Rwanda has always been near and dear to me. I’ll never forget my first time visiting there, eight years ago when Kennedy was only ten months old. I sat in social services a month prior, nursing her for the last time while I waited to get the yellow fever vaccine, with big ol’ tears streaming down my face. I knew I couldn’t nurse after getting the vaccine, and I also knew Kennedy was my last.
Yet something compelled me to GO. That week changed me, with the breathtaking views in the land of a thousand hills, visiting women entrepreneurs with HIV, loving on orphans in schools, hearing stories of the survivors of the genocide, visiting wells, and even a crazy day of trekking gorillas.
When I met Natalie with Africa New Life over coffee in New York City this past January, the tears started flowing again. This country, these people, stirred something massive in my heart. The grief they bore twenty years ago, and the reconciliation and resolve that has followed suit. I listened to Natalie describe the Esther Home and the women being raised up to lead in that country. These were exceptional young women who demonstrate Christian character, leadership and academic rigor. They are genocide survivors, orphans, and the poorest of the poor. She also explained how a college degree in Rwanda ends the cycle of poverty, but attending college is cost prohibitive. Without scholarships, these young women would not be able to get a college education.
You can imagine how thrilled I was to learn of a tangible way IF:Unleash could participate in supporting the women of Rwanda.
What IF… 1600 of us gave a one-time gift of $30 and impacted these women for a lifetime?
This would provide scholarships for two women in Rwanda to attend a four year college.
They would also live in the the Esther Home, receive leadership training, learn basic finance management, and serve/learn in community together.
Will you join us by July 1 deadline?
Ann Voskamp, Lauren Chandler, Esther Havens and I will travel to the Esther Home in Rwanda this September and meet both of these women and introduce them to our IF:Gathering community via video. We are so excited and grateful to see what God has in store for both of them. Thanks for being a part of something beautiful today, I pray each you are blessed by your generosity and faithfulness!
A weighted word, yes? Safety. Security. Haven. In the four years since moving to NYC, the meaning has taken new forms. Risk. Surrender. Rescue.
With a heavy, yet peaceful heart, our home is moving. Again. I’ve posted less these recent months but the writing is still happening, mind you. I’ve filled almost two journals since August. But some seasons are for wrestling, twisting and turning, and can’t be shared prematurely. Writers understand, that words are often a space for working things out. Most books are agonized over for years, before they ever make their way to a published page.
I’ve sensed, perhaps all along, that New York City wasn’t permanent. We “opted-in” every year when the rental agreement slipped under the door requiring our signature to renew each May.
“Are we up for another 12 months?”
“Yes, absolutely we are.”
That conversation stayed on repeat year after year. The first couple years, the answer was agonizing. We held a sense to stay, to not run or retreat, no matter the struggle. We knew running from pain never solved any problems. So God held us close, while He gently pried idols and entitlements from our hands.
As our fingers released a bit more each year, that answer came easier. Eventually New York City became my love. These years marked the most formative moments of my adult life. From serving in a church that we were passionate about building, to meeting with different women each Tuesday over coffee in TriBeCa, I knew I could live here forever.
Turns out I’m only 1 of 5. A family unit, with individual needs and desires. Although Gabe and I were thriving, the city was getting tougher for our kids. Cade, thirteen years old, met challenges finding a community of other kiddos with Down syndrome. He’s a social bug, and I’m learning as each year passes, he needs more buddies like himself. Pierce is about to enter Middle School and begin his 6th different school experience in seven years. As for Kennedy, our youngest, the majority of her life has been muddled with transition.
Gabe and I shared many late night conversations about this reality. We only have 9 years left before our youngest takes flight. Nine years! A blink! (Likely even less to influence their crucial years of emotional development.)
This May, we knew this decision would hold more weight.
The South has always been home. I grew up in Florida, met Gabe at a college in Virginia and spent our first thirteen years of married life in Atlanta. Those roots run deep. As we considered where we might plant our family for the immediate years to come, the likely place became Nashville, Tennessee. A city where our extended family was driving distance, not flying distance. Amen?!
Funny how God works these things out. Our decision to host Q in Nashville 15 months ago apparently was our set up. The multiple trips there over the past year began to raise the question, “Could this be where we land?” My immediate reaction was, “No.” Don’t get me wrong, 12 South is progressive, and Franklin is charming, the horse farms are dreamy and rolling hills picturesque, but I couldn’t accept it. I woke the first half of May with fear and doubt, terrified of the comfort.
Somewhere along the way, I adopted the belief that my faith was built on martyrdom. That God would remain in my apartment flooring where I met Him so intimately these years, and moving South would leave me wandering aimlessly. Thank God for honest friends. As I expressed my doubts to my dear friend, Lauren, she reminded me to take the fear captive. To ask Jesus to give it a name. The next morning I woke and asked Jesus, “What is it?”
He whispered, “IDENTITY”.
God revealed that my identity was wrapped around NYC. It made sense. It’s the place where I found my voice, where I experienced healing, and ultimately found freedom. However, He gently reminded me that New York City did not give me my identity, He did. The city had only been the setting. A kindling, in fact. And what He has begun here, He will accomplish elsewhere. I’m resting in that promise.
I knew obedience required me to come, but I never thought obedience would require me to go.
When the decision was final last week, there was such PEACE. A resting place where I can stop focusing on what we are leaving, and focus on what He is taking us TO.
Over the last many months, untold hints and confirmations have surfaced along the way, giving us a sense that this is where our next phase of life will play out. We know it won’t hold all the answers as we meet struggle and opportunity in Nashville, just like the NYC. Yet our sense is that this is the right decision for our family, for this moment. We are grateful to join in on what has already begun, many like minded kindreds, shaping the future of this great city in the South.
We are eager for many things: For rest and renewal, to finish the next book, to be sent out, and while away, return to a new place called home. BONUS: Pierce is eager to play his guitar on the streets of Music City. (Though I keep telling him the tips won’t rival Central Park!)
Thanks to each of you, dear readers, for joining me in this wild ride. For journeying with me when I penned the story of Freefall. I can’t imagine our story without New York in it. This sacred space has given us an understanding of God’s presence and power. His healing and revelation. His longing for us to live and thrive in relationship. A recognition that we NEED one another and can’t do life alone. This city has shown us that when we CRY out, He draws near. I pray I’ll take that understanding with me—no matter the place-for the rest of my days.
Posted on May 6, 2014
I’m thrilled and honored be take part in a beautiful film, Irreplaceable, which will play in 700 theaters around the country, TONIGHT.
A year ago in April, Freefall to Fly had just launched, and we were traveling on a two week book tour between New York, Chicago and LA over Spring Break. Each night I shared about Cade, how his LIGHT and LIFE had turned my world upside down thirteen years prior at age 26, my entre’ to motherhood. At the end of one of the gatherings, a producer approached sharing the message of this project, and wanted to chat in NYC the following week.
The crew arrived in NYC as promised, joined us in picking Cade up from his elementary school on the upper west side, and walked with us to Central Park to have a conversation on the freshly warmed green grass of spring. I had no idea what to expect, but as Gabe and I shared our learnings and longings, our brokenness and beauty, it became evident that FOCUS was onto something special in this story of commitment and connectedness. They were sharing a global glimpse of the WORTH of family.
We live in a day in NYC, when I show up in my children’s public school classroom to chaperone or view their latest creations, the teachers gather us by saying to the children, “Find your grown-up.” In that setting, I’m not Kennedy, Pierce or Cade’s “mom”, I’m their “grown-up.” I’m interchangeable. There’s not permission anymore to say mom or dad, because the sad truth is that no longer holds the popular definition of family.
Just three weeks ago, I was incredibly blessed to fly to LA to view this film for the first time, at Fox Studios, for the premiere. I had no idea how much this finished work would grip my heart. There were whispered “amens”, and “yes’s”, and “hmmm’s”, from the crowd after quotes like, “Our pursuit of individual freedoms have made us slaves,” by John Stonestreet or “I went to prison, to become free.” (A women’s story of encountering Jesus for the first time)
The film was followed by a panel led by Jim Daly with Carey Casey of National Institute of Fathering, Rev. Sam Rodriguez of National Hispanic Leadership Conference, Tim Sisarich (Director), and myself. I’m not sure how I was asked to represent on that panel, but it was a beautiful experience of learning and I’m incredibly grateful for their pursuit of diversity. The panel will play in theaters at the end of tonight’s film.
If you don’t have plans tonight, please join us. I promise you will be stirred, convicted and inspired.
May we, the Church, be the LIGHT of the world, the SALT of the earth, the CITY on a hill that cannot be hidden. May this film open our eyes and ears to where we sit as a people, in desperate need to find our footing again. May this gospel be “Good News”, that gives way for our children, and our children’s children, to flourish. To SHINE.
In the wake of this past weekend, my head can’t stop spinning.
It’s as if Aslan arrived with a roar, and his daughters heard and came running. Only five days later, I can’t shake the sense that what has begun, cannot be stopped. This awakening, this revelation, this hunger for more and more and more, of him.
May we fall on our face each morning in unity, all around the world, with whispers of confession and yearnings of righteousness. For his marching orders. For his plans. For his purposes. Because it’s coming to a head sisters. The groaning of the earth is getting louder, our lament and our cries of what is lost. What is broken. What is torn. May we intercede with in ways we can’t even understand because HE’S SETTING US FREE. Yes??
Two weeks ago my entire community of Trinity Grace Church came together in Union Square for the very first time under one roof. Every parish planted in the past eight years: Chelsea. East Village. Park Slope. Astoria. Long Island City. Upper West Side. Upper East Side. Midtown. Washington and Crown Heights.
The first member of the church stood and shared how the church began. How a relentless band of brothers arrived with their families, so poor that they had to keep passing money back and forth between bank accounts just to qualify for a two bedroom apartment for each of their families. While we lifted hands in worship and praised God for his faithfulness, I suddenly envisioned Christ walking the streets of my city. Of Jesus turning the corner in a darkened Times Square and every path his robe touched turned to white. People in his wake were falling behind him in worship. I know, crazy. Right???
I’ve lived in NYC for 4 years, but I’ve NEVER believed revival could birth in our city. I’ve never imagined that 8 million people in the span of 11 miles could fall on their face before the risen Christ and bow down in the darkest corners of the world. Can you even imagine it? Romans 14:11
Sunday night when I returned home from IF, Kennedy said at bedtime tuck-in, “Mommy, I’ve been praying to find a Christian friend in my school for the past two weeks, before I fall asleep.” Turns out her prayer has already been answered, through Cate on her swim team. May the faith of our daughters build ours.
I’d like to end with the prayer at the end of my talk, one that keeps surfacing in my heart these past days.
* * *
“Please God, heal our heart, every broken part, don’t just rescue it, but HEAL it FOR GOOD and set us free. Because we don’t want to keep coming back to fighting the enemies lies, that we are still broken and wounded.
Can you make our heart NEW? Not just mended, but actually NEW? As if there were never any brokenness or hairline fracture?
Can you take our heart back to the way you created it and it was good? Blazingly good? Where it pumped with fevered intensity and life-giving boldness surged through its veins? Where it was free and alive and so deliriously joyful it could burst?
THIS is the healing we are asking for. Not a patch job, not a steri-strip, not stitches, not a hairline fracture, but please give us a heart that can only come in YOUR power of healing and anointing.
A heart that prays bold prayers and believes for bold things. One that is consumed with passion and purity and pursuit of all that is Holy.
There are many of us in bondage with a broken heart, so many captives that long to be free. But we can’t always see our captivity, may we waken to our captor and cry out, ‘no more!’ May the earth shake and the mountains tremble and jail doors open, so we as a nation, An army of women can be set FREE.
May we reject the things that numb us of our captivity, of our pride and arrogance and self-promotion. Come in Spirit and power O Heavenly Father we implore you and we will not be silent about this rescue, we will not be silent about this healing, we will declare from the rooftop, that your name is great, your mercies are ever new and your grace and goodness extends to all generations.
We love you, we worship you, we declare your name righteous and we receive the power and resurrection of your mighty hand. In your name demons will shudder so we ask you to go before us and take us where you want us. We are ever surrendered and ever grateful. In your most precious, compassionate name, JESUS, we ask all these things.
I don’t usually talk about Q Ideas here, but God’s used it to do massive work in my heart in the last decade, and I feel it’s time. Because women, we sit at a crossroads in our nation, where we must also lead, and we must be equipped. Plus, today is Gabe’s birthday and I’d like to honor the man I love and the calling God’s burned in his heart.
I’ll never forget our beach trip to Amelia Island in 2001, where Gabe inhaled “How Now Shall We Live” by Chuck Colson in four days. Not exactly your average beach read, at 600+ pages. He was almost giddy about topics like, how we “ought” to love and lead in our post-Christian, secular culture as Jesus followers.
Yet it wasn’t a tension I really felt.
At the time, our lives were pretty safe. Most days were spent in our Christian jobs with our Christian friends in our Christian neighborhood in our Christian city. I’m half-kidding. We knew few people that felt differently. It was popular to be “Christian,” those days, wasn’t everybody??
Chuck became a mentor to Gabe in his later years, and ultimately a dear friend. A comrade of sorts that sought to impart what He saw coming ahead in the church. They wrote long letters back and forth in Chuck’s final days, cementing in Gabe’s heart the idea that…
Christians are called to redeem entire cultures, not just individuals.
This all sounded exciting and yet WAY too macro for my engagement. I was ready to pop with my second child and spent more energy on whether I should buy airplane or train sheets for Cade’s big boy toddler bed. But Gabe wouldn’t be deterred, and although it was still murky, he resigned his current job as Vice President of a great company, and came home to work from our couch. And then at Starbucks. And then back to our couch. Our savings drained to zero while Gabe met with mentors that year, anyone twice his age that offered their time. He even crafted a two -hundred page business plan by years end. (I’m not sure where that plan currently is, as I’ve not seen it since.)
Because it wasn’t about the plan, it was about rooting something in his heart.
We hosted small gatherings the first few years on the east and west coasts, welcoming and serving Christian leaders in their respected industries: Songwriters, Filmmakers, Fine Artists, Scientists, Journalists, Fashion Designers, Government Officials, Education Reformers, Policy Makers, Hedge Fund Investors, Social and Global Entrepreneurs, Justice Fighters…and Pastors.
In due time, we realized God had laid the table for these friends with incredible influence and favor on the front lines, yet they felt isolated and alone. Many remained silent. One wouldn’t begin to talk about Jesus on Wall Street, or at Vogue, or at Fashion Week. We realized the church must do better at equipping and enlarging this conversation of what a faithful presence looks like. How not everyone is called to “Christian Ministry.” But MANY are called to enemy territory, where allies are required to survive. How a grain of salt needs other grains to actually season the meat. And an ember needs other flames to lighten the dark.
So we launched our first annual Q Gathering at The Tabernacle in Atlanta in 2007. We were committed to spanning the U.S., meeting in a different major city each year, and convening in that city’s cultural center. It’s the most expensive way to go about it, but it was worth it. We could have met in churches for free, but our conviction was to go to into the dark and illuminate the light. After that, New York’s Gotham Hall, Austin’s Paramount Theatre, Chicago’s Civic Opera House, Portland’s Crystal Ballroom, Washington D.C.’s Andrew Mellon Auditorium, and LA’s Nokia Theatre followed suit.
Those early years, there were hardly any women at Q. I felt alone, at the table in the front corner feverishly taking notes, hearing things that blew my mind, and yet I had no context for how to take it back to laundry and diapers. I didn’t feel smart enough to be there. Like somehow I got a free pass as Gabe’s wife, but I’d yet to discover my own calling. In essence, I was piggybacking on Gabe’s vision, as if that was enough. But it wasn’t enough.
As the years progressed, I began to feel EVERDAY tensions that were discussed at Q. When I started having panic attacks, I wanted to know how to think about medication. When Pierce’s friend (a girl) told him in elementary school that she had a crush on another girl, I wanted to dig into gender and sexual confusion in adolescence. When the shooting happened in Newtown, CT, I paid more attention to the gun debate. When I learned that 92% of children diagnosed with Down Syndrome are terminated, I began to volunteer at my city’s Pregnancy Support Center. I learned that abortion in New York City is double the national average with 40% of pregnancies are terminated!
Suddenly, I felt thrust to my own front lines, in desperate need to learn from credible thinkers on how to thrive in New York City, our new home. Suddenly I felt like I was the TARGET MARKET for Q, as a woman, as a leader, as a friend. After Bobette Buster led a 2-day intensive Q session on waking to your story, it clicked. I felt something, deeply, that was my own. Turns out, I had a few thoughts about things. So I wrote, “Why are Women Fading.” My very first words in print.
I learned I wasn’t alone. It gained the most online traffic of any article that year, bringing light to a part of Q that had gone missing. Women. So I began to advocate for women’s voices to be heard in this space, far and wide. Because we can add much to this dialogue.
We humanize it.
We popularize it.
We activate it.
I’m not sure if the tensions are increasing, or if the Church is finally waking to what’s already there. But either way. I want to stay in the game. I want to be diligent. And women, it’s so important that you are there too. Because God is doing something in our generation, in our time, and He’s using women who’ve got nothing to lose, who will stand on the front lines and say “YES” to whatever he asks. He’s calling us to be bold and lead and rally, single, or with our husbands, because the flourishing of our faith depends on it.
This year, at Q Nashville, I’d love to have women take up half the room and offer special rates for first timers.
If I’m honest, there were days I didn’t appreciate Gabe’s leadership. Days I didn’t share in his conviction. Days I questioned the tough calls He continually made. But as I look back over this past decade, I’ve become stronger. He’s asked me to face terrifying places, and that doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.
As I wrote in his birthday card, I have more respect for him today, than I’ve ever had. Perhaps I’m just catching up, but God has aligned our hearts in new ways and I’m full of hope for what’s ahead.