Monthly Archives: May 2014


photo 1

I recently wrote to ya’ all about this woman who has been through hell and back. She has been in over 100 foster homes in the course of her life- a child of the state. She has been abused and wounded by people who were supposed to be loving and abandoned by people who were supposed to stay. Her story has collided with so many wounded people and wounded her in return, that just hearing it overwhelms you, like you are being piled on by something so heavy you wonder if you can get out from underneath it.

I mentioned that there are these amazing people from my church who are stepping out and advocating on her behalf to get her what she needs to keep walking forward. And that is so needed and for that I am so grateful. Sometimes, we are steeped in such insurmountable hopelessness that what we really need is another’s hand grabbing ours and walking us where we need to go.

And then there’s me. Of course, I got some silly idea of helping her by hooking her up with a friend who teaches swim lessons. Walking out of a coffee date from being toppled by her story and then coming up with “I can get a girl who might be homeless, whose been wounded severely and trying to stay clean from addiction swim lessons” seemed a bit juvenile. How are swim lessons going to help her? What was I thinking? You can read more about what I was thinking…

photo 4

She said she had never done basic things. Like go on a vacation. Like learn to swim. Like have a family. So my friend agreed to teach this full fledged adult how to swim. It was a plan. Bella, my eight year old daughter went to her room and picked out which suit she wanted to wear. She was going to swim too! Bella has a ton of suits because one of my half sisters who is graduating from high school handed Bella down like a trillion suits from her childhood collection. There was the bright colored bikini with geometric shapes. There was the floral bottoms with the striped top. There was the hot pink tankini, which is her current fave, but she couldn’t find it. She sifted through the others looking and unsuccessful, she chose the one piece suit that fits kind of oddly at the top. It bows out and often feels not snug enough to cover what needs to be covered. But she popped in on, put on a sundress, grabbed a towel and off we went.

As we drove to pick up this new friend, I shared with Bella bits and pieces of this woman’s story. I invited Bella in to encourage her as we shop for suits, but mostly to just show her the love of Christ. Do you know that our kids can show God’s love to people like none other? We found what we thought was her address and parked our “new to us” SUV a bit cockeyed to pick her up. As I approached the door, there were three characters sitting on the porch smoking, shooting the breeze. I asked if this was where I can find our friend. The guy said “Oh yeah, I’ll get her. Please put her in a bag and take her away.” I hated that he said that. It made me feel sick to my stomach like it’s what she has been told her entire life as she has been traded in like an unwanted “thing.”

She walked out and was her usual spunky self. Excited, laughable, easily amused and amusing. We headed to Target. On the way there, I asked her what  kind of suit she wanted. “Do you think you want a one piece, a bikini, a tankini?” She asked curiously, “What is a tankini?” So, Bella and I attempt to explain. We walked into Target and there is a ginormous swim suit section, with product falling all over the place, hangers everywhere almost as if a toddler came in off a candy binge and helicoptered that place in a rage. She said “I have never had a suit before.” I thought maybe she meant she had never had that kind of suit or this color of suit. I asked, “You have never owned a bathing suit? Not even just in the summer to run through  a sprinkler or something?” “No,” she said.

We sifted through the options and grabbed several to try on. She called Bella and I in to look at her favorite. It was so cute! She chose black bottoms with a gray and black animal print tankini (Thank you to the woman who donated money to pay for this!) She looked like a beach babe ready to hit the shore! We left Target, almost ran out of gas and had to fill up and then grabbed dinner at the good ol Taco Bell. In all our running around, we talked about cars. She likes cars. We talked about school classes  she is taking and her health. We laughed saying things  like “guuurrrrrl, you got ooooomph!” (You’d have to be there:) )We talked about a the apartment she might get soon because of the help of her advocates.

photo 2

As we approached the pool, the neighborhood reminded her of one she lived in. It brought back bad memories. Memories in part she wished panned out. Memories in part she hopes to soon forget, I am sure. She was nervous, but total game. My friend Lindsay showed up with a giant beach towel and what looked like kid pool toys. As they walked in the newly opened for the season pool, it must have been collllld. Lindsay assured her that she would be safe, that Lindsay was going to start from the very beginning of learning how to swim, and that everything would be ok. She started this conversation while handing this woman her son’s Batman kick board.

She invited her to lean on this kick board and told her “it will hold you.” She explained that if your body rests on this, you will float and then you can kick your legs and go and to and fro the sides.  Every time she tried she would sink into the water, come out coughing and then begin laughing hysterically. Her laugh lit up the pool, pool house, tennis courts and then I am sure echoed into the streets. I think she laughs because it’s all she could ever to do to stay sane. I think she laughs because she has a great sense of humor. And I think she was laughing because she was nervous. She kept apologizing saying sorry. Lindsay would reassure her that she doesn’t have to be sorry and that she is doing just fine. Lindsay tried a new route. She invited her to come over to the pool stairs, lean her forearms on the second to top step and just practice flutter kicks. Then Lindsay saw this white buoy with a long rope hanging on the wall by the pool. She asked me to hand it to her and took our friend back into the pool and invited her to do the same thing as before, but instead of a batman kick board- she had her lean on this buoy.

photo 4

Buoys are what you throw out to someone in need of saving. I watched this, thinking, this woman so needs rescue. She needs rescue from the lies she has been told about herself. She needs rescue from the addictive patterns she was born into that cause her to self destruct. She needs rescue from her hell on earth and instead needs that “Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” like Jesus prays.

Jesus’ very name means “He saves”. Jesus needs to throw out a buoy from a Divine, Supernatural place because the road ahead is long and arduous and the waters feel like a current could take her away if rescue doesn’t come quick enough.  We call Jesus a Savior. And when we do, people’s skin often crawls. Just that one statement makes people feel like they are receiving bad news. Like they have to be someone different or do something they don’t want to be. For some reason ‘Jesus saves’ makes people think of hell and fire and brimstone and really awful Christians who yell at people and tell them they suck. Jesus doesn’t suck, those people do. If I have offended you, you’re welcome.

Jesus isn’t just interested in saving people by only getting them to hand over a list of their doctrinal beliefs, as if it was a test they were handing in to a teacher and they have to get all the right answers. Jesus is interested in saving us from all that is twisted, dysfunctional, sick, messy and hurtful. He is interested in rescuing us from ourselves, from our religious baggage, from our family of origin wounds, from our small view of Him. Jesus wants to bring rescue to us so that we can live. And He wants that for this woman.  God wants for her safety, healing, new family, a home and even the freedom and ability to swim and play and dance.

Lindsay softly spoke, “Trust me, I won’t let you go.” I heard that and thought…“I am not sure Lindsay and I realize what we are asking of this girl.” Lindsay asked a girl to trust, who has ABSOLUTELY NO REASON to give anyone her trust.  I watched from the chaise lounge. This was spiritual. This woman was being asked to trust when nothing had been trustworthy in her entire life. This is part of her healing, part of her journey. She is going to have to lean into this One who Rescues and trust in unknown, scary waters.


I thought, do we realize what we are asking here? We are asking a woman who has been abandoned again and again to trust us. Who do we think we are? Do we realize what we are asking? Why should she? How can she? I think this is important. So often I think Christians don’t realize the huge thing they are asking of non- believers. You are asking someone to trust what they cannot see, what they think sounds hokey, what they have heard is lame, who they feel abandoned by, with all their trust issues, to hand over their life to this Jesus who sounds like He wore Birkenstocks, hung out with lepers and then died on a piece of wood 2000 years ago. Do we realize the kind of trust we are asking for? I realized something HUGE.


Maybe read that again. How can you ask this woman to trust when she has absolutely no reason to, unless you show yourself to be trustworthy? The only way that she is going to trust God, whose saving she needs so desperately, is by trust. The only way she might trust God is through the trustworthiness she experience in God’s people. That is a huge call to Christians. I hope you hear it. I heard it too. Realize what a big thing you are asking people when you are asking people who have been wounded for trust. And realize that you must give it back in return. Otherwise, you have no business asking for it.

She leaned her body in, peeked her feet back and started to kick. She got a few feet away and popped back to standing. She did it! She trusted and she swam! Lindsay was a trustworthy presence and it gave this woman faith. Granted it was with a buoy, but she did it! By the time lessons were over, she was putting her two arms out in front of her, no buoy and flutter kicking across the shallow end of the pool! She got going so fast that her eyelashes fell off. We all got a kick and a cackle out of that! It was beautiful. I could have cried deep tears of joy, sitting there thanking Jesus for being our buoy.


We dropped her off at her clean and sober house and said goodnight until next lesson. On the way home, I asked Bella “Bella, what do you see? What do you see God doing in her life?” Bella said very simply…”I see God giving her a better life.” His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

it takes a village to change a villager

At a Collide event this winter, I walked up to a girl who had been invited by a friend from AA. I introduced myself and said “How are you doin’?” She said “Not good”, but then she giggled. I wasn’t sure if she was kidding or serious so I probed a bit more. She said she had few panic attacks that day and that she wasn’t into the whole God thing. But then she looked at me almost stumped and said “But I don’t know what just happened to me. I met that blond lady who taught my breakout session…whats her name? Whatever just happened for some crazy reason I just agreed to let her pick me up and take me to church tomorrow.”  I said “I know what just happened to you. God is about to change your life.” She laughed like crazy. She looked as if she was dizzy and shocked, like she herself couldn’t believe it. And low and behold I saw her at church the next day.


I met with that woman a few weeks ago for coffee. The story that led her to walk in those doors broke my heart. Her mother was an addict and gave her up when she was 5 years old. She lived in foster home after foster home after foster home and then herself became an addict and married an abusive addict. She was sent to a clean and sober house in far far away from where she lived to break the chains of an abusive marriage and a nasty addiction. She came here to start a new life. We sat over coffee and laughed and she shared deeply. When she walked into Collide she laughs telling the story, she jokes saying her friend tricked her. She assumed she was coming to an AA meeting and all of sudden she was sitting in these pews hearing about God. God had always been a vengeful, angry mad man who in her words “who will cash you into hell like that.” Who needs another abusive man anyway, I thought?

This girl has never had a sense of family. She said “I don’t know how to swim, I have never gone on vacation or done basic things other people get to.” She was describing her life and was quite scared because she was just told before we met that her housing allowance was running out in June and she would be homeless. She looked at me scared. She said “I cant go back there. I cant go backwards.” She has been clean for 10 months, going to recovery programs, taking classes at school, going to therapy to deal with all her triggers and now she finds herself going to church, praying and reading scriptures everyday, facing the thought of going backwards.


I left that meeting and felt I needed to do a few things. One, she needed help with her housing situation. I called some friends that work with the system and then her new friend Cris, who drives her to church every week. Cris asked a recovering alcoholic and his wife who understand the struggle of addiction and the power of Christ. They have agreed to come alongside her and advocate on her behalf to help get her in a place where she can only walk forward instead of backwards!

Then I got so excited about my next idea that I was like a giddy kid! I messaged my friend Lindsay who teaches swim lesson at the country club. I asked if she would be willing to teach an adult swimming lessons. She said she would love to be apart of this story! So the plan was to go shopping for a bathing suit and in she goes! Swimming means keeping your head above water. It means survival, it means being able to swim to shore when the waters are rough, and then it means diving, snorkeling, scuba diving and seeing  beauty and color. It means adventure and going to the beach with your friends in a yellow polka dot bikini and drinking lemonade and eating potato chips and going for a dip.


God is trying to give a woman back family who has never had a family. God is trying to give a woman an education who never had an education. God is trying to give a woman back dignity who hasn’t been given the dignity she deserves. God is impacting this woman’s life and He is doing it through people. God used a woman from AA to invite her to Collide. God used another women to listen and drive and invest in her life.  God is using the husband and wife team to advocate on her behalf. God is using a swim lesson teacher to bless her. I tell you this story- because this story is a picture of what could happen all over our village if we together enter into the lives of those who need it. It takes a village to change a villager. 

Come back soon and I will tell you how her first swim lesson went!

When we let these things count, our lives don’t

I think within each one of resides a deep desire to live a life of great purpose. We want to make our life count. I think we are born with a place inside of us that is made to impact this world. I think this place in us goes so deep, that if not filled, we begin to pace the halls of life. If empty, this place in us is begging for more and we find ourselves starving of contentment. This desire for purpose is so strong that if not satiated, we can actually end up feeding it with ugly awful, no good emotional junk food. Junk food like TV and clothes and the Kardashians and cheetos. The kind of junk food that rots our soul. I think all people yearn to make their lives count, yet we let so many other things count. 


  • We let our past count : We think only people with sunday school, mission trips and Bible college on their resume can apply for the work of doing Big godlike assignments. We think our track record is pretty weak so God won’t want us on his team. So we keep letting our past determine our present. And yet God is a God who says “Let me determine your present and your future. The past rests in my forgiveness.” He says it, but we give our past way too much power.
  • We let our weakness count: We let our inadequacies get the best of us. We convince ourselves that We aren’t enough” to really make a big difference. There is nothing great about us. We are lacking, broken, quirky, boring, understated, old, and weak. Those statements boss our lives around everyday.
  • We let “I’m not her” and “I’m not him” count: We sit around and look at other people and think, why try? As a woman i know I can do this all the time. I’m not Oprah, I’m not Mother Theresa, I’m not Amy Poehler. “I’m not her”, that girl whose very presence tells us what we don’t have more than what we do. You know you can spend your whole life imprisoned by the fact that you aren’t her and her and him. And then what?  I say Be you, not them.
  • We let our season in life count: We spend so many seasons of our life seeing all the obstacles in the way of why we cant do what we want to do! In college, we say “When I’m out of college.” When we get married we say “When things settle.” When we first get into our career we say “Maybe later.” When we have babies, we say “When they are older.” When they are older, we say “When I am an empty nester.” When we are empty nesters we say, “If i woulda, coulda, shoulda.” Do you think God is surprised by your season? Why are you waiting for a piece of paper to make your life really count? Parents who is telling you that the impact you can have on your babies isn’t huge? Empty nesters, who says you can’t change the world right now? Don’t wait for purpose. Purpose waits for you. Just show up.
  • We let self count: Let’s be honest, we are often focused on us; our plans, our path, our promotion, our job, our vacation, our body, our stress. When we live like this, our impact can’t be measured farther than our own nose. All of those things we focus on can count- our plans, our job, our vacation, but in all those things is the focus on you or your impact? You impact others, when others are your focus.
  • We let only BIG things count: We overcomplicate impact,. We think “I have to do something huge” and what can I do? I can make a mean chili. I can plant a garden. I can paint. I can do math. Last time I checked Jesus healed a blind man with spit and mud. He fed thousands with one boys lunch. God used a staff to show people whose boss. I am not sure you need much more than a broom, a paintbrush or a pot of soup for God to use you to do something BIG.
  • We let fear count: We get on the hamster wheel of fear. What if I fail? What if I succeed? What if people laugh? What if’s will find you at the end of your life asking, “What if I would not have asked what if?”
  • We let the haters count: We believe them when they say “You don’t have what it takes. You aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, string enough. You need more of this. You need more of that.” We give the naysyaers, the negative nellies, the critics and the haters’s voices more power than God’s.

When we let these things count, our lives don’t. These things get the best of us. They win. They tell the story. They have the impact. They become what we make count.  In our desire to make a difference, to do big things, to be used by God for the purposes for which we were made, may we no longer let these things count, but instead allow our lives to. When we sit on a park bench someday and look back at our lives, may we deeply sense with peace and gratitude that we indeed made it count.

Big News!

So I have big news to share about Collide! Collide has come a long way as it started once upon a time as a bible study and is now a ministry that impacts lives through the blog, events, retreats, classes and a whole team of people. After a year of discernment with an Advisory board made up of the greatest group of people and the support and friendship from First Presbyterian Church… and after much time watching what God is doing, Collide is …..wait for it….wait for it… drumroll…..Collide is a non-profit!

big news

We have put so much prayer, thought, discussion and energy into this decision. This is exciting news because we see God opening up opportunity after opportunity to continue partnering with First Presbyterian church, but also many other churches and ministries. God is drawing people from all sorts of faith backgrounds and experiences and even unchurched people to Collide with Him! We are excited for the journey ahead and hope you will continue running into Jesus with us on the blog and at the day of events and please continue praying for the future of this ministry!

If you want to give a congratulations gift, a “you are moving out of the house and are on your own” present, if you feel led to bless this new venture and give to the work that God is doing, you can do that by clicking the donate button here. This new move to become a non-profit is a scary, exciting adventure that calls for trust that God will provide all that we need to do this work. As we step out on our own, we remember we aren’t on our own. We remember that God is in this and has been since the very beginning. Though we walk out from underneath the umbrella that covered us, we know that God’s umbrella is even bigger. If you want to partner in any way with your gifts, your resources, your ideas, your prayers, your church building, or whatever it may be, we would love to partner with you!

We are so excited about how God can take nothing and make something. God can heal wounds that have been festering for years. God can run into lives and change them forever. God can use the most unlikely people to do amazing things. God partners with us. Now let us partner with Him, so that we might see lives change!   Thank you all for your continual support, cheerleading, prayers and wisdom as God guides, shapes, builds, grows, moves and collides! I appreciate every last one of you!- Willow