Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Gift for You...and You...and You and You and You!

A number of years ago I went through something. It started in the month of August, so that month always brings memories back. That is what happens with PTSD: flashbacks, feelings, introspection. At the time, all felt dead inside. My worldview, my love for people, my identity, my faith, my family, my marriage, our collective health: it all went through the fire. And at the time, and for years following, nothing emerged untouched. Everything was singed, limping, suffering, questioning.

But this past year, I was brave and, quite frankly, had to humble myself enough to finally go get a therapist for myself. To stop being strong and find a place that I could be weak, let down, face down. A good friend showed up and suggested a God-send of a therapist for me. In the past year, this therapist has breathed life into the dead places. She has helped to lift my chin from the weight of shame (that was not mine to carry) and given me the strength to step outside of the safe and back into the realm of messy people. Because, the truth is, we are all messy. True, this person who betrayed me on the level that I was betrayed was obviously, really messy. But I did not know that at the time. So for me, everyone was this person. I could teach because it did not require trusting people, or entering into their journeys on any level, only to the degree that I chose to. I had vowed to never again counsel. Never again enter into the ministry of people. Because people hurt, and they betray, and they fail to show up, and they abandon, and in some cases, they slay your soul. Even people who are supposed to love you. But in this, those people who hurt me (it started with one traumatic incident that gave way to years of fallout), got more power and victory than they EVER deserved. Why would I give them my calling on top of everything else that they had taken from me?

Well, I am taking it back. I am vowing to step boldly into my calling by using my gifts and talents and the fertile grounds of my life experiences. I quit my teaching job...leaving behind the comfort of control and hiding behind academia (not everyone who teaches is hiding...I am speaking specifically to what I was doing). I was never meant for the safe life (and neither were you). I was set apart, gifted and called to people. And for all of the times that certain people failed to show up for me, or worse, betrayed me, or utterly abandoned me in my greatest time of need, I will NOT choose to live out of that pain any longer. I am stepping back into the ring. I still have a limp, I think I always will, but just as a water pipe that has broken is strongest at the point in which it is soldered back together, I am so much stronger and wiser for my limp. I am finally to the point that it is no longer holding me in bondage to fear and shame. It is propelling me forward to seek out other women in the darkness of trauma and simply show up in whatever way I can. Its like when Jacob fought God all night long, and left with a limp and a new name... and a new understanding and appreciation for WHO God was and what direction he (Jacob) was going to go.

I have been working both personally and professionally for months to get to this point of launching back into the place where my I am best suited to serve. The time is coming. In the next six weeks both my counseling practice and the retreats for women will launch and I am so excited. Part of me is terrified, part of me is so excited I can hardly contain it, a lot of me is so busy prepping for it all, and all of me knows that this is exactly where I am supposed to be. That my friends, is a well-fought sacred spot. When you see other people effectively living out their calling...moms who homeschool doing it with grace and knowledge, teachers who reach kids hearts AND minds, business people who serve for the greater good, college personnel who see the courage in each of the students that walk in their doors, interior designers who make spaces home and bring peace through aesthetics...it is a beautiful thing. Their effectiveness comes from their purpose...from the courage to use their talents for their unique purpose in this life and for the glory of God. This journey for me has been so faith building. Long before I got to this place, years ago, God was stirring up vision in other's hearts, so that at this time, we could each step into our place in this journey, knowing that the God who calls is the God who qualifies. 

One day very soon I will share specifics on the retreat offerings, but for now suffice to say that each part (lodging, menu, leaders), was God ordained and directed...I never could have met these people, found these resources, or directed this organization on my own. As I stood over-looking Lake Michigan near the cottage where the retreats will happen, I was overwhelmed by the God who SEES, and KNOWS, and LOVES and PROVIDES...not because we deserve it, but simply because He is our Father and loves to give us good gifts. And the gift of rest is indeed a good giftIn that moment I was so overwhelmed and overcome at how He is orchestrating this opportunity for women as His GIFT to them....to us. As I stood on that bluff, I could "see" the faces of the women He was going to bless through this opportunity...the ones He will grant rest and strength and hope to. I could see shackles coming off, and freedom being found. I could see life being restored, as it was meant to be lived: abundantly. Oh friends, I am so excited to watch these gifts unfold in the lives of women! Stay tuned and please start the buzz with your friends!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Undaunted ~ Doing What I am Called To Do

I have been dreaming big dreams. Sometimes I let those dreams wander in my head and I get so excited that I want to jump right in and get going. But then all of the things hit me. The fears that:

I am not skilled enough
I already have enough on my plate
Its too dangerous (people are messy)
I am too young or inexperienced to be taken seriously
That this will tip the scales of balance in my life
That I am hearing God wrong and being foolish or nieve or just a dreamer
That I will say or do the wrong thing and offend someone 
I have no idea how to do business or finances, I only understand people
I should never consider serving others in this capacity unless my own life is in perfect order

FEAR. And it stops me in my tracks. And then I just go back to quietly dreaming, or if its a really bad day, I try to convince myself to let someone else take up the banner. Someone more qualified, with more time and knowledge. Someone who has their life together. I love what Christine Caine says: "Isn't that human nature? We're roused to do something, and then we immediately forget the one Reason that we are capable of doing anything at all...He doesn't ask if we are capable, simply if we are willing."

Here is the thing. I see women. I see them in unique ways. I see their pain but I also see their immense value and worth. I have a passion for seeing us live whole heartedly, and I want to wage war against depression and anxiety. I have seen the two thieves rob so many of us of our potential, our relationships, and our lives. I want to fight back with the skills and wisdom and insight that God has gifted me with. I have spent too much of my life being ashamed of my gifts. Hiding them, denying them, because to own them felt prideful and wrong. I have second guessed my gifts, minimized the skills God wove into my being. I believe this grieves our Creator. As I have lived life, I have learned that God has uniquely gifted EACH of us and He does not desire that we deny those gifts but that we own them, use them, and share them.  As a parent, when we give a gift to our children, how much joy does it bring us to watch them use it, but even more to watch them use it to bless others.

As for life being in proper order. Who better to have the eyes to see than someone in the trenches, fighting their way through pain and trials, fighting for truth amidst the subtle lies that invade our minds in the throes of pain and uncertainty. Trials do not sideline us, they EQUIP us. Our pain is some of the most fertile soil for equipping us to minister to others, to see them, and share with them that the joy is not the destination but the journey. I have inadvertently been taught my entire life that unless everything is perfect, I have nothing to offer. But I don't want to be lead by perfect people (and there aren't any...it was all just some terrible illusion). I want to be lead by people who have the humility to own their problems, the strength to fight, and the wisdom to know the value of NEEDING redemption on a daily basis which can only come through living authentically.

I read this the other day from Caine's book Undaunted:

Nowhere in Jesus' story (of the Good Samaritan) does it say that the priest or the Levite were bad people. But they were BUSY people, religious people. They were so consumed with keeping their schedules, appointments, and commitments that they ended up walking past someone they should have helped. The man lying on the side of the road was an INTERRUPTION to their ministry, rather than the object of it...the only difference between the Samaritan and the religious people was that the Samaritan actually crossed the street. The Samaritan was willing to have his plans interrupted so that he could assist the man...Compassion is only emotion -- until you cross the street. Compassion means action. You go to them.

I was so moved by those words. First I thought of how many church goers I know who are so busy with programs and policies and avoiding messy people that they miss those who are dying right in front of them, but then my mind floated to myself. How many times did I fail to cross the street? Almost on cue the Lord brought to mind a current student of mine. Her and her husband are from Kenya and have been trying to get pregnant for years. They finally succeeded, only to lose the baby when she was 19 weeks along. She is clearly still walking the road of grief. She shared her story with me weeks ago, and immediately I remembered how someone had gifted me Angie Smith's book I Will Carry You. I remembered what a blessing her words had to others who had suffered loss in this way and I felt compelled to give my student the book. But I was afraid it was too forthright. I have no idea where she is at on her grief journey or if she would even read it. And besides, I need all the books I can get for my women's center, right? The big ministry. I can't give it away, I need it. I have no money to make this all come to fruition so the least I can do is hang on to what I do have...books to fill some shelves. WAIT. I am the Levite. My eye is so on the goal. The big picture. The ministry. The fear and uncertainty (would she read it, would she want it, would the references to Jesus upset her?) stopped me from crossing the street. My vision for the future got in the way of my seeing the immediate need. Yesterday, I crossed the street and gave her the book. We are not responsible for outcomes, after all. We are responsible for obedience. Obedience to use our gifts. Obedience to heed His call.

The vision being born in my heart is vast. It all feels far too overwhelming and I have no idea how to get from here to there. If your at all interested in assisting me here is what I need: PRAYER, someone who understands business and can talk me through the kinds of business details I need to make, someone who understands insurance (what kind of insurance do I need as a practitioner and business), someone who understands money and can help me raise some, and keep accounts when the time comes, someone to help me with development (groups, retreats, seminars), someone to help me with advertising, and eventually I need a "Board" (people who are knowledgeable and I respect who can keep us accountable, essentially wise counsel), money, PRAYER.

I know I have not shared much of what is being born in my heart. That is another post for another day. But suffice to say that I want to wage war against the vices stealing womens' heart, vision, calling, purpose, and capacity. I want to eventually provide a safe place for women to breathe. To heal. To touch the ground. To wake up and live wholeheartedly. I want to reclaim lives from the grip of depression, disillusionment, hopelessness, and death. I want to be an agent who helps to lift the burden of shame, and point people in the direction of Freedom. I may not be fully capable, and I may be afraid, but I am willing. I am determined to cross the road.  Will you join me in however you are gifted and called to do the same?