“And this seed that he planted within you can never be destroyed…” 1 Peter 1:23

IMG_1406So picture this: 13 Year old Alexis just met Jesus. I never heard of Him in my life, never went to church, and didn’t know what the Bible was. No, I did not live in the boondocks, I grew up in Laguna Beach, CA. The only Christian I knew invited me to church twice a week and I said no every time for months. One day I caved (we were dating) and he dragged me kicking and cussing all the way there. My only expectation had been to get in and get the heck out of there. Soon as I walked into the building, emotions of fear and embarrassment rushed over me. I didn’t want to be there. It reminded me of my life back in 6th grade when I was constantly afraid of being harassed, made fun of or attacked for something socially awkward I didn’t know I was doing. Since then I subtlety lived my life in anguishing fear and anxiety of what other people thought of me. I controlled, manipulated, and climbed my way to the top. I spent years developing my image to be strong, beautiful, and confident and boy was I exhausted. You know those people who seem to be naturally cool and good at everything they do? I was never one of them. I built a life that may have looked beautiful on the outside, but fear provoked every motivation in me. I finally had everything I thought I wanted but deep down I never felt I was special or that people actually liked me. I went to school with some of the most beautiful, athletic, and intelligent people in the world and was constantly comparing myself and falling short.

When we walked into Calvary Chapel’s youth room I scanned to see what was happening and took a seat. They stood up shortly after to sing worship songs and I sat there listening to the words knowing nothing about God. The preacher stood up and began speaking about Jesus when a heavy presence came and gently rested on me. I didn’t know what was happening but I could not deny something was happening. That presence went home with me that night and stayed at my side till I returned the following week. As worship began once again I sat listening to the congregation sing about God and felt His presence increase over me again. All I could ask myself was, “who is this? This presence was undeniable but who is it?” I watched all the words scroll down the projector and read about who He was. Song after song would come up and I couldn’t read enough, hear enough, know enough. I became fascinated to know who this was. The man stood up again to speak about Jesus, he spoke about his life, death, and resurrection. The power and love I felt that moment was unlike anything in world. I’m sitting here trying to write about it and have nothing to compare it to. That one encounter changed my whole life. I always wanted to be loved. I did absolutely anything and sacrificed all I had to get momentary affection. It would then go away and I’d have to sacrifice even more all over again. I couldn’t win. I placed the value of who I was in the thoughts of everyone around me until that night when everything changed.

God got closer to me as I turned my attention toward Him and all I could feel was affection blazing over me. Completely overwhelmed by affection, suddenly every fear, torment, and chaos was silenced. In the stillness I heard His whisper, “I know you”. Suddenly I felt laid bare, more naked than ever in my life. All I could think of was everything embarrassing I did that I tried to cover, looking at Him knowing He sees it all. Then a thought crossed my mind, “how is it possible for Him to see all that and still feel affection for me?” In that moment I realized He was everything I ever wanted and what I fought so hard to get he couldn’t wait to give me. Suddenly my mind transformed from feeling shame and rejection to feeling loved and cherished. I will never forget when He traded me all the torment in my mind for adoration and complete peace. For the first time, I was home. 

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When God Is Not in Control.

7 years ago today I pulled up to a house surrounded by cops. My brothers mom stood outside screaming, “my only son!” June 11th, 2010 my only brother (and only blood sibling) died on his 26th birthday from a heroin overdose. I opened the door to walk into the bedroom where I saw his stone cold body lying flat on a bed. The curtains were drawn shut and the sun shone through the fabric dimly lighting the room. It smelled like heroin and the room was heavy and dark. I could hardly register what my eyes were seeing. In shock, I slowly scanned the room. My eyes caught at the sight of the evidence- a spoon, lighter, syringe and heroin all lined up on top of the dresser. I was looking back and forth from his body to the evidence when my hands began to clench at my sides. I stood there experiencing waves of anger unlike anything I’ve felt before in my life. My mind began to swirl and my heart was pounding when all of a sudden God cut through the heaviness and stepped into the room. He said, “who are you going to be angry with?”

I looked back at the drugs and there was an immediate shift in my mind’s ability to register information; it was as though it was completely rewired without a thought. My eyes ability to distinguish depth and lighting also changed in just a moment. It was like a veil lifted and I was looking around the room experiencing that moment as it actually was not as I was perceiving it. Then He spoke again, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Truth began to sink in as I experienced His words as they left His mouth. He then spoke again, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Abundantly is what were all looking for and in that moment laid bare before my eyes was the evidence of that.

Later that day I sat on the couch in my bedroom- a spot that became familiar for a week straight. I laid crying, asking questions, vulnerable and honest before God. My brother was one of the first people to oppose the work of God in my life and I couldn’t shake the obstacle of his whereabouts in the back of my mind. I boldly looked at God and said, “I won’t compromise truth to ease the pain, but you need to help me get through this, unadulterated and without embracing deceit to cope with my pain.” He was faithful to keep his promise. He gave me peace and healed my heart quite quickly considering the experience.

When the day came for my brothers memorial service we gathered in a large beautiful backyard garden at our neighbors house. A pastor stood up to give the eulogy, “The LORD giveth and the LORD taketh away; blessed be the name of the LORD”. My jaw dropped in complete shock. Our friends and family gathered to honor my brother’s life, no one knew Jesus and here stood someone declaring God took my brothers life. My heart grew angry as I sat listening to lies about my brothers death, saying God was the one to blame. Countless times had I heard sermons include Bible verses out of context, and as a young Christian they easily slashed my heart. His nature and character are the first to be misunderstood but I would never let that happen again.

I’m thankful Jesus spoke to me before I heard the sermon or I may have ended up on a journey of confusion and bitterness toward God, without reason. His words aren’t always a quick fix, but they are always healing. Abiding in Jesus is the only solution if we ever expect to make sense of anything. Nothing is more toxic than believing lies but thankfully in God there is no deceit.

God is not in control, meaning not everything that happens is His will. It’s not to say He is not all-powerful, because He is. But from the beginning He has empowered us to choose, not force and control us. It’s when we partner with Him that we see the world transformed to look like heaven. We have been commissioned by God to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons (Matthew 10:8). Christians have the responsibility to uphold the ministry of reconciliation, reconciling the world back to God (2 Corinthians 5:18). That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). He would never tell us to pray this if His will was already done on Earth. We are safe in Him and the weight isn’t all on us to make the Earth a perfect place, but we have the joy and honor of partnering with Him by bringing heaven wherever we go. He desires that no one would perish- but love is always a choice, He is always a choice, and He will never make us choose Him even though He deserves love.

I’ll never forget one night I had a dream that a demon was in my washing machine. I knew in my dream Jesus was in the living room so I called out to him and said “Jesus! There’s a demon in here, will you come get it?” He said called back and said, “you get it!” Just like in this dream, Jesus has given us the power and authority to overcome the works of darkness, suffering, addiction, sickness, and disease. Jesus already died and paid the price so we don’t have to live under the influence of these things. He destroyed the works of the Devil and put the authority inside of us to do the same.

It will always be our choice to follow and partner with him. Thankfully, our lack of obedience also doesn’t deter God’s persistence and longing for us. He is good and faithful when we are not, and his yearning for us isn’t contingent on our works. I don’t know why 7 years have passed and I just now decided to write the story this year, but I really hope this blesses one of you and you would know He is always good. No matter your choices- or the choices of those around you, His heart for you will never change.

Newborn Moms: His burden is light.

IMG_1263I’m probably the wrong person to weigh in on this topic, but I can’t remember how many times just this month I told Keith I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself the first year of motherhood with our firstborn. It all started when I was trying to get my kid to sleep through the night and felt like a failure when I didn’t. I thought our whole family was suffering from sleepless nights because of my lack of maternal abilities. I tried to implement sleep training books and so many other strategies, but consistently failed. A + B did not equal C with getting my newborn to sleep. Babies at that age need to eat and be held, they go through growth spurts, teething… the list goes on. Just when you think you got it down, something happens, and that’s okay- but if only someone told me!

It doesn’t take knowing me long before realizing I am NOT TYPE A. If there was a Type Z, that’s what I would be! During my first year of motherhood I went from being a flexible, peaceful, easy-going person, to being ridged and completely stressed out. I spent countless days forcing myself to be an overly structured mom, that I clearly was never made to be, and when I failed at doing something God never told me to do, I’d think I was a bad mom. Can you say deceptive? The pain I felt as I cried myself to sleep over not completing the checklist in my head of all the things I, “should have done” destroyed me. If I just did what God empowered and enabled me to do, I would have walked around feeling like Superwoman. Instead, I was frantically searching for an answer no person could give me. Being tossed around by the waves of first time motherhood, I was desperate to reach out for help. The more I thought something was wrong with me or my child, the more guidance I was eager to hear. It was like I saw myself or my child as broken and it needed to get fixed because my child spit-up and it didn’t sleep 12 hours straight at night. Everywhere I went people overwhelmed me with incredible suggestions that first year, but none of their advice mattered because it wasn’t what God was saying to me. I bounced from one piece of advice to another gathering as much data ammunition as I could get my hands on, hoping it would somehow launch me into a glorious life-changing moment. What I soon realized was their guidance wasn’t launching me into freedom at all, it became an extension to my already impossible-to-complete checklist. I mean, other moms told me if I could just do those things, it would be my light at the end of a tunnel, why wouldn’t I want to hear? Learn from my mistakes mamas, pay attention to whose words you give weight to. Not everyone should have the luxury of speaking into your life, especially in motherhood. People can give incredible advice and have well intentions (their advice could have even come from God for THEM) but if it’s not what God is saying to you, throw it out! One point of reference I always come back to is Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus is perfect. In him we find gentleness when we’re our greatest critic, and rest for our souls when the days of motherhood are exhausting. In his, “yoke” we find everything we need. Don’t let lies rob you from being present and delighting in those simple, euphoric moments with your child. You are free to parent however you want, even if every other person around parents differently; that doesn’t make you a bad mom, that makes you, you.

There’s so much more to this story and I could have written for days but today as I see all the little posts from moms reaching out for help- I just wanted to say, love and be kind to yourself it’s the absolute best thing you can do, YOU DESERVE IT. Limit input from so many sources or you’ll drown out the voice of God which is simple and holds all the answers you need. His grace is sufficient and you are enough. He is aware of who He chose to be your child’s mother, and you’re the perfect one for the job. No book in the universe is profound enough to give you a perfectly easy, golden ticket to easy sailing motherhood- but God is with you and He is enough.

Standards. Perfection. Success. & Failure.

FullSizeRender-3I have the hardest time giving myself grace. I catch myself being so hard and critical in my thoughts. They have attacked my ability, character, and worth and the things I have caught myself saying, I would never say to another person. One of the biggest wake up calls I’ve had was when I first realized the dialogue I exchanged in my mind gave everyone in the world grace but me. To this day when I catch myself saying I’m a failure, I ask the Lord to help me have compassion on myself. I say, “help me to give myself grace, help me to see what you see when you look at my life.” And you would not believe how quickly all my failures in my mind slowly turn to success.

For example, I went to the gym this morning so instead of telling myself how I didn’t lift enough or run fast enough, I see that I went. I woke up before my family and went to take care of myself. That takes self-control and discipline I did not fail. After the gym I drove into my church parking lot and read for a few minutes. I only got through 6 pages before I needed to come home. You bet I wanted to tell myself what a failure I was for not reading faster or getting through more of my book but I read, perhaps THE hardest thing for me to do. I could have chosen to say I would just go home but I chose to do something that’s hard for me because I want to grow and I want to know God – that’s not failure. My house is messy. SO VERY MESSY. I’ve never been a mom who always has a clean house and have known many moms who do. Do you think it’s easy to want to compare myself to them? YES. But when I ask Jesus what He says about my messy house, He smiles and thanks me! Can you believe that? God thanking ME? He’s so proud of me. I laid down my body and my life and have two toddlers who are at my side nearly every waking and sleeping moment. He’s not just proud of the sacrifice, he’s proud of me. God knows it’s hard. Just because He’s perfect doesn’t mean He can’t relate or understand. And just because he has a large capacity (being God and all) doesn’t mean he expects me to have the same one (you know, being a human and all). I came from being a teenager growing up on the beach, living in a beautiful town, eating delicious food (that I didn’t cook) whenever I wanted, and had very few responsibilities. I then became a missionary, traveled the world, living on “faith in Jesus” (also very few responsibilities). It was amazing, don’t get me wrong, but that came to a screeching stop when I married a man I just met and 10 months later had my first child. I didn’t know how to cook, barely knew how to do laundry, and found myself responsible for an entire household. I may not make perfect gluten-free organic meals, picked from our garden with grass finished meat but I cannot afford to hold myself to a standard God isn’t holding me to. God is writing my story. He knows where I came from and who He chose to live the life He’s called me to. He’s not ignorant, He’s the wisest being in the universe so clearly He didn’t get it wrong. If something feels off, it’s because I’m missing it and need to take and step back and ask God what He sees.

I recently had 2 nearly identical dreams where I was locked inside a house. In the first, a religious family was holding me captive inside their home and I was trying to figure out how to escape. I was looking at trap doors only to realize none of them would lead me out. I knew my senior prom was beginning and I would miss my final prom if I decided to wait so I made the choice I didn’t know I had and decided to walk out the front door. In the second dream, my daughter and I were held captive inside another home by a group of religious Christians from my past. As I was searching for a way out, there was a moment in which I said to myself, “I’m not leaving Michaela no matter what, she’s coming with me.” As I turned around to get her I was surprised to see she was running toward me with the biggest smile on her face; we then broke free together. When I woke up God said, “religious mindsets that have been placed on you have held you captive and I want you to break-free into the things I have prepared for your life.” There is a time for waiting, but there is also a time when God says, “I have already told you what I will do, will you move forward and trust me?” In Exodus 17:15 the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.” In other words, God told Moses to stop praying and start moving on His words. After this, the angelic realm shifted and what was once leading the Israelites moved behind them to face their past so they no longer needed to face it.

It takes bravery to walk out of the house, especially when you’re taught it’s where you belong. In my dreams, the house was both literal and symbolic. When God gave me this dream, I really felt like I was stuck inside my house. I needed to hear Him say, “I have more for your life than the mess you see”. I love being a mom, but the pressure to be the type of mom I thought I needed to be came from religion, not Jesus. In my dream, it’s clear my choices weren’t only affecting me but also my children. I knew when I saw the smile on my daughters face, my breakthrough would be hers too. She would not get left behind, but as I follow God she reaps the blessing and joy of my obedience to break-free.

We all have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us (Romans 12:6). We also all have different capacities that perfectly align with how God built us. We all have our own calls and destinies. We each have different desires and we aren’t going to be good at everything, and that’s a good thing. I will be the first to admit, I felt like I needed to be a perfect stay-at-home mom, who drives a cool mom car, taking perfectly candid Instagram photos of her children, feeding her kids perfect meals and living in a spotless house, all with a smile on her face. If I try to be this person, I am miserable. I am still growing in so many areas and I’m far from being what the world tells me is the, “perfect mom”. If this perfect mom idol is my point of view, some image I’m told I’m supposed to uphold and worship— I’ll always fail to measure up. But soon as I stop looking at the imaginary standard, that even God himself hasn’t placed on me, and only open my ears to the affirmation of the Father, I’m perfectly content and perfectly astonished at my abilities and who God made me to be. I get to be me, and you get to be you. So I want to encourage you, go ask Jesus what it looks like for you to break out your “house”. It may literally be your house, or breaking out of your house could look like posting a blog. Who knows what He might say?

 

Supernatural Motherhood.

Last Friday night, we had a couple of guests over from out of town. They were staying downstairs in our guest room which is just outside of our kitchen. I was standing in the kitchen with one friend when a thought came into my mind, “where’s Michaela?” Michaela, my spunky, adventurous 2 year old. This girl is all about being self sufficient, especially when it comes to the daily brushing her teeth and taking her “byetum,” also known as a vitamin. Every morning my sweet girl asks for her “byetum;” not once have I needed to remind her or forced her to take anything – in fact, she begs for more. We keep these in our spice cabinet, far out of reach from little hands along with all my crunchy homeopathic remedies. Our dear friend staying with us also takes a daily pill, which is a prescription medication. Now, before I continue, I want you to know how much we value this friend – she was voluntarily cooking my family dinner and had been nothing but a blessing while she stayed with us. She, however, does not have children and just like anyone without children, their lives don’t require them to be in constant need of checking their surroundings. Okay, back to the story – I questioned where my daughter went and so did my husband. We both went running into the guest room and saw her standing in the middle of the room with an empty bottle and chewing on a substance. Soon as she saw us she dropped the bottle. My heart sank and began to beat rapidly as I looked at my beautiful baby girl. Those pills were in her and all I could think was, “Now what? What do I do? Oh, Lord help me!”

Just a few months before this, my son had an accident and hit his head. This was no minor accident – the Urgent Care doctor said it was the worst swelling he had ever seen. That story will be written in another post, but if I had learned anything from my experience, it is that I am not stuck and I’m most powerful when I am abiding in God’s peace. I am never left alone and God is not distant; He is active at my side and cares more than I do about the wellbeing of my children. I held onto my testimony of my son’s healing, calmed my nerves, reached out my hand and touched my daughter’s head, “In the name of Jesus, I speak to every pill and command you to get out of her.” My husband and I quickly conversed and agreed to go to the ER immediately. He ran upstairs to grab his wallet, my friend held Michaela, and I went running back into the bedroom to check if the pills may have still been in the room. I looked on the floor, ran my fingers through the carpet, checked on the nightstand and looked underneath. I looked everywhere – not one pill found.

In a calm voice, my friend said there were only 7 pills left in her bottle and as a child, she did the same thing. She encouraged us saying everything would be okay, that Michaela would likely be given activated charcoal and she would be in good hands. My family of 4 jumped into the car, baby girl not even wearing pants, and in under 5 minutes I was running through the doors of ER holding her in my arms. I filled out the paperwork faster than I’ve ever written and almost immediately they called us back. As I was walking down the hall holding Michaela on my hip, she looked up at me and in her little voice said, “I’m okay.” The presence of God rushed over my body, up my back, down my shoulders and limbs, and rested on my head. I looked down to her and said, “Yes, you are okay. Jesus is taking care of you right now just as He always does.” She was certain. We walked into our room and Michaela was hooked up to a monitor; we were not even in there 5 minutes before I heard a RN yelling, “The 2 year old! The friend is on the phone and she found all the pills!” In awe and thankfulness I burst into tears and worshipped my King. Thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus! I hoped, prayed, and I stood grounded in truth because He is unchanging and always good. When I buckled Michaela into her carseat she again looked up at me and said in her tiny voice, “Jesus takes the byetums from my tummy.” Soon as we arrived home I ran to my friend and asked her where she found the pills. She said they were sitting in a pile in the middle of the room on the floor right where I had been combing through the carpet not even an hour earlier. His miracles never cease and His love never fails. If you are in Christ, heaven lives in you. Never doubt the power of your prayers and ability to create as you declare life over your children. If God is for you, who can be against you?

The Bible says, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). In other words, what Jesus has done before, He’ll do again. Many of us have heard about Supernatural Childbirth; I myself had one with my son Asher, but what I’m trying to understand today is Supernatural Motherhood. If supernatural childbirth can be accessed, certainly supernatural motherhood can be too! What does it look like to walk out motherhood embracing the supernatural presence of God in our seemingly mundane lives? Can we live victoriously over accidents, sickness, disease, our refrigerator breaking down, and getting stains on the carpet? I want to suggest that it is possible and I believe we have already been given the keys. Join me for the next several posts and lets unpack some of the foundational tools I believe God has given us to live victoriously and flourish in His presence as supernatural mothers. Hope you enjoy the ride!