not an emergency

[Let’s all take a moment to recognize that I write in waves & there is no consistency to this blog. Which is a pretty good description of my personality.]

I finally found words to the half-thoughts that have been restlessly drifting through my mind. I get a rush of endorphins every time my foggy ideas condensate into crystal clear language. It’s lovely to be able to categorize, process, judge & express your thoughts, isn’t it?

This time, I couldn’t categorize these ideas as originals. They’re simply life realities that I’ve subconsciously grown to believe. And these beliefs have been surprisingly freeing.

I will always be struggling with something.

There will always be a terrifying “what if” about which to be worried.

I will always be stuck on some sin.

There will always be an unnerving, guilt-inducing, terrible thought crossing my mind.

I will always have to spend way too much time with someone I don’t like.

Something about/in my body will always be wrong/in pain.

I will always be failing at some “vital” aspect of the Christian walk.

There will always be critically important things on my to-do list.

I will always want to be accomplishing more.

There will always be something upcoming to dread.

I will always be learning something I wish I knew my whole life.

I will always make stupid, albeit innocent, mistakes.

My personality will always have weaknesses.

I will always be following Jesus in the midst of unanswered questions.

There will always be a reason to complain.

I’ve often thought that the only way to have a great day is to not make any stupid mistakes. I thought that anytime a nasty thought crossed my mind, my faith was suddenly in crisis and needed to be fixed.

But if these “bad things” really are permanent fixtures in life, then my expectations can change. When I wake up knowing that today I have to spend time with someone I don’t like, I don’t have to automatically fling the next 24 hours into the Bad Day Box. If I then drive to work & realize I forgot my phone charger, it’s still ok. None of this is unusual; none of this is an emergency.

Gratitude & joy are not one option for how to think about your life. They’re the most accurate way to think about your life (see everything Ann Voskamp has ever written)I’ve known that for a while. It’s just been really hard to practice when my life is one constant emergency.

[And I think that’s still true: choosing joy shouldn’t necessarily be something you think about when you’re experiencing an emergency. “Where’s the nearest hospital?” is probably a better thought.]

But I’m realizing that my life is not one constant emergency. That whole list of bad realities are realities for even the most happy, successful, wise, fun Christians. My future is not constantly about to be ruined. My relationship with God is not constantly terrible, even when all of that ^^ goes wrong. I don’t have to spend every waking hour trying to fix those things in order to “get life back to normal”.

This is normal. Breathe. I love being able to successfully choose joy. How fun is this?

not an emergency

God? It’s about my kids

Jesus,

You know better than I do that You created me to be a person whose passions frequently change. But I’ve always loved children. I’m passionate about orphan advocacy, orphan rescue, fostering, adoption, and fighting for every child to receive love and respect. I’m grateful, Jesus, because it makes me suspect that You have plans to use me in this field full-time. Yay for being hopeful about post-grad life! I tell people about my adoption dreams and I often clarify, “I’m not saying I want to adopt, I’m saying that I’m going to adopt.” Maybe this prayer is actually a confession, because I shouldn’t pretend to know the future, but right now, it seems like You’ve called me to adopt one day.

So here’s some things I want to ask You on my and my future children’s behalf. Thank You for listening. Thank You that the Spirit also talks to You for me. Thank You that, even if You have to work against my imperfect requests, You labor for my good.

  • Help my children to discover early in life that “Your presence is the fullness of joy“, and help them to keep living in light of that until they die (or until You come back). Let them love You more than I do! And give me wisdom as I want to teach them who You are.

 

  • Please spare my children from pain, loss, abuse, fear, insecurity, rejection & abandonment, physical warfare, spiritual darkness, or poverty on all the days leading up to their adoption. Let them have the most positive pre-adoption stories I’ve ever heard.

 

  • God, I know that Lorelai & Rory Gilmore’s relationship isn’t *entirely* biblical, but I think there’s a reason Gilmore Girls fans are moved by their mother-daughter best-friendship. Maybe that longing exists because You’ve created us to want something similar that’s found in You. Please give me & my children the glorified version of the Gilmore Girls.

 

  • Help my kids know that their worth is dependent on Jesus, not their perfection, performance, appearance, talents, lifestyle or interests.

 

  • At every stage of their lives, help me remember what that stage was like for me. Give me the humility and love to listen to them. Let me be able to look at life from their perspective and not just my adult one. Help me to create an environment in which they feel respected, understood, free to make mistakes, and free to express themselves honestly.

 

  • Please help our family & home be so much fun!! Teach me how to enjoy every day so that I can demonstrate that to my children.

 

  • Please help our family & home be outward-focused. Let us join together to love You first & love others second. Let our spare couch stay occupied, our checkbooks be generously used, our prayers for the world be frequent, and our neighbors feel known & loved. Use our family to draw others close to You.

 

  • Help me to continually seek to grow as a mom.

 

  • Give me the grace to stay on my knees.

 

  • I know that sometimes “nice kids from Christian homes” get trafficked, kidnapped, murdered, abused, bullied. I know that sometimes they are addicted to drugs, watch porn, commit horrible crimes, get pregnant without a committed spouse by their side, run away from home, kill themselves. Even the “nice kids from Christian kids” have depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, eating disorders. I’m not putting these in a list together because I think they’re all equal or even similar. I simply want to ask You, Jesus, to spare my children from all kinds of pain, because they’re not immune to it. Please keep me from causing said pain.

 

  • Follow up to that last one: Keep me aware, Jesus, of the warning signs that indicate that my children may be having a hard time. Please help us to always have open & honest communication. Give me wisdom.

 

  • Help me to be intentional and fully present, even in “little” moments.

 

  • Provide adoption funds, please. Provide adoption favor, too, as I know the process can be one giant piece of red tape.

 

  • God? If it’s in Your plan for me to have any biological kids, it’d be really fun if he or she had red hair like me. Just throwing that out there…

 

  • I already place pressure on myself to be the best mom. Yeah, I’ll probably be successful at some of my goals. But I will also hurt my children. God, help me to remember YOU. You are God, You are Redeemer, You are Sovereign. Perfection was up to Jesus, and He nailed it.

 

  •  Give us people who can be our friends & support team.

 

  •  If I have multiple children, please help them to thoroughly enjoy each other.

 

  • And God, when they’re grown up & have lives of their own, give them strong character, deep relationships, great life ambitions, and intimacy with You.

For Jesus’ sake,

Amen

God? It’s about my kids

June is a Second January

We’re almost halfway through 2017. I wrote New Years Goals in January and I’ve completed some! So fun. What grace. But, I’ve still got a ways to go. As I’ve moved through the year, I’ve realized that I want to take some goals off the list & replace them with new goals. I’m giving myself the freedom to do that. Without further ado, here are my Middle-Aged Years Goals:

BOOKS

  1. Read 3 books of the Bible (note: the mini ones don’t count as 1)
  2. Finish Love Lives Here by Maria Goff (+ journal about it)
  3. Finish Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  4. Read The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  5. Read Changes that Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud
  6. Read The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting by Rebecca Eanes
  7. Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Cornel West
  8. Finish listening to the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
  9. Listen to Harry Potter

 

OTHER

  1. Go camping for two nights + kayaking
  2. Paint & decorate bedroom
  3. Invest in 3 [fair-trade, not used] outfits that encourage me to feel beautiful. (I always only buy fair-trade or used clothing because ethics, but these three will be specifically fair-trade new because treat yo self.)
  4. Blog 4 more times before January 1st
  5. Find study space that works for my neck + back, has natural lighting, is easily accessible & has multiple spaces so I don’t feel stuck
  6. Pray + fast for Love Week
  7. Pray + fast for Homesteaders show
  8. Be open to processing (insert topics I’m not going to publish on the internet) with discipler in the fall
  9. Consistently pray for possible future husband, possible future children, current friends, neighbors (+ others whose names I’m not going to publish on the internet)
  10. Creatively + consistently pray for Agape International Mission (agapewebsite.org)
  11. Be intentional with classmates. I will develop more specific goals once the semester begins.
  12. Eat intentionally. I don’t yet know how this one’s going to look.
  13. Stay enrolled in exercise classes throughout the summer + semester
  14. Dream about long-term future + save $$ towards it
  15. Be open to accepting a leadership opportunity in the fall
  16. Document 100 blessings of being at UMD
June is a Second January

[2016]

It’s the end of November, which means I’m in full-blown let’s-reminisce-about-the-year mode. I am crazy sentimental and I love turning this year’s important events into next year’s important anniversaries.

But.

When I think about this year, I immediately think of a lot of sad things. A lot of hard things. A lot of brokenness and a crazy ton of failure on my part. I look at myself in that first picture below – midnight, January 1st – and I keep wishing I could go back in time and tell myself, “Please walk into 2016 more prepared. Please stay close to Jesus. Please don’t escape from your problems through Netflix over and over and over. Please don’t worry so much. Please put others above yourself. PLEASE.”

And in those desperate whispers to 19-year-old me, I am so thankful for grace that does not let me go. I am so thankful for God who chooses to be on my level…with me…every moment of every day. I am so thankful that He will cause my bad things to turn out for good…maybe a million years from now, but He will.

At the same time, I want to remember a full picture of who God has been in my life this year: I want to know who He was as shown by

  1. the bad He will turn into good
  2. the gift that it was to simply have Him
  3. the fun gifts He gave

Today, I’m zooming into that last one. I want to remember the grace that gave me circumstances in which I smiled and laughed, because I’m really quite terrible at remembering the fun things. It is toward this end that I present a highlight from each month of 2016.

[If you start reading this and think that having even half these highlights would have made your year, I hear you. I’m so sorry for the pain through which you have walked. Inside your hurt, I hope you know God’s presence, for it is the fullness of joy. What a gift. God has already given us His absolute best. Compared to Jesus, everything else is garbage. At the same time, if He does give anything else, I want to thank Him for it because it’s extremely undeserved. That’s what this post is.]

JANUARY

(Most of) the HBSM15 fam together at Radiate. This picture was taken before we did a cinnamon roll hug and they told each other to make sure I stayed on the outside of the huddle. These people know me from my claustrophobia right down to my soul. I was ecstatic to welcome the New Year with them.january

FEBRUARY

February took me back to Germany to play trucks with my favorite four boys. But this time, I was given a weekend trip to Salzburg, Austria. I’ll admit that it’s hard to breathe when every 30 minutes you’re at another Sound of Music filming location. Or another view of the Alps. Or another building where Wolfgang Mozart lived/performed piano/ate dinner/talked/walked/breathed. It’s indescribable, guys.

february

MARCH

I played with preschoolers at this school and got paid for it. I also helped with my mom’s 3rd graders and didn’t get paid for it. Anyways, here’s two of my favorite moments:

1.) 3rd grader (singing Queen B): “Who run the world? GOD.”

2.) A preschooler, as we played playmobiles, was having her pirate do nice things for another pirate.

Me: “Wasn’t he a bad pirate a while ago?”

Her: “He’s good now. He turned away from his sin.”

Gotta love Christian school.

april

APRIL

Because I wasn’t in school Spring semester, I didn’t have to do homework on the weekends! So sometimes I visited out-of-town friends instead. Bianca and I went to see the home of Jimmy Stewart (on Vinegar Hill), and clearly I was excited about that because the man was brilliant.

april

MAY

I visited Keriann. She forced me to listen to Hamilton as we drove around Williamsburg. It was kinda terrible. Then she made me listen to it again on the way to Manassas. Surprisingly, it was slightly less terrible. Long story short, by the time I was on the plane to Cambodia at the end of May, I was pretty much obsessed.

JUNE

In June, I was in Cambodia & Thailand. While in Cambodia, we went to the home of a couple who worked for AIM. We swam in the pool & got massages & drank smoothies on the rooftop. So fun.

As we sipped our smoothies, we talked with the husband about the precious country of Cambodia. He tried to explain why child abuse is so common, why police corruption is rampant, why it’s hard to catch child sex traffickers, why poverty is pervasive. It was the most detailed description of the brokenness in Cambodia I had heard, and I listened while looking at the most gorgeous view of Cambodia I had seen. I felt like I was mentally trying to push two opposing magnets together. But that’s holy, you know? I looked real beauty and real darkness square in the face and had to choose to either reject God or expand my view of who He is in our world.

june

JULY

July had so many highlights. It always does, for some reason. Which to choose…Oh, who am I kidding? Camp Celebrate won in a landslide. My Tennessee family. My Tennessee home. Camp is a place where people with and without disabilities are accepted completely and spend a week celebrating life & each other & God. It’s is the closest thing to Heaven I have ever experienced.

july

AUGUST

Katie came to visit! She’s so wise and selfless and fun. And we went to the Lincoln Memorial. It’s so majestic and historic and gorgeous. Fantastic combination and I’m so glad she came.

august

SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER

Podcasts & books on CD made my first semester commuting to UMD actually quite fun! Even if I was dreading school or low on gas or stuck in traffic, I was having a great time. (Please note that some of these are from August & November. My commute is long but not that long.) They’re all good, but I especially recommend Generous Justice & Revisionist History:

The Reason for God and Generous Justice and lots of sermons by Tim Keller

Serial Season #1 by Sarah Koenig

Revisionist History Season #1 by Malcolm Gladwell

The Lightning Thief & The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

NOVEMBER

November brought UMD’s first annual Love Week. We chose to love Ruhango, Rwanda this year through partnering with Living Waters International. The campus raised $3700 dollars for Living Waters to build clean water wells and help the people of Ruhango build sustainable communities. It was such a happy thing to join hands with hundreds of students and befriend our neighbors across the globe.

This is a picture of the students (+ intern) who led Love Week this year. It’s supposed to be a family portrait but we didn’t really talk this through so there’s three parents but it’s fine.november

DECEMBER

December is bound to be great because that’s when school ends.

No for real, I LOVE Christmas and Cru Winter Conference and the sacred beauty of stepping into a new year. I’m excited.

[2016]

Circling Victory

I finally bought the Newsies soundtrack last Wednesday. I’ve been into that show for two and a half years now and I’ve never owned the music. My week transformed into an extended one-woman performance of the show. Glory.

I’m driving down the racetrack highway (aka Route 95) last Thursday night. I’ve got Jack’s voice blaring through the speakers as I yell-sing the anthems of rebellion at the imaginary Big Shots out my windshield.

But then I get to the reprise of Watch What Happens. And I can’t hold back the tears….

_________________________________________________________________

Wednesday night was Bible study. But it was honestly more like my 11th grade Lit class. (Translation: I loved it.) We spent some time mapping out the Bible’s plot structure. Here’s what we came up with:

Plot Bible
Exposition: introduction. There is harmony. Creation. Eve, Adam, nature & God live in harmony with one another.
Inciting Incident: sets plot in motion because something has gone wrong. The Fall. Everything’s cursed.
Rising Action: problem gets worse as a build-up to the climax. Everything that happens in-between the Garden of Eden and Jesus’ death.
Climax: fork-in-the-road moment. The protagonist will finally get locked into winning or locked into losing, but you’re not sure which. The three days Jesus is in the grave. Will God win?
Falling Action: protagonist is now flying down the road to victory. Things start to resolve. Jesus comes back to life! Victory over Satan is sealed for eternity. 1 A.D. – 2016 A.D.
Resolution: the end. Re-establishment of harmony. God “finishing” His victory by creating the New Heaven and New Earth. Happening sometime in the future.

We asked the question, “What’s the significance of the fact that our lives are set in the falling action of God’s story?” We didn’t really answer that question. But as I thought about it – the fact that we’re flying down the road to victory – my heart ached…

I have the hardest time believing things are resolving. Because all I see is that our world’s victory/tragedy ratio is hugely skewed toward the latter. Do you see that, too?

I don’t see American racism resolving.

I don’t see poverty ending.

I see us moving toward some semblance of a World War III, not away from it.

I don’t see the murder of unborn people fizzling out.

I don’t see human trafficking being stopped. Every time we think we’ve killed it, it rears another version of its horrifying head. And if you know me, you know that those these other injustices are horrific, this is the one that really throws me over the cliff.

Honestly? I’ve been camping out at the bottom of this cliff for about a month now. When I finally looked outside my privileged existence and into the lives of those who suffer, I realized that I have been worshiping a “fake” God. I’ve been worshiping the God who gives me great verses during my coffee shop quiet time. I never had to wrestle with the fact that this God also allows mind-numbing atrocities. Things that are so opposite of everything He loves.

I’m sharing the bottom of the cliff with my very clingy friend Doubt: Is God good? Is He powerful? Is He really Protector? Does He care about everyone or just some of us?

I’m making very slow progress with answering these questions. But I’ve made leaps and bounds in being ok with not knowing. That’s another story.

Anyways, I cringed a little on Wednesday night as we celebrated that God has already won and we’re sprinting toward history’s finish line. I mentally look around at our precious world and think, how could that possibly be true?

_________________________________________________________________

Re-enter Newsies. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a show about the newsie strikes of NYC during the turn of the century. Fascinating history; awe-inspiring musical. Watch What Happens reprise occurs after the newsies’ “ally”, Joe, betrays them & turns one of the boys in to the police. Jack, the leader of this strike, has given up. In fact, he’s about to leave New York altogether. I listen as Jack’s friend, Davey, tries to change his mind (note: these are not the exact lyrics):

Davey: Here’s how it goes: once we win…and we will be winning

Jack: We’ll be what?

Davey: We’re already winning

Jack: Dave, what the hell? Did they bust up your brains or somethin’? As I recall Dave we all got our asses kicked – they won.

Davey: Won the battle.

Jack: Oh come on.

I started to get that tingly feeling I get whenever I deeply connect with something. I’m Jack, I thought. It’s been my anthem: “Shut up, optimistic Christians. As I recall, Satan’s basically winning.” Jack continues (again, not exact lyrics):

Jack: Here’s what I think: Joe’s a jerk, he’s a rattle snake.

Davey: You’re right – and you know why a snake starts to rattle? ‘Cause he’s scared.

Jack: You may be right. If he wasn’t afraid –

Davey: Exactly –

Jack and DaveyGet those kids to see we’re circling victory.

This was when the waterworks hit. We’re circling victory.

My mind flashes to this scene in Lord of the Rings:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c24-0Amwyik

Do you see it? This is the falling action.

It’s the end of the movie. The climax has come and gone. It’s all a mess, but the audience is so excited because we know who’s going to win. Everything is falling into place. And if you don’t remember, the ring melts like three seconds after this clip.

And here’s the part I love: even though they’re three seconds from the finish line, nothing looks better than it’s been in the past. I used to think the falling action meant everything should start looking up. Now, I know it’s just when all the mess starts falling into place…but it’s still mess. Nothing’s completed yet. They’re circling victory.

Isn’t that us? Isn’t that our world? We’re Aragorn, getting crushed by a giant enemy. We’re Frodo, about to give in to the sin that is so tempting. We’re Sam, who’s in the depths of despair as he sees everything falling apart. Good Lord, I’m the Queen of Sam-ness.

Or, to go back to Newsies: we’re Jack, who’s given up. We’re Crutchie, the boy in prison. We’re Joe, who’s gotten scared and played the traitor.

But.

Thank You Jesus, we who believe are also Davey: we know for a fact that we’re so close to winning. We’re not just circling, we’re circling victory. The NYC Big Wigs are almost overpowered. The ring is almost destroyed. Oh, the giddy anticipation of knowing we’re about to win.

I think I cried Thursday night on the highway because, after spending so much time trying to justify present suffering with God’s love & sovereignty, this is a phrase that gives space for both: both feeling the current destruction and being so excited that He is about to win. We’re circling victory.

And yes, through Jesus, we’ve already won. But we’re also still running toward a fuller victory. It’s close, and when it comes, we can be certain that slavery, racism, death and sin are gone for good. My heart beats fast and aches and rejoices all at once as I think about that day. I’m so. insanely. excited.

I’ll admit: I still don’t get why God didn’t skip from the exposition to the resolution. I still don’t get why God is allowing the falling action part of His story to be as…dramatic…as it is. Maybe I’ll always grieve that. But guys, let’s keep pressing on?:

(only watch through 3:05) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyzE9thQIPo

Oh my. We’re almost to the best part of the story. God’s victory is close, we get to be in on it, and it’s going to be everything we’ve ever dreamed.

Circling Victory

S H A L O M

To the One who’s all I need,

Shalom.

It takes so much of my microscopic amounts of faith to greet You with this.

This word that I keep scrawling across my wrist because my journey to capture the essence of this trip, capture the essence of the Gospel, finds its rest in shalom. A single word can become sacred and special to a person and I think these six letters are mine.

Shalom: “the webbing together of God, humans, and all of creation in justice, fulfillment and delight. Movement towards universal flourishing and wholeness” [from The Countours of Justice: An Ancient Call for Shalom].

But I begin to consider this – this movement toward universal flourishing – and I realize that shalom includes everything.

Shalom is art becoming more layered, truth-filled, vulnerable and life-changing. It’s working to restore natural systems that clean our air … watching my friends in South East Asia remove their masks and show their beautiful, healthy smiles.

{W H O L E N E S S}

It’s cultivating entire cultures, generations of families who depend on Jesus wholly, communicate openly, respect even the youngest and the oldest completely, encourage constantly, enjoy one another thoroughly and sacrifice everything to see the others have all of Jesus.

And it’s simply just cultivating families who are able to put food on the table without selling their daughters to do so.

{D E L I G H T}

It is creating a language, images, fashion and values in which people are considered beautiful. Period. In which having a human body is the loveliest body type to have.

{F U L F I L L M E N T}

It’s delighting in ants and elephants and azaleas and every other living thing as a valuable piece of God’s glorious Earth.

And one of my favorites – shalom is when work is shalom. How I long for the day when each profession moves us toward universal flourishing, and how I long for the day when each profession is a source of j o y for those who serve through it. When there’s no such thing as porn stars and prostitutes and drug dealers and executioners.

{F L O U R I S H I N G}

Shalom includes six letters to represent six thousand moments of bliss discovering the One who rejoices over you with gladness. Diving into the sixty-six books that detail how this concept is the entire purpose of Scripture.

{J U S T I C E}

Do you see it? Shalom is politics and education and friendship and medicine and world energy sources and movement toward everything we’ve ever wanted.

So shalom, Beloved, shalom.

My heart longs to experience completed shalom with You because I love You oh so much. I want this more than anything.

Shalom is why I’m writing here in a guest house in Thailand. I know “we will never be truly be free until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me”. Shalom is why I’m spending four years in university – I want all children to have the richest of childhoods.

I stop and half-smile. How many “I”s are in those sentences? Even if my motivation is love for You, I still say that I’m working for shalom. I say that I want shalom for You, with You, as if it was my invention.

You’re the God of shalom and I’m nothing. I know full well that I wouldn’t even know this word if You had not revealed Your heart to me. I know that every one of my descriptions of shalom revolves around Your designs and You being glorified.

I remind my mind to recognize reality: this is Your heart, Love. Your heart, not mine. You want shalom with me. You created everything for joyous bliss with You.

It’s obvious. These twenty-seven days in Asia have grown a heart for shalom in me. But maybe why I focus on my own love for shalom is because these twenty-seven days in Asia have also made me question Your heart for shalom. I know it’s odd, because shalom is so clearly of You – how am I simultaneously learning and doubting Your heart?

I think it’s because for the first time in my comfortable middle-class life, I have seen things.

I’ve seen the tree against which soldiers in the Khmer Rouge smashed the heads of innocent babies.

I’ve seen a Thai girl in a skin-tight dress lead an ancient white man down the streets of Bangkok’s Red Light District plastering on a smile that was so empty. So empty. So empty.

I’ve held the hand of a 6-year-old girl who’s living at a girls’ home because her parents can’t feed themselves unless they sell her.

Why. Why why why why. It’s suffocating grief. It’s been thousands, maybe millions, of years since Chapter One of this story when You and Your people started to move in the direction of universal delight.

And after all this time, You, my Powerful One, have still not brought shalom to completion. You’ve called millions of Christians to be living sacrifices in pursuit of wholeness. And in response? You have let billions of image-bearers live in Hell on Earth and then die into Hell eternal.

If I’m being honest, God? If they were my daughters … and if I had all Your power … none of this would happen. Ever.

If I’m being honest? Most of the days I’ve been here, I’ve deeply doubted the perfection of Your will.

I know there’s immediate comfort and Truth in Scripture that removes the edge off my anger and grief. But I don’t want it right now. I don’t want to praise You. I want to sit in this just a little. Don’t You think these people deserve my temper tantrums for their pain? … the pain You claim to hate and yet allow to occur on a mind-blowingly massive scale?

And yet. Yet as hard as I try, I can’t help but know these Truths through the Spirit who has taken up residence in my distrustful heart:

I know that the only reason I love shalom and hate all this is because I’m made in Your image.

I know You d i e d to restore shalom.

I somehow still love You more than life.

I trust You … even just a little?

You are God and I’m just not.

And my white-knuckled fist opens to surrender as I choose Scripture, the only Truth I would stake my life on:

I don’t get it, but You have done it all, You have set everything right. You will faithfully bring forth justice and will not be disheartened until it’s established in the Earth (Isaiah 42:4). You know all about the injustice, the abuse. I dare to believe that the luckless will get lucky someday in You. I dare to believe that You won’t let them down: orphans won’t be orphans forever. Your grace and order wins and godlessness loses (Psalm 10:14-16). You are the God who executes justice for the orphan and the widow (Deuteronomy 10:18). The earth is f u l l of Your unfailing love (Psalm 33:5). I know You will maintain the cause of the poor and justice for the poor (Psalm 140:12).

Jesus, I hate the darkness. And right now, I hate Your timing. But, even when I think I know better, You allow me to believe You are who You say You are.

And that’s somehow always enough.

There are angry, questioning, grieving, confused tears rolling down my cheeks as I whisper with every bit of the mustard seed faith You have given me: my Love, thank You for being shalom.

S H A L O M

Seeing Jesus

{Guest Post!} My dear dad wrote this for church, but he agreed to let me post it on the blog as well. I’m so thankful for him, for Camp Celebrate, and for a Best Friend whose heart is for people. We’re nine days away from that beautiful mountainous drive back to camp, and I almost literally can’t wait:

For one week every July, our family serves at a special needs family camp in Tennessee. This particular family camp is dedicated to the belief that every member of the family needs to be ministered to, not just the person with special needs.

Each volunteer is assigned to a family for the week, serving them in whatever capacity would be a blessing for them.

Last year, I was assigned to serve a young man named Chris (name changed). One day while working with him, he made some sounds. I knew that was him trying to communicate, but I hadn’t learned his sound patterns yet.

His mom said, “do you know what Chris just said?” “No”, I replied. “He said, ‘I love you, Gary’“.

In that moment I was speechless, crying, and asked if I could leave the room for a moment.

His mom said, sure, take your time. It was probably one of the most beautiful experiences of my entire life.

After I had composed myself, I returned to the room and everything went on as planned.

His mom later wrote an email to me with this paragraph:

You know there are times when I think God ALLOWS you to be speechless so you can just enjoy His presence. I think He doesn’t want us to clutter His beauty with our blundering words, just to sit and soak it up like a dried-out sponge.

God allows us to be speechless so we can enjoy His presence…

God doesn’t want us to clutter His beauty with our blundering words…

The next day, Chris’ mom asked me if there was any way we could get him to the pool.

Now, we’re at a camp in the mountains of East Tennessee. The pool is up on a hillside with only a gravel driveway to it. I said, “if you can drive the van up there, I will get him in the pool”. So we got Chris all strapped into the van and off we go.

Now we’re driving up this narrow, single lane, no-guardrail driveway that’s kind of sloped to the downhill side.

We’re sliding a little. Chris’ mom is white knuckling it. We slide a little more.

Finally she throws the van into park, gets out and says to me: “YOU drive, I’M walking”. Long story short, we got Chris in the pool and it was such an absolute joy to him and a blessing to his mom.

Of course, now I have to drive the van back down the hill. I’m white knuckling it, we’re sliding a little and halfway down – you know what happens next – Chris utters those same sounds. His sister translates to me: “I love you, Gary“.

NOT NOW, CHRIS, NOT WHILE I’M DRIVING ON THIS HILL!!

One thing that every family at Camp Celebrate will tell you is that, in addition to all of the challenges that go with having a family member with special needs (and there are many), one of the hardest is the isolation, particularly from fellowship with other believers.

They tell of never being asked to join a small group.Or, if asked, the group being completely insensitive to their circumstances. They tell of never being invited to someone’s home for dinner. Of no one ever coming over to visit.

They tell of avoidance by other Christians, even while at church. Of conversations that are essentially exclusionary, even painful to them. You know the conversations – about how great your vacation to the beach was when they haven’t been on vacation in 28 years. About how successful your kids are. About how hard your comfortable middle-class life is.

They tell of how difficult it is to find a church that doesn’t essentially have utilitarianism as its philosophy of ministry. You know: you’re only as important to the body as you’re useful – how many meetings you can attend, how many “church” ministries you serve in (not recognizing the fact that you serve one member of the body of Christ 24/7/365). They tell of how churches claim they don’t have a utilitarian philosophy of ministry and of how the truth is that many do.

They tell of even being asked to leave their church because their child with a disability is too disruptive, beyond the church’s ability to minister to when no one even seemed to try.

Family camp tries to begin to heal those wounds: through the wounds of Jesus, and by being the hands and feet of Jesus to these families.

Again from an email Chris’ mom sent regarding her experience at camp: “It’s just a joy to be around God’s people and enjoy total acceptance”.

Did you hear that? All she wanted was to know she was accepted.

The volunteers have a debriefing meeting every morning before the day begins. On many mornings, the camp director begins by asking the question, “who saw Jesus yesterday?”

And each time the answers nearly bring you to tears because you realize not only how rare, but also how beautiful and what a privilege it is to see Jesus.

 

Seeing Jesus