Life

Calming The Storm Within

I was talking on the phone one evening a couple months ago to a mentor and mother in the faith who said these words to me,

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"The accuser is NOT the author of your life story and legacy!”

Boy, did I need to be reminded of this truth.

Once again, those words shook me awake to the reality of just how easy it is to entertain a negative, toxic thought for too long until it grows into a viable life option. It was only when I confessed out loud the sneaky whispers that the enemy had planted in my mind (that I'd willingly entertained and actually considered!) that the turnaround came.

This can happen to any one of us. These thoughts start like a small seed and, if left to germinate, grow into a plausible reality. The moment we bring them into the light, they're robbed of their power. I don’t know who needs to hear this today, but the accuser does not get to derail you, destroy you or take you out. Allow Jesus to be the author of your legacy as you continue to live a life enfolded in His arms. He will never leave you, forsake you, accuse you or lie to you. Trust Him. 

When we don't deal with the storm inside of us, It's virtually impossible to confront the storms churning outside of us. 

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In Mark 4:35-41, after a huge day of teaching, Jesus and His disciples pushed off into the darkness to go to the other side of the lake to an area where pig farmers lived, a place considered unclean according to Jewish custom. On the way there, they were confronted with a demonic storm, but all the while Jesus slept, completely peaceful within, aware of His authority and unafraid of what was churning all around Him. "38 But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion. 39 So they shook him awake, saying, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” (4:38-39) The disciples lost their minds, allowing fear to take over. How often are we just like them, running around the boat of our lives, mad at Jesus for sleeping, yelling extreme statements like, "We're all going to diiiiiieeeee!!!!! Don't you even care about me, Jesus?"  I've been there.

I was there 2 months ago. 

As my mentor reminded me that the accuser is not the author of my life story and legacy, I woke up to the demonic storm coming at me. The words straight out of Jesus' mouth to His disciples after he calmed the storm leapt off the page and dove straight into my heart, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet?” (4:40b)

Haven't you learned to trust yet?

In that moment, Jesus and I went to a scary place together. A place I had been trying to avoid for years. A place where I hadn't yet learned to trust Him. It was only then that peace and healing could come as I recognized my lack of trust and my deep need to rest in the bow of the boat with Jesus. You see, there was no storm in Him, but there was in me. He knew how to calm the storm within me so that I could then confront the storms that churned outside of me. 

Partnership with the Prince of Peace, even in the midst of chaos, confusion, destruction, pain and trial, will cause us to walk in and live from a place of rest, authority and confidence even when it doesn't make sense. This is the peace that surpasses all understanding that the author of Philippians spoke of, and it is your portion.

So if you're ready, ask yourself, "Why am I so afraid? Have I learned to trust Jesus in this area of my life yet?"

Take some time to pray, journal, turn on some worship (try "Surrounded" by Michael W. Smith - for real, click the link...) and re-read Mark 4:35-41. Ask Jesus to reveal the truth to you, and why you can always trust Him fully with your life. 

Present In His Presence

I'm not going to lie, I think about bacon cheeseburgers mid-worship from time to time. Sometimes I'll even ponder food for so long that I easily dream-drift through each course I desire, ending with the best coconut cream pie ever from Prime Meats (always after my burger and fries, of course!). As I break out of my prophetic food dream, I usually look down to make sure my phone's on silent (because no one wants to be that guy), only to be alarmed at the 10 text messages that came in while I was focusing on connecting with the Father's heart. So, of course I have to check to see if any of them are urgent, and before I know it, worship has ended and I have been present for a sum total of five seconds flat. Do better, Andi. Do better. 

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And what about when I'm actually out at the meal after church on Sunday, eating my desired bacon cheeseburger, fries and coconut cream pie across the table from my husband, three sons and daughter? Well, of course, I MUST check Instagram to see what's happening in the lives of everyone who I know, generally know, or want to know. Meanwhile, I have five people whom I love, sitting around a table ripe for good conversation and knock knock jokes, while I'm on my phone. Present to my phone. Present to my burger and coconut cream pie, but not present to the opportunity of human connection that's sitting right in front of me.

We are living in a time where our minds are being rewired for overstimulation.

It's like we have every tab in our mind open all the time and are pinging left, right, back and center all day every day. To simply sit and have a meaningful conversation is becoming a lost art if we're not intentional about seeking after it.

Even when we find ourselves in the "waiting rooms of life", we're usually itching to have our name called instead of seeing the opportunities to converse and connect with everyone else in the waiting room. We want next, next, next, next, and we keep missing now, now, now, now... we're not present in the present.

Now let's bring it back to the presence of God. How are you doing being present in His presence? No condemnation here - It's a daily practice to ask myself this same question. How are you at intentionally becoming aware of what you already have - His presence - because you have ALL of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

It's hard to be present with others if we don't know how to be present with God.  

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Slowing down, resting in Him, reading His word daily (even if only five minutes until the kids start crawling all over us!), turning on worship to change the atmosphere, making ourselves aware of HIs unending presence... it changes things. Being present in our pain and not dismissing it, that is where the eternal love of God touches our lives, and heals our hearts. It's the power of His presence that changes us and being present in His presence, well... there's nothing like it. 

C.S. Lewis said, "For the present is the point at which time touches eternity." 

Jesus came down to earth, eternity touched time, and now our present lives can be changed because of it. We can learn a lot from Jesus and how present He always was. He was present with His Father and often escaped the crowds and chaos to do so, and He was present with others - with the "one". The only time He wasn't present was when He was ignoring someone's lack of faith.

In Matthew 9:18-25, Jesus is present to Jairus in the midst of the crowd after a rough night in the storm with His disciples and delivering the demoniac. I'd be napping, but Jesus chooses to be present to Jairus when He hears that his daughter is ill. On the way to heal Jairus' daughter, Jesus is present to the woman with the issue of blood in the midst of the pressing crowds. He turns and sees her, heals her, and calls her "daughter". Then He continues on with Jairus, removes those with a lack of faith from the room, raises his daughter from the dead and even takes care of her physical needs, making sure that she gets a meal in her belly. 

The truth is, Jesus is present with you, right here, right now. Our distractions can dissuade us from being present, causing us to miss moments of connection and transformation.

He is present in the mundane and present in the pain. HE is present in it all.

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Today as I dropped my youngest son off at his kindergarten class, a mother and daughter in front of us were twirling and dancing on their way to the classroom. Sammy was observing and smiling while giggling to himself. Not seconds after that grin came across his face was he, too, twirling with exuberance. My heart swelled within me. I didn't record the moment on my phone or share it on an Insta Story. I was just there, present, proud, and full of joy watching him be an awesome kid - my awesome kid.

Our Father in heaven thinks you're a pretty awesome kid too. He's present with you and wants to journey with you. Intentionally becoming aware of His never-ending presence in our lives will bring freedom from captivity, shake our rickety foundations to be rebuilt by the Master Builder, bring healing to our brokenness but also joy in the seemingly unremarkable moments, and an awakened desire to spread the love that He so freely gives us. 

Can we simply be present with Him today? He has so much to tell us through His word and the whisper of the Holy Spirit. Let's choose together to stop missing the moments and instead, be right in the middle of each one - the ordered, the messy, the electric, the magnetic, even the monotonous - silencing ourselves to hear His whisper through them all.

When I am still, compulsion (The busyness that Hilary of Tours called "a blasphemous anxiety to do God's work for him") gives way to compunction (being pricked or punctured). That is, God can break through the many layers with which I protect myself, so that I can hear his Word and be poised to listen...
In perpetual motion I can mistake the flow of my adrenaline for the moving of the Holy Spirit; I can live in the illusion that I am ultimately in control of my destiny and my daily affiars...
French philospher and mathematician Blaise Pascal observed that most of our human problems come because we don't know how to sit still in our room for an hour." 
- Leighton Ford

Change Your Narrative

A friend of ours decided to celebrate their 40th birthday in Greece this summer, and when invited to come along, we jumped on that bandwagon like a teenage girl (or middle-aged mom) purchasing Bieber tickets. 

When we showed up at the airport, Paul and I got a free upgrade (not even sad!) and happily settled into our seats. While the other passengers boarded the plane, I tested out all the buttons on my remote to see just how flat my bed would go and gladly accepted all the drinks the flight attendants brought by, because it'd be rude not to!

Mid-sip of that second refreshment, a quarter of the way into my first movie, cozily tucked under my comforter with my footrest up, the lady next to us (who we'll call Negative Narrative Nancy) starts yapping about everything she could find wrong about being in business class. I mean - were we even on the same plane??

After sitting on the tarmac for about 30 minutes, the first delay notification came in, but I couldn't have cared less! I was lying down, watching a movie, and eating snacks under a comforter that I wasn't sharing with my four children. We sat on the tarmac for a good hour and a half, just 3 minutes shy from being deplaned and put on another aircraft. Luckily that didn't happen, but during the delay, Negative Narrative Nancy used business class as her stage with absolutely no need for a microphone. 

She started talking loudly. "Ugh! (deep loud breath, sigh, eye roll) The pilot needs to update us- he's not telling us what's going on! Hey lady (flight attendant), what's REALLY going on? Why are we delayed? What aren't you guys telling us? I need a Xanax."

The couple in front of Negative Narrative Nancy had their six-month-old baby, and anytime it cooed or made a peep, the woman would breathe deeply, roll her condescending brown eyes and ask if she could have a different seat in business class "AWAY from that baby". After the poor couple were bouncing their sweet baby (seriously, it was such a quiet baby - just ask me, I have four!) to keep Negative Narrative Nancy appeased, to the point of their quads and biceps giving out from muscle fatigue, good ol' Nancy turns and addresses all of business class saying,  "I can't think of anything worse!"

What?!? Lady with no children, come over here and let me sit you down. Nothing worse than a baby in business class? Negative Nancy - paaalease! I can think of a lot of worse things like... This plane going down. Snakes on the plane. My movies not working on the plane (come on, you know you're with me!) and worst of all, YOU never taking that Xanax you speak of and and continuing to talk for the rest of our time together on this airplane!

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We were in business class people! Business class! And her negative narrative was destroying the atmosphere. The funniest part of this story was that we found out later that a group of turtles mating on the runway caused our delay! Literally, turtles on the runway, which got me thinking...

Have you ever been running a meeting where someone is giving "feedback" but their tone is far from constructive and instead, full of negativity, just posing more problems with no solutions in sight? Maybe the problem is as minor as a turtle on the runway, but the meeting you were so smoothly running is now in a proper nosedive due to a negative narrative taking over. Maybe you started out solving a problem in your own personal life that feels like a minor hurdle, but then the negative nosedive in narrative you find in your own words or thoughts actually becomes the problem instead of the initial situation you faced? It's possible that you naturally operate in faith and optimism, but you're surrounded with "friends" and family who tend towards the negative, calling themselves "realists" and you've unconsciously joined the same club, not sure of who you are anymore. Maybe the pain you've walked through has consumed you, and instead of facing it and walking through it with the Healer, it's become your identity, your constant narrative.

I have found myself being Negative Narrative Nancy in the business class of life more times than I'd like to admit, destroying the atmosphere of my home, workplace and even within myself. I have come into agreement with lies, circumstance, stress and negativity, letting it dictate what I see, feel, think and in turn, what I do. 

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Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. - Proverbs 4:23 NIV

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. - Proverbs 4:23 NLT

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. - Luke 6:45 NKJV

Everything I do and speak comes out of the abundance of what going on within my heart, which then determines the course of my life.

So let me ask you, on what narrative is your heart meditating? Because whatever it is, it will become your reality!

Our narrative starts in our thought life as a conscious or unconscious meditation, which, sinking down, becomes the meditation of our heart and, ultimately, our words and actions shaping our world.

I've had to be intentional to live aware of the negative or positive narratives playing out in my life. Sometimes I'm overreacting to turtles on the runway, and other times, I'm facing legitimate pain, trouble, trial, and problems in need of solutions. She Is Free: Learning The Truth About The Lies That Hold You Captive is an honest glimpse into my heart while on the journey of changing my negative narrative - a journey which I'm still on today and want to share with you. It’s messy, it’s real, but most of all, it’s wrapped in the Love of a Savior that has set me free in deeper ways than I ever imagined and continues to do so on a daily basis.

It's imperative that we take authority over our negative narrative, because it changes the course of our story here on earth, and this spills out into the lives of others. There are people out there that need your story. People on the other side of your wrestle for freedom that will thank you for bringing the Good News of what Jesus has done in you and for you, because He can and will do it for them too. 

Will you join me on the freedom journey?

My NEW book She Is Free is now available for pre-order. Plus you will receive amazing FREE bonuses if you pre-order by October 3!

From Faker to Freedom Fighter

I’ve heard it said, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you,” but for me, what I didn’t know was actually destroying me.

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Ten years of serving Jesus on my resumé, knee-deep in three kids under the age of three, married for seven years, and yet I was completely unaware of how deeply loved I was by my Father in heaven. I didn’t know that there was no need to perform, serve, or achieve to receive love and acceptance, or that I could actually live from a place of deep love and acceptance. I was one of the greatest Christian performers around, yet I wasn’t getting paid for my efforts. I was desperate for the real thing, for someone to let me fall apart, see me in my mess and still not walk away. What I didn’t know was that Jesus was right there all along waiting for my great unraveling. And when it finally happened, He didn’t walk away; He gently and steadily led me into healing and wholeness.

From the outside, I was doing all the "right things", according to western Christian culture - serving in church, going to weekly services, reading my Bible daily, praying when and where I could, "getting over it", whatever "it" was, and moving on quickly. I may have been the walking wounded on the inside, but on the outside, I always had my hair perfectly done, make up on, and kids on my hips with a big smile on my face while walking through those church doors. The arrows shot at me from childhood and on into adulthood had me running like a steam train without breaks, neglecting the time it took to rest and unravel in the arms of the Great Physician who had the ability to heal my heart, mind, and soul. Instead I looked to humanity to meet that need, and they were utterly failing.

This roadshow was beginning to take its toll.

Throw in a traumatic season right before the birth of my baby girl and life had me walking into the darkest night of my soul; like the walking dead, I stepped into its menacing prison. I didn't know where else to go or what to do, so isolation, rage, fear, unforgiveness, shame and control became my protectors, my weapons. The trouble was, I was destroying those closest to me, my husband and three small children, not to mention my own rapid self-destruction.

Where was this so-called freedom in Christ?

I felt trapped—trapped in my thoughts and emotional pain, trapped in a cycle of living that had me questioning my sanity. Too many times I had confessed out loud, “I feel like I’m going crazy!”, and I was starting to believe it was true. I’m not sure if it was the postpartum hormones for the third time around or all the neglected pain that had accumulated over the course of my lifetime up until that moment. Needless to say, I was in turmoil, and something had to give.

I felt like a donkey led by a carrot on a stick, chasing an ever-elusive freedom always dangling in front of me, just out of reach. I had read about this freedom in the Bible countless times and had heard many sermons about it, but it seemed as though I was the donkey destined never to actually reach it. Maybe it was for everyone else but me. Countless moments of failure woven into my days solidified a fear in me that I might just need to live out my Christian life faking it, always putting on a show for everyone around me. After all, I had become good at it. I could keep hiding behind my sense of humor, believing this was as good as the Christian life gets. But the trouble was, I knew that wasn’t true. If the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead was alive and at work in me (Rom. 8:11), then surely that power was enough to pull me out of this pit.

I grew angrier by the moment trapped in my pain, yet somehow, something innate in me still believed in the greatness and goodness of my God and His ability to set me free. I knew that two choices lay before me: to completely surrender my mind, will, heart and emotions to an unseen God, or to succumb to the darkness I felt creeping in all around me. 

This book is my journey out of hell and into the arms of healing love - from faker to freedom fighter. And I want to share it with you...

Truth be told, I wouldn't have spent a couple of years of my life writing this book if I didn't genuinely believe that it would help set you and those you love free. It's a tool for this journey we call life, one that I wish someone would have handed to me in the dark night of my soul. When we're free on the inside, we can then carry this freedom to the world. This book is me giving the life and freedom I've found in the Father's loving embrace, to a world who desperately needs His love and freedom. Would you join me on this journey?

Freedom is possible for all of us... 

My NEW book She Is Free is now available for pre-order. Plus you will receive amazing FREE bonuses if you pre-order by October 3!

  

The Cost of a Critical Spirit

I shocked myself. The negative words sputtering out of my mouth, declaring the worst over my circumstances and identity were detrimental to my mental, emotional and physical health. I found myself saying things that I rarely say, things like, "I hate that I'm like this." "I don't like myself." "I hate that I feel everything." "I hate that I want to quit and feel so depressed lately." "I'm an awful leader, incapable of inspiration or strategy." "Why do I even try?" "I wrote a book about freedom, but feel like a phony - how can I be in such a dark place of discouragement and be free, much less tell others how to be free?" 

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Celebrating 15 years of marriage...

 

Thank goodness I said them in front of my husband, who reversed the curse of my words and declared the truth over me. I sobbed in his arms. These were the early hours of our 15th anniversary on Australian soil. 

Soon after my cathartic sob session in his arms, I got a text from a dear friend who was praying in the States for me. She said, "As I prayed this afternoon, this is what I sensed. Please feel free to disregard anything if you don't feel it's right so, the word 'witchcraft' came to me and I felt like there were some things that needed to be broken off. Witchcraft can mean anything as simple as a curse or negative declaration spoken over somebody or something. I had this sense that things have been said, or even people have agreed in their hearts with statements that are not true and you have been feeling the impact. I believe it is a critical spirit. I feel like it's trying to strangle any growth from happening"

She was right on. Cue more tears. Criticism. I had partnered with lies aimed at myself and our church. I had begun to criticize myself, speaking lies over my life and the endeavors I've been entrusted to steward. As I came out of my emotional fog, I realized I was deeply critical of myself and ready to surrender to the darkness. The cost of a critical spirit is great. It poisons the hearts of those who dish it out, and does the same for those who ingest it as truth. 

Destructive criticism is far different than constructive feedback.

One tears down from the sidelines, while the other invests and builds with a sense of ownership, partnership and relational reciprocity. We all know the "feedback" we've either been given or dished out that hasn't been with the intent to build anything. The ultimate cost of this is destruction and it takes its toll on the heart of the giver and of the receiver. 

I think of the times I've hurt my husband and children while operating in a critical spirit with words that lacked encouragement or eternal life. I think of the times I've been so high, mighty and "right", assuming others motives while judging those with a critical spirit in church leadership or just others in general who do life differently than I would.

I have brought division. Death.

I have been a part of the problem. I don't win, and it doesn't build anyone or anything. Repentance and humility are the cure and according to the Apostle Paul, living a cheerful life, without complaining or division among ourselves is key -  but that's easier said than done. 

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:14-16 TPT,

"Live a cheerful life, without complaining or division among yourselves. For then you will be seen as innocent, faultless, and pure children of God, even though you live in the midst of a brutal and perverse culture. For you will appear among them as shining lights in the universe, offering them words of eternal life."

I desire to be a shining light in the world we live in today. But I have to choose to live from the abundance that is already within me, given as the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have to choose to break agreement with the ways of culture and instead transform culture with words that drip with Kingdom life and love.

My friend continued with a prayer in her text message that literally delivered me as I sat on the stairs up to our bedroom of our Airbnb in Sydney. Maybe you too need to be set free from the criticism of others? Like I did, maybe you need to repent of a critical spirit? May this prayer transform you and set you free.

"In the name of Jesus, I command the critical spirit to flee. You have no right to reside here and you must go now! Father, I thank you that your blood has already paid the price and taken care of our freedom, our LIBERTY. We are free. Andi [insert your name here!] is free. God, as all that is not of you gets chased out of the door, I invite your Presence to invade in a deeper, more tangible way that surprises and explodes like only you can. I pray for a turnaround in circumstances, hearts and spiritual climate. Fear, anxiety and negativity would be no more but JOY would be activated and where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Thank you God for all that you are doing, seen and unseen. We are ready and waiting for you to blow our socks off!"

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. - Proverbs 18:21 ESV

I Used To Think I Was Stupid...

I just wrote a book, people! No ghost writer, no transcribing of sermons... I - WROTE - A - BOOK. All by myself. This girl who used to think she was stupid and inept with nothing to say. This girl who unfairly compared herself to her salutatorian sister and valedictorian brother. This girl who was born and raised in Spokane, Washington on the wrong side of the tracks, in a blue collar, working class family who went through seasons of life living on food stamps... I - WROTE - A - BOOK. This girl who got asked if she wanted to sign the "dumb rock" in high school, who was then petrified (no pun intended) to ask any further questions in case I looked like a fool... I WROTE A FREAKING BOOK! Take that, "dumb rock!"

Now before this becomes a prideful rant, let me take the "I" out of the equation and replace it with "we"...

This girl who has been abused, cornered, terrified, controlled, broken, ashamed, fearful, confronted, lied to, betrayed, cast aside, over-looked and unqualified... by the literal grace of God, with His love, tender nudge and whisper, truth and direction, through obedience, a multitude of tears while on my knees and a million and one little "yeses" - I wrote a book, no WE (Holy Spirit and I) wrote a book together.

Yesterday, I received the final proof to go through one last time for any final edits before it goes off to be printed. It's surreal. I keep looking at it as it sits here next to me on the couch with the morning sun shining down on it, like a new born baby fresh out of the womb. I keep thinking, "I actually did that. This college drop-out did that."

1 Corinthians 1:27 says, He uses the foolish things to confound the wise, and this fool, who may not be wise by human standards, or of noble birth, partnered with God and wrote something that I believe will bring His freedom and life to many. 

Truth be told, I'm a little tired, okay - a LOT tired - because my husband, 4 kids and the church that I'm leading didn't press pause while I sat and wrote my heart out. But in this bleary, puffy-eyed, tired state is an overjoyed momma (albeit in need of a caffeine drip).  

A momma who no longer believes she is stupid.

I'm overjoyed at what the time, tears, energy, early mornings, late nights, writing trips, encouragement from friends and family has produced - a little piece of the inheritance that I'm leaving to my children's children sits on the couch next to me in the morning sun and I feel the glorious weight of it all. I'm overwhelmed by the kindness of our God to love us and partner with us, in spite of us. It's profound. He sees us, the fullness of who He created us to be right in the middle of our mess, our brokenness, insecurity, lack of qualification, and takes us by the hand (if we'll let Him) and leads us down roads of destiny. 

This book, She is Free, is a little piece of my journey from brokenness to wholeness, and at its core is Jesus. The One who rescues me, loves me deeply in all of my flaws, has delivered me multiple times, held me when I hurt more than I knew was humanly possible and simply never gives up on me - ever.

"26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” - 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NIV

So, in the first week of October when my book is released, I hope you'll invest in (or gift) a piece of freedom that will cause you to search your heart and go on a journey of discovery with the One who will never leave you or let you go.

Love, Andi

P.S. Here is a direct link to pre-order my book at Barnes and Noble!!! 

 

 

Seen or Significant?

Do we want to be SEEN and validated publicly or SIGNIFICANT, even if only anonymously?

Both, probably. I mean, who doesn't want to make a difference in this life while having people tell them along the way that they're doing an awesome job? Oh, and whoever "they" are - they can feel free to tell other people too!

I was sitting at LaGuardia Airport last week at my gate, worship filling my ears while reading my Bible, when an unlikely verse jumped out at me:

Matthew 26:18 NIV "He (Jesus) replied, Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.'" 

A certain man.

No name, no fanfare, nothing about his apparent relationship or background with Jesus, yet extremely significant. He was named in history but didn't make a name for himself.  He was known by the Teacher, and that was enough.

This certain man's house was where the Lamb had His last supper to fulfill the Passover - death passing over life - the life we all need to truly live was within His blood and the final sacrifice about to take place, once and for all. This certain man's house was the place of communion before the crucifixion. Did this man know who Jesus really was? Was he a Pharisee, a teacher of the law that connected the dots and realized that "the Teacher" was the Messiah that they - Israel - had been waiting for? Had he & Jesus met on several occasions, so many times so that at the mention of "the Teacher", this "certain man" offered up His home to be the location for a significant moment on the road to the cross? 

What we do know is that at the mention of His name, this man opened the doors of his home. At the request of the Teacher, he didn't hold back. It also appears that he didn't push for his name to be written down somewhere so that history could remember him for his great hospitality during what seemed to be a covert mission, harboring a controversial figure in his household for one of the most significant meals of all time. This man was audacious and obedient. He made room for Jesus - literally.

So, am I making room for Jesus, or for myself?

I have gone through seasons of wanting to be seen, validated and known by the multitudes. I have wanted my ego stroked and my gifts validated. I have wanted to be seen with the cool kids (whoever they are) and the right crowd (again, whoever they are) to feel a sense of importance. I have had positions of authority and the things of this world that I thought made me a significant person taken from me. I have fallen off of my pedestal more times then I'd like to admit and have crawled back onto it like a moth to a flame, while gripping it for dear life, hoping that standing on it would make me feel better again - even if just for a fleeting moment. All of these things point to a deep longing in me to be seen, known and loved. These places in my heart can only be healed and validated by Jesus.

If the Teacher comes to me and asks me to open up my home and life for a significant purpose, would I do it? Or do I first need to post about it, be seen doing it and therefore negate the power of its beautiful, anonymous significance in all its ordinary glory? What if history were only to record a moment where "a certain woman" opened her home to the lost, disenfranchised, broken and hurting? Or where a "certain woman" loved her husband and children well? What if that's it? Or what if there is nothing at all? Am I content with NO historical mention of my life after I leave this earth? No St. Andi Andrew day for the public to remember my greatness? Am I okay with that? Some days, yes, but some days... no.

The truth is, deep down, the older I get, the more I simply want to be known intimately and loved unconditionally by the One. This means not always being seen or known by the multitudes. Can we be truly known and loved by the multitudes anyway? Spoiler alert - no. 

Are we content to be un-named in history, but still significant in it? There is so much peace that comes when we realize how deeply known and loved we are. Striving falls to the wayside and a holy satisfaction descends upon our hearts and lives. When I am truly known by the One, I can be used for significant moments and often unseen purposes because I trust His direction and plan for my life. What's so beautiful (and painful at times) is that in this life that is a long obedience in the same direction, my motives are constantly checked and purified along the way. 

So, let's take a moment and ask our hearts, "Do I want to be significant, even in anonymity, or do I want to be seen and validated publicly?"

"God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. Examine me through and through; find out everything that may be hidden within me. Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. See if there is any path of pain I'm walking on, and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways - the path that brings me back to you." - Psalm 139:23-24 The Passion Translation
Source: www.andiandrew.com

Doers or Deceived?

I am often slow to post anything on social media in politically and emotionally heightened times - not because I don't care, but because I am accountable to God for every word that flows out of my mouth. With every finger I point in assumption or judgment of others motives and actions, I personally feel the weight. Whatever scripture I post, call to action or quotable quote I grab from someone else, I live in such a way knowing that I am personally responsible to go and do something with what I have said or written. I am also keenly aware that I answer to God at the end of my life here on earth for every heart motive, idle or active word (Matt 12:35-37 NKJV) and deed I do or don't do. Heavy, but true nonetheless. 

A few months ago, my husband was speaking to our church and read out James 1:22, followed by a throw away comment that has stuck with me:

James 1:22 NKJ
“22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
“Hearing but not doing is a form of deception” - Paul Andrew

These last few weeks I have "heard" a lot of opinions. Heck, I've even had a few of my own but have chosen to keep them to myself.  It can be crippling to take in so much information, yet feel like there isn't a clear path to help those in need, or so it seems - because let's be honest, we only need lift up our eyes from our phones to meet a need. I want to step away from the anonymity of my computer or iPhone screen and get my hands dirty. I want to look people in the eyes and place value on them. 

I want to be educated, equipped and then activated to go and do something.

While we don't yet see certain injustices reconciled here on earth or perhaps we do see first hand how an executive order affects our loved ones and it feels like confusion and pain seem to reign, I'd like to put out there that we as followers of Jesus can all SIMPLY be about the Father's business in our day to day lives (Luke 2:49, Matt 12:46-50, John 4:34-38). I'm sure we could all use some "simple" in our live right now. We will always live in the tension of the "NOW but NOT YET" where life is unfolding before our eyes as we simultaneously hope and work towards a better future. The times we live in are a wake up call to the global Church to lift up our eyes and really see people and then do something about the pain unfolding before us. Let us all be deeply loved by God and in turn give Him all of our love and adoration. Let us then love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matt 22:34-40), reconcile hearts to the Father (2 Cor 5:16-21) and actively make disciples (Matt 28:16-20). 

Opportunities to be about our Fathers business are unfolding right in front of our eyes every single day. It's in the breakthrough conversation with that cafe owner after years of patronage where they begin to seek the heart of the Father and ask us to lead them there. Or the moments where our kids ask the big questions about eternity where we get the honor of discipling them and telling them about the goodness of the Gospel. It's in the moments where we take someone out to coffee whose world we don't understand and never could unless we walk a mile in their shoes. It's the moments where we step out (even if we're scared) and pray for someones healing. It's in showing up at your local community center and sitting with that young, marginalized, world changer while believing in them and showing them that there is a way to step into their dreams. It's choosing to be generous with encouragement and compliments instead of keeping them to ourselves because kindness is good for the soul. It's leading that neighbor of yours on their deathbed to Jesus because hell was never created for God's children to spend eternity. It's finding out how you can see systemic injustices reconciled and bridges built by serving in or volunteering in programs that your local church or community centers have to offer. It's in putting your hand up to tutor that underprivileged genius that may never get the opportunities that others will because of their upbringing or the color of their skin - but your simple act of kindness could break through a barrier. It's giving your finance to causes in places where your feet may never be able to tread. It's in each of us us putting our money, hands and feet where our mouth is. 

What will cost us? Is it just our words or will we let it cost us our time too? We are all accountable.

Ben Smithee, one of our Liberty Church Union Square Team members posted the below picture and quote this week:

"Regardless of political beliefs, religious belief, or roast beef, let's just freaking love each other and the world would immediately be a much better environment. We expend so much energy in fighting, hating, and spewing vitriol that we forget the Great Commandment. @andiandrew 's message this past week really drove it home. I mean, what if we all just did one loving act for another person this week. One simple act of love, rather than take the ease of contention. Call it a dream, but I believe we were meant for more and that God's words were not just a set of optional guidelines for life. Live like you mean it, love each other, help those less fortunate, and for gosh sakes - wash your freaking hands!" - Ben Smithee (@smitheeeeee on Instagram)

What I love about Ben, (and he doesn't know I'm saying this until he reads it) is that he is a part of the Big Brothers and Sisters program and has been for years, he serves at Church every week, runs his own business and does amazing charity work without any fanfare. He lives this stuff week in, week out and every single one of us can make a difference with the "neighbors" that are in our world. 

I feel the weight of these times as a leader in the Church and it's enough to take me out some days... My hope is that we'd be equipped, educated AND activated in our faith. May we keep it simple with our eyes fixed on the ONE. May we be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry (James 1:19). May we choose to take a breath, seek wisdom and respond instead of react. 

Rise up oh Bride! Humble yourselves and unite under the name of Jesus Christ! Wake up you sleeper and put your hand to the plow! Step away from your computers, phones and all forms of distraction and GO! Be about Your Fathers business...

 

 

Brain Tumors & Joy - "When Joy Gets In The Way"

I kept thinking to myself, "She must be faking it? I mean come on, you can't have an inoperable brain tumor and be so full of life and joy!"

My mother-in-law has stopped me in my tracks on several occasions and in this season, it's her contagious joy and peace that she lives enveloped in that often has me scratching my head in wonder. At first I thought it was avoidance, but now I see that it's a life connected to LOVE. I've asked her to write about it as a guest here on my blog. I hope it encourages you in this holiday season as we all look to 2017 and the year is to come. 

"When Joy Gets In The Way" By Jenny Andrew

The word joy is mentioned 815 times in the NIV version of the Bible. Just this fact alone makes the word significant
I was born Jennifer Joy. "Joy" was my last name or "surname" as we say in Australia where I grew up. It WAS my name, and although I was often teased as a little girl for the full label of "Jennifer Joy" or "Jenny Joy" as I was most often known, I wasn't aware of the potential significance of my name until recently. I began to see that my name was no accidental choice, that it was given to me for a purpose. Of course, when God is part of a decision, the potential of that decision is loaded with purpose. 

You see, I have recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

It has been described as being "like an octopus wrapped around the left side of my brain". This should, in most circumstances, instill fear and sadness in me. However my overwhelming emotions, and those of my husband, have been peace and joy. Occasional the blanket of peace is ruffled, but most of the time I feel covered and enveloped by peace. As well as the peace we are covered in, my "platform" for all I do now, especially in my fight for complete healing, is to choose "joy" as my weapon of choice before I chose to do anything or react in any way. It has become, not merely my name, but the banner over my life.
Joy may seem like an unlikely weapon. When we think of weapons, we generally think of aggression, fighting or inflicting injury. But as a Christian, I can assure you that JOY is all of these and more. Firstly, Satan hates joy. When he sees we are living in joy, he flees as he knows where joy comes from - God. When he sees me living in peace it reminds him that he has already lost the battle and we belong to Jesus! Secondly dealing with a challenge is so much simpler when my heart is in a good place and I'm looking at the best rather than the worst.  Although this season has brought its challenges, and will undoubtedly bring more, the joy and the peace continue. Recently I was speaking about my journey through this illness to a group at our Church and what I was learning along the way. I had my "notes" and my "plan" but it became increasingly clear as I continued, that I was to talk about living in JOY and using it as a weapon. This was not something I had planned to talk about at length - but JOY got in the way! 
We are surrounded every day by what the world sees- wherever we live, with worst case scenarios, doom and gloom, and negativity. There's a lot to be said for living in reality and it's important that we do so and don't bury our heads in the sand, but let's bring some light to the darkness by using joy, hope and peace to every situation. 

So there you have it. She LIVES this stuff. I heard someone say last week, "If the joy of the Lord is your strength, don't let Satan steal your strength." Well, Jenny is walking in that strength in spite of her circumstance and diagnosis and I'm still over here scratching my head at times while learning so much along the way. 

When something get's in our way, usually it has a negative connotation, especially when it's associated with fear, doubt or obstacles. When joy keeps inturpting you, invite the inturrption rather than pushing it away. Let joy get in the way.

My prayer for you in this season of your life, no matter the reality, darkness, pain or loss that you face is that JOY will keep getting in the way.

P.S. On top of her contagious JOY, my mother-in-law has been writing beautiful music in this season. It's perfect for your meditations or quiet times and is straight from heaven. Download it here!

http://www.jennyandrewmusic.com/ or look up Jenny Andrew Tranquil Worship and Tranquil Worship Two on iTunes! 

 

 

When It's Not "All Good"

The dam broke this morning.

The long-awaited tears that have needed to flow came out in a conversation with my husband and mom this morning, and we may have all shed a few needed tears.

The to-do lists have kept me sane in this season. Christmas with all its parties and preparation have almost been a unconsciously welcome distraction. Truth be told, "all the things I need to do" have protected my heart from feeling what it needs to feel. Avoidance has been my friend.

Instead of facing my reality, I've been short-tempered with those I love. I've let unhealthy anger rise to the surface more times than I'd like to admit. Frustration has been at its peak. At the same time, a looming sadness has lapped at my ankles with the internal anticipation that the tide is about to come in and drown me in its forceful flow. But maybe I want it to. Maybe it needs to.

My mother-in-law is sick. 

My mother-in-law that I deeply love as if she were my own flesh and blood has an inoperable brain tumor and is smack dab in the middle of her first round of radiation and chemotherapy.

This has changed all of our lives to say the least. Our schedules are different. Our priorities have shifted. 

We've never been here before. 

There's a tension in this season. On one hand, as a family (and a church family), we're all on our knees believing for a miracle. We love belting out the lyrics, "I believe in You! I believe in You! You're the God of miracles!", with everything we have. On the other hand, we're making the most of every moment. Making sure we are present, treasuring each breath. Sitting by the fire, telling stories, laughing, crying, and just being.

Life is full of tensions. It's not always "all good" and it's not always "all bad". Most days are filled with a tension somewhere in between. 

All I know is I want to feel it all, breathe it all in, live fully in each moment. The joy, the triumph, the pain, the reality checks - all of it. I don't want to shut down and switch off because to be fully alive is a gift. 

Today I'm deciding - yes DECIDING - to enjoy the chaos that comes with four children in a tiny NY apartment even when I may feel like I'm being pecked to death by chickens on occasion (okay, on lots of occasions!). I'm going to decide that Christmas isn't about to-do lists and making everyone happy, but it's about Jesus, the long-awaited Savior who came so that I could FULLY live here on earth and into eternity. I'm choosing to not condemn myself when I'm less than perfect and bark at one of my kids. I'm going to love myself and say sorry if I need to say sorry.  I'm going to cry if I need to cry and use up the whole tissue box. I am choosing to slow down. Look people in the eyes. Laugh more and stress less. I'm choosing to stop feeling guilty for all the things I "should" be doing better or more of.

I'm going to live.

I'm glad the dam burst this morning. Not so I could sit here and wallow in the tide of sadness that hit, but so I could wake up and live present. It's okay when it's not "all good". Sometimes that's just life and there is nothing wrong with you.

Jesus is present, even when we're not ready to be. The Comforter is comforting, even when we don't want to allow ourselves to be loved. Father God is gentle, kind and good, even when we can't see it through the fog we are in. 

So go on... Go ahead and really, truly live - even when all the to do lists, preparations and distractions try and get in the way. Every moment... Every breath is a gift.

 

 

Chaos, Community & The Power Of The Table

I woke up last Wednesday in the middle of the night at my hotel in Nashville to the news that Trump has won the election. I didn't have any extreme emotions whatsoever because immediately my mind and heart went to the people God has called Paul and I to pastor, love and come alongside at Liberty Church. I placed both hands over my heart and began to ponder - how can we come alongside our people at this time? Father, what does your heart say in this day and age to your people? How can we lead with wisdom, truth and love? How can we create safe spaces for people to be transformed, and then go out and bring transformation as followers of Jesus Christ?

I came home and asked my husband if we could swap our rostered positions this month so I could speak to our church instead of him on Sunday, as I felt I had a word in season for our people. (You can listen to the message here or watch it here - I believe it may really help you.) These last few weeks reminded me that cultivating true community and making disciples - true followers of Jesus Christ with a free will - isn't neat and tidy. It's messy yet beautiful and totally worth it.

True Community WITH Unity Can Be Messy

 Pastor Cedric speaking with my husband Paul

Pastor Cedric speaking with my husband Paul

Pastor Cedric C. Johnson, a good friend of my husband's who also wrote a book entitled, Race, Religion, and Resilience in the Neoliberal Age (Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice), came and spoke alongside my husband Paul at our "Race, Justice and Unity, A Liberty Family Conversation" that we hosted last month. Amongst many other things, he spoke about the four stages to true community. 

I will break down these stages in my own words alongside reflections from that evening.

Stage 1: Pseudo Community

Oftentimes, we comfortably and often unknowingly remain at this stage, not letting our guard down with one another, while living internally (and sometimes externally) isolated lives, even when others are physically in our midst. This is where we self-protect and preserve. 

Stage 2: Chaos

Chaos is not something we naturally want to embrace. The moments, seasons, interactions or world events that bring chaos in our lives, cause our guards to come down with one another while exposing the state of our hearts. These are the moments where our beliefs are exposed and confronted. Where disunity is seen, felt, and wrestled with. These are the times when relationships are tested and solidified, or tested and broken down. These are the moments where our bias and pre-conceived ideas are often brought into question by someone else's point of view. These moments, seasons and interactions can cause us to look at our own hearts and search them in partnership with Father God, or they can cause us to abort mission and go back into self-protection mode. Often in a church setting, this causes us to either put our roots down, look each other in the eye and build together with an understanding that every life is in desperate need of God's grace and that we're all on a steep learning curve, OR it can cause us to go and look elsewhere for another imperfect church. 

Stage 3: Emptying

This is where we arrive at relationship with no agenda. Where we learn to continuously lay our lives down just as Jesus did (John 15:12-14, Matthew 16:24-25, 1 John 3:16). It's a place where we come to understand others and not always have the insatiable need to be understood. It requires humility and the ability to let others speak and be heard. It requires confrontation and conversation paired with truth AND love.

Stage 4: True Community

Oh, we say we want the real thing, but the real thing can be messy, just like marriage can be messy and full of chaos. I choose my husband every day, people, just like he chooses me! "In sickness and in health, for richer or poorer..."  I once heard Pastor Chris Hodges of Highlands Church in Alabama say, "Love's not a ditch you fall into; we choose to love one another." It couldn't be more true with our neighbor, our community, our spouse, our friends, our kids, and those we don't understand and even disagree with. The real thing isn't always nice and neat, but it's oh so worth it!

The Power of The Table in True Community

The book of Acts is just that - a collective of people not just speaking (a.k.a. just putting quotable quotes on social media without putting their hands to anything) but acting on and doing the good work of the Gospel day in and day out.

I love Acts 2 -  specifically the beauty of the Church as she emerged on the earth after Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father and sent the gift of Holy Spirit. The Church that we are all an extension of, playing our part, building together in our unique places and spheres here on the earth. Their devotion, their outright passion, coupled with tangible signs, wonders and miracles following those who believed is confronting. Their hunger to learn and to be together, breaking bread, praying and sacrificing to meet each others needs is inspiring. The sincerity, the joy, the favor and salvation - it is breathtaking! This is HIS Church. 

The Fellowship of The Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. - Acts 2:42-47 NIV
andiandrew.com

This passage mentions breaking bread twice. Why, you ask? Is it because bread is SO good? Well, yes - we all love carbs even if we don't like to admit it in this gluten-free, Paleo day and age we live in, but beyond that, it's the picture of the table - the beauty of gathering around a meal while prayer and connection take place, coupled with an excitement to discover more of who Jesus IS in our lives TOGETHER.

I have to imagine that most of these people that we read about in Acts who gathered in the temple courts daily didn't get to meet or come in contact with Jesus before He ascended to the Father. Because of this, their sheer desperation to devote themselves to the apostles' teaching, to connect with one another, dig in, learn, grow, and pray together is palpable - it was necessary. They needed each other. And we still need each other.

This Hasn't Changed.

Connection, chaos, truth, love, a good meal, savoring life and new-found revelation happen at the table. A desire to go out and bring others to the table happens as we discover the joy of coming together in our diversity and differences. It's at the table where Jesus is the center, leveling the playing field as we empty ourselves to come and hear each other, understand each other, lovingly challenge each other with truth and love, giving our lives to each other. It's a place where we commune with Him, and with one another. There is so much power at the table. And when we get up from the table it's then time to put into practice what we've talked about. To be doers of the word, not just hearers. It's time to put our hands to the good work of building together, loving our neighbor, speaking up for injustice and bringing the good news of Jesus love to all we meet.

Remember, love is a choice - it's not a ditch you fall into. Love requires us to lay down our lives daily. Love doesn't stop at the table, it moves us to action. Where there is new understanding, there is also new responsibility.

 

 

 

 

The Power of Empathy

em·pa·thy [ˈempəTHē]

NOUN

The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

As a pastor, mother, wife, leader, friend and human being living in the world today, I don't always get it right. To be honest, I don't always know what to say in the social, economic and political climate we live in at this time. One can feel frozen, crippled and unable to speak. Questions race through my mind like; Who or what do I speak up for? What do I post on social media that we should pray for today? What do I say? What do I do? Who will I offend? Who will get angry with me and call me disgusting names that I'll have to then block from my social media? All of these questions and more can keep me from doing anything as a Christian and simply as a citizen of the human race.

There are so many hard topics to breach from the massive refugee crisis, #BlackLivesMatter, bombings in different nations, death in the middle east every day, shootings, human trafficking, the upcoming U.S. election - fill in the blank. I'm sure if you could jump in here and write this, you would have a list of things in your heart to fill up this page with. 

Here's the deal, 

Sometimes all I can do is EMPATHIZE.

Every human life matters to the heart of God. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.

Therefore, as a human, regardless of the color of my skin, ethnicity, background or socio-economic standing, we have this God-given ability to TRY and UNDERSTAND and SHARE the FEELINGS of another. 

We all want to be heard, understood, and loved. Understanding doesn't always mean agreement or even that I'll know what to do next - that's not what this is about. Empathy is part of the heart of God.

Love in Action
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21 NIV

I want to rejoice with those who rejoice, I want to weep with those who weep. I want to empathize with others because it is our God-given ability to do so.

May we all keep being led by the Holy Spirit into ALL TRUTH. May we live our lives wrapped in LOVE that is the very being of God and then serve each other with that love. May FREEDOM and UNITY be at our core and a catalyst for true change. May we SEE, and I mean really SEE one another as we appreciate the beautiful creation that every single one of us are.

 

 

Give Yourself a Time Out

I had an explosive moment with my kids. I wish I could say it was the first time but that would be a lie. I adore my kids; it’s just that sometimes they’re like the flock of seagulls on Finding Nemo saying “Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!” and I’m Dory being pulled apart on the docks in the Marina. This particular episode of being pecked at caused me to shake with anger and walk away from the situation so that I wouldn’t unleash my wrath. I asked the kids to give me 5 minutes to be alone with Jesus and they obliged.

I needed a time out.

As I lay there on my bed shaking, hand on my heart, eyes closed with tears spilling down onto my quilt, I said out lout to myself, “What’s going on? What am I feeling?”. Sobs welled up and began to pour out of the deep sadness I felt coming from my heart. I began to say out loud, “I’m sad. I’m sad. I so so sad Father…” As I said those simple words over and over again, giving room, breadth and understanding to my deep emotions, I was able to pinpoint where the surface emotion of anger was coming from. Immediately, peace began to flood my being. I allowed the Father to scoop me up into His arms and hold me in my sadness. He didn’t tell me to stop feeling that way, He didn’t curse me for being angry with my children, He just loved me where I was, and His love was healing.  

Just 5 minutes later (yes, only 5 minutes), I walked out of my room and gathered my kids around me. We sat on the floor together and I apologized for allowing the sadness in my heart to come out as anger towards them. I explained that sometimes Mommy’s heart is sad or hurt and anger or frustration can come out as I try to protect my heart instead of letting the Healer help me. I explained that it’s not theirs to carry, but sometimes mommy needs 5 minutes so that Jesus can come, be with me and heal my heart. I asked for forgiveness and each of them in their different ways gave love and forgiveness. Finley had tears in her eyes and couldn’t stop hugging me saying she forgave me. Zeke was gently stroking my arm and smiling with his beautiful gift of mercy. Jesse asked “Who did this to you?” because his justice heart wanted to go and take care of business. Of course I didn’t tell him, but smiled at his zeal and passion. Then Sammy gave me his stuffed animal and told me, “You were angry… Daddy is really nice” and we all lost it belly laughing. All was well and I brought them onto the healing journey, which was in turn healing for them.

I use this as an illustration to say, at any moment of the day, in any season you can step away for a moment, give yourself a “time out” and connect to the Fathers heart.  Maybe your sitting at your cubicle and your co-workers think you’re deep into a project, but really your taking a moment to connect with God while staring at your computer screen. Maybe your baby won’t stop screaming and you feel like punching a wall. Check on that beautiful baby, make sure they’re alright, and then give yourself a few minutes with headphones on and worship on to connect with Jesus. Let the Fathers love into your anger, frustration, failure, rage, sadness... Let peace flow like a river and then go scoop up that baby and give them the love you’ve just received.  

In a recent coaching session with good friend and revelatory bomb dropper, Lucas Gifford (married to the amazing Christa Black-Gifford) who’s mission is to see others lead a heart-based life, I realized that the source of some of my unhealed pain and even physical sickness was the result of unreleased and consequently compounded emotions. I was born a deep feeler, but for years rejected a huge part of my identity and believed the lie that “feelings lie, so don’t trust your feelings.” If that’s true, then God made a mistake when he made you and I because God feels deeply and we are made in His image. Our feelings are indicators that tell us something about our heart and they are extremely important in our journey of healing. If we don’t give ourselves space to feel or give understanding to our emotions and pain, then we will shove them down, put them in a box causing them to compound while protecting that box of pain with our weapon of choice. We’ll then begin to operate in things like un-forgiveness, fear, anger, shame, control, and rejection, which are indicators that the heart is in need of attention and ultimately healing.

In the place of intentional connection, we receive healing, love and truth. Lies are abolished in the arms of the Father. The secret place of freedom, breakthrough and revelation is in connection to the Father’s heart, and His intentions for you are pure and only good. 

Go and give yourself a time out. 

 

Marriage - It Hasn't Always Been This Good

Paul and I will be married for 14 years this July, and let me just say, Marriage hasn't always been this good, fun or rewarding.

andiandrew.com

For years we waded through constant misunderstanding and frustration while often trying to communicate to one another the way we needed to be communicated to. In the last few years though, we've hit a stride that has brought about an incredible unity and deep intimacy but not without intentional investment and a commitment to more. We laugh more often, are in agreement more often, have great sex (yes, more often - and this is a miracle because of all the fun baggage we initially brought to the table), and in general have a richer marriage.

You may be saying, "Well, good for you!" when right now that's not your reality. Well, I'm not here to gloat, I'm here to come alongside you and give advice from a friend who's been through seasons where marriage hasn't always been fun, rewarding, deep or intimate. So I want to share some tips, this is by no means comprehensive but a few simple, tried and true things that we have implemented in our marriage and over the years has brought about great fruit.

1.) Be intentional

Nothing good comes from passivity, apathy or wishing the other person would make the first move. None of us ever set out to be apathetic or passive, but when disappointment comes time and time again, it's easy to give up without even thinking.

You make the first move. Plan a date that would communicate love to your spouse and even if it feels awkward or doesn't go well, decide to see it as a seed in the ground to be cultivated for the future. It's a step toward breaking down walls and creating lines for healthy communication.

2.) Be committed to personal wholeness

There is nothing like letting the Healer into the areas of brokenness and pain in your life to do what only He can do. Until you do, it will always be someone else's fault, and often times the first target for blame is your spouse because they are closest to you. 

I would recommend books like Heart Made Whole, The Story of Marriage, and Love After Marriage. None of these books are for the faint of heart, but for those that are committed to personal healing and wholeness that in turn, bring about new life in your marriage.

3.) Plan a vacation together every year

Let me just nail your excuses to the wall. We have 4 kids and we make sure that every year we get away whether it's for a weekend getaway or a trip to Europe. Paul had been pushing for it for years, and I finally gave in 4 years ago (letting go of mom guilt) and I'm so glad I did. These getaways have deeply changed our lives. 

Last year in Paris, we brought along the book Love After Marriage to read and had some pivotal breakthrough, simply by setting time aside to be together. We also had a blast exploring the city of love while eating our fill of french food. The cost is worth it (so put it in the budget), for you, your marriage, and your children. Our kids think it's awesome when "Momma and Daddy" go on trips together because they see parents who are committed to falling more in love.

Get started!

Marriage is like a fine wine that get's better with age in the hands of The Master Vintner. So get to it!

Inadequacy, Anxiety & Fear - Getting Honest

The first day of the New Year didn't start out the way I had hoped. On the other hand, New Years Eve was awesome: surrounded by my kiddos, good friends, no make-up, comfy clothes and watching the Disney Channel. But the first half of the first day of 2016, no bueno. Inadequate, anxious, and fearful... Those are the words and overwhelming feelings that marked January 1, 2016 for me. Not the sort of resolutions, nor words, one writes down to "walk in" for the year. Let's just say those thoughts, feelings and emotions were not in the plan for 2016, yet there they were, physically part of my being on day one.

I had just posted "Positioned for 2016" on New Years Eve and was writing my latest post "What are you waiting for?" when on the first day out of the gates of 2016, it all got tested.

Let's talk about inadequacy for a moment. It's often how I can feel when embarking on something new and it's simply an indicator of what's going on in my heart. Whenever I feel totally out of my depth, and unable to achieve, perform, or do what I am "supposed to do"(all yuck), I know I've stepped out of connection with God, and have started walked into striving and fear. He never asked us to perform for Him to prove our love, yet sometimes we act like He has.

On the way back from ringing in the new year at our friends' house in the Hampton's, I started having heart palpitations that literally took my breath away. What's annoying is that I've been having them for the last couple of months. (Don't worry, I'll get them checked out) Fear began to creep in because of the palpitations, paired with deep feelings of inadequacy for the year ahead. With several speaking engagements booked for the year, the pressure (I put on myself) to write my first book, the pressure I feel (and put on myself) to love and lead my children "better" (performance is a killer) than I already am, the pressure I feel (and put on myself) to build an even better marriage, as well as the pressure (once again, that I put on myself) to pastor a growing church with love, excellence and strength was stacking onto my shoulders in the form of completely overwhelming and unrealistic expectations. The pressure was causing me to crumble and my physical body was manifesting what was going on in my spirit.

With each heart palpitation, I literally started to picture myself dying (I know sooooo dramatic!). I started to picture the heart palpitations as heart disease and that I was going to have a heart attack and die young, maybe even in 2016. I started to picture my children orphaned and wondering who Paul would marry when I was gone. Whoa! How quickly we can go down scary, dangerous and negative roads... Or is it just me?

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Paul asked me what was wrong on the drive home just as the sun began to set. I poured out my deepest fear as he grabbed my hand and held it tightly. We put on worship and as one of my sons began to sing out beautifully behind us in the back seat, we both started to cry.

The truth is, for the last 6 months or so, I had started to feel my heart disconnect from feeling anything, which is really strange for me. I am a feeler to a hilt and always have been since I can remember. I actually used to think it was a weakness, but then I realized God thinks I'm pretty awesome and He made me this way. I feel everything to the depths of my being. I feel a room when I walk into it. I feel the mood and temperament of people when I encounter them. I feel joy and I feel pain in my depths. So when my feelings begin to shut down and numbness sets in, I know something’s wrong. I felt myself going into self preservation mode and not wanting to trust anyone anymore. I even unconsciously shut God out and surrounded my heart with my worries and inadequacies as a makeshift vault.

Later that evening after we got home, we dropped off our kiddos to be with our amazing life assistant/Mary Poppins (seriously, she is like Mary Poppins) for the evening. My husband Paul and I left for Manhattan to go out to dinner with two “heart of our heart” friends, Christa and Lucas Gifford. They had both come into the city at the outset of the year to invest into our worship team and then Christa kicked off the first Sunday of 2016 speaking across our Church Communities.

As we hung out, and made up for lost time, somehow our conversation led to a moment where I began to pour out my palpitating heart. I talked about my huge feelings of inadequacy for the year ahead. Luke and Christa were both squarely looking me in the eyes, and telling me that “I was enough” that “Jesus paid the price for me, and that I was worth the price.” They said this and a billion other things I'm still pondering in my heart. Things that have ruined "my plans" for the year (in a really good way).

The love in their eyes for me, without agenda was like looking into the eyes of Jesus. My husband squeezed my hand (lots of hand squeezing that day) and nodded with a big smile on his face in agreement and adoration for me right where I was. The love from these three people was almost too much to take, but I liked it and I received it. That "moment of honesty", even in the depths of my inadequacy is what caused a moment of truth and connection to happen. A moment of truth that I'm still marinating in.

Before 2015 had ended, I asked God what the word for our Church was for 2016. Instead I got two words, LOVE and CONNECTION (more on this in an upcoming article). You see, when we are all SEEN and KNOWN, and deeply LOVED even after we're fully seen and known - warts and all (which can be scary), then we have true CONNECTION. And God is all about connection, it's why Jesus came! To invade our hearts with His love and in turn connect us back to the heart of the Father.

Brunch with the Giffords
Brunch with the Giffords

So this weekend when Luke and Christa came and dropped love bomb after love bomb through countless meals and conversations, not to mention the investment and encounter they gave to our worship team Saturday night, and personally sitting on the front row hearing the same message three times over this last Sunday while getting totally wrecked each time, let's just say something started stirring in me. My heart is slowly thawing out. The numbness is leaving and I'm feeling like myself again. There is still work to be done, and you better believe I will do it because I'm so worth it, and so are you for that matter. You and I are worth His blood.

As a church we entered 21 days of fasting and prayer on Monday January 4th. On the first night of the fast, I laid my kiddos down and started an internal dialogue with God. I was pottering around the house getting insignificant things done, almost to avoid slowing down and processing more of what was going on inside of me.

I felt God ask me, "What are you afraid of?"

I really thought about it... "Am I afraid of what I'll find in my heart? No... I'm actually afraid I won't be able to find anything or even figure out what's going on and then I'll be stuck here in numbness. I'm afraid that this "feeler" has been disconnected too long. Yeah, that's it."

So what did I do?

I slowed down on purpose, stopped cleaning the house as a petty distraction, sat in the presence of God and listened to what He had to say to me. Not surprisingly, He had good things to say to me because He's a good father like that. Then, I sat down and wrote this blog to process a bit further. I needed to be honest with myself and I truly hope my honesty has somehow empowered you to be honest with yourself. Then I trusted a few people God has placed around me to talk things through in more detail than I would share publicly on a blog. We all need a few true friends who love you where you are, but won't leave you where you are. Lastly, I have put a couple things in action to continue on the road of sanctification and wholeness, because it's a life long journey. God wants your whole heart always, so continue to do what it takes through every season for Him to have all of it's real estate.

Remember, Responsibility is your ability to respond...

So how will you take responsibility for your heart and life this year? We've got to stop waiting for others to do it for us and respond to God love and goodness that is always available to us.

So stop for a moment and ask yourself a couple of questions. 

When you start to feel yourself disconnecting, slow yourself down long enough to ask why. Where are you self protecting and self preserving? Why are you isolating yourself? What pain has crept in that you have tried to shut off so you don't have to feel it? What lie are you possibly believing? Are you even aware that you're connected or disconnected?

Stop, ponder, journal, listen... What do you hear?

I just know God so deeply desires for us to receive His love to the depths of our being, and out of us being loved right where we are, by the lover of our souls, we can once again find ourselves connected back to Him and His heart. He has never left us. We may have drifted, grown dull or numb of heart, but it's okay. He's got you and He is the greatest heart physician there is, so consider putting your heart back into His hands.

Now to get practical:

Christa speaking at our Downtown Community
Christa speaking at our Downtown Community

After you get honest with yourself about where you're at just like I had to on the first day of the year, why don't you consider having a listen to the podcast from this past weekend by Christa Black-Giffordhere - "Love Yourself"  - based out of  Matthew 22:38-39. Listen as many times as you need to, so you can marinate in it.

Think about pre-ordering Christa's book - "Heart Made Whole" (P.S. She doesn't even know I'm writing this article and has not asked me to do this. She's a friend and I believe in her and what's on her life). Invest in the healing of pain you may find in your heart to "turn it into one of your greatest strengths."

I've said it before and I'll say it again...

Loved people love people and make the love of God known...

I just know it's going to be a great year even though I wasn't so sure it would be on January 1st. My hope is that you will be able to say the same. Oh how our God loves to turn things around in a moment if we'll just go on the journey with Him and get honest with ourselves.

xoxo

Andi

What Are You Waiting For?

A lot of times we are waiting for “someday when…” But our someday is NOW.

I remember sitting and having a meal with Steve and Sharon Kelly, two amazing mentors and friends as well as the pastors of Wave Church in Virginia Beach. Over my grilled salmon, I poured my heart out, not to mention all my insecurities in regards to what I felt God had asked me to do in launching She is Free here in NYC. After I was done verbally processing all my emotions and fears, Steve very seriously looked me in the eyes and asked,

"Andi, how old are you?"

To which I said "35. Why do you ask?"

Steve's reply hit me between the eyes and deep within my heart when he said, "So when are you going to grow up?"

Well ouch, and thank you.

I had allowed fear and insecurity to rule my thoughts, actions and belief in myself and I found it hard to take myself seriously or even back myself. I had gotten in my own way and saw myself as less than everyone else around me - comparison truly is a killer.

 

Not too many months later did my husband say to me, "It's like you're a sheriff, and you've willingly handed over your badge and weapons. But it's time to take them back and step into your authority." He started to pray over me and as he did, I felt God say to me in all my inadequacy and insecurity, "I have confidence in you." The floodgates were opened. To hear those words from my Father and Creator even when I didn't have confidence in myself deeply changed me.

You see, He has confidence in you even when you don't. Your inadequacy, fear, insecurity, pain, rejection, fill in the blank, does not phase Him! Jesus died to connect with you and step into those moments, look you in the eyes and say "You've got this, because I've got you."

Steve and my husband's words over me brought me to a turning point. I was 35 people, 35! And I wasn't getting any younger! It's like I was waiting for someone to give me permission to step into my dreams and destiny, but God already had. So what was I waiting for? What are you waiting for?

Sometimes I'm so aware that I need to number my days, take each breath with gratitude and not waste a single moment.

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." - Psalm 90:12 NIV

What has God put in your hand today? What dreams are you "pregnant with" that you're afraid to give birth to because of the responsibility that comes with it? What can you do to make a difference in your world right now, whether it's spectacular or seemingly mundane? When's the last time you slowed down enough to look your child in the eyes, leave your house a hot mess and play hide and go seek? What have you been dreaming about doing but are too scared to take the first step towards? What's on your bucket list that you could put into motion after you're done reading this? Maybe you've felt for a long time you're supposed to start writing but don't feel like you're good enough? What do you need to put in order or purge to make room for more?

You have permission to SHINE, to be SPECTACULAR. You get to be POWERFUL.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

So... What are you waiting for? Stop waiting for "someday when." Stop waiting for permission because your time is NOW. Back yourself. God has confidence in you because He is holding you. The world needs who you are and what you have to give to complete the big beautiful picture God is painting throughout time and eternity. History is His story, so what will the chapters with your name strewn across their breathtaking pages look like?

Behind The Curated Instagram Feed - Real Life

So it's a big life, and sometimes the highlight reel on my Instagram feed can make it all look glamorous or just plain easy. It's not. It's big, it's messy, it's an adventure, and it's beautiful. Our family lives a calculated and intentional life, yet at the same time we're all full of flexibility for those moments/seasons where just about anything can happen. With every new turn of the corner, we stretch, change, and move things around according to the needs of our kids, marriage, family, church and so on. I decided to write this article after I hung out with my good friend (Chris Jury - love you girl!) in Australia after preaching at SWB with Leigh Ramsey the pastor of Citipointe as well as with Sean and Lynda Stanton down in Canberra. I also got to visit to my brother and his family in Sydney which was so much fun. Chris and I got talking (at the playground with our kids nearly necking themselves several times) about how looking from the outside in, it can sometimes seem like its a super easy, cushy life to live. None of our lives are, but I thought I'd take you behind the scenes of my day to day to show you a bit how we do it as a family. If I didn't cover something you're still curious about, comment and I'll see what I can do to answer your questions.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Whatever I put on here just remember, life is seasonal for all of us so there is absolutely no way we can really  "do it all" at the same time and stay sane. Don't buy into that lie, because when you do, you set yourself up for failure. Begin to look at all the wonderful things you are doing now and place value on it! Those gorgeous children, that job that is building character in you, the friends that you keep running alongside that can feel like a drain at times, that marriage that needs some work... Seasons come and go and after a beautifully lived life you'll be able to look back over the years and say, "Hey, I did it all!" because you didn't give up!

How I do it "all" - demystified:

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Things we don't Instagram:- As I kick this off, let's be honest - there is so much we don't Instagram or post on social media. As I was talking to one of our Brooklyn Pastors, Kristen Tarsiuk, we laughed about all the things we NEVER post... Like that unibrow, our kids having a tantrum - in public, arguments with our husband, that church service that failed and no one showed up to, that meal we burnt, the ring around our bathtub (that we still bathe our kids in without wiping it down). Usually we post our perfect cake, our children painting a picture just like Picasso, or a bikini shot with our kids in the frame making sure everyone knows that we lost that baby weight. Yeah, you probably lost a few followers that day - did I just write that? Yes, yes I did. I've personally never posted a bikini shot (nobody needs to see that - I personally don't want people picturing me in a bikini as I preach) and my stomach has been stretched to kingdom come - 4 times (like I said, nobody needs to see that) - but each to their own. But I'm sure I've posted other things that have made people want to throw their phone and say "Oh yay! Good for you!" laden with heavy sarcasm, and for those days - I'm sorry.

(Clears throat) So moving on... How I do it all behind the curated Instagram feed:

Values: You've got to live from your value system, or life will choose for you. Make sure you know what they are and that they're in order, or you will sacrifice and pay the price for the wrong things. Usually unintentionally but nonetheless it will leave you frustrated and lacking grace for your season.

Paul and I often say "Our first ministry is to our family" and it comes out of our value system. There have been times when our lives didn't line up with that value (ouch!) and we took the rebuke from heaven and made changes. My husband and I don't want to build our "ministry" while we sacrifice our children in the process. They are our ministry! If their lives fall apart because of our choices, then we have to answer for that. I realize that they have a free will, and we don't control that will, but we will do our best to "raise them up in the way they should go so they don't depart from it" in every season of life. By the way, the word ministry means "to meet a need" - and as their parents, our children's primary needs are to be met by us.

So here's a shout out to all the stay at home moms and dads that don't feel appreciated! THANK YOU for raising kids that will change the world. You are my heros!

Now look, that's just one of our families values out of many that I've used as an illustration, and your values may not be my values, but get before God and put them in order. This will help you count the cost with every season and cause you to pay the right price. None of our lives will look the same, but we have to be true to each of our individual callings and purpose. We answer to our Father at the end of our lives for how we have cultivated what He's given us. Then, when the pressure comes to cave or compromise, we can't because we know we're building for the long haul with our values in mind and a knowing that opportunity will always come knocking.

Not every opportunity is your God opportunity.

My mom and dad: So after all that, lets just start with the fact that my mom and dad live upstairs in the same brownstone as we do, albeit a different apartment - we do life together. My parents truly are wonderful GRANDparents to my children and they feel called to come alongside Paul and I as we build the church together. They are also on staff overseeing our pastoral care, but if Paul and I ever should travel at the same time, it's my mom and dad that are home with my babies. They raise them just as we raise them and my children adore Nonni and Poppy. Whenever we do go away together and they ask, "who is staying with us" (as if they answer ever changes) and we tell them, "It's Nonni and Poppy!" They cheer and scream and get so pumped - every time.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

I understand that this is not a reality for everyone, and that we have extremely blessed circumstances,  but this wasn't always the case. I lived in Australia for 10 years without my mom and dad and was a stay at home mom for a season with my 3 children under the age of 3. It hasn't always been like this and to be honest I wouldn't travel, work, nor build the church at the capacity that I do without them. So in this season, this is really working, and with the next season that God brings we will re-evaluate once again.

Life Assistant: Our life assistant is another me at home! I have multiplied my capacity by training a wonderful woman to help run our household just like I would if I was home 24/7. It's a sacrifice for us financially and for me as a woman and mom emotionally, but with the right person (which we SO have) it brings peace and efficiency to the household.

After a long day's work I come home to the laundry done, beds fixed, a tidy house, bathed kids and a cooked meal so I can sit around the table and focus on what matters most - my kids and my husband. We talk, laugh and have family dinner which is what I love and crave in life. I am so grateful for our life assistant who has truly transformed (and organized) our lives at home.

Executive Assistant: Paul and I have an awesome woman who organizes our work life and calendar and I don't know how we'd do it without her! She helps lift the burden of admin (and a million other things) so I can focus on people, study, message prep and writing. She is amazing!

Home Days and Work Days: I only work in the office Tuesday-Thursday so I can be home with my kids Monday and Friday. I want to stay in touch with the dirty dishes, laundry, organizing, school drop offs and picks ups, general kid chaos and all things home.

Sam sleeping on our billionth plane
Sam sleeping on our billionth plane

Frequent Flyer points: Please don't get the idea that we have millions in some offshore account so we can do all this traveling - we have a lot frequent flyer points. Travel is one of our values and I realize it may not be on of yours. Because it is a value of ours, we find creative ways to do it and make it work and we save money to travel.  We love making memories together and bonding with each other as a family and travel is one way we do that.

Calendar Planning: Not sexy, but 100% necessary. My husband and I often sit down to plan the calendar with our values in mind.

Since our kids are our first priority, we plan the calendar around school season, school breaks, times when we know their emotions may run high or they may need us more for various different reasons, times where they'll need their momma more then their dad, or times when dad is great to hold the fort down while momma is away.

We also plan in time away without the kids. Paul and I want to fall more and more in love as each year passes and we need time together to do that. If the kids feel sad about us leaving, we simply ask them this question, "Do you want mommy and daddy to fall more in love?" Hello! The answer is always yes and then they are excited to see us leave. We want to pass on the desire for a healthy loving marriage to our kids and prioritizing each other does that for them.

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Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

We do life with our kids: This isn't always easy, but we like to take them with us on the journey no matter the cost (emotionally, physically, spiritually... you get it.) Sometimes they fall asleep on the floor at the thai food resturant after you've preached your heart out because you don't want them to go back to the hotel without you so you can have one more cuddle. It's worth it - totally not convenient and I love it all.

Endless packing and unpacking: A side effect of travel that I DO NOT love. No one can pack for me or my kids because it's all up in my head. You know that inventory list that no one else can access or do right even if you write it down? Yeah that one. And I admit, it's a little bit control freakish of me, but it's a huge part of travel that is so not glamorous! Gaaaaah!

Battles:Fear is real and so is LOVE. But that battles you face when you say YES to God in any way shape or form are no joke. Be ready and know your stance - you win. We fight from a place of victory, not  defeat. So keep your armor on and get your fight on.

Keep your heart pure: Entitlement will kill you. At times, our generation can be a "give it to me because God showed me a vision, I'm gifted to the hilt, and now is my time because I said so" generation. When we act like that, we're lacking the gratitude and humility it takes to SERVE and LOVE every generation alive on earth today which is why we're here. We are here for others - period. The first and foremost "others" I am here for are my husband and my children, and if that's out of whack, then it all falls apart. This goes back to the values piece. If you're goal in life is travel the world and preach, then you've missed it. Serve God, whatever that looks like in your season and do it with joy. That is the prize.

We serve at His pleasure... Not our own.

Wherever you are now, do your journey well. Fight the good fights that are right there in front of you. Moms! Raise those babies and be the greatest momma this earth has seen - even though no one may ever say thank you. We're raising them to be demon torturing, Kingdom releasing, Love overflowing, model citizens of this earth to transform it for Jesus - THEY ARE YOUR CALLING.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Count the cost: Giving everything for God will cost you no matter your sphere of influence, so don't be surprised when there is a price tag to the life you are called to live. The truth is, you still have a free will to count the cost and decide if you will pay it or not.

When you go to a store and buy a new shirt, before you purchase it, usually you would have looked at the cost, the style of the shirt and weighed up whether you're willing to pay for it or not. Once you do pay it, there are generally two responses - joy at having the new shirt, or buyers remorse because you didn't count the cost appropriately according to what you had in the bank to pay.

When it comes to the call of God it's the same. There is a price and a cost to stepping into new levels. There is also a cost to remaining in the same place. But we have to constantly be counting the cost and checking our hearts. Once you have counted it, weighed it, and prayed about it - make your decision and move forward without looking back and don't complain about how much it cost you! In every season of life, continue to ask God for the plan to execute the assignment He's given you - stay close to Him. He will slather your life with grace to live in what He has called you to.

"Don't trap yourself by making a rash promise to God and only later counting the cost." Proverbs 20:25 NLT

Keep getting punched in the face:Continual first hand revelation is necessary to overflow in this race we are all called to thrive in. Second hand revelation comes from others revelation (i.e. podcasts, messages, books, etc.) and is powerful, but there is nothing like being in the presence of God and letting Him hit you with the truth in love. It keeps you humble, on your face and in the right place for God to literally take the stage of your life because you're not interested in being on it! I serve at His pleasure therefore I need to know Him and what He wants for and from me.

Have your 3 or 4:I need prayer warriors in my life that have my back, my front, and my sides... And I've got theirs! I have 3 or 4 women in my life that I can call upon to pray in every season and I do the same for them. On occasion, I will call these women together and we get on our faces and pray... We are at war and every single one of our assignments matters - your assignment on earth matters, so take yourself seriously.

At the end of our lives we will stand before God and He will ask us what we've done with what we've been given. I don't have another shot at this life and I'm not wasting any time. 

Well, that's all for now... I hope you feel encouraged, empowered and helped in some way shape or form. Now go and run your race and do it with everything you have!