“I WAS shame…that WAS my identity.”: Coffee with Jill Anderson (part 1)

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A week ago today I sat down to hear my friend Jill Anderson’s story and many other gleanings over coffee.  It was a gift.  Her story showed me even more of the true nature of the Lord and His character…which is the point of any gift we receive.

Right now I am speaking to the Holy Spirit about her and just smiling.  I see her walking into any building and she doesn’t have to say a thing and you KNOW that the goodness of the Lord just walked into the building…then she speaks…and you just smile.

I got a word for her:

BEAUTY

I asked the Holy Spirit what He meant by that, and this is what He said:

She is my beauty, and always has been.

As I am praying right now for her there is such a sweetness in the room, and I pray that you will just let her story do a work in your heart like it did in mine.  She IS the Lord’s beauty, and always will be.

 

Me:  Okay…this is what we talked about last week, so if you could have coffee with anyone dead or alive who would it be?  You can choose one dead and one alive.

Jill:  Okay…so…

Me:  I think I need to take my shoes off.

Jill:  Do it.  Here is what is so crazy…it was even before last week that I had read your blog and I was like okay…this is the question she asks everybody.  I got to get this one thing right.  I would think of an answer and I was like…that is too “Jesusy”…then I would think of something else and be like…Is that a little conceited?  I was like, Lord…You are going to have to help me with this.  Why am I having such a hard time answering this question?  What I really feel He laid on my heart…and I was like…this is super “Jesusy”…and He was like…”Well, that’s Who I am, so what else do you want?”  I feel like so much of what the Lord has given you is such eyes, and I feel like I possess it, as well…of every single person…no matter their accomplishments, no matter what, their position in life is like a beautiful story.  So…I mean…to have coffee with you is amazing to me to get to know you to get to know your heart and know what the Lord’s done in you and it would be like…even if I was sitting across from Jimmy and Karen Evans and gleaning so much from them and their marriage and their story…it would be wonderful, but to sit across from my husband and to look into his soul and to connect with him….I’m like…how do you measure which one is better?  You know what I mean?

Me:  I know.

Jill:  So it’s like…at first I said “Lord, I would want it to be You.”  And He was like well “We have coffee every morning…pick somebody else.”  I was like…okay.  I feel like it’s not one person because it’s really…I want to meet the Holy Spirit that lives in you.  Every person has a different facet of the Holy Spirit in them and so that’s why…I don’t have just one person because the Lord has so many facets….how can you measure one against the other?

Me:  You want to have coffee and have that connection.  Not coffee just to be here, but coffee to have that heart connection.

Jill:  Time is such a big thing in our lives…every minute.  People, don’t call me between the hours of 1 and 3 because that’s nap time, and unless I’m calling you…I don’t want to talk to anybody.  (chuckles)

Me:  I understand!!  And don’t come to the door!!!

Jill:  NO…I have a sign that says do not ring the bell….there’s a baby…and I’ll hurt you.

Me:  (Bwahahaha)

Jill:  So…at first I was like…is this a cop out answer?  No.  I could not measure what it would be like from one person to the next saying this was better.  I feel like it is just the time invested that would be so great.

Me:  I love that!!!  That’s perfect.  So…what is your story?  Because that is exactly what I am doing.  It is wanting to have coffee with people and I kind of see people…they will graze by me and then I’m like….whoa whoa whoa…there is something about this person that I could glean.  I need to have coffee with them.  That is what drew me to have coffee with you, and…so what is your story?  Because I don’t really know your story.

Jill:  Is it okay if it is the PG-13 version of it?  Sometimes it is hard for me to find “good” words to use for things.

Me:  (I continue nodding yes.)

Jill:  Okay….(laughs at herself)  So…grew up in a Christian home but we were Nazarene.  Which means there was no Holy Spirit.  We believed in the trinity but that was it.  It was all works based.  I didn’t know what grace was until I was 25.  I had no idea of the concept of what grace was.  When I was 5 years old I was molested by a family member and from that moment on the spirit of shame was inner woven in me.  That started this hidden identity almost to where I lived a life believing I was shame.  I WAS shame…that WAS my identity.  Disappointment…shame…that’s who I was.  I believed it.  When I looked in the mirror that’s what I saw and that’s what I believed.  That dictating so much of growing up.  It led me down….you know I believe that…I’m not a therapist or anything but working with women and things…a lot of women who have experienced some kind of abuse or molestation, they do one of two things: they super retreat sexually to where they are like don’t touch me…don’t hug me…I don’t want anyone;  they are completely closed off.  Then there’s women that the very definition of sexuality is almost mutated into this disgustingness that they believe that their sexuality is what brings them love.  So they give it so freely.  Unfortunately that is the road that I took.  I just last year wrote my testimony for the first time.  It took me that long to let it go.  Lord, show me…because anytime I write this out…it’s ugly.  It’s a gross story.  This isn’t what my testimony should be about.  My testimony should be uplifting and encouraging…something that points to your goodness.  He drew this beautiful picture for me.  It was like this beautiful ribbon that was stringing through the whole thing and tied it all together.  He just showed me that in this instance…this instance…and this instance…you were searching for the same thing.  “You just had this twisted definition of what love was…you were searching for love, and guess what baby…I AM Love.  You were searching for Me…the whole time, and yet didn’t know who I really was.”  And I was like….that’s such a good…YES!!!!  Oh my goodness!!!  It was like this humbling and beautiful….it changed my outlook of what my life was like before the Lord.  It changed everything.  I had worked through my past and all of that stuff, but it was like…Lord, why did I have to go through that?  Yes, you can use everything for your glory…I get it, I get it.  But like for real…what WAS it all about?  So when He showed me that I was like…SHUT UP…that is SOOO good!!  Oh my goodness!!!  So it was when…I went through a lot of abuse.  I went through a lot of…rape, STD’s, of…you know….so much of my life trying to grasp for love of what my definition of what love was.  Skip forward….I was 25…and it was like this beautiful week and a half of the craziest spiritual warfare I have ever felt in my life…over my soul.  My mom went on Heart Quest and came back completely different…was like under no sense of shame…under nothing.  She was bold, she was confident and I was like oh my goodness because my mom suffered with extreme depression most of my life, so growing up I could never tell her…I did these horrible things, and I don’t know what to do…you know, nothing like that….because it would crush her, and then I would feel worse.  You know?  I was like….nope not telling her.  But she came back and she was like completely different.  That week that we were doing the First Conference and James Robinson was giving his testimony, and he talked about his thoughts and about how perverted and horrible his mind was and how he could take the simplest vision of something and it would morph in his mind and it was this horrible thing and he just battled so much before he knew the Lord.  I was like….somebody else….I’m not this weird monster…cause that’s what I felt like.  How can you look at something and all of a sudden in your mind it turns disgusting?  Like…who wants to be that?  That’s gross….and I’m a lady.  It was so weird, I drove all the way up to go to church in Southlake, and we went to dinner with some friends.  My mom’s best friend was sitting next to me and she was like…”How are you doing?”  And she’s like one of those people that she can ask like any question and you are just like…bleaahahahaha…(crying sound).  Whatever it is…she just knows the questions to ask.

Me:  What did you have for breakfast?

Jill:  (We are both acting the crying fit out)  Ah….I don’t even know.

Me: (melodramatic) It was toast…IT WAS TOAST!!!

Jill:  So…she was like how are you and I was like…I don’t know.  To be honest I kind of feel like I am these two people, but I don’t want to be either of them.  This one is this disgusting monster horrible person, and the other is this fake I know all the Sunday school answers.  I was like…I just don’t know.  She said, “Have you ever thought that you are neither?”  I was like…..

Me:  Whoa…have you ever thought that you were neither of those?  That just blew my mind.

Jill:  Huh?  But I’m 25…that’s all I have been all my life, so what?  What?  I was like I’m gonna need to unpack that…I didn’t even know what unpacking was at that time.  I was like I don’t even know what that means.  So, my mom and I were going home that night.  I started talking to my mom and I started telling my mom about what happened when I was five.  I had never said it out loud to anyone ever in my life.  That’s how much shame had a hold on me.  It had every secret…every horrible thing on lock and key…throw it away…this is not coming out…it will rot your bones.  That was what was happening in my life.  It was like an outer body experience where you are like get those words back in my mouth…but they just kept coming.  My mom was so open and was like…I’m so sorry.  The Holy Spirit was like all over my mother speaking to me in that moment.  I just shared with her and she was like do you want to just stay the night?  And I was like no…this is all like wiggin me out.  I just need to go  home….have a drink…you know…whew…this is rough.  So it was several days and my mom was like…you need to call your dad and you need to have him pray for you.  I was like….I’m not gonna say this out loud to anyone else.  But she was like…you don’t have to tell him the details…just ask him to pray for you.  My dad was living in Libya at the time and my mom was getting ready to go live with him.  The next morning which was his evening I called, and it was one of those things where like I was trying to go slow getting ready for the day so I wouldn’t have enough time before I had to go to work and it was like…how do I have 45 minutes?  What?  So I call him and I was like…I’m going through some stuff can you pray for me?  He’s like..”Yeah what about?”  And I was like…”It’s personal.”  He was like…”Yeah…it’s prayer.  It’s always personal.”  I was like….”Um..yeah…it’s just personal.”  I’m gonna stick with my story.

Me:  It’s one of those…”unspoken’s”

Jill:  Yeah…so…I go to work…all this stuff.  I feel like I need to go stay the weekend with my mom…kind of thing.  So, that night I slept at my house…and I did not sleep one minute.  Later looking back and the understanding that I have now…there were probably 4 or 5 demonic spirits living in my home, in me…they were there.  They were not going anywhere.  I was popping Benedryl and trying to do anything to help me to sleep.  I literally was like a little kid with the light on.  My light on…my Bible next to me singing “Jesus Loves Me”…did not sleep.  I was like…I don’t know what’s happening….something is going on.  It was crazy.  Later I found out that my dad…my dad and the HS are like this (fingers together…they tight)…the Holy Spirit.  He was trying to pray protection over me.  I don’t know if you have ever experienced this but my dad won’t talk to just the Holy Spirit but he will talk to any other spirit that is impeding his way to be breaking through to what he is trying to do.  So he was like, “Who are you…what’s your name and why are you at my daughter’s house?”  So he wrote this long email.  My mom did not tell him one thing of what I told her.  I did not tell him and he wrote my mom this whole email.  These are the spirits that have a hold of our daughter…I have been praying but they have told me that I have no authority because she has welcomed them so this is what’s going on spiritually.  Anyway, I had no idea.  All that stuff just freaked me out, and I go to my mom’s house and I was like, “It was so weird.  I didn’t sleep at all last night.”  My mom was like..oh no…it is not weird.  I totally get it.  I know why you didn’t sleep last night.  I was like what?  She said just read the email…I printed it out for you.  I got to my mom’s house and I unpacked my bags and had a snack and did not even look at the email.  I was like…I don’t know what’s on that paper…I’m not going to read that.  It described everything.  I felt more shame because my dad is writing about how the spirit of homosexuality was welcome in my home and all this stuff and how the spirit of shame had taken captive of me.

Me:  And he had no idea?

Jill:  None.  So some family friends came over and they came to just pray over me.  I said, “Here’s the deal…I’m real scared.  Not about the spirits.  I’m 25.  I don’t know what it is like to be someone other than who I am.  I don’t know what that looks like.  I don’t  know how to be someone else.”  To them…or if I was in the ministering experience…I would be like…just give it 5 minutes.  You’ll get it…let’s keep going.  So then…we just started praying…and I had given my life to the Lord like every summer camp….Okay?  Re-dedication.  Re-dedication.  I was like…I will go down and give my heart to the Lord.  And he was like…you can’t give your heart to God if you don’t have all the pieces and you have given out all of the pieces to all these other people so we need to go get them back.  So…just breaking soul tie after soul tie after soul tie.  Then just rebuking the spirit of shame and everything.  I remember it to this day October 1, 2007 I sat on my parents couch and for the first time since I was 5…I felt innocent.  I felt purity.  I felt goodness.  I was like…what is this?  I didn’t just meet Jesus…I met myself in Him.  It was really…I was dead and now I am alive….oh my goodness.  It was magical.  From that point on I was like….I called my dad and said, “I totally get it!  All those crazy people at church that are like WOOHOO JESUS IS AMAZING….THEY ARE REALLY SAVED…THOSE ARE THE PEOPLE.  THEY GET IT.  THEY HAVE BEEN SET FREE…OH MY GOSH!!!”  It was just amazing.  So that was at 25 so it has been this amazing journey from  that point on.  So that was kind of the….I hope that was 5 minutes.

Me:  I don’t care.  It was awesome.  Oh my goodness.  How long did it take you to get healing from that because it is a process?

Jill:  It is a process but luckily the couple that was there, the husband is a facilitator for Fellowship of the Sword….and that is associated with Quest and Heart Quest.  So I literally started my 30 days prep the next day and thirty days later I went on my heart quest.  I had 5 days of intense….every area of your heart we are going in cleaning it out and getting rid of it and putting the Holy Spirit in there.  We are going in here, cleaning it out,  and putting the Holy Spirit in there.  I have never had so much anointing oil on my body in 5 days.

Me:  I’m sure you smelled great.

Jill:  I mean…yes.  It’s the best smell ever.

Me:  Yes…it is.

Jill:  I’m like…whew…smells like the Holy Spirit in here.  It was like the Lord knew exactly what I needed. That I needed this intense surgery right after, so that I could just keep moving.  It was like what I was talking with you and Sophie about….sometimes that what takes some people years and years to go through because that’s the process…they need it to take that long.  I feel like there are some people that He says “Yes..everyone around you takes this long usually to get through this, to get past this.  I have other things I need you to do, so I am going to fast forward.  Now you are at this place because I have all this other stuff that I have prepared for you.”  So that was 2007…I met my husband in 2008.  He had just received the Lord in 2007 as well…so if I wasn’t healed, if I hadn’t gone through the freedom that I had gone through I wouldn’t have been prepared to meet my husband.  He was living in Seattle and moved back to California and I was living in Dallas and just moved back to California and that’s when we met.  It was very much like He had other plans for us, so we just needed to get to the place we needed to be so that we could then start what we needed to start.

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My Gleanings

It doesn’t matter how old we are.  When the Lord renames you….accept it and change.  Jill for 25 years saw herself as shame and knew that it was her identity.  She WAS shame.  Then the Lord called her by a new name…His Pure Baby Girl.  All she did was believe Him.

You see, I had names from the enemy.  I was Scared.  I was Ugly.  I was Alone.  I was Rejected.  I was Weird.  I was Stupid.  I was the Outsider.  All names given to me by the enemy…but not by my God.  I am Loved.  I am His.  He is ALWAYS WITH ME.  I am Accepted.  I am Included.  I am Beautiful.  I am Forgiven.  I am Strong.  I am Pure.

What about you?  What name were you given by the enemy?  Any name that brings fear, pride, shame, death, pain, and the list could go on…that name is from the enemy.  So…what names from the enemy are you buying into?  Call them out….and break them with truth and love.

You were planned.  You were fearfully and wonderfully made.  You are beautiful.  You are loved.  You are accepted.  He will never leave you like they did.  He will never hurt you like they did.  He didn’t do that to you.  He holds you.  You ARE pure.  You are beautiful.  You are lovable.  You are His daughter.  You are His son.  You are strong.  You have a purpose.  You are strong and brave.  You will change the world.  He sees you.  He knows you the best.  He is your best friend.  He is you father or mother.  He is your love.  He will chase after you with His love.  After your worst day of sins He would still choose to get on the cross for you.  Your name is now….HIS BELOVED.

Now.  What shall we do with this new name?  Confidently walk in it like Jill and share your story of how the Lord renamed you.  Declare your new name to the world and Who gave it to you.

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“Expect a Miracle”: Coffee with Stephanie Grounds

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This is my friend Stephanie Grounds.  I have known her for about…oh…6 years now and developed a friendship with her from our time of fellowship at my previous church.  Stephanie and her husband Chad have been long time friends of my husband and have been there for him through thick and thin.  They have helped us move, cry, process, pray, and sharpen.  Stephanie is strong, brave, beautiful, perceptive, wise, feisty, gentle, humble, a wife, a daughter, and…a mother.  It is Stephanie’s story of personal struggle with infertility for years of her life that led me to ask her for coffee.  God entered the natural part of their lives and did the supernatural and now Stephanie and Chad are the proud parents of 3 beautiful children (Abigail Elise, Reese McKenna, and Noah Colt) all of which they were told they could never have.

I have many friends that are currently facing this battle and I wanted them to read Stephanie’s story to spark hope in their hearts.  Also, I want Stephanie’s story to spark hope in anyone’s heart that desperately needs a miracle.  I am the recipient of some crazy amazing miracles this past year and I KNOW first hand that our Heavenly Father is STILL in the business of miracles.  Don’t give up….keep pressing into Him.  He still moves mountains…opens wombs…heals the sick….casts the demon out…mends the broken hearted….AND holds us in His mighty magnificent hands.

(DISCLAIMER: The video above isn’t that great on sound.  I am still learning all of that stuff…so….much much MUCH grace is needed.  If you like hearing people cough in the background and any music from The Eagles…then…you will like the sound.)

Me:  How did God enter into your life and do the miraculous?

Stephanie: I think the miraculous point of change came through infertility…years and years of infertility…we were told we had a baby waiting for us through a crazy set of circumstances that I had been praying over.  We knew that there was this connection…we knew it in our hearts.  This baby was from the Houston area.  We’ve been told this is it…this is it…after years.  At the time, my sister calls me and says, “Hey there’s a baby in Houston.”  And we are freaking out together….are you kidding me?  You have a baby too?  We are going to both be moms!!  Then we do the math.  This is the same baby.  As painful as it was, it was like I realized I knew that I loved her but that was because she was going to be my niece and not my daughter.  It was crazy how the Lord worked things out.  The Lord allowed me to love her first and pray for her, and now I have a special connection with her and always will.  It was at that point in this whole journey with infertility that I gave up.  I was just like…I can’t do this anymore.  That’s when I fell on my face and the Lord took me to a verse in Isaiah and I told Him that day…”I am empty, barren, dried up…I feel old…I feel lost.  I’m this mom….who doesn’t have children.  I love children…yet you have not opened up my womb.  We have tried adoption and the door has shut.”  He took me to the verse in Isaiah.  It was talking about a tree and how I will be planted by water and that everything that I do will prosper…then it talks about direction and He’s giving me direction.  It was as if everything that I told Him…like I am dry…and He said “No, you’re not.”  I’m barren…”No you’re not.”  I told Him I am lost, and He said, “I will guide your steps.”  That happened in, I think, September or October and Bella (her niece that was adopted) came in January and my heart was just filled.  There was so much love, even though I didn’t have a child of my own, I was able to love her.  It felt so good to finally have a little person to love…she was the first grandbaby in the family.  It was healing.  That summer I felt like I was finally okay with the fact that we weren’t supposed to have a baby.  Then my friend came, and she knew that I was wounded and hurt from the season of when the door of adoption was shut on us.  She brought me a necklace with “Expect a Miracle”, and she wrote a note to me and that she is expecting a miracle in our life.  That’s when “Expect a Miracle” became my…

Me:  Catch phrase…

Stephanie:  Yeah…Expect a Miracle.  Then preacher called us down in front of church and had everyone lay hands on us to pray, and as He prayed….he was talking to the Lord and he was also sharing and said that he had driven by a sign that said “Expect a Miracle” and that Chad and Stephanie immediately came to mind and that the Lord is going to give them a miracle.  That was the second time…”Expect a Miracle” again.  This is crazy…this is my new thing.  Then that summer a friend of mine sent a book to me and said, “I hope this doesn’t wound you”.  I thought that was odd…why would this wound me…it is a gift.  But when I opened it up it was The Power of the Praying Parent.  Part of me was like…why would she give this to me?  She said, “The Lord told me to send this to you.”  I’m so grateful to this day that even though it was uncomfortable for her to do that…to send it to someone who had been struggling with infertility for 8 years at that time…she was obedient.  In turn…it was a blessing because I started reading the book.  We didn’t have a child but I was praying for my future child.  In her letter on the front of the card it had had my verse in Isaiah about being lost and He will guide my steps….if I feel dry, that He is a spring of water.  She also wrote in her letter that she was expecting a miracle.  That is when Chad and I were both like…okay…this is going to be something miraculous.  So…..we go to our fertility doctor.  We tried everything, and he said that He really felt that we needed to try in vitro.  I didn’t know if I should pursue it.  I was like…”Lord, I am asking you to open my womb…but then I would think…people get cancer and they still go to the doctor.  It isn’t that you don’t trust God to heal you.”  It was weird.

Me:  You were praying for the strategy.

Stephanie:  Yes.  You build our family but how do you you want to build it?  There was guilt going the fertility route…because it was like…am I trusting you God?  It was weird.  My husband was anti…but my doctor was saying this was it.  This is the last straw, and Chad put his foot down and said we weren’t doing that.  We kept Bella for a short time during the summer while my sister and her husband went on a cruise.  She was little…barely 6 months.  We kept her and there was so much joy in the house.  We giggled and we laughed and had so much fun with her.  We didn’t even get out of our pajamas for like two days straight.  After she left, Chad came up to me and said “Let’s try in vitro.”  I was like…okay.  So we went back to the doctor and went through the process and the day we were going to have the embryos…and that was the other thing we didn’t know how many embryos there were.  You don’t want to go through this because those are babies…that’s life…so I prayed, “Lord, just give us what we need.”  I was so afraid that there was going to be like 10 embryos and we were going to have to implant them all because they are all babies…not at the same time, but anyways…we get there that day.  My doctor said “Stephanie, you have two embryos.”  He said there were only two viable embryos and I said okay…he suggested we go ahead and implant both.  Chad was like, “I don’t know about all that…she is so small, and I was such a big baby.”  The fertility specialist says to Chad that there was only a 15% chance one would take.  (Steph begins to tear up.) So…we had to do both because there was only a 15% chance that ONE would take.  So we went in for implantation and you can literally see on the screen you can see a little light…it’s very tiny.  So on this magnified screen I watched as this little light went in and then…whoosh…this little light went in.  Two little lights.  Then the waiting came.  It was the longest two weeks of my life.  I was looking for any sign…Do I need to throw up?  Please…I want to throw up…so I could be pregnant.  So we went in and did the blood work and they were like…You are definitely pregnant.  That was at two weeks and they weren’t going to do a sonogram until 6 weeks.  I went back to work…I worked for several weeks.  6 weeks in I started feeling bad one morning…I went to the bathroom and was petrified.  I thought I was losing the babies.  I called my doctor and told them what was happening and they said for me to come in.  I called Chad and told him and he said that he was going to meet me over there, and I said no…(begins tearing up again)…I don’t know why but I wanted to be by myself.  I think because I felt so disappointed…and Satan had told me for so many years that I was less of a woman…and I believed him.  At that point it was like failure and I wanted to be by myself.  So I went into the office…I was devastated…sitting around with lots of pregnant women…devastated…and I went back there.  My doctor was very quiet and a little chipper.  I thought a little too chipper for the circumstances.  They did a sonogram and he started laughing and he said, “I knew it!  I knew it!”  I looked and on that screen you could see two.  He said, “This happens a lot with twins.  Some breakthrough…about 6 weeks in.”  I was like…wait a minute.  There’s two!!!  Then I felt guilt because I told Chad not to come. (laughs at herself)  I said you have to print pictures out and they said that they would print a million.  I went straight to Chad’s school and he was expecting devastating news and when he saw my face…I pulled out the sonograms, and we both cried.  That was our first miracle.

Me:  First miracle.

Stephanie:  First of many.  It was a totally smooth sailing pregnancy.  I mean I was sick, but who cares.  I embraced the sickness…it was the medal of honor.  In January…I would have been about 24 weeks along.  I was at work one day, and I remember the night before feeling tightness in my stomach, but I was thinking that I over did it…I was on my feet too much today.  The next morning I woke up still not feeling great.  I went to school and I was walking down the hall.  I remember stopping right where I was at and grabbing the wall and thinking…something is wrong.  I went straight to the nurses office.  She felt my stomach and she said that I was having contractions.  The school counselor immediately drove me straight to the hospital and Chad met me there.  It was a blur.  We walked in and they started hooking me up to monitors, exams, and before I knew it they were like listen….you are in full blown labor right now and we have to stop this.  I am like wait…what’s happening…what are you putting in me?  One of the nurses said, “We are not talking to you right now…we are trying to stop labor.  Everything that we are putting in you is to help your babies.  Their lungs are not fully developed.  If your babies are born today there is a great possibility they will die.”  They said I needed to lay back and relax and let them do their job…so I did.  Chad and I were thinking…there is no way that we got here…this far…for this to happen.  They were able to stop the labor.  They said that I would spend the duration of the pregnancy in the hospital.  That was on a Thursday and by Friday I was feeling fine again….I just had to be still.  By Saturday I started feeling kind of bad again.  I couldn’t catch my breath.  I told the nurse that I was having a hard time breathing.  She said that I was just having anxiety.  At the time Ashley and Blakely had come to sit at the hospital with me because it was my niece Bella’s birthday party and the whole family was here.  They were painting a sign with Ephesians 3:20, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.”  They painted it and hung it in my window.  I was then like…I can’t breathe….I don’t know what is going on.  Finally, my mom got back from the party and she said that there was something wrong and that it wasn’t anxiety.  They came in and took my oxygen levels and they said it was super low.  They put me on oxygen and then they took me down stairs to do a scan.  At first the guys were having light conversations with me but by the end of it they were barely moving me back onto the bed.  I said…”What’s going on?”  They said, “The doctor will talk to you.”  By the time they wheeled me upstairs Chad was at the hospital and my family was at the hospital and they said that they had a doctor that was going to come in and talk to me….a heart surgeon.  I was so confused about what was going on.  He came in with the doctor that was on call at the time and they said that they had found an aneurysm on my heart and that that is the reason why I was having problems breathing.  They said I had to have surgery…”You have to remove this aneurysm or you will die.”  I said, “How are you going to do surgery on me?  What does this look like?”  They said, “We are going to have to lower your body core temperature to the point that your heart is barely beating so that we can do the surgery.”  “What does that mean for my babies?”  They said, “Well, they won’t survive the surgery.”  I said, “Well, then we are NOT doing that surgery.”  They said, “You are going to die and they will die.  We have to save you.”  I said, “What you need to do is do a c-section first because we are going to give these babies a chance.”  I was thinking…oh my word….I felt so bad for Chad.  I knew that he wanted me but I wanted my babies(begins to cry).  I will never forget…it was preacher, my mom, and Chad all sitting there together and all of them…and then I looked up in the window and I saw that verse that had just been painted that morning…Ephesians 3:20.  I was like nope…this isn’t it.  There has got to be another answer.  They said, “There is no other answer.”  I said, “No, this is not it…there is something else.”  They got everybody out of the room and said they needed to do a scope of my heart so they could see exactly where the aneurysm is and take pictures of it.  Then they were going to fly me to Houston because no surgeons in the area wanted to operate on me.  My family is outside making arrangements for the trip to Houston.  I am still believing that there is still a miracle.  They do the scope, but I had to stay awake while they did it.  I am swallowing this scope…I can feel everything.  The surgeon said, “Stephanie…this is going to be awful.  I’m not going to lie…it’s going to be awful.  You are going to feel like you are going to die or choke to death.  You have got to do this and you have got to be still.  I don’t know where your happy place is but you have to go there right now.  What is your happy place?”  I just closed my eyes and I started swallowing that scope and the first picture was me sitting in the nursery with my girls and I was rocking them.  I was completely calm…I was gagging to death, but there was a calm.  I felt…later I even told Chad…that when they let him in to hold my hand and he said, “Stephanie…I didn’t.  I wasn’t in there.”  I said, “Yes, you were…you were holding my hand the whole time.”  I know now that it was the Holy Spirit just holding my hand right there with me…keeping me calm.  Chad and everyone was in the waiting room and I had no idea that half the church had come up and were all on their faces praying for our babies and for me.  Chad said that the doctor came and called him out.  Chad told me, too, that when I was going through this he was telling the Lord, “I can’t make this choice.  I want her, but I feel like she will never be the same if I tell her the babies are gone.  You have to choose Lord…you have to fix this.”  Anyways, he had called Chad out around the corner and he said, “Chad…I cannot find that aneurysm.  I have scans from every angle.  I showed you the scans, but when we put that scope in…I have never seen anything like it, but it is not there.”  Chad was like, “You are telling me it’s gone?”  And the doctor said, “Yes, it’s gone.  Completely gone.”  He said that there was just a Hallelujah outbreak in the waiting room.  Everybody had a fit.  From that day forward there were no complications.  At 32 weeks they took me back for emergency c-section because my water had broke and they took my babies.  (Begins crying)  Abigail Elise Grounds…she weighed 4 pounds 6 ounces…she was a big baby for 8 weeks early.  And Reese McKennah was 3 pounds 7 ounces…and they were just full of life and beautiful and perfect…that’s my miracles.  I delivered them in the same hospital where the doctor told me at 19 that I would never have babies and that I needed a full hysterectomy.  They are my total miracles, and of course my Noah Colt came…my cherry on top of a sundae…18 months later here he comes bounding in two weeks early at 9 pounds.

1012061_10201348233814157_539503079_n                                   (This is Abigail and Reese at birth)

Me:  Thank the Lord he was two weeks early.

Stephanie:  Yes!

1557558_10201348241894359_743202439_n                                               (This is Noah at birth.)

Me:  How do you find the Lord now?  How do you get in His presence now?  How is He holding your hand now?

Stephanie:  I think that it is more that He is always there and that I acknowledge that He is there.  In my daily.  With 3 kids under the age of 6 it is madness in our house…there isn’t a whole lot of sit down quiet time.  It happens early in the morning or late at night.  He talks to me through scriptures…through music…I have to find ways to make quiet.  It doesn’t happen as often as much as I want it to.  Now that my life is so loud all the time it is harder to get quiet with Him.  I have learned to listen to Him in the loudness.

Me:  A trained ear.

Stephanie:  Yeah.  And even through my kids.  It is amazing how much He teaches me through them.  I can be in the moment teaching my kids and saying, “Do you realize what you have done to your sister?” and then I hear, “Do you realize what you have done to Me?”  In trying to instruct my kids the Lord says…yeah…that’s you…do you get that?

Me:  They don’t give you a book on that when you become a parent….you don’t realize how much you learn about the Lord once you become a parent.  Even if it is just to be with us.  He will remind me that even if your child just got in trouble…would you still want to cuddle?  And, yes.  He wants to be with us.

Stephanie:  Yes.  I have learned so much about being a parent through Him and His unconditional love.  I thought I knew about it before but not until you have these little human beings walking around with your heart do you say…I get it now.  It is overwhelming that He loves us.

Me:  So…my last question.  Can you tell me about Jesus?

Stephanie:  He is my calm in the midst of the storm.  He is my Father….(begins to tear up)…who loves me…no matter what.  He loves the yuckiness of me.  He’s my protector.  He’s everything.  (Crying)  He is the reason I can go on.  When I look back at the past of my life and it is like a masterpiece that He has put all the puzzle pieces together.  He is just fitting it all together.  I look back in time of my life and I wonder why these times were hard growing up…and…you know my past with my mom.  Early on it was very tumultuous…He was the calm in all of that, and placed me on the path.  I could have so easily gone this way, but He put me…(crying)…right here.  I just feel honored that…I don’t know why He chose me but….He has been my Shepherd since I was little bitty.  What I think about my life and what it could have looked like…it was bad…a lot of abuse…a lot of turmoil…He’s my calm.  He has been from day one.  Obviously He’s my Savior.  He’s cleaned me up.  (tears are flowing)

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My Gleanings

I want Stephanie to write a book about her story.  I do.  To document the miraculous work the Lord has done so that she and others can look back on it and remember…REMEMBER…what the Lord has done and can do again.  When we come out of miraculous breakthrough it can be a shock at times…we are grateful…but almost like a deer in head lights at what the Lord just did.  I am honored that I have had the opportunity to write a small portion of the miracle the Lord did in Stephanie’s life.  He showed up…right there with her…an individual no different than any of us.  He was there the whole time.  He was there in the hospital room when she was 19 and the doctor told her to get a hysterectomy because she couldn’t have children.  He whispered in her ear and said..No…that’s NOT your story.  He was on the floor weeping with her as she wept for the closed door to adoption.  He was giving her the dreams of holding her very own children.  He spoke life into her and said…”Expect a Miracle”…so she did.  He held her hand…literally…when she was choking back a scope that was to get a glimpse of an aneurysm threatening her miracles.  He gave her miracles a miracle when He saved her life and theirs in the hospital facing surgery.  He THEN gave her abundantly more than what she could ever think or imagine by allowing her to conceive her son Noah with no medical assistance at all.

He was there.  He was there.  HE WAS THERE!!!! He is with us.  EVERY DETAIL of our lives are accounted for and HE IS THERE!!  Where is He in your life?  Where is He daily in mine?  He doesn’t miss a thing.  Wherever we go He finds us and He knows every detail of our lives.  He will NEVER leave us or forsake us.

I will stop asking for God to show up….I will now just start acknowledging that He is there….always.

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A List of Gleanings: 2015

I wanted to get this post out yesterday, but it was a bit more hectic than I thought it would be.  2015 was a miraculous year for myself and our family, and I am forever grateful to the Lord for what He did in this past year.  One of the many blessings was the idea He gave me to go after women of God and glean as much wisdom as possible from them over coffee.

I started this whole adventure back in April.  Since then I have had coffee with 12 women, and I have gleaned the following:

  • Stay humble as a parent before your children so that your pride won’t keep them from being a healthy whole adult.
  • Treat your husband like the king he is and in turn he will turn around and treat you like a queen.
  • Hear the voice of the Lord and obey.
  • Walking with the Lord is an adventure.
  • If you stand still in your faith you will drift away.
  • The Lord equips those He has called.
  • God sees us and He cares what happens to us.
  • Without God our vision will always be distorted and our relationships will be corrupted.
  • Keep our vision of eternity widened.
  • God’s goodness…it is worth everything.
  • God, do whatever You have to do in my heart to cause me to follow You.
  • On my worst day, Jesus would still choose to get on the cross for me.
  • Give God your night and devote you heart to Him before you sleep.
  • How do You like to be with me Lord when I am not praying, fasting, or reading my Bible?
  • Study your Jewish roots, and as a Christian you will begin to see the completion of the story God is writing.
  • He is wanting us to miss Him so bad that we are willing to do anything to find Him again.
  • I want to love Jesus so much that I cry when I speak of Him.
  • Sins of the past are not your identity.  I am not a sinner I am now a saint because that other person is dead.
  • If it is bad now….He isn’t done yet.
  • I am a well-loved child of the King.
  • Our identity in Christ is our foundation….our soil.
  • Find the rhythm of getting into the presence of God.
  • God’s plan is bigger than my dream.
  • If we don’t know where our identity comes from we are useless to the Kingdom.
  • “No one can ever tell me that Jesus doesn’t exist.  I’ve experienced His love too much.”
  • He is good and always will be.
  • Without the Holy Spirit we stereotype people and judge people.
  • See people through the eyes of the Lord.
  • My life is a beautiful weaving between God and Me filled with dark and light threads that make a beautiful complete tapestry.
  • Beauty WILL come from ashes.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others.
  • We all come messed up to the Father.  It is just not okay to stay that way.
  • Use your today for the next generation.
  • Let’s do today.  I have enough grace and faith to do today.
  • Your child will pay attention to the voice that cheers loudest even if it is not the winning team.  So yell….loudly.
  • I am a daughter of the most high king.
  • When you know your identity in Christ the fun begins and the religion ends.
  • Crying is a sign of strength.
  • The Lord never changes but we can always go to Him and get a new glimpse of Him…daily.
  • Resting is a mindset.  Shabbat daily.
  • Shabbat meal- intentionally making room in our home to rest in Him, and dedicate the week to Him and bless our children.
  • Fathers, intentionally lay hands on your wives and children…it will change their future.
  • Tentology- The study of leaving the busyness of camp to intentionally meet with the Lord.  The study of meeting with God.
  • Anchor in the presence of God, and take it wherever you go.
  • Prayer is about relationship and abiding with the Lord.
  • Intercession is partnering with the Lord.
  • If you learn how to obey you will learn how to be.
  • Abide in the Lord and then you can be who you were meant to be.
  • Pray from the faithfulness of God.
  • Be kinder than necessary.
  • The Bible is a treasure chest.

 

After typing all of these up it is overwhelming to see the goodness of God and the wisdom he allowed me to glean this year.  I just really need to get it deep down in my soul, so that it in turn can produce fruit.

Looking forward to what gleanings the Lord has in store for 2016.

 

“Be Kinder Than Neccesary”: Part 3 of Coffee Gleanings with Mary Jo Pierce

This Christmas was a time filled with blessings and busyness.  Our time was filled with fellowship with family and loved ones, eating, laughing, baking, looking at Christmas lights, praying, rejoicing, staying in our pajamas all day…..and eating some more.  I also spent a great deal of time quietly reflecting on the goodness of God and the blessings of spiritually appointed friendships and that including the memorial service for my dear friend who passed away on December 12 that I was blessed to attend yesterday.

Today is the last day of 2015 and I am still reflecting on the goodness of God…and mildly weepy and hugely sentimental as I shuffle through the house this morning.  I awoke today eager to finish up my gleanings from spending time with Mary Jo.  I knew that when I started  this that I needed to take my time so that the seeds that Mary Jo sowed into my heart that day could really sink in and take root.

This is the last addition to a 3 part blog post, so if you haven’t read the first two gleanings you can catch up by going back and taking a look at them.

I asked the Holy Spirit this morning to give me a word that would describe what this gleanings have done to me, and I received this:

Piercing

It has PIERCED me and is still PIERCING me.  Mary Jo is gentle but the presence of the Most High that she carries pours out of her, and when she speaks it directly to your heart….it pierces it and lets the Most High in….and it keeps on piercing days…weeks…and I hope months afterwards.  I’m so thankful that she had coffee with me and as a result has been mentoring me all month long.  She has asked me to come to her house again to teach me to bake….I can’t wait.  “I need to knead.”

 

Me:  What is the greatest lesson you have learned?

Mary Jo:  It came quick this morning when I thought about it….so…it’s the faithfulness of God.  The scripture I thought of was….John 16:33…where…let’s look it up okay?

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

Mary Jo:  So I think the biggest lesson I have learned in hindsight…which is why I love getting older because you have hindsight…is the faithfulness of God.  That we ARE going to have tribulations and troubles…mountains and valleys….but He has been so faithful.  Prayers have not always been answered the way I thought….or wanted….but God has come to overcome and it brings me great hope for the days at hand and the days ahead.  That we tap into that power and that peace of God, and pray from that faithfulness of God.  He is faithful.  If I have a whole bunch of time to think about it I would think about a whole bunch more…but also my motto is “Be Kinder Than Neccesary”.  I think that kindness trumps a lot of hurts…and lets God have an opportunity to love.

Me:  Hmmm….I need to keep that in mind….

Mary Jo:  I’ve got it on a sign…I’ve got to keep it in mind too.

Me:  …..I need to have something that says that on it….Be kinder than neccesary…especially when I am driving.  What do you still WANT to learn?

Mary Jo:  Ah…..we kind of touched on it a little bit…but if I had nothing else to do and in this season of my life…I want to learn the Word more.  I think that’s it.  I want to learn the Word more.  Not here (points to her head), but here (points to her heart)…I’m fascinated by the word of God.  And I’m not a read through kind of person….that’s never been a good fit for me.  I’m a topical study reader…so if God gives me a word like “Pearls”…I’ll search it out.  I’ll look it up in the dictionary.  I’ll start a calligraphy…I’ll  have a conversation with God.  I love to go through the scriptures and get the whole of God’s heart on a word in particular.  Here is my new favorite scripture.  It’s in 1 Kings 8:58…and it says…my translation….Lord, keep me centered and devoted to You watching the signposts on the road of the path that You cleared for me….and find the pace and the rhythm of my life.  Now that is a loose translation and I would have to look it up to get it quoted right.  It’s on my blog.  I wrote a blurb about it called “Recalibrate”.  What I love about it is….its priorities…Lord, keep me centered and devoted to You.  It’s keeping me in the center of His will….the path that YOU’VE cleared for my life watching the signposts.  What are you saying?  What are you doing?  And then find the pace and rythym of my life.  I looked that up because I thought…hmmm…because a lot of it came from the Message….and I thought pace…how did they come up with that?  Because in the other translations it says following the laws and the commandments that you set up for me by my forefathers…but if you look it up with the Bereans  who have studied the Word…that WAS the rest of God…the rest of God is a commandment.  “Following Your will”…those are the commandments of God.  And THEN what I found out when I was digging a little more…in First Chronicles 29:19…(begins to get choked up)…David prayed that for Solomon….so David prayed that for His son…and even in one translation it says that Solomon would be focused and uncluttered…to build the temple.  These are important to God…that we would find the rest and the pace that God  would have us live.  We will accomplish all that we want to and not wear ourselves out, and wear out the people around us.  So David prayed it for Solomon and when Solomon had built the temple he stood up and declared it over Israel….so First Kings 8:58 was part of his prayer…and dig into that more….it’s so…I mean….I used to say that if all scripture was just Genesis 1 and 2 it would be enough…now I am thinking…If all of scripture was just 1 Kings 8…it would be enough.  So…what do I want to learn?  (begins to get choked up again)  I would love it to be said…she was centered and devoted to God.  (Now I am getting choked up)  Her life was a model of someone centered and anchored to God and followed the path that HE cleared out for her…I didn’t make this path for me…I just believed God and believed the things pastor Olen prayed over me….called out of me intercession, and believed those grandiose things that God was saying about me…that He could make happen….that I would teach prayer…oh what a privilege…that I would represent to others what it means to connect with God…what an honor…and that I would find the pace and the rhythm of God…I wouldn’t demonstrate that to serve God you have to “do”….so…I would like that scripture to be said over my life when I am at the end.

Me:  Amen.  I love how you look at the Bible like a treasure chest.  It’s like you are finding jewels and treasure every single time you open it….you’re like…I DIDN’T KNOW THAT WAS THERE!

Mary Jo:  Like 1st Kings 8:58….there is that generational blessing.  David prayed for his son passing it on…I want to be an answer to that prayer that David prayed.  I want to be an answer to that prayer that Jesus prayed in John 14, 15, 16, and 17….you know….I want to be an answer to prayer that they wanted in the upper room….and God came.  I want my life to be answered prayer….for the word of God.

Me:  Amen.  Can you tell me about Jesus?

Mary Jo:  Mmmm…..I had a very interesting encounter with Jesus….in wanting to know more of who He is…and knowing Him as friend and go deeper even.  So who is Jesus?  Besides my King, Redeemer, Savior…you know all those things that scripture says He is…He has been….You know how you can reach out and touch someone like I can reach out and touch you?  Jesus has been that connecting point to understanding the Trinity.  (Begins to tear up)  Jesus has become…Emmanuel…God with us.  A couple of years ago…I was sitting in my listening chair…it was at the end of November.  I thought…I have nothing going on in December.  I wasn’t fasting for anything in particular, and I thought I would really love to get to know Jesus better….He walked with me and He talked with me…what’s that really like.  I had this idea and I went and bought a red journal and a red pen.  Did I tell you this before?

Me:  Yes, but go ahead and say it….

Mary Jo:  I took the Gospel of John and I had a conversation with the Lord just using the red letter words.  It started out very childlike.  On the very first page I said…”I just want to come at You like a child….like in scripture in Matthew, Jesus, where You lay hands on the children and You say ‘suffer not and let the children come unto me.” You laid hands on them and prayed for them….and I want that.  (begins to tear up again)  I want you to come and lay hands on me and pray for me.  I want to come to you as a child.  So I started the journey through the gospel of John, and I thought it would take me a month…or 21 days because there are 21 chapters.  I was going to check them off my list and….it took me a year.  In March I told the Lord, “Do You realize we are still at the well?”…which was chapter 4.  It’s become my richest treasure.  In the process there was a time I was crying out to God…I was going through a difficult time…I needed a healing…and I sensed…Megan it was right here.  (Points to the area right in front of her prayer chair)  I was sitting here…and I sensed that Jesus was right there.  I can’t say that I saw a light…but there was a presence.  I sensed that He came over and He laid His hands on me and He prayed for me.  Let me go back a minute.  In that journal at one point when I was crying out to God He said, “Give me your hand.”  So I took my right hand and laid it on the left page and I outlined it.  I looked at it and I thought…that’s odd…why did I do this?  It felt unsymmetrical to me so I took this hand (her left) and outlined it (on the opposite page).  When I cried out to Him, He reminded me of this page and when the Lord came over to lay hands on me it was exactly like the book.  Jesus has become…I want more…I need more…I feel like I have just touched the hem…but walking with Him through those scriptures and having a conversation with Him…He has really become my personal introduction…my ambassador in to the Trinity…my flesh on the ideas….the reality of who the Father is and the promise of the Spirit…so….it’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I’ve just started.

Me:  Yes, the more that you are with Him the more you realize how big He is.

Mary Jo:  Yes…and I would like to say something for the….I love getting older.  I will be 70 next year, and I love hindsight…but I really want to encourage young women…young mothers…young business women…young men and women…wherever they are on the journey to count their days…to value their days.  You are in full time ministry…fully embrace that apron season.  Fully embrace the three year old who is learning to communicate to others…there will be more….there’s more…God’s plans…no question about it….but don’t want to rush through….or despise a small beginning…or neglect the seasons that are so rich…for thinking of the by and by.

Me:  Thank you Mary Jo…I have so much to glean.

Mary Jo:  Let me pray for you.

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My Gleanings

I will try and keep this brief…not sure why but I am.  In this last part of our coffee date I gleaned three things:

  • Pray from the faithfulness of God.
  • Be kinder than necessary.
  • The Bible is a treasure chest.

I needed to write this out in bullet form so I can keep it fresh on my brain.  I will probably write a post tomorrow just listing all of the wisdom I have gleaned this year.  Oh…YES…that’s happening.

Pray from the faithfulness of God:  If when I leave my prayer closet or prayer tent and still feel a burden, then I haven’t left it with the Lord.  If I consistently do not leave my burdens with Him then I must ask myself a tough question…do I trust Him?  Is He faithful?  If I say yes…then why are my actions not proving it?  Why do I walk out of my prayer tent carrying everything that I was to entrust to Him?  He is faithful and good…I can trust Him, and if I truly trust Him then my actions will prove it.  I will leave my burdens with Him.  I will stay focused on Him…and never lose site.  What you behold is what you become.

Be kinder than necessary:  I like this, but what does it look like in my life?  I need to go to the Lord on this one and have Him show me.  I already know that sometimes it will mean to just keep my mouth shut….eek.

The Bible is a treasure chest:  Seeing how Mary Jo approaches the Scriptures has forever changed me.  They are like a treasure chest that I can open up every day and see what treasure they hold and what adventures it will take me on.

So…let me make this statement…confession…declaration:  I will daily get in the presence of the Most High, look at His Word as a treasure chest, allow it to continue to show me the faithfulness of God and allow it to change my heart so  that I am kinder than necessary…every day. (Whew…here goes nothing.)

Finding the Rhythm of God: Coffee with Mary Jo Pierce part 2

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Before you start reading this post be forewarned that the contents in here may actually change your life and the lives around you….plus, it is part 2 of three so go back and read the first one if you haven’t yet.

In this section of the time I spent with Mary Jo having coffee we discussed in depth her love for her Jewish roots and also “Tentology”…which is a word that Mary Jo created herself to talk about pulling away from the busyness of camp.

The gleanings from these two questions I put into affect in my household THIS week and it has already changed the atmosphere.  I will go into it more in my gleanings.

Again, Mary Jo is so precious and wise.  The anointing that she carries for prayer and her insight into scripture is contagious.  So again, be forewarned….you may catch it too after you read and watch this post.

 

 

Me:  Alright so the other thing about you that I love that fascinates me is…falling in love with our roots.  And you do the same thing…you celebrate Jewish festivals and you do Shabbat as well.  How long have you been doing that?  What shifted in you?  Why do you do that?

Mary Jo:  Okay…so…I’ve watched other families incorporate it into their lives…and it has always been fascinating to me.  I would read about the feasts…I’m going to Israel so I am understanding more and more about the times and the seasons of God…but what happened specifically about Shabbat was…about 5 years ago…a few years ago….I was trying to understand rest.

Me:  Mmmmm

Mary Jo:  Mmmm!  That four letter word rest?

Me:  Yes…its convicting…go ahead.

Mary Jo:  I was really coming from a time of burn out.  Just being more of a DO..er than a BE..er.  I was having a serious conversation with the Lord about it.  I’ve gone down the road before where I’ve said to Him…I know how to do but I don’t know how to be.  In fact these are from the days of Shady Grove.  I can remember exactly where my prayer chair was at that time.  The Lord said to me, “If you learn how to obey, you will learn how to be.  Spell Obey.”  And right in the middle of the word obey is the word be.  So He said “If you learn how to obey you will learn how to be.”  So I have always known that that was foundational to finding the rythym of God in my life.  But sometimes my enthusiasm, commitments, life itself..can get ahead of me.  So here I was asking the Lord really about how to find that rythym of rest…in my life.  I was googling rest and I came across the book called “The Gift of Rest” by Joe Lieberman.  Joe Lieberman is the democratic congressman.  He is an Orthodox Jew…so I downloaded it and I opened, and there it was.  On the very first page was a quote from the Talmud…and what it says is, “The Holy One blessed be He”.  And the minute I read that, Megan, the rest of God settled on me.  The Holy One blessed be He…and there was like an awe that came .  I know that we call Him Abba and Daddy…but the Holy One blessed be He said to Moses “Moses, in My storehouse is a goodly gift, and Sabbath is its name.”  The Lord said to me, “Mary Jo…it’s a gift. It’s a goodly gift I’ve given you.  If you’ll learn how to Shabbat…If you will learn how to Sabbath…you’ll go another lap.”  That’s all it took, Megan, and I am on a quest.  I’m not where I want to be.  I’m not where I need to be, but I am in love with the goodly gift and the graciousness of God…to WANT us to have a rhythm of rest in our lives.  To want us to come to Him…”all ye who are weary and heavy laden I will give you rest.”  And all of us no matter where we are in our walk with the Lord…our prayer burdens can become unrighteous.  They can become heavy.  They can become burdensome.  We think that we care more, but we don’t care more than God does.  There’s always got to be that alignment and that…that lining up and that measuring and that walking with God…and Sabbath is the goodly gift.  I went and I polished my silver and I’m reading his book and I got my china out.  I called Central Market and I said…I thought I would dumb it down for them….”Do you have any of that CHallah bread? (Ch…being pronounced here)”  And they said, “Oh do you mean the Challah bread (Ch…as in phlegm pronounced)?” And I set the table and I invited guests.  We just talked about what God was doing in our lives.  So that was the small beginning.  Then in really finding the heart of God for this…it’s enormous.  I’m having fun with it now.  I’m learning how to make the  challah bread.  I’m finding out that I “need” to “knead”.  I love every bit of the process.  God has hidden in His scriptures…He has hidden in the feasts…and if we dig there is tools and there is tips…and there’s life.  There’s a blessing that comes with Shabbat that I’ve watched demonstrated in Israel in the homes that I have been invited into to experience their Shabbats.  When I was in Israel one time it was a friday night and our team we were having dinner at our table and behind us were two long tables.  There must have been 40 relatives.  Generations.  Before they started the meal they went around and blessed each other.  Mothers cupping their children’s faces.  Uncles hugging each other.  Grandparents embracing the grandchildren.  Laying hands.  Fathers going over to their sons.  There was such a blessing.  I thought…wow, God…how many people do we minister to today that are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s…that have never had a father’s blessing?  What if the church…had in us…a weekly gathering where the fathers honor the wives…where the fathers spoke blessings over the children?  What Joe Leiberman said was that his children…no matter what went on that week…good, bad, or ugly…they knew that when they came to the Shabbat table (begins to get choked up) that their father was going to bless them.  I want that for the church.  I want that for us.  I want that for the believers.  So…I’ve really come to believe that….this is my theology….that in the Romans scripture where it says, the one new man where the Jew and Gentile come together…I don’t believe that the Jews are going to become Gentiles.  You know where in scripture that it says that we provoke them to jealousy?  (choking up again)  I’m provoked to jealousy right now.  I believe that they have keys that we need in the church…that we need incorporated into our lives…a rhythm of God.  Pastor Robert teaches…there are not nine commandments…there are ten commandments.  We must remember to keep holy the sabbath day.  What does that look like?  What does that look like?  I believe that there is more intentionality.  So, Megan…I’m on this side of what I am learning.  I love what God is showing me personally.  I’ll tell you this…when I talk about it…it creates a hunger and a thirst and a curiousity in other people.  I love what you are doing because a leader just shares what they know.  I know that there are a lot more people that know a LOT more about Shabbat than I do…and the feasts…and the celebrating, but I know a little bit more than some others…so I want to share my little and continue to grow in the much.

Me:  Well, it bridges the gap.

Mary Jo:  It does.

Me:  It calls people and brings them along to where as you learn more..then the rest of us can learn more…then other people.

Mary Jo:  Plus, I sense the heart of God on it.  I mean…I’ve taught people to needle point, crochet, cross stitch, make pies…I’ve taught prayer, communing with God, quiet time, spiritual disciplines…but there is a weightiness of God on this that says this is not you, Mary Jo.  This is something that I am depositing in you that I want for others.  This is how I feel about intercession.  I’m an intercessor, and often times with intercessors God will trust us to carry a mandate, an anointing, a calling…that He wants us to war for so it paves the way for the others to come in.  Does that make sense?  Like Moses standing and getting the water parted.

Me:  Like a trail blazer.

Mary Jo:  Yes.  That’s how I see a lot of intercession.  So I am contending…what does that look like in my life?  What sacrifices do I have to make?  How does that flush out?  Here is something else that I love that Joe Leiberman talked about in the book…Shabbat is not 24 hours…it is a mindset.  Its all week long.  I am going to have to find out that somewhere in that that God is teaching me ceaseless praying…because on  Tuesday I could find chocolates and think…Oh…that would be good for the Shabbat meal.  All week they are planning on meeting with God.  There’s more of an intentionality in that that I have in my life…so ….

Me:  Just in you saying that, I’m thinking about the Father’s blessing.  For a kid to come up and know that they will get that weekly blessing from their father on Friday…but EVERY SINGLE DAY…we can wake up…He will hold us in His hands and say…You are my child, and I love you.

Mary Jo:  There is something to it.  So I am on a journey…a quest…I love the baking.  I’m a Home Ec. major…they don’t have that anymore.  They made me take chemistry, so I quit and joined the airlines.  I love the kitchen.  I love the preparing.  I’ll put my ear phones on, and turn up Marty Geotz really loud.  We just start singing about Shabbat in the kitchen.  Even if I am making bread and we are not going to have a gathering, I make it to give it away.  I love it so much.

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Me:  I was going to ask you why you like to bake but you just explained it.  You also talk about Tentology….which is kind of in the same realm…I’m thinking….but what exactly is Tentology?

Mary Jo:  I will tell you what Tentology is…because it is my favorite word…because I made it up.  I don’t love it because I made it up but I love God’s heart behind it.  In Exodus 33:7 it talks about Moses leaving the busyness of camp and pitching a tent to meet with God.  It goes back to that busyness of life, and how important it is for us to be able to leave that busyness of life and establish a place to meet with God.  Tentology is really the study of the tent…so…I’m a Tentologist.  (We laugh)  My life is dedicated to studying about meeting with God.  Now I’ve written about it and I wrote about it in my book…my prayer chair…an intential place to meet with God.  I know that I can pray with Him in the car, shopping, hunting…wherever…but this is a dedicated set apart sanctified place that I meet with God.  It’s my tent of meeting.  Then I’ve learned how God has taken that presence of God that I meet with Him here tucked it in my heart…and I can be teaching…I can be in a moment of contending…I can be in a busy place and I can find that tent place in my heart and just tuck in.  I call it tucking in.  Tentology is the study of meeting with God.  It is the study of the pulling away from the busyness of life.  Its back to that rhythm of God…incorporated into our daily life.

Me:  How would you give advice to Moms….where even when you go to the bathroom you see the little fingers under the door?

Mary Jo:  Here’s a couple of things.  One time at the alter I was praying for someone…it was a young mother…they live in an apartment…married…four children…and I said, “You need a place to meet with God.”  You need a tent.  I said, “Let me pray for you.”  I prayed that God would show her His place to meet with her.  A couple of weeks later she found me…she was all excited and said she had found the place.  Her “tent” was in the bathtub with no water.  She would literally go into the bathtub and that was her place where she met with God.  I know that that just blessed the Lord…He met with her there, and that was her tent of meeting.  For some it is sitting in a car…not on…its removing yourself….and I know those little fingers that come under…YET even in that…I’m thinking about the very first prayer room that I ever had when my grandchildren were 2 and 3.  They would color while I wrote.  I think of Susan Wesley the mother of…she had 19 children and she ended up raising 10.  Her tent was an apron.  When her kids saw her apron go over her head they knew she was praying.  How about that?  I love it!!!  (pure giddiness)

Me: (In shock…my brain just blew up a bit) I.  Love.  That.

Mary Jo:  I know!!!  I love it.  AND…a friend of mine loved the idea of a prayer chair…the intentionality of it…what it said…and she went home…she has small children…she found a chair and she carried it into the bedroom.  They asked what she was doing, and she said listen you can talk to God anywhere but this is my special chair.  This chair is my meeting place with God.  A couple of days later her young boy…probably about 7 or 8…came home and said, “Hey mom, I need to talk to God about something…can I sit in your prayer chair?”  She watched him go in there and she watched his face have this intense conversation with God…and when it was over he got up and said, “That was good.”  And she said, “What was that all about?”  And he said that there was a bullying situation at school and he didn’t know how to handle it and God gave him an idea.

Me: (speechless) (silence…wait for it…THEN I speak)  That’s amazing.

Mary Jo:  That IS amazing, Megan!!!  This is my prayer chair…this is my safe place…this is where I am totally me.  This is where I meet with God and I work things out with Him.  I LEAVE burdens with Him here.  Where I had this prayer chair recovered my sister who moved to Heaven in 2004 was my prayer partner and she had a slipcover over her prayer chair, so I got the slipcover and the fabric that is under mine is her prayer chair.  Isn’t that sweet?  So, tentology is really just a study of  meeting with God.  Where it becomes a place that we meet with God and it becomes the presence of God that we anchor in here and we take it wherever we are at.  You know when people say…”There is just something about her.  She carries the joy of the Lord.  She carries the presence of God.”  What is it?  I believe that it is that they have learned how to meet with God, and they carry that with them.  Even in the bad times…I don’t want to be Pollyanna about this…but I’ve gone into some very hard places…sad places…but I carry what God has given me here.

Me:  Because you have got to be the light.

Mary Jo:  You’ve got to meet with God.  How to leave that business…and meet with Him face to face.  Read Exodus 33.  Scripture says that when they watched Moses walk towards the tent of meeting they would put their little tents on.  Did you know that the tallits are called “little tents”?

Me:  Yes, I did know that.

Mary Jo:  Some theologians say that Paul was a tent maker but his “tents” were prayer shawls.  Did I share that?

Me:  Yes you did.  I love that.  I want one.

Mary Jo:  Well there is one right behind you.

12140808_10153537806725272_5888632154687762729_n (This picture is from Mary Jo’s website http://www.maryjopierce.com and also her facebook page.  It is a picture of her lighting the Shabbat candles…and by the shape of the bread loaf…it was Rosh Hashana.)

My Gleanings 

Ok…my Christmas list is ever growing longer and longer as I keep reflecting on my time with Mary Jo….now I have added a prayer shawl to my list.  So…Kyle….hint hint…wink wink…nudge nudge.  I also need to learn how to bake bread, but that is a different story…and requires much practice.

Rest.  Yes.  It has been a dirty little four letter word in my life and even now it still can be.  Rest.  It has been a knock down drag out fight between me and the Lord…of which He always wins.  I must rest.  It isn’t a time out…punishment…which is how I viewed it until just the past year or so.  It is a gift…a necessity…a command.  “If you learn how to obey, you will learn how to be.  Spell Obey.”  A simple Word from the Lord, but difficult nonetheless.  We could interpret this as obeying every rule to the T from the Bible and making sure we are picture perfect and at church EVERY single time the doors are open and….and….and…that is not what it is meaning.  The Lord is saying…meet with ME…obey ME…rest in ME….Abide in ME…and then and only THEN can you BE.  Be who you were meant to BE.

And as Mary Jo was saying Rest is a mindset…Shabbat is a daily practice.  This is why I loved gleaning everything that I could from Mary Jo about Shabbat.  There is a deliberate intentionality to weekly rest and meeting with God in your own home with your loved ones that fills me with awe.  You are saying “God, we as a family are making room for you to come in and meet with us in a very special way at this Shabbat meal as we celebrate You and that we can eternally Shabbat in You.”  Yes, it is a mindset we have as believers all week BUT to actually have a dedicated meal to remember this and be intentional about it…it is just beautiful.  I also love the blessing of the children and the mothers.  Every week my husband lays his hands on our children and speaks a blessing over them…no matter how the week has been.  He then blesses me and my kiddos lay hands on me and bless me as well.  “Her children rise up and call her blessed;her husband also, and he praises her:” (Proverbs 31:28)  Mary Jo is right.  This is a key we need in the church.  Her words and the cry of her heart…I am gleaning and pasting below for they have been pressed upon my heart now as well.  There is no going back after gleaning this:  

There was such a blessing.  I thought…wow God…how many people do we minister to today that are in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s…that have never had a father’s blessing?  What if the church…had in us…a weekly gathering where the father’s honor the wives…where the father’s spoke blessings over the children?  What Joe Leiberman said was that his children…no matter what went on that week…good, bad or ugly…they knew that when they came to the Shabbat table (begins to get choked up) that their father was going to bless them.  I want that for the church.  I want that for us.  I want that for the believers.

Now…tentology.  Don’t you just love that word?  I’m just upset that I wasn’t cool enough to come up with it first.  I gleaned this and was able to put this into practice first thing the day after having coffee with Mary Jo.  I had my quiet time and when I went to pray I told my daughter that I was going under the “prayer tent” and that while mommy was under there she needed to not interrupt.  She was polite and obeyed…after about the 2nd reminder…we are working on it.  However, the most touching part was that during her nap time she emerged from her room to tell me that she had just come out of her prayer tent.  I went into her room to see her prayer tent, and when I approached her bed I saw her little blanket piled in the middle around her Bible.  She is three….and she is learning to meet with God.  I asked what the Lord talked to her about and she said…”That He loves me.”  Yes.  Tears!!!  More TEARS!!!!!  I texted Mary Jo immediately to let her know of the blessings that are spilling over into our family from just that one particular gleaning.

This week I remind myself of this gleaning and to pull away from the busyness of camp to meet with God for it is a heart crushing week.  I lost a dear friend, mentor, and colleague to cancer this past Saturday. “There is just something about her.  She carries the joy of the Lord.  She carries the presence of God.”…are words that Mary Jo could have used to describe my friend.  In reading this and typing it….that is my prayer.  I want to carry the presence of the Lord in this difficult time.  I must make room for Him.  I MUST leave the busyness of camp and meet with Him in a very intentional way.  He has something to tell me, and most importantly He wants to hold me and let me cry and yell if I have to.

So, tentology is really just a study of  meeting with God. Where it becomes a place that we meet with God and it becomes the presence of God that we anchor in here and we take it wherever we are at.

So, I must meet with God and abide in His presence and anchor in that…THEN I can take it wherever I go.  THEN and only THEN can I change and affect the world around me.  Where the presence of the Lord is change happens, and I can carry it with me IF…I meet with Him.  This week I want to take His presence with me even if I am in mourning and the others around me are mourning.  We will make room for Him…meet with Him…mourn with Him…remember our friend with Him…laugh with Him…and the more of HIM we get…the more of HIM we will leave wherever we go.  Just like my friend did, and just like Mary Jo does.

“Prayer is birthed in knowing who God is”: Coffee with Mary Jo Pierce (part 1)

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Last Friday I was blessed to have coffee with Mary Jo Pierce at her home…in her prayer room.  Such a precious little gift that the Lord gave me, and I am moved by it.

Mary Jo Pierce is the Pastor of Prayer and Intercession at Gateway church…where I am a full time member.  She has been on staff there since 2004, and has since cultivated a rich culture of prayer AND intercession for Gateway.  She is creative, gentle, wise, and oh-so-curious.  In the words of my three year old…”She’s pretty” as well.  Mary Jo has also recently launched her own website within the last year, and you can take at look by going to maryjopierce.com  You can learn all kinds of things there including her love for prayer, Shabbat, and baking.

When I first saw Mary Jo it was at a service at the Southlake campus of Gateway (not completely sure which one), but she approached the stage to pray.  Mary Jo has such a gentle voice when you speak with her and when she began to speak to us about what we were praying for it was just as sweet, but then she started to pray.  It wasn’t crazy loud…she wasn’t yelling…she didn’t change her tone…but a boldness came out of her and this POWERFUL prayer just poured out of her.  I said, “I need to meet that woman.”  The  Lord blessed me with this, and He has allowed me to glean from a woman that I hold with such high respect.

I also FILMED IT!!!  So…I may be doing this more often depending on how it goes.  I have written it out as well for those that might want to read it.  This post is the first of three….we had coffee for an hour!!!

Me:  Okay.  If you could have coffee with anyone who would that be?  Dead or alive.  It doesn’t matter…or you can choose one of both…that’s fine.

Mary Jo:  The one who is dead…is an easy answer for me.  It’s Teresa of Avila.  She is a Carmelite nun from the 16th century…and she is considered a desert mother or a desert father…you know…one of those saints that came from that period.  She raised up at a time when she realized that carnality had come into the convent….long and short of it…she wrote a book called the Interior Castles of the Heart.  It has been rewritten and I came across it a couple of years ago and it’s called Mansions of the Heart.  What I loved about it is…here is a woman in the 16th century and they asked her to write from her journals…and what she unpacked…is EXACTLY the things that are on my heart to teach in prayer.  I love what she does.  She goes into seven parts of the heart…but it talks about a pilgrimage of prayer.  It also talks about how you might be in the third room  and something happens where you need to go back to the basics.  I thought…wow…that is so wonderful…that there is really nothing new under the sun.  God is still growing men and women of prayer.  He is still introducing Himself to the foundational…growing…get to know you better…walk with me…talk with me…intimate places in Him.  She is someone I’d love to sit down and talk to someday.  When you talk prayer it translates well in any language…so I think she would be fascinating to sit down and talk to.  People alive?  I’d like to do exactly what you are doing.  I think everybody has a story.  There’s no one that I would like more than to sit across the table from you Megan and say:  What’s prayer look like to you?  How do you find God?  How do you search out the scriptures?  So…I think there is something about Everyman.  I love the nameless faceless…did you see War Room?  I’d like to find all the Miss Clara’s.

Me:  YES!

Mary Jo:  They have incredible stories.  I’ve had Miss Clara’s in my life.  So, those are the people that would inspire me…and encourage me…and strengthen my faith…those secret places in prayer that people have found.

Me:  I love that.

Mary Jo:  God’s saints.

Me:  Yes!  That’s it!  I’m having coffee with Everyman…every person…every woman.  I love that.  Okay, so what IS your story…what is your testimony?

Mary Jo:  Well…basically my testimony is…growing up loving God…growing up in a religious home…a Catholic home…going to parochial school all my life knowing a lot about God and…having nuns teach me and model a life devoted to God…but not really connecting to the “personal”.  It’s interesting…I mentioned my book…its coming out in March and it starts with my story.  It starts with my testimony so it is fresh in my mind.  The twenties I describe as the dark night of my soul…lost…and feeling like Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall…and not knowing how to put it back together again.  Then God found me…actually I found God…He knew exactly where I was.  I got saved in a Catholic charismatic prayer meeting.

Me:  That’s amazing!

Mary Jo:  I know…March 16…76.  Isn’t that wonderful?  Then I never looked back.  God connected with me through the hug of a woman.  She greeted me with a hug and all of the resistance and the walls came tumbling down.  So…that was it.  Since then…it will be 40 years.  Can you believe it?  So…I’m grateful.  Being saved and filled with the Spirit was the beginning…it was the end but also the beginning.  It was a long road…of healing and…being delivered…and being set free.  That’s why I love what we do at Gateway.  I love the saved, healed, delivered, discipled, equipped…and for 40 years it has been that journey.

Me:  You’re the prayer minister at Gateway…Pastor of Prayer and Intercession.  So…what is prayer….and I guess what is intercession?  Those are two different things…prayer and intercession…I didn’t even think that.  So what is prayer…and what are your strategies…non negotiables?

Mary Jo:  This is going to sound memorized because it is written so much on my heart…but let me tell you…when I was interviewing or approached about the job at Gateway…and it was my final interview with pastor Tom.  The position was pastor of prayer, and he asked if I had any input or thoughts…and I said yes…I would like it to be pastor of prayer AND intercession.  He said, “Why?”  I said because it is two different things…and I would like the opportunity to introduce a culture of prayer…which is relationship with God…and intercession which is partnership with God…into what we do here at Gateway.  He loved the idea.  I’ve looked back on it Megan…really…and I thought….that was more God than me.  God calling us as a church to be a house of prayer…and calling out the intercessors.  I wanted to create a place where intercessors understand partnership with God.  Dutch Sheet’s book called Intercessory Prayer…it’s number one as far as mentoring me in my prayer life.  The partnership done in a way where everybody recognizes that they all stand in the gap they all mediate to the Lord.  What level and what degree changes as people mature in the Lord.  But still a place for people to understand partnership…so the department is prayer and intercession.

Me:  I love it!

Mary Jo:  I do…I love it so much.

Me:  So what is your prayer strategy…those non-negotiables?

Mary Jo:  I have not put this on my blurb yet…my website…BUT…I taught Titus 2…a couple of months ago.  I thought….I’ve got a short amount of time…to speak to some phenomenal women…and what is it, Lord?  So…here’s my three non-negotiables for my own personal prayer life.  Time…we have to make time…prayer just doesn’t happen.  It has to be anchored…and you’ve got to make time.  And I know that that is more challenging at different seasons of your life…whether you are in college…or corporate…young mother.  In this season of my life I feel like I have never been busier.  So my thing is…regardless of what season of life you are in…there is enough in life that you are always going to be busy.  It takes time to nurture our relationship.  So my one non-negotiable is making time with God.  My second is the Word of God…my non-negotiable is scripture.  Prayer is birthed in knowing who God is…His character…how He lives…what His will is…and it’s found in scripture.  The more you fall in love with the Word the more your prayer life will be a mirror of who He is.  I was raised not in the Word so I feel like I am always catching up…there is so much…but number two…is the Word.  And my third non-negotiable is journaling.  I think that’s interesting…I do journal…but it’s out of the box.  Everybody needs to find a way that they can journal…because God speaks….for us not to write it down…we are doing ourselves a great disservice and also of what God’s saying.  I was teaching a class in Frisco several years ago on journaling…and at the end when I was praying for the people…I had this sensing come over me that the prayer was weightier…and that the prayer had a more prophetic weight to it.  It is because I have seen and witnessed at Yad Vashem and other places as you relive times of history where bibles are taken and books are burned.  I have a sensing that one day it could be that the journals are the testimonies of the living God…working through peoples lives.  My journals are not diaries they are conversations with God.  They are what God is saying to me…what God is saying through scripture.  How God deals with me in my prayer life.  So…those are my three non-negotiables for my personal prayer life.  Make time, fall in love more with the Word of God, and journal.

Me:  I love that…and I am also sitting in the Listening Chair.

Mary Jo:  You are.

Me:  So…that’s perfect.

Mary Jo:  Oh, that is!  So I pray that you hear more of what I am saying.

Megan:  So..this is your prayer chair (I point to it) and this is your listening chair.

Mary Jo:  It is.  I will also tell you my three non-negotiables for intercession.

Megan:  Oh yes.

Mary Jo:  One is…what’s the will of God?  Because when you start mediating on behalf of someone, some place, or a city, or a situation…God…what’s your will?  For example, I cannot pray for my grandchildren the same today as I did for them last month.  God knows what is going on in their lives.  He knows how I need to pray for them.  Finding out what is the will of God…and then what is His strategy?  Sometimes it is fasting.  Sometimes it’s declaring the Word.  Sometimes it’s looking up every scripture that has the word hope in it.  So…what’s His strategy?  Then…how to pray it through…so those are the three for intercession.

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My Gleanings

First off…I am still digesting all the wise words that I gleaned…and this is only the first post of three.  Second, I want a prayer chair AND listening chair.  I am officially adding it to my Christmas list….now…if I can only find the room.

Okay, so as a mom…I have been trying to find my rythym when it comes to prayer, studying the Word, and journaling.  It seems that sometimes I just pray and that is it.  I hear a door sling open and little feet coming down the hall and…. I have run out of time to study…or at least study in quiet.  I have a three year-old girl and 10 month-old boy….so…it can get a little loud around here.  For the last few weeks I haven’t been in the Word in a solid study, and have instead been praying and journaling.    After coffee with Mary Jo…I got back into a study…consistent study.  Right now…Hanukkah and what does Being a Light to the World mean?  I gleaned that I can adapt those non-negotiables to my own life and work them in during the day the best that I can…most of the time it is spaced out…and praying is often times over the dishes or folding laundry, but I have found the time to pray in a more set apart relational form.  I will not be legalistic about it but work them in through out my day…and have fun with it.

I’m not quite sure if I ever separated prayer and intercession before meeting with Mary Jo.  To know that prayer is about relationship and intercession is about partnering with God….blows a few of my brain cells.  It has shifted my thinking and now I am even more curious than before.  I THOUGHT that I was interceding for my children, family, and friends…well I was…but I can go a step further.  Intercession demands us to make so much more room for God and to listen to His specific instructions from Heaven.  I now come to the prayer room with this strategy….”I am here to pray and partner with you Lord…how do YOU want me to do that?”  Not….”Here is my same written prayer that I have recited and prayed over and over again until I  am flat out bored with it…but…I hope it is working…because I know you are good.”

I have been the worst at going into prayer with tons of scriptures ready to machine fire at the Lord and then when I am done getting them all out I say…”Thank you Lord and I trust You.”  Then I am done.  No listening.  No room was made.  After coffee with Mary Jo…when I intercede OR pray…I will now listen and make room for the Lord and see what He is up to for THAT day…then do it again the next.  This is SO exciting!!  What an adventure!!!

 

 

 

“I am a well loved child of the King.”: Coffee with Taffy Geisel

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Last week I had coffee with a long time theatre friend and fellow sister in Christ, Taffy Geisel.  We shared jokes, laughter, high times, and even our low times.  All with colorful cups and hand made place mats that her kiddos made her long ago…that she just can’t part with.

Taffy is a theatre director has directed various shows in the area for different companies, several of which she has written.  She is the mother of Joey and Caroline Geisel and the wife of Howard, and they are all amazingly gifted in the arts.  I know them because of the shows that my husband has been in with Taffy and Joey, but they hold a deep place in my heart for the love and encouragement they have always given Kyle.  The Geisel family holds a very special place in my heart….they are a treasure.

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Me:  First of all I just want to honor you.  I just want to say thank you for just being wonderful and ministering to both Kyle and I as a couple but for ministering to Kyle and just loving on him.  You are such a great encouragement and genuine.  When you say that you are praying we know that you are praying.  It’s real.  We can trust you.  So thank you for having coffee with me.

Taffy:  Do you need a refill?

Me:  Oh, no.  So, if you could have coffee with anyone dead or alive who would it be?  And why?

Taffy:  I have no idea…Lord, who would I have coffee with?  Jesus is the trite answer.

Me:  You can answer Jesus.

Taffy:  Man!  I sure would love some face to face time with Him.  He is very real to me and the older I get the more real He is and the veil really is thinning…now…that I am past 60…the spiritual realm is becoming much more real…sometimes more real than the physical realm.  So yeah…it would be Jesus…I feel Him all the  time, but I want to SEE Him.  I want to use the senses in my body and see and touch and know Him.  To have that one on one contact with all five senses…

Me:  That would be awesome.

Taffy:  It would.  Do you mind if we pray?

Me:  Yes…I meant to pray but forgot.

Taffy:  Lord, we bless your name.  You are holy and You are good.  You are awesome and kind.  Lord you promise to be here where two or more are gathered in you name and that you are there also.  So we know that you are here.  So Holy Spirit and Lord Jesus and Father God we invite you to be among us.  Would you speak through us, with us, around us, beside us…would your purposes be accomplished today.  Would your word go forth today.  Would everything we say and do honor you, build you up, and lift up your name.  Would it be truth.  Lord would you bless Megan today…mightily.  Holy Spirit just hold her close.  Holy laughter would you come upon both of us….because that is one of your sides Holy Spirit and it is one that I really love to operate in, so you are welcome.  We love you Lord and we thank you for this precious time of being together.  Bless her babies and thank you that you are always there with them.  You are always their protector.  Thank you…in Jesus name.  Amen.

Me:  Amen.  Alright, what is your story?

Taffy:  Of coming to the Lord?

Me:  Yes.

Taffy:  I grew up Methodist.  My dad left when I was 9.  My parents divorced when I was 10.  He raped me before He left.  That night was the last I saw him for months and months, so you can imagine the trauma that that left behind.  Of course that effected me…mightly…from that point on.  I was ugly and unwanted…I had a spirit of rejection.  I didn’t know that they were divorcing…I didn’t know where he went…so I had to assume that it was because of me.  So that was tough.  Went through regular school.  Went to college…then became sexually active trying to find that male approval.  Broken men were the only ones that were ever interested…so that heaped rejection upon rejection.  I came to saving knowing of Christ in college….my freshmen year.  I said, “Yes, Jesus, I want You to be Lord.”  I went to Baylor…God got me a scholarship there.  It was exactly where I needed to be because as a Methodist I didn’t know anything about being SAVED.  I went through with my 20’s…I was saved but I didn’t know what to do with it.  I taught drama…worked mega hours…80 hours a week.  Went back…got my masters…I went back to Baylor…came back here and got a teaching job and ran in to a friend of mine from high school that had come to know the Lord and was Spirit filled.  She  just started pursuing me.  For me…to have a fellow actor…that knew the Lord is what turned the trick.  Oh..there is somebody like me….not just Jesus as Savior but Jesus as Lord.  Through her I was able to say yes, Lord, I surrender….You are my King…You are my Lord.  Then I was filled with the Holy Spirit…spoke in tongues…found Shady Grove.  Had an incredibly vivid dream that was two sided.  One of it was just the words, “chapter 61 is for you.”  Well the only book in the Bible that has 61 chapters is Isaiah…”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.”  Then the list of things to do which is what I desire to do…don’t know how I walk in the “heal the sick” “bind up the broken-hearted.”…but I desire to.

Me:  That is my verse lately.  The Lord gave me that verse too.

Taffy:  AMEN!!!  (laughter)

Me:  AMEN!!!  (laugher)

Taffy:  High  five sister!!!  Powerful stuff because it is for all of us.  Because we are like Jesus and that is what He came to do.  That is what we are to do.  This whole new world of…people could be healed?  And delivered?  It was a foreign language.  So…then  Howard came along.  I know that we had gone to the same church so…um..I was doing a play back at my old church for the summer.  It was a play God gave me called “Holy Fire”…it was the first play I wrote.  He came to know the Lord and got baptized in the Holy Spirit…we got married and started going to Shady Grove…and have walked with the Lord through hard and through good.  We will be married thirty years in December.

Me:  That’s a big one!!

Taffy:  Yeah.  It’s huge!

Me:  Y’all should do it up big this year.

Taffy:  We should!  But neither one of us has been able to figure out what to do.  I just need good ideas.

Me:  That is amazing!!!

Taffy:  It is.  Also, God has healed me of the rape.

Me:  How?

Taffy:  Through the Set Free Ministries.  When I was going through I found an envelope of pictures from High School and I realized that I thought I was ugly but I wasn’t.  I was cute.  That for me was stunning revelation.  God has given me new eyes to see myself.  Wow…I was okay…I am okay…I am more than okay.

Me:  Did you ever have reconciliation with your father?

Taffy:  No, but He did come to know the Lord in the last few years of his life.  But yes, the Lord has healed and delivered all of that.  He CAN heal from traumas as big as that.

Me:  Ah man…He is so good.  So I asked the Lord…”What do I need to ask Taffy?”  And some of these questions are weird…but the Holy Spirit said, “When did she begin to see me?”

Taffy:  It happened after I said that you are my Lord.  I then stepped into this spiritual realm where I see angels, I see demons…or images of them.  Not necessarily their whole face.

Me:  Not physically in the room.

Taffy:  Right.  But sometimes I see them…physically in the room.  More frequently I see angels as balls of light.

Me:  Really.

Taffy:  I have a wedding picture somewhere…that has balls of light with us on the stage.  It was just incredible because I knew that the angels were letting themselves be seen.  They were saying hello we are here we are around this wedding of husband and wife.  A real affirmation to me.

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Me:  What gives you hope?

Taffy:  The goodness of God.  More and more He is revealing His goodness and His kindness.  I think that being so wounded in childhood it was very hard for me to believe that a father could be good.  I think that is true for everybody.  If you have had a difficult relationship with your father to believe that God is good…and that He is safe…and that He is not going to hurt you…when you have been devastated…it is very hard.  It has been just with in the last two or three years actually saying…oh…He really is kind.  All of these things in my life have been “kindnesses” because they show me more about Him.  But that is the advantage of old age…I have more track record to look back on.  I can see why He allowed this…hard thing in my life…because the fruit is here.  The fruit is infinitely better than anything I could have created…or anything that would have happened had the hard thing not happened.

Me:  I love that.

Taffy:  Yeah…aging is wonderful.  (laughter)  The body thing not so much.  The knowing Him more and more…

Me:  Yeah…your knower.

Taffy:  Yeah…it’s only been in the last 6 months that I have begun to realize that I am a well-loved child of the King.  It awes me more every time that it pops into my head.

Me:  Man….it’s gonna be a party in Heaven when you get there.  It is gonna be awesome!!

Taffy:  Yes…It is going to be AWESOME!  Have I told you my most recent well-loved child of the king story?

Me:  No.

Taffy:  I had a show open on Friday.  The costumer on Wednesday tells me that I need a wig.  I don’t shop well with my physical limitations so I went online…found a wig…ordered it and said…Lord, I am a well-loved child…and you can send this wig whenever you want to, but opening day is Friday…so Lord because I am your well-loved child would you please get it to me on Friday so I can wear it to opening night?…but I will be fine if not if you have other plans…we are good.  I really meant it…instead of the stress stuff.  And at 10 o’clock Friday my phone dinged while I was at work and said that the package has been delivered.  When I got home from work there it was on my front porch.  It was just a sweet Abba Father saying “I love you, you are my well-loved child…and I am in control of UPS.”

Me:  (I cackle laugh.)  We need to remember that during this Christmas season.  Jesus is in control of UPS.

Taffy:  (still laughing)  He IS in charge….He could have said you need to wait a week to get this thing.

Me:  And that would have been fine…He would have been working a character issue in you.  (still laughing)

Taffy:  It would have been fine.  But to be able to wait in peace was a tremendous triumph.

Me:  That’s my next question…what gives you peace?

Taffy:  Peace is the resting in Him.  The more and more I know that I AM the well-loved child…that He IS safe….He is NOT going to hurt me.  Life may hurt me…but there will be good.  He promises to work things all together for good.  He stands good on that promise.  I can testify.

Me:  Life hurts all of us…believers and non-believers.

Taffy:  Life is going to hurt.  Nobody told me that! (laughs)  I’m going to tell my children that….sorry guys…life hurts.

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Me:  I had a revelation about that the other day.  I just said it is hard to be alive here on this earth…and I was like…man…how do you approach that to your kids?  I thought…if they can make it…if they can be conceived…make it through the womb…they have already been created strong enough to handle this life.  It’s hard…but they can do it.  They had strength knit into them.  I don’t know…anyways…I have to munch on that one a little bit longer.

Taffy:  I like that.  You’ve lost at least one baby.

Me:  Yes.  And it doesn’t mean that that baby wasn’t strong.

Taffy:  Right.  We have no understanding.

Me:  Right.

Taffy:  I had four miscarriages, and a still birth.  The still birth was the hardest thing I have ever walked through.

Me:  How long was it?

Taffy:  She was full term.  The placenta tore on delivery so she suffocated on the way out….it was so hard.

Me:  How are you with that now?

Taffy:  I am still sad about it but it doesn’t rip me apart.  I spent three years in terrible grief…poor Joey.  Thank Heavens God was there because I could barely function for three years.  Terrible grief.  Threw my Bible away…”If that’s the kind of God you are, I want nothing to do with you.”

Me:  Really.

Taffy:  I went and got it back before the trash went out (laughs)…and thought…oh…I can’t do this without You.

Me:  What brought you out of that?

Taffy:  A couple that prayed for me.  They said the grieving has gone on long enough.  I was able at that point to say…okay…let’s move on.

Me:  (silence)….that just gives me another perspective on that.  Maybe what the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me was that there is another level….kids are strong no matter how the Lord has knit them together…some are purposed for here on earth and some are in heaven praying.

Taffy:  They are serving in Heaven…that I know.

Me:  They are just up there interceding, praising….just this little army of baby saints…praising and worshiping.

Taffy:  She would be 25…and she was a red head.

Me:  What is her name?

Taffy:  Eliza…which means consecrated to God.  I had the name before she was born.

Me:  I’m sorry you had to go through that.  A miscarriage was hard enough but that is…

Taffy:  It was beyond words.  (begins to pray)  Lord, would you help us to deal with those that are grieving.  That we would come along side them and not wound them…in Jesus name.

Me:  What would….because I like to make people laugh, and find that often times I put my foot in my mouth…and for me personally…traumas in my life…they will throw a scripture at it and walk away.

Taffy:  Right…scripture band aids.

Me:  Right…scripture band aids.  Yes!  I am trying to learn, so…what Do I want in times of grieving?  What would have helped you?

Taffy:  One of the things that saved me was a friend…named Wynne.  Who every week would invite me over to her house.  She had kids the same age as mine.  She would just let me talk…and didn’t have a comment…no judgement…no scriptures.  She just let me talk.

Me:  That has been the best thing…validation.

Taffy:  What you are going through is hard.

Me:  It’s hard and you have a right to cry your guts out…if you don’t it will make the grieving process longer.  You just bottle it up.

Taffy:  And God worked all those things for good.  Since I couldn’t have anymore children we adopted Caroline.  God brought tremendous good to us through her.  Did you have a name for your baby?

Me:  I didn’t.  We found out and then miscarried the next day on Kyle’s birthday.  It was a rough weekend.  It was about two years ago this past September.  We had just found out and had gone on a celebration date planning how we were going to tell our families and the next day I went to a meeting…a theatre meeting…it was in Saledo…long drive.  I was by myself and I started miscarrying at the meeting.  I drove the whole way just pleading with the Lord to please stop it…please stop it.  I was shaken and I was calling people that I trusted.  The next day I knew that it was official.  I was like…I am not going to let the enemy steal my joy on this.  I was not in denial.  I wasn’t saying…no this isn’t happening…I’m going to go to church…and be righteous.  It wasn’t going to church to be righteous…I was going because I wasn’t going to let the enemy keep me down…so I went to church…and worshiped as best as I could.  I would say that in the grieving moments worshiping the Lord that there is something very intimate and sweet.  It is just like the Lord is saying, “Baby, I know you’re hurting yet you are still loving on me.”  And it is just beautiful to Him…that was a very face to face day.  I felt the Lord just holding me up that day…it was great….I mean…it wasn’t GREAT.  It was a bad day, but it was a beautiful day too.  So…anyways…speaking of beauty.  This is a weird question but…..What is the most pleasant sound to you?

Taffy:  (prays) Lord, what is it?….The thing that pops into my head is my children’s voices.  If I looked out in the back yard I could still hear them on swings.  I can hear them at various ages…from babyhood all the way to adulthood.  Yeah…because I never thought that I could have children…having muscular distrophy.  They were miraculous to me.  I LOOOOVVVEE being a mom.

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Me:  I’m sure they would say you were a great mom.

Taffy: …um…no….they would tell you all flaws. (Begins laughing)  They survived in spite of me…because of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Laughs again)

Me:  What makes you happy?

Taffy:  Laughter…..well…kind laughter.

Me:  What makes you sad?

Taffy:  Seeing other people in pain…and still bound and not set free.

Me:  What is the greatest lesson that you have learned and how did you learn it?

Taffy:  One of them would be that I can’t live without Him.  I learned that through Eliza’s death.  Even after throwing away the Bible I thought…oh…I may be furious with You…but I cannot live without You.  I can’t take another breath without You…I can’t get out of bed without You.  That has proven true.  I can NOT live without Him…contact everyday.

Me:  For me, multiple times a day.  Especially when I am folding clothes….I don’t like folding clothes.  Okay, this is the last question…Can you tell me about Jesus?

Taffy:  Jesus…best Friend, Lover, Listener, Hugger…the Way the Truth.  He really IS the Way…He really IS the Truth…He is ALL truth.  He really is life.  I don’t know how anybody does life without Him…without His comfort and strength.  He is always there…in the dishes, and the laundry and the toilet scrubbing.

Me:…and the diapers.

Taffy:  Yeah, and the diapers.  (In a sing songy kind of way)  I don’t have to do diapers.

Me:  Go ahead…gloat.  (laughter)

Taffy:  I did my diapers.

Me:  You did your duty?

Taffy:  I did…my duty.  (we have a good laugh)  Would happily change some more.

Me:  I will bring Levi to you about three times a day….So…Jesus.  He is in everything….

Taffy:  Yes…I talk to Him all the time.  I guess it is a little odd because I will start talking to Him in the midst of a conversation with somebody else.  I know that I am talking to Jesus…the other person doesn’t necessarily.  He is just that real to me.  I know that He is there all the time and that He listens all the time.  It is the advantage of being older.

Me:  Well…and you get away with it too because it looks eccentric.

Taffy:  I know…I can get away with so much more now.

Me:  I think I might adopt that…just talking to Jesus.  Oh man Taffy…thank you so much for having coffee with me.

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My Gleanings

There is so much to glean from this coffee date but what has dropped into my spirit is this…”I am a well-loved child of the King.”

I am a well-loved child of the King.  I AM a well LOVED CHILD of the KING!!!!  During the days following my coffee date with Taffy I would repeat it to myself.  I would hear the voice of the liar say things like, “He won’t hear or answer your prayers.” “You aren’t worthy of meeting with these women of faith.” “You have nothing to say.” “You should be ashamed of yourself.” “There is only death in the future.”  “You aren’t a good mother….you are ruining your kids.”

Quickly, I would stop…SHUT HIS MOUTH, and say….NO….I AM A WELL LOVED CHILD OF THE KING….BE QUIET!!!  It is our heavenly love note that Christ daily gives us.  He is so sweet; However, we MUST speak it over and over ourselves daily….and remember who we are and who He is.

Here I am talking about identity in Christ again.  It is our foundation…it is our soil.  Whatever it takes….break up that soil.  Let your identity get rocked in who you thought you were and replace it with your true identity….His child.  From this place of revelation and rawness…the real work can begin and we can actually be used for the kingdom and reflect His glory.  Christian, if you don’t let your identity get turned up side down, healed, renewed, and rooted in a firm identity of who He is and that you are His….then chances are you will never be truly delivered from sins that plague you, wounds that hurt you, and you could possibly be very religious….in order to earn your righteousness or feed the hurts.

Repeat…”I am a well loved child of the King.”  Repeat it until it breaks your heart and the Lord comes sweeping in……because He WILL show up.

 

“Without the Holy Spirit we stereotype people”: Coffee with Sophie Cundy

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This past Monday I was graced with the privilege of having coffee with my sweet friend Sophie Cundy.  Sophie is the wife of Ben Cundy and mother of three and recently is fostering another baby boy.  She is a small group leader for Titus 2 (a ministry for Pink at Gateway) and also works in the children’s department at Gateway.  OH!!  She is British!!!!…which is super cool!!!  Coming from east Texas this is just amazing y’all, and it took everything in me to not type in a British accent.  “Sugah”(sugar) or “Pastah”(Pastor)…this should really be a  video blog post.

I know Sophie from our Titus 2 group.  She is my small group leader along with Jenn…whom I hope to have coffee with someday as well.  Sophie captured me early on because there is a quiet wisdom that she has that I want to possess.  She will observe others around her and then zing in with a word of encouragement or wisdom that just fuels them for weeks…at least that is my case.

Our coffee date was also a play date so it was filled with energetic little boys and my little girl running around playing in the other room…which looks like it came out of an IKEA or Pottery Barn magazine.  I have heard from several sources lately that parenting in the day to day…changing diapers, giving out snacks, potty breaks, kissing boo boos, hugging tears away, teaching how to share…etc. etc. were all an act of worship.  In the midst of our coffee there was a lot of worship going on, and as I listened back on the recording it made me smile…and I might not delete it from my phone.  I LOVED seeing our kiddos play together.

I want to show this woman of God honor.  She has taught me so much by just observing her and also by how she daily lives her life.  Sophie is deep yet loves a good joke….and that is my kind of people.  She is funny, thoughtful,encouraging, beautiful, smart, and crazy in love with Jesus.  I just love her and am excited to see how our friendship grows in years to come.

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Me:  The good news is that you do like coffee, but you are British…so which do you prefer coffee or tea?

Sophie:  I drink coffee for energy.  I drink tea for the addiction.

Me:  So tea…what’s your…?

Sophie:  PG Tips.

Me:  Can you get it in the states?

Sophie:  Yes, in British stores, and I think Kroger….in the British section.

Me:  Wait!!!  They have a British section?

Sophie:  Yes, you can get all sorts of things…including curry actually.

Me:  Yeah we had that last night.

Sophie:  So yeah…that with a dollup of milk…no sugar.  That’s a whole…England’s divided on that subject.

Me:  Oh wow!  I do know that I was in Heathrow one time and asked for honey in my tea and I thought I was about to be excommunicated.

Sophie:  Yeah…that’s as varied as you get.  How long do you steep your tea bag…how long do you stir it….then how much milk do you have…and then the sugar.  They are the only variations.  They are very intricate but those are the only ones.

Me:  Black Tea?

Sophie:  It’s considered black tea.

Me:  Wow…ok so we will have to have tea time.

Sophie:  No we should do that!  My friend and I went to home depot the other day and picked out varying colors of shades of brown and orange.  We are going to stick it up in the kitchen and say these are your choices for tea color because it is very specific for people.

Me:  Really?

Sophie:…just trying to educate people.

Me:  That’s like a Japanese green tea ceremony…its intense.  Now I have to be schooled and learn something new.  So if you could have coffee…or tea with anyone who would it be?  And tell me why.

Sophie:  Can I cheat?

Me:  You can choose two…and they could be dead or alive.  One could be dead and one could be alive…that’s kind of morbid.

Sophie:  (Gasps…her mind is blown a bit when she gets her idea) Wooo….I think I can’t get away from the fact that what I would ideally like to see is my people from all around the world in one room and just to see what happens.

Me:  Your family?

Sophie:  No, not my family.  My closest couple friends from Dallas.  My closest couple friends from Seattle and from England.  My sisters and my brother…and just see what happens….because I like to watch.  I like to observe.

Me:  And then I will come and just…

Sophie:  You could glean.

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Me:  I want to know as a mom about the stresses of life…and you have four kiddos.  How do you manage?  You are a wife, you work at Gateway…how do you keep your sanity?  How do you balance?  Do you GET a quiet time?

Sophie:  That’s a VERY good question.  Um…first of all, I do my best to get up before any of the children…cause if I don’t do that I am catching up in everything.  Speaking with the Holy Spirit…if I could just get a breath in in the morning and say “Good Morning Holy Spirit.”…then that’s good.  My day usually starts at 5 o’clock…for that reason.  And then my husband is the biggest supporter.  We tag team a lot.  I am usually the one that needs to have a mommy time out….its usually around 6:30 at night.  It’s just for 20 minutes or so.  I have space to go to the bedroom and have peace, and read…or pray….whatever is needed.  Skype with someone…call someone…because life with children is a lot of noise, and if you are someone who appreciates the quiet then that is much appreciated.

Me:  And you are someone who needs those moments?

Sophie:  Yes, I do.  Very much…I’m naturally more introverted.  Where as Ben is not…He could listen to noise all day long and not be phased.

Me:  Yeah…no.  Okay, you were talking about the Holy Spirit and how He is your best friend….what is your story?  When did that start to happen?  Where did it get real for you?

Sophie:  It started to get real with me at a very young age…because I could very much relate to Rita Springer’s story where people were in and out of her home…the homeless, the needy.  My parents were always looking after someone like that and meetings that were very pentecostal…with lots of laughing, praying, and speaking in tongues…so I was always aware that there was always something so much more amazing.  I think it was…I was about 14…and my oldest sister…I always loved her relationship with the Lord…she has had quite a prophetic edge for as long as I can remember.  I remember just emptying the dishwasher one day and saying to the Lord that I just want something like that.  I want something that’s an exchange…not that I feel like I just…I don’t want it to be one way.  I heard very clearly…”Well, stop what you are doing, get down on your knees and be ready to listen.”  So I did.  I think that is the first time where I felt the presence of the Lord in an intimate way…not in a communal sense…people gathering together and celebrating.  It was really from  that moment.  When I was older I graduated and I went to bible school and I learned so much more.  I got a greater understanding of the Holy Spirit and how He is your best friend.

Me:  ….Man, what I would give to go to bible school…that would be awesome.

Sophie:  Sign me up to Kings.

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Me:  Yes.  If anyone is reading this you can pay for my tuition to King’s University…and childcare.  (I’m just joking…a little.)  Okay, so I’m sure you learned a lot of lessons in bible school but what is the greatest lesson you have learned?  If I was to say…Sophie…this is your last day…you have got to get a message out to the world…what is the greatest lesson you would share?

Sophie:  (Some weird gutteral…chicken squawky…uncomfortable sound comes from my friend…tee hee)  Ahhhh!  This is huge!!!!  Who!!!!  Wow!!!!  Uh…… (I keep giggling)  There is just so much…that’s the thing.  My relationship with the Lord has always been the still small, the wise counsel, the back and forth….I don’t think I would ever be able to articulate something that intimate or beautiful.  When I was living in Seattle there was a church planted and their first vision statement was “Love God, Love People”….that is what I do my very best by God’s grace to live.  That is what I try to keep with me wherever I go.  Also, we as people have huge filters…lots of filters.  I think that it is beautiful…thank goodness…that are not altogether, all-seeing…..but God is.  I always try and remind myself and I remind my boys as well…You just don’t know the story of the person in front of you.  And I think that could save you from making many stupid mistakes…and remind you to be in communion with the Holy Spirit…so it takes you back..it removes your filter…and then you can submit yourself to the Holy Spirit.  Holy Spirit what do you see?  God what do you see?  I think that is one of our biggest problems….because we stereotype.  Without the Holy Spirit we stereotype people and we judge and we put stamps on people.  I remember hearing someone say once…the woman with the issue of blood should not have been named the woman with the issue of blood.  Doubtful Thomas should not have been named Doubtful Thomas…but that is what we do.  This is what they are remembered for…boom…that’s what they are.  But what she did was step out unlike any other person….and Thomas ended up dying by being martyred and by being pulled in four different directions, but that is not what we as people choose to remember him for….we remember him for his doubt.

Me:  Well, we take a sin and we label him with that…that is his identity.

Sophie:  He’s the one that…She’s the one that.  And so on and so forth.

Me:  And then no one can truly be free.

Sophie:  Exactly.

Me:  Okay…in tough times how do you stay focused?  Do you embrace them?  Shy away?  What do you do?

Sophie:  For that we have but Jesus.  Shying away from tough times?…no….it’s never the answer.  When tough times hit it is the time to create room around you to pause and really assess what is important….and for me in times gone by I have made the unwise choice to take counsel from people who I THOUGHT would have the right answer and I did NOT ask Jesus first…and say who should I speak to about this.  Who you should get advice from is very pivotal…so I think to pause is the most important thing.  To pause…um…and to listen and then to glean from those that you have seen who have great fruit…that’s really important.  My husband Ben…we went through a really hard time a year ago, and if it wasn’t for the community that we are in right now we would be at a very different place.  Deciding where to receive wise counsel has changed our lives for the good.  Keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus…I think that is the most important.  When you are in trauma if you can remember one thing it is to look at Jesus.  As you look at Him everything else seems to sort itself out.  As you remember His truths…as you read His word…um and then being able to talk to someone while all of that is going on…peace comes back.  Love and grace is better than it ever was. Forgiveness becomes real…not just something that you wish that you had but can’t attain.

Me:  You were saying to keep your eyes on Jesus.  Can you tell me about Him?

Sophie:  How about I just not talk and I am just going to cry….does that adequately explain it?  (pause)  Um…whenever I pray and I see who He is…I think that one of the most beautiful things is that He is all seeing…He already sees.  So when I look at Him I don’t need to articulate.  Sometimes I find it hard…words don’t come very easily to me…then also coming from another country having to articulate is hard.  He knows it all…so that’s the first point.  That it is already settle in my spirit.  He is just all of it.  He speaks in a way that comes with so much authority but no judgement.  I’ll never find anything the same as that.  He is funny…He speaks in a British accent to me…(giggles)

Me:  I wish that He spoke to me in a British accent….I am going to go talk to Him about that today.  (I actually prayed for this on the way home…still waiting.)

Sophie:  (still laughing)  Yes, change the settings please, Jesus.

Me:  YES!!  Like He is a GPS…where you can change the accent.  That would be awesome.

Sophie:  Yes.  Yeah…the only thing that comes to mind is that He is the opposite of what I experience in my exterior.  I once had somebody say that you can be distracted by the tyranny of the immediate…and He is the epitome of the opposite of that.  He is just all encompassing peace.  Before He even speaks to me when I am…gleaning from Him…that’s what it is…I feel the knowing…I feel the peace…and then we go into the conversation.  And it is just like pastor Robert said on sunday…saturday…that it can take a few minutes to get there…to experience before we start engaging…is a good way to describe it.

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Me:  I love that….I can chew on that one for a while.  Okay….last question because of Thanksgiving….I know that there is a huge list of things that you are Thankful for but what for this year are you most thankful for?….Although…do you celebrate Thanksgiving?

Sophie:  In the U.K. we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving…but we should start a day where everyone could be thankful.  I think that would be very good for our culture.  Come on, Brits.  I am definitely thankful that the labels people put on you fall off because His grace is enough…it’s more than enough.  I’m grateful that you can have a better marriage than you ever dreamed even beyond more pain than you think you can handle…because for this we have Jesus.  He gives you the thankfulness for it.  Is that good?….I am  also grateful for American portion sizes….its like triple the size.

Me:  That’s awesome…and as a Brit you are not used to.

Sophie:  No.

Me:  I probably eat more like a Brit then.

Sophie:  That’s not surprising…I can see that.  I’ve seen you and your almonds.

Me: (Laughing…and squirrel noises….squeak)  Well…I am thankful for you…and taking the time to have coffee with me.

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My Gleanings

Ok, so this…..

“I always try and remind myself and I remind my boys as well…You just don’t know the story of the person in front of you.  And I think that could save you from making many stupid mistakes…and remind you to be in communion with the Holy Spirit…so it takes you back..it removes your filter…and then you can submit yourself to the Holy Spirit.  Holy Spirit what do you see?  God what do you see?  I think that is one of our biggest problems….because we stereotype.  Without the Holy Spirit we stereotype people and we judge and we put stamps on people.”

I can’t tell you how many times a rash judgement or stereotype has caused me to say something stupid….let’s not count.  I have in recent years been working on this but Sophie puts it best.  Also talking about how Thomas shouldn’t be labeled “Doubting Thomas”…that rocks me…and rocks the theology that I have walked in most of my life and have until just THIS YEAR.  The sins of his past are NOT his identity.  As long as we keep labeling people…”The divorced woman.”  “He is an alcoholic.” Oh…that’s the “Porn Addict”.  How about “The gossip” or “The Self Righteous Religious Christian.” As long as we tie people’s identity to there sins that is what they will always be and it is hard to break from it.  What if we instead labeled Thomas “Faith-filled Thomas”.  After all, it is the sins that we have walked in in the past and overcome that become our greatest strength and the area in which we have great authority.  These are the places that we…kick the devil in the teeth, so to speak.

Last, this…” I once had somebody say that you can be distracted by the tyranny of the immediate…and He is the epitome of the opposite of that.”  Oh the tyranny of the immediate.  I want my prayers answered…like yesterday…and in a British accent.  How beautiful is this?  He is directly opposite and in my experience He waits until it is His best.  He doesn’t want to give us blessings of unripened grape juice but a fine aged wine…not sure if I am getting my wine analogy right…but I try.  His presence lays on us and we know that it is finished…there is victory…He is good…if it is bad now then He isn’t done yet.  Man!!!  I just LOVE HIM!!!

Hopefully you gleaned from Sophie and saw her beauty, but more importantly I hope you see Jesus through her words.  Let me know what you gleaned.

 

 

 

“God’s Plan is Bigger Than My Dream”: Coffee with my friend Monica Bates

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This past weekend I had coffee with my fierce friend Monica Bates…I say fierce on purpose and you will find out why when you read on.  I don’t have time to explain the details of how Monica and I crossed paths and became friends but I can tell you this…I’m blessed it happened, and I am forever changed.

Currently, Monica is the coordinator for Intimate Life at Gateway Church, married to the amazing Brandon Bates(who is a crazy wise man of God…and friends with my hubby), and has three beautiful daughters Kalin, Jaden, and Gabrielle.

Monica is strong, stable, and safe.  I am not sure why three “s” words came to mind…but they did.  I was so affected by her words and the time she took to pour wisdom into me that I had to park in a parking lot afterwards to go have a moment with the Lord and cry it out.  I’m serious…it shook me….in an oh-so-good way.  Honestly, I hope it shakes you too.

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Me:  If you could have coffee with anyone, who would it be with?  Dead or Alive.

Monica:  Just one person?

Me: You can do both….one dead….one alive.  (chuckles from both of us)

Monica:  You know…this is probably the craziest, but I would have coffee with Oprah.  Seeing her story of abuse and seeing her story of recovery and seeing her story of how she has come to where she is….there is a mindset that she has had and a focus that is phenomenal and you don’t see it in many people and you don’t see it in many women…so she is one person that I would just say….okay….and honestly before I got saved it wasn’t just Oprah but Whoopi Goldberg.  I would watch Whoopi before I was saved….I didn’t get saved until I was 30….and I would think to myself in a situation….what would Oprah and Whoopi do?  Because I saw their strength and their tenacity and boldness and I would think how would they handle the situation.  They probably wouldn’t take this off of this person or they probably wouldn’t just sit in this situation…so that kind of boldness and tenacity…..I’ve always wanted.  I always wanted to learn about it.  Then…..um….I am thinking about Peter in the Bible…because he is radical too.

Me:  He is radical.

Monica:  And I think….I know I have that in me.  I think I am very radical and I hide because sometimes I get afraid….

Me:  Like Peter.

Monica:  Yeah.  God has given me this justice thing in me…where I stand up for the justice of His daughters and for His people.  So yeah….it would be Peter and Oprah.

Me:  Together.  That would be amazing!!!

Monica: (Chuckles at my crazy vision) Yes…together.

Me:  Okay, so….I want to know about your heart.  I want to know what makes you sad.  I want to know what makes you happy, and what your passion is.  So…what makes you sad?

Monica:  What makes me sad is seeing people not walking in their destiny and who they are.  What makes me sad is seeing people not know their identity.  Because when people….I call it walking along side themselves…..they are so lost.  I feel like it is a ride at Disney World where the car is in the water and there are these bumpers…and God kind of gives us this way to kind of go back and forth…they are His boundaries for us.  But so many people don’t work within those boundaries they work outside of them and it causes so many problems.  Like if you stepped outside of those boundaries on that ride you would probably die…or you would get hurt.  When people are not walking in their true selves and how God wired them, that makes me sad.  And even in the work that I do…I realize…that is what makes me really sad….seeing everyone broken.  They are broken because someone broke them….broke their heart….broke their soul when they were young…seeing that…I don’t like that…at all.

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Me:  What makes you happy?

Monica:  What makes me happy….um….again…seeing people walking in their identity.  But really…my family…my girls…my three daughters.  They’re such a blessing to me….um…they give me such a hope…because um…part of my testimony is that my parents were married when I was born, but they divorced when I was 12.  My sibling was…um…at that time they called them hyper active but it was more schizophrenic and Asperger’s Syndrome.  And when my parents divorced we became latch-key kids…my mom was a single mom.  We grew up that way in a suburban area in Maryland.  My sibling always had violent outbursts and violent things that they would do…from punching holes in the walls to breaking windows when they would be upset and not get their way….so I saw that pattern growing up.  I know there was a time when we were home alone and it was after school, and I was on the phone downstairs and I saw this smoke coming from our light….I’m thinking “Why is that light smoking?”  Then it started smoking more and more.  I go into the hallway and I go up the steps and there is black smoke everywhere and I am screaming for my sibling…and they run out saying, “I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry.”  “What do you mean?  What did you do?”  The house is then filled with smoke.  They had set something on fire and put it in their closet and our whole house was on fire.  I had to get them out, run down the street to a neighbor…and it was just like this total chaos.  I walked away from that thinking, “If I…had not been on the phone…If I would have not…..it wouldn’t have happened.”  And I took all this responsibility for my sibling which I shouldn’t have had.  This is why I am happy…..I’m getting to the happy part.  What has brought me to this is that….I got accepted to school…I was excited…my mom was excited.  That first semester my sibling and my mother got into an altercation and my sibling killed my mom.  From that point my life just spiraled downward.  I stayed in school for about a year and a half…actually it was longer than that….I stayed in school long enough to graduate…but I didn’t graduate.  I had 132 credits and I didn’t graduate because I just….I pushed and pushed and never got any help.  Like healing…for me.  So….fast forward to the birth of our first daughter in 2000 having those girls gave me such a hope and it brought joy back into my life.  Because prior to that…I was pretending to be happy.  Having those girls showed me how much God loved me, and how much He loved us and to work through us to have these three amazing…I mean they are just dynamic.  They are unique and funny and talented and creative…and they love God.  It just blesses my life so much.  Every time I see them it makes my heart happy…and it lets me know that God is real.  You know?  There’s hope.  Redemption.

Me:  Wow…I will get to passion in a second….I think I want to know about your story.  I want to know about your story more and I’m sure your passion will come out of it.  And also…how you got to the Lord?  Where was He this whole way?

Monica:  Well, I think for a long time I just saw such brokenness in women….I didn’t like women….because of what women had done to me….or what happened to the one woman in my life.  I realized that I had this thing with women and so I became kind of….not kind of…I became controlling.  So I thought…you know what?  I am going to use myself to do whatever I want to do.  I drank a lot…I slept around a lot….but I was in control.  It wasn’t about relationships.  It wasn’t about a heart connection.  It was about…okay…this is what I want to do.  So I think that is what I walked through trying to find an answer.  Growing up my dad would call me princess and he still does to this day, but I didn’t feel like a princess.  As time went on…Brandon and I got married.  Brandon and I actually dated in high school for like a hot minute.  But we were friends and stayed friends for all those years and we stayed in touch.  We reconnected through a cousin of mine who was in plays with him in High School.  I would go visit her and see him in plays.  That’s how we built our relationship…just friendship.  Fifteen years later that same cousin was dating a guy who is now her husband and living in San Francisco.  I was living in DC and flew to San Francisco on a business meeting, and I connected with her and she reconnected with Brandon and we all talked and hung out together for the weekend.  Brandon and I knew that we were supposed to be together.  Ten months later we get married….we’ve been married twenty years now.  I say that to say that when we got married he was in L.A. and we went to a church in L.A. called Oasis with Philip and Holly Wagner.  We got really connected there and Holly and Philip became…close to us.  They just helped us work through some things.  Holly’s whole teaching on God chicks…I was really involved on her God chicks team for eight years.  I helped with all the technical arts side of it.  Holly’s whole thing is being a daughter of the king.  I felt that God redeemed that those years I was with Holly because I started to learn who I was.  In spite of everything that happened, I really understood that God really loved me and that He was my Father.  So I think that was a pivotal piece for me learning about being a daughter of the king.  I realized that all of these women (women of her past) acted this way because they didn’t know who they were.  I felt like God put this justice thing in me and He said…no…let’s raise the sword…lets fight the fight…let’s go to battle and let’s get everyone back into their proper place.

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Me:  So that brings me to your passion…What IS your passion.  That fire in your belly.

Monica:  Really….I don’t like seeing injustice.  I want to see people healed and whole and set free.  And to see them empowered to walk out their path…whatever that is.  People need to know who God is to them and how He wired them.  It is so important.  And for people to be in an environment where that is being drawn out of them and it can be applied and they can use it.  I think the most frustrating thing is to know who you are and not be able to use it and be in an environment that is not acknowledging it and helping you fulfill your dream.  I was just reading today that God’s plan is bigger than my dream.

Me:  Okay….I’ve got to munch on that one a bit….God’s plan is bigger than my dream.

Monica:  God’s plan for my life is bigger than my dream.

Me:  That is so awesome.  What is that from?

Monica:  Christine Caine.

Me:  Oh I love her!!!  If I could have coffee with anyone it would be her.  Oh my goodness…God’s plan for my life is bigger than my dream.  I love that!!!  Okay.  What is one of the greatest lessons that you have learned?

Monica:  I think one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that God is in every detail….and to be aware of that…and practicing His presence in EVERY single detail.  In scripture where it says that He never leaves us nor forsakes us…He is in every detail.  He is here now sitting with us.  He is with us when we are driving in our car.  You are never alone, and I think that is so key.  Jesus just wants to partner with you in everything you do…it is so real.  I share that with my girls…and that God is with you every step of the way.  A friend of mine showed me our ten fingers…she calls it the “Ten Finger Hold” on everything that we do.  (She looks at her hands and begins to count each finger down with the following phrase.)  I. Can. Do. All. Things. Through. Christ. That. Strengthens. Me.  When I say that…my middle daughter is playing flute…and I said Jaden, “You’ve got to think about while you are playing the flute that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  And she plays beautifully…she picks up songs and I am just like….man.  I’ve been sharing that…He is with us in EVERYTHING.

Me:  That is amazing!!  I felt Him last night at the Messianic service.  (Gateway has a Messianic service the first Friday of every month…you should go.)  You know how you feel someone when you are worshiping?  Like someone is coming in late and that you need to move to let them in.  I felt that and I looked and nobody was there.  I kept worshiping and then I felt it again and nobody was there.  Several times I moved out-of-the-way for someone to come down the aisle, and then Jesus said, “I’m sitting right next to you.”  I mean…it was palpable.  He was right there…so yeah what you are saying is hitting home with me because He was sitting with me last night at the Messianic service.  And He is right here right now.  So…can you tell me about Him?  Can you tell me about Jesus?

Monica:  Jesus is so tangible to me….um…and it may sound crazy but He manifests Himself to me in a lot of ways.  I can feel Him…like you were saying.  I can feel Him next to me.  I can feel Him with me.  My safe place is on the beach with Him….I can close my eyes and I can be on the beach with Him and He is talking to me.  The love of God….and I am realizing that He uses people…and one thing that He has been doing lately in my life and it is blowing me away….is that His love radically chases us down….and He uses people to literally chase me down to give me a word…to give me a hug…to give me a word of encouragement.  Sometimes it is random people…like I had a woman the other day…she walks in and she says, “How are you doing?”  I said, “I’m good.”  She looks at the other women and says, “You need to take care of her.  You just need to love on her extra now.”……That’s God.  That’s God.  I mean I have seen Him work in people’s lives in an amazing way.  He uses people to love me.  When I am praying and I am hearing His voice…and writing down what He is saying….this whole past 9 months….He said “Be still and know I am God.”  It is Ps. 46:10.  Every single day…be still and know.  People will come up to me and say…I have a word for you…Oh really?  Yeah…God says don’t squirm.  What?  The other word He gave me was anchor…just anchor in Him.  I’m thinking…anchor in a person?  Anchor in a thing?  And He is like…no…anchor in Me.  He told me that 7 months ago and when I went through a storm now I know why He said anchor in me…because everything is whirling around and it doesn’t feel comfortable…doesn’t feel good…but He is like…I got it.  He is so real.  His word is so real.  When He speaks to us….its real…and He means it.  No one can ever tell me that Jesus doesn’t exist.  I’ve experienced His love too much.  I’ve experienced His protection too much.  It is amazing.  It is amazing.

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My Gleanings

I recorded Monica for only twenty minutes, but continued to talk story (both of our stories) for the next hour or so.  I think we had coffee for a total of about 2 hours.  In this she told me about how she later led her sibling to the Lord and that 3 years ago Monica, Brandon, her three daughters, her father, and her sibling all sat down and had Thanksgiving together.  She said she just sat there and looked around on that day and just thanked God.  It was also an answer to the prayer of her grandmother who had passed.  One of her prayers was that Monica and her sibling would be reunited….and they were.  That is true forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption.

You see…God is amazing.  Just like she said.  I am receiving and gleaning that I am a loved daughter of the king on all fronts in this season of my life and I am getting it again from Monica.  I’ve talked about it before on this blog…but it begs to be repeated over and over again.  I could spend the rest of my life talking about it…and I will.  This is my passion….our identity in Christ.  Yes…that’s it.  Without this knowledge…we are useless to the Kingdom.

The other day I asked the Lord for a life verse…a verse that really just deposits in me what fires me up…my calling….my passion….what He designed and created me for on this earth.  My Daddy God showed me more than a verse but a passage.  It was Mark 4:13-20.

13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (NKJV)

I asked Him what He meant by that.  He said, “Will you help my people to be good soil?”  I thought…How do you do that?  How can you teach ANYONE to be good soil if the seeds that are sown to make them good soil are taken away or die off?  But here is the revelation…you can’t teach it…seeds don’t change soil.  It doesn’t matter how many scriptures, sermons, podcasts, blog posts, and encouraging words you throw out at people…in other words, sow….it won’t change their soil.  What is the soil?  Their identity…how they view God and how they view themselves.  This is my passion.  People need freedom, healing, deliverance, and wholeness.  When I meet with people with the same passion…like Monica, it gets me even MORE fired up and just drives in even more that it is so important.  SO IMPORTANT!!!!  I feel a sermon coming on but I will continue on to further gleanings.

“God’s plan is bigger than my dream”…thank you, Christine Caine, and thank you, Monica, for sharing.  I haven’t really completely digested this one but this is what I have gleaned thus far…He loves me and He has got this.  You see the Word says that He will do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.  I could sit here and imagine all day long the greatest possible dream that I could dream for my family, husband, and destiny but His plan will always be bigger.  His plan will always be bigger.  Hold on…His PLAN.  It is a plan….like a tangible blue printed plan.  The creator of the universe…the king of kings…my Daddy God….has a plan….for me.  I am not quite sure the words that I type can completely encompass just how intimate that statement is.  HE has a plan for ME.  I will be digesting this all week…probably longer than that.  I know the Lord has some more gleanings from this for me and I will press in and find out what they are.

However, this is the final gleaning I take away from this and it is Monica’s statement, “No one can ever tell me that Jesus doesn’t exist.  I’ve experienced His love too much.”  Yes…and Yes.  No one on  this earth can tell me that Jesus doesn’t exist.  They can try…but it doesn’t make it true.  He is real.  He is tangible.  He is amazing.  He is good….and always will be….no matter what.

“Tears are a sign of great strength”….Coffee with my friend Brooke Morrison

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Last weekend I was able to sit and have coffee with my dear friend Brooke Morrison.  She sat drinking her cafe latte and eating her almond crescent while we talked about life, Jesus, and…Christmas.  Yes…Christmas.  Brooke is a little Christmas elf and already has her house half way decorated for Christmas and there is still more to come.  I love it!!!  It is just so…festive and fun.  That’s how I would describe Brooke.  She is festive, fun, and pours out the love and beauty of the Lord wherever she goes.

Brooke and I recently became friends when we joined her and her husband’s (Brad Morrison) life group this past February when we first started getting involved in our new church.  We left our previous church that was filled with family and friends that we loved, to take a step of faith out of the familiar and into the unknown.  We were alone with a very small strategic support system to get us through this transition but we needed more, so we decided to join a life group.  We were blessed that the Lord led us to them.

Brooke and Brad really do LIFE with us.  They know us….big stuff too.  They know our hearts, struggles, wounds, dreams, and even our ugliness….and they still love us.  They have been Jesus with skin on when we needed it most and that….THAT is a blessing that not many people get today….and especially not in the church, but I will leave that conversation for another time…if the Lord allows.

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Me:  Okay, you are a busy woman….how do you balance?

Brooke: What I have realized lately is neglecting “me” time.  I still have moments….going to the grocery store by myself is pretty much my “me” time.  I love my family.  When I work all day I want to come home and spend time with my family.  I’m very selfish with my family time.  I like to be social and I like to be out….but like today we just wanted to be home and comfy in our pj’s.  And that is something that I am so thankful for…Brad is the same way.  He doesn’t have to go go go.  He is fine with just staying at home watching netflix or a movie…or helping me decorate.  Oh, I love that man.  (she swoons) I would like to do more like family sunday dinners…like once a month.  We just plan…not a birthday…not a holiday…but ….let’s just get together.  I’ve learned that you have to make a decision to do that and plan it.  If you don’t actually sit down and plan it you go 6 months without seeing a relative.

Me:  Alright, so, how long have you been a Christian?

Brooke: Okay, I grew up in the church…from infancy.  I said a whole lot of prayers but I actually didn’t give my heart to the Lord until I was nineteen.  It was March 19th…

Me:  THAT’S MY BIRTHDAY!

Brooke:  It’s a GREAT birthday!!  Yeah, it was March 19, 2005……so I was 19 almost 20.  It was at a worship night.  The worship pastor at the church I used to attend would have worship nights once a month.  One night he got up and He started sharing and said, “I feel like I have a word for someone here.  There’s a woman here whose whole life she has believed that she is saved but she is not.”  As soon as he said that I started feeling sick to my stomach….and thinking…What?  No…that’s not me.  Then he said, “I just see you have a heart for the Lord and you have always loved Him but you have never made the confession and you have never made the commitment.”  The more he was talking the more sick I became….thinking….I’m going to vomit.  But then I was like….ok…..what is it going to hurt.  So I went…and from that moment I didn’t doubt.  That was my moment.

Me:  That is amazing!!!!  So what is the greatest lesson that you have learned in your walk with the Lord?

Brooke:  (Begins to tear up)….Probably that no matter what…..(tears up again)…..that no matter what nothing I can do can take His love from me.  No matter what I’ve done or mistakes I’ve made….He will always love me.  I still have to remind myself of that….it is a constant.  God is Love and there is no changing that.

Me:  So…tell me about your Jesus.

Brooke:  He is sarcastic…with me.  I hear Him speak in different voices depending on what the circumstances are.  There are sometimes when God is a big black woman to me….and He says, “Oh, honey I know you did not do that.”  And then there are times when He is just a daddy and says, “Come here baby girl.”  And there are times when He is my mom’s voice and comforting me and giving me guidance.  And at times when He sounds like Brad’s voice where He is loving on me and telling me how beautiful I am.  And then there are times when we are talking like we are best friends.  He loves laughter.  Sometimes my most spiritual moments are when I am laughing with my girls.  God loves that.  He loves laughing with His kids.  When I come to Him in a broken place He isn’t there with condemnation, but with an….”I’ve been waiting on you.” ….not an “I’ve been waiting for you it is about time you got here”…but “I’m so excited about what we are going to do in this time together.”  It is just constant.  And even though He never changes it is as if I am always getting a new glimpse of Him.  We can’t handle all that God has for us…it would kill us.  I love that He doesn’t change He stays the same, but He is always revealing new parts of Himself to us.  This last year I feel that I haven’t been diligent in my quiet time….and really it is just selfishness.  I come home…I’m really tired…I can’t sit down and read the Bible with Brooklyn running around because she is at that age where she is like, “Mommy…come on.  Mommy, come on.”  But when I get to His feet there is no condemnation.  But every moment I have with Him I grow a thousand percent.  Another thing I have learned is that He says that when we walk through the fire we wouldn’t get burned…..He didn’t say we wouldn’t feel the heat.  I’ve learned that even when Brad and I are going through trials together…I don’t have to be afraid.  I don’t have to doubt or fear.  Yeah…it hurts but I always have that hope…there is always hope.  It WILL change.  It may not always be what we think it should be, but it will change.  Knowing that He is always on our side and that He is always for our good….(tears up)…it just gets overwhelming sometimes.  I think that is one of my favorite things….to watch and see how God has done something.  It is just another reminder of who He is.  I’m such a sap too.  It’s like five second commercial and I’m wasting a whole Kleenex box!!  Brad always says that He loves how sensitive I am…because I am…I cry very easily.  That is how I express my emotions.  When I am happy….I cry.  When I am sad…I cry.  When I am mad…I cry.  A lady that mentored me for a little bit.  She actually gave me…I had a charm bracelet…and she gave me a weight…a dumbbell for it.  She said that God had spoke to her and that He was saying that my tears were a sign of great strength.  I feel like He has actually imparted part of His emotional side into you.  She said that a lot of people couldn’t handle it but that God gave this to you because He felt you could handle how He feels towards people.  That whole weep with those who weep…mourn with those who mourn….yeah…I take that very literally.  I hurt when people are hurting.  I’m  sad when people are sad.  I’m happy when people are happy…..and that is not a bad thing.  I love how God expresses Himself with His people.  I love how He loves His people.   So…love…I just love love.

Me:  So…you ARE pretty much Christmas in a body.

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Brooke:  Pretty much!!  If I could live in Christmasville I soooo would!!!  This is the one time of year that even for a minute people remember the gift of giving and remembering each other.  I love watching people open a present that they didn’t know about about.  I love it!!!  I love making people happy.  My favorite words are love and hope.  I feel like I have been given my hope.  Brad and Brooklyn were my hope.  My life verse is Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  That was my hope…that someday I would have the desires of my heart.  That one day I would have a husband that loves and adores me, and for a daughter.  I LOVE my boys but I prayed for a daughter.  I have that hope and now I am into spreading love.  Which is another reason I wanted a life group…I wanted to be able to fellowship with people.  I say the three C’s….cookies, coffee, and conversation should always be happening in my house…emphasis on the cookies.

Me:  I would emphasize the coffee.

Brooke:  So yeah…I just love.

Me:  That is how we will end it….she loves love.

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My Gleanings

I love Brooke’s heart and understanding that she is a DAUGHTER of Jesus.  She doesn’t just know that Jesus is her father…she KNOWS it and OWNS it!!!  If I was to ask Brooke, which I should have asked her this, “Whose your daddy?”  She would have said….JESUS.  He is my daddy!!  I’m gleaning this from her because I am in a season…this season has been going on for about 7 months now…but a season of really coming to an understanding of my identity.  I am a daughter of Jesus.  Yes…His DAUGHTER.  I am a daughter of the most high King.  Think about that.  When we know our identity in Christ…then the fun really begins and the religion ends.

Now the next gleaning from Brooke was what her mentor said to her, and that her tears were a sign of strength.  I have JUST learned this THIS year.  Crying is GOOD!!!  I used to think that if I was crying about something that I wasn’t being tough enough and that I should quit my blabbering and pull myself up by my boot straps and keep on keeping on.  I will pretend to be strong and slap a scripture over it and say something holy like, “I will NOT let Satan steal my joy!”…and use that as my excuse not to mourn…not to cry.  It is wrong…it is prideful…and it is harmful to you and the others around you.  We MUST cry and mourn.  It is a step in the process of healing that the Lord wants to walk us through.  We can’t receive full healing until we have actually begun to mourn….because when we mourn He promises to turn it to dancing.  The Lord also PROMISES that when we sow in tears we will reap with JOY!!  We can’t skip the tears process!!!  Plus there IS STILL joy even when we are crying.  There is STILL strength…IF…Please catch this….we are taking those tears to the Lord.  If you are just crying to cry, stir up drama, or crying about your hard times all over facebook and any other form of media to get some kind of sympathy card…you will never reap the fruit of joy.  Only GOD, Jesus Christ, can turn tears of sorrow into true joy….TRUE joy.  Now…I cry.  I cry to my Savior and mean it.  I cry to my husband and let him know my honest and true struggles with full disclosure.  I cry to my selected friends whom I can trust with my heart.  I cry, and that makes me strong.

I am so blessed to have a friend like Brooke that cries.  Seriously!!!  The Lord knew that I needed to learn a lesson in crying the right way, so He surrounded me with sweet friends like Brooke, Courtney Watkins, Denise Lee, Erin Sullivan, Jerri Benjamin, and many more…all of whom I have been able to glean this lesson from them on this blog.  Crying women rock….when they cry the right way…and these women do.  They do it with style.

Last, this statement right here, “…even though He never changes it is as if I am always getting a new glimpse of Him.”  As I typed this statement it sent my mind spinning into how glorious and awesome the Lord is.  What would be something that never changes yet we can always find new glimpses of it.  The universe came to mind and the infinite amount of stars and galaxies.  I know that they are moving and changing but that is the only thing that I could compare it to.  We are always finding new glimpses of discoveries found in expanses of the universe, and it breeds more curiosity to find even more discoveries.  I want to be that.  I want to always be curious about the Lord and press in to find and discover new things about Him and who He is.  I want to have a “new glimpse” of Him daily.

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