Friday, October 2, 2015

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.

Photographed by: Magnus Wennman

I posted a link to the article containing this photograph yesterday morning.  It was a photographic series titled "Where the Children Sleep" capturing the heartbreaking and haunting images of Syrian refugee children as they sleep amidst the crisis and chaos unfolding around them.  

The crisis in Syria has raged on for the last four years with very little media coverage in the Western world.  And then, early this summer, the tiny, lifeless little body of two-year old Aylan Kurdi washed ashore, breaking our hardened hearts and opening our closed eyes.

Around the same time, my eleven year old daughter was memorizing these words, the inscription on the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

I posted a link to the article, but had no words to go with it.  I thought to myself, "Lord Jesus, come quickly" but instead typed, "Lord, open the eyes of our hearts..."

But to what? 

I didn't know.  To mercy?  To pray? To see the magnitude of the blessing we have in our warm beds and full refrigerators?  

I've spent the last few days trying to choose a paint color for the living room walls in our new home, as evidenced by a dozen or so swatches on the various walls.  I tried, in vain, to reconcile the reality of my comfortable suburban life with the world we live in.

Some days, I have a harder time reconciling my faith.

With either.  

Weak and weary, I realize a few drops of water here and there is not enough to quench a parched soul.  

I need the a cleansing flood of His word to wash over me.

And so, I found my way back to the kitchen table early yesterday morning.  It is the place where - years ago - I would sit and meet with the Lord.  It was the place where His word first came alive to me; the place where I first began to know Him.

Admittedly, it's been a long time since I'd been there.  Over the years, in the busyness of life and the advent of the iPad and iPhone, my time with the Lord has been more sporadic and less systematic.  I find myself reading His word on a device as I lay in bed early in the morning or late at night.  Verses scattered here and there in my devotionals and the One Year Bible and my weekly small group bible studies.

I sat to read - to really read - His word.  You know, in my actual bible, thick and heavy in my hands.  My current study has me turn to ... of course... Ephesians, Chapter 1:
"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation..." 

Yes, Paul, but for what?

"So that you may know Him Better" (v. 17)

And then he writes the same thing I had typed earlier as I shared the article on my Facebook page:

"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened..." (v. 18).  

Yes, Paul, but TO what? 

"... to the hope of His calling; 
and the riches of His glorious inheritance; 
and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
That power is the same as the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but in the one to come" (v. 18-21). 
And just like that, I'm reminded that there is more to this life than this life.  That the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us.  That His name is above every name.  Every rule and every authority.  Every power and every dominion.

Not only in this life, but in the life that is to come.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded that there is a life to come which, by comparison, according to His word will make this life's troubles and tragedies seem "light and momentary": "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

In this moment, in light of the news, the troubles of our day seem anything other than light.  But they are momentary.

And in the wake of more tragic news, I tell my children what the Lord has whispered to me through His word and through His spirit:  "In this world, you WILL have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

Trouble seems too light a word, until you look at the Greek translation which describes an intense internal pressure, an anguish and affliction that causes one to feel utterly helpless.

In other words, what we feel when we turn on the news.  When we bear witness to unspeakable tragedy.

His word tells us that in the last days, evil will increase and we can expect that worse is yet to come.

And so, I tell my children this:  "We don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever" (2 Corinthians 4:18).    We must fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

And we must allow Him to open the eyes of our hearts... to what?  To Him, to know Him, to know the truth of His word, to take hold of the promise of the life that is to come, and to take hold of His peace - the only peace that will keep us upright in a world gone mad.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. 
I do not give to you as the world gives. 
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
John 14:27

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Beginnings are usually scary... and other thoughts on moving.

I took this photograph of my daughter, against her will, as she sat on the steps of what would become our new home on the first day we viewed it.  

The offer on our former home had come in unexpectedly, just days after we had been discussing pulling it from the market and staying put a while longer.  

We had stopped looking at other homes, knowing what we needed/desired in terms of space and location and just trusting that when/if our house sold,  there would be a place for us - and a clear path to it.  

And as it turns out, that's exactly what happened.  

But it still feels incredibly scary - and leaving feels incredibly sad. 

"I feel like I grew up in this house," she says.  

Yes, but you still have a lot of growing to do.  

We are only moving a few miles away, but it may as well be a few hundred.  

A blogger I follow is also moving from a home she loves and she took the words right out of my fingertips when she wrote:
"Even though I know I will miss this home we currently live in, I’m preparing my heart to be open to adventure and creating a new place to call home.
I keep daydreaming about how it will feel to start over again, for the right reasons, and make someone else’s house into our home. It’s really a mix of feeling hopeful, fearful, sad, excited, while feeling kind of tired but strangely invigorated to move and start over again."
All of those feelings tossing and tumbling about in your heart.  For me, they come pouring out in words.  But when you're 11, they come pouring out in tears and our daughter wept as we walked through our new home with the realtor. 

By that evening, she was more optimistic - drawing sketches of a mural she wants to put on the wall of her new room. 

I was reminded of a conversation we had a few years ago, during the time that Chris & I were divorced.  I sat on the edge of her bed, recounting the move we made when I was ten.  My mom had remarried and we moved from a cute little house on cul-de-sac to a log cabin in {what felt like} the middle of nowhere.  It was traumatic.  In the span of a couple of years, I had a new father figure, a new house, a new school...   I don't remember much of the actual move or the time leading up to the move other than it happening and dread and fear associated with it all, knawing at the edges of my stomach.   

As I'm retelling this all to my own daughter, I begin to remember what I felt inside during that time in my life:  Loss.  Sadness.  Fear.  Confusion.  Anger.  Oh, the unfairness of it all!   Why didn't my parents ever think about what was best for me?  Why didn't they think of me at all?  Trying not to delve too much into the misery of it all, I reassure her that, "Oh, it turned out alright... eventually." I went to the new school, made new friends, tolerated life in a cabin.  I grew up to have life-long friendships and a nostalgic love for the cabin where our family spends all of our holidays. 

"But, Chloe, that's not the best part", I had told her, "all the while, God was moving all those pieces and people and things together for my good, and for His glory, to give me a perfect gift that was better than anything I could've dreamt!"  Her big brown eyes open even wider and she looks into mine, "Ooh, what was it?" she asked, very seriously.

"You," I answer, "it was you."  

"Because, you see Chloe, if Nana had never remarried and if together they hadn't had a dream of a cabin in the woods, we would have never moved into that home and I would have never went to that school and that school is where I met your daddy.  Through all of those years, God was planning and orchestrating to bring you into this world - and I never even knew it." 

Nearly thirty years later, I can see so clearly His hand moving through every moment.  Every disappointment.  Every failure.  Every heartache.  He was working in all things, in every year of my childhood, and of my life.

I realized that what I had just spoken to her was the same thing God was speaking to me.  During the darkest seasons of our life, in the midst of chaos, confusion, despair - He is there - and He is working all things together.

Thinking about that night, that conversation, who could've known that even in that moment, God was already working to restore our marriage and our family.  I had prayed for it, yes.  But sitting here, in the reality of it all these years later sometimes takes my breath away.

And it reminds me of that cheesy, super-quotable quote from Hope Floats - that yes, beginnings are scary and endings are sad, but if you give hope a chance...

And our hope is not a feeling, our hope isn't found in self-derived optimism, but in our selfless Savior.

He alone is our hope.

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." ~ Hebrews 6:19 

And because of Him,  I have this hope - that someday, my daughter will recount her own stories of His faithfulness to her children.  That, Lord willing, thirty years from now -she will talk about even this move of just a few miles and see God's hand in it and say, "Look what He has done".  That she will read these words, and see that photograph and remember those feelings - and know in her heart, God was moving all those feelings, and all those pieces of our lives together for her good - and for His glory.  

"For I know the plans I have for you,” 
declares the LORD, 
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, 
plans to give you hope and a future." 
- Jeremiah 29:11

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Every little thing ...

Written: July 2015 - St. George Island

I couldn't sleep last night.  I tossed and turned and did the worst possible thing: I reached for my phone and scrolled through my social media feeds.

Yesterday repeated like a montage from a film:  images from the beautiful birth of my baby nephew, above haunting images from the tragedy in Chattanooga.  The feed becomes fragments amidst a sea of the chaos that comprise all of this life, of beauty and pain, happiness and sorrow, trivial and tragic. 

I see the prosperity memes shared about God's favor and blessing, right above images of the starving children in the Sudan.  

I cannot accept something as truth for myself if not also true for them. 

lay awake trying to reconcile my faith - and the weight of my feelings of gratitude for my life in that moment against the guilt, against the helplessness, against the reality that the worst thing that had happened in my life yesterday was that I had broken the perfect little sand dollar my son found for me on the beach.  

In those moments, it's as though I can literally feel the planet spinning on its axis too fast, out of control, chaotic, ushering in a crisis of faith all over again. 

"I want to believe.  Help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).  

I turn the screen off and close my eyes.  

This morning, I stood on the ocean's edge.  The place where I feel so small, where He feels so big and the earth, as far as my eyes can see stands still, and beautiful, and peaceful.  

It is a glimpse of eternity.  The place where every tragedy and atrocity will become untrue; where He will wipe away every tear.  

I used to think I loved the beach for entirely different reasons.  And perhaps, in the naiveté of my youth I did... But I love it here because I can see Him so clearly here, away from the chaos that is our world, away from the distractions that fill my life.

I sat out on the porch overlooking the ocean with my 9 year old son who was humming and singing the lyrics to Bob Marley's every little thing.  

Can we listen to the song he asked. 

I played it on my phone and we smiled and sang along.  

And the world stood still.  

And the spirit nudged me in that moment, whispering as it always does, the truth of His word.  

"It's true you know", I tell him.  Scripture tells us countless times not to worry, not to fear...

And that yes, in the end, every little thing is gonna be alright.

Every. little. thing.

Every big thing, too.

Every sad thing will become untrue (Tolkien).  

And when the world is spinning out of control, we have the immovable word of an unchanging God.  In the midst of the crashing waves, an anchor for our souls.

Who was.  Who is.  Who is to come.  

And I want to hold fast to this moment, on this porch, filled with peace and joy and happiness.  

But this, too, shall pass.

And God willing, my son will grow up and I will grow old and together, we will face the hardships and heartaches that this life will inevitably bring.

But we will face the joys and the triumphs, too.  We will share these moments of joy and peace and contentment, tucked away in these corners far from the chaos of the world and we will know, yes, that in the end...

Every little thing is gonna be alright.

"In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart, I have overcome the world." ~  Jesus (John 16:33)

"When we've been there ten thousand years
bright shining as the sun
we've no less days to sing God's praise
than when we first begun."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Guatemala: Siempre en Mi Corazón

"I have learned that I will not change the world, Jesus will do that. 
I can however, change the world for one person... 
And if one persons sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute. 
In fact, it is worth spending my life for." 
- Katie Davis, Kisses From Katie 

There are two circumstances in which I am able to write without much effort.  One is when there is so much of an overflow, it steadily pours out. The other is when I am utterly wrecked or cut wide open and bleeding uncontrollably.  

This would be the latter and it's messy.  Because I'm messy.  And a mess.

I couldn't even manage a clever title post.  

Siempre en mi corazón.  Always in my heart.  

There is so much to say and yet so few words.

My first foreign mission trip at the age of thirty-eight wrecked me afresh, and in ways it might not have at the age of eighteen, or twenty-eight...

You remember when you were little and you would spin around and around laughing and giggling, but when you stopped you promptly fell straight down, dizzy and disoriented?  

Yea, this is sort of like that.

I've been home a little over 48 hours and I've spent so many of those hours planning how soon I can go back, how much Spanish I can learn in the interim, and I have found myself googling things like "how to readjust after a mission trip".  

I've spent most of the time trying to be quiet, trying to pretend I'm normal (for me), that I'm still me ... all the while trying to reconcile what that even means anymore.   

I am trying to make sense of it all, to somehow reconcile the reality of my life with the reality I became immersed in there.  

I find myself trying to reconcile, if not justify, how very rich - and utterly ridiculous - my reality is.  I find myself disoriented ... and disgusted.

People tell me that they can't wait to hear all about the trip and all I want to do is tell them about how foolish and blind and wasteful and rich and ridiculous we all are.

In fact, I just want to shout it from the rooftops.

The Lord first began calling me to a mission trip back in 2009.  Which, in hindsight, is now comical  Christian jargon.... as if He calls just a few of us - as if the Great Commission is a mere suggestion for His followers.   

I digress.  It was the beginning of this year that I was feeling spiritually complacent.  Life - and my relationship with the Lord - had begun to feel too routine.  I prayed that He would move me - and move in my life, and He moved me again with just His word, "Go".   

I have been to several third world countries over the course of the last decade.  I have stared out the window at impoverished communities through the window of air conditioned buses on long rides to various resorts.  I have felt the slight stings of conviction that quickly faded within the gates  and spent time trying not to imagine what was beyond the tall concrete walls that separated us from the outside.   

My eyes had seen tattered streets, but never before walked along them.  

I had imagined the faces of the children from a distance, but never gotten close enough to know them by name.  

You think the silliest things beforehand - and people affirm such - that you'll develop a deeper sense of gratitude for what you have, that you'll appreciate home more, that you'll be more thankful...  

And all of those things are seemingly true - all logical and rational responses - but so incredibly trivial.  Instead of thankful, I find myself heartbroken.  Over all of the things.  Thins like clean water, of which we have infinite amounts ... that we pour on the ground.  To make our grass green.    

There, you see both the land and the people through the lens of Christ, and the beauty within both is magnified tenfold, almost too much for your eyes or mind or heart to behold.  

And just when you're overwhelmed with the beauty of this place... 

You come face to face with the very image of God.  You see Him in the eyes of these impoverished children who were made in His image.  In their eyes, you see your own reflection and just as the Word is a mirror, they too, become mirrors for your soul.

You see Him in the staff at the mission - these people, who become like family to you over the course of just a few short days - these are people who have sacrificed their entire lives, having poured themselves for the sake of the gospel.  They reflect the very glory of our God.  

It's not just what God is allowing you to see there; it's what's He is allowing you to see in yourself while you're there.

You cannot stay the same.  You cannot leave unchanged.  

I can't stop thinking about the story of the rich man in Matthew 19.  The one who asked Jesus what he needed to do to gain eternal life.  Jesus tells him to follow the commandments.  He had that part down.  Anything else?  Oh, and also, yea - just one more thing, Jesus adds: "If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me" (v. 21).

The man went away very sad.  Because he had a lot of stuff. 

Jesus goes on to tell the disciples - and us - this: "I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  I'll say it again - it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God" (v. 23-24). 

In our Christian subculture, we've made this passage of scripture about pretty much anything and anyone other than ourselves.  We tell ourselves things like, "This man's problem wasn't his riches, but that he held too tightly to them, so we're okay as long as our nice things aren't idols" or "as long as we hold them loosely" or my personal go-to: "This man was apparently much richer than us, we aren't rich, we're just middle class so this doesn't really apply to us."  

Late last night, I tell this to my husband, as if it's entirely new information: "Jesus is talking about us here.  It's all of us.  And we don't even realize that it's us."

"They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand." ~ Isaiah 44:18
Satan blinds the eyes, causing absurd reasonings in matters of religion. Whether men seek happiness in worldly things, or run into unbelief, superstition, or any false system, they feed on ashes. A heart deceived by pride, love of sin, and departure from God, turns men aside from his holy truth and worship. While the affections are depraved, a man holds fast the lie as his best treasure. Are our hearts set upon the wealth of the world and its pleasures? They will certainly prove a lie. If we trust to outward professions and doings, as if those would save us, we deceive ourselves. Self-suspicion is the first step towards deliverance. ~ Matthew Henry Commentary on Isaiah 44:18
The plaster from my eyes has been torn, violently.

And all I can tell others - all I can say to you - is just. go.

Go somewhere and give a week of your life away.

Go and let Jesus wreck your life and when you come home, let Him decide how to put the pieces of the wreckage back together.  Let Him decide which pieces will remain and which will be cast aside.  

I'm allowing Him to reconstruct and reorder the wreckage of me and I don't know what that will look like.

I only know this: 

I am convinced, now more than ever, that the measure of fullness of every fruit of the spirit in our lives [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control] can only be measured by how much of our lives we give away for the sake of the gospel. 

It's going to be hard for us to enter the kingdom, it's even harder for us to experience a taste of His kingdom here. 

And so we learn seek it.  Daily.  

With the plaster torn from our eyes and hardened hearts shattered, we seek.

We seek to learn what it means to sacrifice our lives for the sake of the gospel in the here and now, among our landscaped yards and sidewalks and streetlights...  

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, 
and all these things will be given to you as well." - Matthew 6:33

One of my favorite days of the trip was the day we visited the local public school.  We made our way down a tiny path in the village.  The children, many who come from broken homes and neglect, loved our attention, our hugs, our photographs.  We made lanterns out of construction paper with them, and on it, they wrote this verse:

"Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105

And I'm reminded of where my own faith journey began, feeling so similarly heartbroken and disoriented, not knowing how to move forward. The Lord spoke, as He always does, through the truth of His word and it became the lamp to my own stumbling feet, the light to my own torn and tattered path.  The same one that eventually led me Guatemala - and to Him all over again.  

Monday, June 8, 2015


"I will not waste this life, not one hour, not one minute. 
I will not take for granted the blessing of our being here...
I will give thanks...” 
~ Katrina Kenison, The Gift of an Ordinary Day

Early this morning, I crawled into his little twin-sized bed and snuggled under the dinosaur quilt with him.  I kissed his cheek, my face close enough to feel his breath.  I brushed his hair with my hand, cupping his little face and I thanked God for this - another morning.

Another day.  

My sleep was restless last night.  The whole scene on replay as I slept, against my will.  The "what ifs" whispering incessantly, taunting.  I would wake up, turn over, and try to think of something - of anything - else.

It's all in slow motion, like a scene from a film, I can't really hear anything, it's just the sound of my voice screaming, crying out, "Oh God!  Oh God!" and the pounding of my feet against the ground as I'm running towards him.  Or maybe it's the sound of my heart pounding in my chest, splintering, fracturing with each step.

I'm running towards my son, the one whose hand I'd just held and prayed with hours earlier, as he lay on the ground, an overturned go cart beside him - the engine still humming in the background.

I had watched the whole scene unfold and though he was only yards from me, it felt like miles.  The seconds sprinting towards his body felt like minutes, minutes in which his whole life was being recounted, in which my whole life was being recounted, and all the while my voice still yelling, "Oh God!  Oh God!".

And the questions, coming faster than the sequence of tiny infinities constructing those seconds:  had our whole lives just been altered forever?  When I reached him, would he still be here?  Had I just lost my baby, my only son?  I thought for certain that his neck had been broken, that I'd heard his voice for the last time, his laugh for the last time.  I thought so many things in those moments of sprinting and screaming towards him.  I thought of the conversation we'd just had hours earlier.

On the way to his grandparents' house, we talked about a little girl whose family we had been praying for.  A little girl who lay dying in  hospital bed in Tennessee.  We don't know them, but our hearts are breaking for them.  

"Mommy, I feel so sad for them" he said, blinking through tears.  "I do, too."  He placed his little left hand in the palm of my right hand and I prayed out loud as we drove.

For mercy.

For comfort.  

For His presence to be in their midst.  

And we talked some more.  

You know, I tell him, "Death has been swallowed up in victory" (1 Corinthians 15:54).  For us, it has no sting.  His word tells us that to be absent from our body is to be present with the Lord.  

I believe, and I tell him, that something supernatural occurs just before we die, and that's why His word tell us that for those of us that are in Christ, we won't even taste death.  

And for those of us left behind, we grieve, but we do not grieve as those without hope.  

These are the tenets of our faith.  This is what I believe with my whole heart.

But in those seconds, running towards what appeared to be my child's lifeless body, I was having my own crisis of faith, just like the father in Mark 9, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief."

It was over as suddenly as it had began.  I collapsed next to him as he began to stand up.  He was miraculously unscathed, as if he'd fallen off a tricycle in the driveway.

My heart was still racing and my limbs were still shaking and I was just trying to breathe.

A day later, I'm still just trying to breathe.

And trust.

I will trust all the things I know to be true.  His words are truth (John 17:17).

His words are the foundation for my life.

As a mom.

As a wife.

As a human.

And come what may.  I'm reminded of the three who refused to bow down to a false God.  Instead they chose to walk into the fire, trusting that God would deliver them.  "But even if He doesn't..." they'd said.  They would not bow down.

And so, neither will I bow down to a spirit of fear that is not from Him.  I will cast my anxiety on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and in all things - in all circumstances - I will give thanks (1 Thess 5:18).

And when I am physically shaken, rattled to my core - I pray that my faith that will never be.

"Truly, He is my rock and my salvation, He is my fortress, I will not be shaken."  ~ Psalm 62:6

Friday, March 27, 2015

in oceans deep

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior"
~ Hillsong Lyrics, Oceans 

I love these lyrics so much.  They sound so much like the words of my prayers just late last year.  Living in the midst of such abundant blessing and peace in my life, I couldn't help but feel somewhat complacent spiritually.  I felt as though I was stagnating, that my growth had slowed to crawl.  And so, as we began this new year, I began to pray - Lord, move me.  Move in me.  Move in my life.  

I heard someone talking about these lyrics once.  Their strength, their boldness before an almighty God.  That if you're asking Him to take you deeper and you're asking for trust without borders, you'd better mean it. 

Can I just tell you that when you ask God to move in your life you had better be ready to move.

Literally.  Figuratively.  And everything in between.

Wherever you would call me, Lord.

Whatever you would call me to, Lord.

I'm ready now.

In 2009, I surrendered my life to the Lord and it was the first time in my life that I could so clearly hear His voice.  There were several things He called me to - and each one seemed as both improbable and impossible as the next:  to go back to college, to pray for the restoration of my marriage and family, to go on a mission trip, to become a foster parent.

I was obedient to only one of those things.  Reluctantly, I re-enrolled in college and it wasn't until after I graduated that I realized that whole journey hadn't been about finishing my education but about finishing something.    

Those other callings on my life didn't disappear - I just tried to ignore them, often ignoring God's word and surrounding myself with others who did the same.  None of the relationships in my life were serving to bring me closer to the Lord - but to carry me farther and farther away.  Until I couldn't run anymore and the path set before me was unrecognizable.  

I found myself where I had started - heartbroken over my sin and disobedience, crying out for God to rescue me from myself. 

It has been another four long (insert long a bunch more here) years later.

And every. single. one of those things that the Lord spoke to my heart back in 2009 either has come - or is coming - to fruition - and in that order.  

Only God.

Oh, the irony that I have a blogged titled the Narrow Path Home and a walk that has been anything but.  

But those now frivolous details of my detours - and of my disobedience - they all pale in comparison to His faithfulness, to His constant pursuit of my wandering feet - and my wandering heart.  

The memories of those misguided, sin-wrecked relationships pale in comparison to the pure joy - and glory - of a marriage and family restored, with Christ at the center of it all.

All of those shattered pieces melted and molded into the mosaic that is His story of my life.  

It took me a long time to learn how to walk by faith.  It took me a long time to learn to quiet the voices of those who doubted, including my own.  It took me a long time to trust God at His word.  

And all these years later, I'm still learning. 

And I'm still just beginning, but I'm no longer at the beginning. 

For years, I waded and wandered along the shores.  I'd get my feet wet or occasionally, swim out to where my feet could barely touch.  Right there, along the shallow waters' edge where the ocean turns dark and scary.  Consumed by fear, I'd turn back for the shore - where I felt safe and comfortable.  But the more I learned to trust God, the less I began to fear the deep - and eventually, I began to long for it.  I came to realize the darkness wasn't darkness at all, but grace so deep you couldn't see the bottom.  

And so, I swam out to that shallow waters' edge and stood on my tippy toes... and prayed words that echo Hillsong's lyrics:  

"Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior"

To hear the song in its entirety, click here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

unsettling and the path unknown

The Lord says, "I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you." Psalm 32:8

It's five thirty in the morning on a Saturday and I can't sleep.  For the first time in what feels like years, I know it's because I have to write.  I write because there's so much on my mind and in my heart, that some of it just has to come out.  So that I'm able to sleep again - and so that I will know what I think.   

"I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." —Flannery O'Connor

Much of the time, I write because I don't know what the Lord thinks until I read what I say, because writing really is the holy place for me, the place where I'm alone and still and quiet and desperate for both words and wisdom beyond what I can self produce.   
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.  Psalm 143:8
Our realtor sent a text yesterday to let me know that our sign will go up in the next couple of days.  She'll be coming by to place the "coming soon" marquee on it. 
Coming. soon.
The "For Sale" sign is coming soon and bringing with it, both the unsettling and the unknown. 
When I first started writing this particular blog, I wrote much about the childhood home that I spent the first ten years of my life in.  For years, I'd held onto the dream of someday buying and restoring and holding onto that old house and eventually, I knew I had to let that dream die.  It was a slow and painful death.
I've had to learn to how to let many of own dreams die.  It's what Paul refers to as dying to self.  I've learned that as long as we live on this side of eternity, all of our life in Christ is a constant dying - of self and of selfish ambitions - and we should expect that anything associated with dying is going to be painful at times.
But never without the beauty of redemption. 
Just as the brittle and barren trees outside the window will soon begin to show signs of new life and a new season, we can trust that there is new life and new seasons coming for us.  In both physical death and in all of the figurative deaths that we experience in this life. 

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."  Jeremiah 29:11
I think about the prayers I've prayed over the last couple of years, prayers asking the Lord to unsettle us, to move us out of our comfort zones and even as He has - even as He is now - I feel my heart gripping tightly to the opposite - to settledness and to this pseudo comfort - where there is less fear, less unknown. 
But when we ask God to move in our lives and in our hearts, we need to be prepared to have Him move us.  Sometimes, literally. 
And for me, that means I need to be ready to empty my hands and my heart of all these fears. More than the unknown, I fear the different.  I fear the change.  If I'm honest, I fear the potential regret. because, let's face it, I have a pretty long list of life-altering decisions that were devastatingly regretful in hindsight.  I spent so much time doing the wrong things and moving in the wrong directions, that standing still feels so much safer.  I don't trust myself - and for good reason.  I know the heartache of regret, and the doing of that which you cannot ever undo... and I know myself.  I know who I am in my flesh, apart from Christ, weak and vulnerable and irreparably foolish. 
But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.  Psalm 56:3

I think about my childhood home and I can't remember.  It's all bits and pieces, fragments and glimpses.  I don't remember the day that we moved.  I don't remember how I felt.  I don't remember the last night I spent there or the day we drove away.  I remember a little bit of the sadness and anxiety, and I'm feeling it all over again this morning, knowing the sign is coming soon - that change is coming soon.  But, I didn't know the Lord then.  I didn't know the truth of Jeremiah 29:11.  It took me another twenty years to realize that move was part of His plan for my own life.  
If there's any one theme I've tried to instill in my own children, it's that He is truly working all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).  
And so, more than being wrought with worry or fear or anxeity of what's to come, I press in to learn to love Him more, to trust Him more.  I'm still learning and relearning how very worthy He is of my trust.  That I can trust Him with my heart, my life, my family... the unsettling and the unknown. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Fifty Shades of Gray, Two Cents and a Can of Worms...

It's been almost three years since I wrote this post, but as the movie releases today, my two cents remain the same.  As Christ followers, we are not necessarily called to have an opinion about everything, but we are called to speak the truth in love and to let our light shine before others - into both the darkness and gray areas alike. 
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  (John 17:17)
i don't want to write this blog. really. i don't. it's late and i'm tired and i've just finished packing two backpacks for summer camp and making lunches and packing snacks and i'm pretty sure i have peanut butter in my hair... but i digress and my fingers forsake me. i write. inexplicably... against my will.

i've seen the facebook postings for weeks about this new book that's all the rage and all of my friends are talking about it and by talking, i mean tweeting and posting and sharing. i paid little attention. partly because i'm not a fan of fiction, and partly because i have a full time job, two children and i find myself checking my emails or catching up on my one year bible during my morning commute at red lights or late nights with one eye barely open - and i'm still, like, fifty days behind everyone else. 
so this book: everyone was/is reading it. got it. it's the new fictional fad. it wasn't until i saw a post about someone not reading it that i took pause. and read the blog post about it. and almost subsequently, wished i hadn't. it wasn't that i didn't agree with what this particular blogger had written, it was just that i didn't want to admit that i did. i didn't want to admit anything at all. i wanted to fade right back in to my own proverbial shade of gray, where i could ignore the cultural phenomenon and the controversial firestorm that was coming along with it and go on about my evening and i tried. but i couldn't. because i am tired of shrinking away from truth. i am tired of living a life so fearful of conflict that i don't utilize the resources set before me to share truth. i am tired of not being more bold in my faith and quite frankly, when i read the responses to that blog that were written in such vehement defiance and defense of the book itself by sisters in Christ, it stirred my soul to write in vehement defense of Christ Himself. because all anyone else wanted to write about was whether or not it was right or wrong to read the book. if you said it was wrong, you were judging those who'd read it. if you said it was right, you were obviously a hopeless sinner... 
oh, but, aren't we all. "We all fall short of God's glorious standard..." (Romans 3:23) - ask me how i know. 
i'm always reluctant to comment on such slippery slopes of controversy for that very reason: invariably, any criticism is misconstrued as judgment. arguments erupt. feelings are hurt. regardless of the intent, the person sharing truth in love becomes a pharisee or persecuter with a fistful of stones. on the original post, there are so many women - believers in Christ, no less - commenting to the point of verbal assault. the argument, in and of itself, doesn't bring glory to Christ any more than the book itself. the book, which i haven't read, isn't a Christian book. as far as i know, no one is trying to hold the book to Christian moral standards. the question, for sake of the argument, is rather should we be reading the book. in the midst of the argument, it doesn't seem that any one in particular is actually seeking an actual answer. they're all too busy defending their own.
and so, here's the answer: no on can answer for you. except the Lord.
as Christ followers, the goal of our lives - by definition - is to follow Christ. it is to abide in Christ. and it's something i am learning at a miserably slow rate myself. it took years for my heart to be convicted of my own sinful media indulgence and the havoc that my Grey's Anatomy/Desperate Housewife/Bachleor-loving ways were reaping in my spiritual life. and here's the thing: no matter how close any of us get to it, we will miss the goal this side of eternity. the question is: are we really even aiming for it? the question, the one question, we have the responsibility to ask ourselves daily is whether or not our lives are ultimately glorifying the Lord. looking back on my life, i can reflect on days where the answer was a resounding no... and plenty of days where i could say, "eh.. sorta", but it doesn't matter what i say. all that really matters is what He says and what He says is this: "Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me." (Matthew 12:30)

and so, the only good thing that controversy stirs up is self reflection. and we ask ourselves the tough questions: is what i am saying, doing, watching, thinking about and yes, reading - is it working with Christ to bring about His glory or is it working against Him? because there is no in between - and as much as we'd like to rest in our own shades of gray, our comfort zones, our lukewarm tubs of complacency, He is calling us out of the shadows of controversy, the futility of arguments and into the light of His presence - where He "turns our eyes from worthless things and gives us life through [the only book that gives us life] His word" (Psalm 119:37).

and i believe that His word is more relevant, more thrilling, today, in this moment, than any other words we can take our time to read - or write. truly, His mercy is miraculous. and His grace, scandalous. and this passage from philippians could've, perhaps should've, taken the place of everything i just wrote. if the apostle Paul were penning a letter to me - or to my Facebook and Twitter friends - i believe his words would be the same. If you skimmed over everything else, read this:
"Dear Brothers and Sisters, ... everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christand become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death,so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.  No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you...
For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the Cross of Christ.
They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.
But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.  He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
- I love this next part as he pleads with two quarreling women to AGREE in Christ:
And I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-And he brings it home... for the church at Philippi. and for me. and for you:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
late last fall, i wrote the following about my own life. about what i felt the Lord was calling me to in terms of laying down my life as a blank check for Him. I wrote, "i don't know what it means. i don't know what it is going to mean. i only know that i can no longer live in shades of gray, conforming more to this world and this culture each and every day when my heart and soul desires to be conformed into His image. i only know that i desire to pour out my life for His purpose, His glory and for the pursuit of His presence. i have nothing to offer except what He has to give and my life - a blank check."

"whom have i in heaven but you?
and earth has nothing i desire besides you."
Psalm 73:25

Thursday, January 8, 2015

looking forward

Looking back, I'm so grateful the Lord moved me to write some things down, or rather, type some things out.  He knew I'd need to revisit that which he placed on my heart time after time, year after year...
"December 28, 2010:  The end of the year is always a time for forced self-reflection; contemplation of the path through life in which we are traveling; our goals, our hopes, and our dreams for the future. My prayer for the new year – for my life in general– is that I learn to abide in Him, press in. Press on. No one understood this better than my beloved Paul. So much like me prior to his own conversion, so much unlike anyone else afterwards. He knew that Christ had taken hold of him and that He was never letting go. Paul had a clarity few of us can grasp: he considered everything else in this life rubbish. Everything. Rubbish. He wrote that he considered "everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus". Two thousand years ago, I seriously doubt that Paul was sitting at his desk forcefully contriving a list of self-fulfilling goals for a successful and happy new year. For him, there was only one goal... and it had nothing to do with what this world we live in relates to "happiness".  - Me
Back at the beginning of that year (2010), I was just a baby Christ-follower.  I was a thirty-something with a lot of religious experience, but barely learning how to walk when it came to actually following Christ.  Fully attentive to Christ one moment, completely ignoring Him the next.  A few steps forward, then falling.  I knew everything about who I had been and the way I'd lived my life up until that point needed to change but I often wavered between begging God to change me and fervently resisting it. 
I wish I could tell you what a completely different person I am today, but you know better.
Frankly, at that time, some of the things He was calling me to seemed impossible, if not downright insane.  He placed it on my heart to pray for the reconciliation of my marriage and family at almost the exact moment I had readied myself to move on with my life; and He placed it on my heart to go on a mission trip despite the fact that I was a single mom and a full time college student at the time.  To do either of these things would require both faith and sacrifice like I had never known...  and as it would turn out, like I wouldn't know for another four years.
Truth be told, I did end up getting my passport that Spring and I did travel to two foreign countries that year - only to visit resorts - on vacation. 
To quote CS Lewis, I was "far too easily pleased". 
And far too easily led astray. 
It would take another three years, and a hundred times as many similar acts of rebellion, mistakes, failures, detours and wrong turns before I would really pray the prayer and mean it wholeheartedly asking the Lord, as Katie Davis famously once did, to "wreck my life". 
I had wasted so much time trying to live with one foot in the world, according to my own will, and the other foot just barely grazing the surface of the grace filled life He wanted to give me. 
After years of still clinging so tightly to having my own way, I could finally say, "Lord, have your way." 
The Lord moved and so did I.  Literally.  To wherever he told me to go, to whatever He told me to do.  It was a painful, but beautiful deconstruction process as He tore down the walls of the new life I'd shoddily constructed. 
And He reconstructed and restored and reconciled.  Just as He'd said He would.  But more.  "Abundantly exceedingly more than I could ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).  What had seemed an impossible, implausible thing back in 2009 became a reality nearly a half decade later.
At the beginning of this year, I look back on those years and am just so thankful that in the grand portrait of my past, the brushstrokes of His faithfulness cover over the imperfections of my faithlessness.
These last few years have been some of the most peaceful of my life.  I spent so much of my twenties in self-destructive turmoil and a good portion of my thirties in a spiritual battle, running to God and then away again.  It has been so good to just be - and to "be still" (Psalm 46:10).  It has been so good to just rest; to soak in His goodness and His faithfulness. 
I hardly wrote at all last year.  In fact, in the seven years since I started this particular blog, I wrote the least last year.  It was in part due to the rest and in part, due to this feeling as though there was nothing left to write. 

But God.
He has shown me and is showing me still that yes, that chapter in my life is closed.  The one that began with His calling me out of my sin and strife; the one that ended with His calling me here - to this earthly home, to this wholeness of my family and this peace in my heart.  That chapter has ended, but the rest is yet to be written. I am still on this Narrow Path Home.  On this side of eternity, I always will be. 
And I've found myself at the beginning of this new year, at this beginning of our church's 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting asking, "Lord, what next?  And Lord, Have your way.  And Lord, wreck my life again."  Because, if I'm perfectly honest, all this peace and rest has had me drifting somewhat, into complacency... into a spiritual apathy.  I find myself making my own plans, dreaming my own dreams, living my life according to my own terms and my own wants. 
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughtsPoint out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." ~ Psalm 139:23-24
Last night, as I stood in worship, the Lord spoke to my heart so loud and so clear that it were as if He were standing right next to me, leaning in to my ear so as to hear Him clearly over our insanely loud music.  "Go on that mission trip now." 
And so, I came home, and I dug out that passport - the one I'd applied for five years ago and I submitted my application for a mission trip in June.  Because I'm far from walking this path perfectly, but the one thing I've learned is to move when He speaks. 
As Paul wrote, "No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead" (Philippians 3:13). 
This one thing: Looking forward.