Don't Stop At Forgiveness...

It had been two years.

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Two years since we'd sat together to catch up, and this time it was different. This time, we sat together without talking about grievances, hard things, uncomfortable things - painful things even, like we had out of necessity in a tough season just a few years prior. We'd both been on deep, long, and at times, arduous, individual journeys with God, changing, transforming, wrestling, healing and growing deeper roots in Him, separately. It hadn't been easy for either of us, as it turned out, but sitting there on the couch in her Brooklyn home felt just right. God really does make all things new.

I was nervous as I walked from the subway to her front door, praying with every step I took. Would we drag up the past, or had we both healed and changed enough to have grace for one another to move forward? Would we see each other through God's eyes or through the pain of our past?

Turns out, it was through God's eyes.

One thing that rang true in our conversation was that God is all about reconciliation - the promise that we'd be reconciled to Him and to one another. There were laughter and tears (mostly on my end- I'm such a crier). The Gospel, at its core, is about reconciling the entire world to God, the Father of all life. He sent His one and only Son to redeem, restore and reconcile us to His heart. It's His plan that we would all walk in our true identity, looking to Him, the One whose image we're created in. 

As I sat on that L-shaped couch, across from this old friend, I saw the beginnings of new life, the glory of God manifesting right there in that Brooklyn home. New beginnings. New life. New hope. New horizons. NEW.

It's not always easy to get there. For Jesus, the entry point was death on a cross followed by a wrestle with all of hell for the reconciliation of humanity. But on that third day, when the world had lost hope in their human plan of what they'd thought was meant to be, Jesus took the keys that held us bound to sin, death and destruction and rose from the grave, defeating its power with complete and total authority.  He is the resurrection and the life that makes all things new. 

There is no other Gospel but death and resurrection. First Jesus' death and resurrection, and then our own as we die to ourselves and are resurrected in His life as a new creation. 

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It is for His glory that we reconcile with Him and are reconciled to one another. It is for His glory that we seek to reconcile the wrongs in this world, establishing His Kingdom of light and love in their place. Word to the wise, you're in for a fight (the right kind, though!) because it is territory that the enemy has been squatting on, and it's not his. Remember whose name is on the title and deed. That's right, it's YOUR name, because it's your inheritance as a child of God. So go ahead, child of God - place your foot on it.

I don't know what needs to be reconciled in your life today, but Jesus kicked down the door of death and defeated it completely so that you can walk in His resurrection power. You may need to die to yourself, your way, your plan, your blueprint, but just remember - there is resurrection on the other side of death.

As my friend said in a post on Facebook after we caught up,

"Don’t stop at forgiveness if reconciliation is in your grasp. Being right will never be as fulfilling as being together. Be like Elsa and #letitgo"

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 TPT

"17 Now, if anyone is enfolded into Christ, he has become an entirely new creation. All that is related to the old order has vanished. Behold, everything is fresh and new. 18 And God has made all things new, and reconciled us to himself, and given us the ministry of reconciling others to God. 19 In other words, it was through the Anointed One that God was shepherding the world, not even keeping records of their transgressions, and he has entrusted to us the ministry of opening the door of reconciliation to God. 20 We are ambassadors of the Anointed One who carry the message of Christ to the world, as though God were tenderly pleading with them directly through our lips. So we tenderly plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Turn back to God and be reconciled to him.” 21 For God made the only one who did not know sin to become sin for us, so that we who did not know righteousness might become the righteousness of God through our union with him."

Musings From A Woman On The Verge Of 40

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When your kids start calling Ice Ice Baby and Can't Touch This "oldies" in casual dinner conversation, you've officially become your own mom and dad. When you start saying, "when I was your age..." and catch yourself, cupping your mouth in shock, then yeah... life it is a'changing.

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When your eldest son says, "Hey mom, they measured my height yesterday at school. I'm 5'4" now... officially taller than you. Also, I weigh 105." Ugh. First of all, thanks for reminding me of how short I am, when, secretly in my own mind, I'm a super model. Second of all, now my weight doesn't feel so amazing. Third of all, when did I get to the age where I have a son that is taller than me? For real, though. HOW AM I ALMOST 40?

I hear people say that they're pumped for 40, ready to turn 40, excited to step into 40, but this woman is just seeing more wrinkles (collagen, where did you go??) and lumps. And what ever happened to my metabolism, and my thick, silky hair? What. The. Heck. In case you're wondering, I'm just waiting for small lips to come back in, too. I'll be sooo on trend. And why do I cry all the time... correction, more than I already did?  Whhhhhaaaaat is happening to me????

I'm turning 40. Yes, 40. Let that sink in, Andi. 

Some of you are older than me and want me to just shut up. Others of you are like, "what? Lumps? Loss of hair? Slower metabolism? Ahhhhh! I. can't. even."

CALM DOWN. It's all going to be okay. Or at least, that's what I hope I'll be letting you know on September 4th, when I step out of my 30's and into my 40's. (Yes, I'm accepting gifts.) Also, I share a birthday with Beyonce, so that's something.

I find myself wrestling with these thoughts often, "Since when did age become something to avoid?" "When did we stop embracing the beauty of grey hair, lumps, wrinkles, a life lived with experience and wisdom?" "When did looking like I'm forever 21 become the goal?" "Why can't we all just age well?" Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we're eternal beings that still can't cope with some of the effects of the Fall in the Garden. Maybe it's comparison. Maybe it's vanity. Maybe we just like beauty products (yes, I see you). Maybe we're locked into a moment where we felt the most beautiful and want to get back there somehow...

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This is my BEAUTIFUL mom. This is her real grey hair; the hair that young people now spend crazy amounts of money to have. but hers is all natural. It's all her. Those wrinkles, sans botox; those laugh lines, sans fillers; all earned, all hers. Every. Single. One. She's beautiful. She's a tad emotional (I get it from my Momma). She's a little crazy and totally creative - a hippie to rival all hippies (you should try her homemade kombucha) - and she's aging beautifully, inside and out. And as I teeter towards 40, I thank God that she's my mom. When I start freaking out about aging, I just look at her. She's paving a way for me and so many others. 

A couple of months ago, my 5-year-old Sammy pointed out the wrinkles around my mouth and asked me, "what are those?" to which I replied, "Laugh lines! Those are earned over time, buddy. You have to laugh a lot and then you'll get your own." Deep in thought, he smiled and nodded, thinking that was quite possibly the coolest thing ever. 

Look, you do you. Botox, fillers, all the things... whatever floats your boat. I just pray that we as woman can age beautifully from the inside out. That we can be at peace with who we are, and that we find a way to genuinely love who our Creator has made us to be. Truth be told, I've shocked myself over this last year with all these conflicting feelings and fears of hitting a certain age. For the most part, I'm pretty comfortable in my own skin,  but in the times I'm not, I cry it out in my Father's lap. I let Him remind me how amazing I am, and then I get back up, dust myself off, and keep going. 

My conclusion? This short lady (who is a super model in her own mind) is going to keep walking her way down the runway of life with a little less hair, a tad slower metabolism, a few more tears than usual, and laugh lines, to boot, and she's going to be just fine. 40, I'm coming for you like a dance battle.

Because, DANCE BATTLES.

 

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Guest Post with Jamie Ivey

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Guys! I met a new friend who you're all going to love... let me introduce you to Jamie Ivey! Just last month, I flew down to Texas to meet her and record an episode for her podcast, The Happy Hour With Jamie Ivey (you can listen to the episode here). She is mother to four beautiful kids, wife to Aaron, lives outside of Austin, Texas and has just released her first book, If You Only Knew; My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming FreeI asked if she wouldn't mind me sharing some of it with you, and she said yes! She's a soul sister with a message of freedom and vulnerability that aligns so deeply with my heart. I believe you're going to love her and love her book!

Here is an excerpt:

"Remember at the end of high school when they announce the people who are “Most Likely to _________”? Then they fill in the blanks with things like, “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Most Likely to Stay Single,” “Most Likely to Become Famous.”

I never received any of those “Most Likely to . . .” awards in high school, but I can only imagine what I would have received if they’d given me one: “Most Likely to Get Married Early,” “Most Likely to Become a Teacher,” “Most Likely to Become a Mom.” Yet on the inside, my identity was in shambles. I knew I wasn’t “likely” to do any of those things. And as I worked my way through college, the predictions would only have gotten worse: “Most Likely to Get Divorced,” “Most Likely to Get a Disease,” “Most Likely to Get Pregnant.” (Well, that one actually did happen, but thankfully not the others.) 

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If we’re not careful, our whole identity can become wrapped up in what other people think we’re supposed to be or what we think we’re supposed to do. Perhaps today, for example, you’re basing your identity on something as fresh and recent as how you acted last night and what somebody said to you or accused you of. Or you’re finding your identity in the mom you want to be, or the mom you hate that you are. Maybe you’re finding your identity in the job you have, or the job you wish you had but can’t seem to get hired for. 

Maybe you find part of your identity in what you did this summer, or what you wish you’d done this summer, compared to what everybody else was doing (and bragging about doing). Maybe you find your identity in the ministries you perform at church and how people perceive your “Christian” standing because of it. Maybe you find your identity in your passions, in your body mass index, in your checkbook balance, in your home décor choices, or whatever other kinds of indicators seem to measure your worth and success as a person. We are constantly finding our identity from everything around us, from everywhere we go, and from everything, people say and think about who we are or who we should be. 

But this is not who we are. And we always need to remember that. 

A few years ago, one of my kids came home from school, super down about his day. He told me how during the day, some kids at school had been talking about all those “Most Likely to . . .” categories, and his friends announced they had voted him “Most Likely to Lose at Arm Wrestling.” My first inclination was to laugh. From my vantage point as an adult, of course, being known as the best arm wrestler in third grade doesn’t mean much. But I held back my giggles because I could see this insult had been a real blow to my son’s nine-year-old heart because his friends had made him sad . . . and “because I’m strong,” he told me.

“I know you are,” I said, pulling my sweet boy close to me, hugging him. I whispered into his ear, telling him he was a child of God whose identity was already secured, and that his identity in Christ is the only identity he ever needs to be worried about. He didn’t need to be devastated or heartbroken over what his friends were saying because that identity never matters. 

And I wonder if that’s not what our Father wants to do when we come home from another day of combat, with all those false identities screaming in our head. Can’t you just hear Him saying, “My sweet daughter, those thoughts you’re thinking are not true? Remember My promises to you? My Word is true. You know this. You are a child of Mine. You are a new creation. I have made you alive with Christ, and I have chosen you to be My daughter so that I can do great things through you.” 

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Over and over I’ve needed Him to whisper these truths to me—through His Word, through His Spirit, through my community. And if past (and current) history are any indication, I feel pretty sure I’ll be struggling to believe it until the day I take my final breath on this earth, until I’m face-to-face with Jesus. Of the numerous things in my life that I battle nearly every single day, remembering my identity is one of them.

Over time, God has revealed Himself to me in ways I’d never before been willing to accept. I finally started to learn that my identity is not skewed because of all the things I’ve done or haven’t done, but is secured by all the things Jesus has done (as well as by what He hasn’t done, like condemn and reject me). 

My identity is only what it is today—a daughter of the King—because of Jesus. It has nothing to do with me. “Most likely” has been replaced by the absolute assurance that I am loved and cherished by my heavenly Father, despite all that He knows of me. And when I finally began believing this truth—that God could use a broken, messed-up person like me for His glory—I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. 

That’s when things really started to change for me. I know it can be the same for you." 

So friend, get out there, buy Jamie's book and subscribe to her podcast. You'll find a fast friend through each page you turn and each episode you hear.

xoxo Andi

Helpful Links: 

Jamie's Book

Jamie's Website

Jamie's Podcast

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calming The Storm Within

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was there 2 months ago. 

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

Haven't you learned to trust yet?

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

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

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

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

Pain, Lies, Love, Truth & Freedom

If you haven't already heard, I released a brand new She Is Free Book Video Series last month to accompany you or a small group of women who you'd like to walk on a journey to freedom with. Maybe you haven't purchased the She Is Free book yet, so, in just a moment, I'll give you a taste of what it's all about. Maybe you'd like to buy a bundle of books and shoot this post to a group of friends, inviting them to gather together and start a book club! Whatever you do, my heart is to resource, equip and activate you to walk in the fullness of freedom Christ has for you.

Friend, here is what I've learned; pain has a way of either telling us something or destroying us depending on what we do with it. The moment we consciously surrendered to a loving God in the middle of our mess, trusting Him to hold just us as we are, even with baggage from years of compounded pain, our hearts begin to heal.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction of my book - She is Free:

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

How often have you heard this phrase, “The truth will set you free!”? Many times it is out of scriptural context. This line by itself 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 culture’s truth? What about the truth of your past and pain? Or the shocking truth of your present reality that hurts more than anything? All of these “truths” will fade away, yet there is One whose truth is eternally unshakeable because He is truth incarnate, the word made flesh. This is the truth that we can align our lives with to live in freedom.

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].” (John 8:31–32 AMP)

Scripture tells us that if we hold to Jesus’s 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.

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One thing I’ve learned on the journey thus far is this: our spiritual freedom is found as we learn the truth about the lies that have held us captive. These are the moments in which love breaks through the darkness and the blinders begin to fall off of our eyes, revealing the sweet freedom that is ours to walk in. There are spiritual forces at work that try to lure us into their world of lies. The Bible is very clear on this. In Ephesians 6:12, we’re told, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Once we buy into those lies, they create an atmosphere or subculture around us from which we live, operate, and see our lives. Imagine the lies we partner with (whether knowingly or unknowingly) are like a dirty, scratched, and damaged pair of glasses. Glasses are supposed to help us see more clearly, but if the glasses are smudged, scratched, or dirty, our view is skewed. Lies do this; they cause us to see ourselves, others, and our lives without clarity.

Oftentimes, what’s going on outside of us reveals what’s going on deep within us. Whether it’s the news, social media, circumstances, our spouses, children, leaders, friends, the driver in the car in front of you, coworkers, or that person walking down the street, any of these can push our buttons and squeeze our lives like a toothpaste tube. It’s when we are under pressure that we see what is within us. Is it anger? Control? Fear? Unforgiveness? Or is it peace, love, joy, patience, and the like?

What if I told you there’s a way to break free from the lies you’ve found yourself living in, that there’s a way to step into the truth that is wrapped in love, enabling you to create the culture of the kingdom of heaven inside your heart and around your life?

In some seasons it feels like a fight to step into spiritual freedom, and in other seasons there’s a beautiful ease in aligning ourselves with what is already ours in Jesus. I want to share with you how I’ve done this in my own life. It’s an ongoing process for each and every one of us and, of course, a very personal one. It’s a journey I hope we can share together. I believe I can help as a fellow traveler on the path of freedom."

I'd love to share in the She is Free journey with you.

There is so much more we'll cover together in this book, from how I hated my mom, to forgiving and reconciling with her, to stepping out from under the heavy blanket of shame I lived with for years because I thought I deserved it. We'll talk about anger, fear and the insatiable need we have at times to control things, people or circumstances. It's raw, vulnerable and practical. My hope is to provide you with the right tools to dismantle the lies that have held you captive.

You can be free.

Indifference Kills Transformation

My husband and I were invited by a friend, and Liberty Church Community member, to attend the Restore Fall Benefit Dinner at the Tribeca Rooftop last September. Restore believes that 'sex trafficking is a problem that has a solution.' 

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Besides being in awe of the good work that Restore is doing, that line got me thinking... If there is a solution to a problem I face, or that we, as a society face, I cannot afford to be indifferent. Nothing changes around me when I stop having genuine care and concern for the plight of humanity. 

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference." - Elie Wiesel

Indifference kills transformation; personal transformation and societal transformation. 

It's hard to take action when we're indifferent. It's hard to break free from the lies that hold us captive if we're indifferent. It's hard to bring freedom to others when we're indifferent, and comfortable in our comfort. 

Jesus came to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable, so maybe it's time for us to shake things up at the start of 2018. Ask yourself, "Where have I been indifferent in areas of my life that really matter? And what can I do to make one change today?" It could be as simple as having a conversation with someone you've been avoiding. It could be choosing to give your time, talent or treasure to a cause that is worthy. It could be choosing that bible reading plan you've been avoiding because you've already decided you'll fail. It could be a personal goal that you'd like to achieve, but have found yourself thinking over and over again, "It's not a big deal." That mindset indicates that you've stepped into a form of indifference. Maybe it's time to stop waiting for someday, when...

The truth is, we may just change the world as we become resolute that we will not walk, stand, or sit in indifference when it comes to the things that really matter.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead