We all have our own well we visit in the heat of the day.

I want to be like the Samaritan woman. I want to drop my water buckets, run into town and tell the world about the man who went out of his way, in the heat of the day, meeting me at my lowest and chose me intentionally. A man who knew my whole story, and chose to cover me in compassion and grace. We deserve to be alive in and known for our transformation instead of our sin, for what we did AFTER, and who we BECAME. You deserve that too. So, go ahead and drop your buckets, cancel the well visits, find some shade and a few good people who love you first for all you are and all you are not. Allow God to use your story, to use your heart and shed a light to others around you that shame doesn’t live here anymore.

Shame is liar whose only intent is to divert us from or diminish entirely any chance for success. Shame can take a single mistake and make it our identity. In fact the very armor we were meant to wear for power in standing against the devils schemes becomes a buckling weight disguised as weakness and shame.

It is no secret that I love the stories of the women of the bible; Rahab the harlot, the Adulteress, Mary Magdalene and of course the Samaritan woman at the well. Each of these women felt shame, hid from others and ultimately experienced mercy and grace in their darkest moments of carrying guilt. Sure their shame came from what appears to be easily avoidable choices to us, but do we really know their stories? Do we know the backstory or simply what we choose to see selfishly and are we really all that different or innocent? Jesus saw the before and the after and chose love anyhow. Just like he did with Judas, he knew what he would do, and still fed him at his table. Do you ever wonder what it is he knew that made him choose them and love them any way? Or, us? Think of all your shortcomings and the fact that he still sees you blameless and worthy. Shame finds us guilty and Jesus sets us free.

We have a choice to use our eyes as they were intended; to look beyond situations and choices instead of a judgmental stare down. We also have a choice and the ability to see there is always more to what we see or hear as a “story” and have empathy and compassion remembering that behind that “story” is an actual human being living that reality. That behind the rumor, the imperfections, the mugshot, the divorce, the depression and the abuse there is still someone richly deserving of love, mercy and grace. If this is you, you need to know this truth. When I say you are not disqualified, I mean that. We can not fail when God is our qualifier. And, when we least expect it he levels the playing field whether we are prepared for it or not.

This pandemic has opened my eyes to the things we have been doing wrong and the first is forgetting to love others as ourselves – which means we NEED to love ourselves. We can’t love ourselves when our arms are full from carrying the weight of every mistake we have made. It is not intended for us to do so. Even more so, the weight you’re carrying may come from things you don’t even realize you’re hiding behind. Things such as using humor to hide behind depression. Or, facades to hide behind financial struggles, abuse or possibly low self-esteem. Addictions manifest themselves in so many ways besides drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships etc., what about our work? Or, a project? Our phones? Activities, hobbies and sports? A busy schedule to appear important when instead it is just temporarily numbing the pain that silence brings, becoming no different than drugs and alcohol. We hide and find guilt in more ways then we care to admit, and the truth is we all have our own well that we visit in the heat of the day. We just change up the route, however just like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman, he will go out of his way, taking the longer route to meet you right where you are and remind you of his need to use your story, to have you speak life with it and that he loves you.

Sometimes we need to be stripped of all the things that do not hold true value and are no longer serving or benefiting us. If you ask me, God has done exactly that for us right here in this moment. He has leveled the playing field by redirecting our hearts and setting our eyes on him. When we are focusing on God, we don’t see others failures or our own because we are soaked in his word full of hope, promise and love. When we have nothing distracting us our focus is on the people and things we regularly take for granted and we no longer feel the need to hide away in shame or escape the guilt we can’t seem to shake. We realize that our trip to the well at the heat of the day is no longer healthy, it is a hindrance meant to distract us from our calling and purpose. We all have regrets, pain and have at one time or another struggled with the weight of guilt and shame, we are only made different by being obedient to the one who calls us to love one another and ourselves. Shame is not a description of who you are, and guilt is not something that requires being filled at a well that will never quench your thirst the way forgiveness for yourself and others will.

I want to be like the Samaritan woman. I want to drop my water buckets, run into town and tell the world about the man who went out of his way, in the heat of the day, meeting me at my lowest and chose me intentionally. A man who knew my whole story, and chose to cover me in compassion and grace. We deserve to be alive in and known for our transformation instead of our sin, for what we did AFTER, and who we BECAME. You deserve that too. So, go ahead and drop your buckets, cancel the well visits, find some shade and a few good people who love you first for all you are and all you are not. Allow God to use your story, to use your heart and shed a light to others around you that shame doesn’t live here anymore.

Hard to heal doesn’t mean hard to love.

Healing as an adult is ridiculously hard. It requires bravery, brutal and almost blunt-force honesty and it can leave you completely depleted. Especially on the days that sneak up out of nowhere and smack you right in the face. A broken heart, a broken soul or even a broken human can still hold an enormous amount of vitality because broken means open. And, open provides a means of escape for pain and an entrance for hope. Just because it is hard for you to heal does not mean you’re hard to love.

Healing as an adult is ridiculously hard. It requires bravery, brutal and almost blunt-force honesty, and it can leave you completely depleted. Especially on the days that sneak up out of nowhere and smack you right in the face. A broken heart, a broken soul or even a broken human can still hold an enormous amount of vitality because broken means open. And, open provides a means of escape for pain and an entrance for hope. Just because it is hard for you to heal does not mean you’re hard to love.

“Leaving your broken heart open allows pain to escape and hope to enter.”

Sometimes I feel like I’ll never fully heal. I’ll never be understood or fully appreciated or be able to exist just as I am without having to explain who I am and why I feel or act a certain way. It’s as if my heart is filetted wide open, or an open wound even, and just as it’s being stitched up and sanitized, a stitch busts open again. Take a building undergoing renovations yet stays open for business. That’s me. I’m walking around like a “normal” person doing “normal” things all the while I am being gutted, and refortified. I’m being made with a stronger foundation but as each supporting wall is demolished, there is damage revealing itself, screaming, “hey, don’t forget about me – remember that one time? Let’s talk about that!” And, it’s exhausting and some days I feel beaten down.

Healing is hard. Healing is brave. Healing takes time. Think of it like weight loss. If you lose the weight too fast, it usually comes back and with a vengeance. If you lose weight the healthy way, which takes longer – it stays off and you become stronger. Our hearts, minds and bodies all heal the same way.

I think it is important that we share these moments and feelings of inadequacy and defeat because that is being authentic. We need more authenticity in our lives. The truth is sometimes we do feel flawed, inadequate and fearful of failing, and that is okay. It is okay to feel these things as long as you follow it with truth, faith and grace.  Trust me, I know that is not always easy. But healing even the slightest bit, is progress.

Healing requires self-compassion and heaps of grace.

When I feel under attack and unworthy, I remind myself of God’s truth, of his promises and abilities to create through me and within me whatever I lack. On really difficult days, I battle between believing those truths and believing the lie that I am not who God says I am. Truth is, I don’t always see myself how God sees me or even how others who love me see me. Sometimes I see myself how the enemy sees me. My reflection varies from flawless and blameless to the distorted image manifested from what I was told growing up which were lies that became my truth.

Have you ever had to actively retrain yourself to stop believing what you believe to be the truth? A truth that doesn’t make sense to you and feels like a lie? It..is..HARD. It is like taking an apple and placing it in someone’s hand and telling them it is an apple, but they see an orange. To them it looks, smells and feels like an orange, but it is an apple. How do you explain that what you see, feel and sense is false? It is crazy to think that the truth is, your truth is a lie and you’ve believed it your whole life. And it is hard as hell to heal as a grown adult when you were broken as a child.

I feel fear but I choose faith. I feel sadness but I choose joy. I feel hopeless but I choose hopeful. I feel the lie but I choose the truth. 

The truth is:

  • I am loved.
  • I do matter.
  • With God I am enough.
  • I am the girl for the job.
  • I am the mom my children need.
  • I am a good wife.
  • I am a good friend.
  • I am who God says I am.

God says I am HIS, and that I am:

  • Chosen
  • Redeemed
  • Beautiful
  • Valuable

I have a voice, calling and a purpose. God makes no mistakes, and these are the truths I (we) need to root my(our)self in when the lies scream louder. The lies we were taught, and the dysfunctional environments we’ve found ourselves in may look and feel like shackles but if you look a little closer you will see that the shackles unlocked the moment we stepped into the freedom, love and acceptance of Jesus. We were just blinded by the enemy’s lies. We are free to remove ourselves one binding at a time and walk away from those lies and pain and into healing, hope and love.

Whatever you’re battling today, you’re not alone and your no longer bound to the lies of your past. Take a step forward friend even if it is just one each day until you can look back on this day and see the difference, the distance and the growth. Healing takes time and hard to heal does not mean hard to love.

Depression: The days no one talks about.

We all know that fun-loving girl who loves to get a crowd laughing. She isn’t above embarrassing herself to create joy, laughter and bonding with others. Connecting with others causes a euphoria, a false high to bottoming out lows.  The connection and camaraderie feeds her soul. Communication, sharing, and involvement makes her feel heard, necessary and valid. But when the last person leaves and the silence sets in – she waivers between appreciating the silence and depreciated worth. She laughs more than anyone you know, but cries when the world can’t see.

Depression belongs to very convincing actors, often comedians, class clowns and lighthearted people who mostly are fun and overly selfless. Because in selflessness, making someone else happier, someone else whole– we forget temporarily that we are lacking and broken. And, no one wants to be or admit that we’re broken. The truth though is that we are all broken.

Broken carries a stigma, broken doesn’t feel fixable, broken feels heavy, insurmountable, and nearly impossible to share. Depression sometimes feels like screaming as loud as you can, and no audible sound comes out. Your body is paralyzed, your voice is mute and your mind deceives you and plays games that only the enemy can win. We need to know people feel this way. We need to make others aware that depression exists and what it looks like. Depression is not taboo, it is real.

Stop for just a moment, right where you are in reading this and think of a time that you felt the most alone, that you felt hopeless, unlovable, unreachable and non-existent. If you’ve never felt this before, I am asking you to imagine it, imagine your child feeling that way, a spouse, or a friend, a co-worker, maybe a neighbor even. And, then think how often you didn’t even realize someone was battling depression. Battling – suffering – living… these are words used to describe it

Most people won’t recognize depression. That is why so many are shocked when they learn of a loved ones suicide attempt or death. People won’t always understand you or me. They can’t see the feeling in your eyes, when life pulls you down as if it swept your feet from you in an undertow. They won’t understand that your heart is not built like theirs and even though you’re stronger than most and have made it through some awful things, you still get hurt. Words hurt, silence hurts, absence hurts – not being visible to other’s hurts, but the hardest is not being understood.

If you know me, I am willing to bet that you wouldn’t consider me as someone who lives with depression, but I do. Depression exists in a menagerie of personalities and those it affects can range from suffering from or living with depression. I live with it. The days I am speaking of are the very days getting out of bed is more difficult and truthfully sometimes impossible. Are those days often? No. I’m fortunate that when my depression hits, I know my lows intimately enough to know what I feel, is not always actual and I trust my God.

Depression robs us of hope, the heaviness of this spirit is meant to crush you, and wants to steal your faith, and isolate you. If I am feeling something that is heavy, I feel it only to process it and then to release it. The healing is in the release of the lies, the release of the shame and the release of the enemy’s hold on us. 2 Tim. 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Depression is the devil’s playground, he makes you think, say and act like someone else. He pulls you into a swinging motion of highs and lows and moments when he fools you into thinking you’ve beat it, only to celebrate and feast at the moment you fail again. Resilience is tricky, it manifests in you a sense that you can just pick back up where you left off and try to get further this time. And some like myself, can. But some don’t. And a few of the ones that can’t will never speak of it until it is found in a scribbled note written with fear and pain in a moment they feel completely alone.

I don’t want you to write that note, or find that note. I want the idea of that note to fade away as an option. It is not weak to admit having depression, it is not weak to ask for help or to talk to someone who can help. That is strength and powerfully beautiful. That is loosening the enemies grip and reminding him that God is in charge and what he has set you apart for, is no longer the enemies playground for deceit and pain.

Resisting the enemy, places you in faith. Action creates faith, and with courage you can make the enemy flee. The opposite of depression is gratitude. Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness – Isaiah 61:3

Take back your life, minimize the suffering and know it gets better. You can call these numbers below, and visit these sites for more information. You are fully loved and deserve to feel safe to heal.

Sucide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/ 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/ TEXT: HOME to 741741

National Helpline: https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline 1-800-622-HELP (4357)

There were ten passengers on Kobe’s helicopter.

This helicopter carried nine legends, leaving behind their own legacies, loved ones and heartache. It’s impossible to adequately honor each of them enough. Siblings were lost. Spouses were lost. Children were lost. Eternity though was gained for those nine. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are playing one heck of a basketball game in a heavenly stadium where the hoops are lined with gold and the ref is wearing a sweet pair of Nike Mamba Focus shoes with his golden robe.

When the reports came in along with the rest of the world, I sat saddened. Being a wife and mother, it hit too close to home. Every news channel, sports channel, and every social media outlet was about Kobe & Gianna. It was heartbreaking, but I began to wonder about the “other passengers on board” and set out to know them as best as I could. And, as I did, it hit me that we’re missing the ultimate reverse-pivot, crossover fadeaway; there was undoubtedly a tenth passenger on board.

I know what you’re thinking, how have we not heard of this tenth passenger? Is this some crazy conspiracy theory? No! Allow me to explain.

First, though I need to breakdown a few words and the meaning in terms of basketball. The first is, Reverse: to change course, go back to where you came from. The second is, Pivot: a movement in which the player holding the ball may move in any direction with one foot, while keeping the other (the pivot foot) in contact with the floor. The third is, Crossover: player dribbling switches the ball rapidly from one hand to another to make a change in direction. And, lastly, Fadeaway: a jump shot while jumping backwards away from the basket.

So, how do we tie these nine lives to being a reverse-pivot, crossover fadeaway? If you’ve ever heard Kobe speak, he not only mentions but credits, God. He said, “God is great” during his trials and tribulations and specifically spoke of how God carried both he and his cross to bear for him. Prior to boarding the helicopter Kobe and Gianna received communion at church. Receiving communion, is knowing that, those who receive it, the body and blood of christ, will have eternal life with our Lord in heaven. Reverse, returning home. Pivot, remaining grounded. Crossover, entering heaven. And a fadeaway – taking a step back as we talk about this loss from another perspective. Are you following now?

Hillsong United has a song titled, Another in the Fire. This song can be tied to many scriptures but Daniel 3:17 is where I am focusing today. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to commit idolatry. King Nebuchadnezzar witnessed a fourth person in the fire, and while even the guards outside of the fire perished from the scorching heat, the four were never harmed. The fourth person was God. As we were singing this in church yesterday, clear as day – it hit me. The nine people aboard that helicopter were not alone. They were protected before the crash, and during the crash that led them home. There was a tenth person on board, and that was God.

God loved all nine on board. And, I’d love to share with you what I learned of them. What family members were left grieving their loss? What their legacies we were and how we can honor them as people instead of others.

legend is “an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field” and to many there were more than one legend on board. There was more than one parent/child basketball duo – there were three. There was more than one father on board, there were two, technically three because the pilot, Ara, counted his girlfriends children as his own. There was also more than one mother on board, there were three. This helicopter carried family, it carried legends and it carried strong believers of faith.

John and Keri Altobelli left behind a daughter, Alexis, who is a junior is highschool and a son J.J. who is a scout for the Red Sox. The Altobelli’s were considered the “first family” of OCC (Orange Coast College) where John, 51, known as Coach Alto, coached for twenty-seven years. He loved the game of baseball – but Alyssa, his daughter, only 13, loved the game of basketball! And, she was phenomenal. Keri, 46 was a wife and mother who practically raised her children at the baseball field. Within minutes, JJ and Alexis went from a family of five, to a family of two. Suffering a loss more than any junior in high school should ever face, and much earlier than any man should lose a father and stepmother, as JJ has. The Altobelli’s were legends to their family and their community.

Christina Mauser, 38, of Huntington Beach, was the woman known as “MOD” mother of defense to the mamba team she helped coach, will be defending her family from heaven now. Her youngest daughter will be 4 on February 4th, a golden birthday without her mommy. I read today that heat refines and purifies gold. Our faith, like gold, when tested, when held to the fire, can either be refined & purified or perish. A lesson this family is surely living now. Her husband, Matt, has to set aside his own grief in losing his best friend and wife, a woman he humbly admits could kick his butt on the court anytime – to comfort their three young children, ages 3,9 and 11. Another definition of a legend is “a story people talk about concerning people who once existed” and these three children have a whole new perspective. Their mommy was a legend off the court, and she was a legend on the court to a group of young mamba ladies who looked up to her.

Sarah Chester, 45, and Payton Chester, 13, were an adorable brunette duo that had smiles that changed the mood in a crowd. Smiles that made my heart smile, smiles Sarah’s 15-year-old boys Riley & Hayden will never see in person again and Chris, the husband and father – will miss every second. Payton’s principal said she made everyone feel like someone. That’s a legend in my book. Riley and Hayden both have #14 with a ❤ on their Instagram bios for their little sister which I found to be a touching tribute.

Ara Zobayan, 50, was the pilot. He left behind a girlfriend, Tessie, of eleven years and her two children, which were like his own. He had a private job but was a “put a smile on your face kind of guy.” He wasn’t a father, but he was every bit of an example of a man I would hope to be at his age. I mean he’s got about 15 years on me, and what he was to my kids, my family, the way he let us into his life, he’s the kind of guy you just wish the world was infected with.’- Jesse Clark

This helicopter carried nine legends, leaving behind their own legacies, loved ones and heartache. It’s impossible to adequately honor each of them enough. Siblings were lost. Spouses were lost. Children were lost. Eternity though was gained for those nine. I have a sneaking suspicion that they are playing one heck of a basketball game in a heavenly stadium where the hoops are lined with gold and the ref is wearing a sweet pair of Nike Mamba Focus shoes with his golden robe.

There is beauty in God lending us our loved ones. No ones days are promised, we are all on loan, living on borrowed time and possibly if we’re lucky, double overtime. Toby Mac said it best in his song, 21 years, about the loss of his son:

“Is it just across the Jordan
Or a city in the stars
Are you singing with the angels
Are you happy where you are
Well until this show is over
And you run into my arms
God has you in heaven
But I have you in my heart” – Toby Mac

Does God Still Perform Miracles?

We don’t know why God saves and heals some and not all, but he knows why he does and that is enough for me. Faith, that feeling deep in my heart, tells me that healing doesn’t always mean life being breathed back into a body here on earth. Healing means freedom from pain, it means restoration and peace, and sometimes that only exists in heaven. And sometimes loss heals and restores those left behind.

Yesterday I sat and listened to Pastor Jason Noble speak about the power, blessing and thankfulness for a God of fresh starts.

A fresh start is a beautiful gift that allows us to join the fight, to align ourselves with God, believe in his purpose for our lives and throw our plans out the window. Blind faith takes risks. Blind faith trusts God. And, blind faith believes for miracles.

We take risks in moments of desperation, when the only thing left to hang onto is your faith and trust in God – because God wants your heart. He wants to make a way for you to come to him. Desperation finds the lost and leads them to salvation.

The pastor told us of a story of a twelve-year-old girl who was life flighted to a Missouri hospital. Her father wasn’t actively seeking the lord, but he had asked for the pastor to come in and pray. The next morning he was on his knees in tears, giving his life back to Christ. He whispered to his daughter that Jesus is a much better father than he could ever be and that he would be okay. An hour later she died.

Weeks later at the funeral the Pastor learned that this mans daughter who had died, had been praying for her father every Wednesday night at church. The children’s pastor shared that she would pray these words, “God whatever it takes to bring my dad back to you, do it.” At 12 years old. And, on this day, the day of his daughter’s funeral, her father was praising a loving and good good father.

We don’t always know why people die, especially children. Personally, I can’t imagine that loss and pain. It made me think of Olive Heiligenthal, the two-year-old daughter of Andrew and Kalley Heiligenthal. Kalley is a worship leader at Bethel Redding and a songwriter. They believed God for a miracle; they stood firmly rooted in the belief that God would wake up their daughter and bring life back. They withstood criticism, negative publicity and controversy yet never wavered in their faith and belief in God’s word that with him we can heal the sick and raise the dead.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Matthew 10:8 (NIV)

People all over the world stood with, prayed alongside and online using the hashtag #WakeUpOlive, the church as one body, united all over the world believing for a miracle. I prayed. I prayed knowing God could absolutely breathe life into dry bones if it is his will. If you have watched the movie Breakthrough, you know God is still a God of miracles, a God who saves. I know that prayer changes things, and a mother’s prayer can restore life. Not just her own child, but lives all over the world.

Whether you disagreed with the Heiligenthal’s beliefs. Maybe even questioned why their child was more deserving than another. Or wondered if suffering a loss of this magnitude had the parents thinking unclearly for an impossible breakthrough restoring life, I say, it restored life. Just like the story above about the twelve-year-old girl who prayed for her father, just like the 2015 true story of Breakthrough, Olive Heiligenthal’s story and her parents’ faith restored lives all over the world. She did not wake up, but others did.

We don’t know why God saves and heals some and not all, but he knows why he does and that is enough for me. Faith, that feeling deep in my heart, tells me that healing doesn’t always mean life being breathed back into a body here on earth. Healing means freedom from pain, it means restoration and peace, and sometimes that only exists in heaven. And sometimes loss heals and restores those left behind.

To answer the main question of whether or not God still performs miracles, the answer is without a doubt, yes!