When Change is Scary

It brings fear, and tears, and bitterness, and anger, and a whole set of insecurities we (I) never knew we (I) had.

Unexpected change forces you to be vulnerable in a way you maybe haven’t been before. It forces you to ask for help. Something I’ve never been great at. But there has got to be something said about those moments of real, raw, true, vulnerability. It’s messy. But it’s the most beautiful thing on this earth if you ask me. Moments where people are truly, fully themselves. No facades of well-being. Just the honest to goodness truth and needs. There’s something sweet in our roughest moments, where people see our bare souls laid out to dry. Parched, and looking for companionship in the desert.

Unexpected change is a chance to kick and scream and thrash and yell, “BUT THAT WASN’T THE PLAN!!!!!!!” Cry. Get mad. Pout. Feel everything. Do what you need to do, and do what naturally comes out of the shock of it all. God made us humans of feelings, so take Him up on it.

Allow yourself to feel e v e r y t h i n g. Maybe for the very first time, if you’re being honest with yourself.

And then, after however many minutes, hours, sleeps, wake-ups, it takes you to come back to the surface, just stop for a moment. Stand really still. Wait. Like the sun, seconds before it rises, gracing the earth with its presence. Its light. Its beauty. Stand still and breathe in deep, expectant. And let Jesus, who was there all along, remind you of His Plan. His Goodness. His Strength- that you’re going to need in the coming weeks. or months. or years.

In the swirling madness that somewhat seems to resemble some form of your life, stop and stand still. Breathe. Ground yourself into the Earth as the created, beautiful one that you are. Stand with all of you, every little piece, opened wide in surrender to what He has for you. Because it’s good, my friend.

He has consistency. And love. And grace for the moments when you stomp your feet and yell that ‘This isn’t fair’ for the hundredth (or thousandth, let’s be honest) time. And hear him whisper to you, “But I am fair, and I’ve got you. Trust me.”

So when the change is massive, rearing its head in front of you like a bull, and snarling its teeth at you like a ravenous wolf, remember Whose plan this life was all along. It was never mine, and it was never yours. It was, is, and forever will be God’s. He is the most creative, most beautiful, most flavorful story teller, and we get to live out His most colorful and gracious penmanship, even if what He writes isn’t what we saw coming. Not by a long shot. What a gift. What a treat.

So, when change is something you didn’t choose and it seems undoable and wrenches your gut, let yourself feel it all. But then go out expectantly, bravely, boldly, and live out the most wonderfully intricate story that the Master Story-teller has crafted. Just. For. You.

Longing for Eden

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway

How beautiful and lovely a quote and how achingly true and hard it is to carry out. Sometimes I feel like my words have no value. I feel like all of the words have been said, and I have nothing left to offer the world. But, as I’ve recently heard, there’s always room at the table.(Thanks, Jen Hatmaker. Also I love you and want to be your best friend.) Jesus, let me be bold enough to lay down my heart and life and mind and words at the table, so my brothers and sisters can feed on them to nourish themselves and their souls. Let me be brave enough to sit at the typewriter (okay, macbook) and bleed. I want to say the things I feel and come confidently to the table with my words. So, at yet another attempt at being brave (I suppose this will be a continuous thing), my hiatus of word-writing shall be over if I deem it so. So, in the midst of the first couple of months of marriage, student teaching, and the craziest-in-the-best-way semester of life, here are my words. I hope, even if they’ve been said before, I could say them in a way that makes sense for someone’s soul somewhere. That my words could encourage, lend a helping hand, be a friend, and whisper into hearts, “you are not the only one.” We’re in this together, my friends. You are not alone. Not for a second.

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Longing for Eden.

Man, oh man aren’t we all. In a world that is hurt and broken and torn. In a world where things just aren’t as they’re supposed to be. I find myself longing for Eden on a daily basis. Longing to live in a world where things don’t hurt. Things aren’t broken. Things aren’t torn. Living in a world where things are exactly as God intended for them to be. And, I’d be willing to bet that you’re longing for that too. Your soul feels restless at times. I know mine does. Even when things are good, and lovely, and you’re in your element. When you’re surrounded with love and your overflowing with gratitude. Our souls are still pulsing with the weight of travel. They don’t feel totally at home. Because guess what: they aren’t. While life on earth can be so incredibly sweet, and meaningful, and passion-filled if we are living a life in relationship with Jesus, this is still not our souls’ natural habitat. That longing you feel, even in your best, most loved moments. That’s when you’re longing for Eden. When you want the purity of life before the fall. A life we have never known here. We know it exists. We know it’s coming. But we just haven’t arrived yet.

This semester I’m finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Secondary English Education, and I’ll graduate in December. I’m student teaching in a 10th grade class room. (YES, I know what you’re thinking. Please pray.) In the irony of ironies, we have been studying creation stories, and have read Genesis chapters 1-3 where God creates the heavens and the earth, creates Adam and Eve, and creates Eden. As we read these chapters out loud, I kept reflecting on Eden in ways I hadn’t before. In an arena where I’m supposed to be objectively teaching this creation story, the Lord was clearly trying to clue me in on something. And I started picturing how the Garden must have truly been. Beautiful flowers, juicy, delicious fruits, singing birds, flowing creeks, and warm sunshine, light hearts, and easy days. Direct community and intimacy with God. What a picture of the good life. And then sin enters, and we know how it goes from there.

Flash forward to the next day and one of my sweet students comes into class crying. Clearly upset about something, so I suggest we walk out in the hall and chat. With gentle probing, I ask her what was wrong. With a heavy heart, and big tears she tells of her struggles. For her privacy, I won’t go into any detail, but we all remember what it was like to be fifteen. And in that moment, I had the sweetest opportunity to speak truth over my student. In a place where it is so controversial to bring up God, He gave me truth to speak, and words to say without having to overstep my boundaries as a public school teacher. I told the girl how she was worth so much more than anything anyone could say to her or about her.

And then, I relayed some advice to her that my dad would use to encourage me. He would say to me, “Aubri. Are you a blue sheep?” I would roll my eyes, because I knew where this was going.

“No dad. No, I’m not a blue sheep.”

“Okay, then. So, if someone calls you a blue sheep, then are you a blue sheep?”

“Ugh, no dad. That still doesn’t make me a blue sheep.”

“Right. So, just because someone says something about you doesn’t make it true.”

Yes. Yes. Yes. How right he was. Those words have stuck with me for years and years, and those were some of the words that came back to me when it was my turn to remind someone of their worth. Because we are all worth so much. 

This moment with my student reminded me how broken our world is. How sin has affected our relationships. How we’re all longing for something more. Longing for the Eden we know about, or have read about, or have heard about in passing. Where sin isn’t lurking around every corner waiting for us to walk on by.

For the present thankfully, we have hope in the person of Jesus Christ. He is our safe-haven here on earth until we make it back to the perfection of Eden one of these days. When our hearts will no longer feel the tug of it’s beauty calling it. When we’ll get to laugh and dance and sing in the perfection of the love of the Father. When our souls will finally be home. 

So, till then… we’ll be longing for Eden. And we have the confidence and the hope that it’s going to be so, so good. And that it’s coming. And that we’ll get to engage in the fullness of it’s riches for eternity.

Blessings, my friends. You are not alone. We’ll all be longing together, but that community is what makes life here worth the living.

– A

I Am

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photo from IfEquip

Jesus- the bravest person I know.

He knew the tragedy that would befall Him… He knew it full well. Deep down to His innermost being & His very core. He knew what would happen to His body and soul before heading back Home. Yet, in Mark 14 Jesus becomes the bravest person I know. He stands in front of the High Priest and answers his pointed question of, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” boldly and meekly at once. 

I imagine Jesus standing to answer, taking a deep breath, straightening His shoulders, looking the High Priest in the eye and then authoritatively & strongly, but softly saying, “I am.

This meekness and boldness completely astound and shock me. Who is this man who confidently takes on the Death of Deaths? And not just because it is most certainly written in the Scriptures, but because He wants to.

The hardest moments of His short, earthly life, Jesus faces alone. This day that is harder to bear than the day that the Devil himself tempts Him to throw Himself off of a building and be caught by angels, or the day that His dear friend Lazarus dies. This day that will be marked down as the darkest day in history. When the sun disappears, the earth goes black, and My Beloved friend dies alone. On this day filled with the putrid sounds and smells of death and crucifixtion and mocking, He is alone. His disciples and friends turned away from Him. I turned away from Him. We all did. And we all do.

We are all Peter, and Judas, and Pilate, and the High Priest, and the guards. We are the townspeople screaming at the tops of our lungs, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!!” Can’t you hear yourself? Can’t you feel your stomach turning, and your eyes burning with hot, confused, selfish tears as you look upon the only face who has ever truly known you? I hear my own voice reverberating off the nearest wall, loud, and harsh, and cruel, as Jesus stands bold and meek before me, eyes still overflowing with adoration and love for His people, ready to endure this unimaginable darkness for the wretched 22 year old girl standing in front of Him, denying him openly to His face.

I desperately pray I would recognize my voice as one amongst the scoffers. I pray I would resonate with and not hate those who turned their faces from our sweet Jesus, because I am them. I choose the world every single day when I know what and Who brings true, abundant life. And I’m going to humbly attempt to follow suit of my Jesus, and boldly and meekly pray that you, too, would recognize your own voice as one amongst the scoffers the day Jesus was crucified. We might not have been there on that day, but we go to that place of denying Him and choosing ourselves all of the time.

I pray that in this Lenten season you would dig deep into some of the dark and hard spots that aren’t fun or particularly easy to visit, and you would recognize your (my) place in the story. But the sweetest news, my friends, is that this is not who Jesus sees us as. He doesn’t see us as ugly betrayers. He sees us as beautiful, pure, radiant Sons and Daughters. We are His. And that makes us shine.

– A

 

June 4, 2011

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“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

We are dead to our sins, and made new, reborn, in Christ Jesus. Praises!

The new summer wind whips my face as I attempt to find the words to say. The things to feel. Some semblance of goodbye is in order. My gaze is fixated on my shoes. Black & pointy. A lone ant starts to crawl up my foot. I squash it. Two lives lost, now.

My eyes start their ascent, blurring with an overflow of things i can’t begin to feel quite yet. Slowly, I see grass. Other feet. A few flowers littering the ground. Then the thing I’ve been avoiding all along. The casket. My casket. Big. Black. Heavy with the weight of the sin of the body inside. My body. Looks like we’re all saying goodbye now. I have no words. Death doesn’t really make sense to me. This one in particular. Shouldn’t death feel sad? I hear a eulogy of myself:

“She was only 18. So young. We’re gonna miss her over here. She really knew what this side was about!”

A few more words that I tune out escape the lips of the speaker, and I see my casket being pushed lower and lower into the dirt. Gone quickly. Forgotten.

I feel my body walking to the car. I guess we’re going home now. Nothing left to see here. The ride is quiet. There’s a few murmurs from the others. Some muffled excitement bubbling over in their voices. Aren’t we supposed to be sad right now? I’m frustrated with them. Why don’t they seem sad? We just left a funeral. What is there to be excited about? I press my head against the cool window, attempting to drown out their noises. The car stops in front of my house, and it’s all I can do not to jump out before it stops. We finally get out and start walking towards the house. They’re acting so strange. Like they’re all in on some big secret. I brush past them and finally make it to our big white door. It swings open before I get my hand on the golden knob.

“SURPRISE!!!”

Balloons and confetti are floating everywhere. The room is bright and sparkling gold, and all of my friends and family are looking back at me. Someone walks over with a cake, candles glowing brilliantly, and the room bursts out in a chorus of “Happy Birthday to you!”

My mind draws a blank. My birthday? Didn’t we just leave a funeral? My funeral?

The song ends, and new music starts to fill the house. People sing, and dance, and talk, joyful, child-like grins plastered to their faces. This can’t be right, can it?

A loud belly laugh carries from the next room, and I immediately make my way to it. It sounds familiar somehow. As I push past a couple swing dancing, I see His face, and for the first time all day I feel settled. Finally, this feels right.

His eyes catch mine. “Ah, my sweet daughter! Welcome! I’ve been waiting for you to get here. Did you get everything taken care of earlier today?” His voice reminds me of everything that happened that morning, and reminds me it wasn’t a sad occasion at all. How could I have forgotten?

“Yes, Abba,” I reply giddily. “I’m so thankful to see you here. But shouldn’t we be at least a little sad? The funeral did only just end.”

Sad? No, my child! This is the most joyous celebration there is! You had to have the funeral before you could have your birthday party. Now, here you are! Welcome home!!

He takes my hand and guides me back into the dancing room. The lights twinkle overhead, the gold glitter floats across the room, and the music is the most beautiful melody I’ve ever heard. I step onto his feet like daughters do with their daddies, and we dance together all evening.

Behold, the old life has gone. The new life, lived in exploding color and light, is here! 

Consider The Lilies

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I’m sprawled on the ground. Eyes peeled, cracked, strained, weary, weak, tired. Tired of being. Tired of seeking. Where is it? Where is He? I was almost there.

Anxiety. Thirst to the point of death. What will ease this dry-as-dust self? This never-ending search? I feel my bones snapping, one by one, slowly. I feel my soul taking its ragged breath, giving in- at its final draw. I feel my eyes fluttering, fighting to remain here. Now. But… I… Just… Can’t…

But Then. 

From a long way off, I see someone, and it looks like they’re sprinting. Sprinting towards what? And in a moment, I realize… it’s towards me.

And it’s Him.

And my soul begins to find its color- slowly, and then all at once when I see the purity of His glowing outline drawing nearer- when I see the beauty of His features bending down towards me. I shield my eyes to look into the most glorious face I’ve ever seen.

Consider the lilies of the field,” He gently whispers into my desperate ears. “Stop toiling. Stop spinning. You’ve sought and not found. Did you think you would? Beloved, I am here. My child, seek me. I will give you all you need. Come.” 

And in one, sure movement, He scoops me into His arms and carries my bedraggled body the rest of the way home. And I’ve never felt more known, more safe, more sure of what’s to come. Hope is come. He is here, and He is all I need.

My soul rests in His embrace.

I am His, and He is mine. 

Thoughts, Ideas, Feelings pulled from Matthew 6:25-34 & Luke 15.