Day 13: Worship in Uncharted Territory

Roughly 13 years ago, I was sitting in my family Suburban with sponge curlers secured tight in my hair, breakfast hot-pocket in hand, and an excitement in me that I’m not sure anyone could understand.

My dad hopped in the drivers seat and said “you ready, moviestar?”

I nodded, almost with so much enthusiasm that I slightly lifted from my seat.

My greatest dream at this point in my 11-year-old-life, was to be an actress.

You see, Big Fish casting producers had traveled through Montgomery searching for 5,000 extras to be in the film that was soon to be shot in our town.

I was one of the chosen “few”.

And Y’all, I just KNEW it was going to be my chance to make it big. IMG_5474The scene I was chosen for took place in Millbrook, Alabama.

The Town of Spectre.

Apparently some family in that little farm town allowed the producers to send their crew to build a movie set on their land, or so the story goes.

And that movie set, well at least a few pieces of it, is still standing.

13 years later.IMG_5474

Our beautiful friend, Meredith had recently shot her engagements at this set and I was enamored by its now whimsical mystery and decided to trek my way back to Millbrook.

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My sweet Cody Bell had not seen this movie set, so it was only natural for us to make it an exploration of the sorts.

We walked slowly looking intently at all of our surroundings,

marveling at the crooked architecture and barely-standing houses.

It was cloudy and drizzly as we ventured down the one street the holds the “Town of Spectre.”

Noticing movement coming from the little church building, we walked closer to let our eyes adjust…

goats.

Yes, goats.IMG_5477

Y’all, I was dyinggggggg at their cuteness.

They for sure wanted to hang out with us as we explored this abandoned movie set.

IMG_5484We took some of our exploring to ourselves when I noticed Cody sitting on an old stump… and I knew he was thinking. 

For anyone who knows Cody, he’s a deep thinker, internal processor, and many other incredible things, but he is one who thinks the best thoughts.

IMG_5506I quickly walked over to him and sat on the stump perfect placed beside him.

I started the conversation (as per usual in all circumstances) and said,

“This place was my dream as a little girl. With life, obviously, I realized Hollywood would not be where I wanted to be, but it was a dream, a big one too. I wonder if there are places in us that are just wasting away in our hearts, with no movement or change.  I wonder if there are desires that we have and haven’t asked the Lord for because they seem too far and out of reach.  This place, especially with the cloudy skies and drizzle, makes me realize how much we don’t pursue because it could somehow disrupt us to go to uncharted or uncomfortable places.”

Cody looked at me with those hazel eyes that always seem to twinkle a little more than anyone else.

“We can’t grow in our lives if are aren’t willing to get uncomfortable. Growth comes in the uncomfortable and it seems to me that nobody is willing to go that place of discomfort. Do you think that there are places you aren’t willing to be uncomfortable to unveil the dream that you desire?”

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Y’all,

in case you aren’t aware, we are deep talkers and I’m often emotional, so this conversation wrecked me.

We both word vomited our craziest ideas and dreams as we continued walking through the town.

Hand in hand we talked and talked, walked and walked, unable to really stop ourselves from blurting out our desires.

And then, before I knew it, Cody was just telling Jesus.

Gripping my hand tightly, he just started telling Jesus his honest truths.

Right there, in the middle of this uncharted place, he told Jesus everything.

In the sweetest way, humbly and boldly, asking the Best Friend of our Hearts to befriend our fears with Perfect Love.

I yelled scripture out and we both awkwardly laughed at the strangeness of it, yet the excitement of our realization.

This place of wasted “stuff” showed us the places of our hearts that we are willingly allowing to waste away.

We realized that we can’t throw away our desires even if the desires of our hearts don’t happen tomorrow.

Because really, those little things that give us an extra heart beat may have actually been placed there on purpose by the One who put your heart in it’s rightful spot.

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We pulled up to this place that was once so magical, once so brand new and alive with Tim Burton and his Hollywood wizardry-hair, once a place where an 11-year-old girl from Montgomery, Alabama had a piece of her dream come true.

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In just 13 years, this place is now desolate, paint chipped, abandoned and left to rot.

Left for people like me and my husband to go explore, play with random wandering goats, and stare up towards the southern spanish moss hanging so effortlessly with its beauty.

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In 30 days of wishful doing, we are doing the simple task of asking Jesus what we have allowed to sit and waste away in our heats.

Praying that He would give it the heartbeat it once had to pursue uncharted territory.

Join us in worshipping in the ghost towns of our hearts, to bring them back to life. 

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Wishful Doing: Hope Heals

Sunday night I hurried across S. Perry Street and into the front doors of First Baptist Church.

I made small talk with the lady crossing the street with me, as  a good Southern girl would do.

She was a member at this enormous and lovely historic church and I knew if I stuck tight to her side I wouldn’t get lost as I journeyed to the sanctuary.

We made our way into the church with ease and walked in to find our seats.

I quickly realized that I was not-so-fashionably early.

I found myself on the bottom floor, close to stage, in anxious anticipation to listen to the speakers.

Katherine and Jay Wolf were in town to share their story and launch their new book Hope Heals.

The story of overcoming a tragic loss and surviving daily through Hope in Jesus.

Katherine Wolf suffered from a stroke in 2008 and nearly died.  Her life has not been the same since this tragedy, but indeed, her life has been a story of treasure and hope to hearts all over our nation.

Literally, people all over were praying for Katherine Wolf.

Their story hit close to this Montgomery home of ours, seeing as Jay was from the Capital City and son of the First Baptist Church Pastor.

Soon after Katherine’s stroke in 2008, people passed out post cards all over the city that read “Pray for Katherine Wolf”.

And we did. 

We all did.

We prayed and fasted, read closely to updates, and prayed again.

I can remember going in to get my hair trimmed and my hair dresser pointed to her “Katherine post card” that was sticking to the side of her mirror and said “are you praying for Katherine Wolf?”

“Yes ma’am” I replied.

She responded “Good, I have to make sure every person that I meet knows to pray for her.”

Her story of survival and hope spread like wildfire and the Montgomery Community felt extremely connected to their lives as some of them prayed for a couple they had never met.

Sunday night was this wild opportunity to sit and listen, 8 years later, to a couple that a room of hundreds of people had prayed for.

We laughed, we cried, we worshipped, we prayed.

It was breathtaking to witness what God has done, but more importantly to hear what it really means to hope.

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Never, in all my evers, have I heard a message on hope that came alive the way Katherine and Jay’s did Sunday evening.

But, sitting in the presence of God and listening to His spirit work through this couple, hope was washed over the entire audience.

They talked to us with intention in their tones and organic emotion.

As I sat and listened, I began to feel the shift in my own soul.

Most people with lives affected by great loss tend to share a story that’s only theirs, with no ability to engage and connect, but Katherine and Jay have taken their story of tragedy and applied it to all forms of life and loss. 

It was remarkable.

“I believe that pain is pain, no matter what the form, but perspective is also perspective.  Ultimately, ours is the story of a life overcome by hope.  We are discovering joy even in the sadness and choosing contentment when it is very, very hard.  For that, and for countless other blessings, I am so grateful to God.  In some ways, Jay and I have been blessed to suffer greatly at such a young age because it informs the way we live the rest of our lives.  We have learned that when everything else is gone, hope remains. 

Perhaps some detours aren’t detours at all.  Perhaps they are actually the path, the picture.  And, perhaps most unexpectedly, they can be perfect.”-Katherine Wolf.

I know there was not a single soul that walked away from that night with a heart that wasn’t shifted in the best way possible.

I felt like they were speaking directly to my soul.

Literally.

Every single plan, every single moment, every single everything is for the glory of God.

Every hiccup and loophole that we must work through never ends in despair.

Hope is the anchor for our souls.

And, we have the chance to choose that, every day.

This book, it is a MUST. READ. (Available April 26, 2016)

and you MUST have a box of tissues in hand.

It doesn’t end in sadness, it ends in hope.

Hope that heals.

Katherine and Jay, your hearts are truest gold and your love for Jesus is so honest.  Thank you for loving people well and treating others with such relational kindness. Your ministry is moving mountains in the Kingdom of God and a drawing in a world of people who have not yet found hope in Jesus. Thank you for choosing this life to touch your community with the abundance of the Gospel. It was an honor and beautiful privilege to hear your hearts.

Wishful Weekend

This weekend wasn’t filled with much,

but it was full of grace, renewed mind and tricks of the trade, and LOTS of rest.

Friday afternoon around 4 pm, my friend Nalin stopped by to help *refresh* my sewing memory.

More than anything, she helped me remember how to thread my needle through my sewing machine.

It has been a LONG time since I’ve done this.

IMG_5260We sat around my little oak, hand-me-down kitchen table and started sewing together random pieces of fabric I still had crammed in my sewing bag.

We chatted about life: the good and the bad, finding opportunities to learn what we can be praying for for one another.

As a very normal/Southern/day-in-the-life-of-LJBell would happen, I had another friend (Laine) drop by after work to say hello and visit with Nals and I as she refreshed my memory on needle and thread.

It ended up being a time of good convo, sweet laughter, and encouraging conversation.

This particular friend had big reasons to rejoice!

Her big brother has been battling cancer for a few months and on this particular day, we got to rejoice that it was his FINAL day of chemo treatments. IMG_5289
It was a sweet reminder in our day that God is good and there is a great sense of His sweetness when we get to share big victories in life with our people.

We chatted and smiled while the hum of my old singer made itself the prime background noise to our conversation.

IMG_5276IMG_5248 (1)The three of us chatted more than anything else but it made me review the moment throughout the weekend to really recognize what God had given me in such a short few hours: People over things.

Friendship that is comfortable enough to walk in my home, open my cabinets, get something to eat and sit around my table.

 I have friendship that is patient enough to refresh my memory on something that barely two years ago I could have done with my eyes closed.

After finishing the book Hope Heals (stay tuned to a blog further RAVING about this book), I recognized that the greatest gift God has given me is the Church.

His Children, who carry His presence.

His People, who walk in His promises.

Life to do life with.

It really is a brilliant concept that sometimes I forget the power it carries in my life.IMG_5269

It is crucial  that we surround ourselves with one another.

Without community, my friend Laine might have drowned in the pain and frustration that comes with grieving sickness in a sibling, but the church surrounded her.

My friend, Nalin is getting married in a few short weeks, and without the love and support of the Church, the sacred act of marriage may not be one that she views with such honor.

Without the Church we can NOT walk through life with our head above water.

IMG_5249Yes we worked on one of my wishful doing wish list items, but the community and time that was spent in the presence of friends was remarkable.

Whether you New York City or Montgomery, Alabama, without community  life will weigh on you.

The city that you live in won’t be the greatest city in the world if you are doing life alone.

Companionship brings comfort, joy, and life as we journey through a world with a lot of brokenness.

So, I didn’t learn much about sewing. HA!

BUT in the midst of our 30 days of wishful doing I was challenged to recognize the power that comes with having friends in my home and conversation around my hand-me-down table.

And that is one of the best things I could ever *do*

Happy Monday, everyone! 🙂