The Perfect House.

His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that valley. I wish I had time to tell you even a few of the tales or one or two of the songs that they heard in that house. All of them, the ponies as well, grew refreshed and strong in a few days there. Their clothes were mended as well as their bruises, their tempers, and their hopes.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit


The house was perfect.

It wasn’t perfect because the food was never burnt, or because the sleep never had nightmares, or the stories had no villains. It wasn’t perfect because no one sang off key, or because all the thoughts were honorable. It wasn’t refreshing because it was endlessly harmonious. It was perfect because it had become a haven of joy, community, and truth.

It was a shelter, tried and true.

I couldn’t help but giggle when I first dove into the world of The Hobbit and read these words. What a whimsical description of home! And oh, how I hope to cultivate a dwelling that mends bruises, tempers, and hopes. One known for fresh chocolate chip cookies, afternoon naps, and evening story telling. One, especially, that leaves no room for evil.

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32


Abide. Dwell. Make your home in this.

The House of His Word is a House of Truth, and it has been built meticulously and vigilantly. From the very moment that lies were first favored over truth, blueprints sprang to life and He promised us redemption. The Architect set this plan in motion and poured His Spirit abundantly into the process.

We are image-bearers abiding in other things – things that push us more toward bondage and less toward freedom. And I know I’m not the only one who sees this evidenced in my thoughts every.dang.day. I choose fear, entitlement, bitterness, and insecurity. Though I know that Truth is offered, I hesitate to move in. Moving in carries far too much commitment.

Sure, I like to visit Truth. But to make it my permanent address? No chance.

Usually, I choose to stay in my rundown back house of lies and fear and doubt. Dilapidated and rundown, the paint chipping and a heater that doesn’t work. Shattered windows reflect my shattered hopes and let in the cold winter chill, against my will.

What foolish creatures we are.

We were never meant to live there. We were never meant to call it home.

For it was with utmost thoughtfulness that The Architect began to restore and renew the brokenness in which we choose to live. Knowing we wouldn’t move in to Truth on our own, He moved in to our brokenness and began to rebuild from the inside out. He gave us a place to call Home in the midst of an ever-breaking world. Brick by brick He built this Home with promises and peace. Insulated with hope and a roof of grace, with candles lit in every room, bringing both a light and a scent that let us know we’re Home.

Peek out the back window and see that the back house is gone. You will have to travel far from Home to encounter the musty smell you once considered fresh air. And lest you be deceived, it will be easier to find than you may wish. Fight the temptation to go back; it won’t be good for you. It never was.

You’ve been given a key to a House of Truth. It’s yours and it’s waiting for you. A fire is kindled, sending robust swirls of smoke up the chimney and out into the snowy air. Coffee is brewing and cookies will be ready the moment you walk in. But you first have to leave the backhouse.

You were meant to make your home here, here in His Word. You were meant to walk in the way of peace. You were meant to choose joy. You were meant to be free.


Where are you dwelling? Where do you call home? And what do you need to do today to move closer to truth… closer to freedom… closer to Home?

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Can’t Not.

“Art is not about market demand… The world doesn’t need another band, per se. It doesn’t, strictly speaking, need another book or another photograph or another album. The general world population will survive without one more stage production and one more gallery showing.

This is the thing though: you might not.

We create because we were made to create… if you were made to create, you won’t feel whole and healthy and alive until you do…”

Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet*


I’ve long been obsessed with the thought that we were made in the image of a wildly creative God. One who imagined aardvarks, and giraffes, and anteaters. One who crafted waterfalls, and rainforests, and deserts, and mountains. A God who thought Florida would be the perfect opposite to Michigan, pouring sunshine on one, and snow on the other. One who took an endless palette of colors, and poured them all into the Great Barrier Reef. A God who decided that blue was the perfect color for the sky, adding a vibrant set extras for the morning and evening.

Our days on this earth are a journey of discovering the character of God and then working endlessly to adopt those characteristics into our own. We were made to be like Him – to be grace-givers and truth-speakers, lovers, forgivers, and mercy showing freedom-seekers.

What is God like? You be like that, too.

I love that Yahweh created all of existence with His words. Even though He could have thought it, merely willed it, or even breathed it, I love that He spoke it. I think there is something sacred and anointed about words, and I can’t not throw myself into the world of mixing them together.

And so I write. I write because I believe in the power of words. I write because I believe that when truth is spoken, written, or sung, lies become smaller. I write because I believe that words have the ability to reshape the way we think. And because the way we think is the prototype of the way we live, I think this reshaping is a process worthy of my best time and my deepest efforts.

And, maybe, a reason bigger than all of the others, I write because I need it. Because when I don’t write I feel as though I’m keeping from Jesus the most vulnerable and formative thing within me.

I write because I can’t not.

Have you found your Can’t Not? It’s the thing you find time to do, no matter how busy the weeks become? Or the thing you long to do, even when the fear nearly suffocates your will to do it?

What is the thing you can’t not do?

Cause that’s what you were made for. Can you lean in a bit, and listen close? You were made for your Can’t Not. That place where your passion and your gifting crisscross. The intersection of your biggest dreams and your deepest joys – that’s your Can’t Not.

And you can’t not do your Can’t Not – you have to.

I need you to do your Can’t Not, because when you do, I believe a little more that I can do mine. When I see you believe Jesus for the big things, I get antsy in my monotony. When I see you create, I see the Creator pouring out of you and makes me want to overflow, too.

It’s not about what the world needs more of. It’s about what makes you feel whole, and purposeful, and creative. It’s about doing with excellence the thing you Can’t Not do.

Now let’s be clear: it’s not about you.

It’s not about glorifying, or bringing honor to self. It’s not about doing something so that others will notice you. It’s not about promoting your talents, as lovely and unique and irreplaceable as they are. It’s simply not about you.

And that’s the best part. The beauty is that when you do your Can’t Not, when you dig deep into the things that make you come alive, you reflect the God who Couldn’t Not make you, and you do it in a tremendously lovely way.

There’s no escaping it: you were made to create.

Go find your Can’t Not and get after it.

 


 

*Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way is so, so, so worth your time. Bittersweet

Let It.

“My mom won’t let me.”

How many times did we say those words as near-sighted teenagers? Whether it was a curfew extension, getting a new pair of shoes, or taking a weekend trip with friends. Back in the days of living-with-our-parents, everything looked different. For most of us, boundaries were established, allowance was set, and curfew was virtually immovable. Almost every decision, be it going to lunch after church or spending the night at a friend’s house, was under the scrutiny of our parent’s judgment.

And we hated it.

I can well remember whining time and again, usually in a huff, to my best friend. “UGH. I want to, but my mom won’t let me… She doesn’t even have a good reason! I know; she’s the worst.” (Oh, to be young and disrespectful.)

I even heard these words in college: “I would love to go on an international mission trip, but my dad would never let me.” And even though college students are more than capable of making their own decisions, this still held weight, and dads not letting meant some students didn’t go.


 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

James 1:2-4


This familiar passage has recently wrecked me. It’s that little word I noticed for possibly the first time, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. It’s an imperative that carries authority and responsibility, and I’ve read right past it for the last ten years.

James was the book I thought I knew. The one I had under control. The one from which I had probably already learned everything I was going to learn.

Until last week.

I barely made it through the first three verses when the word LET jumped off the page…

Because the command to let implies that you could also not let.

You could go through trials, your faith could be tested, you could even choose joy along the way – but you could still not let steadfastness have its full effect in you.

I knew that joy was mine for the taking. I knew I could choose to celebrate hard times and grow from them. And I knew I could resist, I could grow in bitterness, and I could fight my way through every tough experience.

But I always thought that the perseverance, the steadfastness, the patience would happen either way. Whether I chose bitterness or joy, perseverance would be developed, and it would make me “perfect and complete.” Whether I celebrated or wept my way through the valleys, I would come out on the other side “lacking in nothing.”

But this idea of letting is changing my perspective entirely.

A parent exercises the letting because they have authority to make decisions for their children, but more so because they have the responsibility. My fourteen-year-old self would have had a sleepover every night, I never would have studied, and I would have played games and giggled with my friends for hours upon hours. My parents knew they needed to exercise the authority to not let me, and they had a responsibility to make the hard decisions that I wasn’t mature enough to make.

But the stakes are higher now.

It’s not just your weekend plans; it’s your sanctification. It’s being formed into the likeness of our King. It’s being better tomorrow than we were today. It’s choosing the hard path, because we know “easy” isn’t going to make us any more like Jesus. You certainly have the authority to not let steadfastness have its full effect. You have the authority to fight change, avoid growth, and barely survive the trials that you can’t avoid.

But on the flip side, and with ever-increasing significance, you have the responsibility to let it.

I woke up this morning not wanting to choose joy and not wanting to let steadfastness have any effect, let alone a full one. I wanted to sit on my couch and binge watch The Office. I wanted to turn off my phone, lock my door, and eat every last drop of the Blue Bell Rocky Road ice cream sitting in my freezer.

But even in the midst of hard weeks and harder days, we can choose growth. Won’t you? Won’t you take a deep breath, step back, and reevaluate your entire perspective of joy, suffering, and these little, inescapable “trials”?

Will you decide to decide that steadfastness is worth it? Will you choose joy and growth? Maybe it’s a decision you’ll have to make every single morning for a season.

For me, it’s a decision I have to make every single hour most days…

And even through the tears of trials and the struggle to find joy in them, I want to know when I’m in the thick of it that this testing is making me steadfast – immovable – and that I’m choosing to let that steadfastness make me whole. I’m choosing to let it, even when it hurts. I’m choosing to fight through “the testing of my faith” valiantly, acknowledging that I have the authority to grow and the responsibility to let it.

Unpack.

I hate unpacking.

I find it inconvenient, frustrating, and simply a waste of time. Whether the item to unpack is an overnight bag from a weekend adventure, or everything I own in a cross-country move. I simply hate it.

You see, I’m a lover. I want to dive right into life. I want to meet the people, drink the coffee, and see the town. I want to discover how many stars I can see from my backyard on any given night. I want to memorize the skyline. I want to find old bookstores and hidden coffee shops and outdoor markets with sunflowers and fresh blueberries. I want to, for goodness’ sake, get anywhere with using the navigation on my iPhone.

I don’t want to find a new space for every possession I found worthy of a cross-country move. I don’t want to rewash dishes that have sat in cardboard boxes or iron clothes that have been tightly shoved in suitcases. I don’t want to be reminded that I have too many t-shirts, and books, and coffee mugs.

But my recent cross-country move has forced me to face a reality that ran far deeper than the boxes in the bedroom:

I need to unpack.

Not just for aesthetics, but for my heart.

I realized that these habits represent far more than my tendencies in moving to a new home, or city, or state. It’s not just the “inconvenience” of unpacking. It’s the refusal to sift through what I carry. And it has nothing to do with the dishes in my cabinet.

No. It’s the fear of failing, the strained friendships, the heartbreaks, and the feeling like I’ve disappointed the people I love. It’s the familiarity I thought I was so ready to leave, but now miss more desperately than I ever thought possible. It’s the insecurities, the fear, and the doubting of everything I once felt sure of.

It’s refusing to unpack a thousand experiences worth of memory, and joy, and hurt. It’s the fear of what I might find hiding behind my deepest longings. The comments that hurt for reasons I don’t want to understand. The comparison I subject myself to when I see the posting of distant friends litter my newsfeed, reminding me of all the things I’m not. It’s the inclination to run at the first sign of vulnerability, and it’s a pitifully dreadful impulse.

 

Would you take some time to unpack?

 

Would you lean in to the full on, all out, renovation of your worthy-of-wholeness heart? Would you, piece by piece, empty the boxes you’ve shoved in the attic and left unlabeled, hoping to avoid the shame of all you know you put inside? Would you take out every article of clothing with intentionality and care, as if it was best outfit you’ve ever owned? You know, the pink eyelet dress with strappy brown wedges, or the flowy sky blue sweater that makes you feel like a superhero. Treat it all that way. And taking each piece, fingering a myriad of fabrics, decide what can stay and what must go.

Half the dread of unpacking is knowing that we carry too much. It’s knowing that we hoard experiences for our self loathing and destruction. It’s knowing that we have to face it if we’re going to let it go.

Here’s the thing: so much of what you’ll find packed away in those boxes should stay. You may need to do a little dusting, but find a place on the shelf you pass every evening and celebrate life every time you steal a glance. Decide why it should stay, and then rejoice that you have it, that it’s yours.

But so much needs to go. Dig deep down and find the strength to say goodbye. Carefully box up your bitterness and mark it for the trash. Take each ounce of fear and toss it out. Look under the bed and in the drawer of your nightstand and find the doubt you talk to on the nights you can’t sleep. Make sure there’s not a hint remaining, and throw it away. Find every piece of “I-wish-it-were-different” hiding in the corners and repurpose it. Our deepest hurt can set the stage for our greatest glimpses of glory, and then (and only then) it can stay.

Unpack your heart. Let it settle in this new place of freedom. For just as I’m slowly learning to call Dallas home, I am slowly finding unpacking to be well worth the pain.