the garden

i am actually really surprised that i have not written about this yet. i guess i wanted to keep it a secret. stupid satan. he is always trying to trick us into isolating. anyway. the garden. oh the garden. lets start from the beginning..not that beginning…the beginning of my garden story.

in 2015, in the Catholic Charities food pantry, i was working to stock the pantry and i heard God say “i want you to start a recovery home for young girls” and i said okay!

and then i went to summer camp, and during the Gospel one day, we talked about Mary Magdalene, and how she thought resurrected Jesus was the gardener when she saw Him. and He said,

“I want you to call it The Garden”

and i knew exactly what He meant. so okay, i’ll call it the garden. so after that, i took an interest and liking to things having to do with gardens, because one day i would own one. but i never really told many people about it. i think i felt if i told people, they would steal my idea. classic satan tried to scare me out of talking about my dream by making me fear competition. so this was like my secret promise from the Lord.

and then at the beginning of the year, Kari Jobe released her new album and it was called The Garden. and she talked about the gardens that are talked about in the Bible. and it was a wonderful album. and i love Kari Jobe. and i felt this cool connection to her because we both had these projects about the garden. it also really prompted me to dig back into the scriptures about gardens in the Bible. and i started learning more about the intimacy of God. i was learning about the Father’s original desire for intimacy with us. the Father’s gentle and sweet heart. i was loving it!

so i shared the album with all my friends, and told everyone about it. and everyone loved it. and started talking about the garden. and the garden of eden. and all the sudden, i was not happy about it.

i felt jealous. and protective. and territorial. that was my garden! that was my special place. they needed to stay out of it. and even worse, what if they wanted to call their place the garden now that i had introduced them to this. and just like that, fear, competition, jealousy, pride and inadequacy invaded my garden. i was not happy about it at all. i was standing next to Jesus in my garden, but thinking He was just the gardener. and then He spoke up.

and He reminded me that just because other people liked the garden didn’t take away from my garden with Him. it also didn’t make it any less powerful. and if anything, this was what was so exciting about the garden to me, inviting other people into it. and i did that. that was the whole point!

inviting people into the Father’s original design for intimacy and communion and great love. but what i had originally intended for other people, He used to heal my heart. He met me in the garden, and stayed with me as i figured it all out. His garden is such a place of security, a place were striving is not allowed. a place were mercy flows and streams of living water run throughout. it was always His plan to have us in the Garden.

the process: part 1

“Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”

hosea 2:14

it has been a while. things have been busy. after a lot of crying, wrestling with the Lord, unexplainable grace & unfathomable providence, i have moved to good ol’ wacky Waco, Texas to continue my Masters program at Baylor University. this was a really hard decision for me because i was in love with my job in Houston. i loved working with those ladies. Jesus taught me so much in the six months i was there. so many lessons learned. as much as i wanted to stay there for another six months, invest in the company and the ladies, i felt God calling me somewhere else…to grad school. i didn’t want to go. 1) i could not afford it 2) i wasn’t even sure that i needed a masters after spending time in ministry 3) i felt like i was learning so much more in the real world, real field, real mission 4) i could not afford it. but after a lot of prayer, lots of intercessions from my sweet friends and family, and lots of tears, I decided to accept my acceptance letter and beginning a new journey.

i started classes in July-one semester down! praise the Risen Lamb. but just moved to Waco this week. as i spent the little bit of summer i had before classes got rolling preparing for this new chapter, a few really important things emerged.

backtrack: as i was praying about what to do-school or stay working-there were a few things i really heard the Lord speak over me, 1) hosea 2:14 2) “You have learned alot, let Me help you unpack it, let Me be your teacher now.” so this idea of the wilderness emerged. and this idea of the Lord drawing me out into a new place-pretty much alone-and speaking to me really became clear. so as i was discerning what step to take next, I just really felt like whatever I did, would be a wilderness, whatever that meant.  

back to the story. so as i was preparing for this next season, i felt this theme of the wilderness, of letting the Lord teach me and then some new things came up. the idea of healing. the idea of restoration. the idea of preparation. the idea of transformation. all of these words kept coming up in prayer and conversation with others and books i was reading. and i began to feel the Lord explain more about what this new season would be about. yes, it would be about continuing my education. but this degree is for him. it is not mine. it is not for me. it is for His children that He has desired from the beginning of time would receive healing. so yeah, this season is about education. but even more than that, this season was about me and Him.

there was one day i came up to Waco before classes started to go start getting things squared away. i went to adoration with one of my dear, dear friends who lives here already (yay community-that’s a whole ‘nother story). so as we were sitting in our holy hour, i just told Jesus that i wanted this season/year to be just a time for me & Him. i didn’t want to focus on anything else. i just wanted this to be a sweet season of us.

well flash forward to now. and here we are. in a season of just me and Him. He is faithful. I asked for it. before i got here, He was shaking up my heart, getting ready to do some heavy lifting and dirty work. i could feel Him starting to loosen things that had a hold on me. i could feel Him calling me into a season of healing, transformation, restoration, heart work, and process. i have no idea how all of this will unfold. but i know that at the end of this year, i will be a different person. there is no way i can enter into this season with the Lord whole heartedly and stay the same. His love is so powerful it is transforming. i am so ready to be washed in this love. to learn what it means to work on restoration. to begin the process-as messy and dirty and hands on as it will be. He is not scared by my mess. I was listening to a teaching by Steffany Gretzinger and she was talking about that. that God has called us, knowing full well our mess and crap. He didn’t forget about that one thing, and He isn’t worried about it. it doesn’t scare Him. He doesn’t change His mind. in fact, He called us to dive into that very mess WITH us. not to sit there and say “hey, go work on that over there and come back to me and tell me how it went when you’re done.” nope, not Him. instead He says “thanks for coming, I have been waiting for you, let’s sort through these pains, hurts, debris, rumble, wounds, and fears together, one by one.” so patient. so kind. He has been waiting to sit with us and sort through the mess since before time began.

but it is a process. and not an easy one at that. i am entering into the process. and as i do, i am learning that i don’t really know how to “process.” ironically, because about 89% of my job is to help people “process” through what they are walking through in their life. oh Jesus, so funny that one. so i am starting this new chapter, journey, voyage-whatever. but more importantly, i am beginning a new process with the one who made my heart.

sweet Jesus, continue to walk with me, sit with me, cry with me and sort with me as we embark on this process together. i have no idea how to do any of this, but i am asking your Holy Spirit to teach me. i am asking to know your heart better and receive healing in mine. thank you for all that you are and all that you do. you’re so good. 

beauty from ashes

sometimes the Lord utterly crushes me with His sweetness and revelations. currently. my heart is realing. in so many ways I cannot even begin to understand. I feel like every day He is revealing new things to me and showing me how He has been preparing and loving me through it all. I could literally talk about this for dayzz. I want to talk about this current call. well. some of the back story. of the Lord’s faithfulness and the way He has been preparing my heart and weaving things together that only He could do.

so this summer at camp the Lord put the book of Esther on my heart. okay. I haven’t ever read the entire thing. I mean I know the story. but I haven’t read it. the other day I looked up the meaning of the name Esther, just out of curiosity. it means “star” of course it does. why wouldn’t it. that is a huge part of my relationship with the Lord, the stars. so of course that would be the meaning. in addition, her Hebrew name means “compassion.” hmm. okay, Jesus. point taken. I also just found a song on my computer called Esther about the Lord loving and healing brokenness and seeks out abused and forgotten. And about loving the invisible and making beauty from the ashes. I’ve probably had this song on my computer since 2008. classic. as I continue to learn more and just read little snippets about Esther, a clear theme of leadership and boldness are rising. so that is also very interesting. very. I bought a bible study about Esther, and will begin that today. so. get ready to hear a lot about Esther.

second. last October, the tenth to be exact, I went to a Kari Jobe concert and literally experienced the Lord’s love and the Holy Spirit in a completely new and radical way. I would probably say one of the biggest messages I took away from that night was the Lord’s immense, unconditional, all covering, consuming love. that night I also bought a penny bracelet. I thought it was cool and different. and I liked the message. to raise awareness about human trafficking victims.

third. also this summer at camp, the Lord really tied my heart to Mary Magdalene. just learning about her and her brokenness and sinfulness but complete devotion to Jesus. also, learning about Jesus’ love for her and how special she was to Jesus. I could literally talk about that for days. and I will later. don’t worry. anyway. while at camp one night, one of my sweet friends shared with me a word from the Lord that she was going to share with another one of friends at camp. she said, “the answer is great love; Luke 7:47” when she told me that, my instant reaction was “does the seventh chapter of Luke even have 47 verses? that seems fake, and not right” oh me of little faith….so we went back to the cabin to look up if that verse even existed. well it does.

“So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.*But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” – Luke 7:47

in fact, it s direct quote from Jesus. perfect. well, I thought that was great. the verse is real. let’s tell our friend. cool. it took me a while to realize this was a verse about Mary Magdalene. when she washed Jesus’s feet with perfume and tears and dried them with her hair and kissed them. devotion, I’m telling ya. and as I have been processing so many of the Lord’s revelations, I am learning the insane and immense power in that verse and the intentionality of the Lord to introduce me to it.

the Lord continues to shower me in a great love. since last October, he has been pouring out lavishly on me, a great love. but He has also called me into a great love. challenged me to love Him with everything I have. and, the kicker, called me to love others with a great love. this verse translates into a million stories of my life. billion, probz.

He is connecting for me the night I experienced His radical, great love, and the night I bought a penny bracelet. like only He could do. I am excited for this next journey He is calling me to. He is CONSTANTLY revealing more and more to me about what He is doing and how He is preparing my heart. and, the craziest part to me, how He has been preparing my heart FOR YEARS.

I can see how He is connecting me to some of His strongest women, Mary, His mother, Mary Magdalene, and Esther. what a power team. can’t wait to share more….

the boulder.

wilderness, part 3.

Okay, so mid-hike, one of the guys in my group, and actually from my school, was struggling. I could tell he was having a hard time with the altitude. He was dragging his bag and his step. So I saw him having a hard time and offered to help. i asked if he wanted me to carry his backpack for him. He gratefully said yes.

So I felt helpful. Helping my fellow brother through this struggle and journey he was on. I kept going, carrying both his backpack and mine. All the way up the mountain. The bags definitely started getting heavy. But I kept going. Because I needed to help him. And I needed to get to the top. They were starting to hurt my shoulders, but I figured that would happen. So I kept going. I finally reached the top and was able to sit and reflect.

As I was sitting down, I suddenly remembered seeing that fellow group member put something in his bag earlier that day. I literally ripped open the backpack to find exactly what I had suspected would be in the bag…

a 6 pound boulder!!!!!

He had picked it up earlier on and decided he wanted to keep it! In his backpack! As he hiked!! Except he did not tell me that when I offered and carried his backpack for him. I was so mad. I wanted to throw his bag down the rock. WHO DOES THAT?! You were obviously struggling to carry the backpack and hike, so throw out the boulder!

But then I realized. This is real life. There are so many times we offer to help people, or we do not offer to help people, and we have no idea of the weight they’re carrying. Whether it looks to be pretty light, like a backpack, it could really be hiding a 6 pound boulder in it. The more I thought about this, the more I felt challenged to really tune in to people around me. It is so easy to just put blinders on and only focus on my own hike. To keep my eye on the prize, graduation, grad school, a real job. But there are so many people around me who are carrying small backpacks with big boulders in them, and they need a friend. Even if it’s not to carry the backpack, but just to walk along side them. I feel really challenged to pay more attention to people struggling with their backpacks. And even their boulders.

closer.

wilderness, part 1.

I went on a Wilderness Retreat. I don’t even know why I thought it would be a good idea for me to go, I hate the wilderness, but I went. Joyfully and excitedly, I went to the wilderness. I would like to point out that the last “wilderness retreat” I went on was beyond miserable and I cried the whole time. So again I say, I really don’t know why I went on this retreat.

But I did.

The retreat was hosted at Enchanted Rock, aka, a huge cluster of massive land forms that crazy people climb. The entire week and bus ride leading up to this retreat, I knew it was at Enchanted Rock. I knew what people did at Enchanted Rock.

Hiked.

Somehow, I never really put two and two together…

When we got there, there were some other unexpected surprises that I learned about. But I’ll share those later. Cutting to the chase, or the climb, I should say.

We start out, embarking on this climb up a HUGE hill, I’d venture to call it a mini-mountain, and I am leading the group (I will definitely explain that later). As we start out, it’s pretty easy. It really is. The weather here has been pretty cold and rainy, and today was a gorgeous day. So it was so nice to be outside in the sun, jumping, climbing and running around. Plus, the beginning of the trail was pretty easy. Nothing outrageous. –feeling confident– So we keep going. Some of the boys run ahead, and I let them, I mean, we’re all headed to the same top. I stuck behind and started talking with some of the group who was taking their time. We were enjoying our walk. It was such a beautiful day. As we kept walking, the group kept getting separated, just because everyone was going at different paces. Not to mention, the trail was starting to get steep. But we kept on.

I got to a point where I was kinda by myself, in the middle of the “go-getter” group that had basically reached the top and the “give-me-a-second” group that was catching their breath at one of the mini plateaus. The altitude was really starting to get to me. I felt like I had baby lungs. It was so hard to get a good, deep breath. As I kept walking, I asked God to show me what this meant to Him. I asked Him what He wanted me to see, hear and learn from this. All while slightly gasping for air. I kept asking and kept asking with every step. Mainly to take my mind off the burning pain I was starting to feel in my legs and tight feeling in my chest. Even though everything was hurting, and I would take a break to stop and take a sip of water and catch my breath, I was still so drawn to the top of the mountain. I didn’t want to quit. I didn’t want to call it a day. The top looked so beautiful, and I just wanted to be up there. Even if it was physically, really painful to get there.

It was getting harder and harder to breath, and walk. But I kept asking.

What does this say about Your Heart? What does this say about who You are? What does this say about who I am? What do you want me to learn from this?

“closer”

That was all He said. But I knew what He was saying.

He said closer, and He meant to His heart. He meant to keep coming. To keep coming closer. To not be afraid. To get to know Him more. Even though it hurt, He was going to pull me closer. He was going to draw me in. Just like I was drawn to the top of the mountain, He was going to draw me to His heart. He was showing me how beautiful His heart was. He was showing me the beauty of everything around me on that hike, and it was just a bunch of rock and cactus! He was asking me to imagine how beautiful His heart is, His desires are, His love is.

And as if it wasn’t enough to just show me, He was telling me to come closer. To know it deeper. To know it better.

All Creation knows HIs name, and He knows my name. And He wants me to know His heart. Even closer.

closer

because I said so.

This is literally one of the most annoying reasons my parents have ever given my in the history of my 20 years. I HATE when they say that. It is beyond frustrating. As in, still to this day, I get super irritated when I am met with “because I said so.”

In high school, it was the dreaded phrase. Other reasons and responses I could argue, but “because I said so” put an end to any further discussion on the matter at hand. And that was the point. It was used to shut me up (even though my mother would never admit to that.)

But leave it to God to take something epically annoying and turn it into something sweet and loving.

In a recent worship session/conversation with Him, I found myself reeling and confused by the amount of unconditional love and grace He was pouring out on me. I couldn’t wrap my head or heart around it. “Why God?” “How God?” “I don’t understand God” and then…

“Because I said so”

And that was that. That was the end of the questioning. That was the end of the doubting (for the time being, let’s be real, that is an every day journey). Just as my earthly parents had used that phrase to stop my interrogation, so had my Heavenly Father used it to put an end to my questioning. There is no argument with “because I said so.” That’s just it. And that’s why He used it. However, it has a little different meaning than when my mom or dad used it.

First of all, it was from a place of pure tenderness, gentleness, love and vulnerability. Not that my earthly parents don’t posses those things, but they are human.

Second, when He says something, the wind and waves obey (Matthew 8: 37). He spoke light into existence (Genesis 1:3). So when He says that, He means it. And that is so humbling.

In summary, when God says He loves you, He loves you. Even when you can’t understand why. He loves you. And He died for you. Because you’re worth it. And you’re worth it Because He says so.

You Go Before Me

**originally written at 6:54pm in Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant**

Well. Happy New Year. 19 days later….Sorry. I’ve been kinda busy. I say kinda because I haven’t been that busy. But there have been spurts of business (busy-ness; not business as in a corporation). But it’s been good.

So we’re starting a new year. I’m not big on resolutions. But I do predictions. So hopefully I’ll share those larter. There are so many things I want to share about my thoughts on this year.

1. This is a year of restoration.

2. This is a HUGE year for me.

3. This is the year I graduate.

4. This is the year I turn 21!

I’m excited to unpack these and share and grow as they happen.

All that being said, there is one major truth and idea I am starting the year with and holding onto:

“you go before me”

I’ve heard this said before. Many many many many times. In church. In songs. In scripture. But it hasn’t meant anything to me yet. Until now.

Like I shared, this is the year I graduate. From college. 2015. Can we take a moment to F R E A K  O U T ! ! ! ! I cannot believe this is real life. Seriously, Insane. But as graduation approaches, so does real life. And that is scary. I am looking at graduate programs and I am blown away. For a couple of reasons:

1. Social Work is awesome.

2. God is even more awesome.

3. I am absolutely doing what I am supposed to be doing.

4.  Grad school is expen$$ive

But amidst all this, I am excited for the new journey and next step. But Classic Claire, I am super worried. a) How will I pick one? b) How will I get in? c) How will I pay for one? d) Where will I live? e) What if I pick the wrong one? AHHH!

One of my top favorite programs is also suppperrr expensive. My parents told me that if I wanted to go there, I would have to get a huge scholarship. 70%. That’s crazy for me to think about. But as soon as my parents said that, I literally said: “Okay, God. You heard that. Challenge accepted. That’s your obstacle to overcome.” -Ballsy, right? And in that moment “You go before me” had never been so relevant.

He goes before me.

He makes the path. He is gonna pave my way to Grad school. I mean, obviously, I will work hard. But He is going to put that in me. The ability to work hard.He is going to get me there. He is the God of the impossible. And when I think of that. It makes me want to apply to the schools that seem impossible. Why not? Why stand in the way of God’s greatness? He goes before me. He prepares the way. He prepares me. He prepares my heart.

I have had so many tangible experiences lately where I step back and say, “Wow, God. You have literally been training me for this.” He is preparing me….

And that blows my mind! That God is timeless. That God is my future. That God is my present. That He is with me. That He will never leave me. (Deuteronomy 31:8) That God is preparing an amazing Grad school experience for me. That God is preparing and amazing husband for me. That is preparing and amazing future for me (Jeremiah 29:11). And even further, that God is preparing a place in Heaven for me (John 14:2-3). Because He thinks I am worth it. Because He loves me. So much so that he would go before me.That He will fight my battles. That He would prepare me.

All the struggles I have yet to face, God has already walked thru them.

Can we just talk about how infinite that is?

Sometimes I don’t know how to process what He tells me.

That is so personal. When He says “I’ve been there,” it’s because He literally has. Because He walked through it before me. He goes before me. As I enter this season of changes and new adventures, I am trusting that God goes before me.

God, thank you for blowing my mind. You’re magnificent.

raw.

well it’s decemeber 1st. As I write this at least. So I broke out the Christmas CD. One of my all time favorite Christmas songs was on the CD.

Breath of Heaven.

I have obviously memorized the song, it is one of my favorites. But it only gets played at Christmas time, so I forget about it. But as I sang the words I knew by heart today, a whole new wave of emotion came flowing with it.

I have been on a journey with Mary lately. Trying to grow closer to her heart, that I might learn more about being a strong and graceful woman, But as I sang the words to this song today, I was shaken. The words to this song are so raw. So authentic. Her prayer is amazing.

Pour over me Your holiness, for You are holy. 

Like woah. Woah. Woah. I have never prayed that before, That is such a cry for help, but still from a heart of worship.

And she asks

Do you wonder, as you watch my face, if a wiser one, should have had my place?

Can we talk about how real that is? How many times I ask myself or God if “this” or “that” is really what I should be doing? If He is sure that he wants me to do that? If I am worthy enough to do that? And then she says,

But I offer all I am, for the mercy of your plan. Help me be strong. 

Such abandon to His will. Like it blows my mind. I am so amazed at the faith this young girl possessed. She also talks about being alone, and how scary this journey is. But she asks for the Breath of Heaven to hold her together. For His holiness. Like WHAT?!? I don’t know that I would be asking for that. I feel like I would be freaking out. Actually, I know I would be freaking out. And it sounds like she was a little bit, too. But her faith. Her faith. God used that faith. He gave her the strength to hold onto that faith. Even as he watched her face. She is so beautiful. I wonder if she knew some girl would be writing about her thousands of years later, and how stunning she is.

That is the kind of faith I want. Even in her fear, she was praising God for His holiness and asking for His strength. During this Advent season, I want to strengthen my faith like Mary did. In her silent prayer.

Mary, precious mother of our Savior, pray for me that I know the strength you had as you carried the Prince of Peace. Pray for me that I have the boldness you had as you said yes and abandoned yourself to God’s plan. Pray for me that I have the awareness to go to God and ask for His strength and for His companionship, just like you did. Pray for me that my heart is prepared, more and more each day, for the plan God has for my life. 

in-ten-tion-al-i-ty:

done with intention or on purpose; intended

designed

planned

deliberate

this word has become my prayer. I want everything I do to come from intentionality. I want to be able to say everything I did had an intention behind it. It was planned. It was deliberate. It was designed to bring glory to God. There was purpose behind it.

It is so easy to go along with whatever everyone else is saying, doing, being, seeing, [fillintheblank]-ing. There is so little intention behind falling in step with everyone else. Really, the only intention we can point to is wanting to fit in, be liked, accepted, even succeed.

It takes courage, boldness, and bravery to step up and step out in intentionality.

But God has promised so much good to those who take that step.

“For I know well the plansI have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. When you call me, when you go to pray to me. I will listen to you. When you look for me, you will find me.”                                        Jeremiah 29:11-13

Plans, He has plans for you! If that’s not intentional, I don’t know what is. More than that, those plans are for a future of hope! And then, He promises to be there when we need Him. When we are having trouble stepping out and being intentional, He said He will listen. He will be there. We will find Him. He is intentionally making Himself available for us.

I pray that all my actions are intentional. I pray that the God of courage, boldness and bravery speaks to my heart and works through my hands. I pray that when I struggle with this, I run to the God of intentionality.