No Fear in Love

There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror! For fear brings with it the thought of punishment, and he who is afraid has not reached the full maturity of love [is not yet grown into love’s complete perfection].” – 1 John 4:18

I’ve been reflecting on love a lot lately. Some would say love is a feeling. A feeling that brings you higher than the clouds, looking down in admiration of all the beautiful things this life holds. Love can make things look brighter, more radiant, and make you feel like anything is possible. I see love as an action and a choice; choosing to pour into someone in every way possible. Hold them when they’re falling apart, bring them dinner, champion and encourage them, support their dreams and make their dreams your own. Love is acting in prayer. Pray over them… constantly… no matter whatever hurtful thing they just said, love them through prayer.

If I could describe love as a picture I would see a heart gradually growing in size. It’s growing rapidly and expanding to where it’s about to bust. When a heart full of love has reached its physical limits, it pours out. A full heart can’t help but pour out and explode out onto others. That is how I view love: an oozing heart exploding with compassion and service.

Love can also crush you. Loving someone with extreme depth and realizing they are human and don’t always make the right choices for their life can be wounding and devastating. Love combines two souls. When the other soul crumbles, yours does too. When this happens its easy to be afraid of love. You have more control over your own heart and your own actions but zero control over someone else’s. That person has the ability to flip your world upside down in an instant…. and that is terrifying.

Confession time: I haven’t been living a life that is honoring to the Lord this past year. I have held tight to Him in the times I needed comfort and strength and I have spilled out all the contents of my heart to Him, but the world won over my heart more times than I am willing to admit. I’ve completely broken God’s heart with some of the choices I’ve made and when I truly realized that a couple days ago I was brought to my knees weeping uncontrollably. How could God still love me when I have hurt His heart over and over again?

My flesh doesn’t understand a love like that. A love that continues to fight for you no matter how many times you mess up. A love so full and so complete that there is no fear of the hurt that is known to come.. because I’m human and I’m not perfect. God’s love is so complete and faultless that it not only has no fear, but fear flees from the power of His love. It vanishes.

No matter how many times I stray, God’s love is constant. No matter how many times my heart feels like it has been split into a million little pieces and fallen into the pit of my stomach, God’s love is constant.

God has eradicated fear. It’s over, it’s done with. Our grounding is in this truth.

Here’s to loving fearlessly. Here’s to loving in a way that is honoring to The One who made a way for fearlessness.

Make me whole again. Silence every fear.

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Carry me.

It’s 4:32am… and my heart is hurting so bad I could scream… but the utter exhaustion is turning my deafening scream into puddles of tears on my pillow. I’m broken. My heart. My mind. My spirit. The scary part is I’m unsure I can even be put back together.

It’s a terrifying and helpless feeling; loneliness. I have people that love and care about me but I fixate on the ones who don’t… or say that they do but actions show differently. I don’t want the pain of disappointment to alter my heart that was once beating and longing for connection but that’s where it is headed; off the beaten path… and I can’t find my way back. I don’t know where to go from here.

I miss who I was. I miss my old heart that could take a beating and look to God for healing and LET God mend the broken pieces of disappointment back together. I miss my heart that was satisfied and overjoyed by a simple sunset God created for me and found so much beauty in that love story.

I have to make a change before things become too dark. I have to set my body in motion and dive into things it needs even when my mind and soul don’t want it. I have to say no.. I have to say no to things that push me down into the pit even further.

I can’t do it alone and I know I’m not alone… the first thing I need to dive into is prayer. So I’m taking a leap and falling into the waters of Grace and truth. God help me to transform my mind. Help me to cling to hope and for that to be ENOUGH. Help me to yearn to be in complete and total solace with the comfort of your love. I feel you pulling me close and my spirit is just too exhausted to fight it any longer.

It’s 4:57 am… and my God has given me breath. Go back to sleep daughter. I will carry you through this.

Tunnel vision.

It seems as though I get on the right path, I see happiness and joy and fulfillment, and the Enemy sees his opportunity to tear it up. He surfaces my insecurities and makes me my own worst enemy. It’s taking everything that I have just to keep moving. Keep breathing. Keep lifting my head up towards what matters and turning my head away from things that are distracting me from a gratifying life, secure in God’s hands. As Christians we always talk about not being made for this world but for the Kingdom. Nobody ever talks about how incredibly difficult that is. It’s lonely. It’s exhausting. And most of the time I feel like I’m not understood. The easy thing to do would be to fall into the patterns of this world and let the enemy grab me and take me into darkness. It seems more comfortable there, like I would fit in better and don’t have to fight to rise above. 

You know what keeps me going? Jesus experienced every single feeling I just described. He experienced not being understood. He experienced exhaustion, hurt, and loneliness. He experienced the tremendous amount of suffering it takes just to pull yourself away from the chains of this world… and left it all at the cross.

Conforming to this world and letting myself fall into the constant gravitational pull? It’s easy, it’s comfortable, but is it gratifying? No. I refuse to live a comfortable life. People and things come and go but I have a constant Savior that is continuously whispering into my soul, telling me to press on. His mercies are new to me every single day. 

So I will continue to fight. I say fight because it’s not an easy path. I’m constantly being pulled left and right and backwards, into doubt, anger, loneliness, and countless insecurities. But there is comfort in knowing that sticking to this path means saying yes to embracing a life of pure joy. A life of fulfillment. A life of embracing an unimaginable love that cannot be explained. 

Here’s to having tunnel vision to the best of my ability. Not looking to my left towards fear, to my right towards insecurity, or behind me towards regret. I will look forward towards what matters most and continue to run towards that Heavenly embrace.

Proverbs 4:27 “Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil”

Searching for my window

You know the saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window”?

Well… I’ve had a lot of doors close on me lately and the process of searching for the open window is terrifying.

Although this metaphorical house was always known to be temporary, I made myself comfortable there. I was happy. I put up some decorations, gained a family, and called it a home. I grew, I learned, I laughed, and I cried. I watched a precious life form into something beautiful. I experienced the work of God through the life of a child and it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. My heart grew tender and bled to watch this little man succeed despite the many obstacles he is faced with. I carried him through difficult transitions, therapies, and doctors visits. He helped me smile, laugh, and find purpose on days I wasn’t sure of my own self worth. Funny how God has lead me to something so gratifying yet temporary yet again. And again, my heart is torn to pieces having to say goodbye as the door is closing on this chapter.

I could act like I’m super strong and independent and so excited for future opportunities… But I can’t even pretend that I didn’t cry for 3 days straight when I got the news. So I will wipe my tears and go on with this mindset:

I did what I came to do. I loved that child as if he were my own. I served that family to the best of my ability and grew a bond with them that will be incredibly difficult to let go of. If this job was easy to say goodbye to, then I didn’t do it correctly. So I can rest assured that God is pleased with my work and I can move on to where He is leading me next. Looking for this “opened window” is scary. I don’t know what will be behind it. But how cool is it that I get to start another adventure?? I get to really take time to listen to where God is leading me and look forward to opening my heart up to another opportunity. The last three adventures he has lead me to have been nothing short of incredible, so why be scared? Listen. Trust. Follow.

Where you at window? I’m ready for my new adventure.20292734_10155751730521554_1110275735883661983_n

Big Yellow Bus

“I don’t want to get off this bus”

Those words tugged at my heart more than anything I’ve heard all year. I wanted to say “Okay… we’ll all just stay on this bus and live together, as a family, forever. Never having to say goodbye” But each stop hit me like a ton of bricks. It was time to say goodbye to the kids I had grown incredibly close with over the past 9 months.

As each kid would reluctantly drag their feet off the bus I prayed and glanced over at the gradually emptied seats, I couldn’t help but remember all the moments I had.. Just on this very bus.

It’s smelly, messy, barely has heat, some windows don’t stay up, and there is trash everywhere. But every now and then you’ll find beauty. Whether it’s a good luck penny or a piece of incredibly well written and insightful poetry that was left on the dirty floor, there was always beauty to be found within the dirty bus.

My mind flashed back to my very first moment on that bus. I was a quiet, nervous, ball of terror as loud, crazy kids piled in; usually beating on each other, using bad language I’d never thought could come out of a 5th grader. I thought there is no way I will ever enjoy this bus. Little did I know that 9 months later, I would be wanting to stay on it forever.

And then I thought to a golden and sunny fall day. It was the very first time a group of 8th grade girls wanted to sit up front with me to share their poetry and sing lyrics to songs they wrote themselves. I was getting an inside look at magnificent pieces of work that don’t get shared often. That was the first day that I learned these kids just want to be listened to and I was beyond thrilled to be the one that gets to listen to them.

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There were many ups and downs this year… But I feel as though the bus was a place to pull it all together. No matter how horrible the day went I always heard the words “Take me home last!” It didn’t matter that it was 10 degrees outside.. Nobody ever wanted to be the fist to walk off the bus. (I think we all had a serious case of FOMO) I learned that the kids just want to be in the presence of people who love them. Whether they are in deep conversation, playing silly games, or just staring out the window with their headphones in. They want to stay together.

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I thought back to one of our greatest tragedies this year as we lost one of our own, sweet Arie.. The nervous anticipation of picking up the kids wondering how in the world are we going to break this news? We waited until we got back to camp and we cried and prayed and held each other for about 45 minutes. The kids made the decision to get back on the bus and finish out the day in honor of Arie. The bus brought us together as we got the last bit of our tears out, dried our eyes, held each other up, and faced the rest of the camps in the Junior Olympics. That is the day I saw the tremendous strength these kids have.

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I remembered all the silly moments on the bus that brought smiles and laughter. I remembered kids slipping in the aisle with their feet ending up in the air. I remember our little ones singing “We wish you a merry Christmas” to all the people of Camden, just trying to spread a little joy to their city. I remember singing Taylor Swift at the top of our lungs on the way to the airport for spring break. I remember being tackled with hugs from tiny arms that barely reach my waist, and big arms that lift me into the air. I remember gripping conversations that showed the vulnerable hearts of these incredible young people. I learned that no matter their situation, the bus was a safe place to be a kid.

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I always hear the kids say they don’t want to get off the bus but today was different. It was for the last time. We huddled together and the bus held us as we cried together one last time. One of my girls said “I don’t want to be sad” as she was wiping her tears. I thought it’s okay to be sad. That means I came and did what I meant to do. I loved these kids to the best of my ability and they trusted me enough to let me love them. I may not be able to keep them all and live on the bus but I can do something better. I can pray. I can pray that their lives are enriched and that their talents are exposed. I can love on them through prayer because I know God will provide more for them than I’d ever be able to.

As hard as it was to let each kid slip out of my grasp this morning, I am filled with a sense of richness that was found in the poorest city. I was invited into the lives of 30 kids and they filled my heart to overflowing. I will always have such fond memories of this little family that was formed on a big yellow bus.

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Time Lost

“This is MY mama”, she said with a hint of sadness in her eyes. They type where you hold back the tears, cherishing something that could leave you with an explosion in your heart as you watch it fade away. A sense that life has the ability to tear your heart to pieces but you hang on to what people and things you cherish anyway. There is something about seeing four generations in one room that is so beautiful but it also makes your heart ache.

Time.

It can seem to stand still or it can fly by. Those who haven’t experienced much time want it to fly by – always wishing for the future and wanting it immediately. Those who have experienced a life time of minutes want their time to stand still – just a moment so they can breathe it in; life, awe, wonder.

Time makes it almost impossible to just be. To sit and take in all of the surrounding gifts God has provided. The refreshing gust of wind, bringing new life and ridding the old. The melodious sound of bustling leaves and birds exclaiming their praises of the morning. The most masterful sight of pink, orange, and purple the sky provides – a priceless painting that only lasts moments. Oceans and fields that never seem to end – immensity. The strength of a tree standing tall and proud – branching out in every direction – defying gravity.

Each of these things were meant to capture our hearts, our senses, our attention. With a knowledge that time is irrelevant. This is what matters. Gratitude and stillness.

Then you look at your watch as life awaits, and the timeless moments are lost.

Be still. Take in every blessing. Cherish it. Reflect on it. And spend some time forgetting about time.

Masterpiece

I have never been one for science but I learned a few things about our universe that affected me more than the usual Elements, Molecules, and Scientific Method talk.

Betelgeuse.

I like to call it Beetlejuice, also known as a former television star. I don’t know if he was a ghost or a zombie, but he was pretty creepy but also pretty awesome.

Anyway, Betelgeuse is a star. But not just any star.. it is a MASSIVE star. When you think of how big massive might be, Betelgeuse is bigger. To put it a little into perspective, if the earth were the size of a golf ball, Betelgeuse would be SIX empire state buildings stacked on top of each other. Now imagine a little golf ball on the sidewalk next to the empire state building. Then add 5 more empire state buildings on top of that.. We are that tiny, basically invisible golf ball.

And Betelgeuse isn’t even the biggest star… There are 3 stars that are larger than Betelgeuse..

I don’t know about you, but this brought about a sudden shrinking feeling to my soul. A feeling of insignificance and worthlessness. On this tiny earth, to what significant use is this even smaller human being? But then something occurred to me.. I was created by the same God who created those massive, unfathomable stars. And in His eyes, we are his greatest creation…

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Other translations of the Bible replace the word workmanship with the word Masterpiece. In other words, God MASTERED creation when he made us. US. What?! I am a selfish, sinful human being and I am His greatest creation?

I began to think of how famous painters like Picasso would treat their art. Obviously they wouldn’t drag it across the ground, cover it in dirt, crumble it up, and tear it into pieces. He would keep working at it until it was perfect. He would then frame it, and proudly hang it up for the world to see, and be in awe of his Masterpiece.

I relate that to how God views us. He doesn’t want us to drag ourselves in the dirt. He doesn’t want us to be torn into pieces. He wants us to shine our light for the world to see, and be in awe of His Masterpiece.

Picasso’s paintings were known as being different. They were unusual and bizarre. But they were each an incredible work of art. Same thing goes for God’s masterpieces. Nobody on this earth is exactly the same as somebody else. Some people are unusual, some are unique and some may be a little weird. But each person is a masterpiece in God’s art work Hall of Fame.

Here’s the catch. There is something so incredibly wonderful about being God’s masterpiece opposed to Picasso’s masterpiece. If Picasso’s painting tumbled off the wall and shattered into pieces, it would be damaged forever. Being God’s masterpiece there is redemption. There is grace. We can be beaten down and torn apart but God brings us back together, making us BETTER and STRONGER than we were before.

I even learned of proof that God is the one element that keeps us together. It is a cell adhesion molecule called Laminin. This molecule is what keeps our bodies together so that we don’t just fall apart. Kind of like the concrete to our bodies. When I saw Laminin my jaw dropped. THIS is what holds us together…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laminin

 

Laminin. In the shape of a cross. Holding us together.

I gave this talk to my camp of 5th-8th graders this past week and had two of them come up and pray. Their prayers were beautiful.

“Thank you God for loving us even though we are a small part of this universe”

“Thank you God for keeping us together through your cross”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Blessings of 2013

2013 was an even more exciting year than I could have ever expected. It was completely full of joy, MANY new wonders, and some sad, heartbreaking goodbyes. Despite the moments of despair, God showed me that I am capable of anything by his side. He continues to remind me that my life is nothing without Him and every single blessing is from Him alone. Here are my favorite blessings this year.

  • The most beautiful, precious gift was born on January 10, 2013 and I get to call her my God daughter. Skylar Rose – my little gem.
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I picked up a new hobby!!

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I enjoyed my last year at Alliance with my 50 amazing kiddos. They won FIRST PLACE in our dance competition and I had never been more proud 🙂

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My beautiful best friend got married. Crazy how we would talk about this day as kids and it actually happened!

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I took one step closer to graduation as I received my HSU ring!!

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Between Spring semester and Summer classes I got to take a break at home and played some much needed sand volleyball.

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Maybe too much sand volleyball…..

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Baby’s first SWIM!!

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I soaked up as much time as I could with these two incredible ladies before I had to leave them. We made sure we enjoyed the little things together like dancing in the rain.. 🙂

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Started an interesting Skype relationship with this handsome fella 😉

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I had many adventures with Nicole as our house decided to fall apart on us. Lived that hotel life of luxury several times in the summer!

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Had a fabulous 4th of July with none other than NICOLE WINDHAGEN!

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Had a fantastic summer leading a group of 15 incredible fourth and fifth graders. Those Green Dragons knew how to provide a huge smile to my face and they taught me to be joyful in the small things.

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I also got to work alongside Nicole as we became #TeamBarney4Life

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I had to take in all that is Abilene as I prepared to move.

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Had to say goodbye to some kiddos and a family who made my life in Abilene more joyful.

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I packed my entire life into a Uhaul and said goodbye to one of the greatest towns I’ve ever lived in. 4 years worth of memories made it nearly impossible to move on.

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I then moved WAY out of my comfort zone to New Jersey and found my calling with the kids in Camden. They continue to touch my heart every day.

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While in New Jersey I found time to visit some spectacular places such as Massachusetts, Philadelphia, and New York City!!

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I also got to go to two incredible concerts! Jeremy Camp, Third Day and Hillsong. Hillsong was by far the best concert I’ve EVER been to! The power of the Holy Spirit was so alive at each concert leaving me feeling refreshed and renewed!

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I met this wonderful woman that I get to call my roommate! We truly are kindred spirits and were really feeling the Thanksgiving spirit as we served 4 different turkey dinners!

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Christmas came running right after Thanksgiving. We got to take our kids to the Dollar store so they could buy gifts for their family. It was an absolute blast bringing them back to Urban to wrap their presents and sing Christmas carols and see Santa!

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Being a Texan living up North has proven to be difficult. Nothing about cold weather appeals to me but I got to experience REAL snow unlike any snow I’ve ever seen!

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After the winter freeze I got to come back to Texas for my college graduation! I was lucky enough to graduate with my best friend who I wouldn’t have survived college without! It was so bittersweet being back in Abilene as part of me wanted to stay forever.

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I surprised my Alliance kids and my heart was overwhelmed with hugs from the kids I will always adore.

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I got to spend some time with my BEAUTIFUL God daughter. Sky saw Santa for the first time and loved it! It’s sad how fast she is growing but she is at SUCH a fun age! Smiling, dancing, waving, reaching for people, and talking baby talk.. Love her to death.

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I finally got to meet this wonderful, handsome, sweet, compassionate man. 🙂

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I FINALLY got to meet baby Emmy!! I didn’t think she could be any more precious than her pictures but her beauty surpasses her photographs by a long shot.

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I celebrated the New Year with some of the most important people in my life. This year has presented its challenges but has taught me that I can endure them all with the Lord by my side. I have no clue what 2014 holds for me but I have hope that it will be even more fantastic than 2013. It can easily be terrifying not knowing what this year holds for me but there is something so comforting knowing that I have God and these people by my side all the way.

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“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

Here’s to a new year overflowing with blessings 🙂

Eucharisteo

Eucharisteo

It’s my favorite holiday. The holiday where families join together and indulge in a delicious meal that takes an absurd amount of time to prepare. The holiday full of laughs and memories and just pure JOY. Yes, the twinkly lights of Christmas that seem to light up an entire town are not short of fantastic but I live for the orange red and yellow. I live for the pumpkin. I live for GIVING THANKS.

Thanksgiving has always been important to me but this year my thankfulness has been taken to a completely different level. A level of EUCHARISTEO. Ann Voskamp (Author of One Thousand Gifts) has taught me this divine Greek word which means “he gave thanks”. The root word “charis” meaning grace which also holds the Greek word “chara” meaning joy.

Grace is given to us daily so that we could live JOYFULLY and give THANKS. Wow.. As I was reading this I got to thinking.. My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving and I’m TERRIBLE at it! I do not find my daily joy by living a life of thanks. It’s a bit pathetic that the things that bring me the most joy hardly ever get moments of gratitude. How SELFISH is that?!

Living in Camden, my eyes have been opened to a plethora of blessings God has provided for me in the past 24 years. But I am truly learning thankfulness from those 5th through 8th graders every single day. Something as small as an apple can make their entire day and they are so grateful and full of joy. A simple new playground was built right across the street and I had never seen 30 kids with bigger smiles as they ran through the jungle gym of dreams. I gave one of my girls a couple of pencils to bring to school the next day and she tackled me with a hug.

An apple. A playground. A pencil.

It’s easy to give thanks to God when He performs miraculous, life changing answers to prayers. But when is the last time you thanked God for a pencil?

Eucharisteo. Thanking God for his grace so that we can live a life full of joy. Thank You God for your grace. Thank You for wanting me to live a life of joy. Thank You for these youth that remind me daily what it means to be thankful. Thank you for this LIFE.

Hope in the storm

Everybody told me as I make my journey into UrbanPromise that I shouldn’t expect to change Camden because it will end up changing me. Those are more than just spoken words as I am being changed by the incredible, gifted, and strong children at my camp every single day.

Coming into this I knew it would be difficult. I am working with older kids who like to show their tough exterior and let you know they are not to be messed with. I became discouraged thinking they do not need me or they will never let me get to know them. As they were walking in on the first day they said “Ugh, a NEW GIRL?!” and looked at me as if I were a clown trying to make it in the hood. I can understand why they are distant at first because I can imagine it is not easy having interns come and go every year. They have learned at a very young age to protect themselves and never be vulnerable.

I had my first glimpse of fear in an 8th grade girl last week as we dropped her off in a particularly dangerous part of Camden. As we were dropping her off at the corner of her street we said our goodbyes, told her to be safe, and she hopped off the bus. As I looked through the window I saw her sprinting towards her front door… She was not running out of joy as most energetic children do, she was running out of fear. Fear of her own home.

I have realized that these kids act tough during camp because they know it is a safe place for them to be. Catching a short glimpse of how their lives are outside of camp astounded me and my heart sank into my stomach as I watched this young girl run through the darkness.

During my daily devotional a verse really spoke to me.. Habakkuk 3:17-19 “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

I began reflecting on something one of the 8th graders told me. She said that she considered herself to be categorized as middle class because she has a house. She lives in the poorest city in the nation but does not relate to being poor because she has a roof over her head. Although this logic may be inaccurate, it was encouraging for me to see the thankfulness her heart contains. When these kids have nothing, they are still seeing the tiny bit of light they have in their lives. When I was growing up I would complain about my mom not letting me go to the mall… These kids can’t even play in their front yards out of fear of being caught in the middle of a dangerous drug deal. Some might even go to bed hungry because their parents can’t afford to feed them that night.

One thing that really sets this ministry apart from others is the kids. They WANT to be at camp every day. They don’t have a lot of joy in their lives but they rely completely on the abundant amount of joy that they experience at Camp Freedom. These kids are living out the word of God and they don’t even realize it. They are an inspiration to so many people yet some feel worthless in the eyes of their own family members.

The same girl who considers herself to be middle class wrote “I want God in my life. Not because it’s looking like a new trend. It’s because when everyone else was doing their own thing my life was slowly but violently crashing with no help. Now I need someone by my side” She knows that the Lord is her strength and when all else fails, she has God to provide her with hope in the midst of a storm. That is an unfathomable hope that they are teaching me day after day.

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