Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Adventure of Heading into Your Valley of Loneliness: Sometimes Kid President, Bob Goff, David Crowder, and Propaganda get to be part of it.

First, your reading experience will be enhanced if you put on some David Crowder tunes, specifically "Let Me Feel You Shine"...actually, your day will go from a 3 to a 9 just by having that song become your musical score for Sunday, May 19th.  :)

I am ridiculous when it comes to writing. Writing is incredibly therapeutic for me; it's a moment I feel God do something in me and through me that is unexplainable, but I seem to avoid it as long as I can. It's like I'm birthing something...I know something good will come out, but the 4-24 hours of pain in the midst of it is scary, overwhelming, and since I'm not actually birthing something, it's completely avoidable.

But, I'm walking into the valley of writing, knowing God wants me to, so trusting He's with we go.

I just returned from the Love Does conference put on by Bob Goff. If you haven't heard of Bob Goff or his book Love Does, I'm not going to try and tell you about him or convince you to go find out or to buy it, for 2 main reasons.

1. He's not describable. I mean really, he's not describable. He's goodness, light, fun, love, hope, and complete unimaginable adventure rolled up into one and whatever you are thinking that looks like, multiply that by 100, and you now have Bob.

He's the guy who tries witch doctors in Uganda...I mean hundreds of witch doctors, but then calls meetings with them in some hut in the middle of Africa to wash their feet and be Jesus to them, while also answering his cell for anyone and everyone, including the guy in prison who thinks he's calling Latifa. But, Bob answers, all 5 times, conference calls his mom since Latifa won't talk to prison dude, and then Bob himself helps the guy since no one in his family will answer his calls anymore.

And then, he's the guy, who as I walk up to him and immediately ask him to sign a couple books for me, pauses, looks me fiercely in the eyes, and says, "Hi, I'm Bob. What's your name?" and gives me a huge hug.

He's the guy who leaves a bowl of money in the entryway of the conference and tells us, if you need some money, take some. If you have some to share, put it in there.

He's the one who tells the woman with the dream of going to Africa and working with children, to go with him...he has a school, full of children who need a woman like her. And then to follow his example, someone offers to pay for her storage unit for a year, and another says he'll pay for her plane ticket.

He's the guy who says we're family, that we all now have a lawyer...him, and that love does stuff and it's messy and hard and exhausting but that we have eternity to rest, so let's do stuff!

And, the second reason I won't try to tell you or convince you is you wouldn't believe the stories anyways, so...

To say this was a unique conference would be an understatement. To say I was challenged by it would also be an understatement.

But, to say I was encouraged by this conference wouldn't even be in the ballpark of correct. This conference spoke into you. You know the kind of people you walk away from who just told you you COULD do it. You ARE the person. You might be where you are right now, but let's get on the road to where you want to be, and I AM HERE TO HELP GET YOU THERE.

This conference was that...the one with people speaking into your life, your heart, the places that hold your dreams, your hurts, your hopes, your deepest insecurities.

Bob is the guy who tells you, you can, and LET'S DO!

It makes me think of David and Goliath or Joshua headed into the promised land.

There were the millions of "believers" standing, sitting, talking smack, sharing opinions, saying what is and what now....

but then, there was David walking across the valley

headed straight for the giant

and the jaws of all those watching, dropped.

David was armed with what he had, what God had given him, the skills he possessed, his youth, his faith.

David took what he had and hitched it to God and they walked, together, to defeat a giant.

And everyone else just sat and watched.

Joshua stood at the Jordan with millions of whiney children of God, scared, doubting, high maintenance, dead weight

yet He hitched his warrior courage to God and they walked, together, to conquer, to take the promises of God.

Bob, one of the most humble men you will meet, has hitched all he has to God, and they have walked to places I don't even open my brain up to, and they have shown the world that love does stuff;

it goes to the depths and rescues.

it heads to the pit of evil, grasps the tips of fingers that are the only remnants of life left, and by the Mighty hand of God, grabs hold and brings them back.

it conquers;

it experiences the promises of God, the Might of God

Bob calls himself a porter. He views his purpose to be one that greets people, I mean really greets them...even the ones who just walk up with tunnel vision, not wanting to be groupieish or uncool and just asks for his signature on a book...ya, those, he stops them. Introduces himself, and asks her name, and then wraps her up and hugs a way she didn't even know she needed.

And then, being a porter, he follows it up with, "now what can I do for you, to help you along your way?"

He says, "Where are you going and how can I help get you there?"

He says, "Let's walk together."

As a teacher, as someone who works with kids day in and day out, looking at faces that will travel this world doing who knows what, these moments listening to all the speakers at the conference were huge to me.

It helped me articulate what my desire is as a teacher, it helped me focus what my desire should be and what kind of person and teacher I WANT to be...I am a porter, and I want to be a porter on steroids for these kids.

Two months ago when I first saw the tweet about his conference, I knew I wanted to go. I'd like to say it's because I'm all about being a Love Does kind of gal...but that would be lie.

You see, over these last 4.5 years of single-dom and finding myself and trying to navigate who I am and where I'm going and how do I do life not really knowing what I want, or what I want isn't something you just go out and make happen kind of stuff, I've tried to stay on track by going and doing things where people so far above my pay grade go.

Trying to do this road of divorce, single mom hood, grieving losing my mom and best friend, reconstructing hopes, dreams, purpose, direction while letting go of lies, jacked up fallacies of money, love, friendship, transparency, self-righteousness, my identity, and faith...

I've tried to choose some healthy ways to find adventure, to frankly, escape my day to day...even though 98% of my day to day is pretty rockin', that 2% seems to get pretty heavy at times.

That 2% would be loneliness.

So, I drown my loneliness in adventure. ;)

I completed 10 half marathons...not really for athleticism, we've all seen me, I'm not the one anyone is  going to put on any half-marathon poster, I did it to give "cred" to my travels, to get away, to go find God, away from my box, away from my head.

See, when I travel, it takes me out of my comfort zone. Even though I LOVE to travel, I actually have to take medicine to get on a plane. Planes still cause me anxiety. So, just to get off the launching pad, I have to go to a personal place of being "stripped" down to my most vulnerable state, to the point that I'm praying God helps me not to cause a complete scene at 30,000 feet where I'm screaming, running up and down the aisle, begging the pilot to land in that field in the middle of Nebraska.

So far that's not happened, I just whimper on the person next to me, asking them to hold me and sing, "Jesus Loves Me" over and over in my ear.  :)

Thankfully, once my medicine kicks in, I am relaxed, sleepy, and able to make it to the other shore...while drooling on the person next to me.

I land, I get some fun rental car, side bar: this time, I hit jackpot. He offered me their new mercedes for a VERY NOMINAL fee. And as I was tempted to take it since this would be ultimate victory in my pursuits of getting the best car for absolutely dirt cheap costs, I did decline it. I told him, even though that did sound awesome and he was so generous to be that kind, I'm not a mercedes kind of gal. Now, was there a Ferrari by chance? ;)

No, I asked him if there was anything super fun yet a step down from Mercedes? He did, and I loved it.

I've got this rental car thing DOWN! I tell's my thing. We all need a thing, and getting a fun rental for DIRT cheap is my thing. It won't kill any giants, but it'll get you to the valley in something fast, with a great sound system.  ;)

So after I land in Seattle, drooling...

I hop in a car, alone.

I drive in an unfamiliar city, alone.

I check into my hotel, alone.

I walk into a conference with over a thousand people, alone.

And I do all of that because I want to experience God. I know I'm in need of meeting Him, I know my life has gotten too crowded, too busy, too easy for me to ignore Him, so I go to the valley, to meet giants I know I'm running from, and I'm hoping He's going to meet me there.

I'm hoping He's walking with me there...or at least riding in my really cool car jamming to Needtobreathe on the way.

Inevitably, I meet giants along the way that I I've been pretending aren't there.

Expectations, desires, walls, heartache, insecurities, fears, shame, confusion, wonkiness inside me that I keep stuffed deep down.

When I travel, I try to choose a place to go where there are people on roads to awesome (as KP would say). I want to surround myself with people who are headed down a road I would like to be on. I don't know how or why or what part I play in it, because frankly, I'm stuck with being so self-absorbed, that I don't know how I'm going to change the world or write some great story, but I like to be around those who do...even if it makes me feel more lost or confused or like a big fat failure.

I want to be headed down their roads even if I'm just the girl passing out the water as they go by exhausted from their work.

I want to be inspired by them and encouraged that somehow, someway I might find myself moving down the path of awesome, not on their coattails, but next to them.

And let's have full disclosure here, I also go because it's a place full of men who love Jesus and are committing their lives to something other than driving a mercedes someday, and one of them might be in need of a confused blond headed woman who is there for slightly jacked up reasons and is trying to figure out this thing called life.  :)

None of them seem to be in need of that yet, but there's a Christian conference every other weekend ladies, and I say the next one should be in Paris, where the taxis are mercedes, and the "souvenirs" would be killer...just sayin'.

So, traveling, alone, strips me down to places I can't control. To places that I'm so vulnerable that even my stubborn, "I can handle this and look like I know what I'm doing" personality can't cover up. My mind can't will itself to stop thinking about certain fears or doubts or hurts.

I can't hide my conversations from God,
I can't not have those hard talks with Him,
I can't hold it back.

My walls get taken down far enough that the flood of the real, the vulnerable, the hurt Shelly comes pouring out.

So, with my fears, my anxieties, my insecurities, my hurts, my heartache, my loneliness, I head to the valley, with my ipod playing David Crowder, and miraculously, God is always there, waiting for me.

He has people like Dean Curry and Veronica Tutaj, Propaganda and Kid President, Joshua Dubois and Don Miller, John Cotton Richmond and Bob Goff speak into me.

They speak into those places, into those hurts and insecurities and then He has David Crowder provide this spiritual experience of God's love that makes one's heart overflow with joy and a need to raise hands and dance.

I learned a myriad of truths from this conference, but more for me, it was the reminder, that in our lives, we have to keep walking to the valley, we have to ignore the opinions, the naysayers, the lies, the witty onlookers, the voices inside out heads and walk to that valley with the resources and skills God has given us, and know, without a doubt, He's walking with us into the valley, and He's going to defeat the giants with us.

My strength, my knowledge, my understanding, just me, won't defeat that giant, but my willingness to walk with Him will allow me to witness how He uses the impossible to bring about the unimaginable.

Something Veronica Tutaj said in her incredible schpeel, pointed me to Psalm 107. I've now read it and reread it.

You need encouragement?

God is waiting for you at Psalm 107.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary
And gathered from the lands,
From the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
They did not find a way to a land with life.
They were hungry and thirsty.
Their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble;
He delivered them out of their distresses.
He led them also by a straight way,
To go to a place with life.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,
And for the wonderful things He has done for them!
For He has satisfied the thirsty soul,
And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.

In conclusion :) did spending all of my birthday money along with doing something Dave Ramsey would NOT agree with to get me to Seattle and go to this conference solve my problems?


But, my life isn't about solving my problems. It's about getting out of my head, meeting God in the valley, and letting Him set me on that straight path to defeating the giants He has planned to use me to defeat...and sometimes that includes an adventure to the land of Starbucks and huge trees that fill my brain with more oxygen in 2 days than I get in a week in Texas.

And I walked away with much encouragement, encouragement that will stick with me forever.

Dean Curry said, "We were saved from something for something."

Don Miller reminded me, "This ends well. We know how this ends, and it ends well."

And Sweet Maria told me, "You find your courage when you do stuff. Courage comes when doing. Go find your courage."

These 2 days came at a moment when I felt like the wind on my back had become still, that I was
beginning to stop rowing my boat, so I needed to be reminded of a truth God taught me from my half marathons, to just keep walking. But this time, He used a cute 9 year old boy, Kid President, to speak into my heart "...even though the waves are bigger than our boats, the wind keeps us sailing, it's what gives us hope. Some days it stops, but we'll keep rowing, because people like you whisper, keep going, keep going, keep going."

If you feel like no wind is pushing you along, and your arms are tired from rowing alone, invite Jesus in, and He'll help you row, in fact, He'll row for you...

just keep going, keep going, keep going.

In Him,

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May 24th, mark it. It's the day I get dumped, again.

I love my job. Seriously, I have no idea how I got lucky enough to do what I do each day. I have the opportunity to be with incredible kiddos every single day, and I get paid for it...not much, but enough to survive. ;)

And the best part is, they think I'm funny and have something to teach them, and in turn, they bring joy and laughter to my days and challenge me to do more, live better, and push for excellence. They don't set out to do that, it's just the nature of them. They show up ready, and in turn, they make me want to be ready.

Do you have a job like that? Where each day, if you haven't poured your heart into it, you leave feeling like you missed the boat, like you lost that day.

Teaching is crazy like that.

You have children for a small window of their lives. They are counting on you to take those 9 months and do something magical with it: to enrich their lives, to help them grow, learn, mature, prepare, and become that much more ready for life.

If you take that calling seriously, you pour enormous amounts of yourself into it. It's emotionally draining, yet great reward is reaped.

But just like any other job, teaching can be nutso. The amount of time certain tasks take, such as, meetings, conflict resolution, preparation, copy making, grading, writing letters, making sure you are investing in them, and on and on, can be overwhelming. I can get lost in the shuffle of all of it and realize I barely looked my students in the eye that day.

At times I feel like I am juggling 19 of my own children, not to mention the other 36 that come through my door.

And just as in parenting, the todo list can be so incredibly long, that the children become one more thing on it, instead of a person to interact with, or the very purpose of the todo list. They become #9, and just one more thing to check off for the day.

For me, it takes about one week for my heart to be stolen by my students. I don't know what happens, but by week 2, they are kiddos.

But, in teaching this funny and terrible thing happens, you fall in love with the kids, you give them each a piece of you, you store a bit of them inside your heart, but when May rolls around, they are ready to move on, and you have to let them go.

If you've done your job well, they are ready to walk out the door and take on the next step in life.

Sure, some still come around and hug you, but the daily interaction is over, the involvement in knowing how they are and what they are up to becomes less and less. Some, you never even see again.

I always hate the last day of school.

It leaves me with such an empty feeling, it makes me feel like I was just dumped.

My heart poured out, but then I have to take it back, pick up the pieces, remind myself that I just get a window of time...and then get ready to give it away again come September.

Each year, I think there isn't any way I could possibly love the next class as much as I do this one, but somehow, someway, God opens my heart a bit more and lets me pour it out once again, not hold back knowing what's to come, and He keeps convincing me it's worth it.

Two more weeks until I'm "dumped" once again, and to say I'm bracing myself, would be an understatement.

This last week was a tough one. Teaching is an emotional job, and when conflict arises, it can drive me bonkers. Conflict is hard for me, it tends to consume me until it is settled, so my days can be very heavy during it.

With teaching, I lay my heart out, so when conflict arises, well, my heart is left out there. And I don't function well when my heart isn't protected.

Unfortunately, my pride can get in the way as well, so at times, defending myself becomes more important than shutting up and listening. It never lands me in a good spot, but I seem to have to learn that hard lesson periodically.

The other day, as we were reading the story of the "rich young ruler", a few more details than usual stood out to me...a few details dealing with pride.

I'm not sure what I've always thought that story was about...I guess about money and the temptation of it, and maybe even how one should never have too much, how we will have to give it all away, that a camel has a better chance of getting to heaven than me, or that God doesn't want us to go to Starbucks or shop at Anthropologie, which, frankly means I'm up a creek!

But this time, I seemed to see another side to the story.

As I read and prepared for my lesson, and as we read it together and broke down a few of the details, it seemed so clear to me.

I'm sure you all knew this already, but it's taken me 35 (almost 36) years to see a deeper message in it.

The lesson I saw this time was one of pride, one of missing the entire point, the one about Jesus.

The rich young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.

So, right off the bat, he thought he had to do something...or more importantly, he thought he could do something or that it was about doing something.

Which, in that culture they did DO quite a bit. The law was a big deal, so I can't necessarily fault him for that.

So, Jesus starts rattling off some of the laws, and the young guy responds, "I have kept all these."

What? Say that agin?

You've kept ALL those.

(I may have claimed that a time or two to Jesus)

Problem #2 was the guy didn't see his own sin.

He looked at Jesus and said, tell me, what do I need to do to get this thing called eternal life. Because I'm rockin' this list of todo's and not-todo's. I don't lie or cheat or steal or murder...I keep all of the commands...which kind of explains the need for the Sermon on the Mount...obviously we all needed a Sin 101 chapter.

The guy was missing the entire point of God, of Jesus, of relationship, of it all.

He was looking at the Savior of the world, of Life and Love embodied, yet this rich guy, this young guy, this ruler, completely missed it.

He didn't need a Savior, and Heaven was just a place to get in to.

So, Jesus chose the one thing that spoke to this guy's heart, that made him flinch.

"Sell all your possessions and give to the poor and come follow Me."

Say what?

The guy "went away grieving, because he owned much."

Money: it gave him power, status, security, and the ability to live the life he probably even gave him the feeling that he could buy his way in; to get him to the next level.

Jesus' response to his disciples was, "Children, how hard it will be be for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God...It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

It says the disciples were even more astonished (apparently, the rich had the claim on heaven) and said to Him, "Then who can be saved?"

Jesus answers with this great line, one that has been underlined in my Bible for years, but not until this last time reading it did it really click for me...

"With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible for God."

This rich, young ruler thought he could do something to get into heaven.

He was rich, he was young, he was a ruler, so he could get himself in. When I think I have means, connections, power, and I'm young and stupid enough to think that's all it takes, I think I can get into anywhere. That I can solve any problem. I don't need anyone, I don't sin like other people, and I certainly don't need a Savior.

But besides all of that, the guy seemed to view Heaven as a place all about getting into.

Is it a country club?

Is it a place we rich just think we need to figure out how to get into?

What do we need to buy?
How much do we need to give?
What connection do we need to tweak?
What todo list item are we missing so we can check that box off too?

But Heaven isn't just a place to get into.

It's not a prestigious school.
It's not a club or a group.
It's not something that is just the next stop in life or next level to this game.

The purpose isn't's Jesus.

Heaven is home, because it's the place where our heart is, it's the place we reunite fully with's His home, the place where we are with Him.

Home, here on earth is not just a location. In fact, it's rarely a location.

Home is connected to people we love.

On the weekends that Cade is away, my house is quiet, and even though it's a bit of a safe haven, I don't spend much time there, because it's missing a huge component, my peep.

After my mom died, even though my dad was still in the home I grew up in, and even though it gave me some comfort, after he sold it, it was okay, because what made it a home, was no more.

People make a home. Love makes a home.

I can be like the rich young ruler all. the. time.

I can think that life is about todo lists. I can think Heaven is a todo list, both for me and my son.

"God, tell me what to do, and I'll check it off and go on living my life with my head in the sand, walking passed people, building my career and my 401K, and ignoring my child, my family, and You."

Honestly, I don't think God cares how much wealth we have. He of course knows how difficult it is for us to manage it, the power and status we begin to attach to it, and He warns us about that, but I imagine money to Him seems ridiculous.

It's the obsession, the squirrel I keep chasing, and I miss the whole point of all of this.

I miss Jesus. I miss Him. I miss my purpose, the very thing that'll bring me life down here, and bring me closer to Him.

The rich, young ruler was staring at the Creator, the One who was there when he was knit in his mother's womb, yet just saw Him as a good teacher who could tell him how to get in.

Jesus was a means to an end.

He wasn't the end.

So often in my life, people are a means to an end.

Jesus is a means to an end.

I see my todo list and it's checked off...but what is ridiculous is what breathes life isn't found on that todo list.

It's found in people, in relationship, in and with Jesus.

When I was little and contemplating truth and God and heaven, my internal response was, "Well, my parents believe in it, so I'll be going wherever they are, and that's fine with me. As long as I'm with them."

Being with them was enough when I was little.

But now, it needs to be about being with Jesus.

Wherever He is, that's where I want to be...following Him, wherever He takes me.

And the beauty of it is, that eventually, He'll take me home, to the truly safe haven of Heaven, where my heart is, where it longs to see and understand and be with what it was created for.

Life is tough. It's busy, crazy busy.

It always includes a todo list, a todo list that keeps our jobs intact, that keeps clean clothes on our backs, and prevents little league baseball from EVER being just a slow, fun activity on a Saturday. ;)

I just know I need to manage my todo lists better; that life, home, love, and relationship aren't found on it.

It's impossible for me to find those on a piece of paper I've created. I can't buy them, I can't believe I'm perfect and get them, and as long as I think they are something that can be checked off, I'll never experience them.

Life, home, love, and Jesus take me; all of me, my heart, my soul, my time, my mind, my acknowledgement of that they are worth more than any amount of gold.

It takes me walking away from the things I chase here on earth, and realizing the One who holds all that my heart longs for, and all what life is about is standing. right. in front. of me.

In Him,