Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Ministry of Tears

All of my days, I have been emotional. I come from good, hearty stock of emotional folks. There is good and bad in that. We are passionate about our callings and our choices and our beliefs. We are stubborn and strong-willed and, occasionally, far too sensitive in our day-to-day. The good and bad...melded.

Feeling deeply has led to some awkward moments--some laughable and some downright embarrassing. I have been known to cry during church--at worship, in prayer, during sermons. It is especially likely if I see someone else tear up. Whether from conviction or from awe, I see and feel God moving in others and I can't hold it in.  The moment often feels far too intimate for public consumption and I hastily wipe away tears, trying to make it look like an allergy attack rather than the work of the Holy Spirit. My husband will ask me if I'm ok and this just irritates me. "Yes, I'm fine! Stop staring at me!" And then there's this gem:

It's all fun and games until I get angry in public (maybe even legitimately) and then burst into tears. I'm taken a little less seriously then.

Because the deal is, we don't know what to make of deep emotions. We want to always be in control. Small tears may well up or perhaps even fall during socially acceptable times--a funeral, a wedding, a birth, a romantic movie.

If those are the rules, then I am doomed to be looked upon as someone who is a little unhinged. But I say it's time the rules were changed--maybe even tossed out.

In my current devotional, I am reading about the importance of reading my Bible. Seems pretty fundamental but firm foundations, a great building can make. On one of the days, the title of the devotional was "Engage It (the Bible) Emotionally." (I inwardly cheered.) The point the writer made was this:
While we cannot only approach scripture with our emotions (it is Truth, after all, regardless of how we feel or what kind of day we’re having), we are to approach it with our whole selves. In doing so, we can engage Scripture in a way that prepares our heart for devotion and adoration...My emotions can fuel a fresh desperation and desire for God and His Word...This is why we approach Scripture emotionally—that we would be restored to God’s best way of handling those emotions. That we’d bring our humanity under the authority of our Father because we’ve been redeemed by Jesus. God is good to take our humanness and not despise it, but to refine it and use it.
And so I have come to the conclusion that tears at hearing God's Word, at seeing others worship, in your own worship, in prayer, are a spiritual gift. Compassion to the point of crying brings a person low--out of the rafters, low; spiritually (and sometimes physically) falling prostrate before God. It is a low that allows glimpses of a truly Holy God.

Too often, I hold back rather than let the Holy Spirit wash over me like a wave and let the tears flow.
Too often, I hold back rather than lay myself prostrate at the feet of Jesus, surrendering my will, my plans, my designs, my life to Him.
Too often, I hold back rather than bend my knees on behalf of a world in desperate need of Him.

I want these words to be my life's cry:

"With my whole heart I seek You; let me not wander from your commandments!" (Psalm 119:10)

"And from His fullness, we have all received Grace upon Grace." (John 1:16)

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, 'Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.'" (Romans 10:9-11)

"If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday, and the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water whose waters do not fail." (Isaiah 58:10-11)

Let my heart be moved by the likes of these and when my heart is moved, let my tears fall fresh.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Fire in the bones keeps my mind occupied as of late. Change, newness, service...all these things do too.  The fire burns this truth into my heart: be working hands instead of a talking head; go and do; bring justice in My name where there is none. But how, Lord?

The stirrings and desires don't lay out a 5-point plan. And it seems, just when I really see God doing something, not quite clear but a definite shadow on the horizon, it shimmers and disappears. I can wait. But I fear missing something in the waiting. I fear a lifetime of waiting and being forgotten. I fear senseless and stupid.

I truly feel like my voice, my work wouldn't be missed if it ceased. I'm not looking for an out. I'm clawing around in the dark for significance. I know the Sunday School answer. My significance is His. You make much of your life when you make much of Christ. You change the world when you live knowing He must first change hearts--namely yours; firstly yours.

All this begs me to ask myself why I do the things I do. Am I out for recognition? A place of prominence? Is there contentment and joy in being simply bone or sinew within the Body and not hand or foot?

Bodies are made up of cells, solitary cells that stick together to make the parts. So it is with His Body: the Church. That is significance. We become His body.

I am capable of stringing words together and even of saying good things once in awhile. I strive to use words to convey Truth. But I should be more than just a mouthpiece for Truth. How best do I do justice and love kindness?

What I'm doing always seems too small. There's more--so much more to be done. I want to do more than throw a check at it. Put me in the trenches, God! I want to get my hands dirty!

And there’s this book I’ve been resonates deep within me; with all of these musings. It reminded me that God has much to say to us concerning getting our hands dirty. And one of the questions put to me to write about when I signed up to receive an advanced copy was, “What is the next right thing to do?” This is the question that keeps me up at night; the one that keeps me searching for that one, all-encompassing task that would fulfill God's mandate telling us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. 

Except, there is no all-encompassing, singular, one task that can answer this call. Instead: Do justly to everyone and in every situation; love mercy for everyone and in every situation; walk humbly with Him always. I cannot sit on my duff, waiting for the bright and shiny of a unique, life-encompassing, titled task to fall into my lap. Feels like that would be serving with only myself in mind. Go and do requires that I get up; offer rather than wait to be served; advocate; let my life be filled with pouring myself out to those who need the Grace He's given me. 

Seems like pouring oneself out was mentioned by someone else, too...

"Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all..." (Philippians 2:17)

Then let me be a jack-of-all-trades in the way of service. Getting my hands in the dirt will look a hundred different ways. And this is still answering the call--I say this to remind myself. For too long, I misunderstood about going and doing. It was always within the context of vocation. The most important work you could ever do was in the one place God put you to work. 

Yet, who do I think I am to decide what is the most important work I'll ever do for the Kingdom? Or that the work I do is insignificant because it's not big enough for me? Only God can determine all that. My attitude should be that anything I do in the name of serving God is the most important work I'll ever do. And what I do should be governed richly and deeply by the charge:

Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly. 

If it's not just, it's not of God. If it requires me to discard mercy, it is not of God. If it keeps me walking proud, 

So let me be dirt-covered. I will stick to the trenches because going down there is where I will find my purpose. Mercy is needed even there. Especially there. I will go with being just a drop of elbow grease in the work of the Body. It's not about me, anyway. 

Interested in reading Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker? Head over to here to receive special promotional pricing of 20% off!

Friday, June 20, 2014


Fat. Chubby. Big. Heavy.

These are words with which I've contended for the better part of my 35 years. From being the subject of jokes and name-calling as a kid to some really creative and insulting pranks as an awkward tween to being disqualified as potential dating material in my teens, this part of myself became intricately linked with who I am as a person.

And somehow, it always seemed that any health issues I've ever faced somehow go back to the type of body I have.

"Broke your finger? If you had weighed less, it might have just been a sprain."

"Sprained your ankle? If the weight of your body had been less, you probably wouldn't have sprained it so bad."

"Headache? If you weighed less, you would never get headaches!"

"Hungry? Fatties are hungry ALL THE TIME! You should probably just stop eating."

"If you lost weight, you could probably get pregnant again."

"If you lose weight, you won't feel so fatigued or achy."

"If you don't lose weight, you're going to have diabetes and high blood pressure and die earlier."

Some of these are just silly. Some are misguided but carry an air of truth. Despite their validity, when this is what you hear from 10 years old, on, it becomes ingrained in you that your weight is a problem for the world; that your weight is what everyone sees when they see you. So here I sit, Jill, fat woman.

Yet, as I asked Him to do, God keeps peeling the layers of my issues back to reveal my need for His power at work within me. I've mentioned before, my eagerness to deal with my crap. I don't want blind spots where God could've given me sight and I wasn't even aware of the need of Him there. So true to His faithful form (of which I am grateful despite the discomfort of facing my hang-ups), He prepares my heart for His disciplining words and shows me things about who I really am.

My daily devotional this morning challenged a writing assignment:

"Is there a discrepancy between the names by which Jesus calls you and the names you give yourself? Are there circumstances in your life to which you are giving undue power, power that rightfully—and in reality!—belongs to our sovereign God alone? Sister, who names you today—your God or your circumstances?"*

I knew, of course, because God is faithful and waiting for me to be open to this, what it was that names me. I named myself FAT. Others have helped but I perpetuate this name by giving it power. I give it power when I am more concerned with how I look than with extending grace. I give it power when I tell myself that I'll always just be this way instead of believing that God can change me.

In the past few months, I've been trying to make changes that deal with my body type. It's a familial thing and so my sister and I shared ideas, recipes, encouragement. She told me one day, "I've been reading a's very convicting!" I told her, "Oh cool!" and privately declared that I would NOT be reading that book. But the nagging sensation of some of the information from the book that she shared with me would not leave. I spoke to a friend about it and admitted a word that God had brought to me that stood out in my mind in bold:

"All discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." (Hebrews 12:11--by the way, the whole of chapter 12 is an excellent one to read on the subject of discipline!)

My friend gave me the exact same word.

Ok, God, so you want to discipline me in my view of my body, the execution of my diet, as well as my spirituality? Can't I get a little bit of a crowbar separation between my physical and spiritual self? Nope. Because discipline is whole-person pervasive. Or that's what I believe God intends it to be. Just look at the verse up there: ALL discipline. Not just spiritual discipline. Not just physical discipline. ALL. TODO. TOUS. ALLE.

Jesus didn't indulge in wine and then have a great, early-morning devo time with the Father. He didn't sleep in til all hours and then preach a righteous word on the Mount. He didn't eat til he couldn't move and then fall asleep during the most intense prayer of the New Testament. His discipline was all-encompassing in the way He ate, slept, prayed. And so ours should be too.

Which brings me back to my realization that I need more discipline in my physical existence as well as my spiritual. Everyone is different. My discipline is not yours. Yours is not mine. The bottom line is this: discipline can only happen when I can admit my weakness and let God develop discipline in me.

And the first step to discipline is knowing one's identity. When you are disciplined, you are a disciple of that thing. Follower. Believer. Pupil. Student. So my discipline starts with who or what I follow. ALL of my discipline, then should be wrapped up in my identity in Christ because that is who I follow. My devotional also said the following:

He names us Forgiven.
He names us Beloved.
He names us Redeemed.*

These are my true self; a far cry from fat. I am Jill, Forgiven. Jill, Beloved. Jill, Redeemed; all of these because of who He is. I can accept myself as I am because of who Jesus is and what He did for me. I can, at the same time, accept the truth that I need His discipline because I am those things. Who I am should always be about who He is.

I thank God that He is patient and gentle and that sanctification is a life-long process. And I know now that I can see my need for discipline and feel comforted by my true identity all at the same time. I can be me and seek God to help me be a better me, too.

*all devotional excerpts came from SheReadsTruth daily email devotionals. You can see more of SheReadsTruth at their website here.
This post is part of a writing challenge called #SheSharesTruth. The info can be found here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Discipline & Madness

No one likes to feel vulnerable. When you come right down to it, no one likes to admit weakness. This goes against our cultural mores. Heck, being "strong" is as big an idol as it gets.

Most of us are painfully aware of our weaknesses--or perceived weaknesses.   
After all, we could calculate quite accurately how much time, energy, money, and resources we expend on covering them up.

There are all sorts of weakness: physical, mental, spiritual. What if there were weaknesses that you carried that you weren't even aware existed? What if there were "blind spots" that affected relationships, hindered growth, marred effort? 

Moving into our new home a few weeks ago, the figurative door cracked open and a tiny, blinding sliver if light was shed on one such blind spot in my life. 

Since we closed a week before moving, I took several carloads to our new house in an effort to minimize the work on Big Move day. We are blessed that some of our closest friends here in PA & some from VA were willing and able to spend the better part of a day hauling our stuff from our old home to our new one.

But I gotta be honest. I was also busting my A to conceal the untidiness of my old home: you know, the dust bunnies and loose toys; the broken hangers long forgotten under the bed, the who-knows-how-old goldfish beneath the couch cushions; the wreck that was the floor beneath my washer and dryer. 

The idea of allowing anyone to see all that stressed me out, kept me up late worrying. But the more I tried to plan and execute cleaning-while-moving-so-my-friends-don't-think-I'm-a-filthy-slob, leading up to that day, the more I'd be thwarted by other, more important tasks. 

My sometimes-unyielding pursuit of perfection (or my idea of perfection) is quickly becoming clear to me.  Before this moment, I would never have called what I aspired to, "perfection." What am I doing? Why is it I feel I have to put on a good show for people? Why do I feel like things have to be perfect?

I have this thing with clean. I am almost certain it is a thing that begins in the soul. I want the stains wiped clean, the trash removed, the smells purged. I want my soul-stains (read: my sins) wiped clean, removed, purged. And outwardly, I tend to get a little manic in my efforts to clean my space. I don't want anyone to think me dirty, smelly, unkempt. And for others to know my deep soul-mess? Perish the thought.

But God knows. Oh, He knows. Isn't that why He sent His son? Because my soul was too tarnished for me to ever remove the dross? Somewhere in my soul, wrestling with perfection is my own human self trying to do what I never, ever could. Jesus removed that muck in my heart by His work on the cross and I can't do it; won't ever be able.

So there is this ongoing learning process...I find myself in situations that make me quite uncomfortable. But the unease clears out what I can't see or want to hide. All correction is painful for a time but it will yield the peace of righteousness...(Hebrews 12:11)

Who doesn't have a mess of dust bunnies under their couch when they move? We all have mess; inside and out. God cleaned me on the inside. Isn't that what we celebrated last Sunday? Praise His name!

On the outside, I am learning to be tempered in my efforts. I don't live in a museum and not a soul I know expects that of me. As for my "blind spots," despite the uneasiness I feel when I encounter them, I will continue to ask God to show them to me. I need to live under the sometimes blinding light that is His truth. I need to see with my spiritual eyes. 

If I seek to become more like Jesus, I need to get rid of all that hinders me:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us..."

I have been washed clean by blood, of all things. It's time to set aside my pursuit of the impossible, practically and spiritually. 

As for my blind spots, if the lasting peace of righteousness is what I trade for the temporary "peace" of keeping those spots dark, then let that Glory light shine on me. 

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

Saturday, January 4, 2014


I always wanted to be a teacher.  I can remember summers filled with my playing school with my sisters, complete with an entire roll filled with pretend students. I made up assignments, gave lectures, took attendance, had recess duty--I had a very vivid imagination.

The intended career path I chose to follow, therefore, was an obvious no-brainer. Learning the theories & methods of education only made me more excited to become a teacher. And when I did, I was able to shape my own head knowledge into experience.

I believed in the public education system, even with its flaws. If something needs fixing, you fix it. Complaining about it is a waste of time. And homeschool...well, homeschool was for the far-out thinkers who thought they knew better than trained professionals.

Recently, we made the choice to begin homeschooling Kiddo. It was one that came with much thought, prayer, & deliberation. As a former educator, I have to say that had someone told me when I became a parent that I would even consider homeschool as an option for my child, I would have laughed. Laughed hard. Laughed right out loud.

Becoming a parent changes one's views of the world in many regards. And for a long while, I was still a major public school advocate concerning my own child. But bit by bit, I began to have a more open mind about the differences in parenting.  It may not be MY choice, but homeschool was a good choice for you, if that's what you decided to do. (And there precious few things--if any--that I could say are "best" for someone else's child. Having my own child taught me that. Only I can say what is best for her--well, me and her father and God.)

In the beginning, we chose public school. Hayden's disability gave her access to programs that were invaluable to her pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st grade years. Moving to a state so fashion-forward, if you will, in regards to autism support, definitely helped.  And all the while my views of public education began to shift and became very personalized. Theories became far less important. My daughter's success in learning and love of learning is what is paramount. Training up this child is a responsibility yielded to myself and her father by our Creator.

And public ed, has, in many regards, entrenched itself into a one-size-fits-all approach. Further, it has, unwittingly, pigeon-holed learning into something that is to be done within the confines of a particular building, five days a week. And while our experiences with public school have been largely positive--Hayden has a firm foundation on which we plan to build--making the choice to learn outside of the "system" is just our obvious next step.

Social skills are the first concern on most everyone's lips when we tell them of our plans. And I'll be the first to admit that as a public educator, I touted the importance of social skills learned while at school. But it is Hayden's challenges with social skills that make up a part of our choice. We are told that we learn social skills best by watching others, interacting with them and adapting accordingly, based on a growing ability to read and understand social cues. But for a child with autism, this kind of learning process is unrealistic and unfair.

Rather, an approach that involves small groups with pre-formed relationships will serve Hayden much better. Having a social skills "coach" that guides her during conversations and playtime opportunities will provide the learning and adaptation that she would not necessarily pick up on otherwise. Prompting her to respond during conversation, interceding during game play when she complains and struggles with losing, reminding her how to stay present while playing with friends, prompting her when her conversation choices or approaches are inappropriate--these are things that I can provide to her and that she needs assistance in learning. It is not appropriate to assume that she will "just get it."  Working with small groups of friends she already has will also provide a safe zone, of sorts, because those children are much more likely to show understanding, patience, and compassion...that and their parents will be right there to train them on how to interact with a person with a disability in loving and largely "normal" ways.

As wonderful as her teachers have all been--and they've been wonderful--this kind of intentional and constant training is not possible in the public education sphere.  Children learn much on the playground. And while adults are present to oversee children, keeping them from harm, they cannot be privy to each conversation, each comment, each interaction. Nor can they take on the task of such specific and constant training in each and every social circle.

Finally, let me reiterate that this is OUR choice. I cannot stand in judgment of others regarding their choice on how to educate their children. We parents are all just trying to figure out the best way to raise our children. We know our kids best and know what works the best for each one. The thoughts and perspectives I have on the public ed system are not meant to be guidelines by which I expect you to live your life. And while I take issue with the current state of our public education system, I am aware that many I know and love still utilize this system and have found success in it. That is a good thing. And I won't knock it.

Supporting one another doesn't have to mean that we would choose to do the same. I am exhorted to, with all humility, and gentleness, with patience, bear with others in love. I am to be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  If I don't believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, then I am in error and without love to bludgeon you with my opinions and choices in an effort to force you to change.

This is an exciting time of change for our family. We appreciate the support many of you have shown. And we appreciate the restraint of those of you who disagree but choose to bear with us in love instead.

And so, let the madness continue...