Blooming

HYDRANGEAS

I posted this as a note on Facebook a few weeks ago, and just really felt like someone might need to hear this. If that’s you, be encouraged. God is so pleased with you.

These hydrangeas live at a nearby vacant house. Each summer, I walk over and clasp my hands in pleasure over their vibrant cornflower color and massive size.

These flowers, they bloom and stand tall and beautiful even when they aren’t tended to, and so do many others all around our wild and natural neighborhood. The small ones, the large ones, the unnoticed ones, the ones no one is pruning or cultivating or replanting — they continue to live.

And not just live — they thrive.

In those hidden places and the unknown places there’s no one to notice. No one to watch them grow and see their progress. No one to watch the first unfolding toward the sun.

Does that matter? Should they stop blooming?

I wonder if they bloom just for God, for His pleasure. I wonder if they notice whether or not they are seen and appreciated by human eyes…and if they do, do they care?

After all, they are just doing what they are called to do.

Bloom and bring beauty to the world they live in, even if it goes unnoticed.

Friend, you are a blooming flower.

Standing tall and boasting vibrant color and intricate beauty. Does anyone notice you? Are your biggest and brightest moments missed by human eyes?

It doesn’t matter.

Bloom for God, for His pleasure. Not caring if anyone notices, because you are just doing what you are called to do.

Bloom, my friend. Bloom and bring beauty into the world you live in.

“Kindness, peace, love—may they never stop blooming in you and from you.” (Jude 2)

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week 3: crawling, part 1 (metamorphosis: embracing a life of becoming)

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(If you’re new here, welcome! This is week three of the Metamorphosis series. To catch up on the previous weeks, please click here.)

A mother butterfly is incredibly intentional about where she lays her eggs, because once the egg hatches, the caterpillar emerges and immediately starts on the very important work of eating the very leaf they were born onto.

Right there — where they were birthed, is the exact food the mom intended for it to eat. Not the leaf on the plant next to it, not the one down the street. That one. Right where they are.

Caterpillars grow very quickly — however, their skin does not stretch or grow. So in order to grow to full size, it molts and sheds its skin several times. For a Christian, the molting and shedding of old skin is a process that happens over and over again, regardless of age, maturity or season of life.

When we continue to feast on the Word, we grow and learn and understand. And it becomes necessary to shed the old wineskin and embrace a new one. And it all happens in the process of crawling.

The Crawling Phase

The crawling phase is all about growth. By design, it would seem that God’s intent in the crawling/caterpillar phase is to feast and grow, feast and grow. Yes, molting and shedding is required. Yes, the wineskin is supposed to be regenerated.

But to me, the focus of this phase seems to be on the growing, not the pain of the shedding.

The focus is on eating and growing right where you are.

But crawling is a place we get stuck in, isn’t it? Belly to the ground, we tend to take an entirely different perspective as we crawl, don’t we? Instead of eating and growing right where God has planted us, we look around and want to eat what everyone else is eating. Instead of focusing on the fact that we’re actually growing and maturing, we focus on the pain of the shedding of our old skins.

Such a limited point of view we have for such a powerful and omniscient process.

I don’t know why God chooses to work the way He does. I’ve oftentimes reminded Him how much easier things would be if He would just snap His holy fingers and make it all happen the way I interpret it should.

But He is so methodical, so deliberate in His strategies, that it’s only in hindsight we gain understanding about why things happen the way they do.

And those times we don’t gain understanding, we gain peace and an “okay not knowing-ness” that is supernatural.

Or at least we should.

I often think about David from the Bible. A prophetic word is birthed in him that he will be king! And he almost immediately begins his crawling season. For years he runs from King Saul and his enemies, remaining in hiding, questioning his calling and wondering where God is. Crawling and crawling and crawling through deserts and caves and strange towns.

“I’ve done nothing wrong, yet they rush ahead to start the assault. I beg You to help me; come and see for Yourself!” (Psalm 59:4, The Voice)

and

Save me from those who are chasing me. Rescue me, or else they will tear me to pieces as a lion devours his prey; they will carry me off with no one to snatch me from their jaws.” (Psalm 7:1-2, The Voice)

But David — amazing David — while he technically is a caterpillar for years, doesn’t allow himself to remain in a mindset of crawling, ever. When you read each of his psalms, his questioning and wondering always — always — turn back to understanding and peace.

“But me? I will sing of Your strength. I will awake with the sun to sing of Your loving mercy because in my most troubled hour, you defended me. You were my shelter. (Psalm 59:16, The Voice)

and

“God is my defender; He rescues those who have a pure heart.” (Psalm 7:10, The Voice)

There is no better example to me of one who allows God to molt and shed his skin so that he might grow. God could have snapped His holy fingers to make David king instantly — but God was more concerned with David’s character than He was his kingship.

Just like God is more concerned with our character than our calling. (tweet)

And David remembers his anointing, remembers His God, eats on the leaf he’s been given, and continues to crawl and feast and grow.

The time span of our crawling phase is not near as important as our mindset during it. (tweet)

Because that’s where our growth happens. That’s where we learn to “use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5, The Message)

Because here’s the hard truth — God cannot bring to fulfillment His definition of the word birthed in us unless we have eaten and crawled and molted and grown. That includes letting go of our interpretation of how things will work out in order to embrace His powerful and omniscient process.

Is it easy? No. Is there a formula? No. Just look at everyone in the Bible — from Sarai to the Israelites to David to the disciples — the crawling phase was a different length of time for each one of them. And there was no “magical moment” to replicate that will cause our crawling to come to an end.

And while that sounds hopeless, it’s actually incredibly empowering.

Because while crawling is a spiritual phase we must go through to grow, it is not a mindset we have to stay anchored to. (tweet)

We get to choose how we think and what we think on. We get to remember our God and eat His word, feasting as much as we want to. We get to pray at any moment, any day, and know He is close and will not forsake us. We have so many more tools at our disposal in which to survive crawling than Sarai, or the Israelites, or David or the disciples did.

To use a tired cliche, we truly have it all.

My friend, you are not nearly as stuck as you think you are. Choose to look up, think big and elevate your mindset. Crawling keeps your belly to the ground, but praising keeps your soul to the sky.

Are you in a season of crawling right now? I’d like to pray for you.

My sweet Lord, I lift up my sister to you now. The one who feels worthless and alone, the one who feels like nothing will ever change in her circumstance. I pray you will fill her mouth with songs of praise and remembrances of Who You Are, not just What You Do. Bring to her mind every instance where you brought her through the crawling and into flying. Show her where to eat, what to eat and how to praise. And Lord, just for me, so she knows it’s truly you — please send her butterflies as a reminder. In your precious name.

Amen.

Love,

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week 2: birthing-part 2 (metamorphosis: embracing a life of becoming)

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On the counsel of some trustworthy friends (preceded by the leading of God), I’m extending this series. I have to be honest — I felt like last week’s birthing post was pretty academic (for lack of a better word), and as I wrote it, I struggled a lot. I felt it lacked personal connection and any kind of transparency, which is sort of a huge thing for me.

I’ve decided to add on to each week, and use personal testimonies of how I’ve experienced each of these stages of transformation. Because if you’re like me,  you glean so much more by hearing someone’s story…and you like to be talked with, not talked at. So the first week of a new stage will be sort of the “thinking” post, and the second will be the “feeling” post. 

I hope you’ll bear with me as I try to funnel down this message of becoming into something you can take and carry into your back pocket. I’ll probably fail miserably — but the wonderful blessing about writing in this space is that y’all love me anyway. (grin)

Thank you for coming alongside this journey and throwing grace my way. And if this is your first visit, be sure to check out the introduction to this series.

It was one of those “lightening bolt” mission trips. The kind where every moment you feel God zapping you and showing you something new, something different, something profound. Where you literally feel yourself changing right then, right there…never to be the same again.

Have you ever had that kind of experience?

It was a spiritual mountaintop for me. The highest of highs where I felt like I had seen heaven — there, on the other side of the world — surrounded by young people representing over 60 nations. Where everyone sang in their own tongue, and the blending of all those voices and languages and dialects was pure symphonic beauty. It made me weep. Every day for nine days, I wept.

Have you ever had that kind of experience?

The return to the States felt like an eternal Sunday night — that feeling of knowing Monday is looming right around the corner and you’d give anything…anything…not to have to face it. I didn’t want to go back to normal. I didn’t want to face the job I had no passion for, a lifestyle that felt excessive, a void of the heaven as I experienced there. Something was birthed in me there. It was huge and filled every empty place and I didn’t want it to fade away.

My first week of reentry was hard. One day as I drove to work I loudly played a Romanian rock CD and remembered what I felt seeing the band play live just a week before. The moment I passed through a toll booth on the interstate, I was immediately overcome by a scripture that God pressed on my heart…hard.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)

The tears sprung forth and my heart wanted to burst right out of my chest and I couldn’t bear the ache I felt. The Word, watering the change that was birthed on the trip, was glued to my soul. I pictured what that meant and I wondered how I’d make it all happen. I mentally listed all I’d sell and how I’d tell my parents I was moving across the globe.

A few weeks later in church, as I closed my eyes in worship and sought God desperately, I was again immediately overcome with a scripture that sounded like it was being whispered into my ear — like a secret from a best friend that she just wants you to hear.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! …new thing! …new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

The tears sprung forth again and my heart wanted to burst out of my chest again…but this time it wasn’t an ache I felt but a joy. A deep, simmering, reverential joy and I suddenly couldn’t wait to see what God would do next. My time had come. He was moving and I was so excited to be along for the ride. I pictured what that meant and I wondered how I’d make it all happen. In my mind I saw how I’d quit my job and what it would feel like to walk off an airplane in a country that required a visa for me to stay there.

Have you ever had that kind of experience?

There’s a flip side to that verse in Isaiah that I didn’t know then — there’s a shift that is required to make a new thing possible. I didn’t know that for God to create something new in me, it meant that something old had to die. (tweet) I didn’t know there were things that had to be pruned and killed and that it’s an excruciating and painful process. I didn’t know I’d immediately go into a time of crawling…into a wilderness of my own where Satan tempted and used scripture and where he would have been very pleased to give me his kingdom. For a very steep price.

I just didn’t know.

So when the crawling time came, I was angry and heartbroken and mesmerized and lured all at the same time. In moments of despair it was so easy to shake my tiny, human fists at God as I fell headfirst into the pit. I thought you were creating something new! I thought you were pleased to give me the kingdom! Where are you?! FIGHT! FOR! ME!

I didn’t know that I had to crawl. God needed to kill my interpretation of His word so I’d willingly accept His definition of it.  (tweet)

He births what He births. It’s not up for interpretation or debate or compromise. And what He births requires of us — it requires holiness and righteousness and an obedience to lay down the very word He gave. To lay down our Isaac. And it requires a willingness to hold up a mirror to our sinful selves and allow Him to purify us — so that our desires become His desires and He can be pleased to give us His kingdom.

And when we allow ourselves to obey and lay down and be purified, we begin our crawl.

What experiences can you look back on and identify as birthing times? Are you able to see God’s divine plan in it now? Have you forgiven God, if necessary, for His word looking different than you initially thought it would?

My friend, He is for you. His heart yearns to be one with yours. Spend a few minutes this week jotting down some of those birthing times and tell Him your feelings about them. Ask Him to show you why things turned out differently than you thought they would. I’m willing to bet He’s more than ready to share. 

Love,

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week 1: birthing (metamorphosis: embracing a life of becoming)

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(I am so excited to begin this journey toward discovering a life of becoming with you. Be sure to check out last week’s introduction to this new series if you missed it!)

Metamorphosis: change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means; a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances.

Butterflies undergo what is considered a “complete metamorphosis”. To grow into an adult — a mature, flying, free adult — it goes through the four stages: egg (birthing), larva (crawling), pupa (cocooning) and adult (flying).

Complete transformation comes when we pass through all four stages of metamorphosis.

My friend, your complete metamorphosis can be transformation of your whole lifetime. Or it can be transformation from one circumstance to the next. Or it can be growth through a situation that brings you to mature adulthood.

It can be a lifetime or a season. Or many seasons.

Birth → crawl → cocoon → fly.

Birth → crawl → cocoon → fly.

Rinse and repeat.

Over and over.

Instead of that being frustrating to you, it should be so very liberating. It should give you permission to take a deep breath in and then exhale and then settle into a holy anointing of chill out.

Because here’s what is incredibly fascinating — the ancient Greek word for butterfly is psuche (soo-kay) which means “soul” or “mind.” The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon defines psuche as “the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions (our heart, soul, etc.).” (That’s no coincidence, considering our souls and minds go through amazing transformation when we become believers in Christ.)

So if the Ancient Greek word for butterfly means soul, and the definition of soul means the basis of our feelings and desires, then by design we are supposed to transform like a butterfly.

And by design our desires, feelings, affections and aversions are supposed to morph into beautiful things that are meant to fly, too.

It’s a holy and purposeful plan. A life of becoming is divine and intentional. And if we look back, we can see these four stages of transformation are actually pretty biblical:

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Throughout the Bible, again and again, we see how God brought his children through complete metamorphosis. For some it was a lifetime, for others a season.

But flying always starts with a vision — a dream. A word given by God. That is when the process is birthed.

The Birthing Phase

A butterfly’s life begins as a very small egg, and in many species, you can see the specific caterpillar shape inside the egg from the moment it’s birthed. The eggs are typically laid on a dark and quiet leaf, and require intentional searching to find them.

Does that sound familiar?

“You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you.” (Psalm 139:14, The Message)

Our lives are an awful lot like a butterfly egg, aren’t they?

We keep ourselves and our dreams quiet and hidden and shaded and sheltered. He gives us this egg…this tiny egg that contains what we think is a caterpillar. And we love that egg and cradle it and name it and envision life after the caterpillar is born.

And all the while it was never meant to be just a caterpillar.

That thing I kept quiet and hidden and shaded and sheltered? It’s not the thing I thought it was. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what I thought it was.

I thought it crawled, and yet it flies.

I thought it had legs, and yet it has wings.

I thought it only knew the earth, and yet it knows the boundary-less skies.

Or we believe it actually is a butterfly, but find ourselves assuming it’s a Monarch when God has planned for a Blue Morpho. And instead of celebrating the uniqueness, we focus on what it’s not, instead of focusing on what it is.

Because just like that butterfly egg, from the moment of our birth, God knew the colors of our wings and our pattern of flight. He knew exactly what day we’d emerge from the egg and begin crawling on the ground.

He knew when we’d cocoon and how long it would last. He knew when it would be time for us to break free and saw how we’d cautiously unfold of our wings.

He knew how we’d flap them around a bit to get the feel of them…how we’d take a few nervous steps and then suck in a deep breath and take off.

God doesn’t birth anything that doesn’t intend to bring to life. (tweet)

Do you need to hear that again?

He doesn’t birth ANYTHING that He doesn’t intend to bring to life.

But we get stuck — you and me, we get stuck — right there at the birthing stage. Because we see ourselves or we see our dream and we think we know exactly what it is. And we make a plan and try to hatch that egg way too early in our way and our time.

And that kills it.

Do you have an exciting new vision, dream, idea, goal, plan? Are you filled with a sense of anticipation and hope?

Then you just might be in the birthing stage of a transformation in your life. And it’s beautiful and wonderful and exciting and holy.

However, my friend, be careful not to get stuck there.

Don’t spend so much time focusing on the dream or vision that you lose sight of Jesus. Don’t spend more time thinking about IT than you do HIM. Be cautious to embrace the hope and believe God, while continuing about the things He has given to you to do right here, right now, today. Don’t try to figure out what it’s going to look like, or how it will all work out, or draw up the blueprints for the rest of the stages of transformation.

Because look at what happens when we get stuck on the egg:

  1. We birth Ishmaels
  2. We give our pearls to swine and end up enslaved
  3. We end up in wrong relationships
  4. We pursue unhealthy endeavors
  5. We make an idol of the egg

Instead, praise Him for the egg and remember it’s hidden on a dark and quiet leaf and never stop praying about it. But then keep on. Move forward. Be Mary and ponder it in your heart. Focus on today and trust that God will let you know when it’s time for the egg to hatch and for the caterpillar to start eating. And know the life He gives that dream will look extremely different than you ever thought possible.

Trusting God is the most vital part of the process of becoming.

“I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” God’s Decree. “For as the sky soars high above earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think.” (Isaiah 55:9, The Message)

What have your birthing experiences been like in the past? Are you currently in a birthing phase right now? I’d love to hear what God is showing you as you journey toward complete metamorphosis.

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metamorphosis: embracing a life of becoming (introduction)

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It feels like it has taken me a lifetime to get here.

These words and this message and this timing — I’ve hidden from it for a long time. Somehow, I have believed that keeping this secret  will protect it…when in reality, it’s just kept me from doing the actual work of writing it.

Because believe me, I have found literally every excuse possible to avoid actually just finishing the thing.

For this message, this theme, has been my book dream for years now. I’ve dreamt it and walked it and talked it, but haven’t sat down to write it, to share it, to f-i-n-i-s-h it.

And my friends, God has said it’s time. And He told me last summer to not lose focus of the message by focusing on the method. So here is where I begin to transform this long-awaited dream from hidden thoughts to vulnerable words and wear them on my sleeve. Because y’all, the words are dying to burst forth.

And because God has sent confirmation after confirmation. And He’s literally sent butterflies…tons of them. Flying in front of my car windshield over and over and straight up in my face.

So for the next few weeks, I’m going to write about metamorphosis, and how our lives here on earth are a continual process of becoming and being in the process of.

My goal with this series is to help you discover the journey toward your calling is just as much the call as the call itself. Just as the butterfly flies freer after having known what it’s like to crawl on the ground, the places we think are stagnant are really vital parts of a process God brings us through. The process is incredibly intentional — so that we fulfill the destiny He has planned for us all along…to fly freely. I hope to challenge you to recognize the process God currently has you in, embrace it, and find purpose and progress in it.

Because, my friend, regardless of where you are, I know this — you are not stuck.

You could be in a time of birthing — where God is birthing dreams and visions and callings in you, and you are consuming all you can of Him and His word about your circumstance at this time.

You could be in a time of crawling — where you feel your dream has died and that God has abandoned you; it feels too hard, not worth it. Where you’re left feeling like you’re in captivity or failure or hiding.

You could be in a time of cocooning — where you feel isolated or quiet or tested. Where you’re under His protection, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Or where you feel just comfortable enough, and are afraid to get out of the boat for fear of sinking.

Or you could be in a time of flying — where you have a holy anticipation of something amazing right around the corner, and are trusting God and leaping off the edge, spreading your wings and willing to fly.

My friend, you are NOT stuck. And where you are is not unfair. Because the process you are in will ultimately make you a beautiful, vibrant, flying creature.

Throughout this series, we’ll find there is progress each step of the way, if we just elevate our thinking and choose to see it from God’s transforming perspective.

As I see it now, this will be a four-week series, and each week will focus on one of the four phases of transformation. We’ll look at the characteristics of each phase, and also learn from biblical examples of others who have walked this process time and time again. We’ll give ourselves permission to take a deep breath and give ourselves grace to be in the process of becoming. And we’ll end each week with a challenge to help reinforce what God is speaking.

And if God interrupts and changes things, then we’ll step aside and let Him do His thing. (grin)

God has divine purpose in taking us through intense metamorphosis. He knows what it takes for us to fly freely. The crawling on the ground, the dying to self, the emerging completely transformed — He is taking us from dead to alive.

So it’s time. It’s time to share and journey together toward embracing our life as a process not a destination. To find the transforming power of Jesus in every circumstance and season, and embrace Him wholeheartedly.

It’s time to embrace becoming.

I hope you’ll join me. I’d love to travel this road hand-in-hand with you, celebrating your transformation along the way.

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