Fake Fires and Artificial Grass

I’ve had this lavish dream of living in a log cabin, perfectly perched in a field surrounded by Colorado mountains. A walkway outlined by sky-high pine trees guided me up the path to my wrap around porch, serving as a viewing deck to the mountains and sunsets. Natural wood and stone lined the interior, and beyond the age old kitchen table (of course) was my mountain man cooking dinner.

Then reality would hit me and I would remember that I lived in Texas and that simply dreaming about snow was big enough. But in my mind, that place in Colorado was perfect. That was what I would strive to have. Someday. Maybe. But, probably not.

Lord knows I’d freeze in Colorado anyway.

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When it gets down into the 40s, my mom and I always beg my dad to start a fire. We are all certain that we would turn into ice cubes if he didn’t. So, instead of throwing on a heavy jacket and boots, instead of trekking outside to get some firewood, my dad walks over to the fireplace, reaches behind a basket, pulls out the lighter, and voila! He lights the logs and the fire has started.

I have always thought that fireplaces had logs that never burned and only produced fake heat. Why would someone willingly start a real fire in their own house? Those kinds of fires get dirty, messy, and sometimes too hot to even be around.

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Step outside my house five years ago, and you wouldn’t think our backyard was different from anybody else’s. It had grass, trees, plants, and even a pool. Step outside now, and it almost looks the same, yet something had to change. It only made sense. With the heat of the Texas summers and awkward rain that comes unexpectedly, our yard (on a downhill slope) was getting destroyed.

So the conclusion? My parents replaced the real grass with artificial turf, fixing the mess with something fake.

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For some reason, this year I am having a really hard time getting into the holiday season. I don’t know if people are just a bigger bundle of cheer than I can handle, but some days I just wish that the holidays weren’t here.

I don’t mean that to say I’m in a bad mood all the time, stealing toys from the tree and who hash from the refrigerator and cringing at the sound of Christmas music. I’m just not excited. There’s a tension that is constantly stirring within my heart that I can’t seem to pinpoint. I feel disconnected; like I’m reading Time magazine through a new pair of glasses that still feel funky on my face.

I can’t help but see the fake faces of joy and glee reflecting off the tinsel at Hobby Lobby. I can’t help but wonder what people are really thinking, how they are really feeling about buying garland and ornaments, rushing into Target at 8 pm Thanksgiving night. There just seems to be a surge of discontent in the air.

It’s like they’re seeking after that cabin in the mountains, only to cover up the heat and mess of getting there by a fire with logs never burn and artificial turf that never gets dirty.

I really think that we all strive to satisfy our souls with things that society markets to us, just to find something better later on. In the midst of seeking perfection, we crash into disappointment. Upon trying on the mask of sincerity, we get muffled with the mask of phoniness.

And you know what? Sometimes it’s just easier to keep that mask on. I mean seriously, who wants to see that messy, real side of our lives?

I’ve learned that even though it’s harder and usually hurts more to take the mask off, that it is then I can breathe clearly without suffocating and it is then that I can move freely without worrying if I get dirty. Not to say I’m always real and honest, but I do know that I am be able to live a life that is free of falsehood and imitation if I am rooted in Christ.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free.

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And for that, I am thankful.

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Found at Home

In fifth grade, I was the new kid. I transferred from private school in another town to the public school in the neighborhood next to ours, and instead of deciding to start fresh, I continued in my elementary swag that so many nine year olds carry. I was the proud athlete who always wanted to play with the boys and thought dolls and lace were for the weak.

A few months into the year, word got out and announcements were made that the fifth graders were gearing up to go to camp for a week. On the façade, I brushed it off like it was no big deal and actually made it seem like I was too cool to go to camp.

But deep down, I was terrified.

Even though on the outside I acted so confident and sure of myself, on the inside I told myself there was no way I was going on that trip. I barely enjoyed slumber parties with friends, let alone leaving my parents and home for an entire week!

I was scared of stepping into the unknown.

Before I knew it, I was boarding the bus with fifty other rowdy fifth graders, certain that I was the only one who was heartbroken to watch my parents shrink in the distance. I pretended to be sleeping on the three-hour bus ride to the backwoods of Oklahoma, only to make sure my tears fell right onto my pillow.

I’m gonna die, I thought to myself. This can’t be happening. I want to go home.

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Fast forward to college. I survived the newness of freshman year and the complete unknown with only a few tears and trips home, but then I started travelling overseas. 1 week. 3 weeks. 2 months. 6 months. Now don’t get me wrong; I love being overseas, but at some point during those trips I started longing for home again. Yet, whenever I’d get home, I would long to be back overseas.

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It was like I didn’t really have a home anymore.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of taking care of some missionary kids while their parents were attending a conference. My little one for the week was a seven year old who grew up in the Middle East and was back in the States for the holidays. I was asked to hang out with her, play games, read books, and go through a lesson with her each day.

One day, the lesson was focused on home and what that looks like for a missionary kid. She told me stories about her homes overseas and her grandparent’s home in the States. She drew pictures of each and described each room and each level. Then I was prompted to ask her, “Which of these is your real home?” Anticipating a goofy look and pointing to one of the pictures, she looked at me and said, “Well, neither of these drawings are. My real home is in heaven. And this is what we’re working on…” And she began to draw the home that she and God are designing for when she gets to heaven.

We all have an innate desire to be home. It can look different, and it might not even be a literal place, but I believe that home is the place we feel most secure. In fifth grade, I felt most secure living with my parents. In college, it was my apartment. Overseas, it’s my sleeping bag or the roof of our flat or the mountains surrounding the property or the smelly slums or wherever I can get a sense of God’s arms wrapped around me.

I think it is when we are not in that place of security that we realize most where, or with Whom, our home really is.

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So go ahead. Step out into the unknown, walk onto the bus or through those doors and challenge those insecurities of what you perceive to be home.

Regardless of the unknown, surely, you will be found known.

A Journey to the Inheritance

Throughout the year, I’ve been jumping around in the Bible, reading books that I have either never read in their entirety or have not read in this specific Bible. After getting through the New Testament (save the four gospels), I decided to dive head on into the Old Testament while in India, starting with the Minor Prophets. I did that mainly because I knew they were short books and I would feel accomplished finishing them in due time.

After being blown away by the prophetic voice of not only the prophets’ days, but ours as well, I bounced around in the Old Testament a little more. Most recently, I decided I was going to trek through the Pentateuch. I feel like even saying the word is intimidating. I thought to myself, This will be no problem. I’m more mature than when I tried this three years ago. I’ve got this.

Without undermining the divine significance of it, Genesis was mostly a review of stories I knew from childhood. Therefore, I assumed Exodus would be a breeze. I mean, it is about the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt as the title implies, right?

Well, before I knew it, Exodus 12 rolled around and God’s chosen people packed up their things, loaded the camels, and headed south…or east…or…out from Egypt.

Headed towards the Promised Land.

Upon studying the book, there seems to be one constant theme in Exodus that rings true today. Before and during the exodus from Egypt, God tells Moses numerous times that He is going before the Israelites to prepare the way for their inheritance.

Like the first Passover and protection of His people (chapter 12).

Or the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire to direct their path (chapter 13).

And the angel sent before the people to guard and guide them (chapter 23).

But most importantly…

…the presence of God going with them the entire journey (chapter 33).

So I sit. I breathe deeply. And I exhale the truth that radiates from these pages, because so much of this speaks to my heart these days. I am on a journey to walk into God’s inheritance in my life. Yes, I have obtained the promised inheritance of Jesus Christ, but I’m still seeking out the small promised lands along the way.

The glimpses of heaven on earth.

Some days, I feel like I’m just leaving Egypt, while other days I feel like I’m trekking through the wilderness. And on special days, when I look up at God’s guiding hand in front of me, I can see my inheritance, and it makes the desert and the whining for Egypt obsolete.

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For it is when I remember that God goes before His people to prepare the way for their inheritance that I have hope to journey on.

Our individual Egypt probably looks different and our deserts are most likely filled with more than just sand, but the one thing that can be the same between you and I is a hope in Jesus.

So I wonder, what’s getting you out of Egypt and through the desert?

Sweater Wrapped Dog

Last week was chilly. The average high was a mere 50 degrees and the low dipped down to 30. It finally felt like autumn had arrived, we turned the heat on in the house, and I bought my dog a sweater.

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Go ahead.

Judge me.

I’ll refrain from all the excuses I’ve come up with justifying my necessary decision.

Then this week rolled around, and it spiked up to 90 degrees and humid. We turned on the air conditioning and I’ve packed away the sweater (for now).

In actuality, the entire nation’s weather has been absolutely indecisive. From snow and the hurricane in the northeast to this up-and-down-can’t-decide-what-season-it-is in the south, I’ve come to accept that the weather is unreliable, erratic, and down right volatile. Even on the most peaceful and sunny days, I still get a sense of unrest and uncertainty, not sure if this is going to last or if I will be tossing on layers of clothes the next day.

It’s like the calm before a storm.

While in college, I told people that I wanted to serve overseas for the rest of my life. The specifics of that would change as much as the weather does, but I’ve known for the past four years that is what I was made to do. What I didn’t think about was the time between graduation and getting overseas.

I’ve entered into this season in life where each day is oddly similar to the weather. I wake up each morning unsure if I will find a job, curious if the Lord will open up a new door for me to walk through, or listening to hear if He plans to whisper gently in my ear to wait. Some days, I get beyond anxious to know what it is that God has in store for me next.

Then my sweater wrapped dog walks up to me, curls up by my side, and rests with her entire weight and position dependent upon me. And I’m reminded that regardless of what I try to conceive of what is next in life that I simply need to lean in and rest in Him.

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For with Him, there is always more and there is always peace.