Ministry of Joy

The tall reflective glass stared back at me in an essence of taunting. Mirror mirror on the wall, I’m the most unloveable of the all. More shameful words echoed in the distance, equivalent to a beast of a thunderstorm brewing on the horizon. Cupping my hands over my ears to shield myself from the barrage of chastising words, I all too soon realized that the jeers were coming from the inside out.

Navigating this turbulent life with a beat up self-esteem is hard enough. Fighting through years of neglect, abuse, and ill decisions makes it one thousand times more arduous, doubtful, and filled to the rim with fear. I deeply know what it is like to want, yet be given an interlude of an unanswered question.  Why in the world am I made to suffer so often in this life?
For often times we are meant to be put in the trials of tribulation in order to fulfill our greater purpose, or majesty of intention placed in our lives by a God who loves us more than we could ever imagine. We can feel alone, abandoned, scared.  Yet, m years later realize that the cup we were given was more than enough to fill us to the rim of a ministry of joy we had no idea was coming.

Let me explain:

When a child is given grim circumstances they can find joy in the smallest of things. I used to ride my bike around my grandparents neighborhood when I was little. Pretending I was the mommy driving my kids to all their sports and then to a home safe and warm waiting for daddy to come home from work, brought me more unexplainable happiness than I can describe. Pretending that my dolls were my babies that I loved more than the sky and deeper than the sea made me feel complete, despite I was living with my grandparents away from my mom and far yet closer to my father than I ever wanted to be.

We can envelop joy when pain is our only reality. We feed of of it like a man wandering in a desert of strife for many years without water or food. We cling to a smile because if it is all we have then somehow we can be okay. At least this has been my journey, my take on an ever turbulent life and even more deeply painful circumstance that I came from. Yet, in the wake of it all the one thing that always brought me back to my stance of joy was the unbreakable truth that God had a purpose in it all. A rooted meaning for me to grow closer, stronger, and further into Him. For when we have all of our needs met it is easy to get caught up in the happiness of contentment, the trap of consistency, and the ability to stop seeing the need that deeply envelops our world.

Recently I was privileged to meet with someone who I not only look up to immensely, but who I find absolutely engaging, funny, and transparent. God had placed it on my heart to reach out to the lead pastor of my rather large church in seek of guidance on the turbulent season of my life I find myself currently placed in yet again. His words of encouragement forged a great cascade of truth bombs blaring inside the deeply wounded subconscious of my inner child.

For I hear:

I’m not good enough.
I’m unworthy.
Unloveable.
Intolerable.

Adjectives I described myself to be, this spiritual leader, found deeply skewed.

“But, you are one of the most joyful people I’ve ever met. People have to smile when they are around you!” Was his response to my constant thought that I was all the things that big old mirror told me I was. The things that the enemy preyed upon and found delight in that I actually believed.

Wait, what. I’m lovable?

So many times it is easier to take in the lies that play out in our minds then the truth that is in front of us. I took in Pastor Kevin’s words, permitted them in my soul, and did something I don’t usually do. Let them find truth in my being and greater purpose in this life.

Since our meeting I’ve been able to see the joy he spoke of. My smile shines in my mind’s eye more than my past struggle can.  My ability to see the good rather than the evil ability this life has on us is more at the forefront of my thinking than my years I’ve spent in exile from love and acceptance. God brings people into our lives to lift us up and give us tools that we had no idea were beaming at the surface of the greatness God has in store.

I have now taken on a ministry of Joy. To smile more confidently, feel berated less, and accept love on a deeper level. What do I say to that girl looking back at me in the tall mirror? God loves you, He has you, and He absolutely has a purpose for your Joy.

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 Testimony

Hearing the testimonies of some amazing young people recently made me introspect and consilidate my own story…my reason for praise in midst of darkness.

 

lake_trail_by_alancross

I was raised in a Christian home.  Kinda.  My grandparents were my primary caregivers from age four until nine, and we went to church every Sunday morning.  Yet I longed for my mom and dad who were too busy living their own lives with their other families to care. At least that is how I felt.  And still do.

While doodling on the offering envelope with the smell of oak pews and mold in my essence I caught words in the sermon that yelled the consequences of not knowing Jesus as my personal Savior.  This revelation terrified me as I didn’t have a savior and the thought of flesh-eating fire was a little…well…scary.

So I accepted Jesus into my heart in the depths of the night, in the suburbs of Chicago as a little girl who had wide eyes of fear of a God who could abandon her and send her to hell as fast as the night turned to day.  It seemed real enough given my circumstances thus far in life.

Fast forward ten years where I was given the opportunity to truly experience Jesus through worship.  Music in its truest form has a way of convicting the heaviest of hearts and breaking through the thickest of oppositions.

I was sixteen, passionate, and in love with Jesus, proclaiming His Love and shouting His mercy at every turn.  I wrote an award-winning poem, I sang in worship, played my flute to his honor Him and brought the Word of God whenever I was asked in the form of speaking.

I.  Was. On fire.

Pain and parental abandonment meant nothing in the face of Christ’s unconditional love and that can be the raw beauty of a life story, the light is outweighed by the darkness.  Love gives way to hate and we can be set free…

I met my first husband at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and we praised our God together.  Our testimony alone was the place we were despite the places we had come from.  And our spirits were full.

Until tragedy struck our young lives and instead of turning toward Him we fled.  Faster than the wind and swifter than a famine.  We abandoned our faith in exchange for anger and resentment of a God who had always given us all we needed.  We left Him and neglected His Grace because we couldn’t see The Testimony in the face of devastation.

We had a child, a  baby boy with black hair and big eyes encompassing possibility that I just couldn’t leave in a mess of complications filled with single parenthood.  So I followed the journey of godlessness, believing every last lie I was fed.  We were a family filled with love and questions of how God could bring tribulation to good people, and how Jesus could leave us unwashed with His grace?

I lived breathed and knew secularism.  It suited me, being a strong independent woman who knew who she was and where she wanted to go…on her own.  My future seemed bright and filled with joy and promise.  As the enemy screams so you succumb to the lies.

Eventually, divorce came and left me ragged, turmoil knocked at my door and Jesus never felt so far away.  I married again, a Canadian with a heart bigger than hearts themselves; just not enough to save me.

Because people never can save us.

We had a baby together in the cold of March and we felt the loveliness that a child comes from.  Yet we didn’t praise our God who gave, we simply just didn’t...

Then a year later we lost a baby in the warmth of spring with the songs of birds and promise.  Jaden Hope went on to the next and I hated God more now than ever.

“See!” I cried.  “You are not my God.”  No God would take the one thing I love the most, my children. 

Yet, eighteen months later I found out my twenty-three-week old baby boy would die too.

My anger peaked, my faith diminished further into a blur of reality and existence, a place where no one knows which is more powerful.

“This is why I don’t believe!”  I bellowed into the night’s sky trying to figure it all out.

Why?  Why just why?

He told me that I was not broken that I was filled.  And I shouted, “leave me alone, I don’t know what you want from me!”

Days later a dear friend from my youth prophesied over me telling me that God had provision over my life that I would find Him again and be even more of a powerful tool than I was in my youth.  My eyes rolled and my heart churned in a cadence of anger.  “You are not using me, God, for you have wrecked me.  You’ve taken from me.  You’ve left me for dead.  I hate you.”

Yet I didn’t hate, or regret, or demolish my God.  I was finding my way back through His grace.

For He had a plan.

Four years later as I gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby girl in the trenches of a cold December Wisconsin afternoon and then I saw His grace come full circle.  The hospital room was filled with people watching the unfolding of God’s promise and Truth as my tears met my husband’s forming a perfect Rainbow, letting us know we will never be stricken by the same tragedy twice and that we had finally met our Grace.

My climb back truly began somewhere in between.  My older sons at that time immersed themselves at Journey Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin after I brought them there instinctively after a major life crisis struck.

The sound of song flowed beautifully throughout my home as my oldest son, the black haired baby who had grown up found a passion for music as I had as a teen so many years ago.  My second son Cameron bled the Word of God and even though I wanted it back only in small pieces God always had a plan.

They begged us to come to church and I fought it until I just couldn’t deny the gift of grace on my life any longer.  The testimony begged to be told, the ending needed to be unveiled.  Because God told me one cold February night at Saturday church as Pastor Jordan sang and the angels watched that it was time to come home.

To fulfill the prophesy allowing my life to be used in a greater manner than it was in my youth.  It was time, and He told that through my suffering He was using me, waiting for me, but mostly, loving me.

And…He really was all along the way.

Luke 15:32… My son,the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
My life isn’t perfect, I struggle and then I fall.  I get it and then I don’t.  But through my vision of loss and redemption,  I see that my testimony alone is the place I am despite the place I came.  

Please enjoy the song that inspired this blog post…and may its words soak into your heart as you overcome odds and fulfill your destiny…