The Upside Down Masterpiece

jesus

Imagine yourself being able to create a masterpiece of astounding art.  One that prickles at the skin of any onlooker, a painting so intense that you can’t think of NOT staring at it.  Now, captivate in your mind this very undeniable piece of art being painted…upside down in front of your eyes!  Brush after stroke, having no idea how it will all turn out.

I recently embarked on a 21 day fast (a period of time giving up something) that distracts me from focus, prayer, and introspect along with my church.  For some, this may be food, wine, soda, or swearing, but for me, my great distraction is Social Media.  Oh, how I love to demonstrate to the world how I am loveable, I have talents, my children’s smiles and a great batch of cookies that turned out on par splattered all over a platform that allows me to.  I love the likes, comments, and affirmation that I am accepted.  Like a drug, it can take up time, focus, and has the ability to rule my thinking; creating a pendulum of reality and a facade.  After deciding that I would only eat fruit, veggies, and nuts for 21 days, and then almost passing out at work due to low blood sugar, I had some OJ, concluding I was eliminating the wrong distraction.  For, when I was hungry and irritable for the first two days of my fast, I found myself scrolling endlessly on Facebook, looking for some answers, I mean this is the internet, right?  Immediately I knew I was giving up the wrong distraction and deleted all social media apps from my phone.

An urge swelled, a deep desire to post a picture of my adorable kids coining a quirky and loveable caption on Instagram, occurred pretty much the second I swore off my fix.  I put my iPhone down and actually lived in the moment of their laughter and joyous play.  Okay, I can do this.  Live in the moment instead of foreseeing the likes that could pour in after a second in time played out in front of me that I will never see again.  In that, I realized that every stage in time is bottled up waiting to explode in a brilliant color.  Quite possibly anticipating to expand our hearts and reshape our thinking.  Day one of fasting a venue that I love so much was a success.

Moving on to the next level of what a fast truly calls us to was a bit of a challenge.  God’s purpose for a fast is to cling to Him in prayer and His word when our belly groans, or in my case, a surge of online approval screams.  My first Saturday night without such pleasure, I found myself lying on the floor of my bathroom, while I would have usually been wasting my time scrolling away… but this night I found myself…praying. 

Focus Ami, you can do this.

My mind wandered…what will I wear to church tomorrow?

Focus!

Okay, God, I’m here, and kinda want to…talk.

In that introverted moment, I rallied all of the courage I had been meaning to have for months asking Him to reveal something to me in past that I know I’ve blocked out.  A security blanket of black, to protect a fragile little girl who wasn’t ready to peer into the mirror of an iniquity seeming to be far too reaching to process.

Lord, I’m ready.  Let me see it, all of it.  No matter what it may be I know you are here…with me.  

In the essence of vulnerability, He allowed me to remember.  He showed me a vivid vision of my four-year-old self-experiencing an intrusion I’d obstructed from my memory bank, yet somehow knew had always taken place.  Jumping up off the floor I instinctively cried out for the one person in the world who I knew could make it all better.  My husband.

“Alan!”  A shrill astounded throughout twenty-three hundred square foot home.

Two seconds later, he appeared.  “What is wrong, baby?”

“Just hold me.  God will do the rest.”

I didn’t sleep into the trenches of Sunday, wondering if this really was a good idea, as I couldn’t erase the image from playing out in my mind over and over again.

Monday brought more unveiling of anguish, un known battles that were being fought while I lived in bliss.  I felt as if what I relied on for affirmation was punching me in the face, talking behind my back, and shunning me at every avenue.  Unbeknownst to me apparently I wasn’t doing as great of a job as I thought, mulling through my everyday routine.  There were things I could change, improve on, love more, talk less, and humble myself before.

Sunday at church I sought out Pastor Kevin as soon as I saw his six foot five frame gleaming at the door of our large church, waiting for someone who may need God’s provision.  

ME, yes please HELP ME!  I ran to him.  

“PK, is it normal to have the enemy attack you big time during this fast?”

His steely introspective blue eyes met mine and a smirk covered his face as he quipped,“Tell me something I don’t know.”

So this chaos is normal in my obedience?

 In that realization, licking my fresh wounds I decided, fine, I’ll just be like everyone else.  During my uncomfortable state of being called out by God…on what seemed to be pretty much everything, I drafted a version of me that wasn’t even close to who God made me. If I act different, I will be loved, right?  Sullen, downcast, introverted, not to mention pitifully sad, I dragged myself through the next three days.  Those around me couldn’t help but assume I was sick, filled with an anguish of a lost loved cat, or by chance they rejoiced at the apparent lack of my usually annoying joy.

Embarking on week two of this painful and deeply confusing fast, it became clear to me that I was not only being beat up Rocky Balboa style by the enemy but also by myself.  Like a brick slammed into my face-God showed me that I was clearly missing the point.

For, this time was intended for me to sacrifice, turn inward and run closer to God in order for Him to allow me to stretch.  Further than I could have ever imagined, as we rarely spread our wings to the point of ache in times of contentment.  I surrendered to the power of Truth and found the smile on my face once again, no matter the revelations of past pain, inequities I may be responsible for, and decided to take ownership of it.

Pain has been given when I didn’t deserve it, and I have brought some storms on others.  So, in prayer, I cried out to God as to how I may stretch and grow so I can rectify pain I may have caused others?

God clearly spoke to me through two wise women. My mentor and dear friend,  my mom in Nevada both voiced that I needed to humble myself and do what we all hate to do when we realize we were infinitely wrong.  Apologize for my wrong doings and forgive the pain forged upon me.

Ugh, really?  Yeah, um no thanks, God.  They hurt me, I didn’t ask for any of this!

“Yes you did, the moment you decided to come back to me.  This is how I heal, how I move.  Through Truth.”  God declared in my time of deep reflection.

Finally, I may be catching on.  This fast isn’t only for me to stop posting dinner plates on Instagram.  It is an outlet for me to heal, prosper, and feel pain I need to embrace in order to forgive.

Week three found me sicker than a dog (whatever that means) with a head cold that fogged my mind, and weakened my body.  As I laid in bed, departed from my usual routine of phone in hand, I answered God,  Fine, I’ll do it.  I’ll say I’m sorry.

After crying out to my mentor for guidance as to how to navigate such an arduous venture she insisted we meet in the prayer room at church after service.  In this still, dim lit, cozy room hung a painting of Jesus that escaped my breath at the mere beauty of it.  Jesus’ eyes were fixated on me in a telling way, as if He could see right past all of my turmoil and the disobedience of the past.  I prayed with my friend, felt His anointing in my life, and left through the narrow door believing that where I am, is where I am supposed to be.  

Days later my pastor told me that the life size painting in the prayer room of Jesus was painted upside down by an artist during a church service years ago.

UPSIDE DOWN?

How on earth did a painter create such an awe striking canvas filled with a divine view of Jesus looking upon up us, from the wrong side up?

As I sat in that very room on the last day of my 21 day fast with my husband, God revealed to me how He used the artist to create something so far reaching, upturned.  It is how He works.  While we are dizzy from seeing the world from our own point of view, the reality we chose to live in, Jesus craves for us to see it from His perspective.  

The church onlookers must have been in awe as the canvas was flipped right side up, thus showcasing the compassionate, loving, and sacrificing eyes of Jesus staring back at them.  Who knew such a possibility of greatness, could be formed from the bottom up?  God does and that is often how He works miracles in our lives.

For that is how He cries out for us to live our whole lives.  Having no clue what will come of it, except burying deep in our hearts that if we trust, obey, are faithful, and submit we can be turned around and displayed as His perfect masterpiece.

The Radical Underground

I dedicate this piece to my son Cameron, who is a leader in the radical underground movement. A group of people who make the reality of the spotlight shine its very brightest.

13029648_772307906236924_2223564325859210780_oFor anyone who knows me, you are fully aware that I am not a “behind the scenes” kind of gal.  I love the spotlight.  I’m not going to sugar coat it, if you give me a microphone in front of 30,000 people my endorphins would immediately fly through the ceiling and pop every single one of the balloons that were meant to drop on your heads at the end.  I LOVE to skate in ice shows, write books for people to read, and give speeches in front of large groups of people.  In conclusion,  I love, wait no I ADORE the spotlight.

Reflection always takes place when you see your children take flight, into the person that they were groomed to be.  Blessed to take part and pardon in God’s magnificent grace, I have watched my two teenage sons grow toward their purpose.  My oldest son is me in every way when it comes to his ability to jump on a stage and truly own it.  He loves to sing and bless the world with his gift of leading worship.  He has preached, ministered to the masses, sang in front of thousands.  He, like me, loves to be center stage.  

My second son is the opposite and this is what gives me great pause and has inspired this piece.  Someone recently asked Cameron, in lieu of his older brother singing, writing songs, preaching at church, living boldly in the arena of sight, what he did.  Because in that person’s eyes, he doesn’t do much.  For the work that Cameron does is not vivid to the naked eye.  In this moment my  Cameron lay silent, as usual, because that is what the underground does.  They are the inaudible hero’s that create the formation of what is able to transform when the people like me set out to conquer the excitement of presentation.

The lights come on.  

The music of background decibels magically meets the onlookers ears.

A book is edited perfectly, fixing all the errors of the author who brings creation onto paper.

A cover is designed with artistic impression that grabs at emotion in a manner that provokes readers to grab your book.  

Back stage hands make it possible to know that exact moment to go on stage.

The perfect camera angle enables the stage hungry performers to articulate exactly what will capture the viewers to go with them where the story leads.

We don’t see them.  They are miraculously invisible, and that is what makes them deeply and infinitely important.  For, in essence, the availability of the show stoppers who have the ability to reach the masses cannot function alone.  We are unable to perform in our God given talented ways without you; the background foundation that without all would not be possible.

To the lights person.

To the tech expert.

To the editor.

~Digital designer.

~Person behind the camera.

~Song writer.

You all deserve our applause and deepest of gratitude.  For even if you seem like you are quiet and stand behind the lights and action, you are our rock.

As a profound team, we bring the Word of God and His promises into a light that can assimilate with the masses.  Profoundly, we do this together.  Not only the showman, or show-woman on the bright shining stage, but, side by side with the radical underground movement that supports the dream of bringing the love of God to the world.

Fifteen (In The Essence of Grace)

537465_10151588726537977_437446480_nTo Jon and Janet Brown,

Fifteen years ago today I was holding a sick baby who I had no clue was sick.  It’s an odd place to live in, one that you think is crystal clear with the visions of gold pastures abound, but underneath the surface is gray, dark, and bleaker than bleak.

Fifteen years ago, I held Caleb Scott in my arms as I sang him to sleep.  His body was waging a war deep within that I didn’t know anything of.  Decade plus Five ago you must know what I’m talking about.  Holding God’s calling for you in the breast of your soul, yet terrified that you may not be good enough.  

Fifteen years ago I had a sandy blonde haired boy who knew nothing more than sacrifice.  Tender age of two and all I knew of him was of protection for me, of life, of sanctity.  Fifteen years ago, in his world,  Cameron Wesley Otis looked onward with blue eyes of steel and majesty

Fifteen years ago, I walked away.

Angry.

Torn.

Bitter.

Left Behind.

I left.

Without a second thought.

Yet then, after years in oblivion, dessert and famine aboud, I fell to my knees.  Not because of my last breath or famine…yet in the very whisper of an essence of grace.

The Essence of Grace has the ability to:

Bring us to places we could have never foreseen.

Takes us further than any beauty we can conjure.

And gives us gifts that we are left in awe of…

Pastor Jon and Janet Brown,

In this essence of my life, you are a whisper of grace that God has placed in my life at this time and in this moment.  

Thank you for your service, for the fifteen years of ministry to what my mind can see the magnitude of.

Thank you for being…

Present.

Interwoven.

The lives of our youth…

In the Fortitude of God and Grace.

~Fifteen years ago, I had no idea of a Trasen Alan.  Who is a loving, sweet, smart, funny eight year old who will eventually come into your hearts.

~Fifteen years ago, the thought of a daughter, my delight, and heart’s desire was next to impossible.  Yet Lilia Opal Lorraine comes crashing into your lives in less than a decade!

Your service is forever imprinted in our hearts as parents, but more so in the souls of our children who we have trusted you with…For a decade plus five and into the next 15.  

Xx

The Vulnarabulity Fire

Who knew that hands placed upon me in a magnitude of grace that I could find so much peace… because when hands have been given in violence the abuse is always expected. But not today…there was only room for love! Join me in finding the acceptance we all desire to let go of the demons that haunt us to our core…

Hands upon hands were placed strategically upon me today at church as Pastor Kevin asked for those who are suffering any kind of turmoil to allow him to pray over them.  After I found the courage to stand up, which is of course somewhat embarrassing in its own right, I mean, who wants to say to the world, I totally suck at life?  No one.  But in admitting that we are in a place of need is when those in our army can truly go to battle for us.  So, I stood, my husband immediately followed as he always does to support and lead me, and then so did all the people around me in a beautiful echo of communion fortifying a will to pray against the forces that want to see me fail on the worst possible world stage possible.

As our pastor’s anointed prayer began I felt a community of touch all over me.  Now not many people know this about me, but if I’m not prepared to be touched I kinda freak out.  For a sparkly-pink loving girl, I knock out punch and a mean handshake.  Basically, I can mess you up, and I wish the reasons were simply because I am totally bad to the bone.  It actually comes from a place of deep sorrow that no person should ever have to endure.  It is a defense mechanism.  It is my survival tool to combat the evil touches that have precluded my youth.  But in this tender moment when the fighters around me took to battle, in prayer and laid hands on me, all I felt was overwhelming peace and love.  This being one of the great moments of my life.

I am a Christian.  A wife.  A mother, An author, A lover of compassion and uprising. I am deeper than most and speak what I feel when I can’t hold back.  I am also, a survivor.  Of sexual assault.

Like all too many women, I’ve been objectified, judged, and received unfair treatment due to my outer appearance.  I also know what it is like to be groped without consent.  Hands on me when I wanted to run, scream, and bellow for a savior from the depths of torrent this kind of situation poses. But…I didn’t.  I just stood still, not sure how to react, contemplate, to retaliate.  Mostly because, it was someone who I trusted, valued and loved deeply.

That is the core horror of my situation.  I trusted, loved and adored someone, and he stripped me of my innate belief principle because of a physical urge that my predictor could not control. Which ultimately drove me, the victim to seek control over my own life in extremely destructive ways.  I have literally lived in a cold, gray, prison for all the life I have memories of.  Despite achieving many astute and lovely things, my abuse has always been there, nagging, digging its claws into my self-esteem and pain point throughout my whole life.

I have starved myself in order to beg to the powers that be that I simply disappear.  For being thin and non-existent felt much better than real, honest and facing the truth of an unthinkable nightmare I was forced to live.

I have stuck a finger down my throat to regurgitate food I forced into my body feeling powerful and filled in a fleeting breeze of pleasure.  Then at the moment of the purge, I felt free of the physical delight of having food.  Free of a burden of plenties I believed that I did not deserve.  

I have drank too much and taken prescription pills to forget the moment I was in.  If I didn’t have to live in the “now” that usually produced images of black and white-hot and cold- with a vivid vision of safety and then ultimately, hell.

I have strived for success at any avenue.  If I commit to something, not only will I win, but I will prevail in the wildest of ways.  Winning, yes I know this well. For if I am perfect I am loved, right?  If i tell you I’m a best-selling author, you smile, If I tell you I’m a figure skater that performed in eight ice shows your eyes glisten, if I share that I’m an award winning public speaker, you accept me even more.  The horror of my core is pushed deeper, and I navigate through pain, lack of sleep, physical torture, so I can prove to you all.  That I am here successfully standing, but mostly that I am not deplorable.  

Because that is really how I feel deep inside.

I tell myself that I deserve the torture that I sentence myself to because ultimately I feel dirty, taken, and abused.  Worthless.  Innocence was taken without being asked and then tossed to the side without a second gaze. Abuse potentates self-harm, which produces insecurity and lofty images of distancing from all the things inside me that cry that I am worthy, loved and bountiful in His image.  God calls me by my name and reaches inside my darkness proclaiming a stake on lightness.  Yet all I see is bleak, darkness, that tells me I should hide my face, body, and reality of abuse.

I was reminded of a funny yet powerful expression of wanting to throw in the towel in the midst of the worst pain imaginable today talking to one of my girlfriends.  When I was in labor with my first son, having never experienced the threshold of pain in the form of every single fiber of my body being squeezed outside of itself, I was a bit despondent.  Unable to feed off of the numbing potion of an epidural due to a rapid first delivery, I was left to feel every single contraction of my introduction of Caleb into the world.  As my body seamlessly engaged what we know as “transitional labor” better known as the fire ring of the worst pain possible, I decided that I was done, I quit, love y’all but I’m out!  I wanted nothing of the impossible expectations of strength that was being expected of my body, spirit, and mind.  After a particularly horrid contraction that I was sure expelled my liver, spleen, and for sure bowels, I gathered my bag and walked out the door.  I was done.  Goodbye, I yelled as i waddled down the hallway of the labor and delivery floor.  “Where are you going?” My husband and the nurses chased after me in a panic.  I dropped to the floor with another one of those earthquake level contractions that cracks the world in half.  Picking myself up off the floor I declare to my audience, “I changed my  mind.  I’m good, I’m going home.  This isn’t at all what I thought it was going to be, and simply I cannot do it.”  I got about two steps down the hall and another blow took my breath away forcing me to realize, too late, sweetie.  You’re committed.  You have to deal.  Minutes later I gave birth to one of the greatest loves I could have ever fathomed possible.  God is so Good!  After we go through the fire we deem impossible is when we reap the greatest possible result.

An ah-ha moment came when I was describing in the throws of my counseling session how I had no idea how difficult it was for me at this time to fight the good fight.  I told counselor dude how I am a WINNER!  I overcome! It’s simply what I do.  But in this season of my life I find it next to impossible to set aside the crutches I’ve utilized my whole adult life, and as much as I am ready to accept the calling that God has CLEARLY placed on my life, I am stuck in the abyss of struggle.

He dug.

I went with him.

He asked me what my process, dealing with my inner child being abused has been like. And I stated what seemingly felt to be the obvious,

First I was in denial. …Nope, this didn’t happen.  It was just a bad dream.  It wasn’t THAT horrible.  I mean, girls have it way worse than me, right???

Then anger met me at her doorstep with hurricane force winds and power.  …I’M SO HOT WITH ANGER THAT I WILL BREAK YOUR HANDS IF YOU COME NEAR ME.  Okay, I still have a little bit of that in me, but the rage brewed, swelled and came out in the worst of times on the ones I love the most.

Now, I’m in the stage of vulnerability.  The denial has been dismissed the anger controlled and now I’m stuck in this boiling pot of reality, memories, and feelings.  No wonder I’m completely and totally stuck in a huge hot mess of yuck, struggle, and agony.

Because, in all reality, who truly wants to be left naked and open to the feelings and memories that haunt us in the deepest caverns in our heart?  Yeah, um, no one.

God will win, He will take the pain and use it to further the kingdom and minister to the countless women and men who have suffered as I, but first I have been called to go through the fire of vulnerability.  The chastise of truth, and the bellows of “why me, take me, free me from this torturous place, this barren land, and bleak future.  God, just come, PLEASE NOW!” That is the inferno justice of honoring our true self and feelings, where we have nowhere to run but into the arms of our Lord and Savior.  For none other has any kind of a shot at healing the brokenness, anger, denial, and raw pain of such an invasion.  Through it all I’m embracing the truth that He knew me before I breathed my first breath, and will take my last.  He has my purpose in the palm of His hand, and all I have to do is take it and run like mad to fulfill it.  

But first my friends, beforehand, I have to fight the fire of my vulnerability, heal, and prosper to the other side.   

I honor and pledge that I will overcome odds, to fulfill His greater destiny for my life, and I encourage you to join me in the same venture.  Because that is truly living, loving, and ministering to the highest of soaring levels.  Healing is imminent we simply have to go through His process to provide His greater purpose on our journey toward complete healing while growing us into the everything He has promised for us to be.

Please be inspired by the song that inspired this blog:

https://open.spotify.com/track/4ajsTrCAjWtUPLU6xCy4u4

The Wish Flower

God’s beauty comes in so many forms we miss them every day. What if your ugliest of secrets could be used to be His most beautiful of testimonies? Join me in finding our inner wish flower!

Every now and then in life, a wish has the potential to manifest into reality.  Possibly, a plush garden that we are set free in and given free reign to grow and prosper.  But in all reality, nothing of the sort comes without a lot of hard work dedication and sacrifice.  A short time ago I clearly heard the voice of God telling me that He has extraordinary plans for me…perhaps a stunning garden of my own to dance and sing in if only I was ready….  

I saw a vision so magnificent chills prickled my skin to the point of ache.  My eyes filled with tears filtered through a colander crafted by Hope.  The kind of desire only God’s promises can bring, those created with the purest of gold.  The sun formulated shadows on the stunning Wisconsin landscape as I envisioned my dream turning into reality, for as we all know God doesn’t lie. Holding on to the peak that God had just given me, I imagined myself right where my Maker had told me I could be…

But under one very important condition, one that I wasn’t sure I could meet.

I had to give up my last vice, the one that had been plaguing me for the better part of my adult life.  My poison, my escape, my greatest lie yet what I oddly considered to be my very best friend.

God clearly told me “no more one foot in, one foot out!”  He declared that in order for me to fulfill the destiny He has laid out in front of me I had to stop blowing on the wish flower hoping my dreams would come true.  It was time for me to become the wish flower.

Early in springtime, our green grass is filled with bright yellow weeds we call dandelions. Most of us find them to be a hassle, an annoyance, and something that eventually turns into a feathery mess that only creates millions of more ugly weeds.

Each and every one of my four children in the innocence of childhood found such “ugliness” to be a flower that they could pick for me.  When my three boys were little they would run to me with a handful of the golden weeds, proudly handing me what they saw as a dozen yellow roses.  Of course, my eyes lit up and I kissed them harder than they liked.  I’d put those darn, hideous things in a cup of water and place them where all could see.  They were flowers from my sons after all.

Recently my youngest child, my one, and only daughter discovered the brilliant abundance of flowers everywhere her eyes could scan!  The same glory shone on her face as she picked as many as her small hands could hold to present to me.  I smiled and warmly held on to the memory of my older boys doing so as preschoolers and finding myself so blessed that I got to be the recipient of dozens and dozens of dandelions one last time.

As the weeds went to seed I taught my daughter to pick one, close your eyes tight, make a wish, then blow!  We had so much fun running in the meadows captivating our wishes and watching them fly in the wind.  A few days later my daughter and I were on a walk and she declared with her sweet angel voice:  “Mommy,  let’s pick the wish flower.”  As she tugged on my hand dragging me over to a dandelion that was resigned to nothing but a bunch of white seeds held on by a frail material that would scatter with the slightest of winds, she picked one for herself and then one for me.

“Blow, mommy, blow the wish flower.”

In sweet unison we sent the seeds out to pasture with all the breath we could muster. Fragments of the once robust weed were sent in every direction to cultivate the next season of the ugly weeds life.

I took great pause looking at a stinky old weed through the eyes of my children, and in that moment I realized how similar I am to that “flower”.

Often times I feel less than desirable and misplaced.  An annoyance that shouldn’t be adored as a “real” flower, but merely one that only looks like one from a distance.  

Standing there watching the tiny buds of future life fly in the sky destined for their landing place I realized that is how God uses us.  He takes our “yuk” our undesirable and unlovely things to plant the earth with His mercy, grace, and beauty for all to look on in awe.  I’ve discovered through struggle and past turmoil that our past where we no longer live, but where we can be used in tremendous ways.

Of course,  the catch twenty-two is we can’t live there anymore if we are destined to do the work God has in store for us.  We have to move past the comfortability that holds us back, whatever the last straw is, we have to break free and move into the light and testimony of the calling He has on our lives.

A few days later I did it!  I leaped into the arms of promise and purpose giving up my crutch and truly began living, soaring toward the woman God has in store for me.  I’m ready for Him to breathe new life into me and blow my seeds all over this world.  For every part of me, broken and beautiful is wonderfully and fearfully made and God has promised me that He will use it all for His glory.  

For as a daughter of God, I am His wish flower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, What a Beautiful Journey!

After years away from God, this prodigal daughter found her way home with a little bit of help from my boys.

13307492_10209179031022491_7503621198356673458_nFour years ago it seemed that after unthinkable  tragedy my family and I just couldn’t take another blow.  After two-second trimester infant losses, with burial sites side by side, my family and I felt as if we were left to bleed ourselves dry.

After what seemed to be the last fatal blow, I threw up my hands and took my son Cameron who was struggling deeply at the time to Journey Church up the road from where we lived. It was in the middle of the day, filled with the newness of spring but in my heart the end of a long dead battle with winter.

The Administrative Assistant, after spotting my tear filled eyes and broken spirit, went to find a pastor on duty…fast. Pastor Jonathan took us in and wiped our tears but mostly met my then 11-year-old son where he was…as true men of God do.

And I knew a thing or two of a true component of God.  I was raised in the church, a passionate youth who screamed the gospel of Christ at every avenue of life I encountered.  I spoke, sung, shouted, and lived Jesus.  But then I left Him.  As fast as the sun rose it set and in that I had come and gone away from my Savior.

But me seeing the consequences ahead I chose to saturate Cameron with Journey Kids. He even won a scholarship to summer camp that year, embodying the faith he was new to that was putting his broken heart back together again.  Now he serves regularly on the tech team, on Servolution Saturday’s, and is a leader at H20.  He has a passion for ministry and has been told he has a gift of wisdom with an emphasis in theology.

My husband and I saw the fruits of the church and the swift change in our son, but we still wanted nothing to do with it ourselves. It just wasn’t our “thing.”

Our then 14-year-old son Caleb was a harder sell to get to go to H2O. We saw what it was doing for Cam and wanted the same healing for Caleb. We had in fact just buried two infant sons in the past 18 months. Who couldn’t use a little healing after such losses?

After the bribe of a Chill and Grill and free ice cream, we convinced Caleb to go. He was met with music, fellowship and football on the shores of Lake Michigan. He was sold.

 

That summer Caleb taught himself to play the guitar, gave his life to Jesus and has been an instrument for God with growing momentum ever since. He is the worship leader for H20 and often is on the worship team for the big services. He is attending NCU this fall studying to be a…worship pastor.

My husband and I had no mistake in seeing what Jesus through Journey Church was doing through our son’s lives; we just wanted nothing to do with it.  It scared me, threatened to own me again, ultimately bringing me back to feelings of abandonment of parents who just didn’t want to stay. The broken inner child inside us can be really unforgiving at times.

I was still bitter personally, angry and stubborn. Why did God keep taking from me but forgetting to give back?

My sons encouraged us to come to weekend service and we told them that, although it was doing great things in their lives, we had no need for “religion”. I knew deep inside  my rage filled mindset that was a lie. I was just too proud to admit it.

My darkness grew fast eventually consuming me. As easy as it was for me to ask for help from God on behalf of my children I simply didn’t feel like I was worthy of God’s grace for myself.  I mean who walks away from God after over 25 years of deep commitment?  The idea of going back to church compounded my guilt, reminding me that I was unfaithful, that I did in fact,  walk away from the Lord who had never walked away from me.

Jesus kept melting my frozen heart, reminding me that I wasn’t the lost child, that I was His chosen child.

While my sons were at Winter Camp this past February I went to the Saturday night service. The first church service I had gone to in nearly 15 years.

And I was brought to my knees.

The Holy Spirit moved and I ran into His loving arms as Pastor Jordan sang the invitation song.  I took God up on the call He has on my life, the prophecy to use me, heal me, and put my broken pieces back together again. I ran to the altar and gave my life back to Christ.

Since then my husband and I have rarely missed a service. We are now on the First Impressions team for Journey Kids, telling parents all the amazing things Journey Kids and H20 have done for our kids. We have 2 younger kids who we now have the opportunity to raise in the church.

So what has coming to Journey Church through the medium of my kids done for me?

It has made me grow.

Brought me hope.

Made me seek.

Called me out.

Forged a smile when all I wanted to do was cry.

And brought out my inner Shine.  

And this is just the beginning…
I feel a gentle breeze against my face overwhelming me with peace, that I can fulfill my greatest destiny against the deepest of odds as I’ve found my way back into the loving arms of my Savior.

Two Seconds From Grace

Mental illness affects us all. Especially those of us who have a chance to make a difference at the moment before a fall from grace.

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Definition: Grace/  simple elegance or refinement of movement.

(In Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

 

My letter to the church leaders of the world,

I know why you serve the way you do with such reckless abandon coupled with intense fervor.

It is found in the knowledge and emotion that you love God and have a passion for people that very few in this life possess, wanting to spread a rare never ending beautiful bleeding heart upon the needy and hurting people of the world. That in itself holds value; people today desperately lack yet deeply crave to be helped when they cannot help themselves.  It can be a catapult to distinguish the true servants of God and the false chasers of self-glorification.

If you expedite an intense yet sincere passion for serving the God you praise more dutiful than the god within yourself we all fight, you have won a battle most will lose. 

You can have victory over the dark one that creeps up deep inside of us all that will find you and beg to be noticed no matter how hard we try to shove down the cornerstone of true humanity.

I’ll be quick because I realize we are all in a huge hurry.

I know this to be true as I too live in the fast paced social media era of reckoning as we find ourselves completely submerged in a lack of presence with the moment we are in. In fact, research states that the dopamine released in the brain is equivalent to heroin during times distracted on social media.  Today such distractions consume us, transporting even the most faithful of leaders to a far away land providing a high that we can’t feel simply by being present in the moment.  The intoxication feeds us, propels and catapults into a greatness we cannot taste alone.  Yet our “real” friends do the same for us, the ones we see after serving a long day wanting to congratulate us on a great sermon delivered, or an amazing set of music at worship.  Connecting with those real time friends is essential to our walk of life no matter our focus, yet losing peripheral vision in the ministry can be catastrophic

Think of a stranger who may be approaching you in their darkest hour?  Will you find time for compassion, fluidity, and what we are called to administer like no other upon one another…grace?

Having lived two amazingly diverse double decades of life, I have derived more wisdom through the badges of honor and the pitfalls presented my way and I’d like to share.  For I have a powerful observation, and that is, ultimately we all crave the  innate need to be seen.

We simply need to feel loved where we are in the moment of truth that life can poignantly present.  The insides of us that we cultivate deep into the throws of our true identity need acknowledgment.  Those of us that get up early and go to bed late fighting hard to be the best we can be are known as a special breed in the eyes of our Creator, or the church, and can find a remarkable place that can meet the need of acceptance.

There is a special commodity where our gifts can be used to help others find the principle belief that Jesus will fight their battles and WIN!

In the ministry, we feel blessed if a person in the congregation waits to speak to us after God delivered hope through our words. But what if they happen to be at the end of their rope, feeling lost and hopeless, are you truly prepared for such an encounter?  Are you in tune with the holy spirit for such an acquisition but mostly are you on standby to provide the need for them to be seen?

Pay close attention…Because what if…a hypothetical story is truth week after week in a large body of christ.

They find hope and acceptance because they found power, of Jesus’ grace through your words.

They sought the promise to end earth deafening loneliness through the cry out for a better life.

Then they wander home wanting to find a more fruitful life.

And sit at their bedside-more lost than when they left your congregation hours before.

The darkness comes in a wave of unthinkable sorrow because they sought out love yet received a standoff.

Feeling loneliness and exile from you.

They recall your~

Distracted eyes on as they shook your hand.

As you looked for someone more important approaching in the distance.

Turmoil overtakes them.  The inability to be seen leaves them hopeless with a small bottle quickly emptying its numbing liquid effect and making the sorrow of life’s war more real.

Then they reach for the steel cold barrel by their bedside

Lifting it to their mouth, they see no other way out.

A thousand decibels of anguish quake the earth and the heavens leaving nothing but sorrow and exile behind.

Don’t blame them;  their face you cannot recall as they couldn’t state the obvious dread inside their heart when they shook your distracted hand.

They couldn’t voice the ache in their heart,

“I’m struggling with depression.  I am having suicidal thoughts, and I’m about two seconds from grace yet a thousand miles away because I feel alone.”  They won’t say it because they didn’t feel  important enough in your shifting eyes.  And even if they were, they didn’t see it because you were too concerned with the need to be seen yourself.

Sincerely,

A once church leader turned church goer searching love and the need to be seen…  One who has traveled many years of love, loss and service to find herself needing an eye on hers, a handshake, or an extended listening ear, yet found disengaged leaders who were waiting for the next great moment to come their way.  I’m lucky to say that I’m still here today to write about it, but so many aren’t.   Please find  Jesus’ grace deep inside the gifts you have and never deny to show it to a beating heart that desperately may need you for the very reason you serve with such reckless abandon.