Buy A Ticket & Get On The Plane

It’s getting harder to reach back into the heart of that 15 year old kid. The one who didn’t usually have answers nor the voice to speak up when she did. She wasn’t smart enough. Pretty enough. Bold enough. She wasn’t enough. That 15 year old me.

15052122_709487112547040_2080644508_oBut it seems I hardly know her anymore and believe me, that’s a good thing.

You see, I was the timid kid with an adventure soul. The child who had wild dreams but pursuing them meant leaving what I knew and living into what I didn’t and back then, that terrified me. But the truth is, the most exciting things in my life have begun with unknowns. With the things that absolutely terrified me.

That’s how I ended up in Michigan. New job. New address. New license plate. New people. And when everything is new, it means nothing is familiar. Nothing is home. And so I’ve spent the last year trusting God to make it home. Trusting that this calling He has on my life is richer and more sacred than what my 15 year old self ever believed the unknowns could bring.

I go back to 15 more than I do any other age because that year was pivotal. That year God spoke deep into a little girl who just wanted a home.

November 17, 2007 firefighters responded to a call. A two story farmhouse was on fire and needed immediate attention. I was on the other end watching the colors evaporate into the sky. The ground was cold. And seven kids all under the age of 15 watched the known turn to dust. But the dust taught me. It taught me that if God can breath life into something like dirt, how much more could God take the mess of that day and the mess of me and turn it into something as good as a home.

This week marks the 9th anniversary of that day. 9th. How did the years evaporate so quickly? How does one go from making a cup of cocoa in Maine at 15, to making a cup of cocoa in Michigan at 24.

Well, I have curious little girl and a God who showed her that new isn’t always scary to thank for that. And that is why this week is an anniversary. It marks beginnings for me that I could never fully explain. It marks the parts of me God rebuilt and restored. And I sit here in an empty church completely baffled that this place has become home.

I haven’t disposed all of the 15 year old me because to be honest, I still want to jump on the bed and eat chocolate chip pancakes for supper. I still want to catch snowflakes with my tongue and eat lemon pie for breakfast. I still want to travel the world and write stories and dream. But I am so thankful God continues to breathe into the dust of who I am making my life new, over and over again.

God takes the dust who we think we are and turns it into the sons and daughters He knows us to be. So to you who is reading this, don’t settle because you are terrified. Buy the plane ticket. Oh, and get on the plane. Because new could be the best thing that ever happened to you.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Shame On Us For Expecting So Little

Where to begin? The last few months have been full of adjustments and learning curves. All good, but all challenging. Radiant Life is now a two-service church and many of our fall programs have14625751_686317248197360_1702811024_o launched, programs I like to call ‘babies’ because they are new and still in the developing process.

I’m not one to walk into new things with high expectations, I tend to set them pretty low and then am pleasantly surprised when things get knocked out of the park (in a good way).

Our new kid programs (Glow & Illuminate) launched on September 21st. With little expectation (shame on me), we had 45 kids show up! The following Wednesday, we had the same give or take a couple more. But this Wednesday, we had 75 kids in count! I’m sure I looked like a crazed lunatic running around for more materials and space. But shame on me for expecting less.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” Go and make, that’s more, not less. So why do we expect so little of God when it comes down to our finances, our families, our futures and our jobs? If God can do a new thing and Jesus can multiply, why do we not live into that truth? Why do we plan new programs to grow the Kingdom of God but expect only a few to come? Why do we commit to changing our lives but give up too soon because there is no way God can redeem? Why do we tuck our struggles in closets (like children cleaning their rooms before parent inspection) and pretend that we don’t need accountability or the power of Jesus to intervene?

Our expectation bars are far too low when it comes to our faith in Jesus Christ and what He can do. It’s no wonder the enemy thinks he has it easy.

“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Matthew 28:16-20]

This is the Great Commission and our mission, not only as a Church, but also as a people of God. We are called to go and make. That’s more, not less. But even in Jesus’ time, followers doubted. Still Jesus said, “I am with you always.” And I believe that expands beyond proclaiming the word of God to the nations, I believe it applies to proclaiming the word of God to ourselves and to our expectations of what God can actually do.

Allow me to explain. There IS power in the name of Jesus, there IS hope in the Holy Spirit and there IS life in the Father. So often we say we believe that, but don’t live as if we do. So let us be challenged. Let us work diligently and dust off our struggles and expect Jesus to heal. Let us lift up our finances and our families expecting God to multiply and redeem. Let us plan our programs and our dinners and our days, expecting God to show up and do a new thing and behold, “He is with us always.”

Shame on us for expecting so little from a God who offers so much.

Ahead & Behind [Mighty Warrior]

14495466_680773605418391_8175604016432728904_nI was recently told, “You’re so ahead of your time.” A compliment but an amusing one because I can count on fingers and toes the ways in which I am so far behind. And I hate that. I hate that being ahead is such a stretch for me. It’s one of my greatest weaknesses. My best ideas always come right before the deadline and my greatest fears always arrive after I’ve submitted the work.

Because I know the expectations and I know my limitations. And I know the latter usually interferes with the first.

And some of you, who for whatever reason are reading this, get that. You get that because you’re there. You get up in the morning, you look in the mirror, and you see defeat before your day has even begun. You see that your limitations far outmatch your giftings and you have no idea how you are going to manage the workings of the day.

For the past few months I have wrestled with that. The more I work in ministry, the more I see my weaknesses and the more I want to run. Fortunately, I’m not runner (physically anyway) so I have begun to walk through my weaknesses with the Lord instead. Because even though I’m far ahead and yet so far behind, God is always on time.

This morning our church launched two services. We have grown as a congregation in so many ways and it’s all breathtakingly exciting! Lives are being changed, souls are being saved, programs are growing, and us pastors are learning what it means to walk with the blessed and with the mess.

But as a fellow pastor who knows her limitations, the growth is impeccably challenging. I work with our kids and they get me the most. Because when I see them, I see myself. I see the kid I was when I was their age and I want so much for them to live beyond their weaknesses. I want them to trust that God is good and He has remarkable plans for them.

So today I taught them about Gideon. A man destined to save Israel. But Gideon pleaded with his destiny proclaiming that his people were the weakest and that he was the least in his family. But God said “I will be with you, mighty warrior.” And God was. The Midianites were defeated, but not in a way anyone would expect, and Israel was free once again.

I so relate with Gideon. I get his fear. I get his intimidation because he knows where he comes from and he knows his greatest weaknesses. But God did too. He still does. And I love that. I love that despite knowing His children’s limitations, God still calls us to great things. He still encourages us to do what we don’t believe we can do when we look in our morning mirrors.

The Lord has done some unbelievable things in my life and I am living a pretty incredible journey, but I have never been more challenged to believe in God’s words as I am today. Before I shared Gideon’s story, I asked our kids to answer a few questions on slips of paper. I asked the following:

“If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?”

“What or who do you want to be when you grow up?”

“If you could pray for anyone or anything, who or what would it be?”

“What would you say is your greatest fear and why?

After telling the story of Israel’s victory, I told the kids that even though Gideon had fears or doubts of that victory, he still believed God’s word enough to run into a scary battle. A battle he once saw as defeat. I then asked the kids if they believed God could take them to the places they would love to go. I asked them if they believed God could mold them into who they wanted to be when they grew up. I asked them if they believed God could answer their prayers and calm their fears. I asked them if they believed God enough.

And though I was asking them, I found God was asking me.

“Do you believe enough? Do you believe that despite your limitations and where you come from, you can do great things for My Kingdom? Do you believe that I can answer your prayers and calm your fears? Do you believe I can take you to the places you want to go and mold you into who you want to be when you grow up? Do you believe enough?”

I don’t always. You see, some may say I’m far ahead, but often I am so far behind. And maybe you’re there too. And that’s okay. Because despite how far ahead or how far behind we are, God is always, always on time.

So let us hold one another accountable. When we get up and look in our morning mirrors let us hear Him say, “I am with you, mighty warrior.” And with that, may we lay our limitations before God and let Him do what He says He will do through us.

Ahead & Behind [Mighty Warrior]

14495466_680773605418391_8175604016432728904_nI was recently told, “You’re so ahead of your time.” A compliment but an amusing one because I can count on fingers and toes the ways in which I am so far behind. And I hate that. I hate that being ahead is such a stretch for me. It’s one of my greatest weaknesses. My best ideas always come right before the deadline and my greatest fears always arrive after I’ve submitted the work.

Because I know the expectations and I know my limitations. And I know the latter usually interferes with the first.

And some of you, who for whatever reason are reading this, get that. You get that because you’re there. You get up in the morning, you look in the mirror, and you see defeat before your day has even begun. You see that your limitations far outmatch your giftings and you have no idea how you are going to manage the workings of the day.

For the past few months I have wrestled with that. The more I work in ministry, the more I see my weaknesses and the more I want to run. Fortunately, I’m not runner (physically anyway) so I have begun to walk through my weaknesses with the Lord instead. Because even though I’m so far ahead and yet so far behind, God is always on time.

This morning our church launched two services. We have grown as a congregation in so many ways and it’s all breathtakingly exciting! Lives are being changed, souls are being saved, programs are growing, and us pastors are learning what it means to walk with the blessed and with the mess.

But as a fellow pastor who knows her limitations, the growth is impeccably challenging. I work with our kids and they get me the most. Because when I see them, I see myself. I see the kid I was when I was their age and I want so much for them to live beyond their weaknesses. I want them to trust that God is good and He has remarkable plans for them.

So today I taught them about Gideon. A man destined to save Israel. But Gideon pleaded with his destiny proclaiming that his people were the weakest and that he was the least in his family. But God said “I will be with you, mighty warrior.” And God was. The Midianites were defeated, but not in a way anyone would expect, and Israel was free once again.

I so relate with Gideon. I get his fear. I get his intimidation because he knows where he comes from and he knows his greatest weaknesses. But God did too. He still does. And I love that. I love that despite knowing His children’s limitations, God still calls us to great things. He still encourages us to do what we don’t believe we can do when we look in our morning mirrors.

The Lord has done some unbelievable things in my life and I am living a pretty incredible journey, but I have never been more challenged to believe in God words as I am today. Before I shared Gideon’s story, I asked our kids to answer a few questions on slips of paper. I asked the following:

“If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?”

“What or who do you want to be when you grow up?”

“If you could pray for anyone or anything, who or what would it be?”

“What would you say is your greatest fear and why?

After telling the story of Israel’s victory, I told the kids that even though Gideon had fears or doubts of that victory, he still believed God’s word enough to run into a scary battle. A battle he once saw as defeat. I then asked the kids if they believed God could take them to the places they would love to go. I asked them if they believed God could mold them into who they wanted to be when they grew up. I asked them if they believed God could answer their prayers and calm their fears. I asked them if they God believed enough.

And though I was asking them, I found God was asking me.

“Do you believe enough? Do you believe that despite your limitations and where you come from, you can do great things for My Kingdom? Do you believe that I can answer your prayers and calm your fears? Do you believe I can take you to the places you want to go and mold you into who you want to be when you grow up? Do you believe enough?”

I don’t always. You see, some may say I’m far ahead, but often I am so far behind. And maybe you’re there too. And that’s okay. Because despite how far ahead we are or how far behind we are, God is always, always on time.

So let us hold one another accountable. When we get up and look in our morning mirrors let us hear Him say, “I am with you, mighty warrior.” And with that, may we lay our limitations before God and let Him do what He says He will do through us.

 

Welcome Home

 

14339811_673046719524413_1393359884_oI finally unpacked them. You know, those dreadful bags in which all lose papers somehow end up left untouched and unsorted – for years, and I mean, years. But oh the places you go! when you take an evening to organize what you’ve dreaded since you graduated High School (2009 my friends).

It’s unusually freeing to sort through almost a decade of your life; old photographs and encouragement letters. Second grade marks and college notes dating back to 2011 (yikes!) Cards and magazine clippings. First plane tickets and first check yes or no notes. And it’s slightly embarrassing to read pieces you wrote both as a teenager and as a college student hoping someone would recognize your skills (which today only make me cringe).

As I sorted I found I was unpacking moments. Some I liked and some I didn’t, but all important. All reminding me of the searching years, the years of wandering and wondering and trying to find that place and that moment, that place to call home and that moment when I’m told it’s safe to call it that.

I moved into a house a few weeks ago. Well, a parsonage, but a house none the less. And every time I’ve walked in it since then, I’ve waited for that moment.

When my paper memories were finished being uncovered, they just laid there, completely exposed. And then I found my heart was too. And I just sat there exposed and I didn’t have to apologize for it. I didn’t have someone telling me to tuck it all a way and get out of the way. And I didn’t have to hurry. I could take my time remembering, and I could take my time processing things I hadn’t realized I still carried. And I could take my time throwing the latter the away.

After the ‘dreaded bags’ were emptied, I made a cup of coffee (because, what else would you do). I stood in my living room, breathing in the biggest art project I’ve ever been a part of, and God said, “Welcome home.” Those are words I cannot fully express or explain and they run deep, but for those who know me, thanks for praying.

Tonight, I got my moment. And yours (if you’ve not already had it) will come. But probably not how you imagine it. So make a cup of coffee (or tea, whichever you prefer) and breathe. You don’t have to apologize nor do you have to hurry. God walks with you when unpacking what you love, AND He walks with you when unpacking the unpleasant things too.

 

 

Tonight’s worship brought to you by: You Never Let Go – by Bryan & Katie Torwalt

The Best Medicine

My eyes stung and I could feel my throat getting scratchy. Oh Lord, I don’t have time to be sick. We just finished a week of Vacation Bible School and I’m up to teach Kids Worship this (Sunday) morning. Friday we leave for Family Camp and I’ve got to finish lesson planning for that.

But no amount of lists or medicine could stop the fact that my brain was overtired and shutting down from its lack of sleep. I suppose these past few weeks (though good) were telling my body – and, my soul – it’s time to rest.

Sunday afternoon, once lunch guests had said their last goodbyes, I read a message and learned I was gifted with a week. A week to stay at home to ‘work and rest’. My boss didn’t know I wasn’t feeling well so I knew this was God’s way of saying, “Here is a gift. Except it. Don’t drive to the church.” Because He knew I would have.

Monday morning brought a sore throat and my head felt as if it had grew two sizes from being tossed around like a beach ball. I was grateful for the gifted week. Cough drops and tea saved the day and by lunch I was feeling much less like a slug.

Janie and I had planned to have lunch at the nursing home around noon with her husband and some other residents; after our 4th of July gathering, we were to go antiquing. With my not feeling well, I was informed I didn’t have to go lunch and we didn’t have to go adventuring into old barns with old objects. But when you are gifted with a week, it doesn’t matter how blah you feel, you make the most of it. Or, that was my philosophy.

So we went.

We ate dinner with folks who have lived life longer than my age doubled (some even tripled). From there we drove to an antique place in a town I don’t remember the name and I was whisked back in time. There were old photos and family heirlooms. There were coffee pots and radios used during the era of the Waltons. There were hats from decades ago and I, trying many on, giggled at the styles long outdated. There were dolls made of glass and checker boards made of chipped wood. There were rocking chairs I knew rocked many babies to sleep. And there were old telephones I picked up to say hello and typewriters in which I pushed every letter.

There were hundreds of dusty books and countless unwritten stories.

My eyes touched anything it could see and I blew my nose when no onlookers could make disgusted faces. No, no matter how blah I was feeling, I wasn’t going to let that stop me from time traveling to an age in which I didn’t exist.

Then I saw it. The trunk of all trunks. The chest of all chests. I opened it. I closed it. I traced its design with my hands and read its years. 1860’s-1870’s. It wasn’t in mint condition though it was mint in color. It wore its history through chipped paint and rust stains, but it was beautiful and perfect for the future I had in store for it.

“Janie,” I said, “I found the one I can’t live without.”


Within minutes, for forty-five dollars, I owned that history. And as I carried my newest gem out of the barn, others who were lost in the history of antiques made remarks on how beautiful it was. I couldn’t help but smile proudly at my treasured find. I knew just where it was meant to be placed and am anxious to begin filling it with the best of things.

I can’t help but think that that is how God sees His children. As treasured finds whom He carries with pride.

Today my nose runs but so do my eyes as the Father uses a trunk and its history to speak to me, “I found the one I can’t live without.” Me?  Me with my non-brushed hair and breathe that tastes like cough syrup. Really? Me? “Yes.” Yes. Me and all my imperfections. A little rusty and a bit chipped, yet beautiful and perfect for the future He has in store. That is a wonder and a gift. And it doesn’t matter how blah I feel, I don’t want to waste these gifted moments.

Lastly friends, we are all the one. The one He carries with pride because His power is made perfect in our weaknesses [2 Corinthians 12:9]. There is no shame in our wear and tear, but rather there is grace for our history and hope for our futures. He carries us with purpose and fills us with the best medicine in the world. Christ. He fills us and knows just where we are meant to be placed, as if to say, “My treasured find, here is a gift. Except it.”

“You’re Not From Here”

Strong was a tiny town and though I had big dreams, I doubted they’d go too far. When you begin life as a kid in the system, you tend to get labeled as a child with a troubled past who would probably grow up to be a troubled adult. I fought that, and I fought that hard.

And the older I got, the more I found I had to fight it. Then the days came. The days when growing up became grown up. And I watched souls who had been close to me give in to the temptations of letting everything go. Their faith. Their dreams. Themselves.

Then the day came when I reached the mark of grown up, though I didn’t feel grown up and most days still don’t. But age called the shots then and so it was my turn to leave the tiny town. And the day I left Strong was the scariest day of my life. Mostly because I hadn’t figured out what my dreams were and I wasn’t sure I wanted to fight.

But this traveler kept crashing into a Maker who promised to fight for me. And somehow in the midst of all the chaos, God continues to do what He promised a scared little girl He would do. I had big dreams yet doubted they’d go far. But God had bigger dreams and He makes them go farther.

———————————————-

I have missed the tiny town this week. I have missed its familiarity. Its mountains and trees. Its quirky way of speaking and even its toothpicks (if you know anything about Strong, Maine that will make sense). You see, I moved away from the East to travel again. I moved to a place where there are new people, new phrases, and new food. And though there has become much that is familiar, there is still so much that is not.

And the unfamiliar creeps in in those moments. You know, those moments when you say things that are completely normal where you come from, but then the confused look on the face across from you reminds you, you’re not from here. Moments when you make a food that is a typical meal where you come from, but then the perplexed look across the table reminds you, you’re not from here. Moments when people talk about a person’s entire family history, but then stop because they remember, you’re not from here. And even moments when Michiganders ask you for directions in their state but you kindly have to remind them you are Maniac and not from here.

There are so many you’re not from here moments as a traveler and that can often become daunting. Yet sometimes, it can be a gift of stirring. Because when you collide differences together something crazy happens. Heaven. I mean, think about. Out of all the places in the world, heaven has got to be the most diverse.

Maybe it’s because I’m the outsider here, but I think we should surround ourselves more often with people who are not from here. Because there are souls all across the globe who left a tiny town to travel. Some kept fighting, some met a Maker, and yet some let everything go. Their faith. Their dreams. Themselves.

As believers we are called to be the body of Christ. To be travelers in a world full of people who need to be reminded that they’re not from here. That need to be reminded there is a place for them. A place where you do not hear “you’re not from here”, but rather, “Welcome home.”

This is why I traveled. This is what I dreamed.

Let’s collide our differences and go and make disciples in Jesus name.

 

 

Live full. Love well. Laugh Much.

Patricia Anne