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Take Heart

I’m sitting in an adorable little cottage in the mountains of Colorado, chipping away at my work load for the week while we are on vacation, trying to power through it so I can go play with my family, but Hillsong United’s album is playing and my eyes won’t stop leaking as the Father penetrates my heart with His truths that have been so questioned in the past few days.

I avoid these controversial topics on my blog like the plague because I don’t want to build my platform with debates and hot-button issues. But it is impossible to keep from speaking up about all that is going on in our nation this week. More importantly, it’s impossible to stay silent about what God is reminding me of in the midst of this.

Christians across the globe are divided over the Supreme court’s ruling in favor of gay marriage. I’ve seen believers celebrating this as a victory, and I’ve seen believers speaking like it’s the end of the world as we know it (which, really … would that be so bad? Come, Jesus. I’m ready for you to rescue us.), and I’m standing in the middle of it all look at all of these floating pieces, these words of love and hatred, these scriptures twisted every which way to fit personal interpretation and beliefs.

The song that was playing was just singing to me, “Don’t turn your eyes from me, for my love will not be undone,” and tears were streaming down my face as I thought about how many people are caught in turmoil this week, questioning their beliefs, questioning the Jesus they’ve always known, and I want to climb upon a huge rock and plead with you all to remember that God is exactly who He says He is. He has never changed.

I’m not surprised that our nation has taken the step it took this week, but more importantly, neither is He. All of this was taken into account when the Revelation was given and written in the Bible.

Our God is not shaken. Our faith is not shaken. Our Jesus is not shaking His head over this. He is not worried about what this means for our nation, because He already knows, He has already planned for it, and nothing has changed on His part. His love still overcomes. His heart is still for his children, for healing, for love, for hope, for unity. His heart is still for us to reach the lost, even when sometimes we are the lost. His love will not let us go.

If this issue divides believers right down the middle, Jesus has already figured that into His plans for us, and He will always bring redemption because that is who He is.

I know I don’t have a rhyme or reason here with this post, my heart is just consumed with Him right now, in a way that it hasn’t been in the past few days. My mind has been overtaken with all of the arguments and perspectives, all of the politics and religiosity that has been spewed across the internet, in my safe places and in the media. I am not naive in thinking that we shouldn’t have a response. I’m just having to search a little too hard to find the response that is appropriate here. My heart is grieving over the confusion and fighting and the accusations being thrown to the left and the right.

Love. It’s not a wishy washy answer, it is THE answer. It is God’s heart for His people. We have to do the next right thing. The next right thing is love. Love has won because God is love and HE ALWAYS WINS.

I am so unconcerned with the future of this nation because I know that God has remained completely Himself in the midst of all of this. My faith in Him has not changed. His love for us has not changed. If I believe that God is truly who He says He is then I should have no fear.

My position on this issue is inconsequential, though I do have one and I land very much in the middle of the two camps that have been formed. His position, however, is the most important to consider, and I have to say it again: He is not surprised. He has not been caught off guard. Should oceans rise and mountains fall, he never fails.

I apologize for the “rant” nature of this, but you know me, I speak my heart and I speak it loud. This is my heart today, and I can not keep myself from sharing it.

All the Big Feels

For Father’s day, Rocky wanted to take the kids to see “Inside Out,” Disney’s latest movie. He’s such a good dad, I would have chosen solitude over a movie theater.

I wish someone had warned me about the premise of the movie so I could have at least been prepared with pockets full of kleenex. The movie deals with all of the different emotions that shape us and our reactions to everything, including moving away from your friends to a new city.

Dun dun duuuuuun. Yes, we’ve done that in the not so distant past and while today we are better for it, it was still the hardest thing we have been through in a long time. I still miss my friends, my kids still miss their friends and *some* of us (me) are still really searching out where we fit in this new season. Suffice it to say I cried pretty hard in this movie, and at the end I really wanted to hug my husband and sob for a few minutes, however, I was slightly inhibited by the hundred or so other people in the theater.

All of that said, I was super impressed with the way the topics of feelings and emotions were handled. You all know I am all about feeling the feels. I say this often in my encounters with women: “Feel what you’re feeling, it’s the only way you will heal.” When we bottle or stuff our feelings, they fester and grow and cause decay in our souls and we never really deal with the roots of our issues. The best thing that was communicated in this movie (SPOILER ALERT) is that sadness is an important feeling. We can’t gloss over anything by plastering a smile on our faces and pretending to be happy. We have to feel sadness in order to feel the joy of being relieved of that sadness. Through the whole movie, “Joy” was trying to keep “Sadness” from touching the memories of broken-hearted Riley. Joy was trying to protect Riley but in so doing, ended up harming her and sending her into a potentially dangerous situation. When Joy recognized that Sadness had played a part in so many of Riley’s happy memories, she gave Sadness the room she needed and Riley’s emotions were repaired because joy follows sadness.

I know this is a little abstract and there are many things in between sadness and joy, but even the Bible gives us evidence to this: “. . .weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b, and “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,” Psalm 30:11

Sadness is an important feeling, anger is an important feeling, fear, disgust, joy . . . all of the big feels play big roles in our lives. The most important thing is that we don’t stay in a place of sadness or anger, fear, disgust, etc. Joy is the goal, that’s why she gets to run headquarters in the movie, but all of the other emotions support her, they all have a part to play, and that is a universal truth in our lives.

Again I will say it, feel what you’re feeling, it’s the only way to heal.

Of Aspens and Envy – DGM

I’m blogging over at Dauntless Grace today! We’ve got a couple great blogs up so far, take a look! We would love for you to share the blog as well as our Facebook page!

The Last Day of School Ever, Again

The last day of school before summer vacation is supposed to be full of excitement and anticipation. The kids should be bouncing in their seats watching a movie while the teacher pulls posters off the walls and mom’s should be joyfully turning off their pre-set alarm clocks and buying watermelons and beach towels.

I’m sure many of them are or were. But today my boys have had a heaviness on their hearts, and ten minuIMG_8182tes away and at home, I had the same weight on my own. I’ve been in tears all day, my oldest has been in tears all day, and all of us cried on the way home.

When we moved from Fort Worth, we left the day that Christmas break started. The boys were dismissed from their classes and we drove straight from school into the hardest season of our family’s existence. Our transition into the new school was hard and Rocky and I both felt very uncomfortable there. Salem missed his friends and felt like he was the odd one out in spite of the fact that he is always one of the popular kids wherever he goes; the kid is dynamic and has a smile that’s to die for. Josiah showed his anxiety in other more noticeable ways and on top of all that, stuff at home was just plain hard, I was trying to climb out of my own dark place and Rocky was just trying to keep all of us sane. We came out of the 13/14 school year with our wounds stitched and treated, but the scars remained.

This school year has been remarkably different and now we see that on the whole, our trepidation about school was a huge mixture of all the feels of moving and everything else that was going on. The teachers both years were great, but we were more prepared to welcome them into our lives this year; we weren’t on the defensive this time around. When I walked out of our parent teacher interviews in October my heart felt paralyzed at the thought of pulling them out of school mid-year to move to a different suburb, as we had originally planned when it came time to buy a house. It was the Lord, there is no doubt. Our hearts were much to fragile for that, and He knew it. He worked out all the details and provided a home where our kids could finish out the year at their current school. But. But we still would have to change school districts come the fall.

So that’s why I drove two very tearful little boys home from their last day of school ever, again. That’s why I sobbed all the way home from class parties yesterday after my youngest’s teacher confided that he was her favorite. That’s why I have been in tears all day, and so have they. For the second time in two school years, we are leaving behind friends andIMG_8176 teachers we have grown to love and admire and stepping into the unknowns of a new school. These are the moments that make me wonder why I dreamed about being a mom. These are the moments that rip my heart to shreds, and folks, we’ve just had a few too many of these moments lately.

They want to know why. They have wanted to know why ever since we left Fort Worth, and these are the moments when I have to reach deep into the Word of God and speak as much truth as I can muster even though sometimes I’m still asking the same question they are.

Why?

Because God has a plan and a purpose, and it’s for our good, not for our harm.

But then there’s tears and tears don’t feel so good.

So why?

I don’t know. But I know God told me yesterday on my drive home that He had gone ahead of us to the new school, that He was preparing a place for them there and that it would be ready come August.

So these are the moments that I have to commit to my heart to remember, for there will come a day when I can say to them, “Because this.” And in that moment, in their little brains, God’s faithfulness and His presence will become something tangible that they can see and point to. They will be able to praise Him by telling others what He has done. I guess that right now that is my ‘because.’

In the meantime, we will focus on having the best summer ever, again, and when I find my little loves hunkered down and crying in their closets, I will, again, hunker down and cry with them.

Dauntless Grace

dauntless grace

Somehow, I got connected with a group of women that have similar hearts and minds as I do.

Somehow we found in each other a safe place to be ourselves, to be honest about our struggles and to post pictures of our literal messes.

Somehow we discovered that we all crave the same thing: the permission to be vulnerable in relationship, free of judgment.

Somehow we figured out that what was going on with us was bigger than just us, so we started dreaming.

Somehow, we launched a ministry last week in order to push this vulnerability thing out there in the open.

Somehow we will tell women that it’s okay to be exactly who you are, where you are, doing what you’re doing and feeling what you’re feeling, while at the same time, encouraging them not to stay there.

Somehow we will study the Word together and learn and grow and encourage each other.

Somehow we will create pockets of safety in our neighborhoods and cities and we will see the world begin to change, one woman at a time, one heart at a time.

Somehow, we have become Dauntless Grace, and we want you to join us. Click the link and “like” our page. Website coming soon!

The Worst Christian in the World

Last month our fellowship announced that we were going to be reading Ephesians together, repeatedly over the next five months. They gave us a schedule so that we could all be on the same page (literally! ha, I used that word correctly. You’re welcome, husband), but I have to confess that I will probably never be on the same page because . . . stitches. And torn ligaments. And vet visits. And basically just LIFE. But I am reading, I am taking my sweet time and trying to savor and see things that I haven’t seen before and already, Paul is rocking my world.

For example:

Ephesians 3:8 “Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.” (NLT)

Other translations say, “I’m the most usless Christian of all”, or “the worst Christian.” To which I have to say, “Um, Paul? You are in the bible like a thousand times and we pretty much get most of our theology from what you wrote about so I think that I’m probably the most useless Christian there is, but thanks for comin’ out.”

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But what Paul is doing, whether on purpose or not, is relating to all of us human people with the brains and the guts and all the feels. Do you ever feel like you are the worst Christian on the planet? So did Paul! And look at all that he accomplished for the Kingdom!

Next, Ephesians 3:20 “Now glory be to God who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of — infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” (TLB)

I’ve read this verse a hundred times at least. Usually it’s the “to Him who is able to do immeasurably more . . .” translation, but the Living Bible, which I’ve heard is out of print, is still one of my favorite versions to read because I’m not a biblical scholar and I need things to be spelled out for me s l o w l y. I love how this translation pushes the point of the verse home just a little further, and this is honestly the first time I’ve stopped and meditated on it. Here’s what I wrote today about this verse:

We come to you with our greatest needs, the deepest desires of our hearts, begging for you to meet them as if they are a nuisance to you. “Please God,” we cry in desperation like it will be your greatest act of kindness to grant this one request. You are capable of so much more. Even if we step up our requests, we can not reach what you are capable of. You are amazing.

This verse says to me, “the sky is the limit.” It says, “Ask anything in my name,” and “Nothing is impossible for me.” But yet, we beg for our health, the health of our families, for provision, for opportunities as if this is our last chance, and I think the Father smiles on us and whispers, “Dream bigger.”

I know that it is His great joy to bless us, the worst Christians in the world, and grant the answers to our requests, but I also know that as a human with the brains and the guts and all the feels, I often doubt that He will do what I ask of Him. I limit His ability to meet my needs by limiting my trust in His perfect plan and provision. But Paul tells us that the Father is able to meet us “infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes.”

If that’s not grounds for a party or a simple exhale of relief, I don’t know what is. We can come before the throne of grace with confidence. We have the ear of our Creator and whatever we ask of Him, He is able to accomplish in ways far beyond our wildest dreams. What is your request? How can you beef it up today? Exercise your faith and put God’s limits to the test, and then watch Him be exactly who He says He is.

Stay tuned, Ephesians is fun!

Somewhere, I Belong

Do you ever struggle with feeling out of place? Do you ever wonder if you were really meant to be in the plot of earth that you currently reside? In the fellowship, small group, MOPS meeting, Bible study etc.? Do you ever think to yourself, “I will never be as awesome as _______________”? Do you stand in the corner of the lobby after Sunday service and see people milling about and feel completely alone?

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Guess what? I have really exciting news for you.

First of all, you’re not alone. I have recently become a part of an amazing tribe of hundreds women and if there is anything that we can all agree on, it’s that these feelings are our every day struggle. We are not enough but we have no problem telling the woman beside us that she is beyond enough. This group has really shown me something that I’ve been told is true for a long time: We are all the same. I’m sure that if you stuck 800 women in a room together who’d only met once or twice, we would pull into our respective comfort zones and feel judged by those around us all the while judging those around us for how judged we feel. But put us online in a safe place and the walls come down, and we can have some of the most honest, gut-wrenching conversations we’ve ever had.

I can’t help but think how many amazing women I have missed over the years because of my own insecurities and feelings of inadequacy.

Ready for the second and best part of the news? Here it is:

19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” – Eph 2:19-22 NLT

Go back and read it again.

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I think I can safely say that there are moments when I definitely feel more Gentile than Jew — and I’m talking strictly in the context of this passage, no stereotypes or current day images allowed.  In this context, while I’m standing in my corner of the lobby feeling alone, I am the lone Gentile and everyone else are the Jews, the chosen ones. But what does that verse say? That the Gentiles are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. There go the walls. We are members of God’s family. My favorite is verse 21: We are carefully joined. That means that there was thought put into where we are at. That means that God designed a place for us in that Bible study, or that small group, neighborhood or wherever it is that you feel the most uncomfortable in His family. We are His dwelling place, therefore, WE BELONG. He took care to carve a space for you.

I pray that today, the Father reveals to your heart the spot that he carved for you, the why behind it, and how you can be at peace in that place, and move in ways that stretch you and bring fulfillment to your heart. No more wall flowering allowed.

Baby

*This post is brought to you by the memory of Patrick Swayze, and North Village Church as they read through the book of Ephesians.*

*all photos found by Google Images*

Great Expectations: Mary and the Empty Tomb

Happy Easter! Another year without a bunny in my basket, but I’m holding out hope! More importantly, Jesus is alive! I love the Easter story, I love the way Jesus presses his sacrifice into my heart a little deeper each year, and that it is something that ceaster-1an keep on changing us all year long.

My favorite kind of teaching is the kind that spends time unpacking verses and words, bringing context and cultural understanding — things I would probably never bother to sit down and figure out on my own (Judah Smith from Seattle is really good at this). I am no biblical scholar, but occasionally, things jump out at me with no Greek translation or contextualization needed and I get a little excited about it. This happened to me this morning at our Easter service.

In John 20: 11-18, Mary is at the tomb where Jesus was laid. She came expecting to see Jesus body, wrapped and laying inside, and to sprinkle spices over the body as was the custom. She has a mission, and she is prepared, mentally and physically to carry it through. But Jesus isn’t in the tomb and is (at first) no where to be seen. Mary’s expectations are not being met here, and she begins to weep because she doesn’t know where Jesus is. Two angels appear to her, yet still she thinks someone has taken Jesus’ body and moved it. Then she turns around and Jesus is in the entrance to the tomb.

15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

She doesn’t even recognize Jesus at first, she’s too caught up in the fact that Jesus is not where she expected Him to be. It takes two angels and the Messiah himself calling out her name before she realizes that Jesus is in fact standing right in front of her.

As I listened to our pastor read this scripture this morning, something struck me about the entire situation Mary was in, and how so often I find myself in a proverbial empty tomb, surrounded by signs and wonders, yet still completely missing Jesus because my expectations were for something else completely.

213A-051222_Savior-Red_09-lgIt’s the human thing to do, to make plans, to form expectations, to dream, and to put one foot in front of another in an effort to see those things come to pass. But what happens when they don’t? What happens when the car dies completely and the little extra money that was headed for savings now has to go into a car payment? What happens when the nursery is painted, the onesies have been decorated but the baby doesn’t ever come home from the hospital? What happens when the college applications are submitted, the scholarships applied for, but your very last hope for housing falls through?

We have these great expectations, dreams and plans, and they are wonderful, but what if they’re not what Jesus has planned for us? Do we find ourselves staring into an empty tomb crying out, “Where have you gone, Jesus? Where are you?” Do we miss the first sign of hope, that there is in fact money in the budget for that car payment? That the baby went straight to Jesus’ arms (please do not misread this and read that we should not mourn in these situations. This is one of the worst things I can imagine having to survive and I ache for those of you who have to!), or that there is still time to find a new housing situation for the fall?

“Where have you gone, Jesus? Where have they taken you?” You cry out to him in agony, because sometimes the pain of loss is just too much to bear. “This isn’t what I’d planned, Jesus.”

And he stands in the entrance to the empty plan, the unmet expectation and says, “Why are you crying? What are you looking for?”

You spread your arms out around you and show him all that you have lost, without recognizing him because, like with Mary in the tomb, Jesus wasn’t where you expected him to be.

And then . . . he says your name.

“Mary!”

The blinders fall off your eyes as your Savior speaks your name– the Bible doesn’t say He shouts or whispers, He just says it with an exclamation point, and that’s enough. As if He’s saying, “Stop, look. See me!” He says your name and suddenly everything comes into focus and you see that He has come to meet you in that empty tomb. He’s coming to meet your plans and expectations in His own way, the way He has been preparing for all of time. Selah.

mary-magdalene-clings-to-jesus

“She turned to him and cried out, 
“Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary finally sees Jesus and calls him the name by which she knows him, “Teacher!” But Jesus is quick to point out that things have changed. “I haven’t yet ascended” he says, in other words, “I’m not back back. I still have to go back to Heaven.”

Mary has to realize that things are not going to return to the ‘normal’ she knows, where Jesus is physically with them always, talking, teaching, and performing miracles. Things have to change, they will never be the same. He has more to do in order to fulfill the promises of God, so he can’t stay here on earth.

We also have to come to that place as we see that our plans have fallen through, that our expectations were different than what Jesus has planned. He is there with us in that moment, though. We recognize him now, but we can’t go back to the way things were. We have to move forward, change our plans, change our dreams, because Jesus has shown us a new plan, a new dream, and new expectations.

What circumstances are there in your life where you find yourself staring at an empty tomb, missing Jesus because things don’t look like you expected them to? We all need to look up and see that though Jesus isn’t where we expected Him to be, He is exactly where He intends to be.

Take heart dear ones, we are not alone. He suffered a sinner’s death so that we might have abundant life. Whatever your ache is today, I am praying that as you read these words, Jesus says your name and calls your attention to Him, and that in that instant you find peace and comfort as you run to His arms. So much love for you today, friends!

(All images found via Google Images)

A (sort of) Open Letter to My Mom

Spring is finally trying to eke it’s way out here in Texas which means it’s about time I shave my legs. Husband, you are welcome. Spring 1, Julie 0. IMG_7429

Spring break has come and gone, bringing with it ten days of Mama Dotti time for us, which was beautiful and fun and exhausting and as always, too short. We did, we saw, we spent and boy oh boy, did we eat. We didn’t even have to go in to Austin to take get good mexican food, Chuy’s did the trick, and she made that meal last for almost a week! Mexican for breakfast? Only Mama Dotti.

She left on Friday morning, early, and as always, it was so hard to say goodbye. I think that there is a grace period when it comes to being with family, a time in which all is well and only maybe a little tense occasionally, and when the grace period ends, it is indeed time to say goodbye, but it always sucks. It always hurts. I always go home and have a bawl-fest in my room and wish that I had been a better host, a better daughter, a better friend while she was here. I know she is reading this, she is in fact my biggest fan.

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So, Mom, I’m sorry that sometimes I suck and I get frustrated. I’m sorry that sometimes I close down and get quiet. I’m sorry that sometimes it takes you leaving for me to see that I was too caught up in myself while you were here and that I really missed out even though we were sitting right beside each other. I’m sorry that I didn’t post on Facebook about you being here, but let’s be honest, you usually get irritated when we post about you on Facebook (wink wink) (and I DID post on my author page, you just didn’t see it. You even have your own hashtag {#mamadotti} — don’t ask, i’m not explaining it.). I’m sorry that I didn’t let you take more pictures of us together, I’m so insecure right now and I let that get in the way. I regret it deeply.

I think part of the tension I feel is natural, the whole “leave and cleave” thing, and I’m sure it is hard on the other side of things to still be a parent but to not actively

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parent. I can’t imagine how hard that will be for me, but let me tell you that you handle it pretty gracefully, so you will be my example when my time comes (Jesus come quickly.).

You are a wonderful GRAND-parent. Seriously. I’m so thankful that my kids have you in their lives, even if they only get to see you once every two years. They adore you and miss you and talk about their memories of you often. It’s just not the same without you.

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I love you.

Love Me.

P.S. I really hope the airline finds your luggage quickly, we went through a lot for that huge brick of Tillamook cheese you took home!

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