Sunday, December 9, 2012


I'm in an uncomfortable, yet pretty familiar place right now. It's that high demand, fast pace, lots coming at me, low energy, busy, slightly chaotic place. I don't do very well there. I've actually grown to realize that 'busy' is when I'm most lonely. I get a lot done, but I'm robbed of being able to sit down and connect with others in the process. And, as painful as it is to admit, that includes Jesus. Doing a lot makes me tired, being tired shuts me down, and somewhere in there I begin to feel too tired to be alert to His presence. That bothers me ... a lot.

I've learned that finishing my to-do list is not the 'cure' to this dilemma - rather, it's stillness, stopping, looking at Him. So today I stopped, sat down in front of our fat little Christmas tree, and entered into conversation with my Savior. We talked for a long time and His words to me were full of truth. He shed a lot of light into the dark corners of my heart. Affirming, but also re-defining false perspectives I have clung to. Then suddenly and intentionally, He paused from the topic. And He began to express and assure me of His love. I stopped writing and closed my eyes to concentrate. As soon as I did that, my mind went back to this summer when I was in Bled for a conference. On the hour there the church bells would ring. There was something about them that captured my attention. I never could articulate it, but hearing them touched something deep inside me and I loved listening to them. So today, as that memory washed over me, I began to journal ... "When I closed my eyes I thought I could hear bells - like the one's in Bled. There was something sacre..." Before I could finish writing the word 'sacred', the church bells here in Diosd began to go off. After feeling a little shocked and amused by the irony, I continued the conversation ...

"I feel Your presence. I hear your voice. You put the bells in my mind then rang them into reality. You are truth. There is confirmation sinking into my soul with each vibrating ring. In the bells I can hear you say, 'I am real, I am here, I am with you, that makes all the difference.' Please keep ringing the bells. Ring the bells of confirmation, the bells that echo Your will. Bells of your nearness. Bells that invite us into Your midst."

Living unaware of Emmanuel (God with us), just doesn't feel like living to me. The bells are waking me up. Their pleasant ring and gentle echo feel like an invitation. God is with us. He is real. We are His. And He is in our midst. The bells are ringing ...

Friday, October 12, 2012

surprised by joy

I slept in this morning - unintentionally. I get up early for a reason. I love morning and I don't like when it gets robbed. But this morning I was pleasantly surprised, because I didn't seem to mind the delayed start. I didn't panic that I was late or feel disappointed that I lost some of the quietest moments of my day. It actually felt like a gift, or like someone was taking care of me. As if Jesus were saying, "You could use a little more rest. You'll enjoy the day I've made for you so much more if you aren't tired. So sleep a little longer and wake up to Me."

I think waking up to Him is exactly what happened because my heart is unusually glad. Everything is making me smile ... the warmth of the house after finally turning on our heat, the sweater I'm wearing that I got free from a friend after a series of random events, the song that has been running through my head, the walk to school, the sweet perspective of that student expressed in a comment, the laughter that erupted as a result, and on and on I could go ...

The truth is, I experience these sort of simple moments every day and I'm smart enough to realize that they are not the source of the joy I feel. There's something deeper going on down there, something outside of me, something real. It's as if joy is not a response, it's a condition. I'm joyful and therefore I enjoy it all.

This blog entry has no real point. I started writing because this sort of 'gladness' isn't easily contained. It just started pouring over - into my hands and through the pen. Jesus is alive and my eyes are sparkling. He lives and I can't stop smiling. We are loved. We are wanted. We are taken care of and pursued. Praise Him.

It feels so good to praise Him.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

grace like rain

"Grace like rain."

Those words have been softly falling on me. I find grace to be a mysterious thing. It’s real, abundant, all-encompassing, and constant; yet it is also fluid. Grace feels like rain. 

Lately I’ve been extra watchful; focused and searching intently for grace. It’s so enjoyable … like going for a walk in the woods and noticing all the hidden beauty it holds. I have found myself filled with a sense of reverence as I realize that this is all from Him. Gifts. Blessing. Grace. 

The more aware I have become of His gifts, the more my soul is realizing that this grace never ends. He never stops lavishing us with good things. Never. And it is here in this place that I feel it … grace is like rain. It falls on me and it cleanses me. But I haven’t received grace like rain. I want it to be more concrete than that. I want the grace moment to be a package, something tangible, something I can cling to with tight fists, something I won’t lose. But grace moments don’t work that way. You can’t keep them. They are like rain. You absorb it. They are meant to sink into the soil, not stay a puddle on top. 

I spend a lot of time trying to keep grace in a jar. I take His gifts and I hoard them, panicked by the threat that I could lose this. Ignoring the fact that none of it is mine forever. That there is no one I will never have to say goodbye to. That time evaporates the gifts we are clinging to. And so I get preoccupied trying to hold onto something fluid and forget that grace is like rain, and it’s raining and it never stops raining. 

Why do I think it’s going to stop raining? Why do I think there’s an end to His blessing? Why do I hoard His gifts rather than absorb them? What would happen to me if I opened my hands and let the rain wash over me? What would grow if I let the hard soil soak up the rain instead of trying to capture it in a jar? Would gratitude and joy be unavoidable? I want to find out. 

As I read back over the moments of grace I’ve named, I see how fleeting they are. Already they are gone. It was a brief moment; now it’s a memory. I can’t keep holding that moment in my hands – but, wow, do I spend a lot of time trying. I love Josh Garrel’s lyrics that say, “And to let go of all you cannot hold onto, for the hope beyond the blue.” 

Let go even of the blessing … and feel His blessing continue on and on. Feel the rain each day and grow to believe that it will never end, that the goodness of God never ends. Soak it in. His mercies are new every day. Brand new and incredibly fresh.

Monday, September 3, 2012

this moment

I've been dining at the Master's table and have bit into something rich. So rich that I feel hesitant to write about it - can words describe this? And even if they can, will I be able to find them? I took one bite of this and my eyes got huge; I swallowed and my mouth watered for more. I ate more and began feeling it move through me. Why did it take me so long to take a bite? Will I remember to keep eating? Daily consuming this life-sustainer?

I bit into gratitude. The flavor caught me by surprise and I found myself waking up to a strong undercurrent of discontentment deep inside me. I saw myself for who I was, a little girl sitting at His table full of so many complaints - expressing my disapproval of all that is wrong in life. He'd been inviting me into gratitude for awhile, but I couldn't understand it. How is it possible? I mean, gratitude comes when I see the beauty, not while I'm waiting for it, right? I don't know why He took the time to feed me instead of sending me away from the table for such self-consuming thoughts, but He did and I can't stop savoring His words ... "Life change will come when you receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change."

It took me a few days to swallow those words - I'm not really sure why, maybe it's an acquired taste. But now that I've feasted on it, I can hardly believe that this is really mine to eat. Gratitude is this powerful companion that draws me into every moment. Fully present in this very moment. Fully present to the Creator of the moment - gazing at Him in delight and asking for nothing to change.

Discontentment blinded me. I couldn't see this before. I couldn't see that it is all a gift - all of it! This moment. A gift. And don't gifts make you want to say thank you? Especially when you realize the goodness from which they come? Andrew Peterson's new lyrics grabbed me this week: "Don't you want to thank someone? Don't you want to thank someone for this?" ... Yes! Yes, I do!

I came home the other night a little lost in all these thoughts and found myself glancing up at the stars. Never been able to look up without pausing ... so as I stood there staring at the vastness of it all I heard Him whisper to me, "No one thanked me tonight for bringing out the stars." My heart hurt in that moment and I felt the sin of my ingratitude weigh heavy on me. No one looked up and said thank you? What were we all doing? ... Then I felt it. Gratitude.

Gratitude is the eyes of a believing heart. A heart that believes in the beauty, goodness, and sovereignty of the Redeemer. Eyes that take in the moment, receiving it as a gift, delighted. A heart that can't stop saying "thank you, thank you, thank you" for each surprise that is given because it feels the goodness of the One who has written it all.

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good" -Ps. 34:8

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


So I’m caught up in this thought right now; it's one that I’ve had before. The problem is that, for whatever reason, it's super easy for me to grow numb to its reality. It’s the thought that there’s this story; a story that started before the world existed and continues to this very moment. And within that overall story is millions of other stories, all part of each other in some way. That last part is what gets me stuck … it’s all connected, it’s all intentional, it’s all been written by the same Author. Every single detail! I actually really believe that. But do you ever get hit in the face by what you believe? Do the implications ever stop you in your tracks? Does it ever overwhelm you that this is not a movie or some really intense book … it’s your life!

Knowing the incredible story of God creating this world then sending His Son to redeem what belongs to Him is huge. Huge! But living within that story? I mean, 'there’s the rub'; at least for me. Somehow I manage to creep away from His story. I adopt this mentality that my story is sort of it’s own little thing floating around without anything to control it, that the events in it are random and that I'm often alone in it. I mean, I don’t really think that, but maybe I do – at least sometimes?

So a few things about myself that I think drives me into these thoughts … 1) I love listening 2) I’m overly curious about solving mysteries and 3) I’m compulsive about smoothing things out – no drama and no tension allowed. The problem is that when you listen, you will hear endless stories that don’t make sense, there's lots of drama, and the tension of it all is easily absorbed. In fact, sometimes you don’t even need to listen, because your story is the one that doesn’t make any sense. All that to say, it doesn’t take much for me to honestly feel confused and concerned by the way life plays itself out (for myself and probably even more so for others).

But then there’s this story! And it just gets me every time; especially when I find myself colliding with the Author Himself … And this is where part of my “story” comes in. I don’t know if this can be proven true, but I’ve decided (from a little experience and a lot of observation) that separation is the most painful human experience. Separation can happen a lot of different ways, and I can’t think of one that isn’t deeply painful. I had a moment where it occurred to me that separation was not just a human experience, but that God must experience it too - because it’s the very thing He came to redeem. Christ died so that there would be no more separation between us. Also at this time I was brought to the words in Hebrews that says, “for the joy set before Him, endured the cross.” I've wondered hard over what the joy was that Christ set before Him … and I couldn't help but think that maybe the joy of reconciliation was on His mind. Maybe He was thinking about that moment where separation would be defeated and the overwhelming joy of being together could be experienced. And if there’s truth to that train of thought, then it means that “togetherness” is a huge value on God’s heart. So much so that He felt it was worthy of the cost of His Son’s life in order to redeem it.

Christ died once, but He didn’t stay dead and the ripple of that story is still going strong. Reconciliation is this ever flowing thing that is still being lived out … in me, in you, in us. And I just don’t think God works out reconciliation only to leave us living separated from Him. I think it’s safe to claim that He saved us so that we could be together with Him … and maybe even follow Him (closely!).

Anyways, I’ve been waking up to (and also resting in) this reality in deeper and deeper ways. “Togetherness” is a pretty suggestive term. It means that God and I interact and talk and that I’m actually capable of recognizing His voice. It means He’s real, it means He really loves us, it means He’s good, and it means that our stories, right now in this moment, are unfolding at the sound of His voice.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Our Big Brother

So a little confession: I am compulsively curious. Not sure if that’s obvious and comes through; but it’s true. I want to know things and I want to know them now. So I think and think and think. I treat life like its one big mystery novel, where everything is a riddle that I’m compelled to figure out. In fact, I often resist living life because I want to figure out what that’s supposed to look like first (life is less messy that way, right?). But the problem I keep running up against is that I can never reach the end of the mystery. The plot thickens, then thickens again and again. After a while I feel myself start to spin until I’m left completely confused and not at all ok with the fact that I don’t have this figured out. So, feeling uncomfortable, I resist the confusion - only to find myself quickly falling into places of panic. By this point my mind is like a mixer that accidentally got switched to high speed – batter flying everywhere while I stand there shocked at the unexpected mess I’m making. Yet, it is in this place of panic and high speed thinking that His faithful voice often speaks to me. Not necessarily right away; that’s part of the reason why I’m panicking. But His voice has always broken through; which is part of the mystery, and of course something I’ve tried to figure out. :)
I realize that was quite the intro, but the stage needed to be set because yesterday batter was flying, panic was felt, and Jesus showed up. Before He said anything though, He simply brought me a cool glass of water. I drank the deeply refreshing words in Psalm 139:6; 12, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Even the darkness is not dark to You.” I guess I was thirsty, because those words felt really good. Then He spoke to me and simply said, “Cease from striving.” I’ve heard those words before, but something was different about them this time. The way He said them felt out of context, yet strangely familiar. Finally it hit me; it felt like words from an older brother to his stressed out little sister. I had a rush of emotion when I realized that. It’s hard to explain why, but I’m going to give it a try.

I have a big brother who has his own, reserved spot in my heart (as does my little brother). There’s just something unique about the relationship of an older brother to his little sister; it’s a special sort of bond. In the past couple years God has touched me in some very deep places by relating to me in ways that I can understand. He shows up in my life as my Father, Master, Savior, and Friend. But as my Big Brother? That’s a new one for me. It hits me in that place where you can’t find words, yet somehow the most profound things are discovered. Big brothers get it. They’ve lived through what you’re in; you have the same experience except that they are on the other side of it. There’s also something ‘playful’ in your interactions, which I think comes from being able to relax in their love for you- unafraid that you’ll lose it. You sort of get this sense that you belong to your big brother – he owns you a little. So when he speaks, you listen. And when he tells you to do basketball drills for 30 minutes a night and serve a volleyball overhand unsuccessfully 100 times, you do it. (true story) :) But maybe my favorite part about big brothers is how protective they get. Because you are his, you are automatically looked out for.

I think I’ve had a pretty great big brother/little sister experience. But of course it’s not perfect. (I’m still a little bitter about all the times I was told to ‘be a man’, I mean, clearly I can’t do much about that.) But what is striking me about seeing Jesus as my “Big Brother” is that He plays that role perfectly. Jesus is the firstborn of all creation. He’s the perfect Son and the perfect Brother. He has walked through everything we experience. He gets it. And He knows the Father intimately.  So you can’t help but sigh with relief when He grabs you up in a hug and says, “Relax in the mystery, Sis. Our Father’s ways are so good and so beyond you. Cease from striving. I’ve got your back.”

There’s something else about seeing Jesus as the Firstborn that is striking me; it’s a little harder for me to relate to. There’s this element in which He is the reason I’m part of this family. In this current season of ‘confusion’, I’ve been wrestling with and feeling shame. At one point I just came out and asked my Father if He was ashamed of me. I sat with that question for bit and finally heard, “I am not ashamed of my Son, with Him I am well pleased.” It was like God was saying, “Child, don’t take your eyes off my Son. I’m looking at you through Him, do the same when you look at Me.” And that, I believe, is grace.

So there lies my conclusion: Grace. It recently hit me that my name actually means ‘full of grace’, and yet how gracelessly I live. Why?! Especially when grace seems to come from some sort of ever flowing stream. There is endless grace in the mystery and limitless grace in the mess. I really don’t have the mystery figured out, but I am sincerely and peacefully grateful for His grace.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

self reliance

A few weeks back I got nailed with one of the viruses that has been floating around this place. My brain doesn't do sick very well, it just sort of shuts off and makes me feel like everything is a dream. Even after the initial 'sickness' leaves, it still takes me a little while to feel like myself and think clearly again. But, with much relief, clarity has found me ... along with some incredible spring weather and an increasing realization that God is speaking right now. Actually, what He is saying has caught me a little off guard, which is what has motivated me to write on here.

I've been spending time entering into the story of Christ's temptation in the wilderness. He seems to have softened my heart a little extra this week and, through that, I've being impacted by this story in a whole new way. I don't think it's possible to condense all my thoughts into this paragraph, so I'll only mention a few of the places I ended up. Not sure how successful I'll be at communicating this, but I'll give it a shot. :)

I'm blown away by the boldness of God's Spirit. Christ's experience those 40 days were Spirit led, it says that. It's gotta takes confidence in something powerful for the Spirit to lead the Redeemer into extreme physical weakness and temptation, especially considering that if He fails, mankind loses their Savior. I'm not going to even touch trying to understand Christ being fully God and fully human in that moment, but regardless, I'm amazed that Christ is led into temptation, not shielded from it.

This is going to get too long if I keep explaining my train of thought, so I'll skip ahead to where this took me:

-The power that God's Spirit possesses is really powerful. So much so that with it there is nothing to fear. Nothing trumps it.
-Christ was tapped into something beyond and bigger than His physical experience and His appetite was for the Father's will.
-Christ was not using His experience as a test of whether the Father would really provide for His needs; that was just assumed. 
-I can sense Christ's reliance on the Father and it screams humility. This is where I ended up spending the most time thinking.

One of the questions posed at me was, what are my greatest temptations (especially connected to unmet longings)? I realize in answering this question that it's really the sort of thing God has to reveal to me; meaning that it's probably something I'm blind to. So, waiting for God to reveal this, I answered casually that I desire to be equipped but rarely feel that I am. Confidence is something that I marvel at but don't often participate in.

All of a sudden I felt like something heavy, profound, and eye-opening had fallen on me. Whoa! I think I've been subconsciously asking God to make me self-reliant. It's completely true that where I am weak, He is strong. But have I believed that where I am strong, I don't need Him? And worse, am I trying to grow equipped in my weaknesses so that I can further rely on myself? The temptation in that stems from a lie that the more control I have, the less disappointment I will face. Which then makes me ask, am I really so deceived as to think that there is any potential at all for God to disappoint me?

I'm drawn to Christ's example. I long for His humility. I want to be Spirit led, even (or especially) into the weakest of places. And I want to know His power and know His sufficiency and delight worshipfully in my Sustainer. The beauty of complete reliance (not just in my weakness) on an all-powerful, loving, intimately-involved God is a captivating thought.

The words in Exodus 14:14 keep echoing back at me while I think about these things: "The Lord will fight for you, you have only to be silent." ... This is the experience I find myself craving and having a strong appetite for. This, I think, is what it means to live outside myself in pure and complete reliance. To Him be the glory because the victory and power is His.