grief [pt. 4]

i read this article depicting one girl’s experience with grief. she talked about how she gave up blogging for that season. i figured it best if i do the same. in fact, i wasn’t sure i would ever find myself back on this page again. but, as i sat distracted through yet another sermon at church, i found myself scribbling some thoughts on the church bulletin. and i guess i want to take those scribbles and try to make some sense of them…

i remember the moment when i realized that it happened. i remember the space on the floor i was sitting. i remember the way the tears felt slipping from my eyes despite how hard i tried to keep them in. i remember the way i kept looking out the window like maybe something out there could take this all away from me. i remember the song that was playing. i remember feeling like the best was behind me, and that i just didn’t know how i would ever have the strength to start over again.

before my mom died i had the most special relationship with God. it was beautiful and whimsical and oh so intimate. He was my best friend. He was my greatest delight. He was my treasure. there was no ebb and flow for us. there were no seasons of dryness followed by seasons of joy. there was rich and then there was richer.

but like i said, i remember the moment when i realized that it happened.
i remember the moment when i realized that all of that had changed.

since that moment of realization for me, since that moment of how poor i felt in the absence of all that richness, since that moment there has come a lot of thoughts from others about what this season might be about. one of those thoughts was that this just might be a season of dissatisfaction. i believed her when she said it, but as i sat in church this morning i couldn’t help but think i’ve walked around for weeks feeling terrible for thinking i’m dissatisfied in God, and i really don’t think that’s what’s going on at all. no, i don’t think that’s what’s going on at all.

because the thing about all this is that if i was dissatisfied, then i would go about seeking satisfaction in someone or something else. and i haven’t done that. sure, i’ve looked for moments to catch my breath. and i’ve looked for ways to feel something–anything–else. but i still sit at the table with Him every day. i still read His word. I still press into community. i still talk to Him. i still wait and listen, even through all these weeks of silence.

so no, the difference that i experience now in my relationship with God is not dissatisfaction, it’s just a disconnection. there’s a thick, dark space between Him and me, and in that thick, dark space I am finding it really hard to hear Him. and how, in the midst of all this deep sadness, could i really expect to experience anything else?

you see, it’s not just in my relationship with Him that i feel this disconnection. i feel it in my friendships in this season as well. it’s like people are walking on eggshells around me. if i share about how i’m doing, no one ever seems to want to follow that. most people’s bad days are prefaced with an “i know it’s not anything like what you’re going through, but….” i guess the thing is, i just don’t have any friends who don’t have their moms anymore. and it all feels pretty isolating and lonely. and a lot of people seem to kind of keep me at a distance. and i feel every inch of that distance and then some.

but not all my friendships are like that. i’ve still got some friends who let me in anyway. there are the friends who share about their hard days with no qualifiers. there are the friends who cry in front of me even though they know i am always crying too. there are friends who still ask me to pray for them. there are friends who seem to want to keep me close, even on the days when i don’t feel a whole lot like staying.

it’s the keeping when i don’t feel like staying that seems to be the only thing i am learning right now in the midst of all of this. because it’s that keeping when i don’t feel like staying that seems to allow just the slightest bit of hope to permeate every inch of this sadness. let me try to explain.

i’ve spent a lot of time driving this semester, and in all that driving i have done a whole lot of thinking. on one of those drives i had another realization. for the first time since becoming a Christian i understood why people who know about Jesus walk away from Him in times of deep suffering. it’s one thing to think bad things just happen. it’s another thing to know about a God who has the power to prevent them from happening. it’s one thing to think that everyone’s mom dies eventually. it’s another thing to have prayed harder for her healing than anything else i’ve ever prayed for, and to sit here in the loss knowing Jesus could have healed her at a breath, and yet He didn’t.

a breath. what i’d give for a breath.

so as i drove along i couldn’t help but think how in the midst of deep loss over a mom who was too young to die, and i too young to bear the grief, Christianity feels like some kind of sick joke. to speak of a God who has infinite power, a God who heals at a word, a God who loves us unconditionally, a God who is here with us…that kind of knowledge just isn’t very comforting on this side of that short, terrifying goodbye. and as i drove along i understood how that kind of knowing mixed with this kind of feeling can make someone walk away from Him.

and then i started to wonder where i would be if my relationship with God in this season was contingent on my staying, contingent on my not walking away. the thing is, i don’t just know about Jesus. and this–my relationship with Him–isn’t just about knowledge. i don’t just know about Him, i know Him. i know Him as my best friend. i know Him as beautiful. i know Him as my deepest treasure. i know Him intimately. and i still believe Him when He says that no one will snatch me out of His hand. and therein lies my hope for this season.

this isn’t about me staying; this is about Him keeping. the keeping when i don’t feel a whole lot like staying…

He will keep me through my kicks and screams and tears and sleepless nights. He will keep me through my doubts and frustrations and anger and dislike. He will keep me always. no one will snatch me from His hands. and neither will this grief and sorrow and darkness.

no, i’m not going anywhere. and in that truth i have found the freedom to process before Him honestly. and in that truth i have found that it’s okay to say the kinds of things that i am saying in this post. because faith is so much more than a feeling. and my knowledge of Him is so much more than knowing about Him. and He still loves me. yes, He still loves me.

and i still love Him too. yes, i still love Him too.

today’s margin note: when suffering comes, find rest in the reality that being a Christian with steadfast endurance is far more about faith in His keeping than it is about your strength to continue staying, especially when you don’t feel a whole lot like staying.

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fear

at the beginning of my adventure to DC this summer, i prayed for courage. i prayed for courage, but i didn’t have any idea why i prayed for it. i wrote a blog post stipulating a few reasons why i might have prayed for it. i thought i had it all figured out. little did i know then of the news that would bring me to my knees by the time i left DC. little did i know then of the fear that would haunt me now all these weeks later…

oh, how i could use that courage now.

over the past two months (tomorrow marks two months exactly from the day i said bye to my mom for the last time) i have learned much about grief, mostly that it is unpredictable and exhausting and excruciatingly painful. but over the past two months i have also learned much about fear. to be honest, i don’t know that i had ever experienced fear in its fullness before two months ago. and since then i don’t know that i’ve experienced a day without it.

i was afraid to book a flight home from DC because i was afraid it would mean i needed to leave.
i was afraid to board that plane because i knew i’d never be the same by the time i got on another one.
i was afraid to walk down that hallway in the hospital my mom was because i knew it’d be goodbye.
i was afraid to go shopping for a black dress because i felt too weak to stand in it.
i was afraid to leave my family and go back to DC because i felt so very alone and so very broken.
i was afraid to come back to school because i didn’t know how to tell people about my summer.
i was afraid to move back to my own apartment because it would be the permanent start to life without her.
i was afraid to do my work because it would remind me that i can’t do what i used to be able to do with ease.
i was afraid to get out of bed on my birthday because i thought the day would cripple me.
and it did.

after i got back from DC and before i started school, i lived with my friend marie for a few days. on my final night in her house, i felt a certain degree of fear i had never felt before. i wasn’t sure i could go on and function on my own, and i’d be on my own the next day. so from that bed, i cried and i cried and i cried.

another day a couple weeks ago we sat in that same bed and talked about moving forward in this together. she asked me a lot of questions i didn’t have answers to, and as things would go, she didn’t have the answers to the questions either. for the first time in the four years i have known her, when i needed guidance on how to move, when all i could say was “i don’t know,” all she could say was, “i don’t know either.” so from that bed, i cried and i cried and i cried.

well, it wasn’t that long ago when i was reading a friend’s blog (that same friend i wrote about in my last post) and she had written the following:

I want him to know that fear is normal and appropriate and even necessary, but that it doesn’t have to win.

fear is normal. appropriate. necessary.
but it doesn’t have to win.

so what do i do with all this fear i feel? how do i not let it win today or tomorrow or the day after that when i feel just as scared as i did that first time i felt fear, i mean really felt fear?

you see, when i cried from that bed in marie’s house for the first time, i felt very afraid. and before that day i thought that to live by faith meant to live without fear. i didn’t know how to reconcile the presence of both fear and faith. i thought they were mutually exclusive. but i was afraid and i wanted so desperately to live by faith. so i prayed for faith through those tears i cried that night. but i woke up the next morning and i still felt very afraid. and as i drove from her home to mine, i was struck by the realization that just because i was afraid didn’t mean i wasn’t living by faith. i was struck by the realization that walking by faith for me, in this, isn’t walking without fear; walking by faith for me, in this, is continuing to walk into all those fears that i have anyway. 

i walked into my own home that day. and even though most days bring me to my knees in that same sadness i felt from that plane and that hospital and that black dress, i am making it. and it is messy. and i still don’t have the answers to all those questions marie asked me about how we are going to move forward in this together. and i still feel all this fear of the uncertainty that lies ahead on this path of healing from this brokenness. honestly, i even fear that there isn’t healing down this path because God might choose not to heal me from this brokenness the same way God chose not to heal my mom, the choice that led me to this darkness in the first place.

but i am going to continue walking into all those fears that i have anyway. i am going to continue walking anyway. because even though my birthday crippled me, it also reminded me that i am so very loved. and last night, the same friend whose arms i cried in at my own birthday party held me by the shoulders, looked me square in the eyes, and called me her brave, strong friend.

“O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.”
Daniel 10:19

there’s something about being greatly loved by God that makes it possible to press into fear anyway. and i am learning that perfect love creates room for courage in even the deepest fears and the darkest rooms. i guess it’s one of those things where if God was everything that He is but He wasn’t loving, then He is to be feared in the rawest sense of the word, like i feared that plane and that hallway and that black dress and the path that lies ahead. but, if God is everything He is and if He is loving, then we can be courageous in the face of our fears because He is for us and He loves us.

He is for us.
and He loves us.

today’s margin note: remember that fear doesn’t have to win and that living by faith doesn’t mean you can’t be afraid. instead, living by faith means you can keep on walking into all those fears anyway. my friend, if you are scared — please, keep on walking anyway. and know, my friend, that if you are afraid and if you are still walking, then you are brave and you are strong.

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in this season

it’s been weeks since i’ve been on this blank page that holds the space i write these posts. it hasn’t been for lack of thoughts, but it has certainly been for lack of time. i am busy this year, which is exhausting. and i am grieving this year, which is exhausting. so i’m writing this from my evidence class because i didn’t do the reading last night (due in part to the busy and in part to the grief), and i have no idea what is going on anyway. and there’s this thing i’ve been wanting to write about for awhile now…

you see, the week before school started i did this thing. i did this thing, and it took a lot of courage for me to do. over the summer i felt God prompting me to switch churches. that’s a long story for another time, but i felt the prompting so i obeyed. but i didn’t want to just switch churches, i wanted to go all in. so i took a friend’s recommendation and joined her old bible study. and just like that her old bible study became my new bible study. 

the thing is, this kind of thing would have taken courage for me in any season. i’m just not all that big on letting new people in. i’ve got a handful of very close friends, the kind of close friends that i will sort through with exceptional difficulty if ever comes a day i get married and need to pick some others to stand beside me at the altar. it took me years to really let most of those people in. now they are there, and i’d be fine just keeping things that way. but in this particular season, this kind of thing (joining a new bible study) took an immeasurable amount of courage because in this particular season it isn’t just about letting people in. it’s about letting people into my worst, not my best. i’d have to let them into my saddest days and my messiest days. and those days happen every day. so in this season, it’s about trusting that people will love me, even in this, because i need that love, especially in this.

now, i had a plan for my first week at this new bible study with this group of strangers. i knew they were going through a book, and i knew no one would expect me to contribute because i didn’t have said book. i could sit there silently, and just ease my way slowly into this new community. in fact, i considered how many weeks i could really go without ever saying anything at all. i had a plan that first night, and God, He had another one.

because as we finished dinner that first week, it came to my attention that the general discussion about the book was getting postponed. the next thing i knew i was in a circle full of women i didn’t know, and it was time to share about how we were doing and some prayer requests.

wait, what?

i thought to myself, “self, this cannot be happening.” my thoughts went spinning round and round in the same way that the turns were going in our circle. it was getting closer to me and i had a decision to make: do i share about mom? because my mom passed away about three weeks before this bible study, and it’s not really the kind of thing you bring up when you meet someone for the first time. but how was i supposed to honestly share about how i was doing without bringing her up? and how was i supposed to ask these new friends to pray for me without bringing her up? i mean, i didn’t even know what i needed prayer for at that point, and i was having to trust them for that.

so i brought her up. i brought her up because i felt confident that God led me to this group. and i brought her up because i felt that God led me to this group for a purpose. and it was after i shared about mom that it happened. this thing happened and whenever i tell people about my first time in this new bible study i always, always tell this part.

i shared about mom and then i spent what felt like an eternity going from looking at the ground in front of me to looking around at all these new faces looking back at me. and one woman sitting across from me in the circle said this thing, and this thing kind of took me by surprise.

i don’t even know you, but i want to walk through this season with you.

wait, what?

didn’t i need courage to do this kind of thing because of how hard it was to let people into this season? but this woman wanted to walk into this season with me. and when she said that i knew i was right about God leading me to this group for a purpose. and when she said that i knew we would be friends.

one week later that same woman shared about a blog she writes. and i found myself sharing about this blog. and, for an undisclosed reason, for the first time since my mom died i laughed and it didn’t hurt to do so. i laughed until i cried, and i didn’t cry about it. it was then that i had a pretty good feeling that this new friend was particularly placed on my path to healing. so we talked about getting together to write. and i think, because it was so early in our relationship, that we were both kind of joking about it because we couldn’t tell if the other person was really serious about it. the thing is, i think we both really wanted to get together to write. or maybe we just wanted to get together. 

we haven’t gotten together yet, but i’ve been learning all about her from her blog.

the week after that she told me she had been thinking about our friendship. she had been thinking about our friendship and she had been thinking that it might be kind of fun to email each other. and with that, she hesitated. she hesitated because she felt like maybe she was being too forward. the thing is, she just didn’t realize how desperately i needed someone to be so forward. 

the following sunday she sat in front of me at church. she noticed i was sitting alone, and she offered for me to sit with her and her family. well, i was only sitting alone for a few minutes while some other friends were on their way to fill the seats next to me, so i didn’t take her up on that offer. i didn’t need to sit next to her then, but i would need her by the end of the day. because there’s this other thing that i need to do that is also going to take a lot of courage. and although i’m not ready to write about it yet, i  really needed her advice about it.

wait, what?

i don’t even know her and i found myself flipping through the contacts in my phone in search of her. i texted her and we arranged a phone call for the next day. and one of the final things she said to me via text that night was thanks for trusting me enough to ask for my feedback.

she doesn’t know it, but there she was making another statement that really took me by surprise. it really took me by surprise because i felt like she knew me in that moment. i felt like she knew me because the people who really know me know that i have a really hard time trusting people.

well, we talked on the phone the next day, and i was on the verge of tears through the entire conversation. in the beginning of the conversation i was on the verge of tears because we were talking about a personal thing, and it’s the kind of personal thing i’m really, really sensitive about right now. in fact, the thought of it could about bring me to tears right here in my evidence class. but by the end of the conversation i was on the verge of tears because i felt so overwhelmingly loved and cared for. i felt so overwhelming loved and cared for because she talked about how she wanted to get together. she talked about how she wanted to get together, not because she felt obligated to, but because she wanted to. she talked about how strange it is to meet someone who is walking through the kind of thing i am walking through.

i feel like i would miss out on knowing you if i didn’t get to know you in this.
and i don’t want to miss out on knowing you.

i think highly of friendship. relationship matters to me maybe more than it matters to most people. and i spent a lot of time learning last year what it looks like to be a good friend when it costs you something. and now i’ve got this new friend who is willing to pay the costly price of pursuing friendship with me in this season.

and the gratitude is endless. 

it means everything to me in this season to have someone pursue me. it means everything to me in this season because in this season, more than any other season, it feels very much like God has left me. i know He hasn’t, but i am talking about feelings. so yes, it feels very much like God has left me. and yet i know that this new friend and her pursuit of me is God reminding me that He hasn’t left me after all. He hasn’t left me and He isn’t going to. the truth is, feelings aside, He is pursuing me, too. 

today’s margin note: if you are walking in darkness, let people in. let people in and trust that God just might let them bring light to your darkness. and if you know someone who is walking in darkness, be willing to pay the price of pursuing friendship with them, even in that, especially in that.

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grief [pt. 3]

“though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet i will rejoice in the Lord; i will take joy in the God of my salvation.” habbakuk 3:17-18

maybe it was on this same day last year while working through my bible reading plan that i journaled about what these kinds of circumstances would mean for a person back in the times of habbakuk. so much for all that hard labor. you would have no food and possibly no source of income. and this wasn’t the kind of thing that lasted a week. you would have to wait for the next harvest season, assuming you could even acquire more seed to start over again. and who knows when you would ever have a herd or flock again. maybe never. maybe you’ve managed to lose not only your source of living, but also your livelihood and purpose in all that suffering.

the thing about following Jesus in seasons like that kind of suffering is it isn’t just a call to choose joy in God when things are bad. what i’m learning in this mourning that i’m going through in the loss of my mom is that this kind of following Jesus in seasons like this involves a call to choose joy in God when things are bad and it doesn’t look like things will get better anytime soon.

choosing God when things are temporarily bad really isn’t that hard because there isn’t really time to weigh your options. you choose joy in God because He is the obvious option and the suffering is usually over before you’ve had time to think about choosing anyone or anything else. maybe that kind of thing, that kind of joy in suffering, is just some illusion of choice. like going to a vending machine when you don’t have time to eat something better and being told you can have whatever you want — knowing that what you can really have is anything you want that is in the machine. it’s not a choice really. you just choose what you can in that little bit of time you have to spare. it’s like that in temporary moments of suffering. you choose God because you can and because there is no time to consider anything else. and maybe, if we’re all being honest, there’s that part of your heart that thinks that in choosing Him you will find the end of that temporary suffering.

and maybe you will.

but what if there are more choices and what if you have more time to choose? what i mean is what if the suffering lasts longer? there’s something deeper and more sacred about choosing God even though you know that that choice doesn’t make things better. there’s something deeper and more sacred about choosing God for God, not for the end of the darkest days. in those seasons of suffering long it becomes about knowing that suffering awaits, not relief. and that suffering will endure day after day. do you choose God then? i do.

because even then He is worthy of rejoicing in.
even then the God of my salvation is worth taking joy in.

and i feel like it’s that kind of season of suffering long that i’m up against. i’m up against the hardest year of my life with no real promise of reprieve. it’s been a little over four weeks since i said goodbye to my mom and in so many ways this is just the beginning. you see, i started school and i didn’t realize how much of my love of learning was wrapped up in my love of my mom. it feels so different to learn now knowing i can’t share any of it with her. and in about four more weeks i will have my 25th birthday. and on that day i won’t get a text from mom at midnight even though she always, always stayed up until midnight for me. and a few days after that her birthday will come. i think i’ll go to the store and get her a card and write about how much i love her. but i’ll never be able to give it to her. and then will come the holidays, that time of year that i consistently got to spend the most time with her. and well, that’s just the forecast for the next four months.

looking out at that i have a daily choice to make. daily, knowing that awaits and so much more sadness and sorrow and hurt and tears, i will choose to rejoice in the Lord and to take joy in the God of my salvation. because He is worth it. still.

today’s margin note: it’s in suffering that you will learn if you love God for God. choose joy in the midst of suffering, even when that choice won’t bring about its end. choose joy because God is worth it, even in the darkest days.

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grief [pt. 2]

i wrote a post a few weeks back about unpredictability. it was about how one of the greatest blessings of Christianity is its unpredictability. i re-read that post this morning and was struck by something. over the past few days since my mom died, days that have felt like a moment and eternity simultaneously, i have said over and over again that one of the greatest horrors of grief is its unpredictability.

unpredictability. a blessing. and a horror. that seems like some kind of paradox to me. and that paradox seems to be my only way of describing what has been almost two weeks (certainly the longest two weeks of my life) since my mom passed away.

you see, i could go on and on about the sadness. the loss is overwhelming and crippling at times. it puts me in bed too early most nights because i have not the strength to keep going. at other times it leaves tears streaming down my cheeks at some show on tv or character in a book i’m reading or when i check my phone to find no text messages, when i used to always have text messages from her.

i still can’t get over the reality that i will never hear my mom tell me that she loves me again. and my mom, she was one of those moms who told me every single day.

but for every moment, which seem endless, that i could spend talking about the sadness and the horror of this grief and loss and whatever else this is, i could also spend that many moments, which seem endless, talking about the blessings of the love of the Lord through every second that has rolled over me since i walked out of the last room in which i will ever sit with her.

and maybe that’s how i know i am going to make it. because God has been loving me so perfectly through this. He has held me close to Him when most people would have gone running in the other direction. He has made me desire His word every morning and crave it every evening. He has helped me praise Him although sometimes proclaiming truths about Him feels a bit like walking down the beach against 20 mile per hour wind. and He has surrounded me with the richest community – the kind of community that has helped me hold up my hands and the kind of community that has walked into the darkness so bravely with me.

the grief is unpredictable. and in so many ways it is indescribable. but so is the love of God. and i am grateful for that love today.

today’s margin note: believe that God is loving, even in the darkest of times. i promise you He is.

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grief [pt. 1]

i put one foot in front of the other today. and i will keep doing that. i will keep doing that. but let me clarify — i am moving, but i am not moving on. the grief is suffocating and overwhelming and at times that one foot in front of the other seems impossible.

it has been a week since she apologized for having to leave me through the first tears i ever saw her cry. it has been a week since the last time i will ever hear her say she loves me.

it has only been a week and i miss mom indescribably.

today’s margin note: “circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins.”

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He’d choose me any day

i normally have ideas for these posts brewing in my mind for a day or more before i put my fingers to the keyboard. i’m such an internal processor that i don’t keep this blog to process things like maybe some people would. instead, i keep this thing to share all the processing that goes on in my mind all the time. it’s for you in that i share it. it’s for me in that i can’t contain it otherwise. but tonight…

tonight i read this other blog post, and i was struck by the final words in it. so struck that i had to get on here and write about it. because those words moved me in a special way tonight. in a very special way. well, i haven’t had time to think this through and i’ll be long since sleeping by the time i’d have it all internally processed anyway. so tonight, just this once, you get the raw product.

i enjoy you.
if you weren’t mine, i’d adopt you.
i’d choose you any day.”

it was a blog a mom wrote about her three year old son. she spent her space of white writing about all these things that make him him, and all these things she doesn’t want to forget about him as he grows up. it was a sweet read about the love of a parent for her sweet little boy. but those words, those final words, they overwhelmed me.

it was a love running deeper than a mom loving her son just because he was hers. let me explain…

if you haven’t gathered already, i’m a words person. i believe in words. i believe they are powerful. i believe they can make dark things light. i believe they can make inanimate things come to life. i believe in words.

consequently, there are few things i respect more in a person than the ability to use words wisely and to use words well. that mom, she used those words well.

and i’m starting to believe that there’s just something about having a child. i’ve thought that ever since i started going to church regularly because pastors always have a way of connecting some story with their kids to something they are trying to teach us about God. i think there must be all kinds of new things you learn about God when you have a kid of your own. actually, i know that’s true because i learn all kinds of new things about God from parents.

like those words in that post.

i enjoy you | if you weren’t mine, i’d adopt you | i’d choose you any day

you see, life’s been hard lately. and i mean really, really hard. i may have just come out of the hardest week of my life, and i don’t have any promise that this week won’t be just as hard. and in the midst of this, i have experienced God richly. but what i have been struck by about Him the most is how far above me He is. i don’t mean a matter of distance, because you better believe i have felt Him near through every second of all of this. what i mean is that it’s been one of those weeks that i really just don’t understand. and when i don’t understand i am always reminded that God’s ways are simply so far above mine. they are higher, and they are better. and that all leaves me in awe of Him.

but there’s more to Him than His supremacy in that. there’s also something supremely intimate about Him. it’s more than that He knows more than me and that He knows better than me. it’s that He loves me more and He loves me better. He loves me more and He loves me better than this mom loves her sweet little boy. He loves me more and He loves me better than my own parents love me. He loves me more and He loves me better. He loves me infinitely and unfailingly and unconditionally.

and isn’t that just the thing about those words that mom wrote?

i mean, God enjoys me. when i wasn’t with Him, He adopted me. He chose me.
and He chooses me over and over again every morning.

that’s why those words overwhelmed me. they overwhelmed me because they were more than some description of the way a mom loves her son. they were this small little glimpse at the way God loves us.

i think i read that post today because He wanted to tell me just that – that He loves me.
and i scarce can take that in.

today’s margin note: think on God’s love for you until it overwhelms you. i promise you it will.

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the good fight

there’s something about a good fight that’s alluring to me. it’s why in school, whenever i had the choice, i always picked to research rosa parks. she fought a good fight. it’s why when i go on runs in this city i always try to run by the lincoln memorial. he fought a good fight. it’s probably part of the reason why i want to give my life to fighting to end human trafficking. i know i’ll be fighting a good fight.

and just maybe that’s why i always choose to journal about 1 timothy 6:12 when it comes up on my bible reading plan.

fight the good fight of the faith. take hold of the eternal life to which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

because there’s another good fight i’m supposed to be fighting. the good fight of faith. and now that i’ve been in this city for two weeks, i think it’s time to take inventory on all that God has been teaching me in my time here. and well, taking that inventory led me back to this verse. because in it is the truth that i feel God is reminding me of over and over again in my time here. and i think that truth will be essential to any other good fight i ever fight.

you see, i listened to this sermon once about this verse. i don’t remember the whole thing, but the premise with it has stuck with me. that premise is that faith involves finding all my joy and satisfaction in Jesus. faith is believing on Him as the source of all that i will ever need, as the source of everlasting joy, as the source of eternal satisfaction. all that to say, the good fight of faith that i am supposed to be fighting is in fact a fight for finding joy in Jesus.

when i stumbled upon this verse a week ago, i thought i was in a season of life where this good fight of faith wasn’t all that difficult. i mean, i feel joyful, right? i love my job. i can’t wait to go in on monday to keep on working on what i’m working on. i’m doing what i feel like i was called to do. and on top of that i live in this really neat city where there is always something fun happening. and on top of that i got accepted to be part of this organization that i was really hoping i’d get to be a part of next year. and i guess things are just going pretty well right now.

and as i was recounting all the ways that God has spoiled me lately, it occurred to me that the good fight isn’t just a fight for joy. it’s a fight for joy in Jesus. and thus, even in this season of abundant blessing the fight is hard. in fact, it may be even harder than in those seasons of drought. because in those seasons of drought there simply is no where else to get joy. when your soul craves it, you are forced into the arms of Jesus. but here, in this city, in this job, that fight to not be satisfied with a happiness tied up in my circumstances instead of feasting on that eternal, unshakeable joy in Jesus is real.

and it is hard. and it is a fight in every sense of the word. it’s a fight i have to fight today. and it’s a fight i’ll have to fight again tomorrow. but let it never be said that it isn’t a fight worth fighting with everything that i am.

today’s margin note: fight for joy in Jesus. fight for it with everything that you are, and fight for it in the seasons of abundance as well as the seasons of suffering.

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try to love again

i had one of the strangest mornings i’ve ever had. to be honest, as i sit here in this trendy little coffee shop i still feel a bit put off by the whole thing. i’m not sure what to make of it, but i want to make something of it. so here i sit in this coffee shop.

i read my bible on the back porch before walking to church. as i read i was struck by this verse that says “they profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works” (titus 1:16). in the margin next to that verse i have written hypocrisy. so i thought on that verse awhile, and i thought about how i never want that kind of thing to be said about me — that i claim to know God, but deny Him by my works. and sorrowfully, yet humbly i began to think through the areas in my life where that verse is unfortunately true of me.

the area where i feel like it applies the most is in loving others well. and although i feel that this is one of the areas in which i have grown the most this year, i think it is also the area that holds the most room for improvement. so i took off to church on foot, and as i walked i prayed for God to discipline me and sanctify me for the purpose of loving others well.

because i want to know Him and glorify Him with my works. that’s all i want.

so i prayed as i walked, and then up she walked. she asked me for $5 to buy a sandwich. “not today,” i immediately replied, more out of habit than in response to the question she asked me. as i said the words it occurred to me that i just might be being that one thing i had just been praying not to be — a hypocrite. so instead of just pressing on toward church i replied, “i’ll walk with you and buy you a sandwich.” she persisted in her plea for the $5, but told me there was a place around the corner. naturally it was in the opposite direction i was walking. “is there any place this way,” i asked and pointed, before explaining that i was on my way to church. but she kept insisting on that place around the other corner. i hesitantly turned on my heels, knowing that i would be late to church as a result of this walk and subsequent sandwich purchase. yet i took a few steps back in the direction of that sandwich shop around the corner.

she turned and looked at me with utter disgust as she scoffed, “you know what? you’re a stinking ugly ho.”

i was shocked. literally shocked. and i was hurt, i mean really hurt, not because i thought what she said was true, but because of the way she looked at me as she said those words, and the way it felt like such a failure on my journey to understand love and give it away. she stormed off obviously not interested in that sandwich after all. so i put my head down and headed on to church. and as i walked i couldn’t help but feel confused. i thought she was my chance to love someone well today. and yet it went so completely terribly.

sometimes it lasts in love
and sometimes it hurts instead
– 
adele

hours later as i sit in this coffee shop as that adele song plays in the background, i can’t help but think of moses before pharaoh in those early chapters of exodus. specifically, that part where he storms in to tell pharaoh to let his people go, to which pharaoh responds that not only will they not be let go, but their slavery will be made much worse, nearly impossible in fact.

it’s in those early chapters of exodus that i am reminded that sometimes as we seek to follow the call of God things get a lot worse before they get better.

maybe that’s what happened today. maybe today i felt strongly that call of God to love others in a radical way in light of my knowing Him and the way He loves me. and as a result i tried to love someone well and it went a lot worse than any of my other attempts this year. and just maybe i’ll try to love someone well really soon and it will get a whole lot better. i hope i try to love someone well really soon and that it gets a whole lot better.

today’s margin note: strive to love others well because to do differently may just make you one of those people about whom it may be said “they profess to know God, but deny Him by their works.” do whatever you can so that kind of thing can never be said about you, even if you fail miserably along the way.

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courage

i woke up today in a new city, and i’ll be waking up again here for the next six weeks. it’s a pretty cool place i must confess. i say that because after i woke up i went for a walk. and about two minutes later i was standing behind the supreme court of the united states.

but, i’m getting ahead of myself. because before i walked around the city like a kid in a candy store i went outside to a porch to embrace the quiet and rainy weather. it was nice to not be surrounded by people for the first time in two weeks. so i sat outside and read. i read this passage in 2 kings where elisha prays that this guy’s eyes would be opened and they are. and when they are opened he sees all these horses and chariots of fire that he couldn’t see before. and the passage got me thinking about courage.

i prayed a simple prayer from the airport before i came to this new city. it was something along the lines of “Jesus, grant me courage and excellence and friendship and adventure.” first on the list: courage. so as i read this passage this morning i started to wonder why i even prayed for courage before coming here. maybe i wanted the courage to meet new people (yes, it actually requires courage for me to do that). maybe i wanted the courage to pursue my dream of fighting human trafficking. maybe i wanted the courage to represent more than a resume in a city where everyone is just trying to make it to the top.

or maybe as i prayed for courage what i meant was like what the book i’m reading says:
“we believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.”

and as i assessed that list of possibilities, the commonality i found was that i wanted courage in order to act. and as i read this passage about how there are these horses and chariots of fire around us that we don’t even see, i couldn’t help but wonder why i would ever need  courage to act. i mean with these angel armies and heavenly forces on my side there doesn’t seem to be a big need for courage. because it all makes me feel a little invincible when i really get to thinking about that kind of thing.

well, it would if only i had eyes to see it, right?

and that’s when it hit me — what i need courage for is not to act. what i need courage for is to believe. it’s a courageous thing to walk by faith and not by sight. and i want nothing more than to walk by faith here in this new city as i start this next stage of my adventure this summer.

and so my prayer on that porch in the rain became “Jesus, grant me courage to walk by faith.” and i’ll pray it again tomorrow. and the day after that.

today’s margin note: it’s a courageous thing to walk by faith. pray for the courage and keep on walking.

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