Wednesday, February 18, 2015
It's been over three years since my life changed for good and for the better. It's been about five years since I told God "Yeah, there is no plan. Your plan is my plan, let thy will be done."
That prayer has led me across the United States into territory quite unknown. It started with a tiny house inhabited by an equally tiny, old southern lady in the mountains of Tennessee. I took care of her 247, and she fought dementia and made biscuits and fried chicken.
There has been so much that has happened since then. Things have happened to me and been experienced in the blink of an eye. I am now understanding on a personal level what it means that "the older you become, the more time flies." Sometimes I feel like the current events have not caught up with my soul, but here I am, a Minnesota woman who may never become "country" but lives in the south.
I have experienced culture shock before, have you? That out of body feeling where your senses are screaming "this isn't home!". I experienced it when I flew to Cambodia with a performing arts ministry after my High School graduation. I remember the thick, hot humidity, the sick, intense smell of incense and the fact that I was an outsider with my group coming into unknown territory. There was no good chocolate or coffee, and you had to squat for every single indoor and outdoor toilet. But it was beautiful in its own way, and after three weeks as we boarded the plane back to the US, I was hopeful for the day when I could visit again.
Living in the south has been a different kind of culture shock that tends to comes in waves. Sometimes I go to a Target or a grocery store and see and hear all kinds of people, making me feel less far away from what was. Other times I will go to places like my new job, which is a small yet busy family owned pharmacy where all my coworkers have been born and raised here, they talk like each other and know each other. The same goes for the guests that come through the doors. At a pharmacy, most everyone is a "regular", especially if you are over 65. The pharmacists have known these people for over 20 years; it's like a big family, and yet I feel adopted.
I answer the phone with my Midwestern voice, only to barely understand the thick, country accent on the other end. I continue to smile and try to hear all of the correct vowels in their names, but seem to fail nearly every time. And yet I know that God has called me here and will use me according to His will. I may not sound like them, but I love them, and I'm hopeful that they will learn to love me too, with all of my Midwestern "ism's".
I love the south, I truly do. I love country people, that's a fact. But to go from a land of "Minnesota Nice" to "Southern Hospitality" has been a bigger transition than what I every imagined. God used a little old southern woman to get me here, and a handsome, God-fearing mountain man to keep me here.
When we say "Lord, do with me as you will", He will do just that. I guarantee that you won't know what it looks like in that moment, but that moment will arrive faster than what you realize. As the scenery of my life continues to change, so do I. Isn't that what life really is? A massive set of changes that have taken place, will take or is taking place? Life is wild, but we serve a wild God who is truly out for an adventure, ready to see Himself glorified through our willingness.
Are you willing? Do you find yourself in the midst of "how did this happen?" or "how do I get out of this?". God is asking you to trust Him and hold on. He has asking you to surrender the reigns of your life and let Him lead. It may be into a territory where you feel so small, but remember He is SO big!
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
I'm not a big "Christmas" kind of girl, but one of my favorite Christmas themed traditions/movies is "The Muppets Christmas Carol". I have watched it nearly every year since I was a child, with this year being no exception. One of the things that I love about movies and literature that are beloved all through your life, is that you discover and learn different things as you become older. This year I heard the narrator of the Christmas Carol say something that lands in that exact category.
"Scrooge loved the darkness, because darkness was cheap."
This phrase has been rolling around in my brain all day, trying to put meaning to these words. I have never thought of darkness as being cheap, but in fact it actually is. I think about how my grandma would harp on me for keeping the lights on when they were not in use, because of how expensive the electric bill would be. I also think about how things that are of dark nature in this world are typically done in the actual darkness, and yet have an expensive price at the end.
I also have been thinking about what we are willing to give up to not have light. That the light that we shine as Christians can appear to have an expense to those who are living in darkness; it's something that they want, but darkness is so much cheaper. Now let me make this more personal. Let us think about the light that we are willing to forfeit in order to live in the comfort of our own darkness.
Our sins, bad habits, fears and anxieties.
Tomorrow night my husband and I are going to go to a traditional Christmas Eve candle light service. Now granted, there are many beautiful things to be experienced in this world, but on the top of my personal list would be the candle light service at Christmas Eve. What better way to celebrate the birth of the light of the world, than with candles that light up a dark room? What better way to remember the birthday of our Savior than with old hymns that warm the hearts with truth such as "Prince of Peace" and "the darkness had felt it's worth"?
We no longer have to live in darkness my friends! Take this truth to heart this Christmas in the midst of all of the unwrapping of gifts, annoying relatives, long car rides and hours of Christmas movies.
Jesus is the light of the world. His death came at such an expensive price for a person with such cheap worth as myself. The Light gives us our worth.
Monday, December 8, 2014
This simple word emits many images. Some people think of an actual house, while others think of mom, dad and fresh baked bread, sitting on the front porch and raking leaves in the front yard.
This word also emits many emotions. For some the emotions are happy, fulfilling and encouraging, while for others they are sad, bittersweet, angry, confused, discouraged and apathetic.
It is no secret that the holidays stress and capitalize on home. Classic Christmas melodies are filled with what home should be, and that Christmas simply isn't Christmas without being home.
For many, "home" is emotionally distant and unkind. Home is out of reach, being thousands and thousands of miles away. The physical home could be in the process of being sold, leaving it's former tenants scrambling around boxes and eating on paper plates. For some home is their car, because they simply have no other place for its rightful name.
I find it ironic that baby Jesus wasn't born in a comfortable home, but in a manager shared with livestock. Shortly after the birth of the King, Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus and fled to Egypt for safety, not being sure what home is or what it would look like.
They had but one truth to cling to: home is where Jesus is.
And where is He?
For those who believe in Him as their Lord and Savior, we have a home in His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us; a promise that the very tiny Prince of Peace babe came into this dark world to shed light and hope for its inhabitants.
He is in the heart of servants who are spreading this message of hope from the pulpit and all the way across the world through a missionary who has learned to speak another language.
He is in the face of a brand new baby, and in the tears of those who know their loved one has gone home to be with Jesus.
You see, there may be "no place like home for the holidays" but the truth is that there is no place like home than in the arms of Jesus Christ. Our physical home will change and sometimes even disappoint, but our home in Christ never will. The door is never locked and the candles in the window are always lit, leading you to your home in Him.
Monday, December 1, 2014
Driving along highway 25 this afternoon, I found myself consciously making an effort to make sure my attitude was positive and in top notch condition for whatever awaited me at my shift in retail. It seemed like I was behind every slow poke in North Carolina, as well as every garbage truck or utility vehicle, which was just adding to the challenge of achieving a positive attitude upon entering the doors of the Christmas retail games at the mall.
About half way there, the classic Christmas song "Breath of Heaven" ( made popular by vocalist Amy Grant in the 1980's and 90's) came on the radio. I have always, always loved the message that that song brings; Mary's song. There is so much beautiful truth woven into the lyrics, but this time a specific phrase rose above the others.
"But I offer all I am, for the mercy of your plan."
The Christmas season as we know it makes me sad. It is so full of everything that you can obtain, should obtain or don't obtain. It is often more about the way your house is decorated, getting a sale on butter for Christmas desserts or finding that perfect gift than it is about offering all that you are to Jesus Christ. Although these elements of the season aren't wrong, it is clear that the world gives Christmas a focus that is so out of focus.
For the Christian, this season is a time to celebrate and rejoice in the coming of a tiny baby King; a baby who brought hope and still brings hope to a dark and scary world. At the very least we can make an effort to ponder what it means to offer all that we are.
This is not a plea to burn out, but to burn with Christ's love in such a way that offering that light to those around us will be unavoidable. In a world whose pain and lack of hope is drowning in consumerism, perfectionism and self, we can hold our little candles of Christ hope and trust that the illumination is brighter than we can see.
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."-Matthew 5:16
Monday, October 27, 2014
What is home? I used to always say "home is where my mother is". Home wasn't four walls with rooms in a certain location, but home was where my mom resided. So far my life adventures have taken me to several different states and through a variety of experiences. It was such a comforting feeling to know that if something ever happened in a season of life, that mom was home. I could always go home.
Now I am married. I love marriage, but my little girl heart is transitioning from "home is where mom is" to "home is where my husband is". Just as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz would say while clicking the heels of her ruby red slippers "there's no place like home...there's no place like home", so I find myself wishing I had a pair of those slippers; then I come to my senses and realize that this is home. My husband, North Carolina. This is my new home.
As human beings it is natural to want to cling to something that is consistent and won't fall through. Houses can be sold, jobs will end, friendships will turn sour, but the deep and intimate love of a parent or a spouse stays in tact with the strength and by the will of God. We find ourselves resting in the rooms of their heart, finding safety from the outside world.
God calls us to do just that with Him; He desires us to make our hearts His home. He stands at the door knocking ever so gently, but with consistency, waiting for us to let Him in. Without the Lord in our hearts, how are others going to seek refuge in the arms of the Savior? So often we forget that who is within our hearts is what enables us to love, protect, guide and to serve.
May you find comfort in the shadow of His wings. May you have the courage to answer His knock on your soul. And last but not least, may you never forget that though our physical "homes" of people and places will alter and sometimes disappear, but God is your home; always open, welcoming, and He is always home.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Yesterday while driving up the mountains of North Carolina, surrounded by leaves adorned in their beautiful fall wardrobe, I found myself praying out loud. There is something about the mountains that makes me feel closer to God. I think it's a combination of the colors, the towering heights and the peacefulness that reminds me of how small I am and how big my God is.
As I was praying, I found myself saying something like this "God, I ask that you would make whatever you want out of this. That you would create a something out of my nothing."
When we ask for Gods will to be done in our lives, it will be Gods something. What a comfort when we don't know anything, not even the "next right thing"! However, in my humanity I tend to withhold from God what is needed to create His "something". For some reason I fight back and forth with giving the fear, pain, anxiety and general nerves to the one who holds my future in His hands.
Does this sound familiar?
I find myself trying over and over and over again to control and produce something, anything that will give me some level of comfort or make a lick of sense. Before I know it, I'm tired and have found myself in this semi-deep black hole that just gets deeper and blacker as I try to create something out of my nothing.
It is simply impossible.
A classic job interview question is "Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What are your goals?". I used to have an actual answer or at least some idea as to how to answer that question. Now I just laugh! Five years ago I would have never imagined that I would be married to a red headed southern man, living in North Carolina and surrounded by Baptists. When we give our nothing and our everything in a simultaneous manner to God, He creates His something.
Something that was always supposed to be exactly what it is.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Grasping the depth of Gods love for me is not a one time experience. It is an event that takes place in different ways and at different times, with each reach being completely unique for the season of life that I'm in.
When I was a child, I learned to grasp Gods fatherly love. I learned that He would never leave nor forsake me, and that when everything around me was unreliable and shattering into jagged pieces that would continue to cut into my security and wellbeing, He was there. There to comfort, heal and make things new.
When I was a single, unmarried woman I learned to grasp Gods friend type love. During those lonely hours when I wished I had a girlfriend to get a cup of coffee with, I learned to get a cup of coffee with God my Friend. He would always listen, as well as give insight if I would just be quiet long enough for Him to get in a word edge wise.
Now as a married woman, I am experiencing the ultimate depth of Gods love for me through my best friend. Every day I see and experience the love and faithfulness of my husband, but can't help but think that God loves me even more.
The greatest human love that we can experience on this earth has no comparison to the love of God the Father. Grasping for a better understanding of this concept has not been within my reach. Through each season of life my God has been love to me in the way that I needed it, because that is just like Him....loving me even more than anyone else in this world ever could.
He desires even more of you than what you have given Him. I often think that I have given Him everything, but in my brokenness I am reminded that so often I hang on to just even a tiny piece of something that belongs to Him. Have you been here friend? Can you relate?
May you have the courage to understand the depth of His love as being the greatest love you will ever experience, and may you understand even more the purpose that this love holds. His purpose, His will, His love.