"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.

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

Friday, July 20, 2012

my 20's bucket list.

Thanks, insomnia, for keeping me up to write a post at 2:30am.

In no particular order, here is my bucket list for my 20's. I have somewhere around 7 years, 10 months, and three days to complete it. I've got this.

1. Train my way through Europe. Extremely stereotypical, but seriously? Trains are the coolest. Ever since I first saw White Christmas I've pretty much been obsessed. And what 20-something doesn't want to go to Europe? This one does for sure.

2. Do something crazy. Now, while I'm not your typical crazy type, it is highly doubtful/ impossible that I will only do one crazy thing in the next seven-ish years. But I'm talking BIG crazy... like taking a risk on a random job opportunity, or moving somewhere crazy. Following Jesus in a radical, adventurous way that gets me completely out of my comfort zone. Healthy risking with Jesus.

3. Move out of Texas. Preferably in the next year or two. Pretty self explanatory... I've been here for a while, it'll always be home, but I'm ready for a new frontier.

4. Go back to India. I feel like I left a piece of my heart there. I want to go back so badly.

5. Become a better long-distance friend. I'll be taking notes from the best at keeping up with people, the one and only Emily Jean, for the next 6 months-to-a-year in preparation for the many goodbyes to come (and those already in the process).

6. Give hilariously. (term borrowed from Al.) After this last year (PRAISE THE LORD) of grad school, I'm sure I'll have several slim years as a social worker entering the workforce. During this time, I don't want to get a poverty mentality, but I want to give hilariously out of my need to the Church and to the hurting of the world. From my time and from my wallet, I want to give freely of what I have, because I am and will be operating out of the ABUNDANCE of my Father!

7. Live life fully in the season I'm in. I don't want to look back on any time during my 20s when I was wishing for something in my life to be different. I want to live fully the life God has me in for each passing season. There in fullness of joy in His presence (Psalm 16:11), and His presence is with my always, so I can experience FULL JOY in every season and circumstance. Would this mark my 20s!

8. Learn how to do my hair in finger waves. Hey, I love the 1940's, what can I say?

9. Dance as much as I can, in whatever context in available. Zumba, in my living room, in classes, whatevs. 

10. Make time to read. One of my favorite things in the whole world.

Well, this is all I have for now. I'm finally getting tired, thankfully. 

Any thoughts or bucket lists of your own?

Thursday, July 19, 2012


My name is Amanda. While you probably know that, you most likely do not know that my name means "worthy of love". I've known what my name means for as long as I can remember. In my grandma's house, she has a picture collage frame for each of her grandchildren, and stuck inside the frame of each was, for most of my childhood, a little wallet-sized card with the meaning of each grandchild's name. Mine was pink with roses on it, and it told me that my name meant "worthy of love". 

Worthy of love. 

The thing about my name is that I've had it for as long as I've been alive. I've actually pretty much had it since before I was even conceived, because my older brother was going to be named Amanda if he was a girl. Once he turned out to be a boy, my parents knew that their first daughter (me, the one and only) would be named Amanda. As a side note, had I been a boy (my parents didn't know our genders until we were born), I would have been Stephen ("crown").

I've had to identity "worthy of love" on my life since before I was even created. Is this significant? Or is my name just one that my parents picked and it happened to have a meaning that resonates with me? The thing is, the issue of my deserving or meriting love is not some sweet sentiment to me. This issue has been at the very core of the struggle of my heart for as long as I can remember. Though I grew up seeing those words on a little card by my kindergarten school picture, there was always a "but, am I really?" that followed. 

Jesus knew. He knew that this tender place in my heart would be a battlefield of the enemy. Telling me that I am deserving of love and worth loving was of such high priority to Him that He made even my name a testament to His Truth and the identity that He wanted to place on me. While I know that this is not always the case with people's names, I truly believe that Jesus chose to speak to me and plant Truth and hope in my heart in this way. In the times of the Bible, a name meant so much more than it does now. God would place huge destinies and life-altering identity onto His people by changing their names. Take Abraham, Sarah, Israel, Peter, and Paul, for instance. 

What is even more, God saw me and called me out as one who is worthy of love before I was knit together in my mother's womb. Before I knew Him or loved Him, He called me His child and stamped unwarranted and undeserved identity on me. Because the truth is, without Jesus' sacrifice washing my stains away, I'm undeserving and unworthy. Its only because He says that I'm worthy, that I'm enough, that makes it true. I haven't earned it.

Isaiah 43:1 is a promise that the Lord consistently speaks over my life: 
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

Later in the chapter, the Lord promises the people of Jacob/Israel (we see a name change highlighted in this very chapter!) that whatever storms and fires of life they go through, I AM is with them. He calls them BY NAME. Being summoned or known by name is the difference between having a relationship with someone and just being one face in a crowd of millions. Today, Jesus is calling you out of the crowd. He is calling you BY NAME. He chooses YOU. Out of everyone in the crowd you feel like you've disappeared into, He wants you, He delights in you.

Psalm 139:1-18

1O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
         You understand my thought from afar.
3You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
         And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
4Even before there is a word on my tongue,
         Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
5You have enclosed me behind and before,
         And laid Your hand upon me.
6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
         It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
7Where can I go from Your Spirit?
         Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
         If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
9If I take the wings of the dawn,
         If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10Even there Your hand will lead me,
         And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
11If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
         And the light around me will be night,”
12Even the darkness is not dark to You,
         And the night is as bright as the day.
         Darkness and light are alike to You.
13For You formed my inward parts;
         You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
         Wonderful are Your works,
         And my soul knows it very well.
15My frame was not hidden from You,
         When I was made in secret,
         And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
         And in Your book were all written
         The days that were ordained for me,
         When as yet there was not one of them.
17How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
         How vast is the sum of them!
18If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
         When I awake, I am still with You.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A ship in port is safe.

Right now, I am just so excited about life. This time next year, I could be living literally anywhere in the world. The world is at my fingertips. There's no telling what God has planned for the next few years of my life! In the very places where the enemy brings insecurity and anxiety-- uncertainty about what I'm going to do vocationally, the reality that I am single, and my specific gifts, talents, and dreams-- God is wanting to do the opposite. These places in which the enemy is trying to kill, steal, and destroy my joy and my life are the very places where God is going to move most powerfully. These places are the ones I can be the most excited about. When I really know the heart of my Father, when I know His goodness and faithfulness, my anxiety and insecurity are transformed into excitement and expectancy! Instead of giving into the lies of insecurity, loneliness, or fear, I can be expectant and "confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13). When I fully trust that my life is secure in the Father's hands and that He, with all of His extraordinary power, is working to my highest good, I can risk with Him. I can adventure with Him. I can love relentlessly. I can live fully. All without fear, because His perfect love casts out ALL fear.

When I was little, I had terrible nightmares. One night, I woke up in tears in the middle of the night. I was sick of being terrified every night! A few months before, I had asked Jesus to "come in my heart", and I loved Him as much as my little seven year old heart possibly could, I think. In a moment of pure, innocent faith, I asked Jesus to never let me have a bad dream ever again. And I haven't, to this day. I've had some kind of weird dreams, but never again the terrifying nightmares of my childhood.

I trusted my Father. That night, I went right back to sleep, trusting that my new friend Jesus would protect me. As a small child without all of the grown up "knowledge" that plagues adults, I knew the heart of my Father, so I risked going to sleep again. Had I not trusted that He would hear my cries and intervene, what would I have done? Never slept again? That seems preposterous. But don't we, as adults, do the very same thing? We ask God to intervene, then live so safely that we never risk enough to allow Him to show Himself faithful. We are like ships-- safe while at port, but made for so much more than idly standing on the sidelines of life, collecting dust and allow life to pass us by.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book recommendation: A Severe Mercy

I find that, often, my favorite books are the unexpected ones. I am near to finishing a beautiful memoir by Sheldon Vanauken. It is an incredible story of a journey of love, faith, adventure, and tragedy. I have owned this book for a while, and it honestly took a long time for me to really get into reading it. I actually began reading this book over a year ago on the way to Lima, Peru. It was shelved after that trip, until recently. Though it took a little while for me to get into the story, it has been an incredible journey to read about this couple's story unfolding. A Severe Mercy is about the lives of Van and Davy, a couple who find love in each other, and ultimately journey to the foot of the cross by the power of the pursuit of Jesus and powerful community, which included their friend C.S. Lewis. What I love so much about this book is that it's simply about life. It's about how two imperfect people collide with the Living God, and how they love each other and others in the process.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Vanauken's memoir.
“It is not possible to be 'incidentally a Christian.' The fact of Christianity must be overwhelmingly first or nothing. This suggests a reason for the dislike of Christians by nominal or non-Christians: their lives contain no overwhelming first but many balances."

"No: a glimpse is not a vision. But to a man on a mountain road by night, a glimpse of the next three feet of road may matter more than a vision of the horizon."

"I choose beauty; I choose what I love. But choosing to believe is believing. It's all I can do: choose."

This is such a lovely, rich book, and I would recommend it to anyone. :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

I think I'll go to Boston

Today I took a day trip to the lovely city of Boston. I was swept into a love for this New England city by its beautiful architecture, deep roots in American history, lush greenery and hundred year old trees... And it's delicious seafood. Exploring places I have never been is one of my favorite things in life. I love the adventure of discovering new things and seeing beauty unveiled around me. In Boston, there are so many sites with rich, important historical significance to the Revolutionary War. So many sites in the city were the locations of events that shaped our history as a nation. One particular building, the Old State Building, had an upstairs balcony that faces the now busy downtown intersection. From this balcony, Bostonians first heard the words of the Declaration of Independance read. What a moment that must have been. Did the townspeople below know the weight and gravity of the words they were hearing? Did they know that the history of Western Civilization was about to change forever? Did they know there were part of something much bigger than themselves, a part of one of the most imporant times in their mation's history? Or was it simply an ordinary day in the town of Boston, Massachusetts?
Just like these Bostonians, I am living in a time of tension, and the earth is groaning in expectation for what is to come. The enemy is still prowling, seeking to devour, and he wants to lull me into a sleep and into believing that this is just an ordinary day. He wants me to believe that what I do doesnt really have any significance in the grand scheme of things... I'm just living life as usual. But in reality, all of heaven and earth is waiting with bated breath to see what I do, how I respond to life. I'm not the center of the Story of Heaven, but because God calls me His child, I have an important part to play. You have an important part to play. Today is not ordinary. Today, history is in the making. Lines are being drawn. Souls are at stake. We are in the middle of something so much bigger than ourselves.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Imagine yourself a living house

An incredible analogy by Lewis.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Faith and greeting cards

Right now, I'm sitting in a cottage in a little town in New Hampshire. So quaint, so lovely. I am surrounded by beauty here: the wild daisies growing in the rolling meadow out back, the cool breeze, the lovely bird calls, the smell of the blooming rose bush while visiting the neighbors, and the purple mountain against the setting sun at dusk. Absolutely gorgeous. Tomorrow I'll be driving into Boston with my grandparents and a couple that lives next door. We will explore the Freedom Trail and soak in some classic American history while they go to some appointments, then meet up for some good old New England seafood on the bay. Perfection. I am so excited to explore a city I've never been to! One night earlier this week, when I was still in Waco, I went to Fort Worth for a night to have dinner and spend some quality time with my sweet friend Monica. As we talked over one of my favorite meals in the entire world (the grilled salmon from Brio in Southlake Town Square... Incredible.), we tossed around our recent thoughts and revelations about faith. We had both felt the Lord stirring something in us dealing with the idea of faith. As I've been reflecting on the conceps of faith and grace and hope, I have been realizing how insane they are. Seriously. Crazy. Doesn't make sense. Completely blows my mind. I keep coming back to the most simple, basic verse when it comes to faith: Hebrews 11:1. It's one of those verses you memorize in VBS and actually seems to stick with you through the years because it really is that simple. But is it?
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
I've heard this verse, these words for my entire life, but I still cannot get my mind around the vastness of what they mean. The idea of having "faith" is trendy right now. "Faith" is used as such a broad term in the world, and probably in the Church, too. "Faith" is a system of beliefs ("the Christian faith"), or trying to muster up enough personal willpower or courage to do something hard ("Just have faith! You can do it."), or a word to express confidence in something or someone ("I have faith that you'll do the right thing."). While I do think that we need to check our word usage, that's not what I'm getting after. I think that we've softened faith into "faith". We've taken something that because of is very nature we cannot fully understand, and forced it to share a word with a soft, trendy, NICE, comfortable, substanceless idea. We can't actually understand what faith actually is, so we cheapen it into something we can... A nice, quaint sentiment we can stick on a greeting card. We were made for more than nice sentiment. You and I were made to live in the greatest adventure that has ever been. We were made for JESUS, not greeting card "faith". When life comes, and it will, and threatens to tear my world apart, the greeting card sentiments will not mean a thing. The cheap faith and the cheap grace I've tried to convince myself were substantial will be revealed for what they truly are: hollow, empty words on an overpriced, fading piece of card stock. They will fail me, but Jesus will not. I want the faith that leads to more and more and more and more of Jesus. But if "faith" is cheap, what does that make Faith? Expensive. Costly. Faith is pricey, because it requires that we forgo our "right" to understand and to see. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Sounds great on a card (now that I've run that analogy into the ground...), but when it's applied to life, its a little more difficult to swallow. For me right now, my faith is being stretched and expanded by me choosing to believe and accept what Jesus says about me, even if I don't see those things in myself. I am generally inclined towards wanting to have control over my life and I don't like doing things without calculating the risks and rewards. But in life with Jesus, those "righs" are no longer mine. I don't need to see the end, or even the next step in this season of life, but trust that He sees it as He's guiding me. This is a journey of FAITH for me, because as I choose to trust Jesus in what I believe and the direction of my life, I am forsaking what I see with my eyes, and am choosing to believe even when I can't see. Which is so. Hard. For me, at least. Hey, maybe you've got the faith thing down. I don't. It is hard every day to choose joy over disappointment, even when what I see is disappointing. Honestly, it is hard to believe that I am pursued when I feel like I'm not. And when all I want to do is make a bunch of plans for my life, it is really hard to obey Jesus and in faith wait for His timing and direction. When it comes to "bible characters" and the idea of faith, I instantly think of Abraham and Sarah. If you don't know their story, look it up. Their story is INSANE... Once we get past the stigma of the "bible character" syndrome (forgetting that biblical people aren't just characters in a cool book, they were real people who actually lived the stories we hear. So when we read how many years they waited for their child, maybe we'll gain a little better perspective.). Long, long story short, God promised Abe and Sarah a child. At the time of the promise, Abe was really old, beyond the age of conceiving a child, and Sarah was also old and had always been barren. It sounded so ridiculous that Sarah actually laughed when God promised Abraham. Then came the waiting. And more waiting. They're only getting older, how can God's promise actually come to pass? Were they out of their minds to actually believe that God would do something so great to them? Did they actually believe God told them that? Come on, be realistic, Sarah. I can almost hear the mockery, the disbelief of their friends and family. But then.
"BY FAITH Abraham, even though he was past age-- and Sarah herself was barren-- was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise." Heb 11:11
By faith. Because HE is faithful to His word. He is who He says He is, so Abraham trusted Him. Would I be one who knows the character of God so intimately that I have no option but to trust Him and consider all other voices, all of the mocking and nagging of the world and the enemy, as what they are-- but a passing mist that will soon be dispersed by the burning Light of Jesus. Would I choose His truth over what I see with my eyes, trusting that He is who He says He is.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Old Things and New Mercies

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I feel that an explanation is necessary. So I decided to call this blog Old Things and New Mercies. Because I'm not good at coming up with cool, hipster sounding names for things, I just thought about things that are uniquely me. Hence, old things. I love old things. Ask anyone near and dear to me, and they will tell you that I love old movies, I wish I could dress in Banana Republic's Mad Men collection 24/7/365, and I just love all things classy. I grew up watching exclusively, other than Disney movies, musicals from decades I wasn't close to being alive in. I can practically recite White Christmas and Singin in the Rain. I was not your average child. I often prefer black and white photos to color and I dearly love me some Frank Sinatra or soundtracks from my beloved musicals (right now I'm loving the soundtrack from Meet Me in St. Louis). You probably get the picture by now. New Mercies. I need His mercies every morning. Even if I don't choose to seek Him out, He still faithfully sustains me every morning. I am struck today by the beauty in Jesus' well-known and often-quoted response to Pauls shortcomings in 2 Corinthians: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore," says Paul, "I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Lord, would I have the wisdom, humility, and trust to believe and receive these words from you, and would your power rest upon me, also! I need His mercy, I need His grace in my weakness.


So I just turned twenty-two. While this is not really a landmark age like the several leading up to it, I feel older being twenty-two. I feel like I should have my life figured out, like a real adult. I feel like I should be, by now, a real adult. But I'm not. In so many ways, I'm still the little girl dreaming about being a princess, or trying to keep up with my brother in his superhero games. Two distinct memories from my childhood include these very ideas. One involves my brother pulling me around our living room on a rug while 'A Whole New World' was blaring through the stereo. Another involves me dressing up in my Pink Power Ranger pajamas to tag along with my brother the Red Ranger to defeat the powers of evil at hand. I'm still that little girl who craves both loveliness and beauty, and being a part of a great adventure (go read Captivating if this resonates with you). That little girl is still very much alive in the woman I'm becoming, and I hope she never really grows up, like the world and society and sometimes even the Church encourages her to. So maybe I'm not a 'real' adult yet, and reaching the ripe age of twenty two certainly does not mean that I have arrived. The bottom line is, thinking about soon being in the 'real world' got me thinking. Im about to go to graduate school for nine months to get my masters in social work, and I absolutely love the profession and the people I get to work with. But I also have so many dreams outside of my chosen field. One is to write, hence the beginning of this blog. I want to own a bookshop. I love old and classic things, and I would love to one day own my own little quaint bookshop. Think the bookshop in Beauty and the Beast, or the little shop in You've Got Mail (both obviously classic movies). I want to be a wife and mom. I feel like this one is pretty self explanatory... So I'll move on. I want to live overseas. I want to plant a church. I want to go to all seven continents. I want to see the Northern Lights. I want to ride an elephant in India. I want to backpack through Europe. I want to go on an overnight train ride and sleep in a sleeping car (White Christmas, anyone?). I want to ride a camel in the Middle East. I want to spend time with Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemane. I want to end human trafficking. I want every person on the earth to hear the Gospel. I want to encounter God in more powerful ways than Moses did, since I see with an unveiled face. I want the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. I want to know what is the height and depth and width and breadth of the love of God. I want to see how far the east is from the west. I want to know Him for who He is, truly and completely. So, I have a lot of dreams. Some small, some enormously big and impossible in and of myself. God has put so many dreams in me, so why do I so often get distracted? My heart is burning even right now for these things, for these people and places, but even a few minutes ago, I had all but forgotten the dreams. I wasn't purposefully ignoring the things that God out on my heart, I simply forgot. I got caught up in the small stories of my day to day life that I lost sight of the big picture. I consistently get so focused on the brushstrokes that I miss the masterpiece painting being created before my eyes. I so often have tunnel vision. I am made for so much more than the small stories of the world. I was "created out of the laughter of the Trinity"(an early mystic quoted in 'The Sacred Romance'). I was made for joy, peace, and laughter, even in the face of a broken and desperate world. I was created to fulfill a destiny as a part of the epic story that all of creation testifies to. I was made for so much more than treading water and getting by. I was made for intimacy with Jesus and to change the world by being a vessel of the Holy Spirit, a favored daughter of the Father, and a friend of Jesus. He created me as I am for a specific, important purpose and destiny. I get to live the most redemptive, beautiful, adventurous life there ever was, because I was made to. At the end of the day, He is my dream. Even if I don't get to ride an elephant or be a mom, I trust Him. I'm learning to trust Him. Because He is just so trustworthy. EVERYTHING else-- even my sweetest dreams-- are rubbish compared to knowing Him. He is that good.