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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Conversations with Teammates

Do you ever get nervous about meeting up with a good friend? Someone who has lived many seasons of life with you, someone who knows you at your worst and your best, a friend who makes eye contact so fierce and so consistent you are equal amounts of comfortable and uncomfortable.

I do. I get nervous to meet these kinds of friends for coffee because I can't hide behind a sweet smile or blow past tough questions. These kinds of friends see past my facade and right into my soul.
No joke.

So sometimes I dread lunch or coffee dates with these friends. At work, I can stay secluded or make small talk, always keeping people at a safe distance. But not with these deep spirited friends.

Today I sat at a wobbly table in the Ingles deli with my friend Brooke. Brooke and I have been friends for 8+ years. She is on YL staff in the area and we used to work together. This is a lady that knows me. I can't hide things from her nor do I truly want to. It's just that she challenges me and brings truth that isn't always comfortable.

Brooke doesn't beat around the bush. We were still standing around the Starbucks kiosk when she started bringing the hard hitting questions. It took everything in me to keep my eyes from welling up and letting out tears that were gathering. I will not cry in the grocery store I told myself.

I hope if you have never been loved like this that you will be. I hope that you have friends who have hard conversations with you, friends who are for you, friends who point you towards Jesus. Brooke is this friend.

Why did I tear up? This is a season of life that is what I like to call a whirlwind in slow motion. Nothing is certain, plans are up in the air, I am not as settled as I would like to be, I have a job but not really a career, and I am trying to give the non existent control I think I posses over my life back to Christ. And gosh time is just moving so slowly. Oh and I am in love with a boy whose life is also in slow motion whirlwind mode. He is in love with me too and we are trying to figure out life together.
Brooke always wants to know whats really going on in my heart and in order to have constructive conversation with her, I have to face the whirlwind. And I so want to have good conversation with her.

I really love and respect Brooke, I love our conversations too. No one says the things she does or gives the kind of advice she can. She sheds infinite amounts of light on things that seem really dark to me and she helps me shake off chains that I am unnecessarily bound by. Boy does she help me feel free.

So what are the magic words that Brooke speaks to me? She affirms me by reminding me who I am which is a strong woman of the Lord. I forget that sometimes and that gets me down, but she tells me that really I am just humble. She also stated that I am a woman that isn't afraid to say yes to God. All I could think was Me? Really? Are you sure?

I learned from Brooke that it's helpful to communicate with people what they are capable of. If you tell someone what you believe them to be, they begin to believe it about themselves. If someone tells you "You're great at bowling" you're going to do it every weekend because you believe it's true. It they tell you "You are good at singing" you're inclined to sing louder and more often. And if someone tells you "You are a strong woman of God" you are going to act like it.

This is why I love Brooke. She knows me. She knows how to encourage me. She knows whats best for me and she is on my team.

Who is on your team?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

Every moment and every event of every man's life on earth plants something in his soul.
For just as the winds carry thousands of invisible and visible winged seeds, so the stream of time brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men.
Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of liberty and desire.
The mind that is prisoner of its own pleasure and the will that is captive of its own desire cannot accept the seeds of a higher pleasure and a supernatural desire.
For how can I receive the seeds of freedom if I am in love with slavery and how can I cherish the desire of God if I am filled with another opposite desire?
God will not plant His liberty in me because I am a prisoner and I do not even desire to be free.
I love my captivity and I lock myself in the desire for things that I hate and I have hardened my heart against true love.

It is the word "slavery" that I would change.
In it's place I would insert any of the following: 
             "For how can I receive the seeds of freedom if I am in love with [sin, selfishness, filth, having control of my life, evil, power, money, greed]?
It's painfully true when Merton says, "I lock myself in the desire for things that I hate".
Because obviously, if you stopped someone on the street and asked them if they hated the words and phrases I listed above they would answer YES! 
Or at least most people would.
Some for no other reason they know better than to say out loud that they love their own greediness.
Then again, in today's world, many of these attributes are worshiped. 
Selfishness, power, greed. qualities that many sacrifice everything for.
The pursuit of these qualities causes too many to harden their hearts against true love.
How can you long for true love when your vision is so distorted, when you yourself only give out love to get what you want?
Most people have never experienced true love because they love captivity more.
At least captivity is familiar, at least it is not a risk.
Experiencing true love, Christ's love, is unfamiliar and risky.

It is only when you become completely fed up with how your life is unfolding, that risk and uncertainty become attractive.
For some, it doesn't take much to get there, for others it takes a devastating amount of pain.
Either way, when you arrive there, at rock bottom, you have the choice to wallow in it and remain in slavery, or shake off the shackles of what you know about life and be free!

I must constantly refuse the slavery that I love.
I must give up my selfishness and filth over and over and over again.
I must choose Christ's freedom every morning so that the seed that He planted in the soil of my soul may flourish.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I am a tree

I am a tree.
No really, I am!
I was small
then I grew
thanks to dirt.

Little me woke up in the summer to the sweet sound of happy birds,
just like tree.
She danced and sang and made make-believe  on top of the soil,
or sometimes digging into it.
She planted her big toe into the worn out spot under the rope swing
                                                                   and used it to swirl and twirl
                                                                                        and spin out to black.
She never wore shoes.
She did not fear bees.
She put black feet in the tub at night and watched the water darken then slip away with the day.
Soil and water.
Just like a tree.

I am a tree.
Seriously.
I was smaller
then I grew
because of sun.

Littler me drank in sunlight like life giving water, like someone dying  of thirst.
She closed her eyes,
                               turned her face toward the sun,
                                                       her arms out above her head,
                                                                            fingers weaving through sun beams.
She stayed there, swaying, until the sun warmed her very bones, until sweat formed in the small of her back.
The sun gave her color and life and dreams and ideas.
She blossomed.
Then she got out the hose to let it rain on her, to cool down.
Sun and water.
Just like a tree.

I am a tree.
Unfortunately.
Because trees live through winter too.

At the height of their beauty,
                                            when they are like fire in the skies,
the world goes cold.
So do I.
I lose my color and dreams, I lose a little of myself.
The earth hardens, the sun fades.
We are so cold, the trees and me.
Make it through the bleak bitterness,
we can make it until Spring!
Because our roots go deep.
Because we are well established.
Because the son has shown us who we are and we remember.

I am a tree.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wisdom of Paul, Interpreted by Tom Job, Re-interpreted by me

If I had a nickel for every time my parents told me I needed an "attitude change" while I was growing up, I could have retired by now.
They were right of course, I could be rotten.
I find myself wanting to say that to the 10 year old girl I babysit, but I don't know if that's my place or not.
If I was anything like her, Mom, Dad, I'm so sorry.

I find myself  needing an attitude tune-up in new ways as I get older.
Hopefully at 25 I am not still having the same kind of bad attitude that I did at 12, but it's come to my attention that there are new, possibly worse, ways to have a bad attitude.

Through his letter to the Philippians, Paul leaves little room for us to debate the fact that as Christians, we have no excuse to live life with anything but joy or a consistent good attitude.
Yet, I find plenty of reasons to be unhappy, anxious, worried, frustrated, annoyed, and down right pissed off!
But Paul, through the example of his own life, makes a great point.
Since Saul became Paul, since a man that made it his life mission to persecute and torture Christians became a man persecuted and tortured in the name of Christ, since God met him on the road and changed him forever, God can change, and will change, anyone who meets him in the same way.

My bad attitude says to the world, that even though I know Christ, I am no different than they are.
I complain about the weather just as much, if not more, than anyone else.
I am just as unsatisfied with the body that God gave me.
I am just as easily frustrated when things don't go my way or when people don't act as I want them to.
My attitude should be dependent on what I know to be true instead of my current circumstances or what my feelings lead me to believe is true.
There should be no complaining, no anxiety, no worry, no fear, no anger, no pouting.
(and yes that state of being is attainable)

I think it was Priscilla Shrier that said, "Emotions are based on past experiences and personal tendencies".
And Tom Job who said, "Feelings come from thoughts, thoughts come from what I know, and what I know is that God loves me...That's all I need to know to be fine"
But I don't always act like I believe that He loves me.
As a human, as a fallen person, my heart sick with the disease of sin, I still usually base my actions off what I feel.
But feelings lie

When I let my personal tendencies & my past experiences dictate my emotions and therefore my attitude, I am not reflecting my Savior who loves me!
I am projecting to the world that even though I claim Him (more importantly, even though He claimed me) nothing has changed.
It says to the non believer:
He in fact has not overcome Satan.
He is not great enough to overcome my self. 
And then whoever was watching me, looking for answers, ultimately looking for Christ, moves on.
Because obviously, Christ is not the answer after all.

But He is.

And I know that.
I believe that with all my heart. 
How could I live my life in this way?
Stripping Him of his authority, and might, and power.
Living as though He has not provided me with joy everlasting, peace that passes all understanding, purpose in this life, and love unending.
He has.
Again and again.

Tom Job said this about living fearful of what is to come in life: 
The plan that God is working out in your life is that He is making you more like Jesus. He is putting you through the exact circumstances that He knows will mold your soul into what makes you like Jesus. Until His plan is accomplished, you are invulnerable.

As a follower of Christ, He has made me holy.
Holy means to be different or set apart.
If I let my emotions make me anxious or fearful of the future, I am not trusting that God has control.
I am not trusting that He is making me more like Jesus through my circumstances.
When I think of it in those terms, how could I ever be anything but joyful?!
He is making me like Christ!!
He is molding me to be like my Savior!
Hallelujah!

Because of what I know about Jesus, I should never be anxious, worried, frustrated, or find myself complaining again.

Paul, had every reason in life to be miserable, but he sat in a jail cell singing praises to God.
I have every reason to be happy, but I am often miserable.
I need an attitude change.

Turns out that everything Saul knew for certain, was a lie. Everything he felt for certain was untrue.
Then he met Jesus and everything changed.
Then he became Paul and what he knew above all else was that his Savior loved him.
And that was all he needed to know in order to live a life of joy.

I resolve to believe that God is right.
I resolve to live my life knowing that all I have doesn't actually belong to me. I don't even belong to me!
I will not be afraid, or anxious, or worried, or frustrated, or pissed off, because Christ claimed me and I gave my life to Him.
Since He posses my life, I have nothing to lose.
That is what I know.
And if I know I have nothing to lose, then my attitude will reflect only my security in Christ. 
Like Paul, I will live a life of joy in all circumstances.

The Father loves me.
And that's all I need to know.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
Philippians 1:27

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rules.

"Don't give me no rules. All I got is rules!" -Johnny Cash, I Walk the Line


Apparently, someone forgot to give me the official rule book.
I never got to write my name on the inside cover or inhale that smell of fresh ink on crisp pages.
I wasn't there the day the other girls received the Rules of Womanhood.
I must have been outside climbing a tree.
So I guess the rules don't apply to me.

In chapter one they must have talked about food.
How to convince yourself you aren't hungry, excuse me, I mean, how to control your appetite.
How to breath deeply and be full until dinner.
How to say "no bread. no cheese, no meat" when ordering a burger.
I must have been baking a cookie.
So I guess the rules don't apply to me.

Chapter two was obviously about boys.
How to bat your eyes, touch their arms then linger, giggle when, especially when, you didn't get their jokes.
They learned, without me, that to be able to talk sports was brash, that fixing your own car made me hard not soft, that wit and wisdom were not as valuable as lipstick and sweet perfume.
I must have been playing kickball in the backyard.
So I guess the rules don't apply to me.

Somewhere in the rule book they even discussed color.
"It's so nice that you can have these purple walls and colorful pillows while you are single!" said an owner of this rule book to me. "Since when you're married they will have to be neutrals"
And she adjusted the pearls that circled her neck. That choked her.
I was probably barefoot, in my studio, incense glowing, music flowing, paint dripping from my brush to my hand, to my chest, to my thighs, to my feet.
So I guess the rules don't apply to me.

If I had possessed said treasured manuscript, I would have found dating guidelines.
I would have known that no real relationship decisions could be made up til he had "put a ring on it", that I had the freedom to live anywhere in the world, except where he lived since he in fact had not put a ring on it yet, and that I would, or at least should, be able to answer the question, "Is he the one?" at any given moment. At every given moment.
But I was probably playing poker and drinking beer with the man that swept me off my feet and is carrying me away.
So I guess the rules don't apply to me.

And when they all watched chick flicks and painted nails on Saturday night,
I was in the square drinking margaritas, listening to live Jazz music.
And when they were memorizing these precious, my precious, rules, making no mistakes, polishing their pearls,
I was out in the world, I was getting dirty, I was messing up hugely, I was giving my life away, I was breaking free.

Maybe I was there.
The day they handed out the rules.
Maybe I just said no.

Monday, March 3, 2014

What I've learned over a Quarter of Century

Today, I am 25. Here are things I have found to be worthwhile during my so-far fabulous life:

Birthday girls don't have to get out of bed till noon & they definitely don't have to wear pants.
Forgive. Especially when you don't want to. Especially when you have to forgive yourself.
Wait on true love, do not settle. What you are looking for exists.
Family is the most confusing, maddening, frustrating, stressful, wonderful, loving, happy, thing in life.
Spend time around the people who inspire you.
Turn off the TV, pick up a book.
Jump on trampolines in the early hours of the morning.
Buy a house with a front porch & live out there.
Wake up early & spend time alone with Jesus (add coffee).
And don't say you have no regrets, have regrets. Learn from them. Don't repeat them.
Be brave. Say no. Move on. Do not cave under pressure. Have the guts to find new friends.
Spend money on experiences instead of possessions.
Don't be guarded. Don't have "walls". Expose that heart and love deeply.
Sing loud no matter how you sound (everyone sounds great in the shower).
Learn to be alone & enjoy it.
Really study while you are in school. Really learn.
Keep a journal.
Have compassion. So much compassion.
Be a servant, give your life away to people that are less fortunate than you. To the one's who can never repay you.
Be friends with the girl who plays with chalk, pogo's up and down the street, & has dead hamsters in her closet.
Remember: people are not paying as much attention to you as they think you are.
Say "I love you" first.
Take pictures. Real ones, not on your smart phone.
Climb mountains.
Spend time with your grandparents. Even if (especially if) they are crazy.
Have the cake.
Write letters.
Spend a summer at YL camp. It will change everything.
Let yourself be loved. By Christ, by others, by yourself.
Do not believe the lies that you are unlovable, not good enough, unworthy.
Turn off the AC in the summer & throw open the windows.
Don't risk skin cancer by laying in the tanning bed.
Don't text & drive.
Learn to cook.
Play outside.
Nurture your relationship with Christ.
Read great stories.
Write great stories.
Support the dreams of the people you love.
Leave the sarcasm behind.
Put blueberries in your pancakes.
Move past your past.
Take advantage of Sonic happy hour as much as possible.
Save your $$
Pay your bills.
Watch Tangled & eat popcorn with M&M's on a bad day.
Be really sad when you feel it, & be extremely happy when you feel it.
Be friends with everyone.
Put your phone away when you are spending quality time with the people you love.
Have champagne on  New Years.
Play lots of corn hole.
Leave the judgement to God.
Dance in the rain.
Always go sledding.
Enjoy every stage of life.


The world will tell you to get money, spend money, climb the ladder of success, leave others in the dust, win at all costs, fame is everything, looks are most important, be on top, stay on top, drink & smoke & have sex as much as you can.
I tell you, Love God, Love others.
It has worked well for me the past 25 years!