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.

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