Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Esther Year

I've come to understand that in my greatest deficits, God is able to overwhelm me with his glory.  The majestic ways He's pursued me like a bride, in my times of sorrow and pain, leaves me breathless.  The same way He came so humbly into this world that would eventually declare him unworthy by their judgement...He makes his way to those tearful nights when I lay in my bed and tell him one day I'd like to be doted on.  He sweetly whispers, "One day is now.  Not when you've got it figured out.  Not when a man chooses to call you lovely.  Now.  In your brokenness.  I'll take that dirty, tear stained flag you're waiving.  You won't need it any longer.  This battle's over."
I was chatting with a friend (Latasha Patrick...girlll you wise), and telling her all the sweet ways God has given me everything I've asked.  Legit.  LEGIT.  Things I have never breathed to a soul show up at my door.  In my mail.  I whisper, "I'm tired. I don't want to finish mowing my lawn. I can't afford to pay someone.  God can you have someone do it for me?" I kid you not, still standing there wiping the sweat from my eyes, a man comes over and starts in on my neighbors backyard (I had offered to do her yard too bc she broke her foot). She sends me a text saying her brother decided to surprise her by doing her yard and he was going to finish mine too.  I stood there and cried.  I didn't care who saw.  That is sweet love that presses where it hurts and the pain has no choice but to digress. Latasha explained, "It's like Esther.  She had a year of receiving.  This is your season to receive.  Soak in it.  Accept it.  It won't always be this season, but enjoy right now. "
The thing is, I love Esther.  I somehow missed this part of the story.  So I went home and looked it up. Esther 2:9-13.  She was given servants and girls and a year of spa and makeup treatments.  A choice of whatever clothes and jewelry to wear to meet the king.  I'm declaring this the Esther Year (or Season...let's not limit God to 12 months. HA!).  The way God takes my whispered wants and creates gifts helps my heart come out from hiding. 
But I had a moment where I had to stop and wash my hands of the wonder.  A question was given in a book I'm helping write.  I had to ask myself, "What if...what if the blessings stop now and never start again. Where would my heart land?  Could I still say God was good? I took an embarrassingly long stare at my journal.  I had no idea what was going to come from putting my pen to paper.  What if the suffering comes back and that's where I stay for the rest of my life?  Do I still believe God is good?  I sat there, crying, knowing that a life of suffering could only be worse if I had any lingering belief that God wouldn't be sitting in the suffering with me.  Yes.  Yes I believe God is good.  Even when life isn't gifts and laughs and late night texts.  For now though, I'm pointing my face towards the sun and enjoying it's blanket that carries me along these days.
So, I'm accepting.  I'm receiving.  I'm palms up, hands out, head up.  Jesus sure knows how to wooo a lady.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Truth be told.

Sometimes the moment feels too much to experience it all at once.  The overwhelming rush of love and pain and gratitude and breathtaking humbleness swallow up the space.
There's a little thing about me a few of you know.  I wake up on my birthday every year...depressed.  I go to bed depressed.  I get up December 1st and I'm fine.  I continue to dig to find the root.  It's not the age.  It's not the expectation.  It's not current life situation.  I've always kept that part of me close.  Ashamed.  It was a piece of a lie that I held tightly.  I was unloved.  I was unloveable.  I toiled so many days throughout each year trying to earn it.  Trying to feel it.  I guess on the day I was supposed to receive it, I couldn't.
I went to Woman Camp this past October and I uncovered a lie.  But what I found was more than one little deception.   Disrupting the patterns of my daily life, being honest about my failures, my heart was exposed.  All I could see was my worth being trapped by all the untruths I had continued to believe about myself.  It was the beginning of a journey that hasn't been easy.
The fear of rejection cripples me.  It makes me work hard to earn your love.  It takes the wind out of my sails.  It leaves me exhausted and no further along the journey to freedom.  Freedom.  A word that God continues to whisper to me.  "It's so close. Keep going, beloved."  I've thought for a long time I knew what He was talking about.  I was oh so wrong.  The freedom that He promises me is truth.  Truth that I am known and I am loved. Truth that I am lovable and worthy and free to be a sinner walking a path towards grace and redemption and reconciliation.  Freedom from always getting it right.  Freedom from having a good attitude.  Freedom from the sin that so easily entangles me.
I've spent the last couple of months afraid of who I was becoming.  Who I already was.  The work it would take to start changes I didn't know how to make.  Answers to questions that were hard to ask.
I told my friends.  And my friends covered me.  They held hands and protected me.  They gave me truth.  They gave me their lies and we discounted them together.  They came and sat with me in the pit.  They met me where I was and loved me in all my brokenness. For that I am eternally grateful.
This birthday, I was greeted with cards from 24 kindergarteners.  Wine, a picture filled with our 24 children  and beautiful words from my partner-in-crime every weekday.  Flowers delivered to school by my sweet friend who knows me all the way through.  Calls.  Texts.  Messages.  An over the top dinner with the people I love most who generously give and give and give without a second thought.  Graeters and a house filled with children laughing. Going to bed tired and filled with joy.
Last night we had our journey group and they literally filled my cup.  A beautiful glass brimming with slips of paper that encourage and sink deep into the parts of my heart that have grown hard.  It was actually painful to hear the beautiful things they said.  I wanted it to end, but I couldn't drink it all in fast enough.  It was truth and it was good and I believed they meant every word.  Growth, even when it creates life and is beautiful, still hurts like hell.  I literally felt the war happening as ground was taken for the goodness of  a God who fights for me.  The sweet souls that have sat in this with me for so so long are more than ride or die friends.  They are warriors who are going to battle with and for me.  Freedom, I'm coming.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Happy Birthday Dad.

Grief is one of the oddest things I continue to deal with.  Today my daddy would have been 68.  I wasn't sure what I would be feeling because with grief, emotions change as quickly as the Cincinnati forecast.  Today I sat up to start the day and felt the air in my lungs run for dear life.  My house was quiet. The time was earlier than I wanted.  Why was I awake? And just like that, the tears began to flow.  What I wouldn't give to call my daddy and sing to celebrate the man who held my heart so carefully.  I was left to imagine him start to sing along to himself.  Broken, I pondered what rest would look like for me today.  In years past, I've declared war on the January depression efforts of the enemy.  I've cooked cupcakes and invited people in to celebrate the man that was so well loved and loved so well.  Without my million children here, I didn't have the attitude or energy.  Bran so graciously agreed to throw clothes on the kids and meet me at Sugar and Spice for breakfast.  As the kids cried for cereal (as I used to do), I thought about how many childhood moments that I completely missed his greatness.  As children, we look at each moment as what serves us right then.  We look at our parents with eyes that can't see uncertainty of their existence.  We can't possibly cherish our blessings because we can't see beyond our now.  I didn't know I was privileged to have that man in my life.  I didn't know that to have a dad repent to his daughter, for a joke he made or an unkind word he said, was out of the ordinary.  I didn't know because that's all I knew.  I had a dad for 25 years that most people don't ever get.  I had a dad that taught me to love hard and well and even when it made me uncomfortable.  I had a dad that told me who I was.  I had a dad that showed me how to believe in people.  He showed me how to sacrifice for what was right.  He taught me how to have uncomfortable conversations.  He lived out how to be humble and quiet and how to honor people that hurt you because forgiveness always wins.  He showed me grace and taught me mercy.  When people pass away, we try to romanticize them or think up kind words to say, no matter the life they lived.  This man.  This man that taught me that if your tires look clean, your whole car looks clean...the world is less without him.  Coffee breath and auto repair stores make me close my eyes and think back to those random days of finding my place wherever he was.  Whatever he loved, I loved too. One of the hardest lessons I've learned through this is that my daddy could have never promised me he would never leave me or forsake me.  Those were a given.  He was human.  God, on the other hand, promised me both of those things.  And He's held faithful.  The first part of that verse says to be strong and courageous.  Losing my dad was terrifying as I had never pictured life without him in it.  Now, as reality hits where it hurts, I still don't lose hope. Our world is ever crying out for something more.  We all feel it.  I just have far greater hope in a Father who won't leave me.  My dearest friends have now joined me on this path and we walk together.  Though it may be unclear what the road looks like ahead, I'm confident in the destination and the Father leading the way.  Together we can overcome fear, anger, depression, grief, and uncertainty.  Together we are strong.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

"The china had never been used."

I pulled out dusty bins sitting on top of dusty bins in the basement.  There, in the back corner, I pried open the stubborn grey lid.  It hadn't been opened in 14 years.  I took each piece of newspaper out with careful hands.  My heart skipped a beat as I uncovered each delicate piece.  Time had failed me when it came to remembering the beauty in this box.
I had broken up with the man I thought I would be marrying.  I had come home, defeated and depressed. I had dropped out of college and I needed a fresh start. There was a bit of relief that the relationship was over.  I thought eventually I would love him the way my parents loved each other.  I thought it would grow.  Real love wouldn't come until much, much later.  
I decided to get my own apartment.  That seemed like the appropriate next step.  There was nothing that screamed "I'm fine.  It's fine.  I'M FINE!" like a place just for me.  I had absolutely no furniture except one chair.  I slept on an air mattress with a tiny hole and the heaviest part of my body would be touching the floor the next morning. I'm sure we all know which part that is.  Mawie, God bless that woman, bought me a mattress.  I decided to look for estate sales in the newspaper for some other furniture.  I found one not too far away and headed there hoping for the best.  
What I walked away with was absolutely EVERYTHING I needed for my space.  Barrel chairs, a white peacock sofa, kitchen utensils, sewing machine, dining room table and hutch.  I could go on.  Most importantly...I made 5 new friends.  They were elderly women whose friend had moved into a nursing home.  They were helping sell her stuff to pay for her move.  I called my mom and her squad and she told me to hold up until she got there.  What I was saying sounded crazy.  She has always been the one to double check my deals, one more ridiculous than the next (love you Momma!).  While I waited for my mom to arrive, those elderly women sat with me and told me about all the fun they'd had together.  You could see the pain when they mentioned their friend.  They were overjoyed to be helping me start my new life.  Before I left with my truckloads of things, the women gifted me their friend's fine china.  They wrapped it and assured me their friend would love for me to have it.  I've never taken it out of the paper. I've never had a formal dining room to display it.  I've honestly thought about it often and longed for a reason to use it. Today was that reason.
I decided I'm not a huge fan of a mystical fat man getting all the cred for my kids gifts.  Especially what it's taken to purchase them.  I decided that I won't lie to my kids when they ask if he is real but we just keep the Santa chatter to a minimum (not dogging ya if you go all out!).  I still wanted the magic of Christmas morning.  My friend Claire told me about her friend who's mom would make a royal birthday celebration out of Christmas morning.  Bran was on board and so, I ventured back to the dark, creepy corner of my basement to find some of my most expensive, beautiful possessions.  It was like the shepherds finding Jesus in the animal trough.  Just kidding guys.  
Whoever sent the Target gift card and the sweet note, I used that to buy an actual table cloth.  I've never bought one before.  The ones I had were other gifts from those sweet women 14 years ago.  I've been known to use a bed sheet.  I pressed white linen napkins from woman camp (woop! woop!), and set each place with the treasured china for my treasured souls.  
Today, we feasted and thanked Jesus for being born.  We opened gifts and were thankful for each other and food on the beautiful table. Team Ogilby welcomed it's newest member, Ferdinand, which can't be a coincidence that his name starts with "F".  Charlotte even read him a book to feel more welcome (he was terrified).  We hugged and meant it.  
I was honestly worried about this season.  Being in the same place as last year, but not having the "high" from all the paper man buzz.  My anxiety felt as if it was creeping up. I felt like all of that carried me through the season. And then my wallet and phone were stolen.  Again, I tried to keep a hopeful heart, but it was almost as if I would crumble if I took a long hard look at my position.  What happened next can only be Jesus.  Someone (I absolutely am better because you are in my life) bought me a new phone.  The Target gift card and note.  A new wallet with a check and card. Food, a new purse, and "candy cans" for my kids.  The breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with and from friends.  Money in the mail.  A bracelet in the mail.  A friend stopping by with socks, gift cards, paper towels.  Family giving me money they would usually donate to the fund my dad set up before he passed away to put towards Nepal.  Notes and chats and messages confirming from Jesus, in all His wondrous glory, after all my mistakes have been poorly laid out...He loves me.  He sees me and He knows me and He still loves me.  I'm so far from perfect that sometimes my breath catches when I think about my missteps.  I think that I shouldn't go to Nepal because I don't have my life together.  I screw up in mighty proportions.  All the while God could pull back His abundance, and maybe even He should...but they flow freely. 
To each of you in my life, sometimes I run out of ways to say thank you.  Nothing ever feels grand enough for the way my heart wants to burst out of my chest.  I hope you feel and hear my gratitude.  I hope you understand it when I don't have the words.  Merry Christmas.  Merry Merry Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Beautifully Broken.

I looked frantically in my purse.  Somehow.  Somehow I knew before I even looked that it was gone.  Since I was little, I've had this sense.  This nudge in my soul that something is off.  So many times, regardless of how many times it's right, I ignore it.  To type it and tell the world, (or the 15 people that read this) I know in the deepest parts of my being when something is about to happen, that I turn a blind eye...seems crazy.  Disregarding the fairly clear warning has sometimes led me close to death. Other times, heading the call that a valley is coming, I found a safe shelter to weather life's most vicious storm with complete confidence. was just a quick check that life was going to get just a little more complicated.
Last night I sat in that performance, the church I love so dearly, and felt overwhelmed with pride for the sweet people in my life.  I swept tears of joy from my cheeks at the revelation I got to share this with my dear friend Lisa.  How crazy that, in listening to that inkling so many years ago to travel to Jordan, it would lead me to a job where I would find my soul sister.  A girl who hears me.  A girl who sees things so differently but accepts my vision.  A love that transcends and binds and brings us to a place at the end of our own ideas. An honest, life giving friendship.  A church that continues to bust through myths of what religion should look like and a congregation made up of beautiful sinners.  A true place for the broken.
I'm not shaken that my things could disappear at a church.  My church.  It's still my safe place.  It's still my home.  It almost makes it that much clearer to me.  The broken are welcome here.  We don't walk out of that place perfect...just with the opportunity to soak in what God wants for us.  Last night, I was frustrated about my phone.  I laid in bed.  I couldn't sleep, even with 2 days of no sleep from a sick babe.  I started to fight the negative places and talk to God.  Out loud.  I literally said, "God.  I trust You.  I trust that You will turn this into good.  I trust that You know me and You love me.  I trust You want good things for me." I literally thought, I'll come out ahead in this somehow.  Somehow I will come out unscathed.  And once again...God spoke in better ways.
In that moment I realized when I dumped my purse in the aisle at Crossroads looking for my phone, I didn't see my wallet in the playback.  This wasn't going to be clean ending.  This isn't what I imagined when I prayed that prayer.  I hopped out of bed and ran to my purse.  I dumped it out on my living room floor and started to sob.  I cried that my life just got a little harder.  I cried that I told God I trusted Him and the story got more dramatic.  This isn't what I had envisioned.  Silly me.  God's never done. 
Lisa showed me how to google call my credit card and debit card company (and made all the phone calls I couldn't!!!).  This morning I woke up to such wonderful encouragement and offers for phones and help.  Even still, I went back to bed after dropping Charlotte off to sulk.  The bits declined their morning show to lay with me, love on me, and bring me their most favorite stuffed animals...all the while telling me I was their favorite part of the day with their little hands holding my face.  My friend Kate made us the most delicious pancakes and bacon and fed my kids lunch.  She listened. She empathized.  Our angel tree donations were IMMEDIATELY covered by wonderful, willing souls.  My friend Kelley was the first to respond.  Not only did she drop off the gifts to me so we could wrap them and still enjoy the giving, she brought me wine you guys.  And gave me $20 in case I needed something before my new debit and credit card came.  
I have sat in this humble place wondering which words to use to express the way God continues to blow my expectations out of the water.  I read Jesus Calling for today and I cried all the tears.  I'll happily type it out for you if you would like.  But I'll leave you with the first and last line for today's entry: Your needs and My riches are a perfect fit.  Rejoice in your neediness, which enables you to find intimate completion in Me.
Merry Christmas friends.  If you want to know more of this Love, I'd be over the moon to tell you all about Him. His birthday is coming up and to say I'm excited to celebrate the day He graced this earth would be an understatement.  This man continues to grab my heart, put it back together, and leave it better than He found it. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Quiet the noise.

I've struggled about this post.  For many nights I have laid awake wondering how to put my heart's laments faithfully to the page.  I want to get it right.  I want to be clear.  I can't be just another voice.  I believe I have a purpose with the clanking of these keys.  I believe I must be honest, first with myself.  Last, it comes to your minds and hearts, these truths I feel I should say.
Election night I allowed Charlotte stay up and watch the results come in.  I explained why this was such a historical event in words and reasons she could grasp.  A woman!  A man who had never done anything like this before! A man who's group doesn't get a lot of votes and who is trying to get more people to think outside of the two most popular groups! America gets to decide.  How fun, right?  The people's votes tell us who we think will do the job best.  She decided she wanted the person with the most votes to win.  She was going to wake up happy.  I decided I couldn't put my hope in any of these persons.  I knew I would wake up mourning the same country as I did the night before.  A country built on rebellion.  A country I love.  A country I believe in.  A country I will always stand to protect with whatever task I am called to.
When I lived in Jordan, I was privileged enough to be there for Ramadan.  We were given a prayer booklet with a certain people group to pray for specifically each day.  An Australian missionary who had just arrived said, "I believe we are missing a page.  There is no page for Bin Laden.  While it's great to pray for our neighbors, for our friends, for our leaders...imagine the way our world would change, not with his death, but if God met him on the road just as he met Paul." I sat there with tears streaming down my face.  We had met danger just miles away with a bombing aimed at us weeks prior.  I hated those men.  I wanted them and Bin Laden dead.  I wanted peace.  I wanted to feel safe on the bus home each night.  I wanted to uncover my hair and show these men that beauty was a gift, not a sin.  But she was right.  If Bin Laden was killed, another leader for the cause would step in.  His death was not the answer.  The condition of his heart was the answer.  How true that has proven with ISIS.  There will always be plenty of hate.  There will never be enough love.  Which one will I spread?
All this.  ALL this to say.  To those who are mourning the fact that Trump was elected...this is not a time to only shout in anger.  This is a call to arms.  Protect what you feel is threatened.  Angry that he wants to build a wall?  Support those already here.  Help their voice be heard. Better yet, get to know them.
Those of you who voted for Trump, hear the cries and fears of your fellow man with hearts willing to break with theirs.  This is not a time for gloating.  This is not a time for only celebrating a victory.  This one was a vicious battle that left a lot of people hurting and scared for what is next for their story. Be aware and sensitive to that.
Last, pray for the leadership of this country.  Now more than ever  we must call out to Jesus on his behalf.  Clarity.  A change of heart could change the trajectory of this country.  With hearts willing to lean into the authority we have been given as one man can ever change that.  We, however, can change the way we operate what we've been given. BE LOVE.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The wool over my eyes.

Today was hard.  Today was usually unusual.  I got caught up in a situation that took so much of me.  I wanted to shout my hearts confusing poems from the rooftops just to see if anyone could pause, listen, and say, "Hey.  Me too." Emotionally, physically, mentally, financially...I gave it everything I had.  There wasn't much of me to begin with.
As the new season begins to settle in, I realize it's not just the weather that is bringing much needed change. Since this year began, my face has felt the crisp air on the peaks of mountains and my mouth has breathed in the heavy, hot air of the desperate pit.  I'm human.  It feels good to remember that.  I'm finally at a point in 2016 where it feels like a good cry.  Instead of holding my breath and hanging my head I am screaming in pain and emptying my tear ducts.  And it's good.  It's life giving good to feel so many feelings.  I'm a real girl. There is pain around me.  There is sickness.  Life is not ok and that means that I am more than ok.  I'm living.  I'm not playing it safe and zipping my lips. I'm making mistakes and owning up to striking out.  I've failed and feels like I've won.  I'm beginning to face my fears again instead of run from them.  I'm trusting in instead of relying on.  I'm no longer wishing.  I'm willing.
This world will tell you to put on a good face. Do what other people with better situations tell you to do.  Listen and don't speak.  Smile and don't cry.  Follow the crowd and don't veer.  Be what you aren't or pretend with your best.  I'm calling bullshit.  Ugly cry in public.  Repent as if you life depended on it...because it does.  Don't be bitter, be forgiving but don't forget.  Be a voice, not a victim.  Be better than yesterday, but not perfect.  Mistakes build character and create bridges to new ideas.  Go out without makeup and holes in your pants...not machine-made holes.  Actually that last one is so I will feel better about myself because I do that all the time out of laziness.
Lastly, to capture a small piece of the way God loves me.  I was feeling like a wayward son while reading The Prodigal God (EVERYONE READ THIS IMMEDIATELY).  I actually thought to myself...God, do you even like me?  I had a good, solid cry knowing the church answer but struggling to actually believe it.  I got to church late with crying kids and a sigh of relief that the Kids Club gods were shining down on me with open spots for my million children.   I headed over to the doors of service and it had big pails shoved full with large squares of wool.  The sign said to take some wool and a program.  I took a sheet and went in to find a seat.  During the service, the pastor talked about how we, as believers, are referred to as sheep.  Sweet, adorable sheep.  We are loved and cared for.  The SMALL piece of wool was to feel and remind us of our worth and how much Jesus loves us.  Guys...we were supposed to tear a piece off.  The girl behind me leaned up and said, "Jesus must really love you."  I laugh-cried and had to sit in the thought that the God of this universe cares to show me just how much he not only likes me...but how much He loves me.  The good kind.  The kind that fills me and covers those dirty parts of my heart.  This wool over my eyes actually helps me see.  Imagine that.