Suit up

Monday, November 2, 2015

I’ve always been quite the imaginative dreamer.  And the odd thing is, I usually remember a large portion of it.  Like the other day, Finn was attacking a bird, which then became a hawk that carried him off into the wind only to drop him in a pond and injure his lung.  Or there was the time I was about to compete with Derek Hough, and yet we never got to the dance portion because we were too busy sitting on the couch eating fro-yo becoming besties.  Sometimes, like these, my dreams are super entertaining and quite mind-boggling.   But then other times, they are a lot darker and I wake up in a fright.  Unfortunately that’s the kind of dream that shook me this week.  I’m not going to get into it, partly because it was a dark place that I would rather not return, but mainly because I want to focus on the words that came out of this dream. 

Typically, when I have a nightmare I wake up with a scream as if I am clawing my way out.  Then, as quickly as I’ve woken, I scoot my body as close to Chris as I can possibly get and shake him awake.  With a click, he turns on the light and I attempt to lock the darkness in the dream that it came from.  I lay there for about fifteen to twenty minutes, think happy thoughts and eventually get the courage to attempt sleep yet again.  But this time it was different.  Wide-awake, cuddled next to Chris with the light on, I could not shake the darkness.  Feeling so so heavy, and wrought with fear, my cat jumped up on the bed (which is not atypical) causing me to throw myself even closer to Chris as a gaspy, frightened sob escaped from my mouth.  That’s when I knew this wasn’t my average nightmare.

We live in a world where as Jesus says, “there will be trouble… “ So, no matter what we do, no matter how much light we surround ourselves with, as long as we are on this earth we will have to fight against evil.  I know this; I know that as a follower of Christ, I am in a battle against the evil one.  But lying in bed that night, clinging to Chris like a terrified child, I felt wholly inadequate to fight.  

Trying to change my focus, I desperately texted my sister for support.  Praise God she happened to be awake, getting ready (at 4 am!?!?) for her earliest day at school and she gave me a mental image.   She said, “Min, picture your room full of angels bearing their swords to destroy the evil one.”  With my head on Chris' shoulder,  I couldn’t help but fear that I was leaving my back unprotected. Quickly, I focused on the visualization my sister gave me as I imagined our king bed full of warriors, armor clanging together as they packed in tightly to protect me.  But then I thought, you know what’s even cooler then a room full of angels fighting for me?!  Not only do I have the entire Army of God on my side, I have Jesus Christ himself fighting for me.  Him, the one who destroyed the power of death through the cross, who conquered evil in the world, is fighting for me as I struggle with fear.  He’s exposing the darkness behind me and before me because He is for me and He is with me.  That is powerful ya’ll. 

Romans 8:31 says, “What then shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?”  Seriously!  Amen!!  But I can’t stop there, Romans 8:34-35 continues, “Who is he that condemns?  Christ Jesus, who died- more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”   I'm going to go ahead and continue that question saying, “should gossip, or insecurities, or bullies, or bad dreams separate us from the love of Christ?"  Praise God, the answer is a valiant No!!!  In fact, verse 39 says, “…neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is crazy - crazy awesome.  And extremely encouraging. 

Going back to the darkness of my bedroom that night, I knew in my head and in my heart that I had nothing to be afraid of because I know that Jesus has won the victory and nothing can separate me from Him.  However, the heaviness was so thick and my brain was so weak in power that this thought alone could not clear the fog.  Knowing that God doesn’t just fight for us, but He gives us to the tools we need to fight, I knew that the only way I could get rid of the ickiness I felt was by using the weapon He gave me through His word.   Praise God for iPhones where the world is at our fingertips– I quickly pulled up Romans 8, and read the words aloud.  With each word that came out of my mouth, I felt more and more like Ironman – completely protected, no tiny bit of flesh exposed, being 100% safe from whatever elements existed on the outside.  Feeling the heaviness begin to subside and the darkness begin to lift, I was humbly reminded how incredibly true Ephesians 6:17 is when it says that the Word of the Lord is the “sword of the spirit.”  Reading these words out loud, it was as if I was slicing into the darkness, obliterating the evil with the light. 

With the fear finally dissipating, what really got me thinking was that in my fear and weakness, I could not pull up enough of the Word of the Lord into my mind to make myself feel protected.  I could remember bits and pieces of His truth, but I couldn’t quite form the words like those in Romans 8, that I knew were required to win this fight.  Here’s the thing - the only way to dispel lies is with truth.  The only way to get rid of darkness is with light.  And the only way to fully get rid of the evil one is with the power of Jesus.   If I want to be all over here like Ironman, in my suit and ready for battle – then I need to cover myself in His word.  Like a tattoo, I need to have scripture written on my heart so deeply that no matter the elements, no matter the fears, anxieties, or sadness, I am ready and able to use it to bring the Light. 

As followers of Christ, these battles against the darkness, nights of fitful sleep and spiritual warfare are our reality.  I know that might sound a little scary, but please don’t be discouraged.  Instead, be empowered by the fact that you play a crucial role as a warrior with Christ fighting off the darkness and building up the army against the evil one.  Romans 8:37 says, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”  Do you hear that?  We are not just fighters in the fight, we are more than conquerors.  That is the truth we need to cling to and proclaim when we are overcome with fear.

If you’re afraid, can I challenge you to do one thing?  Say the name of Jesus out loud.  I know it might feel a little weird at first, but it’s not. There is power in the name of Jesus and it is yours to use.  Whether you believe it or not, you are in a battle between dark and light.  So claim the everlasting light that's brighter than the LED headlights that make you go blind on the road, and shatter the power of the darkness by simply speaking His name. 

Let’s suit up together, cover ourselves in His word and get out there and fight. 

-- image and print by Jenny Highsmith--
Jenny is an amazing artist, and she is the lovely lady who designed my new logo that I am so excited to reveal to you!! In fact, stay tuned - by the end of this week (fingers crossed) you will see a whole new lovemin!  I can't wait to share it with you. 

Wherever the wind takes us

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The other day,  I planted myself at a local coffee shop to get some studying, writing, and blog design done. Fall is ever so beautiful in good ole Wisconsin right now, so I found a table outside to soak up the 70-degree weather and get to work.   Eating my turkey pesto sandwich I couldn't help but get caught up in the sound of the rustling wind in the trees and leaves fluttering down to meet the concrete with a light crack.  For far too long, I stared out, watching as the leaves blew wherever the wind took them.  

Sitting there, I thought about how in that moment I’d really like to be a leaf.  Despite my stellar attitude and high hopes for accomplishing my to-do list, I felt a sense of disorder in my day.  Knowing everything I wanted to do my brain quickly hopped from one thought to the next to the next, wanting to fully think through and accomplish each and every action item on my plate.  As I watched a leaf fall onto my keyboard, I was envious.  Thinking about how we sometimes use the phrase “Let’s go wherever the wind takes us,” I realized how much I’d really like to do that.  To not wake up in the morning and look at the list and make a schedule.  To not reach the end of the day feeling discouraged because that long list was not accomplished for yet another day.  If I were a leaf I could literally go wherever the wind took me. I wouldn’t have a choice! I wouldn’t be responsible for what did or didn't get done, because I would be at the mercy of the wind.  If the wind made me fly off the tree, rock on. If it threw me into a puddle leaving ripples in my wake, sweet deal!  Or shoot, maybe I’d be whisked right into the joy-filled pile of leaves under which a little girl is squealing in laughter.  Doesn’t that sound kind of amazing?!

Dreaming about my life as a leaf I was thoroughly enjoying myself. And then out of nowhere, anxiety set in. Panic bubbled up from my heart like water boiling over in a pot of noodles.  My heart rate escalated, I started to sweat and a tingling sensation moved up my neck.  Without the slightest bit of warning, my peaceful, quiet time was blown away by panic.  As much as I wanted to squash it and return to my imagination, I caved.  I packed up my things, got in my car, went home and crashed.  Closing my eyes hoping to squelch my anxiety, I practiced my yoga breaths, slowly inhaling and exhaling to calm my heart.  

Ready to throw in the towel and just call the day a complete fail, I received a text from my sister who I’d sent a desperate plea for prayer.  Opening up the message, I found a prayer that filled my screen.  I won’t share the whole thing with you, but the words that got my attention were, “God, overwhelm her with the same power that rose Jesus from the grave – that’s the power that lives in her.”  Sorry for getting a little gospel on you, but can I get an Amen?!  I mean for real!  That sentence shook me a little bit because it’s true.  Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have gained access to the Father – to the One who raised Jesus from the grave!!!  Thinking about the sheer awesomeness of that reality, it reminded me of a verse I read in my Bible earlier that day.  1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.”     

Re-visiting that Bible verse, and thinking about the power that I have through Christ Jesus, I thought to myself, what if my wishful thinking about the freedom of being blown about by the wind wasn’t so wishful after all?  What if I really could throw my ambitions, my obsession with my to do list and fear of lack of accomplishment to the wind and instead be directed through my day by the God who is not a God of disorder, but of peace!?  Umm... yes please!!  The truth is, I can - and I think that’s actually what God wants us to do.  To surrender our plans, our wishes, our fears, our anxiety-filled moments to Him and trust that He will lead us.  But the question is, how?  How can I do that?

Years ago at church, the choir sang a gospel song that engrained three words on my heart – “Order my steps.” The soulful lyrics spoke of asking the Lord to lead us, guide us, and “order my steps in your word.”  These words really challenged me; they still do.  And I think praying those three simple words is the answer I was looking for. 

Waking up, before my feet hit the floor or my brain has a chance to think about my to-do list, I can ask the Lord to order my steps, giving Him control of my day and asking Him to lead me.  Instead of immediately getting all worked up about what I want to get done, I can fix my focus on Him and whatever He might have for me that day. Asking the Lord to set my expectations for the day I can greatly reduce my risk of disappointment and anxiety over an unaccomplished to-do list, by choosing to get things done in His timing, not mine.  This is something I have been working on doing for years, and honestly, when I actually do it, it is so freeing!

Unfortunately that doesn't mean that there won't be any anxious or frustrating moments in my life.   In John 16:33 Jesus says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world."  Yes, there will be trouble but I have the power to actively seek peace that is found in Him!  If giving the Lord control, and asking Him to order my steps means that I can experience the freedom of "going wherever the wind takes me," then sign me up!  I need to do this daily.

Let's not sugar coat it - anxiety is terrible.  If this is where you're finding yourself as you're reading these words, please hang in there.  The disorder you feel in your soul is not of Him - know that, take some deep breaths and trust that this will pass.  Together, let's lean into the One who created us and do whatever we possibly can to take away anxiety's power.

When we wake up tomorrow, before we even pull off the covers, let's ask the Lord to order our steps.  Let’s be like those beautiful, fire-colored fall leaves carried by the wind, by giving the God of peace control of our day and allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us.

-- image by Marissa Maharaj --

Dance with Freedom

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

I’d like to think that if I wanted to, I could be a good dancer (dear ABC, can you please create a Dancing with Normal People?  And if you do I sure as heck better be on it because I’ve been talking about it for years - AND dibs on Derek).  I love going salsa dancing, learning sweet moves and spinning around the dance floor.  But what I love even more is the random, erratic, jump around, stomp your feet, pump your fist in the air kind of dancing. (evidence here) The image that jumps into my mind is from the movie The Holiday when Cameron Diaz is running around the little cottage in England jamming out to Mr. Brightside by The Killers.  It’s an epic moment where she jumps up and down, thrashes her arms, and violently whips her hair around.  That’s the kind of dancing I like because it’s all about being free. 

Watching Dancing with the Stars, and my all time favorite dance show So You Think You Can Dance the past couple of years, I noticed myself falling more and more in love with dance.  More times than I’d like to admit, I caught myself applauding the tv, or catching a few tears as they slid down my face.  I know as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten a little more emotional, but I couldn’t quite figure out why dance was affecting me so much as of late. And the other night I figured it out. 

On both shows, once a competitor becomes more confident, more comfortable on their feet and on the floor, a transformation happens.  What initially started out as a bit of awkwardness, or lack of fluidity becomes perfection in the moment that they let go of their insecurities and allow themselves to really feel the dance.   Instead of being about the movements orchestrated by the choreographers, the captivation comes from the connection between the dancers and the emotions exhibited.  As I watched this week’s episode of DWTS, a few of the competitors experienced this transformation and the word that kept coming out of the judges' mouths when they praised and rewarded them with 10’s was “authentic.”  They finally forgot the stage, forgot the crowd, and let the steps be an extension of who they are, an extension of the joy, of the sadness, of the passion that they felt within.  The dance became authentic and it became free. 

Dancing isn’t supposed to be this scary, “I can’t move like that or people won’t think I’m cool” sort of thing, it’s supposed to be freeing.  To be an extension of who you are.  And I love that.

God created us in His image, but he did not make any of us even remotely the same.  We are unique – in the way we look, communicate, how we want to be loved, and in the way that we dance.   And He wants us to own that, to be confident in our crazy selves, and let the way we walk and talk and shake it be an extension of the joy and freedom we find in Him. 

If there’s one person I know who is as free as a bird when he dances, it’s my dad.  Get that man out on the dance floor and he’s twinkle toes with crazy shoulders meets incredible rhythm and a joy that is contagious. With a smile from ear to ear, he shakes his groove thang not for one second thinking about what other people think of him.  All he’s concerned about is trying to sing along to the song, and keep those feet and shoulders moving.

Instead of being worried about whether my go-to finger snaps, or “break my legs” movements aren’t cool, I want to dance more like my dad.  I want to embrace my sweet moves and glorify the Lord by proudly exhibiting the weird, silly 12-at-heart woman that He created me to be.  

If you’re ever tempted to avoid the dance floor because you don’t think you have moves, please throw that lie in the trash.  Wait for your favorite jam, take a deep breath, and run, jump, fist pump, twist, nae nae, wobble, twinkle toes or do whatever your fave move is all over the dance floor.  I promise you, it will be fun and you will feel free.  And if anyone looks at you, I guarantee it’s out of admiration and a jealous desire to be as brave and free as you are. 

You were fearfully and wonderfully made.  Don’t doubt that.  Go rock out. 

-- image by Marissa Maharaj --

Talking the walk

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

If you know my story at all, you’ll know that I often call college my “dark years.”  The short version is that during that time period I tried to live a double life – satisfying my worldly desires to be a party girl, while still pouring into my relationship with Jesus.  Unfortunately, during those years a little more effort was put into the party mode.  I did some things that I’m not proud of, and most of them have to do with words that I used.

I can be one sassy girl.  Pretty sure that’s what got me in trouble with my parents from time to time; I wasn’t a rebel, but I could pour on attitude like it was my job.  Add that together with alcohol and a drunk frat boy that is ruffling my feathers and you get a mean, confrontational Mindy.  One such episode, built on an already growing distaste for one another, resulted in many choice words flung back and forth at each other, and then… I got up right in his face, and I slapped him.  Instantly, even amidst the anger I felt towards this dude, I knew I went too far.  And then he said these words, “And you call yourself a Christian?”  Talk about a buzz kill.  I was speechless.  I had no more mean words, no more sassiness to throw his way because he was right. 

Walking away with rocks in my gut, I began to process the challenge the Lord had given to me through this frat boy. Here I was, calling myself a Christian, leading my campus ministry and then in the same heartbeat I was all full of cuss words and slapping people upside the face.  About a week later, I knew I had to reach out to this guy.  Scraping up all the courage I could find, I got his number and made one of the most humbling phone calls and told him, he was right.  I apologized and admitted that I had been such a bad representation of the Lord that I believe in.  And I thanked him for calling me out on it.

The reason I thought of this shining moment was, in my bible study this week we were challenged to think about this question – look at your life and your ministry involvement.  Do “the words being said and the deeds being done” point to the presence and influence of God’s kingdom? 

It’s like the message we’ve all probably heard at some point, “If you’re going to talk the talk, then you better walk the walk.”  But what actually got me thinking was re-phrasing it like this - are we talking the walk?  Are the words that come out of our mouths evidence that we love Jesus?  Is it clear that we spent time reading the Bible today?  Or does the attitude we used with our loved ones and the gossip that shot out of our mouths with our girls over vino make us want to puke? 

I will never forget that moment when the frat boy's challenging words made me realize there was no evidence in my talk that I was walking with Jesus.  I am so thankful that this guy had the balls to say to me what I really needed to hear.  And I'm thankful that many years later, the Lord has redeemed our crazy relationship and I can actually call him a friend. 

As followers of Christ, we are called to live lives worthy of our calling - we are called to be physical representations of Jesus in everything we do and in everything we say.  Let's be real, that is hard.  But, we don't have to do it alone, praise God.  He created us to need each other, and He calls us to be active participants in supporting each other and speaking the truth in love as we do our best to represent Him.  

So, if you hear me being a turd, call me out on it (lovingly please!).  And if you want me to, I’ll do the same for you.  Let's work together and be evidence of Jesus in our walk and our talk.


All about Posture

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

image via Mandy Reid Instagram

Have you ever sat and thought about how amazing (and kind of weird) bodies are?  We have a skeleton of bones inside our body that literally holds us up.  It bears the weight of our muscles, it holds everything together, it keeps us from being giant piles of mush (that’s a weird mental image) and it allows us to move.  We have a bunch of organs that help us eat, breathe, pump blood through our bodies.  We have a maze of veins that transports blood throughout the entire body.  And we have a giant organ of flesh that keeps the package all together.  And that’s just scratching the surface.  The more and more I think about it, the more I’m in awe of my body and the Creator who made it from dust.

The truth about my body is that I have somewhat of a “special” skeleton  - I prefer to call it weird, but in thankfulness knowing that God gave me good bones, I will call it special.  Over the past 4 years I’ve been greeted by a few issues in relation to this special body – a painful clavicle, shooting spasms in my lower back, and my latest and greatest discovery, an entrapped ulna nerve causing issues in my pinky fingers.  None of these are life threatening, praise God, and so far each ailment is correctable with exercise and changes in how I operate.  But here’s the underlying issue that I’ve discovered – each one has to do with my posture. 

I never would’ve considered myself someone with bad posture.  I don’t slump over a ton.  I try to stand up straight.  And I work out regularly to try to support these bones.  But I've become incredibly aware that the secret to better wellness and a happy body is really good posture. Spending some time in our garden, or lack-there-of, and taking breaks to stretch from the crouched over position, I got to thinking about how extremely important the practice of good posture is both physically and spiritually.

Living with bad posture – I’ve basically been saying to my body, “I want to be lazy and slouch over, I want to be able to lock my knees, to scrunch my shoulders when I’m stressed - I don’t want to do the work of good posture.  But, can you please not hurt? Can you feel loose, and free, and flexible for me?  Why can’t you just be “normal” and work?” 

Thinking about it that way, I’ve realized that too often I have this same attitude towards the Lord.  It's as if I’m saying,  “God, I want to be lazy, to watch TV instead of reading my bible, to sleep in and go to church next week, to fill up every minute with busyness and all the social events on my calendar.  But, can you please bless me?  Can you help me figure out which job I should take?  Ugh, I am anxious, can you please bring me peace?”

Just like our bodies can’t be well without the diligence of practicing good posture, our hearts can’t be healthy without changing our posture towards the Lord. 

At the Influence Conference (which I can’t wait to tell you more about), multiple women talked about literally sitting in a way that encourages this attitude.  Sitting tall, placing our feet solid, rooting them into the ground, laying our hands on our knees with palms facing up, and closing our eyes, we created a body language, a physical representation of what our hearts we're saying – Lord we're here, we're listening.  This may sound a bit cooky, or too yoga-ish if you’re not a fan of yoga, but it’s a great way to remember that everything we do – even the way we position our bodies plays a role in our focus, in our ability to put Him first. 

As far as my physical body goes, I know what posture it needs to keep my muscles from straining in odd positions and allow my nerves the space they need to glide freely.  Standing tall, keeping my shoulders back, planting my feet evenly on the ground, and keeping my joints from hyperextending as they would prefer to do, are all requirements for my body if I want to feel better.  I’ve seen the incredible difference it makes, so I’m working really hard to position my body this way. 

Well it’s the same with our relationship with the Lord. If we want to experience God in the fullest way, then we have to put ourselves in a posture to do so.  Being in the word every day, taking time away from the social media craziness and just being quiet, spending time in prayer, going to church, studying the word with fellow Christ-followers, changing our focus to Him, is what we need to fully experience and glorify the Lord.

I really want to emanate Jesus.  I want to be so full of His joy that it’s evident in the way I conduct myself, how I speak, and how I influence others.  So I must work on my posture towards Him. 

Just like when I am bathing in the summer sun, and arranging my lounge chair so that I am directly facing the sun – I want to arrange myself in a way that I am directly facing Him so that I might reflect who He is. 

I love how God uses anything and everything to teach us more about Him – I am so thankful for my crazy body and what I learned about posture as a result. If you too are one who struggles with posture (physically and spiritually), I’m here for you!  Let’s work on this together, so that we might better glorify Him. 


P.S. The image above is from Mandy Reid's Instagram. I love her feed -she's a yoga instructor who loves Jesus.  So her posts are super encouraging and challenging and all things yoga, not to mention they are beautiful images!  Go check her out @mandyreidyoga
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