N Stands for Need
This morning was hard.
I was quiet as I walked back to the van from dropping the kids off at school, my heart heavy. No Psalm was hovering over the abyss of my heart today- just a big, gray cloud. It was one of those mornings where the kids missed their mom, they totally did not feel like listening to me, they really preferred to stay in and play, and every hug I offered was....what adjective should I use here?..... firmly rejected.
I felt defeated. I couldn't decide if I was offering the hugs for them or because I really needed one myself. TBD. But instead of expressing a need, I came up with plan B: denial. That's right. Just get the kids to school. When I get home, I'll make tea and sit and read my Bible. It will be a marvelous thing. Just hold on Jesus, when I get back, I'll be bold and brave and you'll love me for it.
When I climbed back in the van and saw a text message telling me that my Twitter account was compromised, it was as if the notification sprouted wings and flew like an arrow right into that big, gray cloud hovering over my heart and it began to rain.
By the time I got home, I had received a few more notifications- arrows- and I grabbed my computer heated. This is not what I needed today, Lord! (I wasn't able to admit what I needed, but I was able to tell Him what I didn't need. Interesting.) I was drenched from this metaphorical rain, my spirit now exposed with no umbrella, no defense, no good behavior. Just hold on Jesus, when I get back, I'll be bold and brave and you'll love me for it.
I grabbed the leash and told the dog it was time for a walk. I'll get some fresh air. That'll help. Except it was cold. UGH. My brain turned into one of those tickers from Wall Street and all that kept scrolling through was This wasn't how my morning was supposed to go! This wasn't how my morning was supposed to go! This wasn't how my morning was supposed to go!
I cut the walk short and headed back in to fix this annoyance. When I closed my computer, I remembered my plan to spend some quality time with Jesus.Time with Jesus? Puh-lease. I'll take a shot of whiskey and some chocolate instead.
Busted. There I was, finally. The real me. Oozing out onto the table. Irritated, raw, emotional, needy.
I can't do this, Jesus. I'm not bold and brave. Will you still love me?
I drug myself into the kitchen, poured a cup of hot tea, made toast, and sat in the chair with my Bible and Lenten devotional.Well, I'd just like to tell you in addition to hating all things Twitter and technology at the moment, I'm also over this Lent thing
Sigh. I sat there for a moment in silence.Oh, and loving kids is hard. I'm kinda over serving people.
My heart was oozing everywhere and I couldn't seem to stop it.Oh, and what does The Last Supper have to do with my crappy morning- while I'm at it?
this time I spewed out loud.
The words felt even uglier now, hanging in the air like dirty laundry on the line.
Tears began to form and fall and there I was, staring at my toast in silence. I might as well have spread my heart like strawberry jelly on the toast, it felt that messy. And sticky. Broken hearts are sticky.
I took a bite of toast. I thought of the passage I had just read, about Jesus sharing His last meal with His disciples, asking them to remember Him.
Jesus knew, even then, we'd forget the depth of our need for Him and trick ourselves into believing our faulty hands are clean. (#shereadstruth)
The word punched me in the spirit.
What do I need today? I thought.
I took another bite of toast and thought about the disciples. They needed Jesus in a way they didn't even know about yet. I think of Peter, who at that meal, told Jesus He was ready to go with Him to prison or even death. Just hold on Jesus, I'll be bold and brave, and you'll love me for it.
When I see it in Peter, I see it in myself. Why are we doing this, man? Thinking our actions are what Jesus is impressed with? Acting like kids, trying to prove to our Dad that we don't need Him, that we can ride our bikes without hands, without help?
I look at my hands, sticky with strawberry jelly, and realize that I tricked myself this morning.
I hear Him tell me to remember His life given so that I may live, that His life has every thing to do with my crappy morning. That just like Peter, thinking He's bold and brave, Jesus knew Him, and loved him so much.
I take a bite of my toast and think of His body, given for me. I drink my tea, remembering His life poured out. And I start telling Him all the things I need today, starting with Him.
I need him so much.
R stands for Restore
We had just finished reciting Psalm 23, kids strapped into the car seats and my hot coffee in my right hand while the left hand kept the mini-van steering straight. We could see our breath in the car- it was that cold.
Well, and the drive around the corner to school was that short.
"I think my favorite line is the part where it says He restores my soul," I volunteered.
"Shouldn't the whole thing be your favorite part?" the spunky 6 year old retorted.
Good point there, kid.
The kids knew this Psalm from memory, this and a few others. It was a morning routine that their mother started on their brief trek to school each day to say a prayer out loud and then recite a scripture verse together.
I climbed back in the van from walking the children into their classrooms, smiling at teachers and whispering have a good day to these two little tots who were slowly thawing my selfish single heart into a puddle of messy, wild waters.
He restores my soul, I exhaled as I started the engine.
Sometimes it doesn't feel like restoring. Sometimes it feels more like ripping, more like unearthing, more like tearing down than building up.
I pulled back in the driveway and thought about this new season that God led to me to- the Great Shepherd, herding this little wild sheep into a field I would have never seen or picked myself.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
I said "no" to childcare for several years prior. I could have my own by now- you know- I told friends or people who inquired. I was moving onward. That was a thing of college days, caring for other people's children. I know God will bring me my own family. I was ready and waiting.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
I let the dog out and walked back into the kitchen, loading my now cold coffee mug into the dishwasher. I let the Psalm pour over me like the hot water on the mug-
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Those sure are weird ways to comfort, Lord. And then I remembered the past several years of my wandering, my searching, my waiting- on things I felt I deserved. After all, I wasn't a black sheep for heavens sake.
But his rod, his staff- they comforted me. His discipline, his knowing what was best brought comfort.
As I let the dog back in and heated up my oatmeal, I could feel the tears begin to form and fall. I would have never walked this way, Lord. I would have never entered into these green pastures had you not made me lie in them.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I was thinking about this for a moment, oatmeal in hand, when a strange thought occurred.
"Does a shepherd lead or follow" I typed into the google search.
The short answer is both, sometimes.
I started whispering the Psalm over from the beginning.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters...
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
And he follows.
"Shouldn't the whole thing be my favorite part?" I could hear her voice ask again.
Yes. Every valley of the shadow of death I've traversed, every still water I've camped beside, every green pasture he's led me to, every table he's prepared and every anointing I've received-
surely, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
L Stands for Lent
I wasn't really looking for anything specific.
I was being nosey as I perused the bookshelf one night after the kids had gone to bed. It's a beautiful piece of architecture, the whole unit. It goes from floor to ceiling and two ladders are nestled perfectly inside to bookend the movies, games and books that rest there.
The title grabbed my attention: Found.
Do you do that? Reach for a book because a little fairy sprinkled dust over your heart and it twitter pated and you knew- just maybe-that something was already speaking to you from inside those pages?
Well in my case, the little fairy was the Holy Spirit, speaking to me.
(I just watched Hook-I love imagining the Holy Spirit as a mini Julia Roberts with elf ears. Is that weird? Don't tell me if it is.)
I pulled the book out and read the full title Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett.
Hmmm, I half-grunted aloud.
I was still less than 2 weeks into my new life. My new life as a nanny in the neighborhood of East Nashville, where people are hipster and the coffee shops are even more hipster-y. (Yes, I did just make a large generalization.) It was a weird paradox, this new life. Part new adventurer, part new InstaMom! Some days I had time to explore and venture into said hipster-y coffee shops and others I was fixing lunches, building forts and reading bedtime stories.
I plopped down on the sofa and flipped the book over to find out who Micha Boyett was and why she had apparently been found. I was a little jealous, assuming her story of questions, grace and everyday prayer ended well. I still felt lost.
Over the next few days, as time allowed, I was drawn to her writing. She was a Southern girl, raised in the Baptist tradition and had recently relocated to San Francisco. While there were obvious differences in our stories, the similarities were strong enough to feel a weird bond. I trusted God to bring new friends into my life; I just never anticipated one would come through a book.
At the top of each chapter, Micha documents her season through the liturgical calendar. Mid- February, Lent and so on. I had noticed this and found it unique, but one day as I opened the book, it occurred to me that I was smack dab in present day of her liturgical calendar. It was Mid-February, Lent.
Being raised in the Baptist tradition myself, I had never formally celebrated Lent. The first Ash Wednesday service I ever attended was in 2012 while I was living in Houston. The church I was attending celebrated it and I went with my small group. It was just all of a sudden a part of my life, a part of my calendar. However, it was like a distant cousin- we shared small talk, sang a few songs together and then hugged it out as I whispered "See you next year."
Maybe it is something about uprooting your life that pushes you to take every habit, every familiar routine or custom and put it under an investigation- but that's what I felt was necessary with my spiritual journey. Why was I here? What did I believe about Jesus, about church? What kind of church would I be looking for? How was my story with Jesus? Did I become the main character again or was He it?
So as I sat there and realized that I was journeying along with my new friend, Micha, I began to ask the Holy Spirit- should I observe Lent with her? Why did you lead me to this book in this new life?
It is safe to say that my recent move to Nashville has propelled me into a meadow of questions. It is terrifying and alluring all at once and I love waking up knowing each day is different. What better time to set aside 40 days and intentionally ask my Father what it is that He wants of me? I know Him well enough to know that no moment or season is by accident.
Spoiler alert: rituals can never save or change my heart, that is for sure. My desire to observe Lent is not about religious duty (have mercy, Lord), but intentionally opening up room and space in my heart for God to speak. My prayer is that it will be a helpful reminder in this wilderness season to set my eyes upon Jesus.
I know He will speak, because my Father loves an invitation. I know that my story of questions, grace, and everyday prayer that feel lost will be found by Him. May I kindly suggest to you, dear reader, to invite God to speak to you? Whether you observe Lent or not, consider asking the Lord to speak. I confess that it has been a while since I have done that. No heroes here.
Blessings to you, fellow sojourner.
PS. One incredible Lent resource for me is She Reads Truth. shereadstruth.com & available as an app too if that's your jam.
Waiting on Tuesday's
in the space between
you thought you were
and thought you needed
the place inside
that you can't hide
land of desire
where you're free to roam
your gypsy heart is come alive
the weather's fair
but changes there
from time to time
it's not raining yet but the clouds are black and heavy or'e your head
there's no turning back but you can't see the road ahead
there you are
there you are
there you are
you don't know which way to go
It's been a while, hasn't it?
I've been reading a book lately called "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" by Eugene Peterson. So good.
I highly recommend it. Whatever life stage you find yourself smack dab in, I guarantee you'll find it helpful and hopeful. Peterson essentially takes fifteen Songs of Ascents (Psalm 120-134) and teaches on them. A friend recently asked if there were cliff notes for this book. (hardy har har!)
No but really.
I'm a sucker for some good cliff notes. Nothing like a good summary to get the drift before I'm moving on...next!
[Note: My inability to read a good novel in high school should have been some major foreshadowing on the next decade of my life and my proclivity to skip ahead to the good parts.
I have a friend who actually delights in finding out the endings of movies before
she sees them. And when I say "delights"... I mean....she has
to know the ending. It's just her thing.
(I can't hate. I read cliff notes. C'mon.)
BUT, this book has no cliff notes. Neither does life. (Someone finally
clued me in, thanks you guys.)
it's scary here
the dreams, the fears
they come alive
you wanna stay
you try to run
you can't make up your mind
you know where to go
you don't know the way
it's not raining yet but the clouds are black and heavy or'e your head
there's no turning back but you can't see the road ahead
there you are
there you are
there you are
you don't know which way to go
Social media and my peers and life, well, they stress me out sometimes. Every day it's like I have to say something.
Or do something.
I can't just say "hey it's Tuesday and I'm learning to wait."
No one is like, "Oh, you're waiting? OH MY GOSH I'M SO JEALOUS."
No one responds, "ME TOO!Waiting is my favorite pastime!!!"
Or... "Waiting is one of my greatest strengths. In fact, I listed it on my resume and it got me this job."
What if I made a t-shirt that said: I HEART WAITING.
I could make some bumper stickers. Or probably start a T.V. show or something? Ya'll would watch it right? Tonight I made up a song whilst making pancakes. It would be things like that.
Well anyway. No grandiose news here. I'm happy to alive, I'm thankful for SO MANY THINGS. And, with about 95% honesty and 5% sarcasm, I can say I'm happy to be waiting.
So me, on this Tuesday? I'm learning to be.
And to be obedient in the long haul. That's not much of a headline, is it?
But ok. ENOUGH ALREADY. You guys are SO NOSEY. What exactly am I waiting for??
Jesus. I get to wait on Him everyday. Now go thank Him for another day to serve Him at the table, and join me in waiting, will ya?
In the midst of a healing heart...
Today I celebrate 26 years of living life on this side of eternity, with this petite white (I prefer 'porcelain') frame. I look at children and feel so old, then serve the elderly and feel so... young. Funny. Age. Numbers. Life.
How are you? I asked a patient today and she responded, "Blessed and joyful. I know who's in control, and it's not me or you." We proceeded to share our faith in the one true God and rejoice at Truth. I sighed, praying inwardly that God would make me more and more beautiful like the near 90 year old woman who just reminded me why I am too blessed and joyful.
My desk was covered in cards, cupcakes and roses and I felt so loved. I felt loved with phone calls, texts, and breakfast pancakes and lunch in the park....hugs and "Haaaaappy Birrrrrrthday" wishes.
I looked up, surrounded by simple reminders of love and affection, and watched as the news of the Boston marathon bombs exploded into reality, into lives.
Come quickly, Lord. What prayer do I utter? How could you? Why? Where are you? Who would think...? Why would they...? These prayers all seem to crumble.
My heart aches for those that lost loved ones, for those hurt and traumatized by the horror. I think of mothers in hospital beds today, giving birth to babies and celebrating. I think of family members laying in hospital beds, losing loved ones. How do we walk through life with such paradox?
Each day is a gift. I used to say this so carelessly, and maybe I can only utter it with wisdom as I age...but I find great hope in the truth that "Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day." 2 Corin. 4:16
It's why Paul begins that verse with "So we do not lose heart."
Why not? Why don't we lose heart? Didn't you just hear the news?
"...as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corin 4:18
Don't get offended. Don't miss the aches and pains. We will be afflicted in every way, but not crushed. We will be perplexed, but not driven to despair. We will be persecuted, but not forsaken.
I have not experienced such a tragedy as the one today in Boston. I do not claim to compare. But each one of us have encountered tragedies and trials that permeate and afflict, perplex us and even persecute us. Pain changes us.
I got a birthday card in the mail today from a friend. She ended it with "In the midst of a healing heart..." and I cry, because I feel the healing. I feel the wounds, tender and sore. But a miracle is happening. Life is pushing through.Life is beating death. I am afflicted, but not crushed. I am perplexed, but not driven to despair. I feel persecuted, but not forsaken.
Today. In the midst of a healing heart, for all of us.... I pray this prayer:
gentle and patient.
Faithful and present.
There when I call out, heal me. Don't stop, even when I stop asking. Heal the wounds I didn't even know were there...heal the wounds that seem to reappear. Don't just fix my problems. Thank you, for not fixing me but really, really healing. For helping. For being there. For knowing.
Where would I turn?
Where would I flee?
I don't know a greater healer, helper, or Merciful High Priest.
Even when it feels like salt upon the wound, even when it feels that I am always left with room...with space...with wanting, hoping...groping...
Fill me up.
Fille me up again.
Pour mercy into pores.
Pour love into the sores.
Bind me up until the Kingdom comes.
In the Middle
What would it feel like to be the Son of God, only to have Him turn His back on you? My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
I can feel the weight of His heart, the weight of His trust shaken. Jesus is the Son of God and yet He trusted His father unto death.
I know the end of the story. I read it so much that I forget what it's like to be in the middle. In the anticipation, the yearning, the longing, the waiting. In the middle. Not yet. Not now. When?
I picture Jesus' friends. It must have overwhelmed them, voraciously eating away at their hope. Jesus, gone. They watched Him die with their very own eyes. Where is our Kingdom? Where is the victory?
Silence. "But He promised us..." I can hear some say, trailing off in tears, perhaps even anger.
I'm the in middle. Not yet. Not now. When? My soul longs for answers, longs for the end of the story, for hope, for new life...and here I groan, in the middle. Not yet. Not now. When?
I pull out old journals, remembering moments where I seemed to rest, to believe. I find a poem, written almost 6 months ago before I entered the vast wilderness of silence.
Oh Jesus, do I know the comfort of your love?
Do I know the joys of resting in your shadows,
looking only to You above?
Have I experienced a peace that can't be explained?
Have I gazed into your face?
My life altered, changed in any way?
May it be so
Let me know
Let me grow
Make my life a pile of ashes,
Where your love can burn aglow.
Come in, come out
My heart is yours to roam about.
Prepare me, make me fit and ready
To carry your light, slow and steady
More of Jesus, less of me
It's the only way others will see
I am not crazy; I have seen you Lord.
You died and yet still live; you live in me!
Show me You once more,
I was blind
I read this and exhale, whispering Make my life a pile of ashes.... and remember what God has done. But then I read where your love can burn aglow and I remember it's not in vain. The loss. The confusion. The silence. The heartache. I am being changed, somehow invisible to the mortal eye but visible to the King of Kings.
Jesus died for me. In season's past, I might have said it and given a thank you and hearty amen, but this day I sit here and I feel the weight of my sin. I hear Jesus cry out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" and I ache, knowing that He felt the same heartache, pain and betrayal that I encounter in this world.
He willingly entered into death in obedience to His Father.
He willingly entered into death to change the end of the story.
So I wait. I enter silence. I enter solitude. I close my eyes and hear His promises. I walk through the wilderness. I sit in the ashes and weep, waiting for new life. I follow His voice. I follow the One who followed first. I follow the One who has entered death and rose victorious. I grab hold of his Hand, but we don't speak. Not yet. Not now. When?
For now, we wait in the silence. I give thanks just to hold His hand, even in silence. My questions begin to fade. My pain begins to dissolve as I touch the scars on His hands. I begin to weep because I realize that I put them there, so I start to utter my sorrow, my shame, my despair...but the words won't come. He wipes the tears from my face. He is ok with silence. He is ok with grieving, with doubting, with crying...He is acquainted with sorrow.
I wait. In the middle.
But I am not alone.
Wobbling on the Rock
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus name.
This is the only song I have been able to sing for months now.
I sit at my keyboard and wait. I wait for new songs. I wait for hope. I wait for new beginnings. I wait for reconciliation. I wait for faith. I wait for joy. I wait for peace.
And then I sing this song. I try to sing others, and then I trail off...my spirit cannot seem to sing anything else right now but this one refrain:
On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
I sing it with sorrow. I sing it with brokenness. You see, I dared to trust in sweetest frames. One of them was my own, among a parade of people. I might have trusted my frame above others, even. "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away." (Isaiah 64:6) Interesting how what once deceived me as a sweet frame now hangs on me like a polluted garment.
I sing it wondering, doubting, clinging...wondering where my Strength is. I feel the ache and lament of the writer's heart in Lamentations 3: "...He has broken my bones; he has besieged me and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me dwell in darkness like the dead of long ago." Why has He left me? Why the confusion? The sorrow?
When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My feet are tingling and numb. They are asleep because I've been on my knees weeping, grasping for understanding, praying for calmer seas. I read about discipline and love and begin to remember, like in a distant dream, the scriptures of God's unfailing love for me. I hear Sara Groves sing over me on my iPod on my way to work "Oh love wash over a multitude of things...make us whole" and I ache.
I somehow make it to my Bible, feeble and doubting, but turn to read these words: "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood."(Hebrews 12:4) And I remember. One who has shed His blood for me.
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay
I sing the word hope again. It lingers, and I begin to believe it this time. I picture the One who died for me. I wake up with dreams, still fighting a battle against a darkness that rules, if only for a moment. The old and the new, fighting. I pray for victory. I pray for help. I pray for hope. Help is on it's way.
I sing it again with conviction. I laugh and cry at the same time as I read this charge from Hebrews:
"Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed." Christ has come and entered in my mess, and He promises to come again. Not just to put me back together, someway, somehow...but to make me whole.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne
I close my eyes and picture trading in my polluted garments for Christ's righteousness. Faultless? Standing before the throne? Worshipping? I hear a chorus of "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.." off in a distance, like it's in a room next door. I follow the sound, but I haven't made it home yet. It sounds too good to be true, but I wake up another morning, met with new mercies, and I hear it again. I follow.
My knees are shaking. I am standing, but barely. I lift my head and sing:
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Refugee Status and Changing Seasons
My friend came in yesterday from work and said, "I feel like I'm housing a refugee. Some people don't really know that you're back yet, and it's funny to see their faces when they find out. I'm like...ya know, I have a refugee at my house!"
I was laying in bed, sick from a stomach bug. If I could giggle, I would. I need to write a blog about my moving back,
I thought and rolled back over.
Well, friends, family, fellow bloggers, and stalkers... I'm on the mend and here's the news:I moved back to Huntsville, AL from my year and half journey in Houston, TX.
Ta-daaaa! Boom! Shazaam! How bout them apples? (If only the decision came that easy.Please forgive me if you live in Houston and had no idea, and/or you live in Huntsville and had no idea. Surprise?)
You see, if I've learned anything in my 25 years on this side of eternity, it's a couple things:
God is real and eternal.
I am real and immortal.
God's work in my life is not bound to a geographical location.
God's mercies are new everyday.
God is good.
I am young and have a lot to learn.
Actually, I will always have a lot to learn.
I packed my things and moved to Houston in April 2011. To say that the move was a leap of faith is...well...very accurate. I lept. I jumped off the cliff. I moved in with a family, started a job as a temp, and didn't know much else about Texas other than everything is bigger there. (It's true, folks.) It was exciting. Every day was different, fresh with excitement about life, in a city of 4 million people, a car full of things, and little ole' me. The world was my canvas, and I was ready to paint.
God was gracious to me. The 4 week temp job turned into a full time job as an office services coordinator with a building supply company. I was working 8-5, checking mail, ordering supplies, and doing whatever else The Man told me to do. I was still clueless as to why God led me there, but I woke up every day certain that He did and confident that He would not leave my side.
Don't get me wrong, I had my fair share of tears. I remember the day I accepted the full time job, I called my best friend. It was a Friday. She was at dinner with our friends, getting ready to go out, something fun like karaoke, and I could hear the laughter in the background as I told her I accepted the job. We both let the reality sink in that I was not coming back, anytime soon anyway. I could barely get off the phone before I began hysterically crying. I called my Mom and she pleaded that I pulled over and not try and drive home in famously horrific Houston traffic.
I made it through and kept seeking my Faithful Father. The family I moved in with was kind, gracious and fun loving. I had a mentor back in Huntsville, and her sister, Jill, lived in Sugar Land, TX. She kindly extended the invitation for me to live with her, and helped get me the job. Were it not for her and her generosity, my Houstonhood would never be in the books. Nor would my CD.
She knew I loved to sing. The day I moved in, I set up my keyboard and before I unpacked a box, I played her and her family a song. You're so good!
She would brag. Among a few suitcases and a keyboard, an acoustic guitar passed down to me by my little brother made the trek. I began to play it more and more during my Houstonhood. I would sit in my walk-in closet and write. And then I'd play for the family. Jill is brave, kindhearted, and a go-getter. She was good for me. I'm a dreamer. She's a doer. You can see how this was a good thing.My son knows a producer
, she said one day in June. After a few phone calls, I found myself sitting in a studio, playing my songs for a kind hearted producer man. Before I knew it, I was working on a 5 song EP. My 40 hours a week with The Man began to make more and more sense. My Houstonhood began to make more and more sense. I was ecstatic and grateful and unbelievably in awe at the way God was blessing my steps. Over the course of several months, a few changes, and a crew of loving and supportive people, I had completed my first record. Maybe one day I'll do a full length album...
Meanwhile, I was finding a church home with Ecclesia. I began to serve with them in worship when needed, and connected with kind hearted, talented, Jesus loving musicians who invited me into their world. One person introduced me to another, and another, and another, and before I knew it I was involved in a community of musicians, serving in three different churches.
Enter a man who called me one December night from Huntsville, AL and said he wanted to pursue me and date me. We'd kept in touch via email and Skype and now he wanted to do this exclusively and we began the long distance dating. Anyone who's dated long distance says wide eyed "It's so hard!" It is. Trying to get to know someone and see them for who they truly are from 800 miles away is not the easiest thing. I am truly grateful for Skype and the joys of modern technology. We had so many fun trips to see one another, and looked forward to visits like holidays! It's not all so bad, for a season.
Seasons. I love a God who is creative in engineering seasons...reflective in nature and the very fibers of my heart. Turns out, there is a time for everything.
There is a time for everything,and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
My Houstonhood season was changing. The summer breeze of excitement and zest was turning a new color, and the autumn winds were blowing. I count my blessings, name them one by one. I grew up a lot in Houston, learning to give myself to a job even when I didn't feel like it. I learned to give myself to my dreams, even when it was hard. I learned to give myself to church communities, even when I was afraid. I learned to give myself to my God, even when I didn't understand.
Before I moved, I sat and opened up the CD sleeve and read all the lyrics aloud. That may sound narcissistic of me, but I really read them aloud as if I didn't write them. And I listened to my own heart. It can be a really terrifying thing, to listen to ourselves, can it not?
I heard a girl who struggles with doubt, who wonders if God loves her better than she loves herself. A girl who struggles to give herself to community, to God's church, and thinks she's better off on her own. A girl who worries about anything and everything, but knows she has a Faithful Father who sees her and takes care of her. A girl who knows love is more than a feeling, that knows love is an active choice. A girl who is weak and tries to listen to the world for identity, to have what it takes... to be enough...but who knows a God who is her strength and portion.
I want to always be a refugee, because I always have a refuge in God my Father. This life is made up of seasons that we will never understand, folks. I will always count my blessings from Houstonhood, but I will always wonder what God is doing. I have a lot in front of me now, with questions galore. I pray that as I enter a new season, I will take refuge in the One who died to give me life. I will take refuge not in the gifts and people and places, but in the Giver.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. Psalms 36:6-8
Breadcrumbs and Songs: The Mystery of Recording
[Can I just start by saying I am ridiculously and richly loved by God? I am very aware that the week I'm about to recap is nothing short of miraculous, and is a gift given to me by my Father, Protecter, Pursuer, Lover and Almighty God! ]
So, the studio. The mysterious world where music is captured, recorded, birthed, and given life. Each day I entered the studio, much like Lucy in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, curious to find out what world awaited me and how I could accurately describe it to my friends who had not yet experienced it.
My story of music leading up to this week deserves another post of its own. I feel like best way to summarize it is that my songs and desire to record them were little breadcrumbs that I threw out before the Lord, praying that He would help me in how to walk the path--- both where I had been and where He was leading.
The breadcrumbs lead me to Houston, TX, and more specifically, to a studio where the best and most talented musicians of the land awaited me. I initially began this recording process with another producer, and though I am eternally grateful for their love, support and contribution to my heart and music, I knew they were not the ones to help me finish it.
Enter Ecclesia Church, and my worship pastor Robbie Seay. I asked him to help me finish it, and he gratefully accepted. We recorded one song in November, Love is Not Dead.
We took some time off for the holidays, more writing and more time to decide which songs were slated to be on my first EP.
This week we took 4 days to do 4 more songs. I've never given of myself and my heart in this way, and it was a physically exhausting and emotionally draining week, in the best way ever!
There's no rulebook for making a CD. But here's a glimpse into the past couple days of recording and how we did it! We began with talking through the songs, listening to people that I consider my biggest influences and what genre I'd like to put myself in. (This is not making sure I have to fit somewhere, but simply trying to get a skeleton of the songs and what form I want them to take.) Then you add a little drums to the mix....laying beats down is crucial!
Then it's all about layering. Some electric, acoustic, bass, piano...and on some songs you might hear some fun instruments like a banjo, ukelele, violin, and rhodes! The amazing and musical genius and friend, Matt "Frodo" Kidd did his thing...and what a fun flavor he brought to my songs! I am so fascinated by these musicians and their ability to take my song and make it come to life! It's incredible. I am excited for you to hear the final product and hope you like it! I started writing on the piano and still consider that my first instrument, but over the past year the guitar has been my new writing companion. This EP highlights that and I hope you like it!
Here's our group (minus the bass player)--->
me, Dave (drummer), Robbie (producer), Jeffrey (engineer) and Matt (guitarist).
I cannot believe that I was given this opportunity. I hope and pray that these songs speak to you and you enjoy listening to them. These songs are a little pieces of my heart. As a singer/songwriter, I think it's my job to be vulnerable and do my best to bare my soul in way that resonates with other people. This is my first attempt, and I'm praying that as I follow the breadcrumbs, I get to do this again! I'm very proud of these songs and the little gifts they've blossomed into.
The songs we recorded are Jonah, Little Bird, My Sweetest Endeavor, and Strength You Need. They can't wait to meet you! :) They should arrive to you by April!
"This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." 1 Corin. 4:1
I found a quote in a magazine my sophomore year in college that resonated with me, so I tore it out and hung it on a bulletin board next to my twin bed in my dorm room. I would lay in bed and read it, thinking, "I want to have a heart like this.
" The quote was set under a beautiful picture of a leaf, afloat on a still river. It lay there as a child lies on a mother's lap, restfully yet fully dependent on her love. The quote read:
"Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies." Charles E. Jefferson
God had recently been revealing to me how judgemental and arrogant my heart was- through the small and ordinary- as He often does. College is a wealth of knowledge, but God was using more than homework to school me.
I was taking a statistics class that spring, and after an encounter with my professor that left me angry, I was venting to my friend about how I was right and what a mean person she was for not giving me what I deserved. My friend stared at me, and said, "You're not grateful. Can't you see what she HAS given you?" I laid there that night, reading that quote, remembering her words you're not grateful. What could she mean? How was I not grateful? Wasn't I right?
Around that same time, a guest preacher at my church made a comment that not only went down in my journal but etched in my heart. "Justice delayed is not justice denied but grace applied."
Something clicked. I was realizing that gratefulness cannot be born out of a heart that held entitlement in one hand and justice in another. The truth is, we don't get what we deserve. How could a heart so forgiven think it could author justice so freely?
Little did I know, I was about to embark on a journey where He was going to answer the cry of my heart, birthing in me His spirit of gratitude and mercy. It meant change. It meant sacrifice. But lesson after lesson, God has allowed me to count up past mercies...before Him, and before the people He has gifted to me. I have watched Him faithfully give me grace. Over and over. And I have watch those I love consistently give me grace. Grace never gets old. It's the best gift to receive, and it's the best gift to give.
Here I sit, a recipient of so much love and grace, my heart has to lay wide open like that leaf. I am embarking on a new journey with the Lord, and this time, He's asked me to be a little more public about the lessons He's teaching me. He's entrusted to me songs, little gift-wrapped lessons that I want to share with you. And I have witnessed an incredible outpouring of generosity and support as I set sail. From the bottom of my heart, I want to extend my thanksgiving.My thanksgiving to the Lord, and to His beautiful and loving body of people that have given me so much. I am counting up my mercies, and friends, I owe a debt I cannot repay. I praise God for His son, Jesus Christ, who gives me life and enables me with hands wide open to receive grace and give it. Thank you, Father. And thank you, sweet and dear friends.
For from Him, through Him, to Him are all things. To God be the glory! Romans 11:36
Riches, Wealth, and Jesus
I have everything.
No, I'm still stuck in 1999 and do not have an iPhone or a smart phone. (Mine's just the dumb kind that makes phone calls...so vintage.) And no, I don't have my own house. I'm living in someone else's. I do have a car, but its not mine, it's really the bank's. I do have a closet full of clothes, laptop, piano, too many purses and shoes, iPods (yes, I confess, I have 2!), books, and a collection of Carmex chapstick.
I have two beautiful and loving parents, 2 amazing handsome and gifted brothers, and 2 equally (if not superior) kind hearted hilarious sisters. I have those close, special, kindred kinds of friends that know me and all my secrets. I have too many adopted parents and families to name...and just as many church families and communities that have watched me grow up and have spurred me on to love and good deeds like Paul of the New Testament talks about in Hebrews 10. And my heart may burst full at all the children that I have gotten to babysit and nanny over the years that I would claim as my own, and their parents for entrusting me with them. Goodness, my cup overflows.
Would I give them all up, all those wonderful things, for a God that I can't even see?
There's a story in Mark 10, about a rich young guy (like me) who approaches Jesus and wants to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus tells him he's done pretty good for himself. He's obeyed the laws and been a pretty good dude. Except, all that stuff you have- the stuff that makes you think you have everything-well.. sell it. Give it away. And come follow me. That's how you get eternal life. And the boy walks away. He walked away sad, the story goes, because he had everything. And he wouldn't give it up.
There's a part of that I left out, though. Before Jesus tells him this truth, the bible says (vs. 21) "Jesus looked at him and loved him." He wasn't scolding the guy because he had things and that was bad. The man wasn't in trouble. The man was deeply loved, and he couldn't see it. I admit that I often go to God asking for His eternal life, and then I walk away sad when I don't think I'm loved. I can't see it. I don't think the risk is worth it. How can this God love me? He wants me to walk away from all these good things...is He crazy? Mean? Egotistic?
Friends, I am that rich person. I have struggled to let my white knuckled hands release of all the things I think are mine (of course, they are all His) before the Lord. I confess that I still struggle every day with my riches and wealth- my wealth of material possessions to relationships- and my struggles include a multitude of heartbreaking sins. I have been walking with Jesus since I was a 9 year girl, and here's what I can tell you today- the Lord does not ask us to follow Him because He is mean, crazy, egotistic...He asks us because we are deeply and eternally loved by Him.
You know how I know this? I have experienced the life of the Father in Mark 10:29-31.
After the rich man walks away sad, Jesus says a crazy thing like "it's so hard for rich people to enter the kingdom. It's easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle!" and the disciples kind of freak out, because they think "oh my gosh, we're screwed...then who can get in??"
Important Jesus reply #1:
First of all, it's impossible for everyone, rich and poor, without God. Only God does the miraculous work of saving people. (vs 27)
Important Jesus reply #2:
Secondly, if you leave your home, your family, your money, whatever you leave behind to walk with me, trust me- you will receive a hundred times much on this earth and in the life to come. (vs 29-31.)
I know this because God has miraculously saved my heart and soul, and I have grabbed a hold of Jesus' hand, and have walked with him through some crazy things. And I am living proof, God's word is true. Take the leap, friends. Listen to the voice of God that deeply loves you, and bids you come, and when He speaks, respond.
SHTOP THAT THILLYNESS
When you read that, didn't you just cringe? God bless all dentists. First of all, they desired and worked for a job that includes sticking their hands all up in people's mouths, all day. gross. And they have to use those awful drilling machines, and those bright lights, and that horrible watering hose and mini vaccuum that simaltaneously sucks you dry and makes you feel like a moron. Oh wait, that's from my perspective.
I was laying in the dentist chair, high as a kite. (Are they sure 'laughing gas' is legal?) THE DENTIST inserts this piece to hold my mouth open so he can stick all those horrible things in my mouth again. I'm glad someone gets joy and fullfillment from this, I thought.
I discover that holding my mouth open the whole time is way more painful than all the drilling on my poor tooth. There's way more to that story, but suffice it to say after 5 years of jaw pain, I'd reached my pain threshold.
I go see a TMJ specialist, whom I will lovingly refer to as the "Jaw Doctor". I learn there that everyone has TMJ. (It stands for temporomandibular joint.) What I have is TMD. A disorder of the joint. YAY ME! This explains many things and strange habits of mine over the past 5 years...say, why I would casually mention after meals "I'm tired of eating." I wasn't truly tired of consuming the wonderful goodness before mine eyes, my muscles were literally exhausted from working so hard that I would give up. Interesting.
Anyway, for the next 6 months, I get the privelege of wearing an "appliance"...or, better yet, a fancy schmancy retainer to trick my brain and relieve some stress of my muscles and displaced cartilage discs. As you can imagine, my mouth is not used to such lovely appliances in it's space.
So, yesh, I am totally schlurring all my schpeech as I retrain my brain to appreshiate thish lovely appliance. As you can imagine, this presents awesome opportunites for jest, at my expense. (I think I'll make my kids wear these in middle school. It'll help that whole self-esteem thing in no time.)
New nickname at work? Sylvester.
New favorite words? Anything with an S, G, or X.
New favorite pastime? Thinging. hehehehehehehehe.
Note: I am grateful for all dentists and jaw doctors and health personnel. Theriously.
Heat Hairdryers & Building EP's
Happy Sept. 6th! I declare today, "No Labor Day". wahoo!
I walked outside yesterday at 3:30 pm and felt a gentle breeze, warm sunlight, and I could take a deep breath. Normally, when I walk outside in this Texas heat, I feel as if God has a massive hairdryer and he is blowing it on me. Kinda annoying of Him, so I don't think he means to point it right at Texas. But yesterday, I think he turned the hairdryer off and I could breath. It must be only 80 degrees I thought. I exclaimed this to my friends and they said, "Becca, it's still 94." Oh...my bad. You mean 94 is the new 74? Cool.
That was a free story. You're welcome.
I spent 6 hours yesterday in the studio. Making music. HOORAY! Making a CD is like building a house. (Sorry for those of you who have heard me use this analogy before.) Well, not that I've built a house, but I've heard about it. Apparently you have to pick out EVERYTHING and hope that it turns out exactly how you imagine it, even though you pick things at different times, in different moods. Kinda like making a CD. Do you like this shade or that shade? Do you like guitar or piano here? What kind of carpet? Do you want it to sound this way or that? What tile would you like for this room? Can you sing with more emotion? What about another room? Can you sing with more accuracy? Would you like a back splash here? Can you play that part differently?
It's a process. It takes time. It occurs over a season of many different stages: elation, expectation, exhaustion, impatience, excitement, and work, work, and more work. Overall, I'd say it's pretty awesome. I believe it'll be well worth the labor. Maybe I should title the EP "Everything but the kitchen sink"? What ya think?
I'm going to be launching a video on kickstarter.com very soon, to give you guys some insight of why I'm making this EP, what I'll be doing with it, and how I'll need your help. Maybe next Tuesday I'll get snazzy and feature a link to the site or something. For now, I'll just give you a few of my song titles to make you curious and go crazy and wish the CD was out now. Well, or not.
Love is Not Dead
I'll Be Fine
*This song title might change. It's called Change. It's about change. It might change. Or not.
There's 3 more songs, but they have yet to be named. Stay tuned.
Happy Tuesday, blogesphere.
American Idol & Lessons on Winning
So, I decided I'd try out for American Idol.
(If you know me, you know this was a decision that was highly encouraged by friends and family and didn't float across my brain without some encouragement.)
But, alas, there I was, Thursday morning, registering for auditions. They slapped a wristband on my arm and said, "Be back tomorrow at 5 am."
Next thing you know, it's 5 am Friday morning, and I'm sitting with a couple other people* waiting in line at the butt crack of dawn to be let into Reliant Arena, where I can have my 'one shot' at being on this T.V. show.
I'm flying solo. They allowed you one guest the day of auditions, but, there I was, all alone. (I will shamelessly accept your pity.) I meet Spud, another fellow loner who is originally from Montana but goes to school in Utah. He has family in Houston and figured seeing them and trying out would kill two birds with one stone.I told him my aunt lived in Montana once. He smiled. We story swap for the next 3 hours until the sun starts to peak out behind those Texas clouds. About that time we* stand up and begin to move into the arena. Me and Spud begin to giggle at all our fellow neighbors. Some of them are still singing as loud as possible, as if the auditions were right then and there. (I wanted to politely tell them the auditions were inside but figured that might be rude.) A mom and daughter enjoy our conversation and join in.
"Where are you guys from?" I ask. Somewhere 2 hours away from Houston. They're using this time as prime mother/daughter time and their excitement shone as bright as the rising sun. We all smile at one another and I feel all of a sudden that I belong. Spud and I, Lacey and Lindsey. We were joined by our new found assignment: American Idol contestants.
"Hey, what's your ticket number?" Lacey asks. We all pull our tickets out(we got these when we registered) as we ride up the escalators and say goodbye to the hottest day in Houston. To our amazement, I discovered that my assigned seat is exactly next to Lacey and Lindsey. What are the odds? I serve a great God. Ya know, I'm not even sure God would rally behind me at an audition for a silly T.V. show, but He sure proved He's always taking care of me. I didn't even have to make it to my seat before He gave me sweet new friends.
Sadly, Spud was not seated with us. We waved goodbye. I felt as if I were parting with a friend on the Titanic. What if this thing goes down? Will I know my new friend's fate? ( I know, I'm dramatic. Work with me here.)
We made it to our seats at about 8:30 a.m. We are spoken to by some man who appears to be important, mainly because he's speaking with a megaphone and there's a large camera crew obeying his orders. For the next 30 minutes, we scream "HOUSTON ROCKS IT!" and other cheesy sayings and yell, sit, scream, stand, clap, and sing on command to the orders of the megaphone man. It would have been cooler had they not recorded just one section of the arena. Looking back, I should have thought, "They are only filming this one section because they are actually auditioning. You're just a filler." Although, with hope and expectation as big as the arena, I was dumb and clueless. (Think Jim Carey in Dumb & Dumber..."so you're telling me there's a chance!")
For the next 8 hours, we sit. We wait. We chat. We eat. We watch. We listen. We watch. We sleep. We eat. We chat. We go delirious. We laugh. We wait. We watch Spud go down to audition. We cheer him on. We get tired. We sleep. We watch. We walk. We sit. We wait. Catch my drift?
Finally. 4:45 pm. Our time has come. I look at Lindsey and Lacey and say, "Well. Here's the deal. I don't care if I leave a loser, or a winner, I. just. want. to. leave." I think I heard an amen and a cheer. I'm not sure, I was delirious.
There are 12 tables on the arena floor with judges (producers). We are put in groups of 4. We listen to our iPods once more for our final note. We laugh and get out the nervous giggles. I encourage a girl in our group who's 15 and looks as though she might vomit instead of sing. We approach the throne, I mean, table. We try to tune out the other 36 people singing at the same time at other tables. We are given 20-30 seconds to sing our chosen song. We listen. We wait. And then, we receive our final verdict as a group.
"You all are gifted singers. However, we set the bar high with Season 10. (uhh...with Scotty? ...) You all are just not at the level of skill we are looking for. Please try again next year."
Our judge (one of the many producers of the show) looked like a cousin of Elton John. He had on blue-tinted glasses, a peace sign on his t-shirt and a fun golf hat. I was tempted to ask him if he could sing 20-30 seconds for me too, but I refrained.
I walk out with Lindsey and we greet her mom for hugs and cheers. We sigh that it's over. We laugh that it happened. I look at my phone, and it's 5 pm exactly. Wow, 12 hours of my life that I can't get back, I thought.
God always takes care of me, even at silly T.V. show auditions. And He's given me a gift of song, and I believe God allowed this audition to affirm a calling and a gift in my heart: I want to sing.
So many people I met and came across in my day at the arena, this was their only shot. Their one stab at singing. I left there with a heart full of joy and a lessons for my life. I learned that singing isn't everything. I learned that maybe I can do some things to improve my skill set. I learned that meeting new people is such a joy. I learned that I love encouraging other people. I learned that I can try, and I can fail. I learned that God created all kinds of people, and He loves them all. I learned that life is fun when you take risks. Sometimes you can't win, but you try.
For all you friends and supporters of me and my music, I'm in the studio making an EP. My musical journey is just beginning! Be on the lookout for upcoming blogs filling you in on the making of the EP and ways you can help be a part of this project!
* or a couple other thousand people
Domino's Pizza and Wine
[WARNING: This post is not inspirational.
I went to the Saturday night service at Ecclesia and got in the car with a hungry belly and adventurous spirit. I had just grazed through the big K-Roger days earlier with a craving for a large, luscious salad and cheap wine, and consumed that with much happiness. However, now I was headed home and thought...what is good with salad and wine?
Salad, meet your friend pizza.
Pizza, meet your friend salad.
I wonder when that introduction happened? Because let's face it, the two of them are better together.
I was en route to Home Sweet Home trying to rack my brain about where a good pizza place was. Thankful to my handy GPS, I found nothing. ( hungry belly > 'recalculating')
I decided to take matters into my own hands and perused a street I thought I once saw a lonely Domino's.
(You know you're in the mood for pizza when you walk in to Domino's without calling in first.)
"Hi, I'd like a medium Hawaiian pizza please."
"You didn't call in first? Wow...you must be craving pizza."
"I know. Make this quick."
"It'll be ready in 15."
The conversation may or may not have gone just like that...
Anyhow, I take a seat in the chair and pull out my pen, paper and Bible and thought now would be an excellent time to feast over the message I had just heard at church an hour earlier. What a perfect place to be inspired, I thought.
Turns out a dimly lit coffeehouse smelling of roasted coffee beans seems to awaken the songwriting senses more than a joint smelling of hand tossed, buttery dough.
In other news, a man today asked if I had children that were starting school! I guess the business professional dress code helps me out because just last week when I was buying that wine I had a man come up to me and say "Can I help you find wine?" and I all of sudden felt the age of Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone where he runs out of the drug store after a suspecting adult questions his age and independence.
When do you feel like a grown up? When you have kids or when you buy wine by yourself? Or is it when you walk into a Domino's without premeditated ordering and independently wait on your pizza?
ahhh, life. hilarity nestled into mundane tasks. May your week be exciting, adventurous and grown up-ish.
I got in the car this morning and decided to put in a mixed CD of songs my friends compiled for me when I moved from Huntsville, AL to Houston, TX. Twelve hours of driving solo in a car...these CD's (four to be exact) were such a precious gift to me on my trek here.
I honestly hadn't pulled one out since my move, and this morning it seemed like a fun soundtrack to work.
And then it hit me: Today marks 4 months exactly since I put my little, young, adventurous, nervous, excited butt in a car and moved to Houston.
[Note: If this is what adulthood feels like (time buzzing by) then make it stop!!]
When I realized this, I could not help but visualize the past 4 months on an imaginary iPad, my fingers sliding across new memories made here and the things that God has shown me thus far in what I'm endearingly referring to as my "Houstonhood."
My first day on the job was comical! I walked into the elevator and hit 15 and wondered if my outfit was put together well from my quick 8 hours of sleep in a new bed and my clothes still exploding from suitcases and boxes covering my new room. Would people be able to see the inner dialogue I was having with myself? I started to fill out paperwork and felt my cheeks turn red as I stared at the box "zip code". Oh my gosh, I thought. I don't know my new zip code. I somehow remembered my new street but proceeded to ask a coworker, "Can you tell me the zip code for Sugar Land, TX?" and replied (cheeks still glowing) "Yes, I do live there...I just didn't know it." When I met my new boss, our conversation began quite normal...
"Are you from Houston?"
"Where are you from?"
"How long have you lived here?"
Since that beloved first day, I've have friends visit. I made Kelli walk around the gigantic Galleria. I've ventured over with Bailes to the 'beach' at Galveston (seriously Texans, that doesn't count)...I've found a church home at Eccelsia...I've started the process of making a CD (what!?)...I've had opportunities to sing and join a bible study, and I've had opportunities to see 2 great concerts at the House of Blues...ventured to Chicago with my new beloved family that I live with, I've cried a lot from missing my familiar, loving, homestead of Huntsville and all the good friends that I left there, and I've cried from all the ways God has guided me and protected me since my move.
I don't really remember much about my first move. I was 9, and I can't recall the process of moving, but I remember arriving from Scott, LA to Huntington, WV and seeing this cute little Hansel and Gretel looking house and LOVING the cool laundry shoot. (hey, it's the little things, right?)
I do remember at 11 my parents telling us they were considering moving again. This time to Huntsville, AL. I was so excited! I remember telling my friend at a slumber party that I wouldn't be there that summer and her bursting into tears and me not knowing what to do. We proceeded to eat cookie dough from a 5lb tub and that seemed to make things better. Then, we took pictures of my last 4 weeks and chronicled EVERY little thing that happened (11 year old girls, c'mon) and wrote letters and began to anticipate "the move" like it was a disease I had that was going to kill me.
I turned 12 that April in Huntsville and never looked back until April 16,2011. I turned 24 and the next day put my little young, adventurous, nervous, excited butt in a car and moved to Houston. At 24, "the move" didn't come any easier than 11, and in some ways still felt like I had come down with this horrible disease that I was dying from.
The moving process is relative to death, I suppose. I am definitely reminded that the memories I make and the people I come to cherish, I cannot take with me. They are not mine to take. They are God's. A gift He's given to me.
There's a verse God gave me when He began stirring in my heart...and that what He was calling me to might require a big change, a leap of faith. (That phrase is SO true. It's never a stroll of faith...it's a LEAP!)
"For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly." Psalm 84:11
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. No good thing.
This sweet exaltation of God's righteousness and honor come after this famous praise chorus we often sing (or used to):
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise!
What God has so sweetly and ever so gently shown me in my Houstonhood is that He is faithful to me, here, there and everywhere. He is the God that calls. He is the God that leads. He is the God who gives me strength. He is the God who withholds nothing good from me. Even when I doubt, even when I am scared. Even when I am afraid, He is with me.
Every step of the way, He is leading me. Not to Huntsville, not to Houston. But straight into His courts. God, lead me to your dwelling place. Every day. In familiar cities and new cities. In cherished friendships and new ones. In the mundane and ordinary. Thank you for being faithful to lead me to you!
Love has made me Real
I am so giddy.
The God who hung the stars in the sky, splashed the world with color, who sees the depths of the ocean and every crevice of the earth...made me, in His meticulous mercy.
However, unlike the rest of His creation, He did something super unique with us. Scripture tells me He breathed in me. I am made in HIS image. I had all the approval I've ever wanted in that moment. (Now that's a mindblowing thought for us people pleasers, aka everyone) I have purpose. I get to walk with the God who stinking MADE me. Ummm....how cool is that?!? The truth is this: God created me to bring Him glory and pleasure. He DELIGHTS in me. He loves me. He loves sharing Himself with me. He invites me to know him, to delight in him, to love him! This is called relationship. Pretty basic. Except...it's SUPER AWESOME!
Let me break it down for you: The aching we have in our hearts for someone to know us, to see every particle of us, and to say, "You are amazing. I want to know more of you, forever..." that is from GOD. GOD!
The heartbreaking part of this? I believe a lie instead of truth. I choose stupid crap (and even stupid people) to try and put in this achy-breaky heart (c'mon, it's a powerful song) instead of go to the One who made me and who LONGS to know me.
Good news: God doesn't give up on me. Every SECOND, He's fighting for me. That's the whole story of the Bible and it IS good news...God is pursuing us with a powerful love. God saw us believing lies and crap instead of the truth. So he decided to SHOW us what Love is. He has a Son that He loves more than I can ever fathom. And He allowed Jesus to die, for ME. Why? So that I could once again know him, delight in Him...again, be in relationship with God.
I mean, it's seriously mindblowing. It never gets old to come face to face with the God of the universe. I fall on my knees and I weep, for the very heart that I curse and can't figure out, God loves. The very heart that is filled with despair, God sees with hope. The heart that is empty and offers nothing, God fills with grace and purpose. The heart that hurts, cries, and mourns, He fills with Joy. The heart that dreams and writes songs, He listens. He listens to our hearts!
THAT IS GOOD STUFF, PEOPLE! Ever try to have a 'heart-to-heart' with someone you love? God is good to allow us human companionship as a gift, and yes, people can often be kindred in spirit. But lemme tell you.... have you had a heart-to-heart with God lately? Seriously beats every awesome person you know out the water!
I'm just a dead man walking until God meets me on the road, and breathes His life into me. You know the coolest part? He makes me Real. He makes you Real. The me who's looking to everyone else to give me life is dead. But the moment I turn my heart to His, I come alive.
"You are the only one I need
I bow all of me at Your feet
I worship You alone
You have gven me more than
I could ever have wanted
And I want to give You my heart and my soul
You alone are Father
And You alone are good
You are alone are Savior
And You alone are God
I'm alive, I'm alive
I'm alive, I'm alive"
Intimately Tender, Infinitely Great
Remember that Christmas you couldn't WAIT to open the present you begged and pleaded for? Or that birthday you were given that something you wanted, waited for, and it was finally yours? I know you've felt that sense of desire unfufilled. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Even the moment you recieve that 'something', it must feel good, right? Maybe you relish in waiting so patiently. Maybe you remember the waiting that seemed to never end. And yet, the desire is fulfilled. The need met. The gift recieved.
No more wanting. No more wishing. You never want ever again...
Ha. If only.
Idolatry. Making something good the ultimate.
How many times do you hear idolatry and think golden cow? I'm like, pssssh, I don't have any idols. Last time I checked I did not bow, sing to, pray to and give my affections to any inanimate objects, so I must not have any idols. Phew, safe.
A very real, alive, loving, God showed up yesterday and shone light on my idols.
They were gleaming, some dusty from the storage in my heart and some shiny and new, as if I had been cleaning and taking care of them with my own hands. God told me that if I did not crush the idols with my expecations, they were going to crush me.
Wow. Isn't it just like us to then ask this question: If I cannot have this idol, can I keep this one? i.e., "Where then, oh Lord, do I give my affections, my worship, my heart, my desires, my expecations, my needs?" You mean no idol will ever suffice?
With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
God grants me life. He allows me to live, to walk beside Him. He is intimately tender, infinitely great. Why am I looking to worship idols when the One who made me is waiting for my worship?
The Ins and Outs
Happy New Year!
(Oh wait, it's March? Oops)
Everyone knows blogging is one of those things you overcommit to. "I will have something compelling, witty, charming, emotionally connecting, important, life altering, spiritually charged to share everyday. Ok, every other day. Maybe once a week?"
How about once every few months? (I'm working on this, peeps) Here goes...
I am a really ugly person on the inside, and God is a very beautiful, loving, redeeming, strong, just, brave God that lives in all my filth and grime. He didn't come for those that are well, but those that are sick. He didn't come for those who are righteous, but the sinners. (Mark 2:17) Why is it so hard for me to see my sickness?
This week God has been teaching me about sickness-true HEART sickness. He did this by the mundane & ordinary. After a scare that I might have contracted the flu, I got really worried, really panicked, frustrated and did LOTS of preventive care to ensure I didn't have it. Popped Vitamin C like they were candy, drank H20 like Dr. Pepper, and slept a lot. (I'm afraid sleeping more was not directly related to my preventative health plan...I just like sleep) I can report that I have not (yet) come down with the flu. PHEW!
However, in all my flurry and frustration, I realized my heart was TOTALLY depraved. I became really angry with things I couldn't control. I blamed people. All for what? Fear of the flu? When I stopped and realized how my behavior was so dramatically altered based on a maybe-could-possibility of a physical, very temporary sickness-I asked myself what was I doing to take care of my heart and soul. (Cue song now... :) )
How often this week did I wake up on my knees before my Creator? How often did I repent of the sickness growing and brooding in my heart? How much time did I spend begging God to make me well, to change me, to take care of me, to make me new?
I have a friend in New York that is struggling with a very real, persistent physical sickness. I cannot imagine her suffering nor her frustration at such an ongoing struggle. (Makes my 'scare' with the flu seem even more trivial) However, I know her heart stands clean and made whole in the hand of her Creator, that she has accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior and is walking under His lordship in her life. Her determinedness to trust Him in the face of such pain reminds me that pray as I might for my circumstances, God is glorified when we look to Him, when He cling to Him, seek Him, and say " Whatever my lot, it is well with my soul."
Forgive me Father for the sin that takes root and grows with such fervor in my heart. Heal my heart and make me new.
Do you know when mountain goats give birth?
A few weeks ago I was talking with my Mom and her friend about the importance of contentment. I was sharing the joy I have in doing life with women of different stages, learning from them, hearing about where they are, and remembering that at each season I will still be walking forward...still walking toward Christ. There is no stage at which I will arrive.
But we think we will all the time, don't we? I know in my youth I reveal all this naivety...but I am asking the Lord for wisdom. Through Him I can somehow sort through all my human frailties and pull them out to be examined and changed. Learning to be content is not related to my youth, I'm afraid. I cannot grow out of it. I will constantly have to surrender control and allow God to grow in me, so He can take root in my heart.
In the Bible, there's a story of a man named Job. Job was serving the Lord, and he was content in doing so. When God allowed trials and difficulty, he was hurt, he was mourning, he was confused...but He held on to God tighter. He was not giving up on being content in Christ. He knew that no matter what he acquired or lost, God was his reason to be content. What I love about this story is though Job knew this, he fought long and hard to truly believe it.
But why? Why would God still deserve praise? Job's lesson on contentment deepens when He realizes the gifts that God chooses to give or take away do not compare to understanding who God is. "But where shall wisdom be found? Where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth...God understands the way to it, and he know its place." His contentment is not rooted in seasons of life, but of understanding who God is.
It is then that God answers us. Who are you, God? There is no contender.
Where were you, Rebecca, when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Or who shut the sea with doors when it burst from the womb?
Have you entered into the spring of the sea, or walked in recesses of the deep?
Have you entered the storehouses of snow, or seen the storehouses of hail?
Do you know when mountain goats give birth?
"I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know... I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you; therefore, I despise myself..."
When will I see that my purpose is not to be content with gifts God gives me, but to know the heart of the Giver?
God Almighty is commanding my attention, my contentment, my joy, my peace, in Him. He is Worthy! My response in each stage, each season he allows me to walk through should be utter and absolute praise...for He allows me to know Him! By his mercy, I am fully alive, dead to sin.
My determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly... Phil 3:10
I so often compartmentalize my life. I work, then I eat, then I play, then I go here, then I do this, then I talk to her, I meet with him, I shop here, then I go to church here, then I pray, then...then...
I ran home for lunch. I fixed my plate and was halfway to the couch with the t.v. tray when I felt the Holy Spirit say, can I have lunch with you?
I stopped, and had an inner monologue for a second, debating if I truly just heard the voice of God through His spirit...when I heard Him speak again: try me. See if I don't show up.
I paused, then returned the t.v. tray ,grabbed my plate, my Bible, and sat at the table. I opened back up to Titus, where I left off this morning..
I didn't see angels. I didn't see fire and smoke, or a burning bush. I didn't make any life altering decisions. But I invited God in his three parts to dine with me. I laughed, I cried, I enjoyed sharing my life with the God who created me...He poured into me. He reminded me He loves me, He cares, He wants to walk with me.
He doesn't just change my life once. He changes it all the time. At work, at lunch, when I play, when I go here, there...if I will only invite Him.
Thank you Lord, for reminding me that you are real, your love is deep, and you want to live through me. Help me see the freedom from inviting you to walk with me, and letting you lead me. You are jealous for me! I love you, Lord.
This morning I had no plans with sweet Lila, the precious 2 year old that calls me "Betta" as I care for her 2 days a week.
No plans for a cold brisk morning (the first sign of fall, yes..please?) and a rainy day. Figured we could play inside to our hearts content.
However, by 10 am, we were restless, and I could tell she was chipper, talkative, and energetic and needed to let it all out! Today would not be rainy for us after all!
So I strapped her in the car seat and took off for Chick-Fil-A. Figured an indoor playground and chicken were the perfect remedy for a peppy toddler. Indeed, they are! After spilling milk everywhere ("uh oh, milk mess?" from Lila) and realizing I didn't pack any 'elmo's- Lila's endearing term for her diapers with Elmo plastered on the front, I decided it was time for home. Thank the good Lord this was after our playtime AND meal, or else it could have been more devastating. We still headed for the restroom to wash the milk off and I laughed our way through the experience as Lila talked about the woman's feet beside us, and asked if she was pottying, and if she flushed. (oh the joys of being 2!) There is something downright precious about a child learning how to become independent...learning about the world around her. I love everytime I go the restroom I get the cheer "YAY! Betta potty!" It's the simple things in life, right?
On the way home, I was watching her talk and watch the scenery outside us and felt the gift of this job settle in my heart. I long for the day when a child calls me Mommy, but for today, God has given me the gift of Lila, curly headed cutie. I love learning from her and with her. Watching her joy in reading and learning how to communicate. I love that her parents entrust her and share her with me.
I learn from her that sometimes you can make plans and go with them, and other times, it's just more fun to break them.
On producing fruit...
God is teaching me lately the process of being transformed (2 Corin. 3:18), being made like Him (Phil. 3:10), becoming His child (John 1:12)...the discipline of "working out my salvation in fear and trembling, because God is working in me to help me do what pleases Him." (Phil. 2:12 &13).
Some people today call this process 'sanctification'.
Jim Elliot said it this way: "That which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime."
Falling in love with Jesus is a miraculous event. It means that He was able to penetrate darkness, and pull back the curtains of sin that kept me from Him...from even seeing Him. It means He- He- allowed me to see Him for the first time, and love Him for his salvation, with grace in one hand and justice in another, to be loved perfectly. Staying in love with Him is also a miraculous, on going process. It means that He is faithful when I am faithless to knowing Him better. It means He is pursuing me when I blatantly choose to ignore His love. It means he continues to do a good work in me until He returns (Phil. 1:6)
The good work He began in me was His salvation.
and He will be faithful to complete it. When I see Him face to face. Face to Face! Me, sitting in His lap, with the One who called me by name...the one with whom I grabbed His hand and He promised, come peril or sword, that He would not let me go! (John 10:28)
The good work isn't anything I've done. And I've done lots of good things.
It's not my love for music and singing that He will complete. It's not my desire for wifehood and motherhood that he will start and finish in my life. It's not my love of traveling the world that He will consider accomplished. It's not my role as daughter, sister, and friend to those who love me that He will promise to make whole.
He promises to make me whole through His salvation. He began it, He will complete it.
Paul of the New Testament prayed a prayer in Phil.9-11 and said,
"This is my prayer for you, that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good; that you will be pure and without wrong for the coming of Christ; that you will be filled with good things produced in your life by Christ to bring glory and praise to God."
But the spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22)
Choose the good, dear friends. And may you see the overwhelming love of Christ, the death, the resurrection, the life, the truth, the way...may you see all this by Christ, because of Him, for His glory.
Today, I'm begging for cheaper love.
It's a shame to admit how often my soul wanders...how often my heart forgets the calling of Divine Love and I go looking for it elsewhere.
Proverbs 6: "Bind them [my commandments] on your heart always, tie them around your neck."
God knows I am prone to wonder. He gives me commandments to read, seek, devour, ingest, delight in, and remember...so that when my heart jumps off the cross and runs to the throne of my own pleasures, I would have major warning signs. HELLO, stop, you sinner, and remember me! I am the Giver of Abundant Life, and you're looking for a lousy one?
Sometimes desires take honing. They need to be trimmed, cut, shaped, molded and chiseled. Jim Elliot says it this way: "Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living." Let God have the desires we so desperately want to control, and continue to walk on a steadfast path of righteousness. Let Him make you holy. Let Him chisel away until there is nothing left.
Wow, that sounds painful. And scary. What about "good" desires? What if I want things that are good? Could it be in my "goodness" I am neglecting still the call to be holy? To give God even my "good" desires?
God, I confess I walk, run, crawl, jump, fight and dance to other things...all these "other things" you talk about in Matt. 6 that will be added to me if I seek you first. Will you help me seek you first? I bring to you today desires, unfulfilled, and lay them at your feet. Chisel away, Oh God, until you see fit.
Love me, Love me, Say that you love me...
remember that old No Doubt song?
"Love me, Love me, say that you love me...
fool me, fool me, go on and fool me...
love me, love me, pretend that you love me...
leave me, leave me, just say that you need me...
I can't care about anything but you...."
I find myself saying that to people a lot.
Not out loud. But, you know....in my mind. Without thought. Unconsciously.
I'm SUCH a people pleaser, it's RIDICULOUS!
Today, I want to confess this. And I want to repent of it. I want to change my thinking.
The amazing thing is, I don't have to beg of God's love for me. The sun rises for a new morning---and I wonder if God is there? Yes, I should ask God for approval, and only God can erase the follies of my human thinking and replace them with a peace of resting in Him. I go before Him in prayer and say, "it's me again...I need you to approve me. I need you to give me worth. I need you...I just need YOU."
and He smiles and says, "I am God. and I love you."
and THAT, my friends....should make me fall in love all over again with Him. I can rest in that love!