On Getting Deep Again

It’s threatening winter here today and, despite the fact that it’s not even four pm yet, I’m sitting here in a darkened living room staring out my windows at a grey sky. The husband is gone and the toddlers are napping so it’s quiet here, and it’s cold. I thought about getting up from my oversized chair to turn the heat up a bit, but instead I’ve pulled the blanket tighter over my bare toes and curl my legs a little more, because I just can’t muster the gumption to break the stillness. Or maybe that’s just Wisdom telling me to stay put.

Because I’m thinking this afternoon. I’m thinking and I’m feeling. In this dark quiet cold room beneath a dark cold sky I’m thinking, and feeling, and reflecting. It’s been a month since Allume, which is great because that means I’m a month closer to the next one, but I’m a month further from it too, and life is sneaking back in. Not that there wasn’t life at Allume – oh, there was so much life – but now there are kids and dishes and homework and errands and a lamentably scarce number of keynote speakers waking me up in the morning.

I’ve re-started my 40 day challenge three times now, and if I’m honest I should probably re-start it again. I’m beginning to feel like this 40 day thing is really going to be a life-time lesson that I am constantly trying to discipline myself in. 40 days of focusing purely on Christ and Abba. 40 days of no distractions. And the only time I read my bible this week was yesterday in the waiting room of the doctor’s office because I was anxious.

When I came back from Allume I was BURSTING with words to write and stories to tell. They were flowing faster than I could capture them and I was reveling in it in utter joy. And the weeks immediately following were the same, because I was so intent on staying IN HIM like I was at the conference. A place where my soul was fed with gospel and grace and challenged for hours and hours every day. I was drinking straight from the deep narrow river.

But now my river is wide and shallow again. I get frustrated when the words don’t come for my writing. I get jealous of others who still write beautifully every day. I get envious of their natural talent.

But in this cold dark room Wisdom is telling me that the wise know to draw from the deep places. They know that the deep places are only found in the quiet innermost parts of the wood. Places you do not just happen upon. Places we have to seek out. The Holy Spirit has shown me that I am utterly incapable of doing this on my own. And I mean that literally.

There are people who can, technically, write well and continuously even if they are not yielding to Yahweh. We always suffer when we distance ourselves, and our struggle may be greater, but I know of many writers who can still manage to put words to page even when they’re not in perfect fellowship with God.

But not me. When my fellowship is neglected the words just stop. I search and grasp in the dark air and come up completely empty. Without His fellowship, without His leading, and unless He fills me every single day, I am dry and brittle.

I’m reminded of Moses when Israel went to battle with the Amalekites. The Lord only gave Moses victory when he was in direct worship to Yahweh. As soon as his hands dropped he simultaneously gave up the power to win.

I realize now more than I ever have that when my hands drop… when my priorities change… when I am not completely immersed in holiness and fellowship and worship with the Author of my soul… I have lost the power to speak.

It’s discipline, really. It’s forced humility. He has given me a gift to use for, and only for, His name. To speak His words. To write His stories. It’s not about my followers, or my fame, or my connections, or “my talent”. This is not about me, and when it becomes about me, He shuts it down and waits patiently until I turn around and settle back down at His feet and listen.

Today the lines between correction and lavishing grace are indistinguishably blurred.

Today, I think, I have grown.


The Birth of a Story

With the first beat of a heart life begins. Small, callow, and growing – alive.

It all starts there. In that one instant when the Creator reaches down into the created and ignites a spark.

In the beginning the spinning and weaving is done clandestinely.

In the quiet places that are known only to the Author and Artist Himself, a wild wind is breathing life.

A soul has already begun to live before the flesh has even manifested.

And when it emerges it bursts forth with a ferocity and power and purpose all its own; crying out to be heard and nurtured and fed.

This is the way that stories are born.

When we open ourselves to His work…it is that exact moment when our story’s heart beats for the first time.

It evolves there quietly, mostly while we are still unaware of its existence. It is a time of pruning, and shaping, and inner workings, because He knows what we will need to walk this path.

So for a time we are still and silent, while our bodies, our souls, are being equipped from the inside to take this journey.

And then one day it happens; the quiet work is done, and the narrative is ready to be born. We have found that we are ready to bring it forth. Ready to go into the dark places. We are ready to begin writing the story.

These stories do not come without risk. Risk to our comfort, risk to our ignorance – even risk to the life of the story itself.

He places it in us; this small spark; He gifts it – and lets us choose.

Will you see this through? Will you carry this burden of love? Will you break yourself in so that life might flow out?

And we can choose to say no. We can choose not to heed. Not to listen. Not to allow this thing to grow or to live. We can blot out the flame, and stop the beating heart.

We can choose ourselves

and lose the miracle.

And it’s scary and hard and, oh, it can hurt – but we are the brave ones, and we know that the hard path is the one to life. The story tellers know that to tell their stories will require giving away a part of themselves that they will never get back. That their words may fall on deaf ears. That they may never see the fruits of their labor.

But we know that He makes all of these things beautiful in their time. So we say yes.

I have said yes.

A little over a year ago the heart of this story began to beat for the first time; it happened when I read about little girls in India who were being thrown away, left on the side of the street, or sold into slavery – if they were given the chance to live at all.

I knew at that moment that I was opening my heart to them, but at the time I didn’t really know what that looked like, or what it meant, or where it would go. But God knew, and I had said yes, and that was all that He required to begin laying the foundation for a new story.

Little by little I felt the cry of these girls weighing on my heart. With every statistic and news article the little spark was fanned and grew.

I wanted to go on a missions trip to India to see them, to love on them, and to help in whatever way I could, but that door just hadn’t opened for me, and I didn’t know what else I could do.

And then I saw this video.

and I wanted to learn more about this group The Exodus Road, and how they really worked.

As luck God would have it, The Exodus Road was at Allume, and I had a chance to be part of their impact opportunity. I had the honor of meeting Laura Parker, co-founder of The Exodus Road, and author of The Exodus Road: One Wife’s Journey Into Sex Trafficking and Rescue. For over an hour I got to hear her story first hand and see her heart. Any questions I had were answered and any reservations I maintained were wiped away.

We saw girls who were 10, 11, and 12, being sold by their parents into slavery. Ten thousand girls lining up to sell their bodies every day, and the thousands of men who so willingly violated them. We saw live footage of raids and rescues – real children being restored, real men and women coming to their rescue to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

It was my moment of choice. I could chose to stay on the sidelines and let the story, my part in it, go unwritten; I could talk about cooking and teaching and reading my bible while turning a blind eye to the orphaned and abandoned and misused.

When we choose to remain at arm’s length, when we choose to remain detached, our well is shallow. We are safe, and sound, and bland.


Or I could wade deep into the mud and do my part to pull these drowning children from the mire and pull my soul out of mediocrity.

Or I could be the salt of the earth.

Or I could tell the story of women like these.

Women who are so desperate to free a young girl from slavery that she runs ahead of everyone – the police, the rescue team, into an unknown situation. Women who wrap their arms around these broken children like like wings of Yahweh.  By telling her story I can choose to run ahead with her.

 We cannot tell the story if we do not first choose to see it.

I was at a threshold. I could choose not to act, but I would never again be able to say that I didn’t know, or that I couldn’t help, or that I didn’t see. 

Ann Voskamp spoke to this, and touched my soul, when she reminded me that we are the Esther generation.
We are the ones inside the palace – but only by Yahweh’s Grace.
“You could have been the one outside of the gate. You could have been the one with the Lord’s Resistance Army slitting your child’s throat in the middle of the night, you could been the one born into a slum, raped without a hope, you could be the one born into AIDS, into starvation, into lives of wild Christ-less desperation. The reason you are inside the gate for such a time as this – is to risk your life for those outside the gate. If I perish, I perish.”

And so we said yes. The moment that we chose to partner with The Exodus Road by sponsoring Search and Rescue Team Bravo, based in India, was the moment that this story was born into reality.

But that was only the first page. This is only the very first step of a journey that has just begun to unfold.

And I don’t know where the path is going to lead, but I am assured of one thing, wherever it is, it’s going to be one heck of a story.

Interested in how you can help? Visit www.theexodusroad.com to find out more!


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Finding Rest

The cherished child of an acquaintance loses their battle with disease. And we can’t stop the tears.

A church elder is arrested for child pornography. And we can’t fight the churning in our stomachs.

A friend is asked to walk a hard road. And we beat our fists because we cannot go with her.

A man on the internet makes a comment, a joke, that he would leave his wife and family for a night with a model. And I am broken by the lack of respect and fidelity that people in this world have for their marriages.

Someone antagonizes “Cue jealous comments from fat housewives.” And I reel back in disgust and indignation.

Because that’s me.

I’m not jealous, but I’m predictably offended on behalf of the wife who has been so unjustly scorned. So publicly belittled. They call me on the affront I feel so acutely, and have attempted not only to invalidate but to shame me – and anyone who dares to feel offended by such brash perversity – by stripping me of all dignity and worth through hate and taunt.

I blink away hot angry tears and fight the temptation to let it hurt me – because I am; I’m tempted to let the idea that someone is mocking me – disregarding who I am as a living, breathing, intelligent person – pierce me with these daggers they stick skin deep.

I’m tempted to lash out and rip my insecurities out of their hands;  demanding that they have no right to enter and violate the personal and vulnerable places of my life.

And it’s silly because they’re just one person, but there are at least 50 other people who agree with the sentiment. And that’s 51 too many for my sensitive skin.

I think of all the things I could say; witty, defensive, vengeful cuts to prove that I am more than what they think I am. That my opinion deserves respect. That I am worth something.

But it would be no use, because these people? They don’t care if they’ve salted the life-long wound of an unknown face  in the world. They don’t care if somewhere there’s a wife fighting lies that she’s not pretty enough, not appealing enough, not good enough, not worth enough
They don’t care. Not really. 

If given the opportunity to look me, or her, in the eye and see the effects of the words they throw around with such carelessness, I suppose that most of them would feel shame and embarrassment for their lack of humanity. But this is the internet; a place free from that sort of responsibility.

So I just sit in the front seat of my car, while behind me my kids are waiting patiently to go to the park, and all I can do is cry.

Cry for my tender heart that bleeds so easily. Cry for a wife whose husband has missed her beauty. Cry for the parents who are mourning their child. Cry for the message that has endured another blow from a fallen leader. Cry for a friend that I am helpless to aid.

Cry for a world that is bending and breaking beneath a curse that is too heavy to bear.

What do we do when the world is too much?

Too heartbreaking, too perverse, too dark, too loud? When we feel like asking if someone could please stop the ride and let us off, because we really would rather not live here anymore – what do we do?

The only thing we can. We just surrender.

Surrender to Yahweh. Retreat beneath the shelter of His wings. Hide away for a time in the secret places of His love and grace.

We let His love wash over our souls and we remember that His approval is all that counts. His love is perfect and good and holy and it delights in us exactly as we are.

He reminds me that my audience is an audience of one, and that He alone deserves my efforts and energy and attention.

We remember that He knows our hurts, and that He knows how dark the world can be, and we let him fill our lamps with oil so that we can be the break in it.

We seek Him in a place where He has called us by name, a place He has carved out for our intimacy, that we could eat the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

A place where he heals our wounds. A place where He Himself has bent low so that He can listen to us as we cry over injustice and loss and the loss of sanctity.

So tonight I shut the door of the world and all the voices in it behind me, and find a balm for my soul in the Healer of our hearts – because tomorrow is another day.

A day of fighting the dark, of encouraging the mourning, of edifying the body, of loving our neighbors.

Of reaching out to dying world, and lighting the way back home.

Winter Skies

It’s late into fall now. The nights are crisp and clear and cold. Even though the calendar says that winter doesn’t officially start until December 21st, here in Upstate New York we can expect it any time after October 31st. I saw the hint of a few flurries in the air today, I thought, but we’re still just toeing the line.

Tonight, though, was the first time that I’d been outside since the cold front hit, and as I stepped out onto my back deck my eyes drifted heavenwards and my breath caught in my chest. I have lived here for the majority of my life, so you would assume that I would be used to these things… that I would expect them. But God’s glory is not something I’ve found you ever “get used to.”

Oh, the stars of the winter skies. 

When the air chills and the world begins to fall asleep, every day settling in for the winter… when life seems to stop. The skies clear, and the stars shine with a fervency and illumination so bright that it takes my breath away.

When the world stills. When we feel the cusp of death’s bitter chill on our necks… and we look up. It’s in those moments when we see His wonders more clearly than before. Before when the buzz and glow of life’s busyness pollutes the broader view. When we’re distracted and the air around us is thick with heat and self-centeredness, it tends to blur the horizon.

Clandestinely a soul longs for wintertime.

A time when the stars look like peepholes into paradise. Where glory is raining out through the floor of eternity. When we can sit back and marvel in awe at brilliant lights against an obsidian sky.

And if we take the winter, the time of great sleep, and use it as a time to still ourselves and look up, we will drink in beauty.

I am ready for rest. I am ready for winter skies.