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

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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

Year of Two Griefs

2013

2013

2 years ago I tutored a girl named Aaliyah.
1 summer ago I met a woman with 3 daughters trailing behind her.
That summer I realized that I had to have real faith or no faith at all.
I knew that it was not enough to serve people I did not know.
I knew I was cheating God to emotionally clock in and out of “ministry”.
I knew I had to care.

Then I said, ‘behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’~Hebrews 10:7

Back to the girl named Aaliyah.
I started showing up at her apartment, chatting with her mom.
I started bringing strawberries after school.
I felt awkward and unsure of everything except for one thing: God’s plan.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.~Micah 7:7

He was leading me, Little Old Me, and I was doing my best to walk in the shoes He had for me.
I searched and searched and kept coming back to apartment 119 in the projects.
Then I took three girls to the park.
Then I took three girls to the library.
Suddenly–I can’t remember when exactly–a relationship was born.

Rumor has it that other languages have words for what English speakers call “adopted family” or “fictive kin”. I wish English had a word for it. The three girls are not my sisters, they are not my kids. “Entourage” doesn’t cut it either. They are something more miraculous and unusual. We became blood-kin not by our parents but by our Savior. His love compelled me to their door. His love made sure there was a place for me in their life. God’s whimsy, His creativity, His mission brought us together and made one great year.
There were apologies and snacks by the pool. We ran spontaneously into the sprinklers at Peabody Park and we went to church together on Sunday afternoons. We danced in the talent show and we played tips with the Church’s Chicken basketball. We read books together and we watched Beatles videos until we got bored. We wrestled, we danced, we swam, we clapped, we sang, we prayed. We were humans–little girls–together. Jesus’ loving ability to meet our needs bridged the gaps between us.
There were times when I felt I was banging my head against a wall of sin and rebellion. There were times when dancing in the kitchen with them was therapy for me.
Our love for each other turned heads. I like to think that people felt an inkling of divine involvement when they saw me and three chocolate swirled girls happily packed into my truck.1452329_763019423714930_46172494_n

Now they have relocated and left a gaping hole in my life.
The anvil is on my heart again,
Like wounding a wound.

The English language falls short once more.
Suffice it to say, God’s dreams are the dreams that overwhelm and delight.

As I read Isaiah 30 I can feel God whisper to my tore up soul:

This is the way. Walk you in it.

Pop Vulture

3 Quick Responses that I must articulate:

1) Love & Basketball

              SUCH a popular movie. If you have not seen it you are probably not American. That being said, I was not American until about a month ago. I watched it and have been reeling ever since. GASP. Woman desperately pursues man! Woman is a great basketball player with a decent family yet all she wants is Man. Man sleeps around unapologetically and takes no action towards pursuing Woman. In the climactic scene, Woman challenges Man to a game of basketball with his heart as the prize. She plays for HIS heart!? I watched open mouthed. (I’m being serious here: flies probably gathered, I was oblivious.) Man was made to pursue Woman. No woman should have to desperately pursue her man.

I perceive this mentality as result of a break down in society that has removed man’s drive to provide and left women desperately trying to lead families–a position no woman wants to find herself in. In my life and the lives of my friends, it is prevalent. ‘Merica.

Let him come after you, ladies. We were made to be hard to get. We give a man permission to be a man when we wait for HIM to pursue US. If he does not come, then he ain’t the one!

2) Stay With Me

           I recently acquired a Spotify account (https://www.spotify.com/us/) and the very first song I downloaded was, yes, Stay With Me by Sam Smith. Why? Because I adore this song. It has been upwards of a month since I downloaded it and I have listened to it nearly every day since. Yesterday it occurred to me (as I sang at the top of my lungs…) how deplorable the lyrics are.

Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a one-night stand But I still need love ’cause I’m just a man These nights never seem to go to plan I don’t want you to leave, will you hold my hand?

[Chorus:] Oh, won’t you stay with me? ‘Cause you’re all I need This ain’t love, it’s clear to see But darling, stay with me

[Verse 2:] Why am I so emotional? No, it’s not a good look, gain some self-control And deep down I know this never works But you can lay with me so it doesn’t hurt

(http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/samsmith/staywithme.html)

Tragic. These words break my heart. According to a potentially reliable source (The Daily Beast, you be the judge) the songwriter/performer, Sam Smith, wrote these from personal experience. We are seeing into this precious man’s soul. And do you feel his sorrow? I can close my eyes and taste his desperation, his longing for something to fill the void. (I can taste it because I too have been desperate, broken, and full of longing for love.) He stays with someone he knows does not love him. What else can he do?

When I thought, “my foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.~Psalm 94:18&19

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will DELIVER him; I will PROTECT him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be WITH him in trouble; I will RESCUE him and honor him. With long life I will SATISFY him and show him my salvation.~Psalm 91:14-16

3) Divergent

         In contrast to #1, Divergent offers the kind of love story that reflects the ideals behind a Biblical relationship (the kind that makes me sniffle.) Girl kicks butt (girl power, love it.) Guy notices Girl. Guy starts protecting Girl. Girl notices but is cautious. Guy kisses Girl. Girl acts like a lady and bids him slow down. This makes Guy want Girl more. This causes Guy to respect Girl. Girl and Guy protect and sacrifice for each other.

Enough. I might throw up. I am a fan of it because I am tired of seeing girls play ball for their man’s heart and get left in the ruins of abuse and neglect.

SHE: Draw me after you; let us run. (1:4aa)

HE: As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women. (2:2)

SHE: My beloved is mine, and I am his. (2:16) Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. (8: 7a) ~Song of Solomon

All Praises Be

I greet my God in the morning as though I woke up beside Him.
Praises be to the One who chooses to be near me,
Praises to the One who is patient with me, and tender.
He is always doing something but it seems like I see that more tangibly when I travel, even just one hour away for 5 days. This gives me time to look at and comprehend just a string or two of the tapestry He is weaving
Here.
On this planet
With these children
And each other,
All disciples,
Of the living God,
Of our Savior Jesus.
We are claimed as His beloved
And we’re fighting for these children whose lives appear to be hanging in the balance.
I don’t know how many heads I’ve kissed.
I do not know how many weeping girls I have lifted from their beds and brought down to my bunk so that they could sleep their troubled sleep, clinging tightly to my arm.
I don’t know how much ice I have put on wounds
Or how many kids have heard me say, “You’re important.”
But I meant every single one.
All this may suffice to say,
God is here among us.
He is working.
His plan is being fulfilled in hearts and lives.
Little nuggets of knowledge we have laid in hearts we ask our Father to nurture, to protect.

I will continue it all until He points my compass elsewhere.
I need God to keep me humble,
I need Him to make me strong.
I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.~Psalm 138:2-3

Be persistent in your efforts for good.

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the example in your speech, in your conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.~1 Timothy 4:12

My hope is set on the living God.
Can I shout it out?
May I cry aloud, “He is MY God! He has claimed me!”
My hands work hard to make Him known.
I ask no other portion
Than to know the One whose race I run.

Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of every value, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.~1 Timothy 4:7b-8

I still have so far to go, but my Lover is answering my prayers.
He is teaching me (in all my stubbornness) to have grace and love, and to build others up.

More grace.
More love.
More healing.
We all live in His sight.
Let us be ready and willing to take hold of that which is truly life.

Get up at 6 A.M. four days in a row this week and spend 35 minutes with God. I dare you to see what He will do in and around you.

Wildsmolder

There is a taste of what is coming in the diet of my week.

A foreshadowing lurks between
the moments when I am admiring how high the women hold their heads and eyebrows
and the moments spent wondering why hot funjuns for breakfast?

The small sacrifice of spare moments and 10% has turned into a portion of my earnings and the precious commodity of the American Sunday Afternoon. I wish I could be with my family. I wish on a grey day that I could be in PJs watching Drake & Josh with my sister. Where is the pleasure in exiting my parent’s warm house to traverse a dreary, thirsty city?
Could he ask of me any smaller task? Is there anything so precious that requires less effort?
That which I lay on the altar now is like a goat compared to Isaac under his father Abraham’s blade. (Genesis 22)
I give up hours;
He has called me to give up a lifetime.

My thoughts are cast forward to when my call will be demonstrated:
I’ll move overseas,
I’ll follow God farther than I’ve followed before.
Farther than Yakama, Washington
Much farther than Jamaica
Or Mexico.

I’ll say goodbye to home and heartland until my visa is due to expire.
I will doubt and question my decision and He will remain faithful
Amidst a myriad of scenarios beyond my most wild imaginings.

I can no more imagine the barrier of a sea between my family and I
Than I can fathom the barrier of a language between my heart and my neighbor’s.

My faith is small.
It’s a rock balancing on the tip of a formation lost in the desert. In the sun and wind it is strong and balanced. But the slightest rain, a little drizzle, and the rock falls down down, breaking into pieces of red slate.
That’s me.

Perched happily (precariously) atop my savings, my network, my job, my school,
Until the rain comes. The slightest trickle:
A hydroplaning incident (including my reaction to said incident) that may cost me my dream vehicle, a portion of my college savings, and a precious relationship.
How many of those things matter?
I would venture to say only the third.
Which of those things do I have control over?
In this scenario, only the third.
Sin is the destroyer. Not rain on the road or a swerving semi-truck, or insurance fraud or an unjust system. Sin makes the things that matter topple. My sin causes real issues. Yelling because my trust is gone. Crying because I am tired of trying (we call that a pity party). These are the problems.

Money is secondary.
Higher education is tertiary at best.
The Father’s love is primary. The Father’s glory is on level with his love.

My faith is smaller than a mustard seed, and not nearly as powerful.

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the hearts of the contrite.”~Isaiah 57:15-16

Chosen Are We

I just can’t seem to sing it away
No way
No way

I can’t stay strong with my own burden.
Imagining Your pain
Brings me to my knees, yearning.

God I’m hurting
My heart is a knot
Tied up
But not in You
No it’s not
No it’s not
So lost in myself
Tied up in me
I
I
I forget how great You are.
I remember only how miserable I am
With-
With-
Without You.

But I’m not done
He’s still the One.

There’s a fountain that flows
For you
Me
And for all.
By all I mean you.
It’s my Kingdom, it’s Your Kingdom
It’s His Kingdom.
If we get on board,
If we say “Jesus” instead of
“Just us”,
We stop caring about our kingdom
(Of dirt)
And start living for His.
What I mean by
“There’s a fountain that flows
For you
Me
And for all”
Is that you’ll be seeing
Every race
In Heaven.
Hallelujah!

He cares
He cares for ya.

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom, which he has promised to those who seek him?~James 2:13

He has chosen the poor
Lord, Lord
I am yours

Yours.
The word melts on my mouth like a heart-shaped chocolate.
I belong.
I am being made whole.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Everybody love somebody.

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.

Divine Days

My thoughts follow each other in constant cycles; I would love to be in a place where there is good, close community. I would love to have friends who keep me accountable and spur me towards godliness. I would like to have time to spend with those friends.
What about right here?
Is there any part of you that would like to be here, Lydia?
This is where God has placed you. Do your continual wonderings* glorify Him?
Instead of thanking Him, you allow thoughts that question His methods to run circles around your mind.
In His will is the best place.
Be it dark, confusing, lonely…the place He has for you is the only place you will have peace.

Don’t ruin it.
Choose to love it
By choosing to love Him.

But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh~Galations 5:16

*Not actually a word. Until now.

The Peace

Peter & Jenny Boling, vocational God-followers.

Peter & Jenny Boling, vocational God-followers.

What was the best part of your trip to Mexico? They say.
Oh, dear, I say.

Was it the all-night New Years Eve fiesta with confetti and balloons and dancing?
Was it standing on a dirt roof looking out over Cabo San Lucas as fireworks went off to illuminate a new year?
Perhaps it was napping lightly in the bright yellow sun on New Years Day.
There was also whale watching from the beach of the Pacific, sprawled on a blanket, the aftertaste of sweet white wine on my tongue. A new friend welcomed me by caressing my face and declaring severe jealousy for my eye color and skin tone.
Flying through the air and splashing hard into blue, chilly water, watching the fish flee: that may have been it.
There is, however, no blessing as real as sitting quietly before the Lord, praying, reading, and listening without the interruption of responsibilities.
The greatest blessing of the trip, truly, was being with people who are on the same road as I, only 30 years farther down it. Hanging our legs off the back of a truck, parked to overlook the city of La Paz (The Peace), they prayed and I received gifts beyond value. I was warmed by prayers for my renewal, my growth, and my future relationships. People who care on a deep level, for the yearnings and groanings of my spirit, are people whose feet I love to sit at and learn.

Coming home
With a banished ego, (oh that it were deflated for good!)
With a greater love for my city,
With a corrected understanding of God’s grace,
With a deeper desire to know, rely on, and follow God,
Was the biggest blessing.
God uproots my heart time and again, for the sake of replanting it more deeply in Him.

For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.~Micah 4:5