Sunday, January 08, 2017

-?- Pt. 1.....The Great Adventure

I found this little wooden sign the other day. (It's the picture on top of my blog now.)
When I saw it, my heart did a little jump because it's perfect: the outline of the United States behind the words, the rustic wood, the font. The price was pretty perfect too, so I bought it.  I place it next to where I usually bring my coffee, light a candle and curl up to spend time with my Lord, and I look at it and say "Jesus, YOU are my greatest Adventure." It's been a long road for me to be able to say that and mean it.
I want to invite you to hear that story.
I think I want to start blogging about the past couple years because my hope is that my experiences will resonate with others and will maybe help us to think counter culturally. I think there's a dangerous trend among us Christian millennials, and the only way to counteract it is to be vulnerable about my experiences (don't we love that word!! But no; not just "vulnerable" until people admire me but "vulnerable" until people may not admire me as much anymore. THAT is tough vulnerability...but I think I'm ready for it).

When I started this blog, I had SO. MANY. DREAMS. I wanted to live in an exciting place and do really big and adventurous things. I wanted to travel, and meet many people and live an out-of-the-box life. Pretty much that's the goal of most millennials and we're told we can do that, so why not grab life by the horns and be GREAT!? (Oops! If you're a Christian you add "For Jesus" on the end of all those goals. And of course, I did too. And I meant it. I didn't just want a big adventurous life for ME. It was for Jesus too.) God let so many of my dreams come true! I lived in the Alaska bush for a while helping my precious sister, and I traveled to Asia and Europe and Australia and South America and Mexico. I had the privilege to be a caregiver to my hero Elisabeth Elliot Gren, and I got to start a beautiful girls' discipleship group that was growing and thriving in my area.  My future felt so vast and open and it felt like life really could be one big Adventure (for Jesus). The possibilities were so stinkin' endless! I started looking into a two year program where I'd go to an unreached people group and translate the stories of the Bible to their language. That was my greatest, unimagionable , wild adventure (for Jesus) dream. That would be the creme' del a creme. Maybe I'd get married, and then my husband--who would be some cross between a Navy Seal and Billy Graham-- and I would be a dynamic team. We'd do great works for God and probably travel all over, and people would look at us and think "Woah. That couple is living an exciting life (for Jesus)." If I didn't get married, well then life had the potential to be even crazier. I could be this cool Amy Carmichael/Brutchko morph and have a huge ministry (for Jesus). Most likely I'd be living in a mud hut somewhere and blogging about my experiences to an inspired, bored American church across the sea like Katie of "Kisses from Katie".

Thoughts like these are fueled by the messages we're bombarded with:

 Nothing wrong in and of itself with these messages or these dreams. Except, for me, it wasn't what God had in mind. And when you're whole life is wrapped up in dreams of one trajectory, if God chooses to change the trajectory you can get really confused, really fast.

If you're interested in hearing about my trajectory switch and the entire mindset change that's accompanied it, I hope you'll read on as I begin to blog about it. I haven't figured everything out and that's one reason this blogging process feels very vulnerable. I wanted to get life figured out and then impart my wisdom to a waiting world. :) Instead, I'll invite anyone interested into the journey with me. Dialoge with me in private messages or comments, and help me avoid the imbalanced pendulum swing that usually accompanies epiphanies.

I spent a long time trying to give this blog series I'm embarking on a really gripping name. I wanted it to be a little edgy and pique your curiosity. I wanted people to see the title and think "Oooh now she has some amazing counter cultural wisdom to impart to us. I shall read and be enlightened." instead, I decided to--in the spirit of this post-- give the series title a very unassuming and appropriate name.
It means I've got questions. And questions are a good way to start. Jesus said that if anyone lacks wisdom, all they have to do is come to Him as a loving Father and ask Him for it. In return, He gives the perfect gift to the asker.
I pray, Lord, that as I blog about my journey and my questions, You'll give wisdom to help me help others.

That's all for now. :)

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Dear Gay Friend

Dear gay friend,
I address this letter to you as my "gay friend" not because that's how I define you, but because that's the aspect of your life that I want to address. I'm not a theologian. I'm not even a super wise person. But there are things I wish I could say to you. But I haven't had the chance yet. So I'll say them here.

1.) Your identity goes WAY deeper than than your sex drive. So I'm not going to label you primarily as my "gay" friend (despite the title of this post). Anymore than I'd label you as my "creative" friend or my "pretty" friend, my "heterosexual" friend or my "black" friend. Your sexual orientation isn't what makes you a funny individual, a deep thinker, or a creative soul. It's not what makes you a faithful friend or a caring person. Nor is it what makes you a brave fighter or a wise learner. Those are the things I value about friendship. And those are the things that make me value you. Sexual identity is part of what makes us who we are, yes, but it's not what defines us. So while I'm not going to ignore yours, I'm not willing to let it define you in my eyes either.

2.) I don't have to agree with or like everything about you in order to love and like YOU.  That  doesn't make my offer of friendship patronizing or judgmental. It doesn't mean that the only reason I want to love you is so I can "win your soul" or make you think the way I do. It means that friendship is the most beautiful when two people who are very different can come together and love each other. I offer that kind of friendship to you.

3.) I don't think your desires or orientation towards the same sex are wrong or creepy. Yes, I DO believe that acting on those desires by giving in to lust outside of heterosexual marriage is wrong. If you do choose to do that, does it make me unable to love you or be your friend? No. I have (and will, no doubt) made the wrong choice and chose lust apart from my marriage bed at times. It put me on the exact same plane as you, friend: broken, standing naked in front of a righteous Judge, in need of God's grace. We stand there together. That brings me to my final point.

4.) Yes, I have an agenda for our friendship. But it's the same agenda that I have for my marriage, for my parenting, for my other friendships, and for my SELF, every day. It's to help you, me, and everyone around us recognize Jesus' love in a greater way. It's to draw you closer to God. It's to help you understand who He is, and to help you love Him. It's to love you well and help you love God well. I don't know what journey God may lead you on and so I don't feel responsible to guide you on that journey or tell you how to take it. But I will love God, and I will love you, and I will honor both of you in that order. I won't pretend to believe that you can be a Christian who lives a gay lifestyle, because I don't believe that. But if you DO believe that, I still offer you my friendship. With Christ at the center, as He is at the center of every other part of my life. If you're not a Christian, than you may or may not be interested in that kind of friendship. If you ARE a Christian than you most definitely are interested in that kind of friendship. Either way, it's who I am. It's what I bring to the table.

I won't reject you; please don't reject me either.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Transient Joys

Last night my husband rubbed my sore shoulders. It felt so good that I breathed a sigh of rapture...but I was anxious the entire time. 

Ha! I know that doesn't seem to make much sense but the thing is that shoulder rubs never last quite long enough for me. Keep in mind that I grew up the youngest of my family, so I was always the Back Scratcher rather than the Scratchee. To have my back scratched, then, or my shoulders rubbed or my feet massaged, or my hair played with, is a decadent delight that I just can't quite enjoy because I anticipate that at any moment, it will end. Yes, this session of shoulder rubbing may have lasted for three minutes, but it's unlikely that it will last much longer... so instead of enjoying those three minutes I anticipate the end with anxious disappointment. I'm goofy that way. 

This morning, I snuggled my baby. Grace was warm and sleepy and she sort of melted into my arms; in that stage of morning sleepiness where she was content to suck her fingers and let me hold her tightly against me, her forehead pressed close to my cheek and her sweet morning breath, slow blinks and stillness of content driving me just about crazy with love. The moment was more valuable to me than a treasure trove (or a $10,000 shopping spree at TJ Maxx... which is really saying something...) but again, my heart vacillated between deep, endless contentment and sadness--actual grieving-- at the fact that the moment would end soon, and in a few months the snuggles would be rarer, and never again would she be quite so small and squishy and perfectly "baby" as she is now. 

Moments ago I sat on my beautiful little back porch. Cup of coffee, good book, birds singing around me and the verdant green of Summer around and above me because tree branches are welcome infringers on our porch space. I stopped and breathed it in and looked around, and the happy contentment grew cloudy with disappointment that Summer will be gone soon, and mornings will be too cool to sit on my porch, and I'll have to retreat to the living room for my morning devotions again before I know it. 

Do I sound melodramatic, or foolish? I am, a little. I know it. 

I grieve the passing of a moment before it is even gone, often. I don't like that about myself. I suppose in my desire to cherish small joys and treasure big ones, I dread their end prematurely. Am I ungrateful and foolish, or is it that as I grow older wisdom has opened my eyes to see the transience of joy more than I used to? I'm not sure... I suppose it would be a blend of the two. I do know this, though: I know that every time my heart longs to hold on to a joy for just a bit longer, or feels sadness of one passing away, I'm reminded that a day is coming when joy will not end. When I will live in the very presence of the purest Joy my heart has ever known; joy such as I can only fathom in a tiny way through the love of my husband or the sweetness of my baby girl or the bright, musical peace of a Summer morning on my porch. 

So, I will channel that longing I feel when joy fills me and then I feel it sift through my fingers fleetingly like sand. I will ask Father to help me to watch it escape me without greedy grasping; with peace. With thankfulness. He's given me earth joys because He loves me and because He is kind and beautiful and SUCH a Giver. But He hasn't given them to me so I can grasp them. He's given them to help me remember that in HIS presence is FULLNESS of joy... at HIS right hand are pleasures FOREVERMORE (Psalm 16:11)!!! And they won't end! His presence will be the fulfillment of every minutely beautiful and happy thing that has ever made my heart smile, and when I am there, with Him eternally, I will no longer have to wonder when it will end or how long it will last, or why I can't fully enter into it. 

A loving shoulder rub, my Beebee's snuggles, this Summer morning... they all point me to His presence where Joy is full and pleasures won't end. I'll remember that and I'll love Him more, anticipating my life with Him, when the fleeting earth-sadness clouds my enjoyment of all this. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A treasury of small moments

I'm sitting here, holding my baby girl, and just looking at her. I don't want this moment to end, but I want to document it. So I'm voice typing this into my phone so my hands are free to hold my little one. I know so well that these moments are fleeting, that they'll end. I know that I won't always be her world. She won't always grin the second she hears my voice in the morning and her eyes won't always scan the room until they rest on me. So I cherish these moments. 

She was sleepy, and I was about to lay her in her crib, but instead I decided to hold her. To let her fall asleep in my arms, and to look down at her sweet little face. When I look at her, I'm overwhelmed by the responsibility I have. To pray for her, to invest character and knowledge and skills in her which will carry her through life. A responsibility far too huge for me-too big even for her dad and I. It must be the three of us: Ryan, me, and Jesus. It makes me want to walk closely with my Father. I need His daily wisdom and I need His perspective on how to raise this treasure. How to do you bask in small moments, and not let them slip through your fingers like sand? How do you recognize small miracles in the commonplace nuances of your baby's growth and development?

Two weeks ago, her tongue was always outside of her mouth. Licking things, sticking in and out like a little lizard, making us laugh. Last week, no more tongue. Instead, she spit and sputtered air bubbles constantly. It was the funnest past time for her little baby mind. She had discovered that her mouth could do something new. This week, no more spitting. It's yelling and screeching. Experimenting with her lungs at a decibel of – literally – 101. (Ryan measured it with his iPhone app.) she shouts with all the gusto her little frame can conjure, stiffening her legs, pointing her toes, and her little forehead growing red with the exertion. She makes herself cough, doing it, and her eyes grew wide as she looks at me with an expression of, "did I do THAT?" And I laugh, and pretend that I can't wait until the screeching stage is over,… But really, I'm cherishing it. Because it will be gone next week, and I wonder what the new fad of her little life will be then. I want to erect a monument honoring each phase, each stage, each milestone, so that they aren't lost. I'll forget some of them. I know I will. So all I can do is store them in my heart now, smile, delight in them, stop and take time to watch them. Parenthood is too precious to allow myself to do it on autopilot. I must stay engaged. I must learn to treasure small things. I must rely on Jesus to help me do so.

I'm drawing closer to Christ as I learn how to do this thing. I'm recognizing his Father-heart. I'm blown away with the budding realization that He delights in me like I delight in Gracie! Parenting is so choc full of poignant beauty. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

He just wanted to be where Jesus was.

He wanted to be in on the action; to see more of the glory of God firsthand and be a part of it.

He probably wanted the security of knowing that if the Legion came back, Christ would be right there to cast them out again and deliver him.

He probably wanted to be far from the neighbors who had seen his nakedness heard his shrieks and fearfully bound him with chains for his own protection and theirs.

Surely following Jesus was the best way he could use the rest of his days. He would give his life for Christ. He would walk with Him and serve Him in any way Jesus asked him to. He would see great miracles, and maybe even be part of them. He would live dangerously to follow this controversial Healer and he would be able to tell multitudes in many different regions what the Master had done for him.
Maybe Jesus even needed him.

So he asked--no begged--Jesus one simple thing: "Let me be with You."

Jesus refused.
He refused!!
Jesus, the Man known for saying "Come, follow Me" refused to be followed by this man. It must have stung like rejection.

"Return to your own house, and publish what great things God has done for you."

So he did. He returned to the home he had left in infamy with nakedness and shrieks and chains. He returned to hold conversations with people who couldn't  look in his eyes without remembering his shame. He threw his whole heart and soul into proclaiming the praise of his Deliverer throughout the entire city.

Following Jesus meant staying home, for this one man. And he did it well.

It may not be on the mountain’s height,
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me.

So, trusting my all to Thy tender care,
And knowing Thou lovest me,
I’ll do Thy will with a heart sincere,
I’ll be what You want me to be.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Betty's Bible

I've been reading in Miss Elisabeth's old Bible. In the front flyleaf is written:

Elisabeth Howard
This Bible was used from 1940-1956 (age 14-30)

With infinite care I crack open the cover of the priceless little brown, worn book and peruse the contents. Oh, I know; this book has the exact same amount of inspired wordage as my newer, bigger, burgundy one. But I've always been completely fascinated by history, and when I hold this Bible I picture a long-limbed 20-something girl with short brown hair, gleaning wisdom from it throughout high-school and then during her time at Wheaton College as she was falling in love with Jim... reading it in the moist, buggy jungle in Ecuador as a single, struggling missionary... perusing it's pages with a broken, aching heart as she reconciled with her young husband's violent death. Her neat, unbelievably tiny script is on many pages, and scribbled in the back are poems and quotes such as this one, ascribed only to "P.W.D":
If God has put me HERE, this it the biggest job in the world so far as I am concerned.

Or another, rather startling and controversial but thought-provoking:

Discouragement is sin.

Is it silly of me to feel somehow more inspired by this Bible than by mine? Pure emotionalism, perhaps? I won't argue that. But somehow, when I read it and I see her beautiful script and the countless underlined passages, I feel as if I've been given the gift of seeing into her heart. The heart of a girl my own age who never knew that some day she'd be known as Elisabeth Elliot, the "icon" (as I've heard her called); the wife of a martyred missionary; the brave soul who forged into a murderous tribe of Indians to preach the gospel; the author and radio host.... no. She was just Betty then: a faithful, thoughtful, obscure girl from New Jersey.
Maybe that's why I'm inspired by this Bible. Because during her years of reading, writing, and studying it, she had no idea of what was to come, yet the evidence is that she treasured God's Word and treasured the Author of it. She didn't just casually read a verse or two here and there to say she had done her Christian duty. She embraced each word for herself and decided to be faithful to it.
Faithfulness, then is what this Bible symbolizes to me.
I am challenged by the faithful owner of this Book.
I wonder if my own Bible shows such evidence of faithfulness and diligence in cultivating my relationship with God. No need to wonder, I suppose... I know it does not. I always thought that you could tell a lot about a person by how worn their Bible is; what's marked in it; what's jotted in it.
The whole crux of the matter is this (which she underlined who-knows-how-many years ago, in the 50th chapter of Isaiah, verse 5, and it struck me tonight):
"The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back."
Truth be told, He's "opened" all of our ears. We all know the truth. It's just a question of if whether we'll embrace it, or choose to be rebellious and take our chances that, for some illogical reason, the Just Judge won't really hold us accountable for the truth written in our hearts. it's not just unbelievers I'm thinking of; it's also those who take on the name of "Christian" but only live halfheartedly. What's the use? Give Him your all, or don't pretend to give Him anything.
When I hold Elisabeth's Bible, I'm reminded that long ago, one young woman chose at the age of 13 to give her ALL to God. To tenderly embrace His will. To eagerly pursue Him like a runner pursues a trophy. To try, at least, to love Him with the same passion that He loved her. I'm inspired by how He used that wholehearted girl! Now she is old, and His beauty rests on her like a benediction at the end of a life lived well; a constant reminder to me that most of my life has yet to be lived and the choice of how I live it is mine alone.
I'm determined that even though it most likely will not lead to the same unique experiences it led her to, I will make the same choices. And, eventually, I will win the same Prize.

Give to mine eyes refreshing tears,

Give to my heart chaste, hallowed fires,
Give to my soul, with filial fears,

The love that all Heaven’s host inspires;
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.
-John Wesley

Friday, October 03, 2014

I was about to pray and ask Him to take the desire away. 
Desire to do something He hasn't chosen to allow me to do yet.  When it seems that one's desire  to serve Him in a certain way has been planted by Him in the first place,  the thwarting of something like that can seem cruel in the worst moments and perplexing in the best. Instead of that prayer though, I felt prompted to pause and asked Him what He WANTED my prayer to be. And after a little while, after I had gotten distracted and gone through more of my day and then revisited that raw itching rash of a thought, my answer came. In the form of many snippets of verses I have attached myself to in the past. A barrage of promises, like a balm.

"Commit your way unto The Lord; trust also in Him."
"Delight yourself in The Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."
"Cease striving, and know that I am God."
"Trust in The Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path."
"No good thing will He withhold from those who walk up rightly."
"Trust in The Lord, and wait patiently for Him."
"WITH THANKSGIVING let your requests be made known to God."

Grace alone gives the ability to reaffirm my trust instead of asserting my will. I bowed my will
and found joy in that bending. Thwarted desire, instead of being a taunting enemy, can be transformed into an offering of faith. Then, relief! The joy of His smile.

Tonight I praise Him for His wisdom and for His goodness to me! That goodness has brought to me such great joy in life--(my precious Ryan's face always comes to mind when I think of that joy! What undeserved, lavish Goodness gave that gift to me?!)--and  has not for one instant faltered!

I don't usually quite "get" Ann Voskamp's style of writing (a little random and hard for me to follow--maybe too poetic for my brain or something?)...but this quote arrested my attention this evening. maybe because it is along the lines of what Jesus whispered to my own heart today.  Maybe you'll like it, too.

“Humbly let go. Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control, let go of my own way, let go of my own fears. Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy's fire. Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper a surprised thanks. This is the fuel for joy's flame.
Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will. And I can empty. I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me. I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust.” -Ann Voskamp

Monday, September 08, 2014

The Honeymoon Ain't Over!

Having a blast at the zoo, 9/6/14. All couples should have a zoo membership. I decree it to be so.

"The honeymoon's over."
I really don't think it's too strong of a term to say that I hate that phrase. Maybe I'm just a bit sensitive, being a newlywed. Maybe the romantic in me (the one who squirms uncontrollably like a happy puppy during "Cinderella" and sobs inconsolably like a collicky baby during "Return To Me") rises up and rebells at the thought of honeymoon intensity being unsustainable.  But our pre-marriage counselor blew that thought out of the water. Honeymoon intensity can't last forever, he cautioned. "Right now your hormones are raging and your mind is in a constant state of fireworks," he said. "It's just not sustainable, and that's okay." 

Humph, said I. 

And yet the practical side of me (*note: not the side that wept while watching cartoon "Tarzan's" gorilla mama die) understood that our counselor was right. Ryan and I discussed that while enjoying the stage of our relationship where even just holding hands was electrifyingly wonderful, we anticipated the stage where more depth could occur... love would then flow more from commitment and intimacy, and less on emotion and passion. Soon we'd get the chance to CHOOSE to adore each other through faults and annoyances, grouchy days, bad breath and pimples. And the beautiful, fragrant flower that is love places deep roots and finds nourishment through the daily grind of life.

We've been married for a year now. Yesterday, 9/7 was our anniversary! I can't deny that while I still reach for his hand at every opportunity and find my eyes wandering around a crowded room until they settle on him, I don't feel quite the same indignant sense of grievous injustice when I don't get to sit next to him at the dinner table. :) In short, our counselor was totally right. Our love has deepened. Our roots are growing. The fireworks of our dating days have morphed into Chinese lanterns... quieter, steadier, brightly burning for a long, long time. 

A few months ago my mom sent us this John Piper daily devotional piece she had just read:

“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5)
When God does good to his people it is not so much like a reluctant judge showing kindness to a criminal whom he finds despicable (though that analogy has truth in it); it is like a bridegroom showing affection to his bride.
Sometimes we joke and say about a marriage, “The honeymoon is over.” But that’s because we are finite. We can’t sustain a honeymoon level of intensity and affection. But God says his joy over his people is like a bridegroom over a bride.
He is talking about honeymoon intensity and honeymoon pleasures and honeymoon energy and excitement and enthusiasm and enjoyment. He is trying to get into our hearts what he means when he says he rejoices over us with all his heart.
And add to this, that with God the honeymoon never ends. He is infinite in power and wisdom and creativity and love and will see to it that we get more and more beautiful forever; and he is infinitely creative to think of new things to do together so that there will be no boredom for the next trillion ages of millenniums.

Reading that was a defining moment in my spiritual life. I compared it to the feelings that Ryan and I had in our dating days and on our honeymoon... the exhaustingly wonderful exhilaration of new love... and realized that GOD's love for ME is like that. Always. Never ending. He is able to sustain both the intense ecstasy and the deep level commitment that we humans have a hard time balancing. We'd grow exhausted--ok, and maybe a little creepy--if the honeymoon never really ended. But Jesus, the Mighty, Inexhaustible Most High God, feels such passion and delight in us that it's impossible for time to dim it. Our failures can't disappoint Him enough for His firework love to dim. Our coolness can't extinguish His ardor. Our faults can't induce Him to take off His rose colored glasses. The sheer constant mononity of our puny human lives does not bore Him into disinterest. 

He is madly, deeply, passionately in love with you and I.  Oh, what a mystery!!!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Father's Voice

--> One of the most important lessons I’ve been learning this year is to listen to the Voice of Truth. Satan attacks us in vicious and cruel ways, but rarely does he use physical methods like weapons that bring bodily harm. Usually it happens through the malicious lies or doubts or fears that he fills our minds with. Suddenly we’re attacked by seemingly overwhelming doubts or worries that overtake our minds and leave us feeling helpless and defeated. Too many times I’ve allowed myself to cower like a helpless child before the lion circling me with greedy eyes, when all I have to do is cry out to my Dad to come protect and deliver me. His very voice is the weapon the lion fears, and Jesus is NOT  the least bit intimidated!

A story is worth a thousand words. Er…something.
So, if you'll permit me to be a bit vulnerable, here’s what happened last night.

Sunday evenings are the evenings I finish my video of the past week at camp and show it to the kids in their chapel assembly. It’s a blast! I love to hear the kids laughing or gasping at the footage I’ve taken of their week; it totally makes the hours of work shooting and compiling the DVD worth it! The next morning before they hop on the bush plane that will take them back to their villages, they’re given a copy of the DVD so they can  bring it home and remember their week here and what God did in their hearts. It’s cool to be a part of that. I’ve loved it.

So yesterday night I was frantically finishing the DVD burning process AS the kids were sitting in chapel and preparing to watch the DVD. It had been a hectic day. Normally the video is finished hours before the deadline, but iMovie wasn’t behaving, and the computer was slow. Lots of glitches. Lots of frustration. And to add to all that, there were some key shots I had missed getting last week that I always put in the DVD’s the other weeks. So, it felt kinda' incomplete to me. Finally the DVD was finished—minutes before it was scheduled to be watched. But I was still feeling frustrated and stressed. Upset with myself for neglecting to get the shots I wanted into the video. Feeling like I was failing at my job and a disappointment to… to whom? I’m not sure. Maybe just to myself.  Everyone else seemed pretty pleased with the video, but in my mind, it wasn’t on par with what I had done in other weeks.

I went back to my room and sat on the edge of my bed. Just thinking. The lion started circling.
“You really dropped the ball.”
“It’s your main job here and you can’t get it right.”
 “Lazy. You COULD have gotten those shots if you’d have been doing your job.” 
“Proof again...Given enough time you’ll fail at anything.”
“You’re a disappointment.”
I listened. I wilted. That familiar feeling of frustration and helplessness closed in. And then a Small Voice poked in. “Why don’t you ask Me what I think about your DVD? All these accusations don’t sound like Me, do they?” I perked up a little. “Yeah,” I thought. “God’s probably being a lot kinder to me than I’m being to myself. He’s probably just gently telling me to work a little harder next time. To do a little better. He’s not upset with me. Just a little disappointed.” Small comfort, but at least it felt better than the lion. And then the Small Voice came again. As a nudge; an impression. 

“You still haven’t asked Me.”

“Lord…What do you think about what I did this week? What do you have to say to me about my DVD and my performance at this job? What is your heart for me right now?”

God doesn’t speak audibly to me. And there’s not much of a way to describe how He speaks other than to say that He leaves an impression in my mind that I  usually realize couldn’t have come from within myself. Sometimes I have a hard time knowing if it’s my own thoughts or His voice… but this time the thought came unbidden, from outside of my own mind, on a vein that hadn’t even occurred to me. I know I didn’t conjure it up.

“Dani…You worked really hard to get some cool footage with the GoPro for this movie that you didn’t have to get. You’re attempting to grow in your skill and you’re not just getting by with these DVDs. You’re putting your heart into them. I’m proud of you.”

His words were arrows of kindness and grace that pierced the lion and silenced him. Shame fell off and I lifted my head with a smile. Father’s proud of me. He’s not criticizing me.There is SO MUCH GRACE with my God.

I share this story with a little bit of reticence. It’s a personal story. It feels a little embarrassing to share it on my blog for the world (or what little fraction of it might stop by) to see.  I know that spiritual stories usually mean a LOT more to the person they happen to than to others. But I am sharing it because I thought that maybe it will encourage someone who is reading to hunger for the Voice of Truth in their own life. Have you ever heard Jesus speaking to you? His words are always so kind… so full of mercy and forgiveness and gentle love. They bring life and hope.

Go find your own story. 
Go ask Him to speak to you in a place where you feel vulnerable and hurt, angry or hopeless. 
If you seek Him, you will find Him.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Lessons on Love

Check out our backyard for the summer! Pretty easy on the eyes. :)

(Quick update: Ryan graduated with his Master of Arts in Counseling last month…yahoo, so proud of him!!!...and about two weeks later we flew to Alaska. We’re living in the picturesque little town of Port Alsworth, where my brother Nate lives. I’m volunteering at an awesome youth camp, and Ryan is working ground crew for Lake Clark Air. We’ve been here a little less then a week and are really, really enjoying it so far!)

With each passing year I understand a little more that each person is living through their own battles, and needs grace and mercy from me because of that. Being at a youth camp this summer will refresh that lesson for me; and if I’m lucky, engrain it into my heart so I never forget it. This week has already begun to do so.

The first week of youth camp is for teens: an awesome program called Teen Pursuit. Kids—many Alaska Native-- began to fly in on the bush planes Sunday evening and were all here and unloaded by Monday afternoon. (A bit more of a production when they’re flying in from remote villages and not being dropped off by mom and dad!) In the course of getting to know them, you quickly pick out those who are the attention getters of the group; the outgoing, good looking, personality plus types. Others are quiet, ordinary, the types you find yourself looking at three days into camp and thinking, “Has she been here all along? I never noticed her.” Others you notice for all the wrong reasons. Maybe they’re particularly awkward or backwards. Maybe they’re constantly acting out or causing trouble.

Andy* was one of the latter. I noticed him at first purely because of how awkward he was. Dark, unreadable eyes in a pock-marked face, hood pulled low over his forehead, Conversation halting at best, almost painful at worst. I looked at him and something in me (I’m not proud to type this) was almost repulsed by his looks and mannerisms. We sat in a circle, a group of people sharing struggles and prayer requests, and my eyes were drawn to Andy again and again. Then something clicked in me and I remembered how loved this boy is by Jesus. Like, passionately and crazy loved! Created, treasured, drawn to intimacy with God. Just like me. And so I decided that I would love him to, if only to rebel against the shameful feeling of superiority rising up inside of me. I said a prayer for him. And immediately something cracked inside as Jesus replaced a little of my heart with His… and gave me an eye transplant along with it. This boy was unique. This boy needed extra prayer this week. And I was going to provide it. I’d love on him until I loved him.

Towards the end of the meeting he spoke up. “I’ve been feeling alone….I feel isolated and left out…I really need God to help me…I need prayer.” WHAT a brave boy. Admitting something that I’ve felt many times but have rarely been willing to verbalize it and ask for prayer, let alone in front of strangers. My prayers rose again for him and after the service I sought him out and told him so. He smiled, then… a huge, light-up-his-face, beautiful smile. I made my first teen friend. He is a gentle, sweet, delightful kid.

Sometimes first impressions can be really, really harmful. I think Satan can whisper lies in our ears about people to turn us against them before we even know them. I’ve found that when that happens, I probably need to quit thinking so critically and start praying for the person I’m tempted to disregard or dislike. We are Jesus to those around us… and if we can’t love and accept unconditionally, unreservedly, unbiased, then who will?