Sprinkles in My Coffee and Tea at Midnight

The other night, I could not fall asleep. I laid in bed and was completely unable to turn my brain off. It raced and raced and raced and…well you get the point. My thoughts bounced to my family back home, what I want my future home to look like, the times my Granny would stack the deck playing Solitaire, to praying for my husband and children and grandchildren. I thought of what life in the Middle East will look like, what all my friends will look like when they grow old, and new kinds of food and dinner parties and creating spaces for comfort and hope and restoration. I decided around 4:30 a.m. that if I was awake at 5:30, then I would get up for the day. Thankfully, I fell asleep at 5.

A few hours later I woke up and made a decision. A life-altering decision, for that matter. Before my feet hit the floor, I decided that I would not let the lack of sleep affect my day, my attitude, my emotions. My friendships would not be altered, my thoughts would be steadfast, and my spirit would be full. The joy of the Lord is my strength, I sung to myself as I shuffled across the room and opened the door.

I went into the kitchen and poured some coffee. Normally, I just put sugar in my coffee, but this was a different day. A little dash of sugar and a little dash of cinnamon. A tiny splash of milk to top it off. But it wasn’t finished. Although I do not like my coffee too sweet, I looked around the kitchen for that missing piece. Next thing I knew, I was pouring sprinkles in my coffee.

Excuse me, what?? That’s probably one of the strangest things I’ve ever heard or done myself. They don’t even float. They sunk straight to the bottom of the mug and mixed in with all the other yumminess that was in there. I couldn’t even see the reds and yellows and blues that went in. But as soon as I took a sip, I knew it was what I needed. The joy of the Lord is my strength. I felt so alive, so awake, so sensitive to the goodness of life.

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I was beyond ready to sleep by the time I crawled into bed for the night, but my body would not shut down. I had far surpassed being tired and had quickly become delirious. After a few hours, I reluctantly went into the kitchen as a friend followed and shut the door. The house was still, save for a few people talking in the living room. With exhausted tears welling in my eyes, I boiled some hot water and poured a cup of tea. I sat with my head in my arms as my friend silently scratched my back and the tea steeped. Once the tea had cooled enough for me to drink, it happened. That first sip broke the dam and tears flooded my face. The peace of God surpasses my understanding.

There’s something about drinks that reveal a tangibility of the Triune God. When God established the various offerings in the Old Testament, He instated the drink offering, which was typically given with another offering, and symbolized restoration, devotion, and sacrifice. Jesus used wine as the outcome of His first miracle, as well as a representation of His poured out blood in the Upper Room. The believer is filled with Holy Spirit, and out of him flows rivers of living water, getting everyone around him soaked with the Spirit. Sprinkles in my coffee fills me with the joy that indwells me, and hot tea at night embraces my soul with the peace of a warm hug.

At the table of God, there’s always enough to drink, whether water or wine or juice or coffee, love or patience or gentleness or joy. The woman at the well in John 4 knew that the well is deep. Do you?

Consuming Fire

Over time, I have been unofficially designated as the fire maker in my house here in Spain. Which is actually humorous considering I grew up with a gas fireplace in Texas, where I was afraid to even turn it on from fear of blowing up the house. Before I came to Spain, I had only ever started maybe two real fires in my life, and now I make one here almost on a daily basis. I guess my inner Girl Scout (which I never was) is coming to fruition.

Recently, God has been speaking to me about the spiritual realm through the physical realm in very strong and obvious ways; most significantly, through fire.

There is power in fire. It brings light into darkness, cultivates heat in cold, sends people into deep thought and deep laughter. Fires can be a small flame that barely flickers, or a roaring lion in the corner of a living room. There is something beyond mesmerizing about fires. I think it is through the dynamic power of fire that God has chosen it to teach me.

The last few weeks of 2013 and first week of 2014 was a challenging time. I would wake up in the middle of the night, spinning in my bed, tangled in my comforter, as if I was fighting something. Turns out, my spirit was wrestling with the Spirit of God. I had stepped back into the forest of my past and was still clinging to others’ love as priority in my life. My spirit was wrestling Holy Spirit because I was not ready to completely give up my desire for love from man in order to receive God’s complete love in my life and to have it as number one.

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. -Deuteronomy 4:24

God invaded my dreams one night and came to me in a beautiful way, where I watched the lies, the insecurities, the weaknesses of my past die. He then romanced me as my groom and His bride, opening my heart to start to receive His love for me. However, the next day, something happened. I was making a fire for the evening and bumped my hand on the inside of the fireplace. Sizzling and smoke radiated from my hand, and I ended up with a quarter-sized burn.

Are you done playing with fire? Are you tired of getting burned?

I couldn’t contain the tears that welled up in my eyes. Not from the pain of my burn, but from the pain and longing in my heart.

Yes, yes, yes! I’m done playing with fire. I’m exhausted from getting burned. From seeking unhealthy relationships. From seeking the love of others. From finding my identity in what people think and say. I’m done. I’m tired. I just want you, Jesus!

The healing process of a burn is painful. Anything that touched my hand would send throbbing pain up my arm, and it felt like a never-ending cycle of Neosporin, Aleve, and prayers for no scarring. Sometimes, my hand would throb from the heat and pressure of healing. I learned from my mother that whenever something is broken or sprained, it is best to keep it elevated above the heart so blood flow can decrease the swelling. I found that when my hand would start to hurt, the best thing to do was hold it against my heart. My burn would instantly stop throbbing and relief would come. Wounds and burns are healed only when we press them against the heart of the Father, as His pure love draws tenderly against us and redeeming blood flows in.

Last night, I had a close call again when starting the evening fire. The wood had been sparking when new flames ignited; however, I kept blowing and wanting the fire to grow. As soon as I stood up and started walking away, a flame shot out of the fireplace and bursted like fireworks on the 4th of July. My housemate was with me and saw what happened. We both froze, and as he let out a laugh of unbelief that I didn’t get burned, I sat on the couch and teared up with gratitude that I didn’t get burned. It was as if Holy Spirit drew me away from the flames and the love of God protected me from getting burned again.

And I think that’s what God does. He doesn’t put us in situations that will force us to get hurt; we do it to ourselves and to each other. When we listen to His voice and leading, His Spirit guides us, causing us to flee from sin and danger, death and destruction. But if we’re not careful and attentive, we will get burned. Thankfully, God’s love for us never ends, never runs out, always wants to permeate our dreams, our lives, our hearts. It’s when His love invades that our wounds are healed and the fullness of our hearts’ desires are fulfilled.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angles, nor principalities, not things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8:37-39

Work It Out.

Here in Spain, I live in the basement of a church. It’s underground and doesn’t get the most sunlight, but overlooks the most beautiful scenery of the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. We have an amazing balcony that can fit plenty of people during the warm months, as well as a fireplace in the living room that makes the house toasty and inviting during chilly months.

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Between the houses of interns, mine is the larger of the two, which means most social events are hosted here. We typically have people over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, which also means we spend a lot of time cleaning the house. We long to maintain a standard of excellence, so when people come over, we like to present a house that reflects that standard.

I feel like some days I spend so much time cleaning, that when I pause for a second, the dirt is back where I just cleaned. It seems like a never ending cycle.

Clean, dirty. Clean, dirty. Clean, dirty.

We hosted tapas last night, which in Spanish culture is where family and friends from the community come and enjoy good food and good people as a fun way to unwind from the week. Unlike other nights, we cut the evening early to make a trek to the mall and see the new Hobbit movie. Of course, we didn’t bother to clean before we left, so when we sheepishly crawled into bed at 2 am, cleaning the house was not priority. However, when I woke up this morning, I knew it would take some effort to clean based on the smell of old food and dirty plates and leftover ashes in the fireplace.

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After making my grandma’s homemade coffee cake and brewing fresh coffee for the house, I changed, rolled up my sleeves, and got to work. One of my housemates was sitting on the couch and, as I started sweeping the living room, he said, “I don’t think it gets too dirty in here. I never see the dirt and don’t see the need to clean so much. I actually think it’s pretty clean most of the time.” I chuckled as I saw the dirt and crumbs pile up with every brush of the broom.

As I swept the dirt into the dustpan, I noticed our balcony could use a good sweep. When glancing around, I assumed that the wind would probably take most of the leaves and branches away and that there was no need for me to sweep. Then, as a gust of wind came, God whispered a dear truth into my soul.

My Spirit can blow the dirt and junk off the balcony, but you have to do some work, also. This is a two way relationship, and if you don’t clean your balcony, your house will get dirty too.

I looked and realized the reason our house gets dirty so quickly is because we have piles of leaves in the corners by our door that we don’t bother to clean. The mat in front of our door looked clean, but once I picked it up, what appeared like harmless dirt was actually dead bugs and broken twigs. Tiny pieces of glass and torn pieces of paper went flying in the wind. Glass that cuts deep and words on paper that cut deeper were gone with the fierce gust of the Spirit.

I have been reminded a lot lately about how continual sanctification and growth in God does not happen just when I sit at the table and wait for someone to feed me. I have to pick up my fork, scoop the food onto my plate, and feed myself. All I have in Christ is provided at His table of feast and abundance; it is my responsibility to sit down and eat.

So then, my beloved…work out your salvation with fear and trembling… -Philippians 2:12

To work out salvation translates from the original Greek of “to fashion or render one fit for a thing.” As a daughter of the King, He has made it my responsibility to work out my salvation, to cultivate sanctification. The King does not have children who are lazy and talk without acting, but He has children who work hard and act without needing to talk.

If I am faithful to work out my salvation, continually cultivating sanctification and walking by the Spirit, then I will not carry out the desire for what is forbidden in my flesh (Galatians 5:16). My balcony will stay clean, and my home won’t be full of dirt and mire, constantly needing to be swept.

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I’d love to hear from you. What do you think it looks like to work out your salvation? How are you doing in regards to that? Are you being consistent to keep your house clean so that your balcony reflects that which is within?

Children and World Changers

If somebody were to ask me if I could change the world when I was younger, I would have said, without hesitation and with complete confidence, “Absolutely! Why not?” Of course, my dreams were to be a police woman so I could drive fast or a professional soccer player like Mia Hamm, but I still believed that, somehow, I could change the world. At some point, unfortunately, the world changed me. I no longer believed that I had anything to offer, anything worth saying, anything of talent or significance. I think we all hit this point in life. However, I think only a few ever fight against these lies, crawl out of selfish thinking and poverty mindsets, and actually believe that they can change the world, like when they were young.

But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” -Mark 10:14-15

If we can define the kingdom of God as reversing oppression on earth, then Jesus is implying that it is up to children to change the world. I don’t think Jesus meant those ages two to ten years old are the only ones who will manifest the kingdom, even though they surely can. I think Jesus meant something more.

A child is tiny and fragile, but resilient to bumps and bruises. He is ready to jump and run and fly and fall. He laughs from his belly at things that are funny, and he cries from his heart at things that touch him deeply. He is completely dependent upon his parents to provide everything he doesn’t even recognize he needs. A child trusts until he finds a reason not to trust. He sees a world full of rainbows and flowers and grass and dirt, and will do whatever it takes to live life fully.

That’s who Jesus says the kingdom of God belongs to.

In class, names are used as examples who have impacted cities, nations, and the world for something greater than themselves, Martin Luther and Mother Theresa as our primary go to people. Martin Luther. Mother Theresa. Martin Luther. Mother Theresa. Martin Luther. Mother Theresa. Not to disregard any work or impact they made on the lives of countless people, but a somewhat scandalous thought ran through my mind the last time these names were referred to. What about me? Will people, decades and centuries later, grandchildren and generations from now, speak my name as part of that list? Will I be remembered for the impact made, for the imprint left on this earth?

The world is waiting for God’s sons and daughters to come forth, manifest His truth and love, freedom and redemption, healing and restoration. To live with a faith that runs and laughs and falls and cries and believes and pursues the reality that we have the power of Christ in us to change the world. I’m ready to be a child of His and change the world. Are you?

Hope of Glory

This morning, I went on a run. Crazy, I know. It must be something in this Spanish water because I was really wanting to run. So, I woke up early, tightened my Nike’s, and hit the road. The sun had already risen and the air was a beautiful mix of cool and warm. I had a destination in mind, with pit stops on the way to walk for a little to catch my ever shortening breath. After turning corners, rounding curves, and slugging up and down hills, I finally arrived to my goal: the foot of the cross.

There’s this little church my friends showed me the other night that is not too far from my house, but far enough that I can escape and be still. Maybe it was the idea of being alone for a little time or the inner whisper to sit at Jesus’ feet early in the day, but I was desperate to make it to that cross. So much that I sprinted the last straight away to get there faster.

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Once I arrived, I couldn’t help but sit on the rock the cross was built into and rest my hands on my knees in order to slow down my breathing. I kept looking at the weeds and cacti around me without realizing my breath was quickening. I tried to make a conscious effort to slow down, but I couldn’t gain control, I couldn’t breathe deeply, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the weeds. It was as if a force was keeping me from looking anywhere else but down.

When suddenly, I heard God ask me to say His name. “Are you crazy? I can’t even breathe!” He asked me again. So I whispered it just faint enough to hear. Do you believe in My name? Say it louder. So I said it loud enough to hear over my exhausted lungs. As soon as the name Jesus was released from my body, breath entered and I was able to look up and see that which I had been sitting in front of. There I sat on the edge of a hill, overlooking the coast of Spain, the Mediterranean Sea, and Morocco in the distance. And without realizing it, my arms were no longer resting on my knees, but wrapped around this metal cross as if it were my lifeline. Because it is my lifeline.

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I tried to let go of the cross and look back down at the weeds, but something inside me wouldn’t allow that to happen. Even though the view is undeniably awe-inspiring, I wanted to continue to inspect the details of the weeds right in front of me, threatening to creep up onto my legs. It’s not like they were beautiful; thorns and dirt crawled all over each plant. But it was as if the Spirit inside of me kept His hand under my chin, looking out over the land and wonder of this place.

With my arms wrapped around the cross, I was reminded of one of the key verses that has been taught here at G42 thus far:

…to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. -Colossians 1:27

Since Christ, the God of the universe and the Savior of the world, lives in me, why would I even want to try to breathe air into my own lungs and keep looking at the weeds around my feet? I have the King of kings living inside me. I have the power and authority of God Almighty to kick the weeds and breathe out His Spirit into the world, pushing back evil with every swing and reversing oppression with each breath. Oh, how often I forget this truth!

And you know what? If you are adopted into the Royal family, you have Christ living in you as well. You have the authority to erase the lies that say you’re unworthy, not significant, a waste of space on this earth. Surely God does not believe those lies about you, so why would you let them creep into your soul like weeds and cacti stripping you from your lifeline?

After clinging to the cross and looking out upon the land, God finally asked me to stand up. Don’t look back down. Keep your eyes on Me and go forth and walk with the confidence that comes from My authority. I give it to you so that the hope of glory may be manifested through you.

I wish I could say my run was easier after this, but it wasn’t. There’s something significant about training your lungs to carry bigger and bigger capacities of breath. Just the same, it takes training to continually walk and live with the authority and power of Christ in me. But I can tell you that it is in recognizing this reality that things start to change, with my head up and lungs filled and Jesus coming from my lips.

Will you live with the truth that Christ lives in you?

Breath and Peace.

I knew from the moment I walked through security in Dallas that this season in Spain would be full of constant sweetness. Gratitude filled my soul and joy encompassed my heartbeat as I sat, waiting for my plane to leave. Overwhelmed with the goodness of God, I listened to one last song prior to leaving American soil. And as the words sung over my soul like sweet, pure nectar to the tongue, I released the weight of the enemy’s schemes formed against me upon saying Yes to this calling on my life.

Come and rest here
Come and lay your burdens down
Come and rest here
There is refuge for you now

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The beauty of Mijas is beyond describable. The mountains overlook the earth as the sea crashes wave after wave, condensing the clear blue waters into rolling spasms of white foam before sifting through thinly broken shells of age. The depths of the sea resonates of the peace that runs deep through my veins, my life. It is here that I can breathe. Here that I can rest. It’s in the rest, the depth, the breathing and releasing that I can recognize the One who spoke life into these dry bones.

With this peace came a number of others, carrying the same desire to make Christ known throughout the nations. A number of others who wake up in the morning for the same reasons and the same pursuit of Him who speaks breath into each inhalation so that we can exhale His life to the world. These people I get to live and eat with, challenge and encourage, love and adore- these are the ones whom God has placed in my life to believe in me, to bring growth and life to my soul, to remind me that I’m not alone in this big dream.

You’ll find His peace and know You’re not alone anymore
He is near
You’ll find His healing, your heart isn’t shattered anymore
He is here

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God is so good to send me here for these months. To learn and grow, walking under leadership and walking with others. We finished our first week of class with teachings on servanthood and character, and it feels like I need to pause and process for a month before moving forward. Nevertheless, it is in this place that I can finally breathe and rest, preparing for what is to come and to taste and see that the Lord is good.

Breathe in
Breathe out
You will, you will find Him here
I will rest in You

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I strongly believe that environments dictate atmospheres. As the sea and sky collide, so does the earth and heaven. I’m constantly reminded of the faithfulness of God when I look into the mountains or gaze into the ocean. And oh, that we may know more of heaven on earth as we walk into His peace and rest within His arms, fulfilling that which He has for our lives.

Music and Podcasts and Believing in Others

I think part of what made me fall in love with music was the way it would lull me to sleep when I was little. Every night, my parents would sing “I love you, Lord” as I lay on my Beauty and the Beast sheets and drifted into dreamland. The simplicity of one song before bed transitioned into classical music on the radio, then Christian music, and then pop music well into my rebellious high school days.

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Once in college, I had become used to falling asleep to various kinds of music, so I did what any good Christian would do and started listening to church sermons on podcasts in order to fall asleep. That seemed to work well for a while until I actually started listening to the sermons. Even if I fell asleep in the beginning, sometimes I would wake up in the middle and hear lines about God being our Father or the definition of sanctification or what really happens when we pray.

My dear friend of almost nine years now used to teach at a women’s Bible study, where they would record their lessons and convert them into podcasts. She has such a sweet voice, and since I knew her personally, I loved listening to her teaching at night. I would play her episodes so much that I nearly had them memorized.

There was one episode, one line in fact, that she said that has forever stuck with me, eternally changing my life and direction. I couldn’t tell you what she was teaching on. I couldn’t tell you the context of the line. Not because I don’t want to, of course, but because everything else from this episode fades in contrast to the importance of this statement:

I am for you, and I believe in you.

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Wait, what? You mean to say that you are for me and you believe in me? No matter what junk I have in my life or what kind of a mess I am? You’re saying that I am worth more than I or the world thinks? That there is something in me that gives me purpose and significance and you believe in that?

Since hearing that line and allowing it to resonate in my soul, I truly have come to believe that God is for me, believes in me, and chooses to work through me to bring light to His people. Not only that (which is already awesome enough), but He has brought multiple people into my life who do the same. This month of being home has been overwhelming in the best possible way. Numerous people have expressed to me that they too are for me and believe in me. They see the direction God is leading me and want to get on board because they trust in His work through me. And isn’t it amazing what actually happens when people believe in what God is doing here on earth?

I know I’ve already said this in a post from March, but in case you’ve forgotten or don’t believe this today, I want to tell you that I am for you and I believe in you. Whatever it is you feel stirring in your heart, go after it. Whatever you think is true about yourself, it’s only true if that is how God sees you. Not only do I believe in you, but God does also. And that makes two of us cheering you on in the stands.

Jesus taught us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. So let us start believing in the way God has created us and cry out for His kingdom to come, living and breathing for His name to be known among the earth.

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Thank you to all who have joined me on this journey! I truly would not be where I am today without each of you saying that you are for me and believe in me. I carry the weight of your hearts with me when I live and love among the unreached. You are vital to God’s kingdom coming and His will being done on earth as it is in heaven, and for that I am grateful. 

Changing Direction and Following Him.

I will never forget getting in the over-stuffed jeep, holding back tears in my eyes as we pulled away from Asha Mission Children’s Home in Kolkata last year. I had just spent four amazing, hot, life-giving months with an incredible ministry that God is using to change the next generation for His glory. Yet, I wasn’t sad because I knew God would have me come back to see His children. Sure enough, after spending six weeks in Nepal, He gave me the opportunity to visit Asha again in August! I still can’t believe it happened as I sit in Texas writing this.

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Children of Asha in 2012

The children had grown taller and their hair had grown longer. English flowed regularly out of the boys’ mouths. The girls actually go to school now. There’s more staff, more love, more hope for this ministry than ever before. It was incredible to go back to a ministry, to see firsthand how God has moved and worked and stirred hearts in the past year. This place will always have a special niche in the depths of my heart and I am forever thankful for the gift to visit a second time.

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Children of Asha in 2013

However, in the midst of all this gratefulness to visit Nepal and India, God stirred something anew within me. As you may recall, my main purpose in visiting Nepal and India was to connect with the people and with God in seeing if and how He would have me serve there long term, specifically in regards to human trafficking. In true God-fashion, He changed things. As I like to say, I’ve turned left down a new road. I should have known!

Pause.

Over three years ago, I was first exposed to human trafficking and the realities of abuses towards women throughout the world. The images and stories of women and children being forced to do acts against their will while under intense abuse and ill-treatment were forever burned into my memory. Since then, the same conviction to restore dignity to women and children who have been abused, neglected, and stripped of self-worth still remains as the underlying desire of my heart.

Play.

Earlier this year, I volunteered with an organization that serves the people in the Middle East. While helping in the office, I was still convinced I was supposed to be in South Asia, with no true burden for the women and people of the Middle East. However, once I landed in Nepal, I could not stop thinking about the Middle East. Dreams and visions flooded my mind day and night of the places and the peoples. Faces of women I’ve never met have been imprinted on my eyes. Voices crying out in desperation for help have been echoing in my ears. This happened for a solid three weeks. And as we all know, when something like this happens, God is usually up to something!

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The more I prayed and listened and read, the more I felt at peace about releasing South Asia and the issue of trafficking to pursue these visions and dreams in the Middle East. The abuses towards women and children in this area are overwhelming, and I can’t stop seeing the child bride marrying a man she’s never met, the women in hospitals who tried to kill themselves because life seemed so hopeless, the wives in prison because their families believed they dishonored their name.

In less than a month, I will be flying to Mijas, Spain to attend G42 Leadership Academy, where I will spend six months living and learning what it looks like to work internationally through community, classes, and discipleship. These six months are vital to my future, where God will mold me into a more confident voice of His gospel and hope, as well as confirm the gifts and talents He has given me to serve and love on these women who are crying out for help.

Two months ago, I would have never thought these words would have been written on the page for my life. I’ve learned that God is the one who will direct our paths; we simply have to be open. And sometimes, being open looks like nothing we could ever imagine. But when it comes down to it, whom else would I choose to lead me in the path of abundant life? Surely, not I.

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How has God been directing your life lately? What, if anything, is in your life keeping you from pursuing His calling for you? Are you willing and open to the shifts and changes He might have for you?

If you’d like to learn more about how you can join me in this journey, click here!

On Spades and Release

The pace of life in Nepal is significantly slower than in the States. Before the first ray of morning sun reaches its way into our windows, we are upstairs making breakfast and coffee, soaking in the stillness of the clouds as they hover over the mountains near and far. By mid-morning, the house is full with the ladies doing chores as the children have already rushed off to school for the day. This leaves the four of us with plenty of time to do as we please until the afternoon, whether reading, replying to emails, or playing Spades.

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For some reason, it took my brain a little longer than others to grasp the logic and strategy necessary to win a game of Spades. At some point between high school and now, I’ve lost my competitive edge and would rather eat chocolate and sing songs during Spades than focus and win. Early on, however, I started to notice that whoever was partnered with me was sure to lose because only half the team was in it to win it…and I was not that half.

The desire to play perfectly and not disappoint my partner started to greatly influence me. No more chocolate. No more singing. Bid right. Count cards. Focus face. Don’t fail. We will win. We will win. We will win! And we actually did start to win. And I actually liked it! It was a rush to feel my heart beat faster as the games got closer, as my bids got tighter, as I won more and more games.

Unfortunately, my newfound longing to be perfect in Spades weighed heavily on me when we lost. My partner could see it all over my face, like the disappointment that comes when the cookies come out burnt or the State Championship is lost or the girl is rejected by the boy. I’d silently linger to lunch or dinner, telling the others my knees hurt or I was sleepy, when really I was mentally beating myself up and saying there’s no way I could be good at the game, no way I will ever be good enough for my partner, no way I can be perfect.

Finally, after one game, I had enough of it. I had lost and instead of going to dinner, I kept climbing the stairs and went to the roof of our house. I tried to hide and cry under an awning, absolutely convinced not being perfect was life’s biggest failure. After God decided I had wallowed in my self-pity long enough, He sent my sister to the roof to find me. The conversation that followed will forever be imprinted on my heart and soul as divinely spoken.

Release, my sister said. Release this weight of trying to be perfect. I love you for who you are and all the imperfections that come with you. Nothing can or will ever change that.

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I wasn’t upset because I couldn’t be perfect at Spades; I was upset because I expected myself to be perfect in friendships, in appearances, in life. I was trying to wear a jacket that didn’t fit simply because it wasn’t made for me to wear. I was trying to be somebody I’m not because I saw how others were acting and responding and wanted to be accepted for those same reasons.

Freedom comes when you choose to release. For me, this week, it was the expectation of perfection. For you, it might be something different. I ask you to be vulnerable with someone, whether it’s somebody else, yourself, or Jesus, and expose and release that which is hindering you from abundant life. Breath will flow. Strength will be restored. And the God who loves you unconditionally will gently whisper His enduring truth into your fragile soul.

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On Darkness and Light, and Why It Matters to You.

I can’t exactly pinpoint where I was, what I was doing, or who I was with when the truth hit me, but at some point in college, the concept of light struck me in such a way that has forever changed me and the way I think, act, and believe.

What I do remember is learning the eternal certainty that no matter how dark darkness is, light can and will always overcome. With light, there is always victory. With light, there is always grace. With light, there is always life.

It makes sense, then, that when God was creating, the first thing He spoke into existence was light:

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. -Genesis 1:2-4

Pre-creation, everything was in darkness and empty. In this context, the original Hebrew translates “darkness” as disorder, confusion, uncertainty, death. Yet, as soon as the Spirit of God began to hover, things began to happen. God called light into being and saw that it was good. This “light” in Hebrew translates to victory, guidance, bearer of deliverance. Then, God separated the light from the darkness, distinguishing it as different, not the same, contradicting.

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The church I attend gave away study guides during the season of Lent. As I scanned through it, one line caught my attention. Apart from light informing the eyes, there is no ability to behold beauty. No ability to behold beauty? If light didn’t exist, if my eyes aren’t open to see, I am unable to behold beauty. From the annual Texas bluebonnets every spring and my dog attempting to catch a lizard, to the kids playing cricket in the streets of India and the hot steam of fresh Colombian coffee. None of those glimpses of beauty can be seen without light informing the eyes. Even at night, there is still some light flickering in the stars and the bugs and the cars that pass by.

This implies that since darkness is the absence of light, that beauty is the presence of light and that which God has created. Therefore, all things in and of the light are God’s divine, beautifully crafted handiwork.

Oh, just breathe and let that rest in your soul for a moment.

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As an English major post-graduation, I was desperate to be with people who read books, analyzed books, and talked about books. So, naturally, I joined a book group. It is filled with ladies from my parents’ church, ranging in ages, ethnicities, and life-stories, all unified by the blood of Christ. The book for June was called Goodbye is Not Forever, and we were blessed to have the author, Amy George, come and share her story with us. Growing up in the Ukraine pre-World War II, Amy’s life was one full of hardship and troubles. She shared how her father was forcefully arrested by the Soviet secret police and sent to Siberia. Without her father to provide, life proved difficult. Before Amy and the rest of her family was taken by the Third Reich and sent to a slave labor camp, she relayed to the group of a time when she went outside after a long, hard winter and soaked up the heat of the day, bringing life to her cold bones and joy to her tiny heart.

From the sunshine I knew there was love out there.”

When Amy said that, I felt like I had walked into a familiar, yet unchartered revelation from God Himself. From the sunshine, she knew love. From a fire-burning, light-emitting ball, she knew of love’s existence. The being of light proved that love is. In the midst of poverty, hardship, near-starvation, and soon-to-be slavery, Amy knew that, because of the light, darkness could not win.

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In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He says to His followers:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. -Matthew 5:14-16

He’s talking to us! He’s telling us, you and me and all other believers, that we are the light of the world. We are the grace-filled. We are the life-givers. We are the love-spreaders. We are the victors. We are the light! In comparison to Hebrew “light” (victory, guidance, bearer of deliverance), the Greek translation of “light” in this context means to shine, make manifest, make known, and the splendor and glory of God. It’s a dual action word. It is something that we do, as well as something we emit. The Spirit has hovered over our lives and granted us the opportunity to carry the light of the world to all who see us. Since we are the light, others will see us. (Remember…light always overcomes darkness.) They will see beauty and God’s craftsmanship, His splendor and glory. And they will want more.

Where is your light? Are you hiding it under a basket? Are you dulling your light to near darkness? Or are you shining forth and breathing life into cold bones, like the sunshine did into Amy? Are you radiating to others the light that speaks of the victory we have in Christ?

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And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. –Revelation 21:23-25