The Beauty of Mediocrity.

It’s been nearly two months since Jon and I moved to California, bringing nothing but what fit inside the 1971 beetle which served as our main mode of transport when in Miami. As with any substantial life change, reflection and insecurity have been frequent kinesthesis. Through it I’m learning, maybe feelings of mediocrity are not always a bad thing, contrary to what society’s drum continually beats. Maybe it keeps us aware of the truth that we are mediocre, we are broken, we are ash falling to the ground and drifting with any lift of the wind. And maybe that’s okay, because when we’re aware of our futility there is room for Christ to step in and give substance to these bones.

IMG_3158

When I fail to present these emotions to the Lord, however, they often give rise to others, such as inferiority. While remembrance of our human insufficiency apart from our Maker is healthy, the sense of forlornness and desolation deriving from dwelling there, as opposed to turning eyes heavenward, are in no way beneficial. The truth of it all is we are each of us works in progress, hopeless without Him but miracles once inside His hands.

IMG_3157

Often I’ll find myself, when in these navel-gazing states, comparing my walk with those around me, wondering why (like the millennial I am), I am not yet rich and famous, or even on the road there yet. While in word I recognize that His calling for me is unique, as His calling for each of His children is, when the negative emotions come knocking I fall directly into the mode of contrasting my current situation with what the world says it should be if I am to reach location x within y amount of years to be z amount successful. It’s the same mistake Sarah made when the Lord promised she and Abram a son. Instead of trusting in His holy (although yet unexplained) method for achieving the promise, she proceeded to follow the route which seemed right to her, although ultimately it only produced a detour they had to double back from. In the end, God still worked out the promise in His way, not hers, not her family’s, not society’s.

IMG_3154

As much as I know this story like the back of my hand, when questions regarding my future arise I begin thinking like Sarah, trying to conjure up my plan for producing the results I desire, instead of trusting the Lord enough to simply do what He has instructed me to do in this current season, and refuse to worry about the rest. Over the holidays I was asked what my goals for the new year were, and at the time, besides finishing my associates well, I could think of none. After writing this post, I realize my goal for the new year is this: to simply do what the Lord sets before me with trust and diligence, and rely on Him to fill in the blanks.

IMG_3152

Until next time,
XOXO

Advertisements

Roads of Rhododendron

“You’re safe now.” As my emerald voile curtains waved in the morning breeze, He whispered this quiet assurance. There was a vague unrest in my spirit as I had communed with Him that morning, and when He spoke those words it became clear. My heart was still running. Not from Him, but running nonetheless. For a moment stretching along more years than I can now recall, I’ve been running for one reason or another. Always, there was a sense of something to be fixed, and I was either the one to fix it or was the broken one. I didn’t realize how true it was until I shared this revelation of safety to a sister, and her exhale was audible even over the phone. At last, I am safe. Trials will come again, but I have reached a point of security unique from any I had known. Before, the peace was that of “He will carry me through any trial, even if I can’t see how.” Now, it is the peace of “He has carried me through every trial I thought would conquer me, and there was joy in the midst.” He has, quite literally, carried me through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and led me to the stream on the other side. Had I not been through the Valley, I wouldn’t have known the Mountains that lay just beyond it. The whirlwind of change that so wrecked my sense of peace has started to take order now.

“Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19 –

I know as I write this, however, that some of you reading it are still in that Valley. Please know, that’s okay, too. That’s where His love met me most deeply.

“The course of my life is in Your power; deliver me from the power of my enemies and from my persecutors.” – Psalm 31:15 –

“Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of My people, ‘This is what the Lord God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. Look, I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the Lord’s temple.” – 2 Kings 20:5 –

“Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.” – Isaiah 58:8 –

Now that I’m safe, I can’t coast, no matter how tempting. I must press on towards deeper righteousness in this freedom and joy. It’s that of remembering in the light what you learned in the dark; now that comfort has set in, I can’t neglect the One who rescued me. Now is the time when I choose Him, because without Him this is all worthless.

“Therefore, dear friends, since we have such promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, completing our sanctification in the fear of God.” – 2 Corinthians 7:1 –

“A road will be there and a way; it will be called the Holy Way. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks the path. Even the fool will not go astray. There will be no lion there, and no vicious beast will go up on it; they will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk on it, and the redeemed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee.”
– Isaiah 35:8-10 – 

“The Lord values those who fear Him, who put their hope in His faithful love. ” – Psalm 147:11 –

When His whisper reached my ears, it was like a dam breaking. Years of pushing against what felt like wall were erased in that one moment. I am safe now. There is nothing I need to fix, and in His own time, He will restore me to the perfection He intended for me. No more running, no more striving. Seasons of struggling to breathe will come again, because the battle on this earth will never fully stop. But for now, I have a season of celebration and rest. When the time comes to fight again, a foundation of peace and former victories will be under my feet. But for this season, it is time to rejoice.

Be Still

He tells me, “Be still,” but how? With dreams and duties eternally raging in my little mind, how do I possibly “be still?” 

It is laying my hopes and plans and worries at His feet, both in submission and expectancy, because “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9);” “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent (Matthew 10:29);” “His left hand is under my head, and his right arm embraces me (Song of Solomon 2:6).” Having forgotten we can access His inner courts and commune with Him, the Creator of everything, how often do we choose worry instead? Enter the temple, hear His thoughts towards you, and then release the rest, because could anything be better than His will?

When I got sick in India, naturally my earthly father got equally concerned. I am and always have been his little princess, the apple of his eye. The quiet assurance that I am even more adored by my heavenly Father, and was in the center of His will, was his and my mother’s only comfort, the only thing keeping him from flying out there to save me. It was also my only cure for anxiety.

However now here I sit, the healthiest of my family, and stronger for having been so terribly ill. Up until that point I had been dealing with (while in denial of) an eating disorder. Because I was in denial of it, I can’t tell you for how long it went on, but I can tell you it wasn’t the worst it could be. Lately I feel like society tells us it is only to be counted as an eating disorder if nary a breadcrumb passes through your lips, but I disagree. According to the National Eating Disorders website, “Eating disorders… include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.” So while I was eating, even though it was varied between equal and less than the diet of the nine year olds I babysit, I still obsessed over each breadcrumb, mentally planning how I would make up for it or why I deserved it, et cetera. Dogmatically searching Pinterest for pictures of celebrities I admired where the slightest belly-bulge or thigh curve was apparent became my routine coping mechanism, the way I prevented it from being full blown anorexia. And just to get everything out there all at once, it was not so much an issue regarding weight as it was control- if everything else was chaotic, at least I could force my body into order. Also, eating disorders stem from a hereditary mental track, just like OCD or ADHD, and, as most of you know, my mother dealt with multiple at my age.

Now that that’s all out there, my former eating issues are not what this post is about. It’s about my King’s devotion. He knew this was what it would take for me not only to recognize my detrimental eating and thinking habits, but also to make the decision that it simply was not worth it. Through my sickness, I finally reached my goal weight, and realized first-hand the damage it took to achieve it.

It was His devotion that had me learning His voice, and once His audible laugh, by the time I was in elementary school. It was His devotion that reminded me through every storm I can remember that “this, too, shall pass.” It was His devotion that created the imaginary worlds I grew up in and still hold on to that shape the way I see both this earth and the next.

Just this week I have felt crippled under the weight of everything that needs to be done. Wedding planning, writing, shooting, taking care of the home, all the many shades of ministry… The list goes on. But He tells me “there is a time for everything under the sun.” Even now, as I’m feeling overwhelmed yet again, I’m reminded of the times I’ve been through tougher months, the turmoil of which I now no longer remember. This will be the same. And in His devotion, these thirty one days of stress are closed with a week long retreat with my grandparents. 

It is His devotion singing grace over me when anxiety comes like thunder in the night. It is His devotion reminding me that each moment has a meaning beyond the next thirty seconds. It is His devotion leading me into the subsequent season, which He has termed my year of Jubilee. It is His devotion that will lead me on through that, when the next storm comes, and carry me through to the other side stronger than before.

And I need only be still.

“After these things I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again, so the rest of humanity may seek the Lord- even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, declares the Lord who does these things, known from long ago.” ~Acts 15:16-18

Unity Through Brokenness

By this time we’ve probably all heard the lyric “I am a sinner; if it’s not one thing, it’s another” more times than we can count, allowing the truth to refreshingly wash over us that we are sinners, and He knows that. But how often do we still try to present our ideal images of ourselves to the outside world? How often do we apply this lyric merely to ourselves and exclude from it the humans surrounding, holding them to a standard we could never achieve because their brokenness shows up in different areas than our own.

Because we are all imperfect people following a perfect God, we will inevitably serve Him imperfectly, and view others’ walks with Him imperfectly. When we start fussing over all the nonessential aspects of Christianity or Christian society, however, we begin to lose our witness. A house divided cannot stand.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~John 13:35 

Something my father once said has rung more and more true both as I’ve grown and as I’ve delved deeper into ministry. “I will fail you,” he said, “as your pastor, as your friend, as your leader, as your brother in Christ and as your father, I will fail you. The question is then, what will you do when that happens?” Our relationships cannot be based on performance. We are all, at our core, terribly broken people. Also at our core, we are people designed for relationship and unity. There will be enough people trying to fight you. Whether or not you feel like it, keep it outside the family. It’s not hypocrisy, it’s obedience. 

In the words of my favorite little nine year old, “Not everyone’s going to have the same opinion. You don’t want to lie, but you want to be understanding of their opinions. If you agree with everything they say, they’ll get a hint that you’re not being yourself. And that’s the thing, you have to be yourself, not just hiding behind your best friend. Then other people see you and start seeing they can be themselves, too.” You become like the boy who cried wolf, only you’re crying identity, and there are folks just waiting on the sidelines to see who the beauty is behind the facade. 

We’re broken. And that’s where we find unity, as broken people seeking the love of Christ. We’re a congregation gloriously off-key belting praises to our King, like expectant toddlers with faces shining as we reach up for Daddy to hold us. 

Pride’s Seduction

I had a dream the other night about a man. Specifically, Gatsby, but this time he was Marylin Monroe’s murderer (you know how dreams go).

He ran a little enclosed kingdom, with him ever at the center. While there was an overwhelming awareness that he could kill them at any moment, the people threw themselves at him. Something inside prayed he would. Somehow, somewhere deep inside myself, I was one of them, desperate for him to want me, yet aware it would end in death. There was a man working for him, reduced to a dunce from his abuses. Though he loved his master, he fought to help us escape this society of grey. 

I had just been outlined for reconstructive surgery, as women were expected to look a certain way there and I, apparently, had the audacity to break the mold. At the last moment I said no. The doctor was angry. The building was blue and made of glass. 

With a blink I returned to the city below. It occurred to me, then, how a boy can become a dictator: he had been given all he ever wanted. Like a mirage in the corner, his parents could be seen, terrified at the moment their smiles would waver, causing him to throw another tantrum. You know the look in their eyes: that scared, nervous smile, the too-quick, harried response of “He’s so smart. Look at him, such a good boy…”

He had killed Marylin  one night after dinner. Elaborately, with a set of wine, coffee, and her latest script to practice together. Something in all his subjects wanted desperately to be killed by him. It was glamorous. It made you someone. Walking around his house, a girl couldn’t help but dream of being loved by such a man of luxury, even if the one night stand ended in death. Tragedy made the story more romantic.

Every girl knew the outcome of a night with him, yet every girl begged he choose her. Every man envied him, prayed for his camaraderie, all the while knowing it would leave them as vegetables, walking round and round the ditch he drops all his old servants in. 

He survived off the women’s beauty, the men’s vitality. One kept him eternally attractive, the other eternally young. 

I looked back once more before jumping the wall. I knew the other side held life, truth, and my love. Devilishly handsome as ever, he returned the look, but this time the snake inside was clear. He was maniacal, hopeless, selfish, and alone. He wanted nothing of us but his own immortality.

Turning my head, I made the leap, and as feet met ground, I awoke.

Until writing this all out in my morning pages, it didn’t occur to me that this was my subconscious’s way of processing everything we saw in South Beach on Memorial Day Weekend. Throughout the rest of this week, the Lord showed me how my “seductive dictator” is pride, but we all have one. We all have our little hidden sin we keep quiet, letting him pump us full of the pain meds we crave as he digs the knife deeper into our backs.

September-Typographics-07.jpg

I say pride because that’s my struggle, but yours could be different. Idolatry. Lust. Laziness. Selfishness. Whatever it is, it’s never too late to release it to Him and jump the barricade.

“Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey and her words are smoother than oil, in the end she’s bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps straight to Sheol. She doesn’t consider the path of life; she doesn’t know that her ways are unstable.” ~ Proverbs 5:3-6

“Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme, so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; if you embrace her, she will honor you. She will place a garland of grace on your head; she will give you a crown of beauty.” ~ Proverbs 4:6-9

 

 

So What If It Hurts?

Lines of black
Lead to where
Visions fall flat
Folks forget to care

Lying hazily
In fields of white
Voices scream for meaning
Wishing for wings to take flight

All is starched clean
Perfumed with bleach
While underneath
Rotting sewage lies unseen

Can you taste the disease?
She’s coming on the breeze

Like bitter gall on the tongue
She’ll arrive with the setting of the sun


We’ve become so afraid of getting hurt we’ve boxed ourselves into little white-walled, cushioned caskets of what we think is safe. Minds overflowing with concerns for propriety, we can no longer enjoy the very people we got all dolled up to see and are trying so desperately to impress.

Dear Miami, I watched it happen. While we may have been the city of failures and dropouts, we were also the city of relentless dreamers. Having seen the worst come true, we could stare fear back into her prospective corner because so what if it hurt? At least we lived. There was the mettle that comes with knowing that no matter the outcome, the alternative of living wondering, wishing you had done whatever it was, or perhaps stood against the grain of whatever it was you felt pressured into, was worse than the initial trepidation.

9514-Emma-Watson-Quote-Don-t-feel-stupid-if-you-don-t-like-what

SRT-John_instagram13.jpg

Beyond this, though, how often are we afraid to speak up or get close and open our hearts because of the mountains of what-ifs? What if (s)he gets offended or takes it the wrong way? What if when they see my heart, it’s too much for them or they criticize it?  What if I get hurt?

While some of these questions do help in building the boundaries necessary for any healthy relationship to flourish, if carried too far they become walls against intimate fellowship in a way that truly is detrimental to our emotional well-being and our Christian walk.

0620302e8e386bf2bf22bef199e4284e

But still so often we let the fear win. We box ourselves in, and then from that fear, as a mode of both protection and justification we start looking for all the sharp pieces in others that could possibly wound us, neglecting to realize the barbed wire fence we’re slowly building around ourselves. And discontment is birthed.

Darling, don’t let discontment steal your joy in community. We’re all imperfect, carrying residue of our old selves. Look past mine, and I’ll look past yours. Give grace to the ones who’ve hurt you, whether intentionally or not, and return to your circle. Even if they be scattered about the country or globe, return to them. In the Age of Technology, there’s no excuse for scorning community. Granted, be prayerful about the companionship you choose, but when the Lord directs you to a person or people, don’t neglect that, especially not because of pride.

to_love_is_to_be-42024.jpg

 

 

 

 

Sandcastles versus Marble Palaces

There is an undeniable scream inside all of us crying out for something more, a meaning beyond the world behind our eyelids. Like stormclouds gathering, we let the emotions roll in one after the other. Insecurity. Disappointment. Hurt. Bitterness. Perhaps they don’t always arrive in that order, but arrive they do. All are symptomatic of the same thing, what my brother calls “sandcastle pride.” We stop trusting entirely the Lord’s plan for us, and start searching out ways to make our dreams happen on our own. True, any dream worth anything at all requires work, but at what point does work transfer into idolatry?

In the words of one wise nine year old, “Start reading your Bible so you can learn how to get your life back on track!” We are desperate to be alive, yet terrified at what that would mean. Authors make millions off self-help books, either about gaining control or letting go, or doing one to achieve the other. We all dream of a higher existence of some sort, but only once we seek and pursue the Lord’s vision over our lives will we find any sort of the divine calling we crave.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ – this is the Lord’s declaration – ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11

It’s not about the work itself. It can never be about the work or else we’ll fall into either a cycle of obsessive over-achievement or bitter resolve to press on. Neither can it become about whatever earthly outcome, money, or fame, for in the end, once it’s been realized, there will be an inevitable sense of “that’s all?”

I’m not saying we all need to jump up and become ministers; He did make some doctors, filmmakers, musicians, or writers, etc, but there must also be some eternal goal for our lives or else what’s the point?

We all have some daily burden; what’s yours? The daily awareness of what is, and screaming response of what should be? This is your battleground, so wage war! There we find our sense of purpose, of vitality- there we bring bits of His kingdom to earth. And it is in this process of fighting for the “should be,” of fighting for some necessary change weighing on us so heavily it seems that to not strive to bring it about would be a moral slight, that we being to trade the sandcastle for the marble palace.

 

Little Flower

Worry is on the wind
Raging around me
A brutal storm
Of doubt, worry, insecurity

As night wore on
Deepening darkness brought deepening fears
And I cried out, “My God
From me why have You turned Your ear?”

Yet as the words
Soared from these lips
Your voice rushed in
A tender kiss

The sunshine broke
Joy is dawning as apprehensions shatter
And I begin to see clearly again
In the light of Your laughter

 

Woken Up (Pt 2)

At last, at last,
They’ve been uncorked!
This river of hope
Flows freely once more!

If only for me
Let these words become a sea
Of joy and honesty
Of faith and unity

This pen is my lifeline
My thoughts’ only bloodstream
Now with the clot removed
Let’s begin this day anew.

On Pride&Bitterness

It’s a cancer; she lies within
Stroking her prey with whispers of when
Her arms lay not about their lungs
Their glory was equal to the sun

Slowly then, she sinks her teeth
Insisting you’ve marched “Once more
To the breach,
Dear friends, once more!”

But your friends wouldn’t march along
So you went it alone
Saving, you think
This ship about to sink

Or perhaps you chose to flee
Solitary in your “glorious wisdom”
Nursing the hurts
Of when body met sea

While left behind
Laid passengers crying
“Ungrateful,” you whisper
Under your breath whilst swimming to closest shore

Then there she is
Happy as can be
Her prey returned of his own volition
Resting in the glory of his “glorious wisdom”

You don’t see her talons
The venom seeping from her lips
As you run to her embrace
Beg for a kiss

Which ginergly she places
Upon cracked blue lips
Before returning to the waves
A body limp from poisoned bitterness

And the passengers of that sinking ship?
They reached back to Ithaca
With splendor and joy at overcoming hardship
But your fate was chosen at Anthemoesa

In the name of glory
You wrote your own story
Deeming the Author too distant
Because home’s shore was hidden
Beyond the curtain
Of arrogance’s abdication.