Tuesday, May 27, 2014

summer summer summertime.


It's summer.

And yes, I've already broken that month-long flawless record of blogging consistency.

I knew it would happen.

It's summer.

Thursday was full of activity as we finished preparing for the arrival of the MYM Summer Interns.
Yes, they were arriving at 3:30, and yes, we had put many important little intricate tasks on the back burner, all of which needed to be completed that day.
It had been a crazy week.
Who could blame us!?

The interns arrived, and we were off.
Intern training retreat.
Important information, followed by a ridiculous amount of caffeine, sugar, and craziness all in the name of team building and bonding.
There's nothing like it.
It's absolutely glorious!

And that was only the beginning.

And here it is.
Another blog post needing to be written, and I'm lacking the inspiration.
Completely distracted by the excitement of everything else going on around me!

I love structure.
I love routine.
I love establishing a daily discipline.
I thrive when I exist well within that established discipline.

But it's summer.
And there's a whole lot of life around me to live.
A whole lot of people around me to love.
And a pretty full calendar filled with innumerable opportunities to immerse myself in all of the above.

It's summer.
And in youth ministry, that is pretty much equivalent to an absolute whirlwind of awesomeness.

So I'm going to apologize in advance if I'm unable to maintain my Tuesday/Thursday blogging commitment.
Please have grace for me.

I'd love to be able to balance it all perfectly and carry on through the chaos without dropping any of the things I've so intentionally pursued in my personal growth.
But I can't.
Because it's summer.
And I'm going to have to have some grace for myself in that too.

So this summer I will be present.
I will take each day and all that it offers, and I will attempt to fill it with the better things, for myself and for those around me.

That will mean packed bags and missing morning Pilates.
It will mean too many pieces of pizza, and exhaustion that tempts me to turn to the Red Bull.
It will mean inconsistency.
It will chaos.

But in the midst of it all there is some incredible potential.
The kind of stuff you only experience when you let go of the need to control.
Surrender so you can have your hands free to grip it all.

And that's what I plan to do this summer.
And I think it's going to be great!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

running my mind.

So I just got back from a typical Tuesday afternoon run.

Except it wasn't completely typical.
Started a little later.
Ran with different people.
I overslept and didn't go to Pilates this morning.
And ate a donut.
And another half of one.
And I didn't go to spin yesterday morning either.
I'd camped out with the seniors the night before.
(Worth it.)
And had eaten a lot of brownies.
And I haven't had enough water today.
And it was really hot outside.
Like, really hot.
And I should have worn different socks.

That's why I couldn't do it.
I couldn't run the entire 3.8 mile route.
I had to walk.
Let the others go ahead.
And walk.
If I had eaten better today.
Or if it was cooler.
Or if my usual running buddies were with me.
Then I could do it.
But today?
I can't.

Or at least that was what my mind was telling me.

Over and over again that second half of the run.

Slow down.
It's okay.
You just can't do it today…

Turning the corner, making my way back to the church building, I recognized what was going on.
My mind was trying to run me.
But I am the one who gets to choose how to run my mind.

It does that sometimes.
Tries to talk me out of trying.
Tries to convince me I don't have what it takes.
Gives me reason after reason to give up.

But I know the truth.
Ultimately, I get to choose.

So I made a choice.

One step at a time.
Steady pace.
I wouldn't let myself get discouraged and stop.
One step at a time.
I'd finish the "race" set before me today.

And I wasn't going to just turn my mind off, numbing myself to thought in an effort to push through.
That approach doesn't help me in the long run.

This was my choice.
Each step would be my decision.
Me taking the reigns of my mind back.

And once I redirected my thoughts in the way I wanted them to go, the rest of me followed.

That's the powerful thing about having the freedom to choose…
I can allow a lot of things to influence how I feel or what I do.
Or I can be the one running my mind.

And if I choose to dwell with the LORD as I journey and choose…
Nothing will be able to stop us...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

a message to my graduates.

This is dedicated to my seniors.  The students who, as little sixth graders, welcomed me into their lives with open arms.  Their crazy antics, their profound radiance, their leadership, and the never-ending list of incredible fun adventures with them are going to be missed as they transition out of "youth group" and into a new season.  I'm not worried for them at all.  I am overwhelmed with deep joy as I look at them, ready to take these next steps.  I cannot wait to see all that GOD has in store for this crew.  It is going to be big.  They are some game-changers.  Wherever they go, they will leave impressions of HIM.  Hey MYM Seniors:  I love you a whole whole lot.


You don't have it all figured out yet.
And that's okay.

You won't have it all figured out when you graduate college either.
And that's okay.

I'm eleven years removed from the place you stand right now.
This place of waiting.
This place of ending chapters and closing doors.
This place of anticipation.
And anxiety.
And tears.
And of incredible possibility.

I'm eleven years removed, but I still remember.

I remember my growing pile of "dorm stuff."
Nicely organized by the fireplace in the den.
I think I sifted through that pile daily, adding everything I thought I could possibly need with me in college.
A new comforter.
Plastic plates, forks, spoons.
A laundry basket.
New towels.
Matching wash cloths.
A floor mat.
Picture frames.
Every cheesy, inspirational graduation book or memento I'd received.
Even a cute little hot pink shower radio.
(Note: I do NOT recommend the shower radio.  Turns out, roommates won't always appreciate your lively tunes and loud singing as you try to wake up in the morning.  Go figure.  And I'm scarred for life now.)

I remember walking out of my high school that last time.
Saying goodbye to friends I would really miss.
Saying goodbye to classmates I'd never really connected with, realizing the opportunity had now passed me by.

I remember graduation.
Mine was actually ruined by a major thunderstorm, so I remember bitterly enduring a ceremony void of every anticipated tradition I'd observed at CHS year after year.
I remember sobbing in my dad's arms afterwards, feeling like I'd been robbed of something special.
I think more than anything, all the conflicting emotions inside of me finally became too much.
The crying was more of a release of it all than a mourning.

I remember that summer.
Everything felt a little more sacred.
It all had a hint of finality to it.
And it was so much fun.

I remember loading all my stuff in my parents' car.
Packed into the backseat with piles surrounding me.
At one point in the journey, a printer fell on my head.
That hurt.

I remember moving all my stuff into the dorm.
I remember the what I wore to that first dinner where all the Freshman and their families gathered together for an orientation and celebration.
I remember thinking that Montgomery is really humid.

And I remember standing in the parking lot as my parents drove away.
Suddenly feeling very alone.
But alone.

I remember slowing walking back into my empty dorm room.
Sitting at my desk.
Staring at the neatly organized books, pictures, and school supplies.
I remember the pause.

The significant pause.

And I remember deciding not to just sit there, but to go meet people.
And I did.
And it was awesome.


Some of you are fearless as you enter this new season of life.
You aren't worried about a thing, and you can't wait to get out of here!
Good for you!
It's gonna be a lot of fun!
And you shouldn't be worried.

But don't be reckless, okay?
Don't abandon everything you know and value because of the thrill of freedom.
I think you'll regret that.

Look for people who will keep you connected to who you want to be.
Take advantage of people GOD puts in your path to support you and encourage you.
Know that at some point, you will face something difficult, and you'll need that.
Remember that we're here for you too.

Now go have fun, and when you come back to town, you'd better come tell us all about your crazy adventures!

Some of you are a little nervous.
You are leaving a lot behind-- it's understandable to feel this way!

You are anxious about finding new friends that will love you like your friends here do.
You're anxious about other people's lives moving forward without you in them.
You don't want to miss out.
I get that.

You may be nervous about the school work and the stress.
The sororities and social clubs.
The new team you'll be playing for, or the team you leave behind.

In any transition, something is left behind.

It has to be.

You know why?

Because so much lies ahead.

If you try to carry everything with you from before, you won't have room to pick up all the things that are being positioned ahead of you.

It's okay to set stuff down.
Even friendships.
It may feel like an ending, but it's not.
Friendships can change forms and still retain all of their value.

So remember that.
I know it's hard.
But it's really good.
And I promise you, GOD has a whole lot of amazing things ready for you to encounter, and a whole lot of people for you to embrace, and a whole lot of opportunities ready to shape you.

Dear ones that I love,
If you are scared.
Or sad.
Or unsure.
Remember this:

It is going to be so much more than alright.

May the LORD bless you and protect you.
May the LORD smile upon you
And be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you HIS favor
And give you HIS peace.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

completely complete.

It's Tuesday.
A blog post day.
And I had a plan.
I wrote an outline on Saturday.

It was going to be about Hawaii and the helicopter ride and facing fears and all sorts of good analogies from the day after the marathon.

All day I had the draft on my screen.
Waiting to be written.

But it felt forced. 
And it wasn't flowing.

So I tossed it.

There is something I want to share though.
Something that flowed from the SPIRIT last night as I sat in my living room surrounded by a dozen beautiful teenage girls who are seeking the LORD with me. 

It was this Truth, whispered by HIS breath into the very center of my being:

Where you are lacking, you are still completely complete in ME.

For the girl who is nervous about leaving home, going to college, and all it will bring.
Where she is lacking, she is still completely complete in HIM.

For the girl who is struggling to trust HIM.
Where she is lacking, she is still completely complete in HIM.

For the one who is new in her journey, unsure of how to see HIM, how to hear HIM, how to know HIM.
Where she is lacking, she is still completely complete in HIM.

For each of us.
In any struggle.
Any fear.
Any feeling of "not enough."
In our sins.
In our weakness.
In our arrogance.
In our skewed perspectives.

Where you are lacking, you are still completely complete in HIM.

Maybe you need to hear that today.
If you do, I pray that the words are coming into your heart, clearing away guilt and shame and fear, and making room for HIS beautiful, scandalous grace to flood your entire being.

"Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the LORD your GOD is with you wherever you go."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

the marathon.

Tomorrow is the marathon.
What. the. heck.

I'm so thankful for all the people praying for me…
But even if no one else was, YOU are with us.

This is a door YOU are opening.
What will we encounter?
What will YOU do?

Who knows… but we'll be participating.


That was the prayer.
That was the challenge.
To show up.
To step in.
To try.

I wasn't guaranteed to finish.
I wasn't certain I'd get the medal.
I had no idea what to expect.
But HE had been clear that success would not be found in the "winning" but in the stepping.
So that's what we planned to do.
Step after step after step after step.
For 26.2 miles.
Faithfully trusting HIS faithfulness.
Confident that what HE set into motion, HE would bring to completion, whether it looked like all I hoped or not.

I know people thought we were crazy.
I know people were genuinely concerned for our well-being.
But I knew we'd be okay.
I wasn't afraid.

I remember a conversation I'd had with GOD a couple of days after Rachel and I bought our plane tickets and registered for the marathon.  I had started telling people about this awesome adventure I was undertaking, and the resistance from very well-meaning individuals had defused the momentum of my excitement, planting seeds of doubt and hesitancy.  Was GOD really the one opening this door for me, or was I being reckless and overambitious?

So I asked HIM.
And I listed every reason why I shouldn't follow through.

There's not enough time to train.  The race is in three months, and I've never run more than a little over three miles at one time.  And people get hurt trying to push themselves with stuff like this!  I'm not equipped!!!  There is absolutely no reason why I should believe I can do this!


(HE quickly stopped my escalating rant of fear.)

You have absolutely no reason to believe you can do this.
And that's the point.
I can.  
And I know you believe that.
I didn't ask if you were capable. 
I asked if you were willing.
So go.

You are free from the fear of failing.

And I was free.
That was the very word HE had given me as I entered into this new year, before I even knew of a Hawaii trip and a marathon.

And I wasn't making this up.
The Truth I heard lined up with every Truth HE speaks in Scripture.

Just as I had been praying all year, HE was calling me out upon the waters, expanding the reach of my trust so that it was growing to be without borders.

Even this.
HE was capable of even this.
And if this?
What more might HE have in store if I choose to follow?


3am came early, but with all the excitement and anxiety (plus an unexpected encounter with a mega-huge cockroach), I was wide awake.  And giddy.

Rachel and I were ready.
Well, as ready as we could be.
At this point, I had never run more than five miles at one time.*
And because of an injury, Rachel hadn't been allowed to run for the four weeks prior.
Even though the odds were ever so against us, we knew GOD was for us!


The marathon was incredible.
For the entire first half, we felt so alive!
It was exhilarating to participate in something so big!!
(Especially after my conversation with GOD in the water the day before!)

As good as it felt and as strong as we were, we knew the pain would come.
We knew it would feel more like death before it was all over.

Around mile 18, the pain hit hard.
But we continued forward.
Step after step after step after step.
We held to HIS Truths, speaking them aloud.

Pain will not define us, joy will reignite us!
(Thank you, Rend Collective, for that jewel from your latest album.)
The joy of the LORD is our strength!
YOU can, so we will!

Over and over.
In desperate breaths and bold, loud proclamation.
HIS Truth propelled us forward.

Yes, it felt like death.
But we knew the Truth:

We knew that would could choose death, because HE is a GOD who takes our deaths and gives us life.  The life we knew before would pale in comparison to the new life, the resurrected life, that we would find ahead!

Resurrection is more than a pretty analogy or a far-away promise.
It is living.
HE is in all things.
And HE was with us, so we would not give up.

There were some really beautiful moments along the way.
And a lot of life lessons.

Karl, Valerie, Mitaso…
Each name represents a story.
A sacred moment.
HIS goodness at work around us.


The last 2 miles.

We were going to finish.
We were going to even get a metal!

The extravagance of HIS Love for us was overwhelming to me in that moment.
Tears welled up in my eyes as we continued fighting.
Continued pushing.
Forcing our legs to continue moving our aching bodies forward.

The closer we got to the end, the louder the lies got.
The louder the voice in my head shouting:
This hurts!
Give up!
You can't do it!

Oh how the enemy hated this gift we were receiving.

We wouldn't listen.

Instead I spoke over and over again:

I choose YOU even when it's hard.
I choose YOU even when it hurts.
I choose YOU in all things.
Yes, LORD.
I say yes to YOU.

Over and over and over again.
Step after step after step after step.

SPIRIT lead me where my trust is without borders.  Let me walk upon the waters, wherever YOU would call me.  And take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the Presence of my SAVIOR.

HE did it.
We finished.

And I promise you, it was about so much more than a race and a medal.

"You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race.  Everyone runs; one wins.  Run to win.  All good athletes train hard.  They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades.  You're after one that's gold eternally.  I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line.  I'm giving it everything I've got.  No sloppy living for me!  I'm staying alert and in top condition.  I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself."
- 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

* My marathon training was advised by experienced runners who were able to give me counsel for where I was and what I planned to do.  I am forever grateful specifically for Terri Keller and Dana DeBardelaben from the Heart of the Valley YMCA.  They encouraged me, challenged me, trained me, helped me avoid injuries, and never once made me feel foolish for my faith.  I am blessed to have these women, and many others, as another branch of the beautiful community GOD has provided me in Huntsville.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

the water.

So that's how the trip started.
With a hopelessly disconnected feeling I just couldn't shake.

From the moment Rachel & I arrived on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, my mind was overwhelmed, and my heart couldn't feel a thing.

The mountains, the trees, the beaches, the water: all of it.
I wanted to touch it.
I wanted to feel it.
I wanted it to touch me.
Why wouldn't my heart be moved?!
I was in the most incredible place-- on what was supposed to be the most freeing adventure!-- and my heart wouldn't wake up and join the party!

The excitement of Friday's arrival had been all so abruptly halted by a black hole in my heart that seemed to expand the further we followed the road, leaving my eyes wide-- not in wonder, but in fear.

The numbness grew.
My heartbeat slowed.
And my mind raced.

I had hoped that I would wake up Saturday morning feeling much more like myself and ready for a day of exploration.  Unfortunately, as I stood in the early morning light on the Banzai Pipeline shore, I could see that nothing had changed.  I couldn't shake the heavy feeling that darkened my heart and clouded my eyes.

It was somewhere in the midst of that moment that I heard myself utter the thought aloud:

I wish I could be out there surfing those waves...

But that was utterly ridiculous.

I needed a place to sit.
I needed my journal.
I needed to escape into my sacred place with GOD and beg for HIM to do something.

I had noticed some boulders further down the beach that looked like an ideal place to settle down and slip into my safe haven, so Rachel and I wandered away from the growing crowd of tourists, climbed the rocks, and busted out the ole journals.

I don't know how to absorb it all, GOD.
What would it be like to be a surfer out there?
It looks terrifying to me..

I paused, taking some time to stare out at the water.  I intentionally slowed my breathing and started softly singing the prayer-song "Oceans."  Each exhale was a released plea. It was like I was tossing out a line, praying GOD would take hold of it and pull me into HIM.

Suddenly HE had my attention.
It was like HE snapped HIS fingers and I was now seeing a different picture.

YOU call me out upon the waters…
Peter's waters weren't calm.
They were stormy.
Big waves.
He could have drowned.

But YOU were there.

How great YOU are…
(and I giggled as my imagination painted a silly picture)
JESUS, did YOU look kinda like a surfer?

The comical moment there with HIM had broken something.
A chain was loosened enough for the bold spirit in me to begin stirring again.

Open my heart to feel this, I prayed.
Please.  With a fullness.
Deep deep deep.
Please LORD.
Settle me.
Help me dwell in YOU here.

I felt a tug on my heart.

HE had taken hold of the line! 
HE had heard my pleas!
And HE was pulling me in, calling me out into the waters.

My mind was immediately at war.
Thoughts frantic, insecurity and fear trying to convince my body not to follow the pull.
Stay on the rocks.
The water's too rough.
There are people around, you are going to look crazy.

But my spirit had tasted the freedom and the call was too clear.  Before my mind could catch up, my hands were dropping the journal and my legs were lifting me, moving me.  My eyes were fixed ahead.
My thoughts had no choice but to surrender.  
It was no use, HE had broken me out of the prison.
I was free.

As soon as I felt the waters on my feet, the tears came.
In that moment of freedom, the ache of my heart was finally given a voice:

LORD, I am so tired of being stuck on the sidelines.
It's scary, but my heart will die if I have to stay here any longer.
Get me in LORD, I cried. 

Ankle deep in ocean water, sobbing, I let HIM hold my heart and pull me close.

I AM drawing you in, HE spoke to me.
I AM leading you out, taking you deeper.
You aren't on the sidelines anymore.

As I looked ahead, further out where the waves were huge and the surfers were practically dancing on them, HE spoke again to my ache.

You aren't there yet.
You're not ready or equipped.
But you are further than you were before.
I created you to participate with ME.
Do not fear. It's not hopeless.
Look how far you've come.

It's funny; I don't remember walking that much further, but the water had gotten a lot deeper.  The rising tide was bringing rushing water, back and forth, back and forth.  I could feel the undertow.  It was strong, at times trying to pull me in two different directions, but I wasn't afraid.  My core was solid and my feet were steady, anchored in the sand.

Before I knew it, I was soaked.
And I was squealing like a five-year-old girl.
I like to think GOD started playfully splashing me.
(We were there to have fun, right?)
What had been a very tearful moment was transformed into quite a hilarious sight!

And the joy….
Oh how the joy flooded my soul.

So that's how the trip really started.
On a Saturday morning at the beach.
With a hopelessly disconnected feeling I just couldn't shake.
And with a SAVIOR who is in the business of loosening chains and setting captives free.

(And that was just the first morning...)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

swim lessons.

I've never been much of a swimmer.
Maybe that's why the thought was so laughable.
So shocking.

I wish I could be out there surfing those waves…

And I meant it too.
Something inside of me was so absolutely dissatisfied simply standing on the beach watching.
The waves on the North Shore of Oahu are astounding.  Breathtaking.
And it's fascinating to watch surfers glide through the pipe that forms as the water turns over itself.

But standing there on the shore, my heart was numb to it.
I couldn't seem to connect.
I wasn't in awe.
It was as if I had no breath in me to be taken away.

And it hurt, watching like that.
It ached, the emptiness.

And I was disappointed.
I'd felt so much anticipation.
Expected so much.
Was I really going to have come all this way only to be reminded that I didn't have what it takes?
Surrounded by so much beauty, yet stuck outside of it all?


I remember being a little girl, watching the big kids in the deep end of our community swimming pool.
Splashing and laughing.
They were having the time of their lives.

I was on the other side of the pool.
Clinging to the side, only venturing as far as my feet could touch.
Comforted by the safety of a pool noodle.

The other side of the waters felt worlds away.


There's more to the story.
There always is, isn't there?

I'll give you more details soon, I promise.

For now I will say this:

April was a month of abundance.
A beautiful, beautiful gift.

And May?

Well, May is going to have its own beauty.
One that is going to come with a lot of work.
And a lot of faith.

I was talking to GOD yesterday-- honestly, it was more like whining.
We were talking about all these things I feel called to do.
All these gifts HE has piled in my arms.
All that April has uncovered.

But GOD, I don't know how to swim.

HIS response was simple.

Walking on water requires no swimming.