The Craziest Idea I’ve Ever Had

Summer, Unplugged.

That’s what’s happening in my house right now.

The name is a little misleading because we’re not *technically* unplugged. We didn’t give up the internet or texting or Netflix – we’re not savages, after all.

It’s more like Summer, Logged Off.

Or Summer, Uninstalled.

See, we have uninstalled every* app, logged off of every website, and given up social media for the duration of summer break.

We have unplugged ourselves from our phones.

I know, right? Weird.

I gotta admit, I expected it to be awful. I was not looking forward to taking my last scroll through Facebook, so I put it off as late on the first day as possible. The Family Uninstalling Meeting didn’t happen until 8:30 p.m.

Then, like the old woman I am, I went to bed.

Scared. Anxious. Worried about what kind of attitudes I would face in the coming days.

The outright whines about boredom.

The incessant begging to just reinstall *one* app with a promise to check it only once a day.

And that was just from me. I couldn’t bear to think about how the kids were gonna respond.

But then I woke up the next day and started on my new morning routine. Instead of scrolling through Facebook while I drank my morning coffee, I sat in my writing chair where I had laid out my Bible, notebook, and newly-started bullet journal the night before.

I read, wrote, and, while my early-risers ran in and out of my room, I even put on some worship music and prayed.

Over the summer.

Over my kids.

Over this crazy thing we’re doing that is definitely not the easy thing and you know what, God? I LIKE easy. Easy is my favorite. It sits right alongside “comfortable” on my list of “How I Want My Summer to Be.”

Those are the only two things on that list, by the way. Easy and Comfortable.

But there was no voice from Heaven that thundered, “You’re right, daughter, easy is better.”

There was no ghostly hand writing on the wall, “Reinstall, it’s fine.”

No still small voice that whispered, “You can plug back in. You don’t need to see your children’s faces over summer break anyway.”

I stared at the wall for a while longer than necessary, just in case, though. Even opened and unlocked my phone several times just to check if maybe God had sent me text or a Godbook notification.

Nope.

So the day must begin.

I joined the boys in the living room to find that my youngest and oldest kids were playing together (without being told to do so?! Not likely, but there they were), building block towers to run down with an RC tank.

Tyler wasn’t on the computer where he spends 97% of his time simultaneously playing video games, watching YouTube, and trolling Amazon for computer equipment none of us can afford.

Ben wasn’t glued to the TV because it’s the only human interaction he can get that early in the morning.

Bren was still in bed, of course, because it was barely 8 a.m. (and she’s the least savage of all of us).

I decided to start a puzzle (“Mom! I don’t want to do puzzles all summer. Puzzles are stupid. I am NOT going to do puzzles!” – Bren, the night before) which I later rage-quit because those stupid pieces didn’t even fit together and who’s idea was this anyway?!?

But before I became aware that the puzzle was fundamentally flawed, both older kids were helping me and we were actually having a great time.

Then it was time to run errands and go to lunch with my mom, and I made them all go (an expensive diversion that included a trip to Hobby Lobby to stock up on creativity supplies) and we had a great time doing that too.

Yesterday I worked on my computer in the morning while Bren drew and Ty worked on a model airplane.

Today we spent the morning cuddled under blankets watching episodes of The X Files and Lie to Me.

And you know what? Both of those things were great too.

So…

Day 3

*Tyler still posts on his Instagram account because he has a legitimate nerd-page with over 1000 nerd-followers he cannot disappoint. He just does it from my phone (since I don’t have an Instagram account to be tempted by) and it’s all posting and no scrolling. Scrolling is against the rules.

Also, I kinda kept my Pinterest app. WHAT? It’s INFORMATIVE. No judgement, man.

About Standing in the Gap

“God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”

– Psalm 68: 6

 I’ve lately been thinking about what it means to “stand in the gap” for another person. Through my connection with She Brews Coffee House and His House Ministry, both transition ministries for ex-offenders, I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with a ministry of that name, Stand in the Gap Ministries (SITG), whose vision is to fill the gaps “in the social service system, in the ministry of the local church, and in the lives of Oklahomans in need” by providing a spiritual family to come alongside them in prayer and emotional/spiritual support. The SITG process is practical: volunteers commit 3 hours a month for 12 months to meet with, pray for, and love a neighbor in need.

Jim and I, along with another couple, have joined together to become the spiritual family of J, a resident of one of His House Ministry’s transition homes. We’ll meet her for the first time on Sunday, and spend the next 12 months walking alongside her in friendship, mentorship, and prayer. Not only will we get to witness God’s healing and restorative work in her life, we’ll actually get to be a part of it. We will walk alongside her as God heals her heart, unpacks her gifts, and restores her relationships with her children, beginning a legacy that will impact her family for generations to come.

I haven’t met her yet, but I already know that J is God’s favorite daughter. What a sweet blessing it will be to watch Him reveal that fact to her.

“Neighbors are all around us. We love them by joining them on a journey to watch God unearth His new creation in the midst of their poverty and brokenness.”

– SITG training

Though I know and understand what it means to stand in the gap for J in practical terms, as I’ve pondered the concept I’ve been drawn to the biblical story of Nehemiah. In short, Nehemiah was an Israelite in exile serving as cupbearer to the Persian king. After hearing about the destruction of Jerusalem, that its walls had been torn down and its gates burned, he made it his mission to return to the city and rebuild the walls. The remnant that remained in Jerusalem was not only in “great trouble” because of their lack of protection, but they were also in disgrace. The state of the walls brought shame to the inhabitants of the city.

Despite his cushy position in the Persian king’s court and favor with the king himself, Nehemiah took that disgrace personally. When he was informed of the state of Jerusalem and his people, he mourned over it. The Bible says he “sat down and mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of Heaven.”

Anyone familiar with Old Testament traditions knows that for Jews mourning was no small feat. (Sackcloth and ashes? Yikes.) The Bible is clear that his was not a passing grief. He did not dwell briefly on the disturbing news before turning his attention to more pleasant things. He owned the state of his people as though he were right there with them. He repented of their sins as though they were his own sins. More importantly, to his mind they were his own sins. He felt and understood the intrinsic connection between himself and his fellow Israelites. He could not feel satisfied with the relative strength of his position knowing that his brothers suffered harm and humiliation in their weakness.

When I read the book of Nehemiah, I see a beautiful example of what it looks like to honor and protect the Body of Christ. I know we are connected – joint supplying joint, the entire body working together to build itself up in love – but do I know it the way Nehemiah knew it? Do I feel it in the same way? Nehemiah did not merely shake his head in dismay at what was happening among his people. He didn’t mourn from afar, grieving over what he could not change. He didn’t wait and hope that someone else would do something about it. Nor was he dismayed by the enormity of the task. A small remnant to rebuild an entire city wall? Was it even possible?

Instead, Nehemiah prayed, “God, grant me favor, because I’m gonna do something crazy to help Your people.”

And then he did it.

He asked the king – the same king who had previously decreed that no construction should take place in Jerusalem – if he could return to rebuild the walls. When the king granted permission, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, rounded up the remnant, encouraged them, and then set about working alongside them to rebuild the city’s walls and gates.

Basically, he saw an issue that grieved him, took ownership of it, and engaged in practical ministry to see God move in that area.

The guy is my hero.

As the work of rebuilding the walls and gates progressed, the Israelites’ old enemies rose up against them. They began attacking the city at the lowest points in the walls, where the workers were most vulnerable. The entire remnant became discouraged by the attacks. They began to say that the wall would never be rebuilt, their city would never be reclaimed, and their people would never be strong again. They were prepared to settle for their old way of life: defeated, in bondage to their enemies.

But Nehemiah was not.

Nehemiah writes, “I stationed people behind the lowest sections of the wall, at the vulnerable areas. I stationed them by families, with their swords, spears, and bows.” He told them, “Don’t be afraid of [our enemies]. Remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord, and fight for your countrymen, your sons and daughters, your wives and homes.”

And so they did. They gathered together in families to protect one another. By doing so the walls were rebuilt, the workers were defended, and the city was strengthened from within.

This must be what it means to stand in the gap for one another: to join together in strength, armed for battle, to defend and protect the vulnerable until they are able to defend and protect themselves. Until the whole body is strengthened.

I don’t know about you, but that’s something I can excited about.

A Confession of Sorts

“To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.”

– Anthony Doerr

I read an incredible book this week that I can’t get off my mind: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The story is thought-provoking and a little heart-wrenching – as all literary fiction seems to be – but it’s the writing that got me. It’s beautifully done, a true pleasure to read. I recently read Still Alice by Lisa Genova, which was clunky and awkwardly written (in my opinion, at least) but the story quickly sucked me in so that I stopped noticing the writing. Not so with All the Light We Cannot See. On nearly every page there were lines that made me stop and admire. Some continue to resonate even days later, like the one above. Before I even finished the digital copy I checked out from the library I ordered my own from Amazon. I literally cannot wait to hold it in my hands. Why?

Because it’s the kind of book that reminds me why I love to write. The creative ability of language is fascinating. Entire worlds that have never existed in anyone’s imagination become real. Feelings and emotions, thoughts and inward conversations, are stirred to life. We can live our lives in a type of darkness, never imagining what might be beyond it – never even caring, really. But then a story. And all of the sudden our eyes are opened to a world outside. Lives and histories are experienced by people who never lived them, all through a few arbitrary markings filling the blank space of a page.

The idea of it takes my breath.

Then today I awoke with a song in my head, “I Go to the Barn Because I like the” by Band of Horses. As far as songs go, this one is more like poetry than most. Something about the lyrics, combined with the simple melody and poignant harmony, has haunted me since I first heard it. It creates in me a true and powerful longing to write. Like the physical craving for a cigarette I used to feel way back when I was a smoker; I don’t just want to write, I need to write. I need to write beautiful lines filled with beautiful words used in new and different ways that, like Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, will open the eyes of the blind.

I’ve been listening to the song on repeat today. The feeling is not going away.

The last poem I wrote was nearly 2 years ago. It was “Mess,” which I shared a few days ago, and it was inspired by this song. Within the few months leading up to that poem I wrote several – more than I had in years, including a five poem series unlike anything I’ve ever written before.

Since then? Nothing.

Which brings me to today’s confession: sometimes I wish I had an empty, soundproof room, furnished with nothing but a comfortable chair, a laptop sans wi-fi, and a hundred empty notebooks with attached pens. In that room would never be heard the refrains of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood or the Sesame Street “Letter of the Day” song. There would be no teenagers talking about video games or about the philosophical implications of the Harry Potter series (though I confess I enjoy those conversations very much). In my dream I can spend a few hours in that room without feeling guilty for wanting to be there. While there no part of my life is neglected. All of my responsibilities wait patiently for my return. The time I spend in that room doesn’t pass like normal time, in seconds and minutes and hours squandered away by lack of inspiration and distraction. It is creative time – productive, redemptive time – that passes in lines and literary devices and healing. It refreshes my soul, loosens my muscles, and clears my head so that what lies outside it receives my full attention when I return.

A writer’s dream.

So now I truly, sincerely want to know: what’s in the room of your dreams? What do you do there? How do you feel when you’re inside?

No, really. I want to know.

Tell me.

Mess

Somehow I’ve become the mess you try

to straighten up

but never hide,

the watch you wear on your left arm

so proud as though

it still kept time,

the trophy from some childhood game –

its broken bat

and misspelled name,

honored on the mantelpiece –

once packed away

but now redeemed,

close to your heart the love you keep

with pockmarked scars

you never see.


On the Privilege of Feeling Disqualified

I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to feel disqualified.

We all do it at some point. We look at our pasts, our weaknesses, or our circumstances and we see that, compared to our dreams, goals, and aspirations, we are woefully inadequate. Laughably so.

What’s that, Emily? You want to write a book? About the one topic that NO ONE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD wants to read about?

*derisive snort*

You silly girl.

But this, my friends, is a perfect example of irony, which, according to Google, is “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects.”

Allow me to explain.

Last week I sat down with two friends to hear their stories.

{For a bit of context, the project I’m working on (it feels too weird to say “the book I’m writing”) includes the telling of sexual abuse survivor stories. This is not a thinly-veiled request for you to cover both the project and me as I’m writing it in prayer, but if you want to take it as such that’s fine with me.}

With the first friend, I had heard enough of her story to expect it to be similar to my own. I’ll not get into the details, but I could not have been more wrong. Strangely enough, out of all the stories I’ve written so far, hers has been the easiest. Yet as I write I am constantly aware of how very different our stories are, of how very little I can draw from my own experience to relate to hers. I have a voice in my head continually whispering, “You will never do her story justice. You cannot offer your reader even the faintest glimpse of what she has overcome.”

A few days after hearing the first story, I sat down with another friend. Actually, I don’t know if I can call S a friend quite yet. We’ve barely had the opportunity to spend any time together at all, but when I told her about a second project – one that has nothing to do with sexual abuse but that also involves writing other people’s stories – she immediately agreed to participate. With S I had no idea what to expect. I knew she’d been in prison for a lot of years, but I could only guess at why. To see S is to see a hard-working, faithful, and bold daughter of God whose gifts and callings are clearly evident. Nothing in her person or manner would suggest that she was or had ever been anything different than that.

Appearances, as they say, can be deceiving. Sometimes beautifully so.

The story S told me began at age 4 or 5, when a man – several men, actually – in her mother’s social circle began molesting her. By 7 or 8 she was being raped regularly by her older step-brother and then later her step-father. At 12, after her mother had gone to prison on drug convictions and the physical violence in her home had escalated to the point that she feared for her life, she finally told a counselor what had been happening.

By that time she was pregnant with good ol’ step-dad’s baby.

Both she and her younger sister were immediately placed in foster care, where just a few months after her 13th birthday S delivered and decided to keep her baby daughter.

But by then the pattern of abuse and misuse was too well established in S’s life to turn back. She couldn’t have known which way to turn, anyway. She’d never known a different way.

So began a cycle in S’s life: she ran away, became addicted to drugs, and began prostituting herself. The system would find her, drag her back, and place her in another home, another shelter. But she always ran away again – back to the drugs, back to the prostitution, even back to her step-dad, because at least his abuse was familiar. Her parental rights were terminated, her little girl was adopted, and S continued on as she was until age 15.

When she killed two people who had picked her up for sex.

Does your heart hurt yet? I know mine does.

S was convicted and sentenced to serve 10 years with 15 years of probation. The judge, in his mercy, took her life story into account when deciding the sentence, called everything she had endured “mitigating circumstances” and decided she should only 10 years rather than the full 25. With good behavior she could have been out in 3 ½.

She served 12.

In those 12 years S earned the dubious honor of being the worst behaved inmate in her prison’s history; her number of write-ups, rule violations, and disciplinary problems far surpassed anyone else’s.

At the end of those 12 years, can you guess what S did? If you’re like me, you’ll say you hope she turned her life around and became a productive and rehabilitated citizen. That’s what the system is for, right?

But S’s freedom, if you could call it that, lasted a little less than 2 years, and in that time she gave birth to a baby that was addicted to 4 different drugs, shared needles every day with at least one person with full blown AIDS, and supported her drug habit with prostitution.

Nevertheless
Our God is MIGHTY
Arms widespread for all who seek
To trust in Him
Is STRENGTH, renewal
To rest in Him is rest, complete

From the back of the police car the night she was arrested again, she cried out to God.

And He met her there.

Her life, literally – unbelievably – from that very moment, has never been the same.

I wish I could explain to you the fantastical beauty of her encounter with God, the sheer power of it, the incredible, incomprehensible glory of the day she met Jesus Christ for the first time. You who have known a glimpse of it would weep with me.

You who have not would weep as well, with longing to be loved so much.

The rest of her story is too beautiful for this writer to tell, but I will say it includes supernatural healing, deliverance, and the miraculous restoration of her life and family. She is a walking testament of the unconditional love of God.

So what does all of this have to do with feeling disqualified? Well, when I asked S what her goals are now, I expected her to tell me about bettering her education and starting a career. Only 9 months out of prison after serving an additional 8 years, she has made remarkable progress. She started a business called “She Does Odd Jobs with Integrity” that keeps her as busy as she would like. She’s also taking classes at TCC to learn a trade that will give her job security and marketable skills. After spending much of her adolescence and all of her adulthood up to this point in prison, she’s made great strides to do things the rest of us take for granted: learning to drive, holding a job, paying taxes. She has been blessed with emotional, practical, and spiritual support through two couples that volunteer with Standing in the Gap Ministries to walk alongside “women in transition” from prison to the outside world. Her future is bright with possibility; I expected her goals to reflect as much.

But you know what she said? “My goal is to keep serving the Lord, to be obedient and to do what He’s called me to do.”

I think of my own story, of the choices I’ve made that left me feeling weak and ashamed, that convinced me that I could never serve God in a meaningful way because look what I had done. Yet here was a woman who, by both the world’s and Christian standards, had never done anything “right” in her entire life. She has no track record with which to convince God that she is “worthy.” She had not a single thing to offer God except what He had provided for her.

Yet she does not feel disqualified. She instead knows she’s called, and in her own words, feels such a reverence for the Holy God who saved her that she can do nothing but be obedient to that calling.

And this is where it hits me: my feelings of disqualification are based on the false notion that I could have somehow earned my qualification if only. Telling myself I’m disqualified to serve God is the same as saying, “If I had not done this or that I would have been qualified – based on my own works, on my own merit, but alas, I blew it.” Even saying that my limited talent or skills make me disqualified is to believe that, if it were up to me, I could have have chosen a better person for the job God has called me to do.

Being qualified to fulfill the purposes of God in my life has nothing to do with what I’ve done and EVERYTHING to do with what Jesus did. The work He has done in me and for me is enough. To feel disqualified is to reject that work and to say that I could have somehow done it better.

S knows that, and I think I know it at different times, but so far removed am I from the transformative, regenerative, saving grace of God in my life, I find it easy to forget.

Oh, Jesus, I think. Your love truly is long-suffering.

So now, I write, knowing full well that HE has made me both qualified and capable of doing this thing He’s called me to do. It is not up to me to regard the difficulty of it, or it’s perceived senselessness, but only to obey.

I will write.

But I have to ask: What will you do?

– Emily

A Letter To My Friends:

First I would say that I love you.

That seems easy enough, right? It’s something that you probably already know. However, I don’t just say I love you. I really do, actually love you. And do you know what that means?

It means that no matter what’s going on in my day, my week, or my crazy emotional head, the answer is Yes, I would love to hang out with you.

The answer will always be yes. No matter how busy or how overscheduled I allow myself to become, I can promise you that if you say, “Hey, we should hang out,” my answer will always, always be Yes, please.

Do you know why that is? It’s because I don’t just love you. I like you.

I like how funny you are.

And how smart you are.

And I like the sound of your voice and the way you laugh.

I like the way you pray, though you’ll probably say you don’t think it’s “good enough” – as if such a thing is possible.

See? I even like you when you’re wrong. Which reminds me:

I like you even though you don’t have the same instinctual affinity for grammar that I have.

I like you even when you don’t like my favorite song, or read my favorite books, or watch my favorite show Doctor Who.

I like you even though you’re different than me: you’re taller or skinnier or endowed with a more enviable figure. You’re smarter, or more talented, or better equipped to leap tall buildings with a single bound (and I think you can, you know). I like you when the answer to a problem is so clear and easy to you that I feel stupid for being stumped by it. I like you when you do things better than me, when you speak your mind, when you challenge me to be better than I want to be.

I like you because you are you, and you couldn’t be a better you by being just like me. In fact, you would be a TERRIBLE you if you were me. And that’s why I don’t just like you. I admire you.

I admire the way you can take (what I think is) a mess and use it to make something beautiful.

I admire you for what you contribute to the world around you – though right now you’re thinking, “And just what do I contribute?” Because it’s just like you not to see your own strengths, you’re probably right now creating a list of all of the things you don’t do that you should do in order to contribute something worthwhile to the world.

But herein lies my secret.

You think I’ve written all of this to encourage you, as though we both believe there is something in me that you need to hear. And wouldn’t it be nice if that were true? If out of my own goodness – out of the generosity of my own selfless heart – I could pour some life into poor, discouraged you?

Alas, I am far too selfish for that.

So here’s the truth: I tell you these things not because I think there is something in me that you need, but because I know there is something in you that I need.

I need the encouragement and strength and joy I receive just by being with you. Whether sitting across the dinner table or sitting next to me at church – or in the car, or on the porch, or wherever we are – you impart to me. You add good things to me.

You make me better without even trying.

Now I can go about my busy life being some sad, deflated version of me, and probably no one would even notice. I can put on my I’m-already-the-best-version-of-me face and make-believe it’s true.

Or I could spend time with you and actually be the best version of me.

If you wonder what my choice would be, you should go back to the top and start reading again.

With all my love (and like and admiration),

Your Friend

Bittersweet Seasons

For the last few weeks I’ve been reading a book called Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. It’s not a long book, but I only read at night before bed and never more than one short chapter at a time. That’s never been a problem before, but here it is 10:45 on a school night and I can’t sleep for thinking about something I just read. What’s a sadly neglected blogger to do?

Write, apparently. So this – my first blog post in nearly two months – is unplanned, unedited, and unprocessed (in the way I usually process things).

Cheers 🙂

The chapter I read tonight is about seasons. Shauna Niequist writes:

“Anything can happen in a year. Broken down, shattered things can be repaired in a year. Hope can grow in a year, after a few seasons of lying dormant […] I don’t know where you are these days, what’s broken down and what’s beautiful in your life this season. I don’t know if this is a season of sweetness or one of sadness. But I’m learning that neither will last forever […] This season will end and something entirely new will follow it.”

When I read that I can’t help but reflect on the seasons I’ve walked through in the last 3 years: seasons of growth, of rest, of learning and application, of change and challenge and more growth. In the midst of some of them I felt just like the author of Bittersweet, who writes of a difficult season: “I was afraid, then, that it would always be like that. I was afraid that this was a new normal, that seasons of lightness and peace were over in my life, and this brittle, fractured way of living would last forever.” I remember thinking that exact same thing, fearing that where I was was my destination, my new normal.

Redemption. Selah.

(That’s my way of saying, “I have something to say about this but I’m tired and my husband is snoring, both of which make it difficult to think. Let’s just move on.”)

So the thought I came away with from reading this chapter is that seasons don’t last forever (I bet you didn’t know that). They change, as seasons will. Looking at the season I’m in – full time student only a semester from graduating with an impractical degree and zero career plans, first time foster (and possibly adoptive) parent of an incredibly precious 20 month old boy – and I wonder, how do I live on purpose in this season? What changes or adjustments do I need to make in my attitude or actions in order to live intentionally, to get as much out of this season as I can? Because it won’t last forever. This season will end and something new will follow it. Suddenly the thought of missing out on what this season might offer is scary.

And now Aerosmith is singing in my head, “I don’t wanna miss a thing.” Very nice.

My prayer then, is that God would show me the specific ways I can live in this season on purpose. I don’t want to say I want to live on purpose – I actually want to do it. Practical steps (even if they mostly apply to my own attitude). That’s what I’m after.

I know this blog doesn’t usually lend itself to comments, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you live on purpose according to the season you’re in? In what season did you find it the most difficult/necessary/rewarding to live intentionally?

Blessings! Off to bed now.

On the Nature of Deception

It’s easy, sometimes, to spot a liar. You learn to see the “tells”: the shifty eyes, the change in tone, the complete incredibility of the thing being said. Of course, some people are really great liars (oxymoron), and they can pull off a lie with the straightest, most trustworthy face imaginable. You’d never know they were telling or even living a falsehood; you just accept what they say because you trust them and they said it so it must be true. They’re not the worst kind, though – the most dangerous kind of liar – because there will always be those people who are not just telling the lie or living the lie, they believe the lie. They’ve told themselves the lie so many times that they believe it; regardless of whether or not you believe them, you can’t talk them out of it because it is truth to them. The lie has become truth, at least in their minds.

Scary, if you think about it.

So now I have a confession to make. It may come as a shock, so brace yourself…

I am a liar.

Whoa.

I know what you’re thinking: Um, Em, we know you lie. You’ve claimed to be the maker of every dessert at every social function since the history of dessert at social functions.

And it’s true; I do do that. Some of my friends (and often people I barely know or don’t know at all) are so sweetly modest about their culinary accomplishments that they need someone else to take the credit so that they can avoid the spotlight.

It’s a public service, really.

That’s not what I’m talking about here, though. No, today I’m talking about being the most dangerous kind of liar: the one who believes the lie is truth. And who am I lying to? (Because “To whom am I lying?” sounds ridiculously pretentious).

Me. Just me. I make the best audience, after all. I will believe anything I tell me as long as I repeat it often enough. I’m a sucker like that.

Here’s the thing about deception, though: it’s deceptive. It moves in all stealth-like before you ever question its validity and the next thing you know, you believe something about yourself that is just wrong. A common example would be, “I could never [insert goal here] because I’m not [insert adjective here] enough.”

How many books have we read that address this topic? How many speakers have we heard share their overcoming-wrong-thinking story?

There are some things you know are wrong without ever really knowing it.

Nevertheless, my deceptions, my lies-that-become-truth-in-my-head, are all variations of that theme. I may not say them out loud, I may go months or years without ever even recognizing them, but I think as if they’re true. I feel as if they’re true.

I live as if they’re true.

Just a few days ago I was discussing with a friend the changes that were taking place in her heart as she confronted one lie after another. She said, “It’s like I’m changing into a different person. Everything that would have described me two years ago is different now.” When she said that, I thought of the pillars we build our lives around. These pillars hold nothing up, as pillars are supposed to do. They serve no purpose whatsoever, but still we prop our lives against them. Everything we think is truth about ourselves, everything we believe, leaned up against a useless, towering pillar of lies.

When truth comes and destroys the pillar, it can make a life feel like it’s falling apart. Not outwardly, of course. Day to day life doesn’t look any different. It’s the internal, the heart life, that changes, feels like it’s falling apart. What feels like falling isn’t falling at all, however. It’s just a settling, settling into a firm foundation. It makes you feel different. It makes you be different, more like you – more like the you you really are rather than the you the lies told you to be.  It’s a different you, but it’s the real you, all the same.

Truth has the power to do that.

Today I’m thankful for truth. I’m thankful for seasons of growth and settling.

Mostly, though, I’m thankful for a Father who is not content to sit idly by while His daughter lies to herself.

He’s a good dad like that.

old things

Freedom Reigns (aka Not a Real Post)

Yesterday during praise and worship we sang this song, “Freedom Reigns.” The chorus says, “Freedom reigns in this place / Showers of mercy and grace / Falling on every face / there is freedom.”

Another song comes to mind, one that declares, “In your freedom I will live.”

I’m declaring it over my life today: Freedom reigns in this place (my head and my heart). I will live in His freedom.

Walk in it.

Grow in it.

Share it, I hope.

Today I’m thankful that He reigns…and I don’t have to. I’m thankful that I walk in freedom, and that even more freedom awaits me on the (hopefully) not-too-distant horizon.

That’s all.

Have a blessed day 🙂

Because the answer can always be found in poetry

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster ride in my head. I’ve gone from the glorious heights of assured confidence and trust to the deep dark depths of I-can’t-breathe anxiety and back again so many times that my heart is in a perpetual state of confusion. One day I am sure of God’s purpose for my life and His ability/willingness/plan to keep me on the track He has prepared for me, and it’s a good day. There is nothing like the joy that comes with trust and hope to soothe the soul and make the heart hum happy melodies.

But the next day – the very next day – I develop a knot in my chest that is confident in only one assertion: I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. I’m 11 months from graduating from college with an impractical degree and a few vague long-term goals that have not to this point come with instructions. I have no plans. No ideas. Not even a hint of an inkling of a clue about where my life is headed.

I’ve got nothing.

And lest you wonder, let me assure you that there is nothing like heart-pounding, existential anxiety to rouse the soul from its happy humming into a chorus of terrified screaming. And yes, such screaming brings with it a terrific headache.   

It’s strange to find myself battling so many old enemies, demons that the sword of the Spirit slashed to pieces ages ago but have somehow taped themselves back together and returned for another round. I find lies that don’t even make sense coming out of my mouth (or, my pen, to be more accurate). Just a few days ago I wrote in my journal, “But at least worrying is doing something. It feels like taking an active part in the process instead of just waiting for my future to happen.”  

There is so much wrong with that statement that I barely know where to begin. First of all, it sounds like I’m advocating worry, as though worrying about the future – or anything, for that matter – could affect its outcome in any way. Secondly, it sounds as if I believe that I can trick God into thinking I’m doing my part as an active participant in my future by worrying about it.

Let us pause to ponder the full breadth of ridiculousness embodied in that statement.

If foolishness is a water droplet, I just created an ocean.

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I feel like a pendulum rapidly swinging between two extremes: truth and lies, faith and fear, hope and my-future-is-a-deep-dark-pit-of-unmet-potential-and-missed-opportunities.

Here’s the thing, though: I know the truth.  I know that my God has good plans to prosper me, to give me a future and a hope. I know that I am His daughter, the creation of His heart, made in His image to fulfill His purposes in the earth. I know that. It’s not a trite platitude; it’s not a Christianese cliché. It is truth.

Sometimes my head freaks out, but my heart, held tenderly in my Father’s hands, is not afraid.

So, three things that He has used to snap me back to the truth/faith/hope side this week:

1. This email from a sweet friend who heard my anxiety on Wednesday night and sought to hug me with her words. She wrote in part, “God created you specifically the way He did for His purposes and has those exact purposes in mind even now. Personally, I am thrilled that He made you who you are – and that He’s allowed me to know the wonderful you He painstakingly and perfectly designed. He gave you capabilities even greater than you can imagine and you will fulfill your own and His highest expectations because that’s what He will lead you to do. You don’t have to know what they look like (even though you may want to), you only to have the open heart and willing obedience to act out what He says when He says.  And you most certainly have that.”

2. This beautiful song that I’ve been singing all week. It says, “All my hope is in You / All my strength is in You / With every breath my soul will rest in You. / All the earth beneath You / All my life before You / with every breath my soul will rest in You.”

3. The following quotes, all of which I became aware at different times through different mediums, and that once again prove that God speaks truth into our hearts exactly the way we need to hear it.

From W.H. Auden’s “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” “Poetry makes nothing happen […] It is a way of happening, a mouth.” 

From Letters from Heaven by the Apostle Paul:

We have become His poetry, a recreated people that will fulfill the destiny He has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!” (Ephesians 2:10)

And the author’s note for the verse: “The beautiful Greek word used here is translated ‘poem’ or ‘poetry.’ Our lives are the beautiful poetry written by God that will speak forth all that He desires in life.

 

Our lives are a beautiful poem that, in its own power, makes nothing happen, but is instead a way of happening, God’s way of speaking forth His glory into the earth.

So for today – at least today! – my soul rests in the simple joy of being the poem rather than the poet.

As for tomorrow…I will (try to) relax and continue to walk with Him and allow that to be enough.