fearless, not situationless

If you follow the blogs of anyone who works at Adventures In Missions, you probably know that every Monday morning we start our work week off with an hour or so of worship together. The whole staff gets involved, there’s a revolving door of worship leaders each bringing their own gifts and flavor, there are prophetic teams and prayer teams, and a huge open space to shout it out for the Lord.

This morning found us singing

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again
Into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

Over over we sang the chorus until it finally sank in. The Lord was speaking, and it was directly to me.

2 Continue reading “fearless, not situationless”

rain rain go away: a wedding day tale

It’s not often that I get the chance to see a miracle. It’s not often that I get the chance to experience on personally. But on one particular day I did.

Did you know it was supposed to rain on my wedding day? For the ten days prior to the big day, it was forecasted at 100% chance of rain. That means there was ZERO chance of not raining. After having planned an outdoor wedding I was, needless to say, more stressed than I’ve ever been. Not only was it going to rain on my perfect day, but having an April wedding in the mountains meant that we’d most likely be enduring rain AND cold temperatures.

YIKES.

For the first few days of this forecast, I gave it a hearty effort to stay positive and hopeful. But as the days wore on and chance of rain didn’t diminish by even ten percent, my emotions and stress began to wear on the outside as well as the inside. I think I may have cried every day for the last week leading up to the wedding. I would be great in the morning, pleading with the Lord to make it sunny, to keep the rain away, promising that I would trust in His sovereignty because He is good and He loves me. But then by nightfall my natural bent toward worry and stress would explode in full bloom and I would lament the evening away, often– and unfairly– toward my soon-to-be husband.

But one of the many reasons I fell in love with The Professor is that he is absolutely solid. Nothing rocks his boat. He trusted the Lord so absolutely that he was able to hear his near-wife freak out about the incontrollable weather days before the wedding and still not be shaken. A practical man, he took the steps to reserve a tent for the wedding, and prepare whatever he could in case it did still rain… but mostly he just spent his time reminding me that the Lord loves me and is good and will bless us with the perfect day. The Professor was convinced to his very core that, despite the TEN DAYS OF FORECAST, we were going to have a warm and sunny wedding.

Our rehearsal was spent under a blue sky and hot sun. It was perfect. We probably should have just gone and gotten married there and then. But we had agreed early on, and individually, that April 25 was meant to be Our Day. So we rehearsed a couple times under the tent in the driveway of the venue as well, just in case the rain made its scheduled appearance. As I should have embraced from the very beginning, there was nothing I could do to prevent poor weather or guarantee the good stuff. So I finally let go of the weight of attempting to control the uncontrollable through the power of my stress level, and surrendered to whatever was to happen.

We woke up the morning of the wedding to an absolute downpour. There was lightning and thunder and a flood-like wave of heavy rain. But I woke up strangely peaceful. This was my day. I thanked the Lord for His love. I thanked the Lord for my almost-husband. And I went about preparing to head to the venue.

By the time we got there the rain had stopped and was replaced by a quiet mist. The clouds hung low over the mountains, but it was relatively warm and quiet and my heart began to hope we could still get married outside under the trees.

Our bridal party dressed and prepped with us and still the rain held off. The Professor and I decided to have a first look before the wedding, to have a few special moments for just us, and that way we could conquer all the family and bridal party photos before the event, too. We did. And still the rain held off. It even began to warm a little more.

We finished our photos and the guests began to arrive. And then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the sun appeared. Bright and big and powerful, we watched as the clouds literally began to melt away. By the time the men walked out to take their place and the bridesmaids ushered me to the beginning of the aisle, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

This was my miracle.

God had literally rolled the clouds away to bless His daughter with her dream wedding. And as I began walking down the aisle toward my future, I was filled with a sense of just how much He loves me, and just how perfect this day had become.

Thanks for my miracle. I’ll never be convinced it was anything but.

bruinsma-103

(all images by the incomparable Jessica Elaine Rice. You can find more of her
incredible heart
and work at http://www.jessica-elaine.com/)

bust out the china!

I am a hoarder. I know I don’t look like it, and maybe you couldn’t tell from the way I keep my home or my work space, but I am.

I am a hoarder.

There are good things that I hoard, like sentimental notions and every wedding invitation or Christmas card I receive.

And then there are the bad things that I hoard: china, the “good” coffee mugs, my single box of frosted mini wheats, my favorite dress. A good friend of mine gave me a spectacular bottle of champagne when I moved to Georgia two months ago and it’s still sitting in my refrigerator, untouched.

When I went on the World Race we were encouraged to bring little koolaid packets to throw in our waters to make the water taste less like soil. I hoarded those, too. I kept telling myself I could just push through and that I needed to save them for a reeeaally bad cup of water. What happened was that I choked down yucky water on a regular basis and ended up “free-tabling” a whole sandwich bag full of koolaid packets at our final debrief during the last week because I hadn’t wanted to use them yet.

What is wrong with me?

I am a celebrator. I love to celebrate all things- birthdays and promotions and anniversaries and that time you crushed a presentation even though you were throwing up just prior because of your nervousness about public speaking. I love to celebrate when your crush called you for the first time, and when The Professor surprises me by visiting me at work in the middle of the day. I love to celebrate college acceptances and winning a trivia tournament at a local pub. I love to celebrate your new hair style and how you lost those 10 lbs when you told yourself you wanted to eat healthier and live healthier (me too, girl… me, too).

But there’s something in me that is still holding back.

I don’t have china yet, but if I did, I would only use it for suuuuper special occassions… like Christmas. And only when the (soon-to-be) in-laws are coming over. I don’t let girlfriends borrow my favorite dress- I don’t even wear it, because it’s waiting for just the right occasion… which will probably never come. I don’t share my frosted mini wheats at breakfast, and 6 out of 10 times I buy the discounted version of cheese or crackers for a party.

Why?

Why do I feel the need to “save” things?

I was listening to a Graham Cooke soaking this morning, and at one point he said “I want to think of my life as a treasure that I’m spending, not hoarding.” I felt like I’d been hit in the chest with a ton of bricks. This particular soaking was full of really incredible truths about The Father that I needed, but this one hit me like a freight train. I felt the Lord asking me how I was really spending my life. As Mary Oliver once asked, “What are you planning to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I have to start spending my life, my time, my resources, and my energy rather than hoarding them for a rainy day.

Or a special day.

Or just in case.

I’ve been given one wild and precious life. I’ve been given one chance to live well, love hard, and celebrate what God is doing in people’s lives- the big things and the little ones. He has given me a special ability to feel out the little things in someone’s heart and I have been wasting it.

It’s time to bust out the china. Even on a Tuesday. It’s time to toss in the koolaid packets and give some away, too. No more waiting, no more hoarding. Life is meant to be celebrated! People are meant to be celebrated! God, the Ultimate Celebrator, proves this in everything he does! He celebrated his awesome creation by topping it off with mankind. Jesus celebrated a wedding in his community by creating wine from water. He even celebrated his imminent death (and the freedom and glory that it would bring soon after) by providing a dinner theatre of sorts for his best friends. Even the Old Testament, full of all its laws and demands, is fraught with feasting and celebrating.

Why can my life not reflect the same celebratory attitude of the Father’s?

Well, it’s gonna.

This is my prayer- that God would bless me with His heart for celebrating and spending, rather than saving or hoarding.

So let’s bust out the china! It’s time for a party!

jesus and honey

Like a waterfall of honey
let Your love be poured out on me

As the body of Christ, we sang this song in worship this morning. It was new for me. I hadn’t heard it before and, as with all songs I have yet to learn, I stood and listened and let the words and the music and the voices flow over me.

What a beautiful song. What a great concept- to not simply allow but to feel God’s love being poured out on us, dripping down like honey from a honeycomb.

There are a lot of beautiful things about honey.

I recently moved to Georgia. Did you know? And Georgia has some crazy amounts of pollen. Because the Professor and I are getting married outside in the springtime wilderness of Georgia, it was suggested to me to start taking local honey every day to begin preparing my body for the inevitable onslaught of allergies.

That’s amazing, isn’t it? That something as simple and natural as honey can help protect our bodies against illness. Wow. And when our bodies become injured, honey works as a natural antiseptic- it can be used to heal scrapes, cuts, and burns. Further, its natural sugars (glucose and fructose) act as an energy booster and they help to prevent fatigue during exercise. Amazing.

Honey is also incredibly sweet. You can throw it in almost anything as a substitute for sugar or chemical sweeteners: tea, coffee, oatmeal, cakes. It’s just enjoyable. Effortless, smooth, thick, delicious. That’s what honey is.

And as I was thinking about God’s love being poured out on me like a waterfall of honey… I began thinking about all the ways that God’s love is so sweet to me. It can make difficult things easier to handle. And I thought about all the ways that God’s love protects me from pain and hurt. And all the ways God’s love heals me when I’m down, and energizes and sustains me when I need it most. I thought about all the ways that, like a pouring out of honey, God’s love covers me completely- no inch of me is left untouched. Thick and heavy and sweet and smooth, God’s love is a waterfall of honey. And I’m so blessed to know the feeling of the weight and the glory of that protection and love.

Thanks, God.

i’m a mirror, you’re a mirror

I’ve recently found myself teaching some Vision Casting sessions for various groups of people. Yesterday at the completion of our time together, some of the participants told me I sounded like my fiance when I prayed. “You guys say ‘Jesus’ exactly the same!” I laughed at the time, thinking how silly that sounded, and that I hadn’t caught that connection myself.

But then I started thinking.

You know, it’s kind of beautiful that The Professor and I are starting to sound the same. We’ve been able to spend a lot more time together now that we live in the same town, and a lot of that time is spent praying together, seeking The Father. Or even just sharing what we’ve been learning about Him.

So it’s kind of awesome that we’re starting to sound alike.

I thought about other people I share random quirks with. My best friend (and the person I have spent the most time on earth with)-Sarah- and I have this weird “game show host” voice that we both somehow fall into each and every time we’re together. We also went through a strange phase when we used dancing hand guns (think the final dancing scene from Grease) and those gestures seeped out of us and into the small group we were co-leading at the time. Each of those girls, in turn, picked it up and would find themselves using the same dang dancing hand guns when saying pretty much anything of a non-serious tone. Those girls have also picked up my quirky habit of repeating things, like saying “NoNo” to make a dramatic point.

…I’m realizing now as I’m re-reading for editing errors that I technically didn’t have to share an example of repetition, but now that it’s typed in this draft… well, what can you do? I better just leave it… in case.

I’ve also spent a GREAT deal of time with my Sweet Janice, most of that time in intentional discipleship and mentoring. I have thus picked up her gift of discernment in most situations. When I’m trying to figure out what my next steps should be (or shouldn’t be), her voice is often the sound I hear in my conscience. She recently wrote an incredible book about discipleship (you can find it online here and here – and I highly recommend it- it’ll change the way you view discipleship, especially the discipling part)…and in it describes how disciple relationships work- that they are just for a season (length depending on a number of criteria), but they come to a close when the student begins to resemble the teacher. You don’t need continual meetings with someone when you can answer the questions before you ask them. And so our discipleship time came to a close when I asked her questions and then answered them for her.

Why?

We looked like each other.

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Bearing resemblance to those you spend the most time with.

I started thinking about Jesus (“Jessuuuuuus”) and how wonderful He is. I thought about all the beautiful traits and qualities that make Him so….Jesus. And if I was reflecting those things.

Am I? Am I spending enough time with Jesus that I am starting to reflect Him in all His goodness? The way He sees and treats other people… The way He calls His friends out when they’re making terrible choices- in authority and love… The way He seeks so much time alone to spend with His Father…

If I am not resembling Jesus, I’m clearly not spending enough time with Him. If I give so much of myself to my friends and my loved ones that we look alike, but I don’t do the same with my Savior, there’s an imbalance that needs to be swiftly corrected.

I love that The Professor and I are starting to sound alike, especially when we pray. What a gift. I’m so happy that I carry pieces of my best friend with me when we are far apart, because we’ve spent so much time together we’re basically the same person. I’m overwhelmingly grateful that the voice of the Holy Spirit in my life sounds like Janice Wood.

I want the rest of me to look like Jesus. I want to reflect and resemble Him. I want us to look and sound and act the same.

And to do that, I need to hang out with Him more. More and more and more.

And so I guess I’d call this my first “New Year’s Resolution”…. and thank God He used a vision casting session to give me a vision of what it would be like to look more like my Savior. I want it. And I’m gonna have it.

Are you?

hiking revelations

This morning I met up with my sweet friend Kate and we drove around north Georgia to find a great hiking place. We settled on one of the plentiful state parks in the area, parked our car, and headed up a trail into the (completely unpredicted) rain.

It was supposed to have been sunny all day.

But that dampened neither of our spirits as we laced up our shoes and took a few deep breaths before launching into long-winded updates on our lives.

There are times for utter silence in the woods.

And then there are times for external processing and heavy breathing and beautiful revelations about and from The Father. This was one of those times.

We shared our Christmas stories of visiting family and friends. We discussed things that had our hearts burdened. We laughed and celebrated new beginnings and hope on the horizon and stories about how funny and charming the Lord is. And He spoke to us. He really did. And this is what He shared with me:

I am a do-er. I was created to be an accomplisher of great things. I have always identified myself as a “do-er” even to the point of missing out on how awesome it is to just be me. I have passed over on opportunities to sit and be still, to relax, to be silent, to receive, all because I felt the need to get up and do something. God created me to do great things for His Kingdom. And do them I will. But He also created me to be amazing. I am passionate and witty and kind and sexy and brilliant and fierce and beautiful. I am whimsical and emotional and dramatic and enthusiastic and I sometimes take things too seriously. I am made to be a shoulder for people, to be a sounding board for their pain and their celebrations. I am a storyteller and a performer, I am a planner and an organizer and a nest-er. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am exactly who I need to be. Just because I Am.

And you know what?

The God Of The Universe is captivated by my brilliance and beauty. Utterly captivated. He is delighted that I am who I am and that He knows me. He thinks I’m a treat. He believes me to be so special and so unique and so worth it.

And you know what?

He thinks that about you, too.

You captivate the God of heaven and earth. You are clever and generous and lovely. You are tender. You are strong. You have what it takes. And when you feel like you don’t, you really do. And you are wise and charming and necessary. You are so necessary. And enchanting and satisfying and enjoyable. You are grand.

And the God who reigns over all is completely and devastatingly and totally captivated by you. Exactly as you are. Right. Now.

It’s time we start living like it.

So what are we to do now? Well, I can tell you how I feel about it. I’m going to stop saying negative things about my body. I’m going to start saying awesome things about my body- like how it’s so useful for getting me to and fro, for doing all the things I ask it to do without hesitation, and for how beautiful it is. I’m going to start moving and eating and sleeping and drinking like I love my body, and I’m grateful for it. I’m going to stop saying hurtful things about my personality. I’m going to embrace all the goodness and all the flaws and all the quirks and all the humor that comes with being me. I’m going to love it. I’m going to stop feeling so insecure about myself around other women, or other professionals, or other yoga teachers, or people with straight teeth. I’m going to start celebrating how awesome other people are. I’m going to tell them how great and fierce and fabulous they are. I’m going to remind myself that I’m fierce and fabulous and breathtaking all the time. I’m going to enjoy where I am today, even if I’m working on it. I’m going to breathe in and fill up with joy and exuberance and peace and hope and love for all people and all things. I’m going to breathe all that goodness out onto whatever or whomever happens to be in the same zip code as me.

I am going to own how good God has created me to be. Stopping with the excuses and the complaints, I’m going to embrace exactly who He has designed me to be, and celebrate that no one else on earth can be me.

Just like no one else on earth can be awesome, funny, delightful, terrific, beautiful, gifted, fantastic you.

And God is captivated by that.

on graham cooke, inheritance, and what favor truly is

I’ve been walking through some junk over the past several years. And the name of the junk monster is FINANCE. I’ve really struggled (haven’t we all?) with budgeting, making enough, and getting All The Things paid. And I’ve been feeling for awhile now that I’ve been walking through some curses, financially speaking. That may sound like hoo doo, but it certainly hasn’t felt that way. Coming home from the Race I was faced with an overwhelming and unexpected financial situation. God blessed me with a job, and I began the painstaking journey of pulling myself out of the pit one day at a time. When I felt I was making some good headway- finally– I was bitten by a poisonous spider and suddenly faced three separate emergency medical bills, as well as unbelievably expensive antibiotics. 

I kept going.

I got those bills paid off, and my credit card paid off… and this past weekend my car decided to die suddenly while I was driving down the highway.

Cool.

Not cool.

There were 3 recalls on my vehicle, and they were fixed for free at the dealership. Thank You, Jesus! You know I can’t handle car expenses right now. But within 20 miles of driving after picking my newly-fixed car up, all the same warning lights as before came on, in addition to a terrifying warning sound… and then my gas and brake pedals stopped working.

Cool.

Not cool.

So as of last night, Penelope the Prius is back in a shop, where I was warned that it would be nearly $100 just to look at her. But… as we do in this day and age, I need a reliable vehicle, so I took her in anyway.

And proceeded to lose my mind in fear and anxiety about what may or may not be wrong, and how much it may or may not cost.

I wept through an entire conversation with The Professor about it. We discussed the Lord’s favor, and His provision, and my fear that I didn’t have enough faith to believe His favor could or would show up in my life in such a tangible way as a free fix or even- as The Prof encouraged me to pray- for an upgrade to my car. I just didn’t know. I have a long history of not receiving favor in that kind of in-your-face, extraordinary, supernatural way. He reminded me that my history does not predict my future, and that he had enough faith and trust to believe for both of us that this situation would work out the way it needs to, and that it will all be okay in the end.

I spent all of yesterday in prayer to the Lord, asking for His divine favor in the form of an upgrade to my car or, at the very least, a lack of financial burden to fix what’s wrong with it. It’s cool to get new things, but I love my car very much, and don’t care in the least bit for a new one. I just want my feelings of safety in regards to my car to be restored. I want to drive down the street knowing that I will get from Point A to Point B safely and without issue. That’s my real desire.

I also spent a lot of time thanking the Lord for who He is and for giving me this chance to renew my dependence on and trust in Him.

This morning during my break at work I found a new Graham Cooke youtube video. Graham Cooke is a prophetic speaker, and he reeeaaallly speaks to my soul. I think anyone who listens to him would have the same reaction. The Professor introduced me to his videos a few weeks ago, and I’ve enjoyed them all immensely, but none have touched me the way this particular one did.

It was about favor.

I have been looking at favor (and seeking it) as a one-time imparting of a tangible gift. I’ve been looking for a physical, touchable handout, instead of looking at favor as what it truly is: an intentional bias toward me because of relationship.

I’ve been looking at favor all wrong!

Favor is a special kindness from God to me because we are in relationship with one another. I’ve been seeking an end result; God has been asking me to look at and enjoy the process of what my current circumstances are creating for me. I have been financially burdened my whole life. I have struggled with finances for as far back as my memory goes. I keep looking for a fish, when God wants to teach me how to fish, and how to enjoy the process of relating with Him.

Mr. Cooke reminds us that when circumstances arise in which we feel we are losing, or we aren’t receiving favor, there are a few questions we must ask:

  1. What does this mean?
  2. What should I do to partner with Your cause and Your Purpose for me?

It all comes down to this point:

God, what is it that You want to be for me now, that You couldn’t at any other time?

If this is our focus, if this is our starting point of thought and intention, everything else falls into place. If we look at circumstance, we’re lost. If we concentrate on our relationship, we’ve won. Even if and when it feels like we can’t go on, when the burdens seem too difficult to bear, we will not sink, because our eyes are on the goodness of the Lord. Which is unchanging. Which is unfailing. Which always is. We shouldn’t desire to see God’s goodness retroactively. We should want it right now, up front, in the thick of it.

And so my focus should move from Will I be able to afford the cost of fixing my car? to God is good. He is so, so good. And He loves me. And He is for me. And if this is the situation I am in, He has something very special and very important for me.

Cooke opened his message with this:

In the world, if it’s ‘too good to be true’ someone is being conned. But in the kingdom, if it’s NOT ‘too good to be true’ it’s not God.

Wow. Talk about stretching your faith. I didn’t grow up in a church that freely discussed the favor and the mercy and the goodness of God. I am a part of one now, but this is a long-reaching belief to replace. I’m still not a wealth-and-prosperity believer, but I do believe that as my Father, God loves to give me things. Sometimes they are hard things to receive. But they are always gifts, and they are always for my good. When a circumstance arises, or the Holy Spirit convicts me of something, there is something being pointed out in my life that isn’t working. Cooke says that it’s when this happens that God gets excited. EXCITED. Because it’s only when He points something out that He is ready to do something about it. This is the area of your next miracle, or- in his own words- your next UPGRADE.

There! There it is! The Professor asked me to pray about an upgrade the Lord might have for me, and this is it! It is an opportunity to grow closer to Him who loves me and delights in me so much! It is an opportunity to grow my faith and to embolden my trust that He has my back and is working for my good. Favor does not mean life runs smoothly. It means you are consumed by God’s desire for you.

Mr. Cooke reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the most excitable, enthusiastic, encouraging, and empathetic Person he knows. And this is so true! How have I not thought of this before? I was asked recently which of the Trinity I felt most connected with. I immediately answered The Father. Mostly because of my daddy issues, and the redemption He has brought to that specific area. But I’m convinced now that it is the Holy Spirit. I am created in the likeness of the Spirit- passionate, enthusiastic, encouraging, excitable, empathetic, present, dramatic.

Talk about the acorn not falling far from the tree.

This encourages me so much, because I also don’t come from a background of knowledge about or trust in the Holy Spirit. It’s just not something we talked about or learned about until very recently in my relationship with Christ. And knowing that He has modeled me after this one mysterious part of Himself, it gives me a hunger and desire to know more and experience more and more and more.

This is the favor of the Lord in my life. This is His calling me to draw closer, to come more intimately near Him, and grow up.

Mr. Cooke talks about two more things: an inheritance verse and our unique Name for the Lord in each of our lives. The latter I’ll discuss in a later blog (because it’s deserving enough- and I’m sure long-winded enough- to merit it’s own post). But an inheritance verse is something that the Lord gives us individually- a word spoken to us, over our lives, from the Bible. Cooke says the Lord is previous-minded. He will put a verse on our hearts- and most of us have heard this, we just haven’t recognized it or given it enough thought- but we will recognize it and claim it for ourselves in future circumstances. Cooke says once we receive that inheritance verse, we need to start living like it, owning it, using it in battle against the Enemy in all his lies and deceptions- THIS is what the Lord says about my life. This is His favor over me.

And for me, that verse- given to me about two years ago, is Luke 1:45:

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.

This is in direct connection with God’s Name in my life, God’s unique affection with me.

Perhaps in my life I’ve not seen God’s favor show up in supernatural tangible ways. My friend Emily has seen this a lot (you can check out more of her incredible stories (and wonderful writing) here). I haven’t prayed for free furniture and received it. I haven’t asked for supernatural healing and received an inexplicable health report. And these are all stories from people I know personally! But God has shown up in my life in extraordinary ways, unique to the story He’s weaving with me. I always, always know He’s around. There’s never been a time in my entire life- even before I had a relationship with Him- where I didn’t know who He was, or that He was with me. I always, always feel The Comforter’s Presence. I always, always receive frequent reminders that God is thinking of me- little coincidences, little nods to the supernatural, every day. Every single day. Always.

God’s favor is thick on me.

Who knows how much it will cost to fix my car? Who knows if a miracle will happen and when I show up at the dealership a brand new car will be waiting on me? Who knows if I will spend the next two years of my life trying to pay for the repairs?

Who cares?

This is just one hiccup in the great adventure we call life. Stuff like this will always show up. But I believe in and have a relationship with a God who ‘is too good to be true.’

And I want more of it.

Not more of His gifts. Not more of what He can do for me.

More of Who He Is. More of Who I Am when I’m with Him. More of Who He Wants Me To Become.

I’m hungry for more.

And I’m ready to start living out my inheritance- and His favor.

book reviews: heaven is for real

This book was handed to me by a sweet lady, who is basically my surrogate grandma, just before I left her house to drive the hour and a half back home. I’m one of those weirdos who can’t just read one book at a time, so I gladly opened the front cover as soon as I arrived home and dove in. This is the first book in a WHILE that I haven’t taken notes on. I’ve spent so much time with other books on love, ministry, relationships, Jesus, etc… that reading a book that was solely a narrative was a real treat. Such a treat I finished the dang book in three days. (And this whilst working 60 hours a week!)

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The story of a young family in a teeny town in Nebraska whose youngest child gets seriously ill and almost dies. Two surgeries and a miracle later and the boy leaves the hospital for health and home. I recognize there was/is heavy criticism of this book (which was recently adapted into a movie), but I enjoyed it all the same.

It’s written with a sincerity and earnestness that we really don’t read much of anymore. The way the author (Todd Burpo) speaks about his wife throughout is kind, honoring, and loving. Every time he mentions his wife it is with a tangible respect. He speaks about his son Colton- the major character of the story- in a way that is at once confused and amazed. Yet not once does he assert any kind of domineering-fatherdom; he allows Colton to share plainly and honestly about his near-death trip to heaven and back.

I think the thing I enjoyed most about this book is that it is replete with anecdotes and personal family stories. Burpo didn’t pull any punches. When Colton brings up information about his great grandfather, Burpo shares personal histories of his family. There were also photos in the center of my book (which I rather liked as it gave me a more realistic image to go with the narrative).

I found myself being very encouraged by the thoughts and experiences of Jesus by a four-year-old. My own beliefs and theologies weren’t transformed, but I was incredibly encouraged. Colton says things like, “Jesus told me that he died on the cross so we could go see his Dad.” Again, there is a just a sweet earnestness that comes out and grabs your heart from the page.

It was a good book, a quick read, and I would recommend it to anyone needing a little encouragement or inspiration.

it also goes great with a cup o’ joe

new world race video

To all my friends, family, and supporters:

Have you wondered what my year was like on the World Race? Have you wanted a glimpse into the ups and downs and everyday life? Well here’s your chance! Johnfrank Dieguez, Emily Tuttle, and Brody Contarino, a talented media team, put together an incredible and accurate portrayal of life on the Race.

Watching this video honestly gives me chills. If you’re looking for something out-of-the-norm, if you feel that you’re meant for something more extraordinary, if you are looking for an opportunity to live something bigger, check this out. Maybe the Lord is whispering to you, too.

 

spider butt. or, what infections teach me about community

Last week I was bitten by a spider. Suuuper high up on my hamstring. It wasn’t a poisonous spider, it turns out, but it has caused some serious problems.

I noticed that my left leg was hurting on Thursday of last week and (because I’m a yoga teacher- hollllllaaaa) when I twisted, arched, and folded to see what the issue was, there was a swollen, raised circle about the size of a half dollar.

Hmmm.

Whatevs. It’s probably nothing. Remember last year in Albania? When one of my squad mates was bitten on her leg by something and had a huge red welt? They said it was no big deal and to just leave it alone, and in fact it did go away all by itself.

So ME TOO. I figured I would just leave it alone and it would go away. PLEASE GOD, LET IT GO AWAY.

Friday morning arrived and brought with it a serious amount of swelling, pain, and tripling in size of the redness. It was starting to look really yucky and it hurt quite a bit, so of course I reached out to the wide world of social media to see if we could all, collectively, figure out what was happening to me. At this point I didn’t know it was a spider bite, and there was a teensy weensy part of me that thought I legitimately could be housing an alien baby. I didn’t know. Social Media, help!!

The amount of people that reached out to me, that asked about my symptoms, that put me in touch with other people who were nurses or doctors or pretty much anyone in the medical profession, was astounding. Everyone was immediately concerned for me and a few people went waaaayyy out of their way to make sure I got taken care of. It was so overwhelming and so encouraging and I felt so loved and supported.

[I ended up having an infected spider bite and was on the receiving end of not-super-expensive antibiotics. Oh, and also MRSA. Which is kind of a big deal.]

By Sunday morning, though, even with the meds and ointment, it was so deeply infected and so very swollen that I couldn’t sleep, sit, stand, or walk without excruciating pain. It was unreal. That afternoon I lay on the couch trying not to cry, experiencing for the first time pain so intense I was nauseated. Within two hours I was visited by a highly-qualified medical professional who was also a member of my church who checked it out, diagnosed it, and launched into minor surgery on it. Without numbing medication.

It was the worst thing I’ve ever gone through.

And yet I didn’t care, because the pain from the bite alone (and it’s infection) was enough to make me beg for my leg to be amputated.  …I didn’t really want that, but in my hysteria I sure thought I did.

A little over an hour later and 95% of the infection had been pricked, sliced, squeezed, pressed, and otherwise tortured out of me. SHEW. I would never wish that on anyone. A.N.Y.O.N.E.

And now, two days later, the wound is still draining, the meds are working like a dream, and I’m finally starting to feel better. Still quite painful (because it’s black and blue from the procedure…still totally worth it), but I am well on my way to healing.

I tell you all of this for two reasons: (a) So you can all know what a Champion I am for enduring such torture, and (b) so I can share with you the biggest thing I learned this weekend.

Community.

It is vital.

It’s honestly what keeps us going.

Receiving messages from people who were genuinely concerned for me and my health was so boosting for me. I didn’t really think I would receive any feedback when I reached out to the wide world of social media, but I was seriously reminded of the gift that it can be when used properly. The whole body of Christ, from all over the country, reached out to me in order to help me find some healing through all kinds of giftings, whether by connecting me with nurses or doctors, or sympathizing with me, or sharing words of encouragement and prayer.

That is what we are meant to bring to this world, and to each other.

I wonder how much better life would be if we as Christians really stepped up into our role as friend. If we are truly called to love our neighbors as ourselves, why is this not how we react to all things? A friend recently shared with me about an online group whose sole purpose was to bless others by giving their things away. You could get online and offer something, or ask for something and if someone had it, it would be sent to you, no questions asked (except for “what’s your address?”). It wasn’t a Christian group. Just a group of people who wanted to bless someone else. People came and went from the group, tons of stuff changed hands, people got rid of stuff, and people received stuff. And much more deeply, I think some lives were changed in the balance.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really see this kind of stuff happening too often, even in the Christian circle. It makes me frustrated, and a little more than sad, that this isn’t simply the natural way we all live our lives, that it isn’t the way I live my life.

I realize that the changes I want to see in the world begin with myself making a change. But I’m also left wondering, if we all lived with such a Community- and Kingdom-minded perspective, how many lives could change for the better? How many people could be affected in a positive way if I simply started reaching out to people when they ask for something?

I asked for a little help and received a HUGE response of love. It filled me up. And in the end it helped me avoid an ungodly amount of medical expenses and an even more serious infection. The Body surrounded me just as I reached a breaking point and saved me from what I felt sure I was headed for- an inevitable pit of physical pain and financial/emotional despair.

So I’m going to make myself a challenge. You can join me, or encourage me along the journey, or maybe even scoff at my (perhaps a little-too-big) intentions. When someone asks for something, when someone reaches out for a hand in the darkness, instead of skimming over or pretending like I don’t see it or reminding myself I’m too busy/tired/whatever, I’m going to reach out and grab hold. I don’t know what it is I can offer, but I do know I can offer something. Maybe I don’t have all the knowledge in the world, but I can network, and encourage, and listen, and pray. And sometimes those are the most powerful catalysts for hope.

So here goes, and here’s hoping you join me in a world-wide campaign to spread hope, love, and a few less spider bite infections.

book reviews: love does

Just finished reading Bob Goff’s Love Does. A quick read and, true to its cover summary, full of whimsy.

The first few chapters were really good, but if I’m totally frank, there were a couple in the middle where I fought to keep interest. What he does in this book is share a story, funny anecdote, or random happening from his life and then equate it to things He’s learning from or about God. Some of the chapters are brilliantly written, with spot-on relatability (<– that’s a real word) (it’s not, but just go with it), but a couple chapters felt a little reaching. Like there was a great story, and a great idea about God, but they didn’t really intersect as well as he was hoping.

Passing those tiny bumps in the road, the book just kept getting better and better, and at the end of each chapter I felt myself a little more emboldened, a little more courageous, and a little more anxious to get my hands into something worthwhile. With the closing of each chapter and the nearing of the end of the book, I began to feel an urgency to get started on something and, perhaps even more powerful, I felt the possibility that I actually could do something extraordinary with my life and my time and my resources.

I think that’s the treasure that Bob Goff brings to the world, to this book, and to its readers: a “can” attitude. He makes you feel like these enormous adventures and capers he undertakes aren’t at all that out-of-the-realm of possibility. He makes you feel as though the crazy things we see people do in movies aren’t all that crazy and, in fact, we can do them. We just have to dive in. What an incredible gift to bring to the world- the gift of possibility. The gift of can. The gift of do.

His whole idea is that love is not a feeling, nor is it a word; it is an action. It’s a doing of something more, richer, crazier, because it’s too big to leave to the occasional card or gift. And I like that. It really challenges my belief system; if I say I believe in Christ and what He believes in (which is to love God and my neighbors) but I don’t actually walk that out, do I really believe in Him? If I say I adhere to an idea or a faith that asks, or demands, something of me and I never really give anything away… do I really adhere to it?

So the big question that I walk away from this book asking is: is the love I give myself, my friends, my family, my God- my world- real love… or is it just a handful of empty words and no backbone?

Really makes you think.

Notable Quotes:

If Adam is right about memories being reserved for folks who don’t do anything cool anymore, then I don’t want to just collect memories anymore. I’ve been thinking I’ll follow love’s lead and find some capers worth doing, ones so saturated with whimsy they have to be rung out like a wet towel to be understood fully.

That’s one of the things about love. It doesn’t recognize boundaries and never obeys the rules we try to give it.

Love does whatever it takes to multiply itself and somehow along the way everyone becomes a part of it. You know why? Because that’s what love does.

PS. Last year on the World Race, a lot of my squadmates ended up reading this book. They got in touch with Bob Goff and asked him to come to our final debrief in The Philippines. Being a man who does we all thought, why not? He maybe might! Unfortunately we caught him a little late in the game and he had prior commitments, BUT he sent a video to us via our squad coach Bruce, saying how excited he was about the things we’d been doing all year and how he wished he could be with us. What a man of honor and generosity! I’m not sure many people would have gone to the trouble, but even though he wasn’t there in person, not a single O Squader felt anything but excited, loved, and encouraged. When he says “let’s talk about this stuff” and gives you his number, he really means it. Thanks, Bob!