Out of Hiding and Into Rest

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Though none go with me...

I half-sang as I climbed up the hill and distractedly made eye contact with a resident squirrel who sat resolutely just above me.
...still I will follow.

Though none go with me…
I wandered off the main trail and deposited myself on a fallen log, observing another hiker crunching past across the fallen leaves.
…still I will follow.

I was barely mouthing the words, and actually thinking about them even less.

Though none go with me…
Glancing at my phone to make sure I headed back down in time to make my meeting, I stared at my reflection and, for the first time, sat with the weight of each word:
still
I
will
follow.

However, given the choice, the validity of that claim was doubtful. If Jesus continues in this current pattern of gently ushering precious journey-sharers into new seasons and out of my life, will I still follow–really? This literal kind of “though none go with me”? Not a fan. The question lingered in the back of my mind, coupled with thoughts of God, I’m so tired. I get the whole obedience and faithfulness thing, but it’d be kinda cool if one of these days You called me to be obedient and faithful in something that doesn’t suck.

An hour later I was sitting across from my spiritual director with my shoulders tense and hands clenched tightly in my lap, my body imaging the defensive posture of my soul.

“I’m so tempted to go back into hiding,” I divulged. “That would be easier. Stop feeling things again? Go numb? Sounds pretty good. Pro pretender here. I’m high-functioning depressive, pretending I’m fine is one thing I do really well. And you know what? It’s not even just internal hiding anymore. I want to get out. I want to physically pack up and leave. All this lament we’ve been learning? This whole naming the pain to Jesus? I don’t think I can do it anymore. I don’t like the tension and the messy and the unresolved-ness of it. Why is following Jesus a constant call to die?”

She let me ramble, and spill out my questions, and announce my doubts, and when I trailed off, she paused.

“What’s so attractive about hiding?” she asked.

I didn’t have to pause.

“It’s safe,” I answered.

Unbeknownst to me, I was echoing Job 14.

“If only you would hide me in the grave
and conceal me till your anger has passed!
    If only you would set me a time
and then remember me!
   If someone dies, will they live again?
All the days of my hard service
    I will wait for my renewal to come.”

Job is pleading with God, begging him to make it easier by hiding him in the grave until the pain is gone. He doesn’t want to feel it. He doesn’t want to carry it anymore. The weight is too heavy. The call is too costly. He feels as though he has been entrusted with holding too much. How long until my renewal, God? Can you give me an end date on this hurt, and let me hide until then? How long until it’s safe to come out?

My spiritual director pressed in further. “Sure, it’s safe. But can you rest?”

This time I wasn’t so quick to answer.

“No…I guess not.” I paused again. “I can’t hide and rest at the same time.” Always tired, never rested, why am I so reluctant to leave my hiding place? How long am I going to have to sit with this unnerving restlessness before it’s safe to come out?

The thing about the Gospel is that it’s constantly inviting us to come out.

Come out of shame. Come out of fear of being known. Come out of self-sufficiency. Come out of self-righteous anger. Come out of self-made heart-walls proven insufficient to protect. Come out of deceit that claims our pain is not worth seeing. Come out of box-checking, rule-following, pedestal-placing definitions of obedience. Come out of arrogance. Come out of tribalism in the name of unity. Come out of cheapened surrender that doesn’t require much of anything from us. Come out of the ache of distancing ourselves from intimacy.

Come out of hiding.

Come out of death. Come into life: the flourishing, abundant, water-for-my-world-scorched-soul, food-for-my-affection-starved-spirit, unfragmented and whole kind of life–gently gathered under the wings of a mother hen kind of God–safe.

Really safe.

But not safe because it doesn’t hurt–safe because Jesus has to become my hiding place. 

The Gospel flips Job’s (and my) paradigm on its head by answering our questions with a resounding “yes–those who die do live again”. This is a die-to-live kind of situation. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).

If life means I die to my default tendency of hiding behind my ability to pretend and allow only fragmented pieces of myself to be seen, and instead hide under the protective arm of Christ, who sees me as more whole than I am able to see myself, then I want to choose Christ.

If life means I die to my right for people to hide with and instead hide in Christ, then I want to choose Christ.

If life means I die to my right to erect walls of self-preservation to create an illusion of safety for my heart and instead invite my soul to run to a Fortress and Defender who remains steadfast, then I want to choose Christ.

If my hiding turns to seeking, He promises that I will find Him. He promises that “he will keep me safe in his dwelling” and “he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent” (Psalm 27:5). And somehow, with the assurance of that promise–the promise that seeking Christ means finding Christ, and finding Christ means being found by Christ, hiding loses its pervasive appeal. The cost is not insignificant. If I define safety by comfort then safety is unattainable as a disciple of Jesus, because my personal comfort is one thing He never promised. But safety comes less from my distance from suffering and more from my proximity to the goodness of Jesus. C.S. Lewis always says it best:

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

So today, I choose to trust the King of my heart, and sing with a quiet confidence even my sanctified imagination didn’t quite think possible: Though none go with me, still I will follow: out of hiding, and into rest.

 

 

 

The Might of Deeply Sung Tears: A Year of Sorrowful Rejoicing

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As I look back over the themes of what I’ve written in the last year, they haven’t exactly been dripping instagram-perfection happiness. They trace doubt and lament and wonder and a ridiculous amount of references to crying. They trace learning to embrace limits. They trace hard. They trace messy.  And, they trace hope. 

The following is a collection of posts, blog excerpts, and poems that have been written through a season of deep wrestling with the reality of brokenness and deep assurance of the reality of a God who redeems it.

March 26, 2018 ~ Past, Future, Peace

Hey there, Past, and all your pain. Hey there, Future, and all your fears. I see you. I hear you. I am oh-so-familiar with you. And it’s easy to hide behind you. It’s easy to let your soundtrack spin on repeat, the “not good enough then, not good enough now, not good enough for what’s ahead” that sets the rhythm for the posture of my life. It’s easy to retreat into the doubt and cry out with the psalmist: “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me!” It’s easy.

But God. But God. He is a God who has walked with me through the pain of Past. He is the God who will remain deeply faithful through the fears of Future. He is the God who places a new song in my heart and unexplainable joy in the morning. The God to whom I can declare “even the darkness will not be dark to you, the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” The God who repositions my “good enough-ness” to share in the perfection of Christ and transforms my doubt to sincere dependence on the goodness of who He is. It’s not easy. But God.

So Past pain, Future fears, here is the cry of my heart: Hallelujah. It is well with my soul.

March 30, 2018 ~ Lament

Too often I rush to Resurrection Sunday without sitting in the weight of Good Friday.

Why?

Because grieving aches. Allowing myself to feel the pain of the accumulated heartaches of living is exhausting. Acknowledging the depth of my own very real capacity to cause hurt can discourage deeply. Knowing “it was my sin that held him there” sometimes evokes an emotional response I’m not quite ready to address. I would rather skip to Sunday and sing Kari Jobe’s “Forever” real loud and not have to think about the uncomfortable tension of mourning.

But this is Good Friday. Good. And the tension of grief is good. And the exhaustion of heartache is good. And Jesus is absolutely, completely good.

Lament is good. I can mourn the dreams that have to die. I can mourn the suddenness of unexpected loss. I can mourn the “what ifs” and the “why’s” and the things I probably won’t ever understand. I can pour them out at the foot of the Cross and know that “his dying breath has brought me life”.

Sunday is coming. But today is Friday. I’m going to stay here, in the tension of grief and goodness, just a little bit longer.

April 14, 2018 ~ On Psalm 16 and the Dream That Has To Die {Excerpt}

Kristyn, am I still good?

The question echoes between my heart and mind.

So I dig, I peel back the layers, I struggle, desperately, with the tension.

Psalm 16:6 “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

“Boundary lines”, in Hebrew, hă·ḇā·lîm from chebel (phonetic spelling: kheh’-bel), translated as any of the following: the lines, territory, sorrows, pangs, pain (as in childbirth), measured portion.

“Pleasant places”, in Hebrew, ban·nə·‘î·mîm, translated as pleasant, sweet, or delightful.

How can it be that the sorrows, the pain, the territorial lines in my story that mark “this far and no further” — in such blatant contrast to an identity held so closely — are sweet? How can this portion that is measured so starkly out of reach of my heart’s most familiar longing be pleasant?  I keep struggling, and back up a verse.

Psalm 16:5 “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;  you make my lot secure.”

This portion is different. Manah: food (nourishment), choice portion/best available.

In reference to relationship with God, the portion isn’t measured — it’s abundant. It’s nourishing. It’s an invitation to life. Maybe the boundary lines, not negating all their sorrow and pain, can be sweet because the portion that is the Lord is the only portion that I need.

It doesn’t have to be “Jesus + _____” because simply “Jesus” is more than enough. 

Maybe obedience looks like letting my heart feel the hurt, but finally whispering aloud through the tension of grief that this dream can die.

You are still faithful.

You. Are. Still. Good. 

May 25, 2018 ~ Desire

Today’s wrestling: why would God create me knowing my inbuilt bent to desire certain things that don’t honor him? How could he know my propensity towards idolatry and still pronounce his creation “good”? And why, when I ask, doesn’t he simply take those desires away? I know he’s able. So why do I still struggle?

Maybe, in some situations, the point isn’t an absence of struggle. Maybe, in some situations, God is more glorified through the daily surrender of my desires than the removal of them. Maybe it’s in the learning to identify where I am allowing my desires to wrongly inform my actions, where the wants — even the good ones — have taken too high a place in my heart, and submitting them to the authority of Jesus, that the joy is found. Maybe it’s in the grace-driven process of being trained to take every thought captive that I grow closer to the heart of Christ. And maybe that’s the point. Not that my heart doesn’t wander, because this side of heaven it always will, but that when it does, I’m learning to redirect it to the one who knows me fully. Living surrendered. Loving Christ.

June 9, 2018 ~ Sorrowful Rejoicing

“Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (NIV, ESV, KJV). “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy” (NLT). (2 Cor 6:10)

Loving how this passage as a whole outlines the realities of walking faithful to Christ (“…in hard work, sleepless nights…in understanding, patience, and kindness…in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love…”), but especially holding tight to how it addresses the weight of grief, darkness, or hurt: “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”

The necessity of lament does not need to keep my heart from singing.
The authenticity of loneliness and fear does not need to dictate the depth of my ability to delight in my heavenly father.
The reality of depression does not need to taint the sincerity of my worship.
The presence of raw pain does not need to be set in staunch polarity to my understanding of the goodness of God.

My heart can ache AND I can have joy.

Or reversed, I can have joy AND my heart can ache.

One does not negate the other.

Or maybe the sorrow is intertwined in the rejoicing in a way that the fullness of one could not be experienced without the companionship of the other.

Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. What a gift of grace.

June 21, 2018 ~ Named

That restlessness in your heart?

Name it.
Sit down and wrestle it until you have a specificity that goes deeper than “stress”.
Hunger. Longing. Fear. Loneliness. Comparison. Lust. Unmet expectations. Worry. Idolatry. ______.


Name it to Jesus. Vent it out on him. Messy lament all over him, dump it all off your chest onto his, weep. 


He can handle your named brokenness. 


He can meet you in your brokenness and still call you by name, claimed, His. 


Love has a name, too.

July 23, 2018 ~ I Choose These Chains

I choose these chains.

If this brokenness is reality until the other side of heaven,

If the wholeness I can know here comes from knowing Jesus and still knowing pain,

If surrender of my pursuits embodies pursuit of Christ

and peace

then I choose these chains.

I choose these limitations,

these “this far and no further” admonitions.

I choose these boundary lines that momentarily restrict but ultimately introduce unadulterated freedom.

I choose these chains.

Because worship can still flow

hearts can still love

words can still strengthen

stories can still testify

loudly

from Paul’s prison cell of joy-soaked obedience.

My prison cell of joy-soaked obedience.

Bound to faithfulness, tasting earthly fullness in the already, longing for eternity’s completeness in the shadows of the not yet,

believing He is always only good,

I choose these chains.

 

August 29, 2018 ~ Together

Loneliness is hard to walk.

In my experience, seasons of loneliness have been some of the most difficult to live surrendered — often driven by narratives of fear, doubt, or insecurity, or experiences of hurt, trauma, or blatant rejection. I linger more on the ache than the God who restores.

But I wonder what would happen if I started acknowledging my desire to be heard and seen, but stopped assuming I’m the only one.

What if I took the very real cry of “see me, please” and opened my eyes to see the same plea in the hearts of the people around me. “I see you. I hear you. You are known. You are loved.”

Let’s spend more time passing meals around makeshift cookstoves, share a little, laugh a lot, maybe cry about the gritty hard of living, and run after Jesus. Together.

October 15, 2018 ~ Weep Instead

Don’t cry, babygirl.
You’ll be ok.
Your tears, they mean fragility, doubt, faithlessness.
They give the impression that you’re not unflawed, not whole,
damaged. 
But you’re fine.
It will all
be
fine.

As long as they don’t know, the pain doesn’t really know you either.

Right?

Don’t cry, girl.
It will be ok.
Your tears, they mean weakness, psyche uncontrolled,
fear.
They give the illusion that you can’t.
Can’t go, or do. Can’t be, or understand.
But you can.
You can prove
them
wrong.

Speak louder and work harder, but don’t ever let them see you cry.

Right?

Don’t cry, woman.
Weep instead.
Your tears, they mean dignity,
compassion,
tenacity,
grace.
They give the invitation to life spent with collided mind and soul,
brilliant,
gentle,
kind.
You breathe Psalms.
You preach love
and
courage.

Growing up is learning the might of deeply sung tears.

Amen?

December 5, 2018 ~ Though Sorrow May Last: Depression, Grace, and the God Who Stays {Excerpt}

Maybe this is grace: not how well I function, but who Jesus is.

Counterintuitive as it is when I am rolled tightly into fetal position, longing to be clothed in the ever-elusive gladness of Psalm 30, this is the hope I can cling to: Jesus is good, Jesus doesn’t need me to do anything for him to be good, and Jesus, in his goodness, will never leave.

In a season where I have isolated from many people because I’m embarrassed by my lack of ability to contribute what I perceive as things of value to the relationship, or people have pushed me away because of my shame-ridden neediness, or people I have trusted with my story are at places in their own stories that move them away geographically or relationally, there is specific hope in knowing that while I may not be promised an orderly ending in the already, I am promised a God who will never leave or forsake me — even though this sorrow may last.

On an especially numb day this week, a friend called for no other purpose than to be present.

“I’m sorry I’m not exactly conversational” I mumbled over the phone.

“Don’t feel like you have to say anything. Just know that I’m here. And I love you.”

Maybe that is the eccentric beauty of when depression collides with grace.

Not that I contribute or accomplish or produce or do or function properly…

But that Jesus is here…

And he loves me…

And that’s enough.

Christmas Day, 2018 ~ Emmanuel

Weary-hearted sojourner, if today instead of joy your soul felt depleted, or grief made it hard to break through the fog, or hurt upon hurt opened wounds long thought to be healed, I see you.

If you feel burdened with shame as the longed-for happiness remains elusive on the one day you feel you should embrace it most, I see you too.

We are why Jesus came.

For us who join creation in groaning for redemption. For us who long for tangible wholeness and feel the weight of it in our physical bodies. For us who weep, and wander, and wait with heavy hearts. For us who hunger for a Messiah, a Yeshua, an Emmanuel.

A God-with-us. God WITH us.

He came to be with US, the weary-hearted ones–knowing us fully, in all our heaviness, loving us perfectly, promising that he will stay. Always.

This is hope. Hope is born. Christ has come.

January 17, 2019 ~ Psalms

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul 
       and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

{Psalm 13:1-2, 5-6}

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
        be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

{Psalm 27:13-14}

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in God at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
        God is a refuge for us.

{Psalm 62:5-8}

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
and there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
           but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

{Psalm 73:23-26}

 

Though Sorrow May Last: Depression, Grace, and the God Who Stays

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“I’m sorry, God.”

One hot tear dripped off my nose and soaked into my pillow.

Every night I’ve prayed for the heaviness to be gone in the morning, to wake up for the first time in months without the weight on my chest and the knot in my gut. And every night I’ve looked back on all the versions of “I’m sorry” I’ve spoken that day, ashamed.

I’m sorry, friend, for asking more of you than I am able to give back.
I’m sorry, professor, that I wasn’t in class again, and that this paper isn’t finished yet.
I’m sorry, body, for all the extra weight I’ve gained that you shouldn’t have to carry.
I’m sorry, boss, that I didn’t quite meet this deadline.
I’m sorry, church family, that I missed choir rehearsal, and didn’t show up Sunday morning this week.
I’m sorry, self, that you’re sad and restless and fatigued and don’t quite understand why.

I’m sorry.

So this morning, while I struggled to swing my legs over the side of the bed, I whispered a preemptive apology: I’m sorry, God, that I can’t do anything for you again today.

Depression isn’t foreign to me. It’s been an on-and-off battle mostly in the last three years, although it made appearances in high school as well. I go through seasons of sadness and unasked-for apathy, and then I find some sort of footing, come out of it, even forget the struggle of it, until it cycles back down, taking me with it. There’s no rhyme or reason: sometimes there are consistent triggers, sometimes there are not. Sometimes it’s fueled by external circumstances, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the usual coping mechanisms are helpful, sometimes they are not.

Usually, I remain highly functional, this time I have not.

So when my Perfectionist, Enneagram Giver-Achiever, Strengthsfinder Responsibility self comes face to face with days where I cannot will myself out of bed before 4:30pm, or have to go home after one class on threat of panic attack, or stare at the assignments tab for hours without any drive to start the task–when everything in me wants to be able to perform at the level I usually do and I just can’t–I begin to wrestle with questions of identity, questions of grace, questions of how long this is all going to last.

What if this sorrow lasts? What if the depression doesn’t go away? Ever? What then?

Am I able to separate my understanding of who am I from what I am able to produce?

Is my understanding of grace limited to the underserved gifts of skill sets, insight, material things, or relationships and connections, or is my concept of grace big enough to acknowledge the undeserved gift of a God who stays no matter what I can or can not contribute?

I think I care too much about being able to claim an orderly, neatly cleaned-up ending to look forward to.

I think I put too much weight on being able to speak from a place of healing and victory, or only being able to testify to God’s goodness in his deliverance.

I think I place my hope in a narrative of wholeness, with no cognitive dissonance, no reality of brokenness, no room for the messy of the right-now-already, instead of placing my hope in the God who holds it all in his hands and close to his heart in confident anticipation of the not-yet-resurrection.

Because who God is isn’t dependant on my ability to get out of bed.  

God is still the embodiment of perfect goodness when I can’t shake the sadness.

God is still the One who provides when I can’t meet the deadlines.

God is still the strength of his people when my drivenness is missing in action.

God is still the God of peace that passes all understanding when my heart is overwhelmed.

God is still the God of all comfort when I am restless and fatigued and don’t quite know why.

God is still the One who heals, regardless of if I experience it fully this side of heaven.

Maybe this is grace: not how well I function, but who Jesus is.

Counterintuitive as it is when I am rolled tightly into fetal position, longing to be clothed in the ever-elusive gladness of Psalm 30, this is the hope I can cling to: Jesus is good, Jesus doesn’t need me to do anything for him to be good, and Jesus, in his goodness, will never leave.

In a season where I have isolated from many people because I’m embarrassed by my lack of ability to contribute what I perceive as things of value to the relationship, or people have pushed me away because of my shame-ridden neediness, or people I have trusted with my story are at places in their own stories that move them away geographically or relationally, there is specific hope in knowing that while I may not be promised an orderly ending in the already, I am promised a God who will never leave or forsake me — even though this sorrow may last.

On an especially numb day this week, a friend called for no other purpose than to be present.

“I’m sorry I’m not exactly conversational” I mumbled over the phone.

“Don’t feel like you have to say anything. Just know that I’m here. And I love you.”

Maybe that is the eccentric beauty of when depression collides with grace.

Not that I contribute or accomplish or produce or do or function properly…

But that Jesus is here…

And he loves me…

And that’s enough.

So tonight my prayers won’t sound like “take this pain away”.

They’ll sound more like “show me more of you. Help me know your heart. Let all that I am be wrapped up in who you are. And thank you, for being the God who stays.”

On Psalm 16 and the Dream That Has To Die

 

 

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Kristyn, am I still good?

The question echoes between my heart and mind.

I know the right cognitive answer: “Of course you’re good.”
But my heart pushes back: “This doesn’t feel good.”
But my mind knows that I’m not supposed to base my theology on how I feel.
But my heart has been begging me to let it feel for far too long.

Maybe it’s not an either-or. Maybe this can ache in raw and weighty ways and God can still be good.

There’s been a constant assumption about my calling throughout my life story thus far. It’s shaped me: shaped my goals, my ambitions, those deep heart desires that drive the waking up every morning. Shaped my pursuits, my relationships, my expectations. Every young-heart hope, every high school ten-year forecast, every college course and resume-builder framed with it in mind. I honestly find it deeply challenging to conceptualize my image of myself without it. It’s familiar. Safe. Good. Expected.

So what happens when obedience looks like walking an entirely unexpected way?

When the trust Jesus calls me to means it’s messy? When the implications of when he asks me to be faithful are agonizing to the point of anxiety-driven physical pain? When the core of who I’ve always believed myself to be is questioned with the simple

Will it always be “Jesus + _____” or will simply “Jesus” be enough?

I wrestle and start to understand in the wrestling that even the good thing doesn’t belong in the place in my heart to which I’ve elevated it.

The realization begins to set in that this dream has to die.

This dream has to die.

And oh, I don’t want to give it up. Nothing about this makes sense. Every stubborn bone in my being fights back and heart-breakingly sincere questions flare to the surface:

Why would you place this desire in my heart if you have no intention of ever letting me experience the fulfillment of it?

How am I supposed to even know who I am without this?

Do you realize what good-hearted, well-intentioned people will say and how much their words will hurt?

Where do I go from here?

What am I supposed to do with all this fear?

Friends, can we be real for a minute and acknowledge that the answers don’t always come in a neatly packaged revelation from heaven, and that sometimes the Spirit lets us be painfully uncomfortable in the questions so that we have to dig a little further, peel back a few more layers, struggle with the tension with a deeper desperation to truly, actually know the heart of God?

Sometimes that looks like a tear-soaked journal at 5am, with me, half-awake, scrawling out the Scripture prompt to start my morning, and only slightly comprehending the words I’m writing through the blur. But one phrase sticks with me as I go about my day. One phrase that keeps making an appearance in my mind, and it sure doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s not “relevant”. It doesn’t “speak to my situation”. And to be honest, I’m a little annoyed.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”.

Uh…nope. No, they have not, thanks.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”.

But, this boundary doesn’t make a whole lot of logical sense. If you adjusted the line just a little bit…

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”.

Ok, but why does everyone else’s boundary line include their dreams coming true, and my dreams have to be murdered? Not fair. Not fair at all.

Kristyn, am I still good?

The question echoes between my heart and mind.

So I dig, I peel back the layers, I struggle, desperately, with the tension.

Psalm 16:6 “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance.”

“Boundary lines”, in Hebrew, hă·ḇā·lîm from chebel (phonetic spelling: kheh’-bel), translated as any of the following: the lines, territory, sorrows, pangs, pain (as in childbirth), measured portion.

“Pleasant places”, in Hebrew, ban·nə·‘î·mîm, translated as pleasant, sweet, or delightful.

How can it be that the sorrows, the pain, the territorial lines in my story that mark “this far and no further” — in such blatant contrast to an identity held so closely — are sweet? How can this portion that is measured so starkly out of reach of my heart’s most familiar longing be pleasant?  I keep struggling, and back up a verse.

Psalm 16:5 “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;  you make my lot secure.”

This portion is different. Manah: food (nourishment), choice portion/best available.

In reference to relationship with God, the portion isn’t measured — it’s abundant. It’s nourishing. It’s an invitation to life. Maybe the boundary lines, not negating all their sorrow and pain, can be sweet because the portion that is the Lord is the only portion that I need.

It doesn’t have to be “Jesus + _____” because simply “Jesus” is more than enough. 

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,  and in Christ you have been brought to fullness” (Colossians 2:9-10).

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

And the rest of Psalm 16, in the face of the honest questions and the raw ache and the very real fears, becomes a heart cry that I cling to and linger in:

“I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night, my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence,  with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:7-11).

Maybe obedience looks like letting my heart feel the hurt, but finally whispering aloud through the tension of grief that this dream can die.

You are still faithful.

You. Are. Still. Good. 

 

 

To the One in Search of Love that Drives Out Fear

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Hey Friend,

I see you standing there with your contagious laugh and your big heart, unknowingly spelling confidence with the way that you hold your head high, but your hands aren’t afraid to get dirty.

I see you as you smile, encourage, and genuinely care; how you serve faithfully, give generously, and support strongly, and don’t measure your success by how much credit you get for it.

You willingly go to the hard places and speak into the messy places and pour into the graceless places, because you understand that the Gospel that fuels you doesn’t stay where it’s safe.

You love well. That doesn’t go unnoticed. You are a gift.

Yet sometimes, when you walk out to your car, or up to your room, you sit for a minute and the weight of it all sits too. The brokenness you see and touch breaks your heart. Choosing joy doesn’t come easy.  Giving grace is hard.

And for some reason it feels selfish to think it, but if you pull back the layers enough, some of that weight comes down to something that’s not easy to acknowledge:

Fear.

With that fear comes walls. Walls you don’t actually want. Walls you are skilled at gently breaking down in others. Walls that you put up for protection but only feed the secret ache of wondering. Wondering who will dig a little deeper, stay a little longer, love a little harder for you. Wondering who will stick around long enough to carefully scale that barrier around your heart and want to stay when they know you for real.

But that scares you.

Maybe that comes from the very poignant reality that you have felt rejection in hard, deep ways.

Maybe that comes from a knowledge of how imperfect you are.

Maybe that comes from a place in your story where you aren’t quite ready to claim you have healed.

But when someone tries, you laugh, and say “God is good, life is full and I’m making it!”, promptly ask them about their hobbies, and inadvertently push them away.

Friend, let people love you too.

You care well for the hearts of others, let them care well for you.

Take the step of faith and share some of who you are. Let yourself trust, even just a little.

In all your giving, learn to receive.

In all your fear of being truly known, remember the One who knows you fully and loves you deeply.

You are known by a God who desires to take you into his confidence (Proverbs 3:34).

You are known by a God who takes great delight in you (Zephaniah 3:17).

You are known by a God who is near to you (Psalm 145:18)

You are known by a God who loves perfectly, and perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18).

While raw insecurity hides deep in your heart, you are held in the everlasting arms of a Savior who will never let you go, who will always hold you fast, who always has been and always will be faithful.

I see how well you go to the hard places. It’s okay to let Jesus into the hard places in you.

Continue to love well, friend. And know that as deeply as you love, His love reaches deeper still.

 

Friend, Your Story is Not Wasted

Sweet friend, your story is not wasted.

Your story, with its twists and bumps and overwhelming, faith-testing hurts — your story, with its lens of sadness or tints of joy — your story, ordinary though it may be — your story….

It’s not wasted.

And right now, in the thick of it, when your emotions are so tangled you don’t even know what you feel, and tears slide silently down one cheek with every hidden, unnoticed sob, and bitterness threatens to dictate your next words, and you look at yourself and wonder how it all got here…

Know that your story is not a never-ending, exhausting cycle of how you feel, but a recipient of persistent, constant, faithful grace.

It’s all grace.

All. Grace.

Your story is not wasted. Not because someday you’ll pick yourself back up, or because we’re all a mess and it’s okay to be a mess together. Not because you manage to find the silver lining on the cloudiest days, or because eventually you’ll look back and see the lesson you were supposed to learn…

No.

Your story is not wasted because the grace of Jesus goes deeper than you could ever imagine, and while your pain-filled, trust-broken, bitterness-ridden, broken-hearted mess rages,

He cleanses. 

He comforts.

He convicts.

He does not waste a thing. Where sin runs deep, his grace is more. In the middle of your mess, he redeems you from it.

Sweet friend, your story is not wasted, not because of you, but because of Jesus.

This is the gospel. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Not because we were worthy, but for the glory of the Father, whose extravagant love saw fit to include us in his covenant grace story.

Your story is his, and his story is never a waste. Rest in the freedom of knowing, believing, clinging to the truth that your life, your hurts, your story…. belong fully to Jesus.

It’s all grace.

All. Grace.

 

 

When the Words Don’t Come

 

journal-and-pen-2I wouldn’t call myself a writer (yet), but I write.

When I write, I heal. I learn. I grow. I pour out.

God’s grace overflows when I write, and it’s tangible.

Written words are a way that I worship. They are a way I invest in people I love, that I deposit pent-up frustrations, that I reconcile confusion within my spirit.  They are a way in which I touch and see the presence of God.

Truly, my heart is in what is placed in my soul to translate onto paper.  And truly, it is a terrifying, beautiful thing when I sense the release of the Spirit to share those words to a broader audience than the pages of my journal. There is a heart-soaring, agonizing moment of wonder before I click “publish” that simultaneously doubts the necessity of sharing the burden in my spirit and also trusts that, having been faithful to write it, it will witness to Christ.

Sometimes, in my humanity, my words get it wrong and I am called to humility.

Sometimes, in my humanity, my words get it all too right and my pride feeds off the praise.

Yet, true to who Jesus is, He giveth more grace. Time after time, grace upon grace, and I marvel at the gentle,  mighty wonder that is our Savior.

But what about when the words don’t come? 

Because sometimes, they don’t.

It has been a season of stagnant words. Words that start, and tumble helplessly.  Sentences that have partially formed, yet still hang open-ended. Journal entries that are blank after the inscription of the date, and drafts in the admin portion of this site that continue to just sit.

It has been a season of overwhelming, conflicting emotion. Of confusion, joy, grief, and trust. Of loneliness, beauty, questions, comparison, contentment, surrender, and growth.

And I pick up the pen, one more time, place it to the paper, one more time….

and I wait.

Jesus, where are the words? Jesus, why this heaviness? Jesus, why can’t I write? Jesus, this circumstance, this death, the mourning, I don’t understand. Jesus, my time, it’s too full, I can’t do it. Jesus, why won’t the words come? Jesus, this ache, this longing for friendship, for being included, why does it hurt so much? Jesus, this long run, I’m scared and it’s dumb and I laugh but I’m terrified. Jesus, my writing, I need it, can I have it back? Jesus, why can’t I write? 

And I wait.

And the layers begin to peel back as the words don’t come and I linger in wondering why.

Because God is still God in the silence.

And maybe, when I get caught up in striving, my writing becomes my controlling and even though I protest with the core of my being, the silence is really an invitation to trust and rest.

Maybe, right now, I am being invited into a new thing.

And maybe I don’t need to desperately cling to what I know in order to truly know the beauty of Jesus.

Grace upon grace, He is teaching me to be expectant in the midst of when the words won’t come. And I marvel at the gentle, mighty wonder that is our Savior.