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.

Be YOU: Wisdom from an 8 Year Old

BE YOU

I was tired, hot and hangry*.

It was Friday afternoon and we were closing up shop after our Rummage Sale’s second full day of operation. This is our youth group’s largest and most profitable fundraiser of the year and it takes hours upon hours of work to prepare for the event. We’d spent weeks sorting clothes, moving and setting up tables, hanging clothing racks and pricing items and we were all looking forward to it being over.

During the Rummage Sale, the temperatures in our area hit tropical level hotness when only weeks earlier (on Easter morning) snow covered the ground.  Between the heat, the crazy breed of 7AM rummage sale shoppers and the longs hours I was exhausted. All I wanted was a cold shower, a big ole burger and my comfy bed.

That afternoon as I locked up the bay doors to the garage, my best friend’s 8 year old daughter came up to me and with her green eyes wide with excitement asks, “Can I show you something I made for you?”

I growled a “sure” as I continued working. She unrolled a piece of paper and lifted it up near my face in order to get my attention.

BE YOU

I read it out loud back to Grace, “Be You?”

“Yup.” She smiled and skipped away.

“I’ve been struggling to be me since I was her age,” I thought to myself. Now at 31, I still question whether I’m my true self or just some fraud. My eyes constantly noticing the things in others that I seem to lack. From the completely shallow (like the length of my hair or size of my waist) to more weightier topics (like my long list of insecurities).

This has been my constant inward grappling all these years– wanting to fully accept myself with all my dents and bruises while allowing myself to be imperfect. I’d like to be gracious with myself and my short comings and stop badgering my soul. I’ll be the first one to tell you I’m not there yet. I’m still learning to be kind to myself in the process knowing there will be moments that I forget its ok to be ME.

It’s obvious I’m no master at all of this, but I want you to know you don’t have to conform to some kind of mold. You have complete freedom to be you– to be fully you. Whatever that looks like. Silly. Witty. Sassy. Quiet. Inquisitive.

If I’ve learned anything from Grace’s note, its that maybe I should love me as much as others do. They don’t love me because I’m like someone else, but they love me because I’m me. And if others can love me for me….maybe I can love me for me too.

*hangry= Hungry + Angry

To Those Who Want To Be A Mom

To Those Who Want To Be A Mom

To those who want to be a mom:

Me too.

As a little girl, I would day dream about what it would be like to have a family of my own. Each night in bed, I’d pray and ask God for that family with a desperate urging. Many times I’d fall asleep as tears trickled down my cheek. The whispered pleas silenced momentarily.

Much of my childhood was a war zone. Survival was the goal. There was no coddling or even gentleness, but a harshness in the atmosphere. I remembering being told I was loved, but it was hard to reconcile the contradictory actions with the words. In my heart, I knew love looked different than what I was being shown. A love that didn’t include fear or manipulation.

Even in my own lack, I knew that one day I wanted to be the mom that I had desired. I’d be the mom who chose kind words instead of ones laced with poison. I’d be the mom who put the needs of others before my own. I’d protect my children from harm instead of exposing them to it.

I needed a mom. Not in name, but in deed.

Then, at the moment I thought I couldn’t handle one more wound, I experienced a beautiful miracle. I was rescued. God gave me a new home and a new family. It was as if my life had turned from night to day. The dark cloak of fear had been lifted and I felt relief.

It was in that shelter, that I experienced motherly love like I hadn’t experienced before. There was someone looking out for me–from my physical well-being to my spiritual growth. I knew there’d always be someone waiting for me when I got home because she couldn’t sleep until she knew her daughter was home safe.

Being exposed to this depth of love only increased my longing to be a mother someday.

Since then I’ve made it a point to serve the needs of children including running after-school programs, counseling at camps, teaching Sunday school and being the best (and most sassy) aunt in the world. I snuggle babies (and change poopy diapers). I’ll listen intently as Mine Craft is explained to me for the hundredth time. I’m the queen of dress up. I’m a sidewalk chalk artist. And I can swing higher than you (although now it makes me dizzy).

All of that stuff is super fun and extremely fulfilling. I’ll continue doing all of those things as long as I’m alive, but being and doing all of those things does not take away my hearts desire for a child of my own. To be woken up in the middle of the night. To hear the words, “Hi, Mom!” To apply band-aids and kisses to boo-boos. Or to receive handmade cards for Mother’s Day.

I tell you all this so you know that I can relate to your grief. Whether you are childless because of singleness, because of loss or because of infertility my heart is truly full of love for you. I know that doesn’t change things and the desires are still gnawing at your heart. There will still be tears and moments where you look at other people’s children and think, “Why can’t I be a mom?” I know how hard it can be to see another friend posting baby bump pictures and wonder if that will ever be you. I know how frustrating it can be when others complain about sleepless nights when you’d trade a full nights sleep for a baby any day.

I see your pain.

You have not been forgotten or overlooked. For you, the one who longs to be a mom, I grieve with you. I cry with you. I pray with you. And for those with the sought after title of “Mom”, I celebrate with you. You’ve been given a most wonderful treasure.

Love: A Costly Gift

Love- A Costly Gift

There once was a woman who was known around town as “the sinner”. I imagine that means she was a whore. Giving herself to any man in exchange for a buck or two. There were times, I wonder, if she wanted to do something else but didn’t because she’d been doing it for too long. It could be that over time she got comfortable with her title. Wore it like a badge of honor.

Sinner.

“That’s what I’ll always be.”

But then Jesus comes along. We aren’t told how the woman knows Jesus, but it’s clear she had been greatly impacted by Him. So much so, that when she heard Jesus was at Simon the Pharisees house (also a badge worn with honor) she went to Him. She was unhindered by social cues or even common courtesies, but had an undaunted desire to give lavishly to Him.

What does a sinner have to offer Jesus anyway?

First, she offered Him her tears. Those tears held the shame from all those years and all those mistakes. Tears that she had held in for so long in order to not feel were now falling freely in order to wash His feet. As they fell, they seemed to purify her as well. The toxins of her past no longer bottled up inside. In those tears was hope and joy because that is what she found in Jesus.

Her hair she used as a towel to dry His feet. This detail alone would have enraged those in attendance. Women were not allowed to have their hair down in front of anyone but their own husbands. Somehow in that moment she was not concerned about anyone’s eyes, but only those of Jesus. Her thoughts were focused on Him alone.

And as she thought about Him she kissed His feet. Those beautiful feet which brought such good news to her weary soul. How could she not kiss them?

Then, she took her jar of precious ointment and broke it. Not one drop of the contents would be saved, but all of it poured out on Jesus’ feet. The woman had taken her most costly possession and in an act of extreme adoration gave it up in worship to Jesus.

Amazing how when beautiful things are broken they can bring a sweet smelling fragrance of adoration and love.

As the woman showered Jesus with love, Simon thought to himself, “Hmphh, but she’s a sinner. Come on Jesus, you should know that.” He kept his disgust to himself as he watched her unapologetically love Jesus. Disgusted at the woman’s indecent behavior and Jesus for allowing it.

Poor, stupid Simon got caught up in his critical and judgmental thinking. Quickly pointing at someone else’s sins while forgetting he had his own.

But at least I’m not her.

Stings a bit to hear. To hear how similar Simon can sound and to know that I’m often swept up in my own pious thinking. I mean, come on, I invited Jesus over for dinner. Give me some credit.

When He came, because He’ll always come, I treated Him like a commoner. I say it’s because we’re just “that comfortable” with one another, but somehow dishonor veiled itself as familiarity. The intimate greetings we once exchanged have become the awkward side hugs between acquaintances or the cold distance between lovers sleeping back-to-back.

What was it that caused the woman to have such a zealous love? The fact that she knew she was loved and forgiven.

This is where my heart begins to ache, because I know it’s her realization of His love for her that causes her to act. Her expression of love was not meant to earn His love, but in response to His love. All the tears and all the kisses were in gratitude for what He had already given her. When you’ve seen a love like His you want to reciprocate and she did in the only way she knew how.

God, I want a love like that…again.

Not that I’ve ever lost His unconditional, unfading love, but I’ve forgotten how generous of a gift I had been given when I had been so undeserving. I, too, had been a whore freely giving myself to lesser loves. I had been the unclean woman. The sinner.

Then, there He was and in an instant His love did for me what I could have never done for myself: forgive. I need a renewed revelation of that love. To stop trying to earn it or work for it, but to catch a glimpse of it in such a way that it brings me back to my knees in awe. And in that moment not care about the tears, or the stares, but to be consumed by it allowing myself to cover Him in kisses and pour out my most costly worship at His feet.

My prayer for you is that you would catch a glimpse of the great love He has for you and that it would cause your heart to worship.

Modern Day Slavery & What You Can Do

Modern Day Slavery & What You Can Do

It is estimated that there are 27 MILLION modern day slaves.

It exists in 167 countries….and yes, America, too.

It involves children. Every 1 in 5 victims is a child. Many of them involved in the cesspool of the sex trade.

That’s a HUGE problem.

It is such a large problem in fact that many people wonder if they can make a real difference. “What can lil’ ole me do when faced with such a staggering statistics?” we ask ourselves. It is overwhelming and for many of us we can barely wrap our minds around it.

But the truth remains–there are men, women and children being held against their will to work for little or no pay. They are mistreated, exploited and abused in ways unimaginable. They are people just like you and me. My “neighbor,” as the Bible calls them, and I’m commanded to love them as I love myself (Mark 12:31), which means I can’t turn my head and be silent.

When we don’t know what to do we often do nothing. I’m talking from experience here and I’m certainly not pointing any fingers. I am aware that someday soon, I will continue on with my regular every day life and forget that some people’s regular every day life is hell. I’ll forget about the millions, but they will not forget.

But today I want to do something in hopes that it lights a fire in my soul that has been complacent for far too long. That it reignites the love I have for people…all people…and that I can use my gift to help spread the world.

It was Edward Bulwer-Lytton who said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Today, I pick up my pen.

What can you do?

Get Involved

Freedom 4/24 is a non-profit organization based in Virginia. Their mission (as taken directly from their website) is:  to raise awareness of the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of women and children around the world and to provide financial support to partner organizations dedicated to bringing freedom and doing justice. 

A good friend of mine, Tim Spaulding, is the President of the organization and his passion for concerning this injustice is inspiring. On Freedom 4/24’s staff page, he includes Elie Wiesel’s quote “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” Tim has chosen to take the side of freedom and lives his life committed to that mission.

There are a variety of ways you can serve Freedom 4/24, no matter where you live. Check out their website for more information.

Give

There are numerous non-profit organizations that you can donate money to, including: Freedom 4/24, International Justice Mission and Love146.

Spread the Word

If nothing else, help spread the word on social media. Use your voice and your podium (yes, we all have one thanks to FB, twitter and Instagram) and shed a light on this darkness.

Whatever you choose to do is fine. Just do something.

How will you love your neighbor caught in slavery today?

**Statistics on modern day slavery were found here.

Morbid Thoughts on Turning 31

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We are all running out of time. 

My sophomore year in high school I received a call from a childhood friend. I was living in a different state for over a year at this time, but she kept in contact with me fairly frequently to let me know how the gang was doing. This phone call was unlike any I had received up until that point.

One of my closest childhood friends died that morning.

Like many other mornings before, she got into the driver’s seat of her car with her sister in the passenger seat and they headed off to school. Less than a mile from her house, she came up over a hill and slammed into the back end of the bus we used to ride. My friend and her sister died on impact. We were told sun had blinded her vision that morning causing her to not see the bus.

I was devastated.

I still remember endless hours spent playing in her back yard and exploring her brother’s tree house. During the hot summer days, we’d swim in a kiddie pool her parents set up for us. When we wanted to get out of the sun, we’d go inside and watch “The Baby-sitters Club” movie. We giggled as we laid on her ruffled comforter talking about boys, as most little girls do, and would dream of the future and what it held for both of us.

If you would have asked us then, we would have probably told you we had a lifetime ahead of us to accomplish those things– to get married, start a family and complete our bucket lists. Turns out, lifetimes vary in length. 

It’s been 14 years since the accident.

Since then, I’ve lost others. Each one another reminder that I can never be sure how long I’ll have left on this Earth. This week alone we’ve heard of terrorists killing school children in Pakistan, terrorists taking hostages in Australia and our own local news reels reminding us of violent acts committed daily. There are people dying from terminal illnesses that sprung up just months ago after they had lived a fairly healthy life.

It’s all a mess and we’re all dying.

I had that realization 8 years ago standing over the casket of someone I love (still love) very much. I had a choice in that moment– how would I spend the rest of my days? Knowing that we aren’t guaranteed another breath, let alone another tomorrow, how would I choose to live my life? Now with another birthday on the horizon, I am asking myself those same questions.

Last year for my birthday, I wrote about what I would tell myself if I knew then what I know now.

This year, it’s a bit more simple.

Love more.

If this was my last blog post, that’s what I’d want you to know. That after 31 years, it boils down to love and how I want to give more of it away.

I wouldn’t be worried about what I didn’t get to cross off my bucket list– how I hadn’t stepped foot in all 50 states or how I didn’t get to ride in a gondola in Venice. Those things won’t matter in the scheme of things. Sure, they’ll make for great stories in the nursing home and your grandkids will make a fortune writing a book about you.

I’m not concerned about having my name in lights, I’m concerned with bringing Light into people’s lives.

Recently, I came across this quote by C.R. Bittar: “No matter how destroyed she was, she still believed in love.” That’s the type of woman I want to be. That no matter the depth of my brokenness that I would still choose to love. And love extravagantly.

Broken people become bitter people when they stop loving. I don’t want my brokenness to destroy me. I don’t want the circumstances of the day (or of my life) to dictate whether or not I love fully. I never want to second guess it or hold myself back in fear.

Whether I only live 31 years, or die at the seasoned age of 91, I want to be known as a woman who loved and who loved well.

My Bleeding Heart: Eight Years Later

my bleeding heart

Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Sometimes scars are left as beautiful reminders of something wonderful you once had.

August 25, 2006

“Holly, the doctors say he won’t make it the next 24 hours.”

“But they’ve said that before……right?”

“Ya.”

I hang up the phone full of faith and determination.

But God said he’d be healed. He can’t die. He won’t die.

A few weeks earlier, I’m sitting at his bedside in the ICU. His clear blue eyes locked on mine, we dream of our future together. I lean my ear close to his lips keeping his whispered words as our secret. My mind etches them in perfectly and my heart feels overcome with a love I’m sure I’ll never deserve. 

I’d always felt like I didn’t deserve him– that a man like him would never love someone like me. This insecurity led to so much wasted time….time I’d now do anything to reimburse. 

Thousands of miles away from that hospital, I lock myself in my room and throw myself down on the blue plush carpet. The tears flow unceasingly all day as I beg and barter with God for his healing. I remind God, as if He needs reminding, of prophetic words that were spoken over him. I make desperate promises. I even offer my life for his. “Just take me instead, God. Please.”

I fall asleep sometime during the early morning hours– my pillow stained with tears, my fingers clutched tightly around the edges. 

August 26, 2006

It’s early. The house is quiet. 

I pick up the phone and call his mom. She answers and I quickly apologize for calling so early, but my heart is frantic and I just need to know everything is ok. That he is ok, but she stops me mid-sentence…

“I’m sorry, Holly, he didn’t make it.”

Standing on my porch doing my best to stay composed, I tell her I’ll make arrangements to fly back and she promises to call in a few hours with the details. The call ends and I walk through the back door where my roommate is staring at me looking for answers, but all I do is collapse onto the floor.

I have no words. No air. Nothing but pain coursing through every inch of my body. She wraps me in her arms and we sit in a pile on the floor. 

A few days later, I sit staring at him in his casket praying he’ll stand up and this nightmare will be over, but he doesn’t. Instead, they close the lid and lower him into the ground. My heart buried with him, six feet below. 

August 26, 2014

Today marks 8 years without him.

2,920 days.

70,080 hours.

4,204,800 seconds.

I’ve counted every second. Every minute. Every day. Those are the moments I’ve lived through– the heartbeats I’ve felt since losing him. Each beat reverberating in my chest reminding me that I remain here. And he is gone. 

Where is the redemption in all of this I’ve repeatedly asked God. What good could possible be found in all of this grief? He hasn’t replied until recently:

You’ve continued to love despite having lost.

That may not seem like much to you, but in all of the sadness, lost dreams and brokenness there’s still this hidden treasure of hope. I love. I love deep and I love strong. I love even when it isn’t returned or reciprocated.

So, I’ll continue to remember. To grieve. To celebrate a life, a love that I was able to embrace for a season. And most importantly, I’ll continue to love.