When You Need to Know You're Loved Right Here.

Never in my life have I clung more to Jeremiah 29:11. For most of my life, having grown up in the church, this verse was commonplace to me: as one of the most commonly quoted verses in scripture, I had heard it so often that it began to lose its meaning. It was always the theme verse for camps and youth events and bible studies, and I had managed to file those words away in a drawer at the very back corner of my mind. Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetI didn't really struggle with planning until I went away to college, and my time had to be more stringently delegated. Professors told me that college was like a triangle, with a social life, grades, and sleep, and I could only ever have two of the three. No matter what I was doing, I would be sacrificing time that could be put towards something else. And I couldn't tell you now exactly when it happened, but at some point back there, I morphed from a person who could fairly easily go with the flow, to someone who very nearly needed to plan out every hour of the day. To this day, I am still very much the latter personality.

Between graduation, getting married, and getting a job, I feel as though I got sucked into a vortex of constantly needing to plan and make decisions -- not only for whatever is going on in my life at the present moment, but also for the future. And I feel the weight of responsibility for every decision made, even the seemingly arbitrary ones. Things that I ultimately have no power over whatsoever, I somehow end up feeling responsible for.

A script from a television show arrests my attention: "she is a narcissist," it says. "You can't believe everything is your fault unless you also believe that you are all powerful." 

The words leave my lungs feeling strained, and I didn't want to hear them, and I try to shake off the fact that Jesus is still in the habit of using whatever is in front of us, ordinary things, to bring our attention to him. 

It seems silly. It seems elementary. It seems like I should know better and why am I reading the same page over and over?

Have you ever heard the saying "we plan and God laughs?" Sometimes, I don't believe He finds it all that humorous in the light of day. I think it breaks His heart, this endless flailing of mine.

He is still inviting me to rest, still wooing me and beckoning me to trust that all things are held together by His infinite grace. He knows the plans He has for me. He knew exactly who and where I would be at this moment, and Spurgeon says "had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, Divine Love would have put you there."

Its a promise that wherever you are right now, there is meaning and purpose. We are being made whole.

The trial is learning to rest in the middle of wherever I am, knowing that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and believing that He gives His children good gifts. He disciplines those that He loves. He teaches those that He loves. He directs those that He loves. And (later on in Jeremiah,) He says He has loved us with an everlasting love. That means no height, no depth, no fear, no plan for the future, no regret from the past, or anything else can keep me from His love.

Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief. In the morning, when I wake up feeling just as tired as when I laid my head down, help my unbelief. In the afternoon, when I want to be somewhere -- anywhere -- else, help my unbelief. And when I lay down, my body tense from the constant anxiety of bracing myself for the unknown, help my unbelief. When I doubt the nearness of Your presence, give me faith. When I doubt the fullness of Your love, help me to hold onto these truths, that from ashes, You bring forth beauty. Teach and direct this feeble flesh. Keep holding me together.

And help me to slow down, to open my hands to Your grace. Help me to remember that I don't need to have every answer, but rather, I can trust the One who does. Help me to lean not unto my own understanding. Let joy and rest be the balm to this burnt out heart.

Give me the grace, the unshakable grace, to laugh at the days to come -- trusting, unshakably trusting, that You have a plan.

A plan for good, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. And in those days, when you pray, I will listen. When you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will Find me. I will be found by you, says the LORD.

Five Minute Friday | Worship

I have considered myself a Christian for the better part of two decades now. I've seen everything from liturgical to pentecostal worship, and heard around a thousand sermons. But only in the past few years have I begun to understand the gravity of worship, and allowing myself to experience the full spectrum of emotion in the presence of a God who knit me. The cancer had taken over his once strong body, leaving little but a skeleton and a hope that barely flickered. We found out just after Christmas, and the following night, I was physically unable to stand in the worship service I attended. I knelt in the floor, releasing any semblance of pride I attempted to carry in the door. Face buried in the pew, I wept. My heart heaved the deepest pain I had ever felt at the injustice of it all. How could a loving God make us face this?

I was furious and confused, and worship didn't come easily. Not for months. But the same breath that spoke my willingness to abandon everything I knew also pleaded for the touch of grace.

It was only his words, blogged on a site used to connect loved ones when a family member is terminally ill, that gently guided me back to the altar: I want all of you who love me to know that my heart is full. I am often angry or disconcerted with how life seems to unfold so unjustly, but I am filled with the love of God, in some way that I do not fully understand. 

I slowly came to understand that regardless of whether or not God intervened to heal, He was still good. He fills the empty spaces of our souls.

In death, in life, I'm confident and covered by the power of Your great love. 

My friend Jonathan knew it, too. I miss him dearly, and still find myself wishing that I knew him better when he was alive. I also don't know God as well as I would like to, but I'm sure that wherever God is, Jonathan is there, too, and his bones no longer ache with the weight of cancer.

Something in me changed when Jonathan got sick, and eventually left this earth. Perhaps it takes walking through a desert, experiencing the fire, to learn worship. Perhaps it takes losing something you hold dear in order to brush up against the sovereignty of God. I have no doubt that He grieved alongside Jonathan's loved ones, this God who watched His son hang bloody on a cross. I marvel that He knows the inner workings of our hearts and chooses to share our joy and our pain.

Pssst! Want a peek at my worship playlist on Spotify? As I wrote, I listened to Meredith Andrews, Hillsong, Matt Redman, All Sons & Daughters, Elevation Worship, and Bethel Worship.

The spring of the forest fire.

Oh, how quickly a forest is destroyed with only a single spark. Scripture says that only ashes remain when a rumor is ignited. I have been burned alive, left in smolders by those who thrive on spreading the blaze. Sabrina Ward Harrison once mused that she was afraid that others would find out who she was before she did, and that she would be the last to know. This used to be me, too. I have spent my twenty-two years wrestling. But I finally feel like I know who I am. Once, I felt as though I lacked something to fight for, but today, I know what I am protecting. Ever more importantly, I know whose I am, and who is protecting me.

One of my greatest ambitions is to lead a quiet life, unplagued by the hustle, bustle, and emergency that is screamed to me from every angle. To be in the world and not of it. I have craved strength and dignity, the ability to laugh at the days to come. This is truly the desire of my heart.

I have been hurt countless times by the sword words and judgment of others. I’ve repeated their darkness over and over to myself, but I’m done with that now. I must also confess that I, too, am prone to these judgmental tendencies, and yet through grace alone, I have been proven wrong about many things and people.

I never wanted to punish anyone… nearly as much as I do not want to be punished.

But sometimes, inevitably, the flint messes in our lives rub each other the wrong way. When a fire erupts, the soil can respond one of two ways: sometimes, the soil can benefit, but under other circumstances, the flames could cause detrimental erosion.

And what of grace? Can it really reach down to where we are when we’re at the end of our rope?

Could a garden come up from this ground at all? 

Depending on my heart’s response, this is not the end of the story. I choose the good. I choose right now to be better. The nutrients in the soil increase when there is a fire. The flames may destroy, but they leave quiet room for restoration. What death is experienced in the heat is miraculously contributing to the creation of something new.

Out of chaos, life is being found. 

Grace prevails every time. I am left with no room for doubt.

Yes, I know who I am. My identity is no longer found in what man might say about me. I have been redefined. Love really is amazing, and I am fighting to the death to protect it. In his book “The Cost of Discipleship,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated that “by judging others, we blind ourselves to our evil and to the grace that others are entitled to as we are.”

May I speak grace as the gentle answer, so as to turn away wrath. What man has meant for harm, God has redeemed in order to accomplish His will.