Wait.

Wait.

Hold on. Sit tight. Don’t move.

Wait.

[weyt, verb] – to stay where one is or delay action until a particular time or until something else happens.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” It’s a question I wish I always had an answer to. Truthfully, it’s a question I wish I didn’t have to ask myself so often. No one likes to wait, and few people know how to truly wait well (I am historically not one of those people). It makes us feel stagnant, purposeless, and empty. It makes it seem like you can’t quite do anything until you get an answer from the boy, or the job, or the school.

Underneath the waiting is the reality that there is something we want, but don’t have. There is a thing, or a place, or a person that we long for, yet find ourselves without. It’s the perfect opportunity for ungratefulness, lack of trust in God’s goodness, and intensified focus on self. It gives us chance to wave our arms and shake our fists, asking God why He’s forgotten.

But what if it’s not about what we wait for or how long we wait, but rather what we do in the waiting? If Jesus is really after your heart (and boy, do I believe He is), then it’s not just about enduring the time between “please” and “thank you.” It’s about being formed to His likeness in between.

The season of advent recently reminded us that we wait for the promises of a sovereign God to come to pass in our lives.

Sometimes it’s tangible:

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” {Luke 1:31}

Sometimes it’s not:

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” {Philippians 4:7}

If we believe that God is good and for us and intricately involved in both our desiring and our receiving, then our waiting must be seen through the lens hope.

Like the little ones on Christmas Eve, struggling to sleep but finding it impossible because they know what they will find when morning comes. They wait with unshaking expectation. There is no question of if there will be gifts and giggles – it is simply a matter of when the night will end.

Could we wait with such expectation? Submission laced with certainty to lead us to a place of confidence in the One we trust.

Now Yahweh surely isn’t Santa Clause and I have no intention of hoping you believe so. But the waiting modeled for us in Scripture is wrecking me a bit this holiday. It was full of expectation, hope, and anticipation.

The word waiting is often translated as looking for and even receiving. There was a confidence in their expectation that demanded something would be done, and though they surely didn’t know all the details, they knew their God would come through.

“If the Lord makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes.”

-Charles Spurgeon

We wait because it strengthens our trust in Yahweh’s promises. We wait because it heightens our sensitivity to His voice. We wait because it reminds us that He is God and we are not.

As you enter the new year waiting for that thing, press in to the longing that lies beneath the want. Wherever you find yourself and whatever you are waiting on, do so with your whole heart. Make a list of things you’re waiting for and match each with a lesson to be learned in the waiting. Ask Jesus to make Himself known in your waiting and trust with confidence that He will speak and lead you along the way.

Here’s the thing: you will always be waiting for something. And a life fully lived is a life that is all-in to each & every moment of each & every day. Learning to wait well allows us to fully indulge in the joy that today brings, trusting that the unwritten days & decisions will unfold exactly as our King sees fit.

You can wait well because you follow the unchanging Giver of good gifts (James 1:17). You can anticipate because He is able to provide exceedingly beyond your wildest dreams (Ephesians 3:21). You can be the example-setter of patience and endurance because you have everything you need right now to be holy (2 Peter1:3).






 

Those Who Mourn.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Matthew 5

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

The beatitudes have long been prized as humbling promises that we are taught to desire. The reality is that although they are beautiful to hear, they are quite hard to live. The funny thing about them is that we want the effect without the cause. We want the kingdom of heaven, but we don’t want to be poor in spirit. We want to inherit the earth, to be satisfied, and definitely to receive mercy. But we don’t always want to be meek, to hunger and thirst, or to… (gasp) show mercy.

I think that most of all, we want to be comforted. We want shoulders to lean on. We want trusted arms wrapped tightly around us. We want kind words, and we want friends to catch the tears. We want to be comforted.

And the fervor with which we want to be comforted is usually matched by a refusal to mourn. We refuse to admit hurt, and brokenness, and pain. We run from memories and fight when sudden instances take us unexpectedly to those moments.

But these beatitude promises are conditional. They are dependent on our willingness to do the hard things. And I’m coming to believe that that is what makes them so beautiful, so desirable to our fickle hearts.

I think somewhere deep inside we know that we were created for more than mundane surviving. We are not designed to just scrape by in life. We were created for abundance, for deep, deep joy.

Could it be possible that this richness, this deep, unshakeable joy, hinges on our willingness to do the hard things?

When I traveled to a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea after my college graduation, I lived with the loveliest family. The Passmore’s taught me about hospitality, prayer, joy, and pressing in to really listen to Jesus. They modeled for our team what it looks like to do family well. They are also fierce competitors, and anyone that prizes ice cream and loud laughs, and can get feisty over a card game will instantly earn my trust.

A couple weekends ago I traveled to Middle of Nowhere, Iowa to celebrate the life of their littlest love. Lilliana Joy passed away in her sleep at the end of October and we gathered with shattered hearts to remember her sweet cooing and gentle heart.

The Passmore’s aren’t perfect. (I’m sure Eve would want you to know that.) But I think that’s why I’ve grown to adore them so much. They do mess just as well as they do glory. And I think it’s their ability to embrace the fullness of each moment that causes them to leak freedom the way they do. They are honest about hard things. They model vulnerability and invite others into the freedom they find. They welcomed their community of family and friends into their mourning that weekend and though it hurt and was really, really hard, there was an immense comfort that radiated from the Passmore family.

I know that mourning is hard. I know it’s messy and invasive and makes you vulnerable more than you’d like to be. But maybe it’s hard because the glory of being comforted is too sweet to be easily gained. Maybe there is a greater discipline that comes through mourning that allows us to love more deeply. Maybe our hearts need to mourn to be whole again.


Is there something you haven’t been willing to mourn? Is there pain of depression and anxiety that you never wanted in the first place? Mourn that. Is there a broken heart, a boy who left when he promised he wouldn’t? Mourn that. Has graduation left you lonely and missing the community you used to have? Mourn that, too. Is there a miscarriage? A lost job? A life you thought you would have by now, but don’t? Mourn, mourn, mourn.

Grieve for all you hoped would be that isn’t. Let the tears you’ve fought tumble from your eyes like a sudden thunderstorm. Know that it’s okay. Grieve expectantly because there is a surefire promise to those who mourn:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Do the hard things so you can marvel in the sweet things. It’s not really life any other way.






 

He was heard. {You can be, too.}

In just a few hours my home will be filled with groggy high schoolers. It’s the thing I love most about Wednesday mornings, that we get to open our space, flip a bajillion pancakes, and pray with our sweet students as they make their way across the street for another day in prison at school. And although I should be in bed, my mind can’t get over a passage I read in Hebrews this morning…

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…”

Hebrews 5:7-9

My academic mind grasped the obvious application immediately: we should pray reverently, like Jesus did. It’s the response I’ve gleaned from this passage in the past, when it seemed like a clear, straightforward, keep-on-reading, kind of application.

But something struck a different chord this morning and I haven’t been able to drop it all day.

Jesus was heard.

Jesus prayed loudly with tears in His eyes to a God who could save Him from death… and He didn’t get what He asked for.

We have the same hindsight complex for this moment in history that precludes us from mourning on Holy Saturday, the day after we remember Good Friday. The day before we celebrate Easter. We forget that a waiting world was devastated that day, sure they had lost the One in whom they hoped.

We see Good Friday in light of Easter.

We see Jesus’ unanswered prayer in light of our glorious salvation.

And it’s skewed our view, more than just a little. When did we start to associate heard prayers with answered-the-way-we-wanted prayers? As if prayer can even fail?

Prayer – our means of communication with the God to whom we’ve surrendered our brief collection of moments on earth.

Prayer – a time of submission, supplication, and adoration.

Prayer – a chance to listen, to receive, to abide.

Prayer – not the time for us to dump or to demand.

Prayer – a time to get real about the desires hiding deep in our hearts.

Prayer – a time to approach expectant for His presence, not His perks.

I struggle with the balance of desire + submission.

I know it’s a broken way of thinking, but I tend to oscillate between obsessing over what I desire to trying to rid myself of desire altogether. Pretending that I don’t really want anything and covering my insecurity about what I actually want with the guise of, “Your will be done.”

Mistake me not; I want His will to be done in my life.

But I don’t want to stumble into it muffling my unspoken desires out of some bogus fear that I’ll be less for wanting something He didn’t want for me.

Bottom line, my friends? If you don’t know what His will is, press in to your desires. Lay them out, examine them, and detail them to your gracious Father. Spoiler alert? He already knows them and you aren’t sparing Him a darn thing by refusing to ask for it.

Jesus’ prayers weren’t described as heard because He got what He wanted. He was heard because He spoke them. Because He laid Himself before Yahweh God and He cried, “Let this cup pass from me.”

And it didn’t. But you can be sure that Jesus didn’t walk to Gethsemane in shame because He asked for something He didn’t get. He walked in humility, knowing He could trust when His Father said, “No.”

I want to lean in, I want to trust, I want to be brave enough to ask for what I think I want. And then brave again to surrender it in order to receive what He knows I need. I want a heart that’s ready to pray, “Your will be done,” ready to receive whatever plan He has in place of my desires.

My most recent season has carried more loud cries and teary prayers than any other in my life. Both for things I desires and for things I fear. Lots of cries. Lots of tears. And tonight I’m resting in the beauty that we are heard, even when we feel forgotten. Even when our cries lead to suffering instead of the “answers” we think we wanted.


I’m hoping someone else needs to be reminded of this promise, this eternal, never-gonna-fail promise:

He hears you. He hears you. He hears you.

Pray prayers filled with desire.

Tonight I’m saying thanks to the mysterious author of Hebrews and the Spirit who inspired his words. Thanks to Jesus who modeled well the hard task of not getting what He asked for, but proceeding with rich grace anyways. And thanks especially to Yahweh, the God who doesn’t just listen, but hears.

May we have the courage to pray, “Your will be done.” in all things big + small, and the confidence to believe we are heard when we do.





{{if you want to press in more to such thoughts on prayer, I’ve been challenged greatly by God on Mute by Peter Greig and Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by my dear Jack.}}

Living Unlocked.

stairs

I have never lived alone before now.

This new season of coming home alone is unusual to my over-social personality. I leave the light on in the kitchen always because coming home to an empty house is weird enough, empty and dark would just be too much.

I feel an extra weight of pressure to keep my home secure. Something about not having another person inside makes me feel more susceptible to danger, even in the best of neighborhoods.

The simple solution to my anxiety is to lock up in every possible way. Coming home, then, requires a meticulous undoing of all the guards I have established to “protect me.” One night last week as I unhooked the gate at the top of the driveway, unlocked the two locks on the bottom door, and ascended the stairs to two more sturdy locks, an unexpected thought ran through my mind:

“It’s okay for your home, Jenn, but not for your heart.”

Woah. “Where did that come from?” I probed my own mind. And again the whisper, “It’s okay for your home but not for your heart.”

Vulnerability has never been my strong suit or my default. I’ve never been the one who gushed over crushes or swooned over handsome actors. I was the one who denied having a crush on my first boyfriend until we sat across from each other on a bench at the nearby elementary school and he told me he wanted to date me. Once it was safe, I was all in. But until then? Fort Knox over here.

Even as an adult, I have to constantly fight the tendency to wall up and shut down when things hurt me, or when unexpected feelings reign disruptively in my heart. My mind knows it’s a dangerous way to live. My mind knows it doesn’t foster healing or freedom. But even still, my heart locks up.

And though I know it’s not the healthiest, it is painfully easy to live that way – to live locked up. It’s easy to sift through experiences and feelings and ideas and decide what can be accessed by anyone and what will stay far beyond the reach of all who may desire to go beyond the surface. It’s easy to brush past inquiring questions and easier still to navigate a simple response that reveals nothing of our true feelings.

But as the Spirit so gently spoke over me that night: what’s right for our possessions isn’t always right for our wellbeing. And living with your heart on lockdown doesn’t actually protect you.

The paradox of safety is that locking up isn’t what we want in the depth of our hearts. We want to be known. We want to be loved. We want to be fought for. What is safe is the commitment to risk. What’s risky is the false security of living locked up.

Unlocking is worth the risk because risk is the safest way to live. {Side note: “safe” as in – best for your heart, even when it’s risky & hard. I assume we all rest in the promise that our God isn’t safe, per se. But He’s good, He’s the King.}  Unlocking prizes community, and messiness, and life lived in circles full of the ones we love.

Living unlocked matters. It matters for your family and your spouse. It matters for your dating relationships. It matters for the people you invest in and seek to do life with. It matters to live unlocked because vulnerability begets vulnerability, and true vulnerability invites freedom. And don’t we want to be free?

I do.

I want to live in freedom and invite others to do the same. And so I’m resolving to fight my tendency to lock up. I’m resolving to lock the doors of my house, but to unlock the doors of my heart, trusting that those who enter will sharpen, challenge, and urge me closer to the King – the One in whose presence I so long to abide.






 

Lean In.

I spent another precious summer in one of my favorite places on earth: WinShape Camp for Girls. It was there that I had the dreamy privilege of speaking to close to 200 girls every morning – teaching them the Word of God, telling stories, and trying my hardest to help them see Jesus in everything. It reawakened the challenge for myself – to look for Him in the little moments as well as the big. To choose to see Him at work in stories and adventures just as much as in the Word and in worship.

On a day when the sun was brighter than it had been in a solid week (an absolute eternity at camp) and the bright blue sky was filled cotton candy clouds (my all-time favorite), we went white water rafting down the Ocoee River in Tennessee. We sang Taylor Swift, ate turkey + cheese sandwiches, and giggled endlessly on our drive to the guide company.

Our young + bearded guide, Chaz, was giving us the necessary rundown of safety measures and emergency info, and included in this lesson was short list of commands we would need to know on the river. When we would need to paddle, Chaz would call out “forward three”… or two, or one. In some cases the command was “forward all” indicating we should paddle until he changed the command or told us to stop.

But it was the last command he taught us that stuck with me. If Chaz were to call out, “lean in” we were to deliberately and quickly lean our bodies over the raft. Our feet should stay in the locked position, but our bodies should be turned purposely in a different direction. It could happen in a rapid or just on rough water, and he said the command could indicate something good or bad. “We’ll find out when it comes,” he said nonchalantly, clearly showing his comfort with the adventure of the unknown, and continued on with other details.

With a recently dislocated shoulder I was a bit anxious for the adventure, and I was quite intrigued by a command that could be good or bad. A command that we wouldn’t know the seriousness of until it was spoken. It was thrilling, enticing, and somewhat terrifying.

Throughout our time on the class four and five rapids, Chaz called the command to lean in several times. A few of the times we were tossed inward as we leaned, fighting to regain our balance quickly and be ready for the next command.

Even after five miles on the river and endless laughs with the wild + crazy campers on the drive home, I couldn’t shake my obsession with this command to lean in. Loving words + wanting to know them deeply, I looked more to understand this command in the rafting context. Here’s what I found:

“At the sound of this call, crewmembers shift their weight in over the boat so that if they lose their balance, they will fall into, rather than out of, the boat.”

Life is shaky. It’s uncertain and unpredictable. Sometimes we answer the phone and the news on the other end shatters our world. Sometimes we fail tests… or classes. We don’t get into the program, or the baby doesn’t make it to the second trimester, or friends just walk away. Sometimes we’re the one who walked away + we’re broken at the thought that we just don’t care anymore.

The unpredictable can be exciting, too. The stranger in Starbucks asks you to dinner. The internship offers you a full-time position. The business grows, the team wins, you ace the class. You’re reminded that you’re deeply loved + valued + and life just seems as sweet as could be.

It’s easy to be tussled when life gets hard. And it’s easy to forget when life gets easy. It’s like Chaz taught us on the river, the command to lean in happens for the good + the bad, the safe + the risky.

And it’s in these unsettled + celebratory moments that we find out where we’re really leaning. When the boat is tossed and we’re either flung into the rapids below, left gasping for air and reaching back for something stable to grasp – or, though tossed + rejoicing, we’re kept firm in our foundation. Clutching tightly to the promise, secure in what we know to be true. Or rather, in Who we know to be true.

Leaning in doesn’t lessen the risk of the rapids, but it assures us that even when we’re tossed by the waves, we fall to a place of safety rather than a place of danger.

So today, this week, this season – when you see the rapids raging and the drops coming in the distance, hear the King as He whispers. Take Him at His word and know that it’s here in the uncertainty of the good + the bad that we keep our balance best when we lean in.






Nesting.

nesting

I have never been a nester.

I’ve never been the kind who spends days and weeks in a new home ensuring I find a specific place to store everything I own. It’s more than just a dislike, it’s a subtle refusal to get dirty in the mess of unpacking. I unpacked this issue in the spring (see what I did there?), but returning to Dallas has brought it back to the surface.

While I was away for camp this summer, the ministry house I live in underwent some pretty incredible remodeling. Here’s the deal: I live in a house. The house has two floors, each with a separate entrance. The downstairs is the space we use for ministry with students, but it also housed two guys while I lived upstairs with another gal. This summer, they gutted the downstairs to open it up for more students, more space, more fun. They also separated my two bedroom upstairs apartment into two one-bedroom spaces, making the house a tri-plex. If that’s a thing.

So although I live in the same house, my space changed entirely. My room moved across the hall. My old room is (or rather, will be) a cozy den. The back room that stored all the boxes I refused to unpack is now an incredibly functional office, with aliases that include dining room and craft central.

I live alone in my half of the apartment, which means I have no roommate for the first time in my life. Which, more so, means I can’t rely on anyone else to nest on my behalf. I can’t wait for someone else to hang pictures and make this house a home. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. The shifting brought me back to a truth I could no longer avoid:

It’s time to unpack & it’s time to nest.

It’s time to remove the weird safety net I kept by keeping boxes full. As if I might load up my car in a day and leave, if things got too hard.

But nesting is weird. It means I accept that I actually, really, truly live in Texas. It means I buy storage bins to hold scarves, and hooks to hang up necklaces. It means I sort through boxes of old notebooks and put every darn book on the shelf. It means I decide that I don’t want to live in a house this year. I want to live in a home.

And in this little home of mine, some of the pictures are crooked. Some of the frames have nicks, and there are about fifteen extra holes in the wall from where I mismeasured over & over & over.

Nesting is hard. It forces you to unpack when you could run from the things you carry. To stay inside when you could ignore the work no one will see and affirm. And to intentionally think through why you own certain books & sweaters & coffee mugs. It’s calls you to discipline. To consistency. To discover what you value & why you value it.

You see, these things won’t last. One hurricane (is that a thing in Dallas?) or tornado (this surely is) or unexpected fire could swallow up my things in matter of moments and I would have nothing of it left. I’ve run from nesting because I didn’t think my things here mattered, but I’m finding that these temporary, fading things help me make a house a home. And a home that invites vulnerability and freedom and light and love and laughter is a home worth tending. A haven worth creating and pouring all the heart and soul I have into it.

The pictures on these walls remind me of the people I love so much it hurts. It reminds me of the places and faces who have shaped me, challenged me, and called me to fight for holiness. Nesting is hard & it’s slow. But it sure is sweet to walk into a home that has my fingerprints all over it. It’s sweet to think of what this home will become – the hearts that will sit on these couches with a desperate need to be reminded of their value and purpose. The sweet high school girls who put so much cream & sugar in their coffee that it might as well be warmed up sugar. But they love it, and I love them.

‘Cause the sweetest part about nesting is the wild & crazy privilege of creating this haven for any and all who someday enter. To create a place where hope is fought for, even in the midst of devastation. Where time is slow and eyes aren’t glued to phones. A place where there is always a pot of coffee brewing and break-n-bakes in the oven. A place where new friends and old feel safe to set down the burdens they’ve been carrying and embrace the God of hope, freedom, and joy.

Slowly, but surely, this place is becoming mine. And I’m finding I love it in ways I never dreamt I would. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

I want this home to be a place where the coffee is strong, the laughs are loud, and Christ is always, always, always lifted high.


Sound off: In what ways do you need to nest – physically & spiritually?






Remaining.

The fifteenth psalm is the kind you should paint in pretty calligraphy, accented with pastel watercolor flowers, and hang on your wall. It’s short + it’s sweet. It uses words I love like sojourn and dwell. The kind of words that dance in your imagination.

Sojourn makes me want to stuff a backpack with quick dry t-shirts and buy a one-way ticket to Europe. Dwell makes me want to plant myself deep in a single community and learn to know it intimately.

And hearing them together makes me want to figure out a way to do them both at the same time.

In this sweet psalm, David asks the Lord who will sojourn and dwell with Him: in his tent, on His holy hill. Though sojourn often means “a temporary stay” in the context of traveling (and even us being sojourners in this life), David uses it in the context of abiding. Both sojourn and dwell carry width + depth. It’s not a visit; it’s a home.

These words are rich with the idea of remaining.

It’s like King David is saying, “Yahweh, how do I stay here with your presence? It’s so easy to slip away… but how can I not? How can I remain in your company?”

His reflection on this question overflows in a series of twelve characteristics. Qualities of a steadfast, immovable person. Attributes of the people who remain on the holy hill, in the presence of the Lord.

Lean in a minute, friends. This is so key.

‘Cause isn’t that what we’re after? When it comes down to it, don’t we just want to be with Jesus?

We seek and try and fumble through so many things that don’t draw us closer to Yahweh’s heart. We observe the character of Christ written throughout the story of Scripture and we say we want it… but in practice we chase so many worthless things.

We chase things that are empty.

We chase things that don’t fulfill.

We chase things that hurt us.

We chase idols that mock the God who invites us to remain.

King David is gettin’ after it when he inquires of the living God, “Who remains with you? I want to be one of them.” I read that intro and my soul echoes with a longing to know the answer. And there it is:

“She who walks blamelessly and does what is right

and speaks truth in her heart.”

I couldn’t read another word.

Mmmmph. You see, I can speak truth out loud with the best of ‘em. I can write cards and send text messages and help friends when they’re hurting. I can memorize Scripture and share it when my people need a light to shine when it’s dark. I can speak truth with my words and really, truly mean it.

But to speak it in my own heart? That’s a whole other ball game. One I fail at that daily. Hourly, if I’m being honest.

Instead of speaking truth in my heart, I worship a laundry list of lies that seeks to destroy my hope, my passion, my calling, and my life. I dwell in all that I am not. I let the nonsense of deception seep into my thoughts and like a broken record my mind is trapped:

You’re not enough.

You’re not enough.

You’re not enough.

And the next thing I know, I’m weary + empty + broken down from the onslaught of lies I’ve been speaking in my heart, all the while speaking the truth out loud to the ones I love.

Truth needs to be spoken.

It needs to be spoken when you don’t get the job, or when the boy decides he doesn’t like you. When friends die of cancer, and when you don’t get into your dream school.

In loud shouts and teary whispers, to the ones we love and the ones we hardly know. When the sun invites a fresh start, and again when it hides away for the night. When we want to hear it, and when we don’t. Out loud and in our hearts.

Do you want to dwell on His holy hill? Do you want to remain?

Then we must decide that speaking truth in our heart isn’t a cozy idea, but a necessity. When we let lies rule over truth we’re walking ourselves off the holy hill. We can’t remain in His presence if we’re saturating our minds with unmet superlatives.

You were made for the remaining. don’t trade it for the broken record.


+ How full is your reservoir of truth? You don’t know what you don’t know. You can’t speak truth you haven’t grappled with and understood. Fill up on truth this morning so you can speak it in your heart tonight.

+ Who can you count on to speak truth when you forget to speak it to yourself?

{I revisited this psalm leading up to my best friend’s birthday, asking Jesus to give me a word to speak over her new year. I thought of Michéle as one who so longs to dwell on the holy hill. I thought of our friendship and the journey we have shared over the last seven years. And I thought how often we’ve prayed together and for one another with a deep, deep longing that Truth would saturate our hearts and minds. That above all else, truth would permeate all we say + all we do. And I was reminded how grateful I am for a friend who speaks truth to me. Everyone should have a friend like Michéle.}

If you don’t have a Michéle, ask Jesus to lead you to a friend who will challenge you and urge you closer to His heart. If you already have this kind of truth chaser, send them some love today.






 

 

Deflated Balloons.

A red polka dotted balloon, almost knotted at the end to conceal it’s robust filling, slipped out of my hands and emptied itself of the air my lungs had worked double time to inflate it with.

I watched it fly spastically around the kitchen to land defeated on the counter by the coffee maker, and I cried.

I had been feeling a lot like that balloon. Exhausted. Worn. Tired. Full, but quickly deflated. So close to the end – nearly with the knot around this winter season – and then I lost it.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the purpose and importance of winter. I’ve discovered that pressing in to this vulnerability, despite how uncomfortable it is, pushes me towards healing.

Maybe you’re like me: when things get hard, when winter shows up unexpectedly, I try to run. Not so much away from the problem, but through it. I figure if I pick up the pace, the days will pass faster and spring will come sooner.

But what I really needed to learn in this winter is not how to get out of it faster. No, I just need to know that it’s okay to be in winter.

Did you need to hear that, too? It’s okay to be in winter. 

It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to want to stay inside. It’s okay to lock the door and shut the blinds. It’s okay to mourn.

It’s okay to cry in the wake of the changing seasons, to petition the earth to stop it’s rotation, if only for a moment, that you might regain your sense of direction.

It’s not just okay; it’s essential. Rushing into autumn leaves something in summer undone. And waiting for everyone else to be ready, or being pulled along by the ones lighting bonfires and baking pumpkin treats in August isn’t fair either.

And sometimes more than knowing that it’s okay to be there, we need to know that it’s okay to let others be there, too. We have this funny tendency to get uncomfortable when the people we love are hurting. And so we give advice and we say, “It will get better soon!” or “We’re here for you!” or “This won’t last forever!”

And as lovely and true and kind those things are to say, sometimes all the ones we love need to hear is “I know that sucks, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry it’s hard. And I’m sorry you’re hurting.”

That’s hard for us, isn’t it? It’s hard for me.

I’m a fixer. I want to make it better. I want to heal. I want to do. I want to say. I want to contribute tangibly to the get-my-friends-out-of-winter endeavor.

I’ve had a lot of beautiful, kind, encouraging, well-meaning folks around me this winter. I’ve heard lots of ‘It-won’t-last-forever’s and ‘Soon-it-will-be-better’s. And ya know what happened? It didn’t bring spring any quicker. It didn’t invoke sunshine. And it didn’t melt the snow. It left me feeling like I need to just get over winter and stop being affected by the cold. And somehow, somehow that made me hurt even more. Oh, the opposite of what was intended became inescapable.

Ultimately, this recent winter season has taught me how to love people better in their winters. I saw how badly I just needed to be validated that winter sucks & it’s hard & we’re not supposed to do it alone. It’s messy, isn’t it?

Sitting with people in their mess is hard and uncomfortable. But may those never be good enough reasons for us to stop.


How can you love your people better in the midst of their winter? How can you fight with them & for them? Do you know someone that needs a “I’m sorry it’s hard. Know I’m always on your team.” text message today? Or someone who needs a surprise white mocha, just so they know they’re loved?

Send those texts. Buy those mochas. It will speak worlds to your frozen friends.






 

The Thing About Seasons.

I feel duped by nature.

Just when I thought I had things under control, I feel blindsided by a reality that somehow slipped passed me:

seasons are cyclical.

Growing up in Florida gave me a fairytale view of Winter, consisting of warm cookies on cold days, pretty scarves, and Christmas day snowfalls. Autumn was a once a year feeling of 60-degree mornings, surely stolen by sunshine in the early afternoon. Spring was what we called autumn days that happened after Christmas, and Summer was every other waking moment.

I studied for exams on the beach in December. I wore sundresses and shorts and flip-flops year round. I owned boots, but rarely ever had a valid chance to wear them.

still my heart longed for seasons in a way that would validate my sometimes-weary heart. Although Summer seemed perpetual around me with the Atlantic just across the street, the seasons were surely changing within me.

My heart felt Winter when a dear family friend lost his battle with cancer months after his eighteenth birthday. Winter came again my first year post-grad when I worked an office job and realized I hated high heels, 9-6, and sitting alone behind my desk while my heart longed desperately for ministry. Winter came and taught me deeply, and I made myself believe I had learned all that Winter had to offer.

After enduring what I considered to be the coldest Winter of my life, Spring came again and it was lovely. I danced in fields of wildflowers and got sunburnt on the beach. Summer followed Spring, as it always does, and I delighted in every moment. I reflected on Winter, thanked Yahweh for the frost, and dug my heels deep into the warm seasons that followed.

But though I withstood that deep, dark Winter, patting myself on the back for surviving and moving on, I forgot that seasons were cyclical. I forgot that Winter would someday come again in my heart and life.

Moving to Dallas and taking a full-time position in ministry left me feeling quite comfortable in Summer. Things were new and fresh and I was feeling more free than ever before. Nothing was further from my mind than the thought of Winter.

But somewhere in the sunshine of moving to a town full of new adventures, Winter snuck in uninvited. A ministry team became me working by myself. Brainstorming sessions and staff meetings were left with my name alone on the attendee list. Event planning, weekly meetings, and overall administration came under my sphere of responsibility. Still barely able to navigate myself around town without my GPS, I was thrown headlong into a season I did not want, and was not ready for.

And that’s the thing about seasons: they don’t work on your time frame.

They don’t come and go when you want them to, or when you think you’re ready. Sometimes you’re thrown recklessly into a season of winter with one brief phone call, or after a marathon conversation that leaves you suddenly, and regrettably, single.

Sometimes Winter lasts longer than you would prefer. You could spend weeks and weeks longing for Spring to come, only for a blizzard to shock you in April. Seasons don’t honor our schedules or desires. They come uninvited and leave only when Yahweh deems it time for change.

And that might be the very best thing about seasons: they always come and they always go.

The sun shines in Alaska and South Florida still gets frost warnings every now and again. Winter will never stop showing up this side of heaven, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Spring will never, ever cease to follow. In the glory of sunflowers and Texas blue bonnets, the snow will melt and your heart will heal again.

In the midst of pain and confusion, hold tight to the promise of restoration. Let Winter heal your heart as it heals the earth and prepares for Spring. And just as Winter will never stop surrendering to Spring, so Yahweh will never stop fighting for your wholeness.

And in the midst of Summer celebrations with water slides and fresh lemonade, thank Jesus for the gift of carefree, giggly days. Recognize that this season is special and hard days will come again. Store the memories of these weekends on the lake knowing that they will be balm to your wintery heart.

Yahweh knew what He was doing when He crafted the earth to need seasons, and He knows your heart just as well. So whether you’re in Summer, Winter, or somewhere in between – trust Him, look to Him, cling to Him. He alone is our hope for spring, both on the earth and in our hearts.






They Went Fishing

In the wake of Easter celebrations, I find myself reflecting on and dwelling in the post-resurrection stories told to us through the four gospels. What was it like to feel absolute and utter despair on that fateful Friday? What was it like to walk away from the cross crushed in spirit + empty of hope?

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” seems to be an offensively weak description of what the friends of Jesus would have felt on that dark, silent Saturday. But that was surely not the end! Pure glory must have overcome them when their broken hope turned to promise and Christ appeared to them once again.

John wrote that “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples” (John 20:30) and Luke tells us that these appearances occurred over the course of forty days (Acts 1:3).

Those forty days must have been hard. Though beautifully exciting and full of wonder and joy, there was the overwhelming reality that things had changed. Having Jesus back wouldn’t look quite like it did before.

It’s always hard when things change, particularly when its unexpected and undesired. But we can learn tremendously from Jesus’ friends. We’re so much like them. Separated by centuries, but lovers of Christ just the same, and desperate to walk freely as we fight for hope and faith in His coming Kingdom.

Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples were together. Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” They replied, “We’ll go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

They went fishing.

These men were fishers by trade and by training. It was the heart of what they did in the days before Jesus wrecked them for ordinary living. It was their familiar, their go-to. And when Jesus came He called them out of it. He spoke worth and glory and vision over their lives and called them to walk into so much more. Healing, deliverance, and insight into Scripture like no one had ever known. Jesus had come, lived with them, died before them, and appeared again to them.

Fishing was a thing of their past. Fishing is what they used to do, who they used to be. It seems foolish and nearsighted for them to regress back into this way of living. Did they think Jesus was gone again? Did they get caught-up in town chatter about the man they thought would be King? Did they forget that Jesus had already overcome death? Doesn’t it represent an inkling of what they must have felt without Jesus around like He used to be?

I read Peter’s words with a heavy heart, with an at-the-end-of-my-rope kind of heart. The last three years of his life had been marked by adventure, miracles, and unending truth. Post-resurrection days must have felt so empty, so worthless. And so with nothing else to do, Peter suggests the one thing he knows he can count on: fishing.

What’s worse is scorecard John tacks on to the end of verse three: and they caught nothing. Can you imagine the frustration, embarrassment, and emptiness of this moment? They stay up all night long waiting for even an ounce of affirmation that everything will be okay…

Nothing.

And this is supposed to be their thing! Their reliable Plan B. Their trusty back-up plan. And they caught nothing.

Up to this moment, it’s a sad story of confused identity, broken hope, and empty nets. But don’t we find ourselves doing the very same thing?

Maybe not in occupation, but in the way we identify ourselves. We’ve been set free from so much – anxiety, depression, fear, and the pressure to be like everyone else. We’ve been called out of pride, anger, and self-righteous thinking. And we’ve been called into so much more.

And yet somehow, we find ourselves backsliding right back into our old way of thinking. No matter how great our encounter with Christ or how deeply we feel the Spirit of God. We get stuck one morning and go back to being what we used to be – the Perfectionist, the Pharisee, the Addict, the Sinner.

Our confusion is compounded by the reality that we live in a culture that defines us by what we do, far more than by who we are. We are waitresses, accountants, students, and baristas. We are musicians, athletes, and graduates. We are readers and writers; dreamers and thinkers and doers.

The disciples were fishermen. But they were so much more! And don’t we remember them as more? It’s surely says so by the way we describe them as disciples and not fishermen.

And yet, they went fishing. They went back to what they used to do.

When I think of the disciples I skip right over this in between. I go straight from the resurrection to Pentecost, and I don’t think twice about it. I forget so easily that this time in between left them confused and empty. And though Christ should have been the surest thing they looked to, they looked instead to fishing.

I find such comfort in the way Jesus graciously approached them on this empty-netted morning. It wasn’t condescending or mocking, but graceful and gentle. He didn’t walk to the sea and tell them to stop fishing. He didn’t wait for them to return to the shore empty handed.

Children, do you have any fish? Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.

This strikingly resembles Luke’s account of Jesus calling Peter, James, and John (Luke 5). Another night when they caught nothing and Jesus instructs them to put the nets out again. How offensive to tell a fisherman to “just cast the net out.” As if they had been trying other tactics. As if they didn’t know that to catch the fish you need to cast your net out.

Perhaps it was this command that alerted them to the identity of the mystery coach on the beach? Perhaps Jesus spoke in this very way to subtly ask:

What’re you doin’ out there?

Why are you fishing?

Jesus doesn’t get angry when we go back to those sure-fire, comfortable, reliable things. He blesses the fishing and he fills the net. Hear me, friend – it’s okay that you’ve gone back to fishing. But you must know that Jesus loves you more than to let you stay there. Can I tell you something?

You’re not a fisherman anymore.

You don’t have to do what you’ve always done. You don’t have to retreat in fear and distress and confusion. You don’t have to settle for how it used to be. You don’t have to be who you were.

Jesus knew that the disciples were days or weeks away from witnessing the ascension, receiving the Holy Spirit, and beginning the second greatest adventure of their lives.

You’ve been called out of fishing, and there’s grace upon grace when you go back to it. But be sure of this: Jesus will call you out of it again and He will restore every ounce of broken hope as you endure the dread of the in between.


What has Jesus called you out of? What has He called you into? What do you do on the days where you want nothing more than to get back in that old boat and do the things you used to do?

Lastly, and most importantly, are you listening to the voice on the shore that calls you out of it again + again + again?