Five Things God Did and Five Things I'm Asking For

It's the eve of my 32 birthday and y'all - real talk, I've been a weirdo the past few weeks. I've been a teary, tender, nostalgic mess. I'm a birthday GIRL. I love birthdays. My birthday, your birthday. I'm your awkward friend who asks you at the group dinner what it is you're hoping for in the coming year. I can barely stay asleep the night before my own birthday because I'm just EXPECTANT. Lord - what is this year going to be like? How are you going to shift things? 

But I wasn't feel that way this year. I was feeling tired, lonely, and sorry for myself. I told multiple people I just wanted to put on headphones the whole day of my birthday and be alone - which could not be further from my normal. Thankfully, my people are not letting that happen and they have a whole sweet day planned (AND MY GIRL BRITT JUST DROVE DOWN FROM INDIANA TO SURPRISE ME). 

So before I go to sleep, I want to kick the enemy in the teeth to fight those wimpy feelings (which are mostly gone anyhow). I want to count the fruit of what God has done in the last year and boldly say the things I'm asking Him to do in the coming one. 

Without further ado,
5 things I'm grateful God did this year:

1. This year I feel like God walked with me really sweetly through a season of doubt and grew me in it. I wrote a little about my Lent season here, but truly I feel like I'm rolling into 32 with a firm desire to know God more than I necessarily understand God. I used to want to be able to sit on top of all I knew about Him, to share it quickly, to be seen as someone who is wise or understands God. Now - I just want to be someone who seeks God, who loves Him, who sits in awe of Him. I've found that there's a really sweet and deep layer of faith found in the midst of doubt. 

2. I feel like God really has continued to heal and strengthen our marriage this year. This time last year I could perceive that we were on the road to a place of peace, but now I feel like we live there most of the time. Not to say that there won't be new battles or bumps in the road, but I am really grateful for how God has grown Nick and I to be partners in the last year. 

3. I've learned that I'm going to have to actively work to chill out and I'm the kind of person who needs to pursue pointless fun and fellowship. In the past years, I've worked on rest - but this isn't even about rest. It's about things having no purpose but glorifying God. It's about letting myself build things into the schedule that don't get me ahead, but help me abide. 

4. I feel like God is slowly chipping away my fear of pain. Physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual burdens. I'm feeling less scared to feel and let others feel. Meningitis last fall helped. :) 

5. God began a writing a really sweet comeback story with my health. I hear that phrase so often in my head when I'm exercising or making a salad or resting longer than I normally would. This is a comeback story. 

Also, it's worth noting that these were some heart things that came to me first. But goodness gracious, I'm so grateful for lots of other stuff He did. My daughter became my sister, our church plant grew, Wild and Free launched... but those were the emo-heart-things that stood out to me first. 

And, 5 things I'm asking God
for in the coming year:

1. I'm asking for some serious humbling and softening. There are a few little spots in my soul where I'm finding continual pride and selfishness. I'm grateful for His grace and hopeful for His gentleness. 

2. Awake. I've been throwing around this word a lot the last month with the Lord and yeah, I'm praying He helps me live awake. Awake to the needs of others, awake and aware of what He's doing, not numbing myself or trying to pacify my mind.

3. Show us our land. Again, another prayer that's been popping up for months. Really, it started last December for our family. Praying He shows us some spiritual and physical land. A home for our church, a more permanent home for our family here in Charleston, and some spiritual land - the ground He wants us to take here in our city. 

4. I'm praying that God would make me into a really great friend. Not for my glory, but for His. I want to start with being Nick's friend, then a caring mom/friend to our kids, then to those in our church and our neighbors, to our people. One of my August goals was to write down my people's love languages and as I've been doing it, I've seen how hard it often is for me to bend to those around me. But I want to! Lord, help me love them all well!

5. Gratefulness. I'm praying God brings a deep gratefulness to my soul for all He's done. I'm praying He helps me start my days with an overwhelming sense of ENOUGH in Him. I'm praying that we're able to continually break ties with STUFF and see success as His work all around us. 

And with that, I'm ready. 

Thanks God for all you did and all you're doing, you're infinitely better than cake. 
Have your way in 32. 

For the ones who don't seem blessed.

It was one of those small, casual comments that you can never forget. In hindsight, I feel worse for the person who said it so cavalierly than I do for the person who received it. But still, it was one of those sentences you can never put back once it's escaped your lips. 

We were on the beach with a group of friends, over 14 years ago now, and my sweet husband (then boyfriend) had just received some amazing news. Great news. Life changing news. Something had come to fruition that he'd worked really hard for and it was something we'd genuinely prayed for together for months on end. And as we told the friends who were gathered around us, one of them said the stinging words, 

"Wow, I really didn't think that would happen. It seems like things never really work out for you." 

We both noticed the comment but didn't acknowledge it for years. Until one day a long while later we talked about how crappy it sounded and how often it was spoken over him in that season. 

Have you ever had the feeling that you wish you could show everyone your accolades when you meet them? Catch them up to speed on the things that have gone well for you so they know where you stand? I often have the exact opposite desire sometimes. I wish when I meet people, i could hand them a snapshot of those years for us - the years where things never worked out for us, where everything we tried seemed broken, where we seemed to fulfill the negative declarations spoken over our lives. 

"There's Nick and Jess. Things don't seem to work out for them. He doesn't get the jobs he applies for. She can never lose the baby weight. Their kids seem to constantly be sick. They even miscarried, failed at that. Did you know she had an Etsy shop and no one purchased anything? Not one thing, for six whole months. I'm pretty sure the only reason they're making it is because of the kindness of their family and church - they can barely support themselves."

Maybe that whole paragraph never escaped anyone's lips - but it sure felt like it might have. And if so, it would have been true. It wouldn't have been the whole picture, but it would have been true of the circumstances. 

I was reading this morning in Genesis about Jacob and Essau and how Jacob stole Esau's blessing. The whole idea of the blessing is so interesting and weird - and yet - it takes me right back to that day on the beach. This idea that one person's proclamations over your life can be so strong and after Jacob swindled his dad for his brother's blessing, there was nothing left for Esau. 

His dad says to him: "I've made him your master, and all his brothers his servants, and lavished grain and wine on him. I've given it all away. What's left for you, my son?" 

But can we just fast forward a few pages? Jacob stays gone for years and years, gets married, goes through all kinds of hullaballoo and eventually comes back home to where Esau is. He pictures Esau furious at him, wanting to kill him. Why wouldn't he be mad? Jacob got the blessing and there was nothing left for Esau. He sends gifts and a ton of fanfare ahead of him, all hoping to win Esau's favor - to make up for the harm he caused in stealing all the blessing. 

But this is what goes down instead: 

Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?” “To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said. But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.” Genesis 33:8-9

What we find is that Esau's gratefulness and his forgiveness and his graciousness seems to have busted through any lack of blessing he received. He is not defined or held captive by the identity of "the one who things don't work out for" or "the one who's brother took all the blessing". He is Esau. He is blessed. And he is happy for his brother. 

Hey sister: I don't where you stand in life today. I don't know if you're feeling like things always work out for you, or never do. I don't know if you're living under some negative words spoken over you or if everyone's always told you you can do anything and will conquer the world. 

But I know that I know that God's word is stronger. And I know that I know that you're blessed. And I know that I know that He's drawn pleasant lines for you. And I know that I know that He's mighty in you. And I know that ANY PAGE can turn and every untrue word spoken over your life can and will be reversed by the blood of Jesus. 

Stomp your feet. Hold open your hands. Put your eyes on Jesus. You already have plenty, in Jesus' name. And things work out for you when He wills them to because He has a GOOD PLAN for your life and His love is strong and mighty. I think what shifted Esau's life the most was HIS perspective, his response, his OWN declaration over his life. And that's the one thing we have control over that no one else does. 

Let's speak life and truth and hope with abandon, over ourselves and all those we encounter. Let's speak words of life, just like our Father would. 

August Goals

The other day on instagram, I made my case for snapchat. I know that snapchat gets a bad reputation, I used to think it was only for crazy teens and creepers - but it's very quickly become my favorite social media spot. Right now it's rough and vulnerable and GENUINE. Nothing staged or too purposeful, but I digress! Another reason I like snapchat is for real, quick feedback. Today I was meeting with Jen, my ministry partner for all things writing and speaking, and we asked snapchat: 

Do you like to read blog posts about goals? Specifically, do you like reading mostly update posts about goals? I DO. I can't get enough of other people's posts about goals. I love Lara's, Nancy's, Cheyenne's, Val's. I love when women get vulnerable and say: Hey! This is what I'm gonna try to to do. This is where I feel God calling me. No stress if it doesn't happen, but this is where I'm pointed. 

I'm the self-proclaimed-unashamed-biggest-fan ever of Lara Casey's PowerSheets. If there's a woman in the United States that has bought more sets of powersheets than me, I'd like for the Lara Casey Shop girls to introduce us. I buy them for myself, I buy them for my friends, I buy them for my family. I love them and they're my favorite goal setting tools around. 

This year, I'm using the Powersheets per usual and also settling in to work through the Fall into Freedom Workbook I released last week. Over the next few weeks I'll be blogging through what I learned during this Summer to Thrive and how it's leading me to Fall into Freedom, but first! Let's get started with some plain old simple GOALS. My plan is to start regularly blogging goals again and doing a follow up each month. 

Without any more blabbering on,
here are my August 2016 goals! 

(monthly goals) 
- Assemble a Wild and Free college team (see more info here!
- Pick a devotional book to read with Glory (cause she's my sister now!
- Set up my own Bible Study + Writing spot in our house
- Diving into writing Book #2 (due date is November 1st!) 
- Announce new Naptime Diaries partnership, business name, and launch Fall line! (First announcement here, second coming soon, and fall line launching August 24th) 
- Set up a good after-school routine
- Start taking my supplements again (These are the basic ones I take
- Make a friend love language list to love my people well

(weekly goals) 
- Meet once a week with Nick to go over church, family, business stuff
- Take 24 hour sabbath each week (Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon) 
- Workout 5 times (backed off from my old goal of 6, woohoo for backwards movement in the best way!) 
- Send 1 newsletter and post 1 blog
- no TV in bed on weeknights (this is why I post these. Because typing them out is ACCOUNTABILITY) 

(daily goals) 
- Get 7 hours of sleep
- Phone free 3-8pm
- Talk to Jesus
- Do a headstand
- Kiss Nick
- Ask my kids about their hearts. 

Alright, I'll get into the deeper heart thoughts behind some of those goals in the coming posts, but I think that's a boatload of info for now. Excited to come back September 1st and see where we landed. 

Do you post your goals? Leave a link in the comments so we can all run together intentionally! 

Fall Into Freedom

Guys, it worked! It worked! 

At the beginning of the summer, I made the Summer to Thrive Guide and the Lord helped me through those pages (and I pray you too) to cast a vision over our summer and carry it out. I put less energy into the things that didn't matter, I dove into adventure and relaxed days, I put my attention on being aggressively grateful, and I made a decision to work less. 

And I'm so grateful to say - Summer 2016 has been a game changer. There have been bumps and struggles for sure, but I feel like it was a summer where I really learned how to thrive, not just survive. 

And I know it's not over, it's only the end of July - but about a week ago, FALL started hovering over me like a dark cloud. The back-to-school doctor's appointments and the to-do lists and the busy months and the new rhythms - they're all staring at me and taunting me, reminding me that these slow days are coming to an end. 

So a few nights ago, I decided to give it another shot and get intentional about this coming season the same way I did with summer. I thought through the things that felt heavy and cumbersome and took some time to let the Lord cast vision over the fall. And I'm so grateful I did, because I'm not scared anymore. It doesn't feel looming, it feels exciting. I know that I'm not abandoning the fruit I found this summer, I'm carrying it with me into the fall - nearer to the Lord and all the more expectant. 

And I'm excited to share it with you guys today! I pray it's a HUGE blessing for you and I'd love for you to share how the Lord uses the workbook using the hashtag #fallintofreedom16 on social media. I'll do the same and we'll walk forward into all God has for us this fall together. Amen? Amen. 

Women of God: Please come undone.

I hope you know this feeling, I'm pretty sure most of us do. 

We were sitting in a casual and slightly lopsided circle - some of us on couches, some in armchairs, all gathered around a coffee table that was loaded with our coffees and treats. We'd hired a babysitter for the morning, but kids and toddlers were still slowly meandering in and out, holding their mamas for brief moments and stealing bites of goodies from our table. 

We were talking about the book we're reading, the Lord, our husbands, counseling, our lives, motherhood, mission, the Bible - all the usual topics. And we'd hit a subject that God was really seriously messing with me about. My heart was beating freakishly fast, I could feel the tears welling up behind my eyes, and I started nervously destroying the paper napkin that I was holding in my left hand. 

I was about to come undone, right there in front of my new-ish friends. The tears were going to happen and it was going to be messy. I was going to say REAL thoughts and feelings, some that might not sound holy or tidy, and I was going to need correction, exhortation, encouragement, and accountability. And I had a choice: let it happen or stuff it back up? 

Here's the deal: I had some good excuses to stuff it back up. A of all - it was only our second meeting. No one else had lost their junk in tears yet. We're a new group and we're not all super safe and understanding of one another. B of all - I'm the pastor's wife. Not all of these women go to my church, but most of them do. How can I comfort and lead and seem like I have my ish together with the Lord if I'm the one needing the help? C - (and here's the kicker) IT WAS MY BOOK THAT WE ARE READING. You know, Wild and Free, the book I coauthored with my good friend, the one that thousands of women across America are reading.

Well, I'm reading it too, and here I was, at book club, finding something in Chapter 2 that was bringing me to my knees and sending me to the feet of Jesus. Needing help, healing, and some serious love from my friends. 

Women of God, I need to implore you: please, please don't fight the bubble in your throat and please don't stuff it back up.

Please be brave and wild and free and COME UNDONE. I know that it's scary and I know that you have your own reasons for why you feel like you can't, but I've got a few reasons to share with you about why I want you to push through. 

1. Jesus did not die on the cross so that we could all fake being ok. 

John 10 tells us that Christ came that we might have ABUNDANT life. FULL life. I whole-heartedly believe that so many of us are missing out on true abundance because we're not letting anyone see our cracks, our hurts, our pain, our sin, or our true burdens. The further that we will swing into genuine, honest, undone-ness will give us room to swing even further into healing, hope, joy, and abundance. 

If you don't tell your friends about your marriage issues, who will you celebrate with when God heals? If you don't confess you feel like an awful and broken mother, who is going to pray for you and speak truth to you? If you don't ever let the tiniest cracks into your addictions, your shame, your secret sin - how is the light going to win? 

Jesus is mighty enough and big enough that He can work in secret and He can work in the dark, but that's not the FULL life He bought for us. Let's not look at the cross of Christ and say we'd rather be liked and respected than need His grace and mercy. 

2. We preach the gospel when we need the gospel. 

If anyone ever asks me how I witness to people or share Jesus with them, I have one honest answer that never changes: I am in relationship with people. I sin and I need grace and Jesus. They see me need Jesus. They see Jesus be enough. 

There are the occasional times in my life where I've shared the gospel TO someone, but for the most part, in all my relationships, the way I do ministry is by needing Jesus and letting Him show up. When my friends who are not Christians see me fall short and see Him be enough, who gets the glory? Jesus. When my kids watch me sin day after day and hear me apologize and walk in the grace and new life God offers, who seems like the hero? Jesus! 

When we act like we're a-ok with no issues and all the answers, who gets the attention? US. We may be tempted to believe the lie that we need to represent Christ well by staying inside the lines and pretending like we're one hundred percent perfect, but I think one of the BEST ways we can represent Christ is by recognizing that He's the real perfect one. 

We preach the gospel when we need the gospel, so let's not believe the lie that if people see us in any light other than perfection that we'll dissuade them from Jesus. Rather, let's be soft, changeable, open, needy recipients and partakers of God's grace. 

3. Going first frees other women up to come undone. 

Now here's the hard part. I'll be the first to admit this isn't fun. I'll also be the first to warn you that it won't always go well. 

About six years ago I was seriously struggling with depression and my husband and I had just moved to a new church. I was in counseling, taking medication, doing all the things I knew to fight my mental illness well and I knew I needed some community to help. I sent a group Facebook message to a few of the women in the church and just spelled it out for them: "I'm coming out of a season of intense despair and suicidal feelings - would you guys spend time with me? Could we hang out? I'm not great at being alone right now and don't feel safe spending days on end only with my kids." 

You guys: crickets. That's what I heard. No one responded to the Facebook message and you better believe no one invited my undone self over for a playdate. Nick and I took about a week to pray about it and immediately found another church. It wasn't a season where we could afford to teach people how to let us need Jesus. 

But the good news is, we somehow found strength to try a new church and come undone with them. And then next time we moved, we'd come undone again. And again. And again. And again. And I've found now, with multiple groups of women that so many people are just waiting for the first woman to crack. 

Leading and going first is terrifying and it comes with risk. They might not respond well. They may not respond at all. But overtime, we get to teach people how to treat us by how we treat them when they go through needy seasons. And in return - we are blessed to carry the burdens of others and get the support of brothers and sisters around us. 

.....

Back to that early summer Friday morning a few weeks ago, as I wiped my tears and clutched my book and looked around hopefully at the women I had gathered with. They sprang to action - with truth, grace, and prayers. They've checked back in and they've written texts to follow up. And in replace of that broken and hopeless spot that was living buried in my heart, I've found light and life and encouragement and I believe God is working and healing and growing me.

And I am so glad that I came undone. I know Jesus more and we all saw Him more that day, so much more than if I'd pretended it was all ok and that I was the expert. 

So let's do it here. Here's your invitation: let's drop the act and let Him be the hero.
Let's come undone.