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.

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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