Tuesday, February 24, 2015

prince farming & the fantasy suites (gag me)...

Let me just tell you, I have NOT looked forward to this week.

The idea of the Fantasy Suite’s gives me hives. The fact that this person (Bachelor/Bachelorette) has the option to sleep with multiple people to see if it “works” is absolutely cringe-worthy. Our culture glorifies polygamy, not in the sense of real Sister Wives (although, I love referring to the girls that way), but in the sense that monogamy and marriage and sexual intimacy have lost their importance. No longer to we value a person’s sexuality… it has become a token, an experience to be had, not a something to be shared amongst two people in marriage. And the fact that these girls are totally okay with this, with Chris being able to be with all of them, is legitimately NOT okay. We live in a culture were these things are not questioned… and this is not just a Christian issue, y’all. Okay, I need to get off my soapbox…

This week, the Sister Wives and Prince Farming trekked all the way to Nusa Dua, Bali for their Fantasy Suite experiences. I feel like this is a honeymoon, and it just gives me the hives.

Fantasy Suite: Kaitlyn
Even in Bali, Kaitlyn gets the short end of the stick when it comes to dates. First Costco, now she is gallivanting around Bali feeding rabid monkeys, touring a temple where PDA is off limits. And I about die when she states that she wishes she was more like the monkeys, because they know what they want (the banana) and they are not afraid to just go and get it. Profound. She should quit her job as a dance instructor and pursue a career in counseling. And they sweat their way through the temples and dinner, trying to muster up words and conversation, which is hard because they are clearly both having heat strokes. (I have been to India, and trust me, it is one hot place, the sweat situation is real.) Chris offers her a key to the Fantasy Suite (gag me) and that’s how they spend the rest of the night. Hey, at least there was air conditioning, a little oasis from the demon monkeys and the wild heat.

Fantasy Suite: Whitney
My girl Whitney wins in terms of the Balinese dates; Chris and Whitney take a romantic boat ride in the Indian Ocean, where I feel their chemistry was just oozing all over the place. They are perfect; he needs to just whip out the ring RIGHT NOW, for the love! At dinner, Whitney states that she would be a full-time wife and mom once she moved to Arlington, Iowa. And you guys, I believe her with every fiber of my being; she is willing to move away, transitioning from helping create moms into being one herself. Also, being a mom and a farmer’s wife is a full-time job, I know people. And I have no other words about Whitney and Chris other than #futuremrssoules and #soulesmate. You will be in the Fantasy Suite your entire lives, BRING ON THE MOST ADORABLE BABIES!

Fantasy Suite: Becca
Sweet Becca has never been in love, and because of that, Chris questions if she will ever be capable of loving somebody, which is completely ridiculous. I have never been in love but I definitely have the capacity within my heart to love someone… She doesn’t have baggage, she isn’t wounded, she is just waiting for the right person, and there is nothing wrong with that, if anything it’s noble. (And I totally relate.) For her, these feelings and experiences are completely new ad overwhelming, and Chris seemingly has no grace for that; he simply doesn’t understand her side of the story and that it is kind of hard to fall in love and be sure after a mere eight weeks. Despite the conversation and its lack of clarity, Prince Farming gives Becca the key to the Fantasy Suite. She accepts, after a conversation where she states she is a virgin and will not be sleeping with him (YEAH!) but would love to spend alone time with him and continue their conversation. But you guys, lets just camp out at the moment where she says she is a virgin… It was just as painful to watch as when Chris was in the rap studio with Kaitlyn! Mr. Soules is at a loss of words and it is the most awkward thing in America on a Monday night. He says, “Uh, I’m glad” and takes years to respond any further. He admits that he respects her and the decision and isn’t shocked, but then said that they will have to figure out how they will work without this aspect… EXCUSE ME? It works because it works, you don’t need sex to legitimize a connection, homeboy. Becca was thrilled with his response (which makes me question her judgment) and they go up to the suite (which is gorgeous, I mean, you would be an idiot not to recognize that!). The night is over, and Chris admits to waking up in the morning beside her with all the questions. He apparently has no idea where she stands and is terrified to bring her to his next step.

After many dramatic scenes of the girls walking on the beach and Chris looking off into the Bali sunrise/sunset, Prince Farming sits down with Chris Harrison, our favorite (not really) shrink, and processes the coming decision… He admits that he is not ready to send any of the Sister Wives home, he wants all of them to be in his family (WHAT?). He wanted more clarity to help make his decision, but has none (WELCOME TO THE CLUB, because this is real life, and you are on The Bachelor, and everything is heightened, but even real people don’t have clarity). He doesn’t want to commit to one when there are three left (fear of commitment, anybody? YOU CAN’T BE A POLYGAMIST, PICK ONE!). Prince Farming states that he is completely sure about one woman (Whitney, obvi) and that he likes Kaitlyn’s personality and that he could be patient with Becca… I say we just end the whole season here with Whitney! Chris Harrison leaves Prince Farming to his thoughts, which are all over the place.

This week, our Rose Ceremony is held at a sacred temple, which is clearly the perfect filming location for a racy, American reality TV series. Thank you, ABC, for feeding into the American stereotype. The Sister Wives are looking on point in their bright, Bali attire and I can’t help but love how Whitney is just glowing… is there ever a moment where she doesn’t look beyond lovely? I mean, really. Prince Farming gears up to send one of the three home, but in typical Soules fashion, he pulls Becca off to the side to have a “talk” (I really dislike that he does that…). Whitney and Kaitlyn are FREAKING OUT while I am over here thinking that Becca is about to get the Bali boot! They sit at the temple steps, trying to gain clarity and it is just not happening; I feel like this conversation made everything worse. Bali boot, it’s happening. But then, much to EVERYONE’S surprise, Chris and Becca walk back into the temple. In the words of Kaitlyn.. “OH SHOOT.”

Our Rose Ceremony commences and the first rose goes to MA GIRL WHITNEY. #futuremrssoules Our second rose (Kaitlyn, obvi…) goes to BECCA, and for the first time this season, I really am surprised. But, have no fear America; I am confident that we will see Kaitlyn the dance instructor back as The Bachelorette (and this is how they pull viewers in…)

Friends, it is just so sad, because Kaitlyn can’t even look at him. I feel like this would be my exact response. And to make matters worse, Chris, eloquent as ever, states that he doesn’t even understand his decision, he doesn’t know if it’s the right decision. This is not the right thing to say in this moment, Prince Farming! He says that this was excruciating (which, we need an Excruciating Jar because he has said that word about 25 times this week…) He talks about how he’s scared and needs clarity and the whole conversation is about him… I mean, does he know that she is the victim in this situation? He should be consoling her in this moment. She gets into the car and her seat belt locks on her about 12 times (which is seriously the worst, but it gives some comedic relief). Poor girl is humiliated and questions why she let her guard down in the first place (this would, again, be my response too). Sweet Kaitlyn, this is goodbye for now, but not forever. #kaitlynthebachelorette

Next week, all the women return for a juicy tell-all reunion. Britt confronts Carly, our twerk-tastic friend is back, Crazy Ashley might be able to tell us what was happening to her, and Princess of Persia and Kelsey are back (which will be dramatic and exciting in about 17 ways).

And in TWO WEEKS we will finally crown Princess Farming. I am pulling for my girl Whitney, as always. #soulesmate

Quote of the night…
- Kaitlyn, winner of the Bali boot

Are you Team Becca or Team Whitney?
Which Sister Wife do you miss the most?
Who are you excited to hear from at the reunion?
Do you think Prince Farming will actually even propose to one of the girls?

Monday, February 23, 2015

a coffee date...

If we were on a coffee date, I would order a grande non-fat flat white. No sugar, no fat, no carbs. Welcome to my life (again).

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask you how you are doing, really doing. There is such a beautiful simplicity and power in talking about our day-to-day lives, and I want to embrace that with you.

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about all my adventures in substitute teaching. This week, I was called in as a weeklong substitute for 8th grade U.S. History and Bible. We spent half our week in the library and the other half in class writing research papers. I loved having the opportunity to spend a week teaching, because it gave me a better picture of what it would look like to teach full-time (outside of grading and lesson planning). These students are also so fun to be around all the time; they think my necklaces look like seaweed, that my classroom smells like marijuana, that “carnal” is an ice cream topping (mistaken for caramel), and that I am so pretty that I should be married (because I am a Miss not a Mrs.). Also, they are doing research papers on 9/11 which happened when I was in 6th grade, so if that doesn’t make me (or you) feel old, I don’t know what does. And then they asked me if I was going to go see “50 Shades of Grey”… WHAT? Since when do 12 year old people know what all of that is? Jaw on the floor, friends.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I found the most beautiful top at The Loft the other day and almost bought it… Until the sale didn’t apply to the one shirt I chose to pick out; so instead of it being 50% off, it was full price, to which my bank account said a firm “NO”. But I am telling you, I daydream about that blouse, in every color. For the love of everything beautiful, I need it in my closet STAT. And then I would tell you that I got an amazing burlap print and new teal patterned bath matt for less than $20. And, not to mention, the Target dollar bins are great right now... Wire baskets, flowery Post-It notes and to-do lists. RUN, DON'T WALK. 

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about how American Sniper got the short end of the stick at The Oscars this year. Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Chris Kyle, and America deserved better. 

If we were on a coffee date, we would probably talk about legacys and generational effects of sin and obedience.

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about God’s faithfulness and about the Israelites and faith and prayer. We would talk about the painfulness of trusting in the Promised Land after years of bondage, about how God is always for us, and about how sometimes, we pray for the same things over and over because we think that if we don’t, God will somehow forget. What do you think He’s forgetting?

 *Image source: Kristi Howell's iPhone*
*These posts are inspired by this lady. She's a new favorite.*

Sunday, February 22, 2015

the if: gathering (the second day)...

Our morning started with a trip to the local Starbucks, but let me just tell you, coffee was not needed once we entered the theatre…

Our first speaker for the day was Christine Caine; who needs coffee when you start your day with her? And, we had seats in the very front, I could have grabbed her hand and pulled her off the stage if I wanted to! She introduced herself as the woman who “will talk until the Second Coming”, and we laughed because it was true and because we secretly hoped that she would. She dove right in to Joshua 1, a pivotal, transitional, leadership chapter. Christine stated that the spirit of fear is always inherent to a transition; that we have a choice to follow our fear or follow our faith. BIG THINGS. Then, she gets extremely personal with all 2,000 of us in the room about our past baggage and blessings…

“What is dead in your life that you refuse to let go of? God says it is dead; that painful experience is dead, that season of blessing is dead, He is not blessing it like He was before, there is no grace or oil in it, it is finished!”

She says that we have an unhealthy attachment to our past, we love to rehearse it, both the baggage and the blessing; we are so scared of what will be so we cling to what has been.

“Where have you been paralyzed and crippled by fear?”

“Sweetheart, if the horse is dead, DISMOUNT! He is not the God of “I WAS”, but He is the God of “I AM””.

I am telling you, I think every single woman in that room needed to hear these words. For me, I am not weighed down by baggage, but by blessing. I have never heard someone talk about a good season being a hindrance to walking in the presence, but I really identified with that. There have been absolutely amazing seasons of my life, seasons where God has blessed me with community, with purpose, with adventure and excitement, and I have found that I am clinging to those moments. I must dismount; I must allow them to rest in the goodness of the past.

“Being faithful does not mean we are fearless, but rather we are more full of faith than we are of fear…”

And with that, I decided I needed to let my faith wholly displace my fear, to dismount what is dead and plunge into the abundance He has for me in the right now.

Shauna Niequist and her mother, Lynne Hybels, spoke to women on the treadmill on perfectionism and busyness, how it leads us to be numb, to places where the Enemy may grab a foothold and sink deep the roots of depression, fear, and anxiety.

“Nice girls take care of everyone else, but no themselves…”

“How is your current life violating the pace of your character?”

Months ago, I wrestled with the concept of pace and living and all of its implications on my current life. The Lord has led me to a year of stillness; I was running a treadmill whose pace kept increasing, but not the momentum. Our momentum in life should trump our pace.

We heard from women of various ethnics, races, and backgrounds on diversity and racism; now let me just say, I have NEVER understood the concept of racism. I have never struggled with it, so for me, this round table wasn’t as powerful as it was for other women in the room. I completely enjoyed it, learning more about how other races felt and were perceived, but the real treat was who came next.

Bianca Olthoff, Chief Storyteller of the A21 Campaign (working under Christine Caine), spoke wild truth into our hearts that afternoon. She opened to Joshua 6, and let me tell you, the 2,000 women in the room could barely write down everything she had to say! Her main idea to which she expounded upon was: WHY DON’T WE BELIEVE? She gave us the Baptist three: (1) because we lose vision, (2) because we don’t see change, and (3) because we don’t know when it ends.

“Impossible situations do not intimidate God… He speaks in the past tense to things that have yet to happen! (Joshua 6:2)”

“Just because it is the Promised Land does not mean that we posess it…”

“Just because progress isn’t seen doesn’t mean that your faith is not working…”

“There is a beautiful routine to obedience…”

“Trying harder is not always running faster…”

That closing point hit me like a TON OF BRICKS y’all. Sometimes, trying harder is resting, being obedient to a Sabbath, slowing down, changing the pace. Right now, for me, trying harder is being still.

We closed out the IF: Gathering with an incredible moment of worship, writing our faith steps on stones and placing them before the stage. Here was 2,000 women hearing God move in their hearts, all with different journeys and wounds and next steps to be called to; it was beautiful.

During the last session of worship, I started to uncontrollably weep. I tried to stop, I chalked it up to the estrogen in the room, that I was emotional simply because everyone was emotional (empathy is a blessing and a curse, friends). But then I hit this moment where I couldn’t stop, the Lord told me to keep going, keep weeping, keep letting it all out. I sat there, tears falling, women singing, when I felt in my innermost place, the place where only Jesus has hold of, a stirring.

“Child, I am your Father, rest in My provision and promises; I will take care of you when no one else will…”

He stirred up that place of longing in my heart; I had no idea what was breaking me until He brought it into the light and exposed it. For years, it has been just me; I pay my bills, I make my meals, I take care of myself when I am sick, I bandage my own wounds… There is no one to lean back on, no family, no husband, no one. That created a pace of life that nearly broke me; I did not accept love, I did not accept help, I did not allow for rest and grace. But here is this Jesus, corralling me into this place of stillness, stirring within my heart a truth, saying He has me, He has me.

This weekend was such an incredible place of truth, restoration, stillness, and edification. Now comes the hardest part…

Living in light of all of the things, living like He is taking care of me, living without running faster, living without violating my character, living without crippling fear, living in hope, living in the fullness of who I am because of who He is, living in faith.

Please consider joining us over at IF: Equip for our study of Hebrews!

(If you want to purchase the sessions from
the IF: Gathering in Austin, TX, they are available HERE.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

the if: gathering (the first day)...

There I was, sitting, preparing, praying.

I was beyond excited to begin the journey that God had for me this weekend; again, He was already doing a lot of work in my heart and I knew this weekend would intensify that.

The Lord was faithful to give me so many things this weekend, so many gleanings that I am still processing through and harvesting in my heart. The speakers and guests at this conference were so vulnerable and transparent, and I am so thankful for that. Leading out of vulnerability is one of my personal mantras, so to see these women leading others through the rough periods of their life, where they had been in the wilderness, where life beat them and broke them, was such an honor. We heard from Jessica Sowards and April Smith who taught us “we can dance upon graves because we have Jesus” and that “we won’t just move mountains, we will burn them to the ground.” Powerful things, friends.

Founder of IF, Jennie Allen, set the tone for the weekend as we studied Numbers 13 and when she posed the questions:

Am I enough?
Are we going to be safe?
What will this cost me?

These questions are basic, but have intrinsic value to our souls. I recently met with a counselor at my church to greater understand trust and safety within relationships. He said that 2/3 of these questions are what we bring into this world, and our view is slowly molded in our experiences of God, people, and ourselves. Mercy. (I wish I had time to diviulge all of his wisdom! Another post for another time…)

Jennie led us to the place where we saw two storylines in the story of the Israelites… one of faith and one by sight; the two saw the land of milk and honey from the vantage point of faith, while the ten simply saw the giants ahead. They must have wondered, “If God is real, then what am I doing in the desert?” And friends, don’t we do that so often? If God is real, then why does my mom have cancer? If God is real, then why did my husband die overseas? If God is real, then why am I struggling to provide for myself? If God is real… BIG, HARD, MESSY QUESTIONS Y’ALL.

After a small break, we returned to hear Angie Smith, Jo Saxton, and Rebekah Lyons. Each woman, so full of life and redemption, each with amazing stories and passions… Angie Smith, our resident Natalie Portman look-alike, shared deep wounds of her past, encouraging women in their gifting’s and passions. She spoke on her desire to be a soccer player (and I instantly remembered my soccer days as a sweeper and forward and became instantly exhausted… for the love, SO MUCH RUNNING!) but her place as a cheerleader. Somehow, she saw being a cheerleader as being less then a soccer player. And her words spoke conviction to the crowd of 2,000 as she stated, “Angie, who told you that being a cheerleader wasn’t important?” Who has told us that we aren’t important? That being a mom isn’t important? That being a single woman in ministry isn’t important? That being a businesswoman wasn’t important? Holy Moses, truth sunk in hard…

“I stopped valuing my gifts because they weren’t what I valued in others…”

“We all have a want to be legitimate; we want something to legitimize our work, our places, our identities…”

On the panel of three, I have to admit, Jo Saxton was my absolute favorite. She is a passionate African-American woman with an incredible English accent; she immediately captured us with her humor, her story, and her gleanings on faith and the Israelites.

“We don’t live beyond what we think of ourselves; we cant live in the fullness of His promises without living in the fullness of our identities… Do you see yourself as a grasshopper?”

She spoke on the 12 tribes, how the Amalekites and Jebusites and Levites and all the other tribes were known for being the bullies or the ones with the great riches or the ones with the land and how we have our own tribes that captivate us; we have our own kingdom mindsets that trap us and enslave us with unbelief.

“Free people free people…”

Then, she spoke about her earthly father and the absence of him in her life. And friends, I have never been one to resent my earthly father for his lack of presence in my life, but Jo brought me to that place of emotion and feeling that I had no idea was there. She put words to feelings that have been resting deep down in my heart.

“How do I know that my Heavenly Father is for me when my
earthly father wasn’t?”

And that was when my jaw dropped to the floor. I don’t know how a father acts to his children because I never experienced that; I don’t know a father’s touch, his provision, his protection, his unconditional love. I know the opposite. And how does that impact my relationship with God? Gosh, my heart was pounding, my mind racing. I am still processing through this, even today as I type this.

Next, Rebekah Lyons shared with us her passion and desire for repentance in this generation, for a revival and circumcision of the heart. She stated that revival is “the infusion of the Spirit into the body that threatens to be a corpse”. May we be women who come fully alive in the blood of Christ!

We had a dinner break where I met two wonderful women from Texas. We shared life stories and queso and chips and I had the best enchiladas mole that I have ever tasted. (When in Texas, right?)

Now friends, here is the highlight of my weekend… JEN HATMAKER. I am confident that Jen Hatmaker and I would be great friends. She is that blend of godly and real that makes the devil fear for his life. I am so thankful that she writes and shares with the world her raw moments of motherhood, being a wife, being a follower of Christ. I thought I couldn’t speak more highly of her UNTIL FEBRUARY 6, 2015.

Jen walked up onto the stage in her big earrings and poncho, beautiful and eclectic as ever. And let me tell you, she captivated us with humor and truth for the next thirty minutes. She shared about her father and his character and how he “over-loved” her and her siblings. And then she went to that place where my heart heard things that I desperately needed to hear from the Lord. Here are ALL MY NOTES, free of charge:

“When you believe someone, you believe what they say about you…”

“Kingdom ways aren’t practical ways…”

“Expect a battle for faith; we become powerful with faith, it moves from our heads and into our lives…”

“We live out God’s kingdom to the fullness that we believe in it…”

“It can be so hard to trust a God who continuously sends us to the hard places; our limits blind us to Gods capacity…”

“We don’t believe in ourselves in Him,
we believe in ourselves in ourselves…”

“You don’t need full confidence in yourself,
you need full confidence in God…”

“Tiny God categories DON’T work…”

“Don’t wait until you have full possession of knowledge before you take full possession of God… Faith does not demand that God always explain Himself... Faith actually remains in tact and thrives in that place…”

“Faith does not inoculate us from being human…”

“What you want to be true in the day,
you find out if it is true in the night…”

“The Israelites were abused and tender, coming 
out of slavery and bondage mere weeks ago… 
the Promised Land was too terrifying to hope for…”

“Freedom, at times, is impossible to believe in.
Bondage is familiar, and we cling to that place…”

“Give your heart permission to trust Him…”

“Faith isn’t a formula to get to the good stuff… it is the good stuff…”

“Faith doesn’t rid us of insecurity, it overcomes it…”

“It is safe to trust a faithful God…”

All of these are amazing reflections, but can we notice where she starts talking about the Israelites? About how they were bruised and tender from bondage, and that His promises were actually too terrifying to hope for, to believe in? I AM AN ISRAELITE; I am coming out of a season where God was silent, where my heart was crushed, where I couldn’t see anything to hope in or for, and when I did, it was absolutely one-hundred percent too wonderful, so I retreated into fear, into doubt, into anxiety. I am telling you, coming from that place, I needed to hear and be reminded that faith is a good thing, that it is a hard thing, that I can have permission to trust a completely faithful God.

I think it is safe to say that good ole’ Jen rocked my spiritual world. Thank you and goodnight.

Next up were Bob and “Sweet” Maria Goff. What a fantastic, lively couple! They shared about their platform of love and how it has affected their marriage. Maria shared what it is like to love and support a man who is constantly adventuring and Bob shared about men, their fears and what they respect in a woman… And then, she said this:

“People who love people like Jesus are constantly misunderstood…”

SO GOOD. (Also, I was “so good-ing” all weekend. Just call me Jimmy Fallon.)

Next, Shelley Giglio led us women in a time of reflection and “selah”. A few more IF women spoke, and let me just tell you about the moment I had with Debbie Eaton… Debbie Eaton is an incredibly sweet woman, committed to the IF vision out here in Southern California. Debbie walked up on stage, took the microphone, and people, I FELT LIKE SHE WAS TELLING MY STORY. She stood there and told us that she was in a place of stillness, that the Lord was requiring her to be still and to watch Him do things. “God’s acceptance is not in the doing…” she said. “Yield to the pruning...” she said. “Be still and know that He is God…” she said. Chills covered every single crevice of my body… She just summed up my entire current convictions, the past three months of my life, and frankly, the year leading up to this year. It was like she knew. And she did. And I can’t wait to email her and meet her in Southern California.

And then Maragaret Feinberg stepped on to the stage and the tears fell out of my eyes. She shared about her battle with breast cancer and how the cancer may be gone, but the effects are not. She shared that God spoke to her amidst her healing…

“You don’t negotiate with me, you pray for your WHOLE healing…”

Our God is not one of negotiation when it comes to provision and healing, He is a God of full restoriation and redemption. ALL THE TEARS.

Ann Voskamp followed with a powerful monologue about brokenness… that the broken place is the breaking free place, that the Lord unfolds the folds of us and absorbs the quakes of our fears. We must break in order to give…

And that was the end of the first day, and the women saw that it was good.

Honestly friends, I have so much to dwell on and think through still. Looking over my notes, gleaning seconds from my first fruits of the conference, heart still racing at the things Jesus spoke to me.

And then, the sun rose on the second day...