Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Fear Monster...has He consumed you?

barely enter the room and he starts wailing, throwing himself down on the ground and screaming irrational things about how he is gonna run away and his dad is cruel and the world as he knows it is no longer going to spin around the sun. He is scared of a needle, and that fear has hijacked any capability he might possess under normal circumstances to negotiate or even engage in conversation. He is afraid. Terrified. Consideration for others, rational thought, even public decency have suddenly been replaced by the Fear Monster, only to be regained when the monster is temporarily appeased or dumped in a deep grave.  

He is dozens of kids I run into every week at work. But he is also men and women in our homes and workplaces and gyms and restaurants. He is the face behind Facebook posts I read every day. He is the policitians, the reporters, the political bloggers. He is you and I. 

Fear is a powerful motivator. The Fear Monster can entirely consume, devour, then clothe a person in different attire: The Coat of Defensiveness, the Sarcasm belt, or even the trousers of Politicism. The Fear Monster can shut down conversation, taking creative thinkers and problem solvers and turning them into foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics. The Fear Monster can erase beliefs and values we have held and practiced for decades, replacing them with politic-shrouded rhetoric and shuttering the gate of compassion with a thud of finality. The Fear Monster does not listen to rationality, nor does he respond to the voice of grace. He is untamed, and he is powerful in his attempts to control men and women and children. Fear is the most powerful of motivators, and has found a home in the hearts of many over the last week. I declare he is no longer welcome, and I invite you to bid him adieu, too. 

I have quietly watched in the last several days as fear has consumed and eaten and transformed men and women into irrational, terror-driven, foaming-at-the-figurative-mouth lunatics. I have quietly sighed and shaken my head as I scroll past Facebook post after Facebook post of fear-informed mumbo-jumbo. I recognize the Monster because I, too, have faced him. I have been chewed up and spit out by him, only to realize he never gets the final word anyway. 

Friends, what the heck are we doing?! What voices are we listening to, that leave us so shaken and defensive that we lose the lense of compassion and creativity and problem solving so desperately needed in today's world?! I expect the Fear Monster to reign in the world, but not in Jesus-loving hearts! We have been freed from such badgering, no longer captive to (or captivated by) the philosophies of this world! You and I? Do we need a reminder of our past? We were orphans, the filthiest of the filthy, lost and hopeless. We were destitute, until Jesus brought us near by hanging on a cross and suffering unimaginable pain (and inconvenience, and loss of dignity, and relinquishment of position...) so that we could be called children of God. This same Jesus says we are strangers and aliens in this world, called to live in a way that is heaven-worthy and heaven-bound. As former orphans and current aliens, we have no reason to allow the Fear Monster to gut us of God-given love, compassion, and hands-and-feet-of-Jesus service. Fear is a powerful motivator (believe me...been there, done that control mind-game). But the Jesus that lives in you and I is victorious, not subject to the brokenness of this world. I don't know where you stand politically, and I honestly don't really care. I care about the voices to which you are choosing to listen. Are you informed by fear, or by confidence in your identity as a chosen, called, and kept child of God? Let's remember our heritage, the war Jesus already won, and the Home toward which we are headed. Friends, let's stand on the solid ground of our identity as adopted children of God, not wavering in the face of an enemy Jesus already defeated. 

I beg of you...Let's not let the Fear Monster give us spiritual amnesia, okay? 

Friday, October 30, 2015

On finding joy in a joy-drained world

I have found myself in a joy-drain lately. You know...when the devastating rupture of Eden seems to invade the spaces we call "work" and "home" and even "recreation." The bleeding has drowned my soul, and the joy has swirled away. I grasp at fleeting moments, hoping to take hold of some kind of joy that lingers, but what of the moments that simply slip away? What are we to do, when "Kingdom come" evades and all we can muster is making it through?

"He tried to kill himself twice last week."
"Their marriage is over."
"The death toll is up to four."
"She can barely get out of bed anymore."

These words, they dump and pour and spill through my heart--a drain, taking the joy with them. How do we count joy, when it seems our lives are only tallying tragedies? 

I looked into her eyes, felt the fingers of her story wrap around my own. She was not immune to tragedy, having endured trial after trial under the added weight of mothering through it all. Single. Carrying Burden?....of six precious souls. Without home. Without hope. Joy was a foreign concept, a distant dream. And yet...the pressing on, the pressing in. The searching for joy, for faithfulness that does not seem real. 

I've learned that sometimes the faithfulness we recount is not that which we have experienced. It's borrowed. Because we journey together, we recount faithfulness together. And when you can't find faithfulness, you can borrow some of mine. When my joy leaks out, sometimes I need to sit next to yours. 

She fell into the arms of someone else's recounted faithfulness. It planted tiny, tender roots of joy in her life. She gleaned from those she chose to trust, and received the gift of a seed. It grows. Slowly, fragile in ground once drained of life. But it grows. She has a home, a place to gather her precious brood, and purpose with which to construct each day. And I call her "Hero," for recounting borrowed faithfulness. For digging deep to make way for that minuscule little seed, that will surely produce the fruit of joy-tales she can one day lend to someone else. 

Me? On the days when my joy-drain seems especially large, when the tragedies tally longer than faithful moments...I might borrow your own proclamation of joy, your account of God's faithful, steadfast love. Because sometimes I need to recount "kingdom come," even when I cannot find it in my story. 

Friend, let's lend and borrow joy, okay?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Love Anyway

We got the call today, the one that we don't ever want to get. The one that says our most valiant efforts are not enough. The one that says we have to let go and entrust precious ones into the hands that entrusted them to us in the first place. 

The ache comes...slowly, then building, building, building. Like waves crashing, beating against the shore. What do we do? What do we say when our best is not enough? When our greatest efforts to protect and love cannot keep the storm at bay?

"Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you" (Psalm 63:3).

I kissed his sweet cheek the other day, praying over him the promises of God. May you be loved and cherished, knowing how precious you are to the Most High God. As I hear of his departure, I whisper the same prayer, trusting that he and his chubby little brother will know this love that is better than life. 

I cannot weather the storms he is about to face for him. I can, however, hand him to the One who calms the storms with a word of spoken power and authority. I cannot stand in the way of the danger that might come his way, but I can release him to the One whose body broke for all mankind. I cannot sing over him at night when he struggles to fall asleep, but I can entrust him to the cradling arms of the One who "will rejoice over [him] with singing," the One who "takes great delight in [him]" (Zephaniah 3:17). 

I did not look for this passionate fervor that God breathed into my bones. Rather, it found me. Days like today only serve to throw gasoline on the fire, no matter how much I wish it could be extinguished with the ache. I know this One whose love is better than life, though, and I know of little ones who need such a love. I press on, then, as one driven by the fury of a forest-fire-sized passion. 

What do we do when our greatest efforts to love and protect are not enough? We love and protect anyway, because we have been called by the One who loves bigger and protects better than we ever could. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Enough is enough

My blood boils deep and my fingers burn on this keyboard with the steam from it all. My little sister gets married Saturday, and on that day, with microphone in hand, I will tell her things about the sacredness of sisterhood and family. But today I question the truth of it all. Because sisters stand up for each other, and families link arms against forces that oppose them. And yet, the life blood drained from family last night, and a little sister was forced to play dead to keep hers. Meanwhile, we get up and sip coffee and are able to live as if nothing happened because I don't have to fear evil hatred against my pale skin. 

A girl is thrown to the ground and sat upon while she cries for her mama. Meanwhile, we make excuses and say "well, maybe we don't know the whole story." I agree, we don't. How could we possibly understand a world where little boys have to be taught to fear the ones charged with protecting us? We know nothing of the oppression, and we choose to live in ignorance. 

Enough is enough. We are family, and families fight for each other. Desmond Tutu said, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." We are oppressing family...sisters and brothers. We are turning a blind eye to injustice against family, even making excuses and justifying the injustice. Enough is enough.

I'll admit...I don't always know how to fight for family. I have watched siblings hurt while I wept because I was helpless and did not know how to alleviate their pain. But I wept. I ached with everything inside me, praying and longing for a day when all that is wrong will be made right. Today, I don't know how to fight for my brothers and sisters with brown skin. But I will weep. I will ache with everything inside me, praying and longing for a day when evil hatred will be defeated forever by the One who is making all things new. I will stand up against the oppressors and say enough is enough. 

Jesus ushered in a kingdom that declared, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). #blacklivesmatter because we are family, and families link arms against forces that oppose them. 

Either join the fight...weep and pray and speak up against injustice...or stay silent and know you are standing with the oppressors. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Hard does not mean wrong

I think it was around mile seven that I very clearly remember thinking, "This is going to be HARD." I remember thinking how funny it was that I was thinking that. I mean, I don't know that I ever thought running the 13.1 miles would be a piece of cake. But I found myself reassured, almost as if someone was yelling the truth of it over me from the sidelines, that the last six miles would be a battle. 

There is a certain monotony to running. That study cadence, the motion that repeats for minutes and hours and...well, as long as you tell it to continue. Toward the end of that race, every muscle in my body hurt, and no amount of adrenaline or fear could have forced me to speed up. I was done. And yet, I couldn't quit, so I lost myself in the cadence. Left, right, left, right, thump thump thump. 

As I waddled across the finish line, I thought of Paul's comparison of the Christian life to a race. It is an easy analogy to many parallels to be drawn. The one that stuck with me that day, though, was the HARDNESS of it all. The moments of aching until you think you won't be able to go on, the weariness that leaves you dreaming of the nap that will most definitely follow, the  watching other runners zoom past you and longing to have the kind of endurance and energy they seem to possess in immeasurable quantities...the race is just flat out HARD. And so is following Jesus. He didn't try to sugarcoat it, and I won't either. It is HARD. There are moments of physically or emotionally aching until I don't think I can go on. There is often a weariness that leaves me dreaming and longing for eternity...for eternal rest. There are the times when I get caught up watching others seemingly fly by with success and ease I cannot find. It's hard. 

But the hardness does not make it wrong. In fact, I wonder if ease is an indicator that something might be out of balance. Because carrying a cross is certainly not easy, and yet that is exactly what Jesus tells us to do. 

For the last year, I have been laboring and dreaming and planning and working toward a vision I believe in to the core of who I am. I believe in the vision of Safe Families for Children. I believe in keeping families together where possible. I believe in coming alongside parents who are struggling. I believe in loving and folding kids into families. I believe in it. But don't misunderstand is HARD. It is hard to share the vision with others in a way they will understand. It is hard to empower and equip families to join the call and open their homes to kids who need a temporary home. It is hard to look around and wonder why other ministries seem to be finding so much more response and success. It is hard to have meeting after meeting and vision cast until I am blue in the face, but have people trickle into ministry rather than pour. It is hard. 

If I am gut-level honest, I sometimes (often?) question if the mission is worth it. I ask myself, "How much do I give before it is too much?" Tonight, as I have prayed over this weariness that blankets my soul, Jesus convicted me to my toes. I want the easy life. I want the quick fix, the cheap solution. 

I say I am willing...but I define the parameters. 

I say I will be patient...within the confines of my time table. 

I say I will take big long as I control what they are. 

I say I will give up my dreams...if I can have something better. 

I operate on conditions I name, and call it  following Jesus. And yet...that's not how it works. Jesus defines the parameters, and they are usually far beyond any we would set for ourselves. 

What about you...are you living in the comfort and ease of your own parameters? Or are you allowing Jesus to define the call and set the pace? The race is never easy...but it was never supposed to be either. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Dear Motherless child,

I think about you sometimes. I wonder where you are, and who is with you. All these days of in between, of being an auntie and practicing the art of sacrificial love...these days are spent in anticipation of the days yet to come. When I hold someone else's babe, I wonder if someone is holding you. When I cut up a kiddo's meat or pour his milk, I pray you are getting all the sustenance you need. When I drive to work where I will administer vaccines and care for sick children, I wonder if someone is comforting you in your pain. When I watch beloved friends nurture their babies through sleepless nights, I wonder if someone is there to cradle you in loving arms when the going is tough. I wonder, and I pray. I pray you know love, a love that will model the fierce, undaunted love the God of the universe lavishes on you. I pray this love surrounds you until I can. 

I am not a mother, and you are not a son or daughter. Yet. And while today is all about celebrating moms and the ways they change the world, I am thinking about you all the day long. Me, the childless woman, and you, the motherless child. One day, I pray we will find each other. You will make me a mother, and I will make you a chosen daughter or son. 

Mothers deserve honor, so much gratitude, and a thousand medals. But I would guess mothers find their greatest reward to be the kind of love that curls up on your lap and wraps chubby fingers around your neck. That kind of soul-shaping embrace is worth more than all the honor and medals and gratitude in the world. Today, I wonder how many motherless children long to celebrate their very own mama, to curl up on her lap and weather the storms of life in the embrace of another. I want to remember those faces today, and the mothers who will one day find them and make them sons and daughters. Those are moments of which I dream. 

Motherless child, I am thinking of you today...hoping and wishing and praying that someday you might have a mother to honor. I dream of a day you will have reason to celebrate Mother's Day, to write a scribbled "I love you" on handmade cards and serve burnt toast on a platter and give sloppy kisses to a woman who will make you a son or daughter. You are the bravest, motherless child, and I honor your courage in the face of loss and uncertain future. YOU are treasured and loved. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I want my life to be a fairytale

I began this post several weeks ago and just returned to it today...I am reminded of this familiar ache as the world news once again screams of heartbreak and tragedy. 
Last week, my mom and I went to see Disney's latest remake of the timeless tale, Cinderella. The theater was packed with little (and not-so-little) girls, oohing and ahhing as the beautiful Ella, who had been used and abused by her wicked stepmother (yet somehow managed to maintain her courage and kindness almost effortlessly), joyfully waltzed off with the charming and handsome prince (having known him only two days) and received the ultimate justice and repayment for all that was broken in her life. Even as a not-so-little girl, I noticed myself getting carried away by the magic and enchantment of a story I have heard a hundred times in a hundred different ways. What is it about these stories that capture us so? 

I am enchanted because I want my life to be a fairytale. I want everything that is wrong or unfair or sad to be made right. But it doesn't work that way, does it? There is death and deceit and selfishness and greed...and often no justice. Life is hard, and there is no prince come to carry me away from the hardness (at least not yet anyway... ;-). I can find myself wooed by fairytales because my life is not one and yet there is a deep, guttural, and very real longing in me for the wrong to be right. 

I wonder if this longing is the truest part of me, the part that whispers of a time long, long ago when everything was right...before brokenness interrupted and altered the course of eternity. Perhaps this longing speaks about a God-man who came into the brokenness as a squalling bloody mess sent to pursue our battered and bleeding hearts. Perhaps this longing serves to remind me of the long road Jesus traveled to pick up every bit of my shame and fear, heaping it upon himself as he willingly faced the brutal force of all evil head on while God's face turned from him. Perhaps this longing reminds me of that moment when he breathed his last and the curtain ripped straight down the center, giving humanity unfettered access to divinity for the first time since all had gone wrong so many years before. Perhaps this longing reminds me of the empty grave, of the Savior who not only died a brutal death so that I did not have to, but also defeated death by proving it incapable of restraining him from Glory. Perhaps, in a time when tragedy can strike in an instant and decimate an entire country without causing the rest of the world to pause for more than a heartbeat...perhaps this longing reminds me that things are not as they were intended, and that God mourns the disparity between what is, what was supposed to be, and what one day will be. 

I love the picture painted in Psalm 56:8--

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." 

Such an intimate, loving portrayal of a God who can often be cast as the distant, uninterested killjoy who fails to maintain order in our depraved world. I have known this God who collects my tears, and I want you to as well. One day, tragedy may knock at your front door, and what I want you to know in that moment is that God is not a distant, all-powerful (but uninterested) being. God sees all that is (no matter how ugly or broken), mourns with us over what was supposed to be (even in the thickest clouds of grief), and plants in our hearts a longing that points to what one day will be (no matter how far off that day might be). Perhaps C.S Lewis said it best: "If you find yourself with a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, then the most probable explanation is that you were made for another world." Yes, that. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Yesterday, I found the end of me.

It has been a month since I last visited this place, which can only mean one of two things. Either A, life is so incredibly abundant and beautiful that I cannot put my heart into words, or B, I am not healthy. Because writing is sustenance to me. 

I am all kinds of messed up. If I ever wondered where the end of me was, I found it yesterday. I have worked so diligently over the last year, trying to process and uproot old patterns of striving and busyness, learning to care for my heart and body in ways that free my spirit to love and serve more authentically. I was finding new levels of peace and learning how cherished I am by the God of the universe. I was getting healthy...not just in the way of the world, but deeper than that. I was discovering creativity and playfulness and intimacy. Then I forgot. 

I forgot to make self-care a priority. I forgot to frequently say "NO"  to doing and "YES" to being. I started the slow slide into old patterns, finding myself dumping, dumping, dumping myself with no refill. Yesterday, I was empty. Exhausted, spent, broken. My creativity, playfulness, deep capacity to love? Shot. Zippo. Nada. 

Friends, we were not created for the kind of life this world tells us to live. This busy, striving, bigger, better, louder life? I am convinced it is all a ploy of the Enemy to drain us of health, creativity, love, wholeness, and the ability to produce beauty. It is not healthy, for us or for our families. While I convince myself that I am not giving my best when I choose rest, while I tell myself I will let people down if I say "NO," it is all a big fat lie. Because my best self is a deeply rested, playful, creative, healthy self. Not a sick, spent, exhausted but always present self. The temporary no is a planted yes that will blossom and bloom where it will become the most beautiful. 

I will learn. I will slowly grasp the necessity of making rest a priority, and practice the art of gracefully saying "NO" when necessary and sometimes even when inconvenient to myself or others. I will integrate rest, and play, and try new things just for the heck of it, and laugh. Not because I can, but because I need to, and you need me to as well. 

I extend the same challenge to you...practice and learn rest. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

For the one who is tired of living the mundane

Some days don't feel profound. Some days feel like the monotonous mundane. Some days I feel like I am a gerbil on the wheel of life, spinning to nowhere. Some days I have no words of substance to add to this space.

I have come to find, however, that "some days" become the days when I know my God the best. Because God is here, in this mundane. In the early mornings when I struggle to drag myself out of bed to face another day. In the overwhelm of the workplace that gets more of my time than anyone or anything else. In the relational labor of pursuing and being pursued by broken people. In the management of money and time and passion. In the falling into bed at the end of it all, anticipating the early morning to come too soon, once again. God is in this mundane, making it glorious even in its monotony. 

I think I often buy into the lie perpetuated by our culture that says if something (a job, a relationship, an act of service...) does not yield immediate and grand results, it must not be worth our time or effort. And so I discount the mundane as unholy or unworthy of my continued faithfulness. What I read in Galatians 6:9, however, is this: "So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up." 

Don't get tired, friend, of pursuing that broken and world-hardened person who is hard to love. Don't get tired of driving to that workplace where you have invested yourself for months or years or decades. Don't get tired of washing dishes or rocking your sleep-deprived babe. Don't get tired of the mundane you are living, because at just the right time you will reap harvest. It may not be harvest you will even see in this lifetime, but it will come. 

There is glory in this mundane, in the quiet pursuit of a God who loves you forever and always, who seeks out your heart even in the drive to work or the dishwashing and babe-rocking. Who sees your faithfulness in that difficult relationship or seemingly fruitless act of service. Be encouraged...You are not hidden, and your steadfastness in the mundane is reaping a bountiful harvest. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Thoughts on being an "auntie"

They were my first babies. Every afternoon I would eagerly show up at their home after I finished my day at the high school. I would scoop them up and kiss their cheeks, then see what new and exciting trick they had learned since I left the night before. Their mom and I became fast friends, and I learned their schedule well enough I could recite it-or execute it-in my sleep. The boys' daddy was far away bandaging up the broken, so she and I, we loved them well in his absence while also praying that he would return quickly. I will never forget the day they both had to be admitted to the hospital. At nine months old, their little bodies had been ravaged by a horrible virus and they needed some extra R&R to fight it off. I was a freshman in high school and was terrified. I did not give birth to them, but I would have done anything in my power to protect them and make them if they were my own. 

I could tell you about my other family. I watched them grow and sprout and we made carnivals and learned the piano. We told fairytales about the antics of our dinner foods, and I sang the little girls to sleep. A new baby came, and I loved her immediately and fiercely. It wasn't long before new adventures took them away. I never could have known, though, that tragedy would land me back in their arms (and this time, their home as well) only a year later. Baby girl was bigger now, and although it took her a little while to remember our mutual adoration for each other, affection returned and soon her little chubby arms would curl around my neck and she would cry out "Abidale!!!" whenever I walked into her room. Those kids, they were my healing. They loved me through a hard season of grief, and I loved them back. We walked the journey to Little Brother together, praying and fingerprinting and running frigid hot chocolate stands in the middle of snowy winter, earning the ransom to bring him home. We talked about hard things, and stroked backs when sickness came, and made "welcome home!" signs to greet Little Brother. Little Brother is not so little anymore, and the Welcome Home Crew is nearly taller than I am, but they are still my "little" brothers and sisters. When they drive and marry and have babies of their own, I will still look at them and remember the baby hugs and bedtime snuggles and hours spent playing board games...those years are forever imprinted on my heart. 

I cannot forget the next threesome. They were my teachers, my get-out-of-bed, life's-not-over motivators. She would slip under the covers with me on gray days and whisper secrets about her stuffed animal friends. We would craft together and I would try out new hairstyles on their angelic white-blonde crowns. He and I, we would shoot baskets or throw a football together while teasing and talking about life. They taught me what it means to never give up, even when life is hard or other people don't understand the struggles you face. 

And of course I can't stop without talking about the heart-bursting ache I have for my newest babies. To watch big siblings step into their roles, to bake cinnamon rolls and eagerly wait for pictures of their growing family...there is honestly nothing sweeter. These days, I cannot wait to scoop those babies up each day when I get home. When I am gone, I miss them so much it almost hurts. I cannot describe the joy of watching two kids I have known since birth pick up their baby siblings and love them HARD. It has been the biggest privilege to walk this journey with their mom and dad, to see how much these babies were longed for, and now that they are here, to kiss their cheeks and hold them when they are sick, and even to rock them when they won't sleep at night. It is the most extravagant gift God could give me in the in-between. To be part of a family, to be part of the miracle of new life, to be invited into the hardest of transitions and the most vulnerable moments a family will experience...what an indescribable blessing. If God never gives me a family of my own someday, THIS...this will be enough. 

In our culture, we take pride in the degree to which we don't need anyone else. This pursuit of extreme independence seeps into the American parenting philosophy, turning mothers against other mothers simply because they disagree over birthing methods or stand on different sides of the vaccination debate. In other parts of the world, parenting is a community effort. Mothers link arms with other mothers, sharing hardships and victories on a daily basis and holding each other up when the days get long and the nights longer. "Aunties" play important roles in the lives of children as they grow and learn how to integrate into society. There is no such thing as days spent at home alone with the children. Instead, days are spent in each other's homes and company, working and playing and parenting together. 

I am not a parent, but I have had the unique privilege of watching many different men and women become parents. From where I stand, having observed many different parenting styles and techniques, I can say (in my humblest of opinions) that the single most important thing you can do for your children is to invite someone else--an "auntie," so to speak--into their lives. Parents are not superheroes, and not one of us is perfect. We need each other.


I love being an "auntie," and I need these kids in my life. God has blessed me tremendously and taught me so much through the families that have become my own. I trust that I have positively impacted those kids and parents as well, as I have invested and spoken truth into their lives. If you are a parent, don't try to go it alone...the journey is too long, and the mountains too steep. Find your people, and stick to them. Your kids, your family, even the "aunties" who invest in your kids' lives will be better off because of your resolve to parent together. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I remember

I remember that day. 

I remember opening up the newspaper while eating breakfast, then quickly losing my appetite when I began to read about all you had endured in your short life. 

I remember looking at your picture, etching your face in my brain because someone has to miss you. 

I remember the gut wrenching ache as I tried to understand how another human being could possibly do this to a little girl. 

I remember you, Aiyana.  

On March 16, it will have been 10 years since you left this earth. Though you are gone now, and the world has moved on, I want you to know that a little spark settled into my soul that day. As I read about the torture you endured at the hands of those who were supposed to protect and adore you, that ember settled into the depths of my being, where it has burned ever since. 

In the days after you died, I asked a lot of questions. Why? Why you and not me? Why did God bless me with a family who cherishes and loves me, while you suffered in silence until it was too late? Where is the justice

My 15-year-old self couldn't understand, and I mourned over the heinous crimes committed against you, a girl I had never met. 

A lot of people don't understand my passion for "kids from hard places." I get it...most people my age are busy climbing the career ladder or buying their first home or getting married. My heart is not "normal." You, your story? It changed me. From the moment I opened that newspaper, I have never been the same. I long to do something, to make sure little girls like you are loved and cared for the way you should have been. I ache to take "unwanted" kids like you into my heart and life, to speak over them the words of truth you probably never got to hear this side of heaven: you are wanted, you are precious, you are loved. 

Aiyana Emily Guavin, you live in my heart. You are the root of my passion. I will never forget you as long as I have breath in my lungs to speak up and able hands and feet and mind to DO. SOMETHING. Because little girls like you deserve to be remembered.    

***Don't remember? Here's one of the articles I read that year.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why I weep (while sitting by the Light)

Once upon a time, there lived a little girl who was afraid of dark things. She would lay in bed at night and imagine the shadows cast by giant trees outside her window to be monsters or knife-wielding robbers intent on kidnapping her. She continually flipped on as many lights in the house as her parents would let her, and she never went into a dark room alone. The shadows terrified her.

Then she grew up, no longer afraid of dark things around her, but terribly afraid of the dark things inside of her, inside of other human beings. After all, that's where the real darkness lives, isn't it? She watched terrorist-driven attacks flash across her television screen and read about children dying alone, in desperation and starvation. She experienced betrayals of the fiercest kind from those she loved the most, and she withered when the only human protector she had ever know breathed his last shaky, gasping breath. She shuddered when she caught glimpses of her own pride and choking shame, of harmful thoughts and desires she wouldn't dare name. The dark things inside felt powerful enough to destroy her, to shatter her tender and innocent soul in a thousand pieces. 

But, the Light. 

The Light would not, will not be consumed. The Light "shines in the darkness but the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5). The little girl learned to look for the Light when the darkness was around her, and later she learned to look for the Light when the darkness was inside. The Light came into the world, but the world didn't see it. Even so, the Light penetrated the darkness and the darkness scurried away like a cockroach into the shadows. The darkness could not stand the Light. 
That Light, on my darkest of days, on days when I don't understand...that Light brightens my path. When I listen to people speak of giving up chocolate and Facebook while brothers give up their heads and their lives for the sake of the Light, my heart cries and my soul shudders. I cry for the ways in which I, we, have chosen the shadows over the brilliant Light. I shudder when I remember my own darkness, a darkness that I despise but I revel in from time to time anyway. For I "do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do" (Romans 7:15). Even so, the Light shines on. In the midst of evil and darkness and heinous crimes wrought by bloodied human hands, the brilliant Light is steady, constant, unchanging. And that Light will not be overcome.

Today, I remember the Light who came into this dark world and heaped all of that darkness up onto himself, crucifying it on the cross. Today, I remember those around the world who are looking the darkness in its face, not backing down, because they are so familiar with the Light that lives inside of them that they could not possibly extinguish it when the darkness demands they do so. Today, I repent of living with one foot in the dark and one foot in the Light. Today, I pray for more faith, that I would be so confident in the victory this Light has already won over darkness that I would have no fear of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (Matthew 10:28). Today, I sit by the Light and yet still weep over the darkness, because Jesus did the same (John 11:1-44). Today, that girl who was so afraid of the shadows prays for more courage to stare those shadows down as she gains strength from the Light beaming inside of her. 

Today, that girl (not so little anymore) wants you to know that whatever darkness is on your coattails right now...that darkness cannot overcome the Light. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

5 ways to better love the single people in your life

1. Stop asking dumb questions and start asking good questions. You don't need to ask if I have a boyfriend every time you see me. (Because I would likely tell you if I did). But you do need to ask me what I'm struggling with, or what God is teaching me, or what adventures I've been on lately. Ask about my life, not my love life. Because I need to remember that my life is more than my love life, and my value is not in my relationship status. 

2. Include single people in your community. I want to be part of your life. I want to know what is hard and what is good about being married, or being a parent, or being a girlfriend/boyfriend. I want to experience life with you, whatever that looks like. I want to sit at your dinner table, hold your sick baby, and play games with you and your spouse. I want to learn about how to love when it's hard and make sacrifices when every bone in my body just wants to be selfish. I want to watch you struggle to live out parenthood and marriage. I want to know you, and I want to be known by you. 

3. Be aware, and be intentional. Be aware of the singles around you, and how your words and actions may uniquely affect them. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to change the way in which you are living or doing something (although maybe you do?). But it does require that you look out for them and be sensitive to how they might react to the things you do or say, or the way in which you are interacting with your significant other in front of them. Be intentional in the way that you love and honor your single friends. Celebrate their achievements...don't wait until the rehearsal dinner or baby shower to celebrate who they are and the ways in which God has uniquely prepared them to impact the world. Be honest about your own struggles in times of waiting or loneliness. Send your single friend a card "just because" you appreciate his place in your life, or buy her a Valentine (because you don't have to be attached to appreciate a good box of chocolate or beautiful bouquet of flowers). Your single friends will notice and appreciate your awareness and your intentionality. 

4. Don't assume you have nothing to learn from each other. Singles have a unique view on the world, and though they may not have experienced the joys and difficulties you have faced in marriage and parenthood, they still have lessons to teach you. And they have lessons to learn from you. Engage them in relationship and conversation, and learn from each other. Don't assume they don't want to know about your parenting struggles or that fight you had with your spouse the other night. They do. They need your perspective on life and faith and relationships, and you need theirs. In order to have healthy and thriving community, we need each other. 

5. Be a truth-teller. My singleness will not kill me. Marriage and parenthood is not the be-all, end-all. I am complete in Christ, not in relationships with other human beings. I need to be reminded of these truths, because the culture is constantly feeding single people the opposite message, and sometimes that message seeps into the church. Don't get me wrong, I love family. God's design for relationships in a family unit is brilliant and incredibly beautiful. I would love to create my own family someday. But Jesus reminded us that family is not the most important thing (Matthew 12:46-50, Matthew 19:29, Luke 9:57-62). I'm gonna put my neck on the proverbial chopping block and say that sometimes we mix up our priorities and worship the family unit. Not only is this message contrary to what Jesus taught, it can be a message of exclusion. What of the single man, the widow, the divorcee, the infertile couple? We all need to remember that, in Christ, we have a new family...a family formed not by blood or by marriage, but by adoption. I don't need a spouse or kids to belong. You and me, we're family. 

My family is diverse. It is made up of single and dating men and women, babies I help feed and soothe, single moms I encourage, married couples I play games with, and dear sisters I run alongside. I love my family, and I love that we are diverse. I learn from you--each of you--every day. I see joy and courage and love in my family, and I am better for it. I am single, which can be a hard and lonely road to walk. But when my family invites me into their lives and homes and marriages, intentionally loving me, learning from me, speaking truth into my soul...I am changed for the better. And I hope you are too. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Day I Let Go

I was throwing a tantrum that would put the terriblest of two year olds to shame. I kid you not. There are those who could testify. Earlier in the day, I literally texted my sister this: "I hate my life. And I'm eating ice cream for lunch." Wah wah wah. With a side of ice cream. I was frustrated, mad, deeply hurt, and looking everywhere but straight ahead. 

I begrudgingly drove to the local IF gathering I had signed up to attend, honestly because it would have taken more effort to explain to people why I was absent than it did to just put on my big girl panties and go. So I went. And Jesus met me there in a way I have only experienced a few times in my life. He grabbed my puffy, tear stained, pouty face and said, "GET UP. Get up off the ground. STOP with the whining." Then God met me in the middle of my pity party and infused me with the exact message of vision and hope my heart needed to hear. I have struggled since then to put it all into words. There is so much I still need to process, and honestly, most of what God spoke over me will probably remain treasured up in my heart. I long to share my journey authentically with others, though, because I believe in the power of story to change lives. And perhaps you need to hear the same words? So today I'm going to share what I feel like God has released me to share with you. 

For too long, I have had my hands clenched around a dream. Like, CLENCHED. I have threatened, begged, and pleaded with God: Don't make me give it up! Honestly, I have been terrified that I would be asked to lay it on the altar. And though in the past I have told God I would give it up if asked, it was all really just lip service. I have continued to do everything in my human will and power to make that dream a reality. I have pushed and fought and still come up empty. 

Joshua 1:7 says, "Be strong and courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go." Don't turn to the right or to the left. Friends, that is all I have been doing. Looking around. Noticing what everyone else is doing. Wishing my life looked like so-and-so's, or that I had what so-and-so had, or that my calling was the same as that of so-and-so. I have not kept my attention and focus on God's voice. 

It's so like us to veer off course, isn't it?! We live in a world of entitlement and distraction, and we are like kids in a candy shop. I think of how the Israelites begged and begged God for a king, and rather than waiting on his timing and his way, they pressed on, relentlessly discontent, until he gave them over to their misguided longing. I have been the whining Israelite. I have only halfheartedly sought his counsel and guidance, and instead searched for and pursued the fulfillment of my weak dream. 

The thing is, my dream, my vision for me is so small. When you are looking to the right and to the left, when you are stumbling around and allowing yourself to be distracted by what everyone else is doing, it is impossible to walk the path God lays before you. And THAT path? It's so much better than any detours I could ever choose. God's vision for my life is so much better than my own, not because it is more grandiose or inspired (though I suppose it could be), but because He knows the whole story. He owns the pen to the eternal story, and it is only where my story intersects his that I find my true purpose. 

The Israelites, they got their earthly king. They also got heartache and disastrous problems they never bargained for. God wanted to give them himself, but they traded in intimate guidance from the King of the universe for limited and often unwise advice from an earthly ruler. I could exert my will and force my dream into reality, sure. But what I'm learning is that the risk is too great, and in the meantime, I would miss out on deepening intimacy with my God. 

So Friday night, with tears pouring down my cheeks, I opened up my fists and let go. I'm not naive enough to think that the letting go will be a one time event. No, it's going to be a daily giving over. And I don't know what is going to happen. Someday, my dream might coincide with God's eternal story. But it may not, and I may never see that dream brought to fruition. I am resting, though, in His promise to me that "I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13). My dream may never come true, but God's dream for me will, and that story is going to be so much better. And honestly? I'm learning that it is not about the destination anyway. It's about the journey I will take with God. It's about knowing Him on that path. 

So what does today look like, where the rubber meets the road and now is reality? Today I'm going to pour myself into God's Word. I'm going to devote myself to listening to the voice of Jesus, not the thousands of other voices all around me. I'm going to focus straight ahead, not allowing myself to be distracted by those to my right and my left. Friends, I don't know much, but I do know that God's going to meet me on this path, MY path. IF God holds the pen to the eternal story, his story for me will be so much better than anything I could ever write. And in the meantime, everything is mine in Him. 

"Everything is Mine in You"**
Everything is mine in you, even when my heart is breaking, 
Everything is mine in you, even when my hands are empty. 

Everything is mine in you, 
and I can trust you with my longing. 
Everything is mine in you,
even when the road is lonely. 

'Cause you are Master over all and you say, you are my inheritance and in you, I have everything I need. 'Cause you are seated in the heavenlies and you say, forever you're my Hiding Place and in you I have everything I need. 

Everything is mine you, and I know my future's bright. Everything is mine in you, past or present, death and life. Everything is mine in you. 

Against all hope, help me to hope. 
Against all fear, draw me near. 

**Lyrics from a song written by Christy Nockels and Ellie Holcomb, coming out on Christy's new album in April. She sang it during the conference and of course it was exactly what God needed me to hear.**


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I want you to meet someone

I want to introduce you to someone.

She and I, we met in a classroom, that space that can either be magical or miserable, depending on the occupants attending within its walls. When I entered her classroom, I didn't realize that place would become so sacred to my journey. Nor did I realize the integral role my then-teacher would have in my life. 

If the seed of passion for writing had been planted in me, she watered it and nurtured it until it bloomed. She brought a room full of unique, socially segregated and somewhat disinterested individuals together and somehow--magically--created a family. That room became a safe place to share stories, poems, deep wounds, and seemingly unreasonable passions. Looking back, she gave me one of the most precious gifts I have ever received, and little did I know just how valuable that gift would be to me just a few years later. She birthed in me a love of writing. 

She also reached out and offered me the sweetest of friendships. I don't even really understand how that next part of the story unfolded, but I do know that I was changed for the better. The workouts and post-workout coffee chats, the warm summer days spent licking ice cream off of spoons and soaking up each other's lives and stories, the bantering email messages back and forth...she became so much more than a teacher. She was a dear sister...a soul-deep friend...but always the teacher I first met too. Because life was about to get topsy turvy, and she had walked that road before in her own way. She still had lots to teach me. 

I remember talking to her on the phone after I had moved to Chicago, in those tenuous days between suspicion and diagnosis. I remember telling her the dreaded news, and her immediately scrambling to help me find a way home to my daddy. She knew I needed to be home. I remember sitting with her in my crushing sadness and pain, and her cradling it so gently. Yes, she taught me how to grieve and be brave in my grief. She taught me how to love scared. And I did...for 10 months, I loved fiercely and with everything I had inside. I poured my love out, knowing he might be gone in the end. And when he did slip away in the night, she was the first one I called. She whispered her acknowledgement and again held my heart so gently as it cracked and broke. 

In the days soon after my dad's death, the gift she had grown in me became crucial to my healing. I wrote my pain, the pages bleeding from my heart. What she had watered and nurtured to full maturity now offered the only shade I could find from the harsh rays of grief's relentless pounding. 

Since that night of devastating loss, she has taught me how to live in the broken place. How to get up and keep running...blistered feet and all. I hurt, yes. But I am stronger. I miss my dad, yes. But I am blessed. I live in the in-between, in that place where hard is reality, but so is grace and goodness and God's ever present faithfulness. She took me to that place. She opened up her own wounds and exposed them, then showed me what it looks like to be a wounded warrior. 

I want you to meet someone. She is strong but gently compassionate. She is incredibly gifted but equally humble. She is fiercely loyal and one of the most genuine, authentic people I have ever met. I met her as my teacher, became her friend, and find myself learning from her once again. 

Tonight, I had tears in my eyes as I listened to educators and politicians and university deans point out the very attributes and qualities I have not only witnessed in a teacher but experienced as her friend since I first met her 10 years ago. I am overwhelmed by the great privilege it is to not just know her, but to count her as my dear friend and sister. I want you to have the privilege of knowing her too. 

She is a high school English teacher. 

She is a pianist. 

She is a collector of perfume scents and an avid gymnastics fan. 

She is a published author, and an eloquent speaker. 

She is mom to Elias, her guide dog. 

And she is the Indiana State Teacher of the Year, and a top 4 finalist for the National Teacher of the Year. 

I want you to meet Kathy Nimmer, my forever teacher, friend, and heart sister. A beautiful woman with an incredible story, one God is not nearly finished writing. 

Kathy, I am so thankful God allowed our stories to intersect. You bless my life. 

***Read more about Kathy and her latest achievement HERE***

***photo credit to Lauren Koleff Photography:***

Friday, January 30, 2015

Off with the old, on with the new

I'm my own worse enemy. You know what I'm talking about, right? The self-loathing, self-doubt...that voice in my head, always waiting to pounce, is the harshest of critics. I struggle with insecurity just as much as the next person. Maybe that is why the words she somewhat casually uttered in front of our class that day have stuck with me. 

"Every time I walk into a room, I have to  purposefully claim my identity." 

She is petite, but she is powerful. 

She is discredited by some because she is a woman, but she is a doctor of philosophy. 

She is a sinner, but she is saved by grace. 

I am convinced that when she chooses to walk into her true identity as a daughter of God, she pushes back a darkness that is intent on consuming this world...a darkness I have begun to pay more attention to as I look around and engage my sphere of influence. You see, I feel as if I am watching a tragic orphan crisis strike the Church. And as I examine my own heart, I wonder how long I have been living as an orphan. 

Adoption is typically very expensive, whether a child is coming home from across an ocean or across town. Your adoption, though? Jesus spilled his blood to bring you into the Family. He bought you a new identity...And he deemed your redemption to be worth the incredibly steep cost. Yet how often do you and I continue to live the orphan complex? Unwanted, passed over, never good enough...It's the mantra that haunts the human soul. 

As I was reading Ephesians 4 the other day, I noticed in a new way how active the exchange of identities is. Paul talks about "putting off your old self" and "putting on your new self." I read that and imagine stripping off dirty rags, then donning a new, snazzy outfit. While living into our new identities is certainly not as simple as changing outfits, I wonder if Paul knew we needed the imagery of purposeful action to remind us that this identity shift is not stagnant. It is a daily, moment by moment intention to strip off the old and actively put on the new.  

Off with the I'm-not-enough and on with the I-am-chosen. 

Off with the I'm-a-failure and on with the I'm-more-than-a-conqueror-in-Christ.

Off with the I'm-too-far-gone and on with the I-have-been-redeemed-by-the-blood-of-Jesus. 

Off with the old, on with the new. 

Every day, I have to intentionally dismantle the old identity, with its accusations and shame-haunting. And every day, I have to purposefully claim my new identity...because the identity I'm living into shapes every conversation I engage in, every action I take, every thought that crosses my mind. Everything I do is preceded by my identity. 

In the following chapter of Ephesians, Paul says: "Therefore, be imitators of God as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us..." (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Be imitators of God...ACT in a way that is consistent with who God is. But first, KNOW that you are a dearly loved child! Your identity PRECEDES your activity. Put on your new identity...and live it! 

Some days I feel as if the voice in my head gets the better of me. I get lazy about the stripping and instead allow the accusations to simmer. Some days, though...some days I fight hard to remember who I am now. Some days I step into my identity as a beloved daughter of God and walk in love...being  loved and being LOVE. While this war to slay the orphan complex will not see its final victory in this lifetime, every day battles are being waged and won toward that end. Off with the old, on with the new. 

Won't you join me in the fight?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

For when you are in over your head but say yes anyway

I'm in over my head. I don't know when I realized it...if there was a specific moment when the enormity of it all hit me, or if it has been a gradual dawning. Regardless of how it happened, I'm sitting here today fully aware of my complete and utter inadequacy. Yet, I am pretty sure that is exactly where God wants me to be.

I'm one of those "YES" people that gets herself into trouble. I get blown away in a perfect storm of passion and willingness, without always fully considering and weighing the consequences. God has filled me to overflowing with vision and desire and compassion. My old hesitant, fearful self has been chiseled into an eager and willing, drops-her-nets-and-runs (while often still scared out of her wits) new creation. When my heart beats in sync with the heart of my God, I seem to forget what is sane, rational, or possible. In this case, I laced up my running shoes and took off without knowing where I was going or how I would ever maintain my speed for the long haul. 

Today I read in Luke 5 about Levi, a man who became one of Jesus' disciples. I am fascinated by two verses in particular and how much they DON'T say: "After this [Jesus] went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, 'Follow me.' And leaving everything, he rose and followed him" (Luke 5:27-28). I don't know how many times I have nonchalantly glossed over this passage without really wrapping my mind around it. Today it hit me between the eyes. I immediately thought, "WHAT THE?!?! Did Jesus really just walk up to Levi, say two words, and walk away with Levi tailing him? Having left EVERYTHING?!?!" One minute, he was sitting at his work desk diligently doing his job, the very next he was chasing after this Jesus who  had barely uttered a complete sentence in his direction. SERIOUSLY?! What kind of crazy dude does that?!

I wonder, though, if he was crazy, or just plain transformed by an encounter with the God of the universe. Did Levi witness Jesus not only healing the paralytic, but forgiving the enormous weight of his sin as well (Luke 5:17-26)? Was Levi one of the "them" mentioned in verse 26? "And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, 'We have seen extraordinary things today.'" Perhaps Levi's eyes were opened to the greater story God is penning. Perhaps Levi chose to respond to God's invitation for him to be part of that larger story. Perhaps Levi simply said YES, and perhaps we could learn a thing or two from him.

Today, I am terrified by the weight of my YES. A few people, I'm sure, have questioned how wise it is for me to enter into this journey as a single, 25-year-old who is still unsure what she wants to be when she grows up. Some people don't understand me or what I am trying to do. Most people probably think I am out-of-my-mind crazy. I do know this: Anyone who thinks I am noble is just plain wrong. I am nothing. I am a mess...a sold-out, in-love-with-my-God, hot mess. Apart from the lavish riches of God's grace that are constantly, forever heaped over me in a flood, I would fall flat on my face. Without Jesus, my YES would be stupid and unwise. Somehow, though, God takes my weak YES and uses it. Somehow God's purposes are accomplished and I am in shock watching the fruit my little YES can produce.

Today, my prayer is that my terrified, crazy, unwise YES would make much of Jesus. My prayer is that your eyes would be searching, seeking, pursuing the larger story and how you can be a part of it. My prayer is that, like Levi, we would allow our encounters with Jesus to not simply mark our days but to transform our lives. Friends, may your days, weeks, months, and years be characterized by yeses to the heart of God, no matter how terrified, unplanned, plum crazy those yeses are. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Mirror

He was tired. Bone-deep, soul weary. We didn't know it then, but he was only a month away from meeting Jesus face-to-face. He would say, "This old tent is fading, Ab." The scriptural reference poured out of his mouth as a matter of fact declaration, but he was feeling it in his body. Yet, he sat across the table from me. Pouring, investing his fading-tent-self into me. I, the heartbroken, lost daughter...he, the physically broken but joyfully and deeply secure father. That year we went on so many father-daughter dates, but this would be our last as I tried to capture memories and grasp at fleeting moments. 

When I think of lavish love, I think of that night. He was in so much pain, but he sat and listened to me and so tenderly responded to my heart. He could have allowed himself to be consumed by his reality...the intense pain of cancer, the unknown of the death to come, concern over the family he was leaving behind. He just listened, though, as his teenage daughter rambled and poured out her heart. In his gift of presence, he loved me so well...and gave me a picture of the tender but fierce love of God. 

Sometimes I long for that earthly picture of love...for the tight embrace, the soft words of encouragement, and the intentional togetherness. I remind myself that for now I only "see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1Corinthians 13:12). 

Have you ever been fully known? Deeply, intimately, known? Do you long for that? Even the tender, lavish love my dad poured out on me as he took the time and space to KNOW my heart...even that was but a dim reflection of the kind of deep, all-knowing and yet fiercely protecting kind of love God has for you and for me. While I sometimes wish for the earthly picture, I LONG for the day when I will be FULLY KNOWN and FULLY LOVED. We all long for that, don't we?! To be bare and exposed but loved anyway. 

On days when I wish so much that I could be wrapped up in the kind of love my dad gave me a glimpse of, I press into the uncomfortableness of this reality we live in...the in-between, the gap from now to then. I try to look into the dim mirror, and I tell Jesus just how much I long for the day when that mirror will be shattered and I will KNOW fully and be bare, exposed, and fully KNOWN before my tender hearted, fiercely loving God. It is coming, friends. And what a day that will be. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Facing 2015

I am greeting 2015 with an inward storm. As a self-described melancholy and highly sensitive soul, God has just wired me to feel things very deeply. Today I am feeling the incredible incongruity of life around me. There are weddings and babies born and joyful family celebrations and goals to be made and achieved. All while there is terrible hurt and brokenness, crushed dreams and terminal cancer and homelessness and fatherlessness. I go from one somber meeting in which I am peering into a family's immense shock and tragedy, trying to assemble tender care for a child at the mercy of life's storms, to an exuberant celebration of a longtime friend's new partnership in marriage. I can't shake the weight of darkness while dancing in the light. 

As I have journeyed with my God, one thing I have come to know and understand is that my God delights in entering my messy emotional chaos with me. So today as I dumped all of this confusion in the contrast out onto the metaphorical table between us, I was reminded of the seasons. I want to be "like a tree planted by streams of water that yields it's fruit in its season, and it's leaf does not wither" (Psalm 1:3). A healthy tree weathers storms and droughts and the heat of day because it is deeply rooted by water. It does not produce fruit all year around, but in its season. 

No doubt, as a highly sensitive soul who, for some reason, God saw fit to give a burden and passion for the broken, I will face many storms and droughts in the coming year...Some my own, possibly more alongside others desperately trying not to wither in the face of their own disasters. I long to be planted so deeply by the Source, my Sustainer and Provider, that I do not wither in the seasons of hardship, but instead stand tall and ready to produce fruit in the right season. 

I am reminded that not all seasons yield fruit. Some days and months and years will feel like a great darkness and blanket of snow rests over my soul. Some days will involve the stripping, the leaves falling and anticipating the coming winter. But some seasons will bring new life, buds opening to flowering beauty and a great harvest of sweet fruit. This life is full of seasons, and changes, and facing storms and hardship, and harvesting good things. Yes, there is constantly going to be the good mixed with the hard. But when I am planted by the Source, I am sustained through it all. 

So on this day, when so many are making goals and plans and lofty ambitions for this coming year, I am seeking simply to plant my roots deeper. To cling to my Source and bravely stare down what is to come. I anticipate storms, yes, but I also anticipate a great harvest of fruit in the right season. And through it all, I pray I know my God more intimately in both the withering heat and prolific abundance. Happy New Year, friends.