Tag Archives: hope

the one where he won’t give up.

today has been one of those days where i’m not just reminded that God is at work in & around me- that work is literally all i can see today.

from a couple of encounters with people this weekend to the series we’re in as a church, i keep coming back to this: God created us for communion with him, and for good works. the beautiful and mysterious part of this is that it is God himself who made a way for us to be in communion with him (coming to earth as Jesus, living perfectly, and dying in our place to atone for our sins), and it is God who does good works through us (the ministry of the Holy Spirit). anything good, any growth, comes from God.

there are moments, like right now, where i say AND believe that God is powerful enough to save and change even the worst of us. i know that the cross proves his love, and the resurrection proves his power- if God can raise Jesus from the dead, he can (and wants to) save anyone. he can (and wants to) walk with us as he removes what is dead and decaying in us- hate, fear, despair. he wants us to live in real color, and for his power and goodness to be displayed in us. there is no good in this life apart from him, and he does have good in store for us!

we know this, at least in theory. but i know we can all think of someone that we don’t think it applies to. someone that maybe we are or used to be friends with who has really screwed up their lives (and maybe the lives of others, too). we may have tried to walk with them, we may have tried to help them, we may have gotten burned … and in our hurt or anger, written them off. and i think there does come a point in some relationships where we have to say ‘i believe that God wants to heal you, but it’s possible that i might not be part of that healing’ and some healthy distance might need to happen; but more often than not, we simply write that person off. we say with our lives that we don’t believe that God is powerful enough (or that he doesn’t love that person enough) to heal that person.

for every story we have about how we’ve seen the power of the gospel transform someone’s life, there is a story of someone we don’t believe the gospel is powerful enough to touch.

today has revolved around conversations of how i’ve seen God prove me wrong when i believed he wasn’t powerful enough to transform someone. i actually think he takes pleasure in proving me wrong! i think he loves to remind me that he is good, that he is powerful, and that he is in the business of making dry bones dance, and making dead things come alive.

being told that i was wrong isn’t usually on my list of favorite things, but i’m loving it today.

higher than the mountains that i face

stronger than the power of the grave

constant in the trial and the change

this one thing remains

you love never fails

never gives up

never runs out on me

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the one with the raleigh-versary.

i swear, every time i turn around, it’s another month- another season- another year. my raleigh-versary snuck up on me this year, and it took me til that afternoon to realize the significance of the day.

august 7.

my stuff lived here a week earlier than i did. we had loaded the 26 foot truck and my car with all our stuff, drove caravan-style from lynchvegas to raleigh, and unloaded everything into storage units at some place on capital near downtown. i went back to the ‘burg for another week to tie up loose ends and celebrate my mom’s birthday, so the date of my official ‘i live here now’ move was august 7, 2011. i drove down early that sunday morning to make it to the middle service at church, to meet the rest of my team and begin life in a new state as a church planter. i started work at starbucks two days later.

fast-forward 4 years.

i’m not part of that team anymore. i’m no longer part of that body. i don’t work at starbucks anymore. i don’t call myself a church planter anymore. i don’t live in the same place i did when i moved to this city. i don’t drive the same car, or have the same haircut.

three residences. five roommates. three jobs. four birthdays. three churches.  four christmases.

raleigh, you’ve changed me. in ways both good and bad- but all ways that were needed. i’ve lost much, in many ways. i’ve wept more tears here than any other city i’ve lived in. i thought no amount of time could make be home here, could make me love this city. but i do love it. i might have lost much, but i’ve gained even more. i might have wept rivers, but joy keeps coming in like a high tide. time has passed more quickly than i ever thought possible.

i started a new job on the last monday in april. the entire process, from first interview to first day at work, took less than two weeks. it wasn’t a job i went looking for- it was one that God brought right to me. i had been looking for another job for over two years at that point. i had searched and prayed and asked and applied and interviewed and been shut down more times than i care to remember- because it wasn’t time yet.

thinking about being in raleigh for 4 years has me thinking about time. more specifically, it has me thinking about the fullness of time, that little biblical phrase we see a few times in the new testament. we see it in galatians 4:4-5 —

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

and again in ephesians 1:7-10 —

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

did you catch that? the implication here (well, one of them, anyway) is that there was a time when it wasn’t the fullness of time. it was not yet. it was wait a little longer. but there was always a plan- there was always a time when time would be full. and do you see what was happening when time was full?! God was working redemption! God was working uniting us to Him! if there was always a plan, it means that he was always working, even in the not yet.

there has been a lot of not yet for me in raleigh. but time keeps marching on, keeps getting fuller and fuller, and he keeps working and working.

one day, time will be full- in all respects. one day, Jesus will cry, like Aslan- “Now it is Time!” in a voice that will shake the stars. the Door will open, the redemption will be in whole- not just in part!, and we will see Jesus. he will make all the sad things come untrue, he will wipe away tears from our eyes, and there will be no more pain or death. one day, revelation 21: 5-6 will be our reality. it already is, in small part- he is making all things new. he is the creator and master of time, and one day it will be done.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”

happy anniversary, raleigh. i love you, and i’m glad to call you home. but you’re not my final home- our days are numbered.

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the one with all the food.

Things I don’t say often: ‘praise the Lord- it’s Monday!’

I mean, I don’t hate Mondays … my small group meets on Monday nights, and that is one of the highlights of life.  But they aren’t necessarily my favorite days, either.  Who likes a day that starts early, usually has you running late, and signals the return to a job you probably don’t like?

In this case, however, I’m loving Monday.  Partially because I got to have lunch with my sister and the cutest kiddos around; (plus it was at chick-fil-a … let’s be real, that’s always going to make a day a good one) partially because I do have small group tonight!; but mostly because it means that last week is over.  The weekend has been nearly perfect, which was balm on the open wound that was last week.  Last week was full of goodbyes, anniversaries of deaths, lots of waiting and unanswered questions, and events that dug up old hurts and broke them open all over again. There were many tears, plenty of angry rants that definitely don’t qualify as prayers, and to top it all off, it rained half of the week.

The weekend, however, was all grace. Friday night was cooking and dinner with dear friends- chicken picatta pasta and margaritas (yes, we know … margs don’t really go with this dish, but we do what we want) and laughs and stories and hugs and apron-wearing. Then the addition of another friend, with hot tea and standing in the kitchen hugging out some of the pain and talking through how we see God at work in the other’s life. Saturday morning was more hot tea and more musing, this time in the comfort of my cozy orange armchairs with a cuddly puppy. Saturday night was butternut squash and sweet potato soup (seriously one of my favorite things I’ve ever made) with grilled white cheddar, bacon & granny smith apple sandwiches and wine and laughing and soul talks. Sunday was one of the best sermons I’ve ever heard, and fritters made with sweet potato, kale, and quinoa, and then topped off with four hours of coffee and discipleship with a dear friend.

The things that hurt last week still hurt. I don’t anticipate some of those things ceasing to be painful in the foreseeable future, but the weekend acted like a breeze through the gloomy corridors in my heart- just strong enough to make the air move and bring fresh air, but not strong enough to knock me over or chill me through; just enough to make the sunrise today into a fresh start and for me to really believe that maybe He actually does make all things new.

Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup

  • 1 med butternut squash
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups half & half
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey
  • Curry powder
  • 4 cups apple juice or cider

Wash and peel squash and sweet potatoes; cut into chunks (be sure to remove the seeds from the squash). Set to simmer in the apple juice for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Add cinnamon, honey and curry to taste. Use immersion blender to puree (or use blender pitcher in batches) until completely smooth. Mix vegetable stock and half & half and add slowly to soup, stirring constantly, until desired consistency is reached.

Eat it, and promptly die in bliss.  Revive yourself for seconds. Move yourself to the couch to recover. Give thanks to the Lord for such deliciousness. Make it for everyone you love, even the vegetarians. 

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the one that God wants me to see

remember how we were talking about the way we start thinking about something, and suddenly that thing is EVERYWHERE?

well, it’s still happening.

God, in His unfathomable goodness (and impeccable sense of humor), keeps bringing little things before me … whether it’s a blog post, a magazine article, a text from a friend, a remark in passing, a weird dream … anything, really.  today its been text messages and this article from sara hagerty:

It would have been easier to shut myself off to these mothers or to shut myself off to hope. Either option would provide a reprieve (because how else do you grapple with unmet, God-given desire and a room where you’re kept waiting?).

Everything in me wanted to shove down hope.

……..

Hope cracks us open to that unseen—to the place where God dwells.

Hope—when it’s foolish and unlikely and you have more than a dozen physical reasons not to hope—is the entry point into a life of keeping your eyes locked on an unseen God while living in the everyday reality that doesn’t yet match that for which you’re praying.

To hope that He can do the impossible while also recognizing that He may sovereignly choose not to leaves us in the unique position of reaching for the emotions residing in His heart. Hope opens up new, broken-yet-faithful ways to approach the almighty God.

Hope moves us from intellectually relating to Him as a transactional God, to sitting on His lap and calling Him Daddy. This perspective shift, birthed from holding on to tenuous hope, may be the very reason He keeps us in that waiting room.

then there was also thisfrom sarah bessey (the sara(h)s apparently write allthegoodstuff): 

Barbara Kingsolver wrote in her book, Animal Dreams, “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

These days, that sounds a lot like Hebrews 11 to me. So right now I think faith is figuring out what I hope for – redemption, wholeness, shalom, justice, love, life, one small baby to live and not die, all of it – and then fearlessly living under that roof.

 

hopeful. fearless. words i don’t usually use to describe myself. but oh, how i want them to be true.

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the one with lots of links

two days after my last post, robin williams took his life.  i was sitting on the loveseat at a friend’s house- a bunch of girls from my small group were just sitting around, talking and sharing interweb things we had come across lately when someone saw the news on twitter and told us.

it came out that he had been dealing with depression for quite some time.  people were asking ‘how could someone who brought that much joy to people and made people laugh so hard be depressed?”.  i didn’t need to ask that question, because i knew.

the blogosphere lit up like a christmas tree with everyone’s two cents about depression and suicide and medication and allthethings.  there were some awful things written, some of them by well-meaning, professing christians (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt).  but they were still awful.  there were also some great things written, and those are the ones i want to focus on. regardless of personal opinion about robin williams, hopefully his death has caused us to rethink how we look at people and the assumptions we make about the state of their hearts.  hopefully this has made us reexamine what we think about depression and seriously reframe that conversation.

i guarantee that you know someone who is depressed.  (if you’re reading this, you know me … so that’s at least one.)  hopefully the links below will give you a little insight and help you think about and converse with us in ways that don’t make us want to crawl back under our rocks and die.  so here jus go:

Depression: the Dark Night of Body and Soul (from halee gray scott)

“Depression is telling you something that is wrong,” my doctor said. “And when it goes untreated, it’s almost impossible to cure apart from community support and medication because it creates changes in our brain and body.” 

This Demon Only Comes Out By Prayer and Prozac

” … it is clear that we must jettison any simplistic understanding of the complex interaction between brain and body as a matter of individuals choosing to either sinfully wallow in mental illness or righteously embrace freedom in Christ. Similarly, we must also not succumb to a materialistic view that defines people stuck in mental illness solely as victims of circumstance.”

depression and common grace (from jared wilson, a pastor and author in vermont) [GO READ ALL HIS STUFF. LIKE RIGHT NOW. FOR REAL FOR REAL.]

The first thing we may say about the bigness of Jesus is that he is big enough to help us in many ordinary means. Many Christians have adopted the unfortunate posture of Job’s friends, adding more discouragement to those discouraged in depression by urging them not to seek help except via spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study. These are certainly the most important prescriptions for any of us!

The fuller truth, however, is that while Jesus is enough, his enough-ness may be manifested in our getting help from material means. These too are gifts from God, provided through the common graces of scientific research, academic study, pastoral giftedness, analytic method, and modern medicine.

What I mean is this: talk to a trained counselor and take the meds if they are needed. When it comes to medication, at the very least, don’t not take it out of fear of distrust of Jesus. Antidepressants may or may not help you, but discuss the options with your doctor, preferably after conferring with a clinical psychologist who is also a Christian, and if you decide they are not for you, don’t decide so because you think to take them is to deny Jesus’s ability to heal.

What the Church & Christians Need to Know About Suicide & Mental Health (from ann voskamp)

… your mind can feel like it’s burning up at all the edges and there’s never going to be any way to stop the flame. Don’t bother telling us not to jump unless you’ve felt the heat, unless you bear the scars of the singe.

Don’t only turn up the praise songs but turn to Lamentations and Job and be a place of lament and tenderly unveil the God who does just that — who wears the scars of the singe.

Christians Can’t Ignore the Uncomfortable Reality of Mental Illness (from amy simpson, via christianity today)

When we respond in these ways, we make ourselves irrelevant to people who need our help. We send the message that our faith has no answer or explanation for this kind of suffering. We suggest there is an easy answer to their suffering, yet it remains elusive to them for some reason, probably because they don’t deserve it and we do. We imply that God himself is ready to walk away from people in pain. All this from people who mean well but just don’t know what to do.

when depression comes back (from addie zierman)

In the sterile, fluorescence of the exam room, I cried while the doctor asked me questions.

“Am I going to have to be on these damn pills for the rest of my life?” I asked.

“Maybe,” she said. “Maybe not. It’s different for everyone, but it’s okay if you do.”

deal gently with bruised reeds (from derek rishmawy) [another GOREADALLHISSTUFF.]

As Christians we are to deal gently with the broken and mournful. It is in this way we follow the Christ we have in the gospel. We follow a Messiah who was a man of sorrows, well acquainted with the painful way of the world we live in. Indeed, it’s precisely to bring comfort and relief to those who mourn that he took up his own cross; he came that he might end their suffering in his own.

the depressed christian (from megan tietz)

… the gift I will take forward from my struggles with depression is knowing on a heart-level what it is to feel that the God you love has abandoned you to the dark, I know what it is to feel staggering guilt that the family you love isn’t enough to pull you back from the dark, and I know what it is to both loathe the working of your brain and feel powerless to fix it.

It is a gift because never again will I suggest to someone that the solution is so easy. It is a gift because I can now speak to other Christians about the struggle, offering to them dignity instead of shame. It is a gift because when I read of suicide or other depression-driven acts, my first response is to sob rather than preach. And it is a gift because I can say with certainty that the LORD is close to the brokenhearted even if He feels far, far away.

when existence becomes seemingly impossible (from alan noble at christ & pop culture)

What I want to say is that life is harder than most of us will let on, and probably the deepest struggles we’ll face will be silent and petty — things like choosing to get out of bed and get dressed. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof, but so too is Christ’s Grace. So, get up, when you can, and carry on. Rest your burdens on He who loves you, and turn to the pilgrims alongside you. Some days, rising out of bed is a great act of worship.

resources on depression (from fabs harford) the cartoons on this one are amazing. click through to the links she provides for more of them … i laughed pretty hard at this (after i picked up my jaw off the floor at how accurate this depiction is).

tangled up in blue: depression and the christian life (from sammy rhodes, another GOREADALLTHETHINGS)

The image of a bruise is the perfect image for depression. Because sometimes you know how a bruise got there, and sometimes you genuinely don’t. Sometimes it’s pretty clear why you are depressed, and other times depression shows up out of the blue (pun intended) and next thing you know, to quote Bob Dylan, you’re tangled up in blue to the point where it’s hard to breathe. 

 

i’ve also been listening to this song on repeat lately- audrey assad’s voice is hauntingly beautiful and these lyrics are the cry of my heart. 

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the one about a marsh-wiggle (and fighting for hope).

last week i finished my eighth annual reading of c.s. lewis’ the chronicles of narnia. i had read them as a kid- my third grade teacher read us several of them (waaaaaaaay back in 1991), and some family friends gave me the box set for my birthday in the sixth grade. i remember liking them as child- the adventure, the magic, the talking animals.
of course, there was a major resurgence in popularity when disney started remaking the movies in 2005- i was in college then, and i’m so glad that i took the opportunity to snatch up one of those ‘all 7 books in 1 volume’ tomes.  re-reading them that first time was even better than i remembered them as an 11 year old.  i’ve since loaned out the book (of course it never got returned!), so i resorted to the never-let-me-down awesomeness that is the amazon kindle store. wonder of wonders, they were on sale for less than $2 each when i went looking (its like Jesus really wanted me to have them or something).
there are lines in each book that are like old friends- i see them coming and eagerly anticipate hearing them again- perhaps the familiar words will speak with new tone or depth! and they usually do.
i’ve learned the palpability of longing from these books- once a character has encountered aslan, they want nothing more than to be near him again. that nearness changes them! lucy’s strength and goodness come from aslan’s touch and breath; eustace allows aslan to score off the layers of selfishness and arrogance and fear; shasta’s transformation from abused boy to found, loved prince is accomplished by him listening to aslan tell him the truth about himself.
but what struck me most during this year’s read-through was from ‘the silver chair’. i’ve always liked that book, but its never been my favorite (that usually ends up being ‘voyage of the dawn treader’ or ‘the horse and his boy’). this time, though …
without going into the plot (since you should just go read it)- there’s an evil witch passing herself of as a queen (isn’t there always?!), and she is enchanting a prince, a marsh-wiggle, and two human children to convince them that they have never known anything other than the place they are in now. the witch nearly manages to make them forget that they have come from another place; that there is a sun; and that aslan is real and had spoken to them. hope is nearly lost.

Then came the Witch’s voice, cooing softly like the voice of a wood-pigeon from the high elms in an old garden at three o’clock in the middle of a sleepy, summer afternoon; and it said: “What is this sun that you all speak of? Do you mean anything by the word?” “Yes, we jolly well do,” said Scrubb. “Can you tell me what it’s like?” asked the Witch (thrum, thrum, thrum, went the strings). “Please it your Grace,” said the Prince, very coldly and politely. “You see that lamp. It is round and yellow and gives light to the whole room; and hangeth moreover from the roof. Now that thing which we call the sun is like the lamp, only far greater and brighter. It giveth light to the whole Overworld and hangeth in the sky.” “Hangeth from what, my lord?” asked the Witch; and then, while they were all still thinking how to answer her, she added, with another of her soft, silver laughs: “You see? When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me. You can only tell me it is like the lamp. Your sun is a dream; and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp. The lamp is the real thing; the sun is but a tale, a children’s story.” “Yes, I see now,” said Jill in a heavy, hopeless tone.

Slowly and gravely the Witch repeated, “There is no sun.” And they all said nothing. She repeated, in a softer and deeper voice. “There is no sun.” After a pause, and after a struggle in their minds, all four of them said together, “You are right. There is no sun.” It was such a relief to give in and say it.

“There never was a sun,” said the Witch.

“No, there never was a sun,” said the Prince, and the Marsh-wiggle, and the children.

For the last few moments Jill had been feeling that there was something she must remember at all costs. And now she did. But it was dreadfully hard to say it. She felt as if huge weights were laid on her lips. At last, with an effort that seemed to take all the good out of her, she said,

“There’s Aslan.”

there’s more than happens, of course- they manage to defeat the evil witch and make their way back into narnia. hope, and knowledge of the truth come back to them. remembering who aslan is changes them.

everything is different when you’re depressed. between the faithful work of christ and the unfailing patience of my counselor, i am learning to see through the fog of depression and to strain my ears to hear the voice that speaks life instead of listening to the voice that speaks death. i’ve realized that the most painful aspect of my own depression is the inability to hope. the inability to know that there is a sun, and the inability to believe what i know even when the other voice tries to tell me that there is no sun. being unable to hope means that i am often unable to act on what i know. without hope, there is no remembering; or if you do remember, the memories are disconnected from us- like they happened to someone else. hope is what allows us to remember with clarity, and apply what we know to what’s in front of us. hope is what allows us to acknowledge pain as something that hurts, but won’t be the end of us.  hope knows that feelings can’t always be trusted, and that God is always good. hope looks fear in the eye. hope makes us thirsty, and hope leads us back to the only stream whose water gives us life.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer.”I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
There is no other stream,” said the Lion.”

hope is worth fighting for. sometimes fighting for hope looks like taking a nap. sometimes fighting for hope looks like going to small group after having the worst day ever. sometimes fighting for hope sounds like the only song that makes you feel anything turned up loud and put on repeat. sometimes fighting for hope is letting the doctor write you a prescription for prozac (and actually taking it). sometimes fighting for hope is weeping into the carpet of your bedroom; sometimes fighting for hope is screaming toward heaven.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (hebrews 10:23)

 

 

 

 

 

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the one where i get a haircut.

if i’ve learned anything over the last year, its that life will always surprise you. never in a million years could i have seen what the last two years would hold; never in a million years could i have predicted that i would be this version of me. but never in a million years would i have guessed that God loved me so much that he’d go to such great lengths to prove it.

i was sitting in counseling about a month ago, talking about cutting my hair as a symbol for myself that ‘i was back’. sounds strange, i know … but somewhere along the line last year i decided that i was going to grow my hair out. i’ve had short hair (shorter than my shoulders) since i was 8 years old, and i wanted to a) prove to myself that i could exercise the self control to not cut it; b) have a visible, physical thing that mirrored the changes on the inside. so i permed it, and with the exception of a single trim last august, didn’t cut it FOR A WHOLE YEAR. this is a big deal, people. but i’ve started to feel more like myself the last couple months- like maybe there was going to be a lull in the storm that has been my life for the last 18 months. there was the anniversary of my resignation from LC, sarah’s homecoming and move to raleigh, celebrating a year since i started attending and serving at the summit church, and i was finally getting opportunities to teach and disciple again. i was in the interview process for a job that i really wanted … it seemed like things were finally falling into place, and that i might be able to make some sense of the ‘why’ i’d been asking. so i cut my hair.

 

i didn’t get the job.

 

i’m not proud of my reaction to that. but nothing will shatter your false confidence like hope deferred. i cried. i asked God ‘why’, i resorted to ‘default mode’ (which in sam-speak is emotional hibernation), i shut people out, and i got mad. mad at God, who obviously was playing games with me; who was a tease and a liar and mean. mad at people who told me that ‘God must have something better in mind for you’. mad at myself for allowing hope to take root and start to grow again. after all, what you don’t hope for doesn’t break you, right?

 my counselor had asked me a few weeks before if there was anything that i had learned over the last year. i came up with a few things, and looking at them now, i’ve got to laugh. because they are exactly the things that i should have reminded myself of when disappointment came calling again. (God does have a sense of humor.)

 i learned that ‘no’ is a GOOD gift. there were days, weeks, months even, when that phrase was my mantra. when i repeated it to myself over and over as i watched everything that i had placed my hope in be removed from my life. matthew 7:8-11 and james 1:17 both tell us that God only gives good gifts, and that it is HIS definition of good that counts. he may give me what looks like a rock, but because he is only good and gives only good, i know that it is bread. i’d still like a ‘yes’ or a ‘this way’ instead of a ‘no’ and a closed door, but ‘no’ is a good gift, too.

 i learned that joy is a fight, and worth fighting for. i go back and read the couple of entries i wrote last spring, and i scare myself. depression is no joke, people. happiness came in small doses; joy in even smaller ones. but it did come- God used visits from friends, emails from my sister, long talks with my mom, serving opportunities at church, and many many many podcasted sermons to breathe and speak life over me. part of fighting for joy is choosing to remind myself that ‘no’ IS a good gift, and choosing to listen to sermons that would preach the gospel to me when i couldn’t preach it to myself.

 i also learned that faith is a choice. much like fighting for joy, choosing faith is choosing to believe the podcasted words i heard, and choosing to allow for the fact that my scope and vision of my life is miniscule when compared to God’s scope and vision for my life. but the faith to believe that he has loving purposes for me doesn’t always comes easy. the faith to believe that he loves me, and has designs for me beyond salvation (as if that wasn’t enough!), is difficult to find when people hurt you and your plans fail and your dreams die one by one. but isn’t that the point of faith? if it was easy, it wouldn’t be faith.

it might seem counterintuitive, but the truth of the matter is that it is not a lack of love of God’s part that is displayed in the events of the last year. it is actually a veritable parade of lavish grace! what seems like a series of stones, snakes, and closed doors is really loaf upon loaf of bread and an undeniable invitation for me to draw nearer to him. God does only give good gifts to us, but the best he gives us is himself. and it takes moving other gifts out of our line of sight to show us what he offers when he gives us himself, then he will do it. the giver of the gift is better than any gift he could give me.

 so the whole ‘cutting my hair to show that i’m back’ thing is actually true. its deliciously ironic to me that it took two visits and nearly 6 hours to cut my hair. the sweet little cosmetology student who cut my hair gave me this absurd looking triangular wedge and had to SOMEHOW redeem that and turn it into the cute, curly ‘do that is now framing my face. there is something poetic about trying to symbolize that “i’m ok” with a botched haircut. but she did fix it, and it has reminded me that i might think that God has botched my life … but he’s in the business of redeeming broken things.

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the one where i tell you a secret

its funny how this is really about that.

a little over two months ago, i resigned from lifecity church.  the reasons are multiple, complex, and personal.  some of those reasons are directly related to the church, but some are external-ish.  if you’ve lived long enough, you’ve been hurt a few times- and you know that every hurt builds on the ones before it unless you have really honestly gotten down in there in the depths and faced it and let Jesus really heal you.  and one thing that has become crystal clear to me is that i’ve never really allowed him access to those places in my heart and let him cut out all that dead stuff.  what i’ve done is minimized pain and emotions, tried to dress my wounds in church and seminary and church planting and new jobs and new clothes and fun haircuts, and preaching to so many women that which i could not bring myself to believe.

it will be ten years this fall since i sat in the office of a man i worked for and listened to him tell me that i that i wouldn’t amount to anything, and probably would never get married unless i changed pretty much everything about who i was.  it will be ten years this fall since i believed every word of what he said and let it take root in my heart.  and i have spent the last nearly ten years trying to prove him wrong, yet watching myself sabotage my relationships with men and always at the end of the day coming back to the whisper inside of me- he was right, sam. no man is going to want a girl who is loud. you are not enough. you are not pretty; you are definitely not beautiful. you are not smart. you are too much. you definitely didn’t hear God right if you think you’re supposed to be in ministry. He would never call someone like you. you will never amount to anything. and on and on, and on, and on.

yes, i did go to college and major in youth ministry.  and i did go on to earn two master’s degrees from a seminary. yes, i have taught and led and been part of building a church from the ground up.  and i bet not many people had any idea that all of that was me trying to prove an old man wrong when he said i would never amount to anything.  i can think of at least 4 ‘relationships’ that i actively sabotaged.  i allowed these men to use me and my heart in ways that i never would have, had i believed that i could be loved or that i was even worth loving.   and when we eventually had the you’re just too much … or the you’re just not enough … conversation, it reopened and dug a little deeper in the old wound.

last year i fasted for three weeks in january.  i had just come through a season of moving to NC to start a church, home was a minefield, and i was desperate for God to speak something- anything, to make me believe that He heard me.  it didn’t go the way i planned, as is the way with most things we do out of desperation.  i ended up on my face one thursday night during that fast with the corner of a blanket stuffed into my mouth so that my roommates wouldn’t hear me crying and screaming at God.  “i don’t believe that you’re good.  i don’t believe that you love me.”  most of last year was spent trying to rebuild my belief that God is good, and that He does love me.  and like all stubborn people do, i tried to rebuild those beliefs in my own way, without digging up the bitter root, still denying its very existence.  but since i didn’t deal with the source, it didn’t go away.  and every stray word, every criticism, every time i was misunderstood or overlooked or shushed or told that i was too something fell like acid rain on the bitter root and it would blossom again.

i tried numbness next, and apathy. then self-medicating, then anger.  all of this ‘feeling stuff’ was taking a toll on me, and i didn’t recognize or like the girl in the mirror.

i told God that i was about ready to throw in the towel … but i knew that there would be no meaning to anything if He wasn’t who He said he was, if He couldn’t do what He said he could do.  so i asked Him one more time to please speak, to say anything.  and He did.  He had heard every word i had prayed in anger and desperation, He had seen every wrestling in my heart, He had caught every tear i cried.  psalm 56:8 says “you’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights; each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.”  you’ll just have to take my word for it when i tell you that He broke through that night.  some things are too precious, and too powerful to be put into words- some things are just for me.

i’m definitely still in progress.  i still have to decide every day which voice to listen to, and what to believe.  but every day that i choose to listen to Jesus’ voice and every day that i choose to believe Him, i recognize the girl in the mirror a little more.  i laugh more often.  i know that eventually i will see what He sees, and i’ll understand the way He works.  i don’t know why i came here, and i don’t know what’s next.  i do know that He won’t waste any of this, and that He works all things together for my good and His glory, that He is wise, that He sees me, and that He loves me.  and that is more than enough.

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by definition.

samantha ….

  • daughter
  • sister
  • friend
  • student
  • ex-girlfriend
  • former employee
  • leader
  • servant
  • follower
  • writer
  • reader
  • mentor
  • teacher
  • imperfect
  • impatient
  • unfocused
  • lacking
  • tired
  • unlovable
  • too much
  • not enough
  • complicated
  • beautiful
  • blessed
  • loved
  • funny
  • sarcastic
  • critical
  • short
  • ………..

the list continues.  some of these are ‘hats’ that i wear; some are attributes; some are words i would use to describe myself- others are words other people would use to describe me.  while some are true and others are not, those words don’t define me.  this is something i’ve been thinking about alot lately, especially in light of recent events in my life.  (for more on that, see previous posts :)) but awhile back, jon acuff (author of the ‘stuff christians like’ blog) wrote about this topic- so timely and just what i needed to be reminded of.  i won’t elaborate other than to tell you to read the post here.

i wrote several months ago about the fact that my tattoos help me remember who i am- they are all words that describe my position or identity in christ.  but he is the only one who is qualified to answer the question i’ve been asking myself- the question we all ask ourselves- “who am i?” the one who created us is the one who gets to answer that- no one else.

i know this. i mean, i KNOW this. but sometimes i still forget, or i let that knowledge get a little fuzzy. what i’m learning now is that while i know who gets to define me, and even some of the words he uses- that definition is never complete (at least not this side of heaven). as long as christ keeps conforming me to his character, and as long as i keep walking this crazy journey known as life, i am ever changing. ever growing. ever learning. ever deepening. ever becoming.

this means that i might not ever know myself fully. while i’m not a huge fan of this idea, the flip side is that there is still the power to change, improve, and surprise.  those are good things. because its disheartening to be 28 years old, have two master’s degrees, and still not know what i’m doing with my life. i know i’m working out of a funk, so all of this is coming out of a place i shouldn’t be in anyways. but my state of mind (and heart) right now does serve to make me glad that the rest of my story is yet to be revealed. who i am, by definition of sanctification, isn’t nailed down yet. there is hope for me, and for all of us.

oh christ, be the center of our lives

be the place we fix our eyes

be the center.

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is anything too hard for the lord?

is anything too hard for the lord?

genesis 18: the lord comes to abraham and tells him that ‘i will surely return to you about this time next year, and sarah your wife shall have a son.’

if you haven’t read the previous chapters or are unfamiliar with the story of abraham, here’s the rundown:

gensis chapter 12- god calls this guy abram from ur of the chaldees. he’s currently living in haran when the lord tells him to leave his land and his family and go to a land that god will show him. god promises to make abram a great nation, to bless him and make his name great, … basically, god says that he is for abram.he will bless those who bless abram, he will curse those who curse abram, and through abram the whole earth will be blessed. this is awesome! one catch: abram’s wife sarai is barren (11:30).

but the text reads that abram picked up and went! ‘… so abram went, as the lord had told him …’ this 75 year old man packs it up and heads east. the lord shows abram the land that he is going to give him, and after a brief sojurn in Egypt (more on that later), he heads to bethel, near ai and makes his camp.stuff happens … in chapter 15, the lord speaks to abram again, telling him ‘fear not, abram, i am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ abram is discouraged at this point because he is getting older and older, and still has no son.how can he be a great nation if he has no children?! (i would have to agree with abram here- this is a pretty legit question!) the lord promised abram that he will have a son- not a surrogate, but a biological son- and his descendants will be as numerous as the stars.chapter 16, sarai decides to move matters along and gives abram her handmaiden hagar to sleep with so that abram can have a son- after all, she’s past childbearing age and is still barren. abram agrees, hagar conceives, and ishmael is born. abram is 86 when ishmael is born. whoa.years later, when abram is 99, the lord appears to him again and makes a covenant with him. god changes abram’s name to abraham, and sarai’s name to sarah. [abram means ‘exalted father’ and abraham means ‘father of a multitude’. coincidence? i think not.] the covenant has to do with circumcision, and how that is to be the sign of the covenant between god and abraham’s descendants. (just want to insert here that i’m glad i’m not a guy.) at this point in chapter 17, god promises abraham that sarah will bear a son- yes, sarah … the barren one- and that she will become nations.god tells abraham to name the child isaac (meaning “he laughs”), and promises that he will establish his covenant with isaac , and that isaac will be born in the next year.

ok, now that we’re caught up on the cliffnotes version of ths story, back to chapter 18. vs.10 makes the second time that abraham is told that he will have a son within the year. this time, sarah hears the lord say it, and she laughs. the text tells us that ‘the way of women had ceased to be with sarah’- basically, she’s post-menopausal and can’t have kids. nice. (i don’t love that i have this to look forward to.)

the lord hears her, and says “why did sarah laugh and say ‘shall i indeed bear a child, now that i am old?’ is anything too hard for the lord?” then he says it a third time: i will return to you about this time next year, and sarah shall have a son.

the kicker: in chapter 21, sarah does give birth to a son.they do call him isaac. abraham is 100 years old!! sarah is in her 90’s.

i love that the scripture makes a point of reminding us that sarah is barren, that abraham is old, and that they had to wait until only the hand of god could bring about what was promised to them. god wanted to make sure everyone knew and no one could dispute the fact that HE is the one who gave abraham a son, and that he keeps his promises. his plans will not be thwarted, and nothing is too difficult for him.

final thought: its over 10 years before the initial promise that god makes to abram comes to fruition in the birth of isaac. god did what he said he was going to do, and he did it on his own timetable. our god is a trustworthy and faithful god, and he will do what he has promised. i may have to wait a while for it, but its worth it to see god do his thing.

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