The Last Blog of My Twenties

It’s comical how I used to think 30 was the ultimate “grown” age.

I thought 30-year-olds were parents, they owned houses, and they had their careers figured out. I  thought worldly stability arrived just like that, as the clock hands turned and the calendars changed.

It’s funny now, honestly. The people who managed to get all those things jammed into their 20’s were pretty much winging it half the time. Heck, we’re all still winging it. I find myself thankful for the experiences I gained while I didn’t have all my roots in place, and while my world was in my own brand of chaos. Don’t we all have our own chaos? Yeah, pretty much.

I turned 20 with a very broken heart, and my 20’s started on a downhill tumble/vortex of poor decisions. I felt lonely, even with good friends, and I felt a void that God would later show me was for Him.

I turned 21 in downtown Denton, and I had an orange spray tan and a dress I’d never, ever wear out now. My hair was super blonde and if I named the places I went I’d give my age away (ha) because they don’t even exist anymore. Everything changed. If you can remember the way high school shut its doors and booted you out, it’s the same with college. I was about to figure that out, and I was about to make decisions from that pain. Goodness, if I could teleport to this birthday, I’d change history, but they say ‘no pain, no gain’ right? God, I lived that.

I turned 22 in downtown Austin, and my goodness, was I sad! I was pretty devastated. I had way too much to drink, and there were parts of that night that I do not remember. The scary part: I think there was something put in my first drink. I can’t go back and warn myself and spare myself the confusion and the awful sickness I felt, but let it be a lesson someone might learn in this blog. Be careful. There are people in these places who will try to take advantage of someone, and it doesn’t even matter that it’s their birthday.

I turned 23 in Temple, Texas. I was trying to be happy but my nightmares were bad, and I needed counseling! I was bottling up my feelings, and I felt like a failure. Little did I know that 23 would be a huge year of breakthrough! God was about to start working in my life in supernatural ways, or rather, I started to notice Him. He’s done it all along, I just didn’t have the eyes to see. Heads up: if you’re struggling emotionally, GO TO COUNSELING. There is zero shame in that. Life gets complicated sometimes. Mistakes build up. You gotta do what you gotta do, and you know what you gotta do? You gotta be free, and you gotta grieve your grief, and you must not let anything or anyone mute you in your pain. For me, that meant weeping in my car in the public library parking lot, and writing down my sad prayers. God moved in a way I didn’t expect, and changed everything.

I turned 24 also in Temple, Texas, but oh honey… I knew. I knew it’d be my last birthday there. I was still figuring out how to be brave and walk in my story. I was discerning where God wanted me to go. I was still trying to hold on to things I knew would never work. I should have been single this ENTIRE year but hahaha good luck telling me that. Needless to say, I didn’t know what I wanted. I should have also been more careful with my finances this year, and not trusted people quite so easily. I let people take advantage of my finances, and I paid for it, literally, for the rest of my 20’s! Up until 29, actually. The minute you feel like you’re financially secure, you have this tendency to purchase things for yourself or for people that you couldn’t and wouldn’t ever before. DUMB. Don’t do that. Learn from 24-year-old me, for Pete’s sake. Save your money. Pay your debts while they’re itty bitty baby school debts, if you can help it. I could have done that but I didn’t have the discipline or the wisdom. Something good about 24 is that I was super brave. I was brave enough to sell all my things and give up my lifestyle and go on a trip around the world for Jesus. Talk about a comeback story.

I turned 25 in Thailand, and it was glorious. My first truly happy birthday of my 20’s took 5 years to arrive. I was surrounded and loved. I was deep in the Word. I was a little bit confused already and 25 confused me quite a bit. My heart was a hot mess, trying to discern between what my peers were saying and what God was saying. Turns out they were not in unison, surprise! It took years to unwind all the soul ties I made that year. It was by far the most spiritual growth I ever had, and God taught me that I had a story to tell for His Kingdom. I came home and realized I was gonna move to Georgia, and that’s where I turned all my next years.

My 26th birthday was kind of sad. I felt like people didn’t love me, and I felt rejected. It took a sweet friend’s gesture to calm me down and give me space to process. I wasn’t used to feeling rejected with 25 roommates but I somehow managed. God made it rain and we had a dance party, and all of a sudden everything was okay. 26 was a good year of growth.  I made roots and then I unmade them. I started working in healthcare again and paying off debt. 26 was hard work.

If 26 was hard work, 27 was like a steamroller. I put in a lot of hours, I did ministry school, and I moved to Atlanta. And God blessed me oh so much that year, with bravery to make bold decisions. There was blessing, and forgiveness, and grace. There was rage, also, mad rage. The kind of rage where your tears are so hot they scald your cheeks on the way down, rage. From that rage, I went  back to my happy place, Thailand, and then I went red. I dyed my hair red, and I did not look back. I’d like to think that from then on, when I worship, I look like a flame in the wind.

28 was grand. I  turned this age serving in a prophetic team for Leif Hetland. It was a sweet surprise and honor to have my birthday weekend collide with the mission trip to Alabama. I met people there that I still keep up with and greatly love. Oh and Buddy made cookies that spelled out happy birthday, and got me the hugest monkey card and a Braves shirt, along with all kinds of sweet little gifts. His family celebrated me, and gave me cards and food. It was the first birthday in a long time where I felt surrounded again. 28 was a powerful year.

10993419_10103282990183390_1811311628009497953_n-2

29 didn’t disappoint me haha. It’s been a year of quietly growing in wisdom and trying to believe my eyes. I got debt-free! God’s harvest is right in front of me, and I can see the fruit for the first time. Not as much faith required when you can see everything, but so much praise is due. I bring that today. Praise on praise on praise.

May 30 be a year that ushers in a decade of JOY. A decade of promise fulfilled. I pray I continue to lift UP my soon-to-be husband, and fill my home with prayer and praise. I pray as our family grows in this decade, that I remember to be thankful and to put the Prince of Peace on His throne in my heart.

God is good and kind, and He remembers my sin no more. Forward is a good direction with Him. Forward sounds good.

Early Spring

Hello, old friend.

Here I am, thinking of all the clichés applicable to this comeback moment. I might as well skip trying to state the obvious and move on to what’s churning in my soul.

I’m sitting at a banquet table, and the Host will not stop putting delicious, much-too-large portions before me. Just when I feel like I couldn’t have another bite, my being somehow makes space to accept another serving. It’s overwhelming in the best way.

I always thought my happiest times, my dreams-come-true seasons would be my loudest. I thought I’d be shouting from every mountaintop, while simultaneously breaking my keyboard with voracious, overjoyed typing. Funny thing that happens when these hopeful planes actually landed: utter, awe-stricken silence.

Here’s a truth that silences the soul: prophecies come true.

I had a dream in 2012 and I told people and even asked them to attempt interpretation of it. I was arriving at a very specific-looking house. In 2015, I arrived at that exact house, which happened to belong to my (now) fiance’s grandparents’. I tried not to freak out, but my spirit was in awe. God’s promises are laid out ahead of time, they just are. You shouldn’t lay awake worrying you’ll mess it all up, because God is so kind. He hides things for us to find. He does it so far in advance to prove a point. He really is God, and He really does reign.

The prophetic hasn’t been a crutch for a weak faith, not for me. I’ve been getting to know a real Person, who is very much alive. He’s more than thin pages, He’s not bound in any way. He loves to communicate and teach. He’s a giddy gift-giver. I get that from Him.

I’m learning to receive in joy the different ways He delivers His goodness. Some of His kindest gifts to me were during tough times. Looking back, my attitude could have been better, since He was right there with me. I could have trusted better, and cruised it with more peace. I could have been easier on myself, and given people less power to rattle me. I could have actually listened when I heard that “it’s gonna be okay” whisper in my heart.

Alas, imperfect reactions and all, here I am. Happy as a freaking clam. Best time of my life thus far, and it’s easy to dwell in the present for the first time in a long time. Hallelujah.

I’m slowly edging back into teaching/writing/pastoral things.

S L O W L Y.

I don’t want to rush this.

I’ve been watching trees half-bloom this spring. They thought it was time, since we had such a warm winter. Then the frost came and they lost their blooms. The cautious ones waited, though it must have been difficult.

I’m gonna edge back in. I’m gonna worship and ponder. I’m gonna finish writing book 2. I’m gonna host groups in my home and make it a place that is safe to worship, to weep, to laugh, to bloom in the heart.

If you’re waiting with me, you’re not alone. The time will surely come.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. [Psalm 27:14]

Why I’ve Been Silent

I used to write about once a week, sometimes twice. I also used to write a devotional every single day. All these things went out to a set list of readers, straight to their email inbox.

Then life got a bit more complicated for me on the emotional zone. I began to feel that this would spill into my writing and change my voice. I didn’t want anxiety or any root of bitterness to seep into a single word, so… well… I stopped writing. I asked God to prune away what needed to go and help me to heal, so that when it’s time, I can step back in and be more effective and fruitful in ministry.

Taking time to pray hasn’t been wasteful yet. Reading the Word after prayer has proven to be both helpful and hilarious, if you’re into that sort of thing. Just yesterday, I was praying for the Lord to help me, and afterwards I found myself in Isaiah  41 reading these very words, like a direct answer:

I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

When these “coincidences” happen, I laugh and cry.

I’ve been silent, also, because I’m praying about beliefs and actions. You don’t have to ask someone what they believe when they open their home and heart for a foster child, or adopt a child, or spend their time volunteering at a community pregnancy center, encouraging and loving others through some of the most difficult parts of their lives. There are people serving in the most dangerous parts of the city, selling their nice homes and moving in to where NO ONE wants to live, to change the damaging culture created by absent fathers, substance addiction, and violent gangs. That’s a lived-out belief, not a hashtag trend. I want to live out beliefs, and that requires sacrifice. Also known as dying to self.

Once upon a time, I sold all my things and jet off around the world and “did that” and I came home all messed up, but with great intentions. I thought I could “do that” here, and I think I somewhat did. I reached out into people’s lives and did a lot of praying with them, and a lot of writing. I planned things, but then I said yes to things I shouldn’t have said yes to, like OTHER STUFF that wasn’t the original “that” I was gonna do. I put my effort and energy in other cookie jars of different causes and I burned out. I mean, I really burned out.

IMG_20131105_020141
Even in this, I can feel God’s love and pray, but I can also sense a humming frustration inside me that longs to DO things. The “yes” versus the “I can’t right now.” It’s like an injured athlete on the sidelines, watching the game. I want to, but I also know this is a time to heal and a time to be silent. It’s a time to listen and inhale, and wait. God’s truth and love for me are the same now as when I was living in a tent in a foreign country. When I get the green lights from Him, I will gladly spring forward again.

In all of this, I ask for prayer. Prayer to discern WHAT God is asking ME to do, and not do the “holy scramble” that is driven by guilt and fear. Prayer to boldly step into the lives HE is asking me to step into, via friendship or fellowship or service. Prayer to be patient and listen to God’s leading, so that I can know I obeyed HIM and not any external or cultural pressure. Prayer that God will help me “reset” and that 2017 will be a fruitful year after this time of pruning, waiting, and silence.

God will be glorified through this time, and in time, I will see the purpose of it all. I can trust He is working all things for the good, and sustaining me in the silence.

A Stranger’s Party

Last month, I was invited to a party for a stranger. I was in the middle of doing something else, and the invitation surprised me. I accepted. I found myself sitting at a table, surrounded by people I didn’t know. We laughed. I was offered food, and I realized I was really hungry. I ate, and then they offered me cake, but not just cake: ice-cream cake. Yah. At this point, I started talking to God in my head, of course.

Okay, what are You up to? This is too crazy to be random.

I sat and learned a bit about each person, and we laughed, and it NEVER GOT WEIRD.  You’d think it would, being surrounded by strangers, that awkward lull that comes the second a string of conversation ends, but no! We flowed along like old friends do.

You see, it’s not very hard to celebrate someone. Maybe it’s hard to grieve, or forgive, or disagree with a stranger, but celebrating? Nah. It’s cake. It’s not very hard to receive, and to smile along. Maybe it’s hard to give, and to hold down that lump in your throat when you’re about to burst into tears but you don’t want to cry in front of strangers. That’s tough. Birthdays? Not that tough. The thing that threw me off was that many people passed by and were not invited. All I did was greet someone I recognized, and turns out that person had helped set up the whole thing, and instantly included me. How many times do I walk by cliques and overhear plans and never for a minute expect to be brought into that group? We assume we’re excluded.

fakesmile
God showed me a little more of what it looks like to have access and acceptance, and through strangers nonetheless. I was a little stunned afterwards, and couldn’t help but smile and shake my head as I walked back to where I was originally going. All I could think of? Grace.

God reminded me that I am included. I am seen, and I am invited. I am part. I belong. It’s funny how cliché these things sound, until they really land in the heart. It’s easy and normal to feel like the outsider, but God says that’s not who I am, and that’s not who you are, either. I pray and hope you get something from this party, because I know it wasn’t just for me. It was like a picture-story-example-parable situation, for especially you. Yes, you. You, who have been feeling left out and lonely and unseen. You, who have been feeling like you don’t belong somehow. God sees you and He calls you seen and wanted. God loves you just as you are, and He is always inviting you, welcoming you, and ready to listen. I pray for that truth to sink into your heart like it did in mine in that moment.

Like Trees

I stood among the crunchiest leaves, surrounding me. I nearly slipped.

I looked up and saw the tallest trees, and not one apologized to me.

“This is the old,” I felt I heard, “and it belongs beneath your feet.”

screenshot_2016-11-03-16-27-44Not long ago it gave me shade, and swayed so freely in the breeze. They held so tightly, as if forever, but no. Then why grow at all? What’s the point of bloom and fall?

Bloom and fall are life. Nothing here lasts forever. Nothing here sticks for good. Beauty, shade, and greenest color, all yield and fade and die. But we know it’s not the end.

We try to tidy up our endings as if they were not like fall. Leaves and mud and mess all scatter and we try to sweep and hide. Maybe we should be like trees, proudly standing in their mess. Maybe we should know when to let go, and bare our souls, and trust in God. Maybe the bark is chipped and weathered, and maybe it’s not our best look yet. If trees are unafraid of freezing winters, why shouldn’t we grieve? If they give up their majesty and trade it in for fresh spring, why wouldn’t we allow God to renew us and upgrade us? Growing up is hard, and it’s not always pretty.

As I stood among trees that were older than me, I suddenly felt as if I, too, could outlast the circumstances. Where are my roots? What holds me steady? I knew the answers, and I breathed a smile.

Within you, too, is a future bloom, awaiting. If you dare to release what you’ve held on to so tightly, yield in faith to the season that He has you, fully committed, won’t He also anchor you?

Maybe we should be like trees.

Bitter and Sweet

My warm cup of very caffeinated coffee cheered me on to a new morning. I was so proud of myself for managing to drink it without sugar, only with a heavy pour of unsweetened soy milk. It was a perfect traveling mug of goodness. By itself, that is.

In my lunchbox (yes, I’m four and I take a lunch box to work), I packed another favorite of mine: Greek strawberry yogurt, the whipped kind. It’s wonderfully sweet and apparently a great source of protein? Well, it had me at sweet, but good to know. It’s cold and airy and refreshing. By itself, that is.

I made the mistake, like many of us do, of mixing everything up.  My first sip of coffee was perfect. I peeled back the cover of the yogurt, took a spoon across the surface, and the minute that sweetness hit my tongue, sharp pains flashed to my jaw. I instinctively reached to my beverage, and took a swig… and it was, as you can guess, disgusting. The bitterness was overwhelming. I was stuck, unsatisfied, because one had ruined the other. Two wonderful parts of my morning that were never, ever meant to be joined.

In that moment, I had this light bulb realization that many of my days were ruined by this very concept. Those things were meant to be enjoyed by themselves, outside of a combo. Many of our experiences and memories are meant to be like that, but we keep trying to bunch it all together, into a journey or a process. It is what it is. BY ITSELF.

Wonderful example is the sweetest ring conversation that happened last weekend. Buddy asked me what kind of ring I want, and we proceeded to talk about details. He moved over next to me on the couch, and we were scrolling on his phone, looking at pictures of rings. He even took a screenshot of the one that had the style I liked most. We talked about jewelry stores, and he even mentioned he’d asked around at work for recommendations. YOU GUYS. That memory is perfect and wonderful BY ITSELF. It’s to be bottled and framed and commemorated. And you know what happened? For the next few days, it was like yogurt and coffee in my head. I started to think about timelines and the unknown future (duh, no one has a known future) started to make me anxious. I was CRYING instead of being all giddy, content, and happy. Why I was crying is the funny part: I realized again that life is never ever going to be predictable. Someday he’s going to drop to one knee and it will be a surprise, and it’s okay not to know when that is. I’ll have the choice to cry about all the uncertainties or to be happy. Yogurt and coffee. I can allow a GREAT thing to be a source of anxiety… or not.

wpid-unnamed-1.jpg.jpeg
I find that each day I have a choice to practice being thankful instead of confused. I can trust in God or I can wallow in my weak humanity and lack of ESP. I can either choose to consider this day good, like God does, or I can compare it to other days that don’t exist anymore or yet. I can ask the Lord why I believe that a certain situation can trigger my contentment, instead of His presence and His Spirit, and His love. I can ask the Lord to heal my unbelief that I lack something, anything, when His Word clearly says that He’s My Good Shepherd and I lack nothing.

As negative as this sounds, there is nothing on earth that can compare to the goodness of God. There’s nothing temporary that can outshine the eternal. It’s not that we need to remove all value from the temporary gifts we have here in this vapor life, but rather to keep the perspective of the King of Kings’ abundance.

Comparison and discontentment are diseases that cripple and paralyze. They fester a bitterness into the sweet moments of life, like an infection. Side effects include self-centered thoughts, envy, and inability to be compassionate, rejoicing or mourning with others. Passion demands pursuit. I think that most people who think they are unhappy now but will be happy when “blank” happens are not using their passion to the fullest. If asked what they’re passionate about, they may not have an answer. They’re looking for a person or event to spark in them what only God can spark, which is true passion. The willingness to suffer for a cause. Ask yourself what is truly important to you. Ask the Lord to show you how you can demonstrate that passion today, in today’s capacities. And like me, stop trying to shove everything together and make a casserole out of it all. It’s gross. Just enjoy one thing at a time, your sweet yogurt and your bitter coffee, each in their own time. Find the goodness in each part, and cherish it. The journey is great, but it can get overwhelming. It’s okay to put the map away and enjoy just one step.

1526621_10103504744396170_959411098518940348_n

I Accept

The love of God.

The forgiveness of Jesus.

The counsel of the Holy Spirit.

I took the quickest moment, in the midst of the anxiety I felt in my stomach, and I whispered a prayer that messed me up. I’m talking snot and tears everywhere.

I said “I accept Your forgiveness, Jesus.”

Apparently that’s all it takes for the chills to hit, and the tears to pour, and the hands to shake, and the fear to flee. A small acceptance, that meant I admitted I needed to yield my burden over. How often do we try to carry it all ourselves, when none of it is our load? The littlest headache and my reaction is to take a small little pill, instead of asking Him to wipe it. The twist in the stomach, the furrow in the brow. And I keep it? Oh, I keep it. I hide it, and keep it, and name it “my problem” and I own it and feed it. I’m a mother to my burdens, a depleted, defeated, diligent mother. All my little fears are ducklings, following me. The lies about my worth, my future, my redemption story, just quack quack quack. The noise is obnoxious, but what do ya do? Well, I’ve been keeping it at home with me. Yes, the same home I share with Holy Spirit, the mind and the heart.

Yet that little prayer… it shook my body. It vacated my being. I felt waves over me, like when you’re standing on a windy beach and you feel the wind rolling over you. His wind blew, and I bet it was just a small breath of heaven. I was freed by the tiniest breeze of holy.

rsbg

In the last few months, I struggled with my health and my sleep. I started to hope for different hours, but met a lot of slammed doors. Almost doesn’t quite count in the real world. Four almost jobs, no joke. That’s a lot of time and effort, and I was getting bitter. Then that fifth opportunity popped up, and by grace, it’s mine. I’m going to day hours in August. I will be sleeping at night like other humans, and for the first time in years I won’t feel like a zombie anymore.

I got the call, and I should have jumped out of my skin, like old me. You know, all “yay” and 15 exclamation points. I would have posted some kind of selfie with a maniacal giant grin and told the planet about my “finally” and my “breakthrough” and gotten a stupid amount of likes on said post about God’s goodness and timing. But nah. There was a part of me, the defeated mother of my burdens, surely, that felt hurt by God. I refused to yield my pain, then I blamed Him for keeping me under for too long. I felt drowned. I remember thinking “sorry I can’t get excited, I’m still coughing up water” and that… is how bad it got.

I finally broke. I had to choose. Hard heart or tender? Stone or flesh? Did I remember what it was like to sheepishly tiptoe into His presence like a child? I needed to do that. In my head I knew Christ’s forgiveness, but I had to say it. And it wasn’t a matter of asking for it, because I knew it was mine to have.

“I accept Your forgiveness, Jesus.”

Done. I asked for His help. Done. I asked to feel His love. Done. I asked to be covered by His name. Done. I asked for the Holy Spirit’s counsel, even when life feels out of my control. Done. The knot in my stomach is gone. Instead, there’s a calm, like when you hold a sleeping child. I feel like I’m that child, so cherished.

We are all prone to wonder, yes, even the believers that “know better.” The “you know better” guilt and shame can rot a person’s faith. The “if you trusted Him, you wouldn’t be so scared” shame and the “if you were closer to Him, you’d know prophetically” shame and the “a believer doesn’t do this or that so you must not be a believer” shame. Thomas had to touch Christ to believe He rose again. Peter sank in the waves and denied Him three times. Believers have the capacity to royally suck. Don’t let that be the end of the story, if you find yourself sinking in waves. Don’t let it replay wrong in your thoughts. Accept His forgiveness, and try to move forward. If you know the storm is coming again tomorrow, and you know you’re going under again, well… accept His forgiveness and try to move forward.

The worst thing isn’t to be unfit, it’s to purposefully hide from the Lord out of shame and to mother the pain and keep it. If it hurts every single day, cry out. Wear Him out with your repetitive prayers. He will move on your behalf. He will move on my behalf. He will continue to soften my heart. He will restore and revive. He will restore my voice. He will remove the shame, every little bit, real or perceived. He’s already done it, but for our sake, He will do it again and again, as we accept His love, forgiveness, and counsel.

Jesus, we accept Your help.