Sunday, August 24, 2014

It's Not Always What You Think.

You drive through that sketchy neighborhood every now and again, but only when you really have to. Never would you choose to go that route. Too many people who look different than you. Too many unkept homes. "Ghetto". Not safe.

You see that one family walking right toward you at church. The one with the mom who exhausts you, the dad who is socially awkward, and the annoying kids. You don't want to stop so you quickly give a smile and a shallow wave goodbye. You don't have time for "those kind of people". After all, you have brunch with friends planned. Can't be late!

You pass that awful strip club when you're driving to visit a friend. You roll your eyes and think something like, "Those trashy women". You keep driving and later talk to your friend about how unfortunate it is to have that "eye sore" so close to her house.

It's your favorite morning of the week. Coffee with friends! Too bad there's that homeless guy begging again. You do everything you can to avoid eye contact. Sure, you have more than enough change to spare but guys like him can't be trusted with money. You work hard for your money. What does he do all day? Beg? He might buy a cigarette with your hard earned cash. Not today he won't! You walk right past him without even a hello.

...but It's not always what you think. There is more, if you would just stop to see...

That sketchy neighborhood, the one you're afraid of...it's full of potential. Yeah. It's full of crime, too. It's stays that way because people like us that have some influence in the community don't get involved. The families living there want change but they don't know how to break the cycle. Oh, the glorious hope that could rise from that 'hood. It's not a ghetto. It's a neighborhood full of neighbors we are commanded to love. 

The awkward family, the ones who straight exhaust you...they have no friends. They see people like us sipping our coffee in the church coffee shop and they see us laughing and they see our kids playing together and their heart aches for such acceptance. They are not an interruption to your morning. They are a family reaching out to be accepted, to be invited in, to be loved. 

Oh, and then there's that strip club. That run down place you know is just crawling with what you've labeled as "trash". Those women aren't trash. They are daughters and mothers and they are MY SISTERS who are created in the image of Christ. 

And the homeless guy downtown. You think he's plain lazy and justify your avoidance. What you don't know is that John was never taught to read, so when you tell him to "go find a job" you don't realize that he can't even fill out an application. He's not lazy. He is illiterate and will remain that way until someone stops to talk to him and learns his story. 

It's not always what you think. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An unedited rant for Thursday

{a shared FB status that made people mad, so I deleted it. Let's have a positive conversation. Even if we don't agree.}


Words that I am seriously saddened to hear/read day after day:
"It's time we take care of our own!"
When you say that, what are you holding allegiance to? To whom do you pledge your devotion? I am SO thankful to be an American. My devotion is to Jesus Christ, my life is pledged to HIM, the man who came to this world NOT JUST FOR WORKING WHITE AMERICAN REPUBLICANS but for everyone. For the Haitians and the strippers and the immigrants and street kids and drug dealers and pimps and us and the super religious and E V E R Y O N E.
Me being an American is not GREATER than me being a follower of Christ. I serve one God and He is jealous. He will not let me divide my love, even with a "good" thing.
Sometimes I wonder if we love country more than Jesus.
Me being an American gives me the chance to live life open handed, to share and give of my many blessings to those near and far who are not afforded my resources.
I've never read anywhere "Go into your own places and make disciples of your own people"
or
"For God so loved his own that he gave his one and only Son, that only his own who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Let's ditch those words people. Use your resources{life/time/finances/existence} to love people well. Not to exclude them from a chance to know the love of Christ.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Brave.

I like words. I notice them like I notice old friends at the coffee shop. From billboards to coffee sleeves, text messages to handwritten notes, spoken word and words strung together at the bench of an old piano. I like words.

The word meeting me in my coffee shop spaces and in the quiet corners of my life is "brave".  Everywhere I look I see it. It's like it's beckoning me, challenging me to be it. To be brave.  I can't escape it.

In both the secular and the christian realm the anthem of bravery is being shared out loud. Just a few examples I've encountered over the summer:

Bethel's amazing album "You Make Me Brave" You can listen to the title track here.

Anytime I'm in any store anywhere I hear Sara Bareilles sing "Brave".

The MOPS theme for 2014-2015 is beautifully "Be You Bravely". (EEK. This makes me want to lead MOPS again! What a GREAT theme!) 

Author/speaker Annie Downs just released her book "Let's All Be Brave".

It comes from friends who say "Do that thing you want to do. Just be brave and do it."

It lands softly in my spirit in the morning as I'm getting ready to face the everyday.

I come face to face with it, with moving on in bravery or choosing to stay in my comfort in choices I make every day.

Brave.

People think that I am brave but I am not. I am comfortable in things that might appear to need a measure of bravery. I don't say that to be arrogant. Quite the opposite. The truth is I skip over bravery quite easily because it appears as though I live brave when really I just live in the confides of my comfort. It's easy for me to do certain "brave" things but if it's easy to me then I'm not really brave at all. Are you following?

The past 6 months or so I have been challenged to leave behind what is easy for me. To open my hands even more to everything the Lord desires to give and take. Giving and taking... oh it has happened. The undoing of my will and my pride continues daily. It has been glorious and frustrating all at once.

So why say all of this? Because I want you to know and I want to know and I need to say it. I need to say out loud that I am done just noticing brave in the spaces of my life. I am done making awkward grins and glances and waving as the opportunity to do life with bravery passes me by.

I am letting go of my control. The unwinding and undoing might take my lifetime, but I am embracing brave and stepping out into deep waters and trusting the only One who makes me brave. He has given me desires and passions that I dared not to pursue in the past because I was afraid of the unknowns and the outcome. I amwas afraid of what people might say. I was afraid of what might happen when  finally I live fully trusting and not controlling. I am done with that. On with it already.

My God has gone before me and is calling me to be brave. Not just for the sake of bravery but for His glory. That glory that is bursting to come forth that I have made small by my fear.

He won't lead me where He will not go and THAT is all I really need to know to be brave. 




Changes on this small space of mine coming soon. Stepping out into some unknowns...would you please come with me? 





Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Enough.

Enough is enough...

Enough is more than enough...

Enough if a hard word to teach my 2nd grader how to spell...

But back to my point...

Enough

Right now I'm sitting in my beautiful home. A 2-story condo we are renting. It's a dream. I'm watching the rain pour down outside and I'm warm and safe under my favorite IKEA blanket. 

Enough.

I'm typing this post on my Mac Book Pro. One of my kids is tucked away with literally dozens of books in her reading nook. The gift of reading. It IS a gift. Oh..and I also have a desktop, a kindle, and a few i-Phones around here somewhere. 

Enough

Another kid is sitting on the couch next to me playing on my i-Pad. 

Enough

The rest of our family is at Publix buying us even more groceries than what we currently have here. It's Taco Tuesday and we were out of cheese.

Enough

I've spent the last 3 hours trekking around town from shopping center to mall to Target and everywhere in between to find a pair of jeans for myself. Except... I didn't really trek anywhere...I hopped in my nice mini-van with all the bells and whistles and drove around town while listening to my favorite worship songs. 

Enough.

I drove passed 3 different Starbucks, 2 Dunkin Donuts, and all the local coffee shops..(those are my favorite. Hello, Mitchell's!) and of course I just had to stop for a coffee. It's what us moms do when we can spare the change  dollars

Enough.

While dragging my daughters from store to store one of them innocently commented on how her legs were tired. Tired from walking from our car, to the mall entrance, and through Old Navy...in the A/C.

Enough

While shopping for myself I was texting with a friend on my i-Phone. She works at one of the happiest places on Earth and told me she is exhausted from working 80+ hours last week for a kids birthday party that cost 70 grand. Yes. You read that. 70 thousand dollars. 

Enough.

Tonight I will pour fresh drinking water in cute little cups for my children. They will probably beg for something other than water. 

Enough. 

I will then bathe them in crystal clear water, brush their teeth, and tuck them into their cozy beds. Safe from all danger. 

Enough. 

Once they are asleep my husband and I will cuddle up on the couch and talk about the deep things of life. You know, like what to watch on Netflix. Then we will plan our dream road trip..except it's not just a dream for us. We have the means to make it possible one day. 

Enough. 

I want to scream it from the rooftops. Starting with my own. ENOUGH. ENOUGH ALREADY. 

Did you catch any of that? Did you feel the tension of my day? Probably not but that is OKAY. I didn't used to feel it either.  I know. I know it sounds NORMAL. Like "duh Ida. Nothing too fancy happening with you today. It's what people do EVERYDAY!" and you know what? You are RIGHT. It IS what we do everyday. AND IT'S TIME WE SAID ENOUGH IS ENOUGH....

If you're reading this right now that means you have some sort of internet provider, unless of course you are "borrowing" from your neighbor. Let's say you pay $30/month. A kid in Haiti could EAT FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH on that much money. We have MORE THAN ENOUGH.

You're sitting in your home, right? You already know I am. Back in 2010 it was estimated that there could be half a million CHILDREN who are HOMELESS in the US alone. Without a home. No roof over their heads to keep the rain away. We have MORE THAN ENOUGH. 

Oh and driving...and reading...and having clothes...well if you own clothing and a vehicle, and I'm assuming you can read since you're here right now then you are in the TOP 5% of the world's wealthy. I'm serious. WE ARE RICH. I am rich. We have MORE THAN ENOUGH. 

This is the tension that I live in. Once your eyes are opened to the world around you you have a choice to make. You can retreat back to "life as usual" as if you didn't know you were rich. You can go right back to your old ways. Your old ways of nothing is ever enough and I must have more for myself and my own. The comfort, oh the comfort. It is killing you. 

Or...

You lean into this tension...you lean in and you let it hurt you. And hurt you it will. When truth of poverty and hunger and aids and the water crisis and homelessness and illiteracy invade your mind and Truth invades your heart it will mark you. The crashing of your idols will crush you but you don't stop with the pain. You take your brokenness and His closeness and lean in, dive deep into the sea of faces all around you, the ones you usually try to avoid...you begin to see them...and you begin to love them. You lean into this tension and lean on the God who longs to restore. Every act of kindness is an act of worship. Every exchange of love is love poured out to the Father. 

What will you decide? A safe retreat or a life of holy tension? (Yes. I call it "holy tension" in my own life.)

How can you let go of some of your "more than enough"and share the excess with those who need it most?

Could you be content if you had "just enough" for yourself? 

What is an idol in your life that needs to crash and burn? 

Today my idol was new jeans. Incase you were wondering I never did find a new pair. Well, I found A LOT of pairs...but I just couldn't say yes. Not today. Today was a day for remembering to be content with enough. When you see your homeless friend sitting under an overpass new jeans just seem not important anymore.

 So next time you see me and I'm wearing my one pair of jeans that sag in the butt and have a huge hole in the knee don't worry.I'm leaning into the tension...I'm choosing to be content with enough. Will you join me?


Saturday, June 7, 2014

On Street People and Church Vans and Strip Clubs

"You mean STREET PEOPLE?"

That question has marked me forever. The conversation continued:

"What would we do with them? How much money would this cost us? Do you know how to handle their issues? I'm just not sure we are equipped to handle people like that. If they started to come regularly what would happen? Do you have a long term plan? Remember, this isn't a homeless church.

All of that verbal vomit was in response to my husband's simple statement below:

"I'd like to start a bus ministry here. We could reach more of our community. There's a lot of hurting people around our church We can start now if we use the church van."

That's all he wanted to do. Bus people to church. Or van them. We couldn't fit anymore people in our own vehicle. This seemed like a good, logical, loving thing to do.

It was when we heard the response above that we realized, maybe for the first time, that not every church really loves Jesus. Or they love him, but not more than they love themselves.  They might love things about him, but they definitely don't love him first and most. If you're offended by that statement you don't have to keep reading. It's sad and it's true. I can say it because I used to be one of those christians who claimed I loved Christ yet ignored him when he showed up and didn't fit my ideals. I was the safe, Sunday Christian. I loved Jesus less than I loved myself and my way, and I didn't want him or his word messing with my safe, churchy sensibilities. 

I was so mad. I was mad that we were serving at a church with that mindset. I felt like an idiot for not seeing it sooner. I was mad that someone was telling me that I was not equipped to love people. I was mad that I believed that lie for a LONG time, that I was not called or equipped to love and share Jesus. I was mad that I was part of a church that served man before serving God. I was mad that I myself lived that way for so long.

BUT..I was also OVERJOYED because for the first time in forever (did you hear me sing that?) my eyes were opened! My whole Christian life prior to that conversation I would have played it safe and said "well, okay. You're right. That won't work here." But not this time...we kept pressing into Jesus and asking for His heart. He gave it to us and it cost us a lot, but it was AND is SO WORTH IT!

We, as you can imagine, didn't stay there at that church long after the "street people" conversation. The bus ministry never happened, but this was bigger than a church bus. This was about God breaking us for the hurting and lost and giving us the chance to step out of our comfort zone and live like we really loved Jesus.

In the years since this conversation God has been gracious to mature me. I was such an arrogant punk. He's been gracious to give me numerous opportunities to love people recklessly. Church people, street people, rich people, poor people. He's opened my eyes to let me see that I don't have to ask permission to do what Jesus told me to do in his word. He has set me free.

I don't get mad anymore when people "don't get it". I pray for my own humility and brokenness. Pride is so ugly in my heart until God reminds me that I too "didn't get it" and Lord knows I'm NOWHERE where I need to be. Instead of anger, I pray that people and churches and pastors will fall so in love with Jesus that they won't live for their own version of him anymore. Real Jesus is SO MUCH BETTER than man-made Jesus.

Since being set free and REALLY getting to know Jesus I've done some stupid, crazy things with my crazy, Jesus loving friends that I would have NEVER done before. At least I thought they were stupid, crazy things. Now I know that light belongs in darkness and it's not really stupid or crazy at all. One of those things is visiting a strip club in our area. We had no 5 year plan. Umm..let's keep it real...we had no 5 minute plan and we still don't. It's something I always felt in my heart I should do. Then one of my very best friends had a dream that we were in the club sneaking girls out through the roof. Then finally one day she and I "put on our big girl panties" as she would say and we stopped making excuses. It was Valentine's Day so we got a few of our friends, made some gift baskets, prayed like never before, and awkwardly shuffled into the strip club.

I could write a book about the miracles that happened JUST ON THAT DAY, and the ones that continue to happen. It's almost too much to believe. In short, we've seen several women freed from the industry, women and their families join a local church, a woman going to college, a woman getting a new wardrobe to restart her life, us laying our hands on dancers and praying IN THE NAME OF JESUS right in the middle of the club, and so much more. I've watched my friends fall in love with Jesus more as they love these ladies. I've watched the women in the industry become our friends, no strings attached. The men, too! We just love them. No long term plan, other than to show up. And I'm so thankful for my friends who show up WEEKLY when I can't. Having 3 small, homeschooled children does not allow me to visit the club as much as I'd like, but the beauty of the body of Christ is that someone from our little group is there almost every week. I'm certainly not the leader of this thing. We need the whole body of Christ to love people. Not just a few key "leaders".

And get this... we don't have a ministry name. Nope. No catchy logo or rhyming mission statement. We didn't pray and fast for 10 years before walking in the doors. We've already been told to shine bright in the darkness. How many more times do we have to be told before we just go do it? We don't have an agenda. We just show up. We just love them.

Why do I tell you all of that? I'm not really sure. I just felt like I should. Here are a few things that I want to add:

1. Has God told you to do something? Perhaps it seems crazy. Maybe you've been told you're not equipped. Maybe you're scared. Maybe you brought your idea to someone and they answered you with a "You mean STREET PEOPLE?" comment.  I wish I had great advice, but all I can say is obey God and do it scared. He will go before you. He will meet you. He will equip you. He will use you. You just have to go. Don't let people stop you from what God is telling you to do.

2. With our weekly visits and nice quality gifts/food/clothing purchases for our friends who are in and getting out of the industry we need some money! How's that for being honest? I was talking with my dear friend, the one who goes to the club every week, and we both admitted that we need money for this. It's been okay from out of our pockets, and we still do the best we can, but we could certainly use more than what's in our pockets! I have no fancy way to say it. So, if you feel like you want to give to our efforts please let me know. Maybe your family or your church is looking for something to give to? Let me know if you want to help financially. We would be SO grateful!

3. Please pray for us. We're walking into utter darkness. We need your prayers. Pray for the men and women we meet inside the club. So much going on. Please pray. We need your prayers. Seriously.

So, there's that. Oh yeah, and I thought it would be fun to answer the questions/comments that were thrown to my husband when he asked about a bus ministry. Here ya go:

"You mean STREET PEOPLE?" Ummm....I'm not sure what street people means?

"What would we do with them?" Life. We would do life with them. We would pick them up. We would eat with them. We would give their kids high-fives and fist bumps. We would hold them when they cried about the hard life they are living. We would tell them about our only hope, Jesus Christ.

"How much money would this cost us?" Probably not anymore than the fancy events we throw for people inside of these church walls. Let's move the money around. Yes?

"Do you know how to handle their issues?" Well, if we're being completely honest somedays I don't even know how to handle MY issues. So I get it. There will probably be some pretty big, dark stuff we will encounter reaching out to people who are far from Jesus. So let's go meet them, find out about their issues, and use our networks of churches and believers to help them. Oh yeah..and we can pray for them and share the word with them. That's right...the same power that raised Christ from the dead is LIVING INSIDE OF ME. I'm pretty sure we can do this.

 "I'm just not sure we are equipped to handle people like that." You're right. Sad. But right. We're NOT equipped to handle people like that because WE DON'T EVEN SEE THEM. Jesus help us.

"If they started to come regularly what would happen?" My guess? Revival. Revival would happen. And we'd loose the people who don't like "street people". And to them I say peace out!

"Do you have a long term plan?" Yes. To always show up.

"Remember, this isn't a homeless church." I'm NEVER speechless about anything but this one stumps even me. I've got nothing.



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dear Mama who feels like she is failing

Dear Mama who feels like she is failing,

The constant chaos. The never-ending laundry. The toddler who still poops in his diaper. The late reader. The attitude from the older child. The fact that you feel like you never look quite as good as the picture perfect mom at church. The moment when you realize all of the parenting ideals that you once stood so strongly for are failing you. The sticky floors. The judgement from peers. The failed Pinterest recipe. The exhaustion. The frustration. The deep wells of joy mixed with deep feelings of wanting to quit.

All of that is crippling you. I see it on your face. I read it in your texts and Facebook messages. You feel like you are really messing up at this mothering thing. You want so badly to just enjoy parenting. It's not at all what you imagined. You feel like you are failing.

I've been there. I'm really good at pretending I can do things in my own strength. I can carry on that way for a long while. Just trucking along and getting things done...all the while ignoring my own deepest need. I keep pouring out, leaking love, and then suddenly I realize how parched I am.

Do you feel parched?

It's at that moment when I lose the ability to carry on. Every small issue becomes a big one threatening my patience and my sanity. I've poured out and watered and nourished my children, but from a a dry and empty source. It's then that I realize my deep need for refreshing. Not just a day or night out, although that too is wonderful, but a "come to Jesus moment", as I fondly say. It's a horrible, beautiful moment to realize that we've been mothering from our own strength.

So, Mama who feels like she is failing, in our own strength we are and we always will fail. It is impossible to do this mom thing on our own. Cry out to Jesus. He alone will quench your thirst. It is from the goodness of his presence that you will be equipped to lavish your children with love and grace.

When we realize that we have been given grace undeserved and love never-ending, we can't help but pour it out on others. 

So, Mama who feels like she is failing, go lock yourself in your bathroom for a few minutes. Get on your knees. Cry out for refreshing. Tell Jesus you need him to survive. We all do! Ask him to pour his presence, power and love over your life. Remember how great he is and how small we are.  Do you have a praying friend? Give her a call. Ask her to pray with you. If you don't have one, email me. I will pray with you.

So in closing, Mama who feels like she is failing, you are not failing. You are just thirsty. Go drink and be refreshed.

Love,

Another thirsty mama


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

All The Single Ladies

All the single ladies! This one goes out to you. No...I'm not going to sing and dance in a leotard. Sorry. Maybe next time. For now I want to share my heart with you and a tiny glimpse of the Father's heart pouring over you.

You are beautiful. All of you. Single friends, I adore you. We live completely different lives. I admit that I don't know what it's like to be where you are. I'm 29 years old and I've been married for over 10 years. I married my first ever boyfriend. I know you might not want to hear my thoughts on your singleness since I myself have really never been single, but I hope we can see past our differences and speak life and grace over each other.

I sat at my piano today to steal away a few minutes with my first ever true Love. The One who has known me since before I was. The One who beckons me to come even when I have wandered far away. I sat down to be with him, Jesus, the lover of my soul. It was in that moment that the faces of my single friends bombarded my brain.

"Okay, Holy Spirit. Why are you bringing them to my attention?" I asked and waited for an answer. I prayed for each face that graced my thoughts. This was a rather odd, but totally welcomed, Holy Spirit driven interruption to my quiet time.

I began to write down what the Lord was speaking to me regarding you and the season that you're in. I felt led to share those humble notes here and I pray that your heart will be encouraged.

Ladies, He sees you. He has not forgotten you. He has not passed you by. He knows your heart's deepest desires, even the hidden ones. The one's you've never shared. He knows your fears. He knows your insecurities. He knows your longings. He knows your pain. He KNOWS you. All of you.

It's so scary to be so KNOWN sometimes, right? To be so raw, vulnerable, before Him. Especially when you feel like He's not giving you what you want.What you think is "good".  It can become rather frustrating to know that you are SO KNOWN, and yet still not have your deepest desires met. It can feel like despair. It can feel hopeless. It can feel like you've been betrayed. But you haven't been. Don't listen to those lies.

Here's the beauty of being KNOWN in this way by the One who has always been: He knows you, your every thought and desire, every frustration and disappointment, and STILL he is madly in love with you.

Your fear cannot push him away. Your disappointment will not hinder his love. The walls you put up to keep him at a distance...they will not stop His relentless pursuit of your heart. 

He knows you deep and yet He loves you deeper still. Nothing you do can ever change that. Nothing you think will ever revoke his love.

Ladies, it's okay to get frustrated. It's okay to want to step into the next season. God is big enough to handle your frustrations. But I felt the Lord leading me to tell you to lay down your yearnings for anything else that is not Him. 

Yeah. That's hard. Lay down your yearnings? Did I really tell you that? I did. Because I felt like the Lord wanted to tell you to lay them down. Those dreams, those wishes, those pictures in your head and heart that you want to become reality...lay them down on the altar. Let His fire consume your dreams. He can be trusted with those treasures. He is worthy of your whole life laid down. 

I've noticed that in our weird "Christian culture" we've been lying to singles. We've taken the message of "die to yourself because we were told to carry our cross and die", to "die to yourself because once you do Jesus will give you exactly what you always wanted." Ladies, it's just not true.

I know that the letting go and laying down of your desires is scary...especially when there is no promise that your life will ever be resurrected exactly how you want it to be. But here's what I can tell you about that:

It's in the laying down of our life that we find true life. We cannot experience the goodness of God, His closeness, His nearness in this life, when we are gripping tightly to our own ideas and desires of what is good. You just have to open your hands and trust that the Lord is good. He is SO good, friends. He can be trusted. He is your good shepherd who cares for you deeply. His goodness, His ways, far outweigh our ideas on what would be good for our lives.

And when you're ready to open your hands and let go, I will stand with you. I will be your friend. I will stand in prayer. I will stand in tears. I will stand in the wait. I will stand in the fire. You are not alone.

This is a beautiful time in your life. I know and He knows that it's not the beauty you imagined or hoped for, but I promise that there is beauty. You are in a season where all of your affection and all of your attention can be poured out on the only one worthy. Steal time away with Him tonight. Pour out your heart. Open your hands. Lay down your dreams. Commune with Him. If you don't have words just ask Him to come close. He will. 



So, there you have it. From the heart of the Father, to the bench of my rickety piano, to you. I am praying for you wonderfully loved single ladies. You are not forgotten.