for my mama

mother

(credit to juliet grace designs)

thank you for planning vacations, trips; taking us to the grocery store, to live in an entirely new world, to church. thanks for ensuring we’d get along by shoving the 6 of us in truck for hundreds of miles and dozens of hours. thanks for saying yes, saying no, saying everything in between. thanks for ending disagreements in a hug and love spoken even if I would have rathered anything else. thanks for the millions of tears wiped, the laughs given, for facing things you never thought you’d have to. thank you for ACTUALLY facing them — this fact alone accounts for so much of our growth, our transformation from child to adult. thank you for still striving, always trying for something more than you had and less than what would entitle us. thank you for lavishing grace, spending nights drenching us in prayer. there are countless things to thank you for, infinitely more than i’m aware of. thank you for staying in the fight, for not flipping on the TV (or opening a book) and counting us out — we are wildly better people because of it. thank you for instilling faith and a great sense of reality. thank you for speaking your mind and teaching us women are not weak. thank you for modeling for us how to be independent, yet dependent on god. thank you for teaching us to stand alone if the crowd is wrong, that compassion is necessary, and sometimes it’s time to move on. thank you for all the lessons i cannot put words to, wouldn’t know how, wouldn’t do them justice. thank you for giving us wonder of the world on a silver platter. thank you for showing me that mothering never ends. beyond the pouch,  beyond the home, beyond the distance. thank you for showing up and endlessly supporting our gifts, activities, and potential. i don’t remember a single thing you didn’t show up to. thank you for using “i love you” lavishly and when we least deserved it. thank you for teaching me that to be a daughter is a humble gift, as well as a mother. thank you for never backing down, never shying away. thank you for the progress we’ve made and the work we’ll still do yet. thank you for being a safe place, someone i can count on, a life-long cheer team. glad you’re mine.

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proverbs 31 woman

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so, there’s obviously a lot written on this topic. lots of hashtags and organizations and cutesy sayings about being a ~~**prOverBs 31 wOmAn**~~. but i’ve been thinking a lot about these verses. about what god calls me to as a woman and what i’m capable of as a woman that a man isn’t wired to do. i’ve been thinking about how much time i waste pitying myself + filling my time with meaningless things. i’ve become someone i don’t recognize; a victim begging god to move when i won’t get off my @$$ and do what he calls. a full life is available to me.

as i was reading through these verses, it struck me how active this woman is. she does, serves, works. she doesn’t sit idly by, she is not a victim of her circumstance. she isn’t concerned about her hair or contouring or #instagramangles. there is barely mention of her appearance but to say that if beauty existed there, it would surely fade.

she gets up early. she considers a field and buys it. she earns, trades, makes. she cares for the needy and poor. wisdom falls from her lips and faithful instruction is on her tongue. she is not helpless. she is not waiting for someone to rescue her. she is seeking out work to be done and doing it. she is not busy worrying or overthinking. she does not eat the bread of idleness, it says. her life is focused on giving to others — her husband, children, the poor, needy — those below and around her.

too often, i’ve found myself wishing for beauty or charm or for life to just happen for me. i’ve wanted a life of idleness to produce blessings for others. however, god’s instruction to women seems to be diametrically opposed to this. women are not weak or incapable. we have worth and dignity. we can be both shrewd in business matters and compassionate to those who are hurting. we have the ability to be strong and soft in equal measure. we have purpose and we should fulfill it. from sunup to sundown, we can serve others and find true joy. in this, we are clothed with STRENGTH and DIGNITY, we can laugh at the days to come. we set forth with the work in front of us and trust god with the outcomes.

god’s stories of women in the bible are not airhead beauties who passively sat by while simultaneously changing history. no, the women he names are brave in the face of fear. she sets out to distant lands because she is confident in the lord’s calling. she behests a king at the risk of death to secure freedom for others. she says yes to birthing baby jesus when it’d mean sure judgment and being misunderstood. she serves that same king water at the well though her sins were great. she washes his feet with her hair. they risk their pride, reputation, lives to do what is noble and right. they are women of action, of significance. rare (nonexistent) is the woman in the bible who changed history while making herself central to the story.

in a culture that celebrates #womensrights (which i’m all about, btw) + women’s bodies + women being able to be the heroine, it’s hard not to get caught up. to not think that perhaps your worth is in your body shape, in the number of likes you have, in how much attention you receive. maybe your worth is found in a love story (or the lack of one). perhaps you aren’t really that great if you don’t have unnaturally tan skin, your hair isn’t perfection, you don’t have guys drooling over you. but god’s word says that those things fade. women who do the work, that serve the lord are often unnoticed and undervalued in our culture. let it be so. be a woman undervalued in things that fade. be a woman confident in your callings (care for the widow / orphan / hungry / poor, obey the lord, love him with all your heart / soul / mind, etc. — not horrendously fancy stuff here). be busy with the lord’s work so that the seeming importance of the other things disappear into the background. as long as i am busy scrolling on instagram judging myself against all the obscenely attractive ladies on there (#ilose #youwin) or spending time gossiping about others or even doing perfectly normal, fun things that are self-serving, it’s easy to forget what my real purpose is and lose my identity in things that aren’t lasting.

i can find confidence in making the world around me better, knowing that eternity and history will be changed by my faithfulness. i don’t need to be the best looking or most popular or loudest, i can quietly (lol at me being quiet) and faithfully carry out the lord’s work without recognition. there is true joy to be found here. let us be women who work hard, show up and love those around us without expectation. we are worthy and capable of the task.

flesh + blood

flesh-blood

in a time of so much divisiveness over EVERY issue — whether it’s politically or whether you’re allowed to hate cats — there is this supercharged sense of us vs. them. at any moment, someone can turn against you for a myriad of things and make you a martyr for a cause you might have only partially cared about. as someone with strong opinions and a certainty of where i stand on many issues, i have found silence to be a tool that is quite valuable. there is for sure a time to speak up, to make your voice heard. but there is also this verse in the bible about a fool vents his full anger, while a wise man brings calm in the end (proverbs 29:11). or the one about even a fool being thought wise if he keeps silent (proverbs 17:28). or a fool is one whom belittles his neighbor while a wise man remains quiet (proverbs 11:12).

in this day and age (i can say this because i’m 90 years old), everything is LOUD. there are a million ads and commercials and marketing materials in your face screaming about the worth of their product. there is various social medias to share your every thought, picture, experience. quietness is not upheld as it should be. rest and silence, meekness and solitude are seen as qualities of the weak — those without opinions or lives or something to post about. i mean, here i am deciding to post about this various topic because I NEED YOU TO KNOW WHAT I THINK, HOW I FEEL. this is not necessarily bad. but it’s gotten bad. read any comment board, hear people’s opinions about any. thing. and you realize how much we pride ourselves in our own experiences and thoughts. the problem is that no one wants to listen. as christians, we should be slow to speak, slow to anger. instead we are keyboard-warriors demanding that the world agree with us because we have a few valid points and inflammatory language to boot. what if we remembered that our enemy is not the a$$hat that commented back to us on a facebook news article or the person that cut you off in traffic (no, seriously, they aren’t your enemy, cuss at them though you might) or the girl who dumped you for no apparent reason.

sometimes people suck. but so do you. and the bible says that our “struggle is NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” DID YOU HEAR THAT? you are free to love people! they aren’t your enemies. you can embrace their quirks and their annoying opinions and all their rage because YOU ARE FREE. you aren’t bound to your strongest opinion, there is no hill you should die on unless it’s the one at the foot of the cross of jesus. when he was facing his enemies, he remained silent. in the face of the pure evil, of being spit on, of being nailed to a cross — HE DIDN’T DEMAND PEOPLE WORSHIP HIM THOUGH THEY SHOULD. he humbly gave himself to death on a cross for us. have you ever come humbly to anything? to your enemies, to your neighbors, to your “haters”?

in a time where everyone cares about everything and you have to make a stand lest you be seen as weak, use jesus as your example. don’t boast in your political party or your righteousness (as you have none apart from him) or your good deeds or your apparent aversion to ever being wrong. you are allowed to boast in only one thing — the cross of christ and what it did for your sorry self (okay, and mine too). what if we sat down, shut up, served those we despised? what if we really became more like jesus?

what if when the world had all turned against us, we said “forgive them for they know not what they do?” (luke 23:34). what if compassion ruled the day, our allegiance to jesus and nothing else ruled our lives? i pray that we would all be humble carriers of grace, quickest to speak gently and lovingly to all we come in contact with.

27.

i wish this post was going to be as good as adele’s age-labeled albums but alas, i think i may disappoint you.

i have a really good feeling about year 27.

26 was the year of suffering. the year of coming to the very end of myself and discovering all at once that god is always who he says he is and that he is sufficient. his power is made perfect in my weakness. i wrote about year 26 here. i can’t say that i hope that the events of year 26 ever repeat themselves, but if they do, i will stand confident in the knowledge that my hope is in heaven and not in momentary, fleeting joy here on earth.

pretty much everything about this year is different already — new job, city, home, community, hair, life. i keep thinking of the verse “behold i am doing a NEW THING: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? i will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (isaiah 43:19, emphasis added). i have been in the wilderness and in the desert. but this is the year of the river (like chinese calendar animals but more holy ;)) rivers in the bible signify nourishment, health, life. rivers are used as descriptors for provision, of overflowing with grace from the lord.

this has already rung true. i have seen god use all things for my good. i have seen him weave a tapestry of meaning through my waiting. i have witnessed him perfectly piece together timelines and events to serve a greater purpose. i have felt his perfect peace even amidst what seemed like a lack of a plan. i have experienced prayers fulfilled that i almost stopped believing he would fulfill. he has been faithful to give me manna for each day. not for next year, not for two days from now — for today. god takes his rightful place of provider and sustainer.

there is this devotional from oswald chambers with an analogy of a river, rushing on.

“A river is victoriously persistent, overcoming all barriers. For a while it goes steadily on its course, but then comes to an obstacle. And for a while it is blocked, yet it soon makes a pathway around the obstacle. Or a river will drop out of sight for miles, only later to emerge again even broader and greater than ever. Do you see God using the lives of others, but an obstacle has come into your life and you do not seem to be of any use to God? Then keep paying attention to the Source, and God will either take you around the obstacle or remove it. The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never focus your eyes on the obstacle or the difficulty. The obstacle will be a matter of total indifference to the river that will flow steadily through you if you will simply remember to stay focused on the Source. Never allow anything to come between you and Jesus Christ— not emotion nor experience— nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.

Think of the healing and far-reaching rivers developing and nourishing themselves in our souls! God has been opening up wonderful truths to our minds, and every point He has opened up is another indication of the wider power of the river that He will flow through us. If you believe in Jesus, you will find that God has developed and nourished in you mighty, rushing rivers of blessing for others.”

what a beautiful picture. i pray that whatever year 27 brings, that i would become like a river, overflowing with Living Water that brings life, health and nourishment to those around me. that, though my circumstances may change and obstacles may arise, i will continue to be fed by the ultimate Source and gush grace and peace.

 

the story of a year

 

a few weekends ago, as some friends came together to celebrate one of our own getting engaged, i did what i always do… ask questions. usually they are random, sometimes deep. in this particular instance, it was the latter: “what has been the hardest thing about this past year and what is the best thing that has come from it?” as i listened to my dear friends answer and wondered what i would share, i was reminded that much of my last year has been shaped by difficulty. there aren’t many good things that haven’t been overshadowed by sorrow. it is as if there has been a cloud over the past few years — dark and ominous, spitting rain and lightning and thunder — never stopping to take stock of the damage already done. what was held in my one sentence answer… “pretty much everything about my last year has been hard but it’s taught me a deeper dependence on the lord,” was far more than i could verbalize without crying. it’s held uncertainty, paralyzing fear, a sense that i’m still in that place mostly.

the story of my year tells of heartbreak, heartache and heart problems. it’s been disappointing diagnoses, the death of dreams, the depth of despair. it has held the hell that a loss of hope produces. the reality is, this year has challenged my allegiance to god and belief of his promises to me more than all my other 25 years combined. the culmination of so many hard things jam-packed into one singular year means that i’ve been unable to pretend that i can have even the slightest grip of control in what happens in my life. i have doggedly chased after job leads, determinedly attempted to pull myself up by my own boot straps, decided without a doubt that i won’t be in this place even a day longer. the sum of my efforts is the truth that without god, i am and can do nothing. apart from him, i have NO GOOD THING. when times are good, this truth seems obscure, dramatic. with the circumstances i have been in and through over the last year, i can assure you that it is no cute mantra on the inside of a fortune cookie.

“though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen,

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet i will rejoice in the lord,

i will be joyful in god my savior.” (habakkuk 3:17-18)

this year it has certainly felt like there are no figs, grapes, olive, food, sheep, cattle (or their equal) in my life. i have had to fight to be joyful in the lord. i KNOW that god is for and with us. he never leaves nor forsakes us. he is for our good. he loves us, carries us. these truths have never been more real to me than over this past year. it’s been the truth countless friends have recited back to me in my darkest, most vulnerable moments. they have been the truths i hated to bear, hated to find were absolute.

i’m learning more every day to count EVERYTHING a loss compared to the SURPASSING worth of knowing Christ. if i have Him and nothing else (as it so oft seems to be), i have enough. i lack no good thing. i hope that in whatever suffering you have or will endure (as is promised), that it would do nothing less that radically transform you into one who is in constant dependence on the lord — that nary a day will go by that you don’t grapple with your need for him. this is no small prayer. may we all rest in his abundant grace today.

to the refugee and black (wo)man and the down-trodden.

i have had these thoughts (though not quite as mature or well-formulated to-date) for years. only recently when it feels like humanity has broken down a little more and in a time where the sinfulness of man is perhaps more visible than ever, have i cared enough to think of ways to actually DO something. to stop worrying about putting my foot in my mouth and counting the cost before i’ve started and saying more via social media than i ever do with my life. i’m tired of caring about something or someone only when a crisis occurs. i’m sickened by my inability to empathize with human beings. i’m disgusted by how disconnected the way i use my time and words and tears has truly been representative of the heart of god. what a luxury to get to look away and what a profound disgrace.

i have had many conversations with friends in the last couple of weeks (primarily white friends that are mostly like me, mind you) about what’s going on. everyone fumbling for the words and to voice our despair and depression over the state of things. listen — i don’t know what to say. way too much has been said and so much of it is vastly unhelpful and not even an iota of enough and i have trouble believing my words matter either. and to a degree, they don’t. not if the feelings behind them don’t lead to compassion and to seeking to understand instead of begging to be understood. not if i’m more worried about what my words would sound like than what my silence would scream.

because i love god, i will speak up. the same way i want to speak up about the devastation of abortion, the way i despise the sex trade, the way i should care about child soldiers in foreign countries i will never ever visit, the way my heart is broken when any of god’s people are seen as less than their full worth. i have to care. if god’s people do not care — who will? who, except those who have received RADICAL GRACE, will and can stand  up for the afflicted, the oppressed? it’s our very bloodline, you know? god’s chosen people, a royal priesthood. also? former slaves. also? promised affliction and struggle.

do you know that i have rarely felt that? i have rarely felt the ravage beast Injustice in my own white-girl american experience. i have seldom had the crippling fear of Persecution banging down my door because of the color of my skin or where i was born. i have never once in my life feared for my life or had to risk fleeing my country. i am blissfully ignorant. and thank god! what an amazing gift to never even consider my safety in daily life. but yet, there are so many who this has not been their story, has not been their narrative. do you know that every single one is made in the image of god? that jesus died on the cross to save ALL — even the ungodly, even while we were still sinning? the ones you think are the worthy of that sacrifice and the ones you think absolutely are not. but do you see the problem with our mentality that we get to decide which human being has merit and which does not? it elevates us to a righteous judge, it infers that we WERE somehow deserving of the sacrifice (which we assuredly were not, by the way). jesus died so that every human being would have LIFE and life to the FULL. an amazing, undeserved gift. offered freely to all.

and yet. there has been a huge population WITHIN OUR OWN COUNTRY that has not felt this to be so. black americans have historically and recently not felt valued as human beings (and truly have not BEEN valued as human beings). there are a myriad of other words and arguments being tossed around but listen: a great majority of the black population — in the millions — of human beings on our own free soil have, first in whispers and now in blood-curdling screams, been trying to convince us of their worth. if there was 10 black people in the whole country feeling victimized — fine. when, almost without exception, every black person has tried to tell us of their shared experiences and we respond with “no, it is not,” we are degrading their experiences to ours. we are looking through rose colored glasses telling them that “victimization” and “targeting” is actually just “sensitivity” or something they’ve conjured up, as if they’d like this to be true.

this conversation has miles to go and many wounds to heal before it is solved.

as christians, we are heirs to a bloodline that saved ours. we were washed clean and saved by the blood of a slaughtered lamb who was pierced for our transgressions. none of us are good, not even one — not even a white christian with the privilege of being born in a country with so many freedoms and the ability to choose from practically anything we’d like to become. we should use our so-called privilege to do what jesus did — stand for those who cannot. use our voices to call out injustice. use our platforms to call up into the tree to the one who doesn’t belong and say “let me come to your house”. as christians, let us look more like christ: humble, quick to listen, the one filled with compassion and prompted to move. we cannot stay silent anymore.

everyone has everything.

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so, i would say in a run-off between which of the ten commandments i break most frequently / have had the hardest time with, jealousy rates fairly low (under, like, murdering and such). it’s not that i’ve NEVER been insecure or jealous, it’s just not the thorn that pokes my side often. for the most part, i am comfortable in my own skin — flaws, talents, and all.

in a bible study this past year, we were discussing something (clearly, i’m good at remembering the particulars) and one of the girls mentioned feeling like she sees other peoples’ lives and her takeaway sentiment being that EVERYONE has EVERYTHING. i laughed hysterically (because i’m nothing if not mature + composed in bible studies). it seemed so dramatic. so trivial. so TRUE. we vowed that this would be our hashtag henceforth. #everyonehaseverything

but isn’t it true? in times of longing, doesn’t it seem like EVERYONE has EVERYTHING you want… you’ve prayed for? in this season, this has been one of the HARDEST things for me to overcome. i look around and see so many people succeeding and thriving at amazing things. their jobs, relationships (engagements, marriage, friendships), motherhood, cross-country moves, etc. it seems like everyone has it together, has more friends, has a greater purpose. on my really dark days, the devil is pretty good at asking me “did god REALLY say you couldn’t have that, too?”. on my really dark days, i’m keen to eat the apple or at least envy the one someone else is chomping on. and social media really isn’t the problem. it only magnifies the lie that your life would be better if only your circumstances were different — you had blonde hair or a cooler job or what-have-you.

i can feel it eat away at my soul. where once there was joy, confidence in who god made me, vision for my own path — i’ve instead become entangled by wishing for something other. my jealousy not only diminishes the work god is doing in me but degrades those i’m jealous of. they become a measuring stick, a stat: have a job; in a relationship; are pretty. i don’t have the benefit of perspective and knowledge of their inner lives, i instead degrade them to what i want them to be and i dehumanize them in a way that is shameful.

my jealousy disconnects me from people. instead of cheering them on wholeheartedly and rejoicing in their victories, i secretly envy the discrepancies between our lives. but jealousy serves as an even more dangerous force than we realize. in the bible (and in the here and now), jealousy uncontrolled leads to murder, stealing, gossiping and so much more. the bible literally calls it “unspiritual and demonic” (james 3:15). yikes! it follows to say “where jealousy and ambition exist there will be disorder and every vile practice” (james 3:16). jealousy will always lead to more sinfulness. so, while it may seem like a harmless afterthought to harbor bitterness and envy in our hearts, i pray we purge every evil thought from our minds. after all, these are human beings made in god’s likeness. and eternity hangs in the balance when we decide whether we will care for ourselves or for them. jealousy is choosing yourself each and every time.