Thursday, January 29, 2015

Reaching for Beautiful

The past few days my heart has been raw. Not bad, just different, expanding and changing and pressing up against my ribcage, stretching and shifting.
I've never been one to adjust easily, and I feel like more often than not these days I find myself reaching for things to wrap my fingers around.
I feel like God's been nudging me. Not harshly, but in a way that says, "Hey, little daughter, do you trust me? It's time to take that step."
I'm the girl who's afraid to step out of the boat.
I'm the girl who's spent so long wandering around in the wilderness, learning what it means to listen to His voice, to see His hand in the darkness.
Now I feel like He's saying, "Come on, sweet one, you can't stay in the wilderness forever."
Existing in the light is scary. It means trusting and taking risks and being open.

But I am not a woman who ever lives the full knowing. I am a wandering Israelite who sees the flame in the sky above, the pillar, the smoke from the mountain, the earth open up and give way and still I forget. I am beset by chronic soul amnesia. I empty of truth and need refilling. I need come again every day - bend, clutch and remember - for who can gather manna but once, hoarding and store away sustenance in the mind for all of the living?

I'm living off His promises. I am ravenous, constantly reaching for the manna, the blessings. I count, I cry, I pray, I savor. I am realizing in these precious days how much I need the constant connection, the manna.

I have run because I long for beauty like a mania, a woman leaving dinner, running in apron for the cast of the moon. When I can't find it - is that why my soul goes a bit wild, morose, crazed? Strange - I hadn't even noticed that I'd been hungry for Beauty until I ran for the moon

Today, in the midst of all my mind's circles, I sat cross legged on the floor with my beautiful friend and discipler. We were talking about relationships, about the ever present root of my own brokenness. She read me the story of the woman by the well. I've heard the story so many times, but it's still one of my favorites.
As she was reading, something in my brain clicked.
Jesus asked this woman for water. We think of her as the lowest of the low, a woman caught in sin, a shameful individual. But Jesus asked her for a drink. He knew her story, knew her past, but still He thought she had something to offer.

How? How could I have forgotten how badly I wanted this? To bow down and rightly worship

Long truck rides driving to no where and town dates with the girl next door and holding hands and being held and gathering around the table and sharing the struggles and the joys, laughter and rest and the feeling of fullness as I walk away from the room with my Bible and journal spread open on my bed knowing that this is how I get full, all of it seems to be a whisper from God saying, "Do you see? Do you see now, my girl? Do you see how much I love you? Do you see that I will complete the works I have began? Do you see that in all of this I had a plan? Do you see that I will not leave you in the wilderness nor will I let you starve? I have called you to bigger things."

I am filthy rags. Is sight even possible? I've only got one pure thing to wear and it's got Made By Jesus on the tag and the purity of Jesus lies over a heart and His transparency burns the cataracts off the soul The only way to see God manifested in the world around is with the eyes of Jesus within.

I am captivated. I am reaching for the beautiful and pulling it close. I am finding sustenance from His manna. His voice says, "Trust me."
Even though it's hard and new and scary, and I've become accustomed to the darkness.
Even when the stretching and growing threaten to steal all my air
Even when I feel like the woman at the well with nothing to offer
He says, "I see you. I love you. I chose you. Trust me, daughter, and come partake in the feast of Manna that abounds. After all, didn't I say you would never starve?"

In the burn of the ache, there is this unexpected sensation of immense moon slowly shrinking and God expanding, widening and deepening my inner spaces. Is that why joy hurts - God stretching us open to receive more of Himself?

All italics quotes from 1000 gifts by Ann Voskamp

Thursday, January 22, 2015

And all the good things

It was on my to-do list for today: blog. Right after unpack boxes, check answers for assignment and spend 30 minutes in prayer for my part of the school's 60 hours of continual prayer.
I was thinking about what to write, my head spinning with all kinds of ideas.
But as I sit here with my laptop open, the sound of the train in the background, I realize I don't know what to write.
Not because there isn't things going on I could write about. In fact, it is in this very season that my heart is more full than it's ever been. It's because in this tender, precious season of becoming I am treasuring tiny moments, savoring the sweetness, giving gratitude for the grace days.
I was talking last night about writing.
"I might write about you," I warned him.
Because I tend to write about things. Good things, bad things, things that matter and things that don't, all of it gets written down and documented and saved.
But I haven't been writing things down as much as I normally do. I write down moments, memories, the sound of voices and the reflections carried in a set of eyes and things that make me laugh, but it's a more personal kind of writing. It's not to document, not sinking the memories in formaldehyde to try and preserve them for as long as I can.
No, this kind of writing is more about savoring, about taking all these moments and pondering them in my heart.
Last night I worked in the coffee shop. It's crazy and busy and sometimes incredibly fast paced and the whole place smells like coffee beans and milk and there's usually music playing and I love it.
There's something about using my hands to make the coffee to fill the cup to make the design on the top to give it to the person on the other side of the counter.
But it's more than just giving someone a drink. That isn't the moment I love the most.
It's not the smell of ground beans or the little accidents that we laugh off or the way we get to have fun while we work.
It's that one moment of eye contact when you pass someone their drink. It's that opportunity to; make something and make it with love because that person you're making it for is special and valuable and I know you can't say all that with a coffee but sometimes I try.
It's the way people connect. It's the opportunity to serve and nourish the people I care about.
Last night when I was working someone asked me if I liked working in the coffee shop. I've only worked a couple of times, and am still learning, and there are often moments when I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing.
But I said yes. Yeah, I do love it. Because I love seeing people brought together, and being given the opportunity to care for people in coffee cups.
This week is Spiritual Emphasis week at PRBI. It means every day we get a special Chapel, and then on Friday we have no classes and instead have day of prayer. During this week, we also were given the opportunity to participate in 60 hours of continual prayer.
I signed up for 2 half hour slots. I didn't know how I was going to fill half an hour, but decided to give it a shot. After all, how hard could it be?
Today I didn't feel like praying. My mind was spinning, my heart was full. Lots of changes have been happening in my life recently, changes that I'm pondering and mulling over and figuring out.
As I set out on my prayer walk I slipped on the ice, fell in a puddle, decided I probably should have worn a thicker sweater and my mind was too preoccupied to focus on prayer.
As I walked, I began to whisper. Not extravagant, beautiful prayers all dressed up and neat but humble pleadings and questionings.
I don't know the direction my life is headed in. Whenever I am given grace my first instinct is to be afraid of the moment when it will be taken away. It's too good to be true, I reason.
I went down winding streets and up old dirt roads and the whole time I was mumbling and murmuring. I felt afraid. Afraid of the future, and the unknowns, and even of the happiness that seems to be invading every corner of my life these days. I was afraid of the what if's, and the maybes, and the possible rejections and endings and that in all this goodness I will become lost.
I was walking and I hit this spot of sunshine on the bridge and I was just standing there, and for a single moment I felt seen. I felt heard, and noticed.
I felt a small whisper inside of me saying, "Do you not see that all of this you have been given is just a reflection of my love for you?"
I've been letting my fear be bigger than my faith.
A friend called me on it the other day. She said that all these new changes in my life are just adding. They just mean more love, more good, more happy. And I can't fully embrace the more if I'm still stuck in the less. I can't be full of faith if I'm listening to the lies of fear. I can't be happy if I'm still insistent on being right about the lies I've told myself all these years.
I want to be that kind of person who chooses addition over subtraction. I want to silence the fears and enter into all this crazy love that is being offered to me.
I was reminded of an Elizabeth Gilbert quote as I was walking back that says "Sometimes it is necessary to lose balance for love."
Sometimes it is necessary to put all those old beliefs and fears and the desire for control on the shelf so that you can fully embrace love.
These days I'm finding myself grateful. My life is all kinds of beautiful. There are so many moments I can't write about, not yet, as I am still savoring them myself. I was sitting by the window the other night staring up at the moon and I was completely overwhelmed with grace, and how even these first few weeks of 2015 have richly blessed me and how this kind of overwhelming goodness is rich and beautiful and scary and wild and thrilling all at the same time.
And how I'm so grateful. My heart is so full it feels like it might burst. And how this new stage in my life is about learning and growing and loving and embracing and becoming. It's my own personal journey of becoming that is expanding beyond myself and is creating something beautiful.
My phone vibrated in my pocket.
In the moonlight I made out the words of the text message: Cards?
Yeah, my life is pretty good

Sunday, January 18, 2015

When He says 'Trust me'

I didn't want to go to church this morning
I know it is on these days when I don't want to go that I need to go most. As I got up, got dressed and glanced over my notes for leading Sunday School one more time, I was inwardly grumbling. Last night I'd gone to bed after a great day only to be attacked by fear and shame and the idea of not being good enough. I woke up this morning feeling sick.  I complained and said a few bad words and stomped around.
The funny thing is I don't think God is put off by my not being delighted to go to church. Of course He wants me to be excited to go, but I don't think that just because I'm grumpy He decides I need a time out and He's not going to speak to me for a while.
I think it's quite the opposite. At least for this morning it was when I was grumpy and my head was filled with worries and doubts and confusion that He reached out and touched me.
In Sunday School I was greeted with bright eyes and smiling faces and little arms reaching out for me. As the kids said their verses, I was struck by how happy and proud they were.
The singing part of church is most often my favorite. One way I experience love is through music. I love the way that music makes me feel connected, feel heard and seen, like I'm witnessing something beautiful.
This morning I just listened to the words, to the piano chords and the strumming of the guitar. And I listened to the people around me sing. And I had this mental picture of crowd surfing. Not like at a rock concert where everything is loud and chaotic, but the peaceful image of being held up by hundreds of hands.
I felt like I was being held.
I felt like God was whispering to me, "Right here. I want you to look right here."
I felt like Peter, stumbling around on the waves. Life is real and the confusion I feel right now is real and the doubts are real and all of this is real. But it's when I focus on the reality of my fears instead of focusing on the reality of my God that I begin to sink.
I don't know a lot right now, and that's scary, but I was reminded this morning that I wasn't given a spirit of fear. And when my eyes are locked on the one who walks on water, I am secure.
It's easy to say but not as easy to believe. It's not easy to believe when these very real questions are staring me in the face or when it's Tuesday and I'm caught up in the middle of this hectic life.
Right now it feels like things are hanging in the balance, and I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something to go wrong. And it's like God is saying, "Trust me."
The other shoe might drop. Things might not go like I planned. The storm may rage. But that doesn't change the call: to trust Him, to look into His eyes and step out of the boat.

“Grace isn’t about having a second chance; grace is having so many chances that you could use them through all eternity and never come up empty. It’s when you finally realize that the other shoe isn’t going to drop, ever.”  

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Salty and the Sweet

I've been sitting here for the past half hour, trying to figure out something to write when I realized there isn't anything to write that I haven't written before.
I'm grateful...
It's not a secret, but I whisper it like it is. I whisper my joy like a small child, eyes twinkling.
The past few days have been a series of grace days, days where it's easy to feel joyful. They are days when everything in life feels like a gift, when I want to capture it all and save it somewhere special, just in case. I become a hoarder of this grace, clutching it all to my chest, waiting for the moment when it will run out.
I was reminded the other day of baking cookies. I walked into the dorm and the sweet smell of baking cookies met me, and I couldn't help but smile. I was reminded that, when baking cookies, you need both the sugar and the salt. Deprived of just one and the cookies won't turn out.
In the same way, it is the salty and the sweet that make a life.
I've been learning recently how to fully embrace each moment. I wrote a note and stuck it beside my bed, a reminder that each moment is a gift waiting to be noticed.
The joy moments are a gift, brimming with happiness and waiting to be celebrated.
But the salty moments are a gift too, a different kind of gift. The kind that sometimes takes longer to appreciate, the kind that promises that growth won't be easy but productive none the less.
I've been collecting moments, both salty and sweet, and storing them, pondering each separately, then together. Each one I hold in my hands before releasing it into the mixing bowl that is life and I'm learning to say thank you, even though at times I wrestle against the small words as they stay lodged in the back of my throat.
Sometimes I'm not thankful, but I'm trying to be.
Because eucharisteo always precedes the miracle
In care groups this week we're writing down 5 things a day that we're grateful for. As I wrote down my 5 things, I realized that gratitude transforms the mundane into the marvelous.
The everyday waking, sleeping, eating, breathing life becomes a sacred experience.
Meal times become fellowship time and sleep becomes serenity and every breath is a blessing. And I'm not always good at noticing these acts but when I do I want to document it. I want to stop and say "If this isn't beautiful I don't know what is."
I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don't want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.
I was talking the other day about the ugly beautiful blessings, the kind that appear in the darkness. In the moment even acknowledging the ugly beautiful feels like a crime. I've been living a lot of my life this way. Because in the moment the pain is so real and consuming and the need to feel it fully is real. I need to run it over in my hands, document each inch, then I can move on to the next emotion.
But I was reminded of Jacob, the story where He refuses to let go until God blesses him. He is broken down at the strongest place in his body, and the pain is real, but he refuses to let go until he is blessed.
I want to be like that. I want to cling tightly and wait for the blessings, and the grace days, and the beauty that has been promised me. I may not understand everything that happened in my life but I want to be the Jacob warrior, want to shout out through my exhaustion and confusion "I won't let go until you bless me."
I won't give up, won't walk away, won't let go until the blessings come.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Art of Asking

On Christmas Break, I started a book called The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. It's an incredible book, and I think it should be mandatory for every artist (or every person for that matter) to read. It's about asking for what you want, what you need, and allowing people to help you.
I've never really been good at that. Reaching out and letting people in and asking for what I want and allowing people to help.
In the past little while, I've been trying to be more honest about where I'm at. Quite frequently over at my instagram, but also on this little blog, and with friends. I've been amazed at the people who show up to join my little tribe, to say that yeah, they hear my voice, and it resonates with something inside of them.
I've been more contemplative these first few days of my second semester of college. I wrote on my instagram on my first day back how terrified I was. Because I made a mess of first semester. And when I looked into my hands at the end of the semester, I saw broken pieces.
Fragments of broken dreams and hopes and plans, I realized where I went wrong. And while things like courage and faith and joy rose from the collection in my cupped hands like sea glass emerging from the sand all I saw was the whole lot of sand.
In Amanda's book she says: People always want something from you. Your time, your love, your money. For you to agree with them and their politics and their point of view. And you can't ever give them what they want. But you can give them something else. You can give them empathy. You can give them understanding. And that's a lot, and enough to give
That first night in a new place, scared as I was, with fingers shaking I typed a little message, sent a little picture out into the void of the internet, and waited...
Within moments I had a reply, a single voice acknowledging me. And it felt like someone else out there understood what I felt in here. One by one others joined. More nods of understanding.
Every once in a while someone leaves words, telling me how much they were encouraged by something I shared, or how they can relate.
And all of it feels like connection. In every comment, in every like or message, my tribe is getting bigger.
C.S. Lewis says Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another "What?! You too? I thought I was the only one."
I'm continually amazed by how when you ask, when you speak, when you reach out, people answer. And how in that moment we are knit together in a way words can't explain.
Since returning to PRBI I've been practicing asking for what I need. Sometimes the requests are small, being asked of myself.
Like I want to block off a chunk of time a few days a week to write, or I want to spend just a few minutes curled up under the blankets to just breathe.
Other times the requests are of others.
Can we just sit here and have tea?
I know you're busy but can you come talk to me for 5 minutes? I need to see you and be reminded of the crazy happy goodness that exists in the world, I need to laugh
Can you hold me for a minute?
Some things I haven't yet dared ask, because I still feel undeserving.
It's a work in progress, a continual journey. It's a give and take, the asking and the receiving, like a teeter totter. Sometimes you ask and the answer hurts more than you ever expected.
And sometimes you ask, and things you never expected begin to happen.

“It's hard enough to give fearlessly, and it's even harder to receive fearlessly.
But within that exchange lies the hardest thing of all:
To ask. Without shame.
And to accept the help that people offer.
Not to force them.
Just to let them.”