Love

Leaving Security; Why It’s Time For Me To Be Scared

cymera_20161011_062647I read an article in 2014 about human trafficking.  It shocked me and quite literally threw me off my axis.  The following months I spent hours researching to see if it was true or some sort of overhyped emotional ploy that was actually quite rare.  Sadly, it wasn’t over hyped or rare.  Human trafficking is, in reality, a global evil that is rampant and involves people being trafficked for labor, sex, and/or organ harvesting.

If you have followed me for very long, you know that I am passionate about supporting people and organizations who have stepped in to rescue and rehabilitate victims, who are working to prevent victimization to the poor and marginalized, and who are working to change laws and partner with governments to stop the exploration of  humans.  It’s a messy and complicated situation which makes it hard to talk about, but I have felt that it’s important enough to take a deep breathe and talk about it any way.

These last few years have redefined me; they have shifted me. [pullquote]God has broken my heart.  Now he is carefully using those sharp and crumbling pieces to create a more beautiful and useful one for his glory.[/pullquote]I am headed to Moldova at the end of the month to learn about and support a ministry with orphan care and transitional housing. It’s a small piece of this ugly puzzle, but it is a piece.  You see, I no longer feel comfortable sitting behind my computer and educating people or raising money.  There is an indescribable tension that I’m living with now.  It’s the tension between knowledge and action, God-calling and comfort.  I am mature enough to know that if I avoid or ignore this tension, I am not only betraying myself but God.  So while Moldova is far away and in a scary part of the world, I am choosing to leave the security of my Southern California life and go.  Bob Goff recently sent out a challenge to those who want to be change makers but don’t know how to start.  He said “Buy a plane ticket and go.  Let God break your heart and show you where to find a new one.” And that is exactly what I am doing friends.

In the next few weeks I will be answering the Why Moldova? question, but for now, can I ask you to do something for me?  Would you pray?  I would love for you to pray for Jesus to:

  • protect my heart from fear
  • provide a close connection to someone living in Istanbul
  • provide all of the supplies that I need for the work I will be doing and the time to put it together
  • cover my family in his deep and precious peace

With great love and affection for all of you! XOXO

Summer

PS I want to share with you my new favorite quote…Hope it rocks you too!

“There is a difference between being too scared to do hard things and doing hard things scared.” Shannon Martin

and my addition to the quote is…Lean into the fear, lean onto Jesus and let it all go.   So hey!  Let’s do hard things scared!

 

 

 

 

 

Love

Sunshine

My dad started calling me Sunshine 2 weeks before he passed away. The first time, I thought I had just heard him wrong. The second time, I figured he was confused, maybe the stress of his illness and news that his days were short, had caused him to mistake Sunshine for Summer. But when I arrived and he called out on that 3rd early morning, “There is my Sunshine!” my heart melted because I could see in his eyes that my new name was intentional.  This intentionality allowed me to feel so loved that it changed our relationship.  I found it easy to be with him and care for his body when previously it would have scared me.  It made me strong and secure in who I was as his youngest and only adopted child.  It also gave me the peace to let him go as he finished his life here with us. 

Nicknames, whether they are good or bad, have such an impact on us, don’t they? They can humiliate or belittle us if used in hatred, or they can offer inclusion, affection, and confidence if they come from someone, like my dad, who loves us.  Nicknames have the power to permanently label us and sadly, we often find it easier to accept the labels that are harsh over the affectionate or true ones given to us. I often dismiss the truth and uphold the label-lies.

Friends, what if we silenced the voices of self-hatred in our own heads and listened only to the names Jesus has already given us? Beloved, Forgiven, and Daughter are true and life changing names that he is intentionally whispering in our ears and  writing on our hearts.  If every time I approached him I heard him greet me with his love-names for me, I would begin to live in them and the reality of them over my life would change me,  just as I began to do with my sweet nickname Sunshine.  Allowing these truth-names to replace lies will enable us to live with full hearts, more stable self-worth, and the confidence that comes from being more fully focused on the reality of who Jesus is and who he says we are. 

The too few weeks my dad called me Sunshine broke me in the best way. My heart became softer and I was able to experience deep joy in the midst of deep pain.  Easily setting myself aside, it was simple to be light to my dads darkness because of the new name and reality that he bestowed on me. Honestly,  I had no idea that these death weeks would cap off my disappointed relationship with my dad with this precious and longed-for daddy love that he openly gave me. 

Sisters, I know this is exactly what God wants for us too. He wants to fill our lives full with the truth of his great affection so that we can live in and live from his unending, unbending love for us.

Xoxo,

Summer

Love

Bookmarks and Closing Chapters

img_20160904_153609This week has been bookmarked by marriage celebrations.  Sunday started things off with my niece’s beautiful wedding and today it ends with my own 27th anniversary.  In between these two occasions, I have spent hours observing and quietly honoring the final few pages of my parents 45 year marriage. The timing of these has made it a bittersweet but thoughtful week.
[pullquote]Marriage starts out with a hopeful celebration,  continues with spouses working through cycles of stretching, brokenness, and rebuilding, and closes it’s final chapter, with a sweet whisper of gratitude.[/pullquote]

My niece’s marriage is beginning like my parent’s marriage most likely did, with two people believing that life would be better together and hoping that the joy they found in each other would last a lifetime.  They must have believed that their love would be enough to overcome step children, ex-wives, adopted children, a multitude of past hurts, and a sizable age difference.  Then as they moved through the ordinary years, I’m sure that they encountered, as my husband and I have, the marriage cycle of struggle, brokenness, and rebuilding–all  covered with grace, tears, laughter, hard work, and periods of deep connection and loneliness.  And now as they  finish this final chapter, their love for each other has again been adjusted as they sacrificially love each other with kindness and grace.  Marriage now for them is gentle and sweet and letting go of almost everything else, they find joy in smiles, kind words, touching each other, and their nightly devotions.

My parents have never sat down and shared with me the secret of a long marriage, but I’ve seen them live it.  My dad and mom have encountered good times and bad and through it all they have remained committed to each other because they remained committed to Jesus.  He is the sacred tie that binds them together.  Both of them love Jesus and because of that, they have learned to love each other well.   While I am heartbroken that my dad will not be with us much longer, I am forever grateful for the example of marriage that they placed before me.  Today as I celebrate my marriage, it only seems fitting to recommit myself to Jesus and my husband in their honor.

XOXO,

Summer

 

Faith

Going Out and Coming In

IMG_20160901_173434My dad joined my life before my first birthday.  He was a larger than life character in his Corvette and as the story goes,  I wasn’t so fond of him.  When I would hear his car pull up for a visit, I would crawl as quickly as I could to the front door to try to shut it.  I don’t remember those days of course, but it’s easy to imagine that I probably wasn’t too fond of my dad’s old school, lay down the law ways. Nevertheless, I soon became his 5th child by marriage and his legal child a few years later through adoption.

W.E. Green is the kind of dad that made me feel safe when I was young.  He was strong and had a gregariousness that made people notice and respect him.  He was a manager by profession so he has always known how to run things and make them happen.  As a child I saw him as unbreakable, constant, and generous; and that made me feel loved.

I am grieving over his illness and the thought of him dying today.  Lying quietly with eyes filled with  tears, I began replaying in my mind scenes and stories of our life together–trips in the many motor homes we owned, Winchell’s Donuts and Church on Sundays, the horse races, and everyday snapshots like watching him walk around the neighborhood with our dogs, peeking at him when he takes a deep breath to pray over the thousands of meals we have had together and seeing him in his office with his Marilyn Monroe picture near him and using his pen to pay bills and then placing it in his lifelong pen holder.

Security is the theme that was impressed on my heart by these scenes.  Throughout my life my dad has always made me feel secure.  I never wondered if he would provide for me or if he would be there.  I never wondered if I would be safe or if he would allow me to be placed in danger.  I never wondered if he really knew what to do or was faking it.  Nope, he was and has continued to be a source of security for me and I realized that his secure presence is really what I’m grieving today.

God’s word is a faithful friend in grieving and Psalms 121 is speaking to my hurting heart. It says in verse 7 and 8,  “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”[pullquote] “The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.  The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”[/pullquote]  I love that God gently reminds me that ultimately HE is my security from now until I’m with him.  He urges me not to fall into fear.  It’s a sweet way that Jesus is hugging me and whispering, “I’ve got your back.”  But even better is that I know that this verse is also for my dad– who is completely confident in Jesus, who has kept his life and will keep it safe all the way to the throne of God and forever.

Hanging tightly to the promises of God and forever grateful for all of your sweet comments, prayers, and hugs.

XOXO,

Summer

 

 

 

 

Faith, Love

and so it started

CYMERA_20160831_224851We found out my dad had cancer 20 months ago.  We were saddened by the news, but because it wasn’t very advanced, it didn’t seem real or terribly pressing.  He made the decision at the time not to fight it because of his age and his desire to maintain a good quality of life.

Yesterday though, it all got real.  As I stood next to my dad’s hospital bed he told me that the doctors had given him a more specific amount of days left.  All kinds of emotions came flooding in as my mom and I tried to process this news. I felt stunned.  I had no idea how to react.  Many of you know how this feels and can recall the exact moments in your life when you heard similar news.  It is nothing short of surreal.

During the last 24 hours I have held back tears numerous times.  When I talked to my daughters, I tried to remain factual so that I didn’t trigger panic in them.  When my mom started to get scared, I held back the tears so that she would be able to rely on my strength.  And today, I held back tears as my dad talked to his Palliative Team about my faith and writing because I didn’t want to ugly cry in front of strangers.  I decided tonight that I don’t need to hold them back any longer though. This crying is a gift.  This crying allows me to feel the sadness and to process the loss that is occurring.  It tells my dad that he matters to me and that I love him and will miss him greatly.  It supports the emotions of my mom and my girls and says that I’m here, fully present, and you can let go with me and be vulnerable.  My friends will also get to see me cry, not to make them feel awkward, but to open myself up to humbly receive kindness and care.  My hope is that by receiving this care, others will know that I am available for them when they need it from me too.

Y’all know that being authentic is really important to me.  I am no longer able to put on a happy face and pretend that life isn’t filled with a large spectrum of emotions and experiences.  And this time will be no different. My blog will be devoted to honestly seeking Jesus while grappling with this grief.  I know many of you have been here and I long for your support.   I know the last few weeks of his life will be hard as I wade through family emotions, give courage to my grieving girls, love and support my mom in the ways that she needs, and crown my dads life with gratitude and joy.

This journey I’ve just begun demands faithful companions.  I hope you’ll join me as I rely on Jesus hour by hour to hold me heart and my hand.

XOXO,

Summer

 

 

 

Faith

Margin Release II

My typewriter has a lot of useful keys that give me the ability to go over and beyond basic functioning.  These keys include the Shift, Tab, Back Space, and Margin Release keys. I am quite fond of the bell that rings that warns me that I am almost to the end of my line too, but the Margin Release (M-R) key has captivated me recently.

My typewriter lets me set the margins for my work– I decide how far and how big I think I want text to be on my paper.  I choose what I think is appropriate, normal, effective, and safe.  I don’t make margins too close to my paper’s edge, because it’s too risky and might end up not working.  The bell is my typing safeguard in this process and warns me that I’m getting close to the end of my writing row so I don’t mess all that up, but when I disregard the bell,  the margin steps in and says, “You can’t go any farther.” The Margin Release key at this point can answer with, “Oh yes I can.”

I have created a pretty strong life-margin too.  These margin requirements are similar and often just as unforgiving. These margins reside inside my head and frequently say the same thing to me– “You can’t go any farther.”  I created my self-imposed margins by determining what seems appropriate, good, normal, and safe too.  My history, my family, my experiences, and my faith have contributed to where I have placed my margins.  The fact is that I often know where I want my margins to be placed, and then out of fear, shame, and lack of confidence, I move them in even a bit more.  It’s really no one’s fault that I move them, I have placed them where I thought everyone would be happy. Sadly, where I have placed my margins has resulted in a smaller, safer, self-centered life. A life in which I often dictate where I allow God to lead and where I can safely trust him so nothing too radical happens.  But the love of God, if allowed, comes in and answers, “Oh yes I can.”

After years and years of hearing the bell ring when I get too close to the edges of my life, I have decided to use the M-R key and free myself.  I’m not willing to stay inside my self-imposed margins any longer. [pullquote] God calls us all to step out of the smallness of the margins that we create based on fear and judgement, and into a bigger God-centered life of trust, obedience, and abundance.[/pullquote]

Oh friends, we all have these margins in our lives.  Where is God calling you to release your margins?  Where in your life have you been living out of fear and smallness?  Take time today to ask God.  He loves it when we ask, he loves it when we seek.  Don’t worry, he won’t keep silent.  He has promised us that he has good God-plans that he wants to bring about in our lives. All we have to do is be open to them–let go of our self-imposed rigid margins and be obedient 30 seconds at a time. We can do 30 seconds at a time!  God loves you and according to some pretty awesome Bible stories, marginless God-plans are his specialty.

XOXO,

Summer

 

Faith

Margin Release part 1

IMG_20160503_211130When was the last time you did something personally scary?  You know, one of those things that you have to get completely out of your comfort zone to do?  I’ve had moments this year when I’ve gotten to the edge of my box and it’s been a bit uncomfortable, but I’ve purposely not taken it too far, not gotten too crazy.  You know what I mean?  Today however, I decided to abandon some of my fears and I hit the Margin Release key on my life.

I’ve been stretched this month, to love and grow like I’ve never had to before. In that stretching, I’ve come to feel the anxiety that life is short and I can’t waste a single day.   No, it’s not new knowledge, but it is felt knowledge now. [pullquote] Suffering has a way of sifting through things and making bold those parts of our lives that need to be edited out and those parts that need to be italicized.[/pullquote] This season is hard, but I do believe that it is purposeful and working for my own good.  That good that none of us wants to sign up for but produces in us some important characteristics and qualities that we are grateful for later.

After a conversation with a friend today it became apparent to me that I needed to stop complaining about my first world problems, release my self-imposed margins, and move into my life as I feel called to live.  I’m going to take the next few days to share with you two exciting and scary decisions that I made tonight. It is my hope that as you watch me hit the Margin Release key on my own life, you will have the courage to hit yours too.

I can’t wait to share my decisions with you.  If this is your time to do some scary things too, will you step out and let me know?  There is nothing like having a community to walk into the unknown with.

XOXO,

Summer

Love

One Big Lie We Have to Stop Believing

At the very core of ever person there is a desire to be loved.  God has given us both the desire for and the fulfillment of love in himself. We are dearly loved and cherished.  He has created us and desires an intimate relationship with us because of how loved and precious we are.  When we believe the lie that we are unloved, the consequences color everything about our lives and leave us hurting and lonely instead of living in freedom and joy.

Here are 3 false thoughts that lead us to the belief that we are unloved:

Love is revocable. This comes from the lie that I have to earn God’s love.  But friends, there is no amount of ministry, sacrifice, good deeds, or right living that will ever earn even a drop of God’s love.  We  can not buy or gain his favor, therefore we can not lose it either.  His love is freely given and his grace is always available.  God promises that his unearned love will never be taken away.

CYMERA_20160424_170952

Love is scarce.   Often we live in guilt and shame–as though our mistakes and sins are just inches from being too much for God…inches from him saying that enough is enough…inches from him using some tough love on us and throwing us out until we clean ourselves up. In our shame, we often believe that God just doesn’t have enough love to cover our darkness. But God is actually nothing like that at all.  He loves us just as we are.  When we ask, he cleans up our messes and sets us right again himself. He never gets to his wits end or withholds his love from us.  This is because his love is based on his goodness and not of us.  God’s unending love for his children is ours regardless of the number or severity of our mistakes.

Love-Blindness Our pain and negative self-talk can steal our perspective leaving us unable to see all of the ways that God shows his love for us.  His creation-love is on display for us daily and is felt as a cool breeze on a busy afternoon or a beautiful multicolored sunset. His companionship-love is given in the form of a phone call on a lonely day or an encouraging word from a stranger.  His providing-love is evident as we eat, pay our bills, and sleep in our homes at night.  His great love for us is overwhelming if we purpose to see it.

God’s word says that all things are brought together for and through Christ.  This means that those things that we often think are a coincidence or are brought about by our own abilities, are in reality always God. Turning our thoughts into grateful acknowledgements of his love in our lives, changes our hearts from the inside out.  As our hearts soften, we begin to see his fingerprints all around us, see his love played out in us, and feel more closely connected to him.  God meets us there and heals our black and white Love-Blindness and replaces it with his multi-color vision of true love for us.

Our broken hearts need to know the truth about God’s love for us.  It’s not wishful thinking, it’s Biblical truth that brings freedom, joy, and peace.  God, indeed so loved the world…Yes, God indeed loves you.

 

XOXO,

Summer