Grace & Gravity

I believe that I was put on this earth to chase my destiny.

I believe that you were put on this earth for a great purpose.

I believe that there is grace unleashed around us when we let someone change their mind (without missing a beat).

I believe there is power in acceptance & unconditional love.

I believe that from our darkest pain comes our deepest passions.

I accept my favorite parts of my story as well as the parts that wreck me.

I believe in an eternal force of goodness that is changing my stars & will never stop setting me free.

I accept the heavy care in my heart for the dozens of people who I claim as eternal family (love that pierces thread through me & ties my figure-eight soul to this planet).

I believe that I won’t regret giving myself time & space to transcend the daily “grind” & to nurture the soul I’ve been given.

I won’t regret taking the time to hear my heartbeat & to think long & hard about the human experience.

I won’t regret begging the dark & mysterious universe for space within me to adopt the unforced rhythms of grace & to weather waves of light & truth, the ones keeping sun & moon drawing circles around earth.

I won’t wish I had forgiven less, dreamed less, hoped less, smiled less, cried less, laughed less, fought for my neighbors & family less, believed less.

By grace I see, I dare to think: this life is a sacred gift & I want to live each extraordinary moment.

May the child within you be set free.

May you greet every growing experience with grit.

May love be gravity tethering you to the present moment.

May you fight for another.

May you confront the darkness within.

May you fly, my friend.

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Occupied By Joy

There is no better place to consider the status of your life goals & dreams than in the line for a roller coaster at a theme park. I created that statement 2 blinks ago yet….I think it’s mostly bogus. But, for good or bad, I have done this “soul searching” in the winding, stinking lines of thrill-seekers multiple times. Yesterday, as well as years ago, when I was a bruised teenager who did not know where she ended & where others started. I gazed glossy eyes at thin women in small bathing suits or tank tops, wearing confidence I never dreamed of having. My heart bled all over my family (foul words & festering attitudes) as I searched & searched the crowd for something to make me happy. What missing piece did others have that made them happy & left me empty? I saw teenagers too close, mouthing each other here & there & felt pangs of loneliness I was sure no one else had ever experienced. I thought that a man’s physical touch would make me happy. Month after month I swung between feeling that my diet was the only thing I could control–and restricting my intake severely–to feeling I had no control & was stuck swelling larger & larger. When I needed to say “yes”, I was powerless. When I needed to say “no”, well, I was unaware of the power my “no” had so I neglected it (until I broke down in burned-out, teary exhaustion). Certainly, I thought, I am the most unhappy girl in the world, with the sorriest life. I didn’t just think it, I believed it, deep into my bones. Everyone else has it all, and God has left me with nothing.
These agreements with the Enemy, this despair that he spun into a sticky web stuck against the walls of my heart caused pain for years. Resolution after broken resolution led me to the end of myself time & again. There was emptiness, hollowness, & desperation that culminated in many gooey, dirty encounters with people who seemed more concerned about keeping themselves clean than trying to understand my agony.
The aching made me long for life to speed by. I wanted the painful moments to rush away towards–where?–I didn’t know or care to think.
Yet all that time, something inside me wouldn’t give up. Settling for this pained existence wasn’t an option. Even in my despair, a whisper graced the atmosphere around my mind: Why would God make life purely for desperation & no joy? Why would He create a world only to make it suffer? Why would he bless everyone else but not me? Why would He make me hollow without filling me up?
So I plunged deeper & deeper into his Word. Even when I hated it, I read it. I wrote it on my wrist & on my mirror. I engaged people who did not know Christ & encountered messes that made the hair on my arms stand up. I believed from the center of my chest that there was hope. And when I did not believe, He believed for me.
A transition began with no bells or whistles at the turning point. No altar call. More nights alone feeling abandoned & empty than nights with friends or at a church. I went from crying to weeping, from agony to relief (& eventually expectancy), from flicking ash off the end of cigarettes to showing children of poverty how smoke leaves our lungs dark & shriveled. I took the route of prayer, the role of seeker, the process of making room within myself. I went from determination not to break, to embracing my brokenness.

As indeed He says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’~Romans 9:25

The contrast between my thoughts this weekend & my thoughts years ago shocked me. I stood in the line to ride a gravity defying machine yesterday & as I looked around, concern for the wellbeing of the poor souls around me flooded my spirit. I wanted them to know Jesus. I wanted my life for them, the teens too close as well as the women whose veil of shallow confidence I could now see through. Now that the blinders have been lifted from my eyes I see that everyone else is not blissfully happy. We’re all broken. Fearful. Desperate. Rebellious. Hurting. Addicts. Lonely. Hungry. By a wonder bigger than this universe I have gone from one extreme to the other. I’m deeply in love; I’m deeply loved. Each morning is a priceless gift instead of drudgery. Even on bad days, I know I have purpose. When I am angry, I know that there is power available to help me overcome it. When people revile & wound & ignore me, I am seen & nurtured & blessed. I am truly the most fortunate woman alive; I went from believing that God had given me nothing, to believing He has spared no expense on my life. None of my worst fears will ever come true. He lavishes gifts on me from season to season.

For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps me occupied with joy in his heart.~Ecclesiastes 5:20

If I could change one thing about my life, I wouldn’t. The pain, the tears, the sorrow…it’s all leading me home, intensifying the ache for a beautiful & secure tomorrow. I could gush on & on, but truly it comes down to this: He has delivered us from the domain of darkness & transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son. ~Colossians 1:13-14
How did I come this far? What car carried this heart from waste land to Promised Land?
I offer no A,B, C formula for how to get from one to the other. It wasn’t my mentor–though she helped. It wasn’t being involved in ministry–though it got me headed in the right direction. It wasn’t my church. It wasn’t my location or my school or my job.
It was simply the One who says: When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. ~Isaiah 43:1b, Message
He threw me a rope, and by his mercy & Jesus’ blood, I grabbed it.

For thus says the One who is high & lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high & holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite & lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’~Isaiah 57:15

We’re broken, whether we like it or not. Low & dirty is our natural state, but it doesn’t have to be anyone’s final state. Seek Him & be healed tonight, sweet friends. He makes masterpieces of our mud pies.

Can you tell how happy I am? What a wonder!

Can you tell how happy I am? What a wonder!

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.

Normal.

The word normal is defined as conforming with an accepted standard or norm; natural; the usual state. Everyone thinks that they know what normal is (or is not) yet everybody’s normal looks different.
It’s normal for me to drive my own truck. It’s normal for me to walk in the door of my parent’s house, kiss my dad on the cheek, and help my mom set the table for dinner. There is nothing unusual about my dad paying medical bills that I cannot afford. It’s normal for him to be here, in my life.
On a “normal” day I go to yoga classes at a premier athletic club (where I work), I don’t think about money (much), I read books, and I don’t encounter drug abuse of any kind. That’s my normal.
There are lots of normals. I am discovering that mine is rare.
It’s normal for her to miss the bus and have to walk to work. It is normal for her to spend her last $10. It’s normal for her to walk into a house with TVs and radios playing loudly, and to be in charge of making supper. It’s not unusual for her to go for months without hearing from her dad. It is normal for her to see her mom with another man.
On a “normal” day she sits on the couch and watches Maury. She worries about money, she smells marijuana and knows who sells the cheapest drugs. That’s her normal.
Childishly I think that my normal is the normal. It’s absurd, really, to think that most of the 7 billion (or so) people in existence live like my family does. This planet can’t afford that many American Dreams. If you could measure blessings, I think it would be safe to say I have more than most. Because, Y’all, I’ve got so much. People are impressed by the choices I make and the work I do. My answer, “I’ve got everything going for me. What excuse do I have not to be my very best?”
It’s not a great tragedy that many peoples lives are far different from mine. There are lots of ways to live right. I like that people do things differently (often better) than me.
The problem I see is my own assumption that people have all the same help and blessings that I do. I treat them mercilessly and talk about others as though they have no excuse for laziness and poverty (as if it’s my place to make that judgment at all?!). I am wrong to speak generally about unique individuals.
The tragedy is distance from Jesus. Poverty, promiscuity, drugs, my own pride, it’s a result of the way we are wired. Sin has permeated the human heart. It poisons and stains us like smoke in a lung. We need redemption. Today and everyday we need God’s renewal.
I have begun my race on stable ground-financially, logically, nutritionally, socially-thanks to wise parents. Most are not blessed richly in this way. I hope I can learn from the precious souls that surround me. He blesses me that I may bless others. To bless is my highest aspiration.

I ask great things
Expect great things,
Shall receive great things….May the world this day be happier and better because I live.~Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision

Day 9: Imagine

You are hungry but there is not a dime left to your name. You have 21 days to pay rent but you don’t have a job. There is no money anywhere. All the wrong choices have been made. All the bad luck has run its course.
Hold up, rewind. You are hungry. What do you do when you’re hungry? Go to the fridge. What do you do when there is nothing in the fridge you want to eat? Go to the pantry. Nothing good there? Restaurants, vending machines, take your pick. Pay with ease, and be done with it.
You’re hungry but there is no fridge. You’re hungry but there are only cockroaches in your pantry. If there isn’t food then there certainly is no money and therefore no restaurants. So you’re hungry, you stay that way.
Imagine the child you brought in to the world staring at you with big, hungry eyes.
And there is no food.

Imagine feeling 100% paralyzed by your bad choices. Imagine that there is no one to help.

You received without paying, now give without being paid.~Jesus, Matthew 10:10

Now imagine being the one to help. Imagine trying to reach out to the working class poor. Imagine yourself stepping out in the knowledge that but for God’s mercy you too would be trapped.

This month I have spent $0.50 on ice water at school (can’t we agree that this is a necessity when it is 99 degrees outside?!) and not a penny more. Just the thought of all the people out there who have reached the end of their rope and truly have nowhere to go…overwhelms me. There is poor, and there is spiritually poor. Hundreds, thousands of people are both. How blessed am I to have everything! I, a spiritual beggar, have richness that all Heaven cannot contain. I, a selfish sinner, have never known hunger. It is hard to even thinking about sinking our hands in with people who are in debt, but the debt I owe to Jesus is more real than any amount of dollars and cents. That’s real, crazy love.

Forgive my apathy, Lord. I spend more time delighting in my material wealth than in my spiritual blessedness.

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.~Romans 7:22-23

I’m going to end with a prayer excerpt from my journal dated 8/27/13:

I rejoice in You, Lord God, for who You are and for the blessings that you pepper my life with in the form of unique and special people.
I’m thankful for the travelers whose paths You have led across mine here in Little Rock &; North Little Rock. I thank You for bringing the world to me here.
Thank You for feeding me today.
I desire You now more than ever. Good day or bad day…You are all my hope and peace. All the joy that I feel, I know it is from Your Spirit connection within me.
Sweet God, creative God. The God of fulfillment and earthly poverty that leads to Heavenly joy. The God of unexpected mini road trips to Roland, dirt, and Diet Coke.
He blesses me and I rejoice!
When these blessings are withheld, I am going to be happy.

Whoever has the Son of life has life, whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.~1 John 5:12

This Year

This year, so full. The action, unending. Now that I have suffered, suffered in a multitude of ways, I can enjoy-happily-all that there is to love about life. Late nights with friends, hearts on sleeves. Sweet, grassy smells. Incense, burning. Hammock, hanging. Boys and the way they taste-different, each. God and His majesty, revealed in a rainbow of ways. Thrift stores and NO HOMEWORK! Time to paint fingernails, toes. Maps Arts Gifts Waffle Fries. The library, the constant motion. Depositing checks $, going to concerts. Networking, knowing people and a place-exploring the depth of both. Frustrations with family, feet, feelings, sure. All the awesome cannot erase the awful. Yet, what joy is mine! In spite of surgery…and struggles, there is such sweetness to living.

This, my appreciation of it all.

Good jobs, great bosses, gracious friends. Outreach, outdoors. Long drives, lakes. People. People. People. Pulsation in my fingertips-I feel the veins against your skin. Being, growing, stretching. Life in all its’ wonder. Me, in all my imperfection. Pain, poignant, presses its’ finger on my everything. It wills me to snap. It encourages anger and abandonment of all that is lively and lovely. Happiness holds it at arms’ length for now. Fear(you dog!), today is not for you. This day is for nice, earthy, companionship…worship. Today is real. Pain, an illusion of yesterday and tomorrow.

The Ends of the Earth, The Heart of My Community

You’re the Author and Finisher of our faith

This love that we give is Yours to take

Lord take our souls fill our hearts

We live to glorify You

 I count the cost to follow You and say

 Let Your kingdom come and

Let Your will be done

On earth, as it is in Heaven

God always provides the encouragement that we need. The only way to truly say thank you is to do the same for others. Here’s to letting the Great Commission shape my daily life.

NOMADS 2012 (www.heartofgod.com)