Friday, March 18, 2011


What in the world.

In the matter of six weeks my life has completely changed.

 It's all I can do to process it tonight.

I am sticky from making frozen yogurt and cutting kiwi, and I am just trying to wind down as I prepare for one of three days left at the office tomorrow.

Three more work days and my job of six years will be over.

I am sitting in a new house.  In a new room.  On a new bed.

And those plans I had made for August are no more.

I feel kind of like I've been holding my breath.  Like I had become some consumed with plans and arrangements and preparations that I didn't feel anything anymore.

I believe in the mission and ministry behind the World Race.

But if you know anything about my life, it's that my story has been full of leaving.  I haven't had to leave countries, states, or cities by many means.  But I've left homes.  And I've left communities.  And I've had to leave churches.  And I've had to leave relationships.  And I've had to leave ministries.

I am tired of leaving.

The nature of work in the inner city is inconsistent and unpredictable.  I have grown very accustomed to having a child in a home one day, and returning the next only to find him gone.  Usually for good.

But I have a few.  One just turned 17.  He's as big as a house, with dark skin and a great smile.  He spends his Friday nights with us, which just blows my mind.  And with the help of a dear friend, just brought all his failing grades up to passing.

The other is stoic.  He locks his jaw and stares straight ahead.  His words are few.  But every once in a while he will break out in a smile.  The smile doesn't always make it all the way up to his eyes, and I worry about him sometimes.  But on Tuesday night we were walking home and one of the girls squealed a little too loud.  And here he comes, my little man with a red afro, just to check and make sure we were ok.  He had heard us scream.

There is the pair of brothers.  One who is young and handsome and serious and way too big for his britches.  And the other who is physically too big for his britches and has a huge gap in his teeth.  They tag along with us and fight each other and one wears his hoodie too small and the other loves wrestling.  They are my constants.

Or the sweet little girls who just want to be held.  Who scream our names "Miss Anna, Miss Anna!" and come running and inevitably throw themselves in our arms.  With beads in their hair and shrill giggles.

Or one of the littlest ones who is learning how to talk.  We watched him learn how to walk.  And he hates wearing clothes.  And loves to hide under the couch cushions.

Or the group of young teenage boys who show up on Friday nights, and wait on us hand and foot.  They serve food and take out trash and wipe down tables.  They act out Bible stories for skits.  They are part of a dream I had months and months ago.  A word from the Lord about His kingdom.

Tuesday night God sent me four more.  To fill the void in my heart that four others had left a few months ago.

Three had the names of the prophets.  With light in their eyes and toothless smiles on the faces.  The little girl had a name which means "olive branch".  Perfectly matched up with the dove God had painted on the church's walls that afternoon.  To affirm an answer my heart already knew.

And I'm here to tell you.  My heart is consumed.  I have fallen in love all over again.  All I want... all my heart wants... is to pour out here.  To drop anchor.  To build a foundation.  To be here to see it all bear fruit.  I want my story to have a new word.


That's my word.

Right here.  In my backyard.  Where there are gangs and prostitutes and dealers and murderers and thieves.

Jesus would have a blast.  Jesus is having a blast.

Especially on the nights when 50+ kids gather in a field and play kickball.  50+ kids who have grown up in the midst of all this.  Neglected and broken and callused by real life hitting too early.  Or the precious few who have beautiful parents and great loving households, but have been stricken with poverty and just can't get a break.

I will invest in them.

God's word for me over this whole journey, from beginning to end, was Joshua 1:9.

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged.  The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  He had given me permission to choose.  His shadow was cast wide.

So on Tuesday night when boy #3 came barreling down the staircase, with two missing front teeth and corn rows, and told me his name was Joshua...

My heart settled deep in my chest and a smile lit up my face.


It is through these streets I will run my race.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Moving. Again.

March 14th 2011:

I have done this so many times.  It makes me sick.  No, really.  There's not a lot of sentiment to be found here today.  I'm really, really over it.

I'm moving again.  To a new house.  Five years later, I still haven't found a home.  Five years later, I still have never settled in.  And I am so tired of it.

I know why we came here.  Before ever moving in there was a rainbow, a promise of healing.  But the healing wasn't for me.  The healing was for my sister.  Trout Court was always about my sister.

She moved in just days before one of the biggest chaotic seasons of her life.  The promise of healing was for her.  And I was blessed to watch the process.  As if I got a front row seat to watch God bend low and stitch her wounds up.

I got to be there the night that a miracle, eight years in the making, finally blossomed.  As she fell in love with her best friend.

Trout Court was all about my sister.

Nothing magical happened to me there.  Nothing transformational.

So now that I'm packing up, ready to go yet again, I can't help but stare at the walls.  And whisper quietly to them, "I wish we'd had a better relationship".  "I really had hoped you'd be home.  That I'd stay here longer than a year.  That we'd go the distance."

But Trout Court wasn't about me.

So I'm throwing away papers and I'm sorting through books and clothes.  Pictures came off the walls last night and this morning I unplugged my alarm clock.

Almost every old chapter in my life is coming to an end.  And I'm feeling so strange about it all.  Like God is purging me.  Of my job, of my living situation.  Of my pride.

I had plans.  To leave again.

And something in me is shaken.  Something in me is grabbing hold of a new aspect of Jesus.  Of Abba Father.  That confounded sheet of butcher paper is laying in front of me and Papa is leaning over my shoulder, excitedly waiting to see what I'll draw.

I just want freaking directions.

Forget all this liberty stuff.  Forget all this free will stuff.  Forget this, "I'll be with you wherever you go," stuff.

Only I would be mad that I madly love and walk alongside of a gracious, creative Creator.

Only I would get mad that I'm not being bossed around.

But I have a choice to make.

And I'm here to tell you, I'm tired of leaving.

And I'm tired of living a boring story.

And sometimes a better story involves leaving.

But I don't want to leave.  I just wrote that on my butcher paper - with a big, purple crayon.


When I was a little girl my family took a trip to the beach.  Somewhere around Birmingham, Alabama our mini van broke down.

Long story short, we had to wait around in Birmingham to get the van fixed.  We soon found out we couldn't get it fixed right away, so we rented a van from the airport.  This was where my mom got a citation from a big, scary cop because she parked in a no parking zone.  But it was all fine.  Because this mini van had really cool automatic doors.

A few hours down the southbound highway we drove headlong into a traffic jam.  My memory tells me we were in stand still traffic for about four hours.  Literally.  Stand still.

There had been a chemical spill earlier that day.

People had been jammed-up in traffic for hours.

It didn't take us long to realize, had we not had minor car trouble, we would have been right in the middle of the chemical spill that day.  We would have been part of the chaos.

There's also this really crazy detour around Knoxville sometimes.  That takes you in a wide loop around the city to avoid the demolition on the highway.  You are directed around the mess, instead of straight through it; navigated away from the wreck, the rubble, the catastrophe ahead.


So here I am.  Divulging a little secret.

I'm on a detour.

I was on the long stretch of highway and I had to get off route for a little while, because there was a big, big mess ahead.

A big mess I was driving straight into.  Part of the road had fallen off.  Or there had been a landslide.  Or they were building a new bridge.

Either way I was told to make a turn.  Navigate a new route.  Around the mess.  Above the mess.  Instead of through it.

And here I am... about to merge back onto the highway.  Having avoided catastrophe.  Having learned something about myself.  Having changed my vision and circumstances.  It seems serendipitous almost.

This is me.  Processing my shame and my pride.  This is me.  So tired and overwhelmed.  This is me, with a rejuvenated desire to invest.  To pour myself out.  To be faithful.

This detour has stretched me.  This detour has broken me.  This detour has made me grow.

My calling is the same, whatever highway I take.  This time I just had to leave the course to avoid a mess.  I had to throw off some things, which were hindering my growth.  I had to meet some new people.  And learn some new truth.

To know, had I chosen to, I could have done this has been so good for my soul.

To know that God is pleased with me, regardless, is the truth I need to lean against.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wind and Demons

I think God is in the wind.

John 3:8.

This started years and years ago, during an Easter vigil as I was praying in a friend's backyard.  When I asked God to come and be with us, to be near to us, the wind began to blow violently.  There were wind chimes in the trees.

Today whenever the wind blows, I hear our Father say, "I am here.  So close.  I am right here with you."

Today in Kentucky the wind has not stopped blowing.  Even right now as I'm writing this, the wind is blowing so wild outside that someone's car alarm just went off.  (Well.  Maybe that wasn't the wind's fault.  You should come hang out in my neighborhood!)

There was a specific reason why God chose to be so loud and obvious today, however.  He knew I would desperately, desperately need His presence and His strength.

At some point I want to share with you what God's been speaking over me about the body of Christ and the church; the different "body parts" and the functions they serve.  The way we know God uses us in unity.  But all you really need to know right now is that He has been calling special attention to my eyes.  My prayer for years now has been "open my eyes".  Whether it was "open my eyes to the risks you want me to take" or "open my eyes so I can see what you see".  He's fixated on my eyes, for some reason.  And I wonder what scales are about to fall off.

I am not one to see satan and his demons lurking behind every bush.  But I know my Father and so I have grown much more quick in the last few years to recognize what is not holy, what is not of Him.  The faster I am able to identify a tactic of the enemy, the faster the battle is won.  Usually it is my self esteem/self worth, which is attacked.  A spirit of timidity or discouragement or insecurity or anxiety is not uncommon.

Today, something was going on inside of me that I didn't recognize.  I was on my way to a job interview with a great company here in Lexington, which is owned by some friends of mine.  Last week God helped me overcome my pride and fill out the application, as He began to speak to me about how healthy it would be to phase out of my current, toxic work environment.

I sat in my car for about an hour before the interview today.  Reading This Present Darkness by Peretti with the windows rolled down in my car.  I was having to literally push all my doubt and discouragement and fear and nerves deeper into a pit in my stomach.  I did not want to go in for the interview.  And I had no idea why.

I am just a few chapters into the book, but began to read a chapter in which the pastor is engaged in spiritual warfare.  And in the midst of being beaten up by unseen demons, he rebukes them in the name of Jesus and they flee.

In that every moment, the wind blew.  And I heard our precious Father say, "call to Me.  Call to Me."

So I shut the book.  

I began what I would later be able to recognize as a serious battle.

Which ended in my tears and the rebuking of every demon, which had tried to latch onto me.  In the name of Jesus I sent them away.  Whatever they were.

Then I got out of the car and went and landed the job.  What was supposed to be a three-tiered interview process turned into a "hey, Anna, can we just hire you right now?".

I ended my evening with two beautiful friends of mine who gave me my second donation towards this amazing journey.  Right now I am carrying the light burden and easy yoke of the Lamb.  There are only some tears left in my eyes from the faces of some unfamiliar children who filled my mind while I was praying.  

Now I'm home.  And the wind is about to blow the house down.

Rainboots and Automatic Doors

Today in Kentucky it rained all day.  

All day.

It was one of those days when I felt myself wishing God was tangible enough to just sit on the couch with, resting.

Sometimes words are not enough.

I am out of words.

So I asked, as tomorrow holds a huge decision for me, that God would make Himself known.

That He would speak to me and I would be close enough to hear.  That He would know, even when I don't have words to explain, how much I loved Him.

I got out of my car tonight, just as the rain died down a little.  As I walked into the store I watched a dad get his little girl out of the car.  Dressed in a pink raincoat and tiny pink rainboots, he put his little girl down on the ground and she started running for the door.  He laughed and took a few large steps to catch up with her.

I walked a little slower.  Recognizing God's sweet pattern of communication unfolding.

The dad reached out and gently brushed his daughters hair, steering her towards the doors of the store.  She kept running and he kept right in step with her, all the way across the parking lot.  Every once in a while he would reach out his hand and touch her head and steer her back on track.  A little farther to the left.  A little more to the right.

Finally they got to the automatic doors.  I watched as the dad scooped his daughter up in his arms as the doors whooshed open with a hum and spray for rain.

Together they walked through the open doors.


Yesterday I quit my job.

Five and a half years ago, a seventeen year old walked into an office complex on the southside of Lexington, and listened to a manager say, "I guess we'll give you a try."

Their "try" would last almost six years.  I grew up within the walls of that office.  Fell in love and climbed back out of it.  Started college.  Quit college.  Started college again.  I got sick and learned how to bite my tongue.  On some level I learned how to stand up for myself because of this job.  

One of the greatest lessons this job taught me, however, was that I was made for so much more.  Different things are important to me.  This 9-5, cubicle job was not what I wanted for my life.  It had, literally, become my safety net.  My comfort zone.

And yesterday I quit.

I woke up yesterday morning to the craziest of wind storms.  I was about to make one of those crazy, life-altering decisions.  You know.  I'd been teetering on the edge of trust and safety, carefully walking the line of my expanding comfort zone.  And I'd been hearing God tell me to wait... it wasn't time to give up the job yet.  That safety net was there for a purpose.

And then I in an exaggerated gust of wind I heard Him say: go.  Go now.

I wanted nothing more than to jump up and down.  That is, after the initial urge to vomit subsided.  

After talking to my boss, I sent my Dad a text message.  

I was remembering being eleven years old.  My Dad resigned from his position as a pastor at our church.  This decision completely rocked our worlds; one of those pivotal moments that changes everything.  Vividly I remember the first time I walked into my living room and Dad was sitting in a chair reading a book.  I slowly, quietly backed out of the room.  I found my mom who was cooking in our old, steamy kitchen.  "Did you see what he's doing??" 

I had never seen Dad rest anywhere but on the beach before.  Dad used to be so tired, all the time, that he'd walk in his sleep.  Talk in his sleep.  Eat in his sleep.  He was empty.

After Dad quit his job at the church, he got a job at a local lawn service company.  That first season their main job was to aerate rich people's yards.  In other words, dig small holes.  All day long.

Dad went into this job knowing it was not permanent.  But he would come home at night and spread his map out on the kitchen table, grab the cordless phone, and we would sit together and map out his route for the next day.  He did his job well.  He smiled more.

Not long after that he started teaching DUI classes here in town.

Today, eleven years later, he is a LPCC.  He is a counselor, working in a private practice, doing what he was created to do.

So I sent him a text yesterday morning that said: "time to aerate some yards".

And he responded by saying, "vacuum some tennis courts, paint some dumpsters, drive a zamboni..."

Those jobs were the jobs he had when he was in his early twenties.  When I was a baby.  That was the work he did to provide for our family when I was still very small.  Jobs that had a beginning and an end.  Where progress could be marked.  

Yesterday I quit my job.

The job I'd had for almost six years.  Which kept me from seeing the morning sun.  A job that had me sitting down for nine hours a day.  Alphabetizing xray reports and sorting mail.  A job that was a huge blessing in it's time.  With a flexible schedule and good pay.

Yesterday, I thanked God that some things have an end.  That there are seasons in our life that are meant to happen and then be done.  They are there to change who we are.  A transportation device - to get us from here to there.  A safety net.  I am so thankful that at some point, God calls you out it, though.  "Come on, let's get outta here..." I heard Him whisper.  "Say thank you, but we need to go now."

I have two or three jobs lined up.  Jobs, which will have me on my feet.  Working with kids and delicious frozen yogurt.  With people who love Jesus and love me.  I have entered into a state of detox.  A change of pace.  A state of trust.  Time to shake it off.  (Throw off everything that hinders...)

One day, maybe eleven years from now, I will look back to my resignation from the first real job I ever had and I will smile.  Then, even more than I do now, I will understand how deeply imperative it was for me to to leave.  To "drive a zamboni" for a season.

Yesterday I thanked God that while some things are meant to end, His faithfulness never does.

High Waters and Sunglasses

Spring's coming.  The thunderstorm that woke me up at 3:30 AM told me so.  The world is turning and we are tilting gently towards the sun and what was frozen is melting and what was asleep is being awakened.

I woke up periodically throughout the night to bright flashes of lightening and deep rumbles of thunder.  My heart skipped, knowing how close this new season is.

And just like I do every morning, around 6:30 AM I pulled out of my driveway and went on my way to work.  Rain pelted against my windshield, trickled through the duct tape holding my back passenger-side window in place.  Thunder shook the asphalt under my car and rain shot furiously to the ground in the yellow cast of slow-moving headlights.

I almost hydroplaned multiple times.  As I drove down one of the main arteries in Lexington, I began to notice traffic was moving slower and slower.  Bottlenecking, even.  Suddenly I saw why.

Just ahead of me, the asphalt dipped, creating a basin.  A basin where at least eight inches of water churned.  Swirled.  Nasty and gray and fast-moving.  Traffic was merging to the right lane because in the left lane there was an Oldsmobile parked in the middle of the churning rainwater.  Lights on, wipers slinging rain.  

There was no other option but to slowly navigate the little river that had flooded the road.  Carefully I merged right and passed the Oldsmobile.  Something told me to look as I passed.

I watched a big, black man lean forward in his seat, just a shadow in the fogginess.  Then I watched as he pulled into traffic right behind me, as if he'd been waiting for me to pass.


Let me tell you a secret.  One that is important for you to know.  You are going to think I'm crazy.  And believe me, I'm ok with that.

God manifests Himself to me all the time.  In the wind.  And through people wearing sunglasses.  

Yeah.  I said it.  

Lately God's been making His presence known through people wearing sunglasses.  Strange, you say?  Absolutely.  But it is very much a "you can watch My back as I pass you by" sort of holy gesture.  It's not everyone wearing sunglasses.  Every once in a while God will deliberately get my attention, or startle me with a check on my spirit, and He will show up.  Yesterday He was riding a bicycle down Liberty Road.  The very first time, he was an old, black man with dreads sitting in an blue Chevy.  Both we wearing sunglasses.  Both showed up at a moment when I needed God to remind me that He is creative.  And He is close.

Olivia and I send text messages back and forth over the course of the week.  Most conversations start out with "Today He is..." and one or both of us will describe our interactions, or distant encounters, with the Almighty that day.  It's a beautiful, simple thing.  Our way of inviting God to take a walk with us (or maybe... His invitation to walk with Him).  Something I truly believe our Father delights in.  

This morning, however, when that Oldsmobile pulled into traffic behind me I heard the Father say: "that's Me, sweetheart.  Right there.  Keeping you out of high waters.  Blocking your way, so you don't get in over your head.  I am your Protector.  I am your Hero.  I am in your way."

I sent Olivia a text message that said, "today, He wasn't wearing sunglasses."

The significance of His sweet words this morning wouldn't hit me until later this afternoon, when I realized I was losing a battle.  A battle with the enemy I didn't even know I was fighting.  

I was being suppressed, held down, by this horrible melancholy and sadness.  I had convinced myself of something, and had slipped into this state of sorrow over it.  At the time I didn't realize just how deceptive the enemy can be.  I am used to him attacking me with anxiety and fear and insecurity.  Not with resignation.

So when I heard the voice of Truth whisper in my ear today, "I will take your every thought captive"... and I returned with the prayer, "God, please, take my every thought captive"...

I didn't expect what happened next.

Sorrow was lifted.  


There had been a battle going on for my thoughts.  With my surrender, came God's victory.

And I heard His words again.  "I am keeping you out of high waters.  Blocking the treacherous way, so you don't get in over your head.  I am your Protector.  I am your Hero."

Blessed am I, the beloved daughter of the Strongest One.  The precious child of a Creator who loves His creation enough to hop into a blue Chevy and breathe heavy so the wind blows.  The Almighty who "came down to find us", to find me, the one who got lost.

A couple of nights ago I was praying and I saw Him.  Squatting on His knees, with the whole world cupped in His hands.  I saw Him peer close, as close as He could get His face, and whisper strongly, quietly: "I love you... so much."

That is the image I want to leave you with tonight.

Angels and Elevators

Sometimes I wish we were given warnings upon waking up.

"Good morning, Anna!  Today's gonna be one of those rough ones.  Put on the right socks, please."

Then there are days I know had I been warned of the coming events, I never would have gotten out of bed.

Sometimes we have to be taken off guard so that we end up in the right place at the right time.

Which is what happened this morning.

I was sitting on a bench, listening to my iPod, waiting in the lobby for economics class to start.  It was too early in the morning for any significant thoughts to be racing through my head.  I was lost in the music when the elevator doors opened.

I was just looking straight ahead when a tall, black girl step off the elevator.  And just as the elevator doors closed I remember seeing a short, white guy staring out.  We made brief eye contact before the doors completely shut.  "She was just on the elevator with an angel," was the very first thought that popped in my head.  

An angel.

Why in the world did I have that thought?  

Fo a moment the girl stood in front of me, staring awkwardly ahead of her as if she was waiting on me to say something.  I took one earbud out to ask if she was okay (and I secretly wondered if she had seen him and thought he was an angel too).  But before I could get a word out, a very large, white woman came bursting through the hallway doors.

She ran up to the girl and got in her face - aggressively, yelling words I didn't even understand.  The girl just froze, looked to the ground and then at me.  Immediately I took both of my earbuds out of my ears and the large woman's attention was pulled from the elevator-girl and fixed on me.

She stared at me.  Defiantly, without blinking.  Pointed at me and called me a very derogatory name, and then said: "look away from me.  Over there.  Look over there.  Do not look at me.  Look away from me now, (insert racial slur here)!"  I stared.  And kept staring.  Partially because I was frozen.  And partially because I recognized this.  I knew what this was.

When I didn't look away, the woman backed off and quickly ran down the hallway.

I stood up and asked the elevator-girl what in the world just happened.  She shook her head and replied that the woman had been on the elevator with her on a lower floor.  On their ride together, the woman had threatened to kill the elevator-girl.  In her rage, the woman had gotten off the elevator early, only to run into the elevator-girl in the lobby again.  Right in front of me.

Elevator-girl and I exchanged names and I went into economics class.  Elevator-girl is from Africa.

It wasn't until I was sitting in class that I was reminded of the "angel".  The angel who had been riding the elevator during the entire altercation.  The one who had made brief, brief eye contact with me seconds before I came face to face with the enemy.  I was convinced.

Do you ever wonder what someone sees when they look at you?  Do they see Jesus?  Do they see light emanating from your face?  Do you realize, as a believer, you have the power to bind spirits and cast away demons?  That you literally irritate the hell out of the forces of darkness, because you keep shedding light on their shadows?

I've been praying for open eyes.  For God to show me what's going on - to give me a glimpse of His angel armies and for scales to fall away.  I know I sound crazy.  But I know I witnessed part of the battle this morning.  I never even prayed, you know?  I didn't sit there and pray "God, bind the evil spirit that is threatening us right now."  Or "in the name of Jesus, I command you to leave!".  Wish I'd thought of that.

No.  I just needed to be sitting there.  I needed to not look away.  I needed to be a witness.  I needed to let Jesus do what Jesus does.

Hmm.  What a way to start your Thursday, with a few angels and demons.