May 22 4th Friday Audio {Living Artfully: wholeheartedly showing up for your whole life – Part 1}

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I come to you tonight so full-hearted, my friends. Full because last night was our second 4th Friday. Full because I felt so much more free, more relaxed, more me, as I shared my heart this time with those who came. Full because you who were there showed up so wholeheartedly, so graciously received my heart, and so courageously gave yourselves to one another and to Him.

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And — full because of you who walk with me from more of a geographical distance — you who are my readers and my fellow writers and my soul friends who are so with me. Who are cheering me on and faithfully journeying beside me as I do the next thing, even though it often feels scary-vulnerable.

Y’all help me be brave.

That said, I want to share with you the audio of my talk from last night (Friday, May 22).

Quick final thought: I adore you guys. Walking with you all here, the way you’ve received my heart in this space, has shaped me over the last number of years. Has expanded me inside. I lack words to tell you how thankful I am for your companionship here. One of these days I’m gonna try though — I’m gonna try and dig up language for my gratitude for y’all — and it’s gonna be a whoooole blog post.

Okay, guys. The audio. {Gulp.}

And if you missed last month’s talk, it’s here if you’d like to hear it.

{If the volume is low in your computer speakers, you might try listening with headphones — I had success that way.}

Posted in #4thfridays, Attending to His Presence, Creativity, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, Presence | 2 Comments

If Your Heart Hurts this Mother’s Day {a few things I’d say if we could do coffee}

sun through treeI awake early to sit here and wait in the predawn quiet, my littles still snug in their beds, and a hundred or so passions burning all at once in my soul.

And out of those hundred burning thoughts, this rises to the surface — this aching that comes with the approaching of Mother’s Day. It’s an aching over my own losses, yes — but even more, an acute awareness that for many, this day holds more pain than joy.

So to those who just wince a little inside, and to those who want to completely run and hide as this weekend approaches — to you whose aching heart feels sidestepped, avoided, overshadowed as Mother’s Day draws near–

I so wish I could sit one-on-one with you over coffee in the next few days. I wish I could ask questions and hear your heart’s journey and hold your story with quiet understanding.

Because I want you to know — I see you. I’m not afraid of the depth of your heart’s ache. And I hold you in my heart before the Lord.

You, my friend who parents alone. Day in and day out, cooking meals and working a job and wiping noses and folding mountains of little people clothes, falling into bed exhausted beyond words. Then you wake up Monday morning, and face the grind all over again. And you wonder if anyone sees how your heart bleeds this tired loneliness. How you cry to Jesus for grace, for strength to keep going. Please know — I see you. My heart cries with you. You are not forgotten.

You, my sweet friend whose mom passed away when you were a child. Or when you were 20. Or when you were 50. How old you were doesn’t matter as much as the fact that when you long to dial her number and ask about a recipe, or about parenting, or about a story from your childhood that you can’t quite remember fully, she isn’t there to answer. Part of our childhood dies when we lose our mom. Part of our childhood, and a lot of our right now. Your loss sits heavy in my chest in these days.

You, my friend whose relationship with your mom is broken. The communication is strained if it happens at all and you wonder if the pain wouldn’t be more bearable if there had actually been a death —  instead of this long, excruciating dying of your connection. Of a piece of your soul. Know that I sit with you, mourn with you.

You, my friend whose womb aches empty. Whose desire to birth babies and shape lives has been long delayed. You who have been medically unable to bear children, or whose circumstances for whatever reason have not allowed the fulfillment of that God-given dream. Because the dream to mother is God-given, and when the desires He places within us go long unfulfilled, the throbbing ache can make our hearts sick. I see your pain, connect with it deep in my gut. 

You, my friend whose road to adoption has been longer than you imagined. You who’ve spent long months and years agonizing through prayer and mountains of invasive paperwork, but the distance between you and your child seems no shorter now than at the beginning. The calender pages turn, and turn, and turn again. Maybe hopes have been raised only to be dashed, or “the call” has never come at all. Regardless, the questions loom ever larger in your heart. I’m leaning into those questions with you. Leaning into His heart with you. Sitting with you in the silence.

You, my friend who found yourself unexpectedly bearing life in your womb 6 months ago or a decade ago or 30 years ago — and the fear and questions landed you right in the abortionist’s office. The new life was snuffed out and even though they told you it was just a cluster of cells, something in your gut knew better. Knows better. And you weep, even still, in the middle of the night, because the guilt weighs heavy. I am weeping with you. And I want to whisper it straight to your heart this Mother’s DayForgiveness can lift that crushing weight. 

You, my friend who knows the gut-wrenching bittersweetness of “He gives and takes away.” You who’s been gifted a child and poured out every ounce of your soul, your life, your sleep in love for him or her, only to pour it out all over again in grief. Whether loss struck in the womb, or further down the road, you carry that empty, love-carved cavern in your soul. And some days you have to just breathe your way through each hour, just to keep functioning, just to make it through this one task. To the next. To the next. In my heart, I am holding your hand. Breathing through the grief alongside you.

You, my sweet friend who made one of the most terrifyingly courageous choices imaginable — you birthed your baby… and then entrusted the precious life that had grown within you to an adoptive family. You wrestled, agonized, faced the unfathomably brave realization that your personal resources were less than what you desired for your child. Yet daily, hourly, you carry the ache of that baby’s absence from your everyday life. Your selfless love has personally, profoundly impacted my life, and there’s this debt of gratitude to you that I can’t repay or fully express in words. I carry you close in my heart this week. I honor the selfless extravagance of your mama heart. The beauty of your love.

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All of you. I do see you. Your Father sees you. Carries your pain in His heart, collects your precious tears, and weeps over your heart’s groaning. Over the loss. Over the longings unfulfilled.

And if in all things He is working for our good, for all of our good, and if deeply knowing His heart is that ultimate good, then this would be my blessing for you in this Mother’s Day season:

May you respond to His invitation to intimately encounter Love in the midst of the pain.

May it be a prayer, pulsing in your depths as you hold your raw places open before Him — Christ, form yourself in me, right here. Encounter me in this gaping wound, in all these questions with no answers. Press your scars over my own, wrap my heart in yours, and make your affection tangible to me now.

And may Jesus deeply meet you in that heart cry. May you hear His whisper today that He has not cast you aside, but drawn you close to His heart.

You are seen.

You are valued.

You are loved.

You are held.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

-Psalm 34:18

P.S. As always, please feel free to share if you have friends or loved ones who might be touched by these words. I so value your presence here, friends.

{from the archives}

Posted in adoption, Celebrations, Grief and Loss, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, Uncategorized | 14 Comments

If you cut me open {on jumping tandem and the tension of weakness}

photo 1-1I wrap my chilly feet in a blanket and sit down to write this afternoon, not knowing if I’ll be able to make much headway before my kiddos begin to stir awake from their naps.

Opportunities to write, to really write, are few and far between these days and bringing myself to this blank screen feels more intimidating each time. What do I share? What do I leave out? No one has time to read 5,000 words from me today, nor do I have time to write in depth about All Of The Things.

And oh, there are so many things, you guys.

Things about Jumping Tandem; about heart-filling, soul-spilling community and vulnerability with kindred hearts; standing behind my guitar exhausted, raw, with hands trembling and heart gaping; and the hilarity of #epicroadtripshenanigans with the truest group of soul sisters there ever was.

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About my beloved church family, how my role as worship pastor continually leaves me poured out in all the hardest and sweetest ways, and how Jesus encounters me in the outpouring as I shakily choose courage in the face of my inadequacy time and again.

About 4th Fridays {speaking of courage}. About how I had no idea that excavating and wrapping words around my depths — the kind of words that are meant to be not only written, but spoken in my own voice — could be such an unexpectedly vulnerable, costly offering. Or that it could make me come so alive.

About motherhood, and how Jesus’ challenge to me is to work out the painful parts of parenting my unique littles one day, one hour, one 5-minute chunk of life at a time, leaning into Him. Gut-wrenchingly aware of my need and my lack and all these huge holes that I so need Him to come and fill.

To come and inhabit.

And the theme that runs and weaves itself through each of these facets of my life is this:

Weakness.

Involuntary, yet embraced. Gaping, yet gift.

My beautiful minivan-friend Alia spoke for one of the breakout sessions at Jumping Tandem, and her offering of words was one forged in brokenness and tears. Crafted out of the kind of gut-wrenching worship that rises from the floor of one crushingly difficult circumstance after another.

I sat and listened, asked Jesus for breath in her lungs while she offered up her depths and her flared up asthma gave her a run for her money. And her every sentence resonated in my core with palpable depth and clarity.

“What if weakness were a spiritual gift? We want God’s strength that’s perfected in weakness but we don’t want to live with that gaping, glaring need.”

And my nodding, nodding, nodding was such a frustratingly tiny way of cheering her on, of demonstrating how her outpouring made my bones just burn.

I’ve thought it over and over again lately — how when my strength is stretched so painfully thin, I have options. I can kick and scream and beg God to take away the discomfort, to change the external circumstances that press me face-to-face with my ugly inadequacy.

Or I can choose willingness to hold this tension — the asking for circumstantial shift while living into the awareness of my need. The prayers and faith steps toward growth while embracing this acute weakness as a gift.

As an invitation.

He beckons me to surrender, to be drawn deeper into His heart.

My friends and I drove west from Jumping Tandem, through Sunday afternoon and into the evening, and I watched the sky begin to darken as night overtook us. I fought the temptation to drive a little slower, to make the time together last longer. Hearts were poured out, stories shared and tenderly held, friendships carved deeper.

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At some point during the conversation I found myself, voice shaking, spilling the longing of my soul for Jesus. At any cost. If it means continually living at the utter end of myself. If it means total obscurity. If you cut me open, I told them, I just so desperately burn to know His heart. I want Him.

Jesus plus nothing. It’s Jesus. plus. nothing.

And as my own strength is stretched agonizingly thin, and as I close my eyes and with all my might will my soul to once again choose it — choose to hold this holy tension, choose to live into my need, to grab hold of His garment like the life of my heart depends on it because it absolutely does – thinner too is the curtain that veils my perception of His nearness.

And this heightened sensitivity to His presence and pursuit — it’s the gift that becomes my very life and breath and sustenance.

To quote another dear minivan soul sista, “My perfection and performance are not the goal. His presence is.

Lord, I need you. Oh, I need you. Every hour I need you.

I do.

Posted in Attending to His Presence, Community, Freedom From Perfectionism, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, Parenting, Worship Leader Guts | 20 Comments

On #4thFridays {in which I take a deep breath and share the recording of my talk}

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Y’all. It happened. I arrived at our church building at 5:30 this past Friday evening. Spent a good 45 minutes setting up for the evening, praying, willing my nerves to settle, blasting this one song on repeat over the church sound system. It’s a song that draws me into step with Jesus as together we move into scary, uncharted places.

Places like 4th Fridays. Places like behind a microphone for the purpose of making my way through sharing a chunk of my soul, as opposed to leading worship (which actually is exposing my soul too, but in a different form).

I’d never done this before.

But they came — 30 or so of our church family and a handful of other, beautiful creative friends from around the city — and they listened. Rooted for me through my nervousness and were such gracious, engaged recipients of my heart for the first half hour or so of the evening.

And then it happened. They broke up into small groups, and y’all? The sharing of art and hearts and stories that unfolded — it undid me. I walked around taking photographs and videos and as I observed the interactions within those groups of around 7-9 people each, waves of HOLY washed over my heart.

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This was Kingdom stuff. Creative community for the glory of Jesus. Precious souls peeking out and allowing themselves to be seen and known in new ways, right before my eyes.

There’s so much more I could say, and I might, eventually — but right now feels like time for quiet pondering more than speaking.

That said, I’ll leave you with this, though my hands shake a little as I do. It’s my first ever attempt at “public speaking” in a non-worship-leading context. Going back to listen, I hear my nerves so frequently and if I’m honest, I was a little bummed by how much I felt like they affected my speaking.

BUT. I made it through, and a number of you have asked… so, without further ado, my talk from our first ever #4thfriday. The recording was cut off at a weird place at the end, and we can’t figure out why. But this is the first portion of the evening, followed by a little bit of a debrief at the end of the night.

So much love to y’all, my friends.

Posted in #4thfridays, Community, Creativity, leadership, Learning Authenticity, misc. walking with Jesus, risk | 6 Comments

Letting you in on what I’m up to {and why I’m scared}

photo 2-1Oh my friends, where has the time gone?

I’m sitting at my usual Starbucks location this morning, outside for a change because this Colorado spring weather is literal fresh air to my soul.

When my babysitter texted last night and offered to come this morning, I almost didn’t know what to say. What will I do with my time? Write is what I should do, but what on Earth will I say?

But I accepted her offer and here I am, fingers to keys that feel almost foreign, sitting with my coffee, my sole purpose to try and remember how to pour out some facet of my soul onto this screen.

Did I mention that leading is vulnerable? I find myself a little bit terrified these days by the number of people with an eye on my life. Don’t get me wrong – they – you all – are so very dear to me. Like, more precious than I can put into words.

But showing up and pouring myself out to Jesus before my church family Sunday morning after Sunday morning, and then showing up here and being poured out in a different way — I think the combination of those two has left me needing to hole up a little bit here.

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Then there’s this: Busy ain’t the word. Y’all? I am getting to do so much. To give so much expression to my heart, to impart bits of who I am to those around me, and it’s all happening within my real life community. Within my church family.

This honestly feels a little like uncharted territory to me and while it is exhilarating, and thankful doesn’t even come close to describing the state of my heart, it’s also quite scary.

Vulnerable.

Within my role as worship pastor for our church community, I have the privilege of coaching and leading and developing our worship team members (and up-and-coming members), and that responsibility is life to my heart like I can’t even tell you. I couldn’t be more grateful. And yet, being in the place of occasionally having to say hard things to people I care about is incredibly— you guessed it—

Vulnerable. And just plain hard.

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Stan and I with some of our worship team on Easter Sunday. I so love these guys.

Can I tell you the other thing I get to do? 4th Fridays. I am ramping up to lead an evening, once a month, to reach out to creatives both within and outside of our church family. You guys, I SO rarely can say with relative confidence that I believe God “spoke” one thing or another to me, and if I’m honest I think I generally try and avoid saying that for reasons I’ll get into, maybe, at another time.

BUT.

A good couple of months ago this whisper began to nudge my heart, and try as I might to throw logic and excuses at it, I just could not shake it. The whisper was this: “The artists need pastored. Shepherd the creatives. Cultivate a haven for them.”

Over days and weeks, the whisper has woven its way deeper into my core, has become more like a pounding on my insides. I’ve sat on it. I’ve let Stan and a couple of close friends in on it. I’ve prayed into it.

And in the quiet corners of my relationships with Jesus and with Stan, I’ve whispered my fears. Told them this feels like such a scary risk. Told them this is vul.ner.a.ble.

Heck, even writing these words to you today has me physically shaking.

But Stan’s sole response has been to cheer me on. To encourage me forward. He prays with me for 4th Fridays and gets jazzed about the ways he foresees God moving through these times together with fellow artists.

And Jesus? Well, He just reminds and reminds me that the Father chooses the weak and the foolish and the lowly, and can I just tell you? I am all of those things. But in all the upside-down, inside-out-ness of the Kingdom, those are the things God uses to shame the wise and the strong, to “nullify the things that are,” so that no one can boast (2 Cor. 1:27-29).

Our pastoral team has given me a wholehearted green light to move forward, and their trust in me is all at once healing to my heart and — yup — terrifying, because now I’ve gotta actually do the thing I’m telling them I want to do.

And gosh, if you’re still reading at this point (and bless your heart if you are), I realize I might sound a bit nuts with all this I’m so excited but I’m so afraid stuff. But I’m pretty sure this is what it’s supposed to feel like when you’ve been so long in quiet, mostly-hidden places, and then doors swing wide and you’re invited to actually step into a bit of what you were maybe made for.

Sobered and scared and incredibly excited. Aware of your need. Pressing into His strength in the midst of your weakness. In over your head, because Jesus intentionally leaves gaps between our “callings” and our strengths so that we have to depend on Him to come through.

And there’s intimacy in that dependence.

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So I move forward trembling, leaning into Him, and fully alive in the midst of all this vulnerability and risk.

And you all who read my words here? I want you to know I miss you. I don’t know how long it’ll be till I have room in my life to write here again. But I still love the ways we get to walk beside one another in this space. I’m thankful for you all. For your companionship and your prayers.

And I would love — love — if you’d pray over 4th Fridays. And if you happen to be in Denver or the surrounding area, I’d love for you to consider coming. You are more than invited, and I’d be so excited to get to hug your neck.

So many blessings to you, my friends.

Posted in Community, Creativity, Freedom From Perfectionism, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, risk, Worship Leader Guts | 12 Comments

Leading is vulnerable {in which I break through the non-writing fog}

photo-2Dang, y’all.

It’s intimidating, this showing up in front of The Blank Screen after weeks of not writing. And the longer I’ve waited, the more I’ve thought I might prefer to just not show up. At least, not any time soon.

So, where’ve I been?

Between the amount of attention my last post received — which was more than usual for me — and the fact that over the last month or 6 weeks I’ve taken on the role of worship pastor for our church family (and even just writing those words makes me feel *insanely* vulnerable), I think I’ve maybe felt the need to hide in a cave.

That, and my life over the last several weeks has been quite possibly busier than it’s ever been. Like, ever.

Between stay-at-home-mom-ing and leading a lot of worship and embarking on a journey of getting to know my worship team members and others within our church family, my spare moments are few and far between. So writing has fallen to the wayside.

There will come a season, maybe a handful of months out, in which my life will be more… regulated, maybe? In which I’ll fall into a more sustainable rhythm. But for now, it’s a flurry of goodness. And I do mean goodness.

Because while I’m worn out a lot of days lately, my heart is full. So, so full.

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I am re-falling in love with my church family. Burning with the desire to see creative, Jesus-filled, God-glorifying worship come forth from these beautiful hearts — both on Sunday mornings, and throughout our day-to-day lives as we intentionally live before Him.

I’m burning to see hearts set free, healed, transformed in His manifest presence. And I’m burning to know — to really know — the hearts with whom I’m serving. So, in between diapers and music classes and library trips, my free moments are filled with face-to-face time with worship team members and others in our church family.

And it is good. These budding friendships fill my heart.

I’m repeatedly undone these days because never in my life have I been so profoundly free, so trusted to let my truest heart come out — both in the context of leading worship on Sunday mornings, and in smaller settings — meetings, coffee dates, practices.

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And we’re only in the first half of March, but already Unfold is playing out to extremes I never, ever anticipated.

Commence hugest understatement of the century: Leading is vulnerable. Both leading worship, and leading people.

For this recovering people-pleaser, stepping out and confidently proclaiming, “Hey y’all? Let’s walk this way” is quite possibly the most terrifying thing anyone could ask.

Yet He asks. And I take deep breath after deep breath, try to still my shaky nerves, and move forward.

Leaning.

On the Mom Front, I am over and over again brought to the end of myself. I pour out time, focus, presence, and my little people give me run after run for my money. And for my sanity, some days.

More often than I’d like to admit, I fail in my efforts to remain calm and kind. I speak more harshly than I wish I had. I lose my grasp on peace. And I think sometimes I fall into some subtle fear that my sweet ones will still be antagonizing each other and defying my instructions when they’re 25 and 28.

Ha.

But His whispers always come. Trust my process, love, and rest. I’m not through with my work inside them.

Or my work inside you.

It’s become almost hilarious to me — how every time I’m leading worship for an event that makes me exceptionally nervous (because you guys? I am always nervous. After 14 years of leading worship, I’m still shaking in my boots every. single. time) — my kids are extra challenging, and I am laid low under the awareness of my continual, desperate need for forgiveness. For grace.

For Jesus.

Apart from Him I can do no good thing.

{As in, literally NO. good. thing.}

And it’s when I am utterly weak and desperate and acutely aware of my broken places that He says, Okay. Now. Go. Let’s do this stuff, Dana.

And I have no idea who the heck I am to be placed on a stage and given a microphone.

Yet He comes. Moves. Breathes into my broken offerings, all these outpourings of shaky adoration.

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I contemplate a recent conversation with a close friend — about how when we live a lifestyle of ministry, the requirement is living raw. Wide open. And I wonder as I walk around my church building on Sunday mornings, as I prepare to be poured out yet again, if people can see how my heart is gaping open.

I wonder if they can see that I’m bleeding inside — bleeding this bittersweet mingling of still-acutely-felt wounding from the not-too-distant past, and the lovesick worship of one who’s been profoundly met by Him in that hurt. The worship of one who’s simply desperate to see Him come and move and make hurting hearts whole, her own included. To see these ones she dearly loves bathed in the kind of Love that’s perfectly trustworthy and pure.

And I’m not sure how to wrap this up tonight, my friends, but thanks for letting me break through the fog of not having written. I pray I’ve broken through it enough to at least give you an authentic glimpse into my heart in this season.

And I pray that some piece of this offering is used by Jesus to touch something inside of you. To breathe life or healing or a tangible sense of the truth that you’re fiercely adored by your Maker. That you’re pursued, desired — even, and especially, in your weakness.

So much love, my friends. And thank you, as always, for walking beside me here.

Posted in leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, One Word, Parenting, Uncategorized, Worship Leader Guts | 8 Comments

To my friends with thoughts on 50 Shades: my quiet appeal

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I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning with chilluns who didn’t seem to feel like sleeping, and it’s 1:30 in the afternoon as I sit down, fingers poised over keys, stomach doing flips.

I’d so much rather be napping while my kids catch up on missed sleep, but there are these few words nagging, pulling at the corners of my already-overloaded (in all good ways) heart and mind, and they won’t shut up, you guys.

It’s rare that I jump on a bandwagon of any kind — in fact, I actually don’t know that I ever have. Especially one that seems to be such an incredibly hot topic as (oh my gosh, I almost can’t even type it, y’all) 50 Shades of Grey.

I struggle to wrap my mind around the fact that I just mentioned that movie in a blog post, not because I’m so repulsed by it, but simply because All The Christian Bloggers are writing about this, and I just don’t tend to do this stuff, y’all.

And my heart here today is by no means to invalidate or diminish the thoughts of my friends who have published their opinions on the movie via blog post or Facebook or Twitter. I agree with many of them.

I simply don’t feel the need to be another voice of warning against seeing the film. There are plenty of those voices and they are plenty loud.

BUT — there’s this thing burning in my heart today and if I could just whisper a quiet hey you guys? to my beautiful Christian friends who’re sharing their thoughts on 50 Shades —

If I could sit with you dear ones face to face, and if you really wanted to know what’s in my heart on this matter? Here’s what I’d say, and I’d probably be shaking a little while I said it:

Seeing the movie would obviously be an unwise choice, Christ-follower or not, for a hundred reasons that so many are already shouting. So there’s that layer.

But there’s another layer of thought that’s squirming around inside me and it won’t sit down and shut up, so I’m quietly appealing to you here, my Jesus-loving friends: can we be careful how we share our opinions?

If we feel prompted to add our voices to the chorus of those addressing 50 Shades, can we be careful of the state of our hearts when we do? And be careful how we come across?

Because yeswe are called to righteousness (1 Peter 1:16). And yesGod asks us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). And yeswe are to honor Him with what we allow into our minds (2 Corinthians 10:5).

And? Yes, as believers we are asked to call one another to repentance when one of us begins to move toward choices that are damaging to our hearts and dishonoring to God (2 Timothy 4:2).

But y’all. Here’s my burden today. When we call one another to righteous living, when we air our opinions against wide-spread, popularized unrighteousness, are we doing so with God’s heart burning inside our own?

Are we weeping for those we’re warning?

Because apart from a radically transformative revelation of God’s heart toward me, and without my own heart being captivated by the realities of His tender, personal affection and my new, true identity in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection? You may well find me at the theater this weekend, y’all.

‘Cause I am no better than the woman in that theater down the street from your neighborhood, Christian or no, who desperately needs to hear and grasp that she’s enough. Beautiful. Desirable. Who doesn’t know at a heart level that the blood of Jesus has already spoken those things over her.

Basically what I’m trying to say here is that there, but for the grace of God, go I, and it’s God’s kindness (Romans 2:4) that leads us to repentance, and if I’m not extending His kindness and compassion and a massive helping of let me walk a mile or twenty in your shoes to those I’m calling to righteousness in this or any matter, they will most likely walk away feeling judged, belittled, condemned, and further distanced from their true home in the heart of God.

Whew.

Okay.

So, my quiet appeal? Let’s love deep and real and practical. Let’s approach others as equals, as precious to the Father’s heart.

Let’s voice our concerns and opinions with hearts that are broken and bleeding for those we’re addressing — or consider perhaps not voicing them at all.

I think that’s all I’ve got today, my friends. I love y’all so. Thanks for being a gracious landing spot for my shaky voice today. I pray you hear my heart.

You guys bless me tremendously.

Posted in Community, Compassion, Give Me Grace, Goodness of the Gospel, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus | 20 Comments

How I’m Learning to Approach Relationships Differently {on leading people to Jesus… or not}

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Monday morning finds me down the street from our place at what has become my favorite Starbucks in our area. I’m growing to enjoy the quirks of the different baristas, and today I find myself smiling as I sit alone with my coffee and my chocolate croissant overhearing their banter.

I worked at Starbucks way back when, and sitting here takes me back to those days. I reminisce about the friendships I developed with co-workers and regular customers, a small handful of which are still in my life today.

I look back at that season, too, with some measure of regret. I contemplate the ways I’m being rearranged inside, and how I hope I’d move differently among relationships like that nowadays.

See, my desire back then was genuinely to help and love others, especially those who didn’t know Jesus, and my heart’s fundamental question as I’d approach a new friend was, “How can I take your hand and walk you into relationship with Jesus?”

Noble and good? Yes. At least, at the surface.

But y’all, as much as I hate to admit it, I’m fairly sure that in my desire to lead friends to the Lord, what actually came across was more along the lines of, “how can I fix you?”

Ugh. How many people did I unwittingly treat as projects?

In more recent years, I’m pretty sure I’ve utterly lost the desire to approach relationships with let me lead you to Jesus as my primary goal.

If I’m honest, part of this transition in my mindset toward relationships has been a result of experiencing firsthand what it’s like to be viewed more like a project than a person worth knowing. More like a person with flaws to be fixed than than like a friend.

I’ve only recently seen how damaging this was to me on a personal level. And I as I’ve found a measure of healing for my own wounds in counseling and in prayer, I can’t help but wonder upon how many hearts I’ve inflicted similar damage. How many precious people have been negatively affected by my subtle *need* to introduce them to Jesus so I could maybe put a notch in my leading-folks-to-the-Lord belt.

Or how many have been hurt by my insecure need to rate folks on a scale of less mature, equally mature, or more mature than I in their walks with Jesus.

The way I previously needed to classify you in my mind, to put you in a category of Needing My Wisdom, or Equal to Me in Wisdom, or Wiser than I Am and Therefore Worthy to Be Learned From.

::shudder::

Oh Jesus, have mercy.

And you all, my sweet friends, are so kind, and I know a number of you will be concerned that I’m beating myself up as I look back at my own immaturity. So I’ll tell you – I’m actually not. I believe Jesus saw the aim of my heart to bring Him glory, and I believe He was (and still is) so tender and merciful toward me in all my mixed motives.

Thank God for His grace and love that cover my sin.

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I never would have had words to articulate these ways of thinking a few years ago, and I had no clue how hurtful they could be to the hearts of those I cared about. And I did, y’all. I genuinely cared for people. But I was also prideful, immature, and insecure, and I’m opening up to you the ways in which I now see that those immaturities came out.

And I sit here today and tell you that yes, I am different now. I’m humbler. Wiser. Learning to see all people as Divine Image bearers (Genesis 1:27) through whom Jesus wants to reveal new facets of Himself to me.

But I am still discovering ways in which God is rooting out those former ways of seeing and relating to others.

This is a journey of ever-deepening humility that comes from intimacy with Him. It’s not a quick process, y’all. And I’m so thankful to be in community these days with beloved friends who are gracious to me, who desire me in all my strengths, and in my blind spots, too.

Now, to hopefully bring some clarity here: do I still want to see my fellow humans come home to the heart of God? Yes, with everything in me. Am I repenting for my desire to “lead people to Jesus?” No. I’m most certainly not.

BUT.

I am learning to approach relationships with people, no matter where they are on their spiritual journey, with a very different motive and heart-posture.

Humility. Kind curiosity. A desire to understand, to learn from.

The older I get, the more I’m realizing that no matter where you are on your personal journey, my life will be enriched and my heart expanded as I choose to approach you with humility. With a desire to deeply know you.

So I pray I ask more questions nowadays. I pray I listen more than I talk. I pray I’m more fully present to you when we’re in conversation. And I pray that out of my much-more-genuine desire to gain understanding of your heart and journey, and out of my personal intimacy with Jesus Christ, will flow the Only Love that can heal and transform your life.

I want whatever of Christ you encounter in knowing me to be a pure, natural overflow, rather than an ulterior motive.

I pray I’m making sense here today, guys, ’cause here’s the other thing I’ve realized:  The people who approach me this way? These are the people by whom I consistently feel the most valued, seen, and loved.

These are the people in my life who just by walking with me, have earned the trust and authority in my heart to call me out, speak truths that make me cringe, help me see my blind spots — and their words land with love, bear significant weight in my heart. 

I find myself more deeply grounded in Jesus just by being in their presence.

To put it in terms that are more common in the church, these are the people who are discipling me.

And mostly, they’re doing it without even trying.

They are simply humble. Present. Curious. Listening. Sharing themselves authentically, without agenda. Loving well, and gently — almost unintentionally — leading me into new facets of God’s heart.

Oh Jesus, I want to be just like them.

P.S. Sharing these words with my sweet friend Lisha’s community.

Posted in Community, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, Presence, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

On bringing weakness as an offering {a friday story}

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Friday morning gets off to a rough start.

Both kids are extra, extra high-maintenance, and my irritability level is high. I speak to my sweet boy more harshly than I should, and I find myself apologizing to him twice before lunch time {and probably should have apologized a couple times more, if I’m honest}.

I’ve spent the entire week fighting off a cold and winning, but my immune system decided it was through protesting, and sickness finally nailed me on Wednesday afternoon.

So my sinuses are throbbing and I’m blowing my nose every other minute or so (sorry if I’m grossing y’all out), and I’m leading worship tonight for the prayer meeting that will be the culmination of our church’s week of prayer and fasting.

Friday late morning finds me pulling myself up by the bootstraps — or by the little loops on the tops of my galoshes, to be exact — and wrangling my littles through melting snow, into our minivan. A few minutes later we’re making our way through Target, where I try hard not to sound like an exhausted, frustrated, worn-thin mama. (Speaking of pretense. Ahem.)

Thankfully, my kids are peaceful for the moment. I wander the aisles in search of the few things I need, and my mind wanders to tonight’s time of worship and prayer. I mentally sift through the songs I’m planning to lead, and I try for maybe the 6th time today to wrangle my heart into the “right” position to help cultivate an atmosphere conducive to encounter with Jesus.

The “right” position? What does that even mean?

Nevertheless, I try.

And then I catch myself, and these heart-whispers rise to the surface, reminding me over and over that Jesus says I can bring my weakness before Him as part of my offering, that it’s in these raw places that He wants to make His glory known.

And yes, self-control is an obvious necessity if I’m going to honor Him in my parenting (not to mention communicating honor to small hearts). But I also don’t have to shove all my ugly into some corner closet within my soul in order to bring Him a pleasing sacrifice of worship.

And actually? He prefers me this way. Raw. Aware of my need. Honest with myself and before the One who made me, weak spots and all.

We grab hotdogs at Target because there is no way I’m going home and making lunch on a day like this. So we load up and head home with full bellies, and do my chilluns want to take naps today? Um, nope. No. They do not.

If I had enough hair to grab hold of, I’d be wanting to pull it out, y’all. Because even with Jesus having bathed my heart in such precious truth in the Target aisles, my frustration level is still through the roof.

The afternoon wears on, and suffice it to say, I’m repenting and repenting to Jesus because I just cannot seem to muster up a heart of peace and gratitude today.

Interesting, I think. How He so often asks me to lead — particularly in a worship capacity — when I feel weakest.

It’s not till I’m throwing on some makeup and a cute scarf and preparing to run out the door to be there early that I realize — *that* time of month is approaching, and it’s entirely likely that *that* is the culprit for a minimum of 50% of my had-it-up-to-here state of heart.

I sigh, partially with relief that I’m not going straight up cray-cray, and partially with frustration that hormones can just do me in like that sometimes.

I thank Stan profusely (something like, “you are SO my knight in shining armor”) and leave him home to get the kids ready — he’ll bring them to church in a bit.

I try to use my drive time to decompress. To still my heart before Him. I’m only a little successful.

I arrive at the church building, fumble my way around a sound system I’m still learning to operate, and breathe prayers. Just let me worship before You alone. For Your glory. Bring Your manifest presence. Move on our hearts, Holy Spirit. Have Your way….

I find myself thanking Him that despite my having crammed oh, so much failure into this day, He is committed to encountering the hearts of His people.

To encountering me.

I enter into worship just as deeply in need of Him as anyone else in the room. Hungry. Broken. Raw.

And y’all? He is there. He’s moving in that place, softening hearts — His nearness is tangible and sweet.

I find myself dismantled as I strum chords and sing my heart. Performance and perfectionism are falling to the ground, and there’s nothing else that matters except being poured out as an offering to Him, whatever it looks like. Except ministering to His heart.

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I drive home late. Stan and the kids have long since gone home, and my littles are snoozing soundly by the time I arrive. I sneak in, kiss the world’s most adorable cheeks, and chat with my incredible man.

And as I’m putting away dishes and preparing to wholeheartedly embrace my pillow, I realize that somewhere in those moments of bringing my entire raw, bare heart before the throne and leading out of my weakness, my insides have been rearranged. Set right again.

I didn’t need to have it all together in order to come before Him — yet when I came before Him in the midst of my brokenness, He knit me back together inside.

He covered my brokenness, and He filled me with awe.

I crawl into bed, silently thanking Him for heart-safety — for freedom to be my truest self before Him and before people in this place. I thank Him for peace, for steadiness of heart after a long, long day.

For this sweet, almost accidental byproduct of spilling strength and weakness and adoration, all intermingled, at His feet.

Before I fall asleep, I throw up a quick Facebook status:

Heart = full.

And it is.

{Sharing my heart with sweet friends in Lisha’s community tonight.}

Posted in Freedom From Perfectionism, Give Me Grace, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, risk, Uncategorized, Worship Leader Guts | 12 Comments

A broken piece of my story, and one thing that scares me

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The dream is poignant. Terrifying.

We’re in Kansas City, and an unnamed social worker has located some distant member of Maia’s biological family — a great grandmother, maybe? — who wants to raise our daughter. And somehow, despite our very finalized, very permanent adoption, has legal rights to her.

We have no choice but to pack up our 19-month-old’s toys, clothes, belongings, and drive her 60 miles to her new home in a small Missouri town where this grandmother lives.

The shock and trauma are palpable. I’m fighting back a torrent of tears, trying to be strong for Isaac and Maia as we prepare to hand our sweet girl over to an elderly relative she’s never met, not knowing if we’ll ever see her again.

And once again, we will cease being a daughter’s Mama and Daddy. My heart is pulverized.

Somewhere along the way to this small town, we stop at a restaurant for lunch–

–and Isaac cracks open the door to our bedroom.

I’m awake. And maybe only one previous time in my entire life have I been so relieved to discover it was only a dream.

Gratitude washes over me, along with an intense desire to kiss my daughter’s perfect cheeks, which I quickly make my way out to the dining room to do.

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It’s been this growing awareness in my heart lately — the fact that Maia is nearing the age that our foster daughter Tali was back in 2010 when we had to hand her over to her biological mother. We parented her from 2 days old, and then suddenly we were no longer Mom and Dad. Tali was 21 months when we lost her. Maia turns 19 months today.

I’ve been anxious to cross that 21-month threshold with Maia because I think, maybe, some deep place in my subconscious might settle a bit. She’s really ours. We really don’t have to hand her over to a dysfunctional system.

Whew.

While I’ve anticipated the sense of heart-relief that will come after Maia hits 21 months on March 19th, I didn’t fully anticipate this resurfacing of the trauma of losing Tali as that date draws nearer. I find myself thinking of her more often lately, needing to intentionally, repeatedly entrust her precious, now 6-year-old heart to the perfect care of the God who made her and is committed to her life.

And I’m reminded how that particular piece of my story, of my mama-heart, still hangs open. Raw. Broken, if not always acutely felt. And I yet again consider the invitations to intimacy with Jesus that come hand-in-hand with that brokenness, if I’ll be brave enough to respond to Him in those hurting places. (Psalm 34:18)

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This morning I have a dear friend at home with my littles — my first morning out, alone, since our move. So I throw on my favorite hoodie and boots, teach Natalia how to work our child-locks and let her know to keep Isaac on task in the bathroom so gigantoid messes don’t happen — and drive the few blocks down the street to “our” Starbucks.

Venti coffee in hand, I find a little nook in a corner, and read a while in Buechner’s Telling the Truth. And can I just say — if you haven’t read it, you may wanna consider adding this gem to your reading list for this year.

I’ve been making my way through it ever-so-slowly since we moved, and I find it rearranging places inside me that are still much too deep and unformed try and wrap words around. Jesus is using these words to pull back layers of pretense. To more fully excavate my truest self, my deepest identity in light of the wild extravagance of the gospel.

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I find myself stepping into new places here in Colorado. Invitations to lead worship are coming in in higher numbers than I’ve ever experienced, and there are all these risks to which I’m saying [gulp] yes. 

Never have I been more thankful for the support and wisdom of my husband, and never have I been more sobered by the ways Jesus is inviting me to partner with His Spirit in facilitating heart-encounters with Him, and simultaneously by the need to carefully, prayerfully consider my yeses and my no’s.

I almost went back just now and added exhilarated to the sentence above, after the word sobered, but while I know the exhilarated piece will come — it always does when I have the privilege to witness the Holy Spirit’s movement upon hearts — right now I mostly feel afraid, if I’m honest. Afraid, yet also profoundly grateful for the peace of knowing that I know it’s Jesus who’s calling me into these places that feel so far over my head.

And He’s trustworthy.

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In all this stepping out and moving into uncharted waters, this desire rises over and over again to my heart’s surface: I want a deeper authenticity. Both in the way I love Him, and in the way I coach others into that love. I want performance to fall off my shoulders, and while I do desire to tenderly consider and gently lead people’s hearts, I don’t want a show — even if it’s what I think needs to happen in order to keep people comfortable.

I want (though there’s fear attached to this, too) to let my gaps be exposed before Him and before those with whom He’s calling me to live life. Because as much as I’d love not to, I will certainly fail to meet expectations. And it’s when I allow my gaps to be seen that God has room to show up and encounter those I care about.

So the groaning of my heart these days is that when I’m in leadership in whatever form, and when my raw, still-in-process places are glaring, what will also be exposed is Jesus. His strength perfected in my abundant weakness. His glory. His heartbeat. His relentlessly tender pursuit of these precious hearts.

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I want to love and sing and live and bleed that stuff, you guys. Weakness and all. I want to be genuinely myself as I do it, even when the temptation is to move toward presenting some partially masked version of myself that I think might soothe or impress or garner man’s praise.

So I find these heart-cries surfacing even as I write –

Distill me, God. Purify my motives, intentions, interactions. Purge me of the pretense that comes from the fear of man’s disapproval.

And as I press my scarred and scared places into your perfect, healing, all-consuming Love, let me move forward in this confidence that can only come from abiding in that place — right up next to Your burning heart.

P.S. Sharing these words over at Kelly’s newly birthed linkup — formerly Kelli Woodford’s Unforced Rhythms community — with a heartful of gratitude for Kelli’s months of gracious hosting of our hearts.

***Addendum***

I want to be clear that my logical mind has absolutely zero doubt that Maia is ours, and permanently. I simply think that somewhere in my subconscious, I just haven’t quite recovered from the fear that came with the loss of Tali. And I do, however irrational, look forward to moving beyond the 21-month mark with Maia. But Jesus steadies my heart… and I am so thankful for my beautiful girl. Thanks for your love and care, my friends. I deeply appreciate you.

Posted in Community, Confidence in God, Encountering God in the Messy, Freedom From Perfectionism, Goodness of the Gospel, Grief and Loss, leadership, Learning Authenticity, Ministry, misc. walking with Jesus, risk, Uncategorized, Unforced Rhythms | 31 Comments