My New Old Story

“We stand in life at midnight, we are always on the threshold of a new dawn”
– Martin Luther King Jr.

We embrace New Years as a state of mind in which we attempt to fold up the past and define a new future. I like that idea. I like the idealistic notion of a well closed ending, a giant count-down and a ceremonious beginning after which everything is a new story.   Read More »

A Heart that Turns

It’s been one of those evenings. I have many different kinds of those evenings. This has been the kind of 3 books and a Bible and a guitar (accompanied with a giant brown blanket, some lingering Christmas lights, and a pumpkin muffin). I read a verse. “Ahh that’s so true!” I exclaimed and starting talking to Jesus about it. Then I cried. Then I told Him something I’m really needed to get off my chest. Then I opened a book. I didn’t make it far. More tears, comments, songs. Back and forth, reading, crying, praying, singing, exclaiming, asking. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not been a top-of-the-mountain, revelatory moment. It’s been a my-soul-cries-out kind of moment. I’ve been telling Him about some very particular heartbreaks. About some losses, some failures, some regrets and some disappointments. I’ve been pointing out to heaven those little corners in meRead More »

What Lies Behind

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“You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” – Psalms 139:5-7

I have always taken comfort in times of uncertainty that He is the God who goes before me–that He prepares the way, and is in my future before I ever get there. It’s somewhat easy for me to trust Him with the things that have yet to happen, but recent history has challenged how well I trust Him with the things that lie behind. A few weeks ago as I was taking my 7 minute drive to school, I tuned into K-Love thinking, I bet there’s something playing right now I need to hear. Sometimes those 2 or 3 songs that carry me down the 44, give me just what I need to approach the day right. It’s almost my last ditch effort at perspective readjustment on days when there hasn’t been time for anything else!

Chris Tomlin was singing his new song, “I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind…” I was struck. He stands behind me! How had half the impact of this reality never made its way home? I wasn’t scared about my future, I was scared about my past. I was scared of the things I couldn’t do anything about–the things that had already passed through that small window in which I have the chance to alter them. We are powerfully present in our lives in only a sliver of time. We don’t get to go backwards and forwards and make adjustments based on lessons learned and perspectives gained. When today comes, I greet it with today’s wisdom, today’s resources, and today’s state of mind and heart. And then today leaves me, and it goes into a part of my life I can’t pick up again. Tomorrow isn’t so scary because it still has so many chances. Yes, it’s unknown and uncertainty gives fear, but it also gives hope. Where is the hope in yesterday?

He stands behind. I got excited and relieved. Although it’s hard for a time-constrained brain to comprehend, I knew with sudden sureness that the comfort of trusting a God who stands in my future could be applied to a God who simultaneously stands in my past. He’s still there. He’s still working it out. He hasn’t let yesterday go. He’s not done with it yet. Though I can’t do anything, He can, and wherever He is, there is grace, and grace makes beautiful. Trust means not only that I move forward with confidence of a good future, but that I let go with surety that He will take care of the things I no longer can. The deepest beauty and freedom of a life surrendered is that nothing is beyond redemption for a God who stands behind.

Being Small Again

I looked up at the vast blue today and allowed it to make me feel small. I needed that sense of me being tiny in the expanse of everything else that is. Sometimes I get too big, and when I am too big inside of my world, I become scared. When I am big, my problems are big, my needs are big, my importance is big, and my responsibility to those things is big. There I am–looming all important in my world. My disappointments fill the sky, and I am the one to face the problems and fix them.

I stepped outside into the cold. I let myself feel cold for a while. I asked that big tree across the road whether he was touched by my situation, and how he thought history would progress if I didn’t master it. I asked him if he didn’t think my troubles and predicaments were unfair and worthy of obsession. But he wasn’t very obsessed with any of the things that I have been. I looked at that endless blue that I don’t understand, and I thought about all the things of time and eternity that I can’t explain. I contemplated all I don’t know. I contemplated how much of history past and future stands unmoved by what is so moving me. I felt small again and as I shrunk back to size, I felt the freedom of being a small person in a big story. It’s not that my life isn’t important. It’s not that my choices don’t matter. It’s just that I’m not the whole story.

Fall is good at this–this shrinking experience. Fall strips and sheds and spills. Fall gets you bare. But there’s so much comfort in it. It’s the reassurance of things so much bigger than yourself. Here you just get to be. Be bare, be held, be small.

Grateful Notes

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Gratitude doesn’t always look like a day full of things to be thankful for.

Thankfulness is not always a list, not always conscious.

Some days I write two pages straight of things I am thankful for. Other days I don’t write a single word.

Gratitude when you can’t think of things to be thankful for, is worship. Worship is a step of faith. It’s a faith that says I believe in His goodness even when it feels like I am not experiencing it.

Worship doesn’t come out because things have gone well. Worship is given because He’s always worthy, and because I have learned that when I am full of the gratitude of worship, I position myself to see rightly again.

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And then there was Grace…

I’m not sure that it’s possible to graduate from the subject of grace. It has been as consistent a theme in my life as any, and the one that stands tallest when backwards gazing on what my life has become today. These days, these months–when I look at them, I see answers to what seems to have been prayers of a lifetime. These answers have come to me in adventure, surprise and poetry. But none of it has come without some kind of peril or heartache. None of it came the way I thought of it in my prayers. But the lives that make the best stories are exactly this kind. They are ones with unexpected answers–answers that come in packages we were never looking for–packages of struggle giving birth to glory, and tears that make way for song. The best of lives contain lessons learnt from unbecoming tutors.

When I look at this season, this life, I see much of this lesson learning and prayer living. But the thread that weaves through it all–the line one can put on the end of each story, or anywhere in between, is, “and then there was Grace.” It is what transitions every tragedy into beauty. It is what rearranges the chaos and calls it a life worth living. It is the “however” of life. One day, or a whole season, can turn on this word “grace”. The arrival of grace is what transforms our vision and opens up the back road of hope.

My story could go something like this: I prayed for a world of things I had never seen and knew not how to get to, and then there was grace, and grace brought me into a dream. I encountered all my fears and insecurities to live inside that world, and then there was grace that triumphed fear with love. I walked with people I loved and their battles and wounds became companions of my own journey. But then there was grace, and grace knew how to love deeper and go further. Onwards the story goes. I encountered rejection and grace showed me how not to throw away life’s sharp cuts. Grace came when I failed and came again when I ran out of space in my heart for others who had done the same. Above most other things, mine has been a journey defined by the power of grace to rewrite all that has been written.

I still catch myself whispering those words, “and then there was grace,” when I reach a moment in need of transition. I rarely know what will follow–the second part of the sentence–but I know that for every sentence that needs it, there is a “however”. There are some things in life that we need to know, and others we don’t. Knowing that there is grace is the first; what falls on the other side of grace is the second. And here, trust is so simple, so beautiful and scary, it actually makes me cry. It seems almost incomprehensible to entrust to grace what we cannot control or understand. But this grace is something so deep to rest in and I know that as it has marked the days behind me, it will continue to show up in the days ahead.

So if you ask me, or I ever ask myself, how I got here, though the story could start with a dozen different challenges or trials, you can be sure that it will always turn with the words, “and then there was grace…”

Lost on the Page

I had the most terrible time remaining focused today. In my world that’s usually a good thing–it means that I am inspired to distraction. It’s been one of those weeks when the sky has been stormy–not the bleak grey kind, but rather that perfect shade of blue that adds this depth of color to the whole world until all the greens pop. Seriously, the most beautiful green landscapes show off under stormy clouds. I (unintentionally) had quite the conversation trying to explain this to somebody in Starbucks yesterday. My accompanying roommate informed me that I was taking the idea of weather small talk to the next level!

Image from www.ibreatheimhungry.com
http://www.ibreatheimhungry.com

Back to the point (I warned you about my distracted state)… it’s been one of those weeks of perfect colors, successful sketches, and near drowning experiences on Pinterest. I come home, make do with the things that have to be done, and then get on to all the other things that are bound to keep me up all night. Staying up all night is never a good plan for me, because I’m a 9 hour sleep girl, and far too fond of mornings. That moment when I first wake up is always a dilemma for me. Do I crave an extra snooze moment, or take a lazier morning, smelling coffee and letting the pages of my favorite Psalms lie flat across my lap? It seems the slower my morning, the better my day. If I could make mornings last all day, I certainly would! And if I could eat raspberry vanilla pancakes for every breakfast without adding any pudge, I am certain I would do that too.

Amidst all these small rambles, here is the thought that grabbed me today: my spirit is fed by what my mind does not understand. Breakfast found my roommate and I sharing a re-sparked appreciation for the Word. It’s like I woke up one morning last week and thought, “good Lord! I don’t read my Bible!” What have I been thinking? I don’t know. With so much other spiritual input, sometimes it takes a while to recognize a slow fade. It’s like how they say by the time you realize you’re thirsty, you’re already well dehydrated. But I find myself returning to it with the wonder and passion of a novice. I open the pages, I read a few chapters, and I think to myself, “I couldn’t tell you anything intelligent about what I just read, but I sure did like it!” There’s a refreshing that comes that is not in any way attached to my ability to understand. I can read a dozen other books that pick apart the depths of meaning and principles and on an intellectual level I grow, but it’s nothing to the childlike joy and wonder of the Bible. I am realizing again that every time I read the Word, my spirit comes alive, even if my mind gets lost.

Isn’t it beautiful though? It’s the simplicity of the child, the confounding of the wise, the delight the goes beyond reason. It’s a grand comfort to know that I don’t have to figure things out with my head. His Word is spirit and life, and I need only get lost on the page.

 

 

A Place Called Home

I found myself buying a new Bible this week. That’s what happens when all your roommates leave on missions trips and you’re home alone. I determined not to spend my day inside that big empty house—I was going to leave and not come back until the sun starting setting. So I packed a bowl of cereal, my favorite spoon and a jar full of milk for breakfast. “I can do this!” I told myself, “I can totally have a fun and creative day all on my own!” Alone time is something I appreciate only in severe moderation. My plan was to start my day by going up to Hilltop and having breakfast with my Bible open in my lap, over looking the city. En-route, where did I end up? That’s right—inside Barnes and Noble hunting for that new perfect Bible.

I have a weakness for pretty things, and new things, and hence I always seem to be getting new Bibles. With each new one I tell myself, “oh yes! This is perfect! I will never want another one! This is exactly the Bible I will hold onto untill it’s weathered and worn.” I want that kind of Bible. But then a season changes, and I always feel like I want a new Bible for a new season. It’s a lost cause. But the beauty of new Bibles is that you have to go through them to find the new location of all your favorite verses. It’s like a trip down “favorite scripture” lane. My journey landed me in Psalm 107. I love Psalm 107 because it seems to cover everything; there is not a road in our journeys that this passage cannot speak to. One piece at a time, it so beautifully describes the redemption and restoration of God in every area of our lives, and it starts with Him bringing us home.

I have felt like verses 1-9 before—wandering in a desert, “finding no way to a city to dwell in.” I’ve had days when I felt as thought I was stuck in the lost and found pile, waiting for somebody to come pick me up. Aren’t we all looking for that place to belong? The first thing Psalm 107 tells us about the steadfast love of God is that He gathers us. “He delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in… For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.” 

I am a soul that has been abundantly satisfied with good things. I am one who has been gathered, and brought into that place of belonging. The journey that brought me here didn’t always feel like a “straight way” but this is a place called home for me, and I can testify to His promise that He has a “city to dwell in” for each of us. I love that it is always in the heart and promises of God to bring us home, and that He makes home a place that satisfies. It is a place where we get to dwell in goodness. He takes those who are troubled and in distress and He gives them safe havens and family.

I am convinced that the sense of being at home and truly belonging is a gift from God. It’s a gift I sought for a long time, and a gift He has given. I took a picture of the Sacramento River and placed it in my Bible by this verse to always remind me of the faithfulness of God. I am home.