"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"What are you doing after you graduate?" said everyone.

"When you haven't yet had your heart really broken, the gospel isn't about death and rebirth. It's about life and more life. It's about hope and possibility and a brighter future. And it is, certainly, about these things. But when you've faced some kind of death---the loss of someone you loved dearly, the failure of a dream, the fracture of a relationship--that's when you start understanding that central metaphor. When your life is easy, a lot of the really crucial parts of Christian doctrine and life are nice theories, but you don't really need them. When, however, death of any kind is staring you in the face, all of a sudden rebirth and new life are very, very important to you."
Shauna Niequist,  Bittersweet

Admittedly, my life is easy. I cannot even begin to compare my life to the billions in poverty, the millions in slavery, or to the homeless in my own city. I can't compare my life to those of you who have suffered great losses. Thankfully, God doesn't compare our pain. Because of His intimate care for each of His children as individuals, I don't have to suck up my little, minuscule problems and soldier on alone. He cares. Comparison is a fallacy, a ploy to pit the sons and daughters of God against each other. 

In Matthew 5:4, Jesus says: "BLESSED are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." He doesn't say "blessed are those who have something to mourn about," or "blessed are those who are in pain." Mourn is an action verb. Mourning is a decision. If I suffer a loss, I have two choices: I can choose to ignore the pain I feel and not address the loss, or I can choose to mourn that which was lost. Jesus says we are blessed when we mourn. 

Again, my life is easy. Nothing dramatically painful has occurred in my life, I haven't recently lost someone that I love to death. But, for this season, I'm learning how to mourn.

As I'm looking past the next 115 days, I am coming to grips with the reality that I will not live in Waco after this May. Even if I did stay in Waco, my season of college life and the sweetest community I've ever walked in is coming to an end. Life is moving forward, and so must I. With friends moving and weddings being planned, this reality has been sinking in. With the end of this season comes the end of certain dreams.

In the past few weeks, I have realized that I must let go of the dreams that I have held on so tightly to during my time in Waco. In order to move forward with open hands for what God has for me, those dreams have to die. I cannot walk into the next season still holding on to bitterness from unfulfilled dreams from a season that is past and that will never return. Not allowing these to die will cause ME to die. A life marked with bitterness and clinging to the past is not a life I want. Because I trust the unwavering character of God more than I trust my ability to dream, I will place my dreams on the altar and allow my merciful God burn them. It truly is in His MERCY that He calls me to move forward with open hands, because there are much, much better things ahead. As CS Lewis says, "There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." I know in my mind that God is faithful, infinitely wiser, and will give me even greater dreams.

Letting this sink into my heart is a different story. Like with any loss, great or small, healing must follow. It's not enough for me to know in my head that God is faithful and good, I have to allow Him to heal my heart. This is where mourning takes place. I have to be vulnerable with Jesus and admit that this loss has affected me. I hoped that something would happen, and it didn't. Honestly, it was really hard to open my heart and allow God to start the process of healing and moving forward. I didn't want to face the reality that I had failed in some way, or that I wasn't enough in some way. I didn't want to mourn, because I didn't want to admit that I had lost something. In this instance, I could have (and did at points) self-protect in two ways. One, I could have just refused to give up, and try to stay in the season that I'm in until it ended the way I wanted it to. This would have been futile and life-sucking. Second, (the more practical, more alluring option) I could have pretended that this dream wasn't "that big of a deal". It would have been pretty easy to say that it didn't affect me, that my heart was never really in it, that I hadn't put that much hope in it. Doing this would have been disastrous. Not the explosive, obvious kind of disastrous, but the slow, deadly, hope-killing kind. I know this because I've been there more often than I would like to admit. 

But this time, I will choose vulnerability with God and people. I will choose to mourn that which has been lost, because something has been lost. My pain may not be earth-shattering, but it is there. And God cares enough about it that He will tenderly take me through a process of healing and restoring and moving forward.

And He is FAITHFUL. History is full of His faithfulness to bring life from death. Like a warm spring after a bitterly cold winter, life springs forth. Do you not perceive it?

Already, He is birthing new dreams, new vision, new things that I wouldn't think possible had I still been holding onto the past. It is a NEW DAY. And regardless of my experience, I can keep dreaming because I ultimately trust Him with my dreams. Whether or not I ever see them fulfilled is ultimately irrelevant-- it is the process of walking with Him and trusting Him that creates life in me.

So, here comes the question: "What are you doing after you graduate?"

The answer? I'm not quite sure about the practicals yet (my job, my location... small details like that), but one thing is certain: I'll keep dreaming with Jesus. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Current Reads

My current reading list (book descriptions from amazon):

The Beautiful Outlaw (John Eldredge)
Reading the Gospels without knowing the personality of Jesus is like watching television with the sound turned off. The result is a dry, two dimensional person doing strange, undecipherable things. 

In BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW, John Eldredge removes the religious varnish to help readers discover stunning new insights into the humanity of Jesus. He was accused of breaking the law, keeping bad company, heavy drinking. Of being the devil himself. He was so compelling and dangerous they had to kill him. But others loved him passionately. He had a sense of humor. His generosity was scandalous. His anger made enemies tremble. He'd say the most outrageous things. He was definitely not the Jesus of the stained glass. 
In the author's winsome, narrative approach, he breaks Jesus out of the typical stereotypes, just as he set masculinity free in his book, Wild at Heart. By uncovering the real Jesus, readers are welcomed into the rich emotional life of Christ. All of the remarkable qualities of Jesus burst like fireworks with color and brilliance because of his humanity.
Eldredge goes on to show readers how they can experience this Jesus in their lives every day. This book will quicken readers' worship, and deepen their intimacy with Jesus.

Kisses from Katie (Katie Davis)

What would cause an eighteen-year-old senior class president and homecoming queen from Nashville, Tennessee, to disobey and disappoint her parents by forgoing college, break her little brother’s heart, lose all but a handful of her friends (because they think she has gone off the deep end), and break up with the love of her life, all so she could move to Uganda, where she knew only one person and didn’t even speak the language?
A passion to follow Jesus.
Katie Davis left over Christmas break of her senior year for a short mission trip to Uganda and her life was turned completely inside out. She found herself so moved by the people of Uganda and the needs she saw that she knew her calling was to return and care for them. Katie, a charismatic and articulate young woman, is in the process of adopting thirteen children in Uganda and has established a ministry, Amazima, that feeds and sends hundreds more to school while teaching them the Word of Jesus Christ.
Kisses from Katie invites readers on a journey of radical love down the red dirt roads of Uganda. You’ll laugh and cry with Katie as she follows Jesus into the impossible and finds joy and beauty beneath the dust. Katie and her children delight in saying yes to the people God places in front of them and challenge readers to do the same, changing the world one person at a time.

narrow and wide

I always thought I was pretty good at change. Growing up, my family moved around several times across different states, until finally landing in Sugar Land, Texas during the fall of my third grade year. I stayed in Sugar Land until the summer I turned eighteen, when I made the move to the heart of Texas,  sweet Waco. While moving to college was admittedly a big step and I wouldn't say it was totally easy, none of those moves and transitions shook me to the core like the one I'm in right now is. Right now, I am shaken. To be honest, I am scared out of my mind about what comes next. My whole life, I've known that I would graduate high school, that I would one day move out of my parents' house, and that I would go to college. Then, I would magically be an adult and everything would just fall perfectly into place. I would be married and set for life. I would live a fun, carefree, comfortable life livin' the dream. The American dream, that is.

Then I realized two things.

1. The American Dream is no longer my dream, because it is not God's dream and it is not biblical. Let's just go ahead and get the elephant in the room out in the open and admit to ourselves that a life based on independence, comfort, and safety does not line up with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That's a different gospel, but I choose to live my life based on the gospel of Jesus, the One who died to ransom my life from the clutches of hell. So I have a new dream; I want to whole-heartedly follow Jesus into whatever His plans are for me. Sure, some days I try to fool myself into thinking that maybe the American Dream isn't so bad, because its a heck of a lot more comfortable than living God's Dream. But then I remember that because I've met Jesus, the American Dream is forever ruined for me. So there's that.

2. Then there's the fact that I've graduated college and I still usually feel like a little girl who someone just let in the room to see what the "grown ups" are doing. But now I'm the grown up. I have to make decisions about my life. I'm not married, or dating, or anywhere on the relationship map. I realized that life is not what I expected it to be at age 22. I am not as mature as I thought I would be, I don't have it all figured out, and decisions are hard.

I talk big about changing the world and sticking it to the American Dream (as we just saw above), but when push comes to shove, will I give in to the pressures of the world and the tendencies of my flesh and live a normal life? To live a normal, nominally Christian life is to not live at all. I was not made for normal; I know that. But when it really comes down to it, will I make the hard choices? The narrow road/ wide road analogy is just so accurate. I feel the pull of the wide road. The draw of the wide road isn't blatantly sinful things. The draw of the wide road, I think, is its wideness. If one chooses the wide road, there is little resistance. The hard questions and painstaking sacrifices of Kingdom life are swept under the rug, and the tension is released, the friction is eased. But, the wide road leads to destruction. It seems that the narrowness-- the refining pressure, the hard choices-- of the Narrow Road are what brings life, and the ease of the Wide Road bring its destruction. The narrow road leads to life because of its narrowness. I HAVE to be refined by fire and choose Jesus in the hard places to experience life. It is part of the Kingdom. If I live a wide life, always avoiding anything that is going to challenge me or make me choose, I will never find life. I can only experience fullness of life when I relinquish my broken life in exchange for His perfect one.

This reminds me of something C.S. Lewis said about truth and comort. Seeking after truth is a narrow road choice. When we find truth, it is abrasive to our brokenness, it is uncomfortable.

"If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair."
CS Lewis

Friday, August 17, 2012


It is amazing to me how many emotions one can feel in a single moment. I just spent several minutes trying to be self aware (which I really am not at all) and pinpoint my feelings right now. But I couldn't. Maybe that's because of my lack of self-awareness, or maybe its because there isn't really a central "feeling" to pinpoint. Maybe right now I'm just a jumble mess.

I think that much of my life has been spent trying to be un-messy. To be clean-cut, seamless, with an unbreakable exterior. For the first two decades or so of my life, I chalked this up to my personality. I am, by nature, an internal processor, an organization-lover, and a planner. I like order and I like to know what I'm getting myself into for that I can be overly-prepared. But guess what? Sometimes the internal processor needs to talk and the external processor listen. Sometimes the planner needs some spontaneity. Sometimes the organizer needs something in life that won't fit in her compartmentalized box of a life. Sometimes, I need to be thrown into a situation and have to actually rely on the Holy Spirit rather than my prideful flesh.

Life is messy. When the Spirit of God collides with human flesh, things get messy. I, in my perfectly crafted external good Christian girl shell, can neither receive what God is giving nor give what God requires. Until I, like Mary of Bethany, break the flawless flask that holds my life at the feet of Jesus, I can't fully know His love for me. As long as I'm operating in a spirit of pride, thinking somehow that if I keep myself appearing good enough or spiritual enough, I'm not allowing Jesus to give me the fullness of His love. Because He came to the world for the sick, not the healthy. As long as I masquerade as a healthy one, I'm rejecting the healing of the Doctor. I am broken and desperately in need of the Physician's healing.

And my whole life is the only thing that Jesus wants. He loves me and treasures me no matter what my response to Him is, but being fully His costs me my life. I simply cannot have my safe, put together self while following the King of Kings. Following Jesus requires my life.

Sacrifices, by Paul David Tripp (Psalm 51:17) 

if I give you some of my time.
if I give you some of my strength.
if I give you some of my things.
if I give you some of my thoughts.
if I give you
some of my relationships.
these sacrifices
will bring you delight.
these offerings
will bring you joy.
I'm quite willing
to give a tithe.
I'm quite willing
to interrupt
my schedule.
I'm quite willing
to volunteer
to serve.
But I get the sense
that you're not satisfied
with a piece of me.
I get the sense
that momentary giving
momentary service
momentary sacrifice
momentary ministry
the momentary turning
of my heart to you
will not satisfy you.
But I must admit
that I'm afraid
of what you require.
I'm afraid of a
broken spirit.
I'm afraid of a
contrite heart.
I'm afraid to be 
crushed by your grace.
So I try to
distract you
with my service
distract you
with my time
distract you
with my money.
Deep inside
I know what you want.
Deep inside
I'm sure of what you require.
I'm afraid
because I want to hold onto
my heart.
I want
to give it to other things.
I want to 
pursue pleasures
outside of you.
I'm afraid
to give you
what would satisfy you.
I'm afraid of a 
broken heart.
So I regularly offend you
with empty offerings
and vacuous praise.
to my own destruction
that you'll be satisfied.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

can makeup change the world?

One of my favorite things in the world is to see people advancing the Kingdom on their spheres on influence, doing what they love for an eternal purpose. One sphere of society in America that I haven't given a whole lot of thought to how the Kingdom can be advanced in, though, is the beauty industry. Which, really, seems pretty obvious in retrospect.

The beauty industry makes millions of dollars around the idea of women looking or feeling beautiful. This whole industry and sector of society essentially revolves around a key identity issue. In a nation and a world filled with women with question marks on their hearts, here is the beauty industry. Here rage the battles of comparison, competition, criticism, self-hatred, and pride in and between women. We can look at this industry and scoff at the "frivolity" of it, or we could look a little closer and see a frontline of the battle for the heart. Clearly, the enemy has given some attention to this issue of beauty, but why? Could it be the this sphere concentrated on the beauty of women could be an important on to the heart of God? Could it be that through the issue of physical beauty, God wants to replace question marks with assurance, comparison with security, and self-hatred with His overwhelming love? I don't know what this looks like, but I think that God is doing something redemptive and beautiful here. This is too big of a spiritual battleground for there not to be something big planned. People like my friend Andrea (read her beauty blog here) who carry the love of Jesus with them in this industry will impact eternity by their influence and love.

The story that spurred this thought process on is that of a Baylor grad named Nicole. I was reading Reject/Apathy, an offshoot of Relevant magazine, and came across an article about her (read it here). She essentially gave up the fashion/beauty dream job (working at a fashion house on 5th Avenue, NYC) to combat sex trafficking. How does she fight sex trafficking, you may ask? She created her own line of makeup (Radiant, get it here) that supports Free the Captives, a Houston-based anti-human trafficking organization. So the makeup she creates is a vital part of slaves in the trafficking capitol of the US (and my hometown, Houston) being set free and restored. What a way to advance the Kingdom in you sphere. Incredible. I know where I'm getting my makeup.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

the underbelly of the Olympics.

Yesterday, I adapted Jamie Oliver's One-Minute Berry Ice Cream recipe and made a delicious, equally easy and healthy frozen yogurt, perfect for a hot summer day. The only ingredients necessary are a bag of frozen berries (I used HEB's "berry medley"), a small tub of greek yogurt (500g, I used Fage Total), and a little honey. To add a little depth to my fro-yo, I got some Hershey's Special Dark chocolate chips and added about a cup of them them to the mix. Throw it all in a blender, freeze it til it is at a consistency you like (right after blending, mine was at the consistency of a smoothie, so I froze it for a while until it was more of an ice cream consistency), and enjoy! I garnished mine with a few dark chocolate chips and a honey drizzle. Enjoy and stay cool!

In other news, how 'bout those Olympics? I absolutely love the Games and am an avid Team USA fan, especially in women's gymnastics and swimming. I'm essentially obsessed with the Fab 5, specifically Gabby Douglas. So much love.

There is, unfortunately, a dark underbelly to the Olympic Games. With any large, international sports event, such as the Olympics, the World Cup, or the Eurocup, comes a rise in human trafficking, specifically sex trafficking, in the host city. Because of the legalization of some kinds of prostitution in the UK, the issue of minimizing sex trafficking seems to be more complicated and meeting more resistance than one would think. Regardless of the legality or politics of the situation, the reality is that right now, because of the influx of people in London for the Games, a large amount of helpless people are being used, abused, raped, injured, and traded like cattle. While we enjoy the entertainment of watching our nation and the world compete in the Games, would we not forget to intercede on behalf of those who are living in slavery. Senator Mobina Jaffer of British Columbia, Canada, who worked on combating the sex trade during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, said this of the London games:

"Over the next few weeks, as we all come together and celebrate the Olympic Games let us not forget about those young girls who have little to celebrate. Let us ensure that our cheers do not silence their cries. Let us save a place in our hearts for those women and girls who are being exploited and robbed of their dignity."

Would we not only feel sympathy for these people, though. May we be moved by compassion to intercede on their behalf, to battle the powers of darkness and bring light to London, even from across the globe. We can walk in faith that our prayers are powerful and effective and can change things!

"But this is a people robbed and plundered; they are all of them snared in holes and hidden in houses of bondage. They have become a prey, with no one to deliver them, a spoil, with no one to say, RESTORE THEM." Isaiah 42:22

Would we be the ones who say, in faith, "restore them"!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The courageous choose hope.

“Celebration when your plan is working? Anyone can do that. But when you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it over and over as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that's when you start to learn what celebration is. When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that's celebration.”
Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

Today, I saw this quote in the bathroom at my local Zumba studio. So random, I know. But this excerpt from this book I've never heard of stirs a deep place in me.
Because anyone can be a cynic. Anyone can look at their life and find tragedy and heartbreak, because we all have it. It's easy to make a list of all the ways I've been hurt and the ways that life hasn't always turned out exactly how I pictured. Its easy for us to go there, because it akes absolutely no faith. Being cynical about life, or even what the world defines at "realism", takes absolutely no faith in the goodness and faithfulness of God. Because when we're cynical, we're placing our trust completely in how we perceive the state of our circumstances. In cynicism, there is no space for the goodness of God to blossom hope in our hearts.
But, oh, how painful it can be to hope again. The Bible itself tells us that "hope deferred makes the heart sick". When we have allowed ourselves to hope, only to be disappointed, it is difficult to have the courage to believe again. I am learning that faith, hope, and love are all hard. They are difficult, and they take courage and boldness to pursue. To choose to see, by faith, beauty where ashes still lay is bold. It takes faith in the unchanging character of God and the faithfulness of His word (Isaiah 61).

Anyone can be a cynic, but only the bold, courageous, and tenacious children of God can see harrowing circumstances and STILL believe that He is good, He is stronger, and He is working all things together for our good. So be strong and courageous-- allow Him to ignite a spark of hope within your heart.
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 27:3, NIV
"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living." Psalm 27:3,NASB