Tuesday, December 9, 2014

W.A.R.

The first time I really heard about the realities of sex trafficking was in Dayton, Ohio while listening to a woman named Becky McDonald speak.  Becky is the president of Women at Risk, International.  She is engaging, knowledgable, brilliant, and a follower of Christ.  She speaks with passion and resolution about the cause of women and children in our world...the atrocities that they face, the horrors of their world, the injustice that is reality for so so many.

She grew up in Bangladesh, and I will never forget this quote she spoke that evening.
She said, "The day I saw acid poured down a woman's throat to silence her, was the day I became about the cause of women and children."

I sat and listened to her.   I had heard the reality.  And I couldn't un-know it.  My eyes were opened to a nightmare - one that I had been largely unaware of...so when I heard of the option to host a home party selling products that both rescued women and women in poverty had made, it seemed like a no brainer.  I had hosted Christmas parties in the past - and they were a lot of work...and so I decided that if I was going to have people over and do a lot of work, well then it might as well be for a really good reason and benefit someone in this world....

THUS, the annual Women at Risk Open House was born...

This year marks the 6th year I've thrown open the doors here at the Presley Casa and sold their products.

Each year, it is hard.
..and lot of work.
Each year I fight insecurities and fears.

BUT...
Each year, people show up.
Each year I get to eat cookies and look at beautiful products with friends and family.

Each year, I decide it is worth it.

The beautiful thing about the progression of it, is that it is feeling more and more like a TEAM event.  It's not just me anymore.  And I love that.  Heather takes orders and pictures.  Karen came over and helped me clean up (rather she cleaned up while I sat for 10 minutes and ate dinner).  My sister, my mom, and Karen made cookies.  My mom and our friend Kristie helped me set up for the event.
And not to mention I'm on a team with the around 60 folks that came to shop!

It feels good to be on a team.  A team that fights for freedom through a little event at my house.  This year we had about $2,900 in sales.  Every 250 dollars supports a woman in a safe house for a month.  So all in all, our Open House will support a gal for nearly a year.  Think of that!?  It's amazing...an honor...a JOY.

What a privilege to be a part of bringing freedom to people!  What an honor to stand with a cause of Justice.

If you get a moment...you might want to check out the website.  It would be worth it.  And maybe...just maybe you'll want to host a party of your own? :)

 www.warinternational.org










Sunday, November 2, 2014

Isaiah

I am reading a study with some gals that I've done before about the story Ruth in the Bible by Kelly Minter.  We're going through this book and studying her actions and her words, as well as those of Naomi and Boaz...and the insightfulness is astounding.  And Beautiful.

Today I was prompted to Read Isaiah 54:1-5.  To be truthful, I almost didn't read it because I've read that section of scripture a bunch of times, and I know just what it says.  However, I decided to go back and read it again today.

____________________________________________________________________
Isaiah 54:1-5
"Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband." says the Lord.

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.  For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.

Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame.  Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.  You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.  For you Maker is your husband - the Lords Almighty is his name - the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth."

_____________________________________________________________________

I read this and am astounded by it.  The hope it exudes just blows my mind.  I wonder as the tears fall over these words if I am the only one who weeps over this scripture?  Do other people sit and cry over this verse...there must be others...
Perhaps I wanted to skip over it and not read it this time because I know I'm going to cry over reading it.  I have sobbed many times over it.

This God we serve is a God of redemption - beautiful, extravagant, abundant redemption.  That's the piece that gets me...the "more"quality of his fulfillment.  More, More and More.  He calls the people of brokenness to hope in the place of empty.  To SING, and burst into song even in that place...because of what he IS going to do!  He is not going to leave any of us broken.  He is not going to leave any of us with nothing.  He is not going to leave us in our shame.
Instead, God is going to fill us up to the brim in a manner of massive fullness!

This resonates with me as I am one who loves fullness.  I love more.  One step into my house will quickly show you this.  I am not a minimalist...I thrive on color and fabric and uniqueness.
I love when my house is full.  I enjoy stepping over children, pushing past chairs, weaving through chaos with the sound of life, laughter and peace all around me.  This is my happy place.  This brings me life.

So sometimes when I look at my current life of single childlessness I cannot help but ask God some questions.  Often they revolve around "when."  And sometimes these questions even revolve around "why."

But this verse calls me to hope in a fullness that I do not yet know or even see.  And there is not just an abstract hope that I'm supposed to cling to...I am even to prepare for fullness.

"Enlarge the place of your tent."
"Stretch your tent curtains wide."
"Strengthen your stakes."
.....because they are going to need to be STRONG for what is coming....for the beautiful, redemptive, jam-packed fullness that is coming...

So wherever we are -
whoever you are -
whatever our "barrenness" entails -
hope and prepare, hope and prepare...

Because God is going to do something amazing.  Redemption is coming.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kisses from Katie

I'm reading the book Kisses from Katie, about a gal named Katie Davis who went to Uganda to live at the age of 19.  She's now a mother to 14 children at the age of 22 and runs a non-profit that helps children in poverty be educated...I'm in the 4th chapter and am just amazed at her beautiful, relentless faith...here's an excerpt:

     "People often ask if I think my life is dangerous, if I am afraid.  I am much more afraid of remaining comfortable.  Matthew 10:28 tell us not to fear things that can destroy the body, but things that can destroy the soul.  I am surrounded by things that can destroy the body.  I interact almost daily with people who have deadly diseases, and many times I am the only person who can help them.  I live in a country with one of the world's longest-running wars taking place just a few hours away.  Uncertainty is everywhere.  But I am living in the midst of the uncertainty and risk, amid things that can and do bring physical destruction, because I am running from things that can destroy my soul;  complacency, comfort, and ignorance.  I am much more terrified of living a comfortable life in a self-serving society and failing to follow Jesus than I am of any illness or tragedy.
     Jesus called His followers to be a lot of things, but I have yet to find where He warned us to be safe.   We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us.  And there is no better place to be than in His hands."  pg. XIX-XX

"Running from things that can destroy my soul"...


In Uganda, Katie is surrounded by thing that can destroy the body...I would argue that here in the USA, I'm surrounded by so many things that threaten to destroy my soul - the enemy seeks to draw me away from my Redeemer and settle me into this half-hearted, half-committed, life of comfort...
and miss the whole point of why I'm here.  Or settle for far less than God made me to be.  
I need to RUN away.
Not walk.
Not meander.
RUN.

The longer I live I see the brevity of life...and in this brevity we have a short number of years to make a difference...to draw others to the love, the freedom, the eternal life found only in Jesus.  I don't want to be afraid.  I want to be wrecked.  Changed.  I want to be bold.  I want to take risks.  I want to be one who loves...and loves extravagantly.

No doubt there will be more posted from this book as I read along...but in the meantime, here's a short video...well worth watching.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TY0YGrGZdR4

Friday, August 1, 2014

One of the most beautiful songs I've heard in recent years is Kristene Mueller's "Homeward Bound".... gorgeous....

Life's mission.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MefjU5xBeK8


I will run, I will run this race,
And I will do it all for love.
Your love compels me forward,
Your love controls my heart,
And I just can't, I cannot get away.

So I will fight this good fight of faith,
And I will do it all for love.
You are my great reward,
You're so worth fighting for
And I can't wait to see Your face.

So I will run, I will run this race,
And I will do it all for love.
Your love compels me forward,
Your love controls my heart,
And I just can't, I cannot get away.

So I will fight this good fight of faith,
And I will do it all for love.
You are my great reward,
You're so worth fighting for
And I can't wait to see Your face,
And I can't wait to see Your face.

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

10 years

Today, July 9th, 2014 is the 10 year anniversary of Jason going home to be with the Lord.  My heart and my mind can scarcely believe it, and tears easily come at that thought.  Something about a decade having passed by has hit me a bit harder this year.  How in the world am I still standing?

The grace of God is what has held me again and again.  It is what holds me still.

I often hold back when it comes to talking about Jason to other people (or writing about him in a blog post). There is so much I could say in all kinds of situations...but I'm concerned that people will think I haven't "let go" or "healed" or "moved on", or whatever it is that is supposed to be done by me.  I sometimes sit in front of someone who didn't know Jason and who didn't know us as a couple and I have the urge to say something about him - about who he was and how I am different because of him.   Or even something about this grief and this road I've traveled - what I have learned and how I have grown and what I miss.

...And then I don't say much because I fear they will not understand or that they will be uncomfortable.  Or most of the time I say just a little blurb...which hardly touches the surface.

And because of that holding back there is a huge piece of me that person will never, ever know in this life. Because to know me is to know this story.  To know me is to know Jason and to understand who Danielle and Jason Presley were in this life.
Because once you know that story...it is then that I am free to really let you see who I am now.  And by God's grace who I am becoming without him here.
My life (and your life) is not a sequence of disjointed events, but rather a seamless flow from all that I am and have been into all I am becoming.  Nothing I am now is separate from my past and the road I have walked. It's tied together in a beautiful, tragic, redemptive tapestry...one event to another, laughter to crying, joy to pain, brokenness to healing, disastrous moments to shining ones...

I also know of the beautiful healing that God has worked over and in and through me these last 10 years.

I have lived and breathed through every single moment these last ten year - through countless ups and downs, through seemingly endless letting go's and griefs, lost dreams, and sorrows - and even through new endeavors - where my courage has been challenged and I have been forced to choose life or death.

...and I have chosen life, and chosen life, and chosen life again...doing the things that I needed to do in order to keep living.  And certainly the goal is not just living, but somehow in all of this choosing to make choices that lead to thriving as well - to living this life with passion and purpose - being all God designed me to be.  I have tried to walk this path with grace and with openness - wanting to honor the life of my dear, dear love and also wanting to be open to the new things that God wants to do in and through me in the here and now...and in the future.

Although not at all completely, I honestly do see some of God's redemption in me - I see the beauty He showers over me - through relationships, purposes, grace and kindness.   I am amazed at how God heals.  I am astounded by the way he allows us to love more and more and more.  This capacity He has given us to love - children, friends, spouses - is beyond understanding and insanely beautiful.  I am thankful that in Jesus, beauty will always have the last word in my life.

So today, July 9th, 2014, 10 years since he left, I want to just take a moment to write about Jason.

Jason Douglas Presley was a great man.  He truly was.  I remember him saying to me shortly after we had started dating, "I want vision from God."  I remember hearing him say this from the passenger seat in his jeep and replying, "Me too."
...and off we went.

And that is how it felt.  Purpose.  Joy.  Passion.  Adventure.  Laughter.
He was gentle and wild and courageous and free.
He was reckless and calculated.
An artist, poet, and an IT guy.
An adventurer at heart.
And a man after God's heart.

I still remember him telling me he'd like to be dropped off in the desert with a compass and have to find his way out.  Of course to those who knew him this is not at all surprising.  And according to him, I believe they actually had trips where you can do this sort of thing?!
I also remember us looking at a big house and him sharing a dream of owning a big home and using it to help the homeless, or troubled youth...

His ideas sometimes terrified me.

But I honestly loved that about him.  I'd have had it no other way.  He was braver than me, and I wanted to be on an adventure with someone riskier than I was.  I always had said I wanted a man running faster than me in this life.  And that is exactly what I got.

I remember a time after we were married that I had messed something up - I can't remember if I'd forgotten something/an event/ or what?...but it was clearly my fault.  And then I vividly remember being with him as he told the person we had affected that "we" messed up.  He took the blame with me - and even was the one to apologize as I stood there humbled and stunned.  I can still remember hearing him say that and being amazed at the kind of man he was....that he would take the blame for my mistake.  He knew the meaning of team, believed in being a team, and spoke of us being a team.  And that is what we were.

I felt beautiful standing beside his strength. I was surrounded. Covered. Protected.

He loved the Lord, he loved people, he loved his family, and he loved me.
My world changed forever because of knowing him.  My world changed forever because of knowing his love.

Sometimes I wonder about who he would be if he were still here - what he would be passionate about?  I wonder what our life would be like together.
Would he still ask me practically every other day if he "looked bigger"? (He'd been working out.)
Would he still make the "Blue Banana" smoothie?
Would he continue to insist that "Colgate kept brushing" and therefore he didn't need to brush his teeth again?
Would he still spontaneously do some sort of jiu jitsu/wrestling move to me in which I would end up on the floor twisted like a pretzel crying for mercy?
Would he still be writing beautiful journal entries?
Would he still terrify me with his dreams and passions?
And the list could go on...

I miss him.

And at the same time, I feel incredibly blessed that I knew him, learned with him - and got to be loved by him.

So Jason, my love -
On your 10 year Heaven Anniversary...
I look forward to the day when I can see what you see and know what you know.
...and worship God beside you again.

...but until then...
I WILL run this race.  I will not quit.  I will live the purposes that God has ordained for me in this life - and I will do it with joy.  I will laugh.  I will cry.
I will finish the course...

And I'll do it like one running to win.

Descending on Mt. Rainier
Jason's 30th Birthday
 Florida



Thursday, April 24, 2014

Copper or Gold

There are days where I feel like I just get up just a little bit only to be knocked back down again by disappointment.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way...
It seems like God is regularly answering my prayers with a NO.

I ask "What about this God?"

His answer is "No."

"Is this a good idea?"

"No."

"Will you please do THIS, Lord?"

"No."

Maybe it's a "Not Yet" instead of a "No"...but the reality is that it doesn't really matter.
"Not Yet" is a "No" too.

Sometimes the leading from God requires action on my part.  I actually am choosing something different because of his direction in my life.  But lately his No answers have not even required any action from me.  I cannot even change the outcome.  I just stand there praying for various situations, and he hands down an answer that is untouchable by me.  It just is what it is...and any striving or planning or working on my end will not change the outcome.

Seriously, I feel I could use less severity in these answers sometimes...

To be honest, there ARE some days when I look at this crazy life I'm living and it feels like some sort of Epic Story that is being carved out by a creative and loving hand that loves adventure and redemption.  And I get excited for what's next...

But then there are many other days where it seems like these are just disappointing answers that I don't really want to hear -  like I missed the flight to Hawaii and ended up on Greyhound bus headed to Hazard, Kentucky.  Disappointing to say the least.

And I'll be honest - I am quite sure that my life is wildly entertaining for all those around me.  Really...ask them and they'll agree.  I cannot make up the stories that I have of late.

But really... I am starting to feel exhausted by the No's.

SO...........

It's time to reframe these No's.  

It is absolutely necessary that I recommit to looking at these answers in a different light.  What if every time the Lord answered any request of mine with a "No" or a "Not yet"...
instead of collapsing into self-pity or sorrow or grief, I started saying to myself the following phrase, "Wow.  If THAT'S not the path for me...and it looked pretty great...then I can't wait to see the Yes that is coming...whatever it is... because It must be incredible!"

I really need to start using the very disappointment I am experiencing to point me to a greater reality that is already planned out and worked out, according to His love...AND is on the way.

There MUST be a greater plan that he's saying yes to in his wisdom.   Because God is all powerful and God is love.  

There are many gifts in my life that my late husband, Jason, gave to me....and one is a phrase that I find myself repeating when I'm disappointed.  I can still remember sitting with him one day as I was upset about something that wasn't working out the way I had wanted.  I had received a "No"...and I was sad.

In that moment, I vividly remember Jason saying to me the following phrase:

"What if this is copper and God has gold?"

In all of my rantings and feelings I had not even left room for this option.
And when he said it, it resonated with me.

So yeah... What if?  What if THIS (whatever THIS is for me or for you in the present situation...)
is copper, and gold is coming?

It throws everything into a whole new light.
Because as much as I like copper...
I like gold better.  

I'm reframing the disappointments.

By God's grace, I'm going to sit in a humble posture before Him believing he does indeed know best AND sees so infinitely far beyond the particular moment in time where I am living and breathing.

I'm going to celebrate this moment I'm living with all of it's blessings and goodness.

I'm going to pray my guts out.

And I'm going to get excited for the gold.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Things I Love #5 - Coffee Emporium

I LOVE Coffee Emporium.  

It is my "Cheers"…where people know my name…and my sister, nieces, brothers, and mom.  I love walking in and hearing, "Your sister or your brother was just in here with your nieces."
 
Coffee Emporium makes a big city small for me.  The entire walk there makes a big city small.  On the walk, the fella at Haps Irish Pub sometimes gives Tucker a treat.

I love that Amy is both my barista AND my friend.  I love that we get dinner together and shop together…and I love Gretchen and Jeremiah and Katie and Eileen.

I love that they put a fire pit outside.

I love the waffles on Sunday.

I love the Salted Almond Mocha.

I love the burlap bag I bought there.

I love that I can come in after work and chat, hear about Amy's niece and Gretchen's daughter's school.

I love Donna's cookies.

I love the wisteria that grows over the patio out back.

I love the community it fosters.

You get the point.  It's one of those things in life that I'm way thankful for...