Words, words, words. I love the way they sound, the way they look, and the meaning they carry. I love studying the history and meaning of words. I love playing around with them to see which combination works best to explain something to someone else. I just love words.

Perhaps it is my love for them that gives them so much power. Or maybe, since God used words to create the entire universe, they are just powerful. Whatever the reason, words have the power to inspire, encourage, and motivate, or destroy, damage, and cause immense pain.

Sometimes, we know are words will hurt another, they may have been chosen for that purpose. In other situations, words meant for other reasons still wound the hearers of our words.

Just recently, I chose to speak the words that I would have wanted to hear. The ones that would have made me feel better. I did not take the time to think about how my friend would hear them. Thankfully, she was honest with me and let me know that my words had hurt her. It was a tough two days, but we worked through it and I am grateful that I can see another perspective.

It gave me pause to think that words meant to help instead hurt. How was I to trust my words if they were so confusing? Two things stuck out to me as I processed this incident along with a couple of others where I was wounded by words others spoke.

First, I need to be very clear on the reason I choose to speak, type, or write. My motives may have been good, but what was my true intent behind sharing them with my friend. Was it to ease my own anxiety? Was it to try and gain extra friendship points, was it me trying to prove something to her or to myself? When I take the time to examine exactly why I feel I need to share, it gives me clarity. It also allows me to choose the words that will best convey the meaning I desire them to contain. I am able to carefully choose just the ones that right for that person, that situation, and most clearly communicate my thoughts.

Second, not every word that I think needs to make its way out of my mouth. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:29, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” My thoughts don’t always meet this qualification. When a thought comes to my head that would only hurt the people I around me, I don’t need to share it. This doesn’t mean that I don’t tell people truth. Truth is valuable and necessary. Just being annoyed, or frustrated, does not give me the right to share those thoughts. I need to weigh my words carefully before sharing them with others.

All of this does mean that I won’t use as many words. The good news is that when I choose my words carefully, they are much more powerful.


Really God, Patience?

     It’s been a week. It has been a long, powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking week. The amount of good and the amount hard in this week is indescribable. So I a head full of words that are all mixed up. There is so much that I want to say, so much I need to say. Too much, apparently, because none of them are coming together to create sentences that other people would understand. I have been at this computer typing word after word, and then erasing word after word, for almost four hours. Just a moment ago, I decided to take a break and spend some time in prayer and reading my Bible. When all the things become too much, when all my thoughts and feelings are a mixed up jumble that I can’t make sense of, I can trust Him to calm me, to guide me. So I prayed, and decided to start with a short devotion. 

     When I found today inside the book, I just shook my head and laughed. The verse, “And so after he had patiently endured…” My thoughts went something like this, “Really, God. Just really. I opened this book so that You could give me a verse about Your blessing, or Your faithfulness, or Your anything other than me having patience!”
     Turns out that if you keep reading, there are blessings to patience. “And so, after he had patiently  endured, he obtained the promise.” (Hebrews 6:15) This verse is in reference to Abraham, who spent a good deal of his entire life being patient and waiting for God to fulfill His promises. Those years were hard on almost every level. He suffered through much while he was waiting. That last part though, ‘he obtained the promise’. That part – it makes it worth it. It also makes it bearable. 
     God has given us promises as well. He has promised us salvation through His son. He has promised us that He will be with us. He has promised us that He will wipe away every tear. I need that promise.  I need to know that even though today was filled with junk, pain, and fear, there is coming a tomorrow that will be filled with joy. 
     Not much has changed during the time since I read that verse. Really, just my heart. My heart can now rest in the truth that God keeps His promises. It can rest in the story of Abraham and the knowledge that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and I can trust Him. I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I just know who holds me. And tonight, that is more than enough.

The Road To Becoming – Jenny Simmons

It’s here! It’s officially launch day for Jenny Simmons and her incredible book, The Road to Becoming. I wanted my readers to know why this day is so important to me.

In the fall of 2013 I begrudgingly agreed to accompany teenagers on a weekend trip to Lives Ablaze in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Honestly, I was pretty ticked that I volunteered in the first place. What exactly made me think that sleeping on the floor of a church, with a group of teenagers, was a good idea? My attitude when I arrived at Hoffmantown Church was incredibly bad. Basically I had decided that I would go, I would even smile, but I wasn’t going to enjoy it.

About an hour into the program, they introduced this lady who was “the former lead singer” of Addison Road. My attitude did not improve. My judgmental nature started to manifest itself. “Former lead singer? Does that just mean that she wasn’t good enough to stay the lead singer? Why would someone of that level of importance be performing for teenagers in New Mexico?” Horrible – but true.

Then this astonishingly beautiful woman came out and spoke words of truth. She was so real with us. Like we were sitting in a coffee shop hanging out – instead of her being this huge star and there being a ton of teenagers in between us. She told of how her band, Addison Road had suffered through difficulty after difficulty and finally had no choice but to stop touring because you can only replace a van/RV full of your belongings so many times. She spoke of being broken, and scared, and at the end of herself. It all made sense to me. I felt like she was one of my people.

Then, she started to sing. Oh. My. Goodness. After the first song, my husband looked at me and said, “We are buying this CD, aren’t we?” “Yes, and the bracelets and the anything else she is selling,” was my response. Through her music and her testimony, my heart was changed. Rather than being angry and judgy, I worshiped, and prayed, and found joy.

Immediately upon arriving home, I followed her fan page, her blog, and eagerly awaited the next album. Each post drew me further in. She has a way of weaving words that cause a person to laugh, understand, and cry. And then laugh again. I read every thing she posted – because it mattered.

2013 was a very difficult fall for me and lead into an unspeakably bad 2014. Jenny Simmons helped me through that – and she didn’t even know it. I can sing every word to every song on her last two albums because I listen it that often. When she announced that she was writing a book, I was overjoyed! I had personally experienced the overwhelming power of her words. To be a part of launching this book is my way of giving back. My way of showing her how powerful her honesty, raw emotion, and passion for God touched and changed me. My goal is to make this book more successful than she could have ever imagined. After reading it, I don’t feel that way just to help her. I feel that way because it is just that good. It is the story of her season spent in a desert. She writes about her fears, her doubts, her anger at the almost unbelievable series of tragedies in her life. Naturally, she doesn’t leave the reader in that place, but she takes us on the journey with her.

Yes, I am a part of a “team”. Yes, it is part of our job to help sell books. No, those are not the reasons that I tell you to read the book. I tell you to read the book because even in our small launch team people have been forever, positively changed by the words contained in this book.

Buy The Road to Becoming on Amazon

Five Minute Friday – Free

Five Minute Friday – Free
     Trapped, confined, held down, no escape, no hope.  This is often how I feel.  I let the weight of my burdens and even the burdens of others back me into a corner and cause me to collapse.  That has never once helped.  It has never once provided a solution, helped another person, or made me feel at all hopeful. 
     It is also unnecessary.  I am free.  Jesus has paid the price for my freedom – here and for eternity.  He tells us that He came to give us life and give it abundantly.  I want to take Him up on His offer.  I want to feel hope, freedom, and security.  More than that, I want to just know it.  I want more than a feeling, which changes based on circumstances.  I want it to be a soul deep understanding.
     I have discovered through reading wisdom gained by others, and much personal experience that feelings are not truth.  When we experience what we call a feeling – it is valid – we are having that feeling.  But, that does not make the feeling the truth.  I can feel like I am unwanted, unloved, and unpopular.  That does not mean that I am truthfully those things.  I can feel like my words are not enough – that does not mean they aren’t.  My feelings come and go and are based not on truth – but on hormones, and thoughts, and circumstances.  I am choosing to focus on the truth and allow my feelings to catch up. 
     Only I can change how I feel and how I think.  Only I can decide to live in the freedom that I have.  I do that by focusing on what is the truth.  The truth is that I am loved by the God of the universe, by my family, and by my friends.  The truth is that I am secure in my relationships and in my career.  The truth is that God has promised that He will work all things for my good.  Which doesn’t make everything good – it makes everything part of the plan for my good.  I can also choose to focus on that which brings me joy.  The more I focus on the things I love and adore – the faster my feelings line up with truth. 

     My five minutes are now up.  I would be remiss however if I didn’t tell you this – you get to control how you feel and what you think.  You cannot control the things that happen around you.  You can control how you choose to deal with them.  Remind yourself of truth, remind yourself of what things bring you joy, and remind yourself that your God is working for your good.
     Hooking up with all the amazing writers of Five Minute Friday.  Where we all write for five minutes on the same prompt – provided by Kate Motaung at http://katemotaung.com/2015/07/16/five-minute-friday-free/

Five Minute Friday – Favorite

     It is a question often asked, “What is your favorite verse?”  While an innocent question by nature, it is an almost impossible question to answer.  There. Are. So. Many.  And, because the Bible is living and active, the verses that touch my heart change based on what season I’m in and what I need to hear. 
     There are those verses however, that I cling to over and over again.  The ones that speak to the very core of who I am and what I need.  My favorites are the ones that I have read but then actually seen God prove Himself through.  When I find a verse in the Bible that is a promise that I desperately need for God to fulfill, I write it out, decorate it, and hang it up.  I read it as often as possible and pray that God would show me that it is true.  Sometimes, I am still surprised when He does follow through, when He proves, once again, to be faithful.  Always, does that verse then become more personal to me.  It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness, a reminder that He cares enough about me to listen and answer my prayers, a reminder that this hope I profess is real. 
     I suppose then, that I do have a few favorites, a few go to verses that bring me hope, joy, and faith.  Ephesians 3:16 is one such verse, “I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources, He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.” (NLT)  There have been those moments in time where I had no strength, none, and yet I was able to persevere.  My whole being knows that in those moments it was not me that did the sustaining, or the strengthening.  It had to be God.  If you are in the midst of a struggle, a time when you feel like putting one step in front of the other is way beyond reasonable, hear me say that He will provide.  He will strengthen you and He will be faithful.  Then, this verse can sink into your heart because you have seen the evidence for yourself. 

     Do you have a verse that has become your “favorite” because you have seen God prove Himself true through it?  

Pondering Friendship

     I am baffled, confused, and bewildered. Turns out, I’m not the only one. In fact, there are apparently many of us out there who don’t understand and don’t know what steps to take to comprehend.  Why are friendships so difficult to create and maintain? Why are some people left friendless (or at least feel that way)? Why do so many women that I speak with day in and day out feel utterly alone?
     I know the basic answers to these questions: time, work, family, etc. Those reasons are valid, but they can only be a minor part of the explanation. Women crave friendship. We crave real relationships were we can laugh, cry, share, pray, play, and talk to each other about all the little things and all the big things. We want to make connections. Yet, so many of us don’t, or feel like we can’t.
    Tonight a friend posted about feeling exceedingly lonely. The kind of lonely that just makes you mentally and emotionally exhausted. The kind of lonely where your mind wonders why you don’t have friends. The kind of lonely where you have examined every possible reason for your lack of connection, and they all go back to that you just aren’t enough to be worthy of friendship. The kind of lonely where you have been through the range of emotions, on more than one occasion, and are just spent from way it makes you feel.  And I just don’t get it.  From the outside looking in, this young lady seems like the ideal candidate for a friend.  She is beautiful but humble, hilarious, intelligent, caring, thoughtful, and willingly to open her heart.  Numerous other women commented on her post and echoed her thoughts and feelings.  As I read the thread, the thought just kept coming back to – all of these women are the kind of people I want to have as friends.  Why is it that they aren’t overflowing with friendships?
     Insecurity would top my list of answers for that question, if we dig a little. The knowledge that beautiful women don’t know they are beautiful was almost more than I could comprehend.  How is it possible that incredibly talented people are always afraid they aren’t good enough? I have ideas rolling around in my head – when I can put them into sentences that make sense – it will be a post. The most important part to me is that regardless of the reason for our insecurities, we need to get past them enough to form connections. The trade-off is too high. We are losing the benefits of true friendship.
     How do we get past it?  Not entirely sure, yet.  Start small maybe.  Make a phone call, send an e-mail, go visit someone.  Do something that puts you a step closer to building a relationship.
I would love to know your thoughts on developing friendships.  Leave your ideas in the comments.


Active Listening

I have a beautiful new friend. She has lovely brown eyes and long blond hair. She has five gorgeous children. Three of them share her skin color. Two of them do not. Those two little people who have different colored skin have been through so much. They were orphaned in a country that could barely care for them. They had to transition from one country to another one that is so very different in almost every conceivable way. They were eagerly gathered into a family that loves them, but they were not equipped with the ability to comprehend such love. They were thrust into a new culture that is vastly different from their own. They had to adjust to new siblings, new rules, new Every. Single. Thing.

My new friend has just shared some of the progress these kiddos have made. They are learning. Learning what it means to have a safe place to stay. Learning that some people don’t leave. Learning that rules serve a purpose. Learning that they are loved unconditionally.

Frequently, I look at a picture she shared with me. In the picture she is kneeling in the grass beside her adopted daughter, and for the very first time her daughter is allowing her to comfort her. Lightly, ever so gently, my friend’s arm is draped over her daughter’s shoulder as the little girl cries. Six months it has taken to get to this point. To the point where she is even allowed to try and make her little girl feel better when she is hurting. Six months to get to the point where she can touch her in love.

As I read reports of what happened in Texas, I can’t help but think of her and all 5 of her children. I am not trying to make a political statement. Regardless of your opinion on what happened and why – it appears to be completely true that the three children who have light colored skin would be at much less risk than the two who have darker skin. She has to be fearful for these kids who have stolen her heart and taken up every bit of energy she’s had for six months. No mother should live in fear because her children have a certain color of skin.

I believe that people should listen when police officers give them instructions. I know that most of us do not understand the entirety of what happened. What we do know is that our country is experiencing racial tension. The evidence is all around us. Marches, protests, prayer meetings, and numerous talks between leaders occur frequently.

For the sake of my new friend, and the many who are in her position, it is imperative that we start discussing this issue with less emotion and more thought. We need to let down our preconceived notions and attempt to see the view of the person on the other side.

My fourth graders learn about active listening. Active listening requires that the listener is not only hearing the words but thinking about them. It also requires that they are not formulating a response to what is being stated. They are just listening. That is my goal right now – to actively listen to what all sides are saying so that I can do my part to help ease this tension.

Fighting Forgiveness

     First Thoughts on Fighting Forgiveness
     When we choose to publicly decimate another person’s character with our insidious words and veiled threats we are revealing much more about our hearts than the about the person for whom our words are meant.  When our words are designed solely to wound and harm another, we can always be assured that they are not only inappropriate but representative of the dark nature of our own hearts. 
     Ugly and cruel words spouted off at another in the heat of a hurtful and passion filled moment show the impact and depth of the wound inflicted.  When these same words are carefully thought out and planned it shows simply that we have allowed our initial hurt to damage us far more than it actually had the power to on its own.  It is a direct reflection of us rather than the person who was initially in the wrong. 
     Not only does forgiveness free us from the weight of bitterness and pain, it is commanded by our God.  Choosing to continue to lash out at those who have hurt us shows that we are unwilling to follow our God and His desires.  Furthermore, it demonstrates that have forgotten the magnitude of the grace He extended to us while we were yet entirely undeserving. 

     Never would I attempt to proclaim that forgiveness is easy or that we allow abuse to continue in any form.  What is true however, is that our refusal to do so hurts us, our relationships with other people in our lives, and most importantly it hinders our relationship with our Father.  Those reasons make not only forgiveness, but moving past hurts, important enough that I want to work at it intentionally.  I want my words and actions to suggest that I am making every effort to be the person I was called to be rather than simply punishing those I feel are not making the same effort.  

Five Minute Friday – Meet

Five Minute Friday – Meet
     Two months ago I would have insisted that to create and maintain a true friendship you would have to meet that person, in real life.  I would have told you that you couldn’t know a person’s heart through a screen.  There are very valid reasons for this position.  What that thought does not take into account is what happens when people, who are hungry for authenticity and realness, are brought together by God.  I have discussed #the4500 at length in several other posts.  I am aware that to the outside world it sounds just a wee bit crazy.  Okay, maybe a lot crazy.  Two months ago I would have agreed wholeheartedly.  But it’s not.  Talking with these amazing women, reading their words, praying for them, being prayed for by them, sharing heartbreak and victory with them, has changed me.  It has made me more brave than I have been in years.  It has given me the courage to meet with two incredible women, in real life, who are willing to share life with me as well.  These women spread out all over the country have given me confidence, wisdom, and strength.  They have given me books to read, thoughts to ponder, and the encouragement to dream big.  The critical piece of this whole community is the real.  Not one woman has tried to be perfect.  Not one has shown themselves as having it all together.  Not one has made themselves better than another.  Each one of us has come just as we are and shared from our hearts.  We have crossed over the selfie boundary and shared videos so that we can hear and see each other.  We have texted, and messaged, and laughed and cried. All of this points to how needed this real version of life is to all of us.  All of to one extent or the other, is drowning in something.  Our hearts and minds long to hear that we are not alone, we are not crazy, and we might have ideas and thoughts that are worthy of being heard.  Every single person you meet – whether in real life – or on this whole new world of social media – has a struggle.  Every person has a need and a desire.  My hope is that we would start treating each other with more grace, more mercy, and more kindness.  Including ourselves.