As someone who has firsthand dealt with the legal system when it comes to sexual abuse, sadly, the 6 month sentence is actually a bit of a victory. Most people will hear that and say, “What?” But the fact is, he got something. This case actually made it to trial. The evidence was actually processed and didn’t sit ignored in a room at the hospital for a decade. It was investigated and law enforcement carried through. Does that make a 6 month sentence based on his conviction ok? No. But that’s not the shocking part to me. Most rapists get nothing. Most victims are further traumatized and don’t even make it past the medical exam, an interview with a detective, or beyond sitting in a grand jury room being asked about every single position you’ve ever had sex in (and the trial is in regards to your child’s sexual abuse case and not your own…) In fact only 6% of rapists ever spend a day in jail. See that statistic and other facts of rape vs myths here. 

The system is completely screwed up. That’s why, for years, I’ve been parts of organizations that work mainly with the legislative process when it comes to human trafficking and victims of sexual abuse. But that’s also why I know that even though the legislation is getting better that doesn’t mean the process is. That doesn’t mean victims of sexual abuse are any more empowered or strong. That doesn’t mean that it’s not all a complete disaster. So, I’m not at all surprised at the failure of the legal system. 

Here’s what I AM surprised with, here’s the part that has left me literally curled up in a ball screaming into my pillow, what makes me relive my own traumas with abuse and the court system, here’s what has me left feeling nothing but intense fear and rage… 

What the hell is wrong with everyone else? 

I mean, I knew rape culture was an issue. I knew victim blaming was a problem. I knew that people are very likely to try to defend someone they know when they are accused of a heinous crime. I know. I do. I mean, I’m a female, who grew up in the Bible Belt during the height of the “True Love Waits” movement. If there’s one thing I understand it is that it is always my responsibility to not get raped. Except I don’t understand. I don’t understand how anyone could say those things. The last four years, when I finally stepped out of the abuse I was living in and began to heal and began to realize the excuses that had kept me there the main one was “I deserved it,” “I did something.” And daily I am still told by society that I deserve what I get. 

As a single woman who has accepted as part of my career to be active on social media I constantly am blamed for the messages I get from husbands, from fathers, from perverted single men, from complete strangers that I don’t know anything about, from anyone really. Anyone is allowed to say anything to me at any time because I’m asking for it. Because I chose to work in social media, which apparently means I’m choosing to be harassed. Because I’m pretty and I dare post a picture of my actual pretty face somewhere. Because I’m in shape and dress nicely and look good, that doesn’t simply make me an attractive woman who takes pride in herself, it makes me a seductive one. So it means that I am at fault when a man messages me inappropriately when I have done nothing but post about my beliefs and opinions (on mostly Christian topics might I add). I have never once put out a FB post calling all men to hit me up, but you’d never guess that I don’t have “hey you” tattooed on my boobs as my profile picture based on women’s (and men’s) responses when I speak out about inappropriate FB encounters. A simple, cute picture of me, sitting on the ground, wearing long pants and a shirt basically up to my collar bone is the equivalent to a backpage ad. 

Dare I call out a man and say he is responsible, it means that I am “not embracing the biblical approach to modesty” (umm what?) or that I’m “not accepting my responsibility” (to make sure that a man doesn’t drool over me like I’m a hot dog at a baseball game instead of a human being?) or I’m the dreaded “f-word” (feminist). Newsflash, I’ve been a feminist my whole life! I’ve been a feminist as I’ve been empowering women to be strong in their role as wives, as mothers, as leaders. I’ve been a feminist as every message I’ve shared has been focused on the growth of females’ roles in society and daring them to step up. But I guess that’s ok ways to empower women because men agree in those areas. If you try to empower a woman by daring to say that a man isn’t allowed to try to put his penis inside of you without your consent even if you’re lying on the ground passed out naked in front of him, or even to go so far as to say that a woman standing naked in front of your husband even begging him to have sex with her still doesn’t mean it’s not your husband’s responsibility when he sleeps with her… And well… The people are not afraid to make sure I am made well-aware of just how wrong that is.
It’s always the woman’s fault. Always.

So I am left deeply disturbed. 

Because I look at the letters defending Brock Turner by family and friends and they are scarily familiar to me. I’ve spent a lot of time today actually vomiting when the realization sunk in. That these letters are not that far from what I see on FB every single day. Wives blaming other women for their husband’s wandering eyes and lustful mind. Men blaming women for their dirty thoughts and apparent insatiable sex drive and natural lack of self-control. Newsflash again, a woman’s number one goal in life isn’t to go around seducing all the men (but men don’t believe that, I mean, they still believe the girl working at the strip club is there just for him…) but here’s the deal, even if a woman is trying to seduce you, you hold the responsibility to your actions in that situation. And just like Brock’s family, we as a culture have been excusing men for way. too. long. 

When we say that a woman deserves what she gets when she is harassed online by a man (something my own brother and pastors told me when I was completely disrespected while on Tinder even though nothing about my profile would have suggested I desired those things and that was my first interaction with this complete stranger), when we say a woman is seductive just because she is attractive, when we say men can’t control themselves around women, when we say men have no control over their sexual desires period, we are promoting rape. We are saying exactly what Brock Turner’s friend said when she typed in her letter, “Not all rape is because a person is a rapist.” Except yes, if someone rapes someone else, that does indeed make them a rapist. If someone does indeed cheat on their spouse, for whatever reason, that makes them unfaithful. If a man truly doesn’t have enough self-control to pass by a female without humping her, that makes him an animal. And if you can’t bring yourself to hold the perpetrator responsible then that makes you an enabler. And as an enabler you are responsible as well. We are all responsible for the role our message plays. 

And with your enabling messages you are saying it’s ok. It’s understandable. It “is what it is”. You are enabling rapists to rape. You are enabling spouses to cheat. You are enabling men to not use self-control (and, in case you didn’t know, women have sexual urges too. Like, strong ones. How is it that we can sit here and say that we are required to have so much self-control that we can’t even think about sex, but men don’t even know what to do with themselves when a girl walks by and waves at him?)  

Daily, I am entangled in a web of the “you asked for it” rhetoric, but with this particular case in the limelight, with the blatant disregard Brock’s family and friends have towards the autonomy and physical being of other humans, maybe I assumed that it would open a few eyes. That when they saw parents defending their son who was convicted of penetrating a woman who was passed out behind a dumpster while witnesses intervened, that maybe, maybe they would see the absolute ignorance and harm of these statements. I mean, if you can look at a father calling his son’s violation of a human being “20 minutes of action” and not reevaluate your personal moral compass I don’t know what else is going to make you do it. If you can look at a mother say that prison would “ruin his life” and how unfair, unfair, it would be for him to be punished harshly and not have your eyes opened to the stupid things we say that defend actions like this. When there is an actual FB page dedicated to defending these stupid notions that just because a person has too much to drink it means they deserve to have their person violated. In fact, they basically wanted to be violated because why else would they drink too much? 

I can’t stop crying. 

Not because he got off with a pathetically light sentence of 6 months (of which he will serve 3), because I lost my faith in fair judgement and actual justice long ago with my own experiences. But because, well, I can see now exactly why this young man thought it was ok to do what he did to this girl, that it is crystal clear why he has shown no remorse or sense of guilt over ruining her emotional and physical well-being. I can see it all right here. And I’m not convinced that a lot of the boys growing up right now won’t end up doing exactly the same thing. I’m not convinced that I won’t have to fight every single day of my life to keep my daughter and myself from having our very beings continually viewed by men as their “right” or the method of fulfillment to whatever urge it is they have that day. And I’m not convinced anyone would stand up and defend me if I were violated in the same way as Brock Turner’s victim

I recently shared about one of my “desperate” moments that I had with the Lord (read it here). It was one of those moments when I had felt so deeply the desire to be the other half to the whole of a marriage that I just couldn’t hold back the tears as I cried in the lap of Jesus.

It’s one of those things that as a 31 year old single mother I’ve been taught not to share. I learned that talking about desiring marriage means that I’m “not close enough to Christ”, that I’m “not satisfied with myself”, that I’m just “desperate”. But those are all lies that I’m told because it’s uncomfortable for people to hear that being secure with the Lord and being successfully and happily single isn’t “enough”. That I still desire to be married more than ever. 

So, single momma, let me tell you a little something about this desperate desire from deep down in my single momma heart… 

If closeness with God and happiness with ourselves meant we would desire or need marriage less, then why did God look at Adam, in perfection, knowing he would have absolute intimate connection with the Father, and say, “It is not good for man to be alone.” In fact, the closer I get to God the more the idea of singleness is absolutely wrecked for me. If anything, singleness became the thing Satan began to use to tempt me away from God’s designs and purposes. The closer I got to God, the more I knew true love, the more I understood the design of marriage, the more I desired to pour out this overwhelming love to another person. 

The more I began to find my identity in Him and to know His thoughts of me, His desires, His plans, the more I wanted to share with someone else. The more conversations I had with Him, the more I desired to have someone to roll over in bed next to and share those conversations with. The more I realized His awesomeness, the more awesome I realized it would have been to not be alone with it all. 

Yes, I can love everyone around me, and I will constantly pour out to them. But God’s love has wrecked me to anything less than the closest human thing I can get to my relationship with Him. A covenant that represents the intimacy He desires with us. A living example of His covenant with us to the world. How am I supposed to desire that less because I’ve grown to know Him more

The end of my marriage was the beginning of myself. People don’t enter into abusive relationships, keep themselves there, and then have everything publicly fall apart because they are in a “good” place. This was the journey I had to take in order to become healthy. In order to find my identity, my strength, and my inner healing. I am happier, more successful, more full of life than ever before. I am in all ways better than I ever was when I was with someone else. I have never been more satisfied with myself ever before. Which is exactly why I am so ready to find a person who can finally appreciate all of these things I never even knew about myself. Being satisfied alone is exactly why I am ready to not be alone any more. 

I have a desperate desire. A deeply desperate desire. A desire I feel more deeply than I can even convey. That, in no way, makes me a desperate person. Trust me, I know desperate. I’ve begged men not to leave me after finding out they were cheating on me. I’ve chased after a moving truck and jumped in the back as a guy who my friends had a literal intervention with me about drove away because “I made him so mad he just couldn’t look at me anymore” (after he had spent hours belittling me). I begged my ex-husband to love me and used to apologize to him after he spit on me and threatened to leave… That is desperate. 

If I was truly desperate I could go back to that in a second with any one of a million men. It hurts even to say those things out loud, but I want people to know that those are the feelings they bring up in me every time they claim I’m just “desperate” because I’m finally in a good place and desire to not be in this place alone. Desiring marriage is in no way a sign of desperation or unhappiness. And I’m sick of hearing it. I’m sick of all the single mom’s blogs being dedicated to beating into women’s heads that they should never desire a man. I’m sick of it being said over and over that it’s something we won’t be able to attain until we “give up” on that desire, or that we’re better off without it. I will never give up on this desire. 

Because this is a God-given desire that He has planted into me, and I refuse to allow it to be uprooted because it makes me look less than “empowering, strong, and feminist” than people want me to be. I’m not going to pretend that I, as a single woman, could ever be for my kids the same alone that I could be as the half to a godly couple. I can be amazing, and I can damn sure be better single than I ever was as a half to the marriage I was in, but I alone am not the equivalent to God’s intended design for the family. I will never put myself back in the place I was in, but I will never give up the desire to be in the place I have always dreamed of. 

Single momma, you are amazing, but you don’t have to be everything. You don’t have to hate the fact that you don’t want to do this alone. Spoiler alert: you weren’t intended to do this alone. Desiring a spouse is in no way an indicator of your emotional health, your closeness with God, or your happiness with yourself. Feeling this desperate desire isn’t a flaw, an insecurity, or a weakness. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say most of us already know that. Because we know that it was the exact opposite that probably put us in the relationship we used to be in in the first place. 

Since when is desiring for ourselves the things God desires for us wrong? Since when is desiring the best for our lives and the lives of our children weak? Since when is marriage wrong? It’s not wrong, we all know that’s not wrong. So, apparently, the belief is that it is only wrong for me because I am a single mom.

I’m not less deserving of marriage just because mine got messed up the first time around. My children aren’t less deserving of having loving parents raise them together simply because it’s not the two people who brought them into this world. My family is not less deserving of what anyone else feels their family deserves just because my family may come to it a little differently. 

I have a desperate desire. I shouldn’t have to defend my right to that desire, and I shouldn’t be made to feel that desire is wrong. I’m sick of people asking me to. 

Hey! It's Claudia's B-day soon. I know you're a close friend of hers so it'd be pretty cool if you joined us in a surprise party on June 12, 2018 at 8pm at 786 Broadway Ave, New York, NY Hope to see you there!

I lay in my bed at the end of most days crying in the lap of Jesus. My body wracks with sobs as every hurt pours out, as every insecurity spills from my heart, as every doubt comes to the surface. I question Him, I scream in His face in a temper tantrum befitting the most obstinate toddler, I pound my fists into His chest, I cry until my voice is gone and my tears are dry and my body is empty. I pour out at His feet my rage, my emotional vomit. My tears are more like fire than a refreshing rain. When I open my alabaster box it is more like the box of Pandora. But to the Lord, it is all a sweet, sweet fragrance because He knows. He has felt it too.

He knows what it is like to pour His heart out, the deepest parts of His being, over and over and over only to have people reject Him, call Him a liar, make fun of Him, and hold His words against Him.

He knows what it is like to have His family reject Him, His closest friends betray Him, His followers use Him, and the public eye just waiting for Him to do something they didn’t agree with.

He knows what it is like to be completely alone because no one knew how to really love Him, no one truly understood Him, no one could see past their own perceptions and expectations of Him.

He knows what it is like to have the flesh ripped from their bones, to be spit on, to be kicked. He knows the pain of words screamed over Him as He cowered under the weight of the cross on His back.

He knows what it is like to be utterly betrayed, to lose a legal battle He should have won, to cry out to God for His very life, and to have that life taken.

But more than that, He knows the pain of crying out to God and feeling as if God is no where to be found. To have God turn His back on Him and to feel the weight of the entire world rested upon Him as He took His final physical breath before His death.

There is nothing I can cry into the lap of Jesus that He can’t say, “I’ve felt it too.” The brokenness, the emptiness, the hopelessness, the suffering, the loneliness, the anger. His prayers were not quiet, sweet, perfectly put together prayers in a church pew. His prayers were shoutings into the solitude while He sweat drops of blood. He knows what it is like to pray with all His might for something and to not have it granted. He knows what it is like to not want to live the life He is called to live. He knows. I cannot scare Him as I scream into His face, because at one point He was in the garden screaming into the face of His Father. I do not have a Savior who looks down at me as a pathetic, emotionally unstable tiny human. I have a Savior who looks down on me and says, “You are just like me, a girl after my own heart.”

 

 

 

I’ve been sticking to my FB page lately. Too exhausted to write out more than a paragraph or two. This even started as a FB post… But I guess I just have too much to say… 

Tonight, tonight is this. As I sit here reflecting with the Lord, it is this. As I write my hurt on the pages of my journal meant only for the one who created me I had to share a few of my thoughts. Thoughts that go through my mind frequently. Sometimes grabbing hold and sometimes moving through with no effect. Tonight those thoughts hurt. 

And I had to share, you know, in case anyone starts to get the crazy idea that my life is perfect and amazing. Because I’ve learned that just leads to more issues. You want real, here’s my real. 

Last year I shared the absolute craziness of this “glamorous” life I live. I also shared how I refuse to let being single keep me from living this life that I love and that I’ve always wanted. Those posts were “inspiring” I was told by so many single women, and I’m glad. I truly, truly love to know that my life is not filled with wasted moments. 

But tonight, tonight after attending another event (my second one this week), after traveling out of town last week to meet up with some amazing men and women in ministry, after doing everything I’m supposed to love, tonight I don’t feel ok. I don’t feel empowered. I don’t feel like doing this “ministry” thing. I just hurt.

And I had to share that, because I had to share that that’s ok. 

Because in a few days I’m supposed to be celebrating my 9th wedding anniversary, but instead I will be thinking back on these past 4 years of being single. 

Because my heart is broken and hurting that any excitement and hope I once felt over a future marriage that is not torture, but is instead an example of godly love and partnership, dwindles each day. 

Because any hope of having more children is beginning to feel silly instead of attainable and even the kids have stopped asking when they will have another brother/sister. 

Because in the year since I wrote those posts I’ve gone on too many dates and none gave me even a glimmer of hope that it could be him. Because the one I thought it was… The one I thought was my finally, my everything… Well, I can’t even talk about that one. 

So last year, I posted a picture of coming home from the event alone, changing my clothes and going fishing. Today, I came home and cried. My kids talked about how wonderful the event was (I brought them because I didn’t want to go alone), but all I could think was “another thing I have to do by myself”. 

And one day soon I will post about how having a desperate desire does not make a person desperate, and today is not the day, but just know that even though I am not desperate, I feel this desperately with every part of my being. 

It wasn’t until I saw the video of the baptism on FB that I realized, “Oh, how does that look?” I immediately wondered how those whom I have mentored for years viewed that action, how those who know me only through my ministry felt when they saw me being submerged in the water. What does that mean in regards to my walk with Christ all these years? Allow me to share with you the beautiful story of the moment that represents absolutely everything about my life. 

I was first baptized at 7 by Rev. Perry Sanders in Lafayette, Louisiana, the most southern pastor I will ever have the honor of meeting. He wore pink and seersucker suits before they were cool. But let me go back a bit to my “non-salvation” salvation story. 

For those who have heard my testimony before, my unconventional journey is no surprise, but the truth is I have always known God. Always. He used to speak plainly in my ear, I have always seen angels and demons, spirituality encompassed my life from the very beginning. So that one Sunday morning in Houston, TX, I thought nothing of going up to the steps of the church to pray. I don’t remember if that was actually something people did in the church or just something I felt called to do at the time, but I do remember my dad looking down at me with a strange look on his face when I told him I wanted to go up. 

He looked at my mom and I heard her say, “Do you think she wants to get saved?” He looked at me and said, “Is that what you want?” And I looked at him confused as I said, “yes”. Anything to get to the steps. But instead of going to the steps I felt him pull my arm in the other direction and I was standing face to face with the pastor who also asked me, “Do you want to be saved?” 

Now I was getting a bit scared… Why did I need to be saved? What was wrong? I just wanted to talk to God on the steps! But I said, “Yes” and got my Bible and my picture taken with the pastor. I don’t remember his name anymore, but I remember exactly what he looked like. I think his name started with a “G”? Anyway, as always, we moved again, so he wasn’t the one who baptized me. 

Fast forward to the day I was baptized in the Baptist church at the age of 7 in a yellow rubberish gown. Again I got my picture taken with the pastor. Since I had always spoken to God and knew I was called into ministry (well, I believed missions at the time because that was the only role women ever really had in the Baptist church when it came to outreach) I don’t know if I never made the connection with what I had always been told about “salvation” or that I just completely missed everything they were saying, but I never understood the concept of inviting Jesus into my heart when He was always right there. 

I soon realized how my experience was not only abnormal, but was a terrifying thought to most American church congregations. Especially the southern baptist ones. 

I was told that my experiences were either demonic or a sign of mental illness. God never, ever, speaks to anyone. So I did what any normal child would do, and I told God to stop talking to me because everyone says He doesn’t do that anymore. And that began my drifting away (although I didn’t realize it at the time). 

I continued to pursue missions. Even speaking in front of the church at 12 about a recent trip we had gone on and committing my life to the mission field. Again, the entire congregation shook my hand, another picture with the pastor… And then reality came crashing down. 

My mom was institutionalized after being diagnosed with severe mental illness. When I visited her I saw the demons roaming the halls, but with her diagnosis I had been convinced that I could never speak of God’s voice, of angels, or of demons ever again. I could never end up there. I began to ignore everything about the spiritual realm that I had ever known.

Then we moved again. I plugged into a youth group where I was loved instead of the object of constant bullying, I stepped into the role of worship leader and recognized new avenues for ministry. I began to mentor younger youth (most of the ones who had been discarded, like I had been at my last group). It was comfortable. It was normal. It was great. 

In college, I decided to be baptized again. For real that time. Because I was a “normal” American Christian this time and “knew” what I was doing. So in a loft high above everyone with the spotlight on me I was baptized by whichever pastor was in leadership at the time. I can’t at all remember who it was. 

And then college hit, and the professors asked me to defend my faith, to dig deeply into the Scriptures that I believed I knew so well. I began to study every religion one by one. I began to have my entire childhood rise up in me and the pain of all of my experiences hit me as my entire world crashed down on me. And God’s voice was no longer there to guide me through because I had silenced Him years before. 

And I walked away. And I came back. And I walked away again. And I placed myself in a marriage that was tearing me apart, and I had my first child, and I knew at that point I had to go back to God. He was the only one who could fix the mess I had been making trying to do it all on my own. But I never got my footing back with Him. 

3 years later I began my blog and that birthed my ministry. I knew I had been called, and I knew God has given me specific talents to use so I figured I would use them. And for a year I did everything I could to try to make a ministry in my own strength. Constantly being asked to prove myself, to defend my gifts. Basically, I was failing in “ministry”. And then my marriage failed and I was kicked out of church leadership because of my divorce. Failure, failure, failure, when all I was trying to do was what I had known I was supposed to do all along.

But that was where I found Him. I found Him in the darkest moment which ironically seemed to shine the brightest. Because I had finally heard His voice again. As He said, “There will be no restoration, you are free.” And that moment changed everything. Because nothing anyone said that went against the voice of God mattered. This time I would listen to Him and not to those who told me He would never speak. Because He truly does still speak. 

And I read the Bible for the first time on my own and my entire life was changed. For 40 weeks I soaked up each verse, each word, anxiously awaiting God to speak to me about it. Ironically at that exact time I had begun attending a church where I encountered true Pharisees for the first time in my life (needless to say I did not stay long, but that was truly eye-opening). 

I was not living perfectly by any means. I was still not fully hearing God, at times confused about if it was even Him. I was dealing with deep emotional wounds that I didn’t know the half of at the time. I was a broken vessel leaking mess everywhere I went and praying God would at least fill me with some good and tape together a few cracks. Putting one foot into my old world and trying to keep one foot out. 

I lived through some of the most gut-wrenchingly painful, most terrifyingly horrible, most emotionally devoid times these past 4 years, but chose to walk with God whether I could hear Him or not. At times it was the mountain tops, at times it was the depths of the pit. I have continued to share every vulnerability, every reality as I have walked this path. And that became my ministry. 

Somewhere along the way I truly, truly found God. I found my identity in Him. I gave over every area of my life, and laid on the altar the promises I had placed as idols above Him. These past 6 months have transformed me completely. The culmination of an entire lifetime wrapped up in a time that felt simultaneously unending and as quick as the blink of an eye. I have come through the wilderness. 

In October, I had the amazing opportunity to share my story with the world. And as I shared I realized it would be the last time I shared my story in its entirety. That I no longer wanted to even speak of the past. 

In November, I completed my 40 day fast which completely transformed me in such a way that my friends all told me I was different, that I even spoke differently. 

In December, the Lord told me it was time to begin walking in the name He had given to me years before through a prophet at a prayer meeting (a story I will share another time). I had been waiting for that moment ever since that day. 

In January, I finally found my church body. A place where my pieces fit. A place where I would spend the entire first month with the body in intense prayer and receive great healing. 

In February, I was called to battle against all the principalities that had made up my little world from the beginning. Generational curses, spiritual chains that I don’t even know the origins of, the bondage of death that had constantly been spoken into me from the beginning, the spirit of religion that tried to suffocate my faith… I can’t share the entire story now, but everything about my life has been different since finally claiming victory over those things. 

In March, God began to throw me into ministry full-force like never before. Connecting all the pieces, providing opportunities, comforting me that His plan is perfect and will be fulfilled. 

So as I entered the month of April, completely new, I found it only fitting to finally get baptized the right way. With a complete understanding of the process and pain involved in completely dying to yourself. With a complete desire to put everything behind me and walk fully in the beautiful path He has planned and purposed for new. Letting Him lead in all things. 

So today (the day after my earthly birthday), I was baptized again. Baptized into the fullness of Christ. Baptized into all that I am in Him. Baptized into my new name. 

You can call me Grace. 

  

Ministry is a constant going out and coming in, an emptying and a filling, an exhausting life of exhales that last far too long and inhales that are far too short. 

Maybe I’m just doing it all wrong. Maybe my heart is too invested. But how can a heart not become completely intertwined when you know the heart of God in a matter, when He has so strongly given you a message to share, when someone so desperately comes to you… How can your whole entire heart not just immediately wrap around all that there is in that moment? 

And sometimes you give the perfect word in the perfect way, but it is not received. And you are left to watch the outcome of it all. You are left with the promise over the situation that God placed in your heart and continues to speak to you about knowing that the disobedience of the person who so desperately wanted your advice means it will not happen. So you weep. You weep and you scream and you blame yourself. And God cries with you and says, “They didn’t disobey you, they disobeyed me.” 

In those moments you realize that the beauty of feeling the heart of God means that you will suffer immense heartbreak over and over and over. And you know that every tear that is collected in a bottle with your name on it also includes a tear from the eyes of the Creator of the world. 

And sometimes you pray for healing and it is immediate and it is immense and it is abundant and faith is immediately increased and salvation settled, but others the healing never comes and you stand next to a coffin beating your fists on the ground wondering if maybe it was because you just didn’t have enough faith. 

In those moments He will hold you and whisper, “You are not the Great Physician, I am.” So you continue to pray even if healing only comes 1 out of 100 times. You’ll just pray more, and you’ll still cry every single time you appear to be a failure in the eyes of men. And those tears will again be added to the bottle. And He will just say, “Well done.” 

And then there are days when you look into the face of Jesus and you share in the joy of expanding the Kigdom. And then other days you will cry into His lap and apologize for not being able to save them, for not being able to get them to listen. And He will always say, “You are not the Savior, I am.” 

And there are days you don’t want to speak to Him when you hear Him call, “Where are you, I’m waiting, it’s time for our walk in the garden.” And there are days you cry out, “God I need you now more than ever!” 

There are days your heart is so empty you can’t give anymore, days your eyes are so dry no tears can come, days your spirit is so worn you feel you will never be used again. 

It’s an ebb and flow. Day in, day out. Person after person. In success and in failure. In every single thing. The bottle gets fuller with every tear you cry, yet each is redeemed one by one. Your heart is poured out and filled over and over. 

It’s not about being weak, it’s not about being strong. It’s not about being right, it’s not about being wrong. It’s about simply being. 

Simply saying, “Yes, Lord,” when He says, “Go.” No matter what the outcome. 

Sometimes I can’t see past the mob yelling “crucify Him”.

Sometimes I forget how strong He was before the lashes on His back and the holes in His palms. 

Sometimes I’m Peter denying He even exists.

Sometimes I’m Mary standing at the foot of the cross, sobbing as my promise, my destiny, slips away from me.

Sometimes I’m too focused on the darkness and the earthquakes to see the bigger picture.

Sometimes I’m the thief mocking along with the crowd.

Sometimes I’m the thief believing, but not having my earthly “miracle” to save me. 

Sometimes I’m watching as the veil is torn in two, but not daring to take a step to enter in. 

Sometimes I believe that Jesus wasn’t really who I thought He was. 

Sometimes I believe Jesus wasn’t really who He said He was. 

Sometimes I think my religion has made me a fool.

Sometimes I hide, believing my entire life has been a lie, not knowing where to go from here.

Sometimes I am the one to betray Him with a kiss. 

Sometimes I am the one fighting in my own strength as I cut off the ears of those Jesus desires to heal.

Sometimes I have no faith left to carry me through. 

Sometimes I need the resurrection, but I have no idea that it is coming…  

 

So you want to be in ministry. You’ve felt a tug on your heart. You stood in the crowd at the conference listening to the speaker and were really impressed to just go out and do what it is you saw that person do. You can’t wait to go out and change the world for Christ. So how do you begin?

You’re itching to go. You’re restless. You can’t seem to sit still. You are frustrated because your only desire is to be in ministry now. Nothing else will cut it. You need to go out and spread the gospel, heal the sick, prophesy, speak to the masses. You. Are. Ready. You need to GO.

You’ve been praying, “God, just bless me financially so I can leave my job and begin working in full time ministry.” You’ve been researching seminary classes to equip you so that you can be recognized as the leader that you know you are. You’re doing everything you’ve seen others do to step into their callings.

Your mind won’t stop racing with a million thoughts on what you need to do, how this is going to work, what this will all look like. You seek out people to prophesy over you exactly what your calling is. You want to hear about all of these wonderful nations you are being given charge of. Because how else will you know where to begin in this awesome life of ministry for the Lord?

This. This is it. This is what the Christian life is all about. Finally. This is what we work our whole lives for. This is what God desires of us and what He is equipping us for…

Right?

But you’re already in ministry. In fact, the moment you decided to walk with God, your entire life became your ministry. That 9-5 job that you can’t wait to leave is a mission field. Those children you are raising are people that God has given to you to shepherd and to steward. That thing you can’t wait to get out of is your training ground.

The Mommy Calling was not just a catchy title, it was everything the Lord was speaking to me from the moment I had my third child. As I was focusing on the fact that I felt I had completely missed out on the ministry God spoke into me from the age of 7, when I thought I had gone off track and would be completely useless, God was telling me, “This is your beginning.”

That was my moment to live the ministry I claimed to love, that I said I would give anything for.

That was my training ground for servant-hood. As I was awake for days on end feeling like I was going to pull my hair out, God was saying, “How much grace can you show to the people I have entrusted you when you have nothing left to give?” When I was changing diapers non-stop, wiping up messy floors, and doing endless therapies with my child, God was saying, “Will you choose to serve? Will you choose to pick up this cross? Will you choose to do your best with this situation?” When motherhood looked nothing like I thought it would, God was saying, “Will you see me when I don’t show up the way you want me to?”

As I was being rejected in certain aspects of ministry and God was saying, “Will you keep your eyes on me?” As doors were slamming in my face and God was saying, “Will you seek my way?” As I was being told things by man and God was whispering, “Will you believe them, or will you believe what I have told you?”

As my ministry seemed so insignificant. As my ministry felt like it wasn’t even a ministry at all. As my ministry felt like a laughing stock. As my ministry was looked down on by other ministries. God kept saying, “Will you see the importance even if no one else does?”

And I kept going.

I failed and I succeeded and I slipped and I soared as I chose to use my entire life, every aspect, for God. As I chose to use every aspect of my life for God in the way God was telling me to (which sometimes meant not talking about God at all). As I chose to use every aspect of my life for God even when I had people telling me that I was completely failing God (in their eyes).

I chose God. I chose a life dedicated to God. I chose a life dedicated to ministry to God. It didn’t matter that no one else recognized it, no one else saw it. It didn’t matter if others thought I was ill-equipped or crazy or whatever else they thought I was. It didn’t matter because it was mine. My ministry shaped by God alone because He was the One who formed me and knows exactly what He desires for me to do.

Ministry is not standing in front of a crowd of thousands of people and preaching Jesus.

Ministry is daily picking up your cross and following Him. Following Him with your family (even if your family are the last people you feel like loving today). Following Him with your job (even if it is a job you hate with every fiber of your being). Following Him with your finances (whether you have nothing or have an abundance). Following Him with your time, your talents, your everything. Following Him in the places you tell God, “God, there’s no way I’m going in there,” and He says, “Yes, you are.”

We say we want to be used by God to change the world.

As long as we don’t have to change a diaper. As long as it is in a “recognized” position in the church. As long as we don’t have to do it when we are too tired, too broken, too poor. As long as we are seen, as long as we are heard, as long as we are known… But maybe we are wrong.

Maybe, God wants to see what we do with the one before he gives us the masses. Maybe God is seeing what we will do in a job we despise before He gives us a job we love. Maybe God doesn’t see ministry the way we see ministry. What if He’s already given you the ministry you are waiting for and He’s trying to figure out why you’ve done nothing with it?

So, you want to be in ministry?

That is amazing! You can start today. Right now. Because you already are.

You want a ministry? Go minister. Because the thing is, when we are faithful in the things we are given God continues to give us more things. But, I have to warn you, sometimes those things come in the form of “trials”, because we have been shown to be able to carry the presence of God through any situation and those situations are what show God to the world.

When we steward the people that we have been given, God continues to give us more people. But, another warning, those people He gives us are usually broken, hurting, lashing out. Those people require more time and more effort and more energy than the newborn baby you used to cry into the lap of Jesus about.

Because that is ministry.

Ministry is not an escape from real life… Ministry is the realest real aspects of life that there is.

A note from the trenches: My 4yo son held my head in his hands the other day and said, “Mom, I’m so glad you don’t give up on being a mom. If you gave up then we would all give up too, but we don’t ever give up because we are a family.” And I cried. I cried because there are so many moments I want to give up. Moments I don’t want to fight another battle, moments I don’t want to stay awake in prayer one more second, moments I want to say, “Just go live with your dad, I’ll start over with a blank slate.” But in those moments God whispers, “What are you doing to steward this ministry I have given you?” and I want to be able to say back to Him, “I’m doing absolutely everything I can.”

 

WHEN PEOPLE SAY, -i CAN FIND jESUS ANYWHERE, i DON'T NEED A BUILDING,- WHAT THEY ARE REALLY SAYING IS, -i CAN FIND JESUS EVERYWHERE EXCEPT THE CHURCH, SO WHY SHOULD i GO--

Recently, I can’t seem to get through a conversation, periscope, blab, you name it, without this one topic bubbling to the surface. It is a daily part of my ministry. “I don’t go to church anymore. I can find Jesus anywhere, so I don’t need to go to a building.” But I’ve noticed something… As a watcher, a student of people and culture, let me tell you what they are really saying, “I seem to find Jesus everywhere except the church, so why should I go?”

The truth is they desperately want to go to church, they’re begging for me to give them a reason to try again. And, honestly, for 30 years of my life I had the same sentiment. I couldn’t find Jesus in church either. All I could say was, “I know we need the body, I’m just still trying to find the body so I can have what I need. Just keep trying and maybe one day we will both find it.”

And I never gave up. I prayed, I church-hopped, I went where people recommended… I couldn’t find Jesus in church even when I was actively trying to find Jesus in church. Even when I was pursuing ministry, when I was leading in worship, when I was sitting at the feet of people claiming to know how to get me to Jesus. I just wanted Jesus! Where was Jesus?

But I would try with all my might. I would cry out to God during worship only to realize I was the only one crying out, to open my eyes and see blank faces staring back at me as I led. I would go to Bible studies where the talk was so shallow I kept trying to dig deeper but had no where to go, where I would sit waiting to hear someone share something life-changing and they never did.

It wasn’t that I ever felt I knew more than those leading me. Clearly, they had the degrees. They knew the Hebrew and the Greek. They were masters in theology. But here I was, so hungry, and every time it was like sitting down craving a steak meal and being fed crumbled up stale crackers. I truly began to understand the reference of desiring to eat of the meat of God and not just drink the milk like babes.

I wanted to dig in. I was ravenous. I had so much going on in my life that I needed real answers to. I wasn’t finding comfort in the world, I wasn’t finding truth anywhere else. I had searched other religions and found only confusion and more pain. I had tried to even walk away from God and I couldn’t get away. God was drawing me into Him more and more and more and I was seeking and seeking and seeking and the church was pushing me out farther and farther and farther.

I’d go into worship services and see the excitement and think, “This is finally it!” only to be left realizing they weren’t excited about Jesus, they were just entertained. I’d walk into the awesome coffee shop/bookstores to grab my girlie coffee before service and overhear the gossip coming from every corner. I’d leave service and even if I had found a bit of hope it was dashed by the deacons complaining at the door that the pastor had gone over too long and now they’d be late to dinner/baseball/whatever was more important than Jesus.

I sat through enough staff meetings, I listened to enough ministers talk about their “plans of action”, I had enough of the inspirational sermon series that were being used in every other church on repeat, I was in it too far to believe that Jesus was what they were truly seeking. Don’t get me wrong, maybe they thought they wanted Jesus, but what they were worshiping was legalism, theology, crowd numbers, cultural relevance…

At one point I filled my bookshelves with every theology book recommended to me, every one they themselves had studied to “get them to the place they were”. I read Bible study after Bible study after Bible study. I would find pieces of God in these things and grow in understanding only to walk into church to have it all cut down by my experiences over and over. Because you can’t grow closer to Jesus when the institution you are trusting is building walls inside of you to keep Him out.

When churches teach that it’s about what we do and don’t believe, how we do and don’t live our lives, and what is and isn’t true, they leave out the one thing we were commanded to teach: it’s not. about. us. They focus on holding their teachers up on pedestals of standards covered in legalistic glitter, placing titles on them like false crowns to set them apart. Saying that is what lives look like when they are dedicated to Jesus.

Except those lives are dedicated to an image, and images never stand, and eventually the fake diamonds lose their shine and the lack of knowledge behind the piece of paper starts to show, and the entire column collapses. And everyone realizes it’s all a lie. But instead of seeing the church for the lie it is, they take it to mean that Jesus is the liar. I know because I’ve been there, and I had every single reason to walk away from the church.

But I couldn’t walk away because I knew that Jesus calls the church His bride, that He desires for His church to be the image of His love for us to the entire world. I felt like Abraham begging for Sodom, “Lord, surely there are 50 churches…ok, 5, Lord… 1? is there 1?” Now, obviously, I did not go to every single church, but I am 30 years old, desiring and hungering after God, begging for godly leadership, hungering for the meat of the Word…

I can say with certainty that I stuck out this fight far longer than most ever will. Partly, because I am extremely stubborn and I love when the world proves to me it isn’t truly as bad as I believe it to be, and partly because God placed in me such a deep love for the church, such a deep love for His people, such a deep love for the body that I wasn’t whole until I was connected to it.

I can finally say that this fight was worth it. That I have found the body. That I have found my place to take root and have covering. That I have found godly leaders who embraced me before they even knew me. Who prayed over me as I screamed in their ears. Who squeezed me so tightly it was as if they were trying to put me together. Who tell me, “I love you,” and I know they mean it. Who ask me what I need prayer over and when I’m not completely honest in my request hear the leading of the Lord and pray for what was in my heart and not what came out of my mouth.

I have found leaders that not only listened to all of my dirty, but told me how valuable all of my dirty is, who say the only safe place to fall apart is there at the altar of the church (and fall apart I have). I have found a body that doesn’t just stay in the shallow end, but jumps in feet first as deep as they can go and goes as far out into the current as they can. I find myself sitting in silence more than talking, drinking it all in rather than feeling like if I don’t pour out nothing will happen. I’ve found Jesus in a church!

It’s real. It exists. A real, live body with different parts that don’t argue that there are too many fingers, or that they want to be an arm instead of a leg, there is no arguing that one should be the head because the only one worthy of that position is Christ Himself. My children no longer say, “Do we have to go?” But they beg to go. Every day they beg to go. In fact, as a body we committed to an hour of prayer every day for the month of January at the church, one night we did an all-night 12 hour prayer session. I can’t even describe the beauty of that time.

I sit side-by-side with all races, people of all socioeconomic status, all ages, all phases of life… not just in service, but in Bible Study. Not just at church, but out of it. We don’t just do Sunday together, we do life together. I’ve had many a Bible study leader, many a pastor, many a friend say, “I want to do life with you,” but it never truly moved beyond the “want to” stage. This body is truly my tribe, truly my family, there was never any doubt from the moment I walked in. In these 2 months I have found everything I had desired for 30 years and so much more than I could have ever imagined.

Yes, I can find Jesus anywhere. I found Him in my bedroom as a child before I ever said a prayer at the altar of a church. I still speak to Him as I’m hiking in the woods, as I’m driving in my car, as I’m sitting in my closet, as I’m having coffee with a friend, as I go on a Sunday run. Jesus is easily found. He doesn’t hide Himself. He just doesn’t show up to places He isn’t welcomed.

But even though Jesus can be found in nature, what nature didn’t offer me was this beautiful body. This beautiful family. This beautiful inclusion. This home, this healing, this help, this strength, this fullness, this growth…

Oh, and sometimes service even runs an hour over because we are too busy worshiping.

  
I often imagine what it is that God sees when He looks at me. 

How many times did I cause Him to do a complete facepalm over my ridiculousness today? How many times did I cause Him to smile? Did I give God a good belly laugh? 

How many tears did He collect in my bottle today? How many gems did He add to my crown? Did I take a few steps forward or did I kind of fall a little bit to the side?

How many times did God have an in-heaven-dance-party today? Was He proud of me? Was He cheering me on? 

Did I check off the list of things He had planned for me today? Did I accomplish anything for the Kingdom? Did I leave a trail of sparkle behind me wherever I went?