Wednesday, August 20, 2014

God sent me to Declare to heal my heart.

The Declare Conference was everything I didn't expect it to be...and more.  so much more.  I am utterly humbled that I got to be apart of it.  No words could possibly convey what happened there.  To even be able to attend, and spend three days with my very best friend Eryn (who was also one of our most fabulous conference hostesses), was blessing enough.  The effort it took to get three days off of family owns and operates a restaurant that requires constant attention...was a mountain-moving-God-feat.

That's my IRL BFF
(photo cred: Forgotten Stories' Joe)

From the first keynote speaker, to every meal, every conversation, every breakout session, every prayer, every cry...I stand in awe of God's goodness, and how He cares for me.  

He sent me to Declare to heal my heart.  

I haven't yet publicly shared my recent heartbreak:  losing my church home.  "It wrecked me." {to borrow a common Declare theme}  There was a shame I felt from it, a protective shame.  This church was where I dedicated my life, my heart, and my spirit.  I was saved, born again, rescued, and accepted at this place.  Strangers called me "Sister" and Sisters called me family.  It all happened so fast.  By the grace of God, it all happened so fast.  He protected me from so much more pain.  I don't know if depression would be the appropriate term, but I felt lost...left.  Doubt crept in, along with resentment, anger, and betrayal.  This place I was so sure God had placed me.  Gone.  

Many from the congregation moved on to a "new and improved" location, but I could not follow.  I wondered, "what faith do I lack that I cannot follow?"  But God answered me clearly, "you are to follow Me, not man."  So, I took my own faith step in a different direction.  A hard, painful step.  

So, if it hadn't been for this recent loss, my husband probably wouldn't have been willing to make the arrangements for me to attend Declare.  He knew I needed to be filled anew.  

God lines up messages for me to follow, and in this season, He has told me to REST.  To stop trying to fill in the blanks with activity, distractions, and vain efforts to feel adequate.  Jesus is enough.  His grace is sufficient, and He wants me only to focus on my relationship with Him, not on all of the things I think I do to please Him. 
He is pleased with me, just as I am.

My Wild Obedience {photo cred: Joe}

The sincerity of each speaker at Declare touched me deeply, penetrating the scars of my hurting, still-beating heart.  They each shared their hearts, confessing their brokenness, and their need for God's love in their darkest moments.  
I was able to breathe God in through them.      

Before, after, and between speakers, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we worshiped together.
Mike Romero Band
{photo cred: Joe}

While I was at my church, I led a ministry for mothers to find friendship, encouragement, and to experience spiritual growth.  My heart broke for the loss of our home, for all of the relationships that could not be nurtured between those walls.  While I know relationships can carry on elsewhere, logistically, it's not so simple for a group of mothers to meet on a regular basis, all things considered. (things=kids, schedules, school, husbands, housework etc.)  Our meetings were a refuge, a safe place, a common ground.  I had just "arrived," it seemed, then...  
God turned the page, and the seasons changed.   

From Jessi Connolly, I learned, "We can't seek to be inspiring for God, we must be inspired by God."  My self-righteous, "doing God's work" flesh was convicted, like a punch in the gut.  I longed for recognition, appreciation, and praise, but my eyes were looking in the wrong direction.  
I needed to redirect my sight to heaven, and away from the mirror.  

Heather MacFadyen followed with 1 Thessalonians 2:4, "We are not trying to please men, but God who tests our hearts."  She shared His point of view: "Child, you can trust Me.  I cannot do you wrong.  The question is "can I trust you?"  She went on, and my spirit was on heightened alert, "I have work to accomplish on this planet during your time here.  I have riches of the Spirit to be stewarded.  I'm testing your heart, and my desire is to find you trustworthy." (Beth Moore

I didn't feel trustworthy.  I felt shame.  For ever thinking so highly of myself.  For ever questioning or doubting His will.  For ever requiring an explanation or justification.  

Francie Winslow's sweet, sincere spirit was captivating.  She said, "in the revealing, is our healing," and quoted Isaiah 61, in which I heard, "beauty from ashes"  and "broken hearts healed."  She said we have to confess and be honest with God, holding no shameful part of our lives back from Him, because shame grows in the secret, and the enemy hides to devour in secret.  Shedding light on our insecurities can set us free.
"Hurt people hurt people.  Free people free people."

Francie had us take a moment to meditate on His presence, and to ask Him "Who do You want to be to me?"  And His Spirit answered me, "I want to be your SOURCE."  As in, your source for everything.  Stop looking to others to do for you what only I can do.  I am your everything.  From Me, you will find your freedom, your adequacy, your healing, your heart's desire.  I AM the end all and be all.

From Amy Locurto, I learned some sweet photography tips, which made my picture-heart happy!
Featured Print gifted by: CKDesignMission
But what I didn't expect following that photography session was a heart conversation with Debi Chapman.  She had come to speak to our mother's group a couple of years ago, bringing an encouraging word of hope for the next generation of mothers raising up children to serve The Lord.  I asked her if she remembered me from "Mama Chiks," and she said, "Oh, yes!  How is your group doing?"  I think I just started to cry.  She took the time to listen, and to console me.  She was one of the first to allow me to be okay hurt.  It seems I had heard enough of "be excited for all of the great things to come!" and needed more of "that must be so hard for you."  
She saw me.  And I needed to be seen.

I attended a couple more technical sessions, which motivated me to re-think blogging and writing.  I got lots of ideas for my restaurant's site, and for my own personal blog, none of which I am quite ready for, but are there for future endeavors.  

Our next keynote speaker was Lisa Jo Baker, who defined "Wild Obedience" as "Foolish Following."  She spoke honestly, and straight to my mother heart.  {This is my official written request of a podcast of her message! :)}  It was full of wisdom, love, and beauty.

"What can God do with the foolish little we have to offer?  Multiply it."
"I dare you to lose face." ~God
"That's the thing about Love--it's not afraid to look wildly foolish."
"Love doesn't just follow--it pursues."
"Love runs--never races.  Love runs even when all it can do is limp."

She also sent us each home with a copy of her new book: Surprised by Motherhood.  She masterfully paints with words, and took me back to the delivery room, where I experienced much of the same as she--awe-filled wonder of our Creator.  We, as mothers, have an especially powerful connection to Creation; it has been my greatest privilege.   

Kat Lee, of Inspired to Action (not inspired to think about it!) gave our next keynote.  She encouraged us that "the big things are years of preparation, practice of small things, that nobody sees."  She broke down the brain's necessity to conserve energy by developing habits.  Step-by-step, she walked us through how to form a habit, and it made more sense to me than anything I ever learned in Science or Psychology.  I was inspired {indeed} to action, and signed up for my first "Hello Mornings" Challenge.  And, I'm so glad I did!  The challenge started the Monday after Declare, and was God-timed.  I got a phone call on Tuesday that my son was accepted into a charter school, and that he would start Kindergarten the same week!  Intentionally waking up earlier, devoting my morning to God, and planning my day literally made it possible for me to make it through the last week.

Rachel Anne Ridge led my next session, and I broke down.  broke. down.  She taught us about being patient in the waiting.  Let's face it, nobody likes to wait.  But it reaffirmed the message God had for me, "Rest. {now, while you can}"  It's a time to be quite, not synonymous with being passive.  Active waiting is positioning and posturing yourself in expectancy.  "Opportunity favors the prepared."  She encouraged us to spend our waiting time nurturing relationships, which will be key when it's our time.  Rachel took the time to speak to me after the session, and she could see it in my face.  She said, "you're waiting, aren't you?"    

I stumbled back into the ballroom to find Eryn; I was a mess.  She called out to the sweetest prayer warrior from The Seed Company, and sat down with me, right there under the chandeliers, with the clanking of silverware and plate set-up in the background, they prayed over me, a prayer that turned the tide for me.  Images of His Presence carrying me above the drowning, tumultuous currents swept over me.  This sweet prayer warrior I just met at Declare had the most familiar face.  We traced back our deja-vu to the restaurant where I met my husband, and worked in college; we had remembered each other's faces from over 12 years ago.  It is no coincidence that she now works closely with my best friend, and that God placed us there together.     

Brooke McGlothlin (fellow M.O.B), shared why Christian writers should keep writing.  She said, "you have a chance to develop your voice while nobody's reading."  (And, I said "yep!")  " hear God's voice, and who He wants you to be (online)."

Stacey Thacker shared how hard it was to lose her dad, and "How to be Wildly Obedient when you're Fresh out of Amazing."  She said, "there is value in words in journals and on napkins."  Slowing life down to process grief allows you the opportunity to grow into tomorrow.  She encouraged us to "write it down," so that women who read your words, "can run with it."  Craft you words.

Our final keynote came from Kristen Welch, who challenged us to "do obedience" instead of just write about it.  I was honored to hear her share her story of how Mercy House Kenya came to be; I think I've since shared it with a dozen people; it really left an imprint on my heart.  Just before she spoke, our worship leader and friend to Kristen, Shaun Groves, impressed on us not to "be paralyzed by indecision," but to "do something."  We were presented with so much opportunity to love like Jesus, throughout the conference, that we could easily get lost...paralyzed to inaction.  I was moved to sponsor a child through Compassion International.

Kristen's words were delivered with much conviction, a painful, heart-wrenching conviction.  Her answer to those who question how she and her family can serve the world's most underprivileged, in such dangerous areas, is this:
"I want to be where God wants me to be; there is greater danger out of the will of God.  
Fear will cripple you, and rob you of the opportunity to step out in faith."             

Friday, August 15, 2014

First Day of Kindergarten

Cooper's first day of kindergarten came more quickly than expected, in more ways than one.  Of course, it doesn't seem possible that he's already old enough to be going to school, but the surprise phone call we got this week pushed his start date up two weeks!  We were slowly preparing to start school August 25th, accumulating school supplies, school clothes, and scheduled orientations and meet-the-teacher times for the ISD elementary down the block.

When a local charter school started their year, earlier this week, a spot opened up, and we were asked if we'd be interested in attending Arlington Classics Academy.  Um, yeah!  So, for the last two days, I have been hustling to buy uniforms, shoes, supplies, and lunch goodies!  My body ached with exhaustion as I woke up this morning, but I'm happy to report he had everything he needed to start Kindergarten TODAY, and that we made it on time! (which for me, is not a small feat.)

All of this reminded me of a particular Sunday school class I took, several months ago; it was about "Purpose."  Our instructor did a demonstration of God's favor.  He took volunteers to form a line at the front of the class.  He pointed to the person at the end of the line, and said, "this is you," patiently waiting for your turn.  "And this is what God's favor can do..." and had everyone turn around 180 degrees.  Just like that, everything can change.  And all you can do is say, "yes."  And, "thank you."  

"So the last shall be first, and the first last:  for many be called, but few chosen."
 ~Matthew 20:16 KJV

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, 
who does not change like shifting shadows." ~James 1:17 NIV

"O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good:  for His mercy endures forever." 
~Psalm 107:1

Friday, August 1, 2014

I'm going to DECLARE!

4 Things about me:
~I am loved by a faithful God.  I love my husband.  I love my beautifully-blended family; I have a 5-year-old son, and 5 older step-children, ages 19-35.
~I love my life; given the perfect balance between home-life, and working for ourselves.  My husband and I own and operate a restaurant together: Nizza in Weatherford, TX.  My official title is "Owner's Wife." 
~I have two degrees:  a Bachelors and Masters, both in Accounting, from The University of Texas at Arlington.
~In this season, my days are simple, and the same--I spend the first part of my day with my son, go to work at my family's restaurant in the evening, come home, and do it all over, again.  I hope to, in the near future, find more time to blog, get back into playing volleyball, and travel the world.

4 of my endearing quirks:
~I have a heart to serve other moms, who may not know how much God loves them.  I have been involved in a local ministry named "Mama Chiks."  I also blog at
~I'm an "all-in" kind of girl.  Often jumping head-first into projects, commitments, and friendships.
~I walk in favor.  God has blessed me with a beautiful life, a beautiful family, and a beautiful story.  I'm so grateful.
~I am a faithful friend.

4 things about my blog & writing:
~I don't write often or regularly, but it provides a refuge for my thoughts.  
~I ramble, sometimes, because I feel like I have the freedom of a non-existent audience, just needing to get it out.
~My blog is home to my testimony.
~I have a lot to learn.

4 of my favorite things:
~Food.  Eating.  Serving.  Enjoying.  Food.
~Taking rides with my husband--where our brain-trust comes alive.
~Mornings with my son.  I work in the evenings, so I get a chunk of time at the beginning of each day w/him.
~Forever friends.  I grew up with two brothers, and lots of cousins.  The Sisters I have made in my adult-life, who I never knew I needed, provide the love and support my soul longs for.