Jan 16th, 1999

IMG_0511.JPGJan 16. The exact date I sometimes forget, but I always remember it was a Sunday.
We went to church last night, and coincidentally we went over the verses in Mark where the sadducees are trying to stumble Jesus and ask him hypothetically if the same woman married a man who then died and she then proceeded to marry his subsequent brothers as each died and eventually she dies. Who in heaven would she be married to? And Jesus responds that we aren’t given in marriage in Heaven (Mark 12). Pastor Eric then went on to describe that we are complete in heaven, and we will recognize each other, and there won’t be any lack. As he went on, describing a difficult topic and question so beautifully about loved ones in heaven. I remembered Debbie and could hardly believe the timing of the message, two days before the anniversary of her death.
I wish I could say that when I think about Debbie, that the first thing I think of is how great she was. How I used to love going out to the barn and milking the goats with her. Fondly, I was nicknamed her “barn buddy”. But because Debbie was diagnosed with cancer when I was around 5, my memories of her before are few.
I remember the hospital bed and throw up bowls. I remember her losing her hair from the radiation and wondering at it growing back a darker color. I remember her being in a coma. I remember Dad, Mom and Grandma taking shifts of staying at home with us kids and staying at the hospital with Debbie. I remember her being to weak to walk, and Dad daily helping her out of her wheel chair and holding her, trying to help her learn to walk again. I remember her speech being so slurred, I could no longer understand what she was saying. I remember the nurses coming and going, the friends and family bringing meals, babysitting. I remember selling the animals and crying when they were sold. And I remember that Sunday night, when Jeremy was on a date with his first girlfriend, and all of us younger siblings were home watching Tom and Huck on the “Wonderful World of Disney” when Dad and Mom came in the family room, crying, and told us that Debbie had gone to be with Jesus.
For a long time I thought I was okay with Debbie’s death, but after becoming a mom and having my own babies, I didn’t know it would open a flood gate of fear and anxiety about the nightmare my family lived through. No one wants to ever lose a loved one. And after having a baby, the thought of anything happening to that baby makes me sick to my stomach and question life, God,and what the heck is the point of life! It has been and is a very real struggle.
The message Pastor Eric gave could not have been more perfect for me to hear. Focusing on the pain of Debbie’s sickness and death isn’t the whole story. This life isn’t all there is. Jesus conquered death so I don’t have to fear it. I will see Debbie again, and there will be no lack.
I don’t want to ever lose another loved one, but someday, hopefully in the very distant future, it will happen. And if I’m going to survive emotionally in this life, I have to believe and hold on to, that there is more. Heaven is real, and God is good. I don’t understand Him, and I’m walking the path of healing, and learning to trust. But it is hard.
“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:54-58‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Advertisements

You’re Not Missing Your Purpose…But Sometimes You’re called to Wait

14570361_10154570598158114_2413673127094478066_n

“She ran ahead where there were no paths…”

Oh, life.

If I am certain of one thing regarding myself it is that I am in a perpetual battle with life, and all the things I wish it had offered me by now, and the many many things I so desperately wish I had a receipt for.

If you were ever granted the unfortunate experience of pulling out a cot inside my mind you would find confidence and total doubt waging war with each other as I daily ask God what it is He has for me, and where He needs me to move, and how I could ever possibly be equipped for kingdom-sized things.

Something that I have had to confront within the past 4 months regarding God, has been this: my complete recognition of His power. There is a depth of confidence I have regarding His sight of all the other hearts and souls out there, along with their desires and needs; but when I honestly challenge myself to think of how I feel about God with regard to my own life, I strip His power and omniscience away, leaving behind a bareness, a question mark, and an empty frame in the spot that is meant to be filled with His joy for my life.

How long have I been walking around with this idea that God is somehow neglecting my heart, or is unaware of the loneliness that at times creeps in, or is ignorant of the constant, weighted thoughts about whether or not my life truly matters and has meaning?

In two and a half weeks I am getting on a jet plane. I’m flying across an ocean; and I am setting foot inside of a country many people have never heard of and most will never venture to, and I have no idea why.

The foolishness of the words above only make this journey more necessary.

See, I know why I decided to go, why I wanted to go, what led me to go, and why all the strings attached to my sentimental heart have been tugged towards a country tucked away inside Eastern Europe, but I don’t know WHY I am going – I don’t know the purpose of my leaving, of my coming back, and all the details woven in between.

But I know that I MUST go.

Ever since my March reunion and departure with these souls I consider my family, I have never felt so strongly and specifically like I needed to GO and to go soon. Not in a couple years, not next year, but soon – my heart was lonely for this to happen, my heart was yearning for a home that I did not know I had – and the tears flowed, and the chest ached, and the oxymoronish solid confusion as to why I wasn’t already there built confidence at the surety of the need to make it happen.

When I envisioned this trip I saw myself sitting up late at night on the couch in the living room of my second family and gleaning every ounce of wisdom and love that I could – I saw hearts being filled and memories being made – and just. being. together.

There is this generalized concept or idea towards Christian travels and/or missions – that it should be hard, that it should be feeding orphans, or building walls, or teaching in a school, or running a retreat for a church, or should be in a country where you can’t access clean water – and I do not in any way say those things with any drop of sarcasm or resentment towards this aspect of mission or for anyone who is brave enough to recognize those very things being encased inside of their calling, they are beautiful, and they are so so necessary. I say it only to shake up the walls containing God’s desires of our sojourning and to not limit Him in what He desires to do when your heart is pricked or the timing of His use for your life.

When I found myself daily struggling to hold back tears, many times failing, and attempting to remedy this pitted ache of loss and wanting nothing less than for it to be filled while sitting in my American home, I voiced my emotions and desires to my father, seeking an insight I could not visualize myself.

He said something I am not sure I have ever heard before – he told me that missions is so much more than what we normally encapsulate it as. Missions is furthering God’s kingdom, spreading His gospel, and building up His people – it is going where He is leading you, trusting His desire to utilize the crevices where your heart becomes planted. Missions is just as much necessary heart-work for the areas God is wanting to change OUR lives and the lives of those we touch, as it is filling a void or fixing a problem. He can call you across oceans to encourage ONE person, and He can call you across oceans because He desires to encourage YOU.

I have no idea what to expect when I step off that plane and meet God 4,500 miles away from the last place on earth I linked arms with Him. I don’t know all the seemingly small or apparent and huge ways He needs to minister to my heart or maybe, even just maybe, use the brokenness of my own and minister to another’s.

But I have never been more confident that He is inside this longing, and imploring me to be brave with His passion roaring inside of me.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Fast forward almost 2 weeks post trip.

Oh, wow, am I sad.

Quite the negative note to start out with, eh? I don’t even really mean it in a downer way, even if that doesn’t make much sense.

I think in preparation of going to Serbia I secretly hoped that I would hate it there, that I would feel uncomfortable, out of place, homesick, and ready to come home long before my flight would be waiting for my feet to stroll down it’s make-shift tarmac and settle in for 9 hours of the most uncomfortable hours of my life.

I was hoping for that because deep down I knew that this place was going to feel like home.

An incredible thing happened while I stationed myself inside of this little country – I felt peace.

Tremendous, beautiful, all-satisfying peace.

For the first time in years all the thoughts robbing me of sleep, of confidence, of contentment were lacking in any type of sway or influence in my mind or spirit. Singleness, my job, my future in general and how I could be possibly be ruining it were not nudging the back of my brain and leaving me with a constant, underlying angst.

And it felt so good.

It felt like I was home, but without this sense of missing the mark – sitting on the front porch by myself with nothing but my Bible, journal, prayers, coffee, bees, and simply soaking in the presence of God became the fulfillment of every ounce of what I was craving.

The unanswered questions whose tactic was to consume and to cripple become powerless as God met me in the small post-war village with it’s ice cream from heaven, incessant barking dogs, gated driveways, and occasional horse-pulled wagons. Just as the scent of the wind was unlike that which I had spent my whole life breathing, so became my outlook on all the unanswered questions that had swarmed within me.

The only anxiety I felt was at the thought of leaving and how wrong it seemed.

I would lie in bed trying to think of ways that I could come back for longer, and become more involved, and help people, and make it a part of my regular life.

How I could stay with these people that I love so much and not have to invite this distance back into the equation.

Something that really hit me, is that any other time I have traveled, even if it is the same place I have vacationed with my family for my entire life, there is always this unsettled feeling and desire for home. All the sites and roads are blanketed in just a touch of discomfort and wanting the familiar. I have never left to go home after a trip, no matter how long or short, and not had at least a slight desire for it.

This time was so different.

When the good-byes needed to take place I felt my heart cave in.

I sat in an airport in the middle of Hungary with silent tears etching my face.

For an hour.

I woke up at 5am that coming morning, in New York, went downstairs, and could not catch the sobs that racked through my body. It sincerely felt like I had just gone through a breakup the night before, my heart truly felt broken and the loneliness seemed unbearable.

Around 11am my tears subsided after spending a long time talking and sifting through all the emotions and conflicting feelings about what God was/is trying to do in my life and heart.

And you know what? I think that maybe I have entered into another season of waiting.

Which is pretty much the last thing I ever hoped would happen through this experience.

Waiting on what God has, and asking Him to help you be faithful in the meantime is pretty much one of the most consistent and difficult lessons He has us walk through.

Praying for things you never thought you would pray for, asking for clarity and insight into things you never thought you would need it for, waiting to see what He wants to do with the love, joy, and passion you feel towards a certain calling, and staying constant with where He has you in the mean time – oh my dear, these are all such vital points in waiting.

I never thought seeing pictures of certain places as I scroll through my instagram feed would be met with an instinctual reaction as if I missed home.

I may not know the specifics, but I know He is doing pretty radical things in my heart through this trip. Ever since leaving and coming back He has drastically changed some desires and outlooks on certain areas of life and has given me a passion and vision to see certain things come into fruition.

There is fear, and I believe it is a fear latched onto most all of us at some time or another.

The fear of always longing, but never reaching.

Always hoping, but never receiving.

Always envisioning, but never orchestrating.

Fear of wasted days, wasted desires, wasted plans.

Fear that God will watch you pray, wait, beg, and surrender, and never turn around and explain Himself to you.

Fear that He will allow the seeds of passion to be planted, roots of invested prayer and trust to grow deep, and even some growth towards fruition to take place, all for a harvest which never comes.

Fear of being wrong, missing the point, the calling, the purpose – staying the same, never moving forward.

Dedicating years waiting and praying for something that never shows up on your doorstep.

I could go on and on – and it all comes back around to my disbelief in His power for my life, and this misconstrued idea that He does not see me, or find me useful enough to work with – that providing for me will never be at the top of His list.

Shame on me.

Were I to leave the lies in the ground where they belong I am sure to find all the truths in my ever-beating and alive heart able to pump throughout me again.

Were I to pray with boldness, believing in His power, goodness, lovingkindness, ability, and sovereignty, more mountains would shift.

Were I to recognize and call out the truths that every lovely, pure, humble, and honest passion and desire cultivating in my life are ordained in His faithfulness and are pieces of His very character I would be able to believe with confidence that there is, indeed, a plan for my life.

Stop looking back, stop looking ahead.

Look at the very spot you are standing in and challenge it, pray for doors to open and burst through them when they do.

Pray for right use of your gifts and passions – that kingdom-sized things may occur through the very dreams the King designed.

Pray for preparation and the ability to move when the time comes – stop praying small – pray big and with vision.

And when you’re blindsided by a flight to Hungary, joy in the movement, in new things, in growth, and ask that your heart be ready, as you never stop asking Him to fulfill His calling on your life.

Waiting is a game-changer, because it is asking of us to be faithful when we cannot see and do not know the outcome.

You are more seen that you could ever know, and doors are going to open, my dear, when the time comes they will swing wide and all those late nights crying alone, pleading for an ounce of understanding, and every crushing weight that you are missing your purpose will be lifted as the beautiful, hand-crafted you, is ready for the very thing your heart was made for.

There is a time and a season for everything, but maybe, just maybe, right now, you are simply called to wait.

One day, you will be ready, look back, and know that everything – all the growing pains – were necessary, for such a time as this.

 

 

It is Good to Remain

IMG_9828.CR2

I’ve had plans for my life for awhile now.

We’re going on a good 20 years of planning, here.

It is often different between boys and girls, but there is always that dream tucked inside of a child’s heart which beckons them towards their deepest desires and a flawless innocence that allows them the beauty of having hope in their wildest dreams. When you’re a child there really isn’t a question as to what your future is going to hold, just a solid belief in the surety of the inevitable coming of what your heart longs for.

What we find truly important alters over time as reality gradually begins to set in. I’m so thankful that the true weight of life as an adult, and all the responsibility it entails along with all the disappointments, all the brokenness, all the fears, troubles, and unknowns it encapsulates, did not overwhelm me in one sitting.

Brick by brick, God cemented one more element of the emotional, spiritual, and mental portions of life onto my frail foundation – I wish He handed me the blueprint before He began the project that is my spiritual and physical life, so I could make some better sense of what He is trying to accomplish through these layers that just seem to become heavier and heavier with each addition.

You see, I am so far away from where the 10-year old version of myself declared I would be at this point – so far it is almost comical. More days than not I am completely terrified of the future. I keep thinking I’m going to stumble upon some revelation that will give me a peaceful glimpse into the future of my hopes and find them all nicely coming together, just as I had planned. Each day that goes by, leaving me questioning and wondering what God could possibly be doing with me, brings a little more fear, a little more anxiety, a little more uncertainty, and a little more dread that He doesn’t desire to bless me with the fulfillment of my deepest longings.

It is, quite honestly, a daily battle that I have to lay down over and over and over again. Some days there is a perpetual cycle of fears swirling through my thoughts on a constant basis.

I don’t know how to master this, and if I’m being honest, I really don’t think that I can.

Just as there are moments of genuine fear, disappointment, and mild panic at what lies ahead (and what DOESN’T lie ahead), there are also many many beautiful, peace-filled moments of intense surety that regardless of where the next turn does or does not take me, it is going to be perfectly meant for incapable me, and it is going to be beautifully designed for this once-flawed-now-redeemed heart – it will lack nothing that God desires to come to pass and if I am seeking Him first it will not encase any thing that should never take up residence in the first place.

I’m working on giving it all back to God.

I have come to the understanding that you can have all the confidence in the world in God’s might, power, and ability – you can know without a doubt that He is capable of anything – He is able to do and bring to pass whatever He wants, and yet not trust Him.

Or, better yet, you can believe all those things for other people, but not trust that God would ever move a mountain for you, or pour a blessing for you, or want to give you the fulfillment of your desires – maybe other people, but not you – and you don’t even need to be cynical or angry to think this way.

I am currently going through the mill of the process of admitting I trust God for other people, but I don’t trust Him for myself, and that it has nothing to do with Him burning me in the past – it is simply because I am flawed, weak, and afraid, and those are not attributes of someone who has confidence in a God molding her future.

As a Christian, though, my life is literally not my own, and the more I embrace what Jesus did for me, the more joy and pleasure builds up at the beauty of giving my life that was spared by His hands and feet, back to Him, and sitting back to enjoy the ride and chance for kingdom things to be worked out through this seemingly small life of mine.

I have found that there are some things, and really – most things – that I wrestle and struggle with because every aspect of me trying to rid them out of my life is based on my own efforts. I’m arm wrestling with Goliath rather than utilizing the resources offered me to actually pick up the stones and kill the demon and let die the taunting echoes.

The times I have peace are the times that I am overwhelmed by knowing just how much God loves me, just how great the lengths are that He has gone to prove it, and just how diligent He is in keeping me and leading me towards His very best.

He withholds no good thing from those He loves. (Ps 84:11)

I cannot make peace happen in my life by pretending I don’t have certain desires or certain fears – that will just lead to more unease and even greater consistency in my worries.

All I can do is constantly – over and over and over again hand over to Him my anxieties, my hopes, my fears, my longings – and ask Him to do what He wills.

All I can do is put on repeat in my mind the many promises and truths about what He actually feels towards me.

If my mindset truly is that what I desire for my life is what He desires – eternal things – than my focus and fulfillment shifts and satisfaction and rest fill in all the cracks because He is worth more than any ounce of satisfaction being met here on earth.

A lesson I have been learning this past year – the right now is preparing us for the next.

We cannot get to tomorrow without going through today.

Every aspect of where you are right now is getting you ready for where you’re going to be – no matter how mundane it feels, or how painful it is, or how desperate your situation is.

He is teaching me to remain and He is teaching me that it is good and that it has eternal value.

Paul talks about how it is good for a man to remain as he is – in this specific instance he is referring to marriage, but I don’t believe it rings true for marriage only.

It is good for us to remain in God’s will regardless of what that entails – if that means sticking to a 9-5 and holding fast amidst the seemingly mundane, than it’s good.

If it means dropping everything that is stable tomorrow, packing up your life, and moving to a third world country, than it’s good.

If it means furthering your education, than it’s good.

It if means marriage, it’s good.

If it means just barely making ends meet, good.

If it means earning money that you never dreamed of, even that is good.

It is good to remain where God has called you and is beckoning you to see the eternal in. If you are in God’s will and seeking His will, than the place you are at right now is for eternal reasons.

It really is as simple as that.

As Christians, many times we think we must be “doing it wrong” if we #1. Are not married and “fruitfully multiplying”, or #2. Being missionaries in a third world country and feeding orphans – both amazing things. The challenge here is to recognize that God NEEDS single people at different phases of life – He needs to use single people for different purposes than He might use someone who is married and with children – Paul says “But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord; how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world; how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world; how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.”

And just the same God needs people quietly working and being a constant where they are – working 9-5, serving in their church, going to school, simply being a friend to someone.

Kingdom things are not encased inside a box of extremes, but they are touching the things you touch, they are breathing into the lives you invest in, they are speaking into the hearts you affirm and place value in, and they are reaching places that you could never reach in your own conscious efforts.

It’s good to remain in Him, wherever He has you, because it is in those places that the purposes of God flourish in your life. It may not resemble your ideal or what you expected, but if He has called, lead, and planted you, than sweetheart, you are right smack-dab in the center of a heavenly calling, and no matter how small or insignificant the view is from your own perspective, you need remember that you reside on the ground floor – the artwork of all the weaving and molding that are your steps and actions is observed from a lofty, immortal vantage point. What you see around you as mess and chaos, or at times as a completely blank canvas, are in all actuality simply pieces of the whole.

You can’t make sense of every thing right now because of how incomplete His work in you is. Use whatever analogy you will – an incomplete painting, book, puzzle, sculpture – any form of art – the Creator is the only one who can envision the end result and WHY the current step/piece/color/chapter is necessary in order for there to be completion.

Only the Author  knows why there is necessity behind the struggle and why heartache and confusion must be placed on the shoulders of the character. The character doesn’t get it – they can’t see that they are a part of something great which has only met it’s half-way point.

They see a broken marriage, a war, flunking out of school, a shipwreck, a terrorist attack, a teen pregnancy, a dad who has left, a mother with an addiction, they see cancer.

Death, loneliness, loss, fear, chaos, lack of love, emptiness, failure, anger, evilness.

These scenarios and emotions the Author has allowed to form within and around the character do not bring pleasure as the painful, jagged stories are woven onto the page – but without the broken marriage, the war, the shipwreck, the parents who failed, there would be no room for restoration.

Every single bit of life is laced with eternity and outlined in glory.

You’re a character, not the Author – just because the right here right now makes little sense doesn’t mean the One penning the page has no plan to utilize your heartache and struggle.

You can’t comprehend the ending right now even if spoilers were granted, chapters skipped, and every unforseen obstacle avoided.

And all the fears you walk around with each day?

They add not a single drop of joy to the future you have yet to step into.

Step back and choose to be.

Wait for the next word, and soak up each drop of love in the meantime.

If you think God is going to end your story with the word “hate”, “fear”, “misery”, “lonely”, “failed”, “broken”, “empty”, “damaged”, or anything else that would leave you wondering why He left you in the mire, then you have grossly underestimated the power of His restoration and redemption.

His specialty is making new and repairing broken things.

Your purpose is eternal, and if you could only realize that each piece of this puzzle of life is absolutely necessary in order for completion to happen – and if you could stop and remember that all you see are pieces scattered, chunks partially finished – some areas all filled with the same boring, drab color, others with too many intricate details and colors, some edges and corners and sections complete, but nothing gives you the whole picture. You can see the confusion and disorder that you feel your life is, but only God can see the image on the box, and He knows, that if He doesn’t lay the piece He has gripped between His fingers, then this puzzle can never truly be finished.

Let Him finish – no matter how hard you try, there are simply going to be times life makes little sense.

Remain, and ask Him to teach you trust like you have never been taught it before, and allow Him to satiate your soul with all the good things He desires to wash over your heart.

“And we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

With Purpose

20150728_190956

It’s not supposed to make sense.

Every little bit of life attacking your joy is not supposed to ride in on clarity and park itself inbetween peace and contentment.

Sometimes God is quiet.

Sometimes He is so so quiet and all you can hear, and all you can find to make sense of are the loud, deafening words of every lie that has ever been whispered in your ear.

When the truth is in the silence and the lies are laced inside the reverberating gong being sounded it becomes common and natural to allow them to take up residence and pull out a cot and settle into the very core of your heart.

I wish I could tell you that with all the Jesus that has been given to me and all the grace that has been poured over me and all the goodness that I have come to see that I do not entertain my weak moments.

After seeing every chain broken and every dark shadow illuminated by the One who has snatched my very soul from death, I wish I could say that I do not notice the pain anymore and I do not hear the mockery of my enemy.

I wish I could call myself strong, and place attributes above my name like “brave”, and “confident”, and “content”.

I wish I could tell you that I don’t doubt, and that every moment of every day I am affirmed by my full peace and assurance of all the plans God has for my life.

The truth is, though, that is not the case.

I am scared, I am confused, and I am weak.

So so weak.

 Each day is a battle against all the plaguing doubts and fears that God will forget me where I am.

That He will only do so much before He gets bored, and His eyes start drifting, and someone else catches His eye.

I am terrified that He will drop the strings to work on someone else, and I will lie there limp, lifeless, and without any purpose.

Every ounce of my being desires for God to use me, in some capacity, to give Him back some glory. Every fiber of my being screams of the need to be utilized and set into action by a God who has cradled my hurts in His hands and has created oxygen-filled life out of all the things which had only resembled darkness and death.

A lot of times I don’t understand the moments of God’s silence like I want to, other than to simply say I am not always listening. Maybe what I call God being silent is really Him just waiting for me to stop and finally take a second to actually listen.

I’ve gotta say that right now – today, in this moment, I am feeling a lot more confusion than I am confidence, but the rest I take in that is knowing that He is not the author of confusion, so I can cling to hope and the understanding that all that I am feeling is not orchestrated by Him.

We can’t always make sense of life – some moments are just too painful and some moments we are too weary to clear the way and fully understand what is going on.

Praise Jesus His sticking with us is not dependent on our ability to decipher our emotions.

God may be silent at times, but He is always present.

In the moment you find yourself weeping on your bed, He is present.

In the instant when all you feel is broken, He is present.

When you can’t see your worth, He is present.

And this is God ringing truth in our ears – that every time I fail Him His promises become more sure than I have ever experienced before. Each time I find myself on my knees, weighted down by all the burdens of this life, He keeps picking me back up. Every time I claim that I don’t understand Him He always seems to prove His sovereignty through pain – He shows me value in my frailty. And each time I beg Him for peace, each time I tell Him I am tired, just so tired, He gives me rest.

It’s easy for me to tell you to not allow your past, or your present, to rob you of your joy – but if I am truthful with you then I would tell you that right now, in this moment, I am allowing just that to take place. What is it about our hearts and about pain that is so much easier to acknowledge and lay hold of and remember than our joy and contentment?

Yesterday evening I was talking to a friend and I admitted that I don’t always understand God, and right now all I feel is confusion and a sense of loss and like I have failed somehow – like there is something I am doing wrong that I am just not getting and not seeing. I must be waiting wrong, or praying wrong, or seeking Him wrong, or following Him wrong. The splendor of our God shows up when we acknowledge that is not how He works.

Just because I am in the midst of a struggle does not mean that God is not good.

Really, in the midst of the struggle is when I have understood His goodness most.

It is wrapped inside promises that He is bigger than this life.

It is tucked inbetween the words proclaiming that every tear we have ever cried He stores away and the proclamation that we are inscribed into the palm of His hands.

His goodness is found in the desert, in the dry, desolate place of our insecurities – it is found there because there we are left with no other options but to finally look up and see Him standing there, and presented to us is the only choice but to open up our ears and listen to the poetry He has created in our names – left wandering a desert we are faced with the grace of God’s truths, and in that place He tells us that He has sought us and that He has betrothed Himself to us willingly – He has united Himself to us in love and faithfulness, compassion and kindness.

How do we deserve this type of loyalty when every day we struggle to even dedicate a small amount of our time to Him?

When we so frequently become unfaithful to Him and thus declaring the sin offered us of more value than He?

What a crazy God we have been rescued by, He gives grace upon grace upon grace even when we strip and we steal and we even simply forget at exactly what high price our souls have been bought for.

Whatever season of life you are in, right now, it has one purpose – one amazing, glorious purpose – it is for Jesus.

No matter how dissatisfied you are in your mundane job, or how deeply you struggle in your singleness, or how bitter you may be in your marriage, or how lost you feel in your school – or how purposeless you feel in any circumstance of life – all of it, every last season of your life, is for Jesus.

Nothing will bring you more fulfillment than reveling in God’s glory and surrendering to the fact that He is in control of your life – it may sound scary but it is exciting to know that we have been designed with a purpose, and no matter where we are at in life, we are perfectly where we should be and it is created for eternal reasons.

Some of the struggles will filter in and out, but I think you will find that despite trials in your life you will find more and more that with each piece of life that attempts to steal your joy, God will replenish it all the more – you cannot be robbed as easily as Satan would like you to believe.

Hold fast, fight the fight, remember with what purpose you were created, and have peace knowing that there are greater things ahead than those you leave behind.

A Note from a Sentimental…

20150728_190831I’m too sentimental for my own good.

I don’t know how many times I have told myself this, and how many times I’ve tried to shake being this way.

I am incredibly relieved that I don’t have the attitude of indifference about the life surrounding me, but I am in total fear of the extent to which I hang on to things that are meant to be let go.

Why do we hold onto pain?

Are we afraid that if we let go, we won’t feel anything at all?

Or do we place it there as a check, something to remind us that when joy starts bubbling back up and people started finding permanent places in our hearts again, that we need to fix up some facade to protect our hearts from intertwining again in something messy- something that might hurt if it ends.

Something I’ve realized lately is that I don’t regret the people I’ve lost in my life.

I never thought I’d say that, because in the moments when the most relevant feelings associated with my mental, spiritual, and emotional state was that of loss and hurt, all I wanted and wished for was God giving me the ability to rewind and cut the tape where those people came in.

Glancing back now, I value everyone of those heartaches, for they were pivotal in revealing the absolute genuineness of the people in my life that have forever taken up residence and are not going anywhere with secrets spilling out behind them.

The scariest part about life is that the only thing constant is change.

And as we all know, change is kryptonite to the Sentimental.

The lack of control over something that is constantly happening is overwhelming.  One moment it is completely debilitating and defeating, the next an intrepid determination to kick sadness in the can takes over and, surprisingly, you realize everything and everyone you are blessed with.

Change tries to back you into a corner with taunts of fear, loneliness, hurt, brokenness, loss, etc. It pops up in all directions and areas of life..relationships, school, your job, family, friends…any area that can scare the living daylights out of you change is sure to sneak up from behind and whisper anxiety in its most concentrated form.

I think sentimentality is good, but when it’s such a potent part of how you relate to things, it tends to just heap up this immense feeling of constant loss on you.  Suddenly you push aside the idea of relating to the moment and being thankful for what you have right now, and are swarmed with continuous thoughts of what you might be about to lose.

Sitting down and flipping through the pages of a photo album from my childhood makes me laugh and cry.  Suddenly I feel like I don’t even have my brothers anymore, when I still literally see them every single week.  Suddenly I feel jipped, like I lost out on something that was fully mine, like something was taken from me against my will.

Where did my innocence go? Who stole my childhood when I wasn’t looking?

I remember my dad telling me, with a sad glint in his eye, all the time, “Don’t grow up, okay?” As if the very thought of the inevitability of it broke his heart.  As if his own longing to reach back and take hold of the childhood his memories display was pressing him to warn me, and invoke me to cling to the childhood I was still at present with.  As if his heart was aching for the young, innocent daughter that he could not keep and wanted to spare from the pains and scars this world inflicts.  Knowing all too well, that he could not fully keep me from life’s hurts, and that my heart would only be unmarred for just a short while longer.

When I think of my childhood, the imagery which defines it is simple, and yet swarming with complete freedom and a blessed naivety..I immediately picture myself running through my back yard, on a warm summer day, my arms as far out from my sides as they can go, running and swaying them back and forth….flying.

Flying to lands unknown, to places which held my dreams, to places with no hurts or darkness.

I see myself picking a dandelion, making a wish, and blowing its dust into the breeze…watching my wish go dancing off to be cultivated.

I see myself picking a daisy, twirling it in my fingers, and gently removing each tiny petal until I know if he “loves me” or not.

I was told my whole life to not grow up too fast, to not wish to be an adult when I wasn’t, to hold on to and embrace being a kid…..I really thought I did.  I wasn’t in a rush to be older, I enjoyed being a child, I thought I was beating the odds and one-upping all those adults acting like I was rushing into something…and then all of a sudden I’m getting my first job, my permit, my license, graduating, getting my second job, working two jobs and going to school, getting up at 5:30 am to work and not getting home til 9:30 at night some days, that job ends, finding another job, buying my second car, voting, watching all my siblings get married, watching friends move far away..wondering if I should move far away…wondering where I should be at all.

All the while watching so many people I swore would never leave go drifting by, leaving ruts on my heart in the places they used to occupy.

Experiencing heart-break and loneliness.

Doubting my faith at times, something that defines my life.

Doubting the God I believe in.

These burdens of life fog up and blur and make unclear what purpose you feel your life has.

It makes us feel so invaluable.

What is our purpose?

Is it to go to the perfect school, to find the perfect job, to find the perfect soul-mate, to make the perfect family, to live the ideal life?

These things are amazing, and good, and awesome to do and have, but what is the purpose etched into our hearts?

To love.

Not to love when it feels good, or when we get something in return.

But to love…to pour out with, to blanket with, to overwhelm with, to cascade with, to emanate with, to attack with, to spread at an uncontrollable rate, to intoxicate with…our mission is LOVE.

Be sentimental, for it makes you appreciate every moment you have with those around you, but don’t allow the past to infringe upon the present…Love now…seek God…and love.

“Let your love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil, but hold fast to that which is good. Love one another with brotherly affection (as members of one family), giving precedence and showing honor to one another..”

“And so faith, hope, love abide, these three: but the greatest of these is LOVE.”

“But His WORD was in my HEART like a burning fire, Shut up in my bones ;I was weary of holding it back, AND I COULD NOT.”JEREMIAH 20:9 NKJV

 

 

Passionate Waiting

digital-art-17

~ I am an insanely introverted person.

I would rather organize my closet than go to the mall.

Or go for a hike alone in the woods than spend a day surrounded by people.

Or sit and have a cup of coffee with a friend or two, sharing our struggles and triumphs and passions in our walks with the Lord, than go to a bible study and be surrounded by other believers.

Or snuggle up in my jammies on a Sunday morning and watch my church service online than sit in a room full of acquaintances.

I am better at expressing myself with a pencil and paper then with vocal words.

~ But for reasons I have yet to understand, the Lord has given me a passion that is disturbingly extroverted.

He has given me a hunger to shake up the church and remind her what her Beloved created her to be.

To see unity forge her bond between every denomination.

To see lovers of Christ ignited with a fire for Him and cease their petty arguments and assumptions and segregations and show this world what Christ’s heart really looks like.

To see the church emerge from inside the four walls of the buildings they occupy and flood this ever darkening world with light.

I want to see every corner and nook and cranny of this earth. I want to see every need that hasn’t been met and look into the eyes of every hungry child and hold the hand of every grieving woman and shake the hand of every man who struggles daily to meet the needs of those who depend on him, and I want tell them about my Savior. I want to put a roof over the heads of the homeless and make sure the hungry have a place to go.

~ But, here’s the thing that stumps me… the thing that makes me stop and say, “Girl, you must be out of your mind to think this is ever going to happen, or that the Lord would call YOU to this.”

I cannot figure out, in my rational mind, how this is EVER going to happen.

I’m a massage therapist. I have a few hundred dollars in a savings account. I see no doors opening. I have no clear direction. I live with my parents. I’m single. I have no connections. I just moved to this new state and know so few people. I work two jobs that require all of my time.

It doesn’t make sense.

I can see where I am right now, and I can see what my heart is on fire for, but I have no idea how the Lord is going to bring any of this about.

~ “I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 48:19b

But here’s the thoughts that keep resonating with me, that play over and over when the doubts creep in; it doesn’t need to make sense. If it did, would we need faith? Would we ever know, without a moments doubt, that we serve a God of the impossible? Would we be passionate and on fire for a God who only used people who “made sense”? Would this life of adventure and purpose He has in store for us actually be adventurous and purpose filled? Would we ever get to experience the excitement of knowing He is working and fighting for us? Would we ever truly be able to say we desperately longed for and needed grace through the waiting? Would we get to feel that peace that passes all understanding, that peace that swoops in and floods you with so much joy it exchanges tears for rejoicing?

“Thus says the Lord, the Holy One who formed him: ‘Ask me of things to come; will you command me concerning my children and the works of my hands? I made the earth and created man on it: it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I command all their host. I have stirred him up in righteousness, and I will make all his ways level; he shall build my city and set all my exiles free, not for price or reward,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 45:11-13

~ We worship a God who made the dead rise.

Who walked on water.

Who parted the Red Sea.

Who made an evangelist out of a murderer.

Who fought for thousands of years for the hearts of the Israelites.

We serve a Creator who designed every human feature and carefully graphed every leaf and lovingly planted every flower and tree and orchestrated every sunset and sunrise.

~ Habakkuk 2:20 says, “But the Lord is in His holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”

He’s got this.

“I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’… Isaiah 46:9b-10

There is so much to learn in the waiting. So much excitement to see what the Lord is going to do. So much Passion in purpose.

“How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.'” Isaiah 52:7

If we aren’t living this life for His glory, we aren’t walking in our purpose. And when we have no purpose, we become lonely, depressed souls that wander through this life struggling to find meaning and a sense of belonging.

“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” Isaiah 58:10-11 

Be passionate about your purpose, even if it makes no sense. Be joyful in the waiting, knowing that you are growing and learning and your trust in His plan and His timing are being stretched and molded. Be vigilant in praying, knowing that He delights in giving us the desires of our hearts, especially when we have allowed Him to mold those desires to mirror His heart.

“The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced then to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them…’ You have heard; now you see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things you have not known. They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, ‘Behold, I know them.’ You have never heard, you have never known, from old your ear has not been opened.” Isaiah 48:3-8

Thanking for the Things Unseen

I thank Him for the plans He has for my life, which have yet to be revealed.

But You, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord…    Jonah 2:6,7

At this point, you would think that Jonah had been spit out onto shore, doubled over, prostrate before God, weeping in the sand, his life just rescued from a slow, painful death.

You’re wrong.

This prayer came in the midst of his seeming death.

Jonah was not rescued, he had not been given any sort of relief, he was not making his trek to Nineveh, he was where we always picture Jonah – he was dying.

The pitch darkness of a slow, gruesome death surrounded Jonah, he had no way of escape – and He praised God for rescuing him.

To be completely honest with you, when I opened up my Bible and saw Jonah staring back at me I felt a little bit frustrated inside – I knew I couldn’t really gain anything from a story I had been taught and I had read since I could first look at a picture book.

How naive and simple I am – it’s almost comical – immediately I saw that before the first chapter even closes God has men who were just moments ago pleading with their gods to come save them, crying out to HIM and acknowledging HIM as holy, and making sacrifices to HIM – the storm hadn’t even stopped yet, God didn’t even need to bring an end to their fear and He revealed Himself to these men who had all their lives put their faith in other gods.

That’s my God.

Then there’s Jonah’s prayer in the midst of dying and believing God had banished him,

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “I said, ‘I have been banished from Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But You, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord, and my prayer rose to You, in Your holy temple…And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

I had to fumble over what I was reading a few times before I could really get it.

I was so confused by the context and tenses of this prayer because I was trying to have it MAKE SENSE, but do you know what is most amazing about my God? He is in the miracle-making business, so most of these amazing glimpses of His glory we see do not make any earthly sense at all.

He is an enigma of a Creator, and when you serve the One who drips rain from His fingertips and twinkles the stars in the night sky, you find yourself not making sense a good chunk of the time as well.

Jonah praised God for rescuing him from his death, though he was in the very core of it.

Though it made no sense at all, and though he was the opposite of ransomed, Jonah thanked God for salvation.

I am humbled by this.

You know, I am so guilty of parading around verses like “Walk by faith, not by sight,” when all along it IS sight that I cannot do without.

I ask Him for healing, for restoration, for guidance, for deliverance, to show me things, to reveal His plans (which are not bad), but I think He is trying to teach me something new about talking with Him in the center of things I long to wish away – He is asking me to pray with boldness.

Not just boldness that causes me to come forward transparently, but boldness that dares to give Him praise and glory and honor for healing all my brokenness in my most broken of moments.

Boldness that thanks Him for taking away pain that is right then strapped down and yoked upon my shoulders.

Boldness that gives Him glory for taking away every last bit of loneliness riding around in my heart when loneliness is the only tangible feeling I have to grasp.

I don’t know if it is just a woman thing, or just a me thing, but I look behind me far too often. I see the curled back edges of wilted roses and the former paths I strolled with those that were not meant to hold onto me and God did not allow to lead me any further down roads never meant to be traveled. I see the “what ifs” lining choices I made and choices I never made, and question if I have tainted God’s path for my future.

Though, when I venture back towards my enigma-God He simply and gently urges me to rest.

Slow my breathing. Sit down. Close my eyes. And thank Him.

Thank Him for having an incredible plan for my life, and for whittling out all the pieces that are not meant to have a forever part of me.

Thank Him for all the beauteous things that He is going to do with all the moments of pain and brokenness that lay ahead, and thank Him for restoring me of those things even before they have begun.

Thank Him for healing me of my anxiety and fears and doubts, that I cannot seem to fully rid out of my life, yet I thank Him for casting them away and making me confident and making me bold.

Thank Him for using me for His kingdom, for using the things in my past and the things in my future to give Him glory and to be able to exclaim His faithfulness when He stumbles me across the path of someone whose world has been shattered and are left kneeling in the crumbled remains of everything they thought gave them value.

These are the changes His is daring me to make when I approach Him.

It seems most times when Jonah is being taught it is a lesson on what not to do, and how not to respond to God’s call on your life – but Jonah has something so valuable hidden away inside his small, four chapter testimony – he has taught us how we ought to pray in the midst of the toughest trials.

Praise Him NOW.

Praise Him in the CENTER of the storm, in the most HOPELESS of times.

Praise Him for His rescuing while you’re still searching for an end result and a purpose behind it.

Praise Him for snatching you up out of the fire even while the flames surround you.

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. you will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. Jeremiah 29:11-14

Ever So Faithful

Grace1

Disposable.

This is the word that reverberated in my thoughts and penetrated the raw, vulnerable parts of myself as I mindlessly drove down the highway, blinking back the tears that were trying their very hardest to spill over and make my pain visible.

As I made vain attempts at pushing away my thoughts and thinking on other things, and reminding myself of God’s grace and irrepressible faithfulness, each road marker hit me like a bullet, connecting with the bulls-eye of memories I often plead with God to free me from.    All at once a flood of people that used to be in my life come filtering through my mind, the memories of them taunting me by screaming that sometimes people are only ever a part of your life to leave you. Then the vicious cycle of questions begin to scream at me for answers:

Why weren’t you good enough?

Why don’t they want to be part of your life?

Why have they forgotten you?

Where. Are. They?

After each question the pity piles higher and higher. A mound so high that God’s grace is lost on me, hidden deep in the shadows of the value in myself I feel is not recognized.

I guess here’s the thing – when all you want to do is share with others – to help them see that they don’t have to go it alone, that you will sit down with them and poor over the brokenness they may be feeling, and encourage them to see God’s grace and mercy in every ounce of bad that ever penetrates their life, when you want to be a person that someone can count on – but you find yourself in a lot of half-baked friendships, and ones that last for a short while and then fade, or just with person after person not even pausing as they walk out the door, it feels like a whole lot of failure.

I believe a huge part of the pain God walks us through has everything to do with ministering His glory to someone who will need to see it some day.

But maybe today is not that day.

Maybe God still needs to work the kinks out of the issues which are not quite resolved in your own heart before you can ever begin to bring clarity to someone else’s. Maybe He’s just not quite finished with where He has you right now.

Here is another thing –

I say this out of love and care, whether you’re a guy or a girl, it doesn’t matter – God does not call you to fix someone who is broken, to be their healing, to make them happy or bring them joy – He heals. This is not to say that He won’t use you for someone to see His goodness, but if you are looking for a man or woman after God’s heart and feel compelled to heal their pain or fix their brokenness and they allow you to, then something has to give.  We help each other with the burdens of life that weigh us down, but God carries us. Oh girls (and I only say this because it is what I can relate to, not because I don’t know it goes both ways) I know how badly you want to take away the pain you see in someone – how much you want them to know you value them and care about them – how much you want them to know you are there for them amidst what they are going through, but a godly man will not spill his deepest hurts with you and ask you to carry them for him. A godly man will respect you and love you enough to seek Christ for his emotional support.

“There is an emotional promiscuity we’ve noticed among many good young men and women. The young man understands something of the journey of the heart. He wants to talk, to “share the journey.” The woman is grateful to be pursued, she opens up. They share the intimacies of their lives – their wounds, their walks with God. But he never commits. He enjoys her… then leaves. And she wonders, What did I do wrong? She failed to see his passivity. He really did not ever commit or offer assurances that he would.” -Stasi Eldgredge

Emotional promiscuity is just as dangerous as physical promiscuity, and I would say just as damaging, and girls are just as guilty of this, probably even more so. If hearts are being deeply shared, but no prayer or commitment or defining of what God has been showing either one of you is being expressed than something is wrong. Trust me, no matter how badly you just want to be there for someone, you can’t – you can’t you can’t – no matter how much of you is yearning to be that emotional support. You are giving away emotions and deep, intimate connecting that is only meant for your spouse, and I don’t care how cheesy that may sound, because when you find yourself broken hearted with devastation you will know just how much so God never desired or designed for that to be the end result. Years of healing, and questioning your worth are left in the wake of its path.

A godly man will seek the heart of Christ and tread with respect as he walks alongside Christ’s daughters, seeking how to honor you, not use you emotionally to feel better, or worse, enter into a relationship with you while knowing he is not healed and is carrying around burdens you should not ever have to carry for him. A godly man will be intune to Christ’s heart and will seek Him, and pray, and ask God to reveal His will, and pursue you as Christ pursues you every day.

I promise you, one day you will wake up, and all you will desire is to be a vessel for God’s kingdom, no matter what you gain or lose along the way. Loneliness will not vanish, pain will not disappear out of your life, desires for your future will remain intact, discouragements will come, doubts will be raised, hope will be clung to, weariness will creep up again and again, but confidence will be sure – because you will desire God to use you, every day, in whatever capacity He chooses, to bring glory to His kingdom, regardless of your gain. You will revel in your rescue, and will find the most joy when sharing of His ceaseless grace and endless love, and the peace despite the journey, will be so so satisfying.

Pray boldly to Christ – ask boldly, seek boldly, knock boldly – I believe it is a beautiful thing to fall prostrate before Him laying out every thought and emotion raging within you – He will meet you, and He will draw near. Do not think for one second He will shame you for crying out to Him.

No, my dear, He will count every tear and pour blessing upon blessing straight into your heart and you will know He is ever so faithful in time of need.

“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I Myself will search for My sheep and look after them…I will RESCUE them from ALL the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness…I will SEARCH for the lost and BRING BACK the strays. I will BIND UP the hurt and injured and STRENGTHEN the weak…I will make them and the places surrounding My hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be SHOWERS OF BLESSING. The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be SECURE in their land. They will KNOW that I am the Lord, when I BREAK THE BARS of their yoke and RESCUE them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They will NO LONGER be plundered…they will live in SAFETY and NO ONE will make them afraid.”

-Ezekiel 34

Something of Sustenance

il_570xN.323347281

And after I had taken hold of every little thing the world had to offer me I was left standing in a downpour of my own wreaked havoc; drenched in the tears of a God who battled hard against every demon that so very desperately tried to claw its way into a heart held captive by its own deceit.  Unaware of the wicked that ever so gradually began to seep in through the crevices of where I claimed my worth lay, I allowed dissatisfaction to mold me.

In the silent, inward shaping of the most impressionable area of my flesh I willingly sought out and beckoned discontentment to come take up residence, to breed and overpopulate in every corner of my shallow, joy-less heart.

And I built up a facade of strength with each rung of cynicism and envy I could find, each chink in the armor created a faux representation of a heart after God’s will.

My heart knew that it could never be satisfied with all of the dissolvable, sugar-coated fill-ins that I tried to fool it into thinking were something that could ever last.

So my spirit taught me a lesson on emptiness – you can fill a void to the brim with things that dissolve, and break, and die, and disappoint, you can heap your loneliness and dissatisfaction up with the flattery of all the things that you want to last and finally add worth to the areas of your life that are normally only occupied by insecurities and easily-shattered value, but it will never last, it will leave you, and you will be left starving all the more for something of sustenance.

That is where I fully realized, that satisfaction does not lie in any one of the things that I constantly strive for and think will give me completeness, and it is in that realization that my heart has begun to long only for Jesus.

I grew up riddled by the knowledge that our hearts are meant to be guarded, because they are a wellspring of life (Prov 4:23), and that they simultaneously are deceitfully wicked above all else (Jer 17:9). If our hearts are so wicked than why are we taught to guard them as if they were something precious?

And I wonder…are we told to guard our hearts, not because they are so very precious, beautiful, and delicate, but more because they are deceitfully wicked?

Is it because we cannot trust them, because they will burn us and deceive us, that we need to guard them, is it because of our capability of hurting others that we need to guard them?

I do not trust my heart. I do not want to be led by it, I do not want to follow it.

I am not afraid of the ashes that God has turned into beauty, I am not afraid of the parts of me that God says have worth through His redemption and mercy, no, I am afraid of the parts of me that are capable of tripping up and landing headfirst into all the places I told myself I would never be.

After cynicism made its bed, discontentment settled in comfortably, envy made itself at home, and the rhythmical sound of my pitiful tears began to hit the roof, the realization that I built this home, that I created this mess, hit me like a rock.

I smothered myself in the grief of the part of me I felt was missing, and completely drowned out the incessant reminders of God’s splendor and grace on my life.

I think maybe now I fully understand what it is like to feel genuinely lonely for the other half God has out there for  you – I think sometimes God allows you to get burned by your own idea of what you thought it was you wanted – I think He allows you to grasp it and be severely disappointed by it, because it is through that that He molds your heart and changes your “ideal” into an unwillingness to settle for anything less than His perfect will. It is not that you are looking for someone who is perfect in any way, but someone who is more in love with God than they’ll ever be in love with you. I suppose that sounds ridiculous to most people, and honestly, I can’t say I blame you if you think I am whacked for feeling that way, but it is not until you have really experienced and embraced the love of God and how unconditional it is, that what your heart really wants changes.

A year ago I wanted affection. I wanted affirmation. I wanted to be a healer and to be outwardly beautiful.

A year ago I wanted star-lit skies and a hand to hold. I wanted good morning texts and good night phone calls. I wanted to be needed.

A year ago I wanted to feel complete and satisfied by companionship and my value to someone else.

I tell you, it takes God flipping the table on its head to really strip you of all the things that only mean nothing and have no value in the end. I am happy that God had to allow my heart to be wrecked momentarily to truly show me what He desires for me and to really turn my desires on their head.

I want to serve God with someone. I want passion for Christ behind eyes that are striving to serve Him. I want a spiritual leader and someone who inspires me to draw closer to Christ. Someone who will pray with me and pray for me. Someone who will be honest and lead me in God’s word and truth.

I just can’t tell you enough, that after  you experience a pseudo form of what it is you think you want and are left confused and broken God will show you the true value of waiting for a man after His heart. Something has changed inside of me. I am no longer daydreaming and wasting time thinking about that perfect hand to hold or perfect person to “make me happy”, but rather praying that whatever God does, if someone is out there that He means to be for me, that he will be so enraptured in God’s grace and faithfulness that nothing else matters to him. My loneliness has changed from being what I feel I am missing and needing to be needed, and has turned into an ache to serve God alongside them and build them up and grow and learn more and more of God’s character with them. I am lonely for them because I know that they will encourage me and draw me closer to Jesus, because they will seek God with me and remind me of His faithfulness. I am lonely not because I am incomplete and not because I am not satisfied with Christ, but because this person will share all the joys of God’s redemption with me and there is nothing more exciting.  I ache because I SO badly want to serve with them, but not because I am less valuable for being single.  I am so completely confident of the type of man I am waiting for. More so than I have ever been before.

Whether this part of my life ever comes to pass or not, it is OK.

I am expectantly waiting – filled with an adrenaline for God to use me.

There is a kingdom we are representing.

We bear the image of a Savior that cascaded mercy down upon us so that we could forever and ever, in full confidence, proclaim that we are covered in abounding love and sought after fiercely.

A lot of times we think of God’s grace as only being found inside of evident blessings and peaceful moments, which is true, but I think you will find that there will never be as much grace pouring into your life as the times it comes flooding in through your most broken moments.

God’s grace can never be over-shadowed when He has slain every giant in your life and conquered every ounce of pain and despair clawing away at your joy.

There is more grace in being carried through by faithfulness than in attaining satisfaction by temporary means.

Keep the fight, remember your value, and pour into other people’s lives, even in your brokenness – because you are here, in this moment, in this situation, to wreak of a glory not your own.

“I am not ashamed, for I know the One in whom I believe and am confident that He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him.” -2nd Timothy 1:12

The Transforming Of My Heart

photography435

Why do you want a relationship?

What do you think it was created for?

 I can tell you why my heart yearned for it years ago. I was looking for my identity. Searching for my worth, not only in the eyes of a man but in the eyes of the church as well.

When did we stop encouraging young people to pursue the heart of Christ and start encouraging them to pray about who the Lord had for them? Because let me tell you what, that leads young, immature people who are already insecure in who they are as people and in their relationship with Christ down a rocky and misguided road.

And it was EVERYWHERE. Looking back, I feel like ‘pray about who your husband will be’ was more gospel then the gospel itself. Somehow, marriage became more of a spiritual victory, like if you are granted a spouse; you have somehow attained a level of spiritual maturity the rest of us are still grappling for. Married individuals who LOVE sharing their “let me tell you how the Lord brought us together” story would say things like “the Lord is still working things out in you and/or your significant other” as ‘encouragement’ for the trial that is singleness. Really? No… just, no. We are not defective. Being single does not make you less and it doesn’t mean that one day you are going to marry a pot smoking drug dealer who is still too busy getting high to pay attention to the Lord’s tugging at his heart.

 It became hard for me to keep getting older while watching others much younger get married and have babies. That “why not me?” thought echoed like a loud Metallica song that screams on and on and NEVER ENDS. See, I totally bought into all those poorly placed comments and thoughtless suggestions.

What do I have to do to be worthy of this elusive relationship?

These thoughts that turned over and over in my head began to weigh on me. They robbed me of my joy and rocked my peace.

I felt worthless. After all, that’s the message that had subtly been preached since I was a child. That was the message in all those poorly placed comments by well-meaning people.

So I began to pray. Not for a husband or understanding or what I needed to change to be worthy of such an honor as marriage. I begged the Lord for contentment. I pleaded for it. Got down on my knees and cried for it. Day after day, month after month, that prayer was like a recording I recited over and over throughout my days. I was so tired of being plagued by my desires and so hungry for contentment.  And then one day, I realized I had stopped praying for contentment. And even more amazingly, I realized I was content. My heart was burdened by my desires and a new fire was burning in me. There was so much joy in that moment. So much hope. I remember how overwhelmed my heart was at the quiet faithfulness of Christ.

But that wasn’t the end of the journey He was taking my heart on.

Gently the whole makeup of my heart began to change. The more I saw the heart of Christ, the more my heart was transformed (and still is by the grace of God).

I no longer desired a husband, someone to hold my hand and walk through life with me and tell me I’m beautiful and encourage me and be encouraged by me. The desire to live in a cute house with a handful of kids and a life full of fellowship and happiness started to taste like sour milk in my mouth.

My obsession became revival. My passion became the church. Not my personal church, not the system that is called ‘church’ today. But the body of Christ, the vision God lit in the heart of the Apostle Paul.

My dreams and desires were radically transformed. My vision for my life of purpose collided with Christ’s purpose for my life. I always thought they were one and the same, you know? Get married to a good Christian guy, have babies, serving in the church, being a light in the working field, raising my kids to love Jesus. Now, please understand I’m not diminishing any of those things. They are all beautiful and important and needed. But Christ’s plan and purpose is so much more than that.

When I think about marriage, it no longer has anything to do with me. When I think about what I would want out of a marriage, it has nothing to do with me.

God created it to be about Him. His glory, His plan, His kingdom. Not our worth in anyone’s eyes. Our lives were created for so much more then marriage. And if that’s not where you are right now, you’re just wasting time obsessing over a fleshly thing instead of pursuing God’s purpose for His kingdom.

I’ve watch this pursuit destroy people, this need to be with someone. I’ve read the Facebook statuses and watched friends go in and out of relationships and I’ve seen lives shipwrecked over this drive to love and be loved.

Please don’t think I’m dismissing marriage. I think there are aspects of God’s love we can only experience in marriage, and I think He created it to be a huge witness for His glory.

My issue isn’t with marriage. It’s with the mindset behind it. My best advice, the counsel I wished I had received as a young girl wading through the confusions that can lie in our pursuing of God’s heart,  is to STOP. Stop praying about who your husband will be or begging God to bring you one or constantly trying to manipulate your life trying to bring it about because you want it.

Start begging God for contentment. Beg Him for the insight to know what His heart is toward marriage and what He created it for.

Do you want to get married so you can have the security of knowing someone wanted to be with you, that God has ‘deemed you worthy’ of such an honor and you get to rise through the ranks in the eyes of those around you?

Or do you want every single breath you breathe to bring God glory, do you want to move mountains in His name and shake lives up with His truth, and maybe, if the time comes when you will be a better witness with another serving at your side, who’s heart is passionate about winning souls for the kingdom of Christ, will you want it because it’s still all about Him?

Search your heart, know His truth and desire for your heart. Be passionate about Jesus. Beg the Lord for a passion for Him and only Him and let yourself be so captivated by His heart that every other desire melts away until He writes it into your ceaseless pursuit of His purpose.