Joy as a weapon.

“…the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10

 

 

Its a tactic. The upper hand. When we pray, maybe instead of praying for strength we pray for a fruit of the Spirit He tells us is the weapon we need wield. Maybe its joy, His deep, fulfilling, purest joy that fits the mold best. Maybe, joy & strength are one in the same.

 
Beautiful, deep, complete.

 
In my mind when I think of joy, I imagine Julie Andrews spinning, arms wide, song as sweet as a bird, smiling from ear to ear. And I know what I’m about to say will probably not sit well with the feminists, but when I imagine joy I tend to link it with a feminine, nurturing, motherly feel. I honestly have no idea why. Maybe its just me. But then I think of strength & immediately think of a buff, super masculine Tarzan kind of man doing chin ups with one arm.

 
So, that’s ironic. Ironic that God would say that His joy is our strength.
Again, maybe this part is just me.

 
But joy is not prissy. Not feminine. Not something reserved for the goody two shoes. Not reserved for the super Christians who have all the answers & don’t associate with the sinners.

 
Have we thought any differently? Have we ever questioned joy any deeper than a good feeling God likes us to have?

 
Joy is a weapon.
Joy is as fierce as a cuss word.
Joy is as feisty as the first punch.
Joy combats.
Joy transitions our minds to sit with the Almighty instead of what trips us up & thrives off emotions.

 
The joy of the Lord is our strength.

 
In all circumstances, joy is never uncalled for.
Joy is never out of line.

 
You know those fancily written quotes all over Pinterest (& all other social media, thanks to Pinterest)? You know the one that says “choose joy”? I’ve always thought of it more along the lines of “choose to let it go”, while I think it may be more accurate to think of it along the lines of “choose strength”. Choose to hear their hurtful words & love them anyway. Choose to let them ‘shut you down’, & walk away knowing you’re intelligent & strong & worthy anyway. Choose to cry over it & invite joy to hold the tissues. That’s the kind of weapon I want. That’s the feistiest thing I’ve ever heard. The strongest. To watch the world throwing its tantrum your way & keep your joy anyway.

But there is a river.

This is all funny to me right now, because as I’ve been sitting here for the past 10 minutes figuring out a way to begin this post, I look to my prayer journal at what began this whole thing & the answers right there. So, I’m going to simply start with my prayer.

 

Lord, when I don’t feel like taking time for you, I need it most. Kill my pride & keep me in step with your Spirit. Let my mind rest before you all day long. Fill my mind with your goodness & purify my heart. Cleanse me of all jealousy, bitterness, & other negative emotions. Make every thought obedient to you. Fill me with your goodness, unlock my ears to hear you always. Train my heart in you.

 

Now its very important to me that you understand exactly why I shared that prayer I had written out, because I felt a little weird sharing something that was intended for God alone with you. I literally had SUCH a rough night. Mondays are my husband’s bowling nights so he comes home at about 10 at night, & tonight was a rare night for the kids where both had their fair share of problem child moments. Usually, I wrap up Mondays with the kids in bed early & prayer time is me praising God for letting me find favor with Him & for the kids being a breeze. But tonight. Tonight was testing every last nerve. I even attempted to go to bed early myself because I was trying to let Monday win, but Luca wouldn’t let me, literally shaking his head no when I asked if he would go to bed for the millionth time.

 

 

So, another honest moment, after finally getting Luca to sleep I had already read my Bible & when it came to the decision of whether to go make a big plate of tortilla chips with melted cheese or write in my prayer journal & pray, the cheese won. So after inhaling the whole plate, when I felt pressed to right one line in my prayer journal for the night, I decided I could handle one line. One line isn’t hard, & after the night I had there was no room for challenging. So I wrote that one line. & one turned to two. & then pretty soon this happened, & it all made sense.

 

“…we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves, & learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.”
—2 Corinthians 1:9

“We have placed our confidence in Him, & He will continue to rescue us.”
—v.10

 
Lord, when I feel the heartbreak. When I think about the pain of hearing another woman announce her pregnancy & the emptiness of my own womb. When I’m giving my business to God & it still seems to be flailing on the ground like a suffocating fish. When I’m having a bad day on my kids who are having a bad day.

 

 

You are my rock, God. When my circumstances seem deafening & I can’t be sure of what may come, you are the answer.You are our peace.

 

 

What God do I serve? The God who conquered death.

 

 

“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at the break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts His voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations He has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

—Psalm 46

 

 

David felt it, too, that same feeling Paul felt when he wrote his second letter to the Corinthians. He experienced enough to know what it takes for your heart to feel as though the earth has given way & the mountains are diving into the sea. He knew how hard breathing could be.

 

 

But there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. That ceases wars. That places His thick fingers around our flabby nothing of arms & keeps them raised high when we pull out our “can’t evens”.

 

 

There is a God whose Spirit runs like rushing waters through my veins who holds out peace like a life jacket & when we’ve finally got a hold of it & we’re bobbing in the current & we say, okay God, aren’t you supposed to be taking us toward the shore, He says to be still & know who He is. Peace, love. I AM is with you. I AM here.

 

 

& when He doesn’t give us explanations for why he is standing beside me in the deep end allowing this thing to happen where I am unable to touch & He isn’t pulling me out, He says,

 

“I WILL BE EXALTED AMONG THE NATIONS.
I WILL BE EXALTED IN THE EARTH.”

 

 

Do you love me? Take care of my sheep.

 

 

Sometimes its not even about us. I mean, it is to the extent that He works for the good of those who love Him. But who’s to define what’s good? & who’s to say this is something that’s only meant for you?

 
Maybe this is the part where He will be exalted.
So those same six people you’ve been praying salvation over for months will get it.
So the girl in the back of the church will rise because of your faith.

 
He says, “Do you love me?”
Let me be glorified.
Be still & know.
Peace.

This is a flourishing.

About a month ago while I was praying, I felt like God was showing me the image of flowers growing out of the tips of my fingers as I held my hands out, palms up, while praying. I remember thinking how beautiful it was, drawing it out in my prayer journal, & walking away, unable to shake the image. That Sunday, as I we stood by the altar with our arms raised high in worship singing “let it rain”, I felt so amazed because I thought that was the grande finale of what God would show me with the whole ‘flowers growing from my finger tips’ vision. & that was good enough, as He showed me the physical connection of lifting my hands in total surrender to Him & the flourishing occurring within me directly coinciding with choosing to give Him all I can even when I may not feel like it. But that was only phase one of what He would begin to show me through out the past month.

 
Another Sunday night following, the lead pastor at our church stood in front & spoke of how God speaks to him by showing him words, the last one having been as he was in the sanctuary & saw the word “flourish” or “flourishing”.

 
& ever since, there have been many other little ways God continues to bring this vision more dimension, & the whole reason I’m writing this is because tonight hit home when I came to 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, where Paul explains how our heavenly bodies will differ from our earthly bodies. But as I read it, God connected the image & feeling of those flowers growing out of my fingers once more.

“When you put a seed in the ground, it doesn’t grow into a plant unless it dies first.”
—1 Corinthians 15:36

“…then God gives it the new body He wants it to have.”
—v.38

 
& here is where I’m at, love.

 
Have you died yet, so He can resurrect you? Have you surrendered yet so you can flourish?

 
Because this. This thing we are experiencing together. This thing where we all come to church to worship before we worship, to pray & dance & wave our flags high. This place where pride cannot exist.
This is a flourishing.

 
We are becoming. Surrendering. We are not waiting for a sign. We are wholly trusting, running with reckless abandon to the feet of Jesus. We are giving God our first crops.

 
& He is resurrecting us & this is the beginning. The flourishing has begun. The flowers are growing & we can feel it in the tips of our fingers raised high in worship to our King Jesus.

 
Have you died yet so you can flourish?

“Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be RAISED IN GLORY… buried in weakness, but they will be RAISED IN STRENGTH… buried as natural human bodies, RAISED AS SPIRITUAL BODIES.”
—1 Corinthians 15:43-44

 
Dying is the hard part as Satan tries to convince you that you are giving up so much. But once you die to yourself, you’ll see how much you gain.

 
Death, where is your sting! Death, where is your victory!

 
We are positioned exactly where God wants us & we are flourishing because we are dying.
He is growing in me because I am not afraid to die so He can live.

This is a flourishing.

“My beloved spoke to me & said to me,

“Arise, my darling,

my beautiful one, come with me.

See! The winter is past;

the rains are over & gone.

Flowers appear on the earth;

the season of singing has come,…”

Song of Songs 2:10-12

How to feel less lonely.

I messaged my husband this morning something that may or may not have said:

 
Lets just move far, far away—right now.

 
There may have also been a fitting emoji or two. I don’t know. Maybe.

 
But my smart husband, he is good at what he does (being a husband to me). He didn’t turn me down right away, remind me of our love bug who we get to spend every other week with, or blow off my emotions. He asked me why.

 

 

Cue the water works, folks.

 

 
I am in this season where God is doing the most incredible things & I thirst for Him like never before. I am in this season where I have never felt more lonely, left out, & uninvited. I am in a season where both are co-existing, battling grounds for my wannabe purity centered mind. I am sincerely battling it out, my nonexistent friends.

 
So I have had no energy lately, which has not been helped by my prayers to the Lord for my wandering heart to not find any new shows on Hulu or Netflix that I feel the need to add to my list. But I finally picked up the final book to my summer reading stack (there were only three books, people… reading becomes harder when your baby wants to eat plastic things and color on walls with your prayer journal pens). And by now, about three days later and 30 pages in, Lisa Bevere is completely rocking my pitiful heart.

 
In her book Without Rival, she talks about (at least for the first 30 pages) how God’s love is not equal for each of us, it is unique. She says, “Our Father’s love cannot be likened to a pan of brownies or a cherry pie that is painstakingly cut by a loving parent into equal portions so that no child feels slighted. His marvelous love is not subject to portion control.” (p19)

 
Cue more tears.

 
His love doesn’t reach a limit. His love doesn’t level off or yield until the others catch up to your portion. It is endless. Unconditional. Unyielding. Overflowing. This everlasting love isn’t cut off because God says ‘okay you have had enough, pace yourself’. His love flows freely.

 
You know one of my favorite things God does? I love when we read or watch or hear something that takes us back to a specific moment in our life. The kind of scenario where we never realized how that thirty second interval had left its mark quite the way it had, but God releases the flashback and whispers, let’s heal that, too.

 
Reading this part of Lisa’s book brought me back to fifth grade. A year I had never thought had damaged me quite the way it had. A year when girls started getting less friendly and more territorial. I was taken back to a specific instance when I had sat at a table with girls who didn’t want me, watching them exchange glances with their friend at the other table, whose chair I was obviously sitting in by that point. Something so silly and small, yet I felt so shameful and unwanted.

 
And God whispered to this wound through Lisa’s words, “You don’t have to fight for your place at the table or win His love. No one can replace you… you have no rival.” (p21)

 
There is a seat for me.

 
I think of all the times I tried to grow other’s affection toward me. I tried to be the love grower, changing little parts of myself, hiding away the parts others had hinted at being unattractive. Creating groups to feel included and accepted, staying in relationships that should have never began to feel safe. All the while having my heavenly Father speaking so many loving words my way and His words falling onto deaf ears as I thought, ‘sure God loves me, but what about you?’

 
So maybe I won’t be moving away tomorrow because of my husband making me look at my own reasoning. Feeling lonely isn’t a reason to leave. Its probably the worst reason to leave. Maybe I am going to stay right where I’m at and take more time to sit and listen to what God thinks of me.

 
The Bible says God thinks more precious thoughts about us than there are grains of sand. In Without Rival, Lisa poses the question of what God might say if we sat with Him for even a minute, asking what He thinks of us? What three loving words would he use to describe you? Will you accept this challenge alongside me, and even dare to boldly share your words when sharing this post?

Peace & Fresh Starts.

We were all there— whether your plans included going to bed early, dancing/mostly just screaming the lyrics to Toto’s “Africa”, or rocking your babe to Mariah Carey’s meltdown— you were a part of 2016’s end. And the thing is, no matter the taste 2016 left us with, all we all wanted was a clean slate, right?

 

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So far 2017 has embraced us with open arms, crowning my husband and I with our six year old’s head cold, our one year old with strep (for the second time in two months), and the enlightenment that our tags on our family vehicle expired three months ago.

 
This all being said, before this avalanche was even formed, I began to pray my new years resolution, that God’s peace would transcend every part of my life— relationships, finances, parenting, business, everything. That all this anxiety I have allowed to take up room in my heart would be forced to vacate the premises because Jesus was placing peace in every corner of my atmosphere.

 
So, funny 2017 should start the way it has, but its not a bad start, and that’s what I’m learning.

 
About a week ago, I was praying and asking God to keep showing up into my volcanic explosions, asking his voice to continue to whisper to tyrant me when I am not being true to who he made me to be. And as I was lifting the words to the Lord, I felt His presence like a big, unexpected embrace:

 

“I feel your Spirit comforting me with your undeserved patience, mercy, & grace. You are patting my back, swirling around me, telling me ‘it’s a process’, making me understand that changing my heart can take a millisecond, but sometimes it take a million new chances— this is a transition.” (excerpt from my prayer journal)

 

Its a transition.

 

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When I picture God’s movements in my life, I expect big grandeur explosions. I expect thunder and lightening, white-out snow storms and flash floods. And He does it— He works in the ‘suddenly’, but He also works in the transitions that look more like a light dimmer than a sudden switch. He works unapologetically, mercifully, and gracefully, continuing the lightbulb moments in the midst of my meltdowns and stress rants, slipping His truths in my mind when its time for me to wage war on my fleshly instincts.

 
So I have been praying for peace that overcomes, and this is where God took me last night, beginning my prayer:

 
God begun by highlighting the random, clever phrase, “Christ-al Clear”, and after meditating on it for a while, I picked up my Bible to where I left off, James 3, which says:

 

“But wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” (v.17-18)

 

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You see, we pray for things or raise our white flags in certain untamed areas of our heart and God in turn says, alright, here’s our plan. He doesn’t sit on His throne and watch our failing efforts to become more Christ-like, with crossed arms. He kneels beside us and partners with us. And faithfully.

 
I asked for peace this year that transforms me to my core, and in turn He tells me exactly what I need where I’m at. He says to filter what I am listening to and seeing so that I can have a pure mind and heart. He says even when I am about to lose my mind with a screaming one year old pulling at my pants, a child misbehaving that needs addressed, and my hair still needs finished because we were supposed to be out the door ten minutes ago, to be gentle with my words and actions. He tells me when I see a girl gaining recognition for effortlessly being great at something I want to be great at, to cheer her on in the truth there is enough success to go around.

 
Lastly, He is reminding me that my circumstances don’t determine His goodness, nor do they dictate whether His Spirit of peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control are welcome.

 
What are your New Years resolutions/mottos? How will this year be different from the others?

 

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SIDE NOTE: Yes, this is featuring my son sitting on top my couch like a cat. Yes, those are unedited boogers. No, I do not normally allow this behavior. No, no one was injured in the making. But, yes, he is very cute, even with the boogy nose.

On your wedding day.

The most fun, full of life girl got married last weekend & it was such a beautiful day, from beginning to end.

So when I was simply writing out my stereotypical Instagram post with all sorts of pictures of our faces through out the years to post on her wedding day, and I couldn’t stop writing, I realized maybe its time to give her the blog post she’s been asking me for, where I write about how awesome she is & how much I love her. But then…  I wrote it & found out we were, indeed giving the matron of honor & best man speeches. So, a couple days later, here I share with you my letter-turned-speech to my best friend.

I love you, Sar.

 

To the most incredible sister a girl could ask for,

Remember the last wedding we were at? Yep, it was mine, and you wouldn’t be the maid of honor because you didn’t think your pregnant self would fit on stage. You didn’t want your swollen ankles to distract from my big day. But really it was mostly because what seven month pregnant girl wants to stand on stage in front of a crowd, let alone wobble down an isle while everyone watches. But you were there with me all day. You never left my side, while we did what pregnant girls do, sitting in the food court munching on some Auntie Annes.

And now, I get to be there for you on one of the biggest days of your life, and get to bring your son down the isle on your wedding day, an honor just as big to me as standing beside you with the tissues while you choke out your vows.

I can still remember hugging your crumpled self on the bedroom floor, finding you broken into so many pieces over the wrong people, people who didn’t deserve a drop of your heart, leaving me to come in with the glue & try to heal all the wounds & pretend what they did to you was something I could fix.

But if you want to cry today you can cry all day because Ryan is worth every drop of your happy heart. He is worth your time & tears & love. He is worth your broken. He doesn’t leave your heart mangled & he doesn’t leave me to step in with my super glue. He doesn’t leave your hurt for me to have to come & pull you back together. He holds your heart.

And I am not saying he won’t disappoint you, or be perfect, or let you down, because God alone is the perfect soulmate. But Ryan is for you, from God, & that’s what I’m sure of. You will be loved, protected, & safe. & I will cry because I can throw the glue away, never having to save your heart from the selfish boys who take what they want & leave the rest.

You remember the time you cried in our shared bed, telling me you were just thinking about if something happened to me & you couldn’t breathe over it because you loved me so much? I love you that much and I am so thankful that you are my sister, & that God has sent a man who will love you how you deserve to be loved.

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Not so random breakthrough surprise parties.

When God is doing incredible things, we praise.
When God appears to be stealthily tip-toeing around in camouflage by the silence that seems to be boring the crap out of our prayer life, we stay. We praise.

 
Some times my prayers are more of me pleading “give me focus here as I try to keep my brain awake for this”. I feel bad saying it, because it is not that God bores me. He is thee most fascinating. But sometimes, the world is pure chaos & I try to sit in my chaotic mind & pray at the same time. But here is what I noticed:

 
When my prayers used to “get boring”/“I had other things I really wanted to do but wanted to have perfect attendance on my prayer life”, I used to allow them to fall short. Oh, categorize these people, lose some friends so you don’t feel obligated to pray for them, talk really fast & if Holy Spirit interrupts you to make this an actual two way conversation in which he knows a couple of other people who actually really are going through things & need the power of prayer you write them down for tomorrows prayer because *mic drop* give me peace God, IM OUT.

 
But this past time my prayer routine went through a dry spurt, I chose to ride it out. I stayed in for the long run, asking God to give me focus when my mind was time traveling. & here is what He is teaching me:

 

Breakthroughs only come from staying.

 
UGH. AGAIN, LORD.
*insert standing ovation, here*
Break throughs only come from staying.

 
I am not telling you to stay with your abusive boyfriend, here. I’m telling you to boldly walk out that front door & slam it behind you, girl. Let me here your footsteps while you are making it happen. But once you say to yourself, “you are bigger, you are better, you are brighter”, once you decide to walk out that door, I am asking you to stay gone to give the God of breakthroughs a real, wholehearted chance. When he calls your phone and your best friends until the phones are shut off, thirty seven missed calls later. When he texts you those sweet three worded phrases, I-love-yous, I-miss-yous and I-can’t-sleeps. When Facebook notifies you that he posted a picture of his date last night.

 

 

Stay gone.

 
When your prayers are unfocused & pure chaos & you are simply trying to love on God but it seems He ‘doesn’t want to talk now, k’, keep talking about everything and anything and keep asking Him to reel you back in, and stay. Keep asking for what you desperately need to happen before everything comes unglued.

 
Breakthroughs are exactly that— a break through, which takes pushing & waiting & remaining.

 
Stay, love. Keep trying and keep the faith you’ve got and pray for even more, so that you might not only believe that God is doing the unseen but that you can be confident that He is playing the God-role well. Stay so you can be there for the surprise part, where every effort you haven’t seen but still has all the more happened comes together before your eyes in a big explosion of people screaming surprise in your face. Or maybe not the last part. But still.

 

“He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”
Romans 8:32