Learning To Dance In the In-Between

You can find prints of this new lovely on my Etsy storefront
You can find prints of this new lovely watercolor on my Etsy storefront.

Two months ago I sat down to write here more regularly.  Then life happened.  I gave up eating 95% of anything that was not plant-based for health reasons.  I discovered coconut milk coffee creamer.  My apartment/studio/office flooded for the 4th and 5th times with waste water. There was mold, rust and general environmental mayhem. My laptop became a wastewater casualty, along with whole grad school notebooks of notes that succumbed to mold and water damage… in the middle of semester finals no less.  I wound up with around 15 days to move out of my apartment.

I packed up my world up and moved it to storage. Not a small feat considering I can pack an apartment like I pack a suitcase. I encountered one of the worst moving companies on the planet who actually screamed profanities at me when I left an honest, even generous, review. I moved in with family for the summer as we figured out what was next. I updated some things around here (love the new banner) and on my design studio site because, well, they needed updating.  My business has been in a holding pattern.  My health has been hit hard.  It has been a battle.

13490688_10209889049289834_3950160464243038224_oBut… today, I BOUGHT A HOUSE!

There has been a lot of living in the in between these last few years since returning from Africa.  But, once again, God used a seriously bad situation to open an amazing door of opportunity.

I no longer will have to live in my office!  I will have a separate room with a door I can shut when the work day is over. If I could have sketched the floor plan of my ideal setup for this season, it would have wound up being the layout of this cottage style house.  Grateful is too small a word. It is my cozy bungalow.  A blank canvas I can make 100% my own.

When I asked Jesus to speak into my living situation, I felt led to look up the street number of this home in the book Psalms right after we initially viewed it.  My apartment had just flooded for the 5th time, I was sick and I was so frustrated with everything. The street number took me to Psalm 29 where it says the Lord sits enthroned at the flood. He did.  Sit enthroned. Five is the number of grace.  And there was.  Such extreme grace at every step. There is much more woven into this house’s story and how it marks a huge seasonal transition but, suffice it to say that it is not simply a commitment, it’s a calling.  Jesus  has such a sense of humor!

I’m stepping out into new mission field that is just as broken, hurting and desperate as any I have served in before.  The brokenness here just looks different.  I don’t know where the steps will lead in the days and months to come, but I know the One Who is leading the dance.  And that is all that matters.

 

Save

The Art of Finding Yourself

Sometimes we look in all the wrong places trying to find who we really are.

I know I have.

I’ve spent the better part of my 38 years trying to squeeze myself into a form or shape I was never created to be.  I bet some of you might relate at least a little. It’s a bit like trying to be an identity contortionist. We might learn a lot in the process but we’ll ultimately wind up all tied up in knots.

(And yes that is my real age. Every single year has been a hard won victory and a gift of grace, so I’m not shy about celebrating ALL 38 of them!)

I have tried to make myself over to fulfill other people’s expectations, trying to filter who I am to better fit organizational narratives, desperately wanting to find the place I fit in. The group that can be a home. The place where I belong. Where I can settle in and say, “I’m with them” or “I’m a part of that”.

There is only one problem with all that squishing and squeezing and shaving off the edges of my identity.  I was never created to fit in like that. Neither were you.

God made each of us an original. To try and become otherwise just to find a place to belong would be to downgrade what Jesus paid for.

I will never find who I most fully am by looking at the world or the people around me. Neither will you. We aren’t supposed to. But unfortunately there are few places that nurture you to be you in Jesus. Prayerfully, that will change.

Finding who we really are in Who He is is an art form and a life journey. We truly find ourselves only when we are willing to lose who we think we are supposed to be.

When I had to relocate to the USA in 2013 leaving behind my family in South Sudan, it was the profound death of a dream on so many levels.  It has been 2+ years walking out of the valley of it’s shadow. In the process of losing most everything I held dear, I also lost all the externals I defined myself by. 

And that was a beautiful, terrifying, gut-wrenching, amazing gift in very distressing disguise.

Relationships. Affiliations. Roles. Job descriptions. Location. Expectations. Organizational narratives. Success. Future vision. Plans. All gone.  Some for a season, some period.  I had no idea so many of those things informed and shaped who I believed myself to be.

What I didn’t know when I was eyeball deep in searing loss was what I would find when the flood waters receded: Freedom.

Freedom just to be me in Jesus.  Not defined by a ministry role or an organizational affiliation or spiritual score card. Just me. In Him. Grateful for the tribe of friends He brings along for each stage of the journey.  Knowing I can’t look for a model to follow other than Jesus because it doesn’t exist.

All the changes that you have watched unfold here in this little corner of cyberspace have really been a travelogue of me finding myself in deeper ways. From the Unpaved Road transitioned into Bravely You {because becoming who we really are in Him might be the bravest journey of all} which grew into Illustrated Grace.

It is my hope and prayer that me embracing my journey will give you courage to say yes again to your own.

Jesus created each of 100% original. To settle for being an imitation is to live so far below what He desires to give us. We find who we most fully are when we are free to most fully abandon ourselves to His heart.

You DO belong beloved.  Right in the center of His embrace. If you have been frustrated with never quite fitting in, perhaps it is because you were trying to fit in to the wrong places, like I was. We DO fit. Every one of us. Perfectly shaped to fit into His heart. Everything else will follow.

The Dawning of A Dream

warm-1038148 copy

Dawn comes gentle on the horizon. It doesn’t explode forth, rushing into the day like a torrent of light.  Rather it creeps in little by little until the darkest part of night has melted into another sunrise that once seemed it would never come.

It has been a very dark three years of night in many ways here for me.  A night so thick it blackness was suffocating. But darkness cannot choke out light. No matter how faint or feeble, light always wins. Always.

Dreams hide in dark seasons. They can become so quiet you think they too have died, crushed by grief and loss and disappointment and whatever else hides in the shadowy passages of life.

But then the soul’s dark night is met with unexpected glimmers that flow into a dawn that offers back the very dreams that were hidden.  Now they are refined. Matured. Fire-tested and approved.

Since my early 20s I had a dream of equipping folks to step into the fullness of all they are made for in Jesus.  That dream has been stolen, hijacked, mocked, shattered, left behind, lost, found, remembered, fought for, planted in red earth continents away, obscured by pain, allowed to die and now resurrected into beauty and fullness in ways I could not have imagined even a week ago.

Dawn comes gently. But then the sunrise bursts forth over the horizon and light blazes and dreams awaken.

God has made 2 things very clear to about 2016.

  1. I am to start traveling again.  Right now it looks like I will be focusing mostly on the larger southeast… places 1-2 day drives from where I am in north Florida.  I feel like there is something significant about driving for me in this season. {Plus I really love road trips!} Starting in January I’m available for speaking at churches, events, conferences, etc.  More on that coming in the next post or two.
  2. I’m starting a School of the Prophetic that is pretty much unconventional in most every way. And I’m not doing it alone. I have some pretty incredible friends who are going to be involved in various ways.

mosaic-sotp1a web

So let me ask a few questions.

  • Do you want to learn more about hearing God’s voice?
  • Learn more about how to lean in to His leading every day?
  • Do you have questions about spiritual gifting and wonder about finding your calling and where you fit into His picture?
  • Would you like to become more effective and creative in ministry and see His love transform the world around you?
  • Do you have a heart for missions, the nations and being equipped to walk in the fullness of all you are made for?

Did you say yes to any of these questions?

You might want to stay tuned. 😉

Over the last 3 years, God put a fire in my heart to equip and raise up Kingdom leaders and family rooted in the love of Jesus, grounded in the character of God and released in a Christ-centered supernatural lifestyle.  All in the context of an Isaiah 61 community.

This is not traditional ministry training.  We will be developing a format that harnesses the power of online learning and melds it with local community building, mentoring relationships and in person intensives.   Mosaic is not one size fits all cookie-cutter learning.  Mosaic is custom made for the people, organizations and churches God brings.

You can read more here: Mosaic School of the Prophetic

And I can’t do any of this without your help. I still urgently need monthly supporters and/or those who feel led to give specific non-monthly gifts as well. You can find all the information about joining my support team here if God leads you to be a part of sowing into helping make this happen.

You are so loved and I can’t wait to see where this new day of grace is going to lead.

Why We Need to Celebrate Failure

Learning to Fly
Learning to Fly {Prints available in the shop! Click here to take a closer look.}

My goal is to fail.  Yes, you read that correctly.

If I am ever going to make, do, create, become someone who leaves a transformational and hopefully a creative legacy from God’s heart, I am going to fail. Probably in epic fashion.  More than once. Or twice. Or thrice. {Hmm, that went all Shakespeare-like there. See? Wrong millennium. I’m already proving my point.}

God celebrates our failing.  Sometimes even more than our succeeding.

But He doesn’t look at us and see failures or screw -ups… because we are not defined by our success, or lack thereof.  We are defined by His faith in who He has created us to be and become.

Our failure is precious because if we are succeeding all the time, we are not stretching or growing or exploring nearly enough.  We are settling for safe.  Settling for safety is like burying our talents and we know how well that went over.

Church, we need to stop running from failure and start a cheering section instead. Now, just to be clear, I’m not talking about integrity issues. I’m talking about having a big crazy dream born from God’s heart being fused into ours and diving all in. And then face-planting in the process.  I’m talking about stepping out to follow Jesus and tripping on the doorjamb on the way out the door.

Many of us are too afraid to dream bigger than our known abilities because we fear getting a red scrawling F across our best efforts. God’s Kingdom comes not based on our ability, but based on our availability to Him.

God isn’t tallying our mistakes. He delights in transforming them and us with them.

Have you ever seen an 18 month old learn to run? And fall face first trying? You wouldn’t go over to them and yell at them, telling them they were stupid failures who should give up on ever walking. Of course not! We scoop them up, spin them around, kiss their bumps and say, “WOW! That was AWESOME sweetie. Let’s go around the log next time, ok?”  How much more so does God lovingly gather our learning mistakes and cover them with His grace?

Church, we have run from failure for too long. Instead of understanding failure as a vital part of growth, we duck and dodge and cover over our weakness. When we hide our failing moments, we embrace a culture of shame and bury the dreams and visions Jesus has given us in fear.

God is not afraid you are going to get wrong. He is absolutely certain at some point you most definitely will. And He already has a plan to fix it.  He celebrates our faith-filled failings more than our safe successes. Because when we feel most like we are falling, He knows we are really learning to fly.


An Update:

Thank you to my two new supporters!  I still need 98 more by Dec 15 to have the minimum funding I need each month to function in this new season of missions, mobilization and mentoring.  Please take a peek here and see how you can become a part of what God is doing.

 

Why This Dream Needs You

newdayIt has been 20 years since I first stepped out into front-line missions.  First in urban America, then on the streets of Calcutta and for years in a war zone in Africa.  I am in no way done with the front line, but now it is time to leverage two decades of walking with Jesus in some of the world’s hardest places and mobilize a movement of healthy, wholehearted missionaries and leaders who will run farther and fly higher than one person ever could on their own.

I may live in the USA now but my focus is more on the nations than ever. Missions isn’t just about me going and doing the stuff of the Gospel.  Missions is also about training and releasing a whole beautiful company of folks in love with Jesus to move beyond the shorelines of their comfort zones, work places, neighborhoods, cities, regions and nations.

The power in a seed isn’t in it staying a seed.  The power is in the seed being planted and growing into a tree that produces countless other seeds that will grow rooted into a forest of trees.  The last two years fighting for my health has rooted in me the mandate to multiply what God has so graciously given in experience and woven into my very being through these decades of walking with Him.

Since returning to the USA, I have been convicted more than ever of the need for bold, creative, love-grounded, biblically-solid, Holy-Spirit-empowered equipping and encouragement for missionaries and Christian leaders to be healthy, established in Jesus and set free to live and love with their whole hearts.  This is what I am stepping into. And I need your help to make it happen.

I’m about to make a very bold request.  If I am totally honest, this stretches me so far beyond my own comfort zone I’m not sure I know where I left it. So here we go…

Friends, I need your help.  I need you who have a heart for touching nations with the reality of Who Jesus is.  I need you who share the conviction of the need for healthy, wholehearted leaders and missionaries to be raised up and sent out. I need you who long to see the church live missions out everyday, from our backyards to the ends of the earth. I need you who share the passion to see grace, truth and creativity be released through the body of Christ to bring the message of God’s transforming love in deeper ways.

I need you to be a part of this dream because it will never happen if I stand on my own.

I’m working on multiple writing projects (much more on that soon), developing seminar/workshop materials, and partnering with our local YWAM base to teach and encourage their students and leaders. I also provide creative direction, photography/design and mentoring services to missionaries and mission-focused ministries on a select, relational basis. This blog in itself has touched hundreds of thousands of readers in over 170 nations.  But I can’t keep doing any of this without building an amazing, committed support team. And I want to invite you to be a part of it.

{You can read and download my latest support update filled with more information and pictures by clicking the update image just above on the right.}

Now for the really bold part:


I need at least 100 monthly supporters at a minimum of $30/month by Dec 15, 2015 to meet my most basic ongoing needs.


Would you prayerfully consider joining my support team and being a part of what God is doing?

Please head over to my new Support Team page to learn how to sign up in three simple steps.  You can sign up right there online, give securely via a designated link in paypal or by check, and all gifts are tax deductible. I’m developing special updates for my support team and surprises as well because it isn’t just about you giving into and partnering with what God is doing in my journey, it’s about journeying and doing it together as a community.

Team work makes the dream work and nothing would give me greater joy than to have you become a key part of it all on this team.

Thank you for your prayers, love and support throughout these years and miles.  We are just getting started and the best is yet to come.  You are loved- Michele