Monday, October 16, 2017

Dream, He said

He said.

Think of what could be.

And so we did.

There was a permission to live freely in the dreaming process. No boundaries, no parameters, no "No's"....just dreams. We processed for a bit and slowly we began to shout out own dreams.

I'll admit that mine weren't limited to just our ministry--they were bigger, broader, and probably a lot more unrealistic.

I want to see a changed world.
I want revival.
I want more than what I read about, hear about, cry about....

The dreaming reminded me that there's hope.
Hope of better.
Hope of good.
Hope of different.

I've been wondering what my part in the conversation lately needs to be. What can one person possibly do or say that matters? What can one person say or do to be a catalyst for change? An anchor of hope?

And then I've realized that more often than not, it only takes one person. One person to believe, to be willing, to go, to be. One person to listen. One person to speak out. One person to live out their dreams with reckless abandon. One person, living obediently in the path the Lord has put before them.

And it's never really one person. There's always an Aaron to your Moses, a Timothy to your Paul, a Rosa Parks to your Martin Luther King Jr. There's always a host of people who are like-minded with similar missions longing to see the changes, to see the redemption, to see the freedom. It's just we sometimes stall out in knowing how to make it happen. Sometimes we doubt. Sometimes we're terrified. Sometimes we don't really think the Lord could ever use us.

I don't doubt that there are millions of people in the world who have the same dreams that I do. Millions whose hearts break when they read the news, millions who are scared, millions who want this world to be better. And then millions who just keep plodding through life, not really making any changes at all. We sigh, we cry, and then we move on.

I want more.
My heart is screaming.
But my actions don't often reflect the cries from within. Because plodding through life is easier. It's more comfortable.

Think of what could be.

I don't want to just dream anymore.
I don't think I can.
I have to do more. We have to do more.

I don't fully know what it needs to look like yet, but I know that it has to start somewhere.

I frolicked through a golden wonderland two weekends ago, dreaming and praying and wishing and hoping...and now it's time to do.

It may not need to be grandiose just yet. It may start small.
Offering hope.
Extending grace.
Building trust.
Serving others.
Forgiving those who have wronged us.
Asking forgiveness from those we have harmed.
Breaking down barriers.
Being willing to get to know people who are different from us...and letting them know us.
Stepping out of our comfort zones.
Being faithful with what we've been given each day.
Working hard.
Living out of our true calling.
Dying to our own desires.
Proclaiming Jesus in ways He is truly honored by and glorified in.
Sharing our stories of redemption and life change.
Being kind. And thoughtful. And generous.
Knowing the Lord.

Would you consider coming with me?
On another imperfect journey of second chances?
I may only be one person, but there's at least a million of you that want to change this world.

Would you consider committing to knowing the Lord more deeply? And then deeper still? To be devoted to Him, to pressing into Him and letting your life be an overflow of that? Would you consider, before you speak or write or do something that might offend or hurt someone, pausing and seeking?

I think that's the crux of the change.
Knowing Jesus.
That's the real dream.
That all may know Him, love Him, live their lives for Him, worship Him.

And if we all start doing that, if we all start truly living out of that...?
I think it changes everything.

And then let's do.
With reckless abandon.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Answered Questions

When we first met, I couldn't understand if he was saying CALE or KEL.

"Can you spell that for me?!" Knowing how names are spelled always helps me pronounce them correctly. K-E-L.

It's not short for Kelly. Or Kelby. Or Kellender. Just Kel.

this is our first picture together. when my hair was still longer than his. 
He was confusing to me (and still is).
While his accent isn't thick, it often comes out in words like fill (feel) or oil (oyul)--and sometimes his own name (Cale). And while he's from West Texas and loves country music, he's not exactly a cowboy with boots, tight jeans, and the desire to two-step me around the dance floor.

We met just over 5 years ago. The son of a dear couple that I had worked with for many years-- a son I didn't know existed. He was crazy. Loud. Confident. And if you had told me 5 years ago that I would be married to Kel Beal today, I might have laughed in your face.

But here we are, 3 years later. Married. Happy. Figuring out how to do our lives better together with each passing day because we both want more.

It's our anniversary today and while we haven't really had time to reflect on all of the memories of our wedding day, I've had a few of those moments where I get a little teary-eyed thinking about this man I married. This confusing, long-haired, athletic, video game-playing, fantasy-football crazed, people-loving and Jesus-desiring man that I married.

And then I think about all the people. A lot of you who made the time to be present, who spent the dollars to come, who poured out sweat as you set up the most beautiful wooden, candle-lit backdrop and covered itchy hale bales with lace and ribbons. People who traveled far. People who gave much. People who loved us so, so well. I truly can't ever say thanks enough.

I'm so humbled.
So blessed.

I was talking with a single girl not long ago about how it's so easy to feel like you have to "have it all together" before you find the "right" guy. It's easy to feel like you need to really figure out who you are, so you aren't looking to a guy to "save" you in a relationship... because he can't. A man doesn't make you whole. And that's absolutely true.

BUT- I would be lying if I didn't tell you the truth- at least for me.
Kel doesn't complete me, but he's the answer to the question I had been asking myself for almost my entire life. From the moment I even knew what a crush was, I was wondering who I would marry. Who. When. How. Where. When. When. When. Who. Who. Who. My heart ached to know the answers.

We played M.A.S.H. growing up (sometimes even in college), we flirted with boys, we wrote about them in journals, we cried over them, wrote songs and poems about them, danced with them, held their hands-- always asking, always wondering: are you him?

Even the boys we knew weren't and shouldn't be, we still sometimes wondered. Maybe... maybe it'll have to be him if it's going to be anyone at all.

And so when Kel and I got married, my questions were answered.

Who: Kel Beal. 
When: September 27, 2014; age 30.
Where: my parent's backyard.
How: in the most perfect way ever. 

He didn't complete me.
But the nagging fears and constant curiosities are gone.
There is a peace that transpired that I had never had before. A security. A person. A life-long best friend. A reminder of God's faithfulness. An answer to a thousand prayers. An answer to a question.

You can't help but feel like the luckiest girl on your wedding day. And you can't help but feel like that all over again on your anniversary. Because, today, 3 years ago, is the day my life changed forever.

The day the Lord showed me everything He had had in store for me during all those years of question-asking, all those years where I doubted Him.

I'm still baffled by His goodness to me.
I'm still humbled.
Still so blessed.

I continue to pray that the story of Kel and I would be one that gives others hope. Hope that there can be relationships and marriages that are good and fun and imperfectly perfect and constantly pointing back to Jesus. Hope that maybe one day, others may get to experience the Lord's goodness in the same capacity that I have (even if it's years and years later than you want it to be). Hope that not all things in the world right now are bad and that the Lord is still faithful.

Because He is.
In all things. In all seasons. In all the brokenness and hopelessness.
Somehow, for some reason, He remains faithful.
Even for a ragged, defeated, hopeless 29-year-old girl in 2013.
Even for a confused, selfish, prideful 33-year-old lady in 2017.

May we humbly learn to love Him and others more earnestly.

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Back to School

4 years ago, I waved goodbye to my little house in Beverly, Massachusetts and my goal of earning my Master's of Arts in Counseling. I wasn't ever entirely sure that being a professional counselor was the desired outcome of my time in seminary, but it had always been something I had thought I might want to pursue.

So, I tried it out. For a semester. And, I loved it. I loved learning about Jesus and Scripture and about living out the gospel in a way that could truly help others. I loved being surrounded by other people who were excited to learn and grow in the same way that I was. I loved being a setting where I could just soak up all of this knowledge without having to pour it all out immediately. It was this necessary reprieve from full-time ministry and this necessary season of life that I really believe was a gift from the Lord.

And then I was given the opportunity-of-a-lifetime to come to Glorieta, New Mexico and help bring the mission of inspiring Christ-like change to a different part of the country.

I do miss these views...
In the process of deciding what my fate ought to be, I knew school would "always be there".  I could continue my education at some point down the road-  it didn't seem crucial to continue on in the fall of 2013. So I left. I moved to New Mexico 4 years ago and began a life in the mountains, far far away from my little place right near Dane Street Beach. A view of the ocean for a view of mountains. I couldn't complain about either.

Over the past four years, I've often thought that I could have stayed in school and it could have been really good. Granted, in the past four years, I've also gotten married, changed jobs and continually learned a ton about ministry and leadership and doing hard things. It's pretty interesting to consider all the "What Ifs..."
I don't stay there very long though. Because this is where I am. And life is good.

Not too long ago (maybe like 6 weeks), I decided to consider what it might look like to start school back up again. In a desire to develop more fully in my current job responsibilities and as a follower of Christ, I figured this could be a way to really push me deeper into a knowledge of Scripture and the Lord. I contacted the seminary I had been enrolled in, began looking at online degree programs, tried to figure out what from my one semester would transfer over, and what it would take to reapply.

Crazily enough... everything was really easy.
I re-enrolled to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary-- their Charlotte campus (because it enabled me to do more distance learning while still taking classes at any of their four campuses). I got registered for a few courses, bought some books, and have officially begun to chip away at a Master's degree again (while still working, of course).

My current plan is to get my degree in Christian Ministries and I'm hoping that I'll be able to take quite a few Spiritual Formation courses. I'm also hoping that as I slowly do this, more online classes within Spiritual Formation will become available. I had already decided, when I left seminary, that if I had stayed I would have switched my degree from counseling to something else. Spiritual Formation was something that I was learning more about and it has seemed to match my passions and giftings more (think discipleship and development).

I'm enrolled in 3 courses, getting 7 credit hours (Lord willing) and figuring out how to reprioritize my life to include a lot more reading and writing. I'll be flying to Charlotte, NC in early November to do "residency" classes for a week (which basically means being in class all day, every day). We have video lectures, forums to post in, videos to post, papers to write, and 1000 books to read (slight exaggeration...).

It has been two weeks- and I already love it.
I love it because what I'm absorbing is applicable and challenging to my life and job. I love it because I'm being asked to read Scripture. I love it because I'm getting to learn more about God and more about who He is calling me to be in this season. I love that so much of my time is spent on things of the Lord, that I can't help but think about Him more and (hopefully) live from that more. Data in, data out. I love that my leadership class gives me practical tools that I can apply to leadership in my job without having to wait. I'm almost starting to think that everyone in full-time ministry should take a class at a seminary! Being fed while pouring out. Having to be disciplined, diligent, focused.

It's good.
And so if you've asked me lately what's been going on, or how you can be praying for me- this has been my answer. Learning how to balance all of the things and also do them well. There's obviously still the exciting newness, but if you want to pray for me- pray that the newness doesn't wear off. Pray that I would be eager to learn, eager to grow, eager to be transformed and refined through my studies. Pray that my goal wouldn't be good grades or worldly achievement- but that it would be knowing Christ more fully and living out of that more steadfastly.

And that's the latest in my world, friends!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The TV

"I need you to value me more."

The statement immediately made my eyes well uncontrollably with tears. Throughout our entire conversation I had maintained a level head... but this statement broke me. If my husband needed me to value him more, it implied that I had failed to show him how I actually felt about him.

I hate that.
The tears came and I disappeared into my head. How have I failed him this much? Because, in the depths of my soul I know how much I do value him, how much I do love him, how I continue to feel like the luckiest person that he chose me...

The TV.
It always comes back to the TV. Maybe not always directly, but this incident has taken center stage too many times, and as a result, always seems to be looming backstage in our marriage.

What about the TV? You may be wondering...

Before we got married, I owned a TV. A decent TV. A flatscreen Samsung that had done me no wrong in our time together. This TV was quickly relocated to our back bedroom when we returned from our honeymoon to the giant TV my entire family had given us as a wedding gift. And while my TV was used for nothing more than the occasional P90X workout (where there was room to move about), it was still a great TV.

In our first year of marriage, my husband loaned the TV out to a friend who was staying in the hotels on campus. I didn't know my TV had gone elsewhere... and normally, I wouldn't have cared. However, in the middle of summer at a summer camp, when you loan someone something, you generally don't remember that you did. It's pretty low on the priority-level. I get that. But it was also a great TV.
if anyone has seen my TV....

And soon, it was a missing TV.

"Hey, did you ever get our TV back from the hotel rooms?"
"No...but I will."

Weeks went by. Months. No TV.
I didn't bring it up all that often, but it became a point of bitterness for me.

It was our first year of marriage and I felt like if I asked about it too much, then I'd be nagging. I didn't want to be the nagging wife. But, I did want the TV back.

We went for a walk a few months later and when I thought about the TV, I began to think of all the other things that my husband had promised but not finished. The floor of our bathroom he said he'd fix after the dog destroyed it, the trash he said he'd take out, the dishes he said he'd wash, the freaking TV he said he'd get back. Suddenly I realized I was married to a man with no follow-through and no initiative. At least, those are the things you immediately believe when you recall the hundreds of instances he let you down (or 5) and forget the millions of instances he came through for you (literally millions).

We never got the TV back.
No one seems to have seen it. We both asked and looked and it's just gone.
Sometimes I'm still annoyed about it (and sometimes we just laugh about it).

So when my husband asks me to value him more, I can't help but think that it's because of these moments. These moments when I've convinced him that he's a disappointment because sometimes I've also convinced myself of the same thing. Because sometimes I expect perfection. It's a gross disease. And often in my expectations, I'm quickly reminded how broken and imperfect I am. Because while I might never lose a TV (knock on wood), I'm often selfish, demanding, insistent that my way is the best way and my timing is the most important.

These are the moments when I turn into a fleshy, witchy monster who exists to exalt herself and reign terror on the household, including our gentle giants (especially when their hair is everywhere). The moments when I lose sight of this desire to be gentle and kind and patient and selfless and good. Moments where I'm on a mission to make myself heard, to be right, to win.

And in an instant, my husband's words pierce through the darkness. They aren't demanding. They're just honest. "Debbie, I need you to see me. To love me. To be here, with me. I need to know that you think I'm worth something, even when I mess up. I need to know that I'm not the biggest disappointment of your life."

These are the moments that are ugly, but real. Moments in marriage that are hard, but refining. Moments that break me and remind me to come back. To come back to what is better. To come back to the a place where I choose good, where I choose Jesus, where I choose selflessness, where I choose to love. These are the places where there's no room for anonymity or hiding or running. The places where I must admit my flaws, my darkness and tell my husband that I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I want to do better.  These are places where we are often the most humbled, most raw, most real.

My gracious, kind husband takes me into his arms.
And this is why marriage is beautiful: neither of us get to walk away. We just have to press in. We have to do better. We have to love more, live more selflessly, live more Christ-centered. He chooses to love me every day, even when my sin prevails and I have to continually do the same. Because this is not who we want to be. And we have to remember that our intentions for each other are not bad, but good.

His mercy is new every morning.
Let's do better today.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Blessed Assurance

I feel like I owe you guys an update. Well, maybe I just want to give you an update.

Mostly because after my last post, I was pretty overwhelmed by the number of folks who (a) seem to care and (b) have had a similar journey in their attempts at having children. Also, a lot of you have asked how it went, which is also pretty humbling.

Thanks for caring.

Thanks for reaching out, for your kind words, for the stories you shared. I know we all handle this struggle differently and it's neat for me to be reminded that there are other people out there on a quest to have children and not just having it happen instantaneously. I also know that in the quest, there have been so many heartaches for so many of you. Losses, disappointments, despair. Lots of joy, after years of trying. I love what community can look like as we share our hearts and our stories with each other. I love how beautiful it can be, even if I don't really know you and even if you don't really know me. Because we're all just trying to figure this life out and doing the best we can with the hand we get dealt.

You guys are neat and I'm so blessed by the many of you who gave to me.

So here's where we're at.
I went to a Family Medicine doctor last week. Nothing special in the way of infertility, but because of my referral, I was confident that I could get at least a few more answers.

I wasn't sure if my nerves prior to the appointment were because of my fear of what the doctor might say or because of my heavy dislike of being poked and prodded, but I had that slightly queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach for a few hours leading up to the event.

It was fine.
Our options were laid out before us. After 2.5 years of trying with no pregnancies, we have a few decisons to make. It mostly just depends on how much time, money and effort we want to put into anything.

She told me that PCOS (poly-cystic ovary syndrome) is hard to diagnose, but it's likely that I have it. It used to be required that cysts on the ovaries were necessary for the diagnosis, but more recently there are other symptoms that also give way to it, infertility being one of them.

So, here are our choices moving forward:
  • Testing (me: pelvic ultrasound, husband: semen). She encouraged us to be tested to make sure we don't have anything we are unaware of. 
  • Medication. There are two known medications that can often help with PCOS: Clomid and Metformin. Both basically help regulate ovulation and help all the hormones do all the things they are supposed to do.  
  • IUI. Intrauterine insemination. This involved placing the sperm inside of the woman's uterus to hopefully facilitate fertilization. 
  • IVF. In Vitro Fertilization. A medical procedure where an egg is fertilized by a sperm in a test tube and then transferred to the uterus. 
  • Fertility clinic. She could refer us to the Fertility Clinic in Albuquerque and we do it all there, or we do a hodge podge of it in Santa Fe. 
We haven't spent a ton of time processing or talking through it all, but we did tell her then that trying one of the medications would be at least something. I'm now taking Metformin, so we'll see how it goes. There's a high chance we'll get tested as things settle down around camp a bit more. Maybe just so we know. There's still a deep part of my heart that just thinks it'll work out how it's supposed to and I don't need to worry and that I don't need to try so hard to make something happen. 

We had an end of summer celebration today with our full-time staff and families--filled with a lot of laughter and fun for me. We closed out the day with worship and one particular lyric struck my soul a bit profoundly even though I've heard it thousands of times. 

This is my story, this is my song... praising my Savior all the day long. 

It's from an old hymn called Blessed Assurance and something about this lyric was incredibly beautiful to me. 

Because my story, my song... it doesn't have to be about me. It doesn't have to be about how I had to wait "forever" to get married, or about how I can't have kids, or about my job and my passions and me me me. But my story and my song... to be praising the Lord all the day long. Because blessed assurance, Jesus is mine

Lyrics like that make me want to weep. 
The words are powerful. Even more powerful when lived. 
More than the cry of being single or childless, can the sound that echoes the loudest from me be a song of praise? A song of His goodness that dwells deep within me, despite what may surround me? 

I want to share this journey with you. I want to share it because it's real life and it can sometimes weigh heavy on my heart. But I never want to share it in a way that communicates that Jesus is anything less than good and perfect and gracious and kind and gentle. I never want to share in a way that overshadows or disregards His goodness. I never want to share it in a way that doesn't show how much I desire for Him to be at the center of everything. 

I love how the Lord covers my inadequacies. 
I love how I'm reminded, through an age-old song, of what matters above all else. 

These are the moments... the moments where I feel like I've been given something out-of-this-world. Moments where perspectives shift, where priorities align, where I get it. Moments that are indescribable. 

And as much as I wish I could change and fix all the things that are wrong in this world... there's a peace, a hope, a joy, a promise that this life isn't it. 
  1. Perfect submission, all is at rest,
    I in my Savior am happy and blest,
    Watching and waiting, looking above,
    Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
  2. This is my story, this is my song,
    Praising my Savior all the day long;
    This is my story, this is my song,
    Praising my Savior all the day long.
  3. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Rejoicing & Mourning

I wrote this blog over the last week and a half... editing it, subtracting from it, writing more as my heart and mind carried on. I wondered if I might just write it and keep it...but, I've decided to share it with you. It feels a bit more vulnerable this time, but maybe that's why you need to read it. Have at it.

"Debbie, can I talk to you?"
As we sat in her car, my mind mulled through the endless possibilities of what my friend was about to tell me. It seemed serious.

"I'm pregnant..."
Her words were shocking, because in all of my possible possibilities... this hadn't even occurred to me. I laughed and was about to congratulate her when I realized that her exclamation hadn't been one of excitement, but one of fear and sadness.

"Wait, are you not excited?"
She went on to tell me how this wasn't the plan. It wasn't what she wanted, not right now. They had actively been trying to prevent pregnancy. "Condom baby" is what she called it.

It made me laugh all the more.
Because as she explained to me the situation, all I saw was God, the Creator of life, with His hand all over it. I laughed because try as we may to have a child and try as we may to not have a child... He is in control. And to me, it's a really beautiful thing.

"But you need a baby. Not me. You deserve one."
She kept making me laugh in her irrational, I-just-found-out-my-whole-world-is-changing frame of mind.

And I know it must feel like that. I know it must be somewhat horrifying to tell your friend who has been trying to have a baby that you, who doesn't even want a baby, are pregnant. It must feel awful and agonizing - it must make one feel guilty, even if they have no reason to be.

But I loved that she told me.
I loved getting to be a tiny part of this newness and miracle- getting to see the Creator's fingerprint undeniably all over this new life.

I loved that she let me celebrate with her and pray for her and remind her that this is good instead of just trying to protect me. I felt really honored in that, actually.

In some ways, that's been the most painful part of this process. Feeling like people have to walk on eggshells around me or that I'm the last to know about exciting life events because no one wants to tell the infertile couple that they're pregnant. Sometimes it makes me rethink my life mantra that being open and transparent is always better than be closed-off and secretive. Being transparent is kind of the worst when it breeds pity or this overwhelming urge to protect through secrecy or "perfect timing".

I can handle it.
That's the thing about mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who isn't contingent upon our circumstances. And as much as you might mourn with me when I express some confusion or sorrow about not being able to have children, I would hope that you would also allow me to rejoice with you when you find out that you can and are!

If there's anything the Lord has taught me in this journey it's that He's got this. He's in charge. He makes it happen. He breathes life. He takes it away. It seems to rarely be in our time or within our ability to understand, but it doesn't negate His goodness in the midst of a thousand questions and all the unknowns.

There's been a lot of freedom in this journey for me.
I hope you know that. I don't agonize every day over my infertility. SOME days, I do. But they're few and far between and generally just on the day I find out that I'm not pregnant, again. And then I move on. Because life is too short and the days are filled with laughter and tears and how I can be better at a million other things in life (maybe eventually I'll add being fertile to that list).

Ironically enough, today is one of those agonizing days. And tomorrow I'm sure I'll move on. Again.

I spent the last week thinking I was most likely pregnant. 
Like, actually pregnant. 

In our 2.5 years of trying, this has only happened a few times. And none of them have really ever felt like this. In fact, I've been so nonchalant about having a kid lately that the prospect of actually having one caused my thoughts to get a little crazy, a little futuristic (something I actually have felt like the Lord was protecting me from). 

But not this time. My sleep was fitful, my brain brimming with an endless amount of questions about life as a pregnant lady, as life with a baby. What would full-time child care look like if I wanted to keep working? What would the baby room look like? What types of maternity clothes would I have to get? Would we want to know the gender? 

These are questions normal people probably already know the answers to if they're trying to get pregnant. I guess, in our long stint of no pregnancies, I hadn't really taken the time to put much stock into figuring out the answers. Just peeing on a stick and seeing a "pregnant" was mostly my goal. As if that were the final success and that there wasn't much more to worry about beyond that. Crazy how a single occurrence on the porcelain throne can be life-changing. 

But then there's a week when you're out-of-nowhere nauseous and you're exhausted and sore and everything you know about pregnancy signs are happening and all you can do is wait. Wait until you can take a pregnancy test or start your period. Wait and pray. Wait and hope. Wait and freak out

Because as excited and hopeful as I got and the nearer to taking a pregnancy test that I mind became frantic when I, once again, thought about everything that changes the moment a new life comes into this world. Once again, the questions: do I want that? Can I do that?  

It wasn't long before the question was answered for me, even though it felt like an eternity. 
Not pregnant. 
And as much as I can feel relief in that, there's some incredible amount of sadness that still pervades my heart and soul. Like I've lost something that I never had. Maybe it was hope. 

I woke up this morning mad. 
Mad at my body for teasing me and causing me to think about all the possibilities. 
Mad at myself for not even knowing what I want. 
Mad at obsessing over 5000 websites all weekend, scrutinizing every story and wondering if that might be me. 
Mad at myself for holding onto hope.
Mad at the world for not relating to me.
Mad, because I feel alone. 

And, mostly just sad. 
Sad because this journey, while still freeing, is getting harder. Sad because this time I invested a little bit more. 

So here we are.
Mourning and rejoicing.
Trusting and releasing.
Living and hoping.
And recognizing that with the possibility of much joy, I'm also more susceptible to much pain. 

Let's cry and laugh in the Lord's goodness and weep in the unknowns.
But let's never stop trusting that His plan is infinitely greater, better, more beautiful. 

After all, haven't I seen His goodness evidenced over and over again in my life already?

So here's the deal.
Let me rejoice with you, and I'll let you mourn with me. It's the only way this works. And maybe tomorrow, I'll mourn with you and you'll rejoice with me. 

But please don't shield me from your good. Because even though it's not always mine, it still serves to remind me that there's hope, there's joy, there's life outside of me. 

And, we have a doctor's appointment next week. 
So cheers to all the things.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017


I set out to write a new blog yesterday.
Hammock strung up, laptop out, birds chirping, dogs digging... it was an ideal set-up for a Saturday afternoon.

I wrote and I wrote and I wrote... but something seemed off about it. Maybe even a little artificial. Maybe even a little hypocritical. While it's content was all about how I want to be better at all of the things, there was something lacking. Maybe because in the desire for better, there's sometimes still an apathy about wanting to try to be better at all. Can't it all just be good enough how it is? Can't I be good enough...? Isn't this life I'm leading sufficient enough?

Because I'm tired.
And lazy.
And being better takes work.
And while yes, I want to be better... I don't know if I have the energy right now to work at what "better" requires.

It means sacrifice.
It means less sleep.
It means spending time with people when I really just want to curl up in a ball on the couch and stream Netflix.
It means admitting that I'm wrong.
It means letting my husband off the hook when he hasn't done everything my way.
It means thinking of others over myself.
It means patience and kindness and humility.

But lately, I've had this overriding desire to be better, to want better. To not settle for this complacent version of myself that just exists, whiling away the hours.

I want to be a better mentor. A better boss. A better developer and manager of people. I want to be better at investing in those around me. I want to be better at motivating and inspiring and reminding people what actually matters and seeing how that might transform attitudes and shape character.

I want to be a better friend. A friend who communicates more frequently with those who are far away. A friend who takes the time to ask people how they're doing instead of just talking about work. A friend who reaches out, a friend who can sit in the silence without always trying to fix things. A friend who knows what's really going on in people's lives. A friend who prays steadfastly.

I want to be a better wife. A better helpmate. A wife who isn't nagging or critical or demanding. A wife who supports, encourages and selflessly cares about the needs of my husband over my own. I want my husband to know, undoubtedly, how much I love, respect and believe in him.

I want to be a better follower of Jesus. A better servant. A better lover of God and His people. I want to be better about spending time in Scripture, I want to be better about having His name be quick on my lips. I want my life to be more centered on Him and living out of the fullness of who He is calling me to be.

I want to be better about handling frustration. Better about responding with kindness and gentleness instead of assumption and pride. I want to be better about seeking solutions instead of just identifying problems. I want to be patient and open-minded and eager to point out the good instead of my words being consumed with the constant need for improvement.

I want to be a better adventurer. Better about saying YES and doing things that get me out of my comfort zone. Things that are physically challenging and demanding, things that cause my knees to ache and my back to groan. Because, as exhausting as they are, these things also breathe life into my soul as I work my way into settings and sights that are unbelievable and impossible to truly capture on film. These are the types of things that remind me that God is big and amazing and that He has created me to do more than what I often think is possible.

I want to be better about change. Better about receiving criticism and recognizing that in my imperfection there is room for growth. Better about admitting my flaws and acknowledging that I can't do everything and be everything. I want to be willing to step into newness and hardness and leave behind who I was so that I might move more toward something better. So, essentially.. being better at being better...

And that all requires work.
More than just reading a few self-help books, it requires sweat and probably even some tears. It requires determination, steadfastness, and willingness. And, I imagine, on some days it will require grace. Grace to fail. Grace when I'm selfish. Grace when I've spoken too harshly or rashly. And humility when I know that I must actually allow the Lord to do a number on me instead of thinking I can accomplish any of this on my own.

If I were to continue in the stream of thought I was in yesterday, I would assure you, dear reader, that I will indeed begin the path toward better. I would assure you that I'm the type of person who would automatically leap into a new life of sheer determination and willpower that would put others to shame, emerging into a world of blissful obedience and life changing companionship with Jesus.

But, if I'm any type of real person at all, I have to admit the truth.
I want better. I do.
And there may be glimpses and moments where I'm doing all the things to get better. But it won't be all the time. There will still be days when I curl up on my couch and watch Heartland for hours or mornings when I choose to sleep in instead of spending time with the Lord or moments when I'm annoyed with my husband for not picking up the white hairballs that are all over the house on his day off. Days when I'm tired. Apathetic. Lazy. Days when I'm fighting with myself internally- fighting to do what I know is right vs. giving into my own selfishness, pride, and laziness.

Because of all of that, I will tell you that I'm pursuing "better" with much wariness.
Don't expect me to be different overnight.
But maybe, with God's grace, we're all slowly getting better over time as we fight the internal battles, as we get over ourselves, as life happens and we learn a bit more what really matters.

I think most of us want better. We want better for ourselves and for the world around us. We just don't always have what it takes to get there.

And so while I can't tell you that I'm going to change everything in my life (even if I can tell you that I probably should)... I can commit to this: I'm going to try moving in this direction with a little more focus and determination. I'm going to invest a little more. Go on a few more adventures. Memorize some more of Philippians. Continue to beg that I might be a lady who is quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. I'm going to pursue learning more about how to develop others, both spiritually and professionally. I'm going to work on loving my husband in the ways that he needs, not just the ways I want to.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll be imperfectly working our way toward better: two steps forward, one step back.

And maybe, just maybe, it's a truer glimpse of life changing companionship with Jesus. Raw, but authentic. Hard, but refining. Ugly, but beautiful.

Want to come?

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

My Song

In Christ alone, my hope is found...

The lyrics echoed off my shower tiles this morning and quieted my aching heart.

In Christ alone.
He is my light, my strength, my song...

There have been a lot of feelings of defeat lately.
A lot of... "do more, be more, do this, do that, can you...". A lot of feelings of inadequacies, of never being enough, of rarely doing things "right". There's always something new to figure out, something to fix, something I didn't communicate well enough, something I need to apologize for. The list drags on.

In Christ alone, my hope is found...

To top it off, there have been these moments where my heart continues to wonder, "Do I want them? And, even if I do, can I have them?" My desire doesn't just make it magically happen.

Part of my job is to meet people. Meet all the people. See how they're doing, how their week is, how we can improve, what they love, etc. Inevitably, part of meeting people also means a bit of introduction and small talk. Names, occupations, family.

The other day, a woman... a mom... asked the question I've grown to dread: "Do you guys have kids?"

I don't hate saying no.
That's not what I hate.
What I hate is the reaction that immediately follows, because I think the expectation is that my answer will be an easy "yes" and that we'll go on chatting and laughing about our silly, wonderful kids. There's often an awkwardness that's there in the wake of my "no" and the gap between our similarities immediately widens. I generally try to recover in one of two ways. A quick deflection to the next talking point OR, I proceed to share where my husband and I are at in this journey. Because... why not? If I write a blog about it, and if I work at a Christian camp, and if I honestly believe that the Lord is good in this- can't I just proclaim that, even with total strangers?

Usually I choose to do the latter.
Usually, I explain it all to the poor soul standing opposite of me. No, not only do we not have kids, but we've actually been trying for two and a half years... and while, no, we haven't really done anything about it beyond just... you know... we are content. We see the Lord's goodness and faithfulness in this and continue to feel really blessed in our marriage and in our ministry.

And usually, there's this fear that by this point I've offended the mom because I've probably also said something along the lines of how I love that I get to do full-time ministry and how I'm not even actually sure I want kids and...

**deep sigh**
In Christ alone, my hope is found...

Lately, this too has brought about a deep inadequacy in me.
We hold this future possibility of ours loosely, not really knowing if children will ever be on the table. And it's still okay. 

I wish I could explain it to people in such a way that didn't cause them to look at me differently or to pity me or to remind me of Hannah. I wish I could do it in such a way that doesn't elicit a need for them to try to fix it- offering solutions or empty platitudes. I wish I could do it in five minutes and somehow bridge the gap that has suddenly come between us.... a woman with three kids standing next to a woman with none. We are different. And maybe I feel it more than she does...but we're both searching for another avenue in which to connect. In an instant, it's easy for me to feel less than...

In Christ alone, my hope is found...

And then I'm reminded of this resounding, necessary truth that is screaming its way through my veins and trying to get into my heart and into my head. Listen!

In Christ alone

Not in my job.
Not in my marriage.
Not in my ability or inability to have children.
Not in my relationships and friendships.
Not in my family.
Not in my perfection (or lack thereof).

Because sometimes you just need a slap in the face. 
The reminder that this world isn't it. 
The reminder that my only hope must be rested in the One who is unchanging, the One who has saved me, the One who has conquered death, the One who repeatedly takes this unfaithful child back time and time again. The One who sees all of me, in all time, and still loves me just the same. 

The aching subsides. 
This too shall pass. 
My life, my story, my song, is His. Not mine. 

In Christ alone, my hope is found... 

In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love
What depths of peace
When fears are stilled
When strivings cease

My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life
No fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me

From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

I found my strength, I found my hope
I found my help in Christ alone
When fear has set, when dark has fall
I found my peace in Christ alone

I give my life, I give my all
I sing my song to Christ alone
The King of kings, the Lord I love
All heaven signs to Christ alone

To Christ alone
To Christ alone

Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
Here in the power of Christ we stand

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Full Heart

I've been a little weepy lately.
Not like sobbing... just having to blink back tears and fan my eyes a lot.

I'm not pregnant. I promise.
But there's been something in the air lately that makes my heart full.

It's been far from a perfect summer, but it's been such a good one. It seems that around every turn I'm reminded of the Lord's faithfulness, His provision, His ability to work powerfully when we just can't. To Him be the glory. 

There's something beautiful about summer staff dancing, about the way He is calling them to hard things, about the questions they are wrestling with and the decisions that they have to make. There's something beautiful about seeing them walk boldly, serve sacrificially, laugh heartily. Something beautiful about how they make friends and become role models. Something beautiful about the way the Lord uses camp to change people.

My heart is full.
And I'm a little weepy.
Because God is good.
And every day, I get to be a part of that. And, in the summers, I get to see the goodness more tangibly.

I won't ever get to be a summer staffer again. My time has passed. But those summers changed me. There's nothing quite like a night around a campfire, or bunking with 10+ other girls for three months as we learn how to survive together with all of our soaring emotions. There's nothing quite like the dance parties, the late night conversations, the early morning devotions, the lives that were shared. There's nothing quite like the campers that have etched themselves onto my heart for this lifetime (like the Hungry Hungry Homies) or David Crowder on repeat for 13 weeks straight. Nothing quite like the evening dips in the Nueces River while we listened to the songs being sung in the pavilion above, or the baptisms we witnessed in the pool, or the nights at Tent City.

That stuff sticks with you.
It changes you.
Because, for whatever reason, God moves at camp.

There are a lot of reasons I've stayed in camp ministry full-time- a lot of reasons that, even when I tried to leave, I found myself coming back.

The past few weeks have reminded me that I'm a part of something that is out of this world. Something good. Something powerful. Something life-changing.

I won't ever get to be a summer staffer again, but I get to be a part of other people taking on the challenge. Other people partaking in the journey that is never what was anticipated, but oftentimes better. Other people proclaiming the Gospel, asking campers hard questions, being a part of new faith in Christ. Other people having a summer that is unforgettable... having a summer where God changes them.

It's kind of indescribable.
I imagine those people who have done camp know a bit of what I'm talking about.

God is moving here.
I don't know why, and a lot of times I don't fully even know how, but I know that He does. That He is.

And maybe that's where the tears come from.
Maybe this summer it felt unlikely that He would... and maybe I'm just humbled again that He is. That as much as I can recite over and over again that the Gospel is sufficient- I'm seeing that it really, truly is. He is enough. Even if all else fails, even if nothing is perfect or according to plans... He still is. He is doing beautiful things in the hearts of people around me. Young campers, college students, full-time staff, older volunteers, moms and dads, youth pastors. He is changing all of us.

My heart is full.
Because even in the smallest ways, He is moving. Reminding me, constantly, that He is good. He's got this. He's got us. He's making His name known. He is enough.

To Him be the glory. 

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Potter's Hands

I took up a new hobby recently: pottery.

I'm not entirely sure why, but while reading through Celebration of Disciplines by Richard Foster, I was especially challenged during the chapter on solitude. Challenged to do something different, to pause, to consider different goals for my life, to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.
Reorientation and goal setting do not need to be cold and calculating as some suppose. Goals are discovered, not made. God delights in showing us exciting new alternatives for the future. Perhaps as you enter into a listening silence the joyful impression to learn how to weave or how to make pottery emerges. Does that sound too earthy, too unspiritual a goal? God is intently interested in such matters. Are you? 
It definitely didn't feel like much of a spiritual decision, honestly. I read the chapter, the word pottery leapt off the page at me as something intriguing, I did a little research (being just outside of Santa Fe, and all) and decided taking a class might just be wonderful. I coerced a few friends into joining me and we, very soon after, began a 7-week adventure into the world of clay.

You should know that I can't recall touching clay in my past. I'm sure I have- it just doesn't stick out to me. My fine arts credits were fulfilled through choir in high school, so I had always managed to avoid coming face-to-face with my lack of artistic skills. Because, I assumed, since I couldn't draw or paint, I probably couldn't do much else in the art world, either.

Our first night of class, we were tasked with making a cylinder. Our instructor demonstrated. He threw some clay on the wheel, shaped it into a hockey-puck-looking thing, dropped his thumbs down to create a hole, and began to pull the sides up in to a vase-shaped piece.

I can do that. 
My pride pounded within.

We weren't the only beginners in the room, but the girl on my left had done this before. She was already making plates and was quick to assure the rest of us that this new hobby of ours wasn't for perfectionists. We would have to learn to get over ourselves, hold things loosely, and be patient. Unfortunately, those aren't things I'm great at.

I threw the clay onto my wheel and tried to make that hockey-puck shaped thing, just like I had been shown. I didn't really understand the importance of making sure that clay was entirely centered on the wheel- not considering the challenges I would encounter if it wasn't. You won't be surprised to know that my first few pieces were about an inch tall, an inch wide and far from symmetrical.

One of my first pieces...
It wasn't until week 3 that I felt like I began to grasp the concept of "centering" enough to actually implement on my own without my instructor coming to the rescue. It had been a frustrating process. I felt like I had been going through my 25lbs of clay swiftly, only instead of having any successes, I had a wet pile of clay failure. Countless attempts of not being centered, pulling up too quickly or unevenly, slicing the tops off, clumsily taking my hands away too fast, and, just generally, ruining almost everything I was working toward.

Our instructor always encouraged us to keep the things we salvaged, even if ghastly. Keep it. Practice trimming and glazing with it. Keep it as a reminder of what your first pieces were so you can see the progress you've made. So I did. They are a humbling reminder that things take time, and that I don't always do things right the first time (I often don't, actually).

But I kept going.
Outside of class, some of us would frequent the studio when we could spare the time. I loved it. I fell asleep thinking about centering clay. I dreamt about pulling up the sides of a cylinder with ease and grace. I talked about it often and, as I began to see and feel improvement, I felt accomplished. I was learning something new...and I could see visible change happening.

There's something strangely cathartic I've found in working with clay. Something so satisfying when you realize the clay you are trying to shape is finally moldable and pliable. Something indescribable when it begins to do exactly what you want and begins to transform from a lump of clay to a beautiful work of art.

I had the opportunity to teach a class on sanctification a few weeks into my pottery class. Naturally, there were some parallels to make at the time, but the parallels haven't stopped coming. There's been something profound about working with clay, especially when I take myself out of the potter's role and put myself into the piece of clay, into the Potter's Hands.

I've found myself often humming a melody I grew up singing in church- some of you may recognize it:
No eye has seen

No ear has heard
The good that the Lord has prepared for those
Who wait on Him
To hear His voice
"I am the potter
And you are the clay" 
Jesus take me in Your hands

And make me all that You want me to be
Jesus help me understand my purpose
And what You can do through me
Fulfilling my destiny
accidental spout
The even more beautiful part of it is knowing a bit more about what it means to work with clay and what that image requires. In order to be molded, the clay [us] has to be centered. Only then are we ready and truly willing to succumb to the hands of the Potter. Only then can we be shaped into what we are intended to be, into who He is calling us to be.

Today I picked up 18 finally finished pieces.
It's been a process.
A process of failing, disappointments, mishaps, uneven pulls, accidental spouts, lumpy handles, tragedies while trimming and the unknowns of glazing. It's been a process filled with small victories, vast improvements, waiting and hoping, and finally... results.

I think this is just the beginning of my adventure with pottery. I hope to keep learning and growing, allowing this new hobby to affect me and challenge me on a more spiritual level. To seek solitude. To seek change. To be more centered, so that I might be molded and shaped to be more of what the Potter intends for me to be. A beautiful work of art... and while I can't begin to fathom what the end result will actually be, I must trust that He knows what He's doing and that I'm in His hands throughout the entire process.