Words and Unrelated Quotes

“We are all such wrecks down here. Strangers in a strange land, falling time and time again. Trying to find a way to live right and love each other without losing our minds. Pretending and doing the best we can. Spinning our wheels and holding on. But there’s something truly beautiful about wrecked people standing together and singing about grace and ways to make it through. Hoping still, even as the light fades and good dreams die, even when the way seems lost, even as kingdoms fall, even through the long, dark night of quiet skies. Here we are on this blue speck floating through the endless night, spiraling across a measureless cosmos of chaos and majesty, searching, reaching, longing for something higher than ourselves. Here we together, separate, united, alone. Our worst so rotten and our best so good. Struggling, trying, falling, failing. Rising from the dust and returning again. Believing for something better–something more. Here we are, God, the wrecked of your hands, fashioned from dirt and breath, blood and water, spirit and flesh, beauty and chaos. Strangers unaware, hoping for something beyond the endless night. The hope that an infinite Creator rose up through this same dust and walked our planet as a man, tempted and tried, falling and rising again–the hope that someday we will rise up and never fall again–that’s what holds us all together. Searching for the weight, the counterbalance, the antidote to this one strange tiny life. Searching for ways to hold on and keep hope alive. As long as there is hope.”

*

“Do you feel like your relationship with God has been negatively impacted?” she asked me. And all I could say was, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean…, I don’t know.” Which, obviously, means yes.

It means I’ve shut off the part of my heart that cares about making God first. It means I can’t sit through sermons anymore that exhort us to live godly lives because I’m not doing that right now.

Eventually, after muttering and mumbling nonsensically, I paused. “If I do feel like He’s distant, it’s just because of where my heart’s at, right? Not because He’s left me?”

“Yes,” she said softly. “He won’t ever leave you.”

*

I walked through the woods today, hot anger flooding my body. I was inexplicably cranky. And cranky about being cranky.

I came to the end of the trail and looped back around again. I walked and walked because I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

I wondered about my night, about what I’d do. A puzzle? Bake? Draw? Write? Watch a movie? I didn’t want to do any of that. And that, too, made me angry. I felt trapped in a life with long stretches of time to fill, and a complete lack of desire to do anything. What was I going to do? How was I going to get through it? Did I even want to?

And then, a whisper: “This is what it looks like to take care of yourself.”

Sometimes taking care of yourself is choosing to feel what you feel and not letting it become bigger than what it is. Don’t attach words like ‘forever’ and ‘always’ and ‘never’ to emotions. Don’t let what you feel determine your truth. Just breathe. Just breathe and let it be. Emotions always pass. None of them last forever.

On my way home, my phone rang and my friend asked if she could stay the night tonight.

Instantly, my bad mood lifted. Because I wouldn’t be alone. Someone wanted to spend time with me. I had plans for the evening, and I realized in that moment that there are still things I want to do.

*

I’ve been focusing on all the ways God’s still taking care of me, even while I choose to walk down a path I know grieves His heart.

My friend asking to come over on a day when I really needed her? That sure felt like God taking care of me.

The other day I had to get all new tires on my car. I found out the same morning I learned my checking account was -$54. But I had a credit card for my car repairs. And my brakes waited to go out until I’d gotten back from my road trip. And my friend met me for dinner while I waited for my car to get fixed. And he paid for my food. That sure felt like God too.

Kittens and “I love you’s” and waking up rested.
God-given little brothers and big sisters and moms.
Book recommendations and people who pray for you and therapists who believe they can help you.
Strangers who smile at you and friends who see good in you and when the pen you’re using happens to match your fingernail polish.
When your dog is home alone for eight hours and he doesn’t chew anything up.
When your cat licks your face.
Freshly laundered bedding and back massages and the way the sun looks coming through the trees.
Twitchy, dreaming dog paws.
A dwindling to-do list and the energy to plug away at it, one thing at a time.
Hope.

God is still taking care of me. I don’t deserve it, but He hasn’t left.

*

“Shakespeare described love as an ‘ever-fixed mark.’ In a healthy family, you know how love is defined: It’s clear, has boundaries, and is attainable. Unfortunately, in a shame-bound family, love is a moving target; on day it’s this and one day it’s that, and just when you’re sure you’ve got it figured out, you discover you don’t.” -Brennan Manning

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The Value Of $10

At Fred Meyer the other night, a woman came up to me as I was getting out of my car, asking for money for gas.

Do I think she really wanted it for gas? I don’t know. But that’s not really my job to determine, is it? We aren’t called to be suspicious and skeptical of people. Wise and discerning, yes, but she claimed to have a need, and I had no way of knowing for sure that her need wasn’t real.

Normally I don’t have any cash on me, so I apologize to people when they ask for money and I continue on with my day, just briefly mentioning them in prayer. But this night, I had money. I had a $10, a $5, and two $1’s.

And I gave her the $10.

I chose to give her the $10 and skip buying myself cold medicine- not because I’m a martyr, but because I saw her as Jesus’ child. I looked at her with compassion and some sadness and I thought, “You need Jesus.” And as that thought hit me, I knew what I needed to do. She needed Jesus, and I had the opportunity to be Jesus to her.

After I handed the money over, she practically ran away from me with barely a “thank you”. I felt pretty confident in that moment that she didn’t need gas. She acted like she was getting away with something, and she wanted to get as far from me as possible before I learned the truth and changed my mind.

And so I called after her, “God bless you!” Because I wanted her to know I gave to her not as me, but as Jesus’ hands and feet here on Earth. I gave to her from the love He has for her. It wasn’t about the $10.

And wouldn’t you know, she stopped mid-run. She couldn’t be slowed down to say “thank you” properly, but she stopped when I said that and she turned to look at me. She studied my face for a second. “God bless you, too,” she said.

I pray she didn’t use the money for drugs. I pray she used it for gas.

But either way, I pray she felt the love of Jesus that night. I pray He will take my $10 and use it for much more than I ever could’ve.

And I smile with the ease at which I handed that money over. And it’s not because I’m some saint, but because giving $10 to a stranger was the easiest thing God’s asked me to do in a long time.

There’s growth and blessing in sorrow and struggle.

Sometimes I feel like I have nothing, like it’s just me moving through this world, emptied out on the inside. I feel like I’m having to consciously remind my heart to beat, and not just beat, but beat for one thing alone- God.

And I believe He’ll bring me out of this valley.

But while I’m here, He is teaching me to breathe.

He is teaching me what truly gives life.

He is presenting me with situations I can’t control, and situations I can. And the funny thing is, I can’t control what comes into my life- all I can control is what I give out.

And as I mourn and grieve and tearfully choose surrender and acceptance over and over again all day long, He is reminding me that laying down my life feels like a death, yes, and it is, but it’s not the end.

Things are laid down, but not buried. Not beyond resurrection.

As I leave everything at the foot of the cross, He’ll sift through it. He’ll take each thing, one by one, and hold them. He’ll examine them for their life-giving (or life-stealing) qualities, He’ll search them for signs of heaven, and He’ll weigh whether or not they have the ability to support rather than detract from my higher calling as His beloved child. And some things He’ll toss out because He won’t give me anything less than the best. But some things He’ll bring new life to and hand back to me.

He’ll take my worldly wants and desires and sorrows and fears and trauma, and He’ll breathe holy breath and life and redemption and healing into them. And I’ll appreciate them differently when they come into my life as a gift, or healing, or freedom- all marked with His fingerprints.

And when I can’t see the gift without seeing His fingerprints, I won’t be tempted to worship the gift- I’ll worship the gift-giver.

I can trust Him with my heart. I can trust Him with my pain, my life, with the things I can’t control.

And so I’ll pursue Him. I will invest my energy in the things I can control instead of fighting against what I can’t.

He’s teaching me that when I sink below the surface of the water, like Peter, the only hand reaching out for me will be His. Because only He can walk on water. Everyone else? They’ll be in the boat. Not heartlessly, not without care or concern or love, but the most they can do is row over and toss me a buoy. They can’t walk on water.

He’s the Gift-Giver. The Healer. The Redeemer. The Savior. The true source of the life I so desperately long for.

He’s teaching me that.

And He’s teaching me the value of $10.

$10 isn’t going to keep me from drowning, but grasping tight to His hand will.

*

“Where You go, I’ll go
Where You stay, I’ll stay
When You move, I’ll move
I will follow You
Who You love, I’ll love
How You serve I’ll serve
If this life I lose, I will follow You.

Protected: I Don’t Feel Good

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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.

It Is Well

Sometimes it really feels like there’s not enough good in life to make it worth it. Last night, I was talking that through with God, telling him how the bad never stops coming and how hard I have to keep my eyes open to notice and appreciate the good.

But then I heard God gently ask me, “What is it that you want most? Where is your treasure?”

And I remembered something: I am blessed! No matter what life throws at me, no matter what I feel like I’m lacking, I am blessed. All I need for joy is my Jesus, and that is not something that can be taken from me.

Am I living for myself–for money, love, respect, comfort–or am I living for the Lord and trusting Him to provide the money, love, respect, and comfort I need?

Maybe I feel like I’m lacking in some ways, like my needs aren’t being met, but that’s a lie. God promises to meet my needs.

Lord, help me get better at distinguishing between a need and a want. Help me have my joy, my hope, and my treasure all wrapped up in You.

 

“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,a
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

Our God Is For Us

I have discovered that often, during the times in my life when I feel like I need someone the most, a mom or a dad or a loving and compassionate sibling, those are the times when people are least present, the least loving and compassionate.

I used to take that personally. I used to quickly decide it meant that I was unlovable and alone in life. It doesn’t, though. It’s not my fault. It’s not theirs, either. Nor is it coincidence. I think it’s design. Especially since I’ve noticed that people also tend to be the most compassionate and loving when I don’t think I need them, but do.

I think that God, in His wisdom, wants to make it hard for me to make anyone else my god. He wants me to run to Him first. He wants to be the one to comfort me, and He wants me to know He is capable of being my mom and my dad and my sibling. He is capable of being whatever and whoever I need. It would be easy to forget that I need God if people weren’t fallible.

I am SO grateful that He is a jealous God. I am so grateful that He isn’t quick to let me walk away or worship someone/something other than Him.

Not only are we designed to worship Him alone, and not only is He the only One worthy of our worship, but He also knows that nothing else will satisfy. He knows that a life spent worshiping someone/something other than Him will be a life filled with pain, with searching, with hopelessness and depression and feeling like something is missing. He wants more for us than that.

God alone can satisfy.

Lord, capture my heart. All of it. “Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.”

Oh, how He provides.

On Tuesday night, I wrote something, which I will share with you now:

I was really tired today and wasn’t sure how I was going to make it through work. He provided.

I needed (but didn’t realize it) friends who cared about me. He provided.

I had to take Theodore to the vet and was praying the entire time that he was going to be fine. Again, God provided.

I needed a hug from my Lord and drove past a statue of Jesus hugging a small child. God provided.

I needed the right words to say to an angry client. God provided.

I needed to know that I belong to somebody. I needed to know that someone’s eyes light up when they think about me. And God revealed to me (not for the first time, but afresh) that He is that person. I DO belong to somebody. He calls me HIS. Is there any greater label than that?! Is there any description of me that could possibly bring me more joy than Child of the Lord?! No! I couldn’t feel prouder if I was wearing a gold Olympic medal around my neck instead of a gross necklace! Just thinking about that, the truth that I belong to Him, makes me want to throw my hands towards heaven and dance, even in my tired and teary state.

The vet bill for Theodore was pretty expensive, but even as I paid that, I knew I needn’t despair because of all the ways during the day my God showed me that I could count on Him to provide what I needed. That $200? I didn’t “need” it. Or rather, I did. He blessed me with it knowing I would need it to pay for Theodore to see the vet.

Additionally, I thought on Tuesday that I needed my sister. I thought I needed her compassion. I thought I needed a hug. But I didn’t get that immediately. Instead, I got patience, from Him. And I got the opportunity to seek God for what I thought I needed from my sister. And then? And then I got an apology from her.

Oh, how He provides. And His timing? It’s perfect.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

I need to start looking at my days like that. I think it’s easy to focus on the ways we feel like God didn’t protect us or provide for us, but when I look at things more clearly, when I focus on all the ways He told me throughout the day that He loves me and that I have nothing to fear, I am left with unspeakable comfort and joy and peace.

Ultimately, He knows. He knows what I need. And he knows what will destroy me. And I trust Him. Whole-heartedly, I trust Him.

I, we, are going to be just fine.

We belong to Him!

*

“Hannah’s final response to Eli revealed another of her positive spiritual traits. ‘And she said, ‘Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.’ So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad’ (1 Sam. 1:18).

Hannah cast her whole burden upon the Lord and left her sense of frustration at the altar. She did what she had come to the tabernacle to do. She has brought her case before the Lord. Now she was content to leave the matter in His hands.

That demonstrates how genuine and patient her faith truly was. Scripture says, ‘Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you’ (Ps. 55:22). Some people will pray, ‘O God, here’s my problem,’ and then leave His presence in complete doubt and frustration, still shouldering the same burden they originally brought before the Lord, not really trusting Him to sustain them.

Hannah truly laid her troubles in the lap of the Lord, totally confident that He would answer her in accord for what was best for her. There’s a real humility to that kind of faith, as the apostle Peter noted: ‘Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you’ (1 Peter 5:6-7).”

 

Oh, Abba. Hallelujah.