As Sure As The Sun

Dear God,

Thank You for the comfort of falling asleep on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, while people you love remain awake around you. Thank You for the gift of drifting off to sleep knowing You’re not alone.

Thank You when you wake up and realize you were drooling, but know you don’t have to be embarrassed because You’re safe with these people who love and accept you. And we’re all human. It’s not a competition.

Thank You for legs intertwined and shoulders to rest your head on and arms to interlink and backs to scratch.

Thank You for the quiet of night, and late night drives when you look out the window and watch the bright lights of buildings pass in a blur. And thank You when, in the car, people you love are asleep. And so precious to you. And you’re all there together. And the quiet and the being together and the lights lull you into a sense of All Is Well.

Thank You for laughter. And good stories. And deep conversations.

Thank You for good food and eating without guilt or shame or self-loathing. Thank You for cashews and grapes and dark chocolate.

Thank You for growth and hope and promise.Thank You for being wanted and belonging. And thank You that when something doesn’t make sense, I can entrust that thing to You and just let myself be held.

Thank You when the things I fear happening don’t happen.

Thank You for Dramamine and that I didn’t throw up in the car. And thank You that even the most uncomfortable things, like nausea, eventually pass. And thank You that even had I thrown up, it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world. Because I’m loved and it isn’t a performance. I’m safe and Yours and it’s all going to be okay.

Thank You for energy drinks and also please don’t let them kill me. 😉

Thank You for the beauty of winter- warm houses and long showers and hot beverages and clothes that feel like a hug. And thank You for the promise of spring.

Thank You for the way the rising sun looks on slightly foggy mornings.

Thank You for headaches that dissipate and don’t turn into migraines.

Thank You for the opportunity to create and read good books and continually open myself up to breathe in the holy beauty of what this world has to offer.

Thank You for the times when I feel out-of-place and judged and I can hold my head high and not feel sad because I know I am not doing life unloved. People carry me in their hearts even when we’re apart. And Thank You that You don’t make mistakes. And You made me.

Thank You for permission to be my authentic self. And thank You for giving me authentic, flawed, beautiful, Jesus-reflecting people to do life with.

Thank You for opportunities to nurture and provide and be someone’s safe place.

Thank You for animals and cuddles and purrs and how pets look at you like you’re everything they need.

Thank You for Indian food, and that the Indian food restaurant isn’t closer to my house than it is, which safeguards me from going very often!

Thank You that nothing unresolved or unhealed or fragmented within me will be that way forever. Thank You for the way hope and patience go hand-in-hand, and that waiting or not understanding aren’t evidence of anything. Thank You that You are reliably, unfailingly trustworthy and good.

Thank You for home–found in places and people and moments–and that even while we await our true home, our home with You, this world doesn’t have to feel lonely or wrong or like anything less than a gift.

Thank You for bathrooms with toilets that flush normally and don’t require any special tricks or maneuvers. And doors that lock in a way that isn’t confusing, making you simultaneously fear that it’s not actually locked, and also that it’s so locked that you won’t be able to get it unlocked and will have to pound on the door for help. …Which is totally a thing that has happened to me before.

Thank You for second chances and fiftieth chances and for always welcoming me back to You with arms wide open.

Thank You that it’s impossible to believe You to be more good or loving or present than You actually are. Thank You that You’re all those things more than we can even fathom.

Thank You for invitations.

Thank You that I can fall on my knees before You and just be Your child- desperate and needy and in love with You. Thank You that even in my deepest pain, when I turn to You, it makes you smile. And thank You that, even in my deepest pain, that thought brings me comfort.

Thank You that my begging You to know and love You more is not a prayer I have to fear going unanswered.

Thank You that I’m still here to celebrate my 29th birthday later this month. Thank You that even when I gave up, You didn’t. Thank You for all that has remained even amidst all the loss and brokenness and mistakes. Oh Abba, thank You.

Thank You for how You love me. Thank You for how You provide. Thank You that I have so much to be thankful for.

Embracing Our Humanness

“What’s that?” I thought, something on my lap catching my attention as I drove to my friend’s house.

A hole.

There was a hole. In my pants. In the crotch-location.

I couldn’t go home. I couldn’t change. I couldn’t even hide it because it was front and center.

My only option? To just show up. Hole and all.

I could’ve panicked or gotten embarrassed, sure. But how would that have changed anything? The hole wouldn’t have been like, “Oh, you’re right! This is embarrassing!” and then stitched itself back together.

Laughing about it? Showing up anyway? Telling my friend about my discovery? Laughing together? Embracing my humanness? OUR humanness? That was really the only option.

Over and over and over again, all throughout the day, I sense God whispering to me, “In what are you trusting?”

When I replay conversations in my head,

When I beat myself up for all the stupid things I have done or said,

When I worry what people think of me,

My trust is in ME. It’s not in God.

And all good things are from Him. They aren’t a product of me.

I can’t bring good things about by being someone “better”- more eloquent or funny or graceful or beautiful. All I can do is keep my eyes on Him and trust Him with the outcome.

When I say or do stupid things, when I worry I’m not very lovable, God is whispering, “I’ve got this. Remember, I created you. And I have called you worthy of love and belonging. Trust me.”

At no point does He slap his forehead with His holy palm and say, “Why did she stutter when she said that word!? What an idiot! How am I going to redeem this!? Probably now everyone’s going to stop loving her!” Honestly, that thought makes me giggle because it’s so RIDICULOUS. And yet, that’s what I tell myself!

Prove yourself, prove yourself, prove yourself! my brain commands me. And so I try to not look awkward or be awkward or say anything awkward. And really, when that is my goal, when my focus is on not being awkward? I’m even more awkward.

However, when my focus is on being His? When I am trusting Him with me and making loving others the goal of each social interaction, I can breathe. Am I still awkward? Yes, sometimes. But I can roll my eyes at myself when I stutter, or say something stupid, or have to pray out loud with people and don’t know what to say… because I am safe. Regardless of what comes out of my mouth, I am safe because I am His and it’s in Him that I find my security, my belonging, my significance.

Oh, what a lie it is when we believe it’s all up to us. It’s not. The pressure is off, guys. We can be authentic and unafraid because He has a plan. And His plan is never thrown off course when we trip over our own feet or lose our train of thought mid-sentence or raise shaking hands towards heaven.

We are safe. We are secure. We are in the middle of His will. And there’s nothing to fear.

He made us, after all. And He doesn’t make mistakes.

He did not, however, make those pants of mine that ripped. I’m looking at you, Aeropostale. 😉

“Love defined you before anything else did.”

“Have faith in the One who is fully trustworthy is enough to do miraculous things. It’s not a faith that says, by my own strength, determination and power this mountain moves, but faith that steps forward with what is already given us as believers and in the provision and ability of a great and mighty God.”

“Shame has a way of keeping us in hiding. But when there is shame, there are also faulty beliefs about who we really are. How God sees us. We tell ourselves to be strong, and believe we must always show worldly strength. We tell ourselves to be over comers, which we are, but we act out a belief that victory comes from how great a job we’ve done, rather than the greatest work already done for us. In the finished and complete work of Jesus at the cross. Every time we choose to put on a front, knowingly or not, we are choosing to trust in the power of man over the power of God.”

“…But then Peter started seeing something else too. The waves. The storm was raging about him, the swell rose and fell with messy anger, ocean spray filled his eyes and lungs, and he began to falter. The waves were so large and he was so small. Fear crept up from the souls of his feet that only moments before felt secure even upon the water but were now starting to slip on the wet surface, unable to catch a foothold. He started to sink. ‘JESUS, SAVE ME…’ He spluttered and hurled his voice at Jesus desperately hoping to be heard above the storm… He still believed Jesus could save him. He believed Jesus was still standing, was still capable to command the oceans and save his life even though they were out to sea with nothing to hang onto but each other… Belief in Jesus was not the problem. He doubted himself. He doubted whether or not he was chosen. Whether or not he was fit to walk the path. He had been rejected before, would he be rejected again? Belief in God is a two-way street. We believe in God, and he believes in us. It’s a divine partnership. God in me, me in God. What can separate me from the love of God? Nothing. This is what Peter doubted.”

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Twelve

Below is a list of twelve things I learned in February.

Chatting at the Sky likes to do a monthly collaborative wrap-up of things that the month taught us. I’ve never before felt compelled to join the festivities, but tonight I shall- partially because I’m feeling sentimental and emotional and contemplative, but mostly because I don’t want to go to sleep.

1. American Idol is so much better now that they focus more on helping people realize their potential and less on making fun of those who probably shouldn’t have auditioned in the first place. I cry every episode, without fail. When you see pride in the eyes of someone’s dad or grandma, or when the judges speak life-giving words to the contestants? Tears. And it makes me think of God and how He looks at us with even more pride and tenderness and love, and how if we could only hear Him clearly, we’d be even more assured of our worth and value and of His good plan for our lives.

2. My love language? Touch.

3. I worry way too much whether people want me around or not, when really what I should be doing is just fearlessly following where I sense God leading. When I stop worrying that people are going to look at me and think, “Ugh. Why is she here!?” it makes it a lot easier to just make loving them my primary goal. And when I’m more concerned with being loving than with whether or not I belong, social situations are way more enjoyable.

4. I am straight up addicted to green tea lattes. And I would say I need a twelve-step program, but I’m not yet ready to do my life without them. They’re a hug in a cup. I swear, every morning as the barista hands me my drink, my drink actually smiles at me. And it says, “I’m so glad you got out of bed today! I’m proud of you!” And a girl needs that kind of encouragement in her life!

5. You can shop TJ Maxx online now. And I cannot be trusted with this information.

6. This book is seriously dope.

7. Even though it’s hard to be financially generous, it feels better to spend my money on other people or put it towards tithing than it does to spend it on a shopping spree. Sometimes I think all I really need is more sweaters. That’s such a lie. My closet is full of sweaters and I don’t feel like they’ve done anything to heal my soul. I get much more from seeing the sweet face of my sponsor child on the mantle than I do from looking over the contents of my closet.

8. Having a clean house isn’t the most important thing in the world. In fact, I don’t even think it’s second. Or third.

9. If you’re struggling to love life, the answer is very rarely to withdraw from people.

10. When I make comfort the primary goal for my life, I make huge mistakes. What appears to be comfort is often a liar. Staying in bed all day, calling in sick, cancelling plans, skipping church, ignoring phone calls, binge-watching episodes of Teen Mom, eating an entire pan of brownies, eating nothing… Those options might feel like comfort in the moment, but they actually just take us one step closer to developing addictive behaviors. I think addictive behaviors always start as comfort seeking. When we allow comfort seeking to become our primary decision-making-strategy, we’ll discover a life less full and meaningful, not more. Usually, the path towards genuine life and comfort, which only the Lord can provide, requires that we go through something quite uncomfortable. But it’s always, always worth it. “Go,” He says. “Go to church and work and leave your house and love people. And you don’t have to feel strong enough or social enough. You don’t have to be well-spoken or witty. It’s okay if your hair doesn’t look the way you want it to or if your pants feel tight or if your eyes are red from crying. You just need to go. Where you are weak, I promise to be strong.” And He always, always comes through. Even when I’m cranky because I’m doing the hard thing and all I really want is a blanket and some Pad Thai, God goes with me when I follow where He’s leading. And I’d rather be where He is than anywhere else, even if that means being scared and uncomfortable. When you can lay down in your bed at the end of the day and say, “I did the hard thing and I’m so glad I did,” that’s genuine comfort.

11. I think we all need to be hugged more often. We all carry within us brokenness. Life is hard. That’s why God gave Adam a partner to do life with. We aren’t meant to do it alone. We need someone to share in our joys and our sorrows and see our messy, genuine selves and say, “I love you.” We need to know that our hearts and lives matter. We need to know that the details about us matter as well, that someone notices and loves the way we smile or the sound of our laughter or the way we mispronounce the word ‘pillow’. It’s all so beautiful. We reflect Him. It’s incredible. We, our existence and the thought and love our Creator put into us, is seriously awe-inspiring. It makes me feel like donning a sundress, running to a sunny, flowery field, and twirling in circles with my arms outstretched, a smile on my face, and my head tilted towards heaven. No joke.

12. My favorite people are the messy, authentic ones- the ones who love the Lord passionately, who are quick to laugh, quick to cry, and who carry kindness in their eyes. I want to be that kind of person. I want to be the kind of person who trusts God fully with my life and my short-comings. I want to live with complete authenticity, fearless of rejection or failure, because I know He is in control and I could never be, not even if I hid behind a self-protective facade. Choosing authenticity not only helps us form deeper, more genuine relationships with others, but I think it also helps us draw closer to the heart of God. God put His entire heart into creating us. He knows the hairs on our heads, after all. He didn’t do that, He didn’t pour His love into us and care about everything from the way we walk to the size of our hands to the shape of our ears, only to advise and encourage us to hide who we really are. We are His masterpieces, and where we fail, He is even more glorified. He wants us to be exactly who we are and trust Him with the outcome. And I want that, too.

Authenticity

One of the adjectives most used to describe Jesus during the time He walked this earth is authentic. I’ve been giving that some thought lately.

Authenticity, when done out of our own effort and willpower, is both exhausting and terrifying. However, I don’t think we are called to be authentic.

I think authenticity, and all good things!, are the result of following God. We cannot will them into existence. The more we try to be like Him, the more we open ourselves up to disillusionment and fatigue. Relying on our own strength and abilities will always eventually lead to exhaustion, depression, anxiety, or hopelessness. Willpower isn’t infinite and we are flawed. We cannot do life on our own willpower forever. We will burn out. And God, being the One who created us, knows that.

And so, rather than being called to be authentic (or honest or compassionate or anything else), we are simply called to love Him and seek Him. And then trust Him with the results. He is the one who will produce good in us, good that can last. He alone can make us more like Him.

I think I’ve used this analogy before, but for example, I cannot get more tan by simply trying to BE more tan. Sure, I could buy a self-tanner, but it will be orange and streaky and take so much time to maintain that I’d quickly give up. The only way to be effortlessly tan is to learn to love spending time in the sun. Similarly, the more time we spend with Him, the more like Him we will become.

And so, if all the good that we accomplish and all the qualities in us that are Christ-like are the product of Him working in us and through us, then what do we have to fear? Authenticity isn’t scary when you realize there’s no risk of being “found out”. We don’t have to hide or self-protect or live ashamed because we are human. We are beautiful and flawed and imperfect and so full of potential. We all are. There is no shame in that. The more people see me for who I am, the more they will see Jesus. Because anything I accomplish or any compassion I show or any forgiveness I bestow on someone, they are Him in me.

We are called to trust in God and His ability to accomplish good things. We are not called to accomplish good things on our own. We are not called to power through, relying on whatever strengths and abilities we think we possess. He wants us only to rely on Him. Our trust, our hope, and our faith, they are to be in Him alone. We cannot put trust, hope, or faith in ourselves, other people, our jobs, or money.

And when we really grasp onto that concept, that God can make us strong where we are weak and even use our weakness to accomplish something good, the less we will feel we have to protect and the easier it will be to be authentic. Effortlessly authentic. Because we know who we are in Him.

Anything else isn’t of Him. Hiding, self-protection, shame? They are from Satan. I mean, what does Satan love more than hiding behind a good lie? Very rarely do people, I think, make the conscious decision to follow Satan. Rather, they believe a lie. They decide that walking down a certain path is “harmless”. Satan loves a lie and he loves a disguise. He would love to be seen as harmless; that is how he can work so effectively still, even among those of us who belong to Christ.

Satan would love for us to think we have to hide. But Jesus showed us we don’t.

I was reading yesterday about how Jesus’ disciples had to make a decision when agreeing to follow Him- they had to make the decision to follow Him, even though they knew that not everyone would understand. They knew that it was possible that even their own friends and family would judge them. Maybe even mock them. They had to make the decision to follow Him even though their reputations were on the line.

I think that’s really significant. Since the beginning, following Jesus has been the less “safe” and “comfortable” option. At least when viewed from the world’s perspective. It’s risky. Since the very first people said, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow you,” they had to decide that the Lord’s opinion of them mattered more than the world’s. They had to know and trust that even if following Jesus led them to places that felt unsafe or scary, they were ultimately infinitely safer with Him than they ever could have been had they opted to do life on their own.

We are not called to earn or accomplish. We are not called to worry and panic and try to avoid pain and suffering. We are not called to gain the favor of those around us or make enough money to put food on our tables. All we are called to do is follow Him and trust Him with EVERYTHING. Every single result. Every single area of our lives.

We might think we can provide for ourselves, but we can’t. Not really. After all, all good things are from Him, not from us.

“I have yet to have an ailment that God had no salve to soothe…His Word is far more glorious, powerful, and fully applicable than we have any idea.” –Beth Moore

In Psalm 107:20, it says that God “sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”

That’s where it all begins.

I can’t “live well enough” or will myself to be more godly. I am too flawed, too human. And God doesn’t ask that of us anyway. He simply asks us to love Him and seek Him. And He promises to do the rest.

God sent forth His Word.

That’s where it all began. With a word. With His Word.

Any desire to be more like Him or be more authentic or feel less depressed and exhausted and hopeless and anxious, that’s where it begins. In His Word.