Friday, November 30, 2012

On Learning Discipline

My new shoes are hot pink and black and I think I can conquer the world in them. But they make me get up and out and I am finally putting my feet to the pavement once again.

This was a few months ago and unlike most things in my life, this one is still a near daily discipline. 

Those early mornings watching the sun wake up in the cool of the breeze I pass horses and llamas. My three running buddies are the outside dogs near my house and they guard me with their lives. I feel slightly invincible on these morning jogs, and the hope and the future are mine. My feet move so smooth and my core is stronger because of these miles.

Those gangster dogs down the gravel way jump out teeth flaring and slobber swinging and they come at me. I speed up at first and then I stop. I growl back. Oh yes. I really do. Their tails fall and they recant. If only I could be so aggressive twords sin and such. 

Each step I take builds muscle in my brain and truth paves its way across my ever-deceitful heart. I am stronger because of these minutes each morning and my post-run hours prove it. As a woman long-enslaved to bulimia I know what slavery tastes like and no longer am I bound by pints of ice cream or that broken scale whose digits defined my worth. 

I run and ask things in Jesus' name and guess what—He answers. Not always in hours or weeks but I see months of prayers so tangible today. Life is less about me and it is so good. A life and body, no longer mine and the fruit is growing because of it. I am a temple and behold the Spirit lives here. I think I forget that too often as I cower back in fear of the unknown.

So I pray for revival in India where I left my heart and my big sis with babies in her belly and my dear friend in Virginia who I miss desperately and for the bible study that is coming later this night where my Korean friend will come to know Christ any second now and I hold my breath and beg to not forget. And none of this matters but it all does because I am a temple belonging to Jesus and He is working. 

I feel so good and lively on the days I run and I know that discipline is good for me. This is good for me. Not because it makes me look a certain way or an escape to another place or even because I am more alert. It is good for me because scripture calls it good and God established it for my good.

Learning discipline has been painfully sweet and tested my faith many days. Today I run a little more steadfast. 

The winter is upon us and I feel the weight a little bit. My body and brain hate the cold and the dark and food seems to taste better under all those layers. Yesterday I joined the gym and bought some vitamin D. I learned how to juice last night and this is how I flee from the sin that so easily entangles me.

But this is the battle, friends. We flee from sin of our flesh in this world by running the opposite way. We run onward towards Christ because the victory has been won and blessed is the man who remains steadfast for the namesake of He who has overcome.

So today as my hot pink shoes carry me up the gravel roads towards home with the frost slicing across my face, I have to pause only to growl at the dogs and listen as the lies recant along with them into the bushes gone brown. Then onward we run...

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, andmake straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. -Heb. 12:11-13

Thursday, November 22, 2012

And Today, I Give Thanks for My Dad

My dad is still in rehab, just over a hundred days sober I think.

He is still there and for that I give thanks. Grace must be swallowing him up hard and there is overflowing gratitude in that too. 

When I think about Thanksgiving, I hear my story, the one God has been writing from day one. The one that really began right here on this day, and now six years has passed. 

Time flies and God is faithful, that much I know. 

Dad birthed us all and by that we share the same blood. God knew in my conception even, that someday the blood passed down from my dad would flow through the very lips that would speak of this Savior, this Messiah who was and who is and who is coming. These would be the same lips that would speak hope into my blackened heart. Dad gave the lives that spoke me into eternal life and it all started with a hug on this Thanksgiving day six years back. 

And that, this relationship with my three siblings and in-laws, that makes me thankful for the man that gave us shared blood and similar faces, for the one that links us tight into some grand melody that is playing. And today, I hear it loud jumping across these walls as I write in the quiet. And oh I am swimming in Thanksgiving.

Dad, lately I miss you. I miss the moments I watch these girls have with their daddy and I miss playing spades together. I had to go out this morning and buy my own Thanksgiving ads because you're not here. Today I realized that is one thing you never forgot. I see glimpses now, glimpses of sweetness that only the Lord could give. After walking through this tough year, I am so very thankful for the glimpses. Oh, dad. I am thankful for the moments that brought dimples into my cheeks. I am thankful you're alive.

I saw this movie the other day and the words are still etching in. This man, he lost it all--his wife, his son, his career, his friends, his integrity, his reputation. He was sentenced to time in prison for flying a plane while drunk, though lives were spared though him, even in his drunken stupor. He is behind bars a year or so and his words are wiser becuase of it.

Because sometimes we have to lose it all to contemplate life and death--and sometimes it just makes us want to live. Makes us want to live free because anything less is death anyhow. Yeah that's it I guess--a life lived in pursuit of death is not a life worth living. And so we search for something more.

So what if you lost it all and you found yourself surrounded by bars and scary looking men and even still you made the following remark.

I am in jail locked behind these bars and I deserve it, but I have never been more free in my life.

It sounds a lot like Paul. In chains for Christ and counting it all joy for it results in steadfastness and remember he used to kill Christians. He lived a life in pursuit of death and soon realized it was not a life worth living. Sin in the garden resulted in death for all and yet even still for this murder God made a way. He made a way for us too. Yes dad, for you and for me.

So let's know freedom in the safety of where God has us, know it so good and choose life.

In this movie, the closing scene, his son (whom he'd hurt deeply) came to prison to visit him and he wanted to interview his dad for a class. The prompt of the interview is Someone You Really Want to Know. "Who are you?" I want to know you, he tells his dad. Redemption.

Dad, I want to know you. I want to forgive you, I mean I do, most days I have to choose it. I want to know you a hundred days sober and a hundred months sober. And in God's grace maybe that will happen someday. But more then anything, I hope that you will ask yourself--"Who am I?" Who am I when I'm not drunk, who am I when I have a purpose so much bigger then myself, who am I when all the rest of it falls away and I am sitting behind bars with no one and nothing?

Who am I that my sin hasn't yet resulted in death? Who I am that God chose me and set my apart? Who am I that in His abundant grace, He gave His Son that I might be free? It's true. 

Not who was I but who am I because of my past and because of the grace that far exceeds it? You know it's not vain, the past that is. God is using it.

And so tonight I think of you. I hope and pray that as you are "locked behind bars" in a half way house this Thanksgiving, that as sobriety reaches over a hundred days at this point, I pray you are being set free by Christ, that you are learning who you are in Him because apart from that it's all fleeting and failing.

Today, I am thankful for you, dad. I'm thankful for the suffering and pain of this year because I know Christ more today then I did a year ago. I am more of a mess and I need Him more too. 

And I look forward to the day when I can sit across from you and find out who you are, redeemed and bought and new.

What are you thankful for today, friends? 

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Signing a Lease and A New Season

Yes, I am moving.

It wasn't really planned quite this soon but then God spoke over and over and over again—and eventually I had to listen. I am excited and scared and sort of freaking out and it is all to His glory!

We were on the beach when it all started and I think the sand and the sun just does something all funny inside. You start talking crazy talk, that is. The real world it buried in voicemails unheard and emails unopened. You remember how to dream big, outside of the mundane. It was close to my birthday and my adopted mamma and dad took me out to celebrate. We talked serious for awhile and we all left encouraged. Everything seemed to make sense and looking back a year, God has worked miracles—and still continues to do so. We all agree my time in their home has been purposeful and life-giving. Maybe next fall it will be time for the next thing—back to Lightbearers or back to India or something else.

The next day he is driving me to the airport and we have more then an hour uninterrupted to talk while the kiddos are watching a movie in the back. We are just sitting and he is off dreaming like always. Sometimes I get so frustrated because I can't tell if he's just processing these dreams or counseling me to act on them. And if it is the latter, does that mean now or ten years from now? He watches my face pale and my eyes flood and he slows down a minute.

He tells me it makes sense to walk out a season before the season. It makes sense to return to the Lightbearers community. It's safe and full of fellowship. And it makes sense to meet a practical need of a friend in need of a roommate and to do life together. It makes sense that there is sweet accountability in this friendship because we need each other and words shared as I pour into her apply to me too. And it makes even more sense because during this car ride a two bedroom opens up.

The lies swoop in like a pelican plunging for a fish and I am blindsided.

You guys don't want me anymore. I'm not really a part of your family. I knew someday you would get sick of me. I am not welcome anymore. I'm gunna move out and you guys are never gunna talk to me again. It was all too good to be true. I can't do this. I'm not ready...blah blah blah. 

He repeats the lies out loud as though he were reading my mind. I see grace and I am so thankful for him. He hears me even when I don't talk and it is a gift. The lies are exposed and it leaves room enough for breathing.

So I do. I think about what he is saying and I am scared that he is serious.

Am I really ready to spread my wings and fly? Am I really healthy enough? Am I really equipped to walk though life with another?

By the time we get to airport he tells me I'm kicked out as of January 1st. Half way joking, I think. Half way not at all.

I start listening to voicemails and responding to emails and celebrating my birthday and somehow the dream begins to become less a remnant of my tanned-skin high and more so a very alive reality and it's not me doing a thing. 

It's funny to look back and see the speed of some prayers being answered so abruptly, like my move to Arkansas two years ago. And how others seem to be unclear still—like my husband!

Four days after the dreaming began, we signed a lease and God just did it all. Little doors seemed to open every hour throughout those days, and confirmation and affirmation were overwhelming wisdom of those near.

This transition from one of a dozen to just one is going to be a challenging one but oh so good. Obedience is a sweet place to be and I know God is preparing me for a season of further refinement and walking out life outside of my country, one of a dozen bubble.

I would not change this season for anything in the world. I continue to gawk in awe of God's faithfulness through my dozen and my time under there protection. To some degree, it won't change.

And in other ways, everything will change. I love change. I actually despise it.

January 1st, 2013. Bring it on, for my God is faithful. 

For you shall not go out in haste, and you shall not go in flight, for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. -Isaiah 52:12

{I hope you will stick around and walk out this new journey with me.}

Monday, November 12, 2012

On The Day I Was Born

I don't remember it of course, but my mom says I was perfect. Though it's rare my thoughts drift to my other half, I am a twin and I think reflecting on my birthday brings me back here.

My other half died in the womb we shared and though we never got to play barbies or open presents together, I always want to be the best at things. I feel misunderstood by the world a lot. My love language is physical touch and I crave close friendships. Gaining three older sisters in my teens was a dream come true. When someone has my personality, I air on the side of freakily telepathic. 

Last weekend we celebrated my birthday with one side of the family and I heard my mom so loud and clear, a sort of sword piercing my heart.

"It's a good thing I only had one. I don't even like kids." she said it just like that. And of course she was talking to my best friend pregnant with twin boys (who lost a triplet). Over the years she has joked a lot. About not wanting me and screwing me up so bad. Sometimes it doesn't sound like a joke but it is not her love nor her provision for a child I doubt. 

It is how a woman could honestly not want children--not like them. It is that I am alone and I shouldn't have been but God ordained it and it and was. Mom says God knew she couldn't handle two of me. I say life is ever precious and I wish we shared a room. Sometimes, I miss this baby that should have been, that was. I miss memories we never had and I miss the loneliness that would have never been.

Today as I celebrate twenty-two years of life I remember the preciousness of it all and yet it is fleeting, the blink of an eye I remind myself.

Hearing my mom for the third time in a couple weeks boldly proclaim her dislike for kids last night, her thanksgiving for losing a baby. Realizing that I spent a third of my years trying to die. All of it weighs heavy like my suitcase I lugged inside after getting back from the beach last night, sunkissed and more alive.

Even in a year where my dad jumps off the deep and plummets into rehab for the umpteenth time, in a year where the secrets that have tied me down are loosed and brought into the light, in a year where this family in the country changes my world, in a year where my best friend is hiding two humans under her growing belly and my adopted momma is mourning a year of great loss and my mom is thankful that God only allowed me to live. I breathe the cold air as I run through these country roads and I have to stop to weep because I am alive at the age of twenty-two and life is straight up messy.

This year, my flesh drives me away from hope and yet He has a plan and purpose and He counts the hairs on my head and I live. Deep breathes of grace, not by anything I do or deserve. Grace abundant.

I am thankful for this day because God's grace is so incredibly evident in this celebration. Because He gave me life and now my life is for His glory. Because whether or not I was really wanted from the start is irrelevant since I am here, since He chose me and set me apart before I was a day old. Since His ways are higher then mans.

Because even if my mom doesn't like kids, these twenty-two years she has loved me hard. Grace.
Because the Lord allowed me to live even if my twin never took a breathe outside of the womb. Grace. Because even at the age of eighteen when I tried so hard, He just wouldn't let me die. Weeping grace.

And because at that age of twenty-two I feel ancient and withered like the tree out my window and sometimes I blow with the wind. Life has hurt and even this year I have been close to the fire and so much has been burnt away with the leaves I smell in the icy breeze this morning. Oh I know the suffering of the year and I think some days it lingers thick and musky on my sweater.

But today, today I say strip down the layers and dance because the victory is coming--it's here too, in these twenty-two years of life, in living life with Christ and learning to be free and learning to trust for He has made a way. And one day it's all gunna end and He will stand victorious and I am redeemed and bought and He calls me beloved.

Friends, I am so thankful for you and the way you speak Truth as the winds blow hard and in the quiet and the storm I hear the echos loud and continuous and here we are...twenty-two years and I pray He is glorified until my last breath.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Family Photos & Wondering Where I Belong

The thought of these family photos on the beach is perfect—white against jeans and tanned faces. And yet every single time the subject comes up I want to burrow away like those little clams on the beach.

As more moments pass throughout the week and I watch dad sneak girls out the door for a secret date and mom spend the day with a broken-armed boy. I see a business trip cancelled so both can be there to get a cast on broken-armed boy. They celebrate his upcoming birthday and they calm his fear. I take pictures with three sisters and when mom looks at the pictures, her eyes search for the three she birthed to be gathered in single shot. And I guess all of those little moments I watch, just make me remember I am not really one of a dozen. I am just me and today that doesn't feel like enough.

Today I want to belong. I want a daddy-daughter date where I secretly disappear and I want a birthday lunch smothered in affirmation. I want to be a sister on the other side of the lens and when I blink awake I don’t want it to just be a dream from the night before.

I live with them everyday, so I don’t know why this lobster red skin and sandy soul is just bringing it out of me but it is and it is painful.

This morning I cooled off from my run by meandering up the seashore. My routine of running and walking and digging in this sand peels off layers of dead skin beneath my feet. A task I have been meaning to get around to for months now, and yet the fun of it all hasn't quite drawn me in.

As I sit cross-legged writing now, I feel the smooth perfection of my soles and I am thankful for the sand. Even if it doesn't feel good at first--even if it will linger in my clothes for the next six months. I think this sand is peeling off more then dead skin on my feet though. I think it is rubbing hard and holy against my heart too. 

And yet dead skin is just that—dead. Dead skin blocks the new skin from forming and so the only way to pave a way for newness is to get rid of the dead. And it doesn't feel very good--and it might linger.

Six years ago this very sand peeled off layers of death and disease from my soul. Looking back I never saw it happening and yet it was no accident. The raw skin gave me eyes to see and ears to hear and as I saw the waves turn under the sand and heard lyrics ringing out His mercy and desire for me, all of a sudden that raw skin began growing new cells, cells that enabled me to see such beauty and praise God for all of it.

I remember being jealous during family pictures then too. I remember wearing white like everyone else but not really belonging in some of the shots. The one of me with my siblings I hang an idol on my wall. I guess I never really knew it. 

I want my dad to be free and I want to be good enough for my mom and I want to grow old with my siblings and I want Jesus too. I want to belong on earth first and one day in Heaven. I want to be in these family pictures tomorrow, not taking them. I want to belong here in this family on the beach and the reality is I don’t. I didn't fully belong six years ago with my half blood family and now today I still don’t. I weep writing this because the truth hurts and my identity from the world is being washed in the waves with my dead skin. 

It hurts and oh it is so good. Holy sand for the soul. 

Jealousy leads to death and I see it as I study Genesis and see a whole family line tossed and turned by the waves, destined for destruction. There is polygamy and murder and consumption in the things of this world. All because a lamb was accepted and fruit wasn't. All because Cain chose to walk away from the presence of the Lord in His anger. 

I am angry I never got daddy-daughter dates and I am jealous that these little sisters have parents who put life on hold for a broken arm and I so desperately want to find my worth in a photo of white shirts hung on my wall that tells me I have a place in this world, that I belong. Most days I don't think my offering comes close to that of a girl brought up in a God-fearing family.

And as my anger and bitterness and sorrow build it all comes crashing down as I realize--my offering is not better or worse because of my past but because of my past I have an offering to give.

Because six years ago on this very stretch of sands and seas I offered up my belief in God for the very first time and instead of running from His presence in that moment of great fear and much darkness, I ran to it. God's grace alone. It's grace that God would even allow me the privilege of doing life with my siblings--that through them I would eventually come to faith in Christ. It's grace that I would be "adopted" into this family of eleven for this season of time. Grace that years lost are being restored through them and that I am learning and being set free. 

Unlike Cain, the generations to come from my womb will not head into destruction and yet that is not based on my own belonging in this world. 

It is only by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ in my life that the generations to come might also run into His presence and not from it. It is grace for me too.

And in these words of Truth  I see the joy of my salvation being restored and my belonging solidified.

And whether in the sandy shores of Alabama or the winter chill of Arkansas, belonging found is not worth comparing to the belonging given freely through the death of Christ and the confession of lips.

It seems sinner in need of Savior is enough to belong to Jesus. And go figure, His color of choice is white too. 

Pensacola, 2006
Orange Beach, 2012