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.

 

 

What Truth Will Set Us Free?

How often have you heard this phrase, “The truth will set you free!” - Many times I’m sure and often out of scriptural context. This line alone is used in movies, churches, devotionals and countless conversations around the world, but the truth alone can’t set you free because it depends on what truth you’re holding on to. Is it your own truth? The world’s truth? Your neighbor’s truth? Buddha’s truth? The government’s truth? Pop-Cultures truth? What about the truth of your past and pain? The shocking truth of your present reality that hurts like hell? All of these “truths” will fade away yet there is One whose truth is eternally unshakeable. This is the truth that we can align our lives with to live in freedom no matter the circumstance around us.

John 8:31-32 AMP says, “So Jesus was saying to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word [continually obeying My teachings and living in accordance with them, then] you are truly My disciples. And you will know the truth [regarding salvation], and the truth will set you free [from the penalty of sin].”

Scripture tells us that if we hold to Jesus’ teaching, know it, walk in it, abide in it, and follow it, then we are truly His disciples or His students. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19, 8:28, 12:49) so holding to His teaching and following in His ways is also holding fast to the Father’s heart and ways. Once we meditate on and align ourselves with His truth, THEN we will know it and the truth of His goodness, love and salvation that rescued us from the penalty of sin and death (John 3:16-17) - THIS my friends is the truth that will set us free.

1.) Abide

To abide in Him (Jesus words, life and resurrection), it is necessary to read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and see what He taught so we can live in accordance with His teachings. It is here that we'll discover how and why He lived, died and rose again. What is the purpose of the resurrection and what power does that have in my life today? We will discover what mysteries He spoke of and revealed. We will see what moved him with compassion and therefore into action. What questions He asked the pharisees to reveal the nature of their hearts and in turn the nature of ours if we let it.

Listening to podcasts and sermons on a Sunday are great, but alone they are nothing compared to pulling apart the gospels (really the whole Bible from beginning to end) for yourself on your own time. It is here that your heart is revealed to you, and you can sit with Father God and ask all the questions you'd like. He loves to be with you. He loves your questions... He made you and know's how you tick, what you need and right where you are.

2.) Discipleship

To be a disciple/follower of Jesus it's imperative that we choose to remain in a constant state of learning and transformation coupled with the laying down our lives on a daily basis. We aren't following Jesus anywhere if we constantly dictate the terms of our following, spouting our "truth" that we'd like Him to come into agreement with so that we feel better about our decisions, ways of thinking or lifestyles - strong but true (hello, we've all been there - I've been personally wrestling with something all morning). 

"23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." - Luke 9:23-26 NIV

Laying down our lives, ideals, ideas, habits, ways of thinking and living is very unpopular or has been deemed "outdated" in today's society. In nations where persecution runs rampant for those that proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior, physical death or incarceration is always a real possibility. Those who choose to follow Jesus literally count the cost and then make a conscious choice to lay down their lives (John 15:13, Luke 9:23-26) because they actually may die for what they have given their lives to. Sometimes it's hard for us to grasp this in our western world but the moment we say yes to Jesus, we willingly surrender walking in "our ways" and go on an incredible adventure discovering the truth that has the ability to set us free when we meditate on it and align ourselves with it. Every day we can become more like Jesus as we choose to surrender to His miraculous love and truth. He takes us in as we are transforming us into His likeness.

 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. - 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NIV

3.) Walk in Freedom

As we abide and live in accordance with Jesus ways while walking in the reality of His resurrection power in our daily lives, we discover the powerful truth regarding our salvation and the fruit of our lives becomes HIs freedom and wholeness. Am I doing this perfectly yet? No way! Is it my aim to learn more every day, have my heart revealed and healed, and become more like Him? YES!

It's a free will choice to align ourselves with the truth of Jesus life, death and resurrection when all hell breaks loose and our present pain reminds us of the circumstance we have to stare in the face. It's a choice to still ourselves when we just can't seem to stop trying to fix or control everything with our bare hands and Instead of meditating on and soaking in His goodness. It's a choice to turn from our ways and turn to Him on a daily basis.

HIs truth sets us free.

He is The WAY, The TRUTH, and The LIFE that we seek. (John 14:6) 

 

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 Necessity (& Pain) Of Transition

We all say we want to grow, step into our purpose, walk in the NOW season that God has for us... 

And then transition hits. 

In labor (don't worry guys, this won't get graphic) transition is the most painful part of bringing fourth life - especially if done without an epidural, which in my case was with all four of my amazing humans.

Contraction after contraction pile on top of each other making it feel as though you won't be able to go on any longer - that you'll need ALL THE DRUGS, that you're ready to claw someones eyes out, anybody's eyes out. Sometimes in transition you start vomiting all over the place (so glamorous), laughing one moment and then crying the next. Saying things to your husband like "Come close to me - No! GET AWAY FROM ME!" literally all in one breath.

Needless to say, transition is intense. And then, not long after pain, on top of strange foreign emotion, on top of primal moans, those glorious words are spoken, "It's time to push" -  soon after, a baby is placed on your chest, boring a hole straight into your heart as they try to open their little eyes to see this strange planet they've just arrived on. And in that endorphin rushing, all consuming moment - transition is complete as utter joy over-rides any memory of all the pain you felt just moments before.

 Killing It.

Killing It.

Transition is necessary to bring fourth new life. 

Just last week I had a moment where I dramatically slid down the wall until I was sitting with my my knees pulled up to my chest, crying (all the emotions) as it hit me that my eldest was going to Middle School and my youngest was going to full time Pre-K. They were those "all over the place" sort of tears; grieving the end of an era in the Andrew Household, excitement for what was to come and terror as I tried to work out the new calendar we were going to have to navigate as a family. Not to mention that I had just embarked upon my first round of edits for my first book (this is a HUGE job - whoa!). I also had in mind that I was in need of preparing messages to speak at Highlands Women's conference, ReCreate just a couple weeks after my kids started back at school. Then there's the not so small, looming set of details that our own Women's Gathering - SHE IS FREE was bearing down upon us (all the birth references ;).

It all began to hit me as I recognized this all to familiar, welcome yet slightly unwelcome package of emotions... I found myself in a life transition once again. 

So now what do I do? To what do I cling to?

Grace.

Grace for the moment. Not for tomorrow. Not for all the things I am worried about "someday when", but grace for now... Grace for today.

I mentioned in my most recent Coffee with Andi that as I woke up with a checklist in my head a couple of weeks ago, Holy Spirit whispered to me as worry tried to grip my heart,

"Andi, you can do this day in My grace, or your strength."

Immediately I made the choice to align my heart and life with GRACE. The grace that is all sufficient for me in my weakness, worry and checklists (2 Corinthians 12:9). The grace that is available now and always because I have all of Jesus - ALL OF HIM. 

In my own words, GRACE is:
- God’s ridiculous love that saved us and made us sons and daughters - heirs alongside Jesus. This. Is. Crazy. This is GOOD NEWS! This is AMAZING GRACE!
- Unmerited favor that we live in on a daily basis.
- The sufficiency (an adequate amount of something) and fullness of God that we are able to walk in because we’re sons and daughters. 

Matthew 11:28-30 in the message says,

" Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

As life transitions hit, or any new season for that matter, we have to find a new rhythm of grace because grace is always available to us. Maybe last season you were dancing the Samba, but this season requires you to do the Waltz. Pay attention because it's possible that the Samba has no grace in this season. Don't ignore the signs of transition or change. Walk with Jesus. Work with Jesus (not for Him - do you see that?) and you will learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 

 #mamarazzi

#mamarazzi

This morning, I dropped off my eldest at the subway to meet his friends so he could ride in to school WITHOUT ME for the first time. The rhythm of grace had changed for our family, and we've decided to go with it.

I'm enjoying this new dance because I'm not dancing alone, I'm dancing with the best dance partner there is - Jesus.

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.

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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!

Stepping Out Of Shame

Shame destroys intimacy. It could be shame that lingers from your past like decaying remnants of death reminding you of who you used to be. There seems to come a stench of fear with shame, rotting away the hopes that you’ll never get to live fully in your purpose. Maybe it’s shame surrounding lies and rumors that have been spoken about you and believed by the multitudes? The way they look at you when you walk into the room, makes you suspicious that every “knows” and is talking about you even if they’re not. Shame is mean like that. It could be sexual shame that you find yourself wading through as you once again look at pornography just one more time. But after it’s all said and done, the blanket of shame covers you as you settle under the weight of it. It could be shame from the abortion or abortions you’ve had and are riddled with fear to tell anyone because you believe you deserve hell for what you’ve done. You don’t. There is a love that desires to connect with you in the darkest crevices of your life. A love that can heal you and set you free.

Shame destroys and deteriorates our connection with God, and in turn our connection with others. Shame is one of the biggest hindrances to true and lasting intimacy. Intimacy between us and God and intimacy with others. We were created to be in connection and in loving community and family. It has never been good for us to be alone but we have to be willing to step out and take risks to walk in freedom.

The woman with the issue of blood risked it all and left her shame at the door of her isolating home when she went out into the crowd to find Jesus.  She had been secluded and cut off from society for years, ridiculed and alone because levitical law commanded it to be so as not to make anyone else unclean. When she heard that Jesus was in town, the one that had been called “The Great Physician” she was in such a place of desperation for her healing, that she was willing to risk ridicule, not to mention making others unclean to get clean herself.

To go from captivity to freedom, we have to get to a place where we are like the woman with the issue of blood and say, “I don’t care what the cost is, I don’t care what people think anymore, I will do whatever it takes to get free from this bondage.” Then, we need the tenacity to push through and touch Jesus even when others tell you to give up.

Mark 5:25-34 NIV

“25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

She had been isolated for 12 years. It is no small thing to have an issue of blood, AND for 12 long, grueling years! According to Jewish Law (Leviticus 12:1-8; 15:19-30), when any woman was bleeding she was unclean and impure, whether that be due to her monthly period, the month of bleeding that occurs after birth, or hemorrhaging like the woman with the issue of blood. She couldn’t have sex with her husband (if she had one) and she had to be isolated from society and regular fellowship. She could not worship God in the temple and if she was walking around in public she would have had to declare that she was unclean. This would have been extremely embarrassing, isolating and humiliating. People probably knew her in her town as “that woman” who has “the issue”.

Maybe like the woman with the issue of blood, who was separated from society and isolated from God’s presence, you feel isolated and alone in your shame. For this woman, the symptoms of blood loss would have been exhausting and would have left her physically weak, anemic and fragile, and very possibly spiritually dry. The endless sickness could have made her feel overwhelmed and alone on the journey and the same could be true for you in what you’re facing.

She had spent all her money trying to find healing. It says she “suffered” at the hands of many doctors and only grew worse. So, not only was she broke financially, but to add insult to injury, she only got sicker as each year passed. She needed true healing and not another band-aid. In the area where you need to be free from shame, are you going around from person to person “spending” all that you have receiving band aid solutions that aren’t fixing the root of the problem? Maybe you’ve been let down so many times by people that you find it hard to push through and trust God? Because the only thing that can bring you true healing is to reach out and touch Jesus.

Touching the hem of His garment is extremely significant in this story. The woman with the issue of blood didn’t just reach out and touch any part of Jesus, she reached out and touched the “hem of His garment”, also known as the tallit, or prayer shawl. These were the fringes or tassels required to be on the 4 corners of all clothing on Jewish men in accordance with God’s instruction in Numbers 15:37-41.

The tassels were to remind the Jewish people of God’s Commandments. They were tied into 613 knots to remind them of the 613 laws of Moses. 365 “Thou shalt not” laws and 248 “thou shalt” laws. The tassels were in full view for everyone to see as a constant reminder to walk in God's ways, to stay on His path of righteousness. 

When the Jewish men would be deep in prayer, they would take this prayer shawl and cover their heads to be covered in the Presence of God. The shawls are white and blue, the same colors as the Israeli flag. The white represents heaven - the dwelling place of the Lord, and the blue represents the Holy Spirit. When worn, they are covering themselves in the presence of God.

The Tallit also represents authority. Remember how King David, before he was king, cut the hem of Saul's garment in the cave and was “conscience stricken” for doing so? Because it was an act that represented him cutting off the authority of His King. When Ruth laid herself down at Boaz's feet, she placed herself under his “Tallit” or his “Authority” to submit herself to him.

When this woman who had lived a life of shame and reproach for 12 years reached out to touch Jesus, she didn’t just grab what was at arm's length because there was nothing better to touch. She was going to make this count if she was going to go out into the crowd, risking making others unclean by physically touching them as she pushed through to her healer. She also risked making a Rabbi unclean by touching him. Somehow, I’d like to think she knew the significance of touching His tallit. When she reached out and touched it, she reached out for all it represented - all the promises and commandments from The Word of God, God’s covering and His presence, and all of the authority of Heaven and earth that Jesus was covered in as God’s Son. The tallit represents God’s Commandments, the presence of God and God’s authority!

And when she touched Him IMMEDIATELY He felt Power go out of Him. When you reach out and touch Him, it doesn’t just affect your life in miraculous ways, He feels your touch too. He turns his face to you, acknowledges and adores you in your public shame, heals you and commends your faith in Him.  He says to her; “Daughter, your faith has made you well” or “Your TRUST in me has made you well.”

And, if not the biggest thing to note, He calls her DAUGHTER. Not “woman with the issue of blood,” but daughter. He didn't speak to her issues and shame, he called out her true identity.

Some of you may not trust God with your healing - spiritual or physical, but can I encourage you today, like the woman with the issue of blood, step out and do something bold even if you risk looking like a fool - that act alone counteracts shame. He is approachable in every circumstance and there is no condemnation in Him, only love. 

Hearing God

"Mom, how do you know if you're hearing God or not?"

There I sat, in one of the greatest discipleship moments of my life. This beautiful son of mine is a thinker, a creative and has an amazing analytical mind that causes me to sit back in awe and wonder at the creation God has made. I stopped to listen to the Holy Spirit for myself on how to instruct and lead my son into connection with a living, breathing, all-powerful God. The one that knit him together in my very womb. The God who threw the stars up into the sky, yet cares when we ask him for a parking spot. Yeah, that God. The one and only God. The one who pulls us close, stands so near, at times waiting for an invitation to invade our space.

What was I going to say? After a few moments of pensive silence, I jumped in.

"Well babe, He speaks in countless ways. You only need to pay attention. Sometimes, it comes as a thought, other times, a whisper. Some people even hear Him as you hear me speak to you now. Sometimes, a picture flashes before your eyes and you see what He is saying. Other times it's a knowing or a feeling that's so deep you can't shake it. And His words... Oh His precious, priceless words. Written down so that we would know the sound of His voice when He calls us. When you read His words, you grow familiar and know the sound of His voice. You also know when it's not His voice, because His words and His way are deep within you... Does that make sense?"

"Yes." He said with a nod and a far off look in his eyes.

"Want to practice listening?"

"Well... Okay..."

We sat there together. Listening. Saying what we heard and felt and thought and saw. We practiced sitting in His presence... 

I love that now on several occasions, this son in particular will tell me what he feels/thinks God is saying to him and he's accurate most of the time as things come to fruition before his very eyes. It's fun watching all of our children grow in connection and relationship with the one that loves them more than I could ever comprehend. With the one who gave them the very breath in their lungs. 

So what about you?

How do you hear God? Do you hear Him? Do you want to hear Him?

Here are a few tips...

1.) Read His Word Daily

To know the sound of His voice when He speaks to you, you've got to know how He speaks. Confusion can easily come into our lives if we're not aware of what He would or would not say and how He would or would not speak.

I sit with people all the time that say things like, "Oh I don't have time." I don't know about you, but I am madly in love and I can't believe that I get to read His words inspired straight from heaven. I GET TO see how Jesus lived and watch how the apostles walked in His resurrection power. I love reading all my inheritance letters realizing more and more each day who I am and what I can step into. I don't have the time NOT to read His words. And the more I do, the more I walk in alignment with them, but at the same time, the more I realize how much more I have to learn. I have a desperate need to draw closer.  

2.) Practice Listening

I do this with my kids sometimes. Not all the time - I wish I was that spiritual! It's a lot of fun at bedtime to just sit and ask what God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is saying to them. It can be profound and just plain fun!

One idea would be getting a journal or having a place where you write down what you feel/think or hear. You could write it out on your computer or log it away in your mind, if you're able to retain knowledge in that way. My mom tends to draw pictures of what she see's or hears which. Over time, look back over it and see what it says, then begin to ask some questions. 

- Is it in alignment with how God speaks in His word?

- Has any of it come to pass? Or is this for another time?

- Are these promises for someone else or another generation to come?

- How can I pray?

- Is there anything I should do with these words or are they simply personal and for relationship?

Sometimes you'll get it utterly wrong, but don't be afraid to fail! Failure is a part of learning. Just laugh and keep going for it!

3.) God Speaks To You How You Can Hear Him

Every single one of us is a complete original, and God loved designing exactly who you are. Don't compare your lane to someone else's lane and don't compare your relationship with God to someone else's.

My husband used to believe the lie that I could hear God better than him because I'm more of a feeler and instinctive personality whereas he is highly analytical, strategic and profoundly creative all at the same time. The truth is, he hears God differently than I do. 

I remember when I wouldn't let him say the line anymore, "I know you hear God more than I do...." I started to reply to him every time, "You DO hear God."

For about a six month period he would start out some of his sentences by saying, "I'm not sure if this was God or my thought but..." and often times, it was straight from heaven. Over the years, I have watched my analytical, strategic, creative genius of a husband step into realms that challenge me and my relationship with God. He is a juggernaught and I am amazed at his walk with God. 

So just be you.

Maybe you see pictures or hear an audible voice. Maybe you get a gut feeling and can't shake it or times it feels like a whisper in your heart. Maybe you see incredibly detailed visions, or see the spirit realm as if it was as real as the physical realm. Maybe it's reading the word of God and having it come alive to you in the season you find yourself in. Maybe it just comes to you and drops out of your mouth in the form of profound wisdom... Whatever you do, don't compare - be you and walk in relationship with your Creator. He likes how He made you, and He wants you to hear Him.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

 

 

 

Put Some Clothes On

Have you ever looked in your over-full, bursting at the seams, can’t get the door shut closet and said these words, “I don’t have anything to wear.” Guilty as charged.

The truth is we all have a closet full of countless combinations of wonderful things to put on, but a lot of times we simply just want something new. Something better. Something more interesting and vibrant because we’re bored with what we have.

If we’re not careful, we can treat the Word of God like a closet full of dull, lifeless, boring, outdated clothes when really it’s a closet full of colorful amazingness!!! We can stand there asking God to give us something else, when everything we need is right there under our noses. 

What did you get dressed in this morning? Anger? Jealousy? Unforgiveness? Fear? Pain? Rage? Worry? Anxiety? Shame? Bitterness? Offense? 

I love the Word of God because it tells us exactly how to get dressed in the morning and even what to wear! You don’t even have to choose an outfit anymore, the word of God does it for you - but it is a conscious choice to get dressed in the right things. 

So what are the right things? Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love. LOVE! All out of Colossians 3:12-14. Put those things on and just watch how your day turns out! Watch your relationships flourish. Watch unity and peace come flooding into your life, in your family, workplace, friendships, marriage and even within the body of Christ. Choose the right outfit! 

“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 312-14 NIV

If you don't feel like you're looking your best today, ask yourself what you put on before you walked out the door? You may just need to change... 

Please, for the love of God - literally - stop acting like you don’t have access to this incredible wardrobe! You have access to ALL that God has provided through His Son Jesus!!! So please, PLEASE, stop blaming others for the way you choose to dress yourself and don't say, "I don't have anything to wear" when you have a closet full of amazingness to put on.

So here’s my advice to you, choose wisely and then go and put some clothes on.

Famous or a Follower?

1 in 4 millennials believe that they will be famous by the time they're 25. This is a sobering statistic that I read in Rebekah Lyons' Instagram feed a few weeks ago as she quoted a data point from a panel at Q Commons. The thing that is most alarming to me about this data is that it is just as prevalent inside of the church as it is outside of it. With the level of comparison to other's lives that we have at our fingertips these days, it's easy to lose sight of our purpose and get caught up in wanting to be known. Our gifts, talents, abilities and calling are irrevocable (Romans 11:29), but they are still just that - gifts. We didn't create them, nor were we the giver of them. We simply received them from God, which now makes them our stewardship responsibility to ask Him what He wants us to do with them and who He wants us to become to carry the weight of them. A lot of times that's a moot point. 

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andiandrew.com

We become enamored by our abilities, or that of others, and then usually without conscious intent, the gift and calling become our identity instead of wrapping our identity in the One who gave the gift and calling in the first place.

When Jesus asked Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow Him, He wasn't enamored with their gift and talent in the area of fishing, nor was He projecting on them their impending future abilities to raise the dead, preach, prophesy, start a church, or heal the sick. He was interested in one thing - their ability to FOLLOW HIM. They didn't set out to become famous men who were known as Jesus' disciples... Their hearts were stirred and at once they chose to FOLLOW him.

Our true teachability lies within a heart that is willing to follow Jesus anywhere, anytime, no matter the cost.

Matthew 4:18-22 NLV

18 Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers. They were Simon (his other name was Peter) and Andrew, his brother. They were putting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. 19 Jesus said to them, “Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him.

21 Going from there, Jesus saw two other brothers. They were James and John, the sons of Zebedee. They were sitting in a boat with their father, mending their nets. Jesus called them. 22 At once they left the boat and their father and followed Jesus.

My heart breaks when I watch truly gifted and talented people unwilling to FOLLOW Jesus anywhere and do anything He's asking them to do. Hey, I've been there! A lot of times we are actually trying to lead Jesus (or others in our world) to what we want and desire and then asking Him/them to bless it or make it happen. Sometimes we'll even say "God said" and demand that our dream come true now, without walking through the due process to become the person that could even sustain or walk in the God dream. Let's all take note and learn from Joseph (Genesis 37) so that we don't have to make our own mistakes! Prematurely shared dreams can (not always) plant seeds of immaturity in our hearts that can grow and create foes that lead us into seasons we never saw coming. Instead, it's wise that we ponder certain things in our hearts like Mary the mother of Jesus did right after she had given birth in Luke 2:19. I can't be certain, but I can imagine that she was wondering what her life was about to look like as she raised the Son of God.

The Rich Young Ruler is a heart breaker. He seemingly did everything right his whole life except this one thing - actually choosing to die to himself, let go of everything and FOLLOW Jesus. He was invited into relationship with the Savior of the world, and then walked away because the cost was too great to follow. He did count the cost; he just wasn't willing to pay it.

Mark 10:17-22 NIV

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[a]”

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

There is a cost to following Jesus, and so often we're not willing to pay it because we treat God like our genie in a bottle. Simply put, it does take sacrifice. It does take us picking up our cross and following Jesus as we die to ourselves and live our lives in Him. We want God to bless our good deeds but we refuse to live a life of getting to know Jesus, following Him wherever He leads us no matter how uncomfortable or unglamorous it may be. We seek another "prophetic word" without stewarding the ones that have already been given to us. We want the prophetic word to come to pass in our lives without asking God what He wants to do in us to sustain it, or who He wants us to become to walk in it.

Out of the 12 disciples, how many can you name? Now if you named all 12 off the top of your head, you're my hero. Have you ever noticed of the 12 disciples that not all of them got a book named after them in the New Testament? How many of them were Jesus' closest friends? The answer is 3. Not all 12, but 3. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that not all of them were famous, or even well known.  Not all of them even got to see the most vulnerable and powerful moments in Jesus' life like the Transfiguration or raising Jairus' daughter from the dead. But each and every one of them had met Jesus and they were important to Him. The knew Him and more importantly He knew them. He had called them by name to follow Him and somehow they knew He was worth following to the death.

How willing are we to follow Jesus even if we're anonymous for the rest of our lives? How honest can we really be in answering that question? Can your gift, talents and abilities still be used if no one sees or pats you on the back?

I get it, I really do - we want to be important, noticed, loved, significant... We want our lives to matter. But when we meet, and I mean truly meet and connect with The One who loves us in all of our anonymity, pain and shame - we'll follow Him to the grave because He thought we were important enough to die for.

So who's this really about? You, or Him?

Do you want to be FAMOUS or a FOLLOWER of Jesus?

Moving WITH Compassion

It's one thing to have compassion. It's another thing to MOVE with it. When compassion is awakened in us, do we just allow it to produce feelings within us, or do we allow it the power to move our hands and feet towards it's intended direction?

Compassion fatigue is real with so much pain up in our face and accessible on our electronic devices at all times, but I would actually call it compassion disassociation.

Disassociate: In psychology, the term dissociation describes a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality, rather than a loss of reality as in psychosis. 

Paul with our Sponsor Child who's name is Ever in Honduras this week
Paul with our Sponsor Child who's name is Ever in Honduras this week

When we detach from our worlds reality to protect our hearts from the pain we see, we risk disassociation and loss of compassion. Even worse is losing the loss of moving WITH the compassion that is placed in our hearts.

Jesus was MOVED WITH COMPASSION. Those 3 words cannot be separated if we are to be effective in our compassion.

Matthew 20:34Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

Matthew 15:32And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, "I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way."

And right after he felt compassion for the people, he demonstrated through his disciples how they can move with compassion even if they don't have much to give by feeding the 4000 people (plus women and children) with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish.

So what do we have to give when compassion knocks on the door of our hearts?

Am I perfect at this? Absolutely not. I get overwhelmed just like the person next to me does but sometimes, and I hate to admit it, to a crippling level. I simply don't want to play into the enemies trap by not moving WITH compassion because I'm not sure what to do with my hands. I want to do something, anything really however small or large it may be. He (the devil) would love to see us all cornered, impotent, full of compassion yet unaware of what to do.

A couple of weeks ago after church in our Downtown Community right across from the NY Stock Exchange, my son Zeke and I walked passed a homeless man. We stopped, had a conversation, prayed with him and then went to go and find Alex who is a part of our Liberty City Team. On a weekly basis, Alex invests in a group of men at the NY Rescue Mission so I really wanted to connect them. As we looked for Alex, Zeke - moved WITH compassion, grabbed 3 small apples that were on the table in our lounge and carried them out to this young homeless man. As I watched my son place the apples in his hands, I saw compassion in action. Zeke wasn't thinking, "Well it's only a few apples and not the keys to an apartment, so let's not give them to him." No. He felt compassion and moved on it. Simple.

Compassion: Sympathetic concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

Let's all consciously work on our concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others to MOVE us into action.

Whatever lies before you, ask God what you can do - and then do it. Even if it only looks like 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish. In the hands of God, thousands could be nourished and cared for and you may never know this side of eternity.

Let's not be crippled by compassion, but moved by it.

P.S. 

If you want to do something in regards to the refugee crisis in Syria, you can give here through Messenger International to the A21 Campaign's Freedom Container Project for refugee's at the Greek boarder.

This freedom container is equipped with the following:

Ten water taps Six showers Solar Power LED lighting Mirrors A hot-water boiler Water filter for drinkable water Drying racks for 50 items of clothing Human trafficking prevention information posted throughout the container

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?