Thursday, October 30, 2014

Because that is what love does {Day 30: #write31days}

I had the opportunity to attend the Compel Conference in South Sioux City, Nebraska in January. It was a God thing. Seriously, it had God written all over it. From the moment I said yes to attending, to the moment I walked back into my home.

God set things in motion by providing the funds for me to attend.

Then He sent to two lovely ladies my way, sisters to be exact, via the crazy and beautiful online world. We were strangers, except for a few exchanges online, yet they offered to pick me up from Omaha airport so I could join them for the hour and a half drive to the event location and hotel. They also asked me to be roomies with them.

Who does that? Well, Lelia and her sister Michelle do.

Kind, amusing, energetic and encouraging are a few words I use to describe them. I loved them and still love them.

God provided time of worship, fellowship and inspiring messages throughout the weekend.

Deidra Riggs dared us to dream. Deidra rocks, friends. She delivered one powerful message. If you have not had the opportunity to hear her speak you must add her to your bucket list of things to do.

For one who fears large gatherings of people, thanks to a lifelong struggle of believing I do not belong, I was blessed in mighty ways by community while at Compel. Writing friends, again who I had not previously met, saw me. They called me out. They welcomed me in. They were blessings sent from above.

A Friday evening in a room with eight beautiful ladies all “doing their best to follow God in their every day lives” continued on until the early hours of Saturday morning as we gathered to share our stories. God showed up in a hotel room. Deidra Riggs tells of the night so much better than I ever could in her post God Speaks Through The Real People in Your Life.

When I went to add much needed caffeine to my body Saturday morning, a darling woman approached me. We had such a rich and honest conversation for two people connecting for the first time. Kim has become a friend who drops by my Facebook page every now and then to leave sweet words of encouragement. She’s a gem of a friend.

Before leaving for Compel, I reached out to my writing friend, Lauren. Somehow or another I learned she lived near the conference location. I commented on her recent blog post by asking, “Any chance we can meet?”

Lauren did not attend the conference but she picked me up Saturday afternoon when the conference ended, with three little ones in toe, to drive me back to Omaha. She drove from the “real” Sioux City to South Sioux City and then to Omaha so she could meet me in real life. Lets not forget she had to drive back to Sioux City after dropping me off in Omaha. This equated too many hours of driving.

Who does that? Well, my friend Lauren does.

During our drive to Omaha she told me she had recently read the book Love Does by Bob Goff. Lauren decided love does wonderful things like picking up an online friend you have not previously met and spending several hours in a car just to be with her. Wow! Do I love like that?

I am attending another conference today and tomorrow in the Chicagoland area (I live in a suburb of Chicago). When a writing friend reached out to say she too was attending the Storyline Conference, I jumped for joy. I love meeting writing friends in real life. It also means there will be at least one person I know at the conference. A big weight off the shoulders of this introvert.

One of the speakers at the conference happens to be Bob Goff. The author of the book my friend Lauren read.

So guess what?

Last night I picked up my now in real life friend, Julie, to take her from the airport to her hotel because that is what love does.

And when navigating to a new normal teaches you the new normal you and your husband seek is God becoming greater in your life, you know picking up a friend to get her where she needs to be is the right thing to do. Spending time in the car with her and sharing a meal together is an added bonus. It’s what others did for me. It’s what Jesus would do. It’s what Jesus did. He came not to be served but to serve others (Mark 10:45) .

We serve others because that is what love (Jesus is love) does.

“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

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This post is part of a 31 day series on navigating to a new normal. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An Introduction :: Kristin Hill Taylor

I am excited to share my friend Kristin with you today. Please give her a warm welcome. When Three Word Wednesday returns NEXT WEEK (11/5) you will find out why I have made this introduction. It's an introduction which leads to an exciting announcement.

Here's Kristin . . .


If we were meeting in person, we’d probably exchange names and then dive into details that identify our roles in life.

So, hi. I’m Kristin Taylor.

I’m married to the guy who came along when I was uninterested in dating anyone in the second semester of my freshman year of college. We've been married for a dozen years and have two kids – Cate is 7 and Ben is 4. Yes, the look like us and act like us, but we adopted them both as newborns after a hard season of infertility. We’re a family of four extroverts, although I’m most likely to show signs of introverted tendencies.

My husband, Greg, is an attorney here in Murray, Kentucky – it’s a small town I never wanted to call home but now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I used to be a newspaper reporter. But now I stay home with our kids. And manage a lake house. And blog. And do other various projects involving writing, promoting, organizing, and volunteering.

Oh, and I recently self-published an ebook that tells my favorite story. It’s called “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith and My Family.” The whole process has been therapeutic. Writing this part of our story from beginning to end reminded me of God’s faithfulness. Editing, formatting, and promoting it has shined a lovely bright light on the community God has given me – both in my everyday life and around this big ‘ole internet.

One of my favorite parts of the internet is connecting with people. And one of my favorite people I met online is Beth. Y’all hang out here already, so you know she’s welcoming and encouraging. She hosts this weekly link up and has poured her heart into building an authentic community. Turns out, she’s like that in real life too.

I know because we hung out when my family took a train trip to Chicago in May. We walked and talked around Navy Pier – and atop the ferris wheel there. We gathered around a restaurant table and shared more stories.

She’s the kind of friend I wished lived closer because I’d like to gather around another table with her. Until that happens, I’m thankful for Facebook and text messaging and email – and the way those technologies that can distract us can also connect us in real, meaningful ways.

I’m glad to be here today, meeting you. So, your turn. Tell me whatever it is you’d tell me if we were sitting down for lunch together for the first time.

Kristin Hill Taylor believes in seeking God as the author of every story. God continues to surprise her – in the best kind of way – with how her life is nothing like she expected. She never leaves home without her iPhone, which reminds her where she’s supposed to be going, holds many notes to herself, and helps her document life. She’s passionate about word games, spelling people’s names correctly, Murray State basketball, and road trips.

Connect with Kristin on her blogTwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

It started with a DARE {Day 25: #write31days}

I shared a link to a post written by Lisa Whittle yesterday and I can’t seem to get the story she shared out of my mind. She shared a personal story from her marriage. A story she said in many ways is the story of her life. It’s a story of wanting more and of things missed because of her want for more.

“I need something. I want something. But I choose something I want in the moment, and it gets in the way of what I really want more.” ~ Lisa Whittle

Lisa released a new book this month titled, I Want God

Her story has rung true in my own life.

For most of my life there resided a desire for more. I wanted more of something; usually more stuff. I would get more and then want more again. It became an endless cycle of a want for more. And more was never enough. 

My husband wanted me to be happy. Most of my requests for more he would fulfill. “Maybe then she will love me,” may have been his thoughts. Instead of my love he received accumulated debt.

I loved him. I really, really did. On the other hand, I relied on feeling love to show him love. He did not receive an unconditional love from me.

There's a secret about love you may not know. I once did not know either. The secret is this: an unconditional love is not possible on your own. But with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

An online friend I had yet to meet took a dare. She dared to point me toward the more I had been longing for all along but missed because my wants in the moment got in the way. She pointed me toward the One who is love.

I then took my first dare. I dared to BELIEVE.

And then I dared to accept His LOVE.
And then I dared to EMBRACE who I am in Him.
And then I dared to find JOY no matter the circumstances. He is the source of my joy.

And then – the dare that continues to transform my marriage – I dared to love my husband with God’s kind of love.

A love dare journey began. {read my Love Dare Journey here}

It started as my own love dare journey during my husband’s deployment to Afghanistan. By God’s grace, my husband has returned home safely.

What started as my journey is now our love dare journey.

God's love, the One who can only change our want for more to enough, changes lives. It changed ours.

And now I keep on daring to share His love with you.

It started with a dare.

Will you take a dare? Maybe your dare is pointing another to Him. If so, please don’t miss out on that dare.

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I am joining in for the Five Minute Friday fun (on a Saturday) because the prompt word is DARE. The prompt word was chosen by The Love Dare so how could I not? The post took me more than five minutes; it was more like twenty minutes. But twenty is the new five, in my opinion, when it comes to writing.

P.s. The words BELIEVE, LOVE, EMBRACE and JOY have been my One Word for the year (respectively) since joining in on this popular blogger thing to do in 2011. As my friend Kristin put it, it's "like a trendy resolution."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

God will accomplish His purpose {Day 23: #write31days}

The more I read and study the life of Moses for my Bible Study Fellowship class, the more I see myself in him. Maybe it’s not more of me I see; instead a similar walk of faith. From doubts in why God would call him, to expectations placed on God’s timing, to a stronger faith in Him as a result of the many trials endured.

During my study time I switched from reading the Book of Exodus using Bible Gateway to utilizing my NIV Life Application Study Bible. This Bible has proven to be a wise purchase because like it says, it helps me apply God’s word to present day life.

“In Moses we see an outstanding personality shaped by God. But we must not misunderstand what God did. He did not change who or what Moses was; he did not give Moses new abilities and strengths. Instead, he took Moses’ characteristics and molded them until they were suited to his purposes. Does knowing this make a difference in your understanding of God’s purpose in your life? He is trying to take what he created in the first place and use it for its intended purposes.”

I find myself turning the pages of my Bible to verse 13 from Psalm 169: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” It makes sense, doesn't it? That He would take what He created and use it for His intended purpose.

Suddenly, I think of the new normal we seek being us aligning more and more with what God intended for us from the very beginning. From that day He began knitting us together in our mother’s wombs.

I see how it really is God’s will being accomplished. Because of our testimony, through us, others will know Him. Because in all cases, God accomplishes His purpose so “they might know that I am God.”

And this new knowledge does make a difference in my understanding of God and His purpose in my life and my marriage.

As I studied the Ten Plagues of Egypt sent upon Egypt by God to show His power over the gods they worshiped, my mind wandered off to the many trials our marriage endured.

  1. A child before we were married
  2. Alcohol addiction
  3. Extramarital affair by one
  4. Extramarital affair by the other
  5. Emotional abuse
  6. Depression
  7. Eating disorder
  8. Walking out
  9. Walking out again
  10. Financial distress
  11. Emotional impact on our children

Could each one of them been a trial, a lesson to be learned, sent upon us by God to reveal His power over that which had become our love idols? Were they not each a result of a hardened heart toward God?

God does only good things. Although this is true, He will use our hardened hearts as an opportunity to demonstrate His power and to bring glory to His name. He will use everything to bring glory to His name.

God had the ability to soften Pharaoh’s heart from the very beginning. He could have brought the Israelites out of Egypt much sooner. He's God so He could do anything. And yet He has given us this thing called free will.

God had a plan for the Israelites’ exit from Egypt. Typical for His character, His plan was far greater than Moses, Aaron, the Israelites and even the Egyptians could see or understand.

God could have softened our hearts (my husband and me) much sooner. I cried out to Him many times to come to our rescue. But with each trial the end result remained the same; our hearts did not believe.

God had a plan for my husband and me. He had a plan far greater than we could see or understand. In God’s own proper time, we would be free from our sin and have a new life in Christ.

I go back to Moses. The NIV Life Application Study Bible said God “took Moses’ characteristics and molded them until they were suited to his purposes.” Had God been molding and shaping us through our trials? His word does say that all our days were ordained and written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).

My perspective of past hurts has changed. More so than previously I see their purpose. Each trial had a purpose. It had nothing to do with us. It had nothing to do with God loving us less. It had everything to do with God revealing His glory to us so that we could share with others the hope we have in Him.

Once again, I come to the new normal we seek . . . He must become greater.

We are far from an outstanding personality like Moses. But we've have been touched and changed by God. An outstanding personality isn't required to be used by Him. He takes the weak and uses us so He alone can be glorified.

How great is our God.

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This post is part of a 31 day series on navigating to a new normal. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.

Image source: Unsplash

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Navigating to a New Normal {Day 16-19: #write31days}

"You need to know there may be things I do not share with you while I am in Afghanistan."

That is what my husband said to me shortly before he left on his deployment. I expressed my dislike for his statement. I am your wife. We do not keep secrets from one another. How do I pray for you if you do not share both the ups and downs of your deployment?

His reason for not wanting to tell me the not so good happenings that came with having his feet on foreign soil in a war zone was to prevent unnecessary worry on my part. He would ask, “What purpose would it serve to tell you?” I realized it was time for me to trust my husband in the decisions he made to lead us through our time apart. God would let me know how to pray for him.

With my husband now home he's willing to share his experiences. He has pictures and videos to help him tell stories of what became his normal for nine months.

Some of his stories make me even prouder of him, some make me laugh, some he shared while away and some make me glad he waited until he was home to share.

His normal during that time included things like:

  • Sleeping in thirteen different beds (not much of a normal)

  • A weapon by his side 24/7

  • Instead of commercial planes flying over his head he had A-10 Warthogs, F-16’s and Apache, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters.

  • Working with interpreters, bomb sniffing dogs and their handlers, and Afghan drivers

  • Announcements over a loud speaker that said, "Incoming, Incoming" which were followed by sprints to the nearest bunker because incoming meant there was a rocket attack

His normal included showing respect to those we could consider to be our enemy. When greeted by an Afghan they would say to him, "As-salamu alaykum." This translates to “peace be upon you.” My husband respectfully followed with the standard response to such greeting by saying, “Wa alaykumu s-alam.”

He also had a brotherhood with his fellow soldier most of us will never fully understand. Even he would have a hard time describing it other than to say you just know they've got your back.

There are moments when my husband misses Afghanistan. Of course he is happy to be home but his home for nine months was also there.

In this changing world we live in, finding a normal does not come with ease. What is normal anyways? We find gratitude in knowing our God is unchanging. He is our constant. As my husband's wife, he should also be able to rely on me being a constant source of comfort. My love for him should be unchanging; not wavering with the change of seasons.

I reflect back to Day 11 of The Love Dare book: Love cherishes [see my Love Dare journey]

"Marriage is a beautiful mystery created by God, joining two lives together as one" (The Love Dare, pg. 51). What one of us experiences also affects the other because our lives are now interwoven together. I am challenged by this after spending ten months apart from my husband. It can be difficult for me to understand how he could miss the life he lived in Afghanistan. It seems reasonable to want him to leave that season behind.

Reading Day 11 again reminds me of the need to bring warmth to my husband’s days. This comes with a willingness to embrace all the parts of his story as part of our story. I treasure every part of Him as a priceless gift. And I treat him with respect and tenderness as he navigates from one season to the next.

Which means when he returned home with a new normal behavior of going to bed with a hat on, I embrace it as part of our normal. For love does not allow the other to feel foolish or embarrassed. Love should always nourish and cherish.

That is why we do this navigating together. But the more I talk about navigating to a new normal I come to the realization again and again that the normal we seek is God being greater in our lives. Because what else in this life besides God can we count on to remain the same? If we allow God to take first place in our lives and hearts we can learn to love each other with an unchanging, unconditional, love. With His help we can have a love for one another that never changes.

So we turn our eyes and hearts to God. We ask Him to show us the way. As my friend Lori writes in her latest post, He will show us the most excellent way.

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This post is part of a 31 day series on navigating to a new normal. I am spending time away with my husband which is why Day 16-19 are included in one post. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Promised Land {Day 7: #write31days}

I spent too much time yesterday experiencing doubt over what I shared with you for Day 6 of my #write31days series. Maybe I am over thinking the fewer likes. Maybe my struggle is not trusting God with the words He places on my heart to share. In any case, I am giving Day 7 to you through a blog post because…well because God said so.

Day 6 was an attempt to share how a sermon and a particular moment within the sermon seemed to impact my husband and me. But it’s so much more than one moment that has impacted us.

The real struggle is not my trust in God. I struggle to express how much I am in awe of God.

In a recent post I wrote for Outside the City Gate I said God gave me new words. A new beginning. My words previously included words of help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:24) They are now words of– I believe. I have witnessed His greatness and faithfulness. I have seen firsthand how God fulfills what He promises. He does provide a way to a land flowing with milk and honey just like He did for the Israelites.

The way comes with twists and turns. The way comes with much waiting. The way comes with what may seem like years in the wilderness. But with God our story never ends in disappointment.

God keeps His promise to deliver us. He has delivered us. The battle has already been won. Yet, we each remain on a journey to our promised land.

He has given me a glimpse of my promised land.

I do not say that lightly for I am fully aware of the other gods (love idols) who have had a place in my heart over Him. These gods which have kept me from believing His promises. And there is so much more for me to learn from His word. There is always more.

As I seek to know Him better those idols begin to lose their grip on me.

He has revealed Himself to me—to my husband and me—over the past four years while performing a transformation in our marriage. We were once without Him and without hope for better. But God provided a way. And He continues to lead us toward better . . . toward our promised land.

I may never fully understand why He chose the military as our way out. Does understanding why even matter? But God has given us another chance for a new beginning. My husband’s return home after ten months serving our country has given us an opportunity to establish a new normal.

Maybe the new normal I speak of is learning to see one another through God’s eyes. It’s not necessarily a change in ALL things but a change in seeing ALL things differently.

To see one another differently.
To respond differently.
To love differently.
To live differently.

By seeing, responding, loving and living differently He gives us the glimpse of our promised land. And it is a land flowing with milk and honey because it’s a land created for us and by God. It’s a land created for us and by God out of His love for us.

I get tongue-tied in my attempts to express how God is showing up and revealing Himself. And I get tongue-tied in my attempts to express how He has taken my marriage from once ready to unravel to one with renewed hopes of being extraordinary. Not a perfect marriage but one built on the foundation of God’s love.

Friends, I have become undone. I am undone because of His great love for me, for my husband and for our marriage. I am undone because of His unending love. A love He freely gives when we make the choice to believe.

I believe.
We believe. 
How great is our God!

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This post is part of a 31 day series on navigating to a new normal. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.

[Image source: Unsplash]

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Finding Your Worth in a Wearied World {of Words}

I had planned to write to you today about my disbelief in belonging in this space, here at Outside the City Gate. I could have provided Tammy and Amy with a list of others more qualified to share words with you.

My belief . . . my words are unworthy and not-enough.

Numerous times I intended to contact Tammy with an excuse to push off my turn to share. Truth be told, I had a good reason to delay as my husband’s return from Afghanistan was only days away. I had a homecoming to prepare for.

But God (two of my favorite words in the Bible) had other plans. When I would begin to draft an email to Tammy with my reasonable excuse for delaying and God would stop me. “Not yet. I have words for you to share. Wait on me.”

{photo credit: Lisa Kerner, For Simply Living}
My husband returned home on Saturday, September 20th. I have watched over and over again the video prepared by our Executive Pastor documenting his homecoming and I keep humming these words:

“How great is our God – sing with me
How great is our God – and all will see
How great, how great is our God”

As I hum I wonder, how can I sing of His greatness yet still long for more? What is the more I am longing for?

Would you join me over at Outside the City Gate where I am sharing my first post as a regular contributor? You can read the rest of my post here.

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***I have decided to participate in the #write31days challenge. BUT instead of sharing here on my blog [since I am technically on a blogging break] I will be writing and sharing on my blog Facebook page. For those of you not on Facebook, you can follow along here.

My topic: 31 Days of Navigating to a New Normal.