Breaking the silence on life as of late.

ruins-of-detroit_marchand-and-meffre_18 After I had hammered my heart into trite syllables on the page, I took a deep breath and clicked submit, hurling my great big, messy feelings across cyberspace to land safely in Liz's inbox. The week before, I woke up to the news that three thousand miles away, a girl not much older than me had chosen to end her life after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. After reading about her trip to the Grand Canyon, I found myself asking my husband about his dreams. When you love someone, your dreams seem small in comparison to the overwhelming desire to see another person's dreams become reality. You find yourself wishing you could stretch each second, because you realize that this life is but a vapor. And I was trying to write light all over the place, because yeah, this tunnel can seem twisted and dark.

"I don't even know where to begin," I told Liz. I feel as though I've just bought into the idea that once my life looked a certain way, I would feel fulfilled. I mean, I have a college degree, a handsome and endlessly patient husband, a sweet little house in a sleepy little town, and a job that everyone tells me is meaningful. Someone at church called me a hero last week, and when the lady at the doctor's office asked about my occupation, she nodded solemnly at my response and quietly assured that it takes a special person. I guess you could say I have all my ducks in a row. From the outside, my life looks like one to admire and aspire to. But behind the scenes, I feel a bit like Rose must have felt as she was hanging off the back end of the Titanic. Just get me off this ride.

Oh, if I only had a dollar for every time someone has said "it takes a special person," I would never have to work another day in my life. It seems like if anything is going to be meaningful, it will take a special person to make it so. I don't tell the woman in the doctor's office about the night I was out till two in the morning, returning a runaway teenage girl to her placement. I don't tell her about the boy who stole my scissors from my desk and sneered at me. I don't tell her that I'm there because my blood pressure and pulse are through the roof. I don't tell her about the cost.

Nobility wasn't holding my tongue. It was fear. Fear that comes up from behind to cop a feel, and then robs you of whatever innocence you have. Fear that leaves you used up, busted up, and torn down, like a looted building after a storm. Fear that whispers you're not special, you're nothing. Who will want you?

I think about desire, infused deep in the marrow of my bones, these soundless pleas housed in some far off chamber of my heart. My mind reels with questions. What if I'm not a special person? What if I'll never do anything meaningful, or truly feel fulfilled? What if I don't have what it takes? What if I end up with a strike out instead of a knock out?

Were you a fly on the wall of my Amazon purchases recently, you'd likely notice a pattern. Books about restlessness, desire, the power of saying yes and no, creating space to breathe, discovering the sweet hidden in the bitter, healing depression and anxiety. I often think back to a time when life didn't seem to require so many trips to the self-help shelf, a time when passion didn't have to be boxed in by a cubicle. And I think about all the people who say things like "if you don't like what you're doing, quit," as if it were really that simple.

"But how do you even start?" I asked in the email. And I wonder, do I just have trust issues? How in the world do you balance practicality with trusting God, anyway? 

Her response radiates two short words: just start. 

She says find out who it is you want to be in the world, instead of what you want to do. The what always changes with the who. And face the hard parts, knowing that sometimes you won't come alive the way you thought you would.

But sometimes you will.

So I hold on, just a little bit longer, rope fraying and hands bleeding. Because there will be a day when passion and purpose collide, and who says it won't be tomorrow?


 

I'm going to try to take some time away for the holidays, and hopefully come back  with some fresh perspectives in 2015. Also because Lysa TerKeurst shared on her IG feed the other day that thinking about it, talking about it, and worrying about it is not the same as praying about it. And there are some things I want to meet with Jesus about.

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meditations on the symmetry of grace.

Jeff Goins says that social networking is much more than a conversation -- it is an opportunity to build something new. I'm trying hard to learn. But last week, another ugly headline shows up in my feed, which more often than not serves as a constant reminder of depravity rather than inspiration. A little boy bullied, no more an hour from my hometown; told that he is no good because he favors this cartoon over that one. And my heart gets heavy, because I've seen how those stories play out. I marvel when someone comments and grossly chalks it up to survival of the fittest, as if to say that the world would be better off without this boy and his perceived weakness. They say that at the end of the day, we're fallen and we can't change it. They say to try to blaze a new trail will inevitably lead to more hurt. I quietly tried to ease my acid stomach, fire and frustration rising in my gut. And I tried to shake off the feelings of responsibility, knowing that I contribute to and reinforce this kind of thinking every time the weird kid talks to me at Bible study.

Maybe I'm writing this because I'm tired of being fallen. Maybe I'm writing this to own up to all the excuses I've made.

As we traversed through the foggy darkness towards the comfort and warmth of home, my husband and I speak of redemption and light versus dark. Sunday morning, words of redemption and identity fill up a screen and flood through speakers. The soul inside whispered amen again and again.

Redemption: the act of purchasing something with the intention of setting it free. 

Frequently, I hearken back to the day when Professor Wanner shifted the cosmos of my life in fifty short minutes with his talk on redemption, and how, really, grace is symmetrical. 

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The whole of creation was redeemed through Christ's death and resurrection. Scripture says that we were purchased at a high cost. But the freedom song does not end there. True freedom is to fully live out our purpose. 

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When God said "let us make man in our image," He lovingly bestowed on humanity the ability and responsibility to take part in creation. It gave Him pleasure to allow us to share in the shaping of culture by expanding the kingdom-garden. Sometimes we look at culture as an ugly green monster that we must fight to overcome, rather than what it truly is: the overflow of our own hearts. We spend all of our time talking about how dark it is instead of assuming our true identity and purpose, which is to say let there be light. 

Maybe I'm writing this because I'm tired of a life spent basking in the darkness. Maybe I miss life with Him in the garden.

Let there be light in my thinking, let there be light in the words that I speak and the words that leap across this page. Let there be light in the way that I treat my husband and our families and friends. Let there be light in the way that I treat the girl at Starbucks who makes my coffee in the morning. Let there be light in the way I prepare for and raise my someday babies, who will, in turn, go forth and shape culture. Let there be light.

I am responsible for changing culture, and I have to start with myself. And knowing who I am begins with knowing who He is. There is no mystery or trickery to it. Knowing Him is never a game of hide and seek. The torn veil gave me access. The plan is outlined in His Word: to draw us to Himself, for His glory to be unleashed upon the earth in and through our lives.

It begins with believing what He says about me: that I am redeemed and restored. No longer am I a slave to the darkness. I am the vessel that God, in His infinite grace and mercy, chooses to use to make His appeal -- a minister of reconciliation.

It begins with remembering that the head of the snake has been crushed. The source of all my doubt, he slyly concocted a sweet recipe for my anxiety: can I really trust what God says? How great the lengths Christ went to in order to redeem that which had been lost. How unimaginable the depth of despair as He turned His face away so that one day we might see Him for who He is.

We cannot possibly understand who we are until we begin to grasp who He is.

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He could have just as easily done without me and my weakness. But in His grace, He chose me. He ran after me, relentlessly declaring love. Never ceasing for a moment to say remember, my love, who I created you to be.

 

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for me and my sister and women everywhere.

Today, you are seventeen. You’ve finished high school, and you’re preparing to move on to everything you believe will be bigger and better and everything that is yes. You are in the most beautiful season of life, just beginning to get a glimpse of who you are and the great passion that lies within your heart. This morning, I woke up to a text message from you, asking what Peter meant when he said that women should have quiet and gentle spirits. And while I feebly attempted to offer some thoughts on the matter, the truth is, I am still learning, and that is hardly the kind of conversation that can flourish in the world of 140 characters. “but let [beauty] be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of the Lord.” -- 1 Peter 3:4

A gentle and quiet spirit. What does that even mean in today’s world, where choices and opinions and the pressure to conform are heaped on us in heavy and unmerciful doses. Too often, it is difficult to discern. I come empty, and I pray for words.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit is always creating. It doesn't matter if you‘re dancing on pointe across a brilliantly lit stage or dancing with your little brother after he wins his first little league game. It doesn't matter if you have watercolor paintings in some hip art gallery, or finger paintings on the fridge. It doesn't matter if you write best selling novels, or encouraging post it notes for your coworkers. It doesn't matter if you sing opera, or sing the Barney song fifty-six times to get your toddler to go to sleep. Whether you believe that you are creative or not, you are always creating. Because God in heaven who crafted you did so lovingly in His own image, therefore allowing you to take part in this grand adventure of creating life. Every moment of your life is spent creating something. How you live will determine what you create and what is left behind when you are no longer walking on the earth.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit is a woman who knows who she is. Have you ever noticed that the people who scream the loudest tend to be the most uncomfortable with themselves? It takes security to live a quiet and gentle life. It takes not only knowing who you are, but whose you are. Sister, you belong to the Lord. Your worth comes from the image you bear and the work of the cross. When you allow others to determine your worth, your life will become about proving yourself, whether they see the whore or the saint. And that passion and spark inside you? God gave that to you, and wherever you are in your life, He will equip you to minister through that passion. Don’t you dare fall prey to the belief that He cannot use you right where you are. Resolve to know deep in your bones that He is able. Even if you have to write it on your bathroom mirror and repeat it to yourself every day.  This is beauty hidden in the heart.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit knows the importance of godly counsel. I think as women we often battle feelings of self sufficiency and believing not only that you can go it alone, but maybe even that you should go it alone. This is not true. We need other women (and men, too) who are firmly rooted in scripture and who speak truth into our lives on a consistent basis. Seek these people. Ask God to reveal them to you. And not only that, but ask God to mold your heart in such a way that you can serve others this way.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit has the ability to think critically for herself.  The lack of sound mind present in the world and in the church today burdens me. Some in the church have gone so far as to say that we as women should only endorse the thoughts of our husbands or our parents or our pastors and receive what they say as absolute. But you have been given the ability to discern what is good and pleasing to the Lord and how to live your life in a way that is healthy. Take your thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. You have been given the responsibility of creating boundaries for your conduct. Perhaps those boundaries won't be exactly what your parents or youth pastor or friends at work think they should be. This is something that you must work through for yourself. And that is not just okay, its really and truly beautiful.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit is a woman who serves others. The heart of Christ is the heart of a servant. When you bless others, your life becomes rich and full. Be quick to assist those who are in need. Do your work in such a way that the Lord would use you to draw those around you to Himself. You are the light of the world, called to be an ambassador. Service is often messy and awkward and it might mean you’re the first person there and the last one to leave. Usually, messy awkward heart service doesn’t come with accolades. But the true heart of service does not seek to make a name for itself. Rather, it strives solely to make Christ the center of attention.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit lives a life of gratitude. Every moment we have on this earth is a gift. Sometimes it seems extraordinary and beautiful and exciting, and sometimes it feels devastating and like we can’t make it another day. But we have been promised that nothing is impossible for the Lord, and that when we are faithful to the small things and obey His commandments, He will enlarge our hearts. In the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy, and we enter His presence through the gates of thanksgiving. This is the will of the Father for those in Christ.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit knows how to live grace. This might be the scariest of all, because grace moves you. Living grace means letting go. A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit is often described as being gracious toward others, but if you’re anything like me, receiving grace can be terrifying. A woman who lives grace understands that the soul requires room to breathe. It is okay to admit that you don’t have every answer. You will make many mistakes along the way, and those are okay to admit, too. The beautiful thing about grace is that it was completed at the cross. You don’t have to try so hard to do everything right, you simply have to be.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit lives abundantly. You have been given this amazing, wild life. Fill it well. Never be afraid to go out on a limb, because the limb experiences are the most gratifying and rich. Don’t shy away from the excitement for fear of how others might see you. This time in your life, especially, is one of the most fun and adventure filled that you will ever have. Embrace the wide eyed wonder and enthusiasm.

A woman with a quiet and gentle spirit lives out her purpose. I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She was so young, and engaged to be married. She had dreams and plans and ideas of what her life would be that never included becoming pregnant with the Son of God. The consequences of her pregnancy would be severe. Yet when the angel spoke that the Lord had found favor with her, she said "I am the Lord's servant, may it be as you have said." Scripture says she treasured these things and pondered them in her heart. A quiet and gentle spirit accepts the mystery that He gives, knowing that what might seem like inconvenience or bring about fear could also be the thing that births the saving grace.

Sister, you are strong. You are beautiful. You have wonderful things to offer the world. You are loved more than you can imagine.