happy in my jammies

For the last half of this summer, I had the gift of working at a wonderful preschool/childcare place back home, bouncing around from 2 year olds to 10 year olds and all the wildness in between.

It’s a Christian school, so we got to talk to the little nuggets about Jesus every day and how they are each deeply loved by God. Seeing their childlike faith was a much-needed breath of fresh air for me. One day we talked about some things that made us afraid, and a sweet little gal shouted out that, “sometimes I get scared of lava monsters,” (thanks Moana), “but then I pray to God in my bed and He makes me happy in my jammies!” They seem to believe – wholeheartedly, unapologetically, and joyfully – that they are loved, that God is bigger/smarter/stronger than them, and that He is going to take care of them.

As I read back over that sentence, I’m struck by how rarely I can say that’s true of me. But wow, do I want to believe those simple, Biblical truths: that God is good, and that He’s big, and that He’s strong. I want to deep-down-in-my-bones-believe that I am a beloved child of God. And I so desperately want to believe all of it just like those kids: confidently, and enthusiastically, and simply.

As we grow up, we seem to pile unnecessary baggage on top of the simple, beautiful Gospel. As believers, we hear the truth of our adoption as children of God, but all too often feel like it’s a title we must work to gain and then work harder to maintain.  If someone tells us we’re loved by God, we may nod our heads, while a deep part of us wonders if they just mean that God loves the people that are “better” than us. Or that He only loves us when we’ve had a quiet time every morning that week. Or that some future version of me – the one who maybe finally gets over that repeated sin – she can be a fully loved daughter, but not really the me of today.

Swing to the other end of the spectrum, and there are the times where we’re still holding on to this false belief that we must earn God’s love – and are foolish enough to believe that we can, or have done so. We run to God with our list of good works and good intentions, boasting, “Look, I did it! I can be your child now!”

When it comes to receiving and walking in our standing as children of God, we’re either the prodigal son or the older brother (and sometimes, we’re both in the same day).  In Luke 15:18-19, the younger son comes to his senses after hitting rock bottom, and makes the decision to return home to the father he has cruelly rejected. We see him practicing the spiel he’ll give his dad once he gets back: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” I imagine this little speech was playing and replaying in his head with each heavy footstep on the long journey home. A lot of the time, that same narrative of unworthiness drives our perspective of what God must feel for us.

And yet, the next thing we see in the text is the father on his feet, running towards his boy. There’s embracing and kissing – and yet, the son doesn’t seem to receive his dad’s compassionate display. In verse 21 the son delivers his speech. I imagine he doesn’t meet his father’s eyes as he says the weighty words.

I think if he had looked up, though, if he had met his father’s gaze, all he would’ve seen was love. I think the prodigal son would see tears wet his father’s cheeks as he looked to his servants and said, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

The beauty of this moment is that the father does not entertain or address this idea of worthiness. He does not sit his son down and begin an open conversation, where the son presents his case of why he is unworthy and the father decides whether to let him come on as a hired servant. No, the father doesn’t direct his response to the son at all. It is not a discussion.

The father gives his final word on the matter, not even to the son directly, but to the servants. Let’s break it down:

For this my son” – he declares that this is his son, unequivocally;
was dead,”– this is the only acknowledgement of the reckless and sinful living, no heaps of shame or condemnation, no talk of worthiness or unworthiness;
and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”  – the simple, beautiful truth.

The final part of the verse simply says, “And they began to celebrate.” The servants, the father, the son, partying it up. The Bible doesn’t tell us that the son kept going with the whole unworthiness bit. No, he began to celebrate, believing the father’s words – words that seem to go against all reason – and receiving love that far surpasses any deepest hope.

Outside, the older brother is angry. He complains to his dad in verse 29, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” While the younger brother distanced himself from the father out of feelings of unworthiness, the eldest built the same chasm by believing that he was too worthy, that he had indeed earned it.

The father, graciously and lovingly, again puts his child in his proper place in the final verses (31-32). Notice that when the older brother was complaining, he referred to the prodigal as “this son of yours”. In his pride, he wanted to distance himself from his sinful brother, refusing to address their association.

And what does the father do? He again declares the brother’s identity and standing as a son, and then, with the same authority, refers to the younger as “this your brother.” He puts them back – rightly – on the same level. He calls them both his sons. He does not talk about worth or deserving or the different ranks of their mistakes, or who gets to eat what fat farm animal next. They are both his sons, and he wants them to know that. He speaks that truth over them, and he tells them who they are. He is their father. He loves them both.

Friends, look up. Let go of shame or pride or some ugly mix of both, and hear the Father call you His beloved child. There is no room for discussion or argument. There is no brother or sister comparison to bring into the mix that could change His mind. There is no need to complicate it.

He just wants us to believe His words, to receive the love that He is lavishing on us, and to come into the party.

The truth is this: I am a child of God, and if you have chosen to believe in the name of Jesus, confessed that He is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you are as well.

And He is God, our Father, the One who loves us.

He loves me. Not me plus my best achievements, not me plus anything. Just me. Just you. I can’t make Him any happier or any prouder of me than He already is. He’s chosen to love me, not because of anything I have or haven’t done or could do or will do. He’s chosen to love me without any comparison or scale measured against anyone else. He’s chosen to love me because He wants to. So He does. He loves me, as me, fully. He calls me His daughter.

There are nights when we’re paralyzed by all the lava monsters of our grown-up lives – fears of an unknown future, shame from our sin, lies we believe about our self-worth. There are lots of nights where, unlike my four-year-old friends, we struggle with believing and trusting our identity, and we don’t call out to God, and we feel miles and miles away from being happy in our jammies.

In Matthew 18:3-4, Jesus lays it out for us: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Working at a preschool made one thing clear: kids know they’re kids. They simply and humbly live out of the knowledge that they are limited and small, and they trust in those who are bigger. My prayer is that we would do the same: trusting in the One who is infinitely bigger, who is immeasurable in goodness, who is boundless in majesty, and who – wonder of wonders – chooses to call us His children.

God, that we would see You rightly. When our eyes are on You and the Father You are, we see ourselves rightly as well – as Your unconditionally beloved sons and daughters. Help us trust in what You’ve already finished, and not run around trying to bring our little accomplishments to You, or to hide from You under piles of shame. All You want is us, at Your feet, empty handed. Like a child. Everything else will come out of a response to knowing You and Your love. And oh, what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

So we are! That’s some Good News. That’s enough to make me happy in my jammies.

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grief and hope

A few summers back, I wrote a post about the beauty of the word “but,” specifically the phrase, “but God.” The Bible is brimming with these moments of contrast, these turns that bring hope and redemption when we are so desperate for it.

Recently, however, I’ve been considering a different conjunction: and. While the “buts” of the Bible are true, necessary, transformative, and soaked in hope; it seems that all too often in life on this side of eternity, we’re going to be working with a lot more “ands.”

This shows itself most clearly in times of suffering, loss, and disappointment. When my mom died, my family was flooded with condolences from well-meaning Christian friends looking to offer us some encouragement. It was common to hear people say things along the lines of, “I know this is hard, but God is still in control,” or, “I know you’re heartbroken, but God is still good.”

Without really realizing it, I came to understand these things – my grief and God’s sovereign love – as distinct and separate entities that I couldn’t experience at the same time. It was like every few hours, or every few days, I got to pick one – feeling the loss and helplessness, or believing in God’s goodness. It was never explicitly stated, but there seemed to be this sort of false dilemma to Christian grief. If I was sad about my mom dying, then I wasn’t trusting God. If I was trusting God, then I couldn’t be really sad, right?

On some level, this is true. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 says that as believers, we’re not to grieve as those who have no hope. Knowing Jesus – believing in His death, burial, and resurrection – equips us with a hope and peace that surpasses all, even something as seemingly final as death. We know and rejoice in the fact that Jesus is victorious over everything – all grief, all loss, all addiction and brokenness and pain.

What I love about that verse in 1 Thessalonians, however, is that it doesn’t say that we are not to grieve. It’s not a choice between grief or hope. Because of Jesus, it’s grief and hope, every time.

It’s not, “I watched my mom die of cancer when I was 18, but God is good.” Because the Gospel is true, because of God’s great love for us, I can say that my mom died and that suffering is hard and ugly and that God is sovereign and He is good. Deep pain, sure hope, and true joy can all exist in the same moment in the same day while we’re here on earth. We don’t have to choose one at a time.

Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” That verse, quite frankly, used to piss me off. With my limited perspective and hurting heart, I read it as God telling me my pain was small and unimportant. I took the “not worth comparing” to mean my heartache was “not worth feeling.” But that’s not who God is at all.  The reality of this verse is that our sufferings in the present time are real and true and deep and wide – God knows the depths of that pain, and He isn’t minimizing it.

What I hear Him saying to me is this: Hannah, you know how deep your pain is? You know how big and vast it feels? Even deeper than that, even wider than that, even bigger than that, is my love for you. Your pain is real – and what is even realer, and even grander, is the glory that is coming. It’s not that your grief is small and insignificantit’s that your grief is big, and my love and glory and goodness is astronomical. Your pain that feels so huge, even in its hugeness, simply does not compare to the depth and vastness and greatness of Who I Am and what is coming.

There is so much freedom in that realization. Freedom to continue to miss and mourn my mom even 3.5 years later. Freedom to love on my friends going through their own loss and suffering, reminding them of who God is without minimizing their pain. Freedom to sing “Great are You Lord” with confidence and tears streaming down my face at the memorial service for the precious baby son of some of my closest friends.

When we grieve, God isn’t up there judging our pain as small, tapping His foot waiting for us to get over it. No, He comes and meets us in our pain, and reminds us that He’s bigger than it. He tells us our greatest hope is this: that because of Jesus’ work on the cross – because God came down and put on skin and felt the depth of all of our pain – one day there won’t be buts or ands or anything. There’ll just be us with Him, in heaven, in glory, in fullness of joy, forever. And nothing compares to that.

and we back

The following is more for myself than anything, but here it is anyways. I just wanted to put to words some of the reasons I haven’t written in so long, a little background on me, and my intentions with this ol’ blog of mine moving forward.

I am sitting here with a blank Word document and I am honestly scared. I haven’t written on here in months, and every time I’ve thought about it I’ve felt a knot in my stomach and believed countless little voices throwing countless little jabs. I make myself believe a wide spectrum of lies, that I have no right or authority to share anything, that I need a seminary degree under my belt before daring to talk about the Lord, that the world doesn’t need another girl writing about her life on the internet. Then add on that because it’s been so long since I last wrote, I feel like whatever I post next must be some huge, amazing epiphany that ushers me back into the blogging game. And lastly, sprinkle in the hesitancy to self-promote anything I write – the tension between wanting people to read what I feel like the Lord has given me words to say, but not wanting to make it about me.

When I started this blog when I was 16, there were no deep motives other than I loved to write and a friend encouraged me, saying l would have funny stories to tell. At about that time my mom started her battle with melanoma, which led me to use this site as a space to process some of that journey through words, which was extremely cathartic for me. Through Mom’s fight and eventual passing, Jesus lovingly drew me closer to Him than ever in my life, and this blog soon transformed into a place to talk about things that He’d been teaching me as I walked through my grief and entered college. I started seeing Him as worthy of my words, of my all, and wanted to write about Him, for Him. Yet at the same time, I really enjoyed receiving praise for my posts. As I published paragraphs about His glory, I waited for some comment, some text, of someone giving a little bit of that glory to me.

In the past year, I’ve posted twice. As someone who truly does love words, who feels writing in some form/fashion is a gift I’ve been given, and who sincerely experiences a special closeness to God while writing about Him and His Word, the simple fact is that I should write more. And yet, I’ve let all these insecurities and doubts – most founded in an ounce of truth, but dangerous when taken to the extreme – keep me from doing something that I not only love, but feel called to do.

And now I’m a senior in college and I’ve had this ridiculous url for almost six years, and the two biggest things I’ve realized are that I know so, so, so much less than I ever thought I did, and that God is so, so, so much bigger/worthier/more faithful than I will ever understand.

So, I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but I don’t think anyone other than some sweet family members have really cared. No, I don’t have a theological degree, but as my wonderful friend Marissa reminds me, the Gospel and Word of God are for everyone, and there is space for me. We all, as believers, have been entrusted with the message and ministry of reconciliation. Yes, there are a lot of women out there with blogs about Jesus. And well, this is mine. My prayer is that I would use this space to speak with clarity and submission to the truth of God’s Word, writing about things that bring glory to Him in a way that is encouraging to those who – like me – are simply seeking to see God rightly, love Him, and love others. Thanks for reading.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to it.

take heart

I won’t pretend a blog post shared on Facebook carries a ridiculous amount of influence, but the truth is that I have a voice and I want to use it.

In case you’ve missed it, the Syrian city of Aleppo has become a hell on earth over the last few years as varying forces battle to take control of the city. The past few days have seen heavy escalation of fighting, and there have been hundreds of civilian deaths. I won’t get into the details or politics of it all because admittedly, I don’t know enough to comment on all of that. Just know this: what is happening in Aleppo is ugly and evil and people are dying.

No, I can’t tell you the specifics of the international relations within the mess that is Syria. But I can tell you this: this summer, I spent 5 weeks in Germany, hearing stories and meeting friends in various refugee camps. So many of the kind and gracious people that I met were Syrian, forced to flee their homes in the face of unimaginable violence. Their heartbreaking stories are hard to forget. But even harder to forget is their strength, their generosity, and their stubborn hope.

As I sit here, reading the news from the battleground that is Aleppo, stomach turning, one face stands out. A beautiful, bright, 9 year old girl that I spent an afternoon laughing with at one of the camps this past July. Let’s call her S. She and her family had fled from their life in Aleppo earlier in the year.

I can tell you she was wearing a dress with purple flowers, and that we ran around together and played volleyball for a few hours. I can tell you that through some beautiful act of hope and resilience, little S was brimming with laughter and couldn’t stop smiling. I can tell you she had a butterfly painted on her hand.

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I can tell you she’s just a child – no different than us, than our children – who by the grace of God was able to escape her city, her home. Her home, where in just one day this week at least 13 innocent children have been killed, and possibly more than 100 children were trapped beneath a collapsed building under heavy attack.

These are hard pills to swallow. We see the headlines, the heartbreaking news stories, and we almost have to distance ourselves, to compartmentalize it all as “someone else’s problem.” We tell ourselves that someone else will help, that there’s nothing we can do.

Friends, we have to stop feeding ourselves those lies. This crisis is not a distant problem, affecting a faceless group of people somewhere far away. These are human beings, our brothers and sisters – and we have to stop looking away. We have to stop looking away.

I think of my friend S and her smile and her dress and the butterfly on her hand and I praise God that she is safe in Germany – but there are so many just like her who are not.

Here’s the thing we must realize: Aleppo, and Mosul, and Raqqa, and all of these broken and hurting cities across Syria, Iraq, and beyond are not hopeless. They are not helpless. 

In the face of unimaginable tragedy and evil, we ask ourselves “what could I even do?” and too often end up doing nothing. But the good news is this: there’s a lot to do, if we’re willing.

You, person reading this, can help. And I really hope that you do. Even if you’re a poor college kid stressed about finals, there’s something you can do. Even if you’re someone who knows nothing about what’s happening in the Middle East, there’s something you can do. This last part I’ll borrow from Ann Voskamp’s post because she presents it perfectly:

We can look you, the kids of Aleppo, in the eyes right now and do just these 3 things:

1. Donate to Relief Efforts:

Preemptive Love Coalition is on the ground, feeding fleeing families. 

2. Support Global Refugee Efforts:

Because when we’re pro-life, pro-human — we are always pro-refugees

If we say that we stand with Christ — now is the time to stand with the fleeing.

Because the Christ Child who came to this pale blue marble in the cosmos, He was the Child who knew violence and fleeing, who knew bloodshed and bodies of children laying in the streets, and how can we celebrate Christmas and not stand with the refugee — because that is exactly what Jesus was?

Now is the time, the world needs you to stand as one of the  10,000 people needed to take a stand with the refugee by January 20, 2017 —

 Sign your name as one of the 10,000 on the petition at WeWelcomeRefugees

3. and be one of the ones who Welcome, Jesus, the Refugee: 

Welcome/sponsor a fleeing refugee family in the United States 

How but for the grace of God go I — go all of us? 

Our  children are breaking in Aleppo and there isn’t one of our hearts that shouldn’t be breaking too.

So please, take a minute to not just be shocked or scared or saddened, but to be the hands and feet of our King. To pray. As in actual-get-down-on-your-knees-right-now and pray for an outpouring of His mercy, His peace, His rescue and comfort and strength in Aleppo and beyond. We need Jesus. The world needs Jesus. This is the season of celebrating our Savior’s coming, celebrating that He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is a King that came to us, as a baby in a manger, to be a rescuer and redeemer – so let’s pray for rescue and redemption. What a perfect time it is to love and give a little more, because He loved and gave it all first.

There is so much to be done. We cannot do it all, but we can do something. So please, take a minute, and do something.

heidtkes take colorado: summer edition

It’s that time again, folks: another fam vacay means another fam music video. This time, we got to spend a few days in the exceptionally beautiful state of Colorado. (I’d never been there in the summer and was/still am amazed by it all.)

We’d like to give a huge thank you to the wonderful Womble family for letting us stay at their home! We’re thankful for y’all.

So here it is – enjoy!

bring them here to me

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘We have only five loaves here and two fish.’ And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.”  Matthew 14:13-21

This is the passage I cracked my Bible open to a few mornings ago. It’s a story those of us who grew up in church have heard countless times – it’s a classic picture of the Lord’s power and provision, and would certainly have a spot on Jesus’ “Greatest Hits” album.

But as I read it again in the bright quiet of the morning, five words stuck out to me in a way they never had before: “Bring them here to me.”

The thing is, the disciples were completely within reason to suggest that the Lord start wrapping up the day’s work and let the crowds head home for supper. They had probably heard a few stomachs growl, or maybe someone had asked them if they had a package of those little peanut butter crackers to spare – they knew the people were getting hungry.

I’m trying to imagine what my reaction would’ve been if I had heard Jesus’ response of “you give them something to eat.” A deriding laugh would probably be my first move, if we’re being honest. “Okay, that’s sweet, Jesus,” I’d say, “and I mean, I like the idea. But, listen – we literally only have five loaves of bread and two fish. There are over 5,000 people out here. I don’t think that it’s gonna happen.” I may not have taken a math class in over a year, but I don’t think those numbers divide super easily.

Jesus could plainly see the small amount of food that was available. Jesus could plainly see the swelling crowds. And yet, his response was not, “Oh shoot, y’all! My bad, you guys are so right. Why don’t you run down to HEB and pick up – lemme think, one, two, three, uh, a few thousand more loaves real fast?”

No, He saw the loaves, and He saw the fish, and His response was simple and straightforward – “bring them here to me.”

Jesus knew that logistically there was not a lot to work with, that the disciples had little to offer on their own. He knew that what they were bringing was certainly not enough to complete the task at hand. But those realities did not concern Him.

The story doesn’t tell us how the disciples’ reacted to this command – if skepticism, or cynicism, or pessimism flitted across their hearts and flashed on their faces. We don’t even see a direct line in the story saying that the disciples gave the food to Jesus. But we know that someone handed it over, because the next thing we see is the Lord blessing the food amongst the crowd. And before we know it, everyone’s had a share – and not just an Oliver-Twist-please-sir-I-want-some-more portion, but a serving that was satisfying, plus a 12-basket overflow.

What the disciples neglected to take into account is that the Lord delights Himself in taking our “not enough” and, by His power and for His glory, making it “more than we could ever dare hope or imagine.” God is a God of multiplication, of abundance, who lavishes us with grace.

And that command He so simply laid before the disciples is the same command that He lays before us each day: bring it here to me.

Lord, I feel like I have nothing to offer you. I am not enough.

Bring it to Me. 

God, there are ugly parts of me that no one knows about. What could you do with those?

Bring it to Me.

Jesus, I so want to be used by You, but don’t think I have what it takes to make a difference.

Bring it to Me. 

He doesn’t ask us to spend years striving to be perfect, and then one shining day bring that finished project to His feet. That day will never come. We’ll never have anything of ourselves that is enough for Him. We’ll never have 5,000 loaves on our own. But He doesn’t ask us for perfection. He asks us to bring what we have and leave it in His hands that are open and waiting. He asks that we trust that He is faithful to take the little we bring, and multiply it for His glory.

As Elisabeth Elliot so beautifully said, “leave it all in the Hands that were wounded for you.” That is what the Lord is calling us to, moment by moment. Bring it to me, my child. All that we think we are, all that we think we aren’t. Our hopes, fears, and passions. Our whole, messy lives, laid in His hands, surrendered.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:1-2 

I am so quick to think that the Lord could never use me for anything more than a simple, contained life. Just like the disciples, I look at the little I have in the same way they saw their loaves and fish, wondering how it could ever make any difference when there are thousands of empty stomachs out there. I hear them desperately say, “It’s simply not enough food, Jesus.”

And like them, I hear myself say, “Lord, I am not enough. There are so many people who don’t know You, there is so much injustice and pain in this world that it’s impossible to fathom. I want to live for your glory, but how could You ever use me?”

And I hear Him call back, “Hannah, you’re right. You are not enough.” He says it simply, gently. “But I never asked you to be. I, my child, am enough.”

He is more than enough. Yes, the need is great. The task seems impossible. I have little to offer. But He is God. And He is in the business of using the obedience and surrender of a few to bless the many in abundance. He desires to use us to unleash the Gospel in the world. And the first step is to bring it all to Him.

Lord, that we may bring it all to You. That we may lay our lives down at Your feet and be willing to follow where you go. That we may trust You to use our surrender in mighty ways for Your glory. You are good, God, and You are worthy of it all. Thank You for being more than enough.