Unexpected Grace in a Missed Flight

I stood at the US Airways ticket counter and cried. I was coming off of the absolute hardest week of my academic career – little sleep, intimidating presentations, and being ill prepared for an incredibly difficult Greek exam. All I wanted was to be home: to go on adventures with Little Brother, to have coffee with Mom, and watch football with Dad. “Please, Sir,” I said with tears slowly trickling down my face, “Please let me on the plane.”

“Sorry, Honey,” he replied, “but you missed it.”

It was 6:34 am, and my flight was scheduled to take off at 6:42. When I rushed into the airport that morning, I was delayed by the “Self Check-in” machine’s inability to recognize me as a passenger. After being sent to two different airport personnel, I was starting to question if I would make it to the gate in time. The man finally printed my boarding pass and I (literally) ran to security. As I dashed away at 6:20 am, the man called after me that they would close the doors 10 minutes before take off.

With only one security line open, I realized as I waited in the unusually long line that I wasn’t going to make it if I continued waiting. I spent at least 3 minutes [which felt like an eternity], contemplating if I should cut to the front and ask for grace from my fellow travelers.

I felt like I was a middle schooler trying to muster the guts to pour a can of Coca-Cola on the school bully…

With just enough courage, I picked up my Vera Bradley duffle bag, with colors so bright my nerves were offended, and I walked forward. They showed me grace, and let me cut, sending well wishes as I ran through.

But when I finally made it to my gate, I was two minutes late.

I could see the plane through the window; it hadn’t yet moved to begin taxiing. If he had opened the doors, I could have taken my seat and been on that flight. I would have been the most obnoxious person on the plane, no doubt, but it was possible.

And I wanted it. Desperately. I wanted to get on US Airways Flight 2610. I wanted a layover in Charlotte and I wanted to land at Washington-Dulles at 11:35am.

I cried not out of belligerence, but out of desperation. Why wouldn’t the man open the door and let me on? Wasn’t it clear that I wanted it? What ever happened to the sentiment, “The customer is always right”?

The airline employee turned to his computer and said, “Let’s see what else we can find for you.”

“No.”

“Sir, I need to get on that plane! Please.” I was so upset. Mostly with myself for being late, but also with God for not working it out. I prayed silently, “Lord, please! I know you can get me on that plane. Please! I just want to be home.”

The man spoke up, “Well, this is against our policy, but we have a flight to Washington National leaving at 8am. There are a few spots left, would that work? I’m not really supposed to do this, but I want to help get you home.”

This alternative flight had no layover and an earlier arrival time into an airport an hour closer to my parent’s house than my original flight. Not only was not late, I would have time to get coffee (& breathe) before boarding.

And that’s when I encountered one of the most vivid + challenging lessons of my life:

It is only when we are able to release what we think we want that we are able to embrace what He has for us.

How many tears have I shed in desperation for that thing? How many nights have I laid awake begging Jesus to make sense of the confusion that flooded my heart?

How many new flights have I missed because I wanted so badly to be on the first one?

It was about more than getting home. It was about what I wanted and why I wanted it. It wasn’t just a reflection of my poor time management that morning, it was a reflection of how desperately I lack trust in the goodness of God to be more than.

More than what I think I want. More than what I think I need. More than what I’m capable of accomplishing. More than my feeble words can capture.

Oh, He is more than.

So much more than.

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Snow Day.

I lived my first 23 years and 5 months in the state of Eternal Summer. Growing up on a beach recently named one of the Top 10 in the world by Yahoo! Travel and a favorite in my heart for the wildest of sunsets and the soft, white, powdery sand. But today, for the first time (not counting my daydreams), I watched a new soft, white, powdery substance fill the earth… and it was glorious.

When I say daydreams I literally mean that my heart would ponder on a regular basis what it would be like to live in a place that had seasons and how my life would look different if the physical season of winter ever came. I even went through a phase where I told my mother frequently that she deprived me of childhood by raising me in Florida. That’s ridiculous, I know. There’s just no other way to express my curiosity and desire for the earth to reflect what happens in my heart when I grieve the death of a loved one, or seek to make sense of change, or find my way in a new season of life. I was drawn by the idea that the earth needs a time of rest, too, and that snow gave it a chance.

I think it’s both brilliantly creative and unimaginably gentle for Yahweh to craft the earth with such wisdom, and I have yearned to know it in the experiential way and not just the textbook way.  Not just the way I know there’s no gravity on the moon, but the way I know that losing someone you love hurts in places you didn’t know you had.

So as I sat with a sleeping 3 month old snuggled up close to my chest and I saw a white speck float passed the window, something inside my heart swelled like a little girl. I walked to the window and simply watched as snow flurries became a snowstorm. And the children I nanny went home early, which means I, at 23, had my very first snow day.

And a snow day it was, snowing nonstop for the next twelve hours. I made my way home (not without fear and a tightly gripped steering wheel) and binge watched The Office with a warm cup of coffee, a plate of cookies, and a sweet little brother.

For all the dreams I’ve had of snow, and for the way my heart has been convinced for years that Yahweh made winter to teach our hearts to grieve, new things filled my soul today with every snowflake that fell from the sky. Our backyard is covered in a flawless blanket of white and it soothed my soul to watch the snow cover the ground so carefully.

And He whispered the promise,
“I will cover you like the snow covers the earth. With peace and precision I will pour my grace upon you and you will find rest in me.”

Watching the snow fall today reminded me that winter is a promise and it’s as real in our hearts as it is on this earth. But the bigger promise is in the One who designed it. The One who didn’t just promise winter, but promises to cover us in it. I’ve said it for a while, but now I’ve felt it.

I watched the snow the cover the earth and it made me feel whole. I know He’s good. I know that He only lets the snow fall because He knows it brings peace. I know He’s making all things new.  I’m singing praises tonight to a God who gives me dreams and then lets me live them.

He’s so, so good.

[Comm]Unity Breeds Life

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing:
life forevermore.
Psalm 133

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Dwelling in community holds the blessing of life.

I knew it was true. I knew it was sweet to dwell in unity [to be joined as a whole; a complete and pleasing whole]. But never had I so experienced the manifestation of community resulting in such life.

I think this is a promise: where brothers [and sisters!] dwell in oneness together, there we experience life. Life forevermore.

Oh, glory!

Community. Common Unity. Oneness. Togetherness.

It is good. It breeds life. And I thought I had known it. But no.

I had never so felt it, friends. Not until last week.

After five and half years of trying my hardest to fully live + deeply love in West Palm Beach, Jesus  opened new doors and filled my heart with incredible confirmation that it was time to go. On my last night, nothing seemed more appropriate than games, coffee + laughter with the people who made West Palm as enchanting as it was. I had no idea how life giving that time would be.

I sat in a circle of some of my favorites as tears slowly broke free + slipped from my eyes, despite my will to stop them. I surrendered to the gravity + listened to my people reminisce on memories of skipping class + playing in the fountains downtown, exploring new streets on a Mediterranean Island, learning the sound + stirring of the Spirit, and giggling for hours over warm cups of coffee.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

Proverbs 18:21

They told me they were thankful for me, and that I made a difference in their lives. They told me they believed in me.

They made me feel like I could really, truly, actually change the world.

They told me that when they thought of me, the thought of Jesus closely followed. I’m crying again- I have never been more humbled. I have never felt so beautifully insignificant in the story of our souls, yet realizing that the way we live matters. It matters to people. With every word, they spoke love + life like I’ve never heard. It easily ranks as one of the Top Ten nights of all my 23 years.

During those last days, I received so much love like this. From my church, friends, professors + mentors. They called out my gifts and challenged my fears.

My professors spoke life: “God has anointed you to teach and lead – I am sure of it. You have a wonderful gift of seeing great things in the biblical text AND communicating them to others.” …and in the same paragraph called out weaknesses: “One of your greatest hindrances will be your inability to fully trust God to do truly great things through you.”

They spoke candidly + honestly and it made me wonder what stops us from doing this all the dang timeWhy does it take a cross-country move for us to speak life? For us to call out gifts and affirm dreams, to acknowledge fears + challenge struggles?

I always knew they believed in me, but these conversations took it to a whole new level. I know I lack trust in God, but to hear someone I admire and respect call it out – well, shoot. It just changes things. It makes me want to be better. It makes me want to fight it more + more.

I left West Palm with a heart fuller than I’ve ever known. Tear stained journal pages reflect on moments + remind me that fear has no place.

I left with a greater conviction to speak life on important days + on regular days. When people are moving + when they’re not. When we don’t think they need to hear it + when we think they do.

There is such blessing in community.

When you see beauty, would you speak it loud? When you see fear, would you call it out? When you have a reason + when you don’t. Life abounds in a community that dwells in oneness + grace, and it’s one of the sweetest gifts this side of heaven.

You Could Always Stay

It amazes me how a year of little lessons can culminate into one grand decision at the end of December. It came as unexpected as a rookie’s interception, yet welcomed and beautiful as one that’s run back for a touchdown to win the game. No one saw it coming, but they’re sure glad it did.

2013 was a year of growth like I’ve never known. I got to write about a lot of that growth, including articles on craving to follow Yahweh into the unknown, actually following when He beckons, living in fear of my calling, trusting Jesus to provide, and building a house of expectations. Each of these lessons brought me to my knees in humility and desperation to walk faithfully before my King. And as I neared the end of this growth packed year, I really thought I had it under control.

I successfully finished my first semester in an accelerated graduate program for a Master of Divinity, and after 4 months of non-stop reading & writing, I finally had a chance to process. Just as quickly as I allowed myself to consider, “Is this the best program for me?” I felt my heart releasing every aspect that I held dear about my school & community. It didn’t take long for me to recognize and acknowledge the leading of my Father to go, but still strongly considered the outcome & consequence of staying.

Staying is so, so easy.

And that’s the thing: I could stay. I could keep shoving those longings under the area rug of my wildest dreams and continue to challenge everyone else to Go. Go when He calls you, always go. I could keep writing, keep speaking, and keep urging the ones around me. I could pretend to not feel the stirring, surrender to the contentment my heart feels in this comfortable place, and trek through a program that I could finish in less time than any program in the country. I could stay.

I could stay and no one would know the difference. No one would feel the pinch in my heart to go. No one would hear the still, small voice. No one would question why I’m still here. Instead, professors would tell me I’m gifted in writing in the world of academia. My pastor would give me opportunities to lead the women in my church. Friends would indulge my love for Paris Café and the Green Market on breezy Saturday mornings. I could stay… but I would know the difference.

My struggle to obey echoes my heart nearly four years ago as I battled the pull I felt to serve in China. Concerning my fear and doubt, I wrote:

And so I questioned. Day after day I questioned whether or not I should stay on this team. The question I told myself was, “Is this really where God wants me?” but that was a mask for my true thoughts of, “This isn’t what I want. This isn’t what I planned.” Yet every time I would think those things, I would get the same feeling in the pit of my stomach. Almost as if God was challenging me: “I dare you to disobey me.” Not in a harsh and threatening way, but in a way that promised me that what He had in store was better.

I could literally speak the same words in regards to leaving West Palm Beach. It isn’t what I (thought I) wanted. And it sure isn’t what I planned. Several months ago, when I wrote about the expectations we set for ourselves, I said, “On the sweeter side of things, this allows me to trust in a God who knows my heart, my dreams, and my desires far better than I ever will. It makes me grateful for the intention of His heart to lead me where I ought to be instead of where I want to be… [especially when they are different destinations].”

(And does. He. ever.) I’m awakened to my childish thinking: I thought I was writing for others. I thought I was reflecting on hindsight. I thought that someone really needed that message and Jesus was using me to speak it.

I didn’t think it still meant me.

My only explanation for leaving is Jesus. Jesus and my wildest dreams have stirred together in a beautiful way and though it took me weeks to believe it, I’m here & I’m giddy with excitement because I’m learning:

1.    Jesus cares about what we want.

“What are you seeking?” (John 1:35) – Dear One, you must abandon the thought that in order to follow Jesus you must forsake everything you desire and succumb to a life of monotony. We are so quick to over spiritualize every aspect of every decision that we miss the beauty of choice. Do you love Him? Are you seeking Him? Are you living in surrender to His word? Then it doesn’t much matter where you go or what you do – you can’t mess it up. He isn’t going to stay in one place and make you cast lots to figure out if you made the right decision. He’s with you, wherever you go & whatever you do. Just keep your eyes locked on His.

2.    You will only have to answer to One.

In the midst of believing that Jesus is calling me on this grand adventure, I had unending thoughts of fear concerning how the news would be received. By professors, by pastors, by mentors, by friends… I legitimately thought, “No one will understand; I should just stay.” Oh, the nonsense. We must remember [Yeah, I have to remember] that we will only ever answer to One, and “I didn’t think they’d understand” is not the answer we will want to give. Obedience will always be worth it.

3.    You can trust His heart.

He loves you, Little One. He is the author of your desires and the fulfiller of your wildest dreams. Let Him woo you. Let Him take you on adventures. He isn’t going to lead you by fear, but rather by peace and joy. Are you walking in peace? Are you living in joy? You can trust His heart to lead you where you need to be.

And so, with shaking hands laced in His, I couldn’t be more excited to walk into this unknown. Oh, yes. The best is yet to come.