Sunday, June 18, 2017

Let me tell you a story...

I rose early that day, eager to sink my toes in sand and water because I knew I had only a few more days to do so. The sun was low on the horizon, but already its warmth was beaming down and kissing the sand. I walked slowly, sifting with my toes through the piles of shells deposited on the beach the night before. I was looking for sand dollars, a hot commodity with my little friends still sleeping back at the condo. It may seem a silly prayer, but I asked God to help me find a sand dollar to take back to them. I walked and sifted for close to an hour, not finding what I was looking for. Suddenly, I felt a whisper tickle my soul. Look closer.

I stopped, kneeling down and using my hands to sift more thoroughly through the sand. When I looked more closely, I saw that there were hundreds of baby sand dollars dotting the sand, mixed in with broken shells and ocean debris. I had been looking for a big sand dollar, not pausing to even notice the piles under my toes that held a bounty of what I had prayed for. I smiled and started collecting some to take back to my little friends, knowing that this treasure would make them squeal with delight. My heart was delighted too, and I felt the nudge of a reminder: God delights in providing for me. The provision just might not come in the form I was looking for or expecting.

I am two months away from embarking on what feels like the scariest and most exciting journey of my life. Most days it doesn't feel real. Most days, I waver between worry over details, sadness about this change that will take me away from all I know and love, and a sense of wonder that God would allow me to take part in bringing restoration to this world. 

This morning I listened to these words and felt a resonance in my heart: "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:13-14). A flood of memories from the last five years rushed over me, and I felt a swelling in my heart and tears welling in my eyes.

A decade ago, I had plans. I had dreams and ideas about what the future would hold and where I would go. None of my plans have been brought to fulfillment. None of them. If I have learned anything in my life, it is that life is a mist. For me, that makes this journey all the more meaningful. Life is a mist, and yet God has allowed me to experience valleys where divine faithfulness has tended to my heart. God has allowed me to experience the intimacy of deep, abiding community. God has allowed me to experience the joy of living into who I was made to be. I am so humbled.

I have shared about an unlikely friendship that God wove together last year. I met a young mom through my work with Safe Families and we have spent many, many hours together in the last year. Grocery shopping, haircut getting, dinner eating, and errand running became an avenue for friendship. Several weeks ago, we sat at a table licking ice cream when she said, "So, are you moving?" She had heard through the grapevine before I had a chance to tell her myself, and my heart did that familiar shudder/twinge as I answered affirmatively and watched her face fall. I was struck by how far we have come, that both our hearts would ache with the separation of a cross-country move. I will miss her, and I tear up to think that I could have missed this. In all my well-laid plans, I never could have dreamed I would have such a friendship. I am so humbled. 

This week, I sold my house and most of my possessions. Every time I felt the urge to cling to something, I was's just a thing. Life is a mist, and all these things will fade away. I pray I never lose that perspective. Even as I have opened my hands and released all I have built up around me, God has provided in the most generous, miraculous ways. And I think about those baby sand dollars, how God delights to give us what we do not even know we need. 

This next season, I want to be about stopping and sifting through the sand. I want to recognize on a daily basis that life is a mist, and yet God allows us to take part in experiencing and initiating the restoration of all things. Had I stubbornly continued to traipse all over the beach in pursuit of a big sand dollar, I probably would have missed the baby sand dollars that brought big smiles and childlike joy to a little girl later that morning. Had Jesus not interrupted my carefully laid plans a decade ago, slowly ruining me for the ordinary, I probably would not be embarking on this journey of a lifetime. I pray I never stop following Jesus into the unknown. Because even in the midst of the ocean debris that can be this life, a journey following Jesus is like mining for baby sand dollars. And I never want to stop looking for baby sand dollars.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

When it feels like the light becomes night all around us...

I have been packing boxes lately, and also packing memories away into the recesses of my heart. Some of the most profound moments I have experienced in this house have been the recognition of my own humanity. I have been humbled here, faced with the cracks that incise my heart. I would rather not reveal my brokenness, but sometimes it bubbles up and cannot be hidden.

There were the instances when I charged ahead and pursued my own dreams and fantasies, claiming divine calling but mostly just wanting to do what I wanted to do.

There were the moments when hot anger bubbled up and trembled to the tips of my fingers, escaping only in sharp words but escalating far beyond in my head.

There were the selfish nights, ignoring little souls who needed tending but choosing to beg for sleep to come instead.

There were days of lingering in laziness instead of following the murmurs of "Follow me."

The heavy weight of conviction settled in on one disastrous night. We had both lashed out, battling with our wills and our words and not wanting to back down. She fell asleep, but my "victory" was short lived. I was reminded of a time when I was running and stopped for a swig of water, only to choke and gasp as the cold liquid filled my lungs instead of my stomach. That's how I felt that night as I sat alone, the wind knocked out of me by the weight of my selfishness and anger. I was the adult, but I had acted like a petulant adolescent. The brokenness ricocheted, and I cried heavy tears under the heavy blanket of conviction.

Last night, I sat mesmerized by the news. Pure evil roamed unleashed on the unsuspecting streets of London, and brokenness reigned. For eight minutes that I'm sure felt like the longest eternity, fear consumed and choked. Despair bled out and claimed lives like they were but a breath to be snuffed out aimlessly. Eight minutes, and our souls scream out, "Where is the justice? Where is the shalom? Where is the redemption and restoration of all things evil and broken?"

I catalog memories of standing toe to toe with my own brokenness inside the four walls of this house, and I wonder sometimes if the cracks are too many to justify repair. But. There is a deep battle cry that surges from within, that rises up and rushes forth. That says, "Where, O Death, is your sting? Where is your victory?" (from 1 Corinthians 15). When the evil and hate that threaten to consume this world (my own brokenness alongside) say together, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," there is this knowing that gains strength in my heart and responds with even more force.
"Even the darkness is not dark to you" (from Psalm 139)
The darkness will never overcome You, and because I am forever hidden in You, it will not overcome me either.

I have grown here. I have been reminded, time and time again, of my broken humanity. But the cracks in this chipped and fallen vessel have only reminded me of the Potter who uses broken things to restore ALL things. It seems contradictory, doesn't it? That God uses the broken to restore the broken, the incomplete to bring shalom--completion--to all things? Wholeness. Restoration. Utter peace. There is mystery, and today I rest in the beauty of this mystery. Because evil? It never gets the final word.