Saturday, September 24, 2016

To the One called Single

I don't know your story or why you're here. But I just want to say that I'm glad you're here. And I hope, I pray, that whatever you read here resonants with your heart and is able to encourage you, to give you peace. Because I know the tiring sorrow that comes from being single. I know the breathless anticipation that is felt each day, wondering if someone will ever find you. I know the silent agony of feeling like you're standing in a line and everyone else is getting picked but you. I know the discontent, the impatience of wanting to have a relationship now, the fear of being alone, the fear of being inadequate, of being not enough. I know.

But I also know, in this moment as I type, the deep satisfaction that comes from being content in Christ, content in where I am in life and content in the peace I have knowing that He has given me a gift. So could I share my story? 

I grew up in an amazing family, one that nurtured a relationship with Christ. My parents were an incredible example of what a solid, Christian marriage should look like - real, honest, vulnerable, sweet, compromising, serving and always focusing back to Christ. It was a beautiful, tangible picture of what I dreamed of having one day. My two oldest brothers had healthy dating relationships that lead to beautiful marriages. My extended family, of whom I admire to the hilt and am quite close with, all seemed to get married one right after the other, each to amazing individuals. Marriage was such a good, beautiful and right thing that exemplified the unity Christ shares with the church and having good examples of it around me made me yearn for it on a level that felt overpowering. 

Along with this strong desire to be married, to have a family, to be a wife and mother who created a home where lives could grow and flourish together, came this love for Chick-Flicks, for Rom-Coms, for cute stories, for wanting to be in a relationship so bad that I could practically taste it. However my middle school and teenage years didn't help with the process. My best friend growing up was incredibley beautiful and would tell me about guys asking her out or being interested - never in a mean way, but just as friends share what's going on in their life. I was proud and happy for her, never envious. But I remember one day when we were putting on make-up, looking in the mirror, lacing my eyelashes with mascara that... Wow. No one had ever asked me out. 
How come? 
 I glanced in the mirror at my friends reflection standing beside me. 
Was I not pretty enough? 
I looked back in the mirror. 
Was I not funny enough? Smart enough? Talented enough? Outgoing enough? 
Was I just not... enough? 

It's horrific to think about the reality, but even as Christian women who know our Savior gave His life to show us our value, we still question: Am I enough? 
And more often than not, our insides cringe because we don't always feel like enough. 
And this hurts. 
A lot. 

So even as a 17 year old, claiming Christ as my Savior and having wonderful models of healthy relationships around me, I dove into thinking a relationship would help quench my thirst for wanting something to be enough. Over the next five years I was either dating a boy, talking to a boy, interested in a boy or looking for a boy. At age 22, it was always something about a boy. And it took breaking up with and hurting a friend deeply to realize that there was something wrong. There was something in my life that I just wasn't understanding. So I took a year off of boys. I decided to not date, decided to not spend alone time with guys and to put up boundaries. 

I learned so much in that year. I learned that I had fallen into habits as a woman called flirting and that I justified it by telling myself I was being friendly, all the while engaging men to talk to me but then rejecting them because I wasn't actually interested in a relationship. I learned that I preferred having guy friends to girl friends because I liked the way they made me feel and I felt pursued by them, all the while realizing that it was a cop out for wanting attention from guys. I learned that I didn't know how to set up healthy boundaries with guys about things that we talked about so here I was wearing my heart on my sleeve, allowing them to know me intimately but never considering a relationship with them. But mostly, I learned that I was so focused on the idea of being married, that rather than viewing men as friends, or simply as beautiful human beings, I was viewing them as potential prospects to be married to. I was making marriage the goal and God called me out on it when I realized how much I was hurting others just to quell an insecurity in my own heart. Marriage became the goal... and I forgot that God was the goal. 

And this is where I want to encourage you, friends. I don't know what your story is; I don't know if you see yourself in any part of what I've written, but I do want to validate what you are feeling. 
It is real to be single and to be hurting. 
What you are feeling hurts for a good reason because as humans we desire companionship. 
You are frustrated and that's okay. 
I get that. 
 But I would wager to say that if you are discontent in singleness, then you aren't fully aware of the Sovereignty and goodness of our Father. Now that might sound harsh, but it was true in my case, and perhaps it's true in your story.  I knew what Scripture said about God, but I wasn't believing it enough to have peace where I was in life. 

While it is often hard to think that anyone knows us better than ourselves, God knows us far more intimately than we could imagine. He knew us before the foundation of the earth (Eph 1:4), He knit us together in our mothers womb (Ps. 139:13) and He has a plan for our lives that we could never fathom (Jer. 29:11). 

Therefore if He knows us most intimately, He also knows what gifts to place in our lives that will bring us closer to Him, that will foster deeper intimacy with the Trinity, and ultimately bring the most glory to His name by being the most edifying to our body, mind and spirit. 
Marriage is a gift. 
Singleness is a gift. 
Let me just repeat that. 
Singleness is a gift. 

While I am overwhelmingly thankful for how my life has played out and how God has taught me amazing things through my mistakes, I also look back and realize how much I missed out on embracing being single because I never considered it to be a long-term option. I intrinsically felt that God had placed a desire to be married in my heart, so by golly I would follow that desire. But I never for a second wondered if it was my flesh that craved security and that maybe God had given me a gift I had never considered unwrapping, using or even enjoying. Singleness is a good gift, and so often it is unwanted, so we shove it back at God and scramble after relationships or sulk in our singleness. 

But the best gift that God can give us is the scenario of being closest to Him. Elizabeth Elliot commented on this by saying, "It is within the sphere of circumstances He chooses for us - single, married, widowed - that we receive Him. It is there and nowhere else that He makes Himself known to us. It is here that we are allowed to serve Him." 

And this is where we find peace. Because He is a good, good Father. And He gives not only good, but perfect, gifts that shouldn't be tossed aside because we think we need another kind of gift. 

Katelynn Luedke said it best when she said, "Understanding the gift of singleness is understanding the relationship between service and joy. That when a life is devoted to the service of a holy God, there is joy. That when there is joy found in the presence of a holy God, service will overflow. Like a marriage, these truths are two separate experiences that daily come together as one. When service and joy collide, there is less room in my heart for discontentment or loneliness, because the face of my heart is turned outward and upward. When service in Christ and joy in Christ are married in me, I am able to see that every gift He gives is good - even when it does not come in the shape of a diamond ring." 

Friday, September 9, 2016

When the Heart Grows Cold

Summer reading lists are great. You might not always read everything on your list, let alone a single book on your list, but it’s nice to put something together, to strive for a goal. As a college student nearing the end of spring semester, reading a book for pleasure sounded like the most magical and wonderful experience I could look forward to in the summer. I’d had enough of textbooks, and yet the reality of exams made me have to endure reading copious amounts of school related material. All I wanted was time with God and time to sit down and read Scripture or gospel related books. I found myself peeking at C.S. Lewis’ words or reaching for the pages of my most recent John Piper purchase, only to realize I still had to focus on exams.

So you’d imagine my surprise when exams were ended and I was happily sitting down to dig into my gospel goodness when I discovered it wasn’t there. The desire to be close to God simply wasn’t there.

Have you ever had that happen to you? Everything seems well and dandy with your relationship with Christ until one day you just don’t feel like loving God. Or, you just don’t feel like you really love Him at all. I assumed that it was merely a moment of apathy, that it wasn’t serious, that it didn’t need immediate attention. Perhaps I was just so exhausted from exams and the school mind set that I needed a break. So I let it go and decided I would try again tomorrow. However, the next day came, as did another, and another… until a week went by and my “desire” hadn’t returned. It’s so easy to make excuses about our apathy, to assume that our feelings will come back; we need only give it time but not actually take any actions ourselves. Because let’s face it, doing something when we don’t feel like it is not exactly our cup of tea, or at least it’s definitely not mine. I’m supposed to enjoy my relationship with God all the time, right? It’s supposed to feel right all the time, so if I’m not feeling it, it must mean I’m just not supposed to do anything… Right?

My assumptions couldn’t be farther from the truth. This is not what the Gospel tells us. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.” As Christians, we’ve entered into a holy covenant, a beautiful union and a redeemed relationship with the most High God. And as we’ve become His, we are also bound to a covenantal promise to stay faithful to Him, to pursue Him as new creations. Second Corinthians goes on in verses 18 through 21 to say that, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Reconciliation is mentioned five times just in these few verses, and its repetition isn’t in vain. It’s important, but what does it mean? The Greek word used for reconciliation in this passage is katallassó and it has three meanings, which correspond to the progression in the text. The word katallasó was originally used for the proper exchange of coins for debt payments, so when it was applied to people, it typically meant to change from a position of debt or even enmity, to a position of good terms or friendship. So when verse 18 says that God reconciled Himself to us through Christ, it’s reminding us that our position of enmity and debt has been reconciled to friendship with God.

The second meaning of the word is seen in 1 Corinthians 7:11, being applied to marriage partners. A woman, had she been unfaithful to her husband was to either divorce him and be cut off entirely from him, or she was to be decisively reconciled, recommitting her vows, her love and her life to her husband by allowing him to forgive her and welcome her back, forgetting her past. Christ provided us, His Bride, with the option of coming back to Him even when our hearts cheated on Him. He made reconciliation possible so that our pasts and our sins could be forgotten.

The third meaning comes from looking at the root of the word, katá, which means “down to the exact point”, which magnifies katallassó to not merely mean exchange a price or decisively reconcile, but to take on a full change, to completely morph into something else – such as two people with differing opinions who decide to reconcile, they come to the exact same position, in perfect unity with one another. So at the end here it makes sense that Paul is pleading with the Thessalonians, on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God. He is begging them to be fully changed, reminding them that they truly are new creatures. Creatures who have been radically bought at a scandalous price by an overwhelming love from God.

As new creations in Him, apathy is simply not an option anymore. There may be days when I don’t feel like being in the Word or it feels harder to pray than normal, but on those days I must remember that Christ reconciled Himself to me at a high price so that I would have the freedom to reconcile myself to Him, so that I would have the freedom to pursue a relationship with Him. As a new creation, I must choose Him. I must choose to die to the flesh and live by the Spirit.  Even if it means going through the motions and not feeling like it… because the truth is, there will be plenty of times when we don’t feel like pursuing Him, when we will be like Hosea’s wife, Gomer, looking to other pleasures to wet our appetites. And because He is our Bridegroom with unending love, He still desires our affections and our lives, even if our affections might be half hearted at times… He still wants us to try because He is holding onto every piece of us, wanting a relationship.

So in these moments of not feeling like it, don’t be discouraged, but also don’t brush it off as nothing. Left alone, we can allow our hearts to grow colder and close our ears to His voice. These are opportunities to choose to love Him and respond to the Spirit that beckons us closer, even when we don’t feel like it. Isn’t this love? To choose Him, again and again… because He has chosen us, again and again.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Broken Vessels

I hate how much we cast judgment. Regardless of whether one professes a relationship with Christ or not, most people can agree that judging someone is frowned upon, especially if it’s a “book by its cover” situation. As Christians though, we are held to an even higher echelon in judging. We have the right and even the responsibility to be disgusted by sin in our lives and the lives of others…but never the audacity to cast judgment on that sin… even our own, because that unique hardship is one that Christ decided to take for us. The undesired and heart wrenching task of casting judgment is confined to the being of God.

Yet so easily we forget this. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend… a very controversial one based off of certain things happening in the news that had both of us slightly riled. We both had quite differing opinions towards the matter and because of a belief that I hold I was called judgmental and hateful. While trying to explain by saying that I don’t agree with a certain lifestyle but that I undoubtedly loved the person living that lifestyle, I was bitten with the quick remark, “Oh that’s what all Christians say as a cop out to justify them hating others.” The phrase, “So you hate them then, don’t you?” was asked and repeated until I realized I was balling my eyes out and the accusations from my friend stopped.

Words were so hard in that moment. How do you say that judgment is the Lords without sounding like you are truly judging? Because it is true… we can very easily say God is the only judge and yet be biased, ugly and completely judgmental. It often is a cop out and that fact is rather depressing to me, albeit enough to make me cry.

The truth of the matter, however, is that I have no place to look at someone else’s sin and cast an evil glare, because the second I do so, I am condemning myself tenfold. What I mean by that is my own heart, my own body, mind, soul and human nature is so disgustingly flawed and broken that if I dare to have a hypocritical thought towards another being for their lifestyle choice as opposed to mine… woe is me. Because, if I’m being honest… I don’t agree with my own lifestyle. I don’t agree with how I am living. While I call myself a Christian and cling to the hope I have in Christ, I still struggle daily with living a holy life.

I am insecure.
I say things that aren’t edifying.
I am selfish.
I don’t want to serve others.
I am not honest.
I desire things that I shouldn’t.

I am flawed. I am broken. And on a daily basis I am reminded of why it’s okay to accept that I will always be somewhat broken in this world, but why that should never deter me from striving to live a more God-glorifying life.

So as I sat there with my friend trying to describe this, I remember weeping, my heart feeling like confetti around me. I tried to explain how disgusted I was with myself, with my own sins that I could never pull the judgment card on another person, because it would only remind me of my own brokenness. I don’t know if it sunk in… if they truly understood where I was coming from. But I hope you do.

I hope you understand that judgment is never ours as Christians. And thank goodness it’s not because our view of right and wrong changes every day based on moral relativism and our own personal preference or bent. We have a hard time keeping a healthy standard.

But I also don’t want you to come away feeling depressed about the brokenness we experience on earth. While we acutely feel like shattered pieces of clay, scattered and crumbling, our Savior has taken every piece and created a vessel for Himself to indwell. Through our brokenness, He has created a home for us.

Hillsong puts it this way,

"You take our failure
You take our weakness
You set Your treasure
In jars of clay
So take this heart, Lord
I'll be Your vessel
The world to see
Your love in me"

Our brokenness was made whole to be a vessel of love, never judgment. So before you cast an unloving thought or preconceived notion towards someone, remember that you've been brought out of darkness, with nothing to boast about, save the sanctification of our Savior, and nothing to give or say but the love that He gave us so freely. 

Broken Vessels
// Hillsong United // 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

From the Writing Desk

People have recently been asking me why words are so important to me... why am I so finicky about them? Why do I strive to use the correct ones?

Thomas Munn in his Essays of Three Decades once said, "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." A puzzling thought... shouldn't writing come most easily to those who are good writers? The past year has taught me that nothing could be farther from the truth.

I was a declared Communications major my freshman and sophomore year... I had it all sussed out. Until I realized that none of it was making me happy. I was merely going through the motions and becoming more frustrated with my college life. One day after practically failing my midterm and being an emotional cluster, uncertain of anything in life, I had a meeting with a professor for a writing class. Through casual chit-chat he asked me if I was a writing major.
"No. I'm actually in communications." I replied, half chortling.
"Oh? Are you really enjoying that?"
Ha. Funny you should ask good sir. 
"Well actually... no. No I'm not. I'm actually hating it, and I'm pretty sure I just failed the midterm."
"Have you ever considered being a writer?"
"Oh I just.. I've always loved writing, I just never thought I'd want to make it my job for the rest of my life. What if I ended up hating it, you know?"
He nodded, understandingly.
"Yeah, I know... but what if you ended up loving it for the rest of your life?"

For someone who likes to look on the bright side, I had somehow never thought of the possibility. While the paperwork and mindset took awhile to change, I think it's safe to say that I changed my major the very second my professor asked that question.
What if I ended up loving it?
What if?

This past year has been life changing. When you find something you're passionate about and begin nourishing it, it's beautiful what can become of it and how it can transform you. But as I began honing my skills and writing more, a deep realization churned within me. Writing was hard. I mean, saying something is easy. Writing in its driest form is quite easy... ink to paper, fingers to typing, streams of thought to coherent sentences. But that's just technical writing. True writing is like trying to make sense of some great cosmos in your heart... are there words for the feelings we don't even know we possess? How do you encapsulate such powerful feelings into consonants and vowels and syntax. Sometimes it feels like a worthless shot in the dark trying to convey meaning through words, yet writers keep trying.

Because we have to get it right. We have to get them right. The words, the meaning. Words mean so much to us and it's as though our innards writhe in pain when we can't find the right words. That's the hardest part. There aren't enough words in English, nor any language, I believe, that can truly envelop all of human nature, desire and yearning. So as writers we have this impossible job of trying to concoct, order, phrase and orchestrate words into such an symphony that the reader will hear the music that so desperately wants to be heard from our souls.

Sure, we could find adequate words to transfer meaning... but what are mere adequate words? No. Adequate words feel like an injustice to writers. We must find the perfect words. And if we cannot... then we must not write at all, and this, my friends, is the most painful - when you have so much inside of you, without the slightest clue of how to pour it out.

We fear that if we write something... we'll write it all wrong. But we're also afraid that if we don't write, no one will ever know what we are so desperately screaming within our silence. And this is the most stifling, sacredly painful state of being to experience. So we write, half misery, half hopeless abandon, hoping that somehow our words will do justice to our inner cries.

So in order to answer the questions that people asked me... I had to really think about why they mattered. I realized that a lot of it is rather circumstantial; how I've grown up in a vocabulary rich environment, the fact that my giving and receiving love language is words of affirmation. But it's more than that... I think it's innate, God-given and I think every true writer has it. It doesn't necessarily mean that you're good at what you write. Its the nagging, the intense desire to get it right, and to be in some sort of pain when you can't seem to find the words.
This is what writing is.
Half misery. Half hopeless abandon. Hoping. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Problem with Pain

It hurts... what does? Everything. Where? Everywhere. And when people ask if they can help, you just gasp, "No." 

That’s the problem with pain. You can’t tell it to go away, you can’t ignore it, you can’t make it evaporate, you can’t make it leave any sooner than it wants to. It will stay as long as it desires, and it will wreak havoc inside. It will tear around however it pleases. It’s messy. It’s bitter. It’s ugly. And it’s unfair. It’s unjust. It’s pain… and it’s pain that overwhelms. It disables. It blurs your eyes from tears, with tears, through tears, and with every drop, you feel like you’re being torn apart. Every bone in your body is screaming, wanting to dislocate itself, because whatever is in place, in alignment, it doesn’t seem right anymore. How could anything be right? How could anything be good, when so much seemed bad? How do mere words describe pure anguish? Can words do it? Can they envelop this feeling of breathlessness because the tears can’t come quick enough? The breathing, the gasping for air can’t come in time. You're left breathless, exhausted by the idea of breathing. Forget seeing. Your eyes couldn’t focus even if they wanted to. They’re glazed over by the asphyxiation. Words don’t come to mind. You're not even thinking. You're in standby mode while your body takes control, tries to make things work even when your brain is telling you that nothing should work. None of it makes sense. 

That's the problem with depression. Outsiders don't see it like they do a broken leg. There is no cast, no outward sign of pain. It's all inside, and it's a jumbled mess, difficult for even the finest doctors to understand. Chemical imbalances, emotional abuse, physical abuse, bad habits, genetic or not genetic, changing of the weather, broken relationships, loss of a loved one, anxiety, seasons of heightened stress... the list goes on for what causes depression, but perhaps the cause of it doesn't matter as much as how we treat it and those who try to cope with it. Sometimes it visits for a time and then leaves. Sometimes it comes and goes in waves. And still, sometimes, it's a daily companion, never taking leave.

I cannot pretend to know what full-fledged depression feels like as I haven't been clinically diagnosed, nor do I suffer with it everyday... but I do know what those moments of darkness feel like, what they taste like for a second, the reality of it is terrifying.

I struggled with depression for four years after my family moved to another town. I was 13 and my world, my comfort zone, changed when I moved. Making friends was hard, I didn't know who I was and I didn't feel pursued. I didn't feel wanted or desired by others, so hurt and neglect ensnared me in a web of doubt, despair and ultimately depression. I just wasn't good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, outgoing enough, hardworking enough, funny enough, popular enough... enough. I wasn't enough and for some reason, no matter how much encouragement I got from people, or how much some people tried to love me, there was this block that wouldn't allow any light in. Pain and feeling sorry for myself became my identity, and it almost hurt more when people tried to cheer me up because that hurt, that pain, had become so integral to my being, that I didn't know who I was without it. The moment when I was most depressed was when I kept putting off going to bed every night. I would stay up until 12, 1, 2 and then 3... wondering why I was still awake, and then I would realize. The longer I'm awake, the more I can put off facing tomorrow. Because in my head, I knew that once I fell asleep, tomorrow would be here before I knew it and I would have to wake up. I would have to get out of bed and I would have to face the day, regardless of my wanting to hide from it. And if you've never struggled with depression before, or known what it feels like... that's a depiction of what it can look like for some.

This is what depression does. It seeps in, sometimes without our even being aware of how it happens. It's a poison that slowly percolates into our brains and makes us sick. Yes, sick. And some of us have to live our whole lives with this sickness figuring out how we're going to wake up every day.

But friends... this isn't the end. I'm not writing this for others to feel sorry for me or for those who struggle with depression, because if I'm being honest, I couldn't be more thankful for my depression. The darkness is what brought me to Christ and the darkness is what keeps me coming back to Him, day in and day out, needing His compassion. Because the insidious thing about depression, the problem with pain and despair, is that they strip away hope. The future becomes dark and bleak. The isolation and silence is deafening. There seems to be no end in sight.

But the Gospel gives us hope.

John 16:33 explains that we will have pain in this world. Jesus didn't sugarcoat it, but he did say to "take heart, for I have overcome the world." That's the beauty of Jesus.

John Mark McMillan once said, "It's like, it doesn't honor God to pretend like everything is OK. That's the beauty of Jesus that so many people miss. The beauty is that He died on the cross for our sins, but also that he existed the way we exist. He understands what it's like to lose a friend. He's not unfamiliar with those emotions. He's not unfamiliar with the difficulty of human life. To me that's what makes Jesus as God beautiful. He totally understands. He went out of His way to prove to us that he understands our situation. So when He has something to say, it's not coming from this high and lofty standpoint. It's coming from this person who understands intricately the perils of human existence."

He knows the pain of depression, the taste of despair, and yet He overcame it and He gives us the strength to overcome it by WAITING for the day when we will be perfected and united with Him, and our HOPE will be fulfilled. Our hope for freedom from despair, from bitterness and sorrow... our hope will be reality. Because through His death, by His wounds, we are healed. 

 So... while this is the problem with pain, with depression - that it hurts, that it is very real, numbing and gut wrenching - this is also the breathtaking beauty of pain; that Christ would come embody human form, to understand our pain and take our struggle upon Himself so that one day we could live in perfect holiness, unity and joy with Him.

This is our hope, if we only wait patiently, day by day trusting on Him with our pain.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Decluttering the Heart

One of my classes this past week had an assignment to write a detailed description of our room and then attach photos with our account. Simple enough and a great exercise for what we've been studying in class... only I didn't want to take photos of my room because it was a wreck. 

I remember being relatively organized as a child and pretty good about tidying my room the moment it got messy. But somehow, over the years, my attention to order has greatly decreased.

So I stood there in my doorway on Monday afternoon, trying to decipher the best way to start organizing. 
How did it get this dirty? 
I survey my prospects. 

There's a pile of clean clothes in front of my closet that I have yet to organize and put away. 
Oh yeah, I did a load over the weekend while in Staunton. Forgot to put those away.
My bed is a tussle of sheets, blankets and pillows. 
Danget, I'm always in such a rush in the morning that I don't make time to make my bed.
My dirty laundry basket is overflowing.
Oh, right. I tried to do it the other day but someone else was doing their laundry and I forgot to try again.  
Multiple pairs of shoes are jutting out from under my desk, bed and chair.
Why...? Ah, I took them off and didn't make it a priority to put them in the right place. 
There's a massive pile of random papers on my desk, a coffee mug half full that's been sitting there for a number of days, bills, checks, stamps, notecards, my retainer and it's case and random samples of Proactiv skincare.  
Gosh... how did this happen? Actually, come to think of desk has looked like this for several weeks, hasn't it? I just keep putting off going through what I need to throw out and what I need to organize. 
My side table with makeup is the worst. It's dusty from all the cover up powder that has coated it over time. Make up brushes, pencils, perfume, skincare products, moisturizer and deodorant lay in a perfect catastrophe. 
Seriously, Sarah! How does it get this disgusting? I'm sure if I cleaned it a little each day it would never get coated like this. 
Each outfit I wore last week has found some spot on the floor, claiming its own territory. 
Scarves are interspersed with a random jacket, purse, in class handout, book I've been meaning to read, my journal, sweaters, gum, candle lighter... it's a mess. 
I guess... I guess I just haven't taken the time to declutter.

And why? I ask myself, Why didn't I make it a priory? Because now it's an incredible mess. 

I go about cleaning, organizing, throwing out, decluttering... all the while still rhetorically asking myself why I waited so long. 

But I know why. 

It is so darn easy to be careless, isn't it? It is so easy to come into my room after a long day and fling all my clothes aside and rid myself of the day. It is so easy to keep piling clothes on top of clothes and say that "I'll do it tomorrow" so as to shirk myself out of work in the moment that I don't want to do.

It's easy to be lazy. To be thoughtless. To numb our present worries. To be careless. To allow everything to pile up and say, "I'll worry about it later."

But later always hits you like a sucker punch.

Isn't this what we do with our lives?

I don't want to deal with that relationship. I don't want to have that conversation. I don't want to reconcile. I don't want to think about the situation. I don't want to try to change. I don't want to listen to what God is trying to tell me. I don't want to deal with life.

Why? Because it's painful? Because it makes you uncomfortable? Because you don't know if the outcome will be good? Because you don't know if you'll be happy in the end?

Sooner or later, it all piles up when you don't deal with it. The hurt, the misunderstanding, the conversations in your head that you wish you could have had, but didn't; the frustration, the stress, the anxiety, the depression, the pride, the bitterness... it all gets messy.

And when it gets messy, we blind our eyes from seeing Gods vision for us, and we plug our ears to His promises for us in that vision.

Sometimes, especially now as school is coming to a closing and finals are piling up, we find our identity in business and decide to deal with the real problems later. Life can wait... but the turbulence of school can't. Sometimes this seems easier to deal with, even though in our minds we say it's harder.

"Studying is so hard. School is so hard," we say.

But I promise you, it's nothing short of easy when compared to dealing with problems of the heart. When we listen to God and His plans for us, it is indeed harder because it's often not what we planned for ourselves, but it is so much better and truly worth our attention.

Although this season may be busy, although all hope may seem lost, although we may feel incapable on our own, we cannot ignore the messy rooms in our lives and we cannot allow them to keep collecting dust and filth. God uses these messy things to draw us closer to Him, not push us further away. He wishes to show us His plan, so don't use business as an excuse to not have an ear for His purpose.

Friends, during this season of exams, finals, tests, caffeine highs, long nights and weary bodies, let's not allow our souls to grow weary too. Address the issues at hand, pursue resolutions, declutter your heart, draw close to Him and seek His plan. He desires to bless us so deeply, if we would only uncover our eyes and unplug our ears to witness His grace.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

Jeremiah 29:11-14

Friday, April 8, 2016

dear mom-mom

Dear Mom-Mom,

I keep trying to think of ways to begin this letter to you, but all I can think of is, "When was the last time I wrote something to you?" 

I remember mom always had us write thank you notes when we were younger. It was common courtesy after a birthday or Christmas, a good time or a present. You gave us lots of those growing up. I guess the note thanking came from you, too. You taught mom well.

I remember her sitting down with me to help me write notes because I never knew what to say and my spelling was always atrocious. You remember that one card I sent you? I was rather proud of it because it was the first note I had written where I wasn't ashamed of my handwriting. It was on pink card stock, a whole page, because I knew pink was your favorite color and at the top I glued a photo for you. I think dad took it? We were outside on the patio for lunch. Pop-Pop was sitting in the background in the black rod iron porch chair. Chris, Mom and I are seated around the table. We were eating off of your bright yellow plastic plates - you remember the ones with the dividers? I see them at antique stores every once in awhile and they always remind me of you.

So there we are, all seated, you serving us. I think you had a blue shirt on with pink flowers, glasses on and hair curled just so around your face, flashing a mega watt smile.

That's how I remember you.

Summers day, cheeks flushed. Serving others, selfless. I can just hear your pleasant laugh, because that's exactly what it was - pleasant. Everything was pleasant about you. Everything was lovely. If ever a being embodied the meaning of the word woman most acutely, it was surely you. Never too loud, never too quiet. You had mastered the way of being present in an oddly calming fashion. I remember writing about you in 2010, when your 1942 portrait caught my attention and I realized how utterly breathtaking you were. It's wasn't your 1940's glam, though that was stunning. It was the warmth in your eyes radiating from a vintage photo.

"The second portrait was shaded almost with a pink tone, as if the person inside had been radiant and the photograph was able to capture the gleam. The woman inside had an oval face, a subtle smile with easily seen dimples on either side of her cheeks. That smile shone with something akin to the Mona Lisa, as if she knew something that you didn't. Her skin looked like porcelain, almost like if one were able to place their hand inside the portrait to touch her they would feel silk. Her dark hair was simply, yet elegantly displaying a short bob that settled on top of her shoulders. Like the man, the photo cut off and contained only a small portion of her upper body, but just enough to show that she was wearing a white, clean cut suit; something typical of the 1940's. She looked like the perfect example of what and who a lady should be. She was beautiful."

Aside from being pleasant to be around and personifying charm, you were one of the most humble people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Others were always more important, and you made them a priority. Whether it was taking someone a meal, donating and making clothes for the needy, participating in community events, watching grandchildren, being faithful to your husband or always having a hot meal on the table - you served others well and you did it without complain. But you also didn't crusade your good acts... that was just a way of life, that was apart of your upbringing. Others just mattered more. 

Being a lady didn't mean being silent, it meant being heard with the least words possible. It was having a quiet strength and resilience that made you dignified and resolved. It was correcting and guiding in a loving voice. It was being strong enough to temper the tides of frustration and respond with words that edified rather than demoralize. It was being able to roll up your sleeves and get dirty planting flowers, tending children and running a home whilst turning around last minute to wear pearls and red lipstick for garden parties and charity events. It meant being able to wear a million different hats in one day and still maintain your sanity. But it also meant being vulnerable, soft - the epitome of empathy and grace. It meant knowing when to let your guard down and be silly, yet understanding the appropriateness of every emotion in every situation. It meant knowing how to control your emotions and actions, and making the connection between the two. 

Being you meant setting an example for young women around you. It meant loving others without abandon. It meant being artistic and using your hands for beautiful crafts and projects. It meant being the best gift giver and always having a present each time you saw someone. It meant cooking without recipes and rather with a "pinch of this and a pinch of that". It meant an adoration for holidays and the coming together of family, but especially Christmas, which was always your favorite. It meant your tradition of cinnamon rolls and your incredible chocolate eclair cake. It meant your infectious laughter followed by a thickly southern accented, "Oh shyoot". It meant a love for classical music and the ballet. It meant staunch respect and fidelity to your husband. It meant seeing Christ as your Redeemer. It meant a love for chocolate and random stashes around the house in case you got a craving. It meant wanting desert and coffee as soon as dinner was finished. It meant planting beautiful flowers, gardens and loving spring. 

Perhaps that's why this spring is hard... It's the first one without you. I'll never go through another spring without thinking of you. I'll never see another Redbud bloom on 81 without thinking of you taking rides in the country with Pop-Pop to see the Redbud blooms. 

I hope one day I can live to be half the woman and lady that you were. And I hope that I can pass your grace to my children and grandchildren, because your legacy didn't end on Sunday, January 3rd, 2016. It will always be present as long as real women like you exist. 

Mom-Mom... it hasn't even been that long and I miss you horribly. I love you. I love you so terribly much. 

With all my bleeding heart, 
                               your granddaughter