Mountainside Chats With God

Mountainside

I met up with a friend tonight. Mostly because another minute home alone was going to do me in. Sometimes my thoughts are too loud and my bedroom walls amplify them, as if that’s possible. That’s what happens when you overthink and re-evaluate every decision you’ve made….well, since you started making your own decisions.

We walked along the aisles of a chain bookstore as she spoke of disappointments and frustrations. The questionings of the mid-thirties mind. I wonder if the world has us going through midlife crises sooner or if this is how it’s happened since the beginning of time. Either way, I remind her she isn’t alone.

And she isn’t. You aren’t, either. We’ve all experienced it. Regardless of age, marital status, job placement or ministry opportunity there comes a time where we wonder if we are doing anything of significance. Are we truly living out are calling? Are we making a difference? Are we just wasting time?

We decided to take a drive up to a place called Harris Hill. Depending on the time of day or night, there’s a variety of activity there. We pass the go-cart track, the old timey children’s rides, the park campgrounds, the museum and reach the lookout. From there you can see the valley wedged between the surrounding hills. It’s dusk which means almost all of the benches and swings are full. All but one, so we settle in to watch the last red sliver of sun go down. The air is cool, surprisingly cool, considering it’s been in the 90’s all day.

Everything is green. Fresh. Alive. Lush. The river weaves in and out of the forestry below. We sit perched taking it all in. It’s beautiful.

“So what do we do now?” She asks.

“Wait just a few more minutes.”

“I mean, about life.”

“I feel like the advice is the same.”

As we look out at His kingdom, we pray. For guidance and wisdom and strength to get through the next few minutes. And then, the next few after that.

After our whispered “Amens” we are reminded of Jesus and how He would often go to the mountainside to pray. He needed those moments to connect with the Father and hear His voice. Those moments recharged Him so He could do what He was called to do– heal the sick, love the unlovely, and disciple a ragtag band of misfits. I can only imagine how tiring it all must of been. Because, I mean, people.

I’m not sure what those mountainside chats between God and Jesus sounded like. Maybe they sounded like the prayers that my friend and I offered. “God, we just want to be faithful to what you’re calling us to do.” I imagine God smiling, both at Jesus and two silly girls on a mountainside, and saying, “I am so pleased with you.”

You see, I’m not sure it’s all about the doing. Sure, I believe we’ve all got a holy calling. Unique callings that ultimately all have the same goal: to bring glory to our Heavenly Father.

So, I guess, the most important thing we can do is continue meeting with God just like Jesus did. Keep asking Him what to do and when to do it and He’ll help us do the things we are supposed to do when we are supposed to do them.

Let’s commit to a few more minutes in His presence. May our mountainside chats with God, wherever they may take place, prepare us for whatever tasks or Heavenly assignments come our way: this week, this month and every day until the day we meet Him face to face.

To God be the glory!

 

Pressing Through To Jesus

Pressing Through To Jesus

Warning: this may be TMI (too much information) for some people. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’ve had “the issue of blood” (we all get what that means, right?) basically every day for the last 7 months. Just in case you are worrying, I’m aware of why it’s happening, but at this point it’s just something I have to deal with on a daily basis. It’s annoying, frustrating, sometimes scary and sometimes painful. This week, I was especially frustrated and let out a disgruntled sigh.

“Jesus, why is this happening to me?”

I hadn’t expected a response, but in the middle of my frustration God encouraged me. I was instantly reminded of the story of the woman with the issue of blood found in Mark 5:25-34, which I’ve read probably a hundred times. This morning though, it took on a deeper meaning– not just because I could relate to the woman on a very small scale.

The woman in Mark 5 lived with her sickness for 12 long years. She tried everything she could possibly try in order to get relief. I’m sure she even tried essential oils because a friend on Facebook told her to give it a try. I joke, but this woman was desperate. She visited doctors and tried a variety of procedures and literally spent all the money she had in order to get better. In the end, she only got worse.

Until Jesus.

A desperate woman who had tried everything else pressed through and found her way to Jesus. She knew He was her only hope. In reaching Him, in that very moment, she was healed. Instantly, I might add.

For me, singleness is my “issue”. At times, it can be frustrating, annoying, scary and painful as I try and walk through this journey with faith. I’ve tried everything and still find myself waiting for this season to be over. From dating apps to being set up by friends and waiting for that guy in small group to ask me out to coffee. There are moments I get to the end of myself and pray prayers similar to the one I shared at the beginning of this article.

“Jesus, why is this happening to me?”

His answer, “Press through these circumstances and get to me. I want you to come to me because that is where you will find wholeness.”

It is there, in the presence of Jesus, that we find healing. Healing from a break-up or healing from the heartache of not having been on a date in years. Maybe your healing isn’t connected to your relationship status– maybe it has to do with an attitude you have towards someone or that every day you wake up feeling anxious and overwhelmed.

All I know is whatever we need, can be found in the presence of Jesus. In that area where you need healing, press through to Jesus. He wants us to come to Him. He loves it when we do because it’s admitting our need for Him. And I don’t know if you need the reminder, but you do NEED Him.

My encouragement to you: Press through. Don’t let people, diagnoses, hurdles or difficulty get in your way. Get into Jesus’ presence and it’s there I know He’ll do a miracle for you!

 

 

Silencing the Lies

55H

The voice of rejection was loud and clear this morning.

I wasn’t good enough.

I wasn’t beautiful enough.

I was too emotional.

I wanted too much.

I didn’t want to deal with the thoughts as they volleyed around in my mind. One after the other slowly beating me down, wearying my soul. “If I just keep myself busy,” I thought, “then they’ll just go away.” This obviously isn’t the healthy answer, but I thought it’d bring momentary relief from the mental boxing match I was experiencing.

The thing about lies is that the longer you ignore them the bigger and more believable they become.

Lies, when not dealt with, patiently wait for the best (or rather worst) times to visit unannounced. Things are overwhelming at work? GREAT! Someone close to you is sick/dying/depressed? PERFECT! You’re struggling financially? ON MY WAY! And those are exactly the moments the lies sneak in– using the opportunities that every day life allows them.

The only way to deal with lies is to combat them with the Truth. It’s a simple attack plan, but not always an easy one. Just like weeds, lies need to be pulled out from the root, and sometimes we need people to help us through the process. I was reminded of this as I sat across from a friend at dinner this week. Something had happened earlier that day that brought me some shame and lies and instead of burying the burden I laid it out for her to see. In that vulnerable moment, she spoke Truth to my heart and immediately I felt the weight of it all released.

This is why community is so important: we weren’t meant to fight alone. There are people needing us to remind them of the Truth when the lies have been trying to choke it out. And I get that it’s the 21st century and we are independent and do what we want when we want, but God designed us for community for a reason.

To put it in practical terms, the Truth, or the Word of God, is our offensive weapon when the lies come. It is 100% effective 100% of the time. But we’ve got to use it. We’ve got to declare the Truth when the lies come. We’ve got to unsheathe our sword and go for the jugular. Or in Holly terms, punch the lie in the throat. Either way, silence it with the Truth of the Word of God!

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what. (Hebrews 4:12-13, MSG)

Back to this morning, and the barrage of lies coming at me. As I said, my plan was to ignore and busy myself. In between tasks I sighed out half-prayers like, “Please, God.”

And without any big theatrics, He simply responded: You are my beloved.

“But God, that person doesn’t love me!”

“You are MY beloved.”

“I’m sad and feeling rejected here.”

“YOU are my beloved.”

As I repeated the lies, He repeated the Truth. With each exchange, my heart softened a little bit more and I began to accept that I truly am His beloved. All the lies were silenced with the reminder of who He said I am.

A beloved, according to the great internets, is a much loved person. Reading that again brings such a silly smile to my face. I am much loved.  I find comfort in that and will hold it close to my heart. It’s my ammo for the next time the lies try to beat me down.

“I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people,’ and I will call her who was unloved, ‘My beloved.’” (Romans 9:25, NET)

I’m not sure what lies are beating you up today, but I do believe that the Word of God has the power to silence them. You don’t have to be a slave to them any longer, but can walk in the freedom that God’s Truth brings. Ask God to speak Truth to your heart. He’s willing and He’s more than able.

If you need someone to share some Truth with your heart, just like I needed, then I would be honored to do that for you. Feel free to leave a comment below.

My Beautiful Year

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I’m not usually the type of person who comes up with themes/motto/words for the New Year. Actually, I was always kinda judgy when I’d hear people talking about their theme words: Ignite, Pause, Empower, etc. The list goes on and the options are endless. Pick a word out of a hat and boom you’ve got a theme. Or, if you could use more help, there are websites for this kinda thing. I’m not even kidding.

I’m not sure why I hated the idea of a theme for the year. Possibly because for many years my unspoken theme word was “survive”. I just wanted to get through the minutes, the days and the year. And that’s exactly what I did. I spent my days just trying to get to the next one. From one big event (or chaos) to the next and the painful, life-less cycle continued on.

Looking back, my heart is grieved that I allowed myself to have that kind of outlook on life. I understand why I did it though. Life is hard and when life gets hard, some of us turn on survival mode and hope for the best. The problem with that is when we’re consumed with simply surviving we miss out on the things that make this life enjoyable.

I had no intention of 2016 being any different, but frustration has the potential to propel you into action. The only thing I knew to do was pray and ask God to help me. I couldn’t go through the motions of another year with the same crappy outlook and attitude. So, I prayed.

“God, I need a miracle.”

That’s my go-to prayer when I have no idea what to pray. I feel like it sums things up pretty effectively and gives Him the freedom to do whatever it is that He wants to do. I’m smart enough to know I don’t have all the answers on how a situation should or could be fixed and praying that kind of simple prayer keeps things in perspective. I need God to do something…I can’t do this alone.

His answer was pretty surprising and it seemed too easy: “Find beauty every day.”

Uh, ok. You got it boss.

Because I’m a writer I decided it’d help me if I wrote down the beauty I saw each day. If nothing else, it’d be a way to stay consistent. I tend to keep up with things that involve a check list of some kind.

Write about something beautiful I saw today. CHECK.

In the beginning, there were times I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find something beautiful. I’m now 3-months in and I can assure you there hasn’t been a day that has gone by where I didn’t see some kind of beauty. Admittedly, beauty sometimes came in unexpected places like the day that was heavily clouded with grief. Even on that day, God showed me beauty. It was in that moment that I was convinced that God was giving me my miracle.

A life that was once centered on survival was much lovelier than before. Had anything really changed? No. The only thing that changed was my perspective. I could walk out this life seeing only all the pain, frustration, circumstances and trials or I could allow God to show me the beauty despite all of those things.

Life is still hard, but now it’s also beautiful.

The beauty has come in a variety of forms and from a variety of places. Some days the beauty was found in the faithfulness of a friend who was willing to pray for me before I went into work. Other days, I saw beauty in the loving glances of a little girl who had crawled up in my lap. It’s not always big and dramatic. Sometimes it’s as simple as a good cup of coffee and the ability to take a nap after two overnight shifts in a row.

Let me encourage you in this: look for beauty. You don’t have to start a journal like me or write a blog post about it (again, guilty!), but train yourself to look with a different perspective. One that isn’t blind to the pain, but is discerning enough to see there’s more than that. It’s a diamond worth mining. You’ll be surprised the treasures you’ll find.

If you decide to do this, I want to hear about the beauty you find. Tell me about it either in the comments below or by using #MyBeautifulYear on social media! Even if it’s months or years from now because it’s just as encouraging to hear about the beauty others are finding too!

 

My To-Don’t List

MyEverybody seems to be writing bucket lists nowadays. They write down the mountains they plan on summiting and the countries they plan on exploring. There’s the bucket list go to’s like bungee jumping, sky diving and swimming with dolphins. Don’t lie. I know you included those on your list, too.

I’m an avid list writer. I’ve got lists at the office and spilling out of my purse as I grab my wallet to pay for my Pumpkin Spice Latte. Just kidding, I’m more of a mocha girl myself. I’ve got lists of items I need to get at the grocery store, but will undoubtedly lose on my way to said grocery store. Lists of articles I need to write and lists of books I want to read.

There are two lists I refuse to keep. A list of qualities I’m looking for in a spouse, which seems to break everyone’s top advice to a single 31 year old, and a bucket list. With my deep love, even borderline obsession for lists you may be wondering why I don’t participate in this popular ritual.

Bucket lists are full of things we want or hope to do. They are adventures we hope to live and dreams we’d like to become realities. For many people, bucket lists are full of things they wish they could do, but most likely never will. They’re fun to write, but harder to live out because life is full of bills and other not-so-fun adult responsibilities.

Instead of writing a list of things I hope to do on the elusive “someday”, I started writing a list of things I didn’t want to do today. I’m not sure what kinds of things would end up on your list, but here’s a sneak peak of a few that made it onto my to-don’t list:

Don’t judge people by what they post on Facebook.

Sometimes people annoy me on Facebook. My newsfeed seems full of people trying to sell me something– either a product or an ideology and all I really care about is chocolate,  bearded lumberjacks and Jesus. Most days I can roll my eyes and scroll on by without a second thought, but sometimes I get judgy.

“Are they an idiot? They must be an idiot.”

I tend to start seeing people as a faceless lump instead of an individual that might have different political views than me but is still a nice person. I forget that Facebook is a filtered perspective of a person and that in real life they aren’t so bad after all.

Don’t be greedy.

This isn’t your normal Sunday morning friendly reminder to tithe. Being generous encompasses much more than the amount of Benjamins in your wallet. Generosity is about giving the little that you have (time, talents, words) and allowing God to multiply it to bless the masses. That’s kingdom economics.

Oh ya, you can give your money, too. Not just in the offering plate, but in buying a homeless guy lunch or providing education for a child in another country. Seize opportunities to bless others.

Don’t speak negatively about yourself.

I heckle myself relentlessly. I’ll be putting on my make-up in the morning and I’ll say things like, “Geez. These pores are cavernous! There’s not enough cover-up in this zip code to hide these bags under my eyes.” My appearance takes the heaviest blows, but I beat myself up over little mistakes that I’d quickly forget it if it had been someone else. The negative words seem to slip out now almost without me noticing what I’m saying.

Instead of being super critical, I want to saying the things God says about me. I want to speak His truth, His love, and His grace to my own soul because it needs it.

Don’t waste any more time.

To clarify, rest is not wasted time. We were made to rest and when we don’t…well, we get crabby and difficult to live with. Rest is a gift from God so we can be rejuvenated and ready to complete the tasks He has for us.

We’ve all got things that distract us from doing the things we should be doing. You know what they are for you. Sometimes it’s simply choosing to do everything else instead of that one thing you know you should be doing. Not that I’d know anything about that.

I’m not here to convince you to stop adding to your bucket list. Actually, I hope you don’t. Keep dreaming and crossing items off as you live out those amazing adventures. What I am asking for you to do is in between adventures and during the ebb and flow of your everyday life remember there are things you can do (or not do) today. They may not be as gloriously invigorating as cliff jumping, but they’ll be remarkable accomplishments just the same because you chose to make positive changes now instead of waiting.

What are some things you’d have on your to-don’t list? Don’t wait. Get started today.

 

 

Jesus Is Our Daily Bread

If you’ve grown up in the church you’ve been reciting the Lord’s Prayer ever since you memorized it in early morning Sunday School where you enjoyed Bible stories on flannel-graph boards. The Lord’s Prayer was given to us by Jesus as an example of how we should pray. We tend to take the red letters statements pretty seriously in the Bible. In a way it’s become a seemingly common prayer that can be heard in movies, found on wall hangings and even used as inspiration for works of art.

The simplicity of the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t take away from the depth or power behind it. Like I said, Jesus prayed it so it’s not some wimpy prayer meant to be recited haphazardly without a thought. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I’ve done more times than not and have spent most of my life skimming over it like it was NBD.

A few Sundays ago, I had the opportunity to lead communion at my church, which means I spent days preparing. And by preparing, I mean seizing every opportunity to pray (in the car, in the shower, in bed, etc.) because nobody wants to be the person to mess up communion. In my prayers, I’d ask God to give me some kind of encouraging word for His people. Something that would be fresh and not the usual Sunday morning pep rally speech.

And for days, Jesus said nothing.

It was a bit nerve wracking, to say the least, and I worried that maybe I’d get up there Sunday and just do the normal communion spiel. I’d heard it about a thousand times up to this point so I could wing it if I needed to but really hoped that wouldn’t be the case.

When I walked into church that Sunday, I was resigned that maybe God wasn’t going to speak to me about communion. As worship began, it became very clear that God was speaking. It wasn’t in my timing, which He has a tendency of doing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. So there, in this personal moment with me and Jesus He said, “I am your daily bread.”

There’s so much to that statement.

Jesus. That beautiful name. The name above every name. The name that will bring every person to their knees in worship. There’s power in His name. There’s no other name like it and no other name that holds such authority.

Is. This one small word reminds us that Jesus is….now….currently…presently….at this very moment our daily bread. That is comforting in the midst of your struggle or need. Jesus isn’t some past help. He is here when I need Him.

Our. As much as Jesus is here for me He’s here for you, too. He’s mine, He’s yours, He’s ours. Christianity was never meant to be lived singularly. We were made for community and it’s only fitting that communion would be done in the midst of that community. It is available for us all as a Body of believers. Jesus’ bread or rather His body, which the bread represents, was broken and used to make us whole.

Daily. Not our bread for just Sundays. Or holidays. Or when we feel like it. He’s meant to be partaken of each and every day. The fact is we need Him daily, but we so foolishly think we can pass on that daily bread. “I got this,” we try and convince ourselves. In my independence, and mostly my stupidity, I thought that it showed strength to try and do things on my own. The fact remains that I need Him. Not just daily, but moment by moment. In the highs of life and certainly in the lows.He wants us coming to Him to supply our needs for that day. In doing so, we will see and know His faithfulness because He’ll always provide.

Bread. This bread is the bread of life. No Wonder Bread here, but bread that sustains us and gives us all we need as we face our day. We can try and satisfy our needs with other things (or people, or hobbies or jobs or money), but nothing and no one can satisfy like Him. Everything else is just counterfeit.

One of the things I love about communion at my church is the way the children respond to it. There’s a lady at my church who makes fresh unleavened bread each time and the kids love it. When they come forward with their parents they grab not just one piece, but two or three. They smile as they do it and I can’t help but smile back. If only we could keep that kind of child’s heart with things– such joy and hopeful expectation.

So, today and every day may you be reminded that Jesus is your daily supply of all you need. 

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My Story of Redemption

There are memories that get etched onto our brain or our hearts and they stay there forever. Sometimes the memories are beautiful and sometimes the memories are ugly, but regardless they remain and are a part of your story.

Then there are times when an ugly memory is made beautiful. God takes a past hurt, or difficult circumstance, and uses it to make something much more beautiful than you could ever imagine. It’s in these such moments where I see the redemptive work of God in my life up close. I don’t think I would have believed it unless I saw it myself. I’m stubborn that way.

Let me start at the beginning: the ugly memory.

Growing up, until the age of 13, I lived in a home that didn’t feel safe. My step-dad was a raging alcoholic with a temper. My mother had her own addictions to deal with and anger problems stemming from a variety of sources including being married to an abusive alcoholic. Home was a battle ground as much as I’d do my best to tippy toe around the landmines, but it was only a matter of time until one was set off. I wasn’t sure when the explosion would happen…only that it would happen.

One of my earliest memories is of me running barefoot to my next door neighbors house late at night asking them to call the police. There were many, many nights like this.

At a very young age, my grandma started taking me to Sunday school and I learned how to pray. I was confident God heard my prayers, so each night I’d pray and ask Him to keep me safe. Many nights, I’d ask Him for a new family, which He ended up giving me. A family that would keep me safe and love me unconditionally. A family that would make me their own.

Even with my new family my nightly routine didn’t change much. I’d still talk to God while I was in bed and ask Him things like, “God, how can you make anything good out of my life?” For a long time, I struggled with that question (and still do). It seemed like maybe I just had to deal with the fact that my childhood was hard but that was the past and it would remain this ugly part of my story.

Everything I knew about God told me that wasn’t how He operated though. He is a God who redeems. He takes old things and makes them new. He takes broken people and makes them whole. He takes the lonely and gives them a family.

I wanted God to bring redemption to my story. 

This past week I served at a children’s camp where 111 kids got to experience the love of Jesus in a powerful way. If that wasn’t good enough, and it would have been, it was there where I saw God’s redemption first hand.

What I didn’t tell you is that at the age of 8, I started attending this very same camp as a camper. It was at this camp that I experienced Jesus and learned about Him and honestly just fell in love with Him. I remember responding to altar calls and having my counselor pray for me. I remember feeling the love of God around me like a warm blanket. I remember hearing His voice and knowing that He was going to take care of me….even if it meant living in a place that felt like hell.

Now 23 years later, I’m standing at the very same altar. There’s a line of children in front of me who are asking for prayer. As each one comes forward I ask them what they’d like prayer for and each one confesses a need and then we pray. It’s a powerful time that’s hard to put into words, because you see the depth of their faith and it’s overwhelming and inspiring.

As I’m praying, one little girls comes up to me for prayer and when I ask her what she needs prayer for she looks at me intently and says, “I’m afraid when I’m home. My parents fight.” My heart freezes for a moment and it’s as if I’m looking into little 8-year old Holly’s eyes. I see the fear and feel it deep down in my soul. I remember it vividly.

So, I do all that I know how to do and I pray. I pray desperately as the little girl wraps her fingers around my hands tightly. My heart aches as I pray and the tears trickle down my cheeks. There is sadness, but there is also hope.

If God could bring me peace in the midst of my chaos, God can certainly do the same for this little girl.

It was there in that moment where I heard God whisper, “I brought her to you because I knew you’d understand. You would have the words she needed to hear.” My story that had looked so ugly now looks more beautiful because God was able to use it to bring hope, and Light and peace to someone else.

That is my story of redemption. 

If you’re reading this, and you feel led, please pray for this little girl. I believe one day, she’ll be the one standing at the front of an altar praying for children who are afraid and in that moment she’ll see God redeeming her story as well.

May you be reminded that God is in the redemption business– for her, for me and for you.