Monthly Archives: March 2017

Feast by Michelle Holladay

When my son was a toddler, the only thing he wanted to eat was chicken nuggets.  Chicken nuggets were easy.  Chicken nuggets were safe.  Chicken nuggets never disappointed him.  Luckily, his tastes have matured.  In fact, when I want to try a new restaurant, he is the one I call because I know he will be up for the adventure.  He has learned there is more to life than chicken nuggets.  Other foods not only nourish his body, but they are fun and exciting.  Sometimes he tries a food he doesn’t like, but he learns from that experience and makes a better choice the next time.

Hebrews 5:12-14 compares our spiritual maturity to that of an infant who can tolerate only milk until he is ready for solid food.  God desires this movement for us; He wants us to partake of the feast He has prepared for us so we can be strengthened by it as we grow.  So, what keeps us eating chicken nuggets when a gourmet meal is right there at the table?  Is it busyness, selfishness, laziness, fear?

What are the things we tell ourselves to justify our inaction?

I don’t know where to start.

Maybe when my kids are older I will have time.

I just don’t have the discipline or the wisdom it takes to read the Bible.

I don’t have the skills to do what God is asking me to do.

What will happen if I start sharing with others and they find out about my past?

What if I let others down?

What if I let myself down?

What if God asks me to do something hard?

We allow ourselves to believe we are satisfied with only milk when really what we are craving is solid food.  

Make no mistake, our salvation comes from grace, not by works, but Jesus didn’t just come for our salvation, He came that we “may have life and have it to the full.”  Maintaining this life-giving relationship requires work on our part and when we allow apathy or fear to keep us from growing in that relationship, we miss out – BIG TIME!!!

Let’s linger on this thought for a moment –  There are over 7 billion people in the world and The Creator of the universe desires to have a deep, personal relationship with each one of us.  How cool is that?  God wants to have conversations with you through prayer.  He has given us his Word so we can get to know Him and He chooses us to serve alongside Him as we do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do.  He wants us to stretch and learn and grow and He wants us to take what we learn and share with others.  He wants all this for YOU – not just your pastor, not just your friend who seems like she has it all together, not just that amazing Christian speaker – YOU!!!

One of my favorite promises in the Bible comes from Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  This verse gives me confidence as it assures me that when we genuinely seek Him, God shows up. Will you hang on to that promise with me?  Will you lean into it the next time fear threatens to keep you from growing in your faith?  When those excuses start to play in your head, will you remember God’s words instead?

You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13)

When we seek God’s kingdom first, our priorities become clear (Matthew 6:33)

God has given us the exact gifts He wants us to have (Romans 12:6)

God has made you a new creation; the old is gone (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Even when we fall, we can rise again (Proverbs 24:16)

We can learn great things from our mistakes (Psalm 119:71)

God can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)
Don’t settle for chicken nuggets, there is an entire feast just waiting to fill you up.

Coping With Mother Wounds by Erik Johnson

Erik Johnson, who is one of the counselors we network with wrote this blog post in the hopes to bring healing to the mother wounds that many have experienced. His words are insightful and will challenge each one of us as daughters, granddaughters, mothers, sisters and friends. Erik has spoken at Collide and women just love his heart and the gentle way in which he challenges, as well as his deep passion for helping people find wholeness in their lives. God uses him to give people tools to navigate the difficult things that come up in relationships. We, here at Collide just love Erik and are grateful for his work in helping people recognize brokenness so it can be made more whole! Enjoy!  – Willow

Some mother wounds are obvious: cruelty, hitting, screaming, shaking, harsh discipline, and so forth. Other mother wounds are just as painful only less obvious: manipulating, guilting, shaming, neglecting, indifference, uncomforting, judgmental, distant, not nurturing, or simply abandoning her maternal responsibilities. There are seven steps to healing a mother wound and (if desired) recreating a relationship with your mother (living or dead).

First, increasing your awareness of mom’s impact helps you define what you missed from your mother when you were young and what you did or did not receive from her. This is a painful step, but necessary. You can’t deal with what you don’t know about. Exercises to increase your awareness include journaling (using your non-dominant writing hand puts you back in the first grade!), interview siblings (if it’s safe), reflecting on old photo albums and scrapbooks, visiting your childhood neighborhood, watch mothers and their children at the playground to be reminded of what you missed, draw what you remember your bedroom looked like, look at school albums, interview uncles and aunts, and so forth. Do your research with healthy friends around for support. Beware, exploring avoided feelings can be unpleasant.

Second, mourning and letting go of your pain involves getting in touch with the hurt and anger you have long suppressed regarding your mom. Expressing your feelings is essential to healing. Healthy ways to flush out the hurt include crying, rip pages from an old telephone book, writing and praying prayers of lament, creating angry art (collages, painting with lots of angry colors). Write a letter to your mom (not for mailing) filled with emotion. NOTE: venting can become addicting so be careful; we’re trying to get the venom out of our system, not build tolerance for it.

Third, reappraising your mother begins with seeing her as a human being in her own right. Once you are ready to incorporate your mother’s perspective, you will understand that she only passed on to you what had been done to her. You work to forgive and even appreciate her. Saying goodbye to the mother of your childhood helps you emotionally release any remaining expectations you have of her. Exercises include: giving your mother her due by recognizing any positive things she did (if any). Write her the kind of letter you wish she’d had written to you, hold an imaginary conversation with your mother as if she was a 10-year-old; what wise words would the adult you give her? Forgiving your mother is a process, not a one-time event. Cancel the debt of what she owed but never gave. The Christian faith offers many insights into forgiveness that we often overlook. Consult your pastor, priest, or spiritual mentor.

Fourth, healing the child within encourages you to reconnect with how the young part of you wanted to be nurtured and treasured by a tender mother. You honor your little child inside by allowing desires and feelings to emerge that you denied growing up. You learn to accept and savor positive feedback. Scientists say our brains are comprised of many parts; have your “older, wiser” part talk to your “younger, wounded” part. What does the young you need to hear, feel, see, or experience? Give that little child what he or she needs. Draw the current you loving the younger you (stick figures work fine). If your mother took away your voice, take it back. Speak truth to yourself in front of a mirror, make affirmations, and repeat soul building quotes.

Fifth, becoming your own good mother shows you ways to fill in for the experiences you felt you missed with your mom. Do to yourself what think a devoted mother would do for her child. Acknowledge your deepest desires and goals. When your outlook on your mother changes, so will your outlook change on your Heavenly Parent (God is not only like a Father but also like a Mother. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah 49:15 and 66:13.

Sixth, acknowledging the wisdom of the mother wound helps you accept the direction that your life has taken. See the strengths you’ve developed. Finding contentment in being alone, along with achieving self-acceptance, together open the doorway to self-love. Describe the ways a mother wound has given you insights, independence, relationship skills, initiative, creativity, humor, or morality. If possible, see if you can muster the courage to be grateful for the skills you learned the hard way.

Seventh, reconnecting with your mother completes the circle of recovery. Now that you see you mother in a new light and have found your own power, you might be open to trying new ways of relating with her, whether she is living or not. A deeper bonding based on mutual respect may still be possible. If not, accept the reality that you will likely never receive a maternal “blessing.” Fill the hole the mother wound left with healthy choices, friends, activities, hobbies, spirituality, and service.

Once you have gone through these steps, and you understand how your mother wound affects all your interactions, you can apply what you’ve learned to building satisfying relationships. By consciously cultivating caring mentors as mother substitutes, you can believe that you are valuable and deserve support and recognition. You carry on the healing process with those who are closest to you by going back to the original source of your upset feelings when they arise. You learn to see and nurture the little child in your loved ones, and above all to appreciate the good in them and you.

 

This material is adapted from the book, Where Were You When I Needed You, Dad? by Jane Meyers Drew (Tiger Lilly Publishing, 1992)

Just that one by Willow Weston

We just had an open house in our new office! (I will share some pictures in this post from it!) It was such a lovely turnout of people who came to celebrate with us God’s continued writing of the Collide story. It has been a story of God taking nothing and making something. It has been a story of God taking pain and writing redemption chapters. It has been a story of God using women to do things they never thought possible. It has been a story of basement to building, and now having a space to minister out of and call home.

One of the staff’s favorite part of the open house was the one woman who walked in unexpectedly. She works in the building we now share. She has no experience with Collide but knows some people who do. She walked in and we handed her a key, as we did everyone, and said “Welcome home.” She stood in our storage room so blessed by this sentiment. She was surrounded by people who have led worship, fundraised, cooked, guided women into counseling, led our mentoring program, painted beautiful art, shared their stories, and given of their money, all in the hopes to touch and impact lives at our events and gatherings. And here she stood with a key in hand and a “welcome home” because she wandered by and walked in.

I don’t know her story. I don’t know her pain. I don’t know her journey with Jesus. But I do know one thing, God cares about her life. If she would have been the only one who showed up to the open house, it would have been well worth it. She was supposed to be standing in our kitchen surrounded by all these Colliders.

I went home after the open house and as I was saying goodnight to my kid, he mentioned that he was pretty concerned about a friend at school who hasn’t been there in weeks. He said he has tried texting him to make sure he is okay. He asked me to do something. I have to admit, I was tired and it was late and what could I do anyway? I called my husband Rob in and expressed Aidan’s concern.

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to write someone you barely know off as “Not your business” or “Someone else’s concern.” It’s easy to assume they are “fine” or someone else is “surely looking after them.” It was easy to approach this conversation with my son with this kind of laissez faire trust that someone else is doing something about the kid who hasn’t been to school in about a month. But there was something that rose out of Aidan’s gut. He had a passion and a fierceness about him that wouldn’t let his parents off the hook that easy.

Just that one.

You know what that is that was coming out of Aidan? It was an absolute determination that aligns with the heart of God. Just that one matters. That kid who hasn’t been to school, his life matters. And yes, maybe a teacher or a principal or a social worker or a family member has it figured out. But maybe they don’t. And his life matters enough for us to be certain.

God is a God who cares about just one. He will run until He is sweaty and wheezing to catch up to someone. He is called the Hound of heaven. He chases people down and stalks them like crazy. God isn’t going to be ok with one lost kid absent for days for who knows what reason. God loves all His kids. And when I immerse myself in the parable Jesus told in Luke 15 about what God would do for just one, I can’t help but wonder if Aidan’s inability to go to sleep at peace until he knew this kid was okay, isn’t how we all should be?

The one coin mattered so much to the woman, that she searched and swept to find it.

Only one sheep escaped. Still the shepherd has 99 others. 99. That’s 99 percent retention rate. That sounds pretty good to me. It’s not good enough for God. Jesus describes God like the Shepherd who leaves the 99 and goes out finding the one, because just that one matters.

The father waited while his lost son plundered his father’s wealth and turned his back on him. As soon as the father saw his son trudge back ashamed, the father ran like heck and bear hugged his son with all the love and grace He had within Him. The father could do nothing else but wait and watch in the hopes of that one son being welcomed home.

Just that one.

Welcoming people home is the business of God. That is what He is all about. He is a God who is always welcoming us home, wherever we have journeyed, whatever roads we have traveled, whatever choice led us down a dark alley, whatever victory found us on the peaks and whatever fall skinned our knees on the way back uo. If there is even one person who isn’t at home in your life, are you finding yourself like my husband and I making excuses and justifications why they will figure it out, why your voice and efforts won’t matter, why someone else will help? Or are you finding yourself unable to be at home within your own hear,t like Aidan, until you know they are safe, sound, taken care, and know they matter?

Perhaps chasing people down, handing them a key, welcoming them home to a space they can stay awhile, making it known you notice their absence, perhaps all these kinds of things are at the very heart of God. Perhaps they are the most spiritual things we can be up to and when we are, it is then that people who need it most, will know God always invites them home. And perhaps, when we enter into this kind of work we will be most at home, too.

I know what my family is doing this afternoon. We are being urged to do the work of making sure that even just one knows they matter. Let us all be inspired by a God who is not at home until we are. Let’s go hand out some keys.

In the Valley of the Call to Joy by Sarah Willett

The Your stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…

As I settled into the one and only mat in the yoga studio, the story of 100 year old wood boards stretched out beneath me as far as my eyes would choose to see. The beauty of streaming early evening light prompted me to keep my promise – show up, begin, root in and rise up, travel the spectrum of all that honors, extend out from hip to heart, sternum to shoulder blade and gather courage towards my fingertips, float the hands to prayer and let the tears flow into the uneven cracks of so much loved!

Have you been there – the inner there – rotating and twisting inwards to meet oneself while the woven fabric of your structure is stuck in places others have determined, loss has determined, self has determined?  I think we might share the echo of a story, and perhaps if you will allow me, I believe it goes a bit like this…

And I then in my promise kept, heard the quietest voice of the CALL to move between the mountains of pain and gift in climbers reposeto be met in the Valley of the Call to Joy.

It is in the valley the echo is amplified, carries the voices further, and returns!

The seeking eye can align, the comforting ear can identify, the gentlest touch can adjust the hold on rock and rope; then the Lord asks you to pause, asks you to be present on a precipice of the unknown, indeed nimble on every ledge, and He answers years of prayer in return:

I see you

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

I trust you

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. (Psalm 143:8)

I know you  

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace removed, says the Lord who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

Hello I’m here, you are not alone  

Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4)

I see you have already turned the page, knowing the next chapter of this promise we together move within; do you recall the valley melts away below, and the ebb and flow of rising timbers and precious undergrowth create a deeper footing – a stronger hold into the foundation that ascends to where the road of Living Word and stillness meet?

I once hired a young women for a seasonal holiday position.  During the interview process I was struck by her boldness when she asked for redemption– clearly an area I had no authority to give on any level; she said her word was good though her skills were lacking!  I had never been on this road, so I put on my armor and prepared for the journey ahead. And what a road this was to travel on! The dendrochronology of those timbers was one of the darkest valleys Ive ever heard of and then she told of the JOY that saved her life. You see she, as we, exit the valley and embark on all the moments He waited for us, He wrapped us up warmly, He sang us to sleep, and He wrote us into eternity:

“What do you pray” she asked me “when you have nothing to offer?”

Silence

“How can I fold my hands together” she asked me “when I have broken so much with them?”

Silence

“When I didn’t know a love that was real” she said to me “how could I be worthy of asking for God’s love?”

Silence by silence by silence

“I know those answers” she said to me

Exhale

I have been sober and drug free for 3 years. I decided to bring myself to a place called thank you, and it has been the greatest JOY I have ever knowshe said. It is the only prayer I have ever said. Thats it, she delivered with a candor not only from a valley etched in perfection, but also a road such as that to Emmaus – might we not each desire such a companion as . . .

Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32)

It is here I started SEEING the expanse of His beautiful valley and how Christ CALLS us into His pure JOY. God holds us, protects us and always belays, for clearly I had no authority to be given it on any level!!

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever. (Psalm 23:1-6)

Road ventures into journey as I sequence the memory of the studio perimeter, leaning into the union of closeness, pray hereHe calls to me; into the fractured places of my depravity and the bonded broke-open-ness of our human heart crevasses – I pray! Together as intrepid adventurers of boldness, do not forget that we learned to practice the pause of leading up into this new posture on the road to abandoned JOY. In fact this journey is ever more familiar as we are invited to roll up the mat, put back into their bags the carabiners and ropes, and look not up but down, across the valley floor from where the searchbegan so many woven together years ago.

O Lord you have searched me and you know me. You know where I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence. If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:1-6)

We adore thee. Thank you Heavenly Father that I am so much loved… she is so much loved… he is so much loved… we are so much loved. WE ARE HIS JOY.

As you inhale this breath that is life I invite you to consider, what if your valley is not your fight, what if instead it is your freedom by His grace, and the pen that writes your chapters is His light? Can you imagine how beautiful that verse would be…

Then Feed My Sheep by Meredith LaPlante

The Your stories blogs are a place where women can bravely and authentically tell their story as it really is. We invite women to collide with Jesus and share how He is meeting them, transforming them and redeeming them. We hope this “your story” meets you in yours…

My journey from California to Washington state started with this quote about feeding sheep, and it’s still moving me today. Jesus said it, but I read it in a book by Jen Hatmaker prompting me to question my way of life—to jettison the excess and simply to focus on feeding people that are hungry.  Reading Hatmaker’s book, Seven: A Mutiny Against Excess, invited me to question my own assumptions, like the fact that my husband and I each had found our lifelong career and would continue in our respective jobs until the day we retired and traveled the world and spent all our savings.  I had taught high school for seven years and was finally feeling effective in my role as (mostly) motivational speaker and (partly) Latin teacher.   And yet, coming out from under the rock of postpartum depression I was looking for meaning beyond worldly security, and I found that longed-for meaning in this basic request of Jesus— in the exhortation to feed His sheep—to give of myself and pursue God wherever He should lead me.

From the first time I really understood that directive in relation to what it means to love Jesus, I felt a continual nudging of the Spirit to simplify my life.  I feared this process of simplifying would mean quitting my job, which would mean having to move from the house we owned on two incomes.  For several months I squelched this nudging, chalking it up to the odd bad day at work (everyone wants to quit their job sometimes, right?!), until I could no longer ignore my Principal giving me an ultimatum to go up to full time or quit my job.  Looking down the barrel of depression that was sure to come for me if I were to heap even more hours of work on my already full plate, I begged with my Principal (and God) to let me keep my job and keep my house and keep my life just as it was.  After a few tense weeks and a lot of prayers I realized that God was desperately trying to give me a gift—an out—a chance to step off the hamster wheel and live a simpler life.  What followed was a mountaintop experience—an outpouring of the Spirit during which God opened big doors and gave us big signs to lead us on a journey to move 1,200 miles away.  As I left my job, my husband found a new one and our house sold, all in less than a week.  There were a ton of other signs and ways God provided, all of which guided us up here to start a new life.  

And then we got here, and the new life started.  It’s hard to know when the mountaintop experience is over when you’re in the midst of it.  When you’re past it, it’s usually pretty obvious; it’s the time when God says, “Okay, you’ve gotten your fill.  I know it’s awesome up here, but now it’s time to go out and do your thing.  You know, that thing I’ve created you to do.”  Okay, so God may or may not have said that in the Bible, but I’m pretty sure I’ve heard those words just after realizing I’m at the bottom of the mountain and have a long journey ahead of me.  Riding the wave of the Spirit up to Washington, I was on fire inside; I was eagerly looking around for what my new role was to be and where I was to serve.  I was getting out my trekking poles to get ready for another climb up the mountain.  

While I was waiting for my next climb, I knew my call was to feed God’s sheep, so I was looking out for the big ways I could feed those sheep.  I was looking for some kind of ministry I could start that would feed the masses, so imagine my surprise when my new role—my call to feed sheep—turns out to be filled with the monotony of life with two kids.  I’m talking about laundry, cooking, cleaning, playing little kid games that are usually less than appealing to an overtired mom, breaking up fights, trying not to yell, mandating chores, managing meltdowns (including my own), maintaining sanity, etc. with very little time left for anything else.   I started to panic, knowing that giving was key to finding joy, to combating depression, and yet, I felt I had no time or energy to give after enduring the daily grind.  

Eventually, after many Bible studies, sermons, devotions, counseling sessions, TED talks, books, podcasts, years, and another baby, I have come to realize that right now, my role is pretty small, but also pretty big in terms of its lasting importance, because my primary role is one of feeding the sheep set right in front of me—my kids.  Now, some people come to this conclusion a lot more quickly and more easily than I did, so I don’t mean to make out like this is groundbreaking news: if you are a mother of little kids, your role is to feed them!  I always knew that on some level, but I didn’t give that truth its proper weight.  This time that they are here with me, especially being little, is so fleeting, I want to do my best with the precious time God’s given me.  

Though I love my kids more than anything and I have realized that they are my primary ministry right now, I still struggle at times with feeling called to a role where there exists so little accountability or control.   In the absence of a mountaintop experience I find my eyes wandering to bigger things—houses, jobs, vacations—anything that demands praise from others.  If I follow this train of thought long enough, inevitably I end up feeling not enough in my small house with my small kids leading my small life.  But each time I’ve wandered down that treacherous path, God calls me back, reminding me to stay the course between mountaintop experiences.  He reminds me in the simplest but most profound ways that He is here with me, always.  I don’t need a bigger life, I just need more of Jesus in my life—more of Him filling up the empty spaces in my heart until they’re endlessly full and spilling over.  

I love the quote from Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: “The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself … Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare … You too must learn to await this fullness before pouring out your gifts, do not try to be more generous than God.”

This allure of being more generous than God—I fall victim to its charms when I listen more to the roar of the crowd than to the whisper of the Spirit.  While there are times when I can feed more sheep than my immediate family, it’s when I value the accolades over the calm in my home that I realize I’ve once again overextended my resources; I say yes to too many things and people, consequently burning my energy beyond my limits.  I am tired and, as a result, let the pendulum swing the other way until I feel isolated and depressed.  Alternatively, when I seek God continually through prayer and fill up with His love, I find that I operate out of abundance and not scarcity.  I can pour out onto others—starting with the people I love the most—and then listen to the Spirit’s nudge for where to extend out from there.

I don’t know when (or if) my world will “get big again” from a worldly view in a productive sense, but I need to remember that God offers unlimited spaciousness within—and it’s here already.  Contrary to what I sometimes believe, I’m not in limbo, I don’t need to wait for the next phase of life or the next mountaintop.  God’s created me to do exactly what I’m doing now, and when I remember that I can be filled with the love of Christ and receive the joy that follows, and I invite you to do the same.