl-thwack of the jelly glass snapped the space-time continuum back into full speed.  I leaped into action as I watched tiny shards of glass spray across the floor- lifting Xander and swinging him out of the blast zone.  As I sat him down, I looked into his eyes. Tears were streaming down his face. With huge, remorseful eyes he looked up at me.

“Mama, I am so sorry. I have made such a big mess, and it’s all sticky and it was a brand new jar and now we’re late and it’s all my fault…”

You know what my first reaction to his repentant heart was? Was it, I can’t believe you made such a mess? Or clean this up right now? Or even an exasperated sigh and when will you ever learn?

 

It was none of those things.

 

Upon seeing his heartbreak and repentance, I melted. I immediately gathered him in my arms and held him. Loved him. Soothed him.

“Aw, Baby…it’s ok. We’ll clean this up together. Everything will work out just fine. Ok?”

Sniffing back the last of his tears as he started to calm down, “Ok…”

And then, “Mom…I love you.”

“I love you, too, Baby.”

I just want you to hear this one thing-

God loves you like that.

With Mama-soothing-her-broken-hearted-baby-love.

I have lived a good deal of my life with a voice of accusation that I sadly labeled as God. Always believing that He sent his son for US to cover our sins, but, in some way never fully understanding that Christ came FOR ME…FOR MY SINS…and that nothing that I do could ever change the fact that He loves me so much that He would lay down His crown, put on our icky man clothes, walk among us on this fouled planet, innocently die a horrific, tortured criminal’s death bearing up under the weight of all the sin that ever was and will be, conquered the grave and ROSE AGAIN (He’s alive, my friends- isn’t that the most amazing thing?)…HE LOVES ME that much- and HE LOVES YOU that much too.

The moment that jar of jelly hit the ground, and I looked into my son’s eyes and saw his despair at what he done, and I felt the immediate, instinctive reaction to soothe that despair, to forgive that mess he had created, to forget it. In that moment, God changed my entire understanding of grace and forgiveness.

He spoke His word to me, “And now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus..” Romans 8:1

I knew that God loved me like that- no, beyond that. That as long as I have a truly repentant heart about the mistakes of my life, God is stirred to soothe. To forgive. TO FORGET. It is the promise he makes us. I knew that the accuser of my soul was not my Lord, my Savior, but an enemy.  The enemy.  There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. He speaks to us with words of love, and joy and encouragement.

Thank you, Jesus for ransoming my heart on the cross. Thank you, Lord for rescuing my heart with a broken jar of grape jelly! I love how you use the tiniest of moments to teach us truth….Keep teaching, Lord. I am listening.

What small moment has God used to teach you about His love?

 

I’m linking up with my friend Holley to answer the prompt “In God’s heart I am….forgiven.”  You can join in too! I’d love to hear what you have to say.  Write your post and link up on Holley’s site and leave a comment here with the link so I can be sure to check it out!

Review – Between a Rock and A Grace Place by Carol Kent

If you are struggling with the question “Why, God?”- run…don’t walk to get this book. Carol’s story is heart wrenching and compassionately told, and full of nuggets of hope and grace in an ugly, fallen world.  I could not put this book down.  A definite must read.

Here’s a little video to introduce the book and Carol’s story, and a  short interview with Carol.  I hope you enjoy!

What are “grace places,” and how can hurting people in need find them?

All of us experience tight spots when life turns out differently from our dream. When we face the overwhelming obstacles of life, we can experience the last thing we ever expect—the sweet spot of grace. Grace places have a variety of forms, but some include:

  • Receiving love when we don’t deserve it
  • Finding safety in the middle of a fearful and uncertain experience
  • Being comforted by friends and family (people who are extensions of God’s love)
  • Experiencing the embrace of God when we have run out of strength and courage

“Grace means the free, unmerited, unexpected love of God, and all the benefits, delights, and comforts which flow from it.” (R.P.C. Hanson)

How important are contentment and gratitude in finding grace and peace?

My son, Jason, is teaching me that I need to choose contentment and thanksgiving in all things. As an inmate in a maximum-security prison, all of his personal items must fit in one small one-foot-high and one-and a half-feet-deep and two-and-a half feet long steel lockbox. He has learned to live comfortably with very little, which brings him a surprising sense of peace.

When I was visiting him one weekend I asked how he holds on to hope in the middle of a life-without-the-possibility-of-parole sentence. He said, “Mom, I have a gratitude list. Whenever the clouds of depression try to discouragement, I get out a piece of paper and write down everything I have to be thankful for. I’m thankful I have two parents who will be my advocates for as long as they live. The average number of years a lifer gets visits is five years and then no one comes anymore. I’m also thankful I can be a missionary on a compound that houses up to 1,700 men.” I’m learning from Jason that I find contentment when I choose to be thankful and when I invest my time in helping other people.

There is a theme of surprise throughout the book. What is one of the greatest surprises you’ve had?

The powerful story of Tammy Wilson and Matthew Ben Rodriguez is in this book. Tammy contacted me after I spoke at an event she attended because my son is incarcerated in the same prison where Matt, the man who killed her mother thirteen years ago is incarcerated. She had been praying for someone to lead Matt to Christ and asked if Jason would try to meet him. It turned out that Jason and Matt were already friends and this amazing story is one of forgiveness, redemption, and restoration that can only be explained in the supernatural dimension.

Between a Rock and a Grace Place releases 10 years after your son, Jason, was sentenced to life in a maximum security prison and includes excerpts from Jason’s letters. Can you tell us how he’s doing now?

He has just taken his 8th group of men through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University Course and he will be facilitating a biblical counseling class on marriage and family this fall. He has a prayer group of twelve inmates who fast and pray for the needs of each other and their families. Prison is a depressing, dark, and sad place, but Jason is living for things that will outlast him.

When you received news about Jason’s clemency hearing being denied, how did you respond?

I wailed like a baby, sobbed, felt angry, hurt, and disappointed in God. Then we saw Jason a day after this devastating news. He was calm and very much at peace. He hugged me as I wept and said, “Mom, this case isn’t about having the best attorney or about having the favor of Florida’s top executive political leaders. If I am ever allowed to walk in freedom in this lifetime, it will be because God miraculously opened a door that was closed.” My son helps me to develop an eternal perspective and that day he comforted me.

What advice do you have for those who are stuck between a rock and a grace place?

In the middle of your own hurt reach out to someone else who needs help worse than you do. When you involve yourself in meeting the needs of others, you discover an unexpected freedom on the inside. Corrie ten Boom once said, “What did you do today that only a Christian would have done?”

As a result of your journey, you and your husband have founded the nonprofit organization Speak Up for Hope. What are the goals of the organization, and how can people get involved?

Our vision: To help inmates and their families adjust to their new normal.

Our mission: We exist to provide hope to inmates and their families through encouragement and resources.

Please go to http://www.speakupforhope.org for a list of practical ways individuals, churches, and organizations can help with specific projects. Our goal is to live out the truth of Prov. 31:8-9: “Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice. Stand up for the poor and destitute!”

Where may we connect with you further or to purchase a copy of Between a Rock and a Grace Place?

I would love for you to visit my web site at www.CarolKent.org, browse through the various events and other resources available. You may also join me on my Facebook page, please click here.

About the Author

Carol Kent is the bestselling author of When I Lay My Isaac Down and A New Kind of Normal. Carol is an expert on public speaking, writing, and on encouraging people to hold on to hope when life’s circumstances turn out differently from their dreams. She lives in Florida with her husband Gene.

Carol Kent is a popular international public speaker best known for being dynamic, humorous, encouraging, and biblical. She is a former radio show co-host and has often been a guest on Focus on the Family and a featured speaker at Time Out for Women and Heritage Keepers arena events. She has spoken at The Praise Gathering for Believers and at Vision New England’s Congress. She is also a frequent speaker at Women of Virtue events across the country.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me as a blog tour host by Zondervan in exchange for posting this interview on my blog. Please visit Christian Speaker Services atwww.ChristianSpeakerServices.com for more information about blog tour management services.