Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Worth Protecting

Do you ever have those days where you feel like you're just waiting. You don't really know what you're waiting for, but it just feels like everything you do and everywhere you go there's something on pause. Or maybe, you have those weeks, or months, or years?

I drive around on days like that and it just feels like everything is distant from me. I'm in this different reality where time stands still and I'm just watching and waiting. I don't actually get to participate in the moment, I don't get to fully be present in the conversation, in the task, in the adventure. Usually it settles in when I don't get enough sleep you know, sort of like that caffeine buzz where you're running on fumes instead of actual gas and you have this unnecessarily dramatic, "what is my life?" moment as you stare off to the upper left.

Well, I feel like my waiting game has been going on for a long time now and you know what I feel robbed; like, I'm missing out on something that I want to be a part of but can't, an adventure that I can see but I can't touch. I've thought about it and I've come to this weird connection. The more I think about myself, the more selfish that I become, the farther from living I get. I had this moment where I realized that those who are selfish don't get to leave an impact on this world. And if you know me then you know that making an impact in this world is something I crave more than pregnant women crave ice cream (I don't actually know if that happens, but it seems true). It seems counterintuitive really. The more you pursue things for you, the less you truly benefit. The less moments where you feel full, saturated, and alive.

I've been selfishly protecting myself from being hurt lately and while it is so natural to react to situations, relationships, and future plans with walls and safety nets we have to sacrifice to do so. In the process of safety proofing our lives we lose that moment right before you dive into the waterfall heart racing, fear being battled, we lose the moment right as you crest the mountain and everything you've climbed unfolds below you, the moment that you catch the last rays of sun gleaming off of the water, you forfeit the spark of life for a dull musty constant. Isn't it weird that when you start protecting yourself you begin to lose everything worth protecting? You lose the life you've wanted to preserve. It's like when you try to hoard up on some really good food before it gets discontinued (like twinkies that one time in that one remember when that happened right?) and then you don't ever really get around to eating it, but instead you watch it mold on the countertop (well, not with twinkles those things could survive a nuclear attack).

What's really worth protecting though? Your version of success? Your image? Your laughter? Your light-heartedness? I've tried these past few months to protect these things against life's harsh themes and uncertain obstacles. And you know what, I feel empty. I feel less content in laughing, less light-hearted, and more trapped then before. I'm stepping into this realization that I can't protect my life (and will probably have to step into this again sometime in the future). I can't hold onto my dreams with clenched fists, eyes shut tight, whispering, "please, please, please". I can't always prepare. I can't always be certain. I think it's time for me to stop trying to protect myself and just let go, to let parts of me get chipped away and bruised. Maybe then I'll actually taste what I'm eating, I'll actually laugh when I'm brimming with joy, and I'll actually feel like my image. I'll stand at the edge of the crowd and dance instead of compare, because maybe then I'll look at God and need not look anywhere else. I'll hold the gaze and then break out into a smile laughing at the inside joke that my Lord and I share. I hear him say with amusement in His voice, "see, you let go of those dreams and I'll be able to take a hold of them and show you how they were just a foothill compared to the mountains. Let's go to the mountains."

I have this awesome feeling that when I follow Him there, I will realize that I am more than I originally thought I could be. I will realize the reason for being light-hearted, the glory that leads me to life-filled laughter. I will feel safe no matter what happens. Whether it be from instability (relationally or financially), my own fears, or from disappointments in life. I will be able to be weak and not feel the shame or the inadequacy that so naturally comes when my strength wavers. I will be safe from hopeless heartbreak. Then I will be free.

I look to the Lord now and I get to say "Lead me" and I hear back ever so quiet, "Forever and always my Daughter."

With a light-heart, I can rest.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Insecure Sower

I had a conversation with someone the other day that launched me into this crazy train of thought. This person is unbelievably awesome, but insecurity has infiltrated the way that they live and see themselves. Now I could say that this person used to be me (and it was) and you all would be like "Whoa, crazy writing technique where she described someone else and was like psych it's her." But, that's not exactly where I'm going, so calm down. This was an actually different person then me and you know, I bet some of you are reading this and are saying that it applies to you, or your best friend, or your parents, or your sibling, or whatever. I think it's safe to say that we all know someone who struggles with insecurity.

I was praying for this person and The Parable of the Sower popped into my head, so I read it. But, this time I read it from my old perspective. My old perspective of self-doubt, relational validation, and radical insecurity. Now the parable can be found in Matthew 13, and Mark 4, and Luke 8, yes it's popular. If you don't know it I definitely encourage you to read it, but essentially it's about a farmer who is sowing seeds in his garden and it describes the fate of the seeds in different environments: the path, rocky places, thorns, and good soil. Jesus uses it for a metaphor of how people in this world will react to the Gospel message. It's a beautiful message, full of hard truth. But you see I used to read it like this (putting myself in as the farmer sowing the seed, spreading the Gospel). When the seed fell on the path and the birds ate it, I would say, "how stupid! I threw the seed too far (I tried too hard to get these people to convert) and now look what I've done. How pathetic am I?" When the seed fell on the rocky places I would say, "how lazy! I didn't take the time to lift each one of these stones and make a good soil patch (devoted more time and efforts to these people's problems) for these seeds to grow. How selfish am I?" When the seed fell among the thorns I would say, "Where was I to protect them from all these thorns (hardships in life). What a terrible person am I?" And when the seeds fell on the good soil and took root I wouldn't even notice because I was so fixed on my failure OR I would take it as my "month fix" of the good-Christian high until it all faded and I felt like crap about myself all over again.

It doesn't have to be that extreme though. Think about it, how many times have we beat ourselves over the head because we tried too hard and we turned people away, or simply didn't care enough about other people's problems (Christian or not), or didn't protect people from feeling/going through terrible things and now we feel responsible for their pain or their emotions? How many times have we said, look what I've done! And then felt guilt, shame, and self-loathing or even pride and self-righteousness for the success or happiness that they feel.

Notice how Jesus explains the parable. He doesn't say, "See, the reason these people suffered and rejected me was because of that incompetent, selfish, lazy believer who was spreading my message of love and wholeness all wrong!" He says to the disciples that this WORLD is full of affliction and trials (sometimes even caused by our belief in the Word) and the influence of the evil one. He explains how these things get in the way for these seeds, that they are robbed by the world, not our actions or lack of action. We are not responsible for other's change! Contrary to popular belief, we do not control other's emotions, either good or bad! We can influence them for sure, but ultimately it is a choice on the person's part to feel a certain way. And the way that someone changes is based off of a relationship between them and their Father, their God. It is a unique relationship for THEM, just as YOU have a unique relationship with YOUR Father. So often we place our identity in where the seed fell and how people reacted. Did they reject you? Did they accept you? Have you failed in your ultimate purpose and thus failed as a person, or have you succeeded? It is so circumstantial, an identity placed on others. It is risky; it is hard; it is impossible to have a security in who we are, based off of other people, no matter how awesome they are. I am not saying, don't pour out and care about others. Please don't take that away. I am saying pour out and care about others because you know how poured into and cared about by God you are. Love others because you know you are loved. Be selfless because you know how valuable you are and you don't need to drag that question into every scenario in your life. Be selfless because you can, because everything in your life does not center around finding your own happiness; because you don't need to be seen by others, because you are ALREADY SEEN by God. That is why we should care for other people. That is how we can become selfless.

Imagine what it would be like to have your identity placed in the Gospel message that you are spreading, on the God that you are working for. Imagine what it would be like for someone to be having a crappy day and you don't immediately jump to what you did wrong to make them feel that way. Imagine the freedom you would have to love others and not have to think about yourself in it! Imagine the way that you would get to spread God's love - through sincerity and joy, not out of obligation or a necessity to feel like a good person or to have God maybe love the wretched person that you think you are. GOD LOVES YOU NO MATTER WHAT YOUR ACTIONS ARE. He loves you right now as you are - struggling through that sin, being that much of a mess. He loves you. Just sit in that. NO, don't do anything. Let it sit with you. Let it sink in. Let it infiltrate your brain and your heart. Hear it from God himself. My friend. My family. Don't let insecurity rob you of the FULL life that God has in store for you. Don't let it rob you of the Woman or Man that God is making you into. Don't let it rob you of the journey He takes you on; don't let it rob you of joy. Because it is a genius ploy of the enemies. But it doesn't have to be. "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." - 1 John 4:4.

Monday, September 22, 2014


It will create you or destroy you.

The stillness will be either stifling or freeing. It will evoke potential or regret. It will be the calm before the storm or the disaster there after. We choose in the stillness who we will become. We choose our guide, our voice of reason, our God or gods. We choose where we go no further. We choose to cut the rope, or tighten the noose. We choose between fear or courage. 

In the stillness our foundation is laid. Every noise, every movement, every detail is noticed. Every thought, every belief is important. In the stillness we let go or we tense up. In the stillness we run or we fall.

The art has been lost in our world of adrenaline and success. The talent of non-movement, of standing still, has been written off as something of the past when there were no video games, internet, or glowing TV screens. 

As a generation we pound our chests and proclaim: We are efficient, we are productive, we are driven, we are success.                             Well, we are sinking.

We are sinking in our ideals of identity and happiness. We believe that we can control our insecurity and beliefs through sheer force of will. We look to our own hands as the key to a full life and we grow grace-less in our works.

If we avoid the stillness - we avoid decision, purpose, true adventure, and true courage. If we avoid the stillness, we neither tense nor relax, run nor fall, fulfill potential nor regret lost potential. If we avoid stillness, then we successfully avoid risk. And without risk we feel no pain, we feel no love. We are safe in our metal box, filled with nothing worth protecting. If we avoid the stillness, we become our fears swaying in the winds of insecurity and uncertainty.

But, it is not until you stare down the empty road that you begin the journey.

There is a voice, waiting to be heard in the stillness, calling each one of us. Sit, don't move, let the panic settle and subside and know who you are. For when you stand again, it will be with new life.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Rich Life

I am a newbie Coloradan - fresh from the Indiana farmland by two weeks - and have been in the process of searching for a church. Well, I've taken up a terrible habit of sleeping in until like 10am every day because I only have class on Tuesday and Thursday. Needless to say, my morning Sunday habits have become entirely void these past couple weeks. Ergo, criteria for a church = offers a night service. =] There are two churches here who do that. One of them meets at 6pm and the other at 5:30pm. Last week, I went to the 6pm one, and it was great. So, of course, I decided to go back to it this week. I packed all my homework for after church shenanigans (#lifeofagradstudent) and left the house relatively early, for me. I walked into the church at 5pm in extreme confidence that I was right on time. False, the doors were locked and people looked at me like a crazy for even trying to get in. Regardless they let me in and I walked straight to the coffee providing counter (another plus for this church) grabbed coffee and then realized I AM AN HOUR EARLY!!! So, I walked out the other door because who are we kidding I'm not standing around in a church lobby for an hour! I got in the car and spontaneously decided to try out this other 5:30pm church. So I drove over to a different church with ANOTHER church's coffee in my car. That was when extreme coffee guilt settled in and I took action. I guzzled the whole coffee while sitting in the comfort of my judge-free zone car and walked in real casual like.

I tell you what, I have a strong belief that God led me through those doors that day, using my absolute disastrous attention to time. I sat in this church service as the pastor slammed us with the absolute awe that comes with the GLORY of God. The Glory that we get to respond to through worship, right? So we had a great time of worship and I had this moment when I stopped singing and listened to the body of believers sing with all of their hearts to a Glorious God and I couldn't help but goose bumps. After church, I decided to go to the top of this mountain to watch the sunset and took off racing the sunset all the way to the top. I got to this parking lot, looking over a small lake with the full moon already gleaming and the gradient of orange, pink, green, light blue, and dark blue alive in the sky. The foreground was the town I have already grown to love, Fort Collins, and the background was another mountain range where the sun rays pierced the sky. I rolled down my windows and walked to the waters edge as Fix My Eyes by Kings Kaleidoscope blared from my car. I stood, captivated. A stupid grin plastered on my face as I spun in a slow circle taking in the absolute beauty that was around me.

I've known that feeling a few times before in my life. In the times when all of my best friends are in one room or when a particular song has left me dumb-struck. The times when I have stood atop a mountain or in the middle of a forest or on a surfboard in the ocean or in a wide open meadow. It is a moment when time stands still and my heart is soaked in joy. That for me is worship. It is when I am so intentionally present that I can see God's timeline meet mine and it catches my breath and makes my heart swell. It is a second, or an hour, or a day where I believe that everything that God says about me is true; that He is doing something special in my live right now and I can see it. When I know that God is fulfilling a desire of my heart in that moment. It is when God gives me a glimpse of how good, how glorious, and how beautiful He is and it leaves me feeling saturated and alive. It is a gift. A gift that allows me to forgive, to survive heart ache, and to be sacrificial with my life; yet, in that process I feel more satisfied then ever before, more whole, more loved, more pursued...

You know what, it is a rich life we get to live and I for one love living it.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Next Stop

I am on a train. Current stop: College. Four years ago, I stepped off of the train at my platform, Purdue University. I started a journey that I would have never guessed would land me here, about to board the train again on my way to the next stop: Graduate School. At this station I have developed life lasting friendships, changed my entire life, and developed some of my most important and valued passions. I have been in one of my dearest friend's wedding in South Africa, I have done photo shoots, ran with my arms spread wide, watched sunsets and sunrises on top of parking garages, overlooking massive oceans, staring out on lakes, woods, and valleys of other countries. I have risen from a stage in front of 6000 students, and been challenged by people who are 100% different than I am. I have lived in five different houses/dorms/apartments and have developed unbelievable memories in unbelievable places. And now I am about to get back on the train that will take me someplace new. A new platform, a new adventure, a new life, with new faces, and new memories. I will develop old passions and discover new ones and I will experience things I could never have imagined or dreamed of. And I won't experience some of the ones that I have dreamed of.

Throughout this whole process I look back on the past train stations that I have enjoyed life at. High school, middle school, childhood, etc. I see the old faces, the old friendships, the old life that I used to have. I see the faces that I have left behind and have not seen in four plus years, and I see the ones that boarded the train with me and stayed in my life a little longer. Some got off at different stations, some got back on after a station or two apart. Life is full of good byes and hellos. What makes them bearable? What makes it okay to get back on the train? To say good bye to everything you are familiar with? Every time I get back on the train to go to a new station there is one big thing. I am always looking at a familiar face. He is my Father, my God, and my Savior. He takes my hand every time it's time for me to move on, to take the next step in my life adventure. He says to me, "Come on, I've got something to show you, it's just beyond what this station has offered you. It is something good, yet hard, hair raising yet knee sinking." I look at His face, I grab His hand and I walk. I walk away from what I know and I walk into what I trust. I trust that the Lord is a good conductor. I trust that whatever the next stop brings, He will be there. I trust that He loves me enough to give me joy, peace, love, grace, laughter, growth, hardships, challenges, and adventure. I am excited for what He has in store, because when I look back at the stations that could have developed in my life time, I realize how well He has steered my train, how intentionally He has laid my path. He has taken my through scenes that make my jaw drop, valleys full of meadows and peace, deserts that scorched, winters that froze, mountains that dazzled, rivers that flowed, trees that swayed in the wind, busy city streets that bustle with noise. He has driven me past the poor, the afflicted, the ones in need of a spiritual and physical advocate and said "love them". He has driven me past the rich, the apathetic, the selfish, and the broken and said, "love them". My God has shown me things I never wanted to see, and things I never imagined I would be privileged enough to see.

Leaving this station means leaving a lot behind and for that I will be sad. But I cannot wait for where God is leading me next and I continue to look forward to wherever He may lead me.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Adventure Ache

It is Tuesday, the second day of being back from a week long break from school. I'm sitting in a library after having just finished my Biology homework and stalking/editing the facebook world.  My feed is currently jam-packed with world-wide adventures considering I have friends spread across the globe this semester. Meanwhile, I just fine-tuned my work schedule, making sure I have a minimum of 30 hours, checked my grades, calculated my finances, called the grad school I am planning on attending, molded my planner to give me room to see people, study, and work-out, and then sat back exhausted. How ironic that just a few days ago I sat back exhausted because I had just hiked 9 miles on sand with all that I needed on my back. I have a very familiar aching in my heart. I call it the adventure ache. It resonates in the post and pre stages of extreme adventure and the more you get it, the more likely you are to succumb to it.

Now, I am a firm believer in the notion that never in any stage of your life do you have to settle to be miserable or discontent for a pay off later down the road. I am not a believer in fixes in life, an adventure fix to put you over until the next one, or a God fix that fills you until next Sunday, etc. I am a believer in the everyday chance of joy, the everyday opportunity to truly be filled. I realize that this is the harder belief system to hold and even harder to live by. But right now in this setting I am faced with a hard question: How do I partake in everyday contentment and live, I mean really live, in the mundane and the schedule? When I am looking at all of these pictures of unbelievable mountains, gorgeous cities, and ridiculous adventures how do I remain happy sitting in an uncomfortable library chair doing things I don't necessarily want to do?

I won't lie I didn't know how to answer that question when I typed it. So, I shut my computer and walked home. I plugged in my music and talked with God as I went. Asking Him, how do you be happy? As I asked and walked, the cold bit through my coat and made my eyes tear up. The wind rustled the grass as I walked beside it and the clouds moved in a lazy fashion through the sky. The campus was empty and an imagination-provoking instrumental was providing me a soundtrack to my movie-like walk. I noticed the empty treetops gently leaning and heard the sound of my footsteps. It was as if I had been forced to move in slow motion and lightning speed at the same time, losing sight of the meaning of time at all. To be happy? Notice the world around you. That's what God was telling me. Listen to the sound of nature, no matter how small, trace the same path everyday noticing the different colors, the way the sky is shaped, the people that walk across it. Make new memories with the people you love by being intentionally present, study hard because you know it's a blessing to even have a chance to learn. Pay attention to the intricate story that is being weaved throughout your life and the lives of others. Don't waste time being jealous of others lives, others opportunities of adventure, when you are passing up the adventure right in front of you. Choose to notice, choose to laugh, choose to let your imagination fill an empty field with little nymphs, fairies, and fauns. Because I can guarantee, that wherever you are, whatever stage of life you're in, there is an adventure waiting for you. God is constructing an intricate play, a hair-raising, tear-inducing, life-filling saga and all we have to do is open our eyes!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Different Type of Leaving

I grew up in California and I go to school in Indiana. I remember the time when I was deciding what college I would attend. In that time, I looked around the place that I made so many memories and said to myself, "I have to go." So, I packed up my things, said my good-byes and flew across the country to "go" to school. I had that feeling so strongly that I had told my mom years in advance that I was going to leave

A little sidetrack now. I called my sister and was talking to her about some future plans. We were just chatting and I was going through my normal routine of verbal processing/planning. And I finished that conversation, with, "I think it's time for me to come home." As I was saying the words I found myself choking up. As I was typing that sentence I started to choke up. For a long time I didn't know why every time I said those words I got emotional, but I think it's starting to fall in place now, especially in light of the next big decision (graduating from college) I have to make. When I was leaving home the first time, I was running from my past, who I was, and what was in that place. I ran because I wasn't brave enough to face my issues. As the years have passed I have found the strength and courage in God to walk through those things and am a radically different person now. I am no longer running a race to try to stay just one step ahead of my brokenness and shame. I am learning the power of staying and of rest. But, that whole term "coming home" is a hard one for me because I have spent my whole life focused on "leaving home". Because home is what I know, it is what I am familiar with, it is what formed me, and it is a deep part of me. And for a long time I hated everything about myself, home included. But now, I am a Daughter of God. One who is fought for and loved unconditionally. I am a Woman who fights for grace, mercy, and compassion. I am valued for who I am in Christ, not what I do or don't do. And now I know I have a God who is saying, "I think it's time for you to come home."

I have no idea what that means, or what I will face in the journey of "coming home". I have a feeling that it will encompass me walking alongside God and in His Will a heck of a lot more. I feel like I've been on this journey so far, out to sea, away from everything that I have known, learning what it means to be me, what it means to embrace pain and to seek hope in the extreme darkness. I have been on a journey to understand what it is that I really believe and which thoughts and emotions are in Truth and which ones are in deception. I have journeyed into my lands of judgment and malice and sought to understand the roots from which they grew. No matter how changed you are, no matter how "strong" you have become, it is scary to walk the halls where tragedy and heartache has occurred, and that is all the more evident in light of the shooting here at Purdue. But now, it's time to come back to the places I ran from and begin to walk once again in the desolate land that I left so long ago. It's time to stand up in the lands where I once was weak and begin to fight for those who are in the same place I once was. It's time to get my hands dirty, it's time to "come home" to this world that is broken, but with a renewed hope and a strong heart full of identity, purpose, and grace.

So, yes, I will go, somewhere and somehow. When I graduate, I will go someplace new and be surrounded by new people. I will leave behind everything I worked for on this campus, the familiar sites and the places that I called home for so long. I will pack my bags, say my good-byes, and get on a plane to I don't even know where yet. I will be the only one who knows my past, my tendencies, and my memories. But, my leaving is no longer about me and my fear, and that is what makes all the difference. So, this time I will leave not to run, but to "come home".

Monday, January 6, 2014

Love Without Fear

"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. the one who fears is not made perfect in love." - 1 John 4:18.

Okay, so there's the verse that inspired the thoughts and here's the set-up as described to my little sister, Jenelle, and her good friend Nikki. We are now in a citadel and it is of the most elegant design that you can think of, I've leave it to your imagination to fill that one in and while you're at it fill in the subjects of the citadel as well. But there is a great harp band and perhaps some flutes and even a little piccolo if you would want to throw it in. All that to say that I've been reading a lot of the Lord of the Rings and I can't stop thinking in the following language and I fear that if I don't make a slight joke of the post that I would of die of suppressed ridiculousness.

Love without fear. What fear often holds us back in love? The fear of pain, betrayal, or simply of exposure? To love without fear is to have an identity in pure eternity, to leave shame behind in a quest into glory and worship, to forfeit what is "ours" in this world and to lose focus on the ever growing self-obsession. Safety, Security, and Settling are no longer words of happiness or a means to the end, but instead they are sweet words of the enemy. For it is my understanding that in this world we are driven to love one another out of fear and thus brokenness arises. We deem that in that love our fears of worthless invisibility are gone and importance is obtained. We pick up a title to falsely ornament our hearts with purpose and suddenly our identity is wrapped up, like a prisoner, with the fear of love. Or perhaps the fear of lovelessness. We place the highest importance in the cracked conduit and look not high enough to see the source.

Love may not be what it seems and often I've found my version of love to be shamed and fruitless. It becomes a combination of lust and longing; a heart in a barren land willing to attach to the first voice that is heard. But now I see that love is a heart in a flourishing garden and the companionship is simply to provide another set of eyes to discover the awe and grandeur of the land it resides within. Then, we may describe and demonstrate the land of love all the clearer as the length of our stay continues on and on.

I think it may be time for a move...