Before the New Year Begins: Gratitude

Patches make up a quilt and people make up a life.  The love you have inside and from above needs a place to run free.   Potential love is just that.  The beauty of love is in the giving and receiving.  The beauty of the quilt is in the many patches.

So much beauty and goodness took place in 2016.  My marriage made progress.  I wrote 2/3 of a book.  I learned a lot about myself and made peace with my “weaknesses.”  One of my kids broke free from anger and food addiction.   Good friends became even closer friends.  I even hiked a mountain for a good cause.

All of this came to a crashing halt in November.  While tucked in the top bunk in a cabin at my daughter’s spiritual retreat, I started to feel shooting pain in a few of my teeth.  My first thought was, Darn, I should have gotten those two cavities filled.  The pain progressed to incapacitating over the next few days.  The kind of pain where you don’t move, don’t eat and barely sleep.  It turned out to be a malfunctioning nerve on the left side of my face.

My life slowed down of course.  I had days home from work.  I made it a point to sleep eight hours.  I covered up in warm clothes and blankets and asked God to come meet me in deep places.  He did and I began to feel closeness and togetherness and covering in a cheek to cheek way.  The pain eventually subsided and I am much better.

More came crashing down in early December.  I reached to turn off the alarm clock and noticed my body was shaking – – whether it was on the inside or the outside, I could not tell.  I self assessed as I walked to the laundry room in the dark.  On my second pass, I asked my husband to take the kids to school and barely made the walk back to bed.

I didn’t move or think for the next five hours.  The long term push of my everyday life finally put me out.  Three hours into my trance of exhaustion, I received this text (in part) from my friend Debbie and found the strength to cry.

But you beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.  Jude 1:20-21

About a year ago, my best friend Nathalie suffered from burn out.  After reading a few articles on the signs of burn out, I sent a text to Nat asking her about her experience.  Despite our six hour time difference, she stopped everything and called me.  I hadn’t cried out loud like that in a long, long time.  Like the good sister and mother she is, she let me cry until quiet fell.  And, then, like the good sister and mother she is, she got down to business.

She did the leading while I wrote a list.  The list comprised of five things I would give up or delegate for my well-being.  She challenged me to focus on the essentials for a few months.  Eating, drinking, sleeping and exercise.  If something doesn’t actually need to be done, don’t do it.  She pointed out that the fantasy super woman is actually a made up wonder.  The fantasy is not attainable even when you have the best of intentions.

I started by saying that quilts are made of patches and lives are made of people.  In November and December, my life was held together by the patches that were passed to me.  Here are my patches of gratitude.

You are the most exceptional individual I know on the face of this earth.  Stop all this crazy #$%* you are doing, NOW.  –Nathalie

Your body and mind can’t keep up with your heart.  Realize that the small things are mighty in His eyes. – Christina

I have been thinking about you and praying for you.  I know you are going through so much right now.  I am hoping you are feeling a little better and I know you are holding onto Jesus.  Is there anything I can do for you? A meal?   Coffee somewhere?  Let me know.   –Lynn

Praying and hoping that things are better for you.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 – Susie

Stay strong.  -Jenny

The notifications on my phone have been off for exactly one month.  My friend Suzanne has covered for me at work almost as many times as I can count on my fingers.  Isaiah has given me a gift that continues to lead me to wholeness.

There will be no limits to the wholeness He brings.  Isaiah 9

There has been another sister who let me into her deep.  She let me into her own wounds so that I could bleed myself.  She heard me, stayed with me and let me know it is okay to be in the grey.

The patches kept coming . . .

The hearts of the old testament Israel looked like my sad, scattered desktop.  Truth be told, we all have hearts so easily distracted and forgetful . . . We need constant reminders of who God is and who we are.  –She Reads Truth, Advent Bible Study, 2016

After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High.  The sacrifice was done.  It was – and still is – finished.  Meanwhile, we just can’t seem to sit still.  We think there is more to do.  –She Reads Truth, Advent Bible Study, 2016

The last two months have hurt as badly as the time in which I grieved for the loss of my dad.  As Christmas approached, an unexpected gift came.  Seven years to the month after my dad’s passing, my aunt delivered my dad’s bible to me after a long trip from north to south.  I sat with my kids in bed looking at my dad’s handwriting and highlights, putting back in pages that slid out as we turned them.  The unexpected gift reminded me that He does not forget and He is never late to deliver.  His peace worked in me to bring wholeness before and His peace is working in me to bring wholeness now.

The beauty of the quilt is in the many patches.

When you don’t know where to begin and you’re at the end of yourself, you get to be where all of God begins.  What you always need most is need.  -Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

The love you have inside and from above needs a place to run free.   Potential love is just that.  The beauty of love is in the giving and receiving.  This is the foundation of my end of the year Gratitude.

As always, there are a few patches that are too personal to tell.  The first patch is for my mother who I say a thousand thank yous – -although she would never ask for a single one.  The second patch is for you who said you are sorry for the last two months.  I remain confident of this: We will see the goodness of God in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

The beauty of love is in the giving and receiving.  I was gifted silent prayers of brothers and sisters.  There were times over the last two months that I had no strength to lift my head.  But it was lifted anyway.  I account this to the prayers of my friends and family.  This the foundation of my end of the year Gratitude.

Prayer is essential in ongoing warfare.  Pray hard and long.  Pray for your brothers and sisters.  Keep your eyes open.  Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.  Ephesians 6:13-18

Patches make up a quilt and people make up a life.  It is the people that make up my life.  I learn good lessons from their gifts of love.  It is okay to be in the grey.  It’s not okay to run my body into the ground.  It’s good to ask for help.  It’s even better to give and receive in your need.  His peace worked in me to bring wholeness before and His peace is working in me to bring wholeness now.  There is no limit to the wholeness He will bring.

Sometimes- some things have to break all apart so better things can be built.  I nod. Never be afraid of broken things.  It’s the beginning of better things.  The best yields always start as broken fields.  -Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

Let Your Faith Take a Turn

The neat thing about faith is that it is always taking turns.  If you ever feel it stop moving, it is time to stop and let it move.  I’m in a moving season.  My faith has started to take a turn.  It’s like standing in front of an IMax screen and getting ready to step inside.

Part of what leads me to move has to do with friendships, the words I read, quiet moments.  Funny enough, exhaustion that brings me to spend most of day laying on the couch also brings my faith to move.

I’ve been writing a book about time.  As I have been wrapped up in my thoughts about time and eternity, I am being moved by what time really means and how that meaning ought to drive how we live life.

Emily P. Freeman shared an article by Ed Cyzewski about the contrast between a salvation moment and a life long conversation with God.  We are converted throughout our lives as we learn what it is to abide and to receive the life and transformation that God slowly brings. It’s not that we have a ticket that we can either protect or lose. It’s that God’s passionate love is pursuing each of us right now, and we can choose to either abide in it or go about our own business. 

We can abide in Him or we can go about our own business.  It may feel like an easy answer to choose to abide in Him.  It’s an easy Yes.  But in the hundreds of little choices you will make today, will you choose to abide in Him?  The decision is easy, the action point is harder.

I’m reading a book called Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin.  She tucks in a few lines that speak to my thoughts on time and how it plays into our long term life.  What if the [bible] passage you are fighting to understand today suddenly makes sense to you when you most need it, ten years from now?  It has been said that we overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in ten.  Are you willing to invest ten years in waiting for understanding?

I think we are meant to live like there is no time.  We are meant to live and move and breathe in a place and a space of depth.  Where we are not lassoed in by time constraints, judgmental time lines or frozen by time.  I think we were meant to live in the light of eternity.  Where there is no time.

 

Walking & Talking on Mountains

I was walking in the sun with my daughter training for our summer mountain climb.  We were with about ten other women on what we affectionately call Trash Mountain.  In Florida, we have flat and, when we want an incline, we go to the local trash mountain.

There we were, sweating bullets in groups of two and threes, hiking up and down the sides of the man-made hill.  As I held my daughter’s hand and walked, I listened to the conversation ahead and behind me.  I leaned into my own conversation with my daughter and thought about the magic taking place.

There is something profound that happens when like-minded women gather together for a purpose.  Without any agenda, the conversations run deep on Trash Mountain.  The words shared mirror the seasons of parenting and speak of children still small and others taller than their mamas.  The conversations speak of concerns only women know.  The conversations dig up past experience and contemplate the future.  The conversations echo and resonate among the group of hiking ladies. I walk with my daughter and ponder the beauty and depth taking place.

Women have an uncanny knack for seeing more than meets the eye.  I see this gift at work as women on this mountain walk and talk.  As I hike with my daughter, I want her to be invited into the depth.  I want her to hear the thoughts of women as they talk through motherhood, education, the beginnings and ends of things.  Of times past and times to come.  I am proud of her when she enters into the conversation in her ten year old way.

This is the beginning of her introduction to womanhood, to motherhood and to friendship.  In this community, she will find in herself the knack to sense the needs of others.  She will become attuned to how needs can be met through walking and talking along side another woman.  She will understand why women gather for a purpose.

She will understand that, while she is young, she has a lot to learn from the mamas around her.  She will know unity and community well enough to enter in even as a girl.  Over many walks and talks, she will understand that she has both much to learn and much to give.  She will take in the value of becoming wise and in giving freely.  And, someday, when her path has stretched over many years, she will continue the walk and the talk of mamas.  She will continue to share and love and embrace the magic of hiking with like-minded women on mountains.

If you like the idea of hiking on mountains for a purpose, check out thefreedomchallenge.com.  You may find yourself in Machu Picchu in the the Fall of 2017. 

Being Impractical Has Its Gain

There is a voice on the inside that speaks through your heart.  The voice is wiser than your own.  The thoughts expressed are higher than your own.  This voice doesn’t have any motivation beyond love.  The voice always knows the way, always speaks the truth and always points you to the light.

The voice gives you inspiration and insight.  There are many things that will be accomplished in a lifetime, but the voice particularly speaks to the great adventures that were written for you before time.  You can think of the great people you know and you can think of the great people throughout history.  Both the small and the larger than life live out a dream that the voice once began to speak about deep within.

There is a woman who heard a voice.  Against all practicality, she walked to a home in Bethany where Jesus was having dinner at a table with a handful of followers.  She brought with her a beautiful alabaster jar filled with a fragrant essential oil.    With faith and love tucked in her soul by the voice, she poured the oil or perfume over Jesus’ head.

There are so many reasons why her act of kindness was against practicality.  It was probably late in the day when she began to walk; maybe it was sunset or perhaps night.  Not the best time to start a journey.  The alabaster jar of oil she carried was worth a year’s wages.  Whether the jar was a gift or whether she earned the money to purchase it, the idea of giving it away was a big decision.  As to her act, she probably knew it would not be understood by some or all.

Journeys are this way.  It is never the best time.  There is always cost.  We risk the chance of being misunderstood.

For those of us who have had the courage to acknowledge the voice that is wiser than our own.  For those who have tilted an ear to listen to the voice that loves us more than we will ever know.  For those of us who have begun journeys or who are thinking about beginning.  Remember this.  The woman with the alabaster jar met Jesus face to face because she listened to the voice. Our journeys are always this way.  The voice that calls will always be the voice that meets you.  He will be with you always, even to the end of the age.

 

Get on the Disassembly Line

In a world that regularly points to self improvement, I have been thinking about disassembly.  When we take a look at ourselves, it’s easy to look for the traits that we consider weaknesses.  Those things about ourselves that we think look like a C- or D on paper.  In the midst of comparison and achievement, short comings are easy to focus on.  But, lately, I’ve been toying with the idea that some of those things I put on the D list may just be a part of who I am.

I’ve shared before that I’m not a small talk person.  I will probably bore you at a cocktail party, but definitely not over coffee or tea.  Take me to a big room of networkers passing business cards and I may take a long personal call in the lobby.  I can do small groups or talk from a stage or podium, but just don’t put me in a sea of people and expect success. For a long time, I took this as a weakness or lack of determination or skill.  I don’t anymore.  God made me this way.  I can’t small talk and that’s okay.

The fact of the matter is that God made you and He likes who you are.  Go ahead and be her.  Go ahead and trash self improvement this week.  Disassemble.  Inside of you, there is lurking a gift that is being masked by a weakness.  Throw off your opinion of your weakness.  See right through the hype of self improvement and seek that part of your self that is just waiting to bless your own soul and others.

And, as always, I invite you to share what you found in your soul on Facebook, Instagram or email me at sasha@femmefuel.com.

 

 

A Mother’s Heart is Universal

The wind doesn’t just blow. The origin of its direction and momentum begins with a breath from a maker.  We cannot always see this invisible leading, but it is always there. This leading is the same with our mothers.

Winds carry us, and even turn our direction, when necessary. Winds blow our hair away from our eyes so that we can see what is in front of us. Winds toss objects that were headed for us, away from us. This protection is the same with our mothers.

Winds do not follow maps, but intuitively cooperate with an orchestra that is masterfully playing. Winds arrive and disappear exactly at the perfect time. This intuition is the same with our mothers.

Mothers lead, protect and intervene in their child’s lives. When there is heartache, a mother comforts and supports. When there is pain, a mother mends with wisdom and strength. Where there is victory, a mother rejoices.

With confidence, I can say that a mother’s heart is universal. These qualities of leading, protecting and encouragement pass cultural lines. International boundaries. Shades of skin and belief systems. When a mother cries out for her child, she is heard and felt by the heart of many mothers.

This is why my heart cries for the daughters – – the victims – –  of human trafficking.  There is no other evil that declares its enemy quite as decisively as the sex trade. A daughter is the target of this darkness. The target of this weapon is her unique ability to lead and protect.  This weapon depletes her freedom, steals her hope and breaks her body. My heart cries for these daughters, their mothers and their grandmothers.

This is why we are four generations – – daughter, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother – –  standing for daughters who are trapped and living with only a grain of hope.  This is why the four of us are traveling to the Grand Tetons with Freedom Challenge this summer. We are accepting a physical challenge to climb. We are claiming victory for the daughters who cannot yet claim their own freedom.

This generational effort is only a mirror of the strength that has been displayed to me over the years. Who I am and who I hope to be has been spoken into me by the words and prayers of my mother and grandmother. Their spiritual and emotional strength has been matched by their time and resources. Their winds, sometimes gentle and sometimes like a hurricane, have blessed and moved mountains in my life. I believe that the strength of four generations climbing has the power to move global mountains.

If you are a woman, you were made to blow strong like the wind. Your invisible strengths like wisdom and intuition have great power to impact many daughters. Your visible power such as time and resources has immeasurable power to change the lives of many hopeless and trapped daughters.  Your winds can blow for local and global change. Blow, gentle Spirit, blow in us so that even our very last breath is one that carries another daughter to her freedom.

This post was recently shared on Freedom Challenge’s blog.  I encourage you to learn more about human trafficking and The Freedom Challenge.  You just may find yourself climbing for another woman’s freedom.

 

 

A Few Good Reasons to Find Your Rest

I recently wrote that I am ending my struggle with the traditional definition of rest.  As with most newly discovered revelations, it takes some time to swim through the bottleneck to the peaceful space of understanding.

Just to recap the last few months, God offered me a big plate and I gladly took it.  Three months of serving, giving and sharing.  It was a bit of a whirlwind, but I knew each event, time to share and work-behind-the-scenes had a beginning and an end.  My heart was beating for the women who did the work with me; the women and girls we were ultimately serving; and for the battle ground for good we were claiming.

The God-strength in me for that itty-bitty season looked like/felt like the tenacity of many horses running together.  And, that is sort of what is was; a whole lot of sisters running a really good race together.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to see the hopeful dreams in our heart work out in every day, small living.

Undoubtedly, the vibrations of our sister feet on the pavement woke up the darkside.  I could see how my spirit could have been slowed up or cancelled by discouragement and disappointment.  The world is good at that.  But sisters prayed, passed on bricks of encouragement and God showed up.

On the physical side of things, I hurt my back at bible study in the middle of all this.  Really?  I got a crazy flu and bronchitis.  Huh?  The combo of the back injury and the respitory infection made it feel just awesome to breathe.  Nice trick darkside.  Funny enough, nothing got in the way of the good work.  When we are weak and down, somehow He knows to dig deep in our souls and make magic out of a beat up body.

Just a few weeks ago, my plate was complete.  The round, shiny plate that was once full was emptied by the completion of some good works with good friends.  This is where I am.  This is the bottleneck.  What does a big heart do with a big, empty plate?  My soul yells, fill it!  Lord, what will I do for this next season?  Wisdom tells me to wait.

Wisdom tells me to take some time to seek and listen.  Wisdom tells me that, in the same way my good work season was rest for my soul, my next season will look very different, but also is rest for my soul. Our friend Matthew tells us to take His yoke and learn from Him because He is gentle and humble in heart.  In this way, we find rest for our souls.  In a season of busy and in a season of quiet, I may find rest for my soul.

Really, finding your way of rest, is worship.  He desires to bring you rest for your soul.  And, because you are made in His image, with a big, red beating heart that pumps best when you cling to Him, He has a very specific and unique design to bring you rest.

Your rest may look wild or adventurous.  It may be quiet and still.  It may ebb with activity or sway in a hammock with the gentle wind.  As He leads, you will find rest for your soul.  As you live in His rest, you are worshipping Him.  Keep moving and breathing in Him.  Keep resting and worshipping.  Keep swimming through the bottleneck to the open space He calls rest.