It has been a while since I’ve really felt compelled to write. Thank you for your patience, those of you who have asked. This post, well, it might be a little weird. Bear with me…You all know I’m a little weird!
After walking ten miles with a friend and Tom (two walks, two talks), I was clearly ready for a shower. A knowing smile crossed my face when I chose to use this old red towel that I love so much. I know, it looks like something I should probably use for washing the car or scrubbing a shower. It is ragged on the edges, getting pretty thin, not particularly as big as I like or as fluffy. Franky, it looks like you got the last one left in the cabinet by default. We all know that towel, right?
The truth is, this towel is 32 years old. I know! Who has a 32 year old towel they still use? This towel was given to me when I graduated from high school to take to college from my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Lowell. I always try to make sure my guests don’t get it and it often gets shoved to the back of the cabinet by others, but I just can’t seem to throw it away or even repurpose it.
This towel went with me to Ball State University. (Go Cards, chirp chirp!) It cleaned up my messes in my dorm room, covered that crack in the curtains that never quite shut. It snapped in the air when I was trying to learn how to snap people with a towel in the hallway to the showers (in a playful hall fight with a friend). It dried my hair when I washed the troubles of the hardest days away. It held my tears when that boy broke my heart repeatedly. It is the symbolic equivalent of those I knew who loved me most, those who were there for me when they couldn’t be in person or didn’t even know I needed them, in the quiet of my own space. Even now that same Aunt and Uncle are there for me in the absence of my parents who loved me most. Their legacy remains in hearts of their children/spouses as well. If you don’t know my cousins, I’m sorry. They are incredible people, that God uses to bless my life constantly and consistently.
Okay, I know. This is just a red towel. It’s not people or support. It has no heart or pulse. It’s an object, a ratty worn out towel.
And I know who was there for me in the little things when I went to college, and they remain there for me today. Even today, we have been through a hard season as some of you know. As we press through loss, traumas, disappointments and huge life changes…today I washed away the ugly of this world with the beauty that God has given me even during this chaos. That’s where my smile came from today. This towel represents all the people who thought of others when they didn’t have to. They are present for not only me, but dear friends, when they weren’t expected to be. It wasn’t their “job” to think of others, it stemmed from the condition of their heart. When someone is consistent and does it with such joy…I think it is in those moments I see God himself the most. When I’m sad or have struggled with people, this silly old towel reminds me what hope looks like and how many times I’ve been at the end of my rope only to have God Himself use His people to shower hope into the story, to bring truth. It seems when I’m weakest He is always the strongest in my life. I get such joy watching God show up for all of us where we just can’t see it coming!
This is my reminder that hope lies in the little things. If you get a prompting to do something for a student or a friend, DO IT! You don’t know what their Old Red Towel will be. Be the light in this world. It doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture. I’m sure when my Aunt gave me a red towel, hand towel and wash cloth, she had no idea how God would use them to bring me hope and joy for over 30 years, today included. Man I love my life. I love that I’m allowed to see things weirdly, where others would just see an old red towel. Thanks God!
Those of you who know me, know that my table is a bit…spacious. We have had as many as fourteen sitting around it at once. There is nothing that makes my heart happier than a table full of students, friends or family with food to nourish their bodies and conversation and laughter to soothe their souls. I’d say my birth family follows suit. Nearly every moment we have had so far has landed us talking and laughing around a table somewhere. I left off in my last post with Sandi arriving at my Aunt Linda’s home and our first meeting. Here is a bit more of that first day.
Sandi lives just outside of Kansas City, MO and loves to do nice things for the people she loves. Let’s just say she brought enough food to feed a small army with KC BBQ, brisket, baked beans loaded with smoky pieces of happiness throughout. (I know, they are just beans…but these were over the top!) Little did she know that she was speaking Tom’s love language with all that smoky happiness. Ha!
As the first three hours of easy conversation with Sandi, Grandma, Aunt Linda and myself passed, Tom and Abby, along with my uncles Brian and Kevin, and Dave (Linda’s boyfriend) all joined us at my Aunt Linda’s farm around the table for lunch. Shortly after they arrived, she handed each member of my family a Christmas gift while we sat around the table. Abby received a stunning pair of earrings perfectly suited to her personality and Tom received a baby soft cashmere scarf he has worn constantly ever since. (The next day when Emily met her, she also got a gorgeous pair of earrings she loved that matched her taste.) Mine was next…but you have to get a visual of what was happening the whole time.
As we noshed on the food, there was much laughter and head tilting as Sandi and I answered people with the same words, with the same tone and voice inflections, with the same hand gestures (mirroring each other often, she is left handed and I am right). My uncles would look at each other with raised eyebrows, Aunt Linda laughed when I made a comment because Sandi had just told her the exact same thing shortly before when I was in another conversation. We were sitting side by side and would respond with the same words, look at each other and just laugh. It was the weirdest thing I have ever experienced in my life! It felt like I was having one of those Back to the Future experiences talking to myself in 18 years! The similarities were astounding.
Hold that thought….and indulge me for a little back story.
When I was a little girl, mom always wanted to get me a locket and I always really wanted one. Circumstances were often that I needed something else when she was thinking about it each time and we just never found or spent the money for one for me. As my girls came along, I told her not to think about that for me anymore. We decided together that she would choose one for each of them and give it to them when they were responsible enough to take care of a nicer piece of jewelry. They always loved theirs and it made me happy that she and dad were the ones who gave them such a special piece of jewelry.
Now back to the gift giving….
Sandi said that this gift was just something she really thought about and wanted me to have. She handed me a sweet square box with a little velvet pouch inside. Little did she know that the delicate locket I was about to unwrap would have such profound meaning. It was what I would’ve chosen had I chosen it myself, with dainty little flowers on one side and my engraved initial on the other. This might sound silly to you, but in my heart it felt like my Mom Carol, just reached out and said, “Jill, this is everything I would have wanted for you, relax and just enjoy this….it is okay to call her Mom too, she is why I was able to be your Mom.” I had struggled with my love for my family and calling Sandi “Mom” as some sort of a loyalty or betrayal issue. It seemed so natural very fast, yet I didn’t want anything I did next to make anyone who loved my adoptive Mom uncomfortable. Adoptive Mom, birth Mom, Bonus Mom….regardless of anything else…I now have two Moms that each loved me from the very start. Each one of them sacrificed beyond measure in their own ways to make me who I am today. One had me close for 43 years and one carried me for nine months to bring me life and whisper, “Happy Birthday” to me each year of my life. Both are deserving of the love of a daughter.
I think I will put a picture of both of my Moms in the locket, it just seems the most right. (It’s the silver one on the right.)
From here forward I will refer to Sandi as Mom, because that is exactly who she is and exactly who Carol is too. I know Mom would’ve loved watching this unfold. Gosh I wish she was here to see all of this! Can’t you just see her helping me figure out all the details of how I am related to everyone? She loved playing detective. Hey Mom, this is one pretty cool mystery SOLVED. Thanks for raising me to love this Mom too.
These past weeks have been filled with so much. It has taken me a bit to wrap my head around it all to process and begin to really tell the story. Maybe it is more that the truth is clearly unfolding and I want to do it all justice…
First, I want to thank so many of you for checking in on me to see how I am processing meeting my birth family and yes, the excitement of the past week and a half was the presence of my birth mother, Sandi.
Day One was literally getting through my heart pounding enough to simply walk through the door of my Aunt Linda’s home. It was more of a, ‘This is really happening…” than a fearful moment. The mind is a curious thing, a constant negotiation of everything in my past 50 years blending with all of the questions being answered over the days ahead colliding. Ahead of it, you prepare for the let-downs and the reality that this isn’t a made-for-tv movie. It’s kind of a way of guarding your heart from disappointment.
Fear: She will see my birth father, who was a rapist, in me. She might be disappointed in how I look or who I am. I might be interfering in her life. What if we are so different this simply isn’t healthy? What if she wants to ‘mother’ me not getting that Carol Lemler was that for me my whole life? How will my brother Mike feel that I have a mother figure here on earth when our Mom is in Heaven? What if, what if, what if…. I can sure understand why people never get past the what ifs. Where do you even BEGIN after 50 years.
Let me just get this out of the way. Those were all me. The struggle is the culmination of the questions and insecurities I’ve walked through my whole life, they have nothing to do with Sandi. My prayers were fervent and I know all of what was about to happen was purely a gift from God. Not because I’m better or more deserving, but because he loves his children and is an abundant Father…and not just to me, to us all.
For my 50th year of life, in Israel on the top of a mountain, God led me to determine I would confront my fears in this life afraid. I placed my standing stone in a pile and told God I would listen to His leading. It was a commitment, a bond between the two of us. It’s okay to be scared, to have fears, but they can no longer paralyze me from living this abundant life He has mapped out for me. “Lord, I will live this life of abundance facing my fears afraid, not letting fear stop me from receiving what you have for me.”
So, all that to say, I walked through that door and this beautiful woman wrapped her arms around me and said that I was hers. From that moment forward I knew my life would never be the same. I soon found it was the continuation of a love story that began 50 years ago, through the hardest of circumstances.
What was to be a week’s stay turned into an eleven day adventure with a departure on the twelfth day. We had conversations about my struggles with information I had found (or had been offered by others) and her words rounded off the rough edges of concern and turned them into part of the story with color and texture…more understandable. They gave me a warmth for her growing as a maturing young woman through difficult and challenging circumstances of life in a time where the story of a woman looked very different when you were not married and pregnant, or a married woman left with another child to raise. (Who is my little brother Shane and a fantastic addition to my life.) Innocence taken at 17, giving up a baby girl they wouldn’t allow you to hold….that you had to refuse to sign the papers to even get to view her through the glass… Sandi was a fighter even then.
So for today, this is where I start telling our story. It gets so much better, but I’m out of time.
I’ll tell you a couple of touching stories from our week together very soon.
Tonight when I asked if this was the right time to let the world in on a beautiful little secret (and by little I mean HUGE), my birth mom Sandi said, “Yes” and ended the conversation with, “I love you!” That’s right friends and family…the search for how I came into this world has been answered. The story has unfolded and it was a beautiful act of love for a child conceived from an ugly act of violence. I was born into this world by a brave young 18 year old that did the next right thing. After moving to a home for unwed mothers right after graduation, cautiously hiding a pregnancy in 1968, Sandi handed me into the arms of a social/case worker four days after my birth. On day five that case worker put me into the arms of two loving parents, Dick & Carol Lemler, and made me the little sister of Mike. Since then, Sandi went on to have Shane my younger half brother. (Does that make me the middle child?) I think that means I have actually had THREE loving parents my whole entire life. Let me introduce her (below)….isn’t she beautiful? This was a few years ago, see any resemblance? I know, right?? She currently lives in Massachusetts but sold her home last Sunday and is moving to Missouri over Thanksgiving week. After that she will return to Massachusetts to close on the house, return to Missouri to get life in order and then come to Indiana for an extended stay. Don’t worry, we talk and text…it will be okay…and yes you know I’m impatient. We have waited 50 years and another month will be okay.
I’ve been raised my whole life to love and respect this lovely person. I’m finding her very easy to care even more deeply about. I promise I will update you all when we actually get to meet in person. I have a feeling that the whole world will drop away for that moment and the conversation will not falter for even a second. (I JUST CANNOT WAIT!)
This past week I’ve met my Aunt Linda, my Uncles Brian (big beard) & Kevin (little beard), and the most precious Grandma Evelyn you could ever imagine. Let me show you them as well…
One of the coolest parts of this story is that these extra family members are all within about 30-40 minutes from me…and get this… My Aunt Linda and I have attended church together for the last four years with neither of us knowing a thing! We had never even met. Emily has been helping in the preschool Sunday school class for years and actually taught her cousin Gunner about Jesus before he aged up to the kindergarten class this year! (Insert the ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Here) She loved Gunner and now he is her cousin! Look how cool God works things out when we aren’t even paying attention!
I cannot tell you how precious this past Saturday was spending the time with these lovely people. We laughed, cried, and shared so many stories… Such easy people to love. It was fun to look at Uncle Brian smiling with his eyes and see myself, be near my Uncle Kevin who is a quiet man but feel his emotion for me as he hugged me repeatedly…and see my cheeks and nose. My Aunt Linda has sure got the hospitality gift, there was so much food in crockpots for us….for those of you who know me…sound familiar? She’s just the kindest person with this huge heart! They all have very different personalities but there are little/big bits of me I see in each of them. That is such a new and amusing thing to feel and see! I can’t stop looking at their pictures.
Now lets talk Grandma… I have a GRANDMA!! She held my hand and hugged me repeatedly and just couldn’t get over how much I resemble my mom Sandi. She lights up a room with her eyes and I think has just the right amount of sass. She raised four boys and two girls and went through the loss of me, and has asked every few years if Sandi thought I’d ever find them. She’s a pretty remarkable woman. What a joy it was to find her. She’s simply a gift to me and to my family. You cannot help but love her and she didn’t hesitate to tell me that she loved me.
She gave me a lovely gift. These are towels that her mother embroidered. If you know me…you know how much I will cherish these!
There’s so much more to this story and I know you have a lot of questions. Frankly, you’ll have to come share a cup of coffee or have a real conversation to earn the big story. I’ve shared this all along the way with my family and their overwhelming support has been deeply touching about my new additional family. My Aunt Shirley even said that she was happy for me and knew my mom would have been too. My Aunt Mary said, “Go for it kid!”
I. Can’t. Even.
My heart is too full.
I have received more than my fair portion. …and I’m not giving it back! 😀
This doesn’t replace any of my family, it just adds more life and color to it. My family just got so much bigger! Thank you for indulging me and reading this far. Please pray for us all as we process and share our lives. I know that this is the beginning of something really beautiful. Welcome to my 50th year adventure friends! Did I not say that I was going to celebrate this whole year??
You know what? There is just something so familiar to me in these faces. I can’t wait for you all to know them.
Much love, grace & peace,
Jill (I cannot wait to fill in the missing people to this picture!!)
Today is the day before twelve of us embark on the journey that some of us have spent years preparing for. Oh man, the DAY BEFORE… You’ve been there, right? The day before you were getting your first car, the day before graduating, the day before that big job interview, the day before your wedding or whatever that thing you planned and worked so hard to achieve, accomplish, dream of. It is the culmination of that moment fulfilled. The very first time…you want it to be so perfect.
There have been countless miles walked, hiked and sweated through. Days that became weeks, weeks that became months, months that became years have been consistently studied through. Countless hours of support raising, praying over wise use of my own income and investing in others all along the way… There is ever changing list of incredible faithful servants who have decided to walk beside me, for whatever reason to help me learn and grow. It is such an honor to have your support! And with all the investment sometimes I still wonder if I have what it takes. I have given it all I have, and still I feel like I’m not ready at all in some ways. All the things within my power, I tried so hard to do right…to do well…
I can list the injuries and struggles of my past year, I know you have seen them if you are still reading this far. The only new one since years of back issues, the wreck/concussion and my t-rex arms is a painful thing that started during the first week serving at camp called plantar fasciitis. That’s right, something that stops you from hiking right in your tracks! And still…God has called me to do immeasurably more through Him than I could possibly do within my own power. Oh wait….there it is….
The places that have me unnerved are the places that I need to hand over and trust God to complete in the way that will raise His name the highest. When my foot began to truly pain me at Discipleship 1 Camp week, through an incredible worship workshop He began to work on my heart. He asked me through prayer and a prayer led art worship session taught by Gessica Garber to, “Stay in the boat with him.” When I painted this first picture there was originally a person in the water with their arm up who either needed my help or was me…drowning…and I believed it to be a sunset.
I know, it’s a lot to take in…yes…through art. This is how it went down.
I was terrified that someone needed my help and I was going to fail them, or I was sinking and I needed help and was in over my head in some aspects of my life. By the time we got through a time of intense prayer, He had me paint over where the person was and very clearly reminded me that HE alone is God and the He ALONE is the one who brings us to our redemption and full completion after this time on earth. He does not need me to save anyone. I was out of line. Ouch.
“Jill, stay in the boat with me. The sun is rising, not setting on your life. Quit leaning out of the boat, I’ve got all that already taken care of.” Humbling at the very least.
The next day after this incredible experience, I went back to this workshop again which is highly unlike me. I try to support more of our teachers and attend different workshop each night at camp because they all work hard at what they bring to the table for our students. This class was so surprising to my wounded heart. I am not even sure I fully understood what this meant while it was happening, but I will claim it as something quite intimate that God gave me to share with you (which I realized just this morning). I am no artist, but the one thing I knew after I painted those pink swirls was that those were my sweet Mom’s flowers. She had many many pink antique roses and pink peonies that were the scent of my childhood summers. She chose to accept the love and salvation of Jesus just one year before she met Him face to face and was fully healed from the cancer that took her life on this earth. He then took a verse from Mark 5 and brought it to the forefront of my thoughts. I admit…I had to look hard to know that it was in Mark 5. I have read it several times, but never memorized or thought about this story much. Funny how when you get quiet and try to let God have the full reigns he can supernaturally bring scripture you’ve read right to the top. I just knew God was going to heal my foot or let me be stronger than ever for the trip…right?
And then it happened. Week two of Discipleship camp in early July. I was walking two girls up to a cabin from the campfire to use the restroom and SNAP. I felt the healing I had since week one come completely undone, and then some. All the tears, intense pain and in a split second, I couldn’t even hardly walk. In that moment it was the end. The end of my week of camp. The end of my heading to Israel. I was so disappointed, disappointed in myself, disappointed for all those who invested in me, disappointed for our students who were counting on me. I just wept. I didn’t think about the intimacy God had with me in worship just a few weeks earlier. In my humanness and pain, I crashed, if only for a moment…I fully crashed. That’s the funny thing about being human, we fail. Does it mean I don’t have faith in the One God I serve with my life? No. Does it mean I have some work to do? Yes. Then someone said it, “You’ve done all the preparations. Jill, maybe you’re supposed to rest.” But, but, but….how can that be? I will be winded walking up those mountains, I will fall behind, I will disappoint my students if I’m not in tip-top shape and know all my verses, and for the love, I cannot even remember the sh’ma in Hebrew yet!! I have SO MUCH TO DO!! I cannot be the reason this trip slows down or gets ruined for anyone. The chaos of my mind trying to control everything isn’t helpful at all. And God…
My name is Jill, and trusting is difficult for me when things get hard. There, I said it.
I’ll be honest with you. I have only walked one longer walk (about four miles) since camp ended July 13th. I have stopped studying for the BEMA trip (mostly, just reading my cards and the sh’ma in Hebrew occasionally…not trying to memorize) and have gone back to studying to know the God I love so much. I’ve been reading Psalms and slowing my intense study and thinking more what it would’ve been to be David trusting God when he screwed it all up or was just mad or frustrated, or fearful, or faithful.
Ahhh….yep. It’s not about what you do and how perfect you do it. It’s not about not being afraid or not afraid. It’s definitely not about what people think or want to tell you that you should be concerned with. It’s about God, being like God and you right where you are, being enough. That doesn’t mean I don’t try really hard, that also doesn’t mean I won’t fail really hard too. Sometimes it means that we move forward, afraid and all, and get out of God’s way to let him do the heavy lifting.
“Hear O Israel, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And love your neighbor as yourself.” …is that perfect? I have no idea. Do I think so, yes. I am Israel and I am trying hard to listen Lord. Do your best and I’ll try to do mine.
I thank you for all of you who walk beside me, who walk ahead of me to follow and who push me from behind. You as my community make me better every single day and I love you! And if you have never prayed for me and would choose to now, I thank you for lifting me up for the 18 days that lie ahead in this most excellent adventure God has me on. It will be what He wants it to be, which is truly the best possible outcome.
Maybe this is a weird way to finally start my second blog post since January’s series of unfortunate events. I think I got a little “punchy” these last few weeks and decided maybe this was the best outlet for my thoughts. You can stop here if you wish…these are just the thoughts ratting in my head that need to come out.
Lately I’ve been wondering what makes us think the grass is always greener on the other side of the proverbial fence? On one of my recent seven mile walks, I witnessed goats, donkeys and horses cautiously stretching their necks through live electric wires just to get that bright green clover with the decadent purple flowers that apparently are tasty…if you are four-legged. Man, if they had just looked at the other side of the field they were in, there was beautifully sweet clover right in their own back yard. They just needed to put their eyes where they belonged.
Somehow, I feel like people have been looking in my yard (which is lovely) thinking I have the magic beans or magic “clover” for the illustration’s sake, that they don’t have. I often hear how good my life is, and honestly, I love my life.
I’ve had a ton of support from a few extremely kind friends from the moment I chose to say yes when God asked me (against my will) to go to Turkey and Israel for three weeks. I’ve also had the nervous, “Aren’t you worried things are getting pretty tense over there? I’d never leave my kids!” and “That’s an awful lot of money for you to raise.” But I think the one that really digs into me is, “Wow….you are SO lucky! I’d love to do be doing something like that, but “I” (insert the knowing tone) can’t afford it.” I’ve also been told that I don’t know what it is like to be afraid of anything or to struggle much, within the last year. (Have you even met me?)
Let’s identify what “lucky” entails for this trip:
Raise $6650+ for the REAL total cost of this trip, nearly $1000 more than what I’m raising publicly. (Supplies required, including a passport, two kinds of required shoes, required hat, special clothes, travel money, round trip ticket to LAX, extra Visa for Turkey….need me to go on?) Yep, the plan has always been that those expenses come from my family’s budget. And that’s okay!
Raise up supporters for our students who also have to raise $6650+ each. I won’t tell you the total we raised for them…but it has been thousands. (No credit necessary, it is all God’s provision. We just did what He asked us to do.) They don’t know who we encouraged to give and who we didn’t. They wrote the letters asking for support to learn how to raise support. It’s a process, a part of discipling. It’s a part of the responsibility of the process. AND those students are ROCKING it!! They are learning to trust God as their provider. And He has provided!!
My Fitbit says I have an average of over 15,000 steps each day. Most of those steps have been realized in the absolute hottest part of each day in preparation for 120 degree weather we will face in Israel. How many of you exercise your bodies in what we call the “worst” part of the day, full sun in +90 degrees? Bravo for those of you who do! (For the love hydrate, you are crazy people!)
Studying scripture and the BEMA lessons is a large part of this process as well. For me, this discipline really started when Tom went in 2016. Those lessons, reading the Bible 1 1/2 times since January of 2017 hoping to complete it again before I go on the trip. Reading books by people who understand the Jewish culture, learning Hebrew terms…and again…I could go on. Heavy debates with friends, students, and my husband over scripture to have a greater understanding of my Father have truly been important.
Since last Fall and then worse in January, I have had a series of unfortunate health issues that have tried to delay, distract, literally stop me in my tracks (wasn’t allowed to read for two months. so I listened to my studies), you don’t want the full list of orthopedic and PT appointments or ER bills. My daughter was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and in a wreck. My husband is working at managing severe sleep apnea. Serious dental issues for both Emily and I…All while being a campus minister, raising two daughters, serious life changes, financial strain due to increased family heath costs, and on and on.
These are just the facts, I’m not complaining at all, so don’t feel sorry for me. No, I really mean it. Everyone has their “stuff.”
But tell me again how “lucky” I am… Clearly I am more blessed than the next guy, right? (That’s sarcasm friends.) Well, it depends on perspective and what you really mean by that statement.
If you think it’s luck when God sets you on a path, I’d say it’s more like love. You see, there has been a lot of life happen around me and I’ve gotten to experience some of the most incredible people, places and things simply because of the crazy things that have happened to our family!!
The accident: We got to spend time with my cousin Mark and his wife Kathy and be loved on after a horrific experience. It was totally unexpected and touched us deeply. They literally stopped their lives that day, just for us. The support and care for us as we healed from physical pain and a concussion came from friends in every direction. Wow, the love of God was all over the experience. We have made some of the best friends in the hardest life struggles, either theirs or ours, doesn’t seem to matter. What a wonderful gift in the pressure of life to draw closer in community with those who step up or let you step in.
Three torn tendons and a serious bicep inflammation put me into physical therapy for the past two months. Today was my last day before I see my doctor again next Tuesday. As soon as I was no longer their patient, my PT put her phone number in my phone and we are going hiking together. (I don’t know if she knows Jesus, but I’ve been talking to Him about her…) Another, asked if she could join us at Potato Creek soon too (…SURE…) and she put her number in my phone. (She loves Jesus and studies Ray Vanderlaan’s videos! Ray is my mentor’s mentor!!) As I was leaving the new PT whom I’ve only talked to a couple of times, pulled me aside and asked if she and her husband could possibly meet with Tom and I. Apparently they just got out of ministry terribly wounded and are in the healing process. (Boy, do we know that process!) Wow!!! Seriously friends, none of this is because of my goodness. It is because they know some of my path because they’ve treated me through my pain, and most of all because Jesus showed up. He ALWAYS does when you stay out of His way!
All this walking I have needed to do has provided great conversations and even lively debates with Tom, Trudy, Gabby, Carrissa, Kaylee, Dylan and soon, Lindsey, Danielle and whomever else I can get to march along to the beat of my drummer. The sunshine on my face hasn’t hurt me one bit either!
Raising support has often been the hardest part of my life as a campus minister. When I look at the long list of the people who have stepped into the gap for this child of God…it often brings me to tears. I’m so incredibly humbled by this opportunity. This trip has been a true testament of the work that God is doing in me daily. I had to have confidence that He who called me would provide, trust Him to do it and then lead others in their process. ….on a trip I said I’d never ever go on when Tom went. (inserted pictures are from his trip) Oh boy! Never say never folks. I’ve gotten scared, faced fears and wondered how I got here more than once. All these struggles have made me a better person, facing what I thought were limitations and learning that sometimes you just really need a reason “why.” My reason….because God gave me purpose, truth, pure love and more grace than I’ll ever be able to repay. …and He doesn’t expect payment because the sacrifice for my life was already made. My reason is because of all the lost children of God’s that my heart is broken for. My reason is more than anything else, I really WANT to know the God I give my life to over and over, some days minute by minute and I want to reflect Him as best as I can.
I was taught to never ask for more than a glass of water. It was well intended advice…noble intent.
But it was wrong.
Never ask for anything you don’t intend to glorify God with. I asked God for my life to serve Him with it. He gave me endless dreams. dreams.
Is the grass really greener on my side of the fence than yours? You have all the same promises in this life that I do. The Bible has 8000+. Salvation is incredible….once you have it we all cheer, even the angels in Heaven.
But for the sake of this lengthy post, here’s my last thought…until you die and God takes you to Heaven, how many of those other promises are you going to enjoy? I hope to spend the rest of my life finding them and sharing them with you. Your grass is lushously green, loaded with beautiful clover, just waiting for you to notice. It’s awfully hard to see if you don’t look, and impossible to find looking in other peoples’ yards. And for pity sake, stay away from the live wires they’ll zap you every time. (Trust me, I’ve had experience here! Ouch!) If you need help understanding how to see the beauty in your own back yard, I can help with that. And when you find it (YOU WILL), share it with everyone you can.
So the other day (and by the other day I mean sometime in December) I was talking with my friend about how this was the year to get strong again. My back seems to be cooperating (don’t hesitate to ask if you don’t know the many years of struggle, but for now lets not rehash it all…), my heart is pressing in to the things I’ve feared doing for years (I’m going to Israel/Turkey…oh my GOSH!), reading and working to learn my bible like never before, walking alongside women in the community and I have been hitting the gym regularly while paying attention to my diet. 2018 is GOING to be our year we determined. I’m even going to start that blog. I’m committed, I’m going to make this the year of obedience to everything God wants from me. I’m going to give more than ever, fear less and get stronger in every sense.
…and then January happened. (insert dramatic music here)
We left right away in January for a work conference for nearly a week (Obedience came up repeatedly! Yay, such a good start, I love our All Staff Conferences, and in Phoenix this year…I got to climb Camelback Mountain, see above.) and then I came home with Influenza A. Two weeks later I was finally feeling like myself. Ready to push re-start! Went to the gym twice and had a busy weekend and BOOM. Literally boom.
We were in a pretty awful accident on Monday rolling a truck due to very unexpected ice. Both of us bumped up but not broken, leaving me with a concussion that just has some frustrating side effects. …and I can’t read for more than five minutes, work out or even drive my car to campus. Humphhhhh. …and my weight is up and I’m weaker than ever. And now 1/12th of the year has passed. Oh January…you weren’t what I wanted you to be. I thought we had a fresh start.
Today is February 1st. What we focus on is what develops in our life, am I right? Flu, bruises, frustrations with not doing what I want to focus on…not at all what I committed to in good faith. (Oh man, you know that verse where Paul talks about why do I do what I don’t want to do….Romans 7:15-20.) And yet, God never left me when my focus changed. He allowed me to literally stop. To stop ‘doing’ and just let it be. The plan wasn’t wrong or bad, it just didn’t happen. Yeah, and I have eaten lots of the chocolate my lovely friends have brought me too. Yes, I sure did. No restraint. Every. Single. Piece. Tasty! That is on me, literally.
God didn’t shame me. He is walking with me. He isn’t disappointed in me and ready to punish me for being bad, slow to learn, out of sorts. He has completely loved me every second and blessed my soul more deeply than if I were deep in all things spiritual. Because I did it all right? Not so much… More likely because He is lovely, generous and not focused on my flaws but on my heart, this is about who HE is, not who I am.
Friends have been encouraging me/us on Facebook with their love for Tom and I, even my daughter’s boyfriend’s Mom from St. Louis…whom I’ve never even met in person…sent me a sweet, kind message of support for us and our daughter. Meals have showed up without asking from a friend, another bringing fruit (because she knows me, and I love fruit and veggies!) and treats, an incredibly thoughtful gift basket with chocolate, bath salts and teas for physical comfort, family that literally stopped their lives to meet our needs in the moment of crisis. While I can sing the praises of all of these individuals/moments all day long today, the greatest praise is what God did in my heart. He reminded me that in all the mess and my inability to follow through, disappointment in myself for my choices, even when I put my eyes on myself too much, He wants to lavish me in His love through His people. All along, He has only wanted my devotion to Him and for me to see myself the way He sees me…and for me to move forward towards Him.
Yes, I bear responsibility to get back up and do the next good thing to honor Him with my life. (Sorry chocolate, we gotta break up for a bit…) Yes, I’m still frustrated at the now 23# I need to lose. Yes, I need to take care of my brain and be obedient to the concussion protocol (which I completely despise, I want to go to the gym). No I cannot read at length, I will do more audio study, as tolerated. I’m going to have to accept being behind on “my plan.” (This blog has taken me hours, chipping away five minutes at a time.)And yes, I am grateful, and I should be. Four days ago I couldn’t string all my words together (words I could see in my head couldn’t come out my mouth), yesterday I only had one incident. My brain is healing. My body is healing, and I get tired fast. Tom is feeling much better. I’m grateful for my giant family. If you are reading this, that means YOU. Thank you for being the most beautiful part of what is surrounding me today. Even if you aren’t close with God, He has used you to bless me with HIS presence. He sent you to my life. He loves you, and so do I. He nearly knocked me out to WAKE ME UP. This is about how much He loves all of us. I’m not going to stop reminding you, whatever your mess looks like today (you know you have one…wink, wink), He lavishly loves you right in the middle of it. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING can separate you from the love of God. It’s not based on who you are. It’s who HE is.
Peace and Grace to you….
PS…if you want to know God, or help figuring it out, I’m here.
So for about two years I’ve thought about writing this blog. It will not be a literary masterpiece. It will not be angry. It will be simply what is on my heart. I don’t think I’ll even proof it half of the time. (I know, that will hurt.)
If you are wondering why this has taken me so long to commit to..it was fear. Maybe no one really wants to hear what I think. (Exit here please.) Maybe I’ll hurt someone. (I’m already sorry if I do! I promise to be hard on myself later.) What if I am wrong, simply stated, I have an opinion and nothing to back it up and am shallow and insensitive. (Okay, nothing simple about that and I will try hard not to be THAT person.)
If you put it out there you can’t take it back. I might make mistakes and make people salty with me. Really, lets be honest…that’s pretty likely. You might not like everything I post and that’s why this isn’t on Facebook or some other easily accessible place. You followed a link to get here and if you don’t like my blog it will be super simple to avoid the next link, right? (There’s a little button that you can hide me on Facebook, it works…I promise. 😉 Right upper corner…) If you are related to me or one of the members of any church I’ve attended…well, here’s the real me! The same one you know in person, just shake your head and smile knowingly what you are about to get into. I do not promise to not use you as an example. 😀 I’ll TRY to remember to ask your permission, especially if I use your name… (I just lost half my friends!)
So about being afraid, that’s really a lousy reason to not try. Someone had to put that thermometer in that orifice in order to take that infant’s temperature the first time and probably saved their life! So here I go, conquering the first fear by placing the first message.
I love God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit. You will see His name and influence here. At least that’s my hope and prayer. What I hope is that you don’t see a stereotype. A feel-good do-gooder that just wants to make you feel fuzzy OR a bible-banger that wants to shame you into submission.
If you go after someone defenseless on here, I will eat you like a Mama Bear. …and I will still love Jesus.