Pruning the Good

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At the end of each growing season, the vinedresser prunes the branches that were most productive during the season. Rather than have them sap the energy from next season’s fruit by growing the branch, they will cut the branch back drastically. Even though it has been highly productive, perhaps even because it was highly productive, it will be pruned. When the new growing season starts all the energy stored up in the vine is able to find its way to the new fruit rather than the old branch.

When I read this I had an “ah-ha” moment. Finally something made a bit of sense about the last year and a half. You see, while I wasn’t altogether surprised by my move to Chicago, it wasn’t one I was quite ready for. I felt like I still had so much more to do where I was. Not only that but I had people around me that I was able pour into and who poured into me. I had family, impact, and many plans.

Yet God very clearly moved me to the city. I’ve loved living here, don’t get me wrong. As I’ve often mentioned, Chicago is the first place that I’ve truly felt at home. Granted most of that had to do with my internal peace and healing, but still there is something about this city that makes me come alive. The people, the food, the energy, the lake, the opportunities, the diversity, the brokenness, the beauty that arises even out of the worst situations are all things I’ve found in Chicago. This is where I know I’m suppose to be.

Still I feel like my right arm has been cut off. Outside of a small group of people, I’m not involved in the lives of others as I once was. I no longer do life with people who I could call up at a moments notice, who worked side by side with me in my neighborhood, who I was able to disciple and pour into, who discipled and poured into me. For the first year, I attributed it to moving, getting established in my new work and world, and the reality of proximity. But I think there is something more at work. I have a sense that in this second year, there is something that will come out of the pruning of the good.

Rather than bemoan the fact that I’m no longer tightly connected to the people I love so much, I need to see what is right here. Who and what is God raising up in my life right now? What is God about in this moment? If I focus on then and there, here and now will be lost, as will what is to come. I either trust God and let him prune where he sees fit, or I don’t trust him at all. There is no other choice.

God prunes the good for a good reason. Prune away, Master Vinedresser, prune away!

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Weakness: A Vehicle for Mission

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Why would God make me so aware of a desire I could not fulfill? What is the point? And is it even important for mission?

Two weeks ago I saw a play with a friend about two older pet lovers who stumble upon each other and come face to face with their own broken human desires and relationships. On a human level, the play hit very real emotions. On a spiritual level, it completely ignored the reality and power of God.

After the play my friend asked me, “So what was your marriage like?”

I barely remember my answer, though I clearly remember the dissonance that sprang from deep within as the question resounded in my head over the next few days. God was getting my attention.

My marriage was lonely. Very lonely. And coming from a girl who grew up lonely that is saying something. This loneliness was exacerbated by my expectations, some realistic, others not.

I went into marriage with a full commitment to make it succeed and trusted that my husband felt the same. While my trust was real, it was not mature. Ill prepared in so many ways, what I thought was a mutual foundation of faith was not. Without telling a story that is not mine to tell, that marriage was doomed to fail no matter what I did.

Looking back and realizing how little I could do to make it change, and then knowing how lonely I was throughout, God used the play and that seemingly simple question to galvanize my desire for something more, for something real and mutual.

I do not know why God chose now to bring this to my attention. I know one day I want to grow old with someone, but right now I am content and on the whole quite peaceful. This year of “Going Deep” has been incredibly life-giving and joyful. Yet God did get my attention, and I am obligated to do something about it.

Discipleship is all about asking two questions: “What is God saying to you? And what are you going to do about it?” Too often we talk (ad nauseam) about what we are going through, but rarely hear what God is trying to tell us. Most church small groups do this with great alacrity and little benefit. We can’t act on what we do not hear, so the second question is moot until the first is answered.

God was speaking to me about acknowledging and owning my desire to be desired, and to understand why. What then am I to do about it?

The first action step is to tell others. As a Challenger, this vulnerability is very important to my overall health and growth as God’s daughter. It reiterates my utter dependence upon God which flies in the face of my self-reliant tendencies.

The second action is to absorb this desire into myself. It is just one more facet of who I am. I should not ignore it, put it on the back burner, or flaunt it. I cannot deny my desire anymore than I can deny I am right-handed or curly-haired. It is a part of me.

The third action is to draw a line in the sand for anyone who might be a potential “suitor” if such a man exists. While I am no wall flower unable to know my own mind or heart, I am not going to chase anyone. I take relationships as they are presented and give back in the same vein. Knowing my desire to be desired protects me from the what if’s in my male friendships, friendships that are vitally important to me. If a man wants something other than friendship, he’ll need to say so. I don’t and won’t speculate.

The fourth action is to live joyfully in the situation that I am in, no matter if it is for one year or thirty years. I need to rest in the knowledge that God is fully aware of me, my needs and my desires. I do not need to strain or stress or manipulate events to meet my wants. He loves me so much he is going to work out what I need when I need it. My job is to trust him. And I do.

I do not take this part of my job for granted, though I am much more adept at trusting than I used to be. Trust in God is a beautiful and precious gift that I love to show others. Some might try to take it, but even if another takes it out of my hand it still exists. God’s trust cannot be broken, destroyed or mutilated. It can only be spread, shared and multiplied.

The last action is to use my very real, very human need to connect with a world that is longing to be desired. People seek fulfillment in human relationships, much like the play I saw, when the deepest desire is to be loved by the Creator of the universe who is also our Maker. God is not separate from our human desires but longs to be the center of those desires and protector of our hearts. He is the source of ultimate love and such love cannot be imitated or supplanted.

God connected me to my weakness so that I can connect with others in theirs, for His sake and His glory. Weakness thus becomes the vehicle for God’s mission. A powerful, unstoppable vehicle.

 

Challenger Challenged

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EnneagramI am an 8. I would prefer to be a 1 or even a 5, but I’m an 8.

The first time I heard someone talking about what number they were, I became quite confused. It was hard to keep straight what each number meant. (Read more here). What was not confusing or even surprising, however, was what the Enneagram test revealed about myself.

I am an 8.

I am a Challenger.

Basically we Challengers do just that, we challenge. Everything. When we are in a healthy place, it is a great asset. We fight for the underdog. We are their champions. We naturally take the lead, and we do not succumb to peer pressure very easily. If we see something wrong, we (try to) make it right. Other people’s opinions of us don’t really matter. We are generally large and in charge kind of people. Unfortunately “large and in charge” can also be “bull in a china shop.” No matter how carefully we move, if we are not paying attention, things and people will get knocked over. We usually don’t even realize we are doing it.

This last week I felt the bull coming on. I felt the internal dissonance building and had a hard time containing it. The fact that the dissonance is so much less than in years past indicates how much God has done to heal and redeem my 8-ness. I’m very attune to myself and the sound of my internal dissonance, therefore it doesn’t take much or long for me to realize what is really going on.

The dissonance means I am believing a lie. Deep in my heart I am listening to something that is not the truth. The real difficulty comes in discerning what that lie is, and then knowing how to combat it.

For a Challenger, it is important that we embrace vulnerability and our weaknesses. That is why I write, why I tell on myself, why I am an open book. For my mental, emotional, relational, physical and spiritual health, I must be vulnerable. This week each of those areas has been slightly off. Even my eating was off track, which is a huge symptom that something is going on inside. I call it “unconsciously self-medicating.”

So what is the source of my dissonance? After digging beyond the surface issues and symptoms, the lie that is trying to derail me is that I’m not desired. I’m not wanted.

Now don’t get all weep-eyed or puppy dog faced on me, I do not believe this. It is a LIE. Which means it is not the truth. I know the difference. However, how many of us have been distracted by things we know are patently untrue? We see it for what it is, but still, for a moment, we think, “Maybe?”

Since my history actually involves not being wanted or desired, I’m a bit more prone to believing it. But temptation is not sin. And I do not believe this lie. I know that I am desired greatly by God. I know and believe that I am his daughter – called, redeemed, compelled and beloved. I know that I am desired as a friend, a daughter and mentor. This I know.

What I also know is that I want to be desired. I want to be wanted. We all do. Yet for me, I don’t think I ever gave myself permission to want that or even to care. Now I am giving myself permission and now I do care. Hence the dissonance.

For a Challenger, acknowledging desire and embracing the vulnerability of not being able to fulfill the desire is a huge step forward. As a Challenger called by God, it is a challenge I relish and accept. (See, even when it deals with ourselves, we love a challenge. We are such gluttons for punishment).

It is easy for me to be self-sufficient, to do whatever I need to do to get what I want or need. But because my life is God’s, because I care more about God’s glory than my own, self-sufficiency is not an option. Indeed it will be my undoing. That is why I embrace my vulnerability and acknowledge the fact that I desire to be desired. As a friend. A sister. A daughter. A woman. A human being seeking after God and his glory.

I have a desire I cannot fulfill, and I’m wouldn’t want it any other way.

Overcoming Bitterness in 10 Not So Easy Steps

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Ravello, ItalyWhat does it take to overcome betrayal and a broken relationship in a Godly way? Is it possible to do it without additional regret and pain? And is it possible to not just recover but actually thrive?

A few years ago, after sharing my own sad saga, I was asked, “How did you not become bitter?” The question was asked because the person needed to know for themselves how to avoid bitterness. Yet their question also revealed the truth that I was indeed not bitter. Despite the betrayal and attack I had endured, I was free. So how did I find freedom?

Below are the 10 not-so-easy steps I took to overcome bitterness. By the grace of God, I made some good choices that set me up to heal and eventually to thrive. Understand, however, the process of recovery was almost harder than the breaking of the relationship. There is no magic pill and nothing fast about it, but a joyful future is possible if you are willing to do the hard and often painful work.

1. Honesty is mandatory.
Complete honesty with yourself is the foundation of relational and emotional recovery. Even the smallest of subterfuges and white lies will derail you from healing. Until you are willing to be brutally honest you cannot begin. Something to note about honesty: it is like an onion. Just when you think you are as honest as you possibly can be, you find another layer that needs to be unpeeled and exposed. Yet with each layer uncovered, God gives you the strength to see the next. It is painful to be honest with and about ourselves, but there is no other alternative if healing is the goal. Can’t be done. You should also know that once the honesty stops, so does the healing.

2. You are responsible for your sins.
We all sin. In a broken relationship, there will always be mistakes you made and issues you brought to the situation. They are there in stable relationships! So own up to them. Until we take responsibility for ourselves, we won’t be able to move forward either on our own or in a new relationship. That “stuff” from that other relationship comes with you into a new one, unless you deal with it and repent of it. Deal with your crap because no one else will.

3. You are NOT responsible for other people’s sins.
Just as we need to own our own sins, we cannot nor should we take responsibility for other people’s issues. In the Book of Job, his friends tried to lay certain sins at his feet, but he kept denying they were his. He was innocent, at least of what they said. It wasn’t until God spoke the truth, naming his real sins, that Job owned them. Own your sins, not what someone else thinks you did. This is part of honesty too.

4. Integrity is more important than reputation.
It sucks when people think you are the one who broke the relationship and didn’t want to make it work. It especially sucks when it is an outright lie. My situation was a little unique since there were facts I was unaware of at the time. I was clueless why the relationship had disintegrated as it had, though I could see some blamed me. It hurt so badly, yet all I could do was trust God to defend me and my reputation. God knew. My close friends and family knew. Everyone else was either told a lie, allowed to believe a lie, or chose to speculate a lie.

Then as now, the most important thing is that WE know the truth – for good or bad – and we know God knows the truth. Integrity is what we know to be true about ourselves and live up to it; reputation is what others think they know about us. Integrity is more important than reputation. Let God defend your reputation; you protect your integrity. God will honor it.

5. Lies must be denounced calmly, respectfully and by living out the truth.
When presented with a lie, I spoke the truth. I didn’t fly off the handle, breakdown in tears or scream, though I really, really wanted to sometimes. I spoke the truth simply and then let the other person be outraged on my behalf. When possible I confronted the lies with words, but most often words were not possible, especially since I refused to go on the offensive. Instead I let my life reveal the truth. I gave myself over to the deepest desires of my heart which were to care for the least of these. In nursing homes, homeless shelters, mission trips and inner city ministries, I was able to live out the life God had called me to. The truth was revealed more through actions than through words.

6. Kindness is the greatest vengeance – and it’s God approved!
Whenever I felt a deep urge to yell, confront, or bite back, which was often, I remembered Romans 12:17-20.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When tempted to be mean, my “wicked” response was to be nice. I visualized the coals falling with each grace-filled word I said. It was rather fun. Over time the kindness had its own reward because it helped me not become bitter. My actions were able to influence my thinking. Despite how hard it was, and how I sometimes failed, I do not regret being kind to the one who broke my heart. Not one regret.

7. Forgiveness must be given freely and often. Forgiveness does not absolve us from the consequences nor does it mean trust is restored. Forgiveness allows us to move forward. If we have been honest with ourselves, then we need to ask forgiveness from God and from ourselves for the things we did wrong. We will probably even have to go to the person who had wronged us to ask forgiveness of them knowing they may never reciprocate. It’s what is required of those who want to walk as Jesus walked. Taking the first step is painful, but only the brave will find freedom.

We must also grant forgiveness to the person who hurt us so deeply. Betrayal and abandonment have a way of hitting us where we are most vulnerable, especially those of us who have a ’til death do us part’ mentality. The pain and anger rise up when we least expect it. No matter how many times we might forgive, it is necessary to forgive again – and again – and again. Until the rage and anger no longer rise up. Until that bitter taste no longer comes with the very thought of the person who hurt us. This could take years, and probably will. Yet each time rage flairs, forgive. Forgiveness is the road to freedom.

What happens, though, if the person who hurt us doesn’t ask or seek forgiveness?

8. Forgiveness is your responsibility, not theirs.
Granting forgiveness, and even asking for it, is our responsibility. If we want to be forgiven ourselves, we must forgive. The Bible is very clear here. Yet demanding to be asked for forgiveness is not something we can expect, though it would be nice. Think of it this way, you are giving a great gift to someone, but they are unwilling to reach out for it. You know this gift would save their life, yet still they resist taking it. All you can do is place it before them and walk away. You are no longer burdened with carrying this gift around and can move forward with life. Give forgiveness for your sake. Ask forgiveness for your sake. But do not feel guilty or hurt if they never seek it or acknowledge it. That’s their problem, not yours.

9. It’s not about you.
Until my life blew up, I didn’t understand David’s statement in Psalm 51, “against you, and you alone, O God, have I sinned.” Um…hello, David…what about Uriah and Bathsheba? Only when I was ripped apart did I see that the sin was not against me but against God. And ONLY God. I was simply collateral damage. Of course, collateral damage can still kill you, but I was not the real target. Once I realized that, I also realized that Jesus had suffered for this very reason. He knew what I was going through because he was experiencing the exact same betrayal. As I read the passion of Christ over and over again, I knew that my pain was only a small portion of what Jesus felt. See Jesus took on all the betrayal in all the world over all time upon himself. In fact, he even took my betrayal upon himself. Still he loved and forgave me. I found great comfort in sharing my sorrow and grief with the only one who could really know it.

10. In time you will know who God made you to be.
In the end, if you are honest and you give yourself time, you will find the beautiful, powerful, grace-filled person God made you to be. His child, born of God and co-heir with Christ. Nothing can take that away from us. We are his and that is what makes us who we are, not our sins, betrayals or hurts. Our identity is grounded and made whole in Him, when once it was shattered and broken.

I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone, but I cannot deny the beauty that has come from it.

How can I be bitter when I’ve received so much?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20

Beauty Arises

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Beauty arisesNo human can ever know exactly how another person feels. I am me and you are you with our individual lives, so we can never, ever know exactly what each other is feeling. That does not mean, however, that we cannot come close to imagining what another is going through and thus be able to walk alongside them. Coming alongside does require that we have some life experience upon which to draw. An “I’m sorry for your loss” means something more when we know the person saying it understands loss themselves.

About 9 years ago, still in the throes of grief and overwhelming pain, a guest preacher said these words: “Your greatest pain will become your greatest ministry.” I was furious at this statement. I did not want my life to be defined by my abandonment and loss. This statement seemed to minimize the totality of who I was to the one area I had least control over.

A decade on, I see things a bit differently. The truth is my greatest pain is NOT my greatest ministry. Rather my greatest ministry is the triumph through pain and the knowledge that my triumph is a resource for other people’s healing. Because I have come through – not around, over, or passed – my pain, I know what awaits on the other side: HOPE and BEAUTY. I offer hope that pain does not last forever even if the consequences are with us for the rest of our earthly lives. Hope for something truly beautiful does exist.

Our pain shapes who we are and will always leave us different than what we were before. This doesn’t mean we are worse for our pain, though we wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemy. When we have God at our center, we are better for facing our pain head on and going through to the other side. This doesn’t take away the torture of the journey or the very real agony that accompanies our grief, loss, sorrow, and pain. It still hurts. A lot. But there is hope on the other side. The tunnel does eventually end, and light does break through.

My past pain is so much a part of me that I have a very hard time connecting with people who have not experienced some level of heart ache. I am like a dog with a scent. I intuitively find those with grief and pain, and I’m able to connect with them. They recognize in me a kindred, broken spirit, who can make them feel normal in an abnormal situation. Too often when we go through loss of any kind, good-intentioned folks will minimize our pain, thinking that is what we need. The truth is we need to be allowed to feel our pain, anger, grief, sorrow, despair and loathing if we are ever to be free of those emotions. Denying them does not eradicate them. Instead denying our emotions intensifies them until they take on a whole life of their own. Our emotions then resemble something like Frankenstein’s monster set loose on an unsuspecting village. Pitchfork fights are an ugly and painful result.

9 years ago I hated everything that had happened to me. My heart was broken. My past, present and future family were eliminated. I was vilified and ostracized because of lies told about me. I was virtually silent for five years because of the pain and betrayal. Yet it was only by going through another less painful loss (and seeing how far I’d come) and being able to walk alongside someone else as they processed their own loss that I was able to find my voice and my freedom. My pain suddenly had a purpose. While it still took another four years for God’s healing to be fully realized, I was able to help one person find hope in a very dark place. And in helping, beauty arose from the ashes.

Our pain is real. Whether we lose a much-loved spouse to cancer, an estranged spouse to divorce, a pet to old age, a child to suicide, or an elderly father to Jesus’ arms, our loss is valid. Mourn and weep. Remember and learn. Change and grow. Share with those acquainted with sorrow and lean on them. Forgive fully, forgive often, and release the pain to the One who truly does feel our pain. God feels our pain because it is his pain too.

Great beauty comes from great pain when that pain is shared with God. Take God out of the midst and the pain is hell on earth, deforming and scarring. Yet with God at the center of our messed up and painful lives, he is able to transform over time our greatest pain into our greatest beauty. By giving us grace and by us giving grace to ourselves, God creates a masterpiece out of broken pieces. Only then can we reflect the depth of grace and beauty we were meant to have.

Pain is real. Beauty out of pain is possible. Allow God to take you through it with kindred spirits alongside and see the transformation that awaits. Beauty can arise out of the ashes. Trust me. I know.

Go Deep

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Snorkeling in the Red SeaI knew exactly two people in Wauconda when God moved me to the mobile home park in 2010. By the time I left Wauconda this last August, I had a whole family.

The greatest outcome of living in Wauconda was and is my relationship with the people at Fusion Church. Authenticity and acceptance are the hallmarks of Fusion. Through Fusion I was empowered to follow God’s call and to attempt, even fail, where others would have stopped me from even trying. I learned how to create a sense of family out of a group of odd ball strangers. I, who had no idea how to live in a family, became the one to foster family and community. What an amazing gift! Because of that environment God was able to do some of his greatest work in me. I love my Fusion family and miss our community. So it is little wonder that with my move to Chicago my level and type of community engagement would be vastly different.

The move to Chicago, while unexpected in one sense was not surprising in another. I had been spending the last year coming in from the ‘burbs for meetings and helping with Traffick Free, an anti-human trafficking awareness and education organization. I was able to spend a week at a CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) Immersion in the South Loop, getting to see my friends at Overflow Coffee each morning. Relationships and an enhanced love for the city were growing long before I was presented with the opportunity to work and live here.

Unlike when I moved to Wauconda, in Chicago I had many connections already established. What I found, however, was the need to scale back some of my involvement, both to concentrate on the new job but also to take a much-needed break. The break was necessary because while my heart and love for my neighborhood and all the things going on there were still alight, the toll of being alone in the mobile home park and being “on” all the time was significant. I knew that trying to reach my neighbors as I wanted to was not feasible while living there without a partner in the mix. I have some gifts, but I am not a superhero able to do everything or be everything that was needed. Partnership was the key to success, and I didn’t have that.

With the move, I heard God saying, “I want you to take a breath. Focus in on the relationships you have. I want you to GO DEEP.” God wanted me to focus on strengthening an area of weakness in me, but he also wanted to give me blessing and joy.

With my past, I have always been one to let go of attachments once I was removed from the situation. I remember with great fondness those with whom I went to college, but until Facebook I didn’t really keep up with them. On-going, long-lasting, deep relationships were not something I was adept at. Out of self-preservation I was more used to letting go than hanging on. Now is the time to change that. Now I am able to change that.

Deepening relationships takes time and intentionality. It cannot be done on a whim or by magic. I have sisters that know me and yet somehow still love me. They have had to forgive me, and still I know they have my back no matter what as I have theirs. We are in and out of each other’s lives, supporting each other with the gifts and resources God has provided. I’m able to share myself as I’ve never been free to do before. For many of you this might be normal. For me it is the first time I’ve ever had or allowed that kind of connection. It is truly a glorious experience.

With my biological family deeper connections have been made there as well. After a heartfelt clearing of the air over Father’s Day weekend, the deepening has continued with my dad and stepmom. We can disagree (which we do) but still love, support and pray for each other. Times together are thoroughly enjoyable (when we avoid politics). I’m also making intentional connection with others in the family, though I will admit, that is not easy at times. We are probably the most non-verbal siblings on the planet! Egads! It’s a (slow) work in progress, but work I’m committed to doing.

Since moving to Chicago I’ve picked up a couple of friends that are a part of this ‘going deep.’ My 81-year-old friend is just such a friend. Quirky as she is, she fits into my oddball sense of family. Other friends I enjoy going with to concerts, plays and all things Chicago. In the next months I look forward to going deeper with those I’ve known only a short while and those I have yet to meet.

This year of “Go Deep” is an outflow of the complete trust I have in God. I can be vulnerable, open and transparent with much greater ease than ever before in my life. My spots are clearly visible, and I’m comfortable letting them stay that way, even as God works to change them from ugly age spots to true beauty marks.

At some point along the way, I anticipate God showing me a more strategic area of mission here in Chicago, whether via my job with The Salvation Army or in my neighborhood. But I’m not fussed about when that happens. My responsibility now, and always, is to listen, obey and do. And what God is saying to do right now is “Go Deep.”

2014 – A Year of Trust

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Trust has been a problem for me since childhood. Recently I alluded to a decision I made at 4 years old – yes, I clearly remember it even if I now use adult words to explain it – where I determined I would not let people see my spots. In the case of my 4-year-old self, it was a literal spot on my dress that got me into trouble; as I grew the spots became less physical and more emotional. I hid my faults, not by overt deception but by not sharing who I really was or being the best I could be at something. This is not exactly a great way to grow up, because you can’t grow up. Growing up means failing and achieving, learning and experiencing new things. I limited myself because I couldn’t trust those closest to me to love and care for me as I was, spots and all.

Although I became a Christian when I was 10 and placed my trust in God to care for me, I really did not know what that meant. Since our human relationships teach us so much about how we relate (or don’t) to God, what I thought was complete trust was probably closer to 60% trust. Since I was a child, maybe it was closer to 85%. Kids are generally trusting. Except me. Regardless I trusted God as fully as I knew how to. Over the years my trust levels fluctuated as I lived, loved, lost and kept living.

By the time 2009 and the decision to seek God in a new way came around, I would say I was at 75%. Over the course of the next 3-4 years, that partial trust was tested. You see, God did not want only 75% of my trust because partial trust is no trust at all. He wanted 100% trust. For me, trust of God was predicated upon trusting myself, something I could not do. I was trying to do everything on my own, and it wasn’t working. (Go figure). If I couldn’t trust myself, how then could I trust God? (Hear a bit of idolatry in there? Yeah, me too).

God wanted to change that. So he took me on a journey to break down any residual trust I had in myself and showed me who I thought I was: someone who had to hide who she was, who had to fight for place and standing, who didn’t love herself because others hadn’t loved her as she needed. God then showed me who I REALLY was.

God brought me freedom from the past, freedom from distrust, by clarifying who I am to him. Before I was 10, I was just an image-bearer, a regular human being made in God’s image. When I placed my life in God’s hands, surrendered to him all my spots and all the spots to come, I became God’s Daughter, someone inherently different. John 1:12-13 says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those believed in his name, he gave the right to be called children of God – children not born of natural decent nor human decision nor a husband’s will, but born of God.”

As God’s daughter I have distinct standing and value. He lives in me. I bear his name and live out that name. All the shame of the past, things that I did or were done to me that I had not released, were surrendered. I thought I had to carry those burdens. I carried them until they crushed me. Not only could I not carry the burdens, as God’s daughter I didn’t need to!

Without that burden and with a new understanding of who I was, I was able to trust fully. 100%. Of course that trust was and is tested on a near daily basis, so it requires me to remember on a near daily basis another passage from John.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5

Trust comes in knowing that I can do nothing – NOTHING – apart from God, but through him I can do all things (Phil 4:13). I am not a  puppet on a string, but the force and energy to do anything comes from God. Since he lives within me, I can surrender worry and scheming. When I try to take that control back I become irritable and angry or feel a sense of dis-ease in my spirit. Crazy as it seems, I love when I feel that dis-ease, because it tells me I’m believing a lie from the past and then I can turn from it and remember the truth of who I am and who God is. Sin is kept on a short leash and loses strength each time I renounce it. I have my own finely tuned, ready-made barometer of my relationship with God.

2014 is a year of living out my complete trust in God. It will be vastly different from the prior years, not because I’m now in a new context with new work, but because I am fundamentally new. Or rather, renewed.

Because of this focus, I am changing the name of the blog. Mission is still a core element, but it will be a more holistic, or wholistic, view of what it means to walk as Jesus walked. God’s heart is mission. God’s mission has a Church. The Church are ordinary, exceptional people who have surrendered – or on the way to surrendering – their way for Jesus’ way. I am just such a person.

Mission, trust and healing are all scary things and are all a part of walking as Jesus walked in today’s world. That is what this blog will be about. It is what it has been about all along.