Audacity to Ask

54 days ago:

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom~Psalm 90:12

The last journal started in struggle and ended in burn out. A lot was accomplished in between. But no amount of productivity is worth the forfeit of my soul’s health. I want this journal to be full of all the joy and health that comes from living Coram Deo [in the presence of God]. I hope it is peppered with instances in which I put down what I am doing at the slightest urging, and readily join God in whatever He is up to. I want to follow Him in all things, everyday submitting myself to His great self. Every day an expedition into grace and He is my Captain. Where will we go, Lord? What will happen? Only You know, and that is what is best. I hope to be renewed by deeper connection to the Fount of Living Water. You can make these dreams come true in my life, Lord, and I pray that You will, knowing that even as I pray You have already answered. 

On the last page of the same journal I wrote:

My God overwhelms the giants. He slays dragons. He gives us what it takes to lift trembling sword in the fact of monsters unimaginable. He puts the war cry for justice deep in our throats. He sets fire in our belly so we can stand appalled and indignant in the way of abuse and terror. It’s His breath in our lungs anyway. Let’s praise Him with it.

Amazing that He answered my prayers even before the journal was spent.

Receiving God’s gifts is a gentle, simple movement of stooping lower.~Ann Voskamp

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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

Transitions

It is ironic that I like driving alone in my truck. Even a short jaunt from place to place on a sunny afternoon brings me immense happiness. The irony is in the fact that while I adore these physical transitions I struggle with the emotions of life’s most basic transitions. Changes weigh heavily on my heart. Season leaves behind season, years peel away to reveal new decades. I often feel stuck in remembrance, unwilling to let the precious past go.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.~Psalm 126:5&6

I’ll never sit at Grandma’s side, chatting about nothing and about life in pain while we watch the brass pendulum tick the hours by. It hurts that I can’t call her on Fridays anymore and that my phone is slowly erasing all the saved voicemails she left. I treasure these glimpses into a time before her final transition.
My composition instructor who so challenged, bored, inspired, and fascinated me (depending on the day) will not teach me anymore. My heart is tender as I walk amongst classmates down the gray hall. I hear him enthusiastically yelling even now, “Do something worth writing about!” and I am thankful.
I won’t see Tori again. A friend as constant as the sunrise won’t stand next to me in the pool again. She won’t cut the cake at my wedding. She is gone. We won’t talk about our lives or cry over movies together because that time has reached its end. Suddenly, her color in my rainbow is gone, and the childish era when our lives overlapped has passed. A painful wound is left.
Such great, somber hope fills the void.
Spending time on behalf of the outcasts, and using my voice to speak for those without voices, yields less of a paycheck than one might think. How to cling less tightly to earthly security, its a dear lesson to learn. With God’s help, I will rely on Him more fully in time.
Growing into my personal beliefs instead of foolishly adopting those of my culture, another lesson. I am holding more loosely to ideals with which I have been indoctrinated and suspending life long biases in pursuit of personal faith in the better Way, the real Truth, and the abundant Life. There is a Guide who knows the best way. Jesus is my Rabbi, also my Friend. To Him I owe a loyalty greater than I owe to family, country, or friends.
Learning to joyfully count the cost and give it all up for the sake of my King.
Aching as time continually changes the landscape of my life.
Rejoicing in new lives, new days, and memories that speak: I am not home yet.

I drive my truck and I love it, from place to place.

Be to me a rock of refuge to which I may continually come~Psalm 71:31

Hearing, I forget; seeing, I remember; writing, I understand.~Chinese Proverb

Unforced Grace

You, Lord, are enthroned forever.

In my little life, You have already done so much.
You raised me up in Your word via loving parents.
You ignited that knowledge of the Scriptures by Your Holy Spirit.
You took me to Jamaica to break my heart for the nations.
You led me to a Native American Reservation in Washington state to set me face to face with the choice of who I will worship. In a fierce competition between me and You, You won.
Blessed be Your name.
You broke my body and wholly took control, though I fought it tooth and nail.
You shattered my pride and claimed my heart for Your own.
You led me to Mexico to discover grace and peace.
You drew me to North Little Rock to glimpse Your heart for the marginalized.
You allowed tragedy to strike as close to my heart as possible outside of my nuclear family.
I don’t know Your plan but I can see Your hand
Moving, shaping, preparing, making.

Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly~George MacDonald

When I take a moment to reflect on the road I am walking,
I quickly become overwhelmed by what an eloquently written story my life is.
This God–His way is perfect. (Psalm 18:30)

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythm of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.~Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

What the Tornado Took

He bolstered me for a trial of which there was no foreshadowing.
God was so near. In the blue lights, His Spirit took hold and spoke through me, when my shock was great.
Those are moments that I ask for the strength and memory to hold in my head and heart as pillars of faith in a living God.
Selfishness, frustration, and lack of faith bares its ugly teeth,
All while I seek to enter the pain again and again, to be rid of it.
It hurts now to laugh as family and friends seek to cheer me up;
Their support is invaluable.
May Jesus’ people be mobilized to support those with no (loving or living) family.
I had forgotten how physical the pain of a broken heart is.
There is a a heavy rawness in my chest
That wells to the forefront of my emotions when I see the wreckage, see the swathe of destruction.
My mind takes me to the place where the curtain was torn in two;
How much worse was Christ’s pain?
I could have washed my friend’s feet many times over with the tears that I have shed for her.
Let me live in such a way as to be washing the feet of those I love
(everyone)
Daily by my actions and sincerity of heart.

He takes our transgressions away, as far as the East is to the West.
He loves us to the sky and back.
(Psalm 103)

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord
more than the watchmen for the morning
more than the watchmen for the morning.~Psalm 130:3-6

Poem, II

Much of my time is joy, is light
I won’t deny: there too is despair, there is night.
Though rare, there are times
When-a vine-angst climbs.

I am worried about going,
I am worried about throwing
All I have down a funnel,
Down a labyrinth tunnel.

Suddenly cigarettes and sex
Ashes blowing in my face, legs braced
Shine their neon lights, croon a hex
Put in reverse, the Highway to Hell now trace.

The road to Heaven: paved with negative emotions
Then they wash away: holy oceans.
By His breath, now I see
Often I choose death, though for life I am free.

Despite my natural tilt, He
Takes the wickedness away;
He soothes empty guilt, it won’t
Come into play.

He may not stop me
But he lets me decide:
Who will I be?
Which way will I ride?

I am not a romantic, but
Tears of my eyes against Him I can’t hide,
In the midst of my frantic He
Is there by my side.

Food Good

I did not know I had a problem. It was a situation that brought no attention to itself. Everyone does what I do…sometimes. It is normal and therefore healthy. Right?
Not my food addiction.
I habitually put far more hope, security, and time into food than I realize.
After my third fast ever-a sun-up to sundown purge-I see my tendencies more clearly. It’s painful. I actually sat down and watched a whole TV show without getting up. I sat down at the computer without first taking fifteen minutes to prepare a snack. The day went by faster (no thoughts of when the next meal would occur, perhaps?) though I seemed to have more time. Every time my stomach let its emptiness be known I turned my thoughts heavenward (general Christian fasting etiquette I suppose). I prayed that God would be my bread of life.
Guess what? It was not actually that hard. I am certain that the time I spent praying for the fast before I started had a lot to do with it. The reality is, though, I am not as dependent on food as I like to think I am. I eat for more than nutrition. It’s not about eating enough to survive. I eat all that I can without gaining weight (Vanity? you ask. Let’s save that conversation for another day.) because I love food. I love the way it makes me feel and I love the distraction. I like the way the taste takes me away and frees me from my human pangs.
Time out. I am still a fan of food. Food is a gift from God to us. He feeds us spiritually and physically because He is that great. I just ate ice cream for Pete’s sake. Food good.
What I am talking about is the line that I have crossed between food as a gift and food as an obsession. It has become an obsession. I think about it constantly. Most moments you can find me either eating, preparing, or dreaming about food. I revel in the time and thought that feasting takes away from my duties and shortcomings. I am guilty of using food as an escape route from the reality that God has placed me in. I have a responsibility to know Him, to spend time at His feet learning. Instead of appreciating the time I have to spend with my Lord I bury my face in the pleasure of food. The delight of food is temporary. The delight of knowing God is eternal.
I thank God for leading me to fast today for the sake of illuminating my problem. I enjoyed the freedom of today. I like not being enslaved to my mortal body. I am also scared for the lengths to which He may take me. Hunger is not for sissies. But then neither is sanctification.

In Him I will find true delight!

Everyday I worship at the altars of comfort and control. But God’s powerful and patient grace is rescuing me.~Paul Tripp

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.~Romans 12:2

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

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

Ardent Audacity

It’s funny that we tell each other…
And we actually believe…
“I deserve a break,” or
“I’ve earned this vacation.”
I’m entitled to these pancakes soaked in syrup and bananas.
Wrong again;
We give to ourselves the credit due God alone.
We lose track of how merciful He is because we ascribe to ourselves the thanks He alone warrants.

My ingratitude constantly draws a rift between He and I.
I love Him, I do. He knows that I try, and He knows that I often try halfheartedly. He sees me running down rabbit trails of self-pity day following day, yet He blesses me and continues to use me for His purposes.

How big, how great, how perfect He is! I curse Him by ingratitude, and He offers me tangible, over-the-top blessings like a trip to Mexico! (When I said over-the-top, I meant it).
How small, how dependent, how worthless I am in avoidance of Him.
He puts bigness in me.
He makes my dependency feel like freedom.
He opens my eyes to the way things truly are.

All to Him I owe.

I have not earned Him. I have no right to know God. His love is just that: love. There is nothing in this for Him.
He draws me gently, close to Him.
He holds me because He loves me,
Gives me everything and more because that is who He is.
I am angered when He is distant, though I am the one who Has run away.
I ignore His hand even when He is at work directly before me.
My sin overcomes me
And He rushes to my aid.
No longer will darkness capture me,
Even when I foolishly seek it out.
He is my guardian, my flawless companion,
My shalom.
In Him, I am okay.

We are ocean, we are mist
Brilliant fools who ruled and kiss
There’s beauty in the dirt
Wandering in skin and soul
Searching, longing for a whole.~Gungor, I am Mountain