Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Words for the match-holders

I wrote this post back in December. I spoke on a podcast + went to a retreat-like happening by an organization, Wildfire Collective, whose purpose is to teach teen girls to live the wild, untamed life of faith-- and give them avenues to do so. It is when I first heard their vision that these words arose up in my heart.

///

"For those who feel as if they are both too much and not enough." <--- the time I first read this, I did not think there could be any other group of words that better expressed the way I felt and still feel.

Too much emotion.
Not enough bravery.
Too much mess.
Not enough beauty.
Too much trying.
Not enough confidence.
Too much fat.
Not enough muscle.
Too much independence.
Not enough elegance.
Too much naiveté.
Not enough wisdom.
Too much weakness.
Not enough self-control.
Too much wavering.
Not enough consistency.

Both too much and not enough for them.
Both too much and not enough for me.
Both too much and not enough for God.

 But then there are the day, hours, seconds that I am okay. On top of the world, actually. Why is that?

Yeah, the answer is hard and I don't like it.

Because my satisfaction? It is not being found in Christ alone, but man. The source to which I look for my joy is temporary, and the security is fleeting. This world is imperfect. It is good to love the people but never to put your faith in them-- or anything else besides Him.

Admitting is cake. But the next step is killer. Yes, I believe. But am I willing to live it out? How does one go about not living for man?

It sure does feel good though, doesn't it? In the moment? And it's easier, too. Because Jesus, he assures us that choosing Him won't be. It is a fight against our flesh and a war against the Enemy. A war already won, but still to be fought.

The direct effects of insecurity don't seem too bad. Fix this here, do that there. But I can only plug so many holes before water pours in and puts out my match.

 Y'all? It. Is. HARD. To die to myself, to take up my cross. I almost never get it right. And most of the time, I can't seem to get a taste of the part that is supposed to make it all worth it.

But I know it is there. So I keep on for His sake. No matter how many times I go back and forth, faltering and wanting to give up-- no, in spite of it all, I raise my barley-lit match and release it to the land. That's all it takes. God says, "Watch this." Bigger and bigger becomes the wildfire.

And I know I am not alone.
We have to stick together. We must be encouragers, and those who push each other on. We must protect each others' matches to keep our wildfires going.

So here we are, match-lifters. Raise 'em up-- that thing about us, the Spirit of the Living God inside us, waiting to get started--and let them loose. Once the wildfires start, it's gonna take a heck of a lot to try and stop them.

///

The wild girl is secure & unstoppable. A force to be reckoned with, for she loves her Jesus. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Before the Resurrection

1... 2.

Day 2.

A world filled with sorrow, doubt, hopelessness, confusion, darkness. Death is mocking in its seeming defeat. The worst act of torture and evil ever to be done had just been witnessed. 

"Crucify him! Crucify him!" 

The cross is cause for celebration, but celebration doesn't feel right yet. Not now. I need to sit and stay awhile in the ache and devastation and anger first-- because He died. He died and suffered immeasurably hard. I cannot even come close to comprehending it. No words or emotions can do justice to it. Maybe that's the reason I am spending more time today staring at a blank computer screen than putting words on it. 

On my most recent trip overseas last month, the Lord reminded me of my sinful, wretched nature and my weakness. It was the first time in years that I shed tears in in prayer-- and they did not come shyly. I sat alone in a sacred space, singing out these words to Him: 

"And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me?
... So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love"

Of all but love. What a kind of love, that would do such a thing. 

People mourned to the full before the resurrection. All they could hold onto in the waiting was Hope. Were Jesus' promises enough for them to keep the faith? Even as He lay in the tomb? 

They did not know what was coming. It wasn't over. 

And yet-- He waited three days. He let the darkness roll around in the dirt and feel its way in the world, knowing the world wasn't for it to keep. And He didn't do it just because He "felt like it." 

It takes the acknowledgement and lament of His extreme anguish to get to the sincerity of declaration and celebration of His rising. When did I reach the point where I thought of death on the cross as "just another" thing Jesus did? When did I forget that it was me who put Him on it? 

And here I am, bitterly regretful of my nail polish color choice. I don't get it. The What and the Why of the Cross-- how do they not fill my thoughts day and night?

Today has consisted of a lingering, painful ache in remembrance. The tomb with someone in it, not the empty one. It does the heart and soul well to let hurt-- because we know we aren't intended to stay there forever. The count doesn't end on 2. 























Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year Dreaming

There is no more fun time for me to dream than the beginning of a new year! The Christmas tree is down and I am READY.

New Year's Eve makes me as anxious as it does excited. I am looking forward to an opportunity for a fresh start, and I hope to God that I won't waste it. I want to be purposeful in all my days. I worry that I will retreat back into old ways because that is where it's comfortable, and that's what I have done other years.

A friend wrote, asking: If you knew you were going to die on December 31, 2017, how much would that information change how you spend next year?

For me? It would change A LOT, I must say.

Thank God for grace and second (or fifth) chances!

////

 In 2017, may there be...

less phone, more reading + writing
less bitterness, more forgiveness
less fear, more courage
less shame, more freedom
less couch, more outside
less comfort, more wild
less talking, more listening
less self, more others
less criticizing, more encouraging
less worry, more peace

Here's to braving whatever 2017 brings and loving Jesus unconditionally.

Just write

How has it been over a YEAR since I've written on here?! I waited too long and the guilt finally won me over. But I am pumped & hopeful that I do well in starting this up again! Man, I missed it.

I don't know exactly what held me back all this time. I felt the pull over and over again, but I ignored it. I guess I was afraid. I take writing personally because it is an activity I closely bound to my identity, so the vulnerability to criticism that comes with sharing my words is not attractive.

The same reason I hesitate to publish my words is also what makes it easier to do so. Sometimes seeing writing as something that is "mine" gives me confidence and a yearning to let others in on it. I remind myself often: You are a writer. You write– and fairly often, therefore are a writer. It's a spiritual gift, and don't believe anything otherwise. It's odd, though, to think of myself as a writer. There is no job title or book or social platform to officially declare it true. It's just me. 

Recently, something seems missing in my writing. Maybe it's only an illusion– some false emptiness I think I needs to be filled, but there is really nothing to be filled in the first place. Maybe it's something I am neglecting to believe about God that is resulting in this writer's dilemma.

Whatever the case, I wish it was as easy for me to write as it used to be. I sit and stare at the blank page or screen, waiting for letters to appear one by one– but they don't come. I have to fight for them. Now I think too much, so there is no flow. I wring myself till I am worn to get sentences dripping. Looking back at my old posts and journal entries, I am blown away that they could have been by me. How in the world? Where did that come from? I was only 15!

Being a writer, as I so easily forget, is not all fluffy and glamorous. Though I love writing, it is challenging and every kind of exhausting. What I realize, though, is that it's mostly hard when I make it that way. It doesn't have to be– but I put pressure on myself to create profoundly worded truths to impress others, or work so hard to perfectly sum up everything I am experiencing so people will KNOW. I just want them to know.

The thing is– they are not always going to know, and that's okay. Not even I will always know. Some things aren't meant to be known. But He does, and that's what matters.

What I am learning is to release the pressure and write prayerfully. I don't always have to have the best words. I don't always have to have words, period. If this is what God has told me to do then by golly, what's stopping me? Writing is more rewarding than it is difficult, and I never remember that until I do it again. And when I am not thinking of what everyone else will think, the flow returns.

May my actions not be ruled by fear or pride, but instead my love for Him and desire to do His will, as I remember that to which He has called me. May He be glorified in all my words.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sis.


She's the one on the right. My best friend. My sister. CarPar.
For four years we've faced our teenage years together.
But now she is almost 18 and we're going to part. But we'll come back to each other.
It only goes up for us. I believe that. In the name of Jesus and His faithfulness, I believe that.

 I had *almost* published this post about four times before I actually did. There is so much I feel I'm leaving out. But I think you will get the point.

I just wanted to say that there are not many people I know who are more courageous, loyal, and loving as she is.

Carly has been forgiving to me when I mess up (I mess up a LOT). She tells me her honest thoughts, even if they sting a little. But her words are always spoken with grace. And when she is the one to make a mistake, she confesses and shows brave humility.  I desire a vulnerability and rawness like hers.

I have shared with her what no other friend of mine has heard. Even if I didn't want to. And that's normal for her, to be vented to. Because the people trust her. She's everybody's friend. The in-crowd, the outcasts, etc. You name it. I mean, I'm 97% sure her Sweet 16 was the entire population of Houston in one room. A different year she had an American girl-themed party and invited all the little girls she knew ages 3-6. She welcomes them all, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

Also, dear readers, she is a party inside of a human body. She is not afraid to intimidate if it means being herself. You can't see her eyes in pictures because she squints them from smiling so big. She knows joy full well. And she's really funny. If you ever see her, ask her about her penguin joke. It makes no sense and that is the point. You can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness. Carly is wonderful, and you could never convince me otherwise, also because one time she let me read her elementary/ middle school diary all the way through. I almost died of the hilarity. Only the best of friends go that far.

Did I mention that she's gorgeous? She won a pageant one time, I was told. Ha. Hello, eyelashes-for-days. But I'm not kidding— she is beautiful in every way. I hope and pray she knows that.

But— my most favorite thing about her is her God, straight up. She listens & speaks to Him intimately.   She celebrates life in all its hardness, because of the cross. The answers to her many questions are intentionally sought out in our Father. I have noticed an appreciation of simplicity in her. Sometimes what I overlook, she sees. She soaks in the Love without all the fancy, frilly, unnecessary junk.

Jesus is the only reason for our growth. I am forever grateful for the blessing He's given our sisterhood.

 Next August, Carly is escaping her comfort and traveling across the world for 9 months. She's heading on #OperationFlyBabyFly, her momma says. It's her story to tell, so you can read it here.
Pray for her fervently with me in this new season? She, and even more so the Kingdom of God, is deserving of your supportive participation, if you are feeling the nudge to do so.

Carly Elizabeth Parker is a light on this earth and in our friendship.
The selfish part of me wants to keep her all to myself, but I couldn't be so cruel to the world to do such a thing.


Sweet will be the flower


There's something about the wild unpopularity of poetry that pulls me in. Or maybe it's that it is like nothing else you'll read, but you seem to find it in every feature of life.


When I feel like I am too much and not enough at the same time, I head to the pages of rhythmic words. They're steady. They remind me why I cling on to hope. They welcome me home. 

Sometimes God tells us to do something, and the time we decide to say yes is when He makes us wait for the good part. And we may never see it until the day we go. But William Cowper helps me remember how much the good part will be worth it.

"His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower."

Poetry will slow you down if you let it. I embrace that, and read every word like it's my last. Think about it. His purposes are unfolding… every. single. hour. 

The promise of Jesus. Hallelujah. 

Or maybe you've been seeking, but faith won't seem to show its face…
I am weary of trying, God.
Charles Wesley tells me to start with being honest to the One in whom our faith is grounded.

"Fill me, Radiancy Divine, 
Scatter all my unbelief,
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day."


The poets become my friends. In Scripture and song, they're present. they enter in and point me back to the Father. 

So I tread on with steadfastness and hope, holding pages to my chest, reaching my hand to touch the glimpse of light shining so uniquely in a universe of darkness.

"Light! more light! the
shadows deepen,
And my life is ebbing low,
Throw the windows widely open: 
Light! more light!"
-Frances Ellen Watkins Harper






Friday, September 11, 2015

Stillness in the hardness

When the last couple of days on the road have been long and especially heavy, home is wildly sweeter. And one of the first things I do is organize my jewelry, so my life is just a little more put together.

I hoped that this so, very hard and heavy thing would never have to happen. That I would not deal with the pain it causes. But deep down, I knew I could not help it. I chose the life of its inevitability, because I chose love. And love— it hurts sometimes. Immensely.  I can testify that now more than ever.

But though The Lord slay me, still I will praise Him. 

And, if I'm being honest– this, I do not think, is the worst of it. This is not the closest to home that it could unfortunately, possibly be. Then how does it feel so? I do not know.

I wept consistently, for a reason I could not completely understand at the time.

Because I'd only talked to him maybe once. I barely knew him.

I wish I had.

If I was aware of what little time he had left on this earth, I would have made an effort.

What would I say if I could go back in time to when I sat right across from him at the dinner table?

He was walking to church when it happened. Yesterday. Yesterday. The scene keeps replaying in my mind. If he'd only left 5 minutes earlier. 

Make it stop. Oh, please, make it stop.

 I… I can't think like that. I shouldn't be.

Everything all at once— it makes me wonder. How could I be so selfish?

His family, his community— their surrendering trust was jaw-dropping. I cannot even imagine what I'd done in their place.

I don't have to worry about what they do in that part of the world. My God, the unmentionable things. How is it that the claimed "unmentionable" is, a lot of the time, the most necessary to mention in this world? Oh, the tragic irony.

Shame on me for not bothering to make time to bend on my knees, to lower my head, to plead for these people. This person.

What am I to do about this?

I will trust Him with my story, and the trials that come with.

Though the Lord slay me, still I will praise Him. 

Last week I wrote about being still. I had no idea the sort of "unmentionable" that was coming. My Saviour did, of course. Because when life gets hard, I get going. He knows that. I want busyness and distraction. Stillness seems almost impossible— but right now I've learned it's imperative. My grieving and lamenting is teaching me how to truly rest.

  Is this a glimpse of good emerging from its once-dark place? 

Stillness is not synonymous with stopping. It does not mean being lazy or wasteful, as I thought before. I avoided sabbath, in fear of losing time for a worthy-of-being-told story. I hated the mundane. I wanted to do something about the hard thing. But I know I cannot. Now, I see it is the stillness that helps get you through.

Maybe the stillness is the doing something. It is perhaps what makes your story its fullest.

Because all those wonderful, meaningful things that come from being still— they grow you.

Stillness *with God*= movement in the Kingdom of God. That is what it is. 

He gave me a renewed definition.

And today, I think organizing jewelry was my being still & my kingdom work for my life. Even if only for today or this week. I don't know how, but it got me stirring. It confuses me in some fancy-kinda-metaphorical way. I guess this is the mystery of my Father.

Though the Lord slay me, still. I. will. praise. Him. 

Forever and ever.