sabbath and the church of clean bed sheets.

Tonight, church looks like stretching out under freshly washed bed sheets with a lavender candle flickering on the side table. I can barely hear the hum of the dryer over the worship album flooding through my headphones. It is Saturday. Sabbath. These ordained moments, preciously crafted to remind me that rest was never an afterthought. These moments, intricately designed to still my soul and return my attention to Father God.

Tomorrow, things change. I have known this for going on four weeks now, and have forced myself to be cautiously optimistic. Whenever someone asked me if I am excited for what is to come, this is how I have described myself, trying not to let on that change has never been something that I have relished, especially when the plucking from all familiarity is completely beyond my control.

This place is where I come to tell the truth: I am deeply afraid. But you already knew that. Fear has never had to force its way to center stage in my life, simply because I have never really had the courage to stand up to it. Perhaps what I'm realizing tonight, the truth that leaves me lying awake, is that that is beginning to change, too. It is an uncomfortable revelation, because I have learned there is a certain feeling of security that comes with allowing fear to run the show.

That verse about fear and love not being able to coexist? I've always known it. But what the mind has filed away doesn't always find its way to the heart, and trust is a path not quickly or easily worn.

Call me crazy, but I feel like I'm about to go on a date with God. 

I never went on many dates, but on the rare occasion that I was asked, I would always stand in front of the closet for what seemed like hours trying to decide between classic black and something more bold and adventurous. I would fret over the possibility of getting spinach stuck in my teeth or saying the wrong thing, after which the date would consist solely of awkward silence. And I would try to recollect all the small details about my life that seemed impressive and enticing. The possibility would absolutely terrify and excite me.

Something is different about this, though.

He already loves me. Just the way I look tonight. I am unarmed and I am undone. 

Nothing I could boast will impress him. No flaw will deter him. But I try anyway. Like Gideon, crouched in hiding, I whisper through the tears: surely, you have chosen the wrong person for this victory, this wild love affair.

His response is always the same. He simply asks me to trust him through the uncertainty. He asks if he can go before me, and I can tell, he's hoping this time his pleas will get stuck in the cracks of my worn out heart. His face is tender as he quietly speaks a bigger truth: striving has never been the way to meet love. I breathe deep. We both know that I am exhausted.

A friend told me this years ago, and her words have never left me: everything Jesus is says that it is okay to be weary. Everything about him says that it is okay to be uncertain. We simply have to be willing to bend a little, and it is okay to acknowledge that flexibility doesn't happen overnight. It takes practice and discipline and showing up, even when you're scared, and even when inspiration seems to have stood you up.

For the first time, perhaps in my entire life, my hunger for the love weighs more than my fear of the uncertainty. It outweighs my perceptions of control and safety, which can't save me, even on my best days. My hunger for this love affair is more intense than any desire for success or popularity or any trivial thing that I have worked to earn.

Because what I can be certain of is that if I let him go before me, I can trust that he will catch me. He will dust me off and sweep me off my feet again. I can feel him beginning to win my heart; fear being crowded out as he patiently woos me.

And I want to keep showing up for this. Because the greatest love stories always grow from uncertainty, closing your eyes, and leaping anyway.

 

When You're Not Sure what You Have to Offer: an (in)RL Story

I've spent the past few months wondering what it is I have to offer. There have been many days spent ugly crying, days spent pretending and vainly attempting to make myself appear more attractive, and days just spent in silence. I've wrestled with my story, struggling to find the words to say to you and to myself. Almost a month ago, the twentysomethings gathered in our pastor's house and were issued a challenge to come up with a mission statement for our lives. I was already struggling with feeling unqualified, especially among a group of worship leaders, children's ministry leaders, the color-coded spreadsheet maker. It seemed like everyone else's stories were so fluid and inevitably better than my own. I wondered in those moments why I argued with my husband about going to this gathering in the first place, and now, I'm expected to map out the trajectory of my life in a paragraph? I shrunk into my chair, my heart sinking back into the hole it had dared to crawl out of.

I wonder if my story has a place. Sometimes, I wonder if it even has a plot. And I want it to be wrapped up in a curled bow if and when I do offer it to you.

But really, would a story neatly wrapped up with a perfectly curled bow do anyone any good? {Click to Tweet}

Perhaps it all came to a gruesome head over Easter weekend. Saturday morning was spent with a foster child who revealed secret abuse, and then in the afternoon, a family member's words cut deep. How much of the world have you really seen, she asked, and I think sometimes maybe the devil can squeeze himself in between the syllables. And in the midst of it all, I sent out a plea for prayer. People rallied from all over the internet, most without even known what to pray for.

Then, at the end of April, I stayed up late on a Friday to watch the stories of beautiful women unfold on a screen. The entire  hour and a half was spent in a cadence of tears and laughter, sensing the presence of the Lord as I hear the hearts of so many beautiful women over at (in)courage. The next day, I drove an hour and a half down the road to Dawn's house and met with a few of those women. I wondered, would my struggle to be accepted and to belong be the elephant in the room? Would it be painfully obvious that I was trying to overcompensate for what I thought I was lacking? This meet up was all about being real about our stories, and for months, I haven't known how to write the first word. Not to mention how I've struggled with the byline, wrestling God for the upper hand, for the right to control how my life's plot unfolds.

A church sign scrolls on my half hour commute from the office to the comfort of home: does your spiritual house need a spring cleaning? And sometimes it's the small things that grab hold of your attention, tears threatening to dive off your cheeks as your tires pound the pavement at sixty-five. I wonder, in all the noise -- the hiss heard in between the syllables of her retort, the whistle of the bombs falling in the war of comparing myself -- have I forgotten my passion?

I sit like this until a Tuesday morning conversation over breakfast. She was, for all intents and purposes, a stranger to me at the time. Our work occasionally brought us together with a quaint "how are you," but there was never any more than that. But we ended up talking for the better part of an hour. On the surface, our words bounced back and forth on the topic of what we could do for the foster child from weeks before. But beneath the surface? Our words were fueled by passion for the power of stories.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. -- Revelation 12:11a

This is how we overcome, by looking back and seeing how God had redeemed our stories. By telling the devil that his head was crushed and in no manner will he be the victor over our lives {Click to Tweet}.

Recently, I've been going through an old sermon series from college, in which our campus pastor talks about God reaching into our weakest, most tender places -- the dark spaces that bring us shame and lead us to believe that we could never house glory -- and transforming them in His power. It is the crux of scripture: His strength being made perfect in our weakness. {Click to Tweet.}

Not to say that the Lord needs me. Grace says He chooses me.

Dear heart, when you are at what seems like the end of your rope -- the end of your hope -- He is calling. When you feel like there is nothing good about who you are, remember that tiny three word declaration: it is good.

There are days and weeks where it feels like my well is all but dried up. My heart, devoid of inspiration. My heart, empty. And in the middle of it all, I shrink into the oblivion of feeling unqualified.

I forget that's the kind of person God wants. 

At twenty-three years old, I can literally do just about anything I want. And what I want, more than anything else, is for my one life, my one story, to make His name great.

If you have prayed for me over the past few weeks, I can only offer my humble thanks, and ask that you would continue praying. Pray for wisdom, pray for increased sensitivity to His voice. Pray for divine appointments and confirmation. Pray that my faith would exceed my doubt, and in the midst of it all, I would know His presence.

And I will pray the same for you.