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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Meet Hannah Brencher.

Sometimes I meet people that remind me as if they are filled with the wind that must be found in heaven. They are almost whimsical and subtle but there is a fire spilled out like oil on everything they say and do. They are like living hands pointing our eyes to the Father, to where true beauty dwells and dances.

Hannah Brencher is one of these and this woman bleeds and leaks the inspiration of Jesus. 

 She reminds me that Jesus is still bending down to kneel with the lowly and the accused and that He is still telling stories. He is putting His chain breaking authority on our words and timelines and life plots and saying, "I know you think this is nothing but this story is going to change lives." 

[caption id="attachment_215" align="aligncenter" width="580"] Photo Credit: Tiffany Farley[/caption]

You might catch Hannah in a flurry of activity whether it be in her role of founding the organization The World Needs More Love Letters, writing and speaking across the United States or doing copy writing and creative consulting. But it is her passion that is contagious. Her passion to bring the human touch back into this digital age and to inspire people like you and me to write and mail love letters to those in need. It is like black ink fingerprints on everything she touches.

At the end of the day and almost to my surprise, she describes herself as an absolute mess who has given herself up to God. Stumbling upon her words reminds me of a little girl standing on top of her daddy's shoes and knowing that He has her, that even if she falls, He has her and even if she dances, He has her too. Just like He has you.



But more than anything else, Hannah reminds us that her true purpose is to love; to love people no matter what they look like and where they have been. Love looks like something. Sometimes bold, sometimes quiet, but always something.

Since I felt like Hannah's answers to my questions oozed such beauty and grace. I have posted them mostly via question and answer. So come and make yourself at home and lean into the heartbeat resounding in these words: that your life is worth more than you can imagine and you too have something to say.

What makes you come alive? 

People who haven't shelved their dreams. Conversations with people who also find their heartbeat in God. Literature that reads like cake batter dripping off the pan. Hot tea and a span of hours that are reserved for nothing else but getting to peel off the layers of another. Oh, and anything surrounding Christmas-- Pandora classical Christmas station, Christmas lights, hot cocoa-- I keep myself fully stocked on these things all year round because they add a certain whim and wonder to life that I don't think should just be designated to December.



Sometimes when I read your stuff, I feel like almost this heartbeat booming underneath about beauty, simplicity and the heart. Does this resonate with you? Can you talk a bit about that? 

I let God breathe through me. Word pour out from my fingertips but I read them back and know immediately that I am simply a messenger.

When I first started really finding my style and voice, I wanted people to find home in my words. I wanted them to feel like they were words created for hot chai teas and wool socks and breakfast nooks.

What is the biggest lie you have had to overcome? 

The lie that I have nothing to give this world. That my story is not worth sharing. That I am a godless little creature who serves no real purpose. Lies, lies, lies. And the crazy thing? Every day is a new battle to overcome those very same lies. I don't waking up feeling full of purpose most days, I wake up needing to reassemble my image as a child of God. But the stronger I can grow in knowing that my story counts and matters, the stronger my little bones grow in knowing how to instill that into other people, specifically young women like myself. We are constantly cluttered with the pressure to perform and be perfect and have it all figured out and it is just not true. I am such the beautiful mess and that won't ever change. I don't ever want to believe otherwise.



What makes your life rich? 

The chance to do what I love. Knowing that my dreams are coming true at such a young age. Feeling like God is using me for something far greater than myself... that is the big one: the chance to be used for something bigger than your own self makes me feel richer than rich. It fills me with a deep joy that no amount of eloquence can fully spell out. I don't have words for it. I feel it webbing in my chest right now though.

If you could take this generation anywhere and tell them anything, where would you take them and what would you tell them?

You know, I think I would take everyone on a field trip to the airport. Around 4 or 5 am. When all the late flights are getting ready to go out to Orlando, Florida. Disney World. When you see all the kids wearing their Mickey ears and being so dang excited for the trip ahead.

We lose that whim in life too easily. We forget it. I want everyday to feel like I just packed my princess backpack and I am heading for Disney. We belittle those feelings of anticipation, that love for what we are doing, and I think our generation needs to get that back. Desperately. They need to remember how important it is to love what you do, love your place in this world, love where you are going and the bright future ahead. Nothing like an airport terminal littered with kids ready to see Minnie to spark that feeling in you.

We can swim in Hannah's words and take a drink and be reminded of something so sweet, something so refreshing. 

 

Your soul was made to brim with hope and to never lose the majesty of wonder. You were made to give something beautiful and to share your stunning story. That's the truth.

You need to know with every fibre of your being that you are inspiring. 

Maybe you are baking pumpkin muffins, maybe you are wiping snot off little noses, maybe you are writing raw words, maybe you are living with a dream inside of you, maybe you are just looking in the mirror and considering that you might be beautiful.

Whatever it is, you are stunning simply because you are here, simply because you are alive. Place your hand on that heart of yours and feel it pound subtly looking to be known.

That beating is proof that you are inspiring. 

And what we find in you, we cannot find in anyone else. You can breathe the wind of heaven in a way no one else can.

So be you, tell your story, share your heart and let people get close enough that they can hear and see and feel the wind breezing over them too.



For more information on her organization, you can check out The World Needs More Love Letters at www.moreloveletters.com. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My story on purity and overcoming shame.

I will not forget the first morning I stripped myself off the floor in shame.

It was like I had engaged in a series of fights I could never win, beaten up by a giant I could not overcome, chased by this darkness I could never ignore, defeat dancing all around. As if my heart had become ravaged by this sudden war, my enemies were enthusiastically taking their plunder. Tears on my cheeks, my soul hiding its face, injustice crying out in a whisper  -

“Jesus. Where are You?”



For many months before, I had felt an onset of a battle, like the signal sound of warning filling my ears. Painful memories had been surfacing like dead fish in the lake and the enemy had been whispering in my dreams night after night, beckoning me, offering my hungry heart something to taste.

And before I knew it, I had surrendered to a struggle with purity.

That first morning I pulled myself off the floor in shame. No sun felt like it could overshadow that darkness beating in me and no healing felt like it could touch my broken parts scattered across that room. That night before for many hours, through the power of the internet and fancy words, I had handed over my beating heart and said “use me,” doing whatever they said and saying whatever they wanted.



Like a grieved woman punching the chest of someone she loves, I tried to push away the words spoken and the memories of all I said and did. But as I laid there that morning, their words still hung in my air like weapons.

Tormented by shame, I believed somewhere inside of me that He had turned His face from me. Looking into my heart, I saw the closed arms of a Father upset and saw the open arms of a lust that called.

I wanted to choose Him, more than anything, I wanted Him! But no matter what I told myself and no matter what anyone else said, it was like I still believed His arms were closed, His heart shut off, His gaze gone.

I still believed there was no way in heaven or hell that He could love me.




It felt like I woke up in the middle of a taboo topic for believers and so I began searching for a story; a story somewhere of a woman somewhere who saw the fire in Jesus’ eyes and overcame. But yet it was as if I stumbled upon a harvest of help for men and a famine of words for women.

And this is why I am sitting here tonight and choosing to tell this story, that for any woman who reads these words; you would soak up hope, you would know you are not alone and that today you would receive the courage to walk away whole.

It has been in my moments of pulling myself up and off the floor with tear stained cheeks and a weary soul that I found Him kneeling with me as if His presence was shouting out like a war cry, “I am here.” And even if I did not have the courage to look up and see Him, I could feel Him. I could feel Him pulling the hot tears off my cold cheeks and putting His fiery hand on my trembling heart and most often, He did not even need to say anything.  He simply just showed up.



It was like sometimes I could see Him standing in my room like a Dad and also like a King. And sometimes at night, when I would curl up into a ball in shame, it was as if I could hear the floor board creaking under His steps as He would come as close to me as He could, pulling my heart into His own.

There were other times where it was as if I could hear Him praying for me as His beloved one and as I would go in and out of my sleep; I could still hear Him, His heart lodged so deep in His throat.

It was like He was crying out to me, “Do you not see that I will never leave?” 

His kindness and compassion bled out of everything He did and said as if He was exclaiming in passion that nothing can separate me from this love and this gaze. And in the moments where it was like He was pulling back the darkness and telling me He loved me, I knew. I knew there was nothing I could ever do that would make Him love me less.






I still His little girl and I am still His beloved. I am still the one who moves His heart.

Sometimes it is like I catch glimpses and reflections of the tenderness in His heart and I am reminded that He wants us more than we want Him. He sees beyond all the rules and the religion and zeroes in on that beating organ resounding inside of us. He comes and He says, “Where is the pain?” and as we point or as we look away, He lays His hand on us and He starts to sing over us that it’s all going to be okay.

I know there are there are things that have happened, maybe things we have never even told anyone, conversations we wish we never had. And today we can know that those are not what define us. We are defined by how we are seen in heaven and He so treasures every single moment He has with us just because He does.

Just because He is caring for our souls. 

And maybe He is painting the sky for us, maybe He is weaving into conversations to whisper to us or maybe He is holding us while sleep, I am not sure. But I can tell you, He is caring for our whole soul.






His passion for us is deep. His love, it wants to overtake us. And His kindness, it wants to convince us.

It wants to convince us that abandonment is not who He is, despair is not His language and punishment is not how He works.

And He will do whatever it takes until we know this in the very reservoirs of our souls.

Some of us run around like pain has the authority, like our experiences hold the scepter, like it is our memories that are stronger than death. He extends the invitation to us to just pause. Pause and take all that authority we have stored up in our past and pour it out on Jesus. The Cross broke the power that we think this thing has over us and He is on the throne.

He really is.

And even today, like a subtle breeze, Jesus is whispering into our hearts reminding us that the authority that raised Him up out of the grave is the authority burning and shaking and jumping on the inside of us.  We can use that authority or we don’t. The choice is ours. But there is a better option, a more beautiful answer.

The more we use that authority, the easier it gets. The more we believe we are who He says we are, the simpler it becomes.

Because purity is so easy when we know who we are.

You are too valuable and too worthy and too loved and too beautiful for this to ruin you. Don’t believe the lie that freedom is a prize. Because it’s not. Free is who you are.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Do we really believe He is good?

I have been thinking a lot about the goodness of God.

His unchanging goodness. His relentless goodness. His throw you back in your seat and blow your mind like the wind kind of goodness.



And the question that has been sitting on my heart like a heap of coals is, “Do I really believe that He is good?”

For so long whenever I thought of God’s goodness, the only thing that would come to mind is that song, you know the one that sings, “You are good, all the time! All the time, you are good!” Those lyrical words dancing upon my lips and out of my mind, but did I really know what I was saying?

I find it is in the moments of heat, the moments where something not-so-good happens, that your belief gets revealed. Your belief as to whether you think He is actually good.

Because the truth is that He is good always. He is good in all of His ways. His heart is forever good. And these are the thoughts that were made to be the foundation of everything else for us.

He does not use fear tactics to convince us to do something.  He does not cheat or steal or lie. He does not turn His back on us or leave when the tide gets strong.

He is committed. He is devoted. He is passionate. And we are His.  How did we get so lucky?

When we truly believe He is good, oh it is so much easier to trust. But when we do not believe He is good, we become performance-driven and shame focused, thinking then there must be something wrong and there must be something wrong with us and we better fix it fast.



I don’t believe that God would ever use sickness to punish someone and I don’t believe He would take everything away from you just to see if you’ll survive.

I do believe that He is good and that if you’re facing something right now, it is not so you can be consumed with the negative but so that you can be consumed with the possibility of His love.

He is making room for you to have more and more of whatever you need.

He loves you. He actually does. Those aren’t pretty words, they are hard cold facts.

Some of us have been told we are loved all of our lives, but maybe seen other things in action. We live in this time where it is commonplace for people to tell one another that they love each other. I think it is beautiful and it is bold. But don’t mistake human love for His love.

His love runs deeper, goes farther and fights harder.

And He is good.



Whatever it is, no matter how big or how little, whatever you’re facing. That’s amazing news for you.

He has good things in store for you. He has good things to tell you. So let's breathe and rest awhile.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My struggle with worth and His answer.

Worth.

One word that began a wrestle in me over a decade ago.

What am I worth? What is my heart worth? What is my body worth? Am I worth the time, the attention, the love?

These are questions that I have never asked out loud, but yet I could feel the rumblings of them flopping up and over inside my heart wondering, asking and sometimes probably even demanding.

It is like for some of us somewhere along the line maybe someone takes from our worth or something somewhere gets on a pedestal in our life and says, I don’t know who you think you are. Maybe it is found in between the pauses of an angry parent or in the shameful morning after abuse or amidst the tears of broken relationships.  Suddenly the lines begin to blur and what they started, we continue.
It is like we take the reins and we now become the perpetrators against ourselves. It feels almost like a response of, “I can take it from here.”

Now it is not your parents who are angry with you but it your inner voice yelling at yourself before you go to sleep. Now it is not someone stealing your dignity but it is you violating yourself when you feel lonely. Now it is not your love leaving you but you leaving before you could ever be left again.

It is so seamless and so quick that you don’t even realize it until you wake up to worth.

This is such a huge message hidden in the syllables of my own story. Even now, as I write this to you, my heart fully present and tender, worth is something that I still struggle with and though I have come far, I have miles to go.

Worth, like an ocean, is massive and it is gorgeous. It is high and it is wide, almost like an invitation to explore and at the same time, lean back and enjoy.



I am not sure when I started doubting my worth. There are so many points at which it could have happened and so much of that, we do not even need for details right now. Somewhere in between being shy or sad or wandering, somewhere in between broken relationships all around, somewhere in between innocence lost and innocence given, there was a transaction that took place.

Where I had traded my worth for what I thought I deserved.

No one needed me to say it to them, but it was written along my life like whispered poetry. In the spaces of maybe not washing my hair or feeding myself with the wrong things or acting insecure and unwanted or throwing myself to the wolves while the King stood by and wept.

I will never forget the first time He told me He loved me and I will not forget the first time He told me He liked me. I will not forget what it sounded like when He told me I was worth it and what happened to the beat of my heart when He let me know that even if I played with fire every day, He’d still love me, still want me, still hold me.



Like He took what I thought I was worth and replaced it with His. He replaced my worth with what He is worth.

Worth all the Father’s love. All the Father’s affection. All the Father’s attention. All the Father’s devotion.

Worth all the Father’s inheritance. All the Father’s goodness. All the Father’s blessing. All the Father’s peace. All the Father’s singing.

Can we just stop there and drink that in? We were made to breathe this stuff in like oxygen. 

It uproots anything that says that worth is anchored on the past or lifestyle or relationships or status and it shouts from the rooftops that worth is only anchored in Him who loves.

And I feel like that is something I can stand on.

I can build my life on His worth. To think He gave it to me for free; it leaves my heart so undone, unlocking every chain and snipping every rope, setting me free.



Even today as I gaze upon the landscape of my life and see expressions of unworthiness, I am encouraged to lean in closer to Him. He knows. He knows more than I know and sometimes when I am going throughout my day, I can see Him.

When I am trying to make my bed, it is like I can see Him running under my covers just to make me giggle.

When I go to process my day and the inner critic rises up in me, it is like I can hear Him telling it to hush taking me into an embrace.

When I am meeting a friend for coffee, it is like His voice is beside me at that table singing to me that accepted is already my nature.

When I am brushing my hair and putting on my make-up, it is like I can see Him in my mirror letting me know that I never looked more beautiful.

He did not give me His worth and then tell me I needed to figure it out on my own but He gave me His worth so that every day He can unravel and reveal it more.

Sometimes like a fire, sometimes like a wind, sometimes, like the rain, but sometimes just as a whisper He comes.

And even now I know that our eyes are opening wide to see Him.

He is leaning in with you just as you are reading this and if you look up to see Him, it is written all over His eyes and shouting from His insides, “You are worth it all!”

Nothing is more true in all the world.

You are worth it all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Where are you?

They kept telling me He loved me, but it was like I wasn't sure.  I wanted to believe it and I wanted it to be something I could bank my life on, but something in my heart was weary and a little unsure like fear had grabbed hold of it just enough to keep it trembling.

I started to model my life after something that was not true. If you asked my mind if He loved me, “Yes of course He loves me no matter what, I mean that’s who He is!” But in my heart, in the caverns and in the corners of this beating organ, that was as distant from me as the east stands from the west.

Do you know what happens to the heart when it doesn't receive love?

It starves.



Impressed upon my insides were these rules, these rules of what to do and what not to do. These rules I was demanded to live by and my one reward was the thing I sought out more than anything else.

For Him to love me back.

It is funny how you can feel like you believe all these things in your heart, but really you only believe them in your head. It is often not until you collide with something so dark, that you realize how much light really lives in you and isn’t just encamped around you.

For me, it has been months of coming face-to-face with my pain and the demands and movements of a wrestle that this cry has begun to pour out like oil.

There are times I have done things or I have said things and when I snapped out of it, I wondered how He could still love me.

Because I would sit and I would compare my life to these rules that were lined up on my inside. I would be confronted with this scale I had built about what is the worst thing I could possibly do, the thing that would separate me most from Him.

I would do those things.



And as the night would end, my heart would be left starving and no one had condemned me but myself. But in my mind, like a song that never stopped playing, I would hear those voices, those voices telling me He loves me; He loves me no matter what.

But something didn’t feel right.

At times even if I did not say it out loud or admit it to anyone else, something in me would respond to unbelief and condemnation. Maybe my heart or my mind or sometimes, I think my body even soaked it up. Shame. A message that says, you’re not worth love so hide.

Oh my friends, I can tell you hiding never works.

Let’s go back to the scene in the Garden. Adam and Eve had sinned. Suddenly, they became aware of their nakedness.  Suddenly, they are intimate with their own vulnerability. They are ashamed. And they hide.



The Father calls out from heaven and He asks them where they are.

I don’t think God was asking them where they were because He lost them and He didn’t know how to find them.

I think He saw them.

I think His heart was tender and it was moved and it was grieved at what had just died. I think His burning eyes never left them, not for a moment, not even for a glance.

It wasn’t that He was asking them where they were because they were lost but He was asking them where they were because He was looking for a response from the heart. As if He is trying to pull at the hiding heart, pulling at it to come in the light, convincing it to fall into His presence and out of shame.

“Where are you?”

As I close my eyes, I can feel Him asking us the same question today.

“Where are you right now?”

It is question crafted straight for the soul.

It is like I can imagine Him saying it, His heart lodged in His throat. His tears made available on His cheeks. His love oozing through every syllable and every word. The love and concern and heart of a Papa made manifest through one simple question.

“Where are you ?”

Like an invitation, a beckoning, a call to come and be you and release your heart no matter what it looks like. Even if it is messy or feels ugly or feels dead, come. Come and release your heart.

This is a question and an invitation that has been blowing my mind. I think we can all hear it again for ourselves.

Even if we feel afraid right now and maybe we don’t know what to do, He wants to hear our heart!  Even if we are not sure about who He is or if we feel too far gone, He wants to hear our heart! He is so relentless. He will keep asking us this until it fully pulls us out of the corners of shame and the caverns of pain.

Your hiding is not helping you, your hiding is wounding you.
As a sister, I want to look into the eyes of anyone who will listen and tell you that there is nothing you could do that would be so bad, so ugly, so dirty that would make Him unable to look at you.  There is nothing you could say to Him that would make Him look away. There is nothing that will disgust Him, shock Him, scare Him. There is nothing that will make Him leave. Sometimes we try like we are testing Him, like everyone else has left, I need to test you too. It is exhausting. Don’t even. Just believe me right now.

Maybe He has been asking us this question for years. Maybe there are parts of us that we left in hiding while the rest of us has stood available. Maybe He is still asking it today.

“Where are you?”

It is not an accusation but an invitation. Some of God’s greatest invitations are first deceived as accusations. They are not.

He does not accuse. He is in love.

We cannot even afford to starve, not even a little. So if you have them too, throw away your lists and your rules and your scales into the fire. Come forward even if your knees tremble and your voice shakes. Come even in your nakedness even if you feel ashamed.  I will take your hand if you need it.

Here we are, Papa. Here we are.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I encountered Jesus in the hospital last night.

I got taken to the hospital in the ambulance for the first time last night.

At one moment I was on the phone talking to a Registered Nurse through Telehealth and the next minute I was being patched through to 911 and being told the paramedics were on their way. Within minutes, the paramedics arrived and I was rushed to the hospital only to wait five hours to see a doctor.

The entire time, I kind of wanted to giggle. Mostly because I did not really need an ambulance and maybe did not even really need to go to the hospital.  But someone somewhere along the line that night thought I might be having a heart attack.

Though warranted, I have legitimately been in a decent amount of pain for the past couple days. I have been experiencing muscle spasms in my back and chest that last anywhere from forty five minutes to two hours. Something I have been told I will just have to endure.

Source: Pinterest

As I was spending these five hours waiting, it just got me thinking.

There were so many people in that room tonight that waited for hours honestly believing that at the end of their wait, someone would have their answer and someone would have their healing.  I know that some in that room had full confidence that this was truth and then there were probably others that although jaded by a system, they still keep coming back believing.

It made me think about my relationship with the Father. Not just in healing, but in everything.

How my confidence of Him needs to be able to shout out loud and boldly say, “No matter what He is my answer and everything I need is found inside of Him.”
No matter how many times I have to get back up, run to Him again, cry out for His name, sit and wait, feel my pain, no matter how many times I have to confront everything inside of me and demand it go to Jesus, I will and I do because He is my answer.

Maybe we are there now and maybe we aren’t. But I think it has a lot to do with who we think we are.

I feel like sometimes we get this thing in us like we just want to be rescued. Sometimes I feel like I am the queen of this. We get ourselves in so much pain and hope that maybe someone will see us and find us and come for us.

Some of us are probably doing it and we do not even realize we are. Rescue me from my sin, rescue me from this relationship, rescue me from this life. Either you are very much aware of your pain and so you fight it or you have numbed that pain to oblivion and escape through something.

But if we strip that thing to be naked and vulnerable, the cry comes out the same, “SOMEONE RESCUE ME.” 

So as I say this to you tonight, I really say it to me.  I say it to the girl who found herself in an ambulance last night.

He sees you and on the nights when you don’t believe that’s true, I am telling you it is. He sees you. He sees you when you feel amazing, when you feel less than beautiful, when you are not sure if you’re worth it anymore. He sees you.

And it isn’t because you raised your hands in worship, gave more in the offering than normal or were extra-super nice to the people around you. He sees you because you’re His son, you’re His daughter, you’re the one He thinks about all night, you’re the one He cannot stop talking about to everyone He meets. You are that one. That one whose art He has all over His house, jokes all over His bathroom mirror,  thoughts all over His journals, pictures all over His heart. You are that one, that beloved one.

He rescued you. He actually already did. All that stuff you are facing right now, the darkness and the injustice and the sin and the death – all of that got dealt with on the Cross. It died with Jesus.  I know that even though right now I am telling you it is dead, it still feels alive to you. But I am convinced it is because you and me, we do not know we are rescued.

I believe that running from pain is foolish, we need to know our pain, know what it is saying, what it looks like, what it feels like. But pain is not a resting place. Pain is an entry way. Know your pain. And then look to the Father and ask Him to show you what happened on the Cross.
Because I don’t know what you have heard but the Cross was justice for your heart. One more time, the Cross was justice for your heart.

Every moment of suffering. Every abuse done against you. Every painful memory.

Dead on the Cross.

Not because they did not happen, not because that pain was not real, but because the pain no longer has power over you.  No more does it control you, imprison you and bind you, but you have authority over that pain. You can tell it where to go and what to do. You can tell your heart to be healed and it will.

He has made it possible for the human heart to come so fully alive for those who say yes to it. To be honest, I am not sure if we even really understand the capacity of what this really means, but it is huge.

That's how crazy, insane, outrageous and scandalous this love is.

That He saw our lives before we took our first breath and spoke that word over us, RESCUED. Almost like every time stuff tries to rise up over us, heaven just keeps declaring that word, RESCUED.

RESCUED. RESCUED. RESCUED.

And even if you don’t feel rescued yet, soon you will. Soon you will feel it and know it. You won’t just see those as words on a page that don’t make sense, but they will be the substance of the fire in your bones.

I am rescued. I am rescued today, I am rescued tomorrow and forever rescued I will be.
Do you believe He has rescued  you? Feel free to comment, send an e-mail or chat with us on Facebook - I would love to hear from you. 

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Monday, October 22, 2012

For those of us who are having a rough day or even a rough year.

Sometimes we just have bad days.  Sometimes it feels like we have just had a rough week or a rough month or maybe even a rough year.  It is not that we want it that way, in fact we would do anything to see it change, but nothing is happening, not really moving, not quite turning around.

If you can resonate with this, feel free to raise your hand.

(Of course, I can’t see you but I love to pretend I can).

Over 2012, I declared that this would be my year of being fully satisfied in Jesus. Notice I didn’t say my year of being in Jesus or my year of being satisfied in Jesus. But naturally and quite radically, I said my year of being fully satisfied in Jesus.

Fully.  Not partially, not half, but all the way in.

Since the day of that outrageous and yet expectant declaration, the things that I have put confidence in or been satisfied by have been shaken. They have rumbled and tumbled a bit, getting shaky knees like a nine year old before her ballet recital.

You see there are these things. These things that we get a sense of security from, a feel-good-in-my-soul trusting kind of feeling from but the thing about these things is that they aren’t Jesus, they are not forever.

They are not made to satisfy the soul.

Sometimes we do not realize how much these things feed us and give us strength, until they are taken away. They disappear suddenly and we start grappling with our hands for something to hold onto.
The thing tonight that I find resonating in my heart is that only Jesus can satisfy.  Only Jesus can really bring me to life and only Jesus can give grace and grace so bold it leaves me speechless.

Over the past few months, many things have been either shaken or been up-and-lifted-away in my life that I was perhaps getting some of my identity from, some of my confidence. Jobs, titles, relationships, they have this way of sneaking in there and telling us “this is how you know who you are.”

In response, I know that I have to cultivate a lifestyle of intentionally take these bright blue eyes of mine off of everything else and putting them back on His. I have to pick up these poetic and raw words from conversations, computers and social media and with my all my passion and gusto, pour them into Him.  Because only He can satisfy this beating heart. Nothing else.

And in the places where I have listened to lies and think that these things will make me happier or prettier or more popular, I just gently grab my heart again and urge it to just go to Jesus. I am pretty sure He can deal with me better than I can.

It reminds me of some flowers. Flowers didn’t wake up in full bloom. They started simply as some seeds, some seeds that had to get in the dirt. The dark and the grimy and the ugly and the messy dirt. They had to spend some time there, live there for awhile, hang out.

And maybe some of us feel like we are in some dirt. Maybe it feels dark or ugly or messy. Maybe we feel like we have been hanging out here for awhile. I want to get us to think that maybe this is a good thing and it is probably not forever.

We are constantly being transformed and we are constantly being redeemed. Every day. Even when we don’t see it or feel it. Every day.

(I think I might just write that out somewhere, maybe everywhere this week.)
I am being transformed right now. I am being redeemed right now.
Maybe that shaking we feel is a sign that we are growing up, an encouragement that yes, we are being transformed.

And that time in the dirt, that time in the dark, those things don’t define us just as we don’t define a flower by the dirt it sat in as seeds.  Rather, we are defined by our beauty, our potential, our promise. We are defined by Him who made us and chased us down and rescued us.

Maybe that’s why only He satisfies. Because only He really has the authority to say who we are.

When His words hit our heart, they settle, they move in and they stay there forever.

And we get the opportunity to be intentional about reminding our eyes to get on His eyes and urging our hearts to just go to Jesus.

Goodness me, just go to Jesus. After all, He knows how to take care of you better than you do.

Don’t wait another moment and don’t over think it in your head, just go.

I am coming too right behind you.

Friday, October 19, 2012

You are enough.

Lately, I have been going on these long walks where I become aware of everything that is happening around me.  I tune into the sound of the cars buzzing by, the laughter running out of stores and onto the streets and the fallen autumn leaves being crumpled underneath my feet.  I pay attention to the sight of torn and aged buildings, children putting their hands around their mama’s eyes and lights turning from green to yellow. I take in the smell of bread baking in organic cafes, perfumes swirling in the wind as people walk by and the snap of the cold in the air.

Fall - PaperAgeToday.com[/caption]

And as I feel the breeze push back my hair, it is then in those moments that I know He is everywhere. He is in the eyes of children. He is in the smell of baked bread. He is in the painted sunset.
He is in me.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in this culture of run faster, jump higher, be better and I forget where He is. I find my home in a world that never stops and because it never stops, neither do I.  But it is when I pause, that I remember and I rest and I whisper along with the wind, He is in me.

Yesterday, I was on one of these walks and hovering over the river was an elegant, winding tree. Its bark was bumpy as if it was filled with a thousand veins of life and I am not sure when it happened but across its trunk in black spray paint was graffiti. It struck me because art was put upon art, when the canvas that was painted was already perfect just as it is.

It was one of those moments where Holy Spirit whispers ever so softly in your ear that if you were not listening, you would miss Him. I think that how He beckons us deeper.

You are a work of art. 

As it was said to me, I want to also say it to you. You my friends are a work of art.



Sometimes we get confused. The world says one thing. The Kingdom says another. Your parents say one thing. Truth says another. It is like all these voices call out our names demanding our attention, pulling at our hearts to agree with them and them alone. We sit there and sometimes we just pick the first thing that calls for us.

There is this voice I know you have heard. It is catchy and it is scheming, dressing up like humility and at times, even posing itself as faith.

It is that voice that calls your name and says you are not enough.

It lures you with maybe if you got rid of that one thing or you added something here or you changed this, beckoning you further into its trap because the thing is you will never be enough as you are.

It has to be one of the darkest lies I know.
You are enough. You always have been, you always will be and you are presently today.

You were created, Someone designed you and made you and breathed life into you and said, “Man! They’re perfect.” Did you will yourself to be born? Nope. This is how I know you are enough just as you are.

You were chosen, Someone picked you out of the crowd, pulled you out of your darkness and said, “I want this one!” Did you show up on His doorstep, begging to be His choice, flailing your body in desperate abandon before He even noticed you? Nope. This is how I know you are enough just as you are.

You were called, Someone wrote out all these amazing things about you in heaven declaring what you would do before you breathed your first breath, before you went to your first church service, before you even prayed your first prayer. Did your gifting convince Him you were good enough? Nope. This is how I know you are enough just as you are.

Wherever you are right now, maybe you are sipping your first cup of coffee or checking your phone at work or killing time in your living room, I invite you to whisper it with me now:

I am enough.

And one more time.

I am enough.



Everything that has told you that you need to be more beautiful, you need to be smarter, you need to do more, you need to shut up more, you need to get over that thing, you need to forget about those things, you need to move faster, talk better, laugh louder, those voices do not define you.

If you have been waiting to follow Jesus or to pursue that dream or to go after that relationship because you are waiting for some magical day when you will wake up different, pause with me.

That day won’t come. That day doesn’t need to come. Because that day is here.

Today you woke up beautiful. You woke up brilliant. You woke up perfect.



You woke up perfect not because of the clothes you wear, the words you say or the friends you have.

You woke up perfect because in God’s heart, He had a dream. He wrapped that dream in flesh and made you.

And that is not a dream that is done.

Still today, He is dreaming over you and if you lean in and listen, you can hear Him inviting you to come and dine with Him as His friend. Over that fresh baked bread and vintage wine, you will hear your name tumble out of His mouth and you too, will hear Him say it:

You, yes you. You are a work of art and you are enough. 


Taken from whatkatieeate.blogspot.com

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A letter to the broken

As a writer, I find that sometimes you choose to write but more often than not it chooses you. Shouting your name, pulling at your heart and chasing you down, until finally you surrender, give in and say, “Okay! I will talk about it.”

But then as you start writing, it morphs into something radically different than what you had in your head as if someone else took your hand and said, type this instead.

This post was one of these moments for me.

We have all seen those inspiring movies; some of us breathe them in like liquid air. At the mention of an inspirational story, the dreamer inside of me jumps up and down like a little girl who just woke up on Christmas morning. Maybe because as we sit there and watch, it makes us feel like if it was possible for them, why not me? It is like a friend whispering into our ear,
“You know your story doesn’t end at suffering...”

Something about pain gives us paralysis, like maybe if we keep still, maybe if we don’t move, it won’t hurt as much. No matter how many people tell you they understand or you are going to make it through, something in you isn’t quite sure, something in you tells them to be quiet.

We hit these points of darkness, of struggle, of suffering. Maybe we lost a family member or we struggle in addiction or our marriage is failing or we just need peace again. We sit in those things and we plead for the dawn. To medicate our wounds, maybe we run or we shut down or we shut up.
But can I tell you something?  Suffering is what binds us; it is like the thread running through humanity since the beginning and to the end.

The thing you are fighting right now, someone has fought it before you. The thing you’re running from right now, some has slayed it before you. The thing you are scared to admit, someone has written it in their journal before you. Sometimes they have overcome and sometimes they haven’t but their echo tells you that you are not the first, you are not the last and you are certainly not alone.



I may have never faced what you are facing right now, never been up against that specific thing you just can’t seem to overcome. But if we strip these things away, take off the masks of giants we face, we will notice that the same things stand before us all.

They are fear. They are insecurity. They are pride. They are greed.

And if we strip the excess of ourselves, knocking down the defense mechanisms and the walls, we will notice they are the same heart cry singing to us all.

To be loved. To be seen. To be worthy.

It is the times when I have held the broken that I have known this the most. Whether I was holding a bullied child, a suicidal teenager or a grieved mother, the cry was the same, “Does someone see me? If they see me, do they love me?”

At the very presence of that cry, I feel my heart lurching forward as if it was a hand that could grab the heart of another and pump it back to life.

[caption id="attachment_84" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Taken from www.untiredwithloving.org[/caption]

And this is a letter to the broken.

If I could put my hands on both of your shoulders, look you into the eyes and tell you that no matter what anyone has said, you are outrageously loved and you are not alone, I would.

I would show you the scars that I carry and I would point to the scars that are carried by those around you. Because if we have scars, it means our wounds were healed.  And if my wounds were healed, yours can be too.

As you do, I want you to see beyond your circumstance and I want you to see possibility.

In those inspirational movies, there is always a turn in the story because someone saw something that no one else could see. Where everyone else saw inner-city kids that would never amount to anything, a teacher saw world changers. Where everyone else saw racial division as normal, someone saw injustice that can be challenged. Where everyone else saw brokenness, someone saw an answer.

I challenge you today to look at your life in the same way.

See potential. See possibility. See opportunity.

This isn’t forever. You don’t need to sleep in it anymore or hide away in its corners. You can come out. You can even say it out loud, I am loved. I am known. I am worthy. You can believe the truth.



This sickness is an opportunity for me to know healing. This brokenness is an opportunity for me to know God’s nearness. This bondage is an opportunity for me to know, to taste, to see, to feel what it is like when deliverance finally comes. Then my wounds will be healed and I can give it away for free.

Know your pain. But don’t let it be your master.  Know your story. But don’t let it be your finale.  Know your cry. But don’t let it be your prison.

This is your turn around moment. This is your moment of possibility.

Written by: Ashley Beaudin


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Three Homeless Men

Hey friends, I want to introduce you to an amazing woman named Shani. Check out her story from her perspective. I know it will inspire you. Dream big and love outrageously and remember YOU have a story and your voice matters. 

Ash 

 Ever since I could remember, I have had one plan for my life:  to die utterly exhausted due to not being average and leaving my mark on the world.  In September 2010, I went to Northern California to attend a vocational training school.  Halfway through my study year, I ran out of money and we left with just enough just enough to pay my rent, ten dollars for food and ten dollars for coffee each month (a necessity). At the time, I was living in a double wide trailer in ice and snow with little to no heating and to say I was disillusioned with a ‘not average’ life would be an understatement.

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Two of our roommates were set to move out a month before I was to finish school fly home and there was no time to find new ones. The rest of us made an ultimate decision; we would surrender our cold, albeit loving, home and make our way among the hordes of homeless living in our city. Well, maybe not quite that dramatic. I was thinking couch surfing. Still, there was a sense of drifting was in the air, and in reflection, it ignited a spark of excitement in me.

When my German friend invited me to join himself and two of his flatmates on a two week trip to Seattle over Spring Break, I was relieved to have a plan. After ten hours of driving, we arrived in Seattle just in time to watch the sun set over the ocean, while there I sat drinking cheap wine out of a plastic cup with complete strangers.

[caption id="attachment_76" align="aligncenter" width="554"] Taken by Kelli Busby[/caption]

I love exploring cities on my own; to have time to discover and to enjoy. I found myself on foot in the heart of downtown Seattle, working my way up alone from Pike Market right up to 7th Avenue. Little did I know that this would be the day that my perspective would be flipped upside down and turned inside out, and that three men without homes and without comfort would change my life forever.

It was raining that day, as it did most, and I had no umbrella. The first of the three men was standing on the side of the footpath, inviting me to make a donation to his plastic ice-cream container that I assumed was to pay for his next dinner. I asked him how he was. He told me he had been on that corner for thirty years and he’d noticed something. People are always sad until the sun come out, then they just cheer up.

Just around the corner a man, dressed in the brightest colors seeming to clash with the dreary grey of the sky and concrete, was sheltering under an overhang, playing an accordion and singing the happiest tune I’ve ever heard. I laughed out loud with the realization that his joy in being alive drowned out the rain.

Walking down 1st Avenue, a man I assumed to be homeless stopped me. He seemed to be  twice my height and a few times wider around. I wasn’t sure whether to be alarmed but his eyes were kind. “Ma’am, I don’t mean you no harm” he said; his weathered face the picture of gentleness. “I don’t mean you no harm. I just wanted to tell you you’re absolutely gorgeous.”

He didn’t ask me for money, food, or any of the other normal requests and because of this, I didn’t know what to say. A homeless man had made me feel like a princess and at the same time, I had been humbled. He shuffled away slowly as though his bones were infected by the cold and damp. I wanted to call after him, give him something, but it seemed like it would only be an insult to his dignity; I felt almost as though I had been talking with Jesus.



As he walked away, I realized he had given me a gift. He has given me a gift in that I felt more alive than I had ever been.

The truth is, those three men taught me three unforgettable lessons.

First, that everything can seem grey and dull, and all it takes is just the hope of sunshine to change everything.

Second, who we are brings light into the world. That our colors may clash with the status quo, but they are what make us alive.

Third, there is nothing that can define us like the words of a stranger, as Demond Tutu says, we are because we belong. In other words, I can only be me if you are you: our humanity is made human in our togetherness, a togetherness that is separated only by judgement and made stronger by acceptance, hope, and joy.

Back home in New Zealand, I wrote in my journal one night that during my experience in Seattle that my biggest fear was that I was becoming my biggest fear; average. I was in pursuit of the extraordinary, always wanting to leave my mark on the world but I have come understand that instead, it left its mark firmly on me instead.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Meet Stephanie May.

I am rich because I continually meet some of the most amazing, inspiring and beautiful people. I have met those who are like a breath of heaven, those who change my mind, those who love ridiculously and those whose lives emanate life and beauty.  Today, I want to invite you to come, stay awhile and meet my friend Stephanie May.
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This brave and gorgeous young woman is someone I have never met in real life. Never shook her hand, never hugged her, and unfortunately never told her one of my corny jokes.  I cannot comment on her mannerisms or her laugh (though I hear it is fantastic). But what I can say is, the heart in this woman is stunning and I got the honour of seeing some of her journey unfold this year.

This weekend, I got to ask her a few questions, she took the leap in sharing some of her story with me and I love that she went places and picked up areas that all of our hearts need to go.

If there is anything I know right now, I know your heart is super important. Even though, we look at each other and we only see surface, your heart screams out to God like you are wearing it as clothes on your body, like it is dripping on every word that you say. Your heart was made to be alive and vulnerable with Him and He thinks you’re amazing. So come take an adventure with me for a moment and let’s hear her story. You’ll be glad you did.

Stephanie is a passionate writer and a skilled storyteller and for her, it is one of those things that gets her out of bed in the morning and makes her heart pump just a little bit faster. We all write for different reasons, some of love it more than others but for her, writing allows her to pause and soak in life’s details. She believes we see God best when we take the time to notice what He is doing, where He is moving, how His heart is reaching and writing is an instrument to do just that, to notice Him.

Through her writing, Stephanie talks a lot about how Jesus has romanced her through beauty.  As a woman, it inspires me and as an artist, it makes my heart flop excitedly inside. Beauty is everywhere; it is in the littlest things like lilac petals and in big things like the sunset sky. It calls for us and chases us down through vibrant colours, sounds, laughter and best of all, people.

It was when she started reading books by Shauna Niequist that she began to realize maybe there was beauty and celebration that she was not experiencing. Shauna’s writing is marked by zeroing in on God’s handiwork in the everyday stuff and it is something that has changed her forever.  We get busy, all of us do. It takes courage and intentionality to practice living aware of His beauty, but as Steph shares,
“Beauty is always there waiting for me. God’s still painting, knowing that at some point I’ll remember and slow down to drink in His color.”

Wherever you are right now, look around. What do you hear? What do you see? Can you catch the chase of God in it for you? Maybe He is whispering your name through the wind or calling you out to play through colour or reminding you of furious love through the ocean. Catch it. Catch His chase.

[caption id="attachment_65" align="alignnone" width="580"] Taken by Bri Danese.[/caption]

When I interviewed Stephanie, I asked her if she could take this generation anywhere, where would she take them and if she could tell them anything, what would it be that she would tell them. Her answer is gorgeous.

She would take us on a trip around the world. She would take us maybe back to some of the people she met or maybe some she has yet to meet. She would take us to the countries that we probably never thought twice about, maybe never even heard about. She would get us to encounter some of their deep need suffering but also she would show us their joy and we would undoubtedly be overwhelmed. Maybe her friends in the African bush or maybe the neighbourhood kids in Cambodia and we would sit and learn from their joy and our leaders and our mentors would be the kids.

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The smiles on those kid’s faces would inspire us and change us and show us what it looks like when the joy of God burns so bright and wild, even if there is nothing to eat.  While we would be out there learning and laughing, taking in beauty and hope, remembering that playing is sometimes more powerful than working; she would tell us our lives matter. She would tell us that if we will say yes to Him, He will use us and it is Him who will do the miracle.

Some of us need to stop trying to perform the miracles in our lives and instead just say yes to Him and let Him do what He does best; the impossible.

Today as we have leaned in and listened to some of Stephanie’s story, take away some treasures with you! Stop and watch how He moves. It might change how you see Him. Look around, Jesus is chasing me down with beauty every day.  Think about how your joy is not anchored on what you have, but your joy comes because you’re loved. Say yes to Him and see what happens.

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You have a story. Your voice matters.

Stephanie May is a world-traveling journalist who is in love with Jesus, with life and with all things beautiful. In early September 2012, she returned from the World Race, an 11-month mission trip to 11 countries around the world (she blogged about it, too!). Currently, she is working for Adventures in Missions as a Storyteller. When she’s not traveling (and especially when she is), she’s writing for The Lipstick Gospel. You can follow her on Twitter at @Smay15.

All photos taken by Stephanie May unless otherwise noted.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

You have a story and your story matters.

The heart of The Story Project is that you have a story and your story matters.  

Our vision is to tell the untold stories of the unlikely and everyday heroes.

Our hope is your life would be changed as you tell your story and you would get hope and courage as you lean in to listen to others.

Something powerful happens when we recognize that our story matters. When we realize we have been given a story not just for us, but for someone else too. We need to get past the lie of our culture that we have not done enough or been enough or seen enough or experienced enough to have a story worth hearing.

You have a story and your story matters. Today, it matters so much to God and it matters to me.

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The richness of your life is not found in your titles or your possessions or even the things you put your hand to. The richness of your life is found in your relationships, your passions and the strength of your heart.

Can I just tell you that? Strong hearts are rich.

Hearts who have experienced tragedy and suffering, but still they trust. That’s rich. Hearts who have moved at the sound of the suffering of others, and they keep fighting. That’s rich. Hearts who have anchored themselves on the goodness of God and no matter what, they don’t let go. That’s rich.

So maybe you haven’t saved the world or led thousands of people to Jesus or found a cure to cancer. But maybe you have loved, served and endured. Change your lens of success and repeat it in your heart with me today, I have a story and my story matters.

You telling your story could be what will set someone free. It could be what heals someone of sickness. It could be what gives them hope to face tomorrow. It could remind them that they are actually not alone no matter what the world keeps telling them. Your story can create change.

I want to challenge you to get in touch with us and let us tell your story. I want to challenge you to encourage other people to jump in too. I want to challenge you to use your voice however you can this week. Use your story not just for you, but for those who don’t have a voice yet or for those who don’t know how to find theirs.

I believe stories can change the world. Do you?

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If you are interesting in having your story told or would like to suggest someone, send an e-mail to thestoryprojectblog@gmail.com or reach out to me (Ashley Beaudin) on Facebook (Ash Beaudin) or Twitter (@ashleybeaudin).

All stories are written through an interview process. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

She was beautiful.

She was beautiful. Oh, was she beautiful. She had a giggle that went on for days; it rippled like waves coming for the sand again and again.

I will never forget the first time she laid eyes on me.

Sometimes it feels like children choose you, for whatever reason they do, as if they are a living message where time stands still and eternity whispers a message into your ear.

Here we were, a team of unlikely people standing in the midst of a village in the Dominican Republic. There were children everywhere, running in bursts of life, giggling at our broken Spanish, hiding from us and running to us at the same time and out of the corner of my eye, I see her.

And she runs. She runs until she stops at my feet.  And when she gets to my feet, she throws her little arms around my legs and squeezes tight like she just came home.  All of my heart crying out in response, “You belong here.”



Running from me, she fluttered along the dirt, inviting me to come after her and I would. Catching her and picking her up into my arms, she would surrender, her eyes squinting and her belly giggling.

Sometimes we need to chase them just so they know they’re worthy of pursuit.

I saw her again a few days later, meeting her brother and sister and together they became part of my shadow, following me wherever I went. She did not leave my arms that day.

We had tried to ask her, her name but she never talked, she only giggled.

I wish I knew her story. But I don’t. I wish I knew her name. But I don’t.

But it is what I got to know that I won’t forget. I got to know what makes her laugh. I got to see her spunk when she would flutter away. I got to encounter her patience and her trust.

Wherever she is now, as she looks at the same stars I look at tonight and feels the same sun hit her arms in the summer afternoon, she would dream big.

And today, we can learn from her, that even when we do not know what else to do, we can laugh, we can stand and wait and we can know that we are undoubtedly worthy of love.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Announcing....the Story Project.

Stories.

Wars have been fought over them. Families have divided because of them. Journalists have been shot in pursuit of them. Artists capture them. Kids sit captivated by them. Crowds follow them.

Stories.

They are powerful. They are resilient. They are strong. They are vulnerable.
Stories have a way of inspiring hope. They have a way of screaming out, “NOTHING is impossible!” In between their words and punctuation and pauses, you can catch the subtle rumblings of courage, as if hope itself is crying out for us to believe her. And we do.

Stories tell us that nothing is too big. Not cancer. Not divorce. Not pornography. Not poverty. Not
slavery. Stories remind us that nothing is bigger than Jesus. Nothing. Like reels of film, shot after shot, we see those things held powerless when love rises.

Stories remind us that we are all people. We are people with fears and dreams, who look at the same moon and face the same sun. People with stories and people with scars, people with eyes that burn and hearts that move.

Stories lead us into hearts and into homes. They invite us to encounter worlds we may not ever know.
They are an invitation to sit humbly and watch, to lean in and listen. They invite us in closer and deeper, to think, to feel, to celebrate and smile.

I want The Story Project to be a place you can come and sit. Lean in and stay awhile. Grab a coffee, a tea or a glass of cold water and let these stories make you think. Let them make you ask yourself the tough questions. Let them inspire courage on the inside of you. Let them put you in awe.
Let them also say to you as they have said to me, that nothing is impossible. 

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