Heaven Come Down

{I wrote this after returning from the IF:Gathering a few weeks ago and am just now getting around to posting it:)}

My head is still spinning from the last few days, and I’m not sure I have enough perspective to articulate it well. I’m sure I’ll gain more as I go, but there’s something powerful about sharing from the “in-between,” so that’s what this is an attempt to do.

Let me first say this: I recoil at words like “world-changer” and “visionary.” Not for others, but for myself. I am a practical, deliberate, detail-concerned, often-too-nervous-to-get-in-the-boat-much-less-rock-it” kind of girl. And I’m not saying I’m proud of it; I’m just setting the stage for what I got to experience.

By nature, I’m a questioner. A doubter. A skeptic, if you will.

I’m sure I’m painting a picture that makes you dream of being my friend-what with all my positive traits and such.

But I think that’s why this weekend meant so much to me; because I didn’t see it coming the way others did.

In case you haven’t heard much about the IF:Gathering, the heart of it was a group of women coming together regardless of denomination and background and asking Jesus to bless our time as a collective whole. Through worship, teaching, prayer, and earnest desire to know Him and serve Him well, we just let it unfold.

As I hope was the case for everyone there and everyone who watched online, I heard from the Lord in specific ways throughout our time together. It wasn’t show, and it wasn’t perfectly coordinated or planned. In fact, as a part of the leadership team, I’ll give you this little glimpse behind the scenes.

We spent a whole lot more time as a team on our knees than we did micro-managing.

And whenever the Spirit lead Jennie to change something, no matter how absurd it may have appeared, she did it. She continually backed away from any plan she could have concocted and simply said she trusted the Lord and she trusted us. She didn’t flinch when there were challenges; she nodded. And I was moved by that trust many times this weekend, wondering if I would have done the same.

I won’t blubber on about the team that pulled this off, although I certainly could. These women are sisters to me in a unique and powerful way-a path that was carved from the purest motives and the most willing hearts I’ve ever encountered. There were hard conversations over the months, and many text messages asking for prayer and wisdom. But I hesitate to say more, and I’ll tell you why:

I don’t want you to feel like you aren’t a part of it.

That was our intention from the very beginning. How can we make it accessible? How can we frame it so it doesn’t look or feel like a clique or a cliché? How can we tell these women that we are for them, with them, and family to them?

If you were there, or if you watched, I hope you felt that. Because the heart of IF is the unity of women, and I think we have just scratched the surface of what’s possible.

On the way home yesterday, I cried on both of my flights. And for the record, this was not turbulence-induced, which goes straight into the noteworthy category. I listened to one song over and over (it’s called Spirit Break Out by Kim Walker-Smith…good stuff), and in the lyrics she talks about heaven touching earth. Staring out the window, miles above the streets, I had a thought I had never had before.

Do we really want that?

We hear the phrase often: heaven come down.

But in our heart of hearts, would we really want it?

If heaven came down, and all the people in it, we would have to acknowledge a few things I think might challenge us. Like the fact that we’re shoulder to shoulder with the guy we argued with on Twitter about what a Scripture passage meant.

We’d be looking in the eyes of people we had ignored our entire lives.

If heaven came down, we’d have to admit that maybe (just maybe) our humility should have trumped our pride a little more often.

But the issues, you say…all the issues…

And I hear you. But I need you to understand that the issues are secondary compared to loving like Jesus loved. They don’t go away, and we don’t have to turn in our conviction-cards in order to live in community.

Without question, I would be considered one of the more conservative members of IF, but listen. We never lined up according to our stances; we circled up because of Him. We didn’t wear badges to identify our opinions about women in ministry or how old the earth is.

It’s pretty hard to look people in the eye when you’re standing in that sort of line, isn’t it?

Ultimately, this is what made me cry on the way back to Nashville; the sense that I’ve lined up more than I’ve linked arms out of my own fear of being misunderstood. And at some point, I have to acknowledge that heaven looks more like a circle than I have cared to admit. At a very basic level, I’m saying there is at least a chance that I’ve been wrong about some of the convictions that kept my sisters at arm’s length. And for some reason I just don’t imagine I’ll be sharing eternity with them while continuing to hash out our differences.

Am I saying you should loosen the grip on your beliefs? Absolutely not.

I’m saying you should simply make sure you are embracing people with the same fervor.

So that’s my challenge for you today: live like heaven came down.

In your neighborhood, in your friendships, and even in the places you wander online. I saw a glimpse of it in a crowded music hall in Austin, and I’m convinced it’s beautiful, and maybe even more surprisingly-that it’s possible.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Official!

Well, today is the day.

Chasing God has officially been released!

This one was such a labor of love…I hope it speaks to you :)

I hope you all had the Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years, and that God has blessed you with a sense of His wild love in the midst of all the celebration.

Thank you so much for supporting my words and my work-you’ll never know how much it has meant.

xoxo

A

 

How Do I Thank You?

I had to pop in to let you know how incredibly grateful I am for your generosity. SO many of you gave money for the Phelps family and I am blown away by it. I believe they will be able to pay off all of their outstanding debt (costs associated with burial, hospital bills etc.) and when Todd talked to Michael on the phone today he broke down crying. It is so amazing to see the body of Christ coming together for strangers, and I just want you all to know that it has ministered to me greatly to see so many kind words and contributions. I know I say this all the time, but I don’t take it lightly that you all even come to this blog, let alone jump in and offer what you have when there is a need you feel like you can meet. A few of you have asked about sending checks, and if you were one of them, feel free to send it directly to them. Here is their address:

Michael and Holly Phelps
411 Annex Ave. Apt D-7
Nashville, TN 37209

Speechless. I’m just speechless…

Thank you so, so much.

Also, thank you to the ladies who mentioned the sling recall. I did check to make sure this one wasn’t recalled (it’s a Hotsling in case you asked…and I agree…the pattern is adorable!). The founder of Hotslings is on the ASTM board that comes up with the safety standards and I couldn’t find anything that said that this sling was unsafe, but I certainly welcome any thoughts from you all if you have had a different experience. Shoot me an email if you know anything specific about this brand that might be helpful to me!

Also (and this will officially make this the most random post ever), I am praying about my next book and would love your input. Believe it or not, I have an October deadline and although I have a few ideas about what the topic will be, I would really like to hear what you all think. Feel free to leave a comment on this post or send me an email if there’s something that sounds interesting to you. Parenting? Devotional-type book? Specific Bible topic? Anything else?

Still no more pictures on here…bad blogger, bad blogger…but it will be soon! I’m making some little dresses for the girls photography session next week so hopefully they will turn out cute :)

Have an awesome holiday weekend and be safe-

With much gratitude,
Ang

Meet Inga. Love Inga. Help Inga.

This is Inga.

Inga is annoyingly cute. Let’s look past that for the moment.

She is a dear friend of Audra’s, and I have been chomping at the bit to tell you all about her but we were waiting for some red tape stuff. You all are going to LOVE this.

For the record, I call her Olga because it makes me feel better about her cuteness level. Audra always laughs but that’s because she is in the same “perfect skin” category as Olga. Inga. Whatever.

In addition to her sweet face, this girl has a passion for the Lord and for ministry that is contagious. It also involves shopping, so it’s pretty much win-win. She has started a company called 3seams, and while I encourage you to go read over there, I would love to share a bit here to give you some background.

The primary goal of 3seams is to help Haitian women get on their feet. And here’s the fun part. You get 2 dresses for $40 (I think?). One of your sweet dresses comes right to you for the girlie of your choice, and the other  one (identical) is sent to a child in Haiti.

Right now, she is trying to raise money to bring supplies with her to Haiti (she leaves in a few days) in order to help 5 women start sewing the dresses and begin making an income to support their families. Audra has sewn several of them, and I’m hoping to get in on the action as well. I mean, look at these. They’re even reversible!!!

And for these little bitty ones and their mommies, it’s even more than a cute dress :)

Seriously. Can you stand it?!?!?!

SO, if you click over to the 3seams site, there is a place to donate money for these 5 women (anything helps!!!) and if you live in Nashville, you will see a few shops where you can already get the dresses. I believe they will be available in the Fall for online purchase, but if you give a certain amount I think she is sending them now, as well as other items from Haiti. 3seams also has a Facebook page here with more information.

This project is in it’s beginning stages and I just can’t wait to see what the Lord does with it.

Ladies, tell your husbands that your little one is all dressed up in the name of ministry…

Brilliant.

And to Olga, I am so excited for you…I may even start calling you by your real name if you can ditch the perfect glasses.

:)

Thank you all in advance for your support!!!!! And in the event that you give $250 or more, I would like to do something special for you, so please send me an email and let me know!

Love to all,
Ang

Haiti!!!!

Please help Compassion help Haiti…
You really should live in Nashville, but in the event that you don’t, you can still be a part of this! It will stream live on Saturday night right HERE. If you do live here, you can still get a ticket (for now…not sure how many are left…).

Click on the picture below to find out more information, and thank you in advance for your support!!

Help Haiti Live - Feb 27

Haiti Video

Love this. Love it.
You can see hubbs near the end of it-he’s in the front.
I am amazed at the talent, seriously. Just WOW.
Proud to be a part of such an amazing community…

(Make sure to mute music at bottom of blog :) )

Ministry and Grocery Carts

I was so inspired at the grocery store today that I just had to share.

Avocados are on sale. That’s all. Go on back to whatever you were doing.

Okay, that’s not it. But it does make me happy when they’re on sale.

It has been a long day today and I was wiped out. I took the girls to a great play-place, then to McDonalds, then to the fabric store (Harper Stamps, I may have gotten a little something for you…I can’t resist sewing for babies who love a good monogram…:)), then for slushes at Sonic, followed by a trip to the grocery store. I must say, they were total troopers but I will never try and do this many things in one day. And no, 2 stops at fast food places is not normal for us. But it was good.

So, needless to say I was a little wiped out by the time we hit Publix, and it seemed like the girls were all over the place. I tried to shove all the essentials in the cart while they darted around but by the time we got to checkout I was not in a happy place. And the fact that the trashy magazines were featuring a woman wearing a bikini and holding her 5 week old son did nothing to help me.

TOTALLY brought me back to the time Todd and I did a bikini/speedo beach photo shoot 3 days after I had the twins. Because that’s normal. Bikinis and infants.

And if you believe that, I will sell you some avocados for $10 each.

So anyway, we’re checking out and I have lost all patience. I mean, you would never have known that, because I’m smiling like the happiest clam in the ocean and waving to all the cashiers I always see there so I don’t lose my sanity. Incidentally, Mr. Ike always helps me to my car and I have started parking a little farther away so I can chat with him more. He is the nicest guy, and I found out several months ago that he’s in law school and works at Publix to try and pay his way. He has broken English so I’m not sure how much effort people put into connecting with him, but man are they missing out. He is incredibly smart and just a genuinely good guy.

Despite the fact that we have been going there for umm, years, Kate finally noticed tonight that his skin was darker than hers. I told her he used to live in Africa and he had only been here a few years. He was still putting groceries in the car so I’m pretty sure he saw Kate pump her fist in the air and exclaim, “That is so awesome, because that’s where we live! LOVE Africa.”

I tried to explain that Todd used to live there. We got a good laugh out of it though, and I confessed to Mr. Ike that I would not be making trips to the States every week to come to Publix. But I might for Target.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Paying for groceries.

Well before Mr. Ike helped me out, Ellie pulled a book off the little Christian book thingy that sits by the checkout (Do you all have those? Pretty cool!). She brought it over to me and asked if she could please buy it. It was called “100 Daily Prayers for Women.”  She can read, so she knew what the topic was. I knew we had about a bazillion books that were very similar at home so I shook my head and told her no. I asked her to go put it back and then finished up at the register.

A few seconds later, I felt a hand tap me on the shoulder and I turned around expecting to see someone I knew saying hello. I didn’t recognize the man but he was in the checkout lane next to me and had seen the interaction I had with Ellie. Very gently, he smiled and said, “Excuse me, ma’am? Would it be okay with you if I bought that book as a gift for your little girl? It would be my honor.”

Wow.

I chatted with him for a few minutes, explaining that we were Christians and that we had a kind of extensive library of devotional-type books and he nodded happily.

“It was just really a special moment to see a little girl asking for a book like that. I just thought that, you know, if you couldn’t…well, I just thought I would offer…”

I haven’t stopped thinking about it because it was such a small gesture, but based on the fact that this was a person who didn’t want to miss a ministry opportunity. He didn’t force it, he just sensed that it might be a door cracked open a smidge.

I love it.

I want to see those moments more clearly and have a sense of what the Lord is calling me to do.

What if it had been another harried, exhausted woman who didn’t know where she was going to turn that night when she got home? It could have been anyone.

I am sure it was me because I needed a reminder.

The Lord works everywhere.

Even in frozen food and chaos.

I’m praying for you as you read this, asking the Lord to grant you wisdom in discerning where He is calling you to go out on a limb and tell His story, even if it feels insignificant.

I think I need to make a trip back to the store and have a little talk with Mr. Ike about his thoughts on the Lord. Pretty soon he’s going to start wondering why a big pregnant lady is parking in the back of the lot.

I’ll just tell him that’s the easy part.

After all, we flew here from Africa just to talk to him. What’s a couple more steps?

Hmm, a couple more steps. Here to there. One register to the next.

How about you? I would love to hear how someone has blessed you in an everyday way…

I’m so blessed to be walking with you.

One little step at a time.

Love,
Angie

P.S. I may need to expand my ministry to a few more girl scouts. What if they need to know about Jesus? I’ll stick to that theory.

Help Me Help Haiti!!!

Two of my favorite bloggers ever (Ree from The Pioneer Woman and Kelly from Kelly’s Korner) had the brilliant idea to donate money for every comment left on a post. I love it. In fact, the Pioneer Woman had almost 30,000 comments!!!! If you aren’t following them online, you really should. Amazing hearts for the Lord and the kind of women who take joy in giving back from what they have received.

*Sidebar* I have never met Ree, but my dad watched the kids so I could go to her book signing. After realizing the line was going to take me several hours, I decided to leave and had Jess take a picture of me craning my neck so it kind of looks like I’m standing next to her. I actually look like a creepy stalker, but whatever. So I called my dad to tell him the scoop, and here is the conversation that followed:

Me: “Hey dad, I’m just going to head on home. The line is super long and I don’t even have my cookbook with me. Just wanted to let you know.”

Dad: “Oh, Angela. Just stay. Honey, stay. The kids are fine and I don’t mind waiting.”

Me: “It’s okay. I got to see her and it was fun to just be there. Don’t worry about it.”

Dad: “Well, okay hon. Maybe you could just say hey on your way out. She’s going to be really disappointed if she doesn’t get to meet you.”

Me: “Umm, no dad, she doesn’t even know I’m…I wanted to meet her…dad, she doesn’t, umm…”

My sweet father. It’s totally him to say that. And honestly, it doesn’t have to do with me having a blog. He’s just good at loving his kids and assuming we are the most exciting thing on the planet :) . I did get a really good laugh out of it, though.

And next time, I’m braving the cattle call and waiting in line.

I’m sure Ree would want that.

:)

Anyway, back to the important stuff…

PLEASE leave a comment. For every comment left, I will donate a quarter to Compassion International to go towards helping those in Haiti who need relief so desperately right now.

Tell your friends!!! Let’s do it together :) I’ll count ‘em up tomorrow evening.

Please remember all of those who have been affected by praying for them…

Much love,
Angie

50,000

Y’all, I am pumped.  As evidenced by my use of the word y’all, despite the fact that I am from Cincinnati.
You may notice a new button on my sidebar.  And also, I am twittering.  Which makes me a technological genius.  And I want to use all of my new skills for good….
Let me start with a conversation I had with Kate the other day while we were walking to the mailbox.
“Come on, Kate, it’s cold.  Honey, keep up with mommy.”
“My feet hurt, momma.” 
I turn around and see her walking down the freezing cold aggregate driveway completely barefoot.
“I’ll wait for you here, momma.”
Note here that my children may need psychological help at some point, which works out well because I am a psychologist.
“No, babe.  I want you to walk with me (insert teachable moment here).”
She looks at me like she does when she has detected that I am on a mission. She starts to walk gingerly, and after a few steps, she calls out again.
“It’s too cold.  My feet hurt.” I know that this isn’t going to hurt her in the long term.  It’s uncomfortable, but not dangerous.
“Come on, hon.  I will carry you back, but I want you to walk to me.” She is mumbling under her breath, and paying close attention to where she steps. Eventually she chooses the wet grass.
After we got the mail, I picked her up.  Her feet were cold and had little pieces of grass all over them.  I ran some warm water in her tub and sat with her while our feet dangled in the bubbles.
“That hurt, didn’t it baby?” She nodded.
“Did you know that some people don’t have shoes?” She looked at me, genuinely confused.
“At all?”
“At all.”
For the next 20 minutes or so, we talked about what it must be like to have to endure pain everyday, and how grateful we should be that we have socks and shoes and warm, sudsy bath water.  I don’t want her to take it for granted.
I don’t want to take it for granted.
I heard about this great project called 50,000 pairs in 50 days. You may have seen it on other blogs as well, and I wanted to encourage you all to check it out.  $5 buys 2 pairs of shoes!!!!!! 
Oh, the thought of “Jesus” and “shoe shopping” in one sentence makes me a little giddy inside.
About 20 minutes after I posted the button on my sidebar, I read an email from Danielle, saying that she was thinking of doing a little something in honor the fact that she is about to hit 50,000 (yes, I’m serious) visitors, and she was wondering if I had any suggestions.
I laughed out loud at the irony, and told her that yes, in fact, I had a suggestion.
SO.
If you would like for Danielle to redesign your blog for you, for the next 3 days ONLY, she will only charge you $55 instead of $80.  Why $55 when she is hitting 50,000? Because she is donating $5 from every order to 50,000 shoes in 50 days.  
Which means that you get a fabulous new blog and TWO pairs of shoes are donated to a worthy cause.
Now that feels like the Christmas spirit.
Feel free to take a (barefoot) walk with you kids tonight.  And when you come back, sit with them at the computer and tell them that they can use their allowance to change someone’s life.
I want to live a grass-stained life with my babies, don’t you?
Consider me your friendly postwoman.
Mail’s here.
:)
Angie