Tuesday, September 13, 2016

the standard of sweetness...

"So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, 
and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, 
to a land flowing with milk and honey..." 
- Exodus 3:8

The Old Testament is NOT the place most Christians gravitate toward. We don't really think it's beautiful; it's hard to read, there are a lot of battles and laws and lineage and Jesus hasn't physically shown up yet. The Old Testament is not full of warm, fuzzy feelings. It is not going to give you a big, theological hug. 

In college, I had a professor who instilled within me a love for the Old Testament; for the history, the wrath, the goodness, the story. This is the greatest lesson and gift that I was given as a theology student. He allowed me to see that the Old Testament is absolutely needed and beautiful; because without the wrath, there is no need for love, and without the love, there would be no wrath. We miss that, us Christians, and we miss it hard. This summer I have journeyed through the pages of the Old Testament with a brilliant group of women. Their love for God and His Word completely encourage me. We just finished Genesis not too long ago. We wrestled with the text, asked questions, and began to hide the stories in our hearts. 

We are currently finishing Exodus, the culmination of slavery and freedom. All throughout Exodus, we see the brokenness of slavery and the beauty of the promise of freedom. These pages are meaty and hearty and full of symbolism and story. We do not just read about the chains, but feel the heaviness of the bondage, the deep anticipation and longing to be set free.

The thing that I have been clinging to is the sweetness of the Lord; Yahweh, this great and powerful and wrathful God also establishes Himself as the standard of sweetness. We see this as He provides the way to the land of flowing milk and honey, as He turns the bitter water to sweet water, as He writes the story of redemption in the midst of the wilderness. Honey, thick and gooey and sticky and sweet, a pure reflection of tangible grace.

"...this great and powerful and wrathful God 
also establishes Himself as the standard of sweetness…"

The land of flowing milk and honey is referenced four times throughout Exodus. Yahweh reminds them that there hope is coming, that although now they experience the dry and weary land, they will experience a land in the future that is abundant in all good things. Manna is sent from Heaven and, we are told in Exodus 16:5, that it tastes much like the sweetness of honey. Another taste of what is ahead of us; our sweet God is faithful to remind us of what is coming, that we should measure our experiences from the standard of His provision.

And I don't know about you, but I really need to lean in to that space. I need to be washed by the sweetness, to let God drench me with the thick and gooey truth of His goodness. I want my heart to trade in its bitter places for the sweetness of His constant provision and faithfulness. He leads us from our bondage into His blessing, from slavery into sweetness. And you know, sometimes we can't feel it or taste it or see it, but it is coming. The brokenness and bitterness and bondage now will allow us to taste and see that the Lord is sweeter than we could have ever imaged. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

a coffee date...

If we were on a coffee date, there would be tasty drinks and chocolate chip cookies crumbs all over the table. We would about how it is already August and lament over how fast everything goes.

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about the balance of health and identity in Christ. I think that this is a hard line to walk, whether you are male or female. 

If we were on a coffee date, there would be lots of talk about my high school people (but what's new?).

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about how I am an MAID OF HONOR. I mean, this is going to be so much fun. Am I going to freak out over everything being absolutely perfect? Yes. But, I am going to kill this MOH business because I have Pinterest, coffee, Jesus, and friends. 

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I am slightly obsessed with James Taylor McCoy from "The Bachelorette". He has completely stolen my little heart (or at least, the part that can be stolen for a reality TV star!) and I may or may not have a face-swapped photo with him on my phone. 

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about Alton Sterling, Philandro Castille, and the police officers. We would talk about how our hearts can be big enough to pray for them all because these losses are all important, completely devastating, and deeply felt. 

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that this week I needed to be told that my desire for marriage is not trivial or stupid, but that it is actually placed in my heart by a God who sees. We would talk about how there is no formula for anything. We would talk about how men and women are fundamentally different, but God makes it work, somehow. 

If we were on a coffee date, you would tell me what you are reading, what God is teaching you, how you are trusting Him right now. We would probably exchange crazy stories about a sneaky Jesus who always answers prayers in ways that we don't expect.

If we were on a coffee date, you might ask me about my family and I would tell you my story and how sometimes I feel like Lot's Wife, tempted to look back at things that I think I need, love, am obligated to. We would also talk about Rachel and Leah and Dinah and pretty much all the women of the Old Testament.

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about how busy these next five months are going to be, August in particular. 

If we were on a coffee date, what would you tell me about your world right now?

Monday, July 18, 2016

on prayer and feeling forgotten...

Ten minutes.
I sat there for ten minutes, waiting for God to speak. 
It took me ten whole minutes to ask myself what the heck am I doing?

For years, I have been praying the same prayers.  I pray the same prayers because I have not been given an answer, but mostly because I feel the need to remind Him of me. Most of my prayer time is spent trying to remind a God who never forgets. I pray the same things and have the same conversations with Him because I feel like He hasn't heard me. 

Most of my prayer time is spent trying to remind a God who never forgets...

So I sat there. I prayed. I cried a little bit. I punched my pillows. I opened my Bible. I shut it. I journaled. I poured myself out. And then I sat there some more. I told Him that I was listening, that I was ready for the answer. I sat in the quiet warmth of my blankets, watching the sun through my window panels, and waited. And after ten minutes, I heard nothing. I heard nothing, I felt nothing. Nothing. And then, I realized, maybe I don't know how to do this. Maybe I don't know how to listen for God. 

But, what does it look like to listen to God? Does it look like sitting in your bed for ten minutes? Or spending a three day retreat up in the mountains? Or having a sudden realization in the middle of your work day? In that moment, I was listening, really listening, and He gave me nothing. No response. Which then makes me feel like He never even heard my heart in the first place. And friends, I expect the "no" always. My heart is familiar with His "no". My heart is familiar with His "yes", of course, but the "no" is much more obvious to my soul. I haven't received that yet. I haven't received the "no". And this whole thing, these ten minutes, led me to the bigger question… When exactly does He speak? When exactly will He answer? Has He forgotten me?

This week I began a small discipleship group with a handful of women at my church. We are all different, so we approach God differently. Monday night, I told them this, that I was feeling unheard, unseen, forgotten, that I have been praying the same general prayer for ten years, and same specific prayer for two years. It was scary to admit, even to some of my close, kindred people, that I felt these things. But, like true sisters, they reminded me that God is a God who sees, who hears, who knows, who remembersI was reminded that He sings over His children, that He is constantly aware, that He is working all things for His good, that He knows and sees and remembers His children.

God is always tending to our lives...

Wherever you are, and wherever I am, today and every day, we can rest assured that despite our ramblings and our mess, God hasn't forgotten us. And this is faith, trusting that God hears and sees and is present and active. His vantage point is greater, and I have to trust that. God is always tending to our lives, always listening, always aware. He hasn't forgotten your 2AM prayers, the ones about wanting a baby or a husband or a job or a healing to take place; He is there when we are on our knees, when we are at end of ourselves, when we are hurting and weary and completely at a loss when it comes to all the things. He hasn't forgotten, that is just not who He is. He is a God of presence and of the present, amen?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

on wounds and redemption...

Somewhere down the line, you have been wounded. You have a terrible father or had a terrible relationship; you experienced death of a loved one or of a dream. Your heart took a pretty big beating, with one too many punches, and it ended up in a really scary, broken, bruised place. 

We all have it, the wound. I know what mine is as I write this, you know what yours is as you read these words. Wounds always leave scars. My body is host to many, both physically and emotionally, and I am sure They say that the ugliest scars have the best stories, which can be true, but sometimes the ugliest scars have the simplest stories. Simple, common experiences that are very heavy and painful, because simple does not always means easy. Simplicity can still have a profound impact. 

"I didn't get the job..." Simple, but great.
"She cheated on me..." Simple, but great.
"My parents divorced..." Simple, but great.
"My best friend passed away..." Simple, but great.
"He told me he never really loved me..." Simple, but great.

These experiences lead us to a re-wiring. It leads us to believe lies as a coping mechanism. Suddenly, everything was different... The things you believed about yourself, about people, and maybe even about God completely changed. The wounds begin to whisper into your life, subtly gaining traction, becoming louder and louder. Now, your filter is a little bit skewed and you can't really discern the difference between a lie and a truth. We get confused about who we are and what makes us; we begin to live out of self-given titles and insecurities. We begin to believe that we are not worthy, we are not impressive, we are not strong, we are not beautiful, we are not accepted, we are not wanted. I understand this grey area. Too often, I live out of this place. And our culture does not help us out with this, which is why we MUST lean into the grace of God and the identity given to us as His children. 

Scars are not pretty. They expose the wound that once was, that thing that led to excruciating pain, bleeding, possible stitches, maybe even an actual surgery. They remind us of the fear, the turmoil, the pain. Scars will always be there, but we can choose to see them as evidence of brokenness or evidence of healing. 

Scars will always be there, but we can choose to 
see them as evidence of brokenness or evidence of healing. 

And what about healing? Healing takes time, yes, and a huge dose of the Holy Spirit. Healing looks different for everyone. Your healing might look like a night out with your crew, complete with some seriously great pizza, car-dancing, and a Redbox. Your healing might look like sitting in a counselors office every Monday at 5:30PM for two years. Your healing might look like a creating a blog or reading a book or having a coffee date with a mentor. Healing takes time, and only you know how much you will need. Don't rush it, but do be open to it.

Do not let your wounds define you. Do not believe the lies that the wounds will tell you. Do not be afraid to invite people into those wounds. YES THIS IS SCARY. I understand that this is uncomfortable and opens a door for potentially even more damage BUT, this also opens the door for redemption. 

I am thankful for people in my community who have redeemed my wounds, who have replaced my broken images with ones full of love, grace, and truth. I can only pray that I am that for others; that I can be a safe, redemptive place. Maybe I will be the one to redeem someones view of friendship, of a Christian, or of a woman in general. 

We are all wounded, we are all limping away from the process, seeking healing and redemption for the broken, beat up things. May we see our wounds be a part of the story, but not the story. 

So buckle down, choose to believe truth, and dive into the thing that scares you and requires a little bit of risk, because that is the evidence of healing. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

a coffee date...

If we were on a coffee date, I would be drinking iced coffee with coconut milk and agave. We would sit at a hole in the wall coffee shop around the corner from my apartment that has string lights and chalkboard signs and the cutest everything.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you about my car accident.

If we were on a coffee date, maybe we would talk about my Whole 25 (not 30, oops) journey and how I am actually teaching my body to love running. This is weird, like, I actually look forward to putting on my workout things, heading to the orange groves, and pushing myself to run. My body is starting to crave this and it is kind of awesome.

If we were on a coffee date, you would tell me about your marriage, your children, your plans for the summer, your heart and where it's at with the Lord right now.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you about how God is faithful to keep cultivating things in my life. My personal theme this year has turned into a sort of "fruit of the Spirit" tilling, and I really like being aware of that work. 

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about writing and influence and about your voice, my voice. 

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about the safety and protection of others. We would talk about how we need to love our people, protect our people, and never apologize for it.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I knocked a few books off of my reading list, but have so many more to go! I also keep adding to the list, so, cheers to that. (Currently, Wild and Free is in my purse!)

If we were on a coffee date, we would talk about the women in your life. The young ones, older ones, married ones, single ones, hard-to-love ones, generous ones, life-giving ones. 

If we were on a coffee date, I might introduce you to The Southern Shirt Company. 

If we were on a coffee date, we would walk away feeling refreshed, thankful for each other and for a good, good Father.

If we were on a coffee date, what would you need to talk about today?