Becoming Beacons

Often, I find myself craving the days when all the Christians around us knew their faith could cost their life. Many were already forced out of their homes into shacks along the feces-filled grey-watered Ganges river, forced into the lowest rungs of society and unable to move up because their beliefs were discovered by their neighbors. They had a fire to them, they were willing to do anything for Christ. Cross the Pacific, and here we are debating whether Sunday morning worship is worth trading the extra hours of slumber and pancakes for, as we pour over Instagram stories, strive after appearances, aesthetics, and vibes. As if any of it mattered… Yet I’m one of them. We idolize this life more than we realize in the West.

Meanwhile, wisdom cries out in the streets…

“Wisdom calls out in the street; she raises her voice in the public squares. She cries out above the commotion; she speaks at the entrance of the city gates.”
– Proverbs 1:20-21 –

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
– Proverbs 9:10 –

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As a generation, we millennials speak as though we want wisdom, yet as a church, we fail to do those things which she calls for. We choose bagels in the cafe over sitting in service, or to watch service from the comfort of our cozy couches, coffee in hand and fuzzy socks on, over truly attending and fellowshipping. With that, we think we’re good.

“So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall.”
– 1 Corinthians 10:12 –

Please hear, I am one of them. Without fail, each Sunday morning as my husband gets ready for church, I have an extended debate with myself regarding if I want to go or stay home. “I could take an Uber to the 12:30 service,” I argue, telling myself I don’t really need to be there for the first two; I could do homework instead. Now, for some, this is true. They will actually get homework done, and truly have no reason to be there for the other two services my church offers. For some, this is actually the wiser, more responsible choice. Not for me, though, and I know that. I know that if I stay home, I’ll sleep until it’s time to come in for third, if I even make it for that. Chances are I’ll come in just in time to honor the commitment I’ve made which takes place each week after all the services have ended. So I pull myself out of bed, slap on some makeup and clothes in the dark, and stumble into the passenger seat of my husband’s car counting the minutes until I have a coffee in my hand.

This all has to do with the comfort factor, though. What about the cost? What I witnessed in India was just the upper crust of the surface of what goes on there, much less places like Sudan or Afghanistan. The other day, the Lord slapped me across the face with a truth I had never considered. I was spared so much- this I’ve always known. However, I never considered what it cost Him. Without diminishing the reality of what it was, I don’t only mean the Cross here. I mean the spiritual battles afterward, throughout the past twenty years of my life, and even before. The continual battles, because time is different for Him, even if I can’t fully comprehend how or what that means with my human brain. Flooded into my mind like a waterfall of flames were blood-red images of Him fighting brutally on His white horse, amidst the odious smog of sin and death; fighting Lady Babylon (Revelation 17:3-6) to shield me from her immorality, the destruction she brings, and the end she comes to. I saw the beads of sweat on His forehead, the anger in His eyes.

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If I daily saw the war going on for His church, His bride, how would I fight differently? This isn’t about legalism, this is about engaging fully in the purpose for which we were created. I’m not saying that purpose is sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, either; but rather that the fellowship and strength and respite that offers, that of sitting in community at His feet, is what prepares us for the battle we have been called to.

“Furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
– Proverbs 2:3-6 –

“Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:13-14 –

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It’s not about whether or not we’re in church. It’s not about going through the motions. It’s about how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the call He has placed on our lives. Slowly I’ve been coming to the conclusion that when there’s so little we have to give up in this free country for the title of “Christian,” it’s imperative we then, even if only as an exercise, give up things as love offerings for the sake of honoring Him. Things like Sunday mornings at home to be instead at church, at His feet. Not because He needs it from us, but because we do. In these tiny acts of trading comfort for clout, we allow ourselves to be strengthened by Him into the warrior Bride He has called us to be. We grow into beacons burning bright in this world doomed for darkness.

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Until next time,

XOXO

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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.

 

April 23 – Diary

Jesus Time

Thank You for my nephew.
Thank You for parents who look out for me and are happy for me, even if stress gets in the way of showing it sometimes.
Thank You for friends who care, and taking out of my life the ones who don’t.
Thank You for Jonny, and the man he is becoming.
Thank You for Jonny, and the man he is. His maturity, patience, strength, wisdom, joy and grace.
Thank You for always providing, even when it looks impossible.
Thank You for being the Dream – Maker.
Thank You that I’m home again where I belong, and serving You is often such a wild ride.
Thank You for blessing me so much more than I deserve.
Thank You that I’m Yours.

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Isaiah 40:10-11

“See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and His arm rules for Him. See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him. He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arm and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.”

I would be lying if I said coming home has been painless. Within just this month, I’ve had more than one breakdown, days that felt like dreams, times of denial, complacency, and sheer rebellion against both what happened and the reality of the riches of America. Everything feels so shiny, covered in glitter and wrapped in celophame, not meant to be touched or enjoyed but simply seen.

That’s so much of what we care about isn’t it? To be seen, to have some ounce of glamour and fame. Why?

But that’s not the point of this post. The point is, the Lord is faithful. Before outreach, I was still drowning from miles and years of unprocessed emotions burying me under my own glitter and celophame memories of euphoria sought out to cover up those tears. I called it “joy in the Lord.” No. I was simply running. Yet when my feet landed in India, He caught me. I had to process the events in my life I had simply left, having explored to a point, then fled from. When you’re bent over on a tiny toilet in a third world country with a bucket in your hands and barely any strength to move back to your sleeping bag, there’s not much else to do but think and pray. So I did. And I met His faithfulness and love in a way I had never before. I saw Him there, waiting, letting me play it out and run and run and cling to my youth and freedom until I was ready to sit and dig into the realities of my cousin’s suicide, of my own social anxieties.

And now I’m home, and certain inevitable things remain. Life is still hectic and busy. The dark forces of this earth are still fighting against all my family has ever lived for, all I ever want to live for. I still live in the midst of an intense spiritual battlefield. But now, I’m choosing it, knowing the cost and knowing how it will end. Because my God is faithful, and He will carry us, His children, through. He will tend us as a Shepherd, because He is God, and He comes with power.

I’ve watched so many now run from this, or fight in an attempt to water it down, make it more Instagrammable. But that’s not the life we were called to, ohana. We were called to a life of war, as well as a life of intense joy. And loves, that’s the life I choose.

Moment by Moment

This past Thursday, over a picnic at our favorite hideout, my beloved Jonny asked me to be his wife. And of course, I said yes.

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Now as I write this it’s Saturday, and I’m laying on the couch in what feels like an exhaustion-induced paralysis. My mother said I shouldn’t think myself so invincible to jet lag, but of course being her headstrong replica I didn’t listen. And of course, Momma was right. After hopping between twenty-one time zones, perhaps sliding back into my old schedule right off the bat wasn’t the best idea.

But my gosh it’s worth it. I’m home.

For the past six months I’ve been dreaming of this life, and now I’ve returned to it. As incredible as traveling through southeast Asia was, my heart and home and ministry is here in Miami.

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Fast forward a bit- it’s now Tuesday, and I’m just alive enough to deem myself awake, and about to consider my second cup of coffee. The laundry is finished, and though the dress I’m wearing in this picture is now a shirt, as I looked up just now the missing sock was spotted. One task down, coffee in hand, and I’m ready to take on the day. It’s a slow climb, getting back to normality here. With the residue of things experienced still beautifully imprinted upon my mind, I’m gently coming back to the pulsing reality of the life I dream of.