Saturday, October 29, 2016

Surprised By A Gift

I was looking back at my last post.....I knew something was coming.....I felt it in the deepest parts of my heart, but I had no idea it was this. He has been so kind in all of it - the King. He had it so beautifully laid out and it was poured out over us in a sudden, catch your breath, kind of way. We had felt a movement in our hearts and had even told some near and dear mentors and friends that He wasn't done with.....well, we didn't know....but He wasn't done with it yet and it was coming.

Let me catch you up. It's been since the beginning of June that I posted last. A lot has happened. In my last blog post I honestly noted that the King was up to something big and we felt it but had not clue....not even an inkling of direction of what He was up to. We had been receiving calls from churches around the Northwest for a number of months, but always felt very clear that Jacob's Well Church was where the Lord wanted us, so it never took very long for us to turn down the inquiries and pursuits. We were getting ready to head out to sign a new contract for a lease on a house that we felt God had very clearly opened the door for us to live in - to this day we still feel like it was our gift home - a place of rest. Beautiful backyard, and amazing interior layout. A gift for hospitality and restful hangouts with Jesus. Now we know why He gifted us that for 2 months. We needed to rest.

We had been asked by a church in Colorado to do a laid back interview really quickly on Skype to just "feel out the possibilities". We didn't feel too worried about saying hello, since that's usually where we felt God had closed doors on other inquiries - right after the hello's. So we sat down to Skype with the board before heading out the door to sign the housing lease. Usual questions, and pretty typical answers followed, and that was that. Except that it wasn't. We said goodbye, and headed to sign the paperwork.

We got in the car and the Spirit of the Lord sat down right with us.....and said, "You're going to want to pay attention to what just happened." Now, hear me - He didn't say, "You're going to Colorado", but what He did say was to pay attention......He hadn't said that in any of the other church inquiries we had received. None of them. This one was different.

We had a contract to sign, and we didn't feel Him say "No" to that either, so we just kept walking forward. Pay attention, but be available in the now. Okay, we can do that.

We signed and finished packing our house, and moved in the next week. A few days into settling into our new home, the church in Colorado called back. They wanted another Skype interview, but this time they wanted it to be a "real" interview. So Chris and I did what we have so often learned to do in church planting......head to the couch and get on our knees to pray. God was very easy to hear - "Do the interview." So we did.

The interview went for almost 2 hours. They asked all about Jacob's Well and what we had been doing for the past 5 years. We asked them questions about their church and their mission outreach to their neighborhood. The entire time was full of back and forth conversation and sharing and questions and answers from honest hearts on both sides. We said goodbye, and Chris and I looked at each other. What just happened? Something in our spirits began to lean in further......what was God up to? Something big.

Interviews with a church are somewhat interesting. It's a bit like an awkward dating situation - first you meet and then one side decides if they like the other, and then if they do, then the other side has to decide if they like them back. It goes like this throughout the whole thing. The only great difference is that hopefully both sides aren't just deciding based on feelings - they are genuinely getting on their faces before the King of kings and asking what He needs next of them. So as we waited to hear from the church whether they wanted to move to the next step, we prayed. Oh, we prayed.

This time, though, our prayers were laborious. Not only were we praying through what may be with this church in Colorado, but we were praying and grieving what a call to Colorado would mean for what God had been doing in the North End of Boise through a believing community, our extended family, called Jacob's Well church. Ugly cry is a much better description of what I mean when I say grieved.

The church called us back and said that they would like to take the next step which would be a face to face interview with the entire church. We had already planned a vacation to see my brother and his family in Fort Collins, Colorado - they had recently moved back from Cambodia, and I was thrilled to have them state side, so our calendar was set with seeing them. We decided to make a day in the middle of our vacation to drive the 90 minutes to Castle Rock, and interview face to face, instead of finding another time to fly back and interview later.

We prayed as we drove the 90 minutes to Castle Rock.....a nervous, what if we don't like it - what if we do like it kind of prayer......and Oh, God please be clear with us. As we came up over the swell of the mountains, we dropped down into a valley that looked like it had been sweetly kissed by the Creator. Rolling hills covered with neighborhoods, and green-blue mountains sidled up to the edges.....evergreens and scrub oak dotted the curves.....and all we could say was, "Wow!"

We drove ourselves around and just looked. We asked God to speak and open our hearts to begin to love this place like home if He was asking that of us.....and He quickly began to increase our vision for Castle Rock and it's people. As we arrived at the church to interview, names and faces were already precious to me, and even in the midst of interview questions and nervous feelings, the King was up to something beautiful.

We left and prayed for Kingdom hearts for them, for us, and for listening ears all around. Then we waited. The awkward dating situation was now more of the "post-meeting the parents" butterflies in the stomach thing.

We decided that our Jacob's Well family was needing in on the conversation, so with tears and a request for them to join us in prayer, we told our extended family. That was a hard night, because we knew what it meant if God said "go", and so did they. The church in Colorado had voted that afternoon and had invited our family to come. It was our turn to respond. Family like Jacob's Well is hard to match - and because they are family, they did what family does - they prayed with us. 24 hours later, every one of them said, "God says Go!". We had made it a "family" decision, and our "family" said go, so we called the church and said, we will come. Now the rest of it gets crazy, because we had to get our kiddos to Colorado as quick as we could since school was already 3 weeks into session, even though Boise hadn't even started yet. So, we asked the Jacob's Well family for help, and they jumped and helped pack us and move us in a week. A WEEK! God also provided a renter to fill our lease in Boise a month after we moved - amazing!

There's a lot of story in there that you may hear from me someday that gets down to intimate parts where the King provided and helped and maintained and encouraged, but that is for later. What you DO need to hear, is that upon arriving in Castle Rock, everything the King had been teaching Chris and I over the last 5 years in planting Jacob's Well, suddenly was exactly what we needed to know in ministering to this community and this church. Exactly!

The best way I can explain it to you was the way I described it to my parents today via Skype. I said, "It's like labor. Our time in Boise was a bit like the first 3 steps of labor - it's all of the awkward and painful labor cramps, the doubling over on our faces asking what we are supposed to do next - the quiet and often loud relinquishment of knowing you just have to breathe through this part, and the next, and the next - the waiting, and tears - the hoping and anxiety - the wanting it to be over, but knowing that everything happening is how you get closer to new life.......and then your body says something new - and that's what Castle Rock feels feels like the part where I get to participate in the new life - I get to push and help and say, 'Look! Look what's coming! New life is coming! I can see it!! That's what this feels like - it feels like a gift!"

We have been surprised by a gift straight from the heart of a King who knows every yucky and ugly part of us, who knows the tears and cries out to Him for direction, vision, help, and hope, and who said simply, "You're going to want to pay attention."

What happened, you ask? A gift. A gift happened.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Scarred Warrior

Do you hear it?

There is something in the air. It hasn't fully blown through....but it has started....perhaps it won't ever end. That feeling that the King of kings is still up to something. He is still up to something wonderful, something fantastic.

I keep wondering when it will fully arrive.

I have seen His hand move in beautiful ways over the last 5 years since we started the Jacob's Well journey. We have watched God provide in big and small ways - $25.00-$1000.00 checks showing up when we needed them and were on the last coins in the bank, bills being forgiven, cars and clothes that lasted beyond their time, housing that suited our needs for shelter and hospitality, food showing up on our front porch when no one knew the cupboards were empty, and friends that said they would walk with us the whole way through church planting..........but there's something else coming.

He's at work, and I can't see His hand beyond this moment, but His movement is causing goosebumps in my heart.

Do you see their faces? The lifeless lack of heartbeat that's written on some of their foreheads. The champion of empty drained out purposes, the ruler of the dream stealers, the dark king of death thinks he is winning........but he is only flailing loudly because he knows the King is raising up bravehearts.....those that aren't afraid of bearing Kingly Light in the darkness. I am one of them, clothed with a robe that is written over with 'Daughter of the King'. I am being called to breathe out Kings-breath on them.

Do you feel it too? Without knowing the full scope of what's ahead, He's asking me to listen in closer. He's asking me to leave the shadows behind that I found so secure and guarded, and to step into the full Light of His strength, cast aside all fear, and speak peace, compassion, hope, and bravery to the millions of faces that walk past me every day. Of course, this is all within the perfect timing of His leading alone, which I continue to learn.....since we already talked about my instinctive, broken and quick ability to challenge everyone before the King even says to say anything. Patience friends.....I'm a grace-full work in progress.

Chris and I talked today about becoming mature - we concluded that too often we use the word "mature" as an end in itself, when instead it is a continuous state of becoming. No one is ever done maturing.....well, unless they choose to stop and just cycle in their current state of mind. In the Kingdom of the One who calls us toward constant release and deep hope, we won't ever stop growing.......unless we turn from His lead and choose to become stagnant......I don't want that...ever.

Psalm 51:10-17

  10Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
13Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
14Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15Unseal my lips, O Lord,
that my mouth may praise you.
16You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

I have written of weakness and broken parts of my life and story. I am not without wounds....still. Warriors are not defined by the lack of their scars, but by the way the scars were healed. I know of only One that heals them from the inside out.....beautifully well. If the scars I carry define anything about me.....may it be that I ran as quickly as my bloodied knees and bruised hands could take me straight to the King of kings, and that once there, He laid my brokenness aside and made me beautiful.

Scarred warrior princess at your service, my Lord.

Do you hear it?

Thursday, June 2, 2016

I Keep Dying


This journey with Jesus is no joke. It has ruined me and caused me significant heartache, both in beautiful ways and in really difficult ways. I have been so continuously pruned and cut apart that I'm not sure there's much of me left....which I think is the point. I keep dying to different chunks of myself that I thought I that I thought defined how I was supposed to be as a Jesus-follower, how I was supposed to think, how I was supposed to love.

So I keep dying, which is really hard, and I don't like it, but I do it........for the King......

Totally makes sense, huh?! Ha.

I called my brother yesterday morning. It was one of those phone calls that I could only have with him. I didn't have to explain my way of thinking or the filter that I grew up with or the way current ministry and life situations were shaping my heart and brain processing. He just knew.

I sobbed as I told him my morning conversation with my husband. It was a rough one. There weren't any raised fact, I didn't speak at all....I just listened. My husband had come toward me with beauty, grace, gentle challenge, invitation and lovely caution......he knew it would hit me hard. And it did.

What was the conversation? Well, it was regarding me and my personality and my constant "challenge" of others - that I continuously call everyone toward integrity, and right decisions, and Kingdom courage, and honorable choices, and repentance, and change, and growth. All of this is good.....but Chris' gentle challenge toward me was that not all of it is good for every single conversation with every single person. Every. Single. Time.

I am a strong woman. I am stubborn about lots of things and wildly passionate about Jesus. I am a "Ready, FIRE, Aim" kind of personality and I don't like slow decisions or having to wait for forward movement....that movement should have been done last week, people! And Jesus called us to be church planters (ugly cry and uncontrollable laughter here)! Definition of church planting: noun: A SLOW insane adventure/call that takes immense patience, unfathomable trust, lots of time, SLOW relationship building, SLOW decisions, SLOW progress, alongside crazy fast character growth from God-pruning. 

Being a pastor in a church plant situation gives me beautiful access to lots of new relationships, and those relationships turned friendships usually end up coming to Chris and I with "stuff" that we can pour into, counsel and help......and most of the time, my first reaction is to act responsibly and make sure they hear the next "obvious" step......because obviously I have everything in life figured out. Ha!

This is a VERY real weakness in me.........lame sauce.

So back to my brother, Ryan, and our conversation. I brought up the example of a shepherd and sheep and that the shepherd helps the sheep get to where they need to go. He agreed, but had questions for me about how a shepherd does that.....and what about the ones that wander off? I also shared the story of Jesus at the well, Jacob's Well, with the Samaritan women, and how He called her to a new life, a changed life. My brother asked, "That's a great example of Jesus. How did Jesus do that with her?"

I began to cry again as I answered. "Well," I said, "He offered her Living Water (Himself), which would result in a life that was transformed by His grace and restoration. He invited her toward healing, and beautifully challenged her current lifestyle, because Jesus can do that so well, and then He let her choose...."

He invited. He offered. He graced. He challenged. He gave her the choice. And then He waited.

More tears. So I keep dying, which is really hard, and I don't like it, but I do it........for the King......

Chris is a person of invitation. I am a person of challenge. Together is where the magic happens, though. Our hope is to continue toward the beautiful and messy dance of bringing those two gifts together by allowing the King to shape our gifts, heal our weaknesses, challenge us toward healing, and listen to His lead. That dance is really hard to learn. We've got the first 8 steps figured out......the rest of the dance we are still learning. So I keep dying so I can learn the rest.

Ryan texted me after our conversation with healing words. "It is for freedom He has set us free. But I know what you mean....I'm impatient too. Want things to change now! The thing is....He's called us on a journey. And it's maybe not as much about the timetable (or even the destination) as it is that we are simply ON the journey. Whether with solid or faltering steps or not. On the journey....that's what He wants. And that's what you are on, my dear sis. You are on the journey! Rest. In. Him."

This journey with Jesus is no joke. It has ruined me and caused me significant heartache, both in beautiful ways and in really difficult ways. I have been so continuously pruned and cut apart that I'm not sure there's much of me left....which I think is the point. I keep dying to different chunks of myself that I thought I that I thought defined how I was supposed to be as a Jesus-follower, how I was supposed to think, how I was supposed to love. With the removal of more of me, I am beginning to catch glimpses that there may be a simpler place for me - a place to breathe in and out and find rest in who I am in His shadow.....all He is asking me to DO is respond to His invitation and He will DO the rest.

So I keep dying.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Waiting Into Dancing

If I hadn't walked the dreary darkness of the valley of waiting, the path of eerie what-if's, would I have missed the bright reprieve of these abundant answers? Would I have stepped past the restoration of my hope without seeing it at my feet?

I am still in a bit of amazement.....still taking it all in. Thursday it started - God, and God alone, opened floodgates and we got caught up in His waves.

There was a home I had already seen a couple weeks earlier while Chris was out of town for a discipleship conference he was helping facilitate. I had walked through the home, and handed the owner our family application just because. I had told Chris that it probably wasn't our home because it was right on State Street and that's a crazy busy street to raise a family on. Plus it wasn't in our school district and the option of moving our family to another school had been weighing heavily on my mommy heart. We would have to leave too many friends and relationships that were significant to us. The weird thing, though, was that the owners sent us an e-mail telling us that they were giving us priority as a family, and if we wanted it, it was ours. I didn't want it. Chris had never seen it, but didn't want it either.

We chose to call the owners on Thursday and let them know that they could move forward without us - we were turning down the home. To make the situation even more fun, Chris had just found out that one of the jobs he had applied for was no longer available. It was the one he really wanted as his bi-vocational job. They didn't hire someone else, they just decided that they didn't want to hire anyone at all. They still asked Chris if they could keep his resume for when they wanted to hire, and he would be at the top of the list. Well, no job, didn't help us in the realm of applying for a home. Our time on our knees praying was getting super loaded with question marks and weary requests.

So Chris called the owners. No one answered, so he left a message.

I left Chris and Samuel at the house, and went to lunch at Chipotle. I met up with a fellow Jesus-follower. She is so precious to me. You know those friends that the King brings around you that already know what the journey you're on feels like, and as they nod their heads while you tell your story, you know they totally get it.....and every part of them is cheering you onward. She's that kind of friend. After lunch, she surprised me....made me cry too....and walked me into Trader Joe's and bought me a grocery cart of food. She kept telling me to add more to the cart.....kind of like the King does at times while I pray, "Is that all you need? I'm sure there's more. Go ahead, ask Me. I love showing You how I am going to answer." It was a needed afternoon for my weary heart.

I headed home with a full tummy and a full trunk of groceries, thankful for simple answers to prayer for our needs. The owner of the house that we didn't want called back, and Chris walked out of the room to talk to the guy while I taught a piano lesson. I kept hearing bits and pieces of the conversation and was honestly confused at who he was really talking to. He got off the phone, and I asked him who that was. He said it was the owner, and that we were still going to see the home on State Street on Saturday. The owner had convinced him to come look at it anyway, and had seemed genuinely interested in our story and our family. What? Why?! Chris said, "I don't know, but he's holding the house for us. We might as well go see. It was kind of weird. He didn't want me to say no."

Confused and bewildered looks all together now.

Later that afternoon, we got a text from a dear friend and comrade in the journey regarding a new big chunk of provision for our family. Amazed and overwhelmed, we cheerfully made arrangements to see another home. Friday morning, we braved the crazy rain storms and went to see what we thought was going to be the place we would live. The owner seemed to connect with us and we left feeling like this was it. He promised to let us know by that evening.

We got the call that night that he had chosen a different family. Ugh! We went right back to our knees. Chris and I both had felt an overwhelming stress that day as we had waited for his phone call. Yet, once the home was no longer an option, handed off to another family, Chris looked at me and said, "The weight is gone! I've been feeling hurried, heavy and stressed all day, and now that the house isn't ours, it's gone. Weird!" Ironically, I had been feeling the same way.

There was this new financial provision, but no home to go to. We still had an appointment early on Saturday to see the home that neither of us wanted......but that was somehow staying available to us. Now remember, the North End of Boise is ridiculous with housing. It's super costly and rental homes....well, any homes for that matter, are gone within a matter of days, if not hours. It's pretty weird to have an application on a home that has waited for you, convinced you to not turn it down, and then given you another showing......yes, I know you know where this is going. Stay with me.

Saturday morning, Chris and I met one of the owners there at the back of the home. We shook hands and walked in. Now, what we did beforehand is pretty significant to the story. We spent more time praying and talking with our kids about the home on State Street. We asked God for wisdom - our prayer was this, "Help us not to say no to something You want us to say yes to, and not to say yes to something that You want us to say no to." We also prepped our kiddos with Kingdom conversation. We asked them to pray as they walked through the home. We told them, "Your little hearts can hear Him. Ask God if He wants this home for you. Ask Him to be clear with your heart." The kids all nodded.

We opened the back gate......and our hearts began to leap. Things that I hadn't felt as I walked through the home days before began to be on display. I looked closely at the plants in the yard - beautifully landscaped with succulents and flowers and Virginia creeper....plants I had wanted to have in my own yard if I ever owned a home. We walked into the garage and noticed adequate space for our bikes and cars and tools, but also enough space to store the items we were keeping safe for my parents while they lived overseas. As we walked through the home, my heart was excited and hopeful....I saw intricate things that had been on my prayer list that we wanted - things that only I had asked for.....and things only Chris had asked for. People, there was a working fireplace and not only one tree in the front yard for my kids to climb, but TWO! The back yard was not only fenced in, but had space for playing neighborhood children and church families, and gardening space, and a covered and lit deck for hospitality with friends and neighbors.....we can even do our monthly Movie Night at the Reiters for the neighborhood, with space to spare! I nodded my head at my husband as we kept seeing little details of the home that were things we didn't even put on our list, but that the King thought we might like. Seriously ridiculous kisses right on our foreheads from the King.

We got home, asking the owners if we could have one more evening to think about it. As we sat looking out our front window, praying and talking over the home, my daughter piped up and said something that every mommy and parent everywhere longs to hear in the midst of these journey's. She said, "Mom, it's okay if we have to switch schools. I'm suddenly feeling brave!" People, only the King can do that in my daughter's heart!

We called the owners and said yes to the home. We set up a time to sign the contract.

Today, my stomach hurt as we finally met up with the owner to sign the paperwork. I was waiting for the King to ask us to back out....preparing my heart to be obedient and say no to this great home and trust Him again......but He never said no! All I heard was, "Do you trust Me with all of this?" My answer was a resounding, "Yes!" I didn't know how to pay for the rest of our needs, but I knew He had provided this I chose to Hope.

As we signed the paperwork, we asked lots of questions. As he answered, there were a couple more things that my heart began to smile about. Our fridge, and stove, and washer and dryer....we were given freedom to keep and use them. We didn't have to sell them. Small thing to some of was in the top chunk of my specifics list that I prayed over. Listen, when you find a good washer and dryer, you don't mess around with any lesser brand or unknown machine - preach.

We signed the paperwork and headed home, slightly giddy and a bit dizzy at the way it had all come about. We got a phone call from my dad and mom in Jerusalem. They wanted to hear how everything had gone. They've been holding up our arms through prayer every step of the way.

As we talked through the day, we went over the financial aspects of everything. We had crunched numbers earlier that morning and were still coming up short. One of our huge prayers has been Chris' job as a pastor. We have been a bi-vocational ministry family for the last 5 years. That means that Chris has always been employed elsewhere at least 36-40 hours a week, beyond being a full time pastor for Jacob's Well Church. I have held multiple jobs as well. Our request from the King, that we had written down on paper about 8 weeks earlier, was that Chris would be a full-time vocational pastor within the part time job needed.

My parents listened and then smiled. Then they began to make us cry. The amount of money that we needed to allow Chris to be a full time vocational pastor for Jacob's Well Church, was the amount of money that God had laid on their heart to give us monthly for the next year. In fact, it was $18 more than what we needed. Goodness! I looked at my husband and said, "You're a full time pastor! RIGHT NOW!!" Tears.

Lots of tears. Lots of "Oh my goodness!!" Lots of "You are kidding me!?" "God is so good!"

We have a home and are moving into it on June 14th. Chris is a full time of TODAY!!!!

People, you can't tell me that this is coincidence. You can't explain it any other way except this - the King of heavens, the Lord of my heart, provided and abundantly continues to do so........He alone has done it!

If I hadn't walked the dreary darkness of the valley of waiting, the path of eerie what-if's, would I have missed the bright reprieve of these abundant answers from the King? Would I have stepped past the restoration of my hope without seeing it at my feet? I walked THROUGH the valleys. I cried tears ON the path. I stand here today, eyes up, and I didn't miss a thing, for Light is warming my face.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Stuck In The Waiting

This season of life is weird.
It is wonderful.
It totally stinks.
It is amazing.
So completely horrible.
It is beautiful...........We are stuck in the in-between.....we are stuck in the waiting. The time before God points us toward something and before the fog lifts and we can actually see where He's pointing.

The first week of April began our journey. We felt it coming, however, long before. We knew in our heart of hearts, or what we would call our spirit, that God was doing something significant - growing us in a new way - changing something, somewhere, somehow. We just didn't know what. Ironically, we still don't.

Chris found out that the job he had that gave us the majority of our income alongside pastoring Jacob's Well Church, would be closing it's doors. He has been a bi-vocational pastor since we arrived in Boise, Idaho in 2011. It is how we best felt God could use our call to begin a church - to work in and among the community, bringing in income to survive as a family, and grow roots where we lived and ministered. It has been a tough choice, but what we thought was best for serving our family and community.

That same week we also found out that the new owners of our home wanted to move in. God had prepared our hearts to hear that, but we still struggled with the dual hit to our family. Chris, as the main provider of our family, has carried it a lot more intimately than I have - I will tell you why in a second. God designed him with a specific and deep desire to shelter and provide for us, and I love that about Chris. It has caused me to pray in a new way for his heart and significant role in our family.

Chris has a unique history when it comes to this kind of journey. Chris grew up with a dad that chased the dream of a certain job all the way to the deep ruin of his family. Because of this, his family was homeless for a time. As a child, Chris lived in a tent as well as in a small camp trailer during their homelessness. He showered in the concrete car wash bays of a car sales lot. He watched his parents divorce and his family fall a part. He has carried our current situation with deep pain.

Nothing of our current story is comfortable. But this one thing I have been led to speak over Chris and have asked God to redeem the past in Chris' heart - "You are not your father. What is happening to us is not a cycle or a result of anything that happened to your family when you were young.  This is NOT the same thing. You are a son of the King. You are Chris - your name means Christ-bearer. I love you. The King sees this. He will take care of us." Those last few lines I speak over him almost every day - sometimes multiple times a day. God has asked me to declare over Chris WHO he is - a son of the King - Christ-bearer - loved by me.

I have never seen my husband weep like he did the day I spoke those words over him - that he is not doing to us what his father did to them. The kids watched their daddy sob on the floor. God redeemed something in Chris in those moments.

Our three kids have watched us pray on our knees. They have watched us hold each other and cry out to the King. They have joined us in prayer on our bed and have grown in their faith as well. For that I am grateful for this journey.

A lot of this story has done something in us toward restoration, redemption, and trust. It is wonderful and deeply difficult. But we KNOW God is at work.

What is weird is that we have had a couple homes that we have been approved for at different times over the last month, and both times, we have felt deeply that it was NOT our home. One of those times we felt it so heavily that we knew if we signed the papers, we would be disobeying God's heart for us. We even had to tell one landlord the morning of our signing that the night before, God had made us both significantly uneasy about our decision, and we needed to obey His direction. That was a fun moment. Ugh.

We have had a number of job offers to Chris and each time we knew that they were NOT the jobs for him. We even applied for something that we felt was a potential open door, and the door swung shut fairly quickly. You have to admit that it a very humbling place, especially when his current job will be ending today. It's even more of a weird spot when an entire community is watching and hearing our personal faith in a God who provides and whose timing is perfect.....and to tell them that we have no home or job yet when we have said NO to a couple options. It makes little to no sense. But Chris and I have been reminded that Noah built an ark in a desert because God said so, and the Israelite people marched around Jericho because God said so, and God used a donkey to speak redemption into a dude because God opened it's mouth, and Jesus, the Son of God, died on a cross to save the world.....and then CAME back to I guess being stuck in the waiting with options that we've turned down because we hear the King say, "No, not that one", isn't too far fetched. But when IS He going to show us? When will He speak, "Here is the way - walk in it." Ugh. I don't know.

This season of life is weird.
It is wonderful.
It totally stinks.
It is amazing.
So completely horrible.
It is beautiful...........We are stuck in the in-between.....we are stuck in the waiting.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Where Forgiveness Lives

Tonight, I feel the good kind of tired. Like my day was filled with beneficial stuff from the heart of God for His creation and people. It wasn't my doing, though. Never is. I've been around long enough to know that when I try and pull up my own boot straps and "save the world", one of the straps inevitable ends up snapping on one side causing my awkward self to swagger, which results in a face plant of some sort. Seriously, it's happened - figuratively and maybe literally as well. If you know me well at all, perhaps you've witnessed Cherie-style face plants. Sorry about that.

Today, though, the King's voice near. It's like I'm finally learning His intonation and rise and fall of His heartbeat well enough to hear Him speak to me moment by moment. It's what my heart has longed for - but it's something I had to learn. He's been speaking to me since my ears and heart were created, I just had to learn His voice. I wish I would have learned it this well a long time ago. And I still have a long way to go in my heart/ear-training.

Chris and I sat with dear friends this afternoon. They are fairly new to Jacob's Well Church and have asked us for pre-marriage counseling. Chris and I especially love this part of our job in ministry, because we get to pour out wisdom, grace and love onto another couple, that our mentors poured into us at that stage of our engagement. A good dynamic marriage is a big deal (and super rare), and couples with those kinds of marriages know that it takes a lot of effort, preparation, understanding, grace, and a butt ton of forgiveness. We committed to work for a dynamic marriage from the very beginning, and long to help others toward the same hope and goal.

One of the things that our pre-marriage counselor, Gary Waller, asked Chris and I to do was one of the most healing things for us. By the way - you know you have a great pre-marriage counselor when they stay committed to walking with you past your wedding day - to call on, to ask help from, to check in with, and so forth. We still meet with Gary more than once a year to see how Chris and I can continue to dig in and grow together in our covenant to each other. We learned that from him as well - to stay connected to those we counsel - because even marriage takes a village. 

Gary asked us to do what Chris and I would deem The Forgiveness Exercise. As he described it, I actually remember thinking, "Eh, that's not too terribly difficult." Boy, was I completely wrong! What he asked us to do was to find a time where Chris and I could be alone somewhere quiet without people around. We were to sit knees to knees, facing each other, and reveal our broken baggage and dark sin from past relationships and even from our current happening relationship. We were to speak of the sin to the other, and then ask forgiveness for it. Then the other would do the same. We would follow that in prayer, individually and out loud, asking the Grace Giver to hear our repentant hearts and forgive us, while asking Him to help us walk forward in a new way, with new eyes and a new heart.

Goodness. My heart was splayed out, knot in my throat, swollen eyes from impending tears, broken and ashamed in front of Chris. I had displayed and pushed into the light the darkest parts of who I was and what I held as secrets or shame, and asked for forgiveness from my fiancé for all of it. And then I did the same to the Creator and King of my heart. Now don't go all weird on me - this was actually a beautiful exercise. It wasn't meant to shame the other while giving credence and new voice to past and current sins. Instead, it was meant to silence that voice. To tell it, "No more". Forgiveness lives here. Where forgiveness lives, transformation happens.

Then it was Chris' turn. Something deep began happening as we went through The Forgiveness Exercise. I started to heal, to transform. The deep down, "I didn't know that part was broken", kind of healing. Things that had been shadowed, rattled and undone in me, squeamish and bleeding, were bandaged and cleaned out - forced into the Light. They were wrapped with clean gauze for the first time and Kingdom ointment was poured over them. It wasn't a toxin release from crying. No this was a heart cleanse. A God-sees-me-and-loves-me-still-yet moment, and so does Chris. 

Don't get me wrong, that was not an overnight fix. Chris and I spent a lot of time learning to forgive each other beyond that day, and The Forgiveness Exercise was only the beginning. We hope this couple that we spoke with today will use the exercise as often as Chris and I do - forgiveness is the second most needed commodity in marriage. Right under the number one need for God to be at the center of the relationship. 

The King's voice was so precious to me today. He reminded me that when I listen in to His heart for me, forgiveness is always written in between the lines. It lives in His words. He speaks it over me every time we talk. And if I continue to listen, then when I speak, He can use the same language spoken over me, to come out of my mouth to those I speak to. Because, forgiveness is not my native language. But I know where Forgiveness lives.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Great Hall

I sat with a cup of Casi Cielo coffee looking out into the yard this morning. We have this perfect little round table - the tall bistro table kind that I got for a steal from craigslist when we first moved to Boise. I sat on the wood stool and propped my elbows on the table's edge cupping my coffee between two hands. In front of me was my bible. I had it opened to Psalm 119.

Chris sat next to me with his coffee and his bible as well. He had finished having his time with Jesus on his own, and we had even talked over our weekend conferences that we attended. God had reminded us of a number of things we needed to step forward in faith for during our times apart this weekend. The Holy Spirit also spoke to us individually about the same things - new things we needed to learn.

Chris' eyes closed as he started to pray out loud. He named the people in our church, and people in our neighborhood - people that we love - asking God to help them, encourage them, and lift them up. He asked Jesus to draw them in - to renew and restore them. He asked God to give us courage, and grow us as a family called to this city - and to help us trust Him for our needs.

Then as he finished, I began. I read Psalm 119, verses 10-49. I prayed out changing all of the I's in those verses to we's. It seemed to fit. To fit where we were this morning and where we were headed. Just Chris and I and the King.

I love moments like this.

There's something about simply being in the Presence of the King of kings at my round bistro table with my coffee in hand and a book full of words that point toward His heart.

Have you tried it recently? To talk to Him? It's so worth it.

When I close my eyes to speak to God, I feel as if the small space I'm in opens up and I am suddenly in this Great Hall, just the King and me. He's always smiling when my eyes find Him in the expansive space. Always. It's like He's been waiting for me. Nobody has ever told me what I'm supposed to "experience" when I'm praying. I was taught as a child that praying was a way to simply talk to God. That's totally true. He talks back too. But this sort of way I meet with the King is always amazing to me.

He fixes me. He can fix my heart with only a few moments of stepping toward Him. I walk in, distraught, frustrated, and exhausted, and within seconds, my heart relaxes, and I begin to hope again. That's the best. To hope again.

I'm never afraid in His Presence. Not ever. Nothing in me is ashamed or bashful. I can hardly wait to talk to Him - even if I've done something wrong. Because He's ready. He's always ready for me. He can hardly wait for me to talk and then longs to respond and speak to me. Well, I guess there's times He wants me to just listen - and not talk. I'm thankful for His patience too.

I don't know why I'm writing this. Perhaps because it was just a Great Hall kind of morning with my King. Those mornings shape me. I'm changed and continually transformed as a result of those conversations. I need more of them.