There and back again: a sparrow’s journey to Southeast Asia

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This update is long over due, but better late than never, right? I knew I needed an update and summary of the trip God led me on especially for those who gave of themselves so I could give of myself.

So, first off, thank you. Thank you to those who gave financially. I have some names, but I know others gave anonymously. God knows your name, and even more, He knows your heart. Thank you from my heart.

I’ll summarize a bit of the trip, include some pictures, but also share how God used this trip in my heart and life, because God uses everything, right?

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Brief summary of the trip so you’re up to speed:

God opened up my summer and opened up an opportunity to help a missionary family my church supports get ready to come back on furlough after almost 4 years on the field. This may not sound like a big deal, but in reality, it is. I’ll share more on that later. But first, here are the Seawrights, my wonderful hosts:

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There’s Heidi and Chris in the back, then Titus, Seth, Suzanna, Isaac, and Rachel (left to right).

I had actually never met them in person until they picked me up from the Bangkok airport, but they were so welcoming and patient as I adjusted to jetlag, the heat, and their crazy and delightful kids.

I arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, where we spent a few days while the two oldest kids, Rachel and Isaac, were at camp in Thailand. Bangkok was a typical large Asian city, very similar to the city in China I spent a couple summers ago at, so the adjustment wasn’t too bad. After a few days there and after picking up Rachel and Isaac, we made the trip over to Cambodia by car. As we drove, my eyes started to open, figuratively and literally.

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It’s one of those moments when even though you may look at a thousand pictures, think you have a slightest idea of what to expect, but then nothing really can prepare you for what you see. I didn’t even know what to see. There was the countryside with it’s own farmland beauty, the random houses made of wood on stilts with hammocks underneath, the crowded little shops with piles of trash nearby, the people in long sleeves and pants in oppressive heat, the mountains and temples in the distance, the recently paved roads that the missionaries were in awe of. It really is a whole new world that doesn’t quite hit you until you come back to what is familiar and you realize, “wow, did I really just experience that? Was that even real?” And you realize, people live like this, and it’s their home. It’s their livelihood, it’s familiar, and it’s beautiful.

Then, you stop, and you realize, these missionaries, people who grew up in a culture just like yours, with it’s constant AC, access to clean tap water, comfy cozy homes with their matching pillows and bedspreads, pet dogs, clean food, grass and a yard…..

And the most amazing realization: they gladly gave/give up all of those things in order to follow God and love the Cambodian people. And I saw that love through them daily.

On the way to Battambang, Cambodia, during our 9 hour drive, I was able to hear much of their ministry over their years in Cambodia, from philosophy to history. This was a highlight to just hear the ins and outs and their heart behind what they do, and be able to ask questions.

During the next few weeks, I was a helping hand for the Seawrights, from hanging out with the kids to keep them busy so Chris and Heidi could pack/organize, taking random trips to get bubble tea, pack, sit in front of a fan, pack, more fan, more packing…..oh, and watched the kids on my own for a few days so Chris and Heidi could have an incredibly needed mini-vacation. As tiring, and as hot, as it was, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. I didn’t get to explore much of the city, but again, I wouldn’t trade it. I was their for them, not for me.

But, God did open an opportunity for a couple of days away to see Angkor Wat and my dear dear friend, Emily.

So, I guess I played the tourist a bit😉

One of the top highlights of this trip was the privilege I had to join the Seawrights in Pursat to worship with Cambodian believers at Inheritance of Christ Church. On the way there, Chris and Heidi shared stories of many of the believers in the church and how those believers came to Christ. It was incredible to hear how God had worked in each heart, and then to meet many of them! It was like God putting a tangible grace in front me, not just for my head to learn, but for my heart. My whole time there I understood very little of what was going on, but God allowed me to see Him at work. I wasn’t there to minister to them, but to learn from them. Learn from their beautiful worship of a beautiful Savior who walks with them each and every day through so many trials that they face. And each have come to Christ with much to risk….reputation, family, etc. My head can’t fathom it, but my heart wants that same Light. I begin to understand why the Seawrights love these people so much.

After the service, I was served the most amazing meal ever: sticky rice and mango! And because I kept eating the mango, they kept serving it to me. I didn’t complain at all, though I don’t think my stomach was super pleased later😉. The hospitality shown to me was so incredible.

And speaking of hospitality, one of the women of the church, Ong, opened her home to us for a wonderful dessert (she’s a fantastic baker!), talking, and praying. Of course, I didn’t understand a word anyone was saying, but the presence was sweet.

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After packing up the Seawrights entire house, we breathed quite the sigh of relief. Honestly, and they would be first to admit this too, it was entirely by the grace of God. Everything about this whole thing was. I saw in numerous ways how God provided for them, even in small ways. There was absolutely no doubt that God’s hand was in this. Personally, I was blown away.

Despite having sold their van, we found rides to the border and then on to Bangkok with no trouble. While in Bangkok, we played tourists a bit and I was able to see more the city.

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Then after a few days, we hopped on a plane back to the states.

There is still so much I could say about Cambodia and my time there. From experiencing the food, seeing the idol worship, playing games, laughing til it hurts, never being so thankful for AC…but you’ll just have to go yourself🙂.
Something Chris and Heidi said about halfway through my time there really stuck with me and gave me a whole new perspective on missionaries coming back from the field….

You know those last few scenes in Lord of the Rings, when the hobbits have come back after all of their adventures, after all they had seen, after all they had suffered, fought through, survived, lost, felt? When the hobbits are in the tavern, everyone around them reveling, going on with their lives? And the hobbits just look at each with those understanding eyes? That. That is how they feel each time they come back. I’m reminded of Frodo’s lines:

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand . . . there is no going back?”

Ah. I start to get it now. I start to understand. At least, for my part.

Lately, I’ve wondered at the experiences God has given me. The open doors He’s given to see the global church but also the closed ones and where He has led me currently. A few people have asked me, “So, where do you see yourself in 5 years? What is your goal? Missions?”

Maybe. But maybe not.

To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t know where I will be, what I’m necessarily working towards. I don’t even know why God has allowed me to experience the things I have or go to the places I have and see the things I have. I could say, yeah, maybe one day I’ll end up overseas, but that’s not today. Today I am called to today. And I’m learning it’s ok to not know those things.

I know these things though:

  • I know my eyes have been open to the work of God around the world.
  • I know my perspective has changed on my own culture of comfort and the different cultures around the world.
  • I know I have a little taste of what missionaries have to go through on a daily basis, even as uncomfortable as it is.
  • I know how to better pray for missionaries and the trials and discouragements and victories they face.
  • I know I have loved meeting brothers and sisters, though our lives are completely different, and putting faces to names.
  • I know that there is still so much darkness in this world, but there is also Light.
  • I know it’s not so scary to take steps outside of my comfort zone, I just have to take them.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “So, are you going to move there? Was this a life-changing trip?!”

Maybe, but maybe not in the way you or I think of.

It is an exotic land that is also a dark spiritual place with idols everywhere, including the center of town….you would expect this life-changing experience of a trip, but it wasn’t what you think or even what I expected. Or even what I thought. I went, I helped a family pack to come back, I played with kids, saw some sights, came back. Nothing spectacular, nothing extraordinary.

It was really just giving of myself, my resources, my time, my strength, if only to encourage one person. Or maybe a whole family. Isn’t this what the body of Christ is supposed to do?

But it also was really a time to learn and listen. I needed this and the people more than anyone needed me.

Thanks again for all your support, financially, spiritually, and otherwise….and if you read all of that, high five! You deserve it!😉

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There’s grace for that

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What do you do when you get stuck in your head?
When all you hear are the voices spewing lies?

“You just said the wrong thing.”

“You just did the wrong thing.”

“How annoying you are.”

“You aren’t enough. Stop trying. Go home.”

“Way to mess that up.”

“Failure.”

“You aren’t doing enough. No wonder you’re alone.”

“You’re such an idiot.”

“You’ll just mess that up too. Why bother.”

“There’s so much better than you.”

“They’ll leave too. Put your guard up and hope it doesn’t hurt too much.”

“Oh look! You screwed up. Why are you surprise.”

The voices are so loud that you’re sitting on your kitchen floor, hands over your ears, trying to get them to stop. You know truth. It’s deep in your heart. But you can’t get to it. The mire of lies is so thick, it chokes out the Light.

The loneliness of it all crushes the breath out of you. Not only can you not hear the truth, but you can’t feel it or even can cry for help. You don’t even know how to. You feel silly for listening to the voices, for giving in and letting them choke out the light.

But there you are. Stuck.

But….

There’s Grace for that.

When you’re stuck in your head, there’s grace for that. 

When you feel like the voices won’t die, there’s grace for that.

When the failures, the insecurities, the inadequacies, the imperfections, the struggles are all staring you in the face with a huge distorted mirror…..

There’s grace for that.

You may not feel it, but it’s there. 

You may not see it, but it’s there.

But ultimately, your Father is there.

Light is there. 

Like the immovable stars piercing the darkest night, Light is there.

When the mire is thick, hold on. There’s grace for that.

Grace, mercy, love. Light. 

mile markers and baggage

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iStock_000014301337Small1Our lives are filled with mile markers.

We walk on this journey, one step in front of the other, hoping to make to a certain destination. Along the way we hit mile markers, marking the path, showing us how far we’ve walked.

This week I hit a mile marker. A ten-year mile marker.

If you know me well at all, you know I tend to put up certain walls. I only let people see certain things. Mainly things I can control. I’m getting better at letting those walls down, but ruins of some still stand.

Some things though I keep behind those ruins because I’m actually just not sure how people will react or even know what to do with the baggage I picked up on my journey.

I’ve decided recently that that baggage can air out a bit. It isn’t lovely. It’s even kind of awkward. But it’s mine.

This week will be the ten-year mile marker since I picked up a pretty big piece of baggage, and today I rummaged through it with a friend who helped me look at the pieces with more mature vision.

Ten years ago, on a foggy Wednesday morning, I was driving to school during my freshman year of college. I lived with my grandma at the time, you know, to save some money on college. The drive was very routine. I had done it for several months by now. I always had two choices of routes–either the main road which included too many traffic lights or the back roads which included less lights and more scenery. This particular morning I chose the back roads. I knew as soon as I turned down the first back road that perhaps I didn’t make the best decision since that morning the fog was pretty heavy. “No big deal,” I thought, “people will have their lights on  and I’ll go slow anyway.”

I take the routine turns down the routine streets. I come to an intersection, stop at the stop sign, and await to turn left. I look both ways, don’t see a single car, and make my turn.

Bam.

I hit something. A tree? No, that’s not right, unless the tree jumped into the road. What then? This doesn’t make any sense.

I sit in my car, shocked. Airbag deployed, feeling the sting of it on my arm, but otherwise unscathed. It takes me a few minutes to clear my mind enough to dial 911. I make the call. I tell them where I am. I try to explain what happened, but still so unsure. “I’ve hit something,” is all I can described.

I finally decide to get out. I see people. Someone comes to me. Asks me if I’m ok.

Then I see it.

Another car. A Ford Explorer from the looks of it, but I just see the underside of it. I walk towards it. Clearly it flipped onto it’s side. I walk closer. Someone is walking with me I think. Leading me away from the scene and out of the road.

Another sight I’ll never forget.

A lady pinned under the car. She’s not moving. She is silent.

I look away. Just one glance and it’s seared into my mind. I still see it so clearly.

The next few hours are a blur. Maybe only an hour. Time lost all effect on me. Only a few moments stand out. Calling my grandma. Calling my mom. “Hey. First, I’m ok, but….”

A police officer comes to me to ask questions. He’s kind and gentle. I look at him with one question in my eyes. He shakes his head.

That can only mean one thing.

It’s still hard to verbalize it, so I’ll leave it there.

There’s more that happens afterward, but this is the part where most people really don’t know what to say. I don’t even know what to say. For years I’ve never really quite known what to say.

After some time people ask questions about it. I answer them. I honestly don’t mind. I just hate making others feel awkward with looking at my baggage.

I’ve often thought, “Why God?” But not the “why God, if you’re so good, did THIS happen?” Or all of the myriad of ways to blame God but deep down you know the reason. I still honestly don’t know why. I’ve often tried to spiritualize it. Maybe I was walking away from God and this was a wake up call? No, that’s not right. I’ve made something an idol? No, that’s not it either. I’m not even sure I can stand up and make this big speech out of how God has used this to impact person A or person B or make some huge spiritual application. But maybe that wasn’t even the point. Maybe I just have this baggage to learn and hold onto the simpliest, yet hardest, of truths:

God is in control and God is good.

And isn’t that purpose of mile markers?

The mile markers, that when we pass them and look at them, show us that, yes, even here, God is still in control and God is still good? Nothing has changed that.

This baggage? It is awkward. I like to hide it behind the walls, even the ruins of the walls. I don’t want others to feel awkward. What will they think? What will they say? Will they know what to say?

But maybe, just maybe, I’ve been looking at baggage all wrong. It is awkward, yes, but it also is good. It reminds me of God and His grace. It reminds me I’m not alone in this struggle of life, because I can guess that you carry baggage too, and I’m sure you think it’s awkward too. It reminds me God is in control, though questions still abound.

This baggage also reminds me that I don’t have to carry it alone, but can lay it at the feet of Jesus. I may not know what to do with it, but He sure does.

Another grace of this baggage? I found out today, that the friend who helped me sort through it had prayed for the baggage carrier for years, though she never knew the carrier was.

Until today, when I opened it up.

“Just because you feel lost doesn’t mean you weren’t led.”

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Have you ever stopped and had a lightbulb moment that, whoa, you’re a different person? You see how your thinking has changed, how you interact with the world differently, how things that used to matter don’t and vice versa?
Just recently I had to say goodbye to some very dear people. My pastor of the last ten years and his wife are loving on to the next step God has for them. 

As we sat around and thought back on the last ten years of their time here, they recounted many of the faith journeys God put them through. God has been faithful through those journeys and will continue to be on their next journey.

It stirred my thinking over the last ten years of my own journey. It also made me stop in my tracks and realize what a different person I am.

I mean, who the heck even am I?? I honestly didn’t recognize this person staring me in the face wearing my clothes.

 I didn’t recognize the person who can stand in front of a classroom when she used to be terrified to speak to one person. I didn’t recognize the person who had survived not just college but graduate school who used to never finish projects she started. I didn’t recognize the person who lives in constant fear take small steps of faith and experience opportunities she never dreamed of.

I didn’t recognize the shy girl who now actually enjoys interacting with people.

I didn’t recognize the fearful girl who is learning to finally embrace the love of God. 

Talk about grace.

The last ten years have made me a completely different person. High school graduation, college graduation, grad school graduation, 2 nanny jobs, teaching speech/theatre, school shut down, back to the south. UK, China, Canada, California, Salt Lake City, New York, summer camps. Broken hearts, car crashes, runaway deer, twisted ankles, bitter cold winters. New adventures, new friends, new positions, new places. Becoming an aunt, becoming a teacher, becoming a discipler, becoming a follower, becoming an adult. Breaking, healing, humbling, losing, gaining. Fear, loss, joy, pain, heart bursting happiness, peace, trust.

The journeys that stand out were the times when all fell apart and were uncertain and fear threatened to completely undo me. 

When I simply just felt…..lost.

Looking out and the darkness threatened to absorb me into its abyss and choke the breath out. 

To step forward took all the strength I could muster. I take that back….it took more than that. It took grace. 

When I was crying my soul out, desperate for something….for Someone….to hold out a hand and just show me what He was up to…what He IS up to, He gently whispered each time: “just look at Me.” 

And as I look back, I see some sort of semblance of a thread. I see the guiding Hand. The One that was always held out, leading me where I was supposed to go, even when I didn’t see it at first, or even still. 

And all the while, when I felt lost, I was still being led. Led to what is best. Led to my God. Led to where Happiness Himself was inviting me into His presence.

“Just because you feel lost, doesn’t mean you weren’t led.” – Stewart

I’m sure the next ten years will hold its own journeys. And I choose to look up. Look up to the Hand who always leads. 

Train Station

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Ever have those times when all at once a million thoughts starting racing and wreaking havoc, vying for your attention? You desperately try to sort though them all, connecting the dots, following the trails, fitting them nearly together? Yeah, me too.
My heart and mind have been so full, and continuing to fill with I’m not sure what, and I can’t seem to sort through them. The love of God, “introverts,” authenticity, sufficiency of Christ, elections….pieces of the abyss of endless trains of thoughts that don’t stop at stations to take breathes. 

But I think….I think I’ll try to sort through it with you if you’ll bear with me.

As I’ve mentioned before, one of my biggest struggles is the belief that God truly loves me. My head and my heart live in the tension of this truth. Of course, Valentine’s Day brought on many thoughts of this. With the thought of the love of God comes the idea of what the opposite is: fear. 

Fear. My nemesis.

How often do I let fear control me? And then let that fear overcome love….embracing God’s love for me and loving God with all of my being. I cannot fear and love at the same time. That’s what 1 John tells me. 

This train of thought then led me down the path of what it means to embrace God’s love for me. To find my sufficiency in Christ. I can talk the talk, but can I walk the walk? What does it even mean to walk that walk?

If I say I love God, but I keep it all inside, do I really love God? God says if we love Him, we will love others. In fact, that is how I show my love for God….by loving others.

This led to the train of thought of how easy it is to keep my “Christianity,” my “beliefs,” to myself. Make it so introspective. Make it about me. How I experience God, how I deal with my inner struggles. How I say and feel no one understands me, I just have to deal with my own inner darkness, or I lock myself away and have “alone time” with God. Much of that is great, even necessary, but do I just leave it there? I can say all I want how personal my relationship with God is, Instagram my quiet time, brood over my struggles, but if I’m not extending it beyond that, do I really find Christ sufficient? Or am I fearing being open and transparent? 

Am I fearing to love my family in Christ, this fearing to love God publicly? 

This train then led me to just realize how fearful we really are whether we would like to admit it or not. We’re ok with being weird, being unique, being trendy, trying to be our own persons, hold on to our identities, play it safe while seeming risky, not wanting anything to rock the boat…..or just anything that will make us uncomfortable.

Well guess what? Finding Christ sufficient–embracing the love of God–is uncomfortable. 

It may mean losing what we find our identity in, what makes us unique, loving people who will never love back, having hard conversations, being courageous to do the hard right things, being uncool, living in a country that doesn’t pander to my comfort and beliefs, living in a culture that is wicked.

It may mean we find out, when put to the fire, we really don’t find Christ sufficient even when we say we do.

I can say until my face is blue I find Him sufficient, but when I get upset when my kingdom is rocked, or I’m uncomfortable where I live (country or otherwise), or I’m embarrassed because of doing some “Christian,” or I chose to hide myself away from others for fear they will hurt me or “can’t understand me”……I lie in God’s face.

My question to myself is why am I hiding? 

Do I find Him sufficient enough to look my fear in the face and love Him with every ounce of my being, letting that love pour out of every pour, no matter how risky, weird, uncomfortable, painful, uncool it is? Do I find Him sufficient enough to stop keeping Him to myself and give myself to those around me who are hurting just as much as I am?

I know there may seem cooler things out there. There are scary things out here. Humiliation is at risk. Questions I can’t answer yet are looming.

But is Christ sufficient enough? 

If others can’t tell, what is the point? 

Dare I say it? But who cares if our country is “going to hell in a hand basket”? Isn’t Christ sufficient enough to stop being so scared and just tell people about Jesus. It’s what other Christians do in other countries. Do we say God doesn’t love them still? They may incredibly more authentic than we ever hope to be. They’re fighting for truth because it actually matters to them. They already find Christ sufficient.

These are trains in my head, in my heart. I’m still working on reconciling them. I may never. But I know God can. I just it step by step to allow love to cast out fear. Fear of Him, fear of others. 

I must love, not fear, to find Christ sufficient, and help other find Him sufficient too. Souls depend on it.

Who am I that You should care?

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When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Ever stopped to think of small you are? In the vastness of this universe we happen to live in? In the midst of billions upon billions of people? You are one person. One person with a vapor of life.

“What is man?”

This question has plagued me for years. I heard this passage again today and it almost choked me again as I decided to dwell on it.

Who am I? Who am I that God would think of me?

In the vastness of His awesome universe where the stars are innumerable and are breathtakingly beautiful?

In the midst of billions of people?

The thought of it makes my head spin. I can’t grasp it. I can’t wrap my head around it.

Why? Why can’t I get that? Or yet, why can’t I accept that? Maybe because I know me and I know I’m not worth to be thought of?

I have two distinct memories where I had to seriously wrestle with this. First was a few years ago at one of my favorite places: Northland Camp on the lake dock, late at night, lying on my back, looking up at unpolluted skies. One night in particular I gazed at the beauty of the stars and the formations they made to declare the glory of God. I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, God. You made this. These praise you continuously. They displayed Your majesty and You can enjoy them forever. You have all of this, so why do You need me? Why do You want me? I failed You constantly. I complain, I doubt, I’m not anything special…..’What is man?'” The thoughts brought me to tears and doubts of God’s love came flooding in. Was it so hard to believe in the midst of so much beauty God would choose me? My wretched little being?

The second was on the top of the World Trade Center just this past summer. If you ever want to feel insignificant, look out on a City of millions, all hustling to and fro. The view stretched for miles and miles, over Jersey, Brooklyn, the Bronx. At night even you see not the light from stars, but light from people’s lives. As I looked out, seeing the intricate streets, the cab lights, the attractions–I thought of the souls. Millions of souls in just this City alone. Who am I? Who am I that God would choose me among them? There are smarter, prettier, more talented, better communicators, more loving, more faithful souls. I don’t deserve to be chosen.

The same overwhelming feeling came over me and the breathe was almost choked out of me.

What is man? Who am I that God would think of me?

I don’t get it. Why me? I get surprised when someone wants to be my friend for more than a week. But an all powerful God who has the massive heavens at His disposable and a host of others He could chose to be His children? I sometimes doubt He made a good decision.

It’s scary. Gut-wrenchingly scary. I know I will never measure up to such Love….I will never feel as though I deserve it.

But grace.

Grace has shown me that I don’t measure up….that I will never deserve it.

Grace has shown me that I’m not the smartest, prettiest, most talented, the best communicator, most loving, most faithful.

Grace has shown me that without grace, I am nothing.

But I have grace. I have the One who gives grace.

Through that grace I come to accept that though I will never feel as though I deserve it, I am loved.

I am loved.

I am loved.

I am loved.

I have to say it over and over it again….perhaps it will stick one day if I keep saying it.

To live loved is to accept the grace. To live loved is let God love me the way He sees fit, even when I don’t get it. Even when I stand on the precipice looking down, or in the dirt looking up.

What is man? Nothing. But God? Everything.

Goodbye wrestling 2015 

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Last night, I cried. For those who know me well know I rarely cry, and especially don’t admit it. But this year I’ve cried more than all of the last 28 years of my life put together.
But tonight I will admit it.

Last night I cried, and I’m not ashamed.

I’m not ashamed because I cried tears of awe and thankfulness over the journey God has brought me on over the last year.

I hesitate to even write any of this because of my fear, but God knows I need to. 

2015 has been, by far, the most intense spiritual roller coaster ride I’ve experienced so far. There have been exhilarating highs and gut-wrenching lows.

A lot (and I do mean ALOT) happened, but the struggles that came mainly came not from external circumstances (losing a job, being a part of a school shut down, job hunting for several months were pretty tough though), the main struggles came from inside…..the inside of my heart and the darkness that dwells there.

The struggle to believe that God was and is truly good.

The struggle to believe if God truly loved me, and if He did, why did He ask me to do the things He wanted me to do, go to places He wanted me to go, and leave behind things I held dear. 

I found myself often sympathizing with people in scripture such as Abraham, Sarah, and Ruth. 

Abraham and Sarah….God gave many promises, but not necessarily in the way or time they thought. I imagine they had many, MANY days of doubt. Ok God, You promised this, where is it? Did I misunderstand? Did you lie? Hello??

But they continued to take the next step of faith. Yes, they failed a few times, but Abraham and Sarah kept following, kept obeying, even when it was scary and didn’t make any blessed sense.

Ruth….oh man, Ruth. Did she have any idea God would do what He did? Could she have even planned it herself? But step by step. Blind step after blind step.

Then there’s the times I sympathized with Jacob….wrestling God til dawn. I lost count how many times I’ve done that this year. 

It all came down to God leading me in directions that made me want to throw up, to doubt He truly loved me, but when I started walking, realizing He knew what He was doing all along. 

I’ve been like a child clinging to her protector, but afraid he won’t protect, only to find I’m where I’m supposed to be. 

Silly, huh?

I find God HAS been faithful all along. He always has been, always will be. Even when I’m wrestling, it hurts, and my insides are bleeding out. 

I know this year will be no different because of the dark still in my soul, but God isn’t any different either, so there’s always hope. 

So I’ll probably keep crying. But God will keep doing what He does best, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Why I Hate Christmas 

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Perhaps “hate” is a strong word to use. Maybe the phrase, “It’s complicated” would be a more accurate description of the feelings I have toward the Christmas season.Over the last several years I’ve been known as somewhat of a Scrooge/Grinch when it comes to Christmas. It’s a joke of sorts, but not completely ungrounded in my complicated feelings toward the holiday.

Let me explain this.

I don’t actually hate Christmas. I think to hate what Christmas really stands for would be to hate what I believe in and to hate the Gospel. I can’t and won’t do that. 

The complicated feelings come in when…..well, that’s the part I struggle to pinpoint.

Black Friday, Christmas paraphernalia in October, long Amazon lists, lights, cheesy halmark movies, cyber Monday, endless Christmas renditions of the same 5 songs on the radio, high pressured church programs….

Santa, trees, giving, receiving, reindeer, nativity, elves, Angels….

Who’s house are we doing Christmas at? We must stick with traditions, someone inevitably gets offended, don’t open presents til I’m there, giving/receiving by certain standards…

It almost becomes a nauseated conglomeration that is just as mixed up as a Christmas fruit cake.

I don’t blame anyone because it seems well meaning …I often think it’s just me.

The pressure of everything being just right, giving the right gift, spending enough money….the pressure of not measuring up.

And at the end of it, I feel empty and confused.

I just can’t take it.

I can never give like I want.

I can never measure up.

I will never be satisfied when it’s all over.

Nothing of it seems worth it and it makes my stomach churn….or worse, leaves an empty pit. 

The hype and the reward never match.

So, now what?

What do I do in the face of such contradictory celebrations? When those who rebuke me for not liking Christmas have dead joy when we sing Christmas songs filled with poignant truth? When people are shoving lists in my face or bragging about the gift they bought? When Christmas becomes about giving or getting the best new toy and spending vast amounts of money when people are starving or cold? 

My heart wrenches and I feel helpless.

Now what?

But deep in my heart, I don’t hate it. 

I can’t hate it.

Light came into darkness. Light came into my darkness.

This….this is Christmas.

I see darkness all around me and within me, if not more so during this season. It’s easy to be greedy or jaded, forgetting why we do sing those songs or recite the same Luke 2 passage. 

Light came into darkness….my darkness….and did not shy away from it. 

How can I hate that?

But somehow, that gets lost. I wish it didn’t though.

But then Light can never be covered up, so, though I think it gets lost, it doesn’t….I just have to look for it to see it.

It’s there when the group of volunteers give gifts to orphans. It’s there when people give up their holiday to feed those without. It’s there when a friend asks that money for gifts be used to buy bibles for people overseas. It’s there when the snow falls. It’s there in a child’s smile at Christmas lights. It’s there when that one person in the congregation gets the message of a song and it shows in their eyes. 

It’s there when the truth of God’s stepping into human flesh brings awe and hope in my heart and brings me to my knees.

So despite all of the hype that leaves me jaded, I don’t actually hate Christmas. 

Perhaps I just feel lost. But perhaps it’s in the lostness that I find the Light. 

Knitting Ruth 

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 A little over a year ago, in one of the busiest yet darkest times of soul, I learned how to knit. Little did I know just how healing knitting would be. Knitting allows me to take the focus off of myself because I have to focus on the person I’m knitting for. I also get to work with my hands which is oddly therapeutic. I have learned to be grateful for this creative outlet and have seen it as a grace from God.

Knitting also is another one of those tangible pictures that have helped me understand a truth about God. 

See, when you have your yarn and your needles, the yarn doesn’t know what it will be. It’s just becomes what your hands knit it to be. It doesn’t know it will be a warm mitten or cozy hat. For all the yarn knows, I’m making it a sock for someone’s smelly (and probably cold) foot. But yet it yields to my working hands and needles, and in the end it comes something beautiful and useful.

God did the same in Ruth’s life. So many threads that seem “random,” but God knit together a beautiful story of redemption. Ruth didn’t know what would happen when she stepped out in faith to follow or when she obeyed Naomi’s instructions. For all she knew she would be rejected like she should have been for being a Moabite. Ruth by herself wasn’t worth anything, but in the hands of a sovereign God, her story is a beautiful tapestry of God’s redemption. 

But aren’t I to be like the yarn or like Ruth? A woman like Ruth is hard to live up to and being yarn might be a bit stringy, but is my soul willing to be in the same humble, obedient position? Can I rest in obedience and compliance to God’s working? 

My soul longs for control. My soul wrestles to understand and look ahead. I want to know why God led me where He has. I want to know why God put certain things or people in my path. I want to know why God gives or takes. I want to know why God made me the way I am. I want to know. I want know. I want to know!

But I know God doesn’t work that way. Can I be content to be the yarn that I know when put in the loving, good hands of God, will be beautiful and useful in His story of redemption? Even if it’s just showing the world the redemption of my own soul? 

Yarn doesn’t know it might turn into a cozy mitten. Ruth didn’t know where her steps of obedience would lead and neither do I. But perhaps the obedient trust is just another grace of God.

Eucharisteo.