Monday, December 20, 2010

a.k.a. "The Christmas Letter"

To my friends and family:

It’s that time of year again where we all look back on the year before and look with anticipation to the year ahead. This is also called “The Christmas Letter.”

This year has been one of the most incredible and exciting I believe I have ever had. Check that – I know it has been. This has been a year in which I have seen the work of God unfold in my life in powerful and unexpected ways and have seen His promises fulfilled.

It is a year in which I learned for the first time so many wonderful things – the top two being peace and freedom. My heart no longer carries the burden that so long weighed it down, and I can’t tell you what a tremendous feeling that is. Waking up every day after restful sleep, knowing that the torment is gone and that the empty space has been filled with His goodness…it is indescribable. And the peace that passes all understanding fills my heart so that I do not live in worry or fear (except of course in those moments I suddenly realize I’m not worried or afraid and desperately try to find a reason to be. I’m still working on that one).

The truth is, these are two wonderful gifts. And these, I have learned this year and now know. Not in the sense that I experienced them once or studied them in a book or heard about them from a friend; these things I now know because they are my constant companions. In those moments where strife tries to eke its way in, these companions step in and remind me to let go, to set myself free, and to be at peace. And I am. And God comes through for me with every surrender.

These gifts are joined by countless others. The gift of beauty in which I see in myself the masterful hand of my Father, who created something breathtaking in me. The gift of calling in that every day, I know more clearly what God is planning for me and the things He is already working on. Indeed, these things are many and good and what is to come is sweet and simple. Simplicity is another of the gifts He has given this year. Simplicity and stillness and the softness of a gentle spirit. Who ever could have imagined these would be His gifts to me? Yet, they are and I relish them, loving every day the woman He has created.

He has instilled in me discipline, a trait I am still honing. He has taught me that as wonderful and as good as these gifts are and as barely as I recognize myself, I still have the call to live not out of the good feelings and ability to breathe but out of the source of it all. (That still gets me in trouble sometimes – that sense that I could probably make it on the fumes of the good things, but I hunger and thirst for more of the good itself and find better discipline, more peace, and authenticity of spirit when I live out of His abundance.)

There’s so much more I could name, but these are the things that have defined this year for me. There are others, more earthly I suppose, and you might be interested in some of those.

This year saw continued improvement in my health. Strength and stamina are returning to my body, and I am pleased to do just about anything I desire. I have worked outside raking leaves and shoveling snow, played in the sunshine with Aeris and Damien, gone for walks and bike rides, and simply enjoyed doing the things that not so long ago seemed all but over in my life. Truly, He has healed me well, and I am excited to be moving forward with respect to my body and my overall condition but with trust and graciousness to the One who created this body’s wisdom.

This year also saw the completion of my third book (Recess with Jesus) and the first I am hoping to publish, though it also brought a tentative contract offer for the first. I thought it best to hold off on publishing the first for awhile, and the publishing house agreed to keep the contract on the table indefinitely. The truth is that the third book more hits at the stories God has put in my heart to tell, and it is perfectly my style. I am looking forward to having it published and am anxiously awaiting further news from the publisher’s desk on this one. In the meantime, I am gathering notes for my fourth and fifth books simultaneously and looking forward to the challenges of each.

This year came with an expanding and shrinking wardrobe as my baggy pants, too-big t-shirts, and flannel shirts made their way to Goodwill to be replaced by form-fitting items, curvy jeans, a new pair of cords, several awesome shirts (many in pink), a dress (yes, a DRESS…and I love it), and a new pink pea coat. My brown hat with feather and band are pretty swell, as well. Much better than that black newsboy cap I wore for much too long. (Why didn’t someone smack me?)

This year, I have learned much and had plenty of opportunity to work with my hands. Whether it has been working on my car, fixing things up around the house, or creating something visually appealing with my hands, God has given me plenty to keep me busy and to grow in my understanding of myself and His mercy.

A million other little traits that I am finding in myself pop to mind as I come to a close. This has been a year of incredible healing. Not just healing, but redemption and ransom. God truly has a heart for this daughter of His, and it makes me giggle. A lot. (Yes, I said giggle.) I have forgiven many people and restored many relationships. Some are works in progress, but it empowers my peace and my strength to know that I have no hate, no anger, no bitterness in my heart any more. Only love, and there are so many who I may have never been able to love before who now have the fullness of my love. That is by the grace of God. And it includes myself, the toughest of all to forgive. As God and I have spent the year wrestling and uncovering His gifts and promises in my life, He has prompted and prodded and pleaded and even screamed at me to set myself free. I have answered, and I am free. In forgiveness. In beauty. In strength. In grace. In gratefulness. In mercy. In peace.

There have been some tough decisions and many tough moments, but such is life. Through it all, this remains: I am God’s precious daughter, beautiful and blessed, restored and redeemed. 2010 has been an incredible year, and one I will never forget because its friends and memories move on with me to an even more promising, more beautiful, more unspeakable 2011.

I will close with this, even as I am turning it into an art project for my walls. In 2011, there are but three things I hope to remember, to live by, and to love by:

Live a life worthy…worthy of God’s call on my own life and His perfect plan for me and worthy of all He has given and gifted me with, His precious redeeming work.

Be fully that…which God has called me to be and nothing more. And nothing less. And no one else.

Let your life speak…and nothing else requires words.

I’m looking forward to 2011 and doing something beautiful in this world. That is where He is pushing me, pulling me, leading me, and I can’t wait.

With peace and blessings and the fullness of love,


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cutting the Cord

My heart is in a place of tremendous pain, almost indescribable. I’ve been sitting with my thoughts, with my heart, and with my God for several days (weeks?) trying to figure it all out but all I want to do is curl up into a little ball and cry forever. It has nothing to do with sadness, so it is not depression. Just deep, deep pain.

I have cried and screamed and begged God for silence, to shut up this incessant hurt that stings and yells and wants to demand attention. Just make it go away, God, I have begged and He has refused. “Because you need to hear this,” He says.

“You need to hear that there’s more to you than you have ever imagined, that I have done and am continuing to do tremendous things in you. And you are frustrating the wits out of me! What’s wrong with you?

I have answered your prayers, even the ones you have not been able to speak to Me. I have given you a new voice, a new strength, and a new spirit. I have invited you into a new story. I have begged and pleaded with you to turn your back on things, and you ho-hum and half-diddly around with it only to find out it is good, REALLY good, and tuck your tail and turn away.

Isn’t this what you have wanted from Me? Isn’t this the unspeakable gift you so long begged and prayed and pleaded for? Child, I set you free. When will you set yourself free?”

So that is the question that rolls around in my head and cuts through the recesses of my heart to hit the deepest places. That is the question that is the pain. When will I set myself free?

My whole life, I dreamed of being rescued. Or someone just rushing in and grabbing me and stealing me away from the things that robbed me of my dreams. But there was always that overwhelming fear, too, because I knew there were so many things that tied me to the very place I was trying to get away from. Here it is, and that Someone has come. I have been thoroughly rescued. Not only rescued, but washed clean, redeemed, restored, and purposed. Not to mention the million other little things like loved and beautified and purified and forgiven and saved and (insert your own word here for beautiful gifts of God) and I’m still tied to that place.

Life used to be hard. It used to be a challenge to wake up every day knowing there was darkness and difficulty awaiting me. I have been places and seen things inside my own heart that nobody should ever have to experience, that should never live inside us and dominate our being like that.

That is all gone. Or so I thought. I mean, days aren’t hard like that any more and I couldn’t tell you how long ago the last day of darkness was. But days are still hard, and this pain is even deeper than any before it. How so?

There’s something I can’t let go of. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know why I am so tied to it, but it is there. I know it is there because you can judge something by its fruit in your life, and this is nothing but rotten. If I could find it, I’d get rid of it…because it’s making the whole house stink. No, seriously.

And now God is telling me to stop myself. He knows this is a road I could easily go down, beating myself up for something invisible or something perceived. He knows this could take me completely off track from the sensation in my heart that is calling me to something deeper. So I will divert.

Because I am beautiful. I am loved and gifted and blessed and so beautiful, and that is what He is doing in me. That is part of what it means to have been set free. Then what are these chains that still hold me.

Maybe it is partly paying a debt. There are times I feel like I owe something to myself, somehow. If that makes any sense. It’s like…if I embrace this freedom, my past grows dim and while I don’t forget it, it doesn’t dictate me any more. And shouldn’t it dictate me? Shouldn’t it have something to speak about this young woman standing before God anxious to feel every bit of the sun on her shoulders, the breeze through her hair, the rain on her face? Shouldn’t that past get a voice and warn everyone that this is just a myth, that it is something temporary, and that no one should expect goodness without the rotten, stinking fruit of the world?

Then I start thinking that no, there can be no voice to a lie. There can be no voice given to the untruths that define my story. Is the story true? That’s not the question; that has been answered again and again. The question is: was the story penned by a dirty rotten ratfink with no inclination toward telling a good story? That is the question.

There is such a thing as goodness that comes without strings attached. God isn’t dangling His presence in front of me like the proverbial carrot, taunting that I can sense its goodness but will never come close enough to feast on it. He is inviting me to feast.

To feast on freedom and not being held back by the sense of unworthiness or burden or fear or whatever else might try to step in the way. He is begging me to set my heart free, to soak in the truths of His word and His presence and the thousand little prayers He answers for me every day. He wants me to laugh and joke and let myself be. Just be.

And what would I be if I weren’t trying so hard to be what I never was? If I weren’t paying some debt to the dirty rotten ratfink who has written so many lies on my heart, lies that – let’s be honest – I don’t even consciously believe any more but still somehow dictate how I live at times.

It’s scary. It is overwhelming. It hurts, and it is the cutting of the deep pain. I know I don’t know how to live that way. It’s foreign, an idea that would barely have crossed my mind even a year ago. Now, it is heavy in my heart because that is what I am being called to and the more foreign it seems, the more natural it is.

Yes, that is what I said. I’m realizing that God is a God of paradoxes, of opposites. This is growing evident in every hint of redemption that catches my eye, that seizes my heart. Never have I felt more loved…or unworthy. Stronger…or weaker. Wiser…or more naïve. More humbled and grounded…or more unrealistic.

The way God is calling me to live seems like the most natural thing in the world. It’s so obvious, so clear to me that if I would get out of my own way, I would be fully that and probably more. He’s probably not even revealed the depths of His plan for me. Still, I stand in my own way because of…

Because of what? I wish I knew. Lord, how I wish I knew. But I am so thankful that He knows, that He is letting me dangle by a thread and not rescuing me from the depth of this pain. He reminds me again and again and again of the beautiful things He is doing, of the beautiful things He has done. He calls me to a simple, quiet life of purpose and faith. That is becoming my reality.

It is wild. Like some parallel universe, something so far beyond my wildest imagination. To be able to imagine myself here, in the purest place of my heart where He is vital and active and begging me to trust Him…it is incredible. To know my thoughts turn to prayer first. That I’m not afraid to ask Him the questions and more importantly, not afraid to hear His answer. That I’m learning to accept not always having the answers but knowing them in my heart enough to choose, to follow, to obey. To be stilled and quieted, not feeling like I have to say much at all, if anything, and not demanding of the world as I did for so long. To stop reckoning by force and instead living as a force to be reckoned with…a gentle, grateful, gracious, generous, grounded, awe-filled force with enough strength and power and tenderness behind me (and in me and around me) to move mountains. That’s totally, totally awesome.

And I’m one thread away from letting myself go and being fully that, of embracing God’s work in my life and living a life worthy of His presence. One little thread that I don’t even understand the significance of any more but I’m sure once upon a time meant something very dear. Probably. One little thread that God is screaming at me, in the depth of unspeakable pain and crippling hurt to “Let GO, Daughter! Set yourself free!” then following with promises that this will not be a freefall; it will be an invitation to soar.

One little thread that if given a million years, I’m not sure I could ever let go of.

This is a deep pain, cutting through me in ways I cannot explain. I can’t understand it. There are no words. Not one. Yet, I see beauty in this cutting pain. Somewhere, somehow, also without words, there is something beautiful happening even here. That is what I know, in the depths of my heart, each day that I find the strength to stand up again.

The answer to the pain may be more pain. I’ve so often thought of the cold and flu bugs while God has worked on me because I have felt the heaviness of my own exhaustion. And I have known the exhaustion is simple – it is breathing again. I’m not worn out, worn down, tired, fatigued, and just about dead because of the good things God is doing in my life. I am all of those things because of the long fight, the struggle, the stubbornness? that kept God’s goodness out of me for so long. He set me free to breathe again, and the fresh air makes me realize how stale and even toxic the air used to be. That’s why I’m exhausted. This pain may be much the same. It is a hunger pain, craving to feast on God. On Christ. It is this gnawing, demanding, crippling pain that demands a feast. That reminds me how long it has been since I have feasted on anything, let alone anything of nutritional value or even pleasing to the tongue. My mouth is watering even as I write this. And I know that when I feast, it will be more painful for awhile. It will be like sitting down to a full-course of steak and potatoes after fasting for a month. Because God is not asking me to take small bites, to build myself up to this, to take it easy and let one thing after another digest piece by piece until it feels like maybe I’m ready to try something more substantive.

He’s asking me to let go. Now. Fully. Completely. Embrace His presence. Be everything He has put in me to be; forsake everything I never was. Feast.

“Let Go, my daughter. You’ve held on long enough. You can smell this that I am preparing for you; it is everything you have ever wanted. Your mouth is watering because you know how deep, how satisfying, how good this is and you are scared. I get that. It’s a new dish, a brand new recipe just for you, and it is hard to try new things. But I am not new. I am forever, for always, for always have been, and for all time. I am eternity. Feast and be full.

I have set you free, daughter. When will you set yourself free?”

And I see the thread that could hold me forever, that I seem so willing to turn my back on the good and beautiful God to hold on to. And I know that even in this pain, where I am begging for quiet and for peace and for rest, I might never find it in me to let go.

“LET GO,” He cries, begging and pleading and screaming with me. It’s so loud I can barely think, let alone will myself to rise. “Let go.”

I know that I can’t. I just can’t. And I’m sorry, Lord, but I can’t let go. There’s only one thing to do.

With that devilish grin He’s put in my heart, that sneaky sly style He embedded in me, I pull out the scissors and cut the cord.

In one fail swoop, I am falling first then soaring. It is overwhelming. I still feel the sting of pain where the fight between a dirty little ratfink and Abba Father nearly ripped me apart. I feel the pang of emptiness filling with a feast. I am exhausted. I am thoroughly exhausted. I am awed. I am brought to tears. There may never be enough tears. And there it is, what I have been searching for all along, praying and begging and pleading with God for: There is quiet. There is peace. There is rest.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Deepest Heart

Just what is so wrong with living the quiet life full of simple blessings that God has called me to? That He has placed inside my heart with such a burning passion that I cannot ignore it? That steadies my spirit and rejuvenates my soul with each breathless moment? What is so terrible about being every bit the woman God has put in me to be?

It is the life I think we all wish we could find for ourselves. But if the answer is so simple as it is obvious, then why am I having so much trouble just letting this be?

There’s a lot at stake; I suppose there always is. It is tough to imagine that God could take a girl like me and turn her into the one that lives in my heart in His presence these days. In so many ways, I want to be her. You know, I watch my friends in their daily lives and follow their status messages on Facebook and I get a little jealous (and often more than a little jealous) at the simple little things. These simple things are not foreign in my own life – I love these brisk autumn days, sitting down and listening to the leaves rustle, watching the colors change, warming up with a mug of apple cider. Still, I always stop myself short of fully embracing them.

I’m coming to realize that there’s still a lot I am trying to prove. To myself. For so long, I wondered what kind of girl it was who could know the world as I have known it, and God has answered many of those questions. But His greatest answer, and the one He most wants to sink into my heart, is the one I am having the most trouble embracing. It requires a lot and would bring so much to bear upon my strengthening, but still vulnerable heart. And the truth that God wants me to hear is this: it is not that I am not that girl; it is that I NEVER WAS.

That’s a pretty big distinction. When you live your life as though you could have been her, you can handle your past in certain ways that leave you in this perpetual cycle – it is the cycle I am now in. Where you desperately want to not be that, but you know it lies somewhere within the depths of your being to be everything the world always thought she was. To be the liar, the manipulator, the little piece of trash, less than human, unloved. To be the victim. To be the abused, the abandoned, the rejected, the confused, the hurt, the pained, the vulnerable. The past makes more sense when this is the case, when you can see these traits in yourself to some extent and continue to shoulder some of the blame for every time your life has fallen short of Barbie dolls and birthday parties. You can then spend the rest of your days minding your words, desperate to prove that though you may be that, you are also more than that. You want to show that you have another side to yourself, that somewhere and somehow, you can be an asset to this world and play a role in something. In anything. You want to force your way into things, to blaze a trail and create a place where you are adding something. And you want to follow your heart and hope and pray that it leads you to something more, to something that uses this bright side of your personality, this open side of your heart to experience the world and yes, enjoy the simple things. But not too much because it doesn’t seem real, you don’t seem worthy, or it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that can last. Or worse, you start to understand (as I am now coming to see) that the way you enjoy the simple things, the way that you follow your heart and open yourself up to the wholeness of the woman God has put inside of you, NEGATES your last hope that you could have been that girl that deserved to be that girl because that still offers at least a little explanation of how things got to be this way.

The good things have been invading my life lately. In abundance. They are those warm apple cider moments (which include, thankfully, delicious warm cider) that send those tingling sensations through my body. From the inside out. They are new relationships forming, old ones being restored. They are moments of peace and freedom, where the worries of so long fade away and even cease to exist. They are the times my faith is strong and my confidence assured and my heart steady. They are the moments where I realize I am in God and He is in me and there is this beautiful, whole woman inside me bursting to get out. A woman that He is calling to so many things, to so much good work and grace and mercy in this world. And in her own life. A woman He is calling to answer the questions of my own heart and to be His redemption here. It would not be a stretch at all to say that I wake up every day feeling purposed, beloved, beautiful, and oh so blessed.

Then I always go and do something stupid to ruin it all. More and more, I have noticed that I am always willing to step in at the last moment to ensure that I fail, to guarantee that a great moment becomes a good moment or a mediocre moment. That I am always just short of that last little bit of freedom He is calling me to.

That I am always one tiny bit away from letting go.

The truth is that I could very easily, today, at this moment, be wholly the woman God is calling me to be. I could be that woman that is in my heart. I could be the fullness of God’s glory revealed in this life. That very idea makes my whole body shake. No, seriously – I am trembling even as I write this. But I understand what else this demands of me, and that is a heavy prospect.

It will require grief. Because to embrace all that God has for me, I have to first realize and then live knowing (confidently, honestly knowing) that I never was that girl. That some things cannot be explained and shouldn’t try to be. That I don’t have all the answers and that, in fact, there will never be any answers for this. I have to understand that there’s a chance, knowing how God has created me, that this weight of grief over the unexplained (and perhaps unexplainable) may never go away, that embracing freedom and accepting God’s call in my life may only deepen the pain that has taken me on such an incredible journey, but at times a miserable, degrading one. If not for that journey, I would not know God; but if not for God, I would never understand the journey.

There are so many tears that need to be shed, but they get caught somewhere between my heart and my throat. I don’t know if I am strong enough for this place God is calling me, and yet…I want to be. And I probably am. Because the woman of God that lives in me, His beautiful creation in this less-than-perfect temple is strong. She is strong beyond my wildest imagination. She is beautiful and gifted and humble and quiet. She is stilled and merciful, gracious and grateful. She is blessed and oh so…so…strong. She is ready for this, to let those final strings break and to be free. To live not trapped behind the walls of coping mechanisms and what-ifs and the only manageable answers to life’s questions but to live in the fullness of God’s presence and be everything He has called her to.

My heart is going to break. It is going to shatter, combust. This has been building for several weeks as these revelations have grown deeper into my heart, and it scares the Hell out of me. (Shouldn’t it be a good thing when ANYTHING scares the Hell OUT of us?) I don’t know if I’m strong enough. I really don’t.

But I know that He is. And so is she. And she is I, the woman sipping the warm apple cider and watching the leaves change colors in the season, knowing she is beloved, blessed, purposed, and beautiful.

Pray for me in this journey. Pray for the courage and the strength to embrace God’s freedom, His mercy, His call, and this beautiful simple life and to live worthy of His presence.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Freed to Be

It is very obvious at this point that if I’d just get out of my way, I could be the woman God’s created in me. It’s that first part that’s the sticking point.

With this realization, I’ve realized something else: I have always been in my way. Sure, I have pushed it off on some very fantastic excuses, but the truth is that by letting these things control me, I was setting up my own roadblocks. Over the past several years, as God has done His healing work in me, He has torn down (with my permission and labor, since He and I decided to work in tandem) every obstacle I have ever put in my path.

My heart is free, and the vast expanse before me with its clean air and open spaces and quiet whisper confirm that every day. I can’t tell you what it’s like to hold no bitterness or anger in my heart. Maybe I can; it is passing the ten-year anniversary of the death of a man who inflicted so much pain and for the first time, realizing that I can love him anyway and that I’m no longer condemning him to burn in Hell. I can’t tell you what it’s like to not be tempted to run away from the heaviness of a heart that is raw for God, that feels everything. Maybe I can; it is the wisdom to embrace all of the brokenheartedness and the burden knowing full well that every deep sigh, every tear reveals more of God that just puts me in further awe of Him. I can’t tell you what it’s like to stop hearing the lies that defined you for decades. Maybe I can; it is looking in the mirror and losing your breath to the beauty reflected in you, putting your hands to something new or challenging and smiling at the outcome, looking someone in the eye when you speak with them because you just don’t feel like the scum of the earth any more. I can’t tell you what it’s like to develop trust in your body. Maybe I can; it is honoring yourself through proper care, and it is living a life that doesn’t exist between doses of medication or admissions to the hospital. I can’t tell you what it’s like to not be exhausted. Maybe I can; it is sleeping soundly through the night and waking up rested and refreshed.

As much as God has taken away the things that held me back, the voices in my head and in the world that had permeated my heart and controlled my existence. As much as He has freed me from all of the things I have too long struggled with – unworthiness, shame, fear, anger, resentment, brokenness, ugliness, doubt, and did I mention unworthiness? – He has done so much greater things in replacing those with the things of Him. Truly, this is redemption. Truly, He has set me free.

Then why am I still standing here with my feet stuck in the mud? Why do I refuse to take a bold step forward into the fullness of that freedom, which I have been blessed to taste in its fullness a few bites at a time?

It is overwhelming.

It is not that I think I don’t deserve the good things of God; that misconception has long passed me, as He set me free from that as well. It is not that I think I am getting what I’m owed, that someone or something owes me for the places I’ve been; that implies a lot of things about the universe that I’m not willing to accept. It is not that I think God is playing a game with me, that this is all a pipe dream or a mirage that will fade as soon as I try to draw near; this is tangible, and that, I know for certain. It is not that I feel inadequate or lost, like I wouldn’t know how to live in that place if you paid me to.

It’s really that I’m kind of afraid I could.

There’s a stark contrast here, a bold line between what I have always thought I’ve known and what I absolutely know for sure now. It calls me to a higher standard, a better way of living that requires more of me than I have ever had to give. It is easy to take the low road, to get mired and stuck and do the things that take the least effort. It is more difficult, and more unnerving, to expect and even demand your whole self to be in everything. That requires a commitment and a lot of energy that says, “I don’t give up. I don’t give in. I don’t quit.” It says, “This is what God has created in me, and I am going to live the wholeness of that every day, even when it is hard.”

And what an incredible responsibility. This has changed my prayers dramatically, from “Lord, please help me through another day” to “God, make me worthy of the call You have placed in my life.”

Make me worthy of feeling beautiful every moment of every day.

Make me worthy of staying content to be quiet.

Make me worthy of embracing all of my story, which is only more beautiful every moment you transform and redeem it. Oddly, I have noticed this has deepened my past and humbled my present. It’s awesome.

Make me worthy. And make me bold. Bold to step forward and not fall back. Bold to not be overwhelmed (I am SO overwhelmed by this penetrating transformation; it is the overwhelmed that makes me turn and run just when the freedom grasps my heart). Bold to be everything You have created me to be, to go where You call me to go, to live as You call me to live.

I am overwhelmed by the newness, by the contrast between the life of entrapment and being in my own way and the blessed existence that freedom (true freedom) in God offers. It bothers me when I get so overwhelmed that I turn back, and this is nowhere more evident than in relationships. I’m in a small group through my church, which meets at a family’s house that is not mine. When I get there, I realize what it is to me and to this woman of God in me to be invited into someone else’s home…and not be afraid. And not feel awkward. To share a story or join in a conversation and not feel like I’m the one out of place, like these people just include me to be including me (though that thought still takes hold in the darkness of night if I let it). To not leave after visiting with someone and Monday-morning quarterback it to figure out every small little thing I might have done or said wrong. To not wonder if I’m good enough. To not wonder if they are talking about me behind their backs. To not wonder if I’m weird (we all KNOW I am weird).

Every thought, every pain, every sickness, every ungodly thing that has ever ruled my life or my thoughts or kept my brain running in circles…is just gone. When I realize that, I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed to the point of tears as the beauty of a life in God pierces my heart. Overwhelmed to the point that I run away.

Why am I running from goodness? I just don’t know. I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong – I am a trained long-distance runner; I have spent my life running. But I don’t want to run any more, and I pray that God will settle that spirit in me. Still, it’s weird because I am so VERY aware that I’m not running out of fear any more. I’m not running out of shame or unworthiness. I’m not running out of awkwardness or discomfort. I’m not running because I think I’ll ruin something if I stick around. I’m not running because I am afraid the bubble will burst.

I am only running because I’m deathly afraid that this could be real. That God could really be doing this in me. That I could be this transformed, this redeemed. This overwhelms me to tears, repeatedly. Just about every day these days.

What does that require of me, knowing how real, how permanent, how tangible, and how awesomely incredible this is?

I have to forgive myself. Forgive myself for not being this before, for holding back my life and holding on to too much. Forgive myself for rejecting this goodness, His goodness, before now. Forgive myself for ignoring His presence or turning my back. Forgive myself for having to forgive myself.

I want to be the kind of woman who steps into that and not away from it, who embraces the fullness of God’s presence and brings honor to His call. I want to be the kind of woman who doesn’t need to run from the good things in life because it is entirely ok to be beautiful, to be calm and quiet, to be content and assured and confident, to be His beloved, and to be blessed. I want to be the kind of woman who isn’t afraid to be everything God has created in her.

Lord, free me to be that woman in all her richness, knowing full well the contrast and the overwhelming and the energy that it entails. Lead me into the richness of Your mercy and guide me through. Do not let me stand in my own way any longer, but let me step boldly into everything You are calling me to. Let me be fully the woman You have created in me and to be neither afraid nor boastful about that. Free me to be.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

One Unheard Message

It is the vibration so penetrating that we have trained ourselves to hear its buzz. It sends shockwaves through our body and chills up our spine as we realize that someone, somewhere wants to talk with us. It is our cell phone, and it is ringing.

It is tough to let any call go to voicemail. Today’s world of fingertip technology has trained us to always be ready, to always be available in case that life-changing moment or that split-second emergency or that chance to intervene is just on the other side of the ‘answer’ button. If we put it off to voicemail, maybe we miss our moment, our invitation, or our last chance.

But sometimes, as we all know, it is not possible to take the call. Maybe we are in mixed company where such an
interruption would be rude. Perhaps we are at the movie theater, completely engrossed in the fantasy playing out before us. Maybe we have our hands full with the dishes, the groceries, the kids, or the housework. Maybe, as often happens at least to me, this call caught us with our pants down (no explanation needed). Or maybe we just screen our calls, looking at the caller ID to see if whoever is on the other end is worth interrupting our lives for at that particular moment.

If they are not, we ignore the call or send it straight to voicemail, waiting to listen to their message at a later time. A more opportune time, in our own opinion.

One missed call.

What if that call was the important one? What if that was our moment, our invitation, our last chance? What if the Caller had something life-changing to speak to us in that moment, and even though we could have guessed He really needed us, we sent the call to voicemail anyway because we could not be bothered with His interruptions?

Later, we tell ourselves. Not now.

And later, we press that speed dial button on our phone – 1. One leads us to our message. One takes us to the call we missed. One registers, connecting us to our voicemail box where we hear the words that can only haunt us:

“You have one unheard message. First unheard message….”

Silence. Leaving us to wonder what He wanted when He called.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


God always wanted to be a God. That’s a statement I wrote earlier this week in the current book project, and it is something that surprised me a bit. Not because it isn’t obvious, but because it seems this is something I have struggled to live.

He’s been working on me. And I could not let the present times come and pass without sharing the awesomeness of this moment, this place.

This is the place of learning how to be. Not how to be…something. Simply how to be. How to let go and live simply and honestly from the truest core of my heart. How to accept the peace and confident assurance that has often troubled me, even as I have known it was a gift from God. How to accept my role in my own life without trying to be the stage crew, too – without running back and forth, deciding when to open or close the curtains or where to shine the spotlight or what colors to use in accenting the action.

It’s been very weird, to be honest. I have noticed as I fight my own reluctance to stop being stage crew that I’m a little concerned about the curtain closing right now. It is drawing shut on a long, tedious phase of my life, and I am almost standing here wondering when I’m going to see the next section of the script. I am an actor, and this should come as no shock to most of you, who loves to memorize my lines and know what is coming; perhaps many of us are that way (we are). So to understand that one thing is ending and not be entirely sure what’s coming next is…difficult. It’s a challenge.

But I am so blessed, and so humbled, to see this chapter closing. It is a realization that hit home for me this week in a very profound way, and it drops me to my knees in redemptive tears. To believe this could finally be over, that it will not be the final and drawn-out scene of my life, is just incredible. I am watching God’s work in me, and I am speechless.

Every day that I refuse to fight it, every day that I choose to let God be God and push my uncertainties aside, I come one step closer to complete healing. It is most noticeably physical, where my half-a-decade journey in the depths of illness is vanishing before my eyes. This month, I am celebrating over three years since vomiting. I am watching my body rebuild itself in strength, developing the core muscles that allow me to be active without needing a nap (but let’s be honest – who doesn’t LOVE a good nap?). I am accepting responsibility for things and becoming my old dependable self, the kind of person that people can rely on to do good work and to fulfill promises and obligations…the kind of person even I can count on. I am watching the physical signs of illness come and go, even as God is finally seeing fit to restore both the visible and invisible. In 2007, I came out of a surgery with a disfiguring rash covering my legs. In those three years, it has never gone away. Now, I am watching it heal…watching it every day fade, heal, and it is not because of anything I am doing. I simply asked God, then LET HIM answer. I am eating good food, exercising, being active, loving deeply, and I even know now what the sun looks like, the way the leaves start to change color, the way the grass feels (even dead and dried up) under my bare feet. In just a few weeks’ time, my final permanent crowns will come into the dentist, and my mouth will be restored. I, who could not even have my teeth cleaned without fidgeting and crying, made it through 10 crowns and 44 fillings. It’s going to be over…

A huge step in all of this, and perhaps the most significant contribution I could have made, has been playing in my heart for several weeks. It has been the absolute necessity of my forgiveness. I have had to forgive myself for getting sick, my body for betraying me, my God for not snapping His fingers and healing me. This was a decision that did not come easily for me (and forgiveness is a decision); I wanted to beat myself up forever, to angrily obsess over the missed opportunities and lost moments, to hate myself for not being strong enough to be as I wanted to be even in the face of the serious moment, and to demand my life back…with interest.

That forgiveness was a better choice, and it has freed me to finish healing. To accept my new smile, my new strength, my pure skin, my energy. I like not holding myself victim to my past. I like understanding that even though life still happens, not everything is a reflection of what has come before. Some things are new. Actually, all things.

And it is perfectly in line with the further work He has been doing in my spirit.

The spirit is a tough one, and though I long ago welcomed the idea of His wholeness into my brokenness, it’s not as simple as it sounds. It’s been awhile since I have been bitter about anything, hateful at all. I have nothing at all to complain about. It’s been forever since I thought about making an excuse for anything; in fact, I have been catching myself trying to fall back on those easy answers and rejecting them. Because they are not Godly; they are not the work of my Father. These things that used to so heavily weigh me down are no longer my heaviest burdens. They have been lifted, and I nearly glide as I move now, unencumbered by the things I was soooo determined to carry for too long. The trick, I guess, is to not begrudge life for being life.

But I’m noticing those little areas of doubt, those little hints that there is more I need to do here, more to be conscious of and faithful with. I am trying to make faith my first response instead of my second thought, and it is coming…but slowly. All of a sudden, I will notice that I’m kind of afraid that I’m not afraid any more. Or that I’m worried because I’m not more worried (and then, magically, I can always find SOMETHING to worry about). Or I’ll notice that I’m holding too tightly to something transient, something of this world that will not last when something so much more important is at stake.

I’m probably not alone in this. I know there are millions of people out there who will get scared just because they have realized they are not scared. Or who will worry because they haven’t worried in awhile. No offense, but I don’t want to be like them. My God calls me to a higher plane, and yes – it SHOULD be that simple to accept His goodness and to accept no fear, accept no worry, accept no hindrance. That is what He calls me to, and I can live it…until I realize I’m living it and then think this all should be harder, that there should be more strife here because it is not Heaven.

This does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that life is roses. Far from it. This is merely the definition of the peace that passes all understanding, the fullness of God who overflows my cup that makes life not stress-worthy. It is the foundation of unshakable faith. (I’m not quite at unshakable yet, but I can sense that growing inside of me. It is near…it is SO near.) And it is what makes me content to be quiet and satisfied to be still, not demanding attention but not afraid to be looked at. Just soaking things in, letting them happen, feeling myself humbled (which carries with it great relief and a tinge of the pain of conviction), knowing redemption, and embracing beauty. The stillness, the quietness, the gentleness….oh, the gentleness! what allows me to stay focused on what God is doing, to continue letting go and refusing to pick back up, to stop looking for trouble just because I have none.

A few weeks ago, I was reading in my Bible and noticed how clean and crisp the pages still were, even though this is the Bible I have used for the past 10 years since becoming a Christian. It has been on mission trips, hospital visits, funerals, and so much more…and I always keep it in the box. These past few weeks, those blank, crisp pages almost appalled me. Who am I to keep God clean and in a box? I was inspired to start living a messier life with and for Him.

As I write, it is thundering outside, and the first rains in weeks are falling.

And as if this beautiful work is not enough, I am now preparing for my fifth interview in about the past two weeks, with more promising opportunities on the horizon. Do I know where God will send me? Not exactly, but my understanding of His call on my life sharpens every day. Do I know what is coming next, after this long and arduous chapter in my life closes, as it is so near doing and I am both very excited and very nervous about it? Not really; some vague idea, maybe. Is God about to hand me the next section of script and let me memorize my lines before the next curtain opens? Doubtful.

Instead, He has a new direction. “Let’s just wing it. You follow me, and we’ll play off each other – you respond to My words, and I will answer yours.” It’s probably going to be better that way; then, I can’t obsess about getting it just right, about muffing a line here or there or missing a mark. It’s fluid, flexible. That is my God.

That is OUR God.

Monday, August 30, 2010


‘The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”

It is the funeral psalm, psalm 23. It is a beautiful portrait of the peace and tranquility of God that represents everything we long for and everything we hope to find when our work on Earth is done. In days of tragic loss and deep grief, these words comfort us as we close our eyes and sense the presence of those streams of still waters and the perfectly green pastures.

But this is not a psalm of death! It is one of life and life abundantly. This is another one of those cases where I believe different translations speak volumes, and I love the beauty of this psalm in the New Living Translation.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I have everything I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name.”

This brings the power of this psalm right into the present, into the here and now. It is easy for us to hear those opening words – “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” and yearn for the time that is coming when we will not want anything. The time when we will have everything we need. The time defined by streams and pastures and peace.

What keeps us from embracing the promises of this psalm as the present? What keeps us from believing these things can happen before death, before we are lowered into the ground to return to dust? Why do we have so much trouble believing that God has created this tranquility, this calm, and this peace right here for us?

Especially because as we keep reading, we see that the present, the here and now, the life on this earth, is exactly what He had in mind.

“Even when I walk through the dark valley of death” – notice, “even when” not “now that I have” or “now that I have sent my loved one.” No, this is in the present tense, reminding us of the times when trouble comes. It is an active place, not a passive one; it is a present one in the continuum of life, not the final place we will ever go. God never leaves us in the darkest valley as our lasting memory. He walks through it with us and draws us to the other side!

“I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”

This is beautiful because of the subtle, delicate interplay of “shall” and “will.” Shall requires a foregone conclusion, something outside of our control. Something predetermined, that we should have no reason, even in our wildest imaginations, to…whatever. In this case, we have no reason to want. But the use here of will means that we are making the choice and drawing the conclusion. We can turn and see God beside us, walking with us, comforting us. We can feel the power of His rod and His staff, and it is at that point that we choose not to be afraid.

And then, here it is:

“You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.”

There are no enemies in death, no struggle or strife or forces to fight against. If God were trying to tell us about death and grief through this psalm, if He were trying to build our hope for the afterlife and for the Heavens, why would He declare this feast in the presence of our enemies?

Because He is talking about here. And this…this act of communion that we participate in, the bread of the body and the wine of the blood…is that feast.

This is that place in the midst of our enemies where we feast. It is the place where the outside disappears and we are invited simply to come to the table, to partake, and to fill ourselves with good food. Here, at the table, we are to eat and drink of what God has prepared for us with no fear of the darkness, no concern about the powers coming against us 6 other days of the week.

Think about the tremendous contrast here! There is a battle, a war raging where your enemies are against you, and right here in the midst of it all, you decide to sit down and have a meal. You can be vulnerable and relax, trusting in His protection, and let the fullness of His goodness nourish your body, your mind, your soul.

This is where we are nourished, strengthened, and given great rest…a small vacation from the grind of the world.

This is His invitation! This is our table, prepared for us by a loving God.

Let us come and accept His invitation. Let us be His honored guests here, partaking in this feast He has set for us. Let us tell our enemies to wait, put aside all care and concern, choose to live without fear, embrace His provision, and be taken fully in by this sacred moment, this sacred place.

This table.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Let me put on my blinders for just a moment. Ok; ready.

Why is it so difficult to find a job? Seriously, you would think employers would be jumping all over someone as talented, passionate, and confident as myself, not to mention the kind of heart that dwells in this body. I’m anxious to serve, to find a way to do some good and maybe make a living off of it. (Not that I have anything against volunteer work, either; it just doesn’t pay the bills.) I worked hard all through school, graduated at the top of my class in both high school and college despite significant obstacles and a few major setbacks. I have volunteered my time in doing the things I love and trying to establish my skill so that one day, an employer would talk to me.

Here is one day. And more than two years after graduating, I’m not getting the interviews I want. When I do interview, a few have seemed promising only to collapse in front of me for one reason or another. And nobody has contacted any of my references, so far as I know (and my primary references have told me – nobody’s been talking to them.) So what does it take for a girl to get something around here? Or around anywhere?

Now take the blinders off…because this is not the whole picture. I am happy. Very happy. And if you’ve read my most recent note, you know why. This place I’m in – this middle of nowhere – is absolutely incredible and doing great things in me. The work I am doing, the books I am writing or the secret projects I am working on or the conversations I am having, are going so well. I pick up my pen or my pencil or sit down at the keyboard and open up the latest chapter or whatever it is, and I am content. I know something awesome is happening through this gift that God has given me – both the gifts of my talents and the gifts of His peace. This contentment, really, and fulfillment.

And then another job falls through, and I can be quick to forget everything He is working on in me. Because it is terribly easy to worry about tomorrow when it seems nothing good is around the corner. Yet, I have absolutely unshakable confidence that something good IS around the corner. He’s got plans for me, and a purpose, and with as clearly as He has put that in my heart and in my hands and in my mind and in my dreams, both sleeping and awake, I am ashamed to say that I am at times getting impatient and narrow-minded, forgetting His gift and His blessing in the many places to focus on the one place He has yet to come through for me.

The skies clouded over this afternoon, not long after another rejection letter showed up in the mail (rejection after what I felt was a good interview and a strong opportunity). Rain started falling, and I was thankful for the moment of cleansing. When I went outside to run a few errands, I saw the clouds forming and splitting – the sun here in the west; the clouds in the east. And I started looking around for a rainbow.

Rainbows seem so rare to me, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have seen them in my life. Yet, here I was on a cloudy day with disappointment in my heart…looking for a rainbow. Some sign of His covenant and His promise, something tangible and outside of my heart that I can hold on to for at least a short while.

I am very blessed. I am very gifted. My heart is full, and I rest in absolute assurance. God whispers wonderful love into my ear, and I hear Him. I talk back, and He answers me again. Beautiful things are happening. So I need to take my blinders off more often and see the big picture instead of waiting just here on this one thing.

There’s got to be a job out there, and I pray it comes quickly. Not for money, necessarily, because God’s math is greater than mine and He has seen fit to take care of me so far. But mostly, I am anxious to move on to whatever the next stage of my life is. I’m anxious to keep moving forward and pushing myself and growing, and I am confident I can take my new heart with me. Fully and without compromise. More than disappointed with this rejection, I think I could easily say that as each day passes, my anticipation of a promise fulfilled and my anxiousness to pursue His calling only increases.

Confident and blessed and gifted and assured as I am, and as full of faith and overflowing with goodness and completely content as I am, and with so much peace in my heart, it surprises me how simple it is to worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow is then, and this is now and today, surprisingly, is beautiful, too.

Just as I am sure tomorrow will be.

Just as I am sure every day will be when I walk with God.

Because someone somewhere is seeing my rainbow, even today.

Monday, August 9, 2010

This Beautiful Place

Sometimes, God meets us in the weirdest places. With the wonderful change that has been happening in my life, particularly the transformation in my heart, I’ve begun to wonder just what is this place where I have encountered so powerfully my Lord.

The more I thought about it, the more I struggled to define this place at all. It is an in-between, a bland and dull desert bordering on wilderness that has often left me feeling lost or forgotten or just completely out of place. I’ve been looking around here for some time, trying to find the signs to point me in the right direction, but there just aren’t any. It is…barren.

Not a student, but not a working professional yet. Not married, not dating, not content to be single…but not desperately single, either. No kids. Not even a place of my own. No misadventures that make for good stories. No wild parties or world travels or anything really of note. No wonder this place is so hard to grasp! And even harder to define.

But some very beautiful things are happening here nonetheless. I am encountering, in new and powerful ways each day, the Lord of my life. He is sometimes Comforter, sometimes Encourager; sometimes Friend, sometimes Antagonist; sometimes Listener, sometimes Speaker; but always, He is Lord.

It wouldn’t be enough to say this place has changed me, that my encounters with Him here have done something incredible. It’s more than that. It has been an entire lifestyle change.

It has been (and continues to be) a place of great healing and redemption, such a powerful transformation that it still takes my breath away when I notice it, even in the subtlest of ways. My heart is free – not aloof or in denial or staunchly protesting any circumstance – but truly free. There is no longer any hate or bitterness, no grudges or unforgiveness left. No worries or fear. No obsession or mindless compulsion. Even no concern as to time or money. Life is completely without burden by the simple submission of letting go. Without burden or hurry or worry or fear, but also without foolishness. My vision is clear; my perspective increases by the day. And hope and anticipation of the future to come keeps my heart buzzing.

I am simply…full. Full in freedom and in grace, in mercy and restoration. Unafraid of my past, which no longer seems painful nor foreign but it part of the intricate tapestry of beauty. I’m not drawn to dwell on anything, nor am I quick to respond any more. My tongue is more controlled, and there are many times I am content to say nothing at all. I do not begrudgingly do anything, but am able to tap into a new heart of service and humility that allows me to get more done than I ever imagined.

And I am so busy, accomplishing much. Serving well. Loving well.

Oh, yes! Loving so well. My relationships are changing, and I’m not sure if that is the condition of my heart or the way I am able to tame and control my responses to things. There are still some slips here and there, and some times when I realize I have not responded as I probably should have, but this is something I have prayed for for such a long time, and it is just wonderful to see this finally developing.

I’m not really driven to list my accomplishments; that is of little consequence, though “taught the vacuum not to catch fire” makes for an excellent status update and conversation starter. Before Facebook, did you know there were entire generations of people who worked hard every day and had no one to tell about it? Because it wasn’t some grand accomplishment; labor is life. That’s kind of how I’m coming to view it, because it satisfies me to work well, to work hard, and to simply let this be. And no matter how much I have to do on a particular day, there is always more than enough time when I let my heart do the planning. I’m not stuck in timetables and to-do lists, but just letting things happen naturally and then being shocked at how much time is left over.

God definitely provides.

That said, I am still pretty psyched about my third book, which I am now halfway through, and this year’s special top-secret Christmas project for the kids, which I am not at liberty to share until December 26th since my sister-in-law is now a Facebook friend.

Actually, I am gaining a lot of new FB friends lately, and it is another answer to a long-time call of my heart. It’s called…“family.” Those of you who know me well and know my story, or even hints of it, can understand that I’ve never really considered myself part of any network of relatives. One side of the family is unnecessarily cruel and standoffish, among other things, and particularly since dad’s death, I never really felt like I belonged there. And during his life, I was not privileged enough to know much of mom’s side. Well, I am coming to know more of mom’s side each day, and I have to tell you – that is where many of my questions have been answered. I see so much of these indescribable wonders of my heart reflected in the beauty of what can only be described as “good folk,” even if they do have some crazies around (hey, who doesn’t?). Hanging around with them, especially in this past month when it seems I haven’t been able to get AWAY from any of them, has just been so wonderful, and I can’t wait to experience more of that and see how this develops. I am honored to call them my friends, of course, but I am more awed by…well…family.

What maybe surprises me most around all of this, these deep changes in my heart and the way life is so different, is that it seems so automatic so quickly. It is easier now to let go than to obsess; it is often my gut instinct. I’m not quick to anger, nor quick to speak. I’m still a little naïve and probably a little innocent, but I’m not so sure that is a bad thing. I’m not rushed, and I notice even my footsteps changing. This is the life I have so longed for, and here it is unfolding before me! Gentleness, graciousness, humility, service, and so many other wonderful things. It would be endless to name them all, but I am seeing them. I am feeling them in my heart. And I am just stunned at how simple it all is.

And how beautiful.

And how counter-cultural. Can people really live like this in 21st Century America? Apparently so, because God is the same today as in the Garden. Now, that’s incredible!

Through it all, as well, and for the past several years, I have spent many nights praying for purpose, for that thing that will make me feel like I belong or am valued or whatever words you want to put to purpose. I thought it would come through this or that thing that I would eventually do, but it completely took me by surprise. Sometime last week or so, I suddenly felt it in this fullness – purpose. And it has nothing to do with finding a career, moving out on my own, making a statement in the world, or anything I ever thought it would center around. It simply is. It is in fullness and in God. I just can’t help it, but I feel fully purposed.

Even though it seems I’m not doing anything.

I am getting kind of a little crazy, too, if I’m being honest. There are some things I would like to try, things I might have been too afraid to pursue just a few months ago. I’m doing more things by myself, which is very cool, but I am also exploring the new self through all of that and pushing my boundaries a bit because I know I have boxed myself in for too long. On a serious note, I keep coming back to my yearning for a graduate degree, for pursuing a track in counseling that will enable me to serve others who have suffered immense trauma. I want to open a trauma center one day, and I strongly believe God is placing this calling on my life. But I am bound by a sense of stewardship, so I have to figure out financing before I do anything crazy like return to school. On the lighter side, I was thinking the other day that it might be fun to go boating. I was on the Maid of the Mist once, but that’s different than just encountering nature on the water, if you know what I mean. And I thought maybe karaoke would be fun. Something out of my box, something that requires me to fully shut off and let go and just enjoy myself. I am preoccupied a bit, maybe, by the idea of exploring this new freedom – where life is just life and a blessed gift from God instead of the way I’ve been living it for too long.

It all comes back to attachment. I’m going to get psychological for a moment, but I think this will make sense. One of the things we study about children in particular is attachment style, which is formed rather early in life. It’s why you can’t leave a baby screaming in a crib for hours, and we all understand that. Children with secure attachments, with parents who love them unconditionally and relate to them with appropriate nurture and firmness, tend to be more successful and less fearful in life. They are willing to explore a bit, to strike out on their own, to make friends, and more because they know that when they come back and if they ever need to, home will be there. Children with insecure attachments – the abused, the neglected, those with too permissive parents or too corporal parents, etc. – are fearful and tend to cling to what they know because they fear change, they fear letting anything be different because nothing is ever the same. They are less likely to risk because they don’t know if they can ever go home again, if home will ever be there.

I have found my secure attachment later in life, now here in my mid-20s, as I understand the safe love of my Father. I feel completely safe, completely secure, and that gives me the wings to fly and the heart to take risks. That is making a HUGE difference, beyond my wildest imagination.

I just can’t say enough what it’s like to not carry the heavy weights that have defined my first quarter-century. It is…indescribable. Wordless. And I am always speechless because of this great thing God has done, and is doing, in me.

I have compared some of this lately to a bad cold or a sinus infection, a universal experience that I think everyone understands. In the throes of sickness, we often sleep fitfully. We can’t breathe too well, or sometimes at all, and that keeps waking us up and preventing our bodies from finding rest. Then, when the fever breaks and our airways start to clear, we seem to do nothing but sleep…after the illness is over! Well, I finally feel like I can breathe after 25 years, and I am EXHAUSTED. I have been sleeping better in the past few weeks than ever before, but I’m still exhausted. (And great dreams, most of the time. A couple of nights ago, I woke up singing the most beautiful worship song that has never been written and of course, by the time I had enough consciousness to compose it, it was gone.) Not really worn out or overspent or anything like that; just exhausted and understanding my desperate need for rest. It kind of makes me emotional, too, which is actually part of the beauty here, too – things are really touching my heart in powerful ways. But yeah, I am absolutely loving the Sabbath and the rest. It is part of God’s beautiful gift here.

Which leads me back to the original question, one I finally found the answer to late last night and honestly busted out laughing in the dark. Where is here? Where is this place where I have so wonderfully and powerfully encountered the Living God? This place that I’m not sure I want to let go of, but that I am equally as anxious to see radically transformed? This place that is calling me out, through my heart, to do more good in the world and to serve in ways I haven’t imagined yet and am not even sure where to start? This place of wilderness and desert and barrenness with no visible signs pointing in any direction, no map to take me out of here, and nothing really of note going on?

This is the honest-to-God proverbial middle of nowhere.

God has met me even here. And it is beautiful.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Which Wonderland?

Oh, how I’ve longed to be Alice. To have a magic looking glass that transports me to another world. Not the fantastical maze and wicked Cheshire of wonderland, but something more practical and yes, more unbelievable.

God gives me that glass. He’s constantly showing me things beyond my wildest imagination, and it just leaves me…


Because, let’s face it: we’re all here, in this life, and it’s tough to see anything other than that sometimes. But then something happens that takes us by surprise and we can only shake our heads and wonder what to make of it.

That’s where I’m at.

It happened again today, though today is just one in a long string of new visions. God’s working hard on my heart, on His redeeming work in my being. I’ve noticed the small things – the glint of my smile in the mirror, the coming together of a good piece of writing, the hearty laugh shared around a bar table with family. Who ever thought I could have these things, let alone hold them?

I’ve dreamed so much, so often, of precisely all that God is now giving me. It’s incredible. Truly. Sometimes, I find myself wondering – why now? Why answer the call of my heart now?

The more He reveals, the more I understand the waiting. The waiting was necessary or His goodness would have overwhelmed me. To the point I could never receive it.

In a way, it’s like getting a really awesome toy for Christmas, that one must-have thing you’ve been hinting (or begging) for all year…only to see at the last minute those small words across the box: “Some assembly required.”

Life doesn’t just fall into our laps, not the life God’s planned for us. It could, I suppose, but we would not be very receptive. It takes work to grab hold of His promises, moreso when they finally start coming to fruition. We have to give up a lot (in some cases, everything) in order to fully receive. That’s where we get stuck.

I’ve prayed for this and that over the years, working on my own heart and trying to decipher the meaning of the longings deeply hidden. And I really thought I’d be happy when they came about. Yeah, I’m happy. Giddy. Giggling. And in complete awe of my God.

But it’s also a little more than I bargained for. It’s happening more and more without my conscious knowledge, without much effort. I’ve learned (though I’m still learning) the art of letting go, of simply being. It makes me realize the straining I’ve been doing, the hard work I’ve put into being something I never was. And now that I’m giving that up, it’s really beautiful.

I’m really beautiful.

Questions of worth don’t hold me out of the fray any more; I’ll jump right in and surround myself with the action. Last week, I went out to dinner with a bunch of my family (sans mom), sat in the bar, ate a meal, and cracked a few jokes. We talked about the relatives as children, talked about current news, caught up on each other’s lives. For 24 years, you’d never find me doing that – I always hated, even feared, eating in public, and I’ve been known to bolt for a door more often than I’d like to admit. But I hung out, stayed for a couple of hours, didn’t hurry out after my meal. And still, when it was over, I was sorry I’d left.

I sat with another woman at church (and you know who you are). I didn’t plan to, and my old heart begged me not to, but it was really nice. It’s the first time in who knows how many years that I haven’t sat alone. The invitations were out there, but I am finally freed to accept them.

I stopped worrying about who might be watching me in worship, about who is walking in or out or who might be standing around taking count, serving communion, or whatever. In that freedom, I cried through an entire service, for no other reason than sheer exhaustion after giving up the façade.

That’s maybe most surprising (I’ll stop with the examples now, but there are literally thousands of them from just the past few weeks). I never realized how exhausting it all is. You know when you have a bad cold or sinus infection, and you don’t sleep very well at all because you can’t breathe? Then after it clears, you do nothing but sleep for several days because your body can finally rest? That’s how this is for me – I haven’t rested well in 25 years. God has given me new breath, and I am incredibly tired.

But full of energy at the same time. It’s a paradox that is still a little hard to grasp.

And then there are still the looking glass moments, the ones that show me the life God has always intended for me and the one He is still busy creating.

It’s looking in the mirror and forgetting to feel ugly, shining instead with beauty and wondering, “Can I really be that beautiful?”

It’s cruising down the Interstate and forgetting to be afraid, then pulling into the driveway and wondering, “Why didn’t that scare me?”

It’s hearing the phone ring and realizing you’ve forgotten to obsess about it for days, knowing you haven’t lost your expectation but you’ve simply sacrificed control.

It’s drinking gallons of water because your throat is raw from singing…and forgetting to care who heard.

It’s thinking about the future and not wondering what will happen because you know that no matter what, it’s taken care of. It will all work out fine.

It’s anticipating things coming in the near future – things you’ve prayed for but should scare you now that they are here – and being oddly at ease, a peace you can’t explain. There’s nothing to be afraid of any more.

That’s what this new life is proving to be for me. Freedom from fear. Freedom from pretense. I simply…am. I am letting go, trusting God, and getting so close to that reckless abandon I dream of.

Reckless abandon that shows me, with great clarity, the life I haven’t lived and I wonder why, when this is so beautiful and so free and so EASY, I didn’t come to this conclusion sooner. Why couldn’t I have let go twenty years ago?

It’s really cool to live without bitterness, without anger. It’s neat to be able to catch myself just before something stupid, think about it, and think better. It’s just really interesting and wonderful and still…foreign. Foreign though I’ve been there before, if that makes sense. Strangely new, but with that sense of knowing that makes it all…comfortable?

Yet there are still times I wonder, looking into the looking glass, if it can really be true. Can this really be my life? Can it be so wonderful and beautiful and striking and free? Is it sustainable? Is it…real?

So the question really is: which side of the looking glass have I been living on all of these years – the humble, rustic bedroom or the fantastical universe of my own creation?

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Sometimes, you have to walk through the door.

We spend so much of our lives praying for open doors, neglecting open windows, and longing for whatever small chance we have to breathe that fresh air. But without some level of understanding and appreciation for the doors and the air in our lives, we run the risk of missing it altogether in search of something lesser.

This struck me last night while I was trying to get my dog to come back inside about 9:30 so that I could go to bed. She’s been wanting out each night at dusk and just after sunset to sniff around the tree and harass whatever it is that’s drawn her attention out there. But she’s an old girl, 12 years old, and with bad arthritis, I don’t like to leave her outside all night.

Despite her protests.

As I stood at the door calling her name (and she pretended not to hear me, even though she will bark in the house at a schnauzer six houses away on a leash, her ears perking to the slight jingle of its collar), my only thought was, “C’mon dog. I’m tired. I want to go to bed, and I can’t stand here all night with the door open. I’m letting the bugs in.” With that, I brushed feverishly to get an unidentified insect out of my hair and closed the storm door, all the while tapping the glass and snapping my fingers and calling her name.

She continued to ignore me.

I took a last disgusted look at the bugs gathering around the light, clinging to the small screen in the door, and stepped out, closing the door behind me. I walked a few feet out onto the deck, the recent rain soaking my socks, and continued calling her name. Oddly, here, the bugs in my hair and the noises of the night around me were not as they had been just moments before – not disgusting or a nuisance or a demanding presence. Instead, I understood my change of place.

There was no risk of the bugs or the night invading my world, tucked safe into my house. No, here I stood in their world, the beautiful outdoors in all its twilight splendor. Even the bugs made it beautiful, and where bed had loudly been calling for some time, I now had no hurry to get back inside. It struck me how quickly my response had changed; it was not that the world had changed, either inside or out.

It was simply that I had ventured to step through the door.

So I have been thinking about that as the antidote to fear, this idea of stepping through an open door even when what lies on the other side seems strange or disgusting or dangerous. Not because foolishly charging into a potentially disruptive situation changes anything but simply because the view is different on the other side of the door.

We know what’s in here with us, in the rooms where we’ve locked ourselves away. We know what to expect, what is routine, what will come next, and how to protect our sensibilities. Yet there is always something about the other side of the door that calls us; are we willing to step out?

From inside the door, the night was still beautiful. But the sickly yellow deck light reflected off the window and turned the outdoors into a shadow world – vague forms of nature I knew existed but could barely make out. Looking up, I saw only the rotting wood paneling of a house longstanding in this place. And the preservation of my box dominated my thoughts.

Don’t let the bugs in.

Stepping out allowed me to see the night in its beauty, respond to its call, and relish the moment. It allowed me to look up and see not that etched wood but an expanding sky with moon and stars poking through the leaves of that big tree.

My dog looked at me, wondering what could have drawn me out of the house so late at night. She continued nosing around even as I stood at the edge of the deck, calling her name. Whatever she wanted under that tree was not going away. And I never figured out what it was.

But when she finally hobbled her old, achy body up the stairs to the deck and looked at me, then at the door, then back at me, I wasn’t sure any more that I was ready to go in. Stepping out changed my perspective, and it was not a moment I wanted to give up.

How often do I find myself looking at a door God has opened, peeking my head out to call into the wild or take a quick breath of air, but panicking about something so small as a bug? How would my life change is I embraced those doors and walked through them, then allowed my paradigm to shift to respond to my new surroundings? That is the key, I think, to holy movement and Godly growth. It is being able to appreciate the place and to respond as it calls us to, not as we would if we’d stayed behind. Had I responded outside as I did in the house, I would have spent the evening in hurried, demanding yelling for the dog to come inside as I swatted thousands of bugs away from my head.

It would have been decidedly less beautiful, less vocal in my heart.

And what a tragedy.

So when God opens a door, don’t stand inside and tap your toe. Step out. Then, change the way you’re thinking about things so that you’re not tempted to bring the inside out; respond as your heart calls you and soak in the moment. It might just change everything, even the way you see.

It does for me, this I know. My tried and true rule is only confirmed by this experience, that rule of course being “If you want to be a bug, be a bug OUTside.” When I walk out through that door and change the way I’m seeing and experiencing this very same world, I realize that a bug outside hardly bugs me.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


God is coming to change some of the ways I view this world, this life, these things that simply are. And as He does, I am finding it most difficult to figure out what to do with the leftovers.

That is, when I find what He’s not calling me to, what He’s never created me to be, I’m still left wrestling with what He is saying.

He has not created me to win any popularity contests. Ever. Of this, I am fairly certain by now because my life has been a testimony to that. That’s just fine with me. I’m not the kind of girl to get caught up in trying to be homecoming queen. But then I wonder why, knowing I’d never win the most votes, He made me so magnetic. There is something deep, drawing, and mysterious in me that can suck you in if you’re not careful, and I realize this about myself.

He has not endowed me with the ferocity of the lion. Even though I’ve too often found myself overly aggressive, it’s never worked out to my advantage (and it clashes so dramatically with my heart that I cannot ignore it; it is unholy). Not that readily comes to mind, anyway. That’s why I’m not going to land a job in sales any time soon. Knocking door-to-door for school fundraisers, I always ended up buying myself out. That overwhelming hunger to win at all costs, to cut corners, to bend the truth for the victory, is not part of my DNA. Pursue, stalk, kill…it’s not in me. But instead of that killer instinct, He granted me tenacity. A spirit that never gives up, that slowly but surely pushes its way forward and refuses to be deterred by the mud or the muck or the obstacles in the way.

He didn’t make me bubbly or exuberant; you’ll never see me skipping down the road or holding an impromptu pep rally. I’m not the fan screaming in the stands. Yet I am deeply passionate and certainly keep a tender flame kindled in my spirit.

He hasn’t given me the loudest voice, the one that carries on the wind as it bellows over the uproar. But He lets me create my own noise disturbance by having a voice that stills others, that silences them without force but with gentle words, insight, and wisdom (though with these last two, the more you gain, the less you feel like you have).

He didn’t ripple my body with muscle. I am not a heavy lifter. But He’s given me a kind of quiet strength that stands even against the wind.

He isn’t overflowing my life with energy, enabling me to be one of those superwomen of God who goes and goes and does and goes more. But He’s made me faithful and given more than enough to serve well where I can.

It seems, in all honesty, that some of these things are the ones I most seek, the ones I think will somehow define my life in a better way. Who doesn’t want to be homecoming queen at least once in her life, to have the popular vote behind her? Who doesn’t want to be vicious and ferocious at times, taking what she wants instead of waiting to be blessed by it? Who doesn’t want to be bubbly or skip down the street? That kind of girl is the life of the party! Who doesn’t want the loudest voice, a voice that lets them scream over everything, “Would ya’ll be quiet for just a minute!?” then whisper a quiet “thank you.” Who doesn’t want muscles and strength to move mountains out of the way by force instead of faith? Force certainly makes some things a whole lot easier. Who doesn’t want the energy to go and never stop, never need rest, but always be serving?

I’m not saying these are bad things to want, and I admit to wanting them at times myself. But for me, they are the wrong things to want. They are good, holy things in those God has given them to. He just hasn’t given them to me. And it can be really hard to overcome this urge to go out and get them anyway, to build or foster them in my life in place of feeling broken or somehow defective.

Because sometimes, it seems that the people who have what you don’t are the ones making the waves in the world. Where is your wave? My wave. I do not want to die only to have the world say, “Good for her. She led a peaceful life and never made a ripple.” How horrible!

But these things – these non-gifts that I so actively seek – can become consuming if I focus on them too long. Like a child on the candy aisle, I am susceptible to throwing a hissy fit or a temper tantrum when I’m trying so hard but still not what seems to be working for everyone else.

Those things will never work for me. In part, that is why I’ve undertaken this particular writing, and I would encourage you to do so, as well. When our heart seeks something like this, something that could be good and valuable and honorable and even edifying, and we continue to fall short, it’s easy to feel empty or worthless or dumb. We run messages in our heads, negative messages that say, “I’ll never be popular. I’ll never have friends. I’ll never command a crowd’s attention; my voice isn’t loud enough. I’ll never be strong…or endless…or bubbly…” or whatever it is we’ve been striving after.

That much is true. We may never be those things. But that does not leave us hollow, empty, God-forsaken shells that are left for dead or completely useless. When I sat down and took away all the things I was trying to be that God never made me, what I ended up with was a lot of leftovers. Those leftovers ARE who He created in me, finally revealed from behind the mask of the fake.

And with leftovers like these – magnetism, charisma, tenacity, passion, a stilling voice, strength, faithfulness, diligence, and service – what more could a girl ask for?

(As of the end of this writing, I no longer view these traits as leftovers. They are the gifts, blessings, and endowments of my Lord that enable me to serve Him in the way He is calling me, that give me beauty, and that make my heart dance with joy.)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Excruciating God

This God of mine, of ours, is an excruciating God. The more He reveals of Himself to us – or perhaps, the more we are open to understanding about Him and come to experience of His goodness – the deeper grows the ache and the yearning in our hearts for something more.

As I’ve worked to empty myself of the hollow, Godless things that too long failed at filling me, I’m coming to find a couple of things. First, God tears at my heart by being absolutely everything I’ve always wanted (and often more), that I’ve never deserved, and that it pains me to not find on this earth. And second, this world would be much better off if we could all be a little more selfless, working our ways toward completely selfless. Let me explain that in a minute and how my views have changed.

God is everything I’ve ever wanted, even the things I never knew how to put words to. There are many people in my life who hold this or that thing against me. In some cases, they are absolutely right. I have fallen short, failed people, hurt friends and family and even strangers. Where’s it’s appropriate or even possible, I have apologized. Apologies without excuses go a long way. But in some hearts, you will never be more than they’ve already judged you, and that’s tough. It is hard to look into the eyes of someone you love and who professes to love you, knowing they hold a grudge and that you will never be even a shadow of yourself in their eyes because their bitterness refuses to let them see you any other way than they’ve prejudged. This is especially painful in those cases where they are just dead wrong, where they have you playing a role in their mind that is necessary for their world to make sense. You know you could revolutionize their paradigm through your witness – even a silent witness – but they are blind and hard-hearted and may never hear. It’s only been recently that I’ve recognized this as unforgiveness. In both cases. These individuals hold against me things that either I’ve done or that I’ve only done as a figment of their imagination, and this coldness and distance I feel between us is their unforgiveness. I’m sure you have individuals like this in your life, too.

God is forgiveness. He answers that ache that so painfully pushes me away from some relationships I long to restore, and the dichotomy between His mercy and the hardened heart is so powerful that I cannot help but weep and wonder how God came to be so good when I am so…not.

He is redemption and beauty and love and dialogue and gentleness. Oh, how my God is gentleness. This is the other area where I sense Him strongly as that quiet opposition to the nature that often tries to overtake me. The world is harsh; that is no secret to any of us, is it? I am harsh. I can be loud, abrasive, demanding. I take too many things out on myself. I seek and hoard control and attention at times, then curse myself for these things that even as I do them, I know they are not in my heart. They are far from who God has made me to be, and yet – it’s tough. Gentleness, especially with oneself, is very tough. You feel like if you cut yourself too much slack, you’ll grow aloof and be worthless or worse…ditzy. You feel like if you offer yourself forgiveness, you’re somehow denying God the privilege of convicting you. Indeed, you might be. We can be so forgiving of ourselves that we actually inhibit our growth; we need to learn to see and judge ourselves in truth so that we can continue growing and developing in righteousness without falling into the trap of dwelling on our shortcomings or beating ourselves up. You feel like if you speak softly, you’ll never be heard. If you walk slowly, you’ll never get anywhere. If you offer your assistance, the world will take advantage of you. If you give up anything you want, the world will walk all over you and you’ll never have anything.

That is the world’s definition of selflessness. It is…invisibility, a vanishing act that puts you dead last in a subjective, submissive position, meekly asking permission of the world for anything. That is not, as I am coming to understand, Godly selflessness.

Godly selflessness would go a long way in this world.

Godly selflessness is not defeated. It is not loser-ville. And it is not passive. It does not mean giving up everything you are or ever were in favor of serving others and making sure the rest of the world gets to be happy. It is…capturing your strengths, holding strong your own heart, and picking your battles.

Selflessness is what lets us create harmony where there’s opportunity for something less. You notice that your routine is about to overlap, just for a morning, with someone else’s in the house who maybe got a late start or had a change of plans, so you quietly change what you would normally do to accommodate and not disrupt their day because you understand that you’ve got it in your heart to adapt and accept that – without losing any of yourself or feeling relegated to lesser status.

You learn to let people make mistakes because it’s not important to prove you are better, smarter, wiser, stronger, whatever than them; it is more important to recognize the importance that what they are doing has for them, to encourage them to finish and feel accomplished.

You stop arguing because you are strong enough within yourself to know it doesn’t matter who is right or who gets declared the winner; the relationship is what matters. Even if you know in your own heart you’re right, you let it go and don’t hold arrogantly onto it or start to feel smug because there are bigger gains here than losses.

You don’t gossip, even though you might know all the juiciest dirt. Gossip is just social status – putting yourself above because you know and someone else below because you can’t believe they did that. You might not even mention it. Or maybe you’ll step out and quietly, to the side, offer some help when you know you’ve got something legitimate to lend to the situation.

These are just a few examples of true selflessness. It is not defeat. It is not an exercise in superiority, inferiority, or victimology. It is simply a recognition of the honest assessment of any given situation. What is worth what? And why? And to whom? And for how long? And what good does it really do? When you start to live in sweet surrender, giving your spirit truly over to the One Who created you, you start to understand that so much of what used to matter simply doesn’t.

And you find new ways to live that promote peace, enable harmony, create strength…without the horrible feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness, isolation, or whatever the world tells you you should have. You are not destroying yourself. You are not letting anyone or anything else trample you down. You are not under anyone’s feet, not being walked on or taken advantage of. You’ve got this firm grasp of yourself that allows you, with honor and integrity and strength and absolute assuredness, to sacrifice yourself.

It is the true meaning of Christ’s commission to lay down your life.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Repent into Emptiness, Surrender

I’m not really who you think I am, or at least not who I am trying to be. It’s something that’s been tugging on my heart for awhile now, but it’s one of those things that’s really tough to admit and even tougher to address. How do you respond when you look around and your life is a lie?

You start by shutting down, dying to the illusion and the façade, and surrendering to the truth. That’s a good start, anyway. Easier said than done.

Too much of my life was defined by what others said I was – whether it was them convincing the world of that or just my own heart. Someone tells you what they think of you enough times, and you come to believe it for yourself. When I finally took the time to sit down with God and hear His painful truth, that changed everything for me, and those lies vanished. In their place, I embraced some of what I should be, but not all.

Because, I suppose, I wanted the chance to live as I might have been. That seemed the truest redemption to me. A second chance and the opportunity to live as created, to go back in time and capture again those should-have-been moments by living out the original story now.

This isn’t the original story, though, and by trying to wrap my fingers around what never was, I did perhaps more of a disservice to myself than the lies. I went from living as one thing I never was to living as something else entirely that I also never was. Was never meant to be. As the days pass, I grow more discontented each time I open my mouth or look around or take a step.

My life is still driven by all the wrong things. Noble thing, perhaps, in theory, but not in practice. It just seems that from the time I rise each morning until I fall asleep each night, I get more and more distant from myself and from God.

This makes me very unhappy, to say the least.

I’ve been discontented for awhile now. Time and again, I’ve wondered why that is. It would be easy to blame the external stuff, the painstaking job search, the relationships that are all-too-slow to change, the general rut that leaves me restless as I continue to search for purpose in this world. And restlessness does often lead to discontent.

But when I began to look, really look, at the situation, my heart sank. None of the answers to the questions I was asking would have helped my discontent at all. If anything, the answers would have deepened it. They would have stood in testimony that still, there was something off. Something not right here.

Because I am here, driving, pushing, yearning, wrestling. I’m praying but not listening to the answers. And growing in self-hatred feeling like there’s something innately wrong with me.

There is. I’ve finally put my finger on it.

To put it simply, I’m not living as surrendered a life as I’d like. There are many snares too easy for me to fall into, and that’s why I keep falling back into the same patterns that lead to my distress. I don’t fall as deeply these days, but it’s there.

Truthfully, it’s hard to put words to this because it is so much a silent struggle in my heart. It would be easy to get into the excuses, the story of how I got here, but that’s not enough. That’s a story I’ve told myself too often in justification. I’m tired of justification. It is time to drink of the sweet honey where God is calling me.

Drink of it or let it go. Living in the middle, knowing the honey is there but letting fear or frustration or excuse or convenience keep me from enjoying its sweetness, just doesn’t cut it. It’s time to make a choice.

My choice is honey. It is Christ, my Rock. This means several things, the first of which is surrender.

Prayerful nights with God have given me many answers I never wanted to hear. I’m not going to be comfortable in this body or this life or this place until I embrace everything He’s made me…and give up everything He hasn’t.

He hasn’t made me to be loud; He’s created a kind of quiet stillness.

He hasn’t made me to be demanding; He’s created a spirit of graciousness and patience.

He hasn’t created me to be busy; He’s created mindfulness.

He hasn’t created me to be hurried or rushed; He’s created eternity.

He hasn’t created me to walk hard; He’s given a gentle stride.

He hasn’t created me to be panicked or fearful or frustrated or disparaged; He’s provided peace.

Why, then, does my human nature insist on the formers and reject the latters? Somewhere, there is an unhealed portion of my heart that says that one day, God might not be God. He might fail me, leave me, abandon me, or spitefully trick me into falling for His promises.

God is touching that piece of me. As I come to realize how contrary to my true self this life I live is, I repent. That’s not how I want to be; I want the fullness of whatever God’s got for me. First things first, that means wholly welcoming and embracing every little piece of me that He’s designed, that He’s formed through His wisdom. Then, that means living it out.

It’s tempting to run too far the opposite direction here, knowing what God hasn’t created for me and how easy it is to fall into those traps. It’s easy to back off completely, seclude myself, and promise by force of will to do better.

God hasn’t created me to be a recluse; He’s created community.

He hasn’t created me to stop; He’s offering a fork in the road, a new direction to take.

He hasn’t created me to succeed by my will alone; He’s lending His strength and endurance, more than I could ever need.

That leaves me somewhere in the middle, not wanting to continue this lie of a life but cautious of running too far the wrong way. It does a girl no good to turn away from what God didn’t create her to be…to be something else He hasn’t created.

I’m pursuing a new position, a new posture. Effective immediately. It’s not a journey I imagine I’ll do much talking about after this; talking should not be necessary. And I’m not doing this for you. It’s for me and for the Lord, who is my Shepherd. It does mean some potential changes, though.

You might not see me in some places as much as you used to. In others, you might see me more. I may be quieter for awhile or slower or softer or whatever I happen to be working on in my heart. Maybe it will come off as depression or anguish; it might be. Don’t think that something is wrong. On the contrary, something beautiful is happening.

I know that because it’s already begun. Several nights ago, I prayed the prayer that began this work in me as I saw some significant little things popping up and getting in the way. The distance between my Daddy and I was painfully wide…and growing wider. He took my prayer and turned it into this eye-opening experience and invitation to repentance.

I am accepting that invitation. It’s amazing how quickly things change. I’ve noticed it already in my heart and in my step, in my thoughts and in my tongue. Slowly, but surely, God continues to redeem me. (He’s really awesome that way.)

There is also a profound slowness to everything, this sense of eternity that is hard to describe. And a deep, deep pain resonating throughout the journey. This is an honest death; many things need to die, and they slowly are. The struggle is to now not rush to fill the void left by the departure of unrighteous and unholy living.

It’s ok to be empty. It’s ok to be slow. It’s ok to ponder and muse and wonder about things, to pray earnestly and listen patiently. It’s ok to say nothing and not know everything and just to simply BE.

That may be the hardest part of all of this for me – embracing the emptiness in the growth period where the old has died but the new is not fully formed. But it’s going to be just fine. There is something beautiful about that.

In the midst of the emptiness, the slowness, the wandering, the waiting, the praying, the listening, the restlessness, there is one truth that remains and grips my heart:

It’s all God.

To pursue His life, His purpose in me, to honor Him and live holy and righteous, humble and content, it’s time to live in reckless abandon and sweet surrender.

May God come into my heart and restore and redeem me as I pursue His righteousness and the great design He has for me.