Friday, September 8, 2017

Only a test

If you want to date me,
and we've talked much at all,
I've probably asked you a lot
about your interests and activities
because I want to get to know you better.
Not too long in I will send you a link
to something I wrote that I'm proud of.
It will take less than 5 minutes to read.
You don't have to love it.
You just have to read it.
This is a test...
It is only a test.

When I wrote just a month ago about a new relationship that I was really hoping would work out, I was already seeing signs it might not. That was one of them that followed soon after. I sent a link to a post that was important to me, and I explained why. He still didn't read it. It wasn't the problem, just a symptom.

I mentioned that I was worried about turning my fear of failure into a self-fulfilling prophesy. It turns out, sometimes people are just complicated and don't know how to communicate well. That's okay. I made a lot of new friends during that couple of months and that is what I'm choosing to focus on.

Right after I told him it wasn't working out, I participated in a motivational conference as a vendor. One of the speakers there said,
"You have to surround yourself with good people. 
Someone can be good, but not good for you.
You will be too much for some people... Those aren't your people."
-Ingrid Beyhl

It turns out, I am too much for some people. For the right one, I won't be. I'd rather wait a little longer for him than keep trying to make things work with someone who isn't all in. Life is too short for that.

Thankfully, in the process this last time, I met a lot of other good people. <3

I told someone else this last week that with the exception of that fact that I can't seem to find a man who isn't a jerk, doesn't need rescued, or isn't some combination of the two... my life is pretty great right now. I'm pretty happy with how things are going. My bills are paid and work is flowing well. I need to find more time to write, but I'm working on that too. Most importantly, I know who I am. I may forget sometimes, but only for a moment. Then I remind myself, dust myself off, and keep going...

I'll be sharing my previous post as a speech at my next Toastmasters' meeting. I'm really looking forward to it! If you aren't familiar with Toastmasters, feel free to ask! It a great thing to be involved with!

I don't have anything life-changing or ultra-encouraging to share this time, but sometimes a post like this gets things out and opens the floodgates for something more meaningful. Sometimes I write things like this that I think nobody will get anything from and I hear later how much it touched someone in an unexpected way. 

One of the ways I remind myself who I am, is by reading this to myself... also, I have this new shirt I love that says FEARLESS on it... definitely working on being that more often. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Not a command, a promise

She stood in one place staring at the ground, 
wishing her glare alone would be enough 
to make a hole open up and swallow her. 
At that moment, she knew death was certain anyway. 
It wasn't death she was trying to avoid. 
It was the public humiliation.

The men holding her called out for the religious teacher
as if they actually cared about what she had done or his opinion.
"Teacher, this woman has been caught..."
She knew she was being made a example of
for some other purpose. It didn't matter.
"in the act of adultery."
Too humiliated to even cry,
She could feel her soul crumbling within her.

"The Law of Moses commanded us to stone such women..." 
Such women, the words sunk in. 
They might as well have called her garbage.
Even if they had let her live, she would be an outcast,
considered good for only one thing.
She was broken, and ready to die.
"So what do you say?" 

She waited an eternity for his answer.
At one point, she raised her gaze just a bit
half expecting to see a stone hurtling towards her.
Instead, she saw the teacher bent towards the ground,
writing in the dirt with his fingers
as they continued to badger him for an answer.

When he finally spoke, his voice rocked her to her core.
"Let him who is without sin among you 
be the first to throw a stone at her." 
and at that moment, she felt the faintest strain of hope.

The teacher continued to write in the dirt
as confusion swirled within her. 
What was he saying? It made no sense. 
She knew she had done wrong,
she knew the punishment that was coming.
she knew she deserved it.

But the men holding her there, began letting go.
They started walking away... one at a time.

She was still watching him write in the dirt
when he suddenly looked up and caught her gaze.
Without breaking eye contact, he stood up.

"Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?" 

"No one, Lord." 

And Jesus said, 
          "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." 

~John 8:3-11 

Those last five words always stuck in my throat.

"Go and sin no more."

Many hear those words as a commandment. Sure you are forgiven, but God still expects you to work hard to keep up your end of the bargain, right?

That's what I believed.

I had heard it preached so many times... and I just knew I couldn't do it. So I didn't. Every time I did something I knew was wrong, the guilt/shame spiral that followed led me right back to the thing that I knew was hurting me. But I also knew I deserved it. I was shackling myself to those hurtful things, letting them define me and who I was.

The day that Jesus broke those chains for me by showing me how much He loved me, without any conditions or caveats on my behavior, was the best day of my life. That's why I identify with this story. I was never an adulteress by conventional standards, but lust, envy, pride, and more definitely had a hold on me... and I was never truly free until I found out that He didn't condemn me for those things. 

I believe the woman above felt the words the same way Jesus meant them for all of us on that day. "I don't condemn you for being human. I don't look down on you for not being perfect. I am not mad at you for what you've done. I love you. And because of that, I know you can do better."

And hearing those words, she straightened her shoulders and started the walk towards home. Not as a woman full of shame who would be doomed to repeat her mistakes because she called herself by the title those men had given her, but as someone who had a newfound freedom, knowing that nobody condemned her.

You see, "Go and sin no more" is too often taught as a command from God for excellence, when it's really meant as a statement of our freedom in Christ. When we know who we are, and what He thinks of us, it gives us the power and motivation to overcome those labels we used to put on ourselves, the ones that became chains that bound us.

Abusers, addicts, and adulterers alike can find freedom when they understand that Jesus doesn't condemn them for their struggle. I know I did. And it's not, as some people claim, the freedom to continue to sin as much as we want. It's the freedom to walk away from those things, knowing we are no longer defined by them. And, if we falter along the way, the freedom to get back up, dust ourselves off, and walk with our head still held high... because none of it changes who we are in Christ or what God sees when He looks at us.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
~Romans 8:1

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
~John 8:36

Catching up

I've been at a stand-still when it comes to writing lately. There have been a lot of big changes in my life. I just never know where to start, so I decided to try with a quick recap...

Over the last couple of months one relationship ended, or changed tracks really. He is an amazing person, and I hope we'll always be friends. I look forward to seeing where he lets God take him in the future.

I went on two trips out of state, both fantastic for their own reasons. In Nashville, the girls and I fed and ministered to the homeless, both on our own and with the help of a homeless ministry there. It was a wonderful couple of days. Then, in California, I enjoyed time with my brother, saw a couple of plays (one he was in), spent time on the beach, and pushed through a huge fear to have an awe-inspiring experience.

Another relationship began. And, while I'm excited to see what happens with this great guy, I'm constantly vacillating between, taking it one day at a time... and trying not to make the thought, "this guy is absolutely going to break my heart" a self-fulfilling prophesy. I might be worse at this relationship thing than I thought.

It's not unusual for me to have a handful of unfinished blog posts at any one time, but I think I have record number right now. All of those things above are blog worthy. I just haven't known where to start. So I guess this is it. 

Some days I wonder if writing is really my calling or not. I start to think that maybe I'm not supposed to be in ministry in any big way... just the smaller ways that God works through me in daily life. But then I remember how I told Him that if He gave me a story, I wouldn't stop sharing it... and frankly, the story just keeps getting better and better. 

I know better than to think I would be happy not writing. I know better than to think I would be happy letting my story quietly fade away. I know better than to think I'll ever be happy if I'm not making a difference with someone, somewhere... 

Being open and honest about my life in the hopes that it helps other people is scary sometimes. But when I think about it... so is the alternative.

If I'm not doing the things I was created to do, being the person I know I am, then what am I really doing at all? 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord. 
Psalms 40:2-3

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thirty years

For thirty years I believed 
saying a prayer when I was five 
only meant I was going to Heaven someday. 

For thirty years I believed
God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden
because He was angry with them.

For thirty years I believed 
if I didn't act right, 
God would punish me too.

For thirty years I believed
if I didn't forgive others
God wouldn't forgive me.

For thirty years I believed 
if I followed the Bible as a rule book for Christians,
God would believe I loved Him. 

For thirty years I believed 
if I did what He said, 
God might answer some of my prayers. 

Thirty years is a long time 
to be bound by something 
that was meant to set me free.

Thirty years is a long time to believe lies.

I don't believe anyone intentionally lied to me. There are lots of reasons I didn't understand the truth. But to find out I spent thirty years bound by something that was supposed to bring me freedom is crazy!

In the last two years I've learned more about what I stepped into when I prayed that prayer at five than in all my previous thirty years combined. 

The funny thing about discovering the freedom I have in Christ is the realization that I've always had it. Jesus unlocked the prison doors a long time ago... but I had to walk out... and until recently, I didn't know how... or what was waiting for me outside of the prison.  

We hear these verses all the time, but if we don't really understand what Jesus did at the cross, we can't really understand what they mean for us.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. 
Romans 8:11

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will 
do the same works I have done, and even greater works, 
John 14:12

If I had really understood those verses, if hadn't just said them all the time without thinking about what they really mean, if I had really known what I had by the Grace of God... how would my life have been different?

I could think about that for days, but the truth is this: what really matters is what is happening right now. What am I doing TODAY with the freedom and power I've been given? That's what is important.

Today I'm finally living the life God planned for me. I don't necessarily mean He planned out each step and decision along my way... I mean I am living without fear. I have all of my needs met through Him and I'm excited about letting others know they can have it too. 

God is not mad at you, not even a little bit. You are perfect. You are redeemed. You are holy. You are the light of the world. You are a work of divine craftsmanship. You are healed. You are prosperous. You are the righteousness of God. You are loved more than you could ever imagine. You are free.

I know because I am too.

So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.
John 8:36

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17

Sunday, June 25, 2017

What Grace doesn't do

When you've been taught your whole life that you walk the line or end up in hell, it's easy to be skeptical of a crazy thing called Grace. Many people are. And do some who don't really understand it, try to abuse it? Of course! But that's not the purpose of Grace. In the end, God looks on the heart... and I know Who mine belongs to.

"But, Kindall, if Grace really covers everything, past, present, and future... then you have the freedom to sin and get away with it! That's wrong!"

I know it can be confusing. Heck, I argued it too when I found out what a gift I really had in Grace! Here's the truth about my newfound freedom...

Grace doesn't give me the freedom to sin.

Grace gives me the freedom to break out of my old patterns, habits, and beliefs about myself and live in a way that pleases God, not because I'm scared He is going to punish me, but because I am so overwhelmed by the fact that He didn't... because of His love for me. <3

Grace doesn't give me the freedom to intentionally fall.

Grace gives me the freedom, when I fall, to stand up, dust myself off, and move forward without the self-loathing that I used to feel every time I messed up... which was all the time.

Grace doesn't give me the freedom to be nonchalant about God's Word.

Grace gives new meaning to the words "repent and confess" and makes them a part of my everyday life as I turn towards Jesus in every situation and say the same things He says about me. (He says some pretty awesome things about all of us!)

Grace doesn't give me the freedom to look down on others.

Grace shows me how others are hurting and what I can do to help. It breaks my heart for the things that break His heart. It is hard to understand grace and watch someone suffer without it.

Some would say that, as a believer in Grace, I have the freedom to do anything I want... but because of Grace, all I want to do is change people's lives the way mine has been changed, by the love of Jesus.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 
By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 

Romans 6:1-4

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mondays are not the problem

I don't hate Mondays. I just can't.

I love my job and the fact that God lets me make people's lives better in the variety of ways He does. I love that I can provide for my family. I love that I have a decent place to live and enough food that I can say things like, "I should exercise more or eat less."

Am I super excited about getting up at 5:30am tomorrow? No. Am I energized when considering every aspect of my upcoming work week? No.

But I am so blessed... blessed more than I could ever write here. I know who I am... and who I am doesn't hate any day that I wake up alive and have the ability to praise the Lord for everything I get to do.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9

Saturday, May 20, 2017

He was just walking

His gait was a little off-kilter, that's what caught my eye first.

While the three buttons on his shirt that he did use were lined up correctly, the way it hung on him, almost sideways, gave the impression that he had randomly buttoned just enough to keep it on. His wavy silver hair probably would have come close to reaching his chin if it wasn't wildly bouncing upwards. And his eyes, though open, didn't really look as if they were registering anything they were seeing.

He was walking towards me on the sidewalk, but it was a busy day, a busy sidewalk downtown. He wasn't actually walking towards me. He was just walking. 

I got in my car and drove away in the opposite direction. Six blocks down the road, I turned into the parking garage where the ATM line forms and waited my turn. A few minutes later I was making my deposit.

My ATM usually takes just about anything I try to deposit, but occasionally it will refuse to take a check with a corner bent or a bill with too many wrinkles. This time, it spit a perfectly crisp $20 bill out at me. I just stuck it in my purse rather than fight with the machine.

As I put the car in drive, I saw someone out of the corner of my eye walking across the parking garage in my direction. I knew before I looked because of his gait, but I still was shocked to see the same man walking towards me again. Well, not walking towards me. It was an area of town where the homeless are prone to wander. He was just walking.

Still, seeing him in two different places so closely together stirred up a little bit of fear and I put my foot on the gas and moved away from him as quickly as possible. I wasn't a block away when I felt guilty. It was the first hot day this year and he was likely thirsty. What was I scared of?

Unfortunately, I was stuck in busy traffic that took me onto the bridge over the Illinois River and couldn't turn around.

At the bottom of the bridge I ran into the gas station. I bought a bottle of cold water and set it next to the snacks I had packed for myself in my front seat before I went back over the bridge in the hopes of finding him.

As I reached the top of the bridge, I saw him. He was walking towards me on the bridge. Well, not walking towards me. He was just on the bridge, on the sidewalk, walking. But I couldn't stop without causing a major accident... so I kept going.

A glance at the clock in my car told me the interview with a prospective employee was in 35 minutes. I hoped I had enough time to get around the block, back over the bridge, and wait for him to make it over and still get to my appointment.

Starting up the bridge for the third time in several minutes I saw him still walking. Then, he turned towards the railing and stopped, looking out over the river. My heart leaped in my chest as he leaned over the low bridge railing ever so slightly, and my mind started to race.

I went back and forth between trying to talk to him telepathically to praying to God...“Don't jump. Please don't jump. I have water and food. I'm sorry I took off earlier. God, please don't let him jump. I'm helping now. Sir, please just keep walking over the bridge.” I kept going, even when he was again out of my sight and while finding a place to park near the bottom of the bridge.

Straining my eyes the direction he was coming from, I eventually saw his head pop up over the edge of the bridge and I let out a huge sign of relief. I could tell it was him by the distinctive bob his gait gave him. Then more and more of him became clear as he drew closer.

I got out of the car, “Sir, would you like some water?”

He nodded and walked towards me. “That's a long walk over that bridge!” He said.

“Yeah, it's pretty hot today! What's your name?”

“Reese. Like the candy.”

I handed him the water along with some snacks, a card that told him Jesus loves him, and the bill that the ATM had rejected.

“These are for you. I'll be praying for you Reese.”

He looked at the bill, surprised, before expressing his gratitude and started to walk away. A few steps later he paused and said, “My last name is Stillwell, so God knows you mean me.”

“He knows!” I assured him.

Then, he did something that completely shocked me. He walked back over the bridge into the town he had just left. He hadn't just been walking, down a busy sidewalk, through a parking garage, across the bridge. He really had been walking towards me all along.I wish I had told him, “Do you need proof that God knows your name, Reese? He set you on a path to me three different times and made sure I had cash in hand to help you out. God knows you.”

If I see Reese again, I'll tell him.

In the meantime, I can tell you. God knows you too. He loves you. And when it seems like nothing is going right and all you are doing is wandering around, keep your eyes open. Because either He is putting people in your path, or turning your path towards His people. 

Either way, He is trying to help. He knows what you need. He knows your name.

I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands. 
Isaiah 49:16 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31