Wonderprints

It is truly no wonder that the God of the universe’s Isaiah 45 mantra is:
…none besides me; I am the Lord and there is no other…
What a God. Mid my (“training wheel fast”) restricted diet, I pant desperately for Him, & He subtly lets me know He is near. Gracious & merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast LOVE, my Lord leaves fingerprints: a bread-crumb trail for me to follow (into His arms).
Thank you, God, for the pre-class conversation when my friend of 2 years asks if I party, asks about my faith. (God hears my prayers, He wants to give me opportunities to share Him; to point up there! up there!)
Thank you, God, for the moon hanging, like an egg yolk against deep navy felt, low behind me that I barely caught a glimpse of in the rear-view. It said to me, He is here.
Thank you, God, for the dimple your fingerprints left on this sin-crashed world in the shape of that North star, once leading brothers & sisters towards the hope of free lives. (Let us never stop hoping in free lives!)
Thank you, God, that when Your Spirit prompts me to pray over one Pei Wei employee, & I OBEY, we are blessed & hugs are exchanged.
Thank you, God, for the breath-taking stillness of moonlight against an ice manna carpet, muffled snow sounds, and crisp air that paints my exhales stark before my face.

Thank you, God, for your sublime ((Southern)) seasons that remind us how imminent winter-death is, and how utterly essential it is that we find spring-LIFE by seeking You now.

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Voiceover

Thursdays are not typically exciting days in my life. The usual order of events goes like 1) class, 2) study, 3) work. That’s it (what a trip, I know). Today class happened and after beating my head against a Physical Science textbook for a good 30 minutes I scuttled into my creative writing instructor’s office for a visit. Ms. Sandy is a Northerner (from the upper half, give/ take a state or two, of the U.S.A.). I have had mixed experiences with Northerners due to cultural differences but one thing I will say: they call it like it is. Cut and dry. Black and white. “You stink.” “You’re extraordinary.” “What exactly are you referring to?”

That being said, nearly the first thing out of Sandy’s mouth to me was: “You have what it takes to go as far as a writer as you want. If you want to get your master’s [degree], write [professionally], you can do it.” 

Compliments happen. Warm fuzzy feelings, gushed gratitude. Blah blah.

But when Ms. Sandy said those words my heart sang. I laughed until I cried in my truck on the way home because the words Ms. Sandy said are true.

Truth is the driving force behind joy.

At a dear friend’s request I met with 4 other women this afternoon to form a panel that was consulted on issues faced by young people today. We contributed our voices hoping that the curriculum our interviewers create will offer insight and guidance to a generation in tumult. Sitting in the dim light I noticed something about the 4 of us. Two of us, myself and one other, have lived the most utterlysplendidprivilegedlives for which any girl could ask. Have they been hard lives? Yes. But they have been lives filled with love and Truth and opportunity. We are extraordinary blessed. The other two–girls dear to my heart–have not been granted the same gifts. Neither have Godly father figures to turn to for help or support and both carry deep scars not yet fully healed. Of the four of us, myself and the second “privileged one” were the quickest to speak, the most eager to voice our opinions. Though their stories and opinions are arguably more gritty and riveting, the other two had to be coaxed, and still did not speak as much.

When I have something to say a fire burns in my belly until it is said. I know that it is my human right to be heard. I know that my words are important. Knowing this leads me to treat the words of others with equal importance. It’s respect, the right thing to do.

But when you’ve been ignored your whole life? When a man has never asked you what you think about…anything? When no one has taken the time to get to know you? When you’ve been yelled at and treated like an unwanted pest?

Inevitably, you start to doubt the value of your own voice. You begin to question the importance of what you have to say. You decide it is better to keep quiet because no one wants to hear it.

So there they sat, the girls with the most to say keeping quiet. I blame the powers of darkness for the loss of anything on their hearts that went unsaid. I praise the One who gave them the courage to utter the few words they did into floating microphones. And further, I recognize my small role in the puzzle God is masterfully putting together.

He has nurtured and grown me via parents and community, literature, travel, and music, to speak eloquently and boldly on behalf of the Truth. Not just the blessed Truth of the Gospel, but also the Truth of individual experiences all around me. Harsh realities, tragic memoirs, unique celebrations, epics of the downtrodden: the stories of timid ones need to be told. Minorities are cast aside, virginity is cruelly stolen, words are misunderstood, drugs drive knives through families. And those people keep quiet because they have been told that their words carry no weight.

Their words do carry weight, and they are burdens God created me to bear.  He sent a blunt Northern woman to reiterate the truth of my gifts: I am a writer. Not every word I pen is perfect (HA!), but writing creatively is one thing on this earth that will come naturally for me. Oh, the freedom of knowing that is true! By His guidance and mercy I speak, I write, and in so doing I will flesh out a small corner of His plan.

One woman with a host of hushed people trailing a humble King. It’s a weird story, but it’s mine.

When condemnation grips my heart
And Satan tempts me to despair
I hear the voice that scatters fear
The Great I Am the Lord is here
Oh praise the One who fights for me
And shields my soul eternally

Boldly I approach Your throne
Blameless now I’m running home
By Your blood I come
Welcomed as Your own
Into the arms of majesty.

~Rend Collective Experiment

All the other Thursdays have (and will) serve an equally great purpose, but today was a big mile marker in the journey of arriving for my purpose here on earth.

Your story is valuable, as is your voice.

Speak.

DecaGratitude

There are days when I just need a minute to breathe. These are usually the days when a list of thanks is in order. Emotional fatigue is a sure sign of discontentment. It is too much for one girl to desire what the world says she should have AND the Lord’s will for her days. I am that girl and I cannot do it. I either have to stop and re calibrate, or I will wander exhausted for weeks, months, years.

My history instructor firmly declared last January that human beings are good at 2 things: complaining, and reproducing. Now I can’t say much about the latter, but as for the former, I am human through and through. This is me offering an Ann-Voskamp answer to my own trouble.

1) Nutella covered fingers, dancing to worship music alone in my room with You.

2) Legs that kick strong through water, bubbles that come up from my nose.

3) Hair that does somersaults on blustery days.

4) Neon Steeple Radio (Spotify), words that remind me of the only One who is promised to be present at my dying breath.

5) Scripture: I am hungry, thirsty, deranged in pursuit of Truth. I want to gobble it, consuming even the long organized lists of Leviticus and Numbers. Thank you Jesus for this flawless piece of yourself.

6) Laughs shared with co-workers, hymns to sing when medicine will not let me rest.

7) White tangerine flesh cracking as I bite from pit.

8) Parents bent over to create fronds like shields, halting fiery darts hurled my way.

9) Tears locked behind my eyes, denying death her bounty.

10) Friends who text to tell me I am loved, turning grief tears into sunshine drops.

My Jesus has won.(( Shout it! ))The battle against my other list (the one not worth sharing: it contains the things I cannot do, the gifts I do not have) is already finished. Why should I carry the burdens of warfare already fought for me?

Rejoice; He came back alive!

I am terrified to receive the blessings my God has for me. After the manner of a solemn Muslim addressing Allah, I pray eyes wide, palms open. I flutter like a dry fall leaf.

When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.~Psalm 138:3

I go to soak in His Word for though I cannot always see His footprints or hear His voice,

I will always remain in His love.

Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.~Psalm 77:19

Surrender Poem

Tears fall

my chest with a knife lodged

my abdomen tied like rope

my shoulder scalpel-ed by every inhale

my feet with naked bone touching ground

all remind me it was born to die,

this natural map, from toe to pony-tailed tendril.

I laugh white teeth with gap in between

because I’m closer to Heaven than ever before.

No spiritual song, no kiss in moonlight,

no day on the lake nor mountaintop moment

offers this free fall forward so explicitly.

In front of my face, inches away,

is a God who says,

“I’ve put your soul into a broken jar.”

All I can do is flatten my feeble frame

against the floor and say, “Thank you.”

This is where I get my faith:

debate between Emergency room or living room.

He waves white flag for me,

ushering me into the abundant existence.

This broken jar is brimming,

to breathe is to be blessed.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.~Romans 8:23

I’m laying down my sickness and pain for the glory of the Lord~Darrell Evans

Little Bits of God

Working as a counselor at summer camp this week I got a card from my sister. It did not say much but it contained a piece of construction paper shaped like a heart. On it were words I wrote months ago: God’s powerful and patient grace is rescuing us all.
I had given my sister a jar full of hearts with truths written on them. This week, as a way to encourage me, she sent one back. What a blessing. What an example of how we are supposed to operate, passing on the Truths that we encounter. The little bits of God that we stumble upon are meant to be treasured first, and then shared.
How tightly I feel His arms wrap around me even as I trudge through trials and confusions.

…You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you. (Isaiah 43:4)

Is there any Scripture sweeter than this?

It is the Lord’s house that I work to fill up with worshipers.
I can write their names in my book a thousand times and it will do no good.
In His arms is the book of life. And I pray that these names are written there.

PIC

Glory Bound and Growing

Right now is the best moment, the blessed moment.
*corny, but I kind of like it*
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine here, in a place called “Dark Hollow.” In mid-America? Yep.
I swing on a swing-set with my two best friends (both under the age of 11). I love knowing that if not for me, they would not be at the park. And if they did not love me (even when I’m late and my truck is so messy there is barely room for them!), I would not have these sweet relationships. (Who would I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe too?!) They show me Jesus every week. The body of Christ is interconnected in a dazzling way. Praise to the Lamb!

Men sit on the park benches, dirty, next to their glitzy new cars. The skin on my legs that is exposed tingles unpleasantly as I walk by, not because of anything they have done or said, but because society has branded the word “rapist” on their foreheads. My preliminary judgment rests not on the content of their character but on their location and the way they wear their clothes. What if we look past their brands, Martin Luther King Jr. style, and invite them in to the Kingdom to worship beside us? What could people do if they were empowered by a friend who has everything (the Gospel) to offer?

I close my eyes. No guilt in life, no fear in death.

I know I’m spending my life in the right place. I am selling myself for the cause of righteousness, investing in a market with eternal dividends. Her smile, set off by the gap between her over-sized front teeth reminds me that darkness cannot hold back the light. Even when it seems we have the time and resources to undo only a fraction of the evil that exists, we know that there is hope. No soul is beyond redemption. Maybe if we take them gently by the hands, if we bid every other broken person come and worship Jesus with us, the lightness can push away the darkness. The church will grow, because we will grow. We’ll dance and sing and eagerly await the happy day when the Jesus who bids us be children comes to redeem this unimaginative world.

Christians should be troublemakers, creators of uncertainty, agents of a dimension incompatible with society,~Jacques Elliot

I ask the good Lord to cure me of my dry skin and my disobedience.

Let my actions speak loud enough to drown out my faulty words.

He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.~Isaiah 30:19b-21

Real Talk

Living counter-culturally is going to be harder than I thought. Because the American church  is blending in so well with the culture (and forfeiting the ideals of Jesus) it is hard to say what really should be going on in a Christian’s life. And it is oh-so difficult to live with a Heavenly mindset in a culture obsessed with being comfortable right now! Less sinning should not be the only thing that’s different between the life of any given Christian and any given Unbeliever. There’s so much more to being a Christ follower. Hear it from the lips of Jesus Himself:

…Come you who are blessed by my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer Him saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? and when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”~Matthew 25:34-40

 

It’s difficult! Living the way Jesus did is super hard. It is hard to do lots of good things (sans earthly reward) and not begin thinking to highly of yourself. Dying to self is just that…dying. It is hard to know where to start in a world as wide & wild & wrecked as this, It’s challenging, grueling, difficult.

But wait.

God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are. ~Ephesians 2:10

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.~Matthew 11:29

He’s got a plan. And a promise. If you believe in God and all the words of Jesus above…then why do you hesitate to let it all go? Forget temporary “comforts,” go for gold, and find rest for your soul! Ask Him to send His Good Spirit to lead you on level ground (Psalm 143.) Follow Him like a sheep, not turning away for the sake of earthly desires or security. Step into your new life.

Enjoy the wild ride.

Salt Sadness

Humor me as I use my favorite illustration yet again…

Ocean waves.

I was a part of a rock face, maybe a coral reef. I broke off. I splish-splashed into the sea and the water carried me away for miles and miles. I rode, days and nights, on waves like horses. I was touched by fish, caressed by sunlight fingers reaching their yellow rays down, down to the ocean floor. Then Mother Sea spit me out onto the sand and ocean salt water rushed over me. I held my breath, the water receded. I see the sun, I breathe deeply, my eyes sparkle, and then the water is back over me, threatening to squeeze the last breath from my lungs.

I must walk, I can’t.

He is here, he is gone.

I am broken, I am restored.

Carried off into the wild blue sea. Rendered unto death. Saved from despair by that which gives the salty surroundings life. God is good; He knows the fish, He knows my name.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all