Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Adventuring in Madagascar

When Josh and I moved to Pittsburgh we knew we weren't coming here to re-create the life we had in Clarion. We knew that God had touched circumstances in our life to cause us to move on and we knew that he had a purpose in doing so. Since being here so much has happened that I'm not sure I would have had the faith to walk in had I stayed where I was safe and comfortable. If I'm being honest I miss my life in Clarion. I miss being comfortable. It is hard sometimes not to look back. And at other times I can get anxious looking ahead wondering what might be next for us. But most of the time, when I steady my focus, I know we are right where we are supposed to be. And even while I don't prefer city life, my heart is fully present here, is fully alive, and it beats for the people in this city. I have but one focus, and that is to live out the gospel with my life in such a way that whoever my life touches would come to know the love of God.

Over the last couple years Josh and I have started to go out on the streets. I never know exactly what to call this to describe what our purpose is, so I usually just say we are going to do street ministry. Basically we go out with no agenda other than to let the Holy Spirit guide us into conversations and encounters where we can meet people where they are with the love of God. We may be sharing our testimony with someone. Administering physical healing to someone. Listening to someone's story of loss or hurt or discouragement and speaking truth and blessing over their life. Or even just meeting a physical need like giving away money or buying someone a meal or a sleeping bag. We go whenever it's possible for the two of us to get out together and we also join a group of warriors that go out once a month. I could spend a long time telling you testimonies of the work God has done. People have been healed. People have broken down in tears at being seen and known and touched by the God that created them. People have asked a lot of really great and hard questions that cause us to rely on the Holy Spirit to be present. Sometimes you just have five minutes with someone and then you never see them again. And sometimes you have ongoing encounters with the same people as God is relentlessly pursuing them. Sometimes you end up getting a big tattoo on your arm;) I can say God has never disappointed us out there. Every time we have made ourselves available, God has shown up. And the faces of those we have encountered remain in my mind, their stories on my heart, and I am often driven to pray for them. This...this is what I mean when I say my heart beats for the people in this city.

We aren't super-Christians. We have come to understand this is the normal Christian life. We believe that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and that the life of the early Church in the Book of Acts is for us too. We are growing in this. There are things we have seen that we never would have had the faith for when we started. And there are things we want to walk in that we haven't yet, but that we know we will. I want to see the dead raised. I want to set people free and see them filled with the Holy Spirit. I want to learn better how to effectively communicate the gospel. I want to see someone get out of their wheelchair. I want more discernment in my encounters to know when the grace is present to lead someone to salvation. I want to be increasingly more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to bring someone into our home to baptize them in our bathtub or to share a family meal. If I have learned anything it is this, I don't need more knowledge to see the power of God...I just need to take a risk, a step in faith. Because there is no method. There is just the belief that God is who he says he is and that he will do what he says he will do. It's a partnership. I give him my life-my hands and feet and mouth and time and money, etc. and he does miracles through it. For a God who has no limits and who has all power and authority both in heaven and on earth, the possibilities of what can be done through our partnership are endless. So I'm dreaming big.

This leads me to Madagascar. Some time ago the Holy Spirit told me to be prepared because we would be going on a trip in the near future. I was so sure of what I heard I wrote it down and dated it. Some months later the opportunity to go to Antananarivo, Madagascar in June 2017 became available. I didn't have to "pray" about the decision to go because God already told me we would be going! We are going with a group called SOS Adventure. If you aren't familiar with them you can check out their website here: I would describe SOS Adventure not as an organization but as a radical family of believers who are sold out to living the Book of Acts and who have a passion to see the lost come to salvation. The opportunity extended to us to join the mission is truly more like saying yes to an adventure. I have been on a number of mission trips before, all of which were humanitarian in nature and none of which required me to have Christ. I functioned in compassion and the love of serving. These are good things, but I didn't need faith to do those things. I just needed to be a good person. I can tell you honestly that if I were headed to Madagascar without Christ I would be in trouble! The following is the list straight from SOS's website of the things we will be doing while we are there: We will preach the gospel, pray for the sick, cast out demons, share our testimonies, dance, act, and love on thousands of people. In the mornings we will minister on crowded corners of the city and in the afternoons we will host a Signs & Wonders Festival. While compassion and a love for serving will be a part of this trip, it is only the power of God through the Holy Spirit that will make any of these things possible.

Can I tell you that I am terrified? In my flesh, I am terrified. I feel nervous and anxious wondering what will be required of me. Will I have to stand on a corner and preach? Will a demon manifest in front of my eyes? Will someone with blind eyes or deaf ears ask me to pray for them? The thought of all of the possibilities leaves me on my knees with my hands and face upward to God crying out, "I can't do this! But YOU can." And that's the whole of it. Simply saying yes to God. The very thing that brought me into this relationship to begin with. So it is by faith that I walk into this thing knowing that God has shown up every time I just say yes.

Josh and I have decided to take our oldest daughter, Jezze, who will be 6 (almost 7) at the time of the trip. Why? Because we are committed to doing everything within our ability to expose our children to the reality of Jesus. Going to church does not require faith and it does not necessarily display the power of God. It would be foolish for us to think that simply raising children that "go to church" will result in lives being radically sold out to living in and for Christ. We don't go to church. We are the church. And we have been given the privilege of bringing the Kingdom of God here on earth. Our kids need us to show them this, not just talk about it. Just the other week at a pool party for a friend of our girls I held our baby in my arms as I knelt down to pray for healing for a woman's leg. The woman was so happy at being touched by God she asked me if she could hug me. I rejoice at these moments that I know, not just the person I'm ministering to, but my children are encountering the God we talk about, teach on and pray to. They can see God is real. And it is moments like these that are the seeds in their hearts that will produce faith of their own someday. We expect all of our kids to join us for an adventure trip as they become old enough to understand and when they are able to walk/stand for long periods of time, hold their bladders when necessary, no longer throw ridiculous tantrums, and when they stop complaining about eating things like broccoli for dinner. :)

Many of you have reached out to support us already and we are beyond grateful. We were immediately aware of how much we would need the support of others to get us where we are going. Every gift that comes in encourages our faith that God is working on our behalf. We are making the most of every opportunity that comes along to raise funds because we have thousands of dollars to raise. Today I can tell you we are approximately half way there, leaving us with about $5,000 more to go. Half the time I find this number impossible and half the time I find it laughable. In the grand scheme of things what is $5,000 to a God who owns all heaven and earth?! It's uncomfortable in our culture to ask for money, but we are asking anyway. Please give. Give because you know us and want to help us as friends. Give even if you don't know us. Give because you love and want to serve God. Give even if you don't. Give because you want to see the kingdom of God advance here on earth. Give because there are nations in a far-away land, families, people just like you and me that do not know about salvation through Jesus Christ. Nations that live in bondage and hopelessness and are waiting to be set free. Jesus is always teaching me about counting the cost of following him. It requires our life. We lay down our lives, deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow him. Living a life like he did. Stopping at nothing to prove his great love. Would you please take the opportunity to use your money to love? We are giving too. We are giving our finances and our vacation time. We are leaving 3 precious babies behind. We (non-vaxing parents) are getting required vaccines (eek!). We are giving our fears and our comfort and anything else required of us along the way.

Would you pray for us and pray for our finances to be met? Would you pray for boldness and courage in our lives? Would you pray for the hearts of those who we will encounter to be open to the gospel? Would you pray for the hearts of our children-both with us and apart from us? Would you pray for us to make the most of every opportunity we have in Madagascar? And would you pray for us to allow this adventure to not just be an experience, but be something that shapes our lives and our family forever?

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for your support and encouragement. We will be happy to continue keeping you-all tracking with us on the journey. It's gonna be a good one!


Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Empty Arms

Today was a big day in our house. Our son, Asher, turned one. It was full of all the great things you would expect of a one year old's birthday. Like the first dessert eating experience that results in cake and icing in every crack and crevice...every crack and crevice...and one-year-olds have a lot of cracks and crevices. You look at your highchair afterward and contemplate just throwing it out and starting over with a new one. And then there's presents. Where you try to get your one-year-old interested in opening them up by tearing a little corner of the paper for him while also trying to keep your other, older children from fighting over and/or opening all the rest of the presents. In the end, it is the siblings that are playing with the new toys as the baby crawls around playing with tags and ripped up paper. Good times. The best, actually.

I wish I could tell you that the night ended with me taking Asher up to his room and gently rocking him to sleep as he laid his little head on my shoulder, drifting off to sleep to the sound of me singing him a lullaby. But...he's one now. So, it looked more like me having to pry five tiny fingers off of a tiny toothbrush against his will after brushing his teeth, followed by nursing him as he dug his pointer finger into my bellybutton (which is about as relaxing as dragging my fingernails down a chalkboard), and ended with me attempting to hold and rock him for approximately seven seconds as he alligator rolled out of my hands to get to his crib. Good times. The best, actually.

After that, I read a story to my three girls. Well, more like I read a story to my oldest daughter, Jezze, who interrupted many times to ask many questions, while my second daughter, Charlotte, got distracted by, well, everything else in the room, and while my youngest daughter, Dominica, whined nearly the entire time as she repeatedly requested to sit on my lap and/or stood directly in front of me disrupting her sisters' view of the pictures. Good times. The best, actually.

Then, I laid down with Dominica as she fell asleep. And I cried. For about ten minutes, I just cried. I cried because we have had a whirlwind of birthdays in our home over the last eight days and the weight of that apparently finally caught up to me. We now have a six-year-old. How?! And our little Charlie is four. What the heck? And now the baby...he's one. One. I'm happy and I'm sad and I'm overwhelmed and I'm thankful and I'm tired and I'm happy and I'm sad. I cried because I'm oh so aware that these are good times. The best, actually.

Remembering back, it felt like as soon as Josh and I got married people began asking us if and when we wanted to start a family. And then as soon as we had one child people began to ask if we were ready for another. And when we kept having girls people would ask if we were going to keep going until we got a boy. And then we had a boy and now people just seem to ask out of concern if we want to have more kids. Like, they may say, "Do you and Josh think you want to have any more children?" But what they really may be saying is, "You guys aren't gonna have anymore kids, are you? Are you?" Goodness, when I was pregnant with our third even the baby doctor asked me if I wanted them to go ahead and "tie me up" after delivery. I remember saying, "No thank you," while thinking, Why? Am I not allowed to have any more kids? Truth is, Josh and I didn't really plan our family. Well, we did intentionally try to have our first two. The rest...just kind of happened. When I called him at work to tell him I was pregnant with Asher he took a deep breath and said, "Okay. But this is the last one." It's like we, along with every third stranger I ever encounter absolutely anywhere I go, just knew our hands are getting a little full. And so is our house. And our van. And our patience. And, well, our everything.

So, are we done? Do we want to have more children? This is honestly the first time I have really had to think about that question. When Jezze turned one, we were already wanting to start trying for Charlotte. When Charlotte turned one I was already five months pregnant with Dominica. And when Dominica turned one, it was just three days later that I found out I was pregnant with Asher. I have literally been pregnant or nursing for the last six years straight. We have been in every stage of rearing small children for the entire time that we have been parents. We've got it all. Babies waking in the night. Toddlers that are emotionally out of control. Preschoolers that know if they want to be heard they need to yell and shout over the emotionally out of control toddlers. Kids that are potty training. And kids that are regressing on their potty training ("Oh my gosh, is that poop? Who poooooped?!!!"). Siblings that are inseparable, yet for the love cannot get along for what feels like more than five minutes at a time. Nursing babies. DEMANDING nursing babies. Curious kids that ask a ba-jillion questions all AT THE SAME TIME. Some that are seemingly never going to stop wetting the bed. Never going to eat a meal without leaving 5768979708 crumbs on the floor. Never going to just walk continuously from the house to the van and get in the van and get in their car seat and just stay there in their car seat in the van until they are buckled and we are ready to pull out of the driveway. Never. Never going to learn to use words instead of whining or making demands. Never going to just hold my hand and happily cross the busy street so that I don't have to appear like I am kidnapping my own child as I literally drag her by the arm across the road. At times it is sheer chaos. And it is completely overwhelming. And it can be really easy for me to believe the lies I begin to hear in those moments. That we have too many kids. That we made a mistake taking all this on. That we are failing at this. That it's too hard. That it is never going to be any different. And I think, to answer the big! No, I don't want any more children. Never. Ever. At all.

But then there are days like today. Moments like now. Where I am remembering how just one year ago I was in agony, working through the hardest child labor I had ever experienced. With Josh, the best labor partner in the entire world, by my side. Experiencing the oneness in marriage in those darkest moments is one of the most powerful things that I don't think I could adequately put words to. My pain is his pain. His strength is my strength. And in the end that child...(sigh)...that's our miracle. Our joy. Our blessing. Those very first moments of meeting that baby for the first time are absolutely indescribable and irreplaceable and incredible. And thinking of never experiencing that again leaves me kind of...breathless. I am struggling to comprehend how my days of carrying babies could possibly be over so quickly. It feels like just yesterday that we fell on our knees in tears of joy after getting our first positive pregnancy test. The idea that there was life inside me was mind-blowing! It's all the first steps. The first words. The feeling of a tiny hand in yours. The celebrations of learning to read and to throw a ball and to blow a kiss and to slide down the fireman's pole on the playground. It's the cutest mispronounced words. It's hearing that first heartbeat. The way it's impossible to see your unborn child moving inside you on the sonogram screen and not bawl like a baby. The first time you get to share that movement in your womb with your husband after thirty seven failed attempts ("Quick, feel this...the baby is moving! Ugh, never mind."). It's the way you overhear your girls arguing over which one of them is going to marry their little brother. It's the way Jezze cried after her loose tooth accidentally got knocked out in the tickle machine (aka...daddy), not because it hurt but because she was afraid to lose a part of herself. It's Charlotte seeing a picture of an eagle on the American flag and calling it an angry chicken. It's Dominica looking for her stuffed hedgehog named Javé asking, "Where me Javé?" And it's Asher wanting to be in my arms. Usually always only ever in my arms. My arms. It's knowing that all the firsts are eventually also the lasts. The last time you have a one year birthday to celebrate. The last time the baby wakes you in the night just to be held because he missed you. The last time your lullaby is requested to sooth a fearful heart. The last time napkin is pronounced "pakin". The last time anyone is going to wear those little pink Crocs. Or ask for help washing their hands. The firsts...well, we recognize them immediately. We record them in photographs and baby books and celebrate them with family and friends. The lasts, they are happening before our very eyes and without us even knowing it.

The simple truth is, parenting brings trials. And it brings blessings. And you really can't get the blessings without also experiencing the trials.

Do I want to have more children? No. And yes. I truly believe that our family is complete. We really are living at max capacity. It would be really difficult to add another tiny human to our bunch at this point. But I also can't tell you I'm happy to put these stages behind me and move on. Because I'm not. It's the ending of an era. And endings are often painful. This one is no exception. Asher is one now. It's only a matter of time before he is walking and my arms will no longer be his place of contentment. Instead they will just be really...empty. My arms will be empty. But, you know what? My heart? It will still be so incredibly full.



 The End


Thursday, February 11, 2016


Over the holidays I played the game Catch Phrase with my family. Um, I love that game. It's like an electronic version of Hot Potato. You spend however many seconds frantically shouting out guesses, or frantically trying to get your team to frantically shout out guesses, all while the beeping timer is getting faster and faster and faster and faster until the buzzer finally goes off. Ah! I feel a little frantic just having typed that! Well, while I was playing I realized my life generally feels like a game of Catch Phrase. I am always in a hurry. There are mornings when I wake up that I delay letting my feet hit the floor because I know the second they do, the rush will begin. Hurry up and get the baby downstairs before he wakes the toddler. Hurry up and make a bazillion breakfasts before the herd comes to submit their requests. If that goes swell, I might hurry up and switch the laundry I neglected the night before. Then I can hurry up and drink my coffee that I have warmed up in the microwave at least three times so that I can hurry up and read my Bible (No, those two things can seemingly not ever be accomplished simultaneously for reasons I have yet to figure out.). Then I can hurry up and get the baby out of his activity center because I let him remain there until the point of no return and he is now disrupting the peace with crying. Then begins the ascent upstairs where it takes an asinine amount of time to get five people ready for the day. I will spare you those details. From there, I hurry to wipe one kid's tushy so I can change another's diaper. I hurry to teach the 5 year old the value of money, so I can hurry to teach the 3 year old the difference between an oval and a circle, so I can hurry to teach the 2 year old to (for the love of Pete) put her poop in the potty, so I can hurry to teach the 6 month old to sleep in his crib. Hurry! I hurry to clean up lunch before someone asks me for a snack. Then, because the toddler broke into the pebbles (translation: pretzels) while I was hurrying to put away the vacuum, I now grab the broom so I can hurry and sweep up the crumbs. Hurry up and get everyone outside for fresh air before the sun sets. Hurry up and get everyone back inside so I can make dinner. Hurry up and clean these toys up off the floor before I throw EVERYTHING AWAY! Now that Daddy is home and dinner has been eaten, hurry up and clean up the kitchen so we can hurry up and relax!

And so it goes. If you see me sitting down I am likely thinking about the next thing that needs done so I can do the thing before someone else comes along and imposes a new thing that now needs done that I need to do. When I lay my head on my pillow at night, it takes me about three and a half seconds to fall asleep. And my thoughts when I drift off too sleep are most likely, "Hurry up and sleep before the baby wakes up!" I'm always in a hurry.

Occasionally when the stars align, or when my husband and I both can sense my sanity is in jeopardy, I go for a run where I can continue my hurrying. I hurry to take in the fresh air, hurry to be alone, hurry to see how far I can get this time, and I hurry to get back home before I'm needed. But this hurrying is a good one. It restores my peace of mind, reminds me that I am an individual, and provides a little reprieve. Even just 20 minutes can fill my heart and encourage my soul. I had four children in exactly five years and five days. Hm, I guess I was in a bit of a hurry there too. In between each of my children I managed to get a race on the calendar. Putting a race on the calendar provided the motivation I needed to get myself out the door, because although I might not have hit the starting line in tip top shape, I at least needed to know that I could hit the finish line without dying, puking, or walking (I shall not pay money to walk!). Looking back, I can see how those races made me feel enough like myself again that I could go from one pregnancy to another knowing that I hadn't totally lost myself. I'm thankful.

Now I find myself post pregnancy again (But like a forever post pregnancy this time. I think:/). And I felt like it was time to put a race on the calendar. I felt super motivated one night so I decided to register for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon. I did the full marathon back in 2009. I can tell you this is not the phase of life for me to run another full, but running a half in this phase of life might actually be equivalent to running a full! I also decided to take on an extra challenge and run as a charity runner. A first for me. In all honesty, I feel intimidated by both the miles and the money (My starting goal is to raise $350). But I know like many challenges you can only take it one day at a time, one mile at a time, one dollar at a time. So that's what I plan to do.

I am super pumped about the charity I am raising money for. Light of Life Rescue Mission is a place I have a personal connection with, as it is my father-in-law's place of employment. I get to hear firsthand stories of how this place is impacting it's community. Their mission is the following: "Providing a home for the homeless and food for the hungry, and building disciples for the Kingdom of God among the poor, addicted, abused and needy". That's a cause I can get behind. The fact that they seek to meet practical needs while also providing Christ is huge. You can check out more about how they are transforming lives by visiting their website:

Over the next couple months I'll be working to raise the money (and the miles!). I would like to ask you to consider supporting me. Every dollar counts and every dollar goes towards supporting Light of Life.  There are several ways you can make a donation:
1) Online. You can access my online fundraising account by clicking directly on the link below:
2) Check: You can make it out to Light of Light and include "Heidi Pié Half Marathon Runner" on the memo line.
3) Cash.
*Both checks and cash can be mailed to me. If you need my mailing address, please contact me.

I want to say thank you ahead of time for all of you who are going to join me on this journey. You are appreciated! I will be keeping everyone updated on my progress along the way.

Okay, well, I better hurry up and go!

Providing a home for the homeless and food for the hungry, and  building disciples for the Kingdom of God among the poor, addicted, abused and needy. - See more at:
Providing a home for the homeless and food for the hungry, and  building disciples for the Kingdom of God among the poor, addicted, abused and needy. - See more at:


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Control Freak

There was a time a few years ago when I sat around a campfire in my backyard, watching the coals burning slowly and brightly, wondering if there might be more to God than I understood at that time. I wondered if there could be more to being a Christian than just being a servant and having a list of dos and donts? While I appreciated living in community I wondered if going to church and joining a small group were really the most that I would experience of God? I understood that it was good news that I would spend eternity in heaven instead of hell, but I wondered if there wasn't more to hope for in the time from now until I would enter into eternity? I wondered why we spend so much time teaching children the miraculous things that happened in the Bible, and then when children become teenagers and adults we spend so much time just teaching them to be nice? I wondered why my experiences of God didn't really line up with the songs I sang about Him on Sunday mornings? I know now that the Spirit was calling me; beckoning me to draw near. I think back to that night and I can almost hear God whispering in my heart, "Follow me. I want to teach you who I am." So, I did. And so began the adventure.

The first thing God taught me was that He is not in control of everything. I know. It rocked my world too. I know even just reading that will make some of you feel like you've sinned! I know some of you reading this will immediately dismiss simply won't fit into your belief system. But I also know for others, you are going to set that belief system of yours aside and you are going to fall in love with God. I am so excited for you. Because I know from my own journey through this that once you begin to understand who God is and how He functions in this world, that's really just the beginning of experiencing Him and understanding who you are and how you are to function in this world.

So here's the deal. I'm sure if you have been around church for any length of time you are familiar with God as being sovereign. And it is true, God is indeed sovereign (supreme in power and authority). There is nothing or no one that is above Him. He is in charge. But being in charge and being in control are two different things. If you remember back to the beginning, God created all this awesome stuff, right? Animals and oceans and light and humans. And when He created humans He delegated authority to us. He commanded us to rule over His creation. It didn't take long for us to lose that authority in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. Enter into history the works of hell-disease and death and pain and decay. But because God is sovereign the story doesn't end there. He sent Jesus, His son, to earth who became sin on the cross so we in turn can become righteous. Authority was bought back by the blood of Christ. Then what did Jesus do? He gave us marching orders and took His place at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. He told us it was good for us that He leave so that the Holy Spirit would come and empower us; empower us with His authority. So now, the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead resides in those who surrender their lives to Him giving them authority to destroy the works of hell on earth. Hallelujah!

There is no problem with God being sovereign. There is only a problem when people use God as being sovereign to claim that He is in control of everything. And when we believe God is in control of everything, we also believe that everything that happens is God's will, that He ordains everything, or that everything is His administrative choice. Not everything that happens is God's will. All believers understand it is God's will that none should perish. Yet people are perishing everyday. Clearly, things happen that are NOT God's will. Also, when we believe God is in control, we tend to link that belief with the belief that everything happens for a reason. Right? One of the first things you will hear from a Christian going through tragedy is, "But...I know God is in control and everything happens for a reason." Why? Well, because believing God is in control of everything means it is ultimately God that is responsible for everything that happens. Including the cancer your loved one was diagnosed with, the miscarriage you experienced, the car wreck you were in, the job you lost, the house that burned down, the spouse that left you, the father that was never there, etc. And believing that God is responsible for pain and death and disease and tragedy doesn't exactly put you in a position to trust Him, or praise Him, or love Him, or desire Him. So, we comfort ourselves with the thought that everything happens for a reason. And we pull scriptures that talk about God working all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) to help us cope with this God. Really what is created is a stronghold. And suddenly we are pointing the finger at God for the work of the devil here on earth. Everything does happen for a reason. Actually, everything happens for exactly two reasons: Either 1) Stealing, killing, and destroying-which are ALWAYS works of the enemy or 2) Life and life abundantly-which are ALWAYS the works of God (John 10:10). So, we will always be wrong when we attribute anything that has to do with stealing, killing and destroying to God. It's immoral. It's unthinkable. And yet, it is so widespread in the body of Christ.

I want to take a moment and be clear that I do believe Romans 8:38 is true. I absolutely believe that there isn't anything in this world that can happen that God can't take and work for good in the lives of the people that love Him. God is in the business of redemption! But that has nothing to do with God causing those tragedies to occur. And I will be honest here and tell you that if you believe God is responsible for the pain and destruction in your life I do not believe that you can truly, truly worship Him with your life. I know I couldn't. And I didn't even realize it until I was freed from the stronghold.

Part of the devastating effect of believing God controls everything is that it renders the Christian powerless. We become disarmed. Disengaged. Our lives aren't used to fight the battle the way they are intended to. We assume what will be will be. Our prayers aren't even effective because we don't understand the will of God and what to ask for. If you're still reading this, I would encourage you to do something. Pretend you're sitting around a campfire, watching coals burning slowly and brightly. Think about what it is you believe about God. Think about the hardships you have experienced in your life. Have you made God responsible for them? Think about what would happen if you redirected the responsibility to the Thief that comes to steal and kill and destroy. Think about what it might be like to believe that in you resides the power and authority of the sovereign, almighty God. And that He comes through prayer, by your invitation. Ask Him to teach you who He is. Listen closely to see if you can hear Him whispering to you. Welcome to the adventure. Hold on, it's gonna be a wild ride.       


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Failure to Report for Duty

When I was nineteen I signed into the Army Reserves. I was an 88 Mike in the 660th Transportation Company in Cadiz, Ohio. An 88M is a Motor Transport Operator, responsible for transporting personnel and cargo. Despite my recruiter's promises of being qualified for endless amounts of jobs, I in fact only qualified for like three-a cook, a motor transport operator, and one other that must have been even worse because I don't even remember it. After spending a day at the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) in Pittsburgh, I sat across the table from the job placement guy trying to look casual as I decided my destiny. I felt like the daughter in Father of The Bride when she tells her dad she's getting married. Like, I'm pretty sure I reverted back to being about four years old. I wanted to ask the guy in my squeaky little girl voice if he was sure there weren't more things I could do...who let me come here by myself anyway...are you sure I'm even old enough for this? So, without much thought (or options) I chose to be a transporter. Whatever that meant.

Since I was in fall semester in college at the time I signed in I was put on the delayed entry program (DEP). I immediately began reporting for drills one weekend a month, but was not scheduled to go to Basic Training until the following summer. My first weekend at drills I called my dad in a panic because while I was trying to drive to Cadiz, OH, I suddenly drove under a sign that read "Welcome to West Virginia." West Virginia? How the heck am I supposed to drive a hummer in Iraq if I can't even drive from Pennsylvania to Ohio?! My dad looked at the map and assured me I was on track, I just needed to pass through West Virginia a smidge to reach my destination. Reeee-lief. When I arrived at the 660th Transportation Company, I quickly parked my (dad's) truck, took a deep breath, and headed in the building. I knew not where I was going once inside, nor what I was supposed to do. I was going through some introductions to the place and to people in my unit when a little situation arose. The captain of our company had arrived and he wanted to know who had parked their Ford F150 in his parking space? Oops. Let me just move that out of your way...sir. I didn't stay there for very long that first time. Me, and a couple other new guys on the DEP were shipped off to Toledo, OH for an intense training weekend. To this day I'm not sure what it was all about. My understanding was it was a weekend preview of Basics for those who had not yet completed their training, and also a refresher course for those who had. All I know is that I got yelled at a LOT, I earned the nickname "track star" (which was not a good thing despite how it sounds) and I had to do push ups for several other girls in my platoon who weren't able to do their own. At the end of the weekend when the drill sergeant asked who had fun, I was the only one who didn't raise my hand. While some began to talk to me about Officer Training School because of my physical strength, I began to wonder what in the world I had done signing into the military at all. But, I continued to report for drills each month. I trained hard physically. Learned to disassemble and reassemble guns. Rode around in Humvees. And made friends. As my date for Basics got closer, I felt more confident that everything would be OK.

Little did I know that I would never complete my training. Long story short, a series of events occurred in my life at the time I was supposed to be leaving for Basics that left me unable to go. I struggled with what I should do. And I could not make contact with my recruiter who I later found out literally was in Disney Land at the time on vacation. I, thankfully, happened to be dating this cute guy who was in law school (wink, wink) who was able to help me navigate my way through contacting the right people. In the end, I was granted an uncharacterized discharge from the Army Reserves. I was told it was neither good nor bad and that I could re-enlist in the future if desired. I never did. Sometimes when we are in church and "those that have served in the military" are asked to stand up and be honored, I jokingly ask my husband if he thinks I should stand up. In reality, I will never stand up because I did nothing to "serve" my country in the military and I more closely had a failure to report for duty. Though I think I would have made a good soldier, I don't think I was meant to have that as part of my life. I'm thankful for the experience, the laughs, and I have a genuine appreciation for those who do serve in our military.

Why do I share this with you? Well, I often reflect back on that experience. And I think of how I could relate my life as a Christ-follower as a failure to report for duty as well. I have realized that I have reduced being a Christian to gaining a ticket to heaven. I have been satisfied with praying my little salvation prayer and then sucking up all kinds of blessings for myself. I have set standards for being a "mature" Christian that include church attendance, giving financially, serving on Sunday mornings, joining a small group. Really what I have done is neglected my part to serve in the army of God, while reducing the Christian walk to something that is self-serving, boring, and more often than not just fulfilling an obligation or requirement. I have sung all kinds of songs on Sunday mornings about God as Healer, yet never once responded to his call to lay hands on the sick so that they would recover. I have spent a lot of time surrounding myself with other Christians because it is safe and comfortable and hardly any time at all with the lost, even though I claim to follow Jesus who gave his life for lost people. I have judged people whose lives look different than mine, instead of running to them with the good news of the gospel that their lives can be different. I have claimed that I am free in Christ, yet held offense against others who have wronged can a truly free person be offended? I have quoted feel-good scriptures about mercy triumphing over judgement, and yet I get annoyed at the cashier who is taking a ridiculous amount of time to ring up my groceries. I have used the sovereignty of God as an excuse not to engage in the battle against evil and not to live victoriously. Really what I have done is given my heart to God, but not my life.

But I am done with that. It is true that a person's life will reflect what they believe about God. Not just life in the public eye, but life when no one is looking or listening. The fruit will not lie. You can claim to be an apple tree all you want, but if you aren't producing apples you've got an identity problem! I have decided that I'm selling out. I am believing Jesus when he says he only does what the Father tells him to do and that he is a perfect representation of the Father. And so I am laying down my life and I am going to follow Jesus. I'm going to do what he did. I am going to lay hands on the sick and pray so that the love of God will wreck their lives. I am going to come out of my bubble of Christians and get messy loving the lost. I am going to walk in the freedom of knowing who I am, that I am a daughter of the Most High God, and there just isn't anything anyone can do to offend me (if God is for me, who really can be against me?). I am going to show mercy every time I could lay down judgement...instead of a complaint I will offer an encouraging word, instead of ripping off a bad waitress, I'll tip double the bill. I am going to use the finished work of Christ as my victory over evil.

At the end of my life I don't want to be there before my Creator, unable to stand up as a true soldier. I want to be there knowing I did everything I could for the sake of love. No more failing to report. This soldier is going active duty!  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


Josh and I moved to Clarion County in July 2007. We had not been married even a year yet. We rented a tiny house on Barber Street and without even knowing it began growing our family. We had no indication when we came that we would spend as many years here as we have. I think likewise we didn't realize the blessings God would have for us here, and probably haven't even recognized them all except maybe from a hindsight perspective. Like looking in a rear view mirror you can see them passing quickly behind you. Jobs, homes, babies, relationships, etc.

As of last week, we have officially sold our home and will be moving on to Pittsburgh. I have many mixed emotions about this, but if there is one thing I can say about our time here, it is that I think we have lived life to its fullest, truly experiencing the best of Clarion County. We have been surrounded, supported and loved by the best people I have ever met. We learned from our church what it means to truly live in community and be family. Cook Forest was like a second home, the ALF 5k was a regular part of our fall activities, Saturday mornings in the summer required a stop at the farmer's market, and a drive to Walmart provided a view of some of the prettiest landscape I have ever seen. I hope I always remember those drives.

We don't know where we are going. It is no small thing to find a rental big enough for a family of 6 and a dog...unless you don't mind paying a fortune or are willing to give up eating or something like that. It is no small thing to find somewhere that has a yard or sidewalks or enough space between homes that you can't reach out your window to touch your neighbor's house. I'm no city girl. I covet those drives with rolling farmland, flocks of sheep, and that cow that always seems to have a bird sitting on its head. Thinking about a 10 minute drive taking 25 minutes because of traffic makes me want to cry a little. And if you turn me around twice I'm likely to get lost, so city driving and me are not really friends. Add to this that we are walking away from a home we love. It is big and beautiful, full of character, and has a pool that is an endless source of summer fun. Owning a home was not in the stars for Josh and me. We know that God provided this place for us and we have appreciated every bit of it. We would often look around and say, "How the heck did we get this place?!" And is time to say goodbye.

Although I don't know where we are going to live, and despite my aversion to city living, I am not discouraged. Not even close. In fact, I'm excited. I once heard, and truly believe, that the will of God is our home. I know that God is calling us to move on. It has been a long time coming. And it has been painful, like slowly ripping off a band aid. I know that taking a step in obedience will open doors for the Spirit to move in our lives. And I know that we could stay here forever, clinging on to all the comfort and sentimentality in the world, and miss what God has in store for us and what He has called us to. I want the adventure. I want to make my home in the will of God. I'm looking forward, expecting God's faithfulness ahead, and praising Him for all those blessings I see in the rear view mirror. Clarion County...thanks for loving us. I am grateful for you and will always hold you dear in my heart. Let the adventure begin!  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

That Girl

I love the month of March. I love spring. I love watching winter come to an end. Seeing birds return. Feeling warmth in the air. I love discovering grass again. Going for walks without having to put on triple layers. Sensing nature waking up. Feels like such a hopeful time of year. I also love March because it represents a birthday of sorts for me. Eleven years ago this month I gave my life to Christ. And a few years after that, also in March, I was baptized. Before I can tell you about my new life, I need to tell you first how I became That Girl.

In the fall after my senior year of high school I received a phone call that would change my life forever. It was a Wednesday morning, my third day of college classes. After my morning class I stopped in the mail room where I got a care package from my boyfriend. Getting any mail in college is exciting. Getting a big box is super exciting! So it was with excitement that I opened it to find a bunch of my favorite snacks, some sentimental items, and a note letting me know I was loved by him. I headed to the computer lab and began to type him a thank you email when my phone rang. That call set off confusion and panic to where I would eventually learn that my boyfriend had shot and killed himself that morning. In just one moment I went from feeling on top of the world, to watching my life come crashing down around me. And instantly before I even knew it, I had become That Girl.

I quit school and went home. Home. Where I was That Girl. That Girl moving through time, but feeling like I wasn't really even there. That Girl that some thought should have known something was wrong. That Girl that some thought was crying too hard, exaggerating my position in or connection to the tragedy. That Girl that still others had an overwhelming sense of pity for. That Girl that people found easier to ignore for fear of not knowing what to say, but undoubtedly would ask those around me, "How is she?" That Girl that lost a sense of the future. That felt alone everywhere. That belonged nowhere. Including home. So in January I went back to school. To my surprise, I was still That Girl.

At school I was That Girl that was new...again. That Girl that missed fall training for track and field. That Girl that many knew something had happened to. That girl that was fragile. That some professors, my coach, my advisor, etc. knew to be sensitive towards. That Girl that still felt alone. Still didn't belong anywhere. Still was moving through time in a state of numbness. That Girl that fell into all kinds of destructive behaviors because the future didn't really matter anymore. That Girl that was afraid to take her life, but no longer desired to live. That Girl that felt guilty for smiling, pathetic for not being able to get myself out of the pit I was drowning in, hopeless that much could ever really change for me. That Girl that became a master at going through the motions, learning how to put all kinds of barriers up so that no one could really get close to me again. And then in a moment that once again would change my life forever, something happened.

It was March, just a year and a half after that Wednesday morning that ended in tragedy. I went with one of my roommates to Upper Room, which was a student led worship service. I was unsuspecting. Once again, I was going through the motions. Singing songs to a God I resented. One of the girls in the student band stopped worship to say that God was putting it on her heart that somebody there needed healing. That they didn't understand how God was going to be able to bring that healing. But that God was telling that person just to trust Him. There isn't really a way for me to describe to you how I knew that I was the one she was talking to. I will just say that when you have a true encounter with God, you know. You know that you know. There is no second guessing or wondering. You just know. And I knew. And I had a vision of light and a hand outstretched toward me. That hand was beckoning me to let go. Let go of everything I was holding onto. My broken heart. My hopelessness. My relationship with my boyfriend. My misunderstanding of who God is. My future. My identity. My life. I knew in that moment I had to choose to let go so that I could walk forward. I had to die to myself so that I could begin to really live. And I did. Some people around me layed hands on me and prayed. I surrendered. And the peace that I heard a lot about from churchy people, became a reality in my life that day. I was different immediately. I was new. No longer That Girl. I was a daughter of the King. I was far from alone. I belonged. I had a destiny. A future. A hope.

The next time I was home on a weekend, I stopped by my boyfriend's grave for the last time. I had to say goodbye. I loved him. Thought my future was going to include him in it. Was broken when I learned that it wouldn't. But I told him my God is bigger and that in order for me to move on, I had to say goodbye.

Sometimes I forget who I am. Even all these years later. Maybe it is brought on by the anniversary of his death. Or a memory is triggered. Or sometimes just simply being in my hometown. Lies start to creep in. I can feel myself falling back into an old identity...That Girl. But then I remember how in John 8:36 I am promised that, "He whom the Son sets free is free indeed." And I remember who I am and Whose I am. I remember that in Romans 8:38 I am promised that "...nothing can separate us from His love. Death Can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away." 

I don't know what your life has brought you. What has made you That Girl or That guy. But I know who you are. Even if you don't know yet. I am praying for you right now. That you too would surrender that old identity that you were never created to put on. And that you would claim your new identity, your position as a daughter/son of the Most High God. "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17