you were right about Jesus or you weren’t

Sarah Bessey’s new book Out of Sorts releases today. As a member of her launch team, I am participating in this synchroblog with the prompt “I used to believe _____ but now I believe _____.” I LOVED Sarah’s book and would highly recommend you order a copy of it. (Let’s be honest. The greatest books are always yellow!)

– – – – – – – – – –

I grew up and became a Christian when I was 12, because I was scared of hell at a fire-and-brimstone play at a Baptist church. But before that, I would have most likely identified as Christian simply because I wasn’t anything else. My family wasn’t Jewish or Muslim or anything really so I always saw myself as Christian by default.

Once I accepted Christ, I attended youth group. We met on Friday evenings in a room reserved just for the teenagers. It had a raised stage, old metal chairs, and stank of sweat and hairspray and dirty feet. In this room we worshiped together to simple songs and our youth pastor, Bobby, shared a short message every week. During the summers, we went to beaches and walked around the mall. I had friends and I liked going, mostly because I didn’t have friends at school. Friday nights were the nights where I was accepted without question. Sometimes I came to church on Sunday mornings, where we sang from hymnals and wore dresses and flats instead of jeans and running shoes.

In ninth grade, the youth pastor left, so I decided to go to a new church with a few girls I’d made friends with in high school. If I had understand what denominations were, I could not have picked a church more different than the one I just left — I moved from a quiet Baptist church to a Pentecostal church replete with prayer flags and tambourines, were people spoke in tongues freely during service and altar calls happened at the end of every sermon. I made friends here, too, but this time they were my friends in school as well.

We sat together at lunch, most days talking for a few minutes about Jesus and also about boys and dating and we whispered things about sex and smoking pot when we thought no one was listening. We learned about Him at church on Sundays and youth group on Tuesdays and during Wednesday evening service and on Thursdays we took care of the kids in the nursery during choir practice and told them about Jesus, too. But I don’t think most of really knew Jesus. We were Christians by choice then, but what we believed about Him was less by choice and more by force.

I knew a lot about Jesus when I was a teenager. I knew He was holy and I understood that my sins separated me from His holiness. So I worked hard to prove how holy I was. And when I messed up and made stupid mistakes, when I felt shame because of what others had done to me, when still worse things (that I couldn’t talk about for a long time) happened, I knew I was defiled and worthless because Jesus demanded you give up all of the crap that kept you from Him, and I just didn’t know how to give it up to Him. He required you to walk away from the comfort of licking your wounds in the corner and I couldn’t let go of the shame and I couldn’t tell people what I’d done and sometimes I wasn’t even sorry about it all, about clinging to the pain and the tears because it was safe and I knew it and even though it hurt, it didn’t scare me.

I used to think you were right about Jesus or you weren’t, and since I knew the right things about Jesus, about His holiness and how His loved work, I had to walk away from all of the garbage the church dumped on me when I told them some of the things I was going through because they made it clear that in light of what Jesus had done, I definitely wasn’t good enough. I only ever told them about the abortion at 15 because it was all I needed to tell them to treat me like a pariah. They taught me about Jesus and they made Jesus unsafe for me because they made me see Him with blinders on.

So I left. I walked away and said never again. I lived in a world where I didn’t feel right or good about things, because deep down I missed Jesus. I missed what I once had with him. As my friend Sarah Bessey writes in her new book Out of Sorts,

When I made the decision to stop going to church and to stop calling myself a Christian, it didn’t feel good. But there had been a long litany of abuses, burn-out, and exhaustion. The trail of hurt people wounded souls, and even dead bodies was too great. It weighed on my soul, and I felt tremendous grief. I couldn’t align myself with that anymore.

I just could not do it anymore. And I didn’t have to. I wasn’t living in a home that mandated that I earn Jesus’ love by my Sunday morning and Tuesday evening attendance. No one cared about my righteousness if I wasn’t at church. Finally I found a place that didn’t break me as much as the church had.

But things change. It took nine years but somehow, my heart softened and God gave me a new friend, six years ago this month in fact. When every other friend I had who knew Jesus was in a place of hardship on their own — marriage stuff and new babies and grad school — God said, “Here is someone who doesn’t know what you carry. She loves me. Ask her about me.”

So I did. We’d already been friends for a year by the time I gathered up my courage to ask her about her Jesus, who seemed to be so different than the Jesus I met so many years before. I asked her a lot of questions. I talked to her a lot. Sometimes I cried. I stood by her side, with sweaty palms, the first time I walked back into a church for a regular Sunday morning service. I sang quietly and didn’t raise my hands or arms. I glanced around, looking everyone in the building with me. There were no prayer flags or speaking in tongues or tambourines. How could the Jesus here be the same Jesus when I left the There?

I didn’t know how it was possible. Even though I was in my late 20s, it seemed impossible to reconcile these Christians with those. So I kept coming back. I had to see if they were the same. And in some ways, yes, they were the same. That’s what scared me a little bit, because the words they said and the stories they told about the Bible reminded me so much of the other church, and I still felt so wounded and raw from it. But then I got to know people, one person at a time, and I saw that there were differences, too. These differences let me ask the hard questions, let me have the space to grow and change. I prayed and begged God to change me in the ways He needed to change me because I saw that I wanted Him again but I couldn’t let go of the things the world had taught me during my nine years of wandering, but I also couldn’t let go over the things about Jesus that the Baptist church at taught me. I was afraid to let it go, because how could we all be Christians if we didn’t believe the same things? Sarah says it perfectly:

I’ve had to build up a bonfire in my backyard and throw a few cherished beliefs and opinions right into the flame. There is always something so satisfying about watching an ugly lie burn away to ash.

Those lies that tried to keep me from who Jesus is burned, little by little, until they were a pile of crispy pieces that I could walk away from.

I used to think you were right about Jesus or you weren’t, but now I think that we all know Jesus in different ways, and in different seasons our relationship with Him looks different, and my relationship with Him looks different from yours, and we aren’t wrong. We just know Him differently and there’s nothing wrong with that.

And things are still changing. I am still changing and growing, and to tell you the truth sometimes it scares the hell out of me. What I believed five years ago, when I first came back to church, is not what I believe now. The more I learn about and know Jesus personally, the more what I believe looks so different. The more I pray and spend time reading the Bible, the greater my questions are, and it frightens me that for every answer I get, I have five more. But something in me reminds me that I need to live the questions now, not fear them. Then I take a deep breath and remember this:

If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention. The Spirit is often breathing in the very changes or shifts that used to terrify us. Grace waits for us in the liminal space. We can be afraid to question. We are afraid that if we let ourselves question theology or doctrines — the theology we developed or were given in our first naiveté — that we will be at risk.

I am paying attention. I am leaning into the questions, into the hard things and letting them shape me under God’s guidance. I am listening more. I am embracing the stillness and the unknown because this is the space where the shifts begin to make sense to me. This, too, is my greatest wish for you. As Sarah says, and I’ve learned by trial,

I hope we change. I hope we grow. I hope we push against the darkness and let the light in and breathe into the Kingdom come. I hope we become a refuge for the weary and the pilgrim, for the child and aged, for the ones who have been strong too long. And I hope that we live like we are loved. I hope we all become a bit more inclined to listen, to pray, to wait.

Advertisements

brave, bald, and the walls of Jericho

I’ve had a lot of people ask me a lot of questions over the last week and a half about my hair, what it’s like to be bald and if they can touch it. And most of those people have said the same thing to me: “You’re so brave for doing it. I don’t think I ever could.”

This is the statement I struggle with the most because it doesn’t seem like a brave thing at all to me.

In fact, it was impulsive. I didn’t wake up that morning with the intent to shave my head. Although my hair wasn’t as thick or curly or distinctively red as it once was, I loved it – in all its curlyish, reddish splendor. I was caught up in a massive, twisting swirl of emotion and decided, in those few seconds, that I was going to do it.

It didn’t feel brave as I sat in the chair, having my hair put into tiny ponytails so it could be donated. It didn’t feel brave as I felt the buzzer make its first swoop across my perpetually-hot head. In fact, it was so incredibly calm that I didn’t really feel like anything.

Left: day zero. Right: day seven.

Left: day zero. Right: day seven.

So I’m struggling with brave. I’ve gotten funny looks from people – on Saturday, a woman walked past me twice at Target, blatantly staring while I talked to a friend in the aisle. Others have assumed I’m sick and have asked me outright. A last at church said “So what happened to your hair?” very boldly. Others still think I’m making a statement about my sexuality. But I don’t think it takes bravery to deal with that. Just a thick skin and lots of patience.

Because the thing is, I made a very willingly, albeit impulsive, decision to go bald to raise money for pediatric cancer research. Like it or love it, it was a choice I made. And my hair will grow back – is already going back quite nicely, thanks to some supplements I’m taking. I don’t mean to diminish the positive support of those who call me brave, but I’m 30 years old (for two and a half more weeks!). I’ve relatively healthy. I have a lot of life ahead of me, and a lot of hair ahead of me.

What is brave, if I am not?

Listening to God speak, and responding with obedience.

I am terrible at this. For evidence, let me remind you of the six months God clearly told me through His word, pastors, and other Christians (all without knowing what I was wrestling with) that He was calling me to volunteer at the pregnancy center. I said, “No no no, this isn’t what You’re calling me to do. Something else. Anything else.” I practically had a nervous breakdown when I read a chapter in Weirsbe’s On Being A Servant of God about how God sent a big fish to a disobedient Jonah. I mean. For the love. Could it have been anymore clear?

And still I resisted.

Eventually I said yes, but it cost me a lot – and the cost could have been avoided if I had said yes in the first place when I recognized God’s calling on my life to serve. It was only to be for a short season, but it was what He had for me.

Because I know how hard the yes can be, I am always so inspired by those who shove past the no to grab hold tightly to the yes: past the uncertainty, the fears, the doubts. Past Satan’s whispers of “You’re not good enough” and “You will never succeed” and “Did God really tell you…?” a la Eve in the Garden.

Sometimes the yes is scary. Sometimes it seems like it’s going to be a giant disaster, a horrible plan.

But the yes is always worth it when it’s done the way God works it.

I think of Joshua and Jericho. Can you even imagine how crazy it must have been to say yes to God when He said to walk around the walls of Jericho? To say yes to yelling to knock down the walls?

Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.”
(Joshua 6:1-5)

But that’s what Joshua, under the authority of God, had the Israelites do. I can’t imagine God telling my pastor to tell us to walk around a firm, well built wall seven times on that seventh day, shouting at the right time, and watching the walls fall. Cannot fathom it. But that’s exactly what happened. God knew. He ordained it. And brave Joshua, and his brave people – they did it because they trusted in God.

Trusting in God. I’m working really, really hard on making that a reality. Some days I do it better. Some days I feel like I can’t even turn to God because all I’ll do is present Him with a list of things I would like Him to do or give to me, and I know that my heart is in a very ugly place in those moments. I wish it weren’t. I pray so much that it won’t be there for long.

Can I direct us a little away from my own selfish heart to the hearts of a group of ladies that aren’t selfish, but instead incredibly brave?

A few years ago, I saw that some bloggers I admire started doing a devotional study together using the YouVersion app and were tagging their tweets and instragram pictures with #SheReadsTruth. Over these last two years, the number of women participating has grown by huge numbers – huge! They’ve written their own plans, many of which I have participated in (mostly quietly). They launched a beautiful website. God has given them this crazy dream of doing something more – and they’re say yes. They’re building an app.

The #SheReadsTruth team has started a Kickstarter project. Their initial goal was to raise $35,000 by April 22 at 9:59 pm. Within 22 hours of opening the project, they had raised every single dollar they needed. Speechless. It literally left me speechless.

Have you met me? I AM NEVER SPEECHLESS.

So now they are actively working on their next goal: $65,000 – because that first goal only covers an iPhone app. I own an iPhone, but I want my sisters who have Android devices to share in the app fun with me, and that is exactly what this next goal will make happen. It’s going to be a killer app. It will have full versions of the Bible in it (they’ve already secured the rights to a few), the ability to take + edit pictures, reading plans/devotions (for purchase), the ability to journal, and so much more.

I’ve backed this project because I full, utterly believe in what #SheReadsTruth does – it is bringing women of different ages, backgrounds, denominations, and seasons of life together to study God’s word.

Incredible.

One of the reasons I love the fact that this app is happening is because I remember so strongly what it felt like as I got my life together in my late 20s and returned to seeking and following God. Long before I started coming to church again, I felt the hunger to be in God’s word and to be in fellowship with other women, but I was afraid to reach out to my circle of real-life friends. I would have loved a place like #SRT to read and journal and question with other women. God gave me exactly what I needed in the form of a friend who allowed me to do the same things, but can you imagine how an app like this could change the lives of women who are questioning?

I could say, “Hey, download this app and let’s do the This is the Gospel or the This is the Bible study together.” Imagine. Just imagine how that would connect her with tens of thousands of other women who would love and support her, give her community and support.

It makes me want to sob with the beauty of it.

Will you consider backing it? $1 or $10,000 – every dollar raised counts. Every dollar is a woman who will get to experience God’s word with another woman, no matter how much physical or emotional or spiritual distance separates her from other women. Watch the video below and head over to the #SheReadsTruth Kickstarter page to back the project.

the weak are the wise

I remember the night so well. The way I was cold and then hot, calm and then a weeping, sobbing mess. My nose ran uncontrollably. My chest ached and I just wanted to melt into the bed and disappear into a puddle of my grief.

This night wasn’t a sudden thing. No, it was a long time coming. The pressure of my emotions had been building for months as I kept telling God, “No. No. You don’t know what You’re doing. I don’t want to do it that way.”

Every time I heard Him say “Yes. Yes. I do know. And you will do it, even if you don’t know do it now,” I shrunk back a little bit more. For 18 months I’d been doing fine with my relationship with God.

Small group. Check.
Sunday mornings. Check.
Starting School of Ministry. Check.
Reading my Bible more days than not. Check.

I was an A+ box-checker and I felt safe doing it. So when God started to turn me around and upside down, I didn’t like it. More than one night, I sat in my bedroom and cried in the dark, alone. I couldn’t tell anyone what I was going through because I knew they’d tell me what I didn’t want to hear.

“Listen to God already, Krista. You can’t deny it anymore.”

But I didn’t want to. Days and weeks went by and I read the story of Jonah in a book for School of Ministry. I heard the still small voice of the Lord whisper to me, “What will your whale be?”

I didn’t care. I didn’t have time to think about my whale because I was too busy working hard to avoid it.

And then God met me when I was a crumpled, drained mess. He came to me as I cried ugly tears that burned my sunburned cheeks as they rolled down. Really, He had never left. I just had been so hard to Him that He had to wait until I was broken and defeated before He could do anything.

Wouldn’t it have been so much easier to stop where I was when He first called?

Instead, I ran… I hid… I waited until my heart would explode. In my sin of disobedience, God was longsuffering. I don’t know how He does it because I sometimes can’t wait one day for someone to realize they’re wrong and I’m right. Yet God counted the years until I would lose it. And when I did, when the pain and the sheer exhaustion of escape was too much to hold on to anymore, I heard Him again, over the whirring of my ceiling fan and the prayers of my friend as I cried in her arms.

I’ve been waiting, Krista. I’m so glad you’re here.

When your sin is disobedience, there are consequences. Too badly do I wish I could say that summer night was the end of this journey, but it wasn’t. Like a naughty child, I had to deal with the aftermath of my poor decisions.

The first two days after being utterly weak before God, my entire body was restless. I was grieving, hard, for a baby I never got to hold and for a girl who had died with her child. In the matter of one night, I was no longer pushing my anger away.

I was so angry I couldn’t even speak.

I wanted to punch things. Every nerve and muscle in my body longed for destruction. It made sense to me: I had destroyed a life and all I had now were hands and arms and feet and legs to destroy the things around me. I went for a walk but couldn’t be outside. I crawled back in bed, a warm German Shepherd curled into my body. I cried and I screamed into my pillow when no one was home. When an ambulance passed and the dog keeping me company began to howl, I wanted to howl with her. Her feelings – she could at least give them voice.

The pain was much better after those first few days, but it hasn’t left me entirely yet. It’s been nine months. But in those nine months, I have been obedient and God has met me at this place, in this valley as I try to move through the grief process.

Tonight my small group talked about what it means to be free from sin. I’ve been reflecting on it since I left.

I’ll never stop sinning while I’m alive, but I’m free from it.

Jesus’ death has freed me from the need to run from God and made is so I can run to God. It has freed me from the pain of my past. His death has given me the freedom to hear God’s voice and obey – the first time.

Being free from sin is sitting at the feet of Jesus, sobbing and crying out to Him to be with me when I am tired of buying into the world’s lie that strength is a virtue. Freedom from sin is knowing that God uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong. Knowing I don’t have to struggle on my own, independently, to hit God’s mark? Knowing that He is with me always and I only need to turn to Him and say “Lord, I cannot do this. Please do this”?

That, my friends, is freedom. The very idea of it being freedom goes against everything I’ve been taught, but to set down every hurt and burden and tiring thing and say, “Carry it for me” is freer than anything I could ever do, running from Him and carrying it on my own.

I know that I will sin before I fall asleep tonight. But I am not chained to sin. I am chained to God, the author and finisher of my salvation.

We are free, friends. It might have taken me year and tears to learn that, but we are free indeed.

Bigger than

I started this post a few days ago when the world seemed so bright and cheery. But today, after all that’s gone on in Boston and Texas the last few days, it just seems like such a hard thing to write such a happy post in the midst of all the darkness.

I keep wanting to stop myself from posting, but what I have to say is still true, regardless of what happened in Texas last night or Boston on Monday. It’s even more true now than then, because what I’ve got to say is that God is real and alive in every sense.

At the Pregnancy Center banquet last month, I decided to write that I could donate $100 within 90 days. As we prayed before we filled out our pledge cards, God made it clear that I wasn’t meant to donate $100.

He told me to make it $250.

My pen hovered over the pledge box as people were filling the cards out. That was — and still is — a lot of money for me. I had uncertainties about my job situation. I was nervous about committing to donating that much money when that much money is essentially my monthly car payment.

But I filled out the card anyhow, knowing that if God told me to donate that much, God would take care of getting me the money.

Monday was my last day at work at the tax firm I was working at. Around 2:30, our boss started walking around giving people their tax bonuses. For about two weeks, I’d wondered if I was going to get one. I could see how they’d give me one, but I could also see as a temp how they wouldn’t.

Well, I got one. And when I opened it, I pretty much just wanted to sit on the groud and sob.

It was a check for $250.

Some might call it coincidence. But I don’t. I can’t. I had no idea that I might get a bonus when God told me to pledge $250. And it wasn’t just a random number I thought of that night. I saw $250 in my mind with SUCH clarity. It wasn’t just a silly number I thought.

We live in a world where horrible, heartbreaking things are happening around us every day. We’ve seen that this week in both Boston and West, Texas. That is the nature of sin. We have all sinned and all fall short of the glory of God. But I will be the first to tell you what I know to be true:

God is in the details.

In those moments of terror, God is there. He hears the cries and pleas of people calling out to Him. I can’t tell you why H doesn’t stop these things from happening, but I can tell you loud and clear that He has greater plans for us than fire and bombs. He is bigger than death and destruction and the sin of this world.

I feel like I have spent so long only sharing Jesus when I felt like it was safe and comfortable and I just can’t do that anymore. I stand for Christ and the power of who He is. He is the one who whispers so clearly to me, “I said $250” and then provides. He is the one who tells me “You are forgiven. Now tell the world” and then gives me the venues to do so.

To deny him would be a terrible mistake. Because He is real, and He is here right now.

Chasing dreams

What hits me the hardest when I stop to think about God writing my story and letting me live it is that He has dreams for me, dreams to make my life a living reflection of His kingdom and who He is. He wants big things for me… big things to honor Him and to bring Him glory.

I want big things, too. But they’re all big things for me.

My hands are gripped all too often so tightly around my dreams and ambitions that I leave little room for the dreams God plans to turn into my reality. He knows what’s coming. He knows what will be, but until I let go already He can’t move forward.

I’ve gotta give it all up.
Every dream that ties me to this place, to this life and to everything I love.
Every hope I have placed in this world… each of the expectations I have placed on people and things.
Until I make all of it His, there’s nothing that can be done, nothing that can be made mine.

Years ago I wrote, in a moment of hopelessness mixed with the thrill of crazy boldness in the face of God, each of the things I love dearly and passionately, on the white, blank backs of index cards. On these empty cards I poured out my plans to God, one by one: Charisse. The rest of my family. California. The South. Education. My career. Writing. Speaking. A husband. Children. Where I work. My life.

Each letter written in black Sharpie felt like a part of me was dying…

… but that’s the point, He reminded me. You do nothing except what I do through you. No good thing, not one.

Some of these dreams He’s taken away. I don’t long for some of those things penned quickly in my office at work in a moment of lunch-time sanctification. Some burn in me even greater than before, and for this very reason I give them up again. I want to chase You, God, to make You known, so tonight, in black and white type, I make them Yours again. And I’ll do it daily, hourly, every minute if that’s what it takes for me to uncurl my fingers from the death grip I have on each of them.

It hurts. Because those things, I still want them. I want them in a visceral way. Those very human desires of career and family, of prestige and accolades call out to me. I could have them, I know. I’m good at the things I want. If I wanted to, I could succeed in each of those dreams (I have been great in this world before and could be again), but what would it be for me to measure my success by anything except by what You have in store?

Because the truth is if I succeed by my dreams and never rise to Yours, Lord, then I have failed.

So I am willingly living in the letting go days, which is the hardest part. The holding on comes much easier to me than the letting go. Releasing it all is where I must rely not on myself but on Someone else. My fingers are unfurling, palms slowly becoming exposed. These hands are emptying and raised high in surrender.

Some I might give back, I heard You speak to me. And some I might not. But either way, I still am. Whatever dreams you give up for good, you will never give Me up. I am for you and I, my love, I am for good.

 

PS If you’ve read this post, you should know my late-night thoughts have been inspired by a line in “Burning in My Soul” by Brett Younker: “All Your sons and Your daughters, dreaming the dreams of their Father…” I cannot help but what to dream these dreams from Him. Won’t you dare to dream with me?

Writing me

Every day, it’s a new book, or so it seems. The pages of words line so many spaces in my home. The books are piled up on shelves and night stands and my dresser. In the living room and bathroom and all over my car, in the seats and in the trunk. The words that fill my world are flowing all around me, and I live in those words, and I love them.

Tonight I am reading a new book and as I reached over to my nightstand to find something to use as a bookmark, the thought passed through my mind as I grabbed an index card lying in front of my clock:

I am but a bookmark in this life.

My life, the novel of my days — of my triumphs and heartbreaks and victories — is a story unfolding in front of me. It’s looming, and I hope there are more pages yet to come than those I have passed through. I can’t be sure of that, though. But I know one thing.

I am not writing this story.

My story is already written. It has an ending, and I’ve spoiled the ending already for myself — but I am so glad I’ve read the last page. Even if I can’t tell you the details, I know the climax of these chapters and years and valleys, the unfolding bits of grace and mercy in my life: eternal life with my King — not judgement or death but everlasting life.

Of all the things I’ve ever wanted to write in my life, the beautiful words and the words that make you stop and reread… All of the words I’ve wanted to speak into being and into other people’s lives… For all of that want and desire, I want you to know:

I am so glad I am not writing my own.

I would have left unwritten the best parts. I would have fast-forwarded through the lessons in forgiveness and grace and love. I would have missed the breath-taking moments, the orange and pink sunsets, in favor of the dimmer sundowns. I would have missed God’s blessings because I’d’ve skipped right past the moments of struggle. I would have said no to the tears and yes to the average and mundane, to showing and not telling. I would have tried to skip grit and in doing so, never have lived to see the glory.

But God never made me mundane. He made me loud and bright and colorful. He made me an extrovert and crafty with words and a lover of people. He didn’t write for me the boring roles full of dull colors and one-liners. No, when He wrote this story I am living, He wrote me in with passion and strong, vibrant lines.

I would have given anything as a teenager to tone it down. To blend in and do life like everyone else. I tried. So many mornings I woke up and thought, “Today. Today is the day where I just act like everyone else already.”

And every day, I failed because that is never who He intended for me to be.

I’m living this moment, bookmarked for Him.

He is whispering to me, “I colored outside of the lines with you. I picked the vivid crayons, the ones with the crispest points to make the sharpest lines. I never wanted you to fit into the rest of the world. I have always wanted you to stand out… for Me.”

I am so glad He is writing me.

He has written me as poetry, fluid and approximate, as I have traveled these years.
He has written me as prose, stubborn and boxy and detailed as I’ve walked these decades.
He has written me, line by line, a bloom of petals on pages.
He writes me still, in my stillness and when I cannot hold my body still.

I am just living the words He already has written for me.

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
(Psalm 139:16, NKJV)

Page by page. Each day the bookmark is placed in a new chapter, a new season. The plot thickens. I am a mystery He is writing but I know how it ends. With this story He has begun a good work and He will complete it because He keeps His promises — before they are ever lived, when they are only a mere whisper of words on His pages.

He has engraved me into the palms of His hands. I am, for this reason, His chosen genre and His bestseller.

So I will live my story boldly.

Slow things

I keep sitting down to write but these words won’t come.

I can feel them. They’re trapped. I want the flowing and the pretty words. The wise words and the words that express everything I need to say.

But they’re dammed up inside of me. Not like they used to, when all I felt was frustration — not frustration at the lack of words, but frustration at life. At feeling invincible, like no one saw me — feeling that I didn’t matter.

It’s different now. I matter to Him. He sees me.

And suddenly, all of the words that I have, that I long to write, they’re beautiful. I want to write stories and posts and poems that give people hope. I want to share the joy of Jesus with others. I want my “little darlings” to be soft and tender and poignant and raw and moving.

How frustrating for me to feel like I have all of those things trapped inside of me and yet they can’t get out. I know they’re there. I know they will come. I don’t think I’d love words so much if they weren’t intended to be used or said or spoken. But I’m ready to use them.

Now, please, Lord.

I’m not patient, so why must these words be patient? I want them to flow freely. I want to close my eyes and let my fingers fly across the keyboard. When I first realized I knew how to type without looking at the keys, I was in bed, in the dark, trying to fall asleep. My eyes were closed and I pictured a keyboard and there, in my mind, I could see each letter. I wrote words and sentences and paragraphs as I drifted off to sleep.

That. I want to see the words as easily as I did then. Perhaps — certainly — it was because I wasn’t searching for them.

And as I write, maybe that’s the lesson I am meant to learn.

Perhaps — certainly — it was because I wasn’t searching for them.

They just came to me, sweet and slow. They weren’t begging to get out, banging in my skull. When I didn’t think and I didn’t fight for them, they came.

God reminds me as I write of the slow things.

Certainly His salvation was not slow for me. My acceptance of it was, but His plan for me all along — it wasn’t ever slow. It was before I was.

But these things beautiful and lovely in my life? Most of them came in slow ways, as I waited with high hopes and heavy heart break. I wanted and begged for many of them and others I went into against my better judgement or by the will of others.

When I was suffering, when I longed to be free from those who hurt me and the hurts I choose to haunt myself with, time slowed.
When I walked away and said “I quit,” when I couldn’t look Him in the face, movement nearly ceased.
When I begged for Him to change me, and change seemed to come too painfully for my liking, time was frozen, drifting by so slowly that it stilled to be entirely still.

I am reminded, over and over again in the course of my life, of how He crafted the ways in which He would use these slow moments.

He said, “I will use all things for good for those who love me, who are called according to My purpose.”

I have waited for years. Not patiently. Almost never patiently. I have tried to use my life, the long way around that I’ve taken, my own way. The way of the world. And I’ve grieved because of it. I’ve suffered and cried as I’ve tried, swiftly, to rush my life and my dreams against the grain of His goodness.

He said, “Be still and hold your peace. I am fighting for you.”

I’ve bought into being strong. There was no need to be slow and patient because I had strength instead. I rarely allowed my proud fighting spirit to freeze, to let Him take over for me. I punched the promises of Jesus as I struggled to beat the rest of the world into knowing my might.

And He said “I will use it for good. They meant it for evil, but I will make it good.”

I’ve wept bitterly. I have been broken. I have been angry and I have hated and I have lied. And I have used it for evil. Every hurtful thing, every word and action — I have taken them and used them in a world in a way that is evil and against His word. Yet He was taken them back and returned to me the very things I used to harm for His good instead, for the saving of lives.

And still, He said, “I am redeeming you, girl. I’ve bought you with a price and you’re Mine. You’re more than paid for. Don’t you know, love, that you have been mine since before time began? Now stop fighting. Be. Still.”

He is my slow and still and sweet thing. Not because He is slow and still, but because He asks for me to be slow and still, and He has waited for me since before time began. Before I numbered these hours and years, before I could be impatient about the words and the world, He knew me. He said, “I will wait for her.” He is long-suffering and He knows me by name.

I will take the long way for Him. I will watch Him as He continues to write me, the words of who I am, slow and still and every so sweetly, for His grander glory.