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For The Love of Community

August 17, 2015 — 8 Comments

FORTHELOVEpicThere are few things in life that end up working out the way we envisioned them or had hoped they’d turn out, right? I mean think about it; did marriage, parenthood, complete financial freedom by the age of 40 work out the way you expected & dreamed when you were 18 and knew it all? How about that waistline? If you still have your 18-year-old-body after birthing several children, you’re a freak of nature. I mean, I love you, but you’re barely human.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a big dreamer. It’s gotten me into more than a few pickles in my life… because reality often wins out over dreaming big… and blah, blah, blah… whatever, man. I think I’m finally figuring out how to dream without being devastated when reality happens in the midst of the dreaming.

A few months back I prayed a big prayer for God to enlarge my territory & that His grace would empower me to be who He created me to be… to create hope & inspire others to know Him simply by loving them. earth-shattering, right? 🙂

Welp, the Lord answered that prayer but in exactly ZERO ways I thought He would. Of course. Yet His plan worked SO much better than my dreams! Imagine that!

I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in Jen Hatmaker’s Launch Team for her new book:

‘For the Love’. Y’all it releases TODAY, the 18th.

As part of the Launch Team, I knew there would be perks like an advanced copy of the book, the opportunity to write an endorsement, getting to be in a private FB group with the other #499 Launch Team members & Jen herself, but what I didn’t see coming has perhaps been the greatest gift…

Community. Authentic & Grace-filled Connection. I mean, as close as you can be to people online, that is what our band of #500 have become… a tribe, a community, a safe haven in which to blossom & be messy. No religious requirements. No hoops. No judgments. Turns out, it’s possible. 

And it’s crossed from just being online to truly developing friendship in ‘real life’ through meet-ups & such… for many of us I believe we’ll be friends long after the Book Launch dust has settled.

Rebecca Beckett said it best: “Jen didn’t just write a book; she wrote a community.”

These ladies & Jen have opened their hearts to each other. It’s a place to practice what the book itself is all about… giving grace, removing the impossible standards we place on ourselves so we can truly love our neighbor as ourselves… no matter how different we may be from one another.

This book is a melting pot of hilarity & practical wisdom. I’ve often talked about how funny it is, but one quote I want to leave with you, that I believe sums up not only the point of the book, but the point of the Gospel:

“Maybe we can lay down our fear and criticism, self-directed and otherwise. Maybe if we let ourselves off the hook, we can let others off too, and discover that God was in control all along, just as He tried to tell us. He is good at being God! Hooray!” ~ Jen Hatmaker, For The Love

Give it a whirl… the book AND laying down the fear & criticism… there’s so much freedom & peace in grace, y’all. So much.

If you haven’t already purchased your shiny new book with shiny new words, in honor of the book launching today, I’m giving away one of my ten copies (hey, no snickering! yeah, I ordered TEN! hush it!) Entering is super easy because complicated giveaways give me a headache and multiple instructions are sometimes hard to follow! Bless our hearts. 🙂

Share this blogpost. Then comment below OR on my Facebook/Twitter post telling me that you shared it! #BOOM you BOSSED it! 

Contest starts NNNNNN…NOW & runs through next Monday, the 24th. 

Thanks for sticking with me, readers! Thanks for letting me be a dreamer… sometimes a flaky one… okay, a lot of times a flaky one. I’ve received so much grace and you know what it feels like? It feels like Love.

Shine On… For The Love! 

Danielle 
Ps. Now go share this post with your friends, then let me know you shared it by leaving a comment here OR on my Facebook/Twitter post. Then, you are entered! Capeesh?

Could I have about 7 minutes of your time today? I want to tell you about some friends of mine, who just happen to live on the other side of the world.

One of the sweetest girls on the planet, my friend, Siphiwe.

One of the sweetest girls on the planet, my friend, Siphiwe. This moment when she put her arm around me: Priceless.

There’s about 150 kids who are not only my friends, but I am their friend. I genuinely believe they know the Browers and hundreds of others in North America as their friends. We’ve laughed, danced, ate & cried together. (If that doesn’t define friendship, I don’t know what does.) Isn’t friendship built on a common bond of interest in each other’s lives, trust and concern for each other’s well-being? Yes. I love the kind of friend you can call in the middle of a crisis and you KNOW they’ve got your back, no questions asked. We all need people like this in our lives, that show up saying ‘I am pulling for you! Your joy is my joy! Your pain is my pain! WE are gonna get through this.”

This is the kind of friendship that has formed long-distance between our connect community of sponsors through Children’s HopeChest and the children of the Bheveni community in Swaziland, Africa. A partnership. It truly isn’t one-sided. And we truly aren’t the heroes. Ask any member of one of the teams my husband & I have led… the kids & their caregivers are the heroes of their own lives. We’re the loud, obnoxious, over-zealous cheerleaders.

The B-Team worked tirelessly to paint the playground! The children LOVE it!

The B-Team & discipleship team worked tirelessly to paint the playground! The children LOVE it!

 

The children help tend the garden everyday. We were blessed to help a little while we were there.

The children help tend the garden everyday. We were blessed to help a little while we were there.

 

There are several ways we maintain this long-distance partnership:

Sponsorship impacts everyone's lives!

Sponsorship impacts everyone’s lives!

1. Sponsorship – through sponsorship a child in the Bheveni community is guaranteed a hot, healthy meal, clean water, discipleship & life skills training. Through sponsorship, they know they have a friend in North America who knows them by name, prays for them, and wants them to have a successful, fruitful life both here & into eternity. It’s $38 a month per kid, but all the money is pooled for the entire community so no child is left without their needs met, even if they don’t have a sponsor. We often say as a Children’s HopeChest sponsor, we get to mentor a child, but sponsor an entire community of children to band together & lift themselves out of poverty. It’s brilliant & God-inspired because it works – we see the fruit of sponsorship and it’s a beautiful thing, y’all! We currently have 30 new kids who have started coming to the carepoint who need a sponsor.

2. Dreaming Together – And we Dream BIG! Our online community of sponsors, advocates & supporters listen very closely to the vision the Bheveni community members have and do what we can to assist. We don’t do it for them, but assist and simply provide opportunity; whether that be through paying school fees (they have to pay to go to school! I still shake my head at this one. If they don’t have parents and barely have food, how are they to pay for tuition? ugh.) or giving a little bit extra during the holidays so they can build a new, safe community center and finally get electricity, it’s a complete joy to watch their dreams blossom & their futures brighten!

The Dream Building is going up!

The Dream Building made possible by GIVERS like you!

This multi-purpose building will be complete soon and will have electricity!

This multi-purpose building will be complete soon and will have electricity!

3. Visits – We’ve been to visit our friends in Swaziland four times since 2010. We’ve watched them grow up. We’ve led 4 incredible teams. I mean, I can’t even describe to you how amazing our team members are… they are just ready for it all & love the kids as if they were their own. It’s beautiful each & every trip to see the bonds of friendship forged and deepened.

This year, 2015, we are not able to send a team to physically be with the kids, or to physically pray & laugh & dance with the bomake who cook for hundreds of rambunctious kids everyday over an open flame. And it’s sorta crushed us to know a team trip isn’t happening. I pray that the children of Bheveni understand, but I have to put that in the Lord’s hands because otherwise it breaks my heart a little to think they may think we don’t care anymore. One blessing in this? We no longer have to put our time & resources towards funding a trip, but now we can JUST focus on supporting their dreams! Hallelujah for that! It would’ve cost the team a minimum of $20,000 to fly there for 10 days. Let’s imagine this money instead going into the long-term development of the children in a variety of other ways. And it can happen easier than you think.

Even though we aren’t having a team trip, we can & are still being a support to the Bheveni Community… and that’s where you come in.

Today, besides sponsorships, the one way my readers can help is…. drum roll, please…

Buy A T-shirt.

Really.

When you buy a Create Hope T-shirt, the extra funds will be invested into the kids’ lives. And the shirts are rad. Really. One of our 3-time team members designed it and she did a great job! So you’ll get a fashionable Tee and DO GOOD IN THE WORLD at the same time.

A rainbow of gorgeous, tangible hope.

A rainbow of gorgeous, tangible hope.

Your T-shirt will help ensure the kids stay in school, have the necessary school supplies & uniforms, have medical attention when they need it, and who knows, we may even surprise them by having the staff bring a meal with meat in it!

There’s a meal called ‘Chicken Dust’ – it doesn’t sound good but it makes my mouth water just thinking about it . Because meat is expensive, the kids only get this meal when our team comes. Once a year. And if we’re not coming… we gotta get them their Chicken Dust somehow, y’all! The hype around Chicken Dust rivals that of Chick-Fil-A. Now you get me. For all the kids to have a meal with MEAT, it costs appx. $600 US.

And if we raise another $400 beyond that, we can have the staff show up with a 30-day supply of food to the local homesteads. Often these are child-led or grandparent-led homes that are struggling the most. Two years ago we took one of these 30-day supply bags to Grandma Dlamini raising 5 grandkids (because all their parents had died). She burst into tears and said just that morning she begged God for a miracle. They had run out of food that morning. THAT morning… and THAT evening God sent some clueless Americas to show her His faithfulness.

The faith of a grandmother is a powerful thing.

The faith of a grandmother is a powerful thing.

Buy a Create Hope Tee, y’all. 

It’s $30 total shipped to your door. There’s even kid sizes. If you don’t want another Tee but wanna help the Bheveni kids out, click my paypal button on the top right column, and your donation will go towards providing some of life’s most basic needs (like food & education) for my friends.

We need to sell at least 100 Tees. As of yesterday, we’ve sold precisely 11. Eleven. So yeah, we’ve got some catching up to do. Shirt sales end July 27th.

I’m gonna choose to have the faith of Grandmother Dlamini. I’m praying the audacious & desperate prayer for our God to show up STRONG on their behalf through broken, yet willing vessels such as ourselves.

Thank you!!!

Shine On!

Danielle 

#createhope2015

If you love drama as much as I do, here’s some solid advice on creating it & keeping it!

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 6.46.26 PM1. Be a fixer. Get up in everybody’s business. Hear somebody has a problem? Go get your cape… SuperFixer to the rescue! Your immediate family can just wait. Kids these days have gotta learn patience anyway, right?

2. Don’t just read the countless online posts about religion & politics. You simply must take time to read the comments as well. You’ll have certainly found drama & a multitude of opinions…. and possibly a few new vulgar words you didn’t even know existed. The comment section is not only very educational, you can bet your butt you’ll get a great dose of humanity in all its dramatic flare. You went looking for drama and boy, you went to the RIGHT place! #fistbump

3. Be easily offended hurt & hold a grudge. Don’t sleep tonight so you can play over & over again in your mind how this person has wronged you. And they THINK they’ve gotten away with it! Pfffttt! Being offended (aka pissed off) creates its own form of drama; the over-emotional, angry, manipulative kind of drama because people won’t see it coming! {Cue sinister laugh. See I got your back, DramaLover}

You need to give them a piece of your mind, girlfriend. You’re tired of rude people in the grocery store, on the highway, in your house & at Christmas dinner.  I say if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! After all, you can’t just let people walk all over you. That ‘turn the other cheek’ thing Jesus said, that was just conjecture or a parable or something. You’re the victim here, and it’s time everybody knows it!

4. Stay glued to CNN, FOX news, and MSNBC which I’ve heard stands for More Snooty Nonsense by Creeps.  And if this isn’t enough, by all means, please keep dear Nancy Grace & her adorable southern charm blaring through your house all day, bless her heart. It’ll create just enough tension in your home sweet home to send at least one kid crying to their room. You’re welcome.

5. Be a narcissist. Wikipedia (a trusted news source) defines a narcissist as one who is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige, is vain and mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others. Yes, definitely strive to be one of these people.

6. On the other end of the dramatic spectrum… Try to make everyone like you. Because as a narcissist you know deep down they adore you. I mean, who couldn’t, right?

Say yes to every volunteer opportunity both at your child’s school & at church. Oh, and volunteer to lead a committee which will plan every single detail of your town’s upcoming Friendly City Days. You simply must do these things so that people will KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are a good person! Be prepared though by purchasing lots of Kraft Mac & Cheese, frozen pizzas and canned peas because your family won’t be seeing much of you. That’s alright, they love you no matter what.

7. Go into debt. Big debt. This is America, right? Home of the Free? You bet your Chase Credit Card it is! You are meant to live the American Dream, so why wait til you can afford it. That’s what credit card companies are for. Duh.

8. Spend your hard-earned money on you & yours. All of it. And also some you don’t have. See #7. You worked your a$$ off and hell will freeze over before you consider giving it to those who most likely will buy booze with it. They got themselves into the mess, let them get themselves out. And seriously, are kids really starving in Africa? It’s a marketing scam to make non-profit CEOs richer. CNN said so.

9. Be impulsive. Say whatever comes into your brain before you lose the thought. People love people with no filter and talk incessantly.

10. Hang out with people who love drama. Birds of a feather, man. Birds of a feather.

Here’s me again in my non-sarcastic self. It doesn’t last long so I’ll say this quickly (oh, see what I did there? darn it!) Seriously I hope you’re enjoying these Surefire blog posts and reading them with a light heart. I would LOVE your input and ideas! How do you avoid create drama in your life? We all do it! We might as well laugh at ourselves… or each other. That works too.

Shine On!

Danielle 

ps. stay tuned. My next post will not be satirical. But I do want to share a huge opportunity with you to help make some big dreams come true for some of my friends. No, it’s not an MLM. #pinkyswear

Celebrate with Me

July 7, 2015 — 6 Comments

Celebrate with Me!

No, I’m not having another baby. Gotta clear that up right away, because heaven help us.

You’ve probably heard me mention here & there that I am a part of the 500 member launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s New Book, For The LoveIn May, I briefly wrote about it in For The Love of Audacious Prayers. In that post I referenced a few things were sorta big deals. Okay, big deals for a gal whose hobbies include shopping for belts and avoiding nature at all costs.

Anywho, turns out I really, really enjoyed the advanced copy of book (thank heavens! wouldn’t that rot if you were supposed to be promoting a book and you think it sucked? shew.) One of the perks of being on the LT was the opportunity to submit a genuine (pronounced JEN-U-WINE, thank you very much) endorsement that may or may not appear in the book.

Outta 400 submissions only 20 got chosen and mine is one of them! Not only that, it’s the 2nd one on the inside cover! What the what?!?!?! Cue the girlyest, goofiest, giddiest snaughter – snort/laughter – you can think of. That’s exactly how I acted when I found out my endorsement got chosen to be in the actual, literal book. And finally I can share with you what I wrote, as if it’s going to end world hunger or something…

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Obviously, I was given a revelation from heaven.

This is only a snippet that fits in the book. My full online endorsement reads…

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 9.49.43 AM

{Also the way I’m acting you’d think I’d written the book myself. Geez. Y’all pray for my humanity.}

If you go to Jen’s website you can see all 400 of the real-talk, real-women endorsements. They just wouldn’t all fit in the book, but they are delightful & I hope at least a few will resonate with you enough that you’ll go buy it.*

You know what’s great about this Launch Team, it’s not all about me. It’s not even all about Jen. Y’all it’s about loving Jesus & loving each other & doing life together without fear of being who I AM created to be! It’s okay that I’m celebrating the fact that my endorsement’s in the book. The rest of the LT is celebrating it too – there’s no jealousy, no ‘poor me’, no ‘I’m chopped liver’ attitudes. It’s just all love. All the time. I don’t even understand how, but it is.

We are a very diverse group from all different backgrounds & religions & cultures. The book has brought this group of 500 weirdos (I mean this with the most sincerest of loves) together and caused us to reflect & let Christ’s love flow through us. I pray that you are able to get a copy of the book when it drops on August 18th and that it has the same impact on you.

In fact, you don’t even have to wait til August 18th. Stop the presses.

I’m as serious as a squirrel is about his nuts.

*You can go to this link, order a copy, or 5 or 10 before July 15th and get all sorts of freebies.

**PRE-ORDER HERE & NOW Jen Hatmaker’s New Book, For The Love**

The best freebie is the FREE IMMEDIATE FULL PDF DOWNLOAD OF THE ENTIRE BOOK! So stop reading this & go get your book… For The Love! Then we can actually discuss it and I can stop being all 007 secret-agent like when I talk to you about it. We can snaughter together like good friends should.

Thanks for celebrating with me!

Shine On!

Danielle 

Created to Inspire

June 21, 2015 — 2 Comments

FullSizeRenderFor years now, the words ‘Create Hope’ have been a passionate force which helps me live my life. What else are we here on this big blue ball for other than to create hope & inspire others, and to do it all for the glory of God?

All. Everything we are, everything we do, every talent, even every tragedy can somehow inspire others and ultimately show God’s love. I truly believe this. It’s the way I try to live my life. I don’t always succeed & I get it wrong often, but I want to briefly share with my readers & this community how the Lord has given me a new avenue to inspire people!

I work with elementary-aged special needs children during the school year. Knowing I’d need a summer job, I began searching & praying. I wrote in my prayer journal, “God, how am I gonna juggle everything? I can’t leave the kids alone all day, nor do I want to. You are the Father of creativity. Will you share some of it with me so I can have income and still spend the summer with my family?”

So, that prayer sparked a series of events that has led to this. Live4ChangeArt.

My family & I (and a portion of our town, ha!) are constantly on the search for old leather belts. Why? Because I’m upcycling them into leather cuff bracelets to sell locally & on Etsy. Yep, we are having a blast with this summer gig. And guess what? Somehow God is blessing it – people actually like my bracelets and are buying them almost as fast as I can make them. Even a well-known jewelry maker, Beki Hastings of The Rusted Chain whom I greatly admire shared our bracelets on her Facebook Page last week! Thanks Ingrid Olson for that connection!

What makes Live4Change Art Leather Cuffs different from the rest are the personalized inspirational words I inscribe into each of them. I’m thankful to say not all of my training came from google, youtube or Pinterest!! Through some trial, error & prayer, God showed me a really cool way to add lace & jewels; a technique that is all my own. Hallelujah for creativity! Even had someone try to copy it from my page, so imitation IS the highest form of flattery! ha!

I love the entire process – finding the belts with my family, recreating them into bracelets, added just the right inspirational words, sharing my story, selling them and providing income for my family!

One thing I haven’t shared with anyone is that 10% of Live4ChangeArt proceeds are going to our beloved Bheveni Community in Swaziland, Africa. The proceeds are going to their education fund. In Swaziland, tuition must be paid in order to learn to read & write. If a child is orphaned or multiple children being raised by a single mother, how can they afford literacy when meeting life’s basic needs are already a challenge? So our B.E.S.T. (Bheveni Educational Scholarship Trust) Fund is set in place & is helping to keep nearly 200 kids in school every year! Praise the Lord!

So each time you buy an inspirational bracelet, not only is it inspiring YOU, it is teaching a child to read & write & to value their potential!

See why this is bracelet making gig is so fun!?!? 🙂

And the idea was God-given, He helped me find a talent I didn’t even know I had, and He guides my hands through each step of the process. Leather stamping isn’t easy & sometimes my fingers get pounded instead of the stamp (ouch!), or a snap flies off & hits me in the eye, but hey, I’m still loving it!

One more thing: I’ve been blown away by how many custom/personalized orders coming in. Nearly 75% of my sales are all custom orders. Wisdom. Serenity. Radiant. Shine Your Light (for a whole family!) Proud of My Marine. Attraversiamo (Lets Cross Over). Worth more than Gold. Be still & know I am God.

All words chosen by people who want to wear inspiration on their sleeve. Because we all need reminders of loved ones, reminders to keep moving forward, reminders to pray, reminders that we CAN live this life and all its fullness. Words are special. Just ask God, that’s how He’s chosen through the ages to communicate with us – through His Word, both written & spoken. So yeah, words have power. And meditating on the right words have even greater power.

Did I say this was going to be brief? 🙂 Ha! Impossible.

So that’s my exciting news. Bracelets that create inspiration & bring education!

If you like what you see in these photos, check out my ETSY store. Want a custom order, there’s an option for that too. And be sure to like Live4ChangeArt on Facebook!

 

GiftWrapEtsy

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Thanks for going on yet another adventure with me!

Shine On!

Danielle

I’m a bit giddy over this guest blogger, y’all. I sorta have a blogger-crush on her. Andrea & I have become fast friends through the Launch Team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For The Love, coming out in August. We are thoroughly enjoying all aspects of this journey within the Launch Team of 496 gals & 4 guys we call the #bandoffour (bless ’em, Lord for they are indeed strong, secure men!). I’ll be talking more about all that on another post. But for now, read this incredibly insightful, inclusive & sincere post that had me saying, “ABSOLUTELY, GIRL, AMEN!” a few times. Thank you Andrea! Shine On! 

hypocrite

This morning I woke up in sort of a panic. I usually have my best ideas, most important thoughts or take care of unfinished brain business from the night before right as I wake up. This morning the unfinished brain business panicked me a little.

I started this blog just a few days ago and am feeling a bit insecure about it all. I’m writing stuff here that I know is true, but I woke up wondering if I really believe it… if I really live it. You know those people you live with who really see you ALL the time and then read what you write or listen to what you say and shake their heads wondering who you are because you’re not the same person they know? You know those people?

Well, that’s how I felt this morning. Like a big ol’ smeared mascara-eyed, bed-headed hypocrite. Because… well… I am one. So I felt like I needed to put this out there for anyone reading. Well, if anyone is reading, I try not to write what I don’t live out or at least try really hard to live out. I try to tell a part of my story, what’s going on inside of me, and it not seem like I have it together and or know it all because I certainly don’t. Just ask the people I live with. They’ll be happy to tell you I don’t have it all together. On second thought, maybe don’t ask them… just take my word for it.

I’m a professional mask wearer at times and in certain situations. I rarely let my guard down. My vulnerability braveness level is incredibly low. I’m a perfectionist in a lot of areas and wearing my mask is one I quite competently excel at with very little effort. Most of us do. Isn’t that what a hypocrite is? The word hypocrite comes partly from the Greek word, hypokritḗs, referring to a stage actor, hence one who pretends to be what she is not. Oh, did I step on some toes there? Yeah, mine hurt too.

A former pastor, who shepherded us so well in our early years and who we still love dearly, has given us some of our best quotes and sayings over the years. One time he was preaching about being called a hypocrite and he boldly said in his Texan accent, “Well, we’re all hypocrites! And I’d rather be in heaven with ’em than in hell with ’em!”

Let’s face it (pun intended), we’re all hypocrites. It’s a human condition for which there is no cure this side of heaven. Thank you, Eve… We’re all fig leaf wearin’ fakes. Hiding behind something. Not wanting to be seen or fully known. But wanting so desperately to be seen and fully known at the same time. Yeah, thank you, Eve… Some of us have our masks plastered on so tight that it would take a high-pressure power washer to get it off. So… if we’re going to do it, let’s do it together. Let’s be hypocrites together, shall we? Authentic, call it like we see it, mask wearin’ hypocrites.

But let’s at least be hypocrites who try. Hypocrites who love other hypocrites. Hypocrites who love Jesus. Kind hypocrites… always kind! I’ll write what’s on my heart. It will all be as true as I know it to be. I will try to live it out as best as I can and I hope that you will too. If you catch me being a hypocrite, point it out to me in love but expect that I’ll do the same for you because after all, it takes one to know one. Oops… did I get your toes again?

On wearing masks… I recently started reading a book by Jamie George, Love Well. He wrote this in the introduction,

“Stuck, unsure, and without direction, we live out a masquerade, hoping desperately that someone will love us and accept us when we pull the mask off.

Until we tell the story of the mask, we will never take it off.

Until we find someone who is fully present, who listens to understand, we will keep hiding.

When we tell our stories, and when we are truly heard, we begin to clean out the compost of our souls. We then begin a journey of subtraction. We courageously begin to take off the emotional armor that we have collected until we can find childlike wonder again.”  ~Love Well, Jamie George 

If we are going to be hypocrites, if we are going to wear masks, then we are still better together. But let’s also work towards pulling them off. Together. Let’s empty our plates and tell our stories. I think, no I know, that there are hearts out there that need a fill-up. I know this because mine is one of them.

Empty. Fill. Repeat.

~Andrea

Please read more from Andrea here —> Empty Plate Full Heart

In light of recent public events surrounding the Duggar family, I encourage you to also read this beautiful, gracious post by Andrea’s daughter. These girls can WRITE! —> Grace and Social Media

 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. Romans 3:10

andreastunzI’ve been a wife for 26 years. My husband, Tommy, and I did some of our best work in our 3 amazing gifts from God. I’m a mother in law of 2 stellar humans beings and a Gimi of one adorable little dude. I’m a homemaker, a traveler, a seeker, a writer, a pilgrim. I love cooking and sharing good food with others who love good food. I take pictures that tell a story, my story, God’s story. An almost empty nester. A fellow struggler. A fellow stumbler. In need of God’s grace. Oh, and coffee. Grace and coffee. Then I’m good. Oh, and a sunrise. Grace, coffee and a sunrise. THEN I’m good. Oh, and my grandson. Grace, coffee, a sunrise and my grandson. … you get the picture. 🙂 I have many favorite scriptures but my “go to” scripture which seems to encompass all I may be stumbling through or rejoicing in is always this: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 10.50.45 PMLots of heavy, heavy talk in the Christian blogosphere this week. Rather than weighing in on all the drama, of which I have no business pretending I know the answers, I’ll use this little blog to put something light-hearted in your newsfeed. Come along with me down a little path we’ll call ‘For The Love.’ Stay with me, we’re skipping along the path at break-neck speed.

Several months ago, a thought just popped into my head. Like, out of nowhere!

Most of the time, I think it’s the Lord doing the popping, except for maybe that time I listened to the popping thought and ended up accidentally drunk at a Hibachi Steakhouse because the entertaining chef, whom I thought was shooting a ketchup-like bottle of water into my mouth was actually filling me with POISON (also known as Sake!) Holy Moses, Grammar Nazis, yes I KNOW that was a Guinness level run-on sentence! Heel. A couple ‘shots’ later and this never-had-a-sip-of-alcohol girl was blurting out ‘why does my fork feel so heavy???’ and crying because well, I’m an idiot.

Whoa there, Sloshed Sally. That was indeed a rabbit trail. Back on the “For The Love’ Path.

A few months back, a SMART thought popped into my head. I was reminded about a guy named Jabez. No, he’s NOT an old boyfriend, but a guy from the Bible (OT) who was born to fail. I mean, his mom decided to name him ‘Pain & Sorrow’. Let’s just say he didn’t have a lot of hope toward becoming a happy-go-lucky, successful, trusted guy. Imagine introducing yourself to the ladies, ‘Hey girl, my name is Pain N. Sorrow {get it?}. Wanna go out to pasture with me?’ I’m sure his dating life suffered. Thanks a LOT, Mom.

But you know what he had besides a super sad name? He had boldness. He had AUDACITY! So much audacity, he prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. With incredible faith, he prayed against his birth name,

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain {not cause pain}.’ And God granted his request.” 1 Chr. 4:10,NIV

I remember when the The Prayer of Jabez became really popular among the Christian community around the turn of the century. The premise was wonderful, but soon it was everywhere… on books, bracelets, flannel boards, and baby onesies… It became the Genie-in-a-bottle prayer. ‘If I stand on my head and simultaneously repeat this prayer 245 times a day, God will HAVE to hear me and BLESS ME INDEED with everything I ever wanted… I mean so I can turn around and give it back to God’s people, of course… and maybe even some to the helpless orphans in Africa.’

I’ve been a Christ-follower for a long time now. Oh about 40 years, give or take the 10 months I was in the womb… #sarcasm {I have to hashtag that because sometimes people take the things I say way too seriously. sometimes.} Anyhow, I get weary when the Body of Christ overuse a verse. It usually is taken out of context & used for self-gain. I had long put the Prayer of Jabez out of my memory.

When I re-read it this time, I saw Jabez with fresh eyes. You guys, he just wanted to please the Lord and BE A BLESSING. And you know what, it’s hard to be a blessing when everyone thinks you’re a doof, and you feel like you have no voice because you’ve been labeled a doof since before you were even born.

I found the balance between the Genie-in-a-bottle prayer & dismissing the guy completely. And as I studied about Jabez, I fell in love with him and his heart. I began seeing him as a man with audacity & strength of character & as a man who wanted to glorify God. There was NOTHING selfish about him! He wanted to know God & make Him known.

Guess what? Me too. I’ve found myself scared of success, scared of telling people my experiences with the Lord, as if I have any right to think I know God’s heart better than the next guy. I don’t ever want to give pride a foot in the door. I stopped worrying so much and decided it’s okay to pray, believing God can and will enlarge my territory of influence, to keep me from harm to myself and to others. I prayed He would expand my desire to bring Him glory and bless me to be a blessing, whatever form that would take.

I began praying this prayer on March 7th. I know because it’s in my prayer journal. 

No joke, three days later my territory got expanded big time. Jen Hatmaker is an author, speaker and crazy-funny person. She has a new book coming out on August 18th called ‘For The Love’. GO PRE-ORDER IT!!! Over 5,000 people applied to be a part of the Launch Team. Only 10% got in and to my utter shock, I’m one of them! You may have heard me shouting it from the rooftops. I received an early copy of the book and it’s such a refreshing mix of down-to-earth comedy & heavenly encouragement. I was greatly relieved when I actually liked it. It’d stink to promote a book if it was no good. #bless

11062554_10205996882788713_8839148486045733658_nThis Launch Team has its own Facebook Group, of which Jen actually gets involved in the conversations that range from religion & parenting to crotchless yoga pants. (oh Lord, don’t google it! CYP are simply maxi skirts. Seriously don’t google it. Trust me. I may have had one of those ‘thoughts-popped-into-my-head’ moments that ended in horror & the need for a shower.)

*Jen has casually invited all 500 of us to her Texas farmhouse for a Launch Party. Also she’s nuts. But this means we’re BFFs now. What else do BFFs do besides get together to giggle & wear matching clothes? So that’s what we’re gonna do. Our T-shirts, designed by my amazing SIL, Melissa will be arriving in the mail in a few weeks! {Insert giddy girl scream!}

*We’ve also been given the chance to enter an endorsement for the book. I have it on good authority that mine has been chosen and will be IN the book!!! I can’t tell you what I said and it’s CRUSHING ME!!!! AHHHHHGGGGG!!!!

~~~~~

Okay, so I shared that story because God has indeed expanded my territory and given me a bit of a new sphere to experience His grace through, of which I’m learning so much! Though I’m not allowed to share content yet, the book, For The Love is all about fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards.

Right up my alley, because like Jabez, I’ve never quite measured up to what I thought I needed to. I’ve always been so hard on myself. Thank God, because of His grace, I don’t have to! I can keep right on being me – my accidentally-drunk, sometimes flighty, run-on-writing self. God is so good like that. He takes our labels, our mess & turns it into a beautiful grace-filled path, if we’ll trust Him enough to just keep walking.

Today I encourage you to pray audacious prayers, like Jabez – that seem beyond what you could fathom.  You just never know what path they may lead you on & who will be encouraged by your journey! #ForTheLove

Shine On!

Danielle

*Read these paragraphs using your best Valley-Girl voice! Seriously, it’s like TOTs better! Also GO BUY THE BOOK!!, it’s like TOTs better than this blog!

 

 

 

writing & photo by Mike Brower

photo by Mike Brower

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG)

Do these words describe you?

Tired.

Worn out.

Burned out on religion.

It just comes natural to most of us to worry, strive & stress. These words in Matthew have been shared with the tired & worn multitudes of times.

But what about those ‘burned out on religion’. Religion in & of itself (rituals, routines, rules within an organized religious setting) can be a heavy burden to bear when they are without the living knowledge of the great grace of God.

There are some fantastic religious settings (churches) where the three R’s (rituals, routines, rules) are beautifully lived out not in spite of but because of the grace of God. However, I would venture to guess many of us have found ourselves burned out on religion when…

…going to church starts feeling like a duty instead of a privilege.

…Bible studies feel like science class, instead of the inspired Word of God.

…we hide our pain because the last time we opened up we were told, ‘You just need to have faith.’

…we feel shamed and/or rejected by religious leaders whom we had once trusted to lead us toward God.

Your story may be different. But this is mine.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 2.07.55 PM

Call me a non-conformist. Call me deceived. Call me brainwashed by the world.

But I know what I experience on a daily basis with the Lord…

Before I could recover from my religious burn out, I had to step back from organized religion for a while. I got so involved in the culture of church, I lost perspective on what it meant to be a child of God.

More than a decade ago I had been in a church bubble for so long that I didn’t even know how to have real conversations with real people outside of the church.

Because I was in church leadership, I was also told I couldn’t be ‘real friends’ with the congregates. I felt uptight & on guard ALL. THE. TIME. In church. Out of church. Prime burnout scenario.

When I backed off from church, I began to take my relationship with God BACK into my own hands. I started journaling again, which for me involves spilling my guts… asking stupid questions, expressing my confusion & crying out to God to help me understand what it means to be a Christ-follower.

I’m certainly not saying leave your church if you wanna get closer to Jesus. Unless of course it is an abusive, controlling, toxic environment. 🙂 I am saying to remove whatever is hindering you from communing with God. For me it was religion. Church became my God. I had become a Sunday Christian. And I nearly killed my relationship with Him. But then grace stepped in & allowed me to step back to see Jesus in my every day life.

I decided to start fresh, to read the Bible through fresh eyes, to pray like God was big enough to handle my burn out, my doubt, and even my anger. God’s cool like that. I really don’t know why we think God is fancy & only fancy, memorized words capture His attention. Certainly God is to be honored, but He’s more honored by authenticity & vulnerability than our fancy words, in our fancy clothes, in our fancy pews.

So what does Jesus say to do when you’re burned out on religion?

Come. 

Come to Jesus.

Get away WITH Me and you WILL recover your life!

You need to rest & I’ll show you how!

It IS possible, dear child, to truly rest & find freedom in Me.

Let me shower you with grace. I promise not to lay

anything TOO heavy on you,

that we both can’t handle together. Stick close with Me. 

And through winced eyes, I say, ‘Okay, I trust You, Jesus.’

(of which I say exactly 3 billion times a day)

I trust You, Jesus.

I trust You, Jesus.

 

You know what the grace of God has done for me? Brought joy back into my life!

[It is NOT a license to act however you want & then cry ‘GRACE!’)

In my personal journey, God’s grace has allowed me to live more freely & lightly than I ever have before! I’m not so caught up in the do’s & don’t of religion. My family & I enjoy church, whether it be in a building with others, out serving in the community or on the mission field. And we even totally dig Andy Stanley’s church whereby we can participate via the internet.

I absolutely still live with conviction & do my best to honor God with my words & actions. BUT I’m not all bound up & afraid to be a REAL human in a REAL world with REAL problems!! I actually can laugh at myself instead of trying to hide my unholy imperfections! Also, I laugh at Christians sometimes because well, we ALL need to LIGHTEN UP!

I’m getting a taste of what ‘the unforced rhythms of grace’ feel like and well,

It feels like inhaling Peace and exhaling Love. 

Inhaling Peace and exhaling Love oxygenates relationships.

It breathes life, vitality & acceptance instead of forcefully spewing religiously-imposed judgments.

I believe this is why people of all types were drawn to Jesus. He exhaled Love wherever He went, to whomever they were regardless of their sin or social standing.

We have to ask ourselves, are we exhaling love & the rhythms of grace or are we too caught up in making sure the sinners know how sinful they are? Jesus certainly didn’t ignore sin, but He didn’t make it His focus. He knew there was much more to people than their sin.

Instead, His focus was exhaling Love wherever He went. It still is. Through us.

We are His Body. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, we are agents of His grace, pointing the Way to inhale Peace & exhale Love wherever we find ourselves on the journey.

Would Jesus Bake Their Cake? (yes)

Would Jesus Bake Their Cake? (yes)

For nearly 20 years, my journey has been alongside my best friend, my husband Mike. There’s been so many times I’ve held my hand to my heart and felt incredible gratitude for him. When we said ‘I do’… When our sons were born… When he held my head & hand through a deep pit of depression… When I watched him dance with a little girl in Africa who had only one leg… and this week when I read his life-giving words in this article, ‘Would Jesus Bake Their Cake?’ … this man has deep conviction and even deeper love. I am so grateful for his heart that puts no limits on whom he will love & serve, no matter the personal costs. Now, GO READ IT!

Today, may you go & find your God-centered rhythm of grace.

Shine On!

Danielle

 

10 Surefire Ways to be a Christian A-hole.

I know what you’re thinking, Dear Christian who loves Jesus a whole lot, “Remove the bulging tree trunk out of your own eye, girlfriend, before you try & tell me how to get the sawdust out of my own! Who do you think you are? Jamie The Very Worst Missionary?” {trust me, I’m so not that cool}

I almost didn’t post this because it’s kinda rude & I’m a scaredy cat. Aren’t Christians supposed to love each other? Isn’t this part of the problem – Christians smearing each other? Well yes, it is. But here’s the exact reason I’m posting this satirical list.

**Y’all, we Christ-followers desperately need to lighten up!!!**

I realize behind each one of these things that make us look like A-holes is a genuine desire to show love, to do good, to represent Jesus to the world. I get it. I just think we’ve gotten ourselves wound up so tightly we often forget how to relax and relate to & BE real people when we’re in public.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 10.30.34 PM…We’ve put ‘Christianity’ on a pedestal instead of Christ on the throne.

…We’ve become Bodyguards instead of the Body of Christ.

…We’ve become His police officers instead of His peace offerings.

…and we’re failing miserably because we weren’t made for this!

We look like jerks. A-holes, in fact.

There’s a whole generation of young people who see the Church not as the safe haven it should be, but as an abusive, judgmental, stiff-necked clique that they’ll never fit into. So why try?

I came up with this list rather quickly because I have decades of experience being a decorated Christian A-hole. And I’m still working on lightening up. When we lighten up, guess what happens? We LIGHTEN up – Christ’s LIGHT shines more brightly through us when we relax & let go of our legalistic lists.

Turns out being a peace-offering & a regular folk is SO liberating. Being vulnerable & authentic, (instead of Judgy McJudgerson) has opened up a whole new world of friendships to me… ones I never would’ve let in 15 years ago. You know, cuz I was still waving my banner of bitchiness (is that a word?) holiness, but instead I was miserable & lonely. Jesus was like, ‘Lighten UP, girl! This is exhausting!’ 

So without further ado, here’s 10 surefire ways to be a Christian A-hole. You’re welcome. 

  1. "Worst. Joke. Ever." said Jesus.

    “Worst. Joke. Ever.” said Jesus.

    Be demanding to the ‘lowly’ people serving you… especially Sunday after church so your server will KNOW you are in fact a Christian A-hole. Doesn’t she know you are a child of the Most High God and should be treated as such? You require excellence & will settle for nothing else!! If your food comes out cold, or she forgets an item, by all means leave her a Jesus tract instead a tip. That’ll teacher her. This same advice works great with the stewardess, the nurse, receptionist, and custodial staff.

  1. If you’re in ministry leadership or are a ‘Christian Boss’, definitely remind those whom are under your authority that they are IN fact under your authority. Preach submission & remind them God speaks to & through you. This must be done from the pulpit & also in the conference room… so everyone knows his or her place. Wouldn’t want the youth pastor or VP of Sales to get a big head and make you look bad… Jesus put you in charge, not them.
  1. Hang out only with like-minded Christians. After all, those other religions and denominations probably are diluted and only preach half-truths. It’s not worth the risk. You KNOW your church is preaching the full Gospel. Even within your congregation, make a point of criticizing those who are different from you… “We really need to pray for Sally Sue. She is being a stumbling block to the men of the church in that short skirt! Doesn’t she know she’s supposed to avoid the appearance of evil, bless her little heart.” Seek God for wisdom on how to tell Sally Sue she’s not representing Jesus.
  1. Stand outside the gay bar, proudly show off your neon picket signs that read “Homosexuality sends you to Hell.’ & ‘God HATES Fags’ because people come to Jesus when we shame them into it.
  1. Regularly share political status updates on social media, making sure to exclaim in ALL CAPS how CONSERVATIVES are RIGHT! Argue your position in ALL comment threads. And while you’re at it, you should also post a MeMe photo depicting President Obama as a literal jackass so people know how serious you are about your love for God & this nation.
  1. The Word of God is a Sword. It says so in Ephesians. Be vigilant to wield your Sword wherever, whenever necessary, to stab people with truth. The truth sets them free after all. You, sweet Christian A-hole, can’t help it if the truth hurts, right?
  1. If a family decides to leave your church, by all means, don’t speak to them lest they assume you support their foolish decision. How dare they make your pastor look bad!!! In fact, if you’re smart you’ll tell them the truth upfront. Let them know if you see them in public places you plan to turn the other cheek by ignoring they exist. Hey, you’re just being a proactive Christian A-hole. Bless your heart.
  1. Judge others by their actions, but yourself by your best intentions. Assume they too are an A-hole. Give no room for grace. People will have no reason to change if they aren’t ‘called’ on their discretions.They cut you off in traffic, you best tell them by riding their bumper & giving them the ‘I hate you’ look. Once you speed past them, they’ll see your Christian Fish emblem and realize Jesus wants them to act better. I swear, this world is going to hell in a hand basket! Thank God for Christian bumper stickers!

    Honk if you Love Jesus!

    Honk if you Love Jesus!

  1. Assume the poor are lazy, dumb people who just don’t want to get up and go to work everyday like you do. I mean, after all, you work hard for your money. They are the screw ups! You’ve pinched your pennies & nobody ever gave you anything. You’ll be damned if you give it away to hooligans (either on the street corner or in a third-world country) who are probably just gonna spend it on alcohol & sex anyway.
  2. Get your family so busy with your church activities that you don’t have time to mingle with ‘sinners’. Your children are safer in a Biblical Bubble. As you know, God’s Word says we are to be in the world, but we are not ‘of’ it. You wouldn’t want sinners to pull you down to their level. Snub your nose at your neighbors… ya know, the ones who have tattoos, drink too much, cuss like sailors, and are authentically themselves. Jesus has called you to do His work, not waste your time with these sinful shenanigans. You have been set apart.
What the Lord requires...

What the Lord requires…

Well, there you have it! Wow, being a Christian A-hole seems exhausting, doesn’t it? Trust me, it is. I hope you read this with a light heart & don’t send me Jesus hate mail. Now excuse me while I go remove the very large plank from my own eye.

Shine On & Lighten Up!

Danielle

If you’ve been human for not very long, you’ve experienced some or all of this.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 10.07.20 PM

Illness.

Job loss.

Car accident.

Unexpected expenses.

Family Tragedy.

Relationships falling apart.

On their own, each of these life-altering events are exhausting & painful. However, when they rush over your life like tidal waves, barely giving you time to come up for breath until the next one engulfs you, the burden it seems you must bear feels impossible.

We’ve had a few of these monsoons in our own family, so I know what I’m talking about. And let me tell you, it isn’t pretty. I’ve found myself questioning many times, ‘God, what the hell is going on? Why is this all happening at once? I can’t DO this!’

I grew up thinking if I was good & tried to please God, my life would be blessed with peace & abundance. I would somehow escape life’s difficulties. I really did think that. Imagine my utter amazement when true peace & abundance showed up, not in spite of difficulties but in the midst of them.

We should also know where the ‘hell’ is coming from. It’s coming from well, hell itself.

John 10:10 sums it up. “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I {Jesus} have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

The reality is humanity has an enemy who has ONE goal: to keep us separated from God. In truth, because of Jesus’ death & resurrection, we no longer have to be separated from God. But we can be tricked & distracted if we aren’t vigilant. The Bible describes Satan as the father of lies. We put him in his place by exalting God, especially when hell seems to be breaking loose against us.

The thief is banking on you having so much turmoil in your life that you start believing God doesn’t give a flip about you. Instead of letting tragedy draw us closer to God, it seems pretty natural to blame the Lord, doesn’t it? I mean, why doesn’t He choose to just get us out of the mess? He’s God, isn’t He?

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” I hear Jesus saying, “Oh yes! The world is full of difficulty & pain that doesn’t make sense. But don’t forget I’m with you. And in the end, WE win.”

I’ll share with you 3 things I’ve learned through experiencing tragedies. They’ve become pillars by which I attempt to measure my life & faith. Mantras, if you will. I repeatedly write them in my journal as a reminder to myself & to God, knowing He sees & cares for every detail.

My faith is stirred in God when I remember…

  1. God is in the interruptions. Interruptions in our plans are a way He gets us where we need to be; or even save us from where we were heading. This can be life-altering events but also little, daily interruptions like traffic jams & unexpected mishaps. I say to my kids, ‘Boys, we sure are getting the opportunity to develop patience today, aren’t we?’ I know they love me so much for reminding them of that fact. I do not believe God smites us or punishes us to try to prove His love. Cause… when has fear-based, forced love ever worked? Um, no. Difficulties, however, do have a way of refining & defining us, don’t they?

God is very near in tragedy & destruction because He is near to the broken-hearted. It’s easy to look at the difficulty itself. But if we look for Him, we will find His love, comfort & compassion in the faces, hands & care of other people. It brings unmatched joy and trust in the firm foundation of Christ’s solid hold on us. And it’s a beautiful thing, y’all.

  1. He is working behind & above the scenes… and He loves to surprise His children when it looks like all hope has been lost. So while you may not see God in your crumbling world, He is there.

Shackled in prison Paul & Silas, who were arrested for preaching the Gospel, should’ve had no hope for release. But instead they chose to see God was still God even in what seemed like certain death. They sang praises to God for all to hear… And SURPRISE! God showed up in the midnight hour! (Acts 16)

We can put great trust (yes, it may even seem foolish to some) in knowing that our God WILL come through for us, as & when He sees fit in order to bring the best possible outcome for His eternal kingdom whose foundation is Love for all. If we are willing to go through the dark hours, without wavering, His Light & Love can break forth for all to see & glorify Him.

  1. This is NOT the end of my story! As a Christ-follower, I firmly believe our stories are eternal. Even when our bodies perish, our spirits are forever alive in Christ. And furthermore, I believe our legacy lives on in those we touch here on the Earth. Even through, or especially through tragedy, we leave a permanent imprint on the world by how we respond. And our response should only be authenticity (honesty & realness) in light of knowing God is creating what may very well be a signpost pointing others to Christ. In other words, don’t pretend you’re fine when you’re not. We are much more approachable when we don’t ‘fake it til we make it’. Trusting God doesn’t equal pretending everything is okay, it’s just acknowledging God is bigger than the hell you’re facing.

What if your story, so filled with highs & lows, tragedies & triumphs, is what it takes for someone to see God can help them get through their own mess? To me, this defines the prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

I’ll leave you with a famous quote of Winston Churchill, “If you’re going through hell, by all means, keep going!” When all hell breaks loose in your life, look inward & onward because God is ready to create beauty & hope from the ashes!

Shine On!

Danielle