Beyond Borders

courage. faith. action.


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Sally, tears and her new book.

So today, along with a slew of other women, I get the honor of announcing Sally Clarkson’s new book, Own Your Life.  It’s releasing in January 2015. I had the humbled privilege of getting a sneak peek into the book. I cried. Like ugly cried. Because… it’s Sally. And her words always fall like rain and wash over my soul. Comforting the hurting places, encouraging the scared places and because I secretly wish she lived next door. Right here everyday pouring into my life. But since she is not, I read her blog and her books, and her Facebook posts and pretend she is right here with me. And she always knows exactly what I am feeling. She is cool like that, because she and Jesus are super close, and He whispers to me through her. And this book, in so many ways, is going to be her best yet. I am so thankful she thought to write a book just for me.

Oh wait, I forgot, she wrote it for all of us. She says, “I want every woman to be renewed and refreshed in a personal life vision with the conviction that you can say with Paul : ‘I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus'”

Sally, I thank you for pressing on. For always pressing on.

For more information about her book check out Sally’s blog. To preorder “Own Your Life” go here…


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Christmas trees, Charlie Brown, and Advent.

It’s an unwinding of lights today. The Christmas tree stands with spiders and dust and broken lights and odors you just do not want in your house. It’s an unstringing. And Charlie Brown’s voice catches my ear. It’s full of sadness and longing. He wonders is Christmas all about money? About what and how much you get? He is searching for the real meaning of Christmas.

tree lights

tree with lights

The lights are a tangled mess. Who strung this pre lit tree? With each tug on the branches the dust billows around us like pig pen as he walks on to the set. Dust of Christmases past. This tree found it’s way into our home just a year ago, but it has known many Christmases. And Just like all of us it has a story.

As I unravel strings and cut clips the linger of stale cigarette smoke fills the air. Definitely a heavy smoker. A string dangles from a branch and I wonder what it held. The hint of air freshener wafts for a moment. Was it sprayed to mask the odor of cigarettes? I pull twisty ties that held newer lights tight to the branches. Did they want more light or was it because the lights lost their burn? Did children swarm on christmas morn filled with anticipation? Or, did the tree sit alone, haunted with memories of long ago? My arms are tired and my back is straining and all I want to do is toss this tree and go buy a new one. But Christmas trees don’t come cheap these days, so I press on.

tree clips

Charlie Brown’s voice echoes my frustration now, and where are you Linus? Where is your recitation? The words that bring the hope of glory. We desperately need those words.

I use the scissors against the lights, trying desperately to rescue the branches. With each snip, my head fills with events and headlines and controversy. I can feel the weight of darkness. The weight of judgments as to what is the right way to celebrate Christmas. I feel the weight of the self imposed pressure of the social media images of with perfectly decorated mantles and doorsteps. I feel the weight of the argument of who owns Christmas. Did the christians really steal Christmas? I feel the weight of the whispers in desperate times about cities that fight against themselves and whispers of doubt that there never really be peace on earth.

I’m pleading with Linus now. As if the words he recites will bring the peace. Renew the hope. Quiet my mind.

With branches finally freed from the shackles of string lights, I soak that tree with soap and water and vinegar. Washing away the dust and the dirt. The water flows muddy and the branches glisten in the sunlight.

tree clean

Today, the beginning of advent and I am unraveling. Unravelling Christmas lights, and the hopelessness and peace within myself.  And Ann, she reads these words, on the first Sunday of advent, as she invites us in and shares with us through video. She tells us how she wasn’t comfortable in doing so and the yes didn’t come right away, but God kept pressing and there she was because this…  “that If one person could have a more meaningful deep relationship with Christ this Christmas, that if somebody could experience more of an upside down Christmas and encounter Jesus in a fresh way than it is worth doing.”

Because this is advent. A Latin word meaning coming. Waiting. Waiting for the coming of christ. And we are the perpetual advent people. Always waiting for the coming of Christ. And she talks about the Easter people. The hallelujah people. The advent people. Always waiting for the coming of Christ. And I want this. I want to be this person always living in the wait. Always saying yes, even in the uncomfortable, because if just one person…

Charlie Brown is still searching. Where are you Linus? I am pleading with him as if his reading changes everything.

But isn’t this what Christmas is? The renewing of hope? Of the One who came to save the world from all its suffering? The only One who can bring peace on earth? The coming of Jesus, born in a manger? Do these words not change everything?

Because each year as we walk into advent and sit in the wait for Christmas morning, we sit and wait for the reminder. The celebration. Of He who came. Born in a manger. Of He who brought the hope of glory. Of He who died and rose again and is coming again.

And the arguments can beg who owns Christmas. And we can worry about all the unrest and when or if it will end? And we can judge and feel judged on our Christmas traditions, but really there is only one Christmas…

As Charlie Brown returns to the auditorium with his tiny little sapling, the Christmas tree for the play, he is ridiculed by the children. Their laughter trails as they walk away. Charlie Brown is desperate now, he is screaming it, what is the meaning of Christmas? Linus the only one left in the auditorium says “I can tell you…”

“‘And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.’” (Luke 2:8-14 KJV)

“…That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

 


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I tasted the Grace and it was good.

I left my home on Thursday morning an Allume Newbie and in just three days I returned home an Allume alum. What I learned in the days between went far beyond anything I could have imagined.

Nearly a year ago when I felt God saying He wanted me to go to Allume, I thought He might just be thinking of the wrong person. Why would I, a girl who plays a writer on a blog, need to go to a blogger’s conference? A girl who has not been away from home in over 12 years without her husband and kids in tow? And not to forget that I would be going to a conference in which I did not know a single person that would be attending?

I didn’t have the answer, but I listened. I bought my ticket. Booked my room. And I waited. I waited seven months for this conference. As I followed Allume on Facebook and Twitter, I quickly identified myself with the hashtag #allumenewbie. Social media became my friend, and I began to learn what this blogging conference was all about. Or, so I thought.

In the weeks leading up to the conference, schedules were announced, twitter parties were had, and it became a reality. I was headed to this conference and I was in over my head, because these women were rockstars and I was an impersonator.

In a meager attempt to plan my weekend (you can read that as control it) I selected the sessions I would attend, bought more than enough food just in case I could not eat anything, you know, because of my multitude of food allergies. I packed piles of clothes. Clothes for when I felt good, clothes for the migraine days (because, well, I left my house with one) and clothes for the in between for when I was just felt blah. But most importantly, I planned to be inconspicuous. Just to blend. If I blended then no one would realize I was not a writer, and the writing police would not find me and quickly ban me from this event.

headed for allume road to allume

The morning of the first day, migraine raging, I left my house with just enough time to make it for registration. I rushed in franticly. Found my room. Dropped off my bags and out the door to the welcome mingle I went. It was kind of overwhelming, in fact, I must have had a neon sign flashing over me “Allume Newbie!” Because the ever amazing word weaver Jennifer Lee meets me in the hall and asks if this was my first year.

Of course, when I opened my mouth to speak, my words sounded kind of like Charlie Brown’s teacher… wha wha wha wha wha wha… yeah like that. Then I might have even said I have your book, The Best Yes, insert foot in mouth here, this is so not her book! Love Idol! It’s Love Idol! I have it on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I knew those writing police were on to me and would only be a matter of minutes before I was tossed out onto the street. Yup. Allume newbie I was indeed.

Jennifer, she was ever so gracious. She smiled and nodded at my sheer embarrassment, took my awkwardness in stride and led me to the welcome mingle. She even told me that if I found myself without a dinner partner to come find her. She is a Jesus rockstar.

In the hours to come as I sat at dinner and listened to Logan’s opening keynote, my world turned upside down. God did not bring me to Allume to become a better blogger or writer, He brought me there because He loves me. He wanted me to feel that deep in my heart, to never doubt my importance to Him.

Logan and Sarah Mae IMG_4488 IMG_4489IMG_4498IMG_4512

He wove that thread through every keynote, every session, every chance meeting with another blogger… He loved me. At times I could not feel my breath, the weight of His love was somewhat overwhelming. Sometimes it’s hard to look real love in the eye without looking away. It is a love so holy, it seems shameful not to avert the eyes. But He would not have any of that, He was chasing me, pursuing me. He wanted me to see, to feel, to breath in His love. He was not going to let me go engrained in my soul.

He sought me through the sessions and keynotes to come and I scribbled notes in my notebook, trying to hang on to every. Single. Word. Why is it I do not know shorthand?

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the weekend…

Rachel Jackson – We need to live everyday as if we are killing the enemy, even if that means just getting up.

Annie Downs – Lies – I have nothing to offer, no one is following me. Truth – Even if you have one follower you are mentoring them!

Sara Hagerty – God says I see your hidden moments and I like what I see. We have stories you and me, let’s build a history of just you and me.

Emily Freeman – (my paraphrase) Embrace wonder – as image bearers of a creative God we are called to fight for wonder.

Emily Wierenga – You are not defined by your story. You are not denied by who people say you are, but rather, by who God says you are. And He says you are loved. God does not allow Pain in your life to you there. No, He allows pain because it is the secret to your purpose.

Timothy Willard – (my paraphrase) Live in the new Narnia, because the further up and further in you go into God, you discover there is no end to Him. So choose each day to live in the hope of glory, to live in the magma of Christ who is in me and to tell the most dynamic story which is the gospel. It is what is making me beautiful.

But don’t get me wrong, this conference did not disappoint. In that notebook with notes scribbled long, amongst all the love notes from God, there are words upon words of tips and advice for writing well. For loving my audience, no matter how big or small, for showing them hospitality. 

It was bittersweet driving away on that Sunday morning. As much as I longed for home and my husband and girls, a part of me wanted to stay to soak it all in. Let it all break through my skin where the words of the weekend spread like salve on open wounds, strike straight through like arrows to my heart. To let it all become my heart.

I lingered in the hotel drive in the traffic jam that filled the circle. I watched as some of the speakers gathered on the shuttle to the airport, Logan walking to her car. We were all suspended in this circle waiting for the lead car to move on. It seemed a little surreal. Crowder was playing in the background, his voice breaking the silence “There’s hope for the hopeless and all those who’ve strayed, Come sit at the table, Come taste the grace, There’s rest for the weary, Rest that endures, Earth has no sorrow, That heaven can’t cure…”

I sat at that table and tasted the grace. As I watched and listened and spoke, the grace washed over me. It filled holes that had gaped for years. I gained a confidence that had vanished long ago. I found that I am not just a mom, I am a writer. I am a writer because He gave me a story to and He wants me to tell it. He wants me to tell it well. It is gospel.

 


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Just to Finish Well.

31 days a writing challenge

 

It’s October 19th. This means I should be writing my 19th post for the 31 day series, but I am not. I am only on ten. I would love to say this is because we have been so busy there was barely time to breathe, that my migraines came and I had not felt good in over a week, that my three year old was beyond… well, beyond. And while all of this is true, these are not the only reasons I am behind.

There are two reasons I can name, apart from those listed above, that have kept me behind.

1. On day six, God threw me a curve ball. I know with every 31 days there is a lesson for me, something God wants to show me, but I always miss it. That is, until I write it out.  In the past it’s been nearly the whole month of writing before He reveals it to me, or before I actually see it. But this year, It was early in the writing, His teaching me about our unwillingness. That really took me a couple days to process and then put into words. This is where my behindness began. (I know. I sometimes make up words to fit my situations. It happens.)

2. In all the chaos of the past few weeks, as I began writing this series, I watched my self. Cluing in on my reactions and I learned I am not qualified to speak about finding quiet in the chaos. What gives me the authority to speak on a topic that I fail in on a daily basis?

Hold on. There are three reasons I am behind.

3. Being apart of a Facebook community for the write 31 day challenge. This group is packed full of some amazing and encouraging women, but, it is kind of intimidating. These women have beautiful blogs. Beautiful writing. They talk about their stats and their posts with the highest visitors. About getting comments and not getting comments. And I feel like I am 12 years old.

When reading back through my posts, I see all the misspelled words, grammar mistakes, incomplete thoughts. It’s like elementary school, where you have a topic and you have to write 3 paragraphs on the topic. Then the teacher marks your paper all up in red and you have to write again. Or, even more so, it feels like 5 minute Friday, you know, you write for 5 minutes with the prompt of one word? Five minutes and done. No editing. That’s the rules. Yeah it feels like that, except it’s five minutes everyday, because I just want to make it through the 31 days. I just want to say I finished.

But really, deep in my heart I want to finish well. I want to say out loud… I. Finished. Well. That I wrote the words God gave to me. That they were used for my purpose or even for someone else. I don’t want to write just to write. I don’t want to worry about stats and comments and traffic. I just want to write what God calls me to write. So I can say I finished well.

Ok, number three was a long one I know. And now I give you permission to call me a liar. Because I am. I am such a liar. There are four reasons I am behind. Four!

4. The fourth reason is this, just simply being behind. Because this being behindness (there is that word again) is creating chaos in my mind. Should I write a bunch of posts and get it all caught up at once. Or just keep posting one day at a time? Or write as I feel led to write? Am I being lazy? Am I just afraid? Am I playing the comparison game, again? Chaos, right?

As I ponder all these reasons, it is evident I am listening to voices that want to see me fail. Those that tell me I am not enough. That I am not good enough. And the one that really gets me, why start it because you will never finish. They flashback memories of the past and bind me to it. Bound in shackles of past accusations, long since proven false and my heart races to be free. It beats loud in my ears, reminding me of the only voice that speaks truth. If I would push aside the chaos for just a moment and listen to the quiet I will find the truth.

There are only two reasons listed above that have any merit. The first, I have been really busy. I am learning a new routine, as my oldest daughter is taking baby steps out into the world with voice lessons and dance lessons, and I with my youngest’s new diagnosis we now have 2-3 therapy appointments a week. I haven’t figured out the finesse to juggling a busy schedule and getting things done. This is new territory for me and I can’t seem to find my way through it yet.

The second, God threw me a curve ball. On day six! Wow! Day six! I know I I just said that, but yeah, I was not expecting that one. With this revelation of my unwillingness, I have to learn, I have practice my willingness. Daily. For the only way in finding quiet in the chaos is practice. Practice until it becomes habit. Practice until it becomes an involuntary behavior such as inhaling and exhaling.

All these other reasons are lies infiltrating my mind. Nothing more than my own self created chaos used to fill my already chaotic day. I know I don’t need anymore chaos. It’s not healthy. Nothing good comes from chaos. It’s time to refocus.

Remember the reason He called me to write for 31 days. Remember when I felt Him nudging me to publish my words in a public place. It wasn’t for building platforms or driving traffic, an especially not for me to worry over comments or followers. It was simply to share my story. Whether that be for my healing or someone else, it is simply to share my story. Because really this story is not mine to hold on to, it is His. It is His story that He has given to my life. It’s gospel. And He has called me to share it. He calls us all to share it.

 

And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. Revelation 12:11

 

This is day ten in 31 one days of finding quiet in the chaos. To view the whole series click here.


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One of Your Favorite Days.

Hey daddy-

It was three years ago today I got the call from Melissa. It was 9:14 am. I was walking through the neighborhood yard sale on a beautiful fall morning. You know the kind. The air is crisp with a slight breeze, leaves starting to change their colors and the sky bluer than blue. I sometimes wonder if God made the skies bluer in the fall so that the changing colors of the leaves would be so much more brilliant? Hmmm, that would be just like the artist that he is, wouldn’t it? Maybe you could ask Him for me?

Melissa’s tone on the phone was not one I expected. I thought she was calling to see if I had found any treasures. Instead her voice was somber. They took daddy in the ambulance. He is in the ER. I will keep you posted. Ok. Keep me posted. I think that’s how the conversation went.

Everything will be just fine. I whispered it as I slid the phone back into my pocket and carried on seeking treasures.

They admitted you into the hospital that day. The doctors were not sure what was wrong other than your iron levels were low once again. But you were the same, daddy. You didn’t seem sick. You didn’t seem like you needed to be there in that hospital. Everything was just fine. Until it wasn’t.

The last time I saw you outside that hospital room was at Cassie’s birthday party. Remember that day?  It was at Darin’s house and the kids swam in the freezing pool? I made some grain free vegan cakes for Sydney so she wouldn’t feel left out. You ate two pieces of that chocolate cake. You always said my crazy recipes were good even when they weren’t. Haha! I am still trying to figure out how to bake yummy treats for Sydney. One day I might just get it right.

I got that call on a Saturday and it wasn’t until Tuesday that I actually saw you. The day was a complete blur, we were running to attorney appointments, guardian ad litems, visitation, all for the sake of that little baby.

I lost a lot of time with you daddy, because of that situation. It was worth it though. She is all ours now. You would love the little girl she has become. She is this beautiful soul with such spunk, autism gets in her way from time to time, but you just look past it. You can’t help but look past it. Because she is just that special.

The girls stayed at the hospital with you and mom while we went to our appointments. When we picked them up you were smiling and laughing, watching tv, it seemed all so normal. Just like every other visit to the hospital. We had this down daddy. This routine. Every 6 months we went to the hospital. You stayed a few days and got patched up and came home. How many years did we do this?

On Thursday, Sydney wanted to come see you and show off her new haircut. She cut it short. It was so cute. She was so happy to be free of the tangles. Her hair is long now. Just past her shoulders. And she is as tall as me now, can you believe it? You would be so proud of her, Daddy. She is truly amazing.

Everyone that meets her loves her and they all say the same thing. She has this sprit that you just connect with and they are drawn to her in a way they cannot even explain. But I can explain it. She is the closest thing to Jesus that you might actually meet here on earth. She has such grace and love. It is unconditional. There is this gentleness about her and she forgives without a thought. She is amazing. You know she is almost thirteen years old?

They transferred you the next day, Friday, to the heart hospital for your heart catheterization. How many would this make? I lost count. You needed more some stents. Your arteries were blocked again, 100% blocked. How in the world were you still standing?

I didn’t make it to see you that night after they finished. These horrible migraines. I still get them, but the doctors are getting closer to getting me fixed. I wish It hadn’t been raining that day. I wish I didn’t have a migraine. I wish they didn’t transfer you to that heart hospital on the other side of town. You know they made our favorite hospital a heart hospital shortly after you left? Yup. They finally did it.

Daddy, they gave you medicine that night and you slipped away from us. Right through our fingers and we couldn’t stop you. I don’t know what happened. You just kept slipping. It was only 36 hours later that you headed on home to glory.

The night you left daddy, I couldn’t be with you. Another migraine, of course, a debilitating one. I barely made it to the parking lot to get home. I tried to everything I knew to end it so I could back to you at the hospital. It just wouldn’t let me go. The moment it let up enough, I packed a bag to come back to the hospital. But It was too late. Just as we were headed out the door, Melissa was calling again. She said, “Say goodbye Shelly.” I tried, Daddy. I tried getting everyone in that car and get back to you at the hospital that was 30 minutes away. I just wanted to see you. I wanted to be there with you.

You took your last breath before we were out of the driveway.

I miss you daddy. So much has changed here. Some days are really hard and they are really lonely. I’m dreaming of the day when I am finally there with you. So save a place for me and save some grace for me…

Today the air feels just like that day you went into the hospital. The leaves outside my window are turning orange and the blue sky, daddy! The blue is so beautiful.

sky

This would be one of your favorite days.

I love you. Always.

Shelly

 


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Some Days You Just Have to Let Go.

31 days a writing challenge

 

Calendars. I have several in my arsenal. My iPhone calendar, I use it only to for the ease of sharing our schedules and they are all tucked neatly in one place. But really this isn’t functional to me in the everyday. I have 3 school calendars. One with plans laid out for the week, one for daily schoolwork and field trips, and one to track the days we school. Yes, I am a homeschooling mom. I have a symptom tracker calendar to measure my health issues to report to my doctor. I have my dry erase calendar so I can see the whole month laid out in front of me, because I just need that old school visual hands on calendar, not just a bunch of dots that I have to click on to see what is planned that day.

With all these calendars one would think we would be organized. That schedules would run on time and we would make it to all of our appointments. That errands would be run and tasks completed each day as planned. You would think this would lessen the chaos. But in effect it can be quite the opposite.

When I try to hold tight to our schedule and plans for the day, it doesn’t leave room for the unexpected. No time for tired kids, sensory overload, migraines, allergies or for the simply off days where everything seems to go wrong. The more I struggle to stick to the plan the more power the chaos holds. The house fills with frustration and anxiety. Its not long before everyone feels it and the chaos is unleashed.

Some days you just have to let go of the day. Throw the calendar out the window. Let go of the expected and all the planned, because if not, you will soon be mourning the loss of a day. A day that could have been spent in the moment, being fully present in life instead of worrying that the day is slipping by and nothing is being crossed of the list. I have learned my calendars are simple guidelines for each day meant only for the purpose of helping me stay organized.

I am learning to be flexible. To bend with the day as it twists and turns. To be thankful for whatever and wherever it ends up when my head rests on my pillow each night.

 

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9

 

This is day nine in 31 one days of finding quiet in the chaos. To view the whole series click here.


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Unlearning the learned.

31 days a writing challenge

 

 

Every year I have participated in write 31 days, it has been a learning experience. Not a learning of writing, grammar, building platforms, building traffic or even followers. It has been a learning to trust God. To not just believe in God, but to believe Him. Believe His promises are true. That He is always for me and always with me.

When I get trapped in the story of my life, it is through this writing He sets me free. The scales fall away and I see His hands orchestrating my life. Whether the writing be about past or present events, He gives me new eyes to see and it is all glory.

This year has not proven to be any different.

I had known about the upcoming writing event since August and I knew I was not going to participate this year. I did not feel that pull, nor had I heard the whispers like I had in years past. But then the morning of October 1st rolled around. I was attempting to write out my reflections of the event I had attend just a week earlier. I was fumbling through my thoughts. I just could not find the words that truly expressed what God had done that day and I quickly found myself perusing the internet.

One click led to another and I soon found myself on write31days.com. My fingers feverishly typing and clicking the trackpad. I had heard that whisper and felt that pull. and there is sat. I was all signed up with a confirmation email sitting neatly in my inbox.

An hour later I had a button, a topic and no plan. and there I was writing my introductory post for a series I had no idea what I was going to do with it. Until I did.

It only took six posts for God to reveal Himself. It was unexpected and actually took me several days to process it. It is never easy when God reveals your own rebellion. But it was clear. And change was needed. But how?

This week I have watched myself knee deep in the chaos. I watched how I handled each and every situation. It was not pretty and it was heartbreaking. I saw how easily I turned inward, trying to rely on my strength. It was habit. A learned behavior.

A learned behavior. A term used in therapy sessions with our littlest one with autism. Put simply because certain behaviors have worked in the past to get the result she wanted, no matter how ugly that may have looked, she has learned that this is the way to get things she needs or wants in her life. I am not talking about being spoiled. This is the kind of behavior that comes from an inward fear that she doesn’t understand. A fear that causes her to react in such a way to control her environment. This sounds a lot like me trying to control the chaos.

We don’t have to have labels of autism, OCD, PDD-NOS, or others to have learned behavior. Behavior that might seem in the moment right, but really it isn’t. We all have learned behaviors. Little things we have learned to cope with our own environments. Whether they are intentional or not, we created them.

In therapy, there is a process of correcting these behaviors. Not caving when the moment has spiraled downhill and the learned behaviors surface, but giving encouragement and supporting the good behavior. It is work. It is practice. It doesn’t always come out right. But the more you practice, the learned behavior starts to fall away, giving into the  new behavior. Eventually this new behavior becomes the norm.

It’s time to put in place the practice. To let the learned behavior fall and give way to the new behavior. To seek Him. Seek His face. In all things. Always.

And there will be quiet in the chaos.

 

This is day eight in 31 one days of finding quiet in the chaos. To view the whole series click here.

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