Saltwater + Seasons

Most days I find myself at the edge of the ocean— Gazing. Praying. Crying. Singing.

I don’t know why I end up here—sometimes in the day, sometimes in the dead of night.

I think these days it’s been the best picture of how I feel inside—high highs and low lows, and waves that won’t let up.

 

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And I wish I could point at one event, one thing in my life that brought me here; but I can’t. The prophet Jeremiah once said, “crash follows hard on crash”–and that feels like the perfect description of life sometimes: Crash upon crash. Wave after wave. And a hurried gasp in between.

Sometimes life just feels like drowning, and sometimes life abundant seems daunting when you’re just trying to keep your head above water.

These days, while I’m gazing at the Santa Cruz waves, I’m also watching the surfers who rise above them. And I remember what every surfer out there knows: Waves hit hard, but waves come in sets; and storms, like seasons, don’t last forever.

 

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Spring starts tomorrow, a detail I would normally let pass right by me—but tonight I’m clinging to this inconsequential day on our calendar, as my promise that nothing lasts forever. Winters and waves are seasons, and these too shall pass.

And I don’t cling to this promise lightly, but I cling to it between those hurried gasps for breath, knowing that without it, life loses hope and purpose. Waves of injustice, hurt, and meaninglessness will pull me under.

Like that prophet Jeremiah, I cling to this promise like the hope he calls to mind in the midst of his long lament. In the middle of pages and pages of tears and injustice, death and pain; he pens these words, “but this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope; The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…”

 

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Dawn is coming. Spring is coming. His mercies are new every morning.

I’ve been upset about this dying, about getting dragged under by these waves.

But maybe these crashing waves have been a baptism. And maybe this slow death is just a chance for resurrection, a chance to be brought to life–by the One who makes all things new.

the shadow proves the sunshine

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He Didn’t Have to Die

Jesus really should hate me.

I judge Judas, but the truth is, I stabbed my friend in the back for far less than 30 pieces of silver. I traded him for lust, pleasure and cheap thrills; and I sealed it all with a kiss–my pledge of devotion. I loved Him… I really did, but I loved other things more.

And it killed me that I was the reason He had to die. I spent years reminding myself of that fact–trying to beat myself up for it, to punish myself for the things I had done. “I’m the reason He had to die,” I repeat over and over and over again in that hollow church sanctuary. “I’m the reason He had to die,” I say, as I cut myself, punishing myself for all the wrong I’ve done.

“I’m the reason He had to die.” …I think if I can feel worse, it will make it all better.

But the truth is, He didn’t have to die. 

He could have left me in those dark corners, addicted and lost in my own selfish desires.

He could have started over–deemed me a failed experiment (God knows I would have).

He could have decided I wasn’t worth it and moved on to people who were easier to deal with.

But He didn’t.

He chose to die. Not because God forced Him, not because this was His destiny, not because it made Him any holier.

But “for the joy that was set before Him, [He] endured the cross.”

And you know what that joy was? You. Me.

We are His prize, His joy. What a joke, I think. I want to yell at him that He made a mistake. I’m no prize. My sacrifices don’t amount to much and I’ve failed Him more times than I can count.

… But you can’t reason with a man in love and you can’t dim the light in a Father’s eyes when He looks at His daughter.

 

Cross Quote

 

In His eyes, I belong. I am His. I am His beloved–a strong woman loved by the perfect man. I don’t have to punish myself or atone for my guilt. It was finished, when he declared it so. I’m forgiven and I’m free, clothed in His perfection alone and all my imperfections are no more.

I don’t deserve His love, but I have it–overflowing and unconditional, and today is a reminder that no one can take that away from me. For now I am sure that not even death will do us part. 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

 

Christmas for the Virgin and the Prostitute

We all know about the virgin.

She fits perfectly in our nativity scenes—the young virgin, faithful husband, and little Lord Jesus “no crying he makes.”

It’s so tame, this silent night. So picturesque.

Because we all know about the virgin.

The nativity seems like a fairytale. Surely, that scene couldn’t be our world in all its purity and peace. In our brokenness and suffering, the holy family looks out of place. Through the sin and shame we hold inside, the family on our stained glass windows looks unapproachable, distant, foreign. In our broken families, we feel like that peaceful baby and his parents wouldn’t understand.

Because all we know about is the virgin.

But we don’t know about the prostitute.

We don’t know about the adulteress, the abused and mistreated, or the enemy of God’s people—the extended family of Jesus Christ.

God chose the faithful virgin to bring his Son into this world. But before Mary, Jesus came from a long line of broken and hurting women.

We don’t know about the prostitute.

Her name was Rahab. She worked as a prostitute in Jericho, a land at enmity with the Israelites—God’s chosen people. She had heard of the God of Israel and was amazed at the way He loved and protected His people. She was scared of what that meant for her land—a people opposed to the God of the Israelites.

So when two Israelite spies arrived at her door, Rahab risked everything and decided to help them. She hid them on her roof and sent her city’s armies in the opposite direction. And then, with boldness, she made her request—that she and her family be spared from the destruction of her city.

Rahab was not entitled, she had no misconceptions about who she was, and her “heart melted in fear” at the things she had seen God do for His people. But she also knew that the God she had heard about was strong. She knew that if He could part the Red Sea for His people, He was strong enough to save even her, so she asked for mercy and protection. And the lives of her and her family were spared.

But God wasn’t finished.

He had shown her mercy. He had saved her, but he was strong enough—loving enough—to do so much more.

The next time we see Rahab’s name is in the first chapter of Matthew… right in the middle of the bloodline of Jesus Christ.

Rahab, the prostitute, was not saved and exiled. Rahab wasn’t shown mercy and shunned. She wasn’t cast aside or hidden as a dark part of family history. She was mentioned by name, right along King David, Joseph, and the Redeemer of this fallen world. She was loved and welcomed into the family.

And that is the Christmas story. It’s the silent night and the virgin girl. But that’s not all it is.

Christmas is a broken world with hurting people, and it’s the God who is close to the broken hearted. It’s a weary world, and it’s the One who came to bear our burdens. It’s a world living in darkness, and it’s the star that brings a great light.

Christmas Quote

Christmas is redemption. It’s Immanuel—God with us.

It means that God isn’t finished with us. He became like us so we could become like Him. He entered into our world, so we could enter into His.

God could have chosen anyone to bring Him into this world, but he chose Rahab, a prostitute; Bathsheba, an adultress; Tamar, a woman hurt and abused by those around her, and Mary, a teenage girl. God is in the business of redemption—of using the weak to lead the strong.

Even the city where Jesus was born was too little to be among the clans of Judah.

And none of this was an accident. Our Savior had a message to prove—that these glad tidings of great joy really were for all people—men and women, young and old, kings and shepherds, virgins and prostitutes, adulterers and abused, Israelite and Moabite. There is room for all in the kingdom of God, because He came to make it so.

The veil is torn—sin has lost its power and death has lost its sting.

Joy to the world. The Lord is come.

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Love Does.

This September, I will be flying to the Philippines for one year to work with International Justice Mission (IJM) as their Communications Intern. This internship is unpaid, so I’m still trying to raise support for living expenses.

If any of you would like to join me in this journey and partner with me financially, you can donate here

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IJM is a human rights agency whose mission is to protect people from violent forces of injustice by securing rescue and restoration for victims and ensuring public justice systems work for the poor (for more information, visit
www.ijm.org). IJM’s work in the Philippines involves child sexual exploitation and trafficking. They work hard to defend and protect these children’s human rights and to restore to them their liberty and dignity. 
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Sometimes the passions closest to your heart are the hardest to put into words. I feel like they’ll lose their weight once I let them go—like I can’t do them justice.  So, I’ll do my best and I’ll keep it simple:

Why am I going to the Philippines for a year to work with IJM?

Because: Love does.

I’ve spent a good number of years being sad about the 29 million slaves in the world. I’ve cried in documentaries and newspaper columns and I’ve felt racked with guilt over my comparatively easy and privileged life.

But I haven’t seen my tears or my guilt change one single thing or free one single slave.

The other day I was sharing the statistics of sex trafficking with a friend. “The average age of entrance into prostitution in the United States is 12 to 14 years old.” “Nearly 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex trade worldwide.”

He paused… took it in, and said, “That makes me really angry.”

And in that moment, my heart beat a little faster, because that’s what we need—not toxic anger or hate towards the pimps or traffickers, but an anger that looks at the brokenness of this world and says “It shouldn’t be this way.” It’s an anger that feels others’ pain strongly enough to do something about it.

Gary Haugen, the executive director of International Justice Mission said, “God has a plan to help bring justice to the world — and his plan is us.”

Haugen Quote

I’ve seen the need for justice in this world. I’ve looked into the eyes of a girl my own age as she told me how she was forced into prostitution. I held back tears and watched hers fall as she told me how she still struggles finding the will to wake up every morning.

I’ve read and heard the stories of the young girls in the Philippines who have had their childhood and innocence stolen as they’re forced to work in brothels every single day. I can’t just brush off these stories and move on unchanged. I’ve asked myself why it wasn’t me too many times. I still don’t know why, but as I hear these stories, I know why my heart breaks and I know why I feel it beat faster inside my chest.

… Because I have to do something about this.

I know not everyone is supposed to do what I’m doing. I firmly believe that we are all given our own unique passions and gifts. However, I do feel that when there is something that makes our hearts beat faster, when a passion is laid so closely on our hearts that we are stirred to action for people we have never met; we’re not just supposed to ignore it and move on.

And as a Christian, I believe with all my heart that Jesus left his home and laid down his life so I could live. And as much as I can, I want to try and do the same. It is for freedom, that I have been set free.

So, this September I am going to the Philippines to work with IJM for a year, and I’m going to help give what I can—as little as it is. Because I believe in justice and freedom and a God who loves the people most abandoned by this world. And I don’t believe that love simply feels sadness, pity or guilt. I believe that love goes and I believe that love does.

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As laughter and tears collide

Our hearts are as heavy as they are light,* and it feels contradictory–a great paradox. But who hasn’t laughed through tears or felt their highs mix in with their lows?

This weekend I cried tears of sadness intermingled with tears of joy. Laughs were indistinguishable from the few sobs that escaped my pursed lips. Memories brought on floods of emotions from opposing sides and met in a wave that threatened to knock me over. And it’s hard to reconcile the highest of highs existing simultaneously with the lowest of lows. It feels like the existence of one should diminish the substance of the other–like the smiles mean I don’t feel the grief, or the tears mean I don’t cherish the memories.

But what if the existence of both further substantiates the other? What is joy, if we have no sadness to contrast it with; and what is redemption, if we see no brokenness from which we yearn to be redeemed?

I’ve felt grief and laughter that falls hollowed out and empty. I’ve seen death. I’ve seen the grave. And through it all, I’ve seen a hope that’s stronger.

It’s a hope that does not trivialize my grief, but a hope that is substantiated by its existence. It’s a hope that creates in me a deeper longing than ever before, because…

I now know for what it is I hope.
I hope for no more crippling pain, no more tears, no more despair, and no more death.
I hope for redemption of our broken bodies and our sinful pasts.

And it’s not a trivial wish–a “that would be nice”–but a deep longing for a Savior and a heavy realization that I am in a world that needs to be saved.

It’s looking into the grave of a man I love and clinging to the hope that this is not the end. It’s seeing cancer and sickness and pain and looking expectantly to a day when our weakness will be no more.

My father spoke this Saturday at my grandfather’s memorial service and declared that this is not a “hope that” or a “hope so,” but a confident expectation. This hope is faith–true faith, grounded faith–the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen.

It’s a hope founded on promises that have been fulfilled and lives that have been changed. It’s founded on glimpses of redemption, reconciliation and transformation–in my own life and the lives of those I love.

So this hope is not trivial. It’s not a fairy tale or a shallow illusion. If despair, depression and death are real, I hold that hope is real even more.

I looked into the grave of a man I loved this weekend, but I have the confidence that I will see him again. Because while I know the pain of death and suffering, I know the joy and the promises of the One who overcame the grave. I know that in this world, he promised tribulation. But I also know that he told me to take heart, for He has overcome the world.

I know that nothing can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus–not death nor life nor things present nor things to come, nor anything in all of creation.

And I know that one day my hope will find its confident expectation fulfilled, because:
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Though tears will fall, though grief is real, my voice cries hallelujah for the hope of heaven and the day when all will be made new.

—-

See you soon, grandpa.

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*Heavy and light is an idea I heard first from To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) at their recent Heavy and Light show. It was an amazing show by an organization I admire.

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A Longing Unfulfilled

Some moments are so beautiful that you almost find yourself dreading their passing before they’ve even ended.

You sit and soak it all in, because you know this is all you have. You can’t bottle it up. A picture can never convey the way you feel in this moment—complete, content, satisfied.

If you told me to think of one of these moments, I could flash back to several in my mind. Moments I tried to capture, but couldn’t—not fully.

I remember one Christmas season in particular. I was home on winter break from college. It was Christmas Eve and we were all opening presents, as is tradition in my family. I remember hearing the Christmas music, noticing the glow of the Christmas lights, and watching all my brothers and sisters open their gifts.  Sitting there on my fold out bed in the middle of the living room, I just remember feeling so content, so full. But I also felt a strange pang of sadness, because I knew that moment had to end—that life would not always feel that way.

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Because, sometimes life is made up of other moments—moments of longing. Times when you look back on those moments of contentment, trying to grasp them—to make them materialize into something real and concrete. If you can grow them, just maybe, they will fill you. Maybe… you will be satisfied.

I know this feeling all too well. When things get hard or stressful, I live in those moments. Today, I spent a good ten minutes or so just looking through my dad’s pictures, wanting to be home and missing my family. I’m a trained expert in nostalgia, flashing back through my Rolodex of photographic memories at every whim. In a moment, I’m back.

But back where? I’m inside a memory, and a false one at that, painted over with a golden hue and infused with the emotion I’ve given it every time I’ve recalled it.

Our memories are not bad. We should remember Christmases with our families, the good parts of a relationship, and the beautiful parts of a growing friendship. There is beauty in those moments, but the beauty doesn’t come because those moments last.

Polaroid at the Beach
The beauty comes because those moments are fleeting. They are for a second and you will never get them back; but for that glorious second, you can catch a glimpse of glory. In that moment, you can catch what it feels like to belong, to be loved, to be full and complete, filled and overflowing in every way.

And those glimpses are beautiful because they point to a time when we will be complete.

Our families on earth are not perfect, but we know what it’s like to long for that. We know what it’s like to cling to the moments that are good and block out the memories that hurt. We know what it’s like to want to belong and what it’s like to long for home.

We know what it’s like to long for a relationship or a friendship. We want to know someone and be known. We want to know that, at the core of who we are, we are truly loved and accepted.

Our longings are strong. Sometimes we choose to feel them, sometimes we choose to deny them, and sometimes we run to fill them with something that can’t hold the weight of our heart.

When I feel these longings—the cries of my heart to be accepted, to be loved—I remember the one place where I have been truly loved and recklessly pursued. I remember that Jesus chose to give Himself for me while I was deliberately and intentionally hurting him.

I remember that he adopted me and calls me daughter.

I remember that he gave me grace and freedom from the things that enslaved me.

I remember that he pursued me with a reckless abandon.

I remember that He created me and knows me more fully than any human ever could.

He knows me, the real me, the worst parts of me…

and yet…

… He still loves me.

He calls me home and that is where I belong. Every desire I have that is unfulfilled, every pang of loneliness I feel will be met in Him one day. He has given me friends and family, joy and beauty, in this life; but it doesn’t end here.

I rejoice in my unfulfilled longings, because they point me to a day when I will finally exclaim, “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”*

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“I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy. The most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

*From ‘The Last Battle’ by C.S. Lewis, his seventh book in the Chronicles of Narnia series

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For Those Who Doubt

When he first told me he was doubting his faith, it felt like someone had hit me in the gut.

This wasn’t even my faith crisis; it was his. But it hurt even still. I cared deeply for this friend. We had grown up together, gone to youth group together. We had spent hours talking about Jesus and faith and life, and I just couldn’t fathom how this could happen. Sure, others walk away from their faith, but not my friends. I thought we were all going to make it through this journey. I didn’t plan for this.

And it wasn’t just him. Soon, it was more friends. Friends deciding that the faith they had grown up with just didn’t fit them anymore.

I was heartbroken and didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t identify with them because, at that time, my faith had never been more real for me. I tried to offer advice, anecdotes, articles, evidence.

Sometimes, I pretended their questions didn’t exist. If we don’t talk about the doubt in their life, maybe it will disappear like some phase they’re going through. Sometimes, I felt upset–offended, even. This was the faith I had staked my life on, my identity. It hurt to watch someone who once held that same faith so dear, start to let it go.

I guess it scared me. It scared me that my friends who I once thought were so resolved in their beliefs, were human after all–humans with real doubts, real questions and real trials in their lives

…And none of my answers could help them.

My answers couldn’t help them because doubt isn’t solved by an article sent via Facebook. It’s not wrapped up and resolved with a clever axiom or list of scientific evidence. Doubt is a real struggle, and it deserves a REAL answer.

If anyone has any right to be offended at doubt, it’s Jesus. If anyone could choose to walk away from doubters, to leave them sitting with all their questions, it’s Jesus. He, better than anyone else, knows the price that was paid on the cross. He has no obligation to prove anything to anyone.

But Jesus doesn’t see it like that.

When Thomas, one of Jesus’s disciples, heard the disciples say that Jesus is alive, risen from the dead, he didn’t believe it. He didn’t believe Jesus’s promises that he would rise from the dead and he doesn’t believe the witnesses who saw him risen. Instead, he says,Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later, Jesus comes to Thomas and the other disciples.

And Jesus doesn’t just shrug off Thomas’s doubts. He doesn’t ignore him. He doesn’t belittle him. He doesn’t leave Thomas to wrestle with his doubts alone.

He answers Thomas directly. He gives Thomas the evidence he asked for. He says, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

When Thomas doubts Him, Jesus isn’t offended. He isn’t scared of Thomas’s doubts. He doesn’t tell Thomas that he just needs to get over it. He doesn’t yell in Thomas’s face, telling him all that He has done for him.

He simply holds out his hands and asks Thomas to put his fingers through the nail-pierced holes in His wrists.

He has mercy on Thomas.

Because the same Love that would take those nails through His wrists and hang on a cross for you, is the same Love that will gladly hold out those hands to you when you doubt.

Jesus isn’t surprised at doubt; he’s not even angry. He’s merciful and he’s patient, not willing that any should perish.

So, it’s okay to doubt. And it’s okay to talk about your doubt. Don’t close up. Don’t run away. Don’t keep silent. Lean into your doubts. Thomas was honest to others about how he felt. “Unless I see… I will not believe.”

Do what it takes to wrestle with your doubt. Talk to others. Search for answers. Cry out to God to reveal himself to you, because he draws near to those who draw near to Him. Don’t sit, waiting for your doubt to simply pass, like some juvenile phase. Lift your head and reach out your hand, because He is waiting for you to see him–to feel him. But whatever you do, keep wrestling, because the love that is holding out His hands to you, is worth the fight.

Real Doubt; Real Stories

I think stories are some of the most powerful tools we have to work through doubt. Here are some stories of amazing people and their struggles with doubt and feeling like an  impostor in their own faith.

(If you read one, read it in its entirety. It’s worth it.) 

The Day I Stopped Believing in God by Micah Murray

“I was haunted by fear. My faith was a house of cards, and I knew it was only a matter of time until the day the last support was pulled away and it all collapsed.”

Questioning Faith by Lore Ferguson

“All my life, and especially all my Christian life, asking questions was out of the question.”

All the Orphans of the World by Duane Scott

“I don’t know how you can say that. I don’t know how you find the strength because you and I are the same age and yet, if that had happened to me, I would doubt God even existed.”

The Christianity Club by Stephanie May

“From the outside, others would say I do it right. I fit in. I belong to the club. But for the past six months, I’ve felt like an impostor.”

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What if I don’t want to be gentle and quiet?

“Oh, but I’m not like other girls.” “Girls are too emotional.” “Guy friendships are so much easier to maintain.” 

I cannot count how many times I have heard these words and I am guilty of speaking them far too often.  And every time I hear them it’s another stab into the soul of the woman God created. We are “too much” of this and we are “not enough” of that. I have spent too much of my life trying to distance myself from who I am–who I was created to be, because I had a warped image of what it means to be a woman.

I had two pictures in my head of women:

I had the image of the “mean girl”–and I had seen my share of them. The girls who talked about me behind my back and the ones who made me feel insecure. The ‘mean girl’ was always trying to be on top and would put others down in the process.

Then I had the image of the demure woman–living with an unending list of how to dress, how to act like a lady, what not to say, what not to wear. She wasn’t supposed to speak her mind or dress in a way that called attention to herself. There was always something she was doing wrong–and even more often, something someone else around her was doing wrong.

I decided I didn’t want to be either of these, but I didn’t have a picture of what I should be. So I just tried to shun both, and in the process, was more confused than before. I tried to dress pretty, but not immodestly. I tried to hide a lot of things I liked or play down certain qualities, so I could create the image I wanted. And I could still totally hang out with the guys, because I wasn’t emotional and ‘girly’ like those ‘other girls’… what a mess.

When I went to the Bible, I only got more confused:

“Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” -1 Peter 3:4

If you’re anything like me, the verse above doesn’t sound very appealing–in fact, it can sound downright offensive. It brings up that image of the demure woman.

And what if I don’t want to be gentle and quiet? What if I want to debate ideas about life, theology and politics as much as the guy sitting next to me? Sports and skydiving don’t sound very gentle. Investigating hard-hitting journalistic stories doesn’t feel very quiet …and by this point, I’m not really buying this verse.

But then I think of the women I’ve seen in the Bible.

I think of the beauty and bravery of Esther.
… the persistence and courage of Ruth
… the bold lies told by Rahab to defend the Israeli spies.

The image of the woman I see here is beautiful and strong–worthy of emulating. I had gotten something wrong.

A “gentle and quiet spirit” doesn’t mean a gentle and quiet person–a  woman who stays unseen and only speaks when spoken to. Gentle and quiet are used to describe our spirit, our inner being–our identity.

A gentle and quiet spirit is one that has found her identity in something strong, something immovable. She is gentle because she is still. She is rooted. She is quiet because she knows her own identity. She doesn’t have to scream it for others to hear. She doesn’t have to argue with the people who misunderstand her. She is content knowing who she is.

A woman who cuts down other women to find her identity has a spirit is in turmoil, always struggling to stay on top.

At the same time, the woman who feels insecure isn’t any better.  I know this, because I’ve been this girl and this woman too many times, “scorned” by those around me. It’s easy to feel morally superior as the underdog. But this woman is the same as the others. She is angry and insecure, because her soul is in turmoil–searching for affirmation. Love me. Acknowledge me. Then, and only then, will I be content with who I am.

And the woman who has a list of do’s and don’ts to follow? Her soul doesn’t feel very gentle. It feels pressed down on by the weight of morality–the weight of being the woman she “should be.” And in turn, she can feel bitter towards those around her. “I can’t believe she’s wearing that.” “I can’t believe she did that.” “I would never…”

At one point or another, I have been all of these women. And I can say first hand that it is tiring. I spend my days feeling exhausted; my soul never at rest. It is constantly striving–to be noticed, to be loved, to be important.

Having a gentle and quiet spirit isn’t easy in a world that demands so much. It feels almost unfair to pile on another expectation for women. But, this isn’t an obligation; it’s a call to surrender. Come to him all you who are weary and HE will give you rest. The thoughts and pressures that wage war on your soul–He battles those for you. He give you an identity; a purpose.

A woman with a gentle and quiet spirit has an identity that is rooted in something that will last. She knows she is fearfully and wonderfully made. She doesn’t have a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

She can chase her goals and her dreams without fear, knowing that He put those unique desires in her heart and He is the one who gives her to power to achieve them. She can speak up because her soul is not burdened by the fear of others looking down on her. Her words are flavored with the kindness of the One who has been kind to her. She can love others fearlessly, expecting nothing in return, because she knows she is already perfectly loved.

She can rest in who she is.

On the inside, her spirit is gentle and quiet.

On the outside, she looks different every time–an irreplaceable individual, loved by the One who created her, with her own passions, skills, dreams, and desires.

She can rest easy, because she is already loved.

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.
– Proverbs 31:25

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When your best isn’t good enough

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It all crumbled slowly and subtly. Things usually do. You don’t see the fragility of it all until you’re right there in the middle.

The middle for me was on the way to a beautiful summer wedding. It had been a hard season for my family. Full time jobs and the second move in a year had left us exhausted and stretched to capacity. We had just come from a relaxing camping trip and were now attempting to get three adults, four kids, one dog and a camper trailer to the wedding of a good family friend.

It felt like we needed this. We needed it to go right. We needed some sort of relief. 

That relief didn’t come when we set out about an hour too late. As hard as I thought and as hard as I prayed, the clock didn’t stop. My dad was frustrated, the kids were crying. My mom was silent, knowing she would be late to the wedding of her best friend’s daughter. We drove along the highway as the tension rose in the car. I tried so hard not to cry as voices rose and verbal punches were thrown. Then our bikes start falling off our car, so we pulled down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere to fix them.

I jumped out of the car, trying to help. I could fix this if I just tried hard enough. Everything will be okay somehow, I kept telling myself. But it didn’t look like that. Standing there—in the dirt—in my black dress, red lipstick, and four-inch heels; I just held my breath. I felt nauseous.

I couldn’t do enough; I couldn’t BE enough.

I grew up with that child-sized view of superhero parents who could magically do it all. I continued through high school with straight A’s and the belief that it just takes more coffee, more effort, and more strife to get where you want to be. If you just try hard enough, you can make it.

But that’s not true.

I feel it strongly as of late. I feel it when just getting through the day is a struggle—when I have two parking tickets, loans on loans, and my shoes break apart when I’m finally walking home from class at 10pm. I feel it when friendships get messy—when you and your best friend have seasons of your life you’d rather not remember. I feel it when relationships don’t work and you’re left alone with all your questions. I feel it when families fight and your idealistic view on the happy home doesn’t match up with what you’re looking at.

Your best is not always good enough. You can cry, you can scream, you can pull all-nighters, you can work two jobs, and you can pretend you don’t feel any of it. But sometimes, none of that is enough. I realize what this is now. Today at Reality LA, the sermon gave voice to the things I couldn’t say.

We are limited. We are finite.

And—we can rejoice in those limits.

When we finally pulled up to the wedding, we parked our trailer across the street. We jumped out, set up a kennel, changed into suits, brushed off dog hair and ran to the wedding (or stutter stepped in high heels). We entered right before the actual procession began. The beautiful bride looked just like a princess—beaming with expectancy. We took our seats as “Take Heart” began to play and the flower girls began to walk down the aisle.

And I just started crying. We made it. There is no way that should have happened. And as I looked up at the cross in the front of the church, I saw it come to life for me. Through this small struggle in my life, I saw a beautiful portrait of our greater struggle.

This is the Gospel—the Good News: I’m not enough. I am finite. I am mortal. I’m not perfect and I mess up more times than people know. Despite all my efforts, I could not earn a place in heaven. My best just isn’t good enough. But God.

God knew that. He filled the gap for me when He sent Jesus to die on the cross and pay the price I could never pay. “He has overcome.” His grace goes beyond my limits.

This is why I rejoice in my limits, because His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I rejoice in messy friendships, tough relationships, and a family that isn’t perfect. Because God is, and I see his redemption written all over my life.

When friendships are redeemed, when my family makes it through to the other side of a difficult season; I know it’s not me. I can’t try hard enough; I am not enough. But He is. Through him, I am enough—because, He fills the gap.

He redeems and He makes all things new. His goodness is limitless and His grace never runs out. We can boast in our weakness, knowing that He will be shown strong through it all.

“I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the rock of ages.” – Charles Spurgeon

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When God Doesn’t Want My Alabaster Jar

“I’m giving this to God,” I told her. “I’m giving up control. He can do whatever He wants with it.”

I really meant it–I really thought I meant it.

I had thought long and hard about my alabaster jar filled with all I held dear. I had held it tightly for so long and it was starting to burn me. So, I decided I would give it to God, fully. I didn’t want the control, the worrying, the manipulation that came with protecting that jar.

I was so glad I had decided to give it to God. He would take care of it much better than I would.I was free.

But I didn’t feel free.

I felt bitter. I was in a power struggle with God–like a little kid who buys their friend a birthday gift and wants to keep it. And I realized I hadn’t truly given it to God. I had just said, “Hey God, can you hold this for a little while?”

I gave my desires to God for safekeeping. One day, He would give it back to me–when I was ready. Surely, He saw that this was a real step of maturity for me. But you know what he told me?

He said, “I don’t want it. I want you. I want your trust and your devotion. I don’t want this perfume. I want you to trust that I am ALL you need and that all I am will satisfy you more than your precious jar ever could.”

And I believe Him.
I believe His promises.
I believe that He will withhold no good thing.
That He is working all things together for good for those who love Him.
That if I commit my way to Him, He will act.

He will bring forth my righteousness as the light and my justice as the noonday. He has always been faithful; and though my treasures may fail me, He will never leave me nor forsake me.

To be honest, I’m still in a power struggle with God.

But this time, I’m not trying to take my jar back. I’m asking Him to help me as I struggle to pour out this alabaster jar–drop by drop. I’m watching the perfume mingle with my tears as I pour it on his feet.

It’s still a daily struggle, but this perfume has never smelled sweeter.

“And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”
– Luke 7 : 37-38

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