Monday, August 27, 2012

On Learning to Look in the Mirror and See Eternity

I hope I get to be with you in Heaven, he says from the backseat.

We are driving to church and I am lost in my thoughts as his little four year old voice pierces through the depths of it all. 

I had woken up to gaze a monster in the mirror--a reflection of myself which I hate. It was just one of those mornings. You know the ones. Where your hair won't curl just right and you have that pimple jutting out like a mountain and you don't remember it until you're in the middle of conversation and you realize she is staring at it. One of those mornings where all the blush in the world couldn't cover up the hurt, the insecurity, the pride, the fat, the failure that you just can't bear up under anymore.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Taking a Deep Breath

Its been a few weeks, a few weeks since I have heard anything. A few weeks since I've really thought about him.

I am thankful for the way they protect me, the way the burden is just gone. While trust is still a process and submission a war waging within me, I never knew how light these daddy issues could be when I actually broke down let them fight for me, my adapted dad and my big bro, when I stopped trying to prove something. When I stopped trying to save the world—and my dad.

While I've been working and studying and doing life with my dozen and welcoming my international friends back for another year, he has been detoxing and sobering up. While they counsel him, yanking up his war-torn memories and question his attempt to bring the 80s back to life, they counsel me to fast from him and let Jesus be Jesus. He remembers his days of having it all, his days of good looks, his days of being called boss. He probably remembers the alcohol weaving through those years too, the millionaire gone broke in a single choice gone bad, the abuse and neglect, the relationships burned to ashes—the story of his life would bring in millions at the box office.

We are all drawn to the brokenness, I think. We feel better, more comfortable in our own mess when we know that someone else has it worse? And there is always someone. I glimpsed a show last night, Intervention, an episode of a man who is addicted to getting high by holding his breath long enough to pass out. His family was desperate to save him, to keep him a while longer. I sort of laughed because what else can you do? We are just so broken and we cover it up, but sin always takes us farther and I know it too well. 

While my battle has been with food, his continues with alcohol and I remember we're not so different, but oh sweet Jesus we are and I praise you for that! 

He is getting out today. We have been here, here in this place too many times to hope. I don't trust because nothing but fibers in my blood tie me to him now. But it's okay because we are all a lot of work and a little progress, crying out for the image that was before the woman and the tree screwed it all up. 

But one day, one day soon we will see heaven and it won't matter. 

This time, he is walking out the door with a diagnosis. I don't really know what it is but I know he can't function on his own anymore. He can't have money and he can't take his grandkids out for an ice cream afterschool. Life is different and messed up so I know faith is the thread that holds me even tighter. 

My god-send of a brother, this man with deeper hurt then I will ever know, this one who loves his wife and raises his son so good, this one who fights for me and wears the gospel on his sleeve, this one with grace unfathomed and mercy so raw—he is getting dad and driving him hours to live in this house with others like him for a year. Others so broken and hurting and lost. We've all been there—I am there. We all have our out, we all stop breathing sometimes.

Yet, he has sustained me thus far and for that in itself, I call Him good. 

So, here we are in this world where men get high by holding their breath and dads hurt their little girls and we don't know how to make it all right, to justify the brokenness so we paint a mask and we cover up with leaves because it feels more right and we laugh because we remember that heaven is coming and it's just not getting better until then.

So we take a deep breath and we tighten the thread and we press onward, heaven bound. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On Why We Keep On Movin' & Shakin' & Dreamin'

I sent out an email at work last week. Mostly to the believers, just let them know about the incredible opportunity of hosting/befriending international students at the U of A this year.

Not five minutes after pressing send, she was standing here, right here in my office. She told me to come see her when I had time. Gulp. I hope I didn’t offend her, I think to myself. I hope this wasn’t too much, too personal. I wrestle and doubt.

The gospel and the workplace is hard for me. So is going to campus at lunchtime and realizing I don’t have the same freedom of college life, that the real world has snatched away much of me, taking my athletic shorts, oversized t-shirts, bed-head and chacos with it. Okay, so I never wore chacos, too bad really. Now, I am committed from 8 to 5 and live in dresses with sandals. I digress.

I walk into her office and she invites me to sit. I smile and tell her I hope it’s okay that I sent this to her. She smiles bigger and tells me God answers prayers. I rest and hunker back into my seat, relief settles in.

We talk well into the afternoon hour and I am encouraged. She pours out her heart, the depths of it. She tells me of this commitment phobia, this one I think we all battle to some degree. She wants to be apart of a church body so badly, but she doesn’t know where or how and she prays and the loneliness continues to flood, weekend after weekend. She stops moving and forgets the dreams. 

I have noticed that she wasn’t up at the top pew in church lately, arms raised during worship but I just figured it best not to push the topic…not to make her feel uncomfortable. So I stayed silent, while she stayed alone. Us both paralyzed by fear, as the bricks we wear begin to build and His voice begins to grow quieter and we lose sight of the dream.

Maybe if I stop dreaming, if I stop thinking about all He could do, then He will just stop speaking and I will stop being afraid, I rationalize.

We talk and I tell her there are people her age—to try to do something outside of a Sunday morning, something relational. She is relieved and she rejoices. We talk about membership and our phobia of commitment. I tell her of the year it took me to commit to a church body after the hurt from the last. We decide we need community just after we need Jesus and we dream. She tells me these words, this email, this moment here with me, this is her prayers come to life . I smile and tell her He is faithful and He knows so much better then we.

I don’t tell her that I am scared too. That some days I wish I could silence His voice to calm the trembling inside me. I don’t tell her that I hear His voice tell me to use the name Jesus in a story I am telling the unbeliever I love in the office beside mine, but I hear Him that clear and I say no, it’s too hard. No, I just need to build more trust, more relationship. No, she will stop being my friend. No, I am having a bad day. No, I will get in trouble. I don’t tell her that because I am shaking and stuck. 

I leave her office and I kick myself. Why do I clam up at work? I can walk out that door and onto campus and speak gospel all night to my international friends, but I just can’t seem to say a word at work. God is gracious and uses me, lack of obedience to his prompting and all. I don’t forget because there will come a next time, another chance to pass the test I have learned to fail. He tells me to tell her—to make sure she knows we are all obedience-phobic at times, hearing His voice and all.

On Sunday, she is standing up at the top pew once again. She meets some people and in an only God breathed gust of wind, she ends up in membership class that very afternoon. Yesterday, we had lunch and got her all ready for hosting her international student this year. She is going to be fabulous. And when she hears His voice, it is going to move through her words. She committed to a body and a student because she heard His words so clear through my lips that she couldn’t say no again, she chose to move and shake and dream.

Oh Jesus, give me that faith, give me that obedience. You speak and I move. Simple.

Let’s just remove the complication and doubt—this is what we tack onto His otherwise clear and simple language proclaimed in our ears. We digress and before we know it, forget His command all together. That’s when the phobia rushes in and we stop moving again.

Truth—I didn’t expect Him to work quite like this, that He would really come through, that the Spirit was willing in spite of the weak flesh. But He is moving and shaking things up around me lately and it is challenging me to commit to Jesus, to dream with Him. To commit to the body He has placed me in but mostly to commit to His glory above my phobia, my people-pleasing pride stuffed phobia that silences the gospel right off my tongue.

For the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
                                                                                                                                         -James 1:25

Do not be deceived, and do not forget. Hear the word and do it. Keep on moving and shaking and dreaming, because here in this place His words liberate and we bless. 

We are all a little more lonely then we would like to admit and we all need to be liberated, shaken into action and moved to dream. We all need to be reminded to listen for His voice and act. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Just Life: On A Weekend With 5 Boys

I pull up and little one comes running a little too close to the car. 
"Corny! Corny!" 
Hi Baby, how are you?! I exclaim in my bestest excited voice.

I hold his hand as I gather my load and he escorts me towards the door. I am met with big boy shouts echoing from the basement, another confined to his room, little boy tears and pleas to go outside before I can even get my bags put down--or take a deep breath.

Mom and dad and big sisters are gone, so we learn together and we trust better. This is new—for us all. It has never happened before, just the six of us, me and these five boys, so we make it special.

We stick noodles in turkey dogs and paint pictures of rainbows right at the dinner table.

We laugh and wipe tears. We fall asleep on the time out bench and we slide our jammies on over the dirt, just this once.

We go for walks and have races on the deck because the house just can't contain it all any longer. We dye cookie dough bright colors and spell out the names of the ones we can't do life without.

We attempt pancakes {from scratch of course} on Saturday morning because we just need a little normal.. We eat them and I scold the one who says these are better then Mommys. I come up with all kinds of punishments I will inflict upon the one who says that to Mamma!

We laugh until we cry, just us around that table with the floor covered in crumbs and noodles and his water spills. And I smile and go get a towel.

I talk to Jesus more then I ever have in my life. Because there is no one else to talk to—not like that anyhow. I pray without ceasing. Mostly selfish prayers for patience and joy and peace, but sometimes I remember the moments and I give thanks.

Hours well into the darkness, as I lay with little man curled up on my chest. I focus on creating a steady flow of breath. In and out. In and out. I pray to Jesus that the steadiness of my chest moving in rhythm might lull him into rest and peace. That when he fades, the noise machine and darkness will make for a flawless transition from my breathing to his bed. I move a leg and his head bobbles up. Oh well. He has  never been put to bed by anyone but his sisters, Mamma and Daddy.

I remember the weight of my role and thank Him. I kiss baby boy as his head nestles back into my chest and I rub his back and sing Jesus loves me--again. Though my singing does not comfort like his sisters. I laugh. I can't sing, period.

I begin to think about the weekend and the stress and the challenges and the uncertainty of it all. How will I ever be equipt to do this all the time, for life? I wonder late into the night. Will always feel this hard, this demanding? Will I ever rest again? Will I stop being so selfish? Will it ever stop feeling like the job that has provided for me though teenagerdom? Will I ever be as wise as their mamma? Will the striving just take few breaths ease?

As I get to church, boys in tow, I text Mamma and thank her for all she does everyday. I tell her that we miss her so much.

Of course she has to speak the Spirit of conviction into me, even over a screen with some letters on it.

It's not about you (or me). She texts me that morning. Children are a blessing from the Lord and we honor Him as we receive those blessings joyfully. She continues to tell me how much they appreciate me.

Several hours and a hard sermon later, the daddy texts me too, about something totally different but it ministers here. From his bed, sick at home he guides my heart in His words, "Lose the mindset that life is stressful—it's just life."

Simple truth that makes it all seem so simple—I breathe and the weight begins to dissolve.

I begin to get perspective. I won't have a dozen at once. There will be time to learn, to rejoice, to grow in wisdom. I won't be alone—a husband with authority will guard my heart with counsel too. They will be my own and that love is just something of a miracle, so they say.

And so, I press onward to heaven and I hope there, in that place that so far exceeds me, myself and I.

Today, I am learning that life is not stressful—it's just life. Today, I am learning that it's not about me—that kiddos are a blessing and Christ is glorified in receiving them as such.

So may life here on earth, what's left of it become lesser as eternity drives me heavenbound. It's simple and yet it changes everything about raising babies, everything about single-hood, everything about life as one of a dozen. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

On Being Blessed {A Synchroblog}

Facebook is my own worst enemy these days, plastered with engagement rings and lil ones. Sometimes, it makes me wonder.

Wonder who my husband is...when and where and how I will meet him. Wonder how I will know he is the one God chose for me all the way back in the womb. I wonder if there is a husband in my future? Or if I'm the exception. I wonder if He's really equipped me to be content if so. I wonder how I will know.  I wonder what my babies will look like. How many the Lord will give. Whether I will carry them in my womb or carry them home on a plane.

Sometimes, the wondering is a slippery slope...pulling me out of the here and the now into a reality that has not been promised.

But more often then not, the wondering is a blessing.

 It is a reminder that my life is not really my own, even now when it is just me living it. That the act of the will which must align with Truth is not for nothing—Romans 12 has a greater purpose then simply what it does in me. That training myself to flee from sin, to renew my mind, to walk by the Spirit--that it is not solely about my own entanglement being loosed. Avoiding the entanglement & breaking free brings life—and life abundantly, also for the generations to come.

At the end of it all, the wondering gives me vision of the hope and the future that He promises. Even on the days that feel so hopeless, in the moments where the future seems too far to matter—the wondering somehow lures me back to hope in something more. It calls me to fight. To hold fast in the valleys and soak in the mountains.

Before salvation, I never knew opposition to sin. Surely, I was enslaved to it, but not opposed. In fact, my life revolved around pursuit of it. But I was in opposition to God. Today, it is the opposite. Yet, I have never thought of the consequences of such a shift--no longer an enemy of God, but now an enemy of sin. No wonder the battle is so demanding, so tough some days. 

Sometimes, I wonder what my life will be like in a year, in ten years. Sometimes I wonder what my babies will look like. Sometimes I wonder if my daughter will live freer then me. Sometimes I wonder if I have what it takes to raise one—or a dozen.

Some days, I am convinced I will never be prepared—to submit to a man when I struggle to submit to Christ. To raise babies of my own, when I struggle to patient with the lil ones in my house now. To wait on His perfection, when I am so busy striving for my own.

Everyday, I know that apart from Him I am a disaster. With Him I am one too. Without Him life is just too messy, too hard, too much--so I will remain a slave to the Spirit, to Christ, the risen One in whom I am blessed.

Today, I am blessed to hear a sermon on Romans 7. To take comfort in the battle that rages in my mind, the way it is no different from Paul's. I am blessed that he had the guts to be honest about it. I am blessed that His testimony gives me hope today.

Listen close, self. In the wondering—listen for His voice.

It is humming softly always, Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me. 

But today, I am blessed because of the hope and future that draw so near in the wondering.

I am blessed to be living the hope and the future right now, too.

I am blessed, even when it seems the new hymn is stuck in the old flesh.

I am also blessed to read these words Emily writes over here. Check her out because you will love her too. She has a book coming out can pre-order it here! 

Life as One of a Dozen: The Beginings


The story of how I came from a lifetime in the city to this country house in the middle of no-where Arkansas is truly nothing short of divine interference.

I had graduated from Mercy Ministries at the same time as graduating from high school and was not about to run off to college miles away after just coming out of a troubled girls home—so living at home and going to a small private baptist school with a full-ride for tennis became my reality. As it would be, I never played a single match yet somehow school was payed for in whole. Grace? I'll take it.

After a year of learning the hard way that being a Mercy Grad did not mean I was perfected—and that going back to the same old environment as a whole new person was indeed cause for extreme battles—I decided it was time to spread those wings and fly—away, far far away.

In some God moment where I heard Him more clear then ever in my whole four years of knowing Him, on a plane ride to the mountains of Virginia, He spoke to me through Isaiah. He told me He was going before me—and behind me. He told me to go to the mountains and proclaim the good news. It just so happened that as He told me this, I glanced up for a gaze out my window and was met with a birds-eye-view of the most beautiful mountain ranges I ever had seen—the only ones I ever had seen I supposse. I got off that plane and jumped in my best friend's arms—we drove off into the mountains and I knew this was the next step. A cross country move and life in the mountains.

The next week my application was in and I was accepted. Radford nursing school, here I come. Then I jumped on a plane to spend the summer in an aboriginal village in the outback of Australia proclaiming the message of life to many who were so near death. God moved and spoke boldly to my weary heart. I came back doubting my move into the mountains—{I am not proud to say, this was mostly because of the distance that would separate me from the boy who stole my heart overseas...but that's a whole other story.} It just so happened that some finances fell through at this point, and my journey to the mountains was no more—or so I thought.

I had two weeks until school started. No where to run, no escape from the turmoil of doubting the perfection of His plans. Lord, I KNOW you told me to go to the mountains. What in the world are you trying to do here?

Desperate to escape life at home, I began applying to colleges—random random colleges. I applied to two in Arkansas. The U of A called my name immediately as everything fell into place. Aside from the fact that I knew not a sole in this city which I had yet to even lay eyes on—oh and had no place to live.

Frantically, I started calling apartment complexes searching for a one bedroom anywhere. At one of the names on the list, a man answered and we got to talking a bit. He told me they didn't have any one-bedrooms left, but they did have a discipleship program. What...wait, what did you just say? Remembering still brings a smile—none but Jesus, this I know. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief might have been something I uttered as I prepared for the unknown that was to come.

A few hours later I had applied for the program and was accepeted. A few days later we loaded up my earthly belongings and headed towards those deep Southern accents and stench of Southern grease.

As I pulled up to my new home away from home, I saw mountains, and I knew. 

Yes Sir, Yes Ma'am. Welcome to the South.

I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. -Isa. 45:2

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dear Body

Dear Body,

The years have not treated you kindly.

Over these two decades, gravity has begun to pull at you. Through womanhood you have gone all curvy and lose on me. You don't fit into that one pair of jeans that I used to love or that little black dress, you know the one that used to make beauty on the outside come to life. Some days, not even my {most stubborn} will could will you to pick up and run another mile—you just have zero to give. Forget the Olympics, just give me another half marathon. Something I can do. Anything.

Your sausage thighs and feeble knees have hindered my game. Your soft belly never tucks in quite right to my clothes. Your large chest hinders my style and jostles too much during my workouts. Your arms jiggle when they should be still. Your face grows hair in the wrong places too often and never spares me of blemish. Your hair doesn't even keep it's brilliant blonde on its own anymore. Oh body, how do I love you?

Most days, I don't feel like I can be who He created me to be—and most days I blame you. I blame your saggy arms, your feeble knees, your curves that continue to curve in all the wrong places. I blame your cleavage that seems to be subdued by nothing short of a little of this southern grease tucked into many layers. I blame the girl in line in front of me all tanned and perky and perfect—why won't you just look like that?

I blame my twelve year old will that eventually crumbled under the pressure of starvation. The day the curves began pop out and latch on, when my jeans started to fit different, I got so mad at you. I starved you until you hungered so loud. So I fed you. I guess we ran and weighed and starved our way right through teenagerdom. Until the day I taught you to purge yourself of the curve-inducing, tastes like love calories I hoarded for you—a new era began for you I suppose—for us both. You were my best friend and greatest enemy.

Some days you got tired and you didn't perform well enough—so I had to punish you, body. How could you have forsaken me this way, I would wonder aloud? Why did you have to have so much fat on your thighs and such big bones beneath it all? Why did you have to look like that today? Why couldn't I just be petitie. Even the word sounds sweet—and innocent. I am sorry for hurting you, for the scars you continue to bear up beneath. I'm sorry that your innocence was lost so early a time.

Two decades later, we don't often agree on much, me and you. And yet in some summersault of extrordinary grace, we are still one, still putting feet to the carpet morning by morning, new mercies and all. As my understanding fails, the truth prevails so I begin to trust in something more. Created to move and serve and laugh and love—created for more.

And I begin to realize you are more—we are more? You have to be. Perhaps there is a purpose, a reason which far extends my youthful comprehension and yearnings—for why we continue to be granted breath. What a mess we are!

They tell me you are a temple, a holy dwelling made new. To me you are still who you have always been, like a bag of ugly rocks weighing me down. I have never quite figured how to get comfortable in you.

Oh body, is there anything about you worth loving? Perhaps a fingernail all clean and cut or that freckle on my toe.

Some days I want to crawl out of you because you hurt me so bad. I can't open my eyes before the mirror because it reveals your imperfections, your flaws which are plenty and overwhelming. And it is too much. Too messy. Too ugly.

Oh dear body, will these eyes of yours ever learn to see with grace?

Eyes of grace hear the word triplets (growing in your best friend's tummy!) and remember that someday, you are going to defy everything that makes sense and breathe to life a whole human inside. Eyes of grace see the little beans inside and weep, the yearning to hold life within so much greater then the desire to destroy it. Eyes of grace dream of that little life forming beneath this soft belly that jiggles a too much, until the jiggling just doesn't seem like such a devastation.

Eyes of grace look at your short, chubby legs and remember the moment those legs carried you through a 13.1 mile run, the victory moment and the process. They remember the moment those legs stepped out of the car and touched the red dirt of India for the first time. They remember these are the legs that will carry you down the winding aisle into the arms of the one chosen for you someday. The chub you see seems purposeful, natural even, in the eyes of grace.

Eyes of grace look down into the intricate details of this little one, they remember the strength needed to sustain him. Eyes of grace give thanks for these hips that jut out so right and perfect and wide, like they were created for this or something. They hope in the future that is full of babies resting so close. They tell me, the wider the better, stop living a slave to a number and embrace what this body was created to do!!

Eyes of grace remind me of the nourishment this bosom will provide for the generation to come. They remind me of the bonding, of the moments that are created to be mine alone. They teach me to hope in the future rather then pay for the past. Eyes of grace see through the sagging and layers—they see the needs being met, the purpose.

Eyes of grace look into the mirror and see the temple and the reflection of the Maker. They see the fearfully made through the stitches knitting it all together. They see every little hair and count it. Not because it is ugly—because they love me so good.

Eyes of grace see only a glimpse of this earthly body, imperfections and all. Eyes of grace tell me there is more, so hold fast. Eyes of grace whisper the glimpse could not compare to the coming of eternal life. Eyes of grace rely on the blood already shed—they trust in it, right here in this fallen world. They see the scars and give thanks. They need not make more, need not pay the price already paid.

Oh Jesus, give me eyes of grace. Teach me to hope here, here in the unfamiliar, in the unnatural. For I am not created for the familiar and natural. Not created for this world.
Eyes of grace, teach me to look for the stitches knitting it all together, the ones that bind up the wounds. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What is Saving You Right Now?

Don't think about it too long or too hard. Share a photo or a sentence or a song.

Right now, it is Shasta cans ice cold and JoyFM songs of praise humming in the background as I press on to finish this pile of papers at work. It is lunch dates with a troubled ten year old because I'm not so different from him. It is trying to prove I am indeed smarter the a fourth grader as I run through long division in my head, doubting all the while my corrections are actually correct as I check through his schoolwork. It is the glitter on my dress that reminds me of the artwork in the mail yesterday made by tiny hands and love too good.

Right now, it is my car always starting again after it takes a little break in the middle of traffic and heat—yet again. It is the little guy hugs and big girl squeezes that I come home to everyday. It is watching the Olympics and feeling like it matters—like it all matters somehow. It is be inspired to dust off those running shoes. It is seeing lines of cars miles long outside of Chickfila as I drive down the road, thinking maybe the world is not all messed up, not quite a lost cause. It's remembering that He really is still drawing man to Himself in the midst of the brokenness.

Right now, it is this verse on my desk, the twenty-something verses I know by heart from hours of repetition these past few weeks. It is clinging to the hope of memorizing a book of the bible, of actually seeing the transformation unfold as the newness of my mind morphs into normalcy. It is being three years out of Mercy and still not being perfect{ed} but more in love with Him.

Right now, it is the picture on my desk of that barren classroom, blackboard and 3 little benches which now bear the weight of little bottoms. It is knowing that right now as I think on what is saving me, these little minds are being filled with the Word of Life—and being saved. This classroom across the world that failed to meet my wealthy standards several months ago is saving me right now. 

Right now, it is the new little life growing in my friend's tummy. It is the miracles delivered through prayer without ceasing. It is my yearning to be a wife and mamma someday soon. It is the curse that is being broken as I learn to trust man and flee from my rebellious heart. It is the battle that is becoming less about me and fading out of my future. Right now, it is going to the beach in a few months that is saving me. It is my renewed desire to submit as I read Luke 2 and see that even the Son of God, the perfect one, chose to submit to his parents, mere sinners in need of grace. 

Right now, it is the simple words and the open door policy. It is the family dinners and washing dozens of dishes becoming routine. It is never being alone. It is taking things day by day. It is re-training my introspective ways. It is my book for college coming in late, that I might ease into this new season. It is knowing grace needed to go boldly before the throne for mercy. It is deep conversation and a dozen friend dates this week and last. It is long dinners hosted by women oh so wise in their faith. It is letting Him fight. It is learning to be still that is saving me right now. 

Right now, the past got me here. Right now is where I am, all that I am promised. Right now, the hope and grace needed for a future is saving me.

Thanks to this fellow sister and faithful blogger's challenge, I know He is saving me, even now. Please, JOIN ME in sharing what is saving you today...just come read over HERE. Share your story, your saving graces. It's simple really. Thankful for Sarah and her constant stream of vulnerability and truth.