Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kicking Fear to the Curb

This week I dyed my hair brown.  I also pierced my nose.  Interestingly, the main response from people who know me has been, "Are you having a mid-life crisis?"

The answer is, "No!"  I am not going out and buying a BMW (or any other car) that I can't afford. I'm not running off to Vegas hoping that what happens there stays there.  I'm not quitting my job and running off to join an acrobat troupe, nor am I trading in my wardrobe for some goth or emo style.  I am still me.  Just with a little more bling and a little less blond.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am always up for adventure....I have in the past quit my job and started a preschool, quit my job and traveled for three months in Europe, bought a house at the age of 28 when no one else I knew owned one, traveled to and from various countries alone (China, Turkey, and the UK to name a few) and so many other things.

Once I set my mind to something, there is very often little to dissuade me.  I wanted a pond in my back yard, so I grabbed my shovel and started digging. I wanted a deck, so a friend and I built one.  I wanted to learn how to ski, so I went up with friends and taught myself how to ski (I did this as a little girl with riding a bicycle too).  I bought a new car that was a manual transmission, even though I didn't know how to drive one, I just figured I could learn. Once the decision was made to dye my hair and pierce my nose, I just did it.

Often, the main thing that stops me from doing something is fear.  So, when I find myself contemplating something for a long time, and the only reason I'm not doing it is fear...well, sometimes I just find myself pulling the trigger and going for it.  Once I recognize that fear is the only thing stopping me, I usually just act.  I think this often appears to be a sudden decision, when in actuality the decision has been brewing for sometime.

This week has been that for me.  I have been thinking of going brunette for quite a while.  I have been thinking of getting my nose pierced at minimum since this summer.  Fear of what others would think, fear of change, fear of the unknown, and fear of making a mistake were the only things stopping me from going forward.  Rather than being bound by fear, I acted.

I find that sometimes the only way to kick fear in the face is to just go and do the very thing you are afraid of.  Very often I have realized that what I had actually been afraid of wasn't that big of a deal to begin with.  Fear puffs itself up to worst-case scenario, keeps you paralyzed and stuck.

Joyce Meyers has a quote about courage not being the absence of fear, but being afraid of something and doing it anyway.  I love that quote.

Besides, hair dye grows out or can be re-dyed, and if I don't like the nose ring, I can always pull it out and let it heal.  So, mid-life crisis? Nope. Now if I go and run off and become a rock band groupie...THEN you can start to worry.


(PS In NO way am I saying that getting my hair dyed and a nose ring are things truly worthy of some healthy say being deployed or having a child or moving...they're just my example in this post.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Best Fruit of All

When I was in High School, I was very active in Young Life.  I so loved this organization, that I volunteered with them when I was in college.  The leaders in my YL club quite literally saved my life.  They took me under their wings and helped me through some pretty rough times in high school like the foreclosure of my parent's house and their near divorce, my best friend's decision to have an abortion, and some heartache with school and sports.  They saw something in me and invested in me like no one had before.

I remember the wife of this team, Cheryl, telling me the story of how she and her husband met, fell in love and got married.  She told me that she and her husband, Dave, had met in February, were engaged by May and married by August.  The speed of their courtship shocked me, but the thing that was most surprising to me was what she said next.  She told me that right after she and Dave got engaged she prayed that the Lord would give them some sort of trial to go through together.  She told me that the relationship had been so blessed up until that point, she felt like she needed to know how they would handle trials and hardships together. 

This was such a surprising thing for me to hear as a teen.  I'd never before thought of relationships in the light she was presenting them before.  I had never considered that relationships might benefit if not outright need to go through testing together and that this could be a good thing for a relationship.

As I have gotten older, the truth of her story has proven itself to me over and over again.  Some of the best friends I have are friends that I have had this experience with.  I remember a particular tension spot I had with a friend whose wedding I actually ended up being Maid of Honor for.  I was terrified that this friction between the two of us would mean the end of our friendship.  (I think for relationships that are not on a true, solid foundation, this can and does happen frequently.)  Instead, after working through the issue that was causing the conflict between us, our friendship actually ended up being even stronger and more solid than it was before.  It was almost as though going through this confrontation drew us even closer together.

I am finding this same principal is the true with our relationship with the Lord.

As I am emerging out of my long season of suffering, I am having continually deeper revelation about the Lord's purposes in allowing us to go through messy seasons. 

In my previous view, the sole purpose of these rough seasons was that the Lord allowed them for the sole purpose of character development and to prepare the His chosen ones for greater things.  I still believe that those things are true.  After all, Job was restored more than was taken, Joseph became second in command of all of Egypt, Ruth gave birth to a man who would be in the lineage of Jesus, and I could go on and on. 

However, this is only part of the story!  Just like in our human relationships, our times of affliction are more primarily meant to draw us closer, but in this case to the Lord.  If our distress breaks our relationship with the Lord, it was never a true relationship to begin with.

I've been taking a closer look at the book of Job...even before the Lord restores Job and gives him back more than was taken, the Lord spends chapter after chapter revealing Himself to Job, He tells Job who He is, and He opens Job's eyes to all that He is and has done.

This is the same lesson I am learning too.  As I submit to the Lord's leading and work in my life and focus on Him again, I am entering in to a sweet fellowship and intimacy with Him like I have not had before.  I am learning all about Him all over again, and He is revealing Himself to me.  My relationship with Him is strengthened and intensified.

If I limit my revelation about seasons of distress only being for character development, then I begin to have a lopsided view of the Lord.  Seasons seasons of adversity WILL continue to happen to us over and over. There is no escaping them. We keep repeating these seasons, like a cycle, we repeat them over and over.  The difference is that we are meant to go deeper and deeper and deeper; not into a pit of despair but deeper into a well of living water.

The problem with a lopsided view of God's reasons for these seasons is that it paints Him as a hard-driven task master who is only interested in refining our character and making us more like Him.  While He IS interested in those things, He is infinitely more interested in developing our relationship with Him. If I only view my trials through this lens, I begin to strive and strain to figure out what's wrong with me or what I'm doing wrong so that I can put an end to this season.  If I instead view the ultimate goal of these times as something to draw me closer to the Lord....well, then I can rest more firmly in Christ's arms, abiding in Him, and cooperating with Him in all He wants to do in me.
This, I believe, is the source of peace I am now experiencing....I have realized that my relationship with the Lord has been strengthened and renewed by the last three years even stronger and deeper than it was before.  This is even sweeter tasting fruit than any character trait I've developed or any blessing the Lord might have prepared for me.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Valentine's Day is quickly approaching and as the date comes nearer and nearer, I have been meditating on the love of Christ.  He loves me.  He loves every part of me, after all, He made me!  He loves the awkward, geeky, and gawky sides of me as much as the gifted, "with it," and mature parts of me.

Often when it comes to romantic relationships, when I am interested and hopeful for something to develop with someone, I find myself becoming morbidly introspective: "Did I say the wrong thing?"  "Did I do the wrong thing?"  "What is the right thing to say or do?"  "What if he doesn't like this part of my personality?"  "I am too XYZ or too little ABC for him." 

Sometimes these thoughts can be good....we can learn about blind spots or things that need to be brought under control of the Holy Spirit when we take a good look at ourselves.  For me, though, I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time dissecting and worrying about how I am coming across or who I am. 

I have realized, though, that whomever I marry....the very things I am afraid of not being loved are the very things he will love about me.  My brain: he'll love that I am smart and have ideas and thoughts....I won't have to hide or downplay this part of me!  My passion: he'll love that I am not afraid to be stirred by things and to be emotional about the things that move me.  My determination: he'll love that I am not easily dissuaded and that I remain loyal and committed.  My communication style: he'll love that I am a teacher in all I say and love to share all I am learning.  You see, there are so many things about me that I have felt are, well, wrong...yet, those are the very things that make me, me! 

The great news is, the Lord feels that way about me right now.  He feels that way about you right now too.  What are those things that aren't wrong or sinful that make you the unique person you are that you have felt overlooked or discounted?  What are those things that you have felt misperceived in who you are or you felt like you've had to hide?  We are uniquely designed, and each of us functioning in our gifting is how we make everyone better.

I am learning to embrace and love the very things about me that I can't (and shouldn't) want to change, physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  I am learning to see myself the way the Lord sees me.  And, that is a good thing.

I love my laugh lines, they mean I have laughed and smiled a lot.
I love my worry lines, they have been earned in concern for others.
I love my gray hairs, they represent wisdom I have gained through experience.
I love my stretch marks, they mean I am mature and no longer a child.
I love my callouses, they have come through hard work and labor.
I love that I forget things sometimes, there are a lot of good memories to fill up my brain.
I love my soft hug, it is a great place to snuggle with my nephews.
I love everything about me that the Lord calls good, it means that He made me that way for a reason and purpose.


Thursday, February 10, 2011


Almost three years ago, I quit my job, raised support and left all of my "world" behind to go to Europe for three months.  The "mission" was to travel to Youth with a Mission bases across the continent and do some teaching and praying for base leaders.

Even before I left for this trip, I was struggling, though I didn't realize just how deeply until much later.  The three months in Europe were perhaps some of the hardest months of my life.  The issues I was struggling with before I left, I took right with me....leaving was not the answer.  In fact, in my opinion, it very rarely IS the answer, though many people seek a change in circumstance when what we really need is a change in our hearts.

Before I left, I was confident that this trip was the "next step" in my calling.  How right I was, but how different it looked from what I thought.

I thought that this time in Europe would offer me opportunities to teach.  This was and continues to be my "sweet spot" in ministry.  I had visions and hopes of being able to do this while I was there.

Not only did I get to do VERY little of this, in the other roles I had on the team I often felt the "least" member of the team.  I regularly wondered "what am I doing here?" or felt that just about any other person from our body could be there doing what I was doing.  I can hardly remember a more lonely time, or a time I felt more insignificant than I did during those three months.  I got to practice multiple times a day forgiveness of others (especially members of the team), dying to my own needs and serving almost 24-hours a day.

By the end of the trip, I was absolutely shattered.  Well, I was shattered even before I left, and I came back in absolute pieces.  I was tired from three months of non-stop praying, traveling, continual serving, living out of my suitcase, and eating really bad food. All of this was compounded by the fact that I was still dealing with every issue that had been brewing even before I left.

During the last week of the trip, I finally lost it.  I was offended at a team member and I simultaneously was dealing with the realization that not only did I not get to do any of what I thought I was going abroad to do, I had actually felt as though what I WAS doing there was not good enough.  I remember crying in another team member's room after he kindly told me that we probably couldn't pray if I was struggling.

I remember saying to him at that moment that I needed to learn that "scraping gum off of chairs" was good enough for  me if it meant that Kingdom work was being done."  I really meant it at the time.  It was a hard lesson to learn: here I was on the other side of the world doing ministry that looked nothing like I had hoped it would be, yet victories were being tallied....I should have been thrilled.

To this day I feel like this is a lesson I am continually learning.  How do I be content sitting on the sidelines as long as Jesus is winning?  How do I care more about the kingdom and the King receiving glory than getting any glory myself?  How do I learn to put the 'team's' needs above my own?  How do I put the Lord in the center of my heart instead of myself?

This is a lesson I am stil to this day learning.  Because, just when I think I have it down, something will come along and knock me off of the throne in my own heart and the pain of it shakes me awake and makes me realize just where I've placed myself.  It is a humbling thing to realize that you've once again taken the King's place in your own heart.

This is where I find myself today....realizing just how easy it is to let selfish ambition and personal promotion and "my" calling take over my life. 

Oh, Lord, that I would get to the place of needing nothing else but YOU glorified in my life.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Revelations about Tacoma

I live in Tacoma.  This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's taken the time to read my blog's URL.  And, as many of you know, I have been desperate itching to get out of here for a number of years now.  I have been in an extended holding pattern to do this, though, which has left me wondering at times, if I'll ever get my chance to see the mission field like I so hope to do.  This feeling of being trapped here has been compounded by the fact that over the last few years, many (I can count eight families off the top of my head without even trying that hard) notable families and some singles in my church have left for the mission field.  I have felt, as I have bitter-sweetly seen each of them off, whether somehow I had missed out on my chance to go.

Fast forward to Wednesday night at my church's mid-week service.  Towards that end of the service, one of our staff members got up to the front and was talking about an encounter he'd had with a notable prophetic voice in the American church and some words this man had to say about Tacoma....having never stepped foot here before in his life.  Our staff member reminded us of several words spoken over Tacoma and encouraged us to remember all that the Lord has said about this city over the years.  He also urged us to continue to believe...that it is never too late for the Lord to do what He said He would do and asked us to repent of any unbelief we had over this city.

Suddenly, I was struck by this fact: I feel about the words spoken over Tacoma the same way I feel about the words spoken over my own life: distrusting and unsure that the Lord ever will really do what He has said He will do.  In that moment, I had a revelation of just how deep this goes with me.  I could tell you with all head knowledge "Of course the Lord can and will do what He says He will do" but the truth of the matter, that in my deepest heart, I don't fully believe it.  In the same way I don't believe the Lord will fulfill words in my life, I don't believe He'll do it for this city either.  I had a connect-the-dots moment at how pervasive this distrust really is.  I have felt that Tacoma, like me, is the overlooked and forgotten one and this has been reflected in my actions in so many ways.

My heart broke over just what this has done.  Though I am here, I have not invested nor had eyes to see this city the way that I would want people to invest and have eyes to see me.  I have treated this city the same way I have been treated: with contempt, pride, and disdain. 

Obviously Tacoma is not a person, but it is FULL of people.....and I have neglected the ones right in front of my face.  I have not miraculously been transformed into deciding to stay, but I will say this: I have renewed vigor for praying and commitment to the people of this city while I am still here.