New York

The R Word

IMG_0720.JPG

I led our leadership team in corporate repentance on Friday night.

We made it personal first: what did we each need to repent of in our own hearts? Pride, greed, offense, gossip, fill in the blank... And then we cried out for our city, our nation, and the nations of the earth as we repented on their behalf, asking God to heal our hearts and heal our land.

I love prophetic acts because they're a demonstration of humility before God, showing the enemy that we, God's people, aren't messing around. We're on the move and we're a united front. 

"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

The R word, repentance, isn't sexy, but it's effective, and it only works when we choose humility. Our words, motives, and subsequently, our actions (or lack thereof) start in our hearts. It's imperative that we become aware of the conscious or subconscious meditation of our hearts (Psalm 19:14), if we want to see change in us and in our world. 

Repentance requires what I would call a turning on our behalf, yes, from our wicked ways. Now, some of us are automatically thinking of an extremely wicked person, but any partnership with the enemy's ways is wicked, and we have to choose to turn from it. Need a reference point? They can look like gossip, slander, pride, arrogance, greed, selfishness and offense, to name a few, and if we're completely honest, we probably partnered with a few of those this morning before we even started our morning commute! Go ahead, I'll give you a moment to take that post down... wink, wink. 

In Christ, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)! But we still have to choose to walk in our true identity on a daily basis in order to keep shedding the old ways we once walked in, while intentionally putting on Christ. You were created by and for love - this is good news!

As followers of Jesus, our faith is active, not passive. We are all in a constant cycle of pruning and flourishing, pruning and flourishing. Intentionally recognizing of the state of our hearts before God is vital to personal transformation, and in turn, the transformation of communities and nations. As we continue to partner with our divine nature as new creations, we'll begin to see change all around us. 

We've got to ask ourselves what places and over what things has God given us the authority to pray? What assignment, region, workplace, family, nation, and/or people group has He brought around us and asked us to actively love? And what are we doing about it? Lofty ideas don't work here, but repentance, prayer and action will. Matthew 4:17 tells us that, as His first act after coming out of His desert testing & beginning His earthly ministry, "Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." This emphasizes just how crucial the act of repentance is, not only for our personal walk, but for the kingdom of heaven coming on the earth! What do we need to turn from, and instead, turn to Jesus?  Where do we need to walk in humility and turn from pride? Pride is at the root of most of our problems. 

Repentance from self-preservation is what brings us to Jesus in the first place, and it doesn't stop on the day we begin to follow Him. It is the daily choice and act of humility that changes us and changes nations. The R word is pretty powerful.

Love, Andi 

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...

 

 

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.

 

 

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

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.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset
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!

Warning: This picture does not represent real life.

Warning: This picture does not represent real life.

Although, how nice would it be to get your hair and make up done every day?!?!

These pictures however, do.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Chubby baby and ugly selfie faces. Life is too short for beautiful selfies.

andiandrew.co
andiandrew.co

Wrestling at bed time that starts with laughter and often ends in tears. You know what I mean.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Airplane pics with no make up, a sweaty beautiful jet lagged baby and new wrinkles around my mouth.

Over the years, I've had so many people ask me; "How do you do it all?" That whole four kids thing, healthy marriage, growing and flourishing church, leading in life, juggling like a freaking clown. Yeah that whole thing.

Well, the simple answer is... I don't.

I've been called "supermom" often, but really, I'm just a smart mom. I don't actually wear knee high red boots, have a lasso on my hip, and wear the super hero outfit everyday under my cloths. Although that would be fun.

I used to buy into the lie that that you can do it all (in the same season at the same time)! And with that statement came extreme pressure that I put on myself. I lived under that pressure for so long until I got shingles (for the second time) after my 4th child was born and I realized something had to give. And if you're not aware, shingles come out when you are stressed to the max. Boo! My stress manifested itself in my body, and I needed to pay attention. Paul and I had a big talk and made some major shifts in our lives and continue to do so as needed.

So I'm going to tell you the truth about how I (we) do what we do, because I don't do it by myself. There is an army that has gathered, and from the outside sometimes it looks like "I can do it all!!!" But I'm not alone.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

A releasing husband 

I married the right guy. Biggest and BEST decision I made. He doesn't see me as infieror, but as a partner in crime, eh hem, I mean good. We are equal but very different and compliment each other well like a fine wine pairing. I married a man who loves to see the dreams God has put in my heart come true, as I do in his life. He is truly my best friend.

He also LOVES and ADORES our kids and doesn't see it as a secondary option to stay home with them if I am traveling and speaking somewhere. He is the head of our house, leads us, and covers us with strength and valor in every season. He is a man I will follow anywhere.

We love running together!

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Kids that are called

Don't think for a second that I would ever sacrifice my children on the alter of "my calling". They ARE my calling. God put these children in my womb, and they are called to our families redemptive purpose on the earth. It's a together thing. Our family has a collective calling, and Paul and I pay attention to ebb and flow that come with each season. Sometimes my kids need more of my time in a certain season, and I need to listen to what they're really saying. I need to listen to God when the season changes, and then make adjustment accordingly. It will change year by year, but if I am truly a woman, wife, mom, daughter, friend, and leader led by Holy Spirit... I will be obedient and make appropriate changes as they're needed.

Family

I know, I have it good. My parents literally live upstairs in the same apartment building as Paul and I live. And contrary to popular culture, my parents and Paul don't just get along, they love each other. We are a family unit that thrives living near one other. My kids run upstairs all the time and bust into Nonny and Poppy's house uninvited but always welcome. My parents give us the margin we need sometimes when the stretch is on. It's the way family was meant to function, and the way a healthy church family does too.

Another added bonus are Paul's extremely wonderful parents! They sacrificed it all in their 60's and moved from Australia to help us build the church... and they LOVE our kids as if they were there own. They have a place in Connecticut that provides a "nature retreat" from the city. Its so fun to go to Grandma and Grandpop's house!

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

Vanessa aka "Sessa" aka "Consuelo" aka "Nessa"

This woman is without appropriate adjectives. She swept into our lives right after my bout of shingles and has changed our family forever. We call her a "life assistant" because to call her a nanny downgrades what she actually does alongside us. She is called to our family in this season and does it brilliantly. What does a life assistant do you ask? Laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning, helping with the kids, planning activities, pick ups and drop offs when I can't be there... the list goes on. Hiring Vanessa was one of the most pivotal moves we made for our family and a huge reliever of undue stress.

A house cleaner

Only recently have we added this glorious bonus! Every two weeks or once a month, we get our house cleaned according to our budget. We make sacrifices in other areas, so that we can do a deep clean in the house and I can invest my energies in other more important things. A clean house really matters to me because it brings order to "my space" in a life that is constantly moving. The house clean releases me in particular, to not worry about things that would take up my time on saturdays or mondays when I just want to rest, relax and be with my family.

Friends

I have good friends.

My friends tell me the truth. My friends love me even when I am not perfect... And that is everyday people. My friends are iron that sharpen me. My friends believe in me and cheer me on in my race without comparison because that belief in them is reciprocated. We all allow each other to be who we are and it's a diverse group of friends. I couldn't do this life without them.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com

An incredible Team and Church

I can't believe the people that God has put in our Church. I really can't. We wondered if we were smoking something when we planted this church because it was honestly just 9 of us around a Central Park bench when it all began and that included our kids!!! Now there are hundreds of people that call Libertyhome, a staff and team that are anointed leaders in their own right, and we've only just begun.

God...

No brainer. I am friends with, and my life is completely submitted to my maker and Father. I am deeply loved and in love, and out of that place, I live to please my God - the one who rescued me. Daily I choose to lean into Him... This is probably the greatest key to living in my lane.

 And we'll end on this picture... Just because it's awesome. I love my boys.

andiandrew.com
andiandrew.com