Need thy Neighbor

I haven’t been sharing much. Mostly because I haven’t had much to share. My soul has been quiet… some days quietly content with the season we’re in and where God has brought us to, other days quietly in anguish as I scan headlines and wonder what our world, nation, and city will look like in 10 years.

Devastation seems to be occuring at a rapid rate, the media screams fear, and sometimes (most of the time) it’s paralyzing. So many nations, including ours, are in crisis and I’m supposed to sit back and plan for a normal life as I live my normal (normal meaning mildly-moderately dysfunctional yet drenched in God’s grace and mercy) life?

The truth is I’ve always carried a measure of the world’s brokenness in my soul, but how I carry it has changed. I used to think I had to do something radical to help… Move to a developing country, have a large platform, etc.

But oh how God has changed my call-to-action… Or rather, clarified it.

During a season when I felt empty and purposeless, God opened my eyes to a people group I had never seen before: our neighbors.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark‬ ‭12:30-31‬ ‭

Because at a time when the world is seemingly falling apart, when people are more connected yet more lonely than ever, when we have every reason to be suspicious of every person we come in contact with… what if the best thing we can do is love our neighbors? Yes, our literal neighbors.

If I can wake up everyday and remember that everyone has pain and everyone wants love, I will be more aware of the people I pass in the hall, on the street, and at the grocery store.  And sometimes loving your neighbor is as simple as that: being aware. Seeing. Noticing. Looking someone right in the eyes and smiling instead of pulling out your phone and pretending to read a text.

They need you to see them… And you know what? You need them to see you.

A few hours after I started writing this blog, I was walking in from the parking garage juggling one million things (ladies, why do we do this?!). I passed a neighbor I’d never met and he quickly lent me a hand. My kneejerk reaction was, “Oh no! I’m fine!” but before I could spill out the words out, he was already helping.

You see, I need my neighbors just as much as they need me. I have just as much to learn from them as they do from me. It’s easy to love and be loved when our lives are only big enough for people who think like us, act like us, and look like us, but why live so small? …why love so small?

So, here’s your remedy for the days when you feel like the world is spinning out of control and you’re tempted to join the noise instead of cut through it with love: go take a walk and wave hello to a stranger. Help someone carry their groceries in. Don’t be afraid to walk next door and ask for butter when you run out. Throw a block party. And most of all, when you are tempted to choose fear instead of love, don’t… because only love can warm a world that’s growing cold.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

I Am the Best Wife

“You are the best wife,” he said.

“You are the best husband,” she replied.

Spoken at the end of a hard day, a long day, a sad day. We reluctantly cuddled up even though we couldn’t quite get to the bottom of why we were so annoyed of each other. Sometimes life is hard because of external circumstances, and sometimes life is hard because of internal conditions. Sometimes both. In this case, life was hard because of internal conditions… expectations unmet, encouragement not given, vision seen but not close enough to touch.

It’s not that we are or were going through anything major, it’s just that this is life and this is marriage. You give, you take, you sow, you reap, and sometimes you can do everything right and still have bad days (yep, it’s true). Two imperfect people join together to form an imperfect marriage and what do you get? The highest of highs and lowest of lows, the heights of joy, the depths of sorrow, and the worst of all, too: numbness and apathy. But you’re together. That’s the comfort. Not that you don’t go through things, but that you go through things with someone you love and with someone who loves you. I wouldn’t want to go through easy seasons, hard seasons, or apathetic seasons with anyone else.

Hearing you’re the best wife when you feel the least deserving is humbling, redeeming, and healing. Me telling him he’s the best husband when I feel he’s the least deserving is also humbling, redeeming, and healing. Muttering those words closed the distance between our hearts because that is what grace does, it covers blemishes, fills gaps, and offers us a new perspective.

I can’t help but think of Jesus, telling me I’m new, loved, whole, forgiven and redeemed over and over again. And even on the days when I don’t feel I am any of those things, it is still true. That is grace.

To my husband and my husband only, I am the best wife. And grace is that even when I try so hard and come up short, I still am.

“You are the best wife,” he said.

“You are the best husband,” she replied.

If I Could Just

If I could just feel it.

If I could just be that.

If I could just go there.

If I could just change it.

If I could just fix it.

If I could just make it go away.

Always waiting for something, always looking for something, always asking for something, aren’t we? And yet the secret is this, we find time and time again: the grass isn’t greener on the other side.

Yes, you heard me, it’s not. I know this, and deep down, so do you.

If you got that thing you’ve always wanted and if you were that person you’ve always thought you should be there would still be a hole because you are not perfect, neither am I, and we aren’t promised tomorrow. These longings that we have ultimately meet their end in a land that we have yet glimpsed.

Heaven is the other side… and there, we will find our green grass and so much more.

Until then, I don’t have much of a solution for the “If I could just” syndrome. All I can say is that He is enough, and I am enough because He is in me. You are enough because He is in you.

Being consumed with what we think life should be or could be can be crippling… so crippling that it can prevent us from actually living. I encourage you to simply trust God with yourself and your life. Live in His presence today, not in your worries, concerns, and desires.

____________________

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Though the Fig Tree May not Blossom

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines; 

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food; 

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; 

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high heels.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Have you ever found yourself at a place where it feels like a thousand disappointments have folded into one big question mark? The… “I trust you God, but where on earth could you be in the midst of this” kind of question mark? I mean… honestly?

We all deal with our question mark differently–there are so many ways, really. You can embrace it in hopes of some sort of comfort, not realizing the toxic emotions confusion and chaos cause when you cling to them so tightly. You can close your eyes and take on the “wake me up when it’s over” mentality, or if you’re like me, you can punch it every time it lowers itself into your way… thinking you’re doing spiritual warfare, but in all reality you’re getting the strength knocked out of you because… well, this is not your [my] fight.

The prophet Habakkuk spoke the words above in a time when, quite literally, everything was going wrong. [External] circumstances were causing [internal turmoil].

The economy was failing, there were threats of war, and on a personal level, he was overcome with feelings of loss, doubt, and grief.

I know a lot of people, including myself, who have been through an extremely hard past year, and I just believe it’s time to stop running away from “negative” emotions because we believe that if we acknowledge our disappoint it means we’re letting God down. …Disappointment is not the opposite of faith. It’s a part of life and we have to learn how to process it in a healthy way if we want to come out stronger.

God might not make our problems vanish, but He is Lord OVER our problems and wants us to know that He is so in the midst of it all. And so I pray over my friends, family, and any stranger that might read this, that you will stop running from question marks in your life, and that you will fall madly in love with the King of Kings who loves your soul and wants to see you whole, healed, full of true joy, and therefore is not disappointed with your disappointment. 

Even when what I hoped and expected and prayed for didn’t happen,

And I sowed and sowed and didn’t get a return,

Though some days I look around and find empty places

that I was convinced would be filled by now,

and it can feel like I gave everything for nothing

 Even then,

Yes,

Yet,

I will  rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; 

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high heels.

 

Blank Pages and Fear

…The first sentence is always the hardest.

Type, erase, re-type…

Stare.

A blank page is kind of like standing on the edge of a cliff (for lack of better dramatic effect). There’s all of the potential in the world and, yet, it can be paralyzing.

…but don’t you know the world is your oyster?

And this page is your land?

The first step is always the hardest,                                          
but first steps become easier as you take them.

I want to say that when it comes to fear, in all its variations, names, and volumes, we have two options: become its victim or make it ours. If we bow to fear, we risk paralyzation in the very moments that we were destined to walk forward into.

Today, we all have our fear [of the unknown, of missing the mark, of hurt, of rejection], but love will take you to the places that fear longs to keep you from if you’ll choose it [Him].

There’s a whole lot that could go wrong with a blank page, but there’s also a whole lot that could go right.

Go for it.

2 Timothy 1:7

1 John 4:18

The Face of Redemption

It is not the magnitude of our sin that is so detestable, but our inability to acknowledge it at all. We all know it’s there… so why do most, if not all, get so offended when it’s pointed out? Well, the answer is quite obvious: when someone points, we have to look. And deep down every man knows it is his most painful experience to realize his sin. It is both terrifying and beautiful, all at once, because in that moment we know we are encountering the Lion and the Lamb.

I have found that the days when I knew He was drawing me in and still denied Him glory are my most regretted days. Why? It wasn’t because my actions, my sins, were so terrible. I’d known that same sin for years… it was nothing new to me. But, for some reason, it’s only the last months, the last weeks (before surrendering to Him) that I cringe at when He reminds me of where He brought me from. “Why so hated, why do those few days stick out so much?” I finally asked the Holy Spirit. He was not silent for long. His reply? Perhaps my heart can bear the “worst of sin,” from long ago, because I did not commit it while looking Christ in the eyes.  On the contrary, my heart cannot bear the most recent, and to some extent “smallest,” because it was committed while looking Christ in the eyes. For in those days my heart knew that the lover of my soul was seeking me out… to know, and still deny… that’s truly what is, and should be, detestable: to be so prideful, so blatantly selfish, that even the presence of the living God cannot bring you to your knees.

 And so, we tend to be afraid of remembering the sorrow of repentance, but the sorrow of repentance should serve as a fuel for The Redeemed. For when we look at those moments, or a moment, straight in the eyes… we find Him whispering, “Mark WELL the paths by which you came” (Jeremiah 31:21). We should remember all those places He carried us from. For though we should not be dictated by our past, we also shouldn’t deny its depth in regards to where we stand now.

 “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;

Do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace;

For you will forget the shame of your youth,

And the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more.

For your Maker is your husband,

The Lord of hosts is his name;

The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,

The God of the whole earth he is called,

For the Lord has called you

Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,

Like the wife of a man’s youth when she is cast off,

Says your God.

For a brief moment I abandoned you,

But with great compassion I will gather you.

In overflowing wrath for a moment

I hid my face from you,

But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,

Says the Lord, YOUR Redeemer.” Isaiah 54