Re:named by Repentance

About a year and a half ago, I sat on a pillow on the floor eating Middle Eastern food with a precious woman from my church (who is now a DEAR friend), Mollie, and another dear friend who co-led the Women’s Ministry at our church with me. Mollie told Sarah and me that the Lord had put it on her heart to take us out to eat. As we talked, we went deep quickly. It was Christmas time and the question was asked, “What are you dreaming about for next year?” As a dreamer, I already had my answer! I had been praying about going on a mission trip for the very first time. As we continued to eat, talk and dream about what God would do with us in the coming year, Mollie asked if I had heard of Jennie Allen’s book, Anything. I hadn’t, but went home and ordered it the very next day! I read the “My Anything” section about Jennie and Zac praying “anything” and then closed it. I had fully intended to read the whole thing that week, but God had different plans.
Those first few pages stuck with me, and I began to quietly pray the same prayer. I didn’t even tell my husband at first because it didn’t seem that significant. But, over time things were shifting in my heart and really beginning to change. Here I was, a mom with 3 young kids and co-leading the Women’s Ministry at our church and I felt like I was living my “anything” already. I NEVER saw myself in vocational ministry. I had been a teacher and planned to stay home with my kids full time once I became a mom. But, when I was 5 months pregnant with our second child, my husband felt the Lord calling him out of his 9-5 bank job to go to law school. It was terrifying to think about 2 kids under 2 and no job, but we followed God’s call. After his first year of law school, the pastor of our church called and asked if I would consider coming on staff at our church. I could entertain the idea only because Jeremy had a flexible schedule and could be home with the kids while I worked when he wasn’t in class. The Lord had given me a growing desire to love and serve women, but I thought it would happen when I was 50 not 27. I had sensed the Lord calling me to this role for a few months before the call actually came. God’s calling into ministry was very surprising but it was crystal clear for me at the time. My gifts and his calling were lining up. I love stories and hearing the hearts of women, I love to plan and dream and make beautiful spaces for gals to come and feel loved. I couldn’t believe I would have a front row seat to hear and see God move in these women’s lives. I had NO CLUE what I was in for. It was the richest, most growing time and one of the most painful and heart-revealing times of my life. Before this, I valued God’s word, but I hadn’t treasured it with all that I was, and God was beginning to change that.
After the initial honeymoon phase was over in this role, I was ready to be done. It was hard. Messy. And felt very costly to my family. I wrestled with God and talked to my people about the fact that I NEVER wanted to be a working mom. Everything and everyone kept saying “Stay in the ministry. You can’t quit because it is hard.” I literally feel like as I wrestled with the Lord and told him this wasn’t in my plan that he graciously said, “ I call the shots, not you.” So I stayed. Two years into the role, I finally surrendered. I am a slow learner. And I fell in love in a new way. With Him. With His Word. With His Women. With story after awe-inspiring story the women would share about God’s grace and love toward them. Though almost every day I felt unqualified for the task, I had found the passion of my heart and planned to die in that role unless someone dragged me out kicking and screaming.
But, as I began to pray the “anything” prayer the Lord began to show me areas of my heart and story that he wanted to deal with. I was terrified. I was a classic “good girl” and was blinded to my own desperate, daily need of grace. He so clearly and graciously impressed on my heart that “Anything and everything begins with knowing your need.” Sadly, I didn’t know how needy my heart was, how broken and hurting it was. I felt privileged to sit with other women in their pain, but was too afraid to face my own. I realized that my biggest fear was being exposed and so it made me very resistant to repentance. As it turns out, it is really hard to live this sin-infested life freely, if you are afraid to repent. I was good at working harder and loving more to cover my need for the True Gospel. After over a year of counseling, the Lord has showed me how I have felt “Accused” my whole life. It was the name I had lived under for so very long. I finally made the connection that repentance was scary for me because I felt like, in naming my sin, I was naming myself. “Failure, worthless, ungrateful, hopeless, dumb….” All these names kept me in bondage and in fear of going before the throne of God to receive the refreshment that comes through repentance (Acts 3:19). I was afraid if I confessed who I was that God would leave me, as if He didn’t know my sin more fully than I do. The Lord has had me on an intense journey of identifying the names I had been living under, to be set free from them by his blood. He has so graciously met me, not with condemnation, but with love and grace and forgiveness and an intimacy that I couldn’t have imagined. The unmasking and the breaking of my heart has been painful, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The Lord did grant me the desire of my heart and sent me to the Dominican Republic last year to serve and support missionary families and their children. It was on that trip that the Lord gave me a tangible picture of the work he was doing in me. As I walked along the beach, I found pieces of sea glass along the shore. At first I didn’t know what these beautiful treasures were. I did some research and found out that these smooth pebbles of brilliant colored glass were created from broken, rejected, sharp pieces of glass bottles made beautiful and smooth over decades as they were tossed about in the sand and waves. Jesus wanted to do that for me. He was showing me that in him nothing is too broken to be made beautiful. He was showing me that the storms and the grit and the current were all part of the reshaping process. He wanted to reshape my heart. When I got home and looked at my pieces of sea glass I had over 50 pieces in the shape of hearts. I was blown away by my God. Jesus showed me through that that not only would he not leave me in this refining process, but that he in his great love would direct this process. He will do the work and his love, like the ocean, would cover all the broken pieces.
My anything started with a painfully beautiful season of counseling and repentance. It has been a season of being on my face before God crying out to him in my need and desperation for his rescuing, transforming grace. I pray I stay in this season for the rest of my life. I needed to be saved from my self-righteousness, my pride, my unbelief, my works-righteousness and need to daily be saved from it as my heart keeps wandering back there. I needed to bring the lies I was believing about myself to the light before him, so he could replace them with Truth. During this time, I was reading Ann Voskamp’s blog about repenting every morning at 7:03 AM by reading and praying through 1 Samuel 7:3, and I began to join that army of prayer warriors, asking the Lord to turn my heart back to him and reshape my heart. I had never heard about IF: Gathering, but after several weeks and praying more I realized Ann’s prayer was birthed out of IF. I had no clue at the time that Jennie Allen had anything to do with it. God is so cool!
At the same time, things were messy in my church role. I was feeling discouraged on every front. Lies were coming for me in my mind and messing with me. I felt like I was hurting the kingdom of God more than helping it. I was crying all the time, believing the lies of the Evil One saying I couldn’t be used by God. I came home from church one night totally discouraged, and my husband, Jeremy, who had been sitting in the dark trenches of counseling and hard wrestling for a year with me, said, “I was listening to the Relevant Magazine Podcast tonight and a girl named Jennie Allen is on there. You have to hear it!” He had no clue she was the one that started me on the journey of praying “anything.” Jennie was talking about IF and how sometimes she feels like she is hurting the kingdom more than helping it through hard conversations and relationships, and she spoke straight to my heart. God was using me and could continue to use me, even if I felt like I was “messing it up,” I just needed to be obedient to what he was asking me to do. He would make a way and accomplish his purposes through me in spite of me.
God kept putting IF in my path, and it led me to download the IF: Gathering re: live videos from 2014 and 2015. After watching 2015 in late March, Jeremy and I sat on the bathroom floor and cried and dreamt about what the Lord could do with us. We knew this wasn’t a cute dream, but that we were wagging war against darkness. We knew it would cost something, probably everything, but we were beginning to believe God was worth EVERYTHING. In faith after much prayer, I decided to pursue further equipping and applied to begin a Masters of Arts in Educational Ministries degree at Covenant Seminary. This seemed crazy to me to go back to school with 3 kids, after just surviving law school with my husband a few years prior, but I felt God’s leading and so I stepped out, terrified.
Fast forward a few months and obedience for us has meant that I resigned from the church role that I LOVED and would have NEVER dreamt of giving up, except that God has asked me to. Giving him everything meant handing over the ministry that I had come to love so dearly. In the amazing way God weaves stories, on the same day I resigned from the church, my acceptance letter to seminary was in the mailbox that evening…I was in awe. I am starting Covenant Theological Seminary this fall to follow God’s leading in getting equipped to serve and teach women. On the SAME day I resigned, the Lord also made a way for me to buy my ticket to attend the IF: Local training in Orlando in September. He leads us out of places we love sometimes, to lead us into something new. And he gives us the courage to do it, because I am not brave on my own. I have realized that surrender and choosing freedom over bondage isn’t a box to check once, it is a daily dying to self: my ways, my plans and leaning into him and trusting his ways are better. Though I have no idea what I am being trained for, I am praying for faith without sight to keep taking the next step. I have a LONG way to go on this journey of trust and surrender, but I am clinging to Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.” It’s his work not mine, and I can rest in that.
About a month or two ago, I picked up Jennie’s Anything book again and began to read it, and I devoured every word. As I read Jennie’s book, I felt like I was reading so much of my own story. I am in AWE of how God weaves stories. The timing of reading the book was God-ordained! I am in AWE that I came to If: Gathering through repentance. Repentance, the thing I feared the most, is bringing more life than I could have ever imagined. As we sat around my dining room table a few nights ago for IF: Table, I was in awe of the fruit of repentance as woman after woman shared her heart through tears. It is through repentance that the Lord is showing me that He is with me and will never leave me no matter what. NO matter where my “anythings” take me, he will go with me in it because he delights in me. It truly is the Lord’s kindness that leads us to repentance. I am no longer “Accused.” He has cloaked me in a glowing white robe of righteousness and given me a new name. His name. “Beloved.” Now I go in the power of His Name to live out my “anythings” for his Glory and my good.