Picking on Me.

I had a pretty surreal experience on the way home from church tonight. I felt like God was inviting me to play, well, more like pick on me. You know the way you and your spouse pick on each other? The way that it doesn’t seem fun at first because the things you are picking on, have some truth to them, but it doesn’t matter, because from the depths you know it’s rooted in love, and not pain, never pain, always love. Then after the picking is over, you both realize how much fun you’re having.  You know what I’m talking about? Maybe it hasn’t happened with a spouse, but surely you’ve had a friend, maybe long long ago with whom you could pick. There’s something magical, maybe it’s love, maybe its deeper, because if someone else said it, or did it, you’d be pissed. But this person, they’re giving you a hard time, because if for no other reason they can. It’s playful and it’s how inside jokes are formed, it’s deeply personal and pretty intimate. Tonight, that’s what He did. He picked on me, in a way that was deeply loving, fun, embarrassing, and for no other reason but to play. God in his greatness, isn’t only calling me to do the hard things, or the mighty things, or try to hear a still small voice all the time, He does those things from time to time, and it’s needed. But tonight, He picked on me. We laughed. I love him more because of it. He’s opening up to me, or rather, I’m seeing Him for what He truly is. A faithful father and a dear friend. One who likes to pick on me.  

The Anguish of my Soul

Psalm 31:7 “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul.”

Not only is God’s love unfailing, and He sees my troubles, but He cares about the anguish of my soul. The anguish. The deep, deep hurts, and pains. Those things you push away from your thoughts, the things that if you dwell on them will drive you to the brink of insanity, or perhaps even push you over the edge. He Cares.

I find in interesting that he sees our troubles. But he cares about our anguish. WHAT? His love is deeper than our current circumstances, His love addresses that root of our problems, our sins, our brokenness, our anguish.

5 Years Ago

Today is kind of a big day for me. 5 years ago I walked into a room, looking to kill some time, but instead my life has forever been changed. Here’s the shortened version:

January 3rd, 2007: I remember where I was. It’s easy to recollect the details of that day because the words of Jesus seemed to scribble an indelible, unerasable message on the tablets of my soul. Standing in Atlanta, Georgia at a gathering for college students, I heard him speak. Not in a weird audible way, but in a way that would change the direction of my life. Months and even years before this encounter, I knew the Lord was leading me, calling me. I just didn’t know where, or (even) when for that matter. I was content in doing what I had been doing, youth and college ministry. But that day, all of that changed. As I stood and read some facts about a city that I had never visited, much less lived in, I found myself in the middle of a calling. But God knew what He was up to. I read that there are more than 250,000 college students who attend school every year in the Boston Metro area. I also read that in Boston less than 4% of the adult population profess to be born again Christians, and that Boston desperately needed more churches. I read a prayer that has effectively changed my life: “Pray for God to lead people to start churches in Boston.” It was after reading this prayer that I knew. I knew that it was Jesus who was speaking into the deepest part of who I was. In that moment Jesus called me, an under-qualified applicant, to start a church in Boston. To make him famous. So that people who don’t know Him, can.

In the days that followed this encounter, I set a timetable and started making plans on how I was going to get there. I had a plan, a 5 year plan. I planned to stay at the church I was on staff at, I planned on raising money, and eventually…5 years down the line, this thing would happen. We would start a church. What I didn’t factor in was the way that God was going to change me, mold me, break me, wrestle with me, challenge me, encourage me, feed me, protect me, and love me. Now 5 years later to the day, looking back, those initial plans I made seem foolish. Sure the 5 years since walking into that room haven’t been easy, in fact quite the opposite. I’m just beginning to see what God’s been up to the past couple of years. He’s still working on me. And His 5 year plan has been so much more beautiful than mine would have been.  We have come out stronger, more empathetic, and drenched in grace and mercy.  We would have missed most of that if He would have let me do it my way.

I don’t pretend to know what this year holds. I’m sure some heartache will creep in, or perhaps it’ll smack me right in the face, or maybe, just maybe this year will be the year that the other years have been leading up to. Maybe in this 5th year some doors will open, supernaturally. Maybe I’ll walk into a room this year, looking to kill some time, and my life will be forever changed, again. Or maybe it’s already being changed. Whatever happens, I know, more than I ever have, that God loves me. He loves me.

Guest Blog: Kellie Strickland

My wife wrote an incredible blog. I need you to read it.  You can check out her other awesomeness Here: Blog, Little Nummies, Natty Fray. She’s my favorite.

You are about to be blessed.

How to Encourage When You Are Discouraged

Encouragement.  We all need it, some more than others.  As a wife, it is my responsibility to encourage and support my husband. Which is simple enough, but how do you encourage when you, yourself, are discouraged?  I barely have the energy to keep my head afloat, how the heck am I supposed to encourage him??

The last four years have been really really hard for us.  You may think we are okay and happy, but we’ve really struggled and are beyond the end of our rope, you know, barley hanging on to that fraying stringy stuff at the end. Our marriage is fine, so don’t worry about that one.  We are just exhausted and discouraged financially, emotionally, and spiritually.  As I’m sure many of you are.

My husband has been called to plant a church downtown Boston.  That was 5 years ago.  Since then, we’ve been pursuing, chasing, fasting and fervently praying for doors to open.  Right now, my hubby has a “trendy” job, that others would love to have, but with a family, it’s not ideal.  He works a different shift everyday. {Sunday is his only guaranteed day off, but then he has meetings Sunday nights.}  He gets his schedule a week in advance.  He is gone for 11 hrs of the day/night.  And he gets paid very little for it.  He hates it. While he’s doing that, I am stuck in our small home, with our 3 girls, without a car.  I hate it.  We’ve been doing this for almost 4 years now.  We are both losing our minds.  And that is not an understatment.  My husband has been applying for jobs in Boston, Seattle, here in Charlotte, and well, just about anywhere, for the last four years as well.  NOTHING.  Oh, he’s had interviews, skype interviews, flew to Boston for a hands on interview, and still nothing.  After four years of not getting another job and no open doors for Boston, one starts questioning their abilities, their calling, as well as losing their spark.  My husband has lost the twinkle in his eye, which is one of my most favorite things about him.  We are both fading.  We aren’t who we used to be.  We are irritable, discouraged, exhausted, but we are clinging onto the only hope we have, Jesus.  But I must say, God and I have been having some unpleasant conversations lately.

So, how do you support and encourage your hubby when you are both about to lose your grip on sanity??

Good question.  I ask myself that all the time.  I have apologized to my husband for not knowing how to encourage him when I’m in desperate need of encouragement myself.  To my surprise, he told me that I am encouraging…and these are the things I have been doing, without realizing it was encouraging for him.

1:  Everyday, I pray that someone would come along and encourage him that day.  Whether it be a phone call from a friend, a random email, or a stranger/friend that sees his potential and speaks life to it.

2:  I text him scriptures that encourage me and in turn they have been encouraging him.  I would give you some of my favorites, but they change everyday.  Isaiah and Psalms are great books to start with.

3:  Communicate with your hubby.  Express your frustrations and why you are discouraged.  I found that when I broke down in front of him {which is often}, he said that it encouraged him to be stronger.  He had this misconception that I was super strong, not phased by our current situation, and that I wouldn’t have a clue as to what he was feeling.  WRONG!!!  So very wrong!!  Share your heart and soul and know that you are both on the same page.  At least you won’t feel alone in your despair.

4: Let him know that you still believe in him.  This one is probably the most important.  Believing in someone is huge.  Letting them know is even bigger.  Talk about encouraging!!  When we were having a heart to heart session, I told him that I would never let him give up on his dream/calling and that I believed in him.  I saw the twinkle again.  It was faint, but it was there!!

5:  Remind him of all the blessings God has been gracious enough to give you. To name a few of ours:  Healthy family.  A job. {Even though he hates it.}  A roof over our heads.  We are debt free. {Aside from student loans and our car.}  Our bills are getting paid every month. {If you compare our bills to what he gets paid, you’ll know that it is a miracle and indeed a huge blessing.}  I get to be a stay at home mom. {I’m going crazy, but I’m grateful.}  There are so many blessings along the way.  You just have to stop, count them, and remind each other how blessed you really are.

See, it’s the simple things that help encourage and show our support for our husbands.  Who knew??

Go encourage your hubby. There’s also an amount of encouragement that is received when you are blessing and encouraging someone else.  Works out for both of you!!

I have no doubt that we’ll make it through this.  Because, this too shall pass.  We just don’t have a clue as to what the next step is.  But there’s hope in our God, who is always faithful, and He will remain in control.

This one I love.

This one I love.

Kellie.
Marriage.
Partnership.
Possibility.
Boston.
Rain.
Calling.
Jesus.

Hi Twitter & Facebook.

It’s been 5 days since I told you that I wouldn’t be on Facebook or Twitter. And I  haven’t been. I haven’t cheated or peaked once. It’s been nice for doing what it was intended to do, get my eyes off my phone, and to be more present. Another unforeseen side effect of my social media fast has been I’ve been able to read a bit more of the Bible at different times during the day. I’m not doing this because I’m super spiritual or uber Godly. I’m doing this because I have moved the Bible app on my phone to where my Twitter app used to be. So out of habit I’m opening the app that used to be in it’s place. I have successfully outsmarted my own habits.

One downside. I’ve had some pretty incredible things I’ve wanted to share with you. Like my daughters first day of school, and the look on her face when she stepped off the bus for the first time. Or the spread of bratwurst, burgers, and dogs we had on the grill today.

On another note, tomorrow is going to be a pretty big day for me. If you think about it, say a prayer for me. I’ll see you guys in a couple of weeks.

(By the way, this post will be posted to twitter via wordpress, so I still haven’t cheated! Boom.)

Lust. Lust. Pride.

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. – 1 John 2:16

This verse has been haunting me. Creeping up on me in the night. Challenging me to see life through less dirty lenses. I’m the perfect example of this verse, however, I hate it. Good thing God doesn’t call those who are qualified but qualifies those He calls.  I believe with all that is within me that God has called me. Called me to be a part of His incredible story. Called me to Boston. So if He has called me, then He’s in the process of qualifying me. He’s still working on me. To make me what I ought to be. I’m fighting against these 3 deadly sins. I encounter these every day. Here’s how I see it and what I plan on doing about it.

Lust of the Flesh: I’m a big guy. I haven’t always been this big, in fact one time I played college Volleyball. But since getting married I have gained over 100 lbs. What?!? How? I got lazy. Not lay on the couch and get bed sores lazy, but go out to eat a lot. A lot. No running or working out, no self control kind of lazy.

I’ve just finished a 21 day Daniel Fast, not for weight loss, but for self-control for denial of my flesh. This was difficult. I was hungry a lot. But I prayed a bunch. Prayed for my family, prayed for Boston, prayed that God would be exalted in my life. I did it. As a side note, I lost 25 lbs. Take that flesh. I punched you right in the gut.

Lust of the Eyes: By nature, I don’t have an addictive personality. But I’m addicted. Addicted to Social-Media. More specifically, Twitter. Twitter demands more of my time than I want to give it. For some reason, I’ve got to always be looking at my phone in hopes that something interesting hits my eyes. Sorry twitter, I don’t mean to throw you under the bus, but we’ve got to break up. It’s not you, it’s me.

I’m going on a 21 day Social-Media fast starting September 1st. No Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc. Basically, for 21 days my phone will cease to be a smart phone, and will only be used to make phone calls and text. If you need me, text me.

Pride of Life: The biggest lesson I’ve learned the past 3 years is that I am proud. Arrogant. Conceited. I never saw it. But then again pride keeps you from seeing who you are. Working retail to provide for your family has a way of fixing proud, arrogant, conceited people. Circumstances has a way of changing the way you think. Grace beats pride. Mercy beats arrogance. Love beats conceit.

I’m not sure of a 21 day stab at the Pride of life. For me this has been a 3 year lesson that I’m still learning.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with eating, Twitter, or taking pride in yourself, but sometimes one has to cut back, re-prioritize things. Just know, in the end, I’m still just as screwed up as you are. I pray that through little movements, little adjustments, that I fall more and more in love with Jesus and less and less in love with myself.

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