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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

God Isn’t Willy Wonka

Have you ever found yourself greatly discouraged and flipped through your own notes/pictures/prayers with God, and those scribbles ministered to you? Yep.

I’m discovering through a really rough season that my faith in God is a foundation. You can’t tear down a wall without running into your foundation. It’s incredibly important to solidify your faith, to spend continuous time with God, to read the Word on a day-to-day basis. Take notes. Take pictures. Highlight and underline. Make your ebenezers, your celebratory mile markers. Build your history with God, so that when the storms come (and oh, they don’t stop), you’ll have a deep understanding of God’s nature.

20131209_174020Many times, I’m sad to say, I have doubted His goodness and His presence. It’s the most obvious thing about Him, His goodness, yet we don’t quite know how to reconcile suffering with the goodness of God. We can’t exactly explain slammed doors, and fear, and the long, silent wait. In time, sure, yeah. You can explain anything in time. It’s like saying “I sat at a traffic jam for 17 years, but then I got ice-cream, so it’s all good.” And one thing is completely unrelated to the other, and honestly, disproportional.

We confuse privilege and prosperity with God’s love. When I go to Six Flags to ride the rollercoasters, I buy the gold flashy passes and waltz through the park skipping every line. It’s not like that with God. We don’t get Favor passes, unfortunately. When we’re preached “Favor” gospel, we set ourselves up for pain. You’re not guaranteed your whole dream jar, and that really stinks and it’s really sad. It’s okay to grieve that. The gospel is that struggle is SO real that we NEED a Savior, and we have Him. Jesus! He’s the reason for joy, not answers or gifts or temporary things, even if they’re good things. We need saving because life is really hard. He’s not Willy Wonka, He’s more like Liam Neeson. Welcome to the reason I’ve been silent.

I’ve challenged a friend in the past with the question “why is it better to go through THIS right now versus your best-case scenario?” She met me with a long pause. She started to think about her weakness and how her patience was getting tested. She was on the edge of herself, really. And it made her look at God and point, and have a heated conversation… which is much better than a rushed “thank You” prayer, if you think about that for a minute. I’ve been having those staring, silent prayers with God, where I just get my forehead all crinkled up and pout, and stare like He’s holding out on me, like I’m skeptical of what He’s up  to. And He stares back, I’m sure of it. He stares back with the “OH REALLY?!” face. Like “Really, as if I would hold out on you, to what? Torture you? To tease you? Don’t you think I have better things to do than put you through misery? Really?”

And so we stare at each other. And if I stare long enough, I can see the fire in His eyes, and it eventually, slowly, looks familiar again. Not like some distant jerk or anything, but like my Best Friend. The One who was there when I was all alone. The One who led me through places I never knew I wanted to go. That Guy. He’s pretty good. I remember Him.

Turns out that staring fights are okay with God. He’s not mad about it. Turns out we’ve got history together. That history is worth something.

His ways are higher than mine, period. I won’t get it, and also… I can’t. I wasn’t meant to understand it all. It’s a scientist’s biggest nightmare, the mysteries of God. Why are certain things so easy and why are some so darn difficult? Why do some things happen quickly while others take forever? Why are transitions always so uncertain? And why does pain flash like a camera, in your happiest days? Why is trauma a thing? Why can’t healing happen faster? Why are there so few guarantees in life? Why do we go through times of particular, intentional deprivation? How are we able to be brave in the Spirit when there are so many very logical reasons to be afraid? Why does life so often feel like a gamble instead of a plan?

I don’t get it. I don’t get any of it. Give me some kind of medal for arriving at this particular milestone of ignorance/bliss. I don’t have answers. I know Him, and He purposefully maintains answers from us, probably because they’re just too complicated. It’s like explaining this upcoming election to a 4-year-old. No, thanks! Maybe this is the best way: to not know, to not understand. It was the original way in the garden, before we disobeyed to try to know more. Not knowing makes us reliant on Him, even when that reliance is somewhat forced since we literally cannot understand things with these brains and hearts. At least love isn’t forced.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
-1 Corinthians 13:12

I look forward to that full knowledge and vision, and every day I’m closer. Until then, you’ll find me trying my best to stay the course, reading old journals, and anchoring deep on the truth of the scriptures. I pray you build your foundation with God, so that you know the way to His arms by heart when you can’t see the steps in front of you.

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.
(Ps. 126:5)

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
(Ps. 27:13)

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.
(Ps. 71:20)

Even Now

I’ve been quiet because I’ve been waiting. And while you wait and there are no news, why speak up? There are several parts of my life that have been in transition, unanswered. I’ve been praying and waiting. I’ve tried not to complain, or get my hopes up, or become pessimistic.

I am writing this right now from the unknown. Holla if you’ve been there. It feels like there’s a veil or a curtain, and it is keeping the future hidden until the last minute, til I’m to the curtain and past it. I know, from having been in this situation before, that this is for my good. It’s for my protection. God knows how having this information prematurely would affect me. I’d worry about it for way too long, or get way too excited. And He knows what He’s building inside me through this time… yeah… trust.

6If you look at any great story of faith in the Bible, you find that pesky trust thing. Sometimes it takes waiting to build it. Sometimes, you see a war or conflict. God takes the underdog and elevates them to display that He alone can do whatever, and empower whoever, whenever, wherever.

I’m trusting God for exactly this. Not that I will be empowered, but that He is able to do whatever He wants and He will follow through in His will. I get to trust His heart, and blindly lean on His understanding when I’m clueless about what’s coming next.

Whether I’m about to be in the valley or a mountaintop, I want the record to show that I trust Him. He’s taking care of me in so many ways, and I trust that even a closed door will lead me down a path of righteousness. His grace is never lost or late, and I find comfort even in the silence of uncertainty. If I listen closely, I can hear my beating heart, and I know that His Spirit is dwelling within. Just to know He’s present is enough. I appreciate your prayers in this transition. Stay tuned for an update.

Fighting For Peace

There’s a fine, dotted line between letting something go and standing up for oneself. It feels like a seesaw, where it’s not any fun when you’re always letting things go and becoming a bitter pushover, and it’s no fun at all to make a fuss over every bump on the road. A wise man once told me to pick my battles, and that’s still a challenge for me. In poker, it’s the difference between knowing when to fold versus staying in the game to win with the bluff. It’s a skill I haven’t acquired yet, but I’m learning. I’m learning how to fight for peace.

If it sounds like an oxymoron, that’s because it is. Jesus sometimes turned the other cheek and preached on forgiving 70 times 7, but He’s the same guy who walked into the temple and turned tables over with a whip. He’s the same guy who wasn’t afraid to ruffle the feathers of the religious leaders and call them white-washed tombs, and goats, and all these pretty harsh terms. He defended the adulterous woman from the stoners (haha see what I did there). He fought for our peace by laying down His life on the cross, and then rising again. That’s pretty tough and bloody.

I used to think the higher road was the quiet road. I used to think that the stronger person was the one who was able to bottle up their feelings and donate them to Ariel’s thingamabob shelves in the bottom of the ocean, never to be brought up again. I thought that people who stood up for themselves picked fights, and were labeled emotional and ill-tempered. And who would want to do life with those people?

Thinking like that, unfortunately, caused me a lot of harm. I tried to control situations that were never mine to control. I internalized frustrations, which grew to hurt me over years and years. I made up rules in my head of what to say and what not to say, and I believed lies about myself and others. I judged people on the inside and tried to do life with them on the outside. I began to expect failure out of several friendships and relationships, and by golly, I was right. Failures galore. All because I didn’t speak up when I should have. I let problems grow.

When I didn’t have health insurance, I only went to the doctor when I really needed to. Now that I have insurance, there’s this lovely thing called a well visit. I can go to the doctor on a sunshiny day, on a somewhat regular basis, and see just how well I am. It’s maintenance, not repair. Speaking up is a lot like maintenance. Good communication shouldn’t be procrastinated for the crises. It may feel like a confrontation, but it’s normal. Conflict is actually normal, but how we view it is what makes it grow exponentially into a negative experience.

We’re technically supposed to consider conflict a joyous thing, if you want to get Biblical about it. Conflict comes into the picture carrying a little silver tray, to serve you with maturity and depth of character. Your character shows. Do you get scared? Do you yell and say horrible things? Do you hide? Do you get defensive? Do you listen? Do you speak with kindness? Do you look for exits of grace, ways to move forward? Conflict reveals what’s in your heart, because it usually flies out of your mouth and circles your thoughts. It can turn into a well visit with God, or a surgery down the road, if we keep ignoring the problem.

dac738fc0d99f3fd891635167f44f0cdMy latest heart check revealed that I am a scaredy-cat. I have also grown a bit into a pessimist. Maybe I’ve been watching the news more than letting my mind dwell on what heaven is doing? With every layer, I find myself having to forgive people from my past, over and over. I never realized how much of an influence their actions and those events still have over me. The fear of those things happening again? Ridiculous. Wanna know what I learned from it, though? Every time we increase in trust, we also have to increase in courage.

Courage and trust are besties, inseparable. When we get moved up a notch with the Lord, and He asks us to surrender bigger pieces of our hearts and dreams, we have to ante up with courage. Match the bet. Cough up those chips to play the round. We have to remind ourselves that we have been given a Spirit of courage, not of timidity. We weren’t made shy, but confident. It’s not a bluff play. If you’re suddenly feeling more fearful, you might be swimming in a deeper pool. It might be a good thing. You might have gotten upgraded in faith, and you may have to accept the fact that yes, you will need to grow, and yes, you will need to get braver.

The Lord is within her, she will not fall. He is with you wherever you go. He has your right hand. He doesn’t let your ankles turn. He hears your voice. He speaks to guide you. He strengthens you. He gives you rest. He takes those heavy burdens from you and carries it like a total pro. It’s easy to Him. He can reach it. He overcomes it.

I pray you know how and when to speak up, that you don’t let yourself wilt inside. I pray you don’t let problems grow because you’re scared to rock the boat. I pray you know that God is not trying to torture you or hurt you in any way, because He delights in you. If anything is trying to steal, kill, and destroy you, it’s not Jesus. He’s the fullness of life Guy. He’s the complete joy Guy.

That’s all I have for now… I pray God multiplies it and applies it where you need it.