Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mission Trip: Ethiopia

Dear Family and Friends,

I am going to Ethiopia!
My heart is full even as I write those words; I am so excited about the story God is letting me be a part of this winter.
Four teammates and I are leaving on February 11th 2010 for Ethiopia. We will be flying into the rural village of Yasow and working with the villagers for one week. The plan is to conduct a sports camp with the local school. There are two tribes who are native to Yasow, and these tribes’ native languages are not written down anywhere. Their religion, their culture, is all a part of an oral tradition. The missionaries who are working with the church in Yasow are teaching the people about Jesus through storytelling. The second week our team will be going to the capital city of Addis Ababa and working at the CMF International (Christian Missionary Fellowship) compound as well as an AIDS orphanage in the city. We will be returning on the 27th.
I am here to ask you for your partnership. I need you to come along beside me as I prepare to leave the country, specifically in prayer. Throughout this entire first part of my journey prayer has been what has guided me. And while God has heard me and blessed my prayers so far, I need you to join in with me. As a team we are going to need great amounts of discernment and courage on this trip; as well as physical and spiritual strength.
Second to my need for your prayerful support, I also need financial support. My individual trip will cost $2500.00, which includes airfare, lodging, and food for two weeks. For those of you who are reading this online, if you choose to support me financially, let me know and I will send you instructions on where and how to send any money. Any donations are tax deductible.
This has been a season in my life of giving up control and letting God write the story of my life for me. He is so much more creative than I am. By partnering with me, you will also play a part in this great story He is writing. Just like a church and a body requires many parts to make it work, so does a missions team.
I have incredible peace about this journey that God has me on today. As this year comes quickly to an end and 2010 approaches, I have only great anticipation about this upcoming trip. I can’t wait to see how God is working in Africa, not to mention how God will work in my own heart.

Grace and peace,

Anna Vaughan

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Donuts

God speaks to me through donuts.

Or maybe it is that I see God in ordinary things.

Or He waits to be profound when I'm thinking about something else entirely.

But all the same,

God speaks to me through donuts.

-

I was sitting at my usual Saturday morning bakery, reading John Ortberg's book, "God is closer than you think".

"We may ignore, but we cannot evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with him. He walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always easy to penetrate. The real labor is to remember to attend." (Nicholi)

People were streaming in and out, families, cyclists, students, and children. I smile, thinking about how breakfast unites people. The lawyer who is a regular just like me walks by, and then here comes the tattooed, thirty-something wearing a zip up hoodie.

I keep reading.

Until a family of three walks in.

Mom, Dad, and a 5 year old son.

They walk up to the counter and buy a dozen donuts. The donuts get packaged in one of those large, flat boxes. Mom heads for the door. Dad grabs the big box and the son follows him.

I watch as, about halfway across the bakery, the son reaches up for the box. "Let me carry it, " he asks his dad, excitedly. He reaches his little arms up and grabs the box and tries to put it under his arm. Sideways.

Dad lets go only momentarily, knowing exactly what is about to happen.

When the box starts to slip from the little boys hands, Dad grabs the box at either end.

Leveling the box of breakfast treats, Dad stands over the son, and together they start walking to the door.

The whole time, Dad is holding the box firmly in his hands. While the son walks underneath the box, his arms stretched up as far as they'll reach, his fingertips pushing on the bottom of the box.

Proudly, they walk out of the bakery together.

-

God snapped His fingers in my ear.

The whole bakery stood still for a minute as I watched this metaphor walk out the door.

"Once you see God in an ordinary moment at an ordinary place, you never know where He'll show up next. (Ortberg)"

He is carrying the weight.

He is controlling what I cannot handle on my own.

I may stretch and reach, He may even let me help, let me walk along with my fingertips brushing against it...

but in the end, He has it in His hands.

-

There is a recurrent theme about the lessons He is teaching me in this season.

He is using donuts to speak to me.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Running

I have already set a few goals for myself for 2010.

One of them was to run a race. Of any length. Just a race.

For so many reasons. But one of them being because I always thought I couldn't.

Ever since I was thirteen, I told myself that I could not run.

I remember standing on a mountain in Kingdom Come and my entire body shaking because I could not get oxygen in. My lungs would not fill with air.

I remember singing as I hiked the Sheltowee, just trying to catch my breath.

These times are overshadowed every single time I run farther than I thought I could.

And now I've reached a point where my obstacles are all in my head.

-

But I cannot get over them on my own.

I hit my limit and cannot make myself go further.

I dont know how to make myself keep running.

I can't keep running alone.

-

This is the same point I have reached in my own life.

I need someone to "run" with.

Someone who will make me keep going.

To keep breathing.

To quicken or slow my pace.

-

This time, I don't mean a husband.

I don't mean a life partner.

I mean a role model.

A mentor, for a lack of a better word.

-

I have a mother. A wonderful, beautiful one.

I dont need another one of those.

But I need a woman I can look up to.

Someone who has been what I am going through.

And made it out alive.

A woman who can say, "yes, I remember that". Rather than, "oh yes, me too."

Someone I trust.

Someone who will push me to be a godly woman. To write a good story for my life. Who will teach me.

-

I have been talking with God about this a lot lately.

This desire is one of my greatest right now. Mostly because it stems from a great need.

But searching for a woman like that is one of the most difficult things I've ever done.

But God only knows how much I need this right now.

-

Just as much as I need someone who knows how to run.

Who can run farther than I can because they have already done it.

So that when I want to quit - so that when I get tired - there is someone there to tell me to keep going.

Treasure

"Here is everything," I whisper. I feel like by the time I've thrown away the things I don't need there's not much left. But what I hand over is heavy.

He gathers it all up in His arms and smiles at me. "Thank you for doing that. I know it was hard for you." He looks down at the load and shakes His head knowingly. "There's a lot we can do with this. Just you wait..."

He sorted through my stuff. Organized. Rearranged. He took a few things apart. Reassembled things I had broken a long time ago. Brushed off the dust. I heard a lot of loud noises. I felt awkward standing there. Empty handed. My shoulders strangely light without the burden.

He turned back around, with a grin on His face that only hinted at how proud He was.

"Come on, let's take a look," He called to me.

And to my surprise, He handed some of my things back.

"I want to see what you'll do with this," He said.

I barely recognized it. But it was mine. And my mind flooded with ideas and a tinge of fear.

He handed me another.

"Get creative with this one," He laughed. Obviously pleased with this new thing He'd made from my old junk.

Before long, He'd handed most of my stuff back to me.

It fit better in my arms this time. Shiny and new and shaped different. I recognized some of it as my own. But He'd done a brand new thing with other pieces.

But something was missing.

I looked around, a bit frantic.

My most precious thing.

The thing I'd had the hardest time handing over in the first place.

"Where is it?" I asked, panicked.

"It's right here, love. Don't worry..." I saw Him cradling it in His arms.

"Can I have it back too?" I was almost willing to drop the other beautiful things onto the floor just to get a hold of that one thing again.

He shook His head slowly. "You gave everything to me, remember? And this is what you love the most. Which is wonderful... I made you to want this. I made you to love this. But, because you do love it so much, I'm going to take care of it for you. Because I can do that better than you can. Trust me. I know how special it is to you."

(Luke 12:34)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

When We Help Ourselves

ometimes the greatest risk we can take is to sit still.

Sometimes what takes the most courage in our lives is not doing anything at all.

Sometimes the greatest step of faith can be letting God call the shots.

-

I am in awe of the way our memories work. I am capable of absorbing something, but not processing it, only to have it resurface months and months later to teach me a lesson. As if I have a reservoir where God keeps special things: "this will go here for now, until later when I need it."

Back in July I went to New York City for a few days with Southland on a mission trip. To wrap the weekend up, we went to a service at our sister church Forefront, which meets in the Blender Theater That morning, the minister taught using Genesis 16.

About Abram and Sarai, whom God had promised to bless with a child. But they became impatient, or downright doubtful of God's promise (because Sarai was getting very old). In their impatience Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands.

What happens when we try and help ourselves along, outside of the will of God, is we get results. Things happen, change, and move. But not according to Plan.

So a child was born.

But not the child God had planned - not the child He had promised.

-

I remember sitting in New York and listening to the minister talk about how God's plan is better than ours. That we have to be patient for it to come to fruition. That we can, in fact, expedite things with our own actions.

But sometimes, God calls us to wait.

Sometimes, every fiber of our being is telling us to move. Causing anxiety or an irrational sense of urgency. But the Lord is telling us to be still. To hold on just one minute and let Him do what He does.

You see, God would later give Abram and Sarai (or Abraham and Sarah) a son. Just like He had promised. On His own time, in a way that brought Him glory, despite their laughter and serious doubt. Isaac was born. The child He had promised.

-

I have been praying God would open my eyes to the risks He wants me to take. That He would reveal the first step and give me the courage to take it.

This prayer is why I am going to Ethiopia in February.

Sometimes risks involve action. God-centered, God-driven, God-inspired action. We are required to move, to do, to go.

Sometimes God gives us creative license and He only gives us guidelines. Especially when we have come so far in our faith, our delight truly is in Him. Our hearts really are so close to His they almost cannot be separated.

But nowhere in the His word does our God promise that He will "help those who help themselves".

There is a fine line. As always.

And every day is different.

It requires heightened discernment to tell the difference.

But some days...

The very calling on our life is to sit still.

To hold out our open hands and wait.

This takes more courage than you might know. And this takes more patience than you might have.

This might be the greatest risk of all.

To surrender something in prayer.

And then, with hope...

wait.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Return to the Mountain

My mind has been racing all day long.

It's been a while since I've been overwhelmed with thoughts like this.

Coming at me from all directions, I cannot make sense of any of them.

I got this crazy idea to go back to school today. Which, isn't really a crazy idea. But it was out of the blue. Kind of irrational. So I did some looking around tonight. And lost all my peace. There was my answer. Even as the stress was rising into my armpits, I knew God was telling me what I needed to know.

I had made the right decision a few months ago when I decided to take a break. Earlier, I had heard correctly. Because of the Spirit inside of me, I was able to discern the will of God. Now, my own flesh tried to get in the way of that plan today. But no. I would return to the peace He had provided. Even now, I am letting Him quiet me with His love. There is a reason for all things. I will wait.

Earlier in the year, I was climbing a mountain. Proverbially speaking - I was not in a valley, I was climbing a mountain. Ever getting closer to God. Muscles tired, out of breath. I prayed for reprieve and finally, He sent it. I've been living in this restful period or on this level trail for a few weeks now.

But today, I felt Him whisper. "Time to get up! Time to keep moving! Up, get up!"

So here we go again. Ever climbing. From glory to glory, we are reaching for the Father.

Climbing up a ladder, only to go back down and start over.

I thought I knew a lot about the character of God. Granted, I know more now than I did six months ago. But I have yet to make a dent in the character of God.

So.

My mind races. A lot of prayers sift through my mind during the day. I don't know when He will let me rest again. But every step brings me closer to Him.

Every crazy idea, every tangent, every scenic overlook... a chance to explore His faithfulness and His will for my life.

One foot in front of the other.

Here I go.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Spiritually Busted

Over the past few weeks, the Sermon on the Mount has been on my heart.

I cling to the understanding that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of Heaven, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.

Not those who have achieved a state of righteousness.

But those who realize how much they lack. How much they fail and fall short, and yet desire so much more.

-

I walked into church this morning to work the cafe and heard Mike say, "blessed are those...."

And my heart burst.

I waited all day to hear the Beatitudes unpacked.

Even as I was passing our bulletins at 608 tonight, I got antsy.

I needed to be in my safe place.

To go and sit with the Father and learn.

I just knew He would meet me.

-

And He did. As He promises He will do when we seek.

I felt the Spirit move.

"My heart turned violently inside of my chest".

-

Mike taught about Matthew 5.

Sharing a lot of insight and wisdom and a lot of humor.

And I gained an understanding using a ladder analogy.

Walking away with a grasp on the concept that we must relive these steps over and over again.

Climb to the top and then return to the bottom to do it again.

Routinely hunger and thirst.

Perpetually give God the bridle to our wild hearts.

Repeatedly empty out our pockets and come up with lint.

-

But it wasn't until I stood in the middle of Fazoli's parking lot tonight, with the last of November rain spitting in my face, that I understood what He wanted me to learn tonight.

The wind blew and blew.

The Spirit moved.

And I recapped the day. Last night. This holiday weekend.

Days filled with community.

With joy and happiness.

With laughter and deep, trusting conversations centered around our Father's work.

-

But when the Spirit moves, satan attacks.

And our spirits were tried and tested today.

We were beaten up.

-

But in the very face of attack, our fellowship strengthened.

Some of us spent the afternoon in a hammock, or on the floor in the hallway, or standing in the rain at Fazolis.

We surrounded one another, pouring love and encouragement into one another's lives.

By this, I believe the Father was glorified.

This was the lesson He wanted me to learn.

-

Tonight, we have won the battle.

The mouths of the lions have been shut.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Things change.

Even as I sit down to write this, my mind is flooded with memories.

It used to snow in Kentucky on Thanksgiving.

And we used to all pile in the mini van and take the "long" way from Long Avenue to Severn Way.

For years and years, things remained the same.

So much the same that I cannot differentiate between the years.

-

Things change.

We tried to keep it from happening for a season.

Tried to pretend that the very make-up of our family dynamic hadn't been shattered.

Tried to pretend like our lives could continue on as they had for decades.

But you can only pretend for so long.

You can only avoid change for a while,

before your very body starts to respond.

-

Things change.

On my own, I began the painful process of untying the binds.

I felt like the only one.

The only one willing to close the door and walk away.

But it needed to happen.

-

Things change.

And I began to realize that one of the greatest signs of maturity, one of the greatest indicators of growing up, was an ability to love the essence of something.

To tell the difference between love of tradition and a love of comfort and normalcy.

As the holiday season approached, I felt an increasing sense of dread rise up in my chest.

This is not how I'm supposed to feel, I kept thinking.

I should be thankful and full of joy.

But we were trying to put new wine in old wineskin.

We were trying so desperately to hold on to something -

for the sake of our own hearts, for the sake of our own comfort.

-

So, with one swift motion, I cut the cord.

The holidays are about you, the people I love.

You, the ones my heart adores.

And I couldn't care less about the china we use, or the time we eat dinner, or what casseroles are served.

-

Things change.

In the past few years, my life has changed drastically.

The lives of the people I love have been dramatically altered.

We could have never known we'd be here, today.

Because we are not that creative.

Because our ideas are not that great.

You see,

You can't make this stuff up.

-

So for the first time ever, I enjoyed multiple Thanksgiving dinners.

On Wednesday I was in Winchester. With additional family members and guests and tables set up in the living room.

On Wednesday night, a question was asked and a promise was made.

Yes. Absolutely. Always.

On Thursday, I went to a new house for Thanksgiving.

And read a book. Which made me cry.

Loved on three little girls.

Before heading to the place that I grew up.

The only place of consistency in my life.

-

And even Severn Way had changed.

-

I was handed a glass of wine.

And we laughed until our sides hurt as Betty raced up the back lawn in her scooter, trying to get up to the second floor for the first time in a year.

We were missing a sister.

And we had added a brother.

Some time in the afternoon, three of my favorite women in the world darkened the door of my childhood for the first time.

Family.

They are my family. They are my loves. They are part of my story.

-

Things change.

But some things do not.

My love for you is one of those things.

-

But my Father in Heaven knows my heart.

And as the evening wound down and we sat with full bellies, laughing in the basement,

I watched as my sister walked upstairs.

In just a moment, I heard her slide the piano stool across the floor.

And I almost cried as she started playing Carol of the Bells.

She'd never been the one to make the music before.

-


"When you tell a story you automatically talk about traditions, but they're never separate from the people, the human implications. You're talking about your connections as a human being." Gayl Jones

Goodnight

I am going non-stop.

All the time.

Until it is time to sleep.

There for a while I was staying up past midnight.

Getting up at 5:30 in the morning and wondering why I would almost fall asleep on the way to work.

I had forgotten what it meant, what it felt like, to be rested.

Until one evening I walked into my apartment, plugged my phone into the charger, and immediately crawled into bed.

Almost seven hours of sleep.

I awoke rested and calm and stayed that way almost all day long.

I get more sleep these days. After gaining an understanding that nothing too terribly exciting is going to happen after I close my eyes.

Sleep is not going to deprive me of a great life.

Or cause me to miss incredible opportunities.

I needed rest to function.

-

But even now as I try and get more and more sleep at night, I wake up and find myself in the shower or walking out the door....

and my mind is bouncing around like a pin ball.

Thinking about the conversations I had the night before.

Or the worries from yesterday.

Or the music or movie or television show I watched right before I fell asleep.

I try and pray as I get ready and my mind is just not present.

-

I do pray in the car on the way to work.

God and I have incredible conversations once I get my mind on track.

And I have been asking God the past few days for a new prayer.

If only so that my prayer life does not become stale again.

This morning I realized I want to wake up singing His praises.

I want to roll over in bed and my first thought be of Him.

Not of bills or schedules or It's Always Sunny.

On the way to work this morning, God whispered.

"I am the beginning and the end..."

"It all begins and ends with Me, baby."

-

So I will end each day with Him.

With the Word and with prayer.

And I will see where my thoughts turn after I rest.

I pray for so many others that Jesus would meet them in their dreams...

that in restful, quiet, still times their hearts would find Jesus and be comforted.

Be restored.

I will make that my own prayer.

-

Because the way I end my day determines how I begin my next one.

And the way I begin my days determines how I live my life.

His mercies are new each morning (Lam 3:23).

I want to hear His voice before the rest of the world has a chance to spoil anything.

I want to wake up empty and let Him fill the spots only He can reach.

-

Good morning will take on a whole new meaning if I learn how to say "good night".

Fight

I am done fighting this fight.
I did not win.
And I did not lose.

But it is over.
And it is time to walk away.
To be done.

There is no shame.
Only growth.
Gained wisdom and character.

I am tired.
From swinging aimlessly.
Exhausted from never making contact.

So I am going to walk away.
Now, with hope.
Knowing this was not defeat.

Aware, painfully, of what has transpired.
Of the hundreds of times I have failed.
Of the laundry list of blunders and missteps.

But with peace,
with promise of healing,
with hope.

I turn my back to the lies.
To the falsities, like arrows, being shot at me.
The misconceptions and the untruths.

I will not linger.
You see, "I don't have time to maintain these regrets".
For I am forever looking forward.

I am forever looking up.
Seeking His hand, His face.
Knowing in His love, I will find such hope.

And in anticipation,
in discernment,
but not in defeat.

I move on.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

the Created

Wait in anticipation.
Ready at a single utterance.

To rise up.
To move.
To fall still.
To quieten.
To catch fire.

Our watery, salty, gritty, burning eyes search for Him everywhere.
We wait in hopes He will choose us.

To demonstrate His power.
To protect the ones He loves.
To serve His purpose.

All it takes is a soft word.
From Him.
Or from one who loves Him.

And our foundations shift.
Our molecules transform.
Our waves decrease.

Just one word.
Spoken out of authority.
Or one word full of faith in that authority.

We are anxious to do His will.
We crave His bending low.
The kiss of the wind - the wind that blows when we ask Him to come near.

We will hover, poised in the sky.
Our swollen flesh will burst open and pour out rain.
We were created to do His bidding.
To exist in pregnant anticipation.
Expecting Him to command.

Bid us, Creator.
Command us, Your creation.

To crumble our foundations.
To carry Your son.
To roll away.
To rise in the morning.
To be still.
To bear fruit.

For You, we wait.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Messy

He sat at the table, legs swinging from the chair.

Milk carton, paper plate.

His mom put his donut in front of him and went to feed his baby brother.

A few minutes went by.

I drank my coffee. Continued to write in my journal.

Until, suddenly, it was as if everything else in the bakery stopped.

The little boy started whining.

I watched him push the donut away, after taking one bite, his hands and mouth covered in chocolate.

"I dont want it," he whimpered.

Mom turned around and pushed the plate back to him.

"Go ahead, try some more."

"But, mooooommmmmm,"

Then Mom turned around and wiped the chocolate off of his face.

"I know you think you don't like it because it is messy. But I promise it is good."

-

The hustle and chaos of the bakery commenced again.

But I sat in awe.

Suddenly, filled with the voice of God.

Feeling Him wipe the chocolate off of my face.

"I know you think you don't like this, Anna. I know you think this is messy and you want something different. But I promise, this is good. Taste it. See?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Winding Path

At the beginning of the summer, I realized I had developed an image of a spiteful God in my mind. I was afraid to voice my hopes, my dreams, for fear that He would make me do the complete opposite.

I remember voicing that fear out loud for the first time. And I remember, even more clearly, the feeling I got that I was talking with a heartbroken God. "Oh why do you think I am that way...?"

It was then my eyes and heart were opened up to the Savior Jesus. The Redeeming Protector who hides us in the cleft of the rock - the One who destroys the enemy at the end of time. The Jesus I could, and would, fall in love with.

A strange thing happens to those of us who have known Jesus all our lives.

At some point along the way, we come head to head with the realization that we don't really know Jesus like we thought we did. And it's about time we made that happen.

This, however, is a lesson I've been learning for years now.

It happened at 13.

At 16.

At 17. 18. 19. And every year since.

No matter how long we know Jesus, we need to know Him more.

-

This is something I don't like to admit. Something I've been struggling with the past few weeks - even as my relationship with Christ has reached new heights.

You see, I don't like to admit that I have traveled a very winding, meandering path.

Retracing steps.

Relearning lessons.

Blinded by curves.

I wish I could tell you that early on God told me what He wanted from me.

That I knew His will and I followed it.

Maybe I did.

Maybe I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Today, I feel like this is true.

But in the past few weeks, I've felt a certain amount of shame in admitting my ignorance.

In confessing the amount of times I've had to change direction, stop and reassess, change my mind, or gotten off to a false start.

But why do I feel shame about this?

What is it in me that wants to say, "I knew it would happen this way!"

"I knew from the beginning who God wanted me to be!"

Sometimes God whispers secrets to me.

But rarely does He do what I expect Him to.

Or how I expect Him to.

Or for the reasons I assume.

-

Thank God that I have changed direction.

And that this God I love is not a forgetful one.

He remembers His promises.

And had I known where I was headed from the beginning,

the journey would not be an adventure.

My mistakes are my reminders that I am not all knowing.

My shortcomings remind me that I cannot do this on my own.

-

I am on a winding path.

But it is a narrow one.

And there is no shame in the switchbacks.

One foot in front of the other.

Moving from glory to glory.

Telling a better story.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Metaphor

It is hard for me to run alone.

My natural pace is too fast.

When I am by myself, I quickly run out of breath and sharp pain shoots through my shins.

I like to run with Larry.

He knows this about me - this tendency to get ahead of myself.

So he starts first.

And I fall in step behind him.

Sometimes, I will run right beside him, matching my step to his.

Heel. Heel. Keeping his rhythm.

Sometimes, I fall behind him.

Following in his steps.

When I run with Larry, I always go farther than I think I can.

When my lungs start to burn or my shins start throbbing, but Larry keeps running, so do I.

As long as he is running, I run.

-

This... is the great metaphor.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

He is Holy

I don't know why the Father hasn't given up on me yet.

Seems like every day I have to re-learn the same lesson.

I make the same mistakes. Or encounter the same problems. Pray the same prayers.

Yet, every single day I seek Him out, He is there.

Steady and consistent.

-

For the first time ever, I cried out to Him, questioning His patience with me.

I don't deserve it, and I finally realized that.

I had always known I was a sinner. That I didn't deserve grace.

But I was mourning my inability to learn. To change.

"But you are changing," He whispered to me.

It doesn't feel like it.

"I am more pleased with you now that I ever have been before..."

How could you be?

"Did you think you were going to get it right the very first time? No. You are growing. Moving from glory to glory..."

My heart was suddenly filled with a peace like I haven't known in ages.

His grace allows us to try again.

-

I don't know when this transformation happened inside of me.

Somewhere along the way, one night in my sleep, or maybe one day during a run...

I don't know when it happened...

but I certainly wasn't paying attention.

Maybe it was when I was faced with disease at the beginning of the summer.

Or when I learned to put my heart in His hands.

Or when I got my first image of a powerful Jesus - and fell in love.

-

Because I've loved all my life, and I've certainly believed.

But I always wondered if I had gotten it right.

No longer.

Now I know I definitely haven't gotten it right!

But the desire is there to recklessly pursue.

There are not enough quiet hours to talk to Him loudly.

And those who pursue righteousness are the ones who are blessed.

-

I've been more in the Bible than ever before.

Seeking answers and truth and just simply studying.

I've transformed my prayer life.

And through prayer, my life has been changed.

I don't hear the audible voice of God. I don't know how to explain it to you.

But I do hear Him. Plain as day sometimes.

He is funny in my mind.

And He rarely ever raises His voice.

He usually hangs out in between my shoulder blades and whispers things in my ears that sound nothing like anything I would ever come up with on my own.

And His voice comes with a peace that is unexplainable.

Not answers.

Not comfort.

Sometimes not even direction.

Just peace.

-

I am learning.

I told you many times over the summer that this was a mountain.

I was seeking a stopping point - a false summit. A resting spot.

This journey has never been a valley.

God has been so present.

Up in my face, under my skin, in my dreams.

I am being pursued by the Lord Almighty ...

-

Which is the thought that stole my heart this summer.

The Creator, the Father, wants us.

He wants to be close to us. To dwell with us.

But He is perfect.

And we are so far from it...

I think, to be in His presence, we have to be striving to be holy.

So a lot of times when God comes near, He is working on making us more holy than we are.

-

Ask.

Seek.

Knock.

You find Him.

But be careful.

Because the Father is everywhere.

And as you grow in Him, you will begin to see His face...

So very often, He will give you exactly what you ask for.

And once you become familiar with His voice,

you will hear Him everywhere you go.

-

I had a quiet feeling the other day that I needed to prepare myself.

Because He will not always be this evident.

And I got sad... wondering what my heart will do the day that He decides to be quiet.

-

But even as things took a change this morning,

I could still hear Him.

Not because I am good.

Or because I am holy.

Or because I've done anything right.

-

But because He is good.

And He is holy.

And He loves us...

Friday, October 30, 2009

One

They said "461" and in my head, I automatically rounded that number down to "460". It's just the way I work. I round numbers.

But as soon as I did so, a face flashed in my head.

Quickly.

Vibrantly.

A glowing smile.

Light-filled eyes.

A full face.

A healthy belly.

And I was hit with the realization that, in my head, I had just eliminated a child.

A life.

And that led to a deeper realization, that I had just helped save that same life.

-

You see, we make it about the numbers.

This many children are starving right now.

This number of people will die every single day.

But numbers are not important to us.

Not really.

Not deep down inside.

-

Faces are important.

-

Little Moses who was found in the bottom of an outhouse and now is over three years old, aspiring to be the president of Haiti.

He is important.

-

We spent two hours, some of us more, last night filling plastic bags with nutrient-rich food.

Food that will be taped up and shipped all around the world.

And if we let it, our engagement, our attachment will stop there.

Stamp licked.

Address written.

Done.

-

But follow that box to Nicaragua.

Follow that box to Haiti.

Do you remember what it felt like to hold your baby sister or brother or son or daughter in your arms for the first time?

What about watching them take their first step.

Or sound-out their first word.

Follow that box to the slums and orphanages and refugee camps.

And you will find children who are alive today.

And children who will be alive tomorrow.

Who will live.

And not only live, but thrive.

-

Because someone was given a vision.

Because people really are good, deep down inside (and I refuse to believe otherwise).

And because we are all yearning for a purpose. To be part of the bigger story.

Because we are not our own. And what we have been given is not ours to keep.

Because what we do for the least of these....

Because seven hundred some odd boxes were packed last night, by seven hundred some volunteers, who suddenly realized.

Who suddenly came to understand.

Last night a little girl in Haiti went to bed with a satisfied belly.

And Jesus felt full.

-

We cannot round these numbers down.

Monday, October 19, 2009

heaven

I have always been overwhelmed by the concept of eternity.

Forever and ever.

We live our days here on earth knowing that everything - good and bad - eventually comes to an end.

Days turn into night.

Months, years, decades pass.

It is ingrained in us that we are finite.

Not infinite.

-

So when I would stop to think about Heaven, I could not fathom what forever meant.

Because, in my mind, everything ends.

Not so with what happens after life here on earth.

What comes next... will have no end.

-

I spent yesterday afternoon, last night, and this morning in Tennessee.

My dear friend and I both desperately needed to get away.

So we packed up the Mazda3 and drove dow 75.

We met up with my mom, stepdad, two sisters, and close family friends.

Crashed on their couch beds and ate their food.

Stayed up late watching UK football and eating peanut butter M&Ms and playing Phase10.

-

I woke up this morning to a quiet house.

I am not at home, was my first thought.

-

We bundled up and drove to the trailheads.

Only to hit standstill traffic.

Because the highway was covered in ice and snow.

So we stopped and found a new trail.

And we started hiking.

It was an easy hike. Rough pavement, slightly uphill.

Towards the falls.

My cheeks stung in the cold.

We could see our breath.

The sun would peek out from behind the clouds and we would bask in its warmth.

We were overwhelmed with beauty.

-

After the four mile hike, we climbed back in the car.

Feeling started returning to my fingers.

And I felt like the broken parts of me, the pieces that had been shattered over the past few months, were being pieced back together.

I had forgotten that part of my soul belonged in the mountains.

My eyes see the world through a viewfinder.

My lungs expand with cold, fresh, unprocessed air.

My skin responded to the kiss of a mountain breeze, sunlight cast through trees, and the cool spray from gushing falls.

-

Bonnie and I got home and very quickly unloaded the cars and drove to church.

How much it says about us and our lives that even after an adventure, our hearts long to be with the people we love. And to worship in a place we call home.

-

Jon was talking about Heaven.

About how Heaven is God. And God is in us. And therefore, we are Heaven.

In my mind... that means that Heaven is perfect community.

Jon started talking about what we are going to "do" in Heaven.

None of this mundane, cloud-sitting, hym-singing eternity stuff.

My heart skipped a beat.

-

Jon explained Heaven the way he imagines it.

And I'm not sure I 100% agree. Which makes me happy. And I think it would make him happy too.

I believe that we will feel cold. But no one will die because they didn't have a warm place to sleep.

I believe we will sweat and feel humidity. But no one will ever be far from shade.

I believe we will feel satiated and full.

And that the first time I try to run a marathon in Heaven,

I won't be able to do it.

Because I believe that there is beauty in the extremes.

And that glory is brought to God through our learning process.

That we will spend eternity learning about God.

And exploring the universe with Him.

That He created us to evolve.

But in Heaven, there will be nothing standing in our way.

Only opportunity.

And boredom ... will not be something that exists in the presence of God.

-

I almost cried when I thought about what Jon said.

Because this... I agreed with wholeheartedly.

We will be spending eternity knowing God.

When I get to Heaven, when judgement is over, and a million years have passed...

and I have explored the milky way and ridden the back of a lion and swam with the whales...

I will still be able to walk up to God, who has His feet soaking in a hot spring, and I will reach out...

And I will touch His face.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the spirit

I am filled.

With a desire.

So sharp I cannot adequately express.

So desperate, I don't even know how to ask for it.

I am consumed.

With a love.

A new love I've never really felt before.

For a savior who has put a seal on my forehead and hidden me safely under His wing.

I am understanding.

What it means to struggle.

The pains of experience heal into the strength of wisdom.

Where I have fallen, He has come.

I am overwhelmed.

Filled to my fingertips it feels like, sometimes.

Heavy and raised up.

Tender and exhausted.

I am hopeful.

Knowing I have been emptied.

Only to be filled.

Saturated with the spirit.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Seal

Hold on.

This is the message of Revelation.

Hold on, help is on the way.

I am overwhelmed tonight.

I am not sure that words will ever be able to express what my heart saw during worship tonight.

Or the way that my self was filled up.

Or why I cried... thinking about judgement day.

-

I close my eyes.

-

And I am overwhelmed with this mental image of a strong Jesus that the church has forgotten about.

Of a Jesus who is wild.

And strong.

Why do we not teach each other about the protector Jesus?

The one who will mark us.

And hide us safely away while He destroys everything, which has hurt us.

goodbye


I walked up to our coffee shop one day in September of last year.
He was sitting on the patio with my sister.
He was a boy.
He was a stranger.
We smoked his first cheap cigarette together.
And he became ours.
He taught me how to love unconditionally.
What it meant to have a little brother.
I watched him see the world for the first time.

I woke up on morning to a skinny, long-legged boy walking through my hallway in his boxers.
His smile was just as big then as it is now.
But today, he is full of light.
Happiness once radiated through his inquisitive face.
A handful of years later, it is now joy.
He taught me about plants and the Kingdom of Heaven.
About the sweetness of words and childlike enthusiasm.

-

I did not anticipate shedding any tears when I walked into the house last night.

But as I entered the room and my eyes found you, I realized I was not prepared for this.

For you were no longer a little boy. You were no longer a stranger. You had rubbed up against the world and gained some wisdom. Your face shows it.

In your eyes, I saw some fear. Not the paralyzing fear that inhibits most of us. But the healthy sort that propels you forward, wide-eyed and breathless.

-

Our lives collided.

Intertwined, we have grown.

Gaining and taking and providing.

We have opened each other's eyes to the many dimensions of Heaven, to the thousands of faces of God.

We taught each other what it means to share.

We needed each other.

A family.

Brothers and sisters.

I would not have survived without you.

-

What happens, though, when our growth carries us away.

When what once fit, is now too tight.

-

Last night, it was time to leave.

You were not the only ones leaving.

You see, I was leaving too.

-

So I told you I was proud. Because I am.

And I told you I will always love you. Which I will.

But we don't say goodbye, you and me.

So I walked away - tears were hot and salty.

-

I found you.

And my cracked heart broke into pieces.

Sitting on that sidewalk, I listened as your tears turned back into breathing.

We went to the throne room together.

But the prayer I prayed was just as much for me as it was for you.

I'll call when I need a holiday in Spain.

-

The wind was blowing.

Catching our breaths and the smell of our tears and carrying them away.

I walked away...

But I had to stop at the corner.

Because the wind kept blowing, and the streetlight glowed warm and yellow in the humid night air.

And I turned around and whispered goodbye.

But you didn't hear me.

-

Always before, He's taken away and left me empty for a season.

Teaching me how to love Him with empty hands. To be faithful through loneliness.

This time, He has taken away and handed me something new.

Something unfamiliar.

Something blooming.

Something beautiful.

Because He knew I wouldn't survive this hurt alone.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Character Development

his time last year, I wrote down my bucket list.

A list of things I wanted to accomplish during my life.

Small things. Abstract things. Big goals. Silly ones.

Any and everything went on that list.

I was on a quest to achieve them all, however long it took.

I also knew along the way I would add and subtract from that list.

One year later... I have done just that.

-

That is what this life is all about.

I am a writer.

And I think of my life in terms of a story.

With a plot line.

I look back on what my life has been so far,

at the ways our stories intertwine.

The irony and serendipity and intentionality of it all.

And I am blown away.

-

So when I look back at my list, I laugh a little.

Knowing some things are no longer desires.

Some things were not nearly as interesting as I thought they'd be.

And the new desires that have grown in my heart... I dont know where they were hidden before, but they have come full force and taken over my life.

This was the point of the list.

To gain perspective.

To compare.

To scale personal growth and accomplishment.

-

Think about your favorite movie.

Why is it your favorite?

I never could pick one movie as my all-time favorite. But I have a few.

And the one thing most of those movies have in common, is the character development of the hero.

A scene where change occurs.

Where music plays and time passes and you watch your quirky, faulty, insecure, incompetent, unattractive, or cowardly main character ... transform.

In the good movies, they maintain most of their quirks.

In the good stories, this transformation scene is a process of changing their perception of themselves.

Wax on, wax off.

-

We are all the main character in our own stories.

Our lives are laid out like a plotline. Unbeknownst to us, everything we do and everyone we meet and everywhere we go make up the bulk of our stories. Our lives.

-

I was hit hard with this realization.

That the story I was living, was turning into a boring one.

Mia Thermopolis.

Daniel Larusso.

Cleveland Heep.

My story... as a matter of fact... was not really worth telling.

-

God sent me into a growing period, then.

Take a right turn, He said.

I balked.

But that's a mountain, I protested.

But that's where the adventure is, He whispered.

-

You may not be able to see it.

My transformation as been internal.

But it's about to be seen...

I am about to act on it.

There has been a fire lit under me,

and I am about to move.

-

You see,

this is about character development.

What happens to us that makes us stronger.

What we do that rubs us, the turns us, that polishes us, that refines us.

We change color and shape and consistency.

Because we were not created to stay the same.

We were born with potential.

-

I danced a lot this summer.

And I helped grow a garden (well... Liza might disagree. But I am still marking that off my list).

Last Christmas, I cut down my own Christmas tree.

-

I am full of motivation right now.

Itching to learn something new, to try something different.

To meet you.

And help you.

And love you.

I have wiped my slate clean.

Bid farewell to my plain self.

I am simple.

But I will not be boring.

-

I will be gentle.

I will be patient.

I will be trustworthy.

I will be kind.

-

My list has reduced to one thing.

Condensed might be a better word.

I am ready to go. And do. And see. And feel. And touch. And create.

We were made to glorify the Father. To live according to His purpose, to do His will.

And I do not believe He meant for us to have an ordinary life.

-

My Bucket List?

Live a life worth telling about.

To live a good story.

Heart of Worship

5:30 am blared loudly from two different alarm clocks.

At that time in the morning, it is still pitch black outside.

Everything is still.

I stumble blindly out of bed, trying to find my way to the shower in the dark.

This morning, I wasn't even out from under the covers before my mind was filled with these words.

"I'm coming back to the heart of worship/ when its all about you/ its all about you/ i'm sorry for the thing I've made it..."

I haven't heard this song in months. I don't know why, this morning in particular, the melody was stuck in my head.

But it remained.

As I got ready. As I prepared for my day, I kept hearing this song.

I walked out of my apartment this morning, 6:20 in the morning. Most of Lexington had not even stirred from their beds yet. Most of the little community on Brookewind still lay quiet in darkness.

I stepped out onto the sidewalk and my eyes were immediately drawn upward.

To the sky.

To the fingernail moon.

And the thousands of stars dusted across the early morning sky.

It was as if, as the world slept, the stars had come out of hiding.

Peering in on a world at rest.

Be still.

And I was privy to it... I had snuck out. Caught them.

I paused for a second.

And heard the song again.

-

Tonight I walked down to a church less than a quarter of a mile from my house.

To spend time in community. Worshipping.

People bared their hearts. Expressed feelings and told about what God was doing in their life.

-

I've had an image in my mind lately.

Of what happens in Heaven when we worship.

I imagine God on his throne... surrounded by beasts singing holy, holy, holy.

And then above their praise, something rises.

Of a different tone. A different rhythm.

And God becomes the Father.

Leaving His throne, crouching low, leaning closer.

To be able to hear better.

To overcome the chasm we have created.

Between us and Him.

-

We are worshipping.

Calling Him to us.

Asking Him to come close, come quickly.

-

In that moment of true worship, we have chosen Him.

His jealous heart aches for us.

So that when our voices rise, so does He.

When we call, He is waiting.

-

We have turned worship into a production.

But it's not just a song.

It is a call.

A request.

A plea.

It is a recognition of all the Father is...

an invitation to draw near.

-

We are called back to the basics.

To that moment when we walk outside and catch the Heavens in full display.

Or roll out of bed with a song on our lips.

It is grace and trust and risk and beauty and pain and devotion.

Holy, holy, holy.

Our voices rise to the Heavens,

our prayers as incense.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Inner Beauty

I watch people all the time.

I notice body language.

I take note of scars and retainers and freckles.

I see the way their eyes shift when they're uncomfortable, or when they're lying.

My favorite is when their eyes light up...

-

And I have been thinking a lot about what makes people beautiful.

Particularly, women.

-

I grew up with four other women in my house.

I am surrounded daily by women in my office.

I have dozens of girl friends.

What I have noticed, throughout the years, is a heartbreaking desire to be beautiful.

-

Maybe it is not so much to "be" beautiful.

But to feel beautiful.

To be seen by others as beautiful.

To captivate.

Allure.

To be seen.

-

Our perception of what is beautiful,

society's expectations and standards,

are skewed.

Warped.

No longer do we look at someone's character,

but instead,

our attention is focused on a woman's waistline.

Her bra size.

The way her pants fit.

-

These standards have groomed women to spend their time and money and energy on "looking" good.

Seeking attention where we know we can get it.

Going to drastic measures to keep it.

Unintentionally absorbing harsh, negative comments or criticism that our ears never should have heard in the first place.

Remembering the times men walked away, ignored, or abused us.

Because we've been told over and over again we are not good enough.

-

But I've been watching.

And the things I see that make you beautiful...

have nothing to do with what you might expect.

-

As Christian women, we are given instructions on how to achieve beauty.

But it's not what you might expect.

"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

-

Nothing I can say will be enough to convince you that you are beautiful.

No words I use will be right.

But you are.

I see it.

People see it.... everywhere you go.

You carry your beauty in the way you hold yourself.

The way you love on others.

The way you give.

The way you hold those children.

Monday, September 7, 2009

climb

I can't call this a desert.

Neither is it a valley.

I am being cared for.

I can see the sun. Feel the warmth of its rays on my back.

This -

this journey I have been on for the past year -

this has been an ascent.

I am climbing a mountain.

Taking steps towards a summit.

With a heavy pack on my back and blisters on my heels and sweat dripping down my face.

I feel close.

-

I know I will reach the top and realize there's only a resting place there.

But it is a goal.

Today, that summit is what I strive for.

-

Because I see His face.

And I hear His voice.

And I feel Him moving.

I'm just ready for an overlook.

For a place to stop and rest and enjoy the beauty of His creation.

-

I understand that I would eventually need to get moving again.

But I have a deep desire to rest.

-

This has been one of the hardest summers of my life.

I understand I am being tried and stretched.

All for a purpose.

-

I have been climbing for a while now.

And it keeps getting steeper.

The way keeps getting harder.

I am tired.

-

But this is not a valley.

This is not a dry season.

-

This is a climb

summer skin

Time used to creep by.

At fifteen, I thought I would never be an adult. Walking through the cold rain, hood over my head, I was ready for life to happen. For things to get going.

-

I don't know when it happened.

But life got a move on.

And days are melting together now.

-

It has been years since I met you.

And years since I loved you.

It's been years since I visited there,

and months since I've seen you.

-

I fell asleep one night,

and when I awoke,

it was September.

-

Tonight, I am dealing with mixed emotions.

I am mourning the loss of summer.

I am not the only one who took for granted the days of wavering sun light and iridescent heat.

The only one who failed to take advantage of long evenings and late mornings.

Of watering holes and soccer fields.

What happened?

Where is the time going?

-

I am also rejoicing in autumn.

Arriving gently, on the wind first.

In the clear, starry night sky.

We feel the difference in our bones.

And we know it is coming.

Because there is nothing like fall in Kentucky.

-

I am shedding my summer skin.

I am trying to remember what happened to me this summer.

Who I met.

What I did.

How I changed.

And suddenly, the last three months feel like a lifetime.

-

May this next season in all of our lives leave us changed.

May time never go by so quickly that we fail to experience, to taste, to see, to feel.

May we risk.

May we trust.

May we love.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

awakened

Slowly -

Consumed.

Submerged -

Body covered, ears filled.

Breath is stolen.

Watery world -

Murky with guilt, dark with sin.

Noises amplified.

Voices of the past whisper and chide.

Struggling for the last word, to get ahead one last time.

But their efforts are in vain.

And through the echoing,

beyond the grips of the watery grave,

you are called out.

A voice -

demanding revival.

"Come out," He calls to you.

And you rise.

Peeled away from the very grips of death.

Extracted from a tomb,

Redeemed.

He calls you by name as He reaches.

And you are reborn.

Alive again -

the grime left behind in the empty burial ground.

Gasping for air -

a new breath to fill your lungs.

You are clean.

And you are free.

For you have been called by name.

Resurrected.

Awakened.

Risk

I was weighed down.

Heaviness. On my chest, on my shoulders, on my heart.

A pressure I felt upon waking,

A burden I carried, even as I laid down to sleep.

I moved slowly under the load.

And as my world slowed down,

I began to hear.

I was being challenged.

Tried.

Pressed further /

Risk, the quiet voice encouraged.

But I tried to untangle my own mess.

To lay down my own load.

Only to tangle it further,

to trip over my pile of "stuff", I had not successfully gotten rid of -

but only off-loaded /

I found myself questioning:

The motive of the Father.

The purpose and existence of that, which acted as my burden /

But I listened.

To the still, small voice /

Listening is not easy.

Listening does not always relieve you of a burden or a load.

But tonight, all He was requiring of me was attentiveness.

To hear Him and act upon that /

And in the very moment I did so,

acknowledging my incapability,

risking that, which I valued too highly anyway,

entrusting Him /

A butterfly,

orange and black wingspan,

floated by my face on the wind

Delaying, hovering, before flying away

Disappearing from my sight /

Healing

Growth

Transformation /

It was never about the burden itself.

It was about trust.

Risking what was most precious to me,

allowing the Lover of my Soul to take care of my life /

It was He who called it a wellspring

And He is a guardian /

I awoke this morning

unfettered

unencumbered

one thousand years older /

Sunday, August 23, 2009

thoughts


I've been having a lot of thoughts lately.

Thoughts that don't necessarily connect.

Or make sense.

Unfinished, uneducated, irrational.

I have thrown open the windows and am airing out the dusty confines of my mind and my heart.

-

If we approach our lives from a logical standpoint, as Christians we should know there is absolutely nothing for us to worry about.

We have given our lives to Christ.

And Christ loves us. He is pulling for us. He has plans for us.

If we surrender, then what happens next is not so much in our control anymore.

But we risk becoming apathetic. Living lives of inaction or stagnancy.

"God's got it under control..." does not mean we are no longer responsible for the way we live our lives.

It means that our energies are spent pursuing God and drawing closer to Him. And when our hearts are so close to His, we can trust our own judgement. We can look at the chaos of our worldly lives and know that He did not create pain, but He will use it. That He did not intend for us to be lonely, but He will meet us there.

-

I dropped out of college this semester.

I couldn't make my school schedule coincide with my work schedule.

And I found myself with thousands of dollars of unplanned bills.

So I withdrew from classes.

And I am faced with the first fall season without a campus life in four years.

But I don't know what God wants from me.

He's calling me to DO something. Action. Move. To get involved. To be passionate.

What does that look like?

He's calling me to love people. That's always been what He's asked of me.

Now He's emphasizing investment.

Personal relationships that go deeper than hanging out on Friday nights.

More than where you live and what you do and where you grew up.

This is harder than it sounds.

-

I am learning.

I am learning that I know absolutely nothing.

That I think way too highly of myself.

That I am impatient.

I am learning what I need.

And what I want.

That these lessons are not specific to any age or maturity level...

these lessons are a part of life.

Lessons we must continue to learn.

Questions we must continue to ask, if we are to continue to grow.

-

My life today is a direct result of desperate prayers.

I am not sure when God began to answer them ... because maybe He's been answering them all along.

I am nearsighted. Unable to see what He is doing in the big picture.

All I remember is desperately praying for friends. For community. For a place where I belonged.

All I know is that one night in February, a dear friend harassed me into coming out to Jessamine Co. on a Thursday night. And that led me here. To this place.

I continue to pray. To pester God about it.

-

He is doing something huge right now.

He is doing something new.

-

I am unsure of His plans for me.

But He knows my heart's desire...

my desire for fellowship, for a husband, and a family.

For purpose and creativity. For a little coffee shop or a community center...

-

I find myself thinking metaphorically.

I am running.

We are running.

I will continue to run.

And you will keep running.

We will all run.

And one day...

you and i, we might fall into step with each other.

Running in the same direction.

The way I will love you will be different than any other.

We will not distract each other from our race... but, instead, encourage.

Challenge.

Support.

I am running my race. And you are running yours.

But God will have seen it fit for our races to become the same... seen it fit for us to have a partner.

-

Which means that my only worry is to continue to run.

To pace myself.

To breathe.

To be the right person.

To run my race.

Because I believe that God knows the plans He has for us.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

noise

Even when it is quiet around us... there is still noise.

I sit here in what I have come to call "silence".

But the fridge is humming.

The air conditioner is blowing.

Even when I am driving, I might be quiet.

But the radio is on.

-

I am always looking for signs.

Rarely stopping to listen.

Seeking God in the noise and in the mess.

Knowing He is there.

But because of the chaos, not hearing Him fully.

Like when you have the radio blaring... and underneath all the volume, you hear your phone ring.

He is whispering.

Whispering so quietly, it requires us to come close so we can hear.

-

What would happen if we started to turn it all off?

All the noise.

All the visual chaos.

Started to pare it all down.

Peel it all away.

Unplug. Disconnect. Shut down.

-

Because He is there.

Underneath it all.

He's being quiet, because He wants you to be quiet.

He's whispering because He desperately wants you to draw near.

-

This is not to say that He is not capable or willing to rise above the noise.

Very often, our Father will demand your attention.

His voice will boom and echo. He will rattle the windows.

Tonight, He was a voice over my shoulder, talking in my ear.

I almost missed Him.

He spoke through Jon and through Granddad.

Proverbs from wise men about running races and pulling in the same direction.

-

But He is whispering.

A steady rhythm under all the music.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

pedestrian


Perhaps this has been my problem for months now.

God has developed in me a love for His creation.

And it has been months since I've immersed myself in it.

My problems, my worries, my fears are backed up in me... piled too high, too deep for me to navigate on my own.

I am a pedestrian at heart.

Going on foot.

Solvitur ambulando.

It is solved by walking.

-

I imagine myself staring at a trailhead.

Shoulders heavy-laden.

With everything I think I need.

Everything they've told me I can't make the trip without.

At first, the going is easy. Paved, clear-cut. You tell yourself, the way the pack hurts your shoulders is normal. You will adjust.

But the trail narrows as you climb higher.

Overgrown.

Uneven.

You look ahead, look up.

And everything you are, seems not to be enough.

-

At what point do you start to put down your load?

To drop your pack, to lay down your map.

To begin to travel light,

to move freely.

-

The world looks different to those who are not carrying a burden.

-

I'm leaving my burdens at the trailhead today.

I will walk my problems out.

My blood will circulate.

My lungs will fill with air, and empty again.

My muscles will stretch.

My skin will smile... kissed by air that has not been filtered, sunlight that has not been manufactured.

-

This is my remedy.

I am, by definition, a pedestrian.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

the belly

I imagine that Jonah fought.

That he saw the massive body of the slimy fish coming at him, jaws open, gills opening - shutting.

I bet Jonah swallowed a lot of water.

Thought he was going to die.

In one fluid, devastating motion the fish swallowed him.

Whole.

And dove.

Deeper.

I bet Jonah waited.

To drown.

To be digested.

But it never happened.

-

Have you ever been snorkeling?

I remember as a little girl being in Destin, Florida.

We would spend all day on the beach.

Rent flat bottom kayaks.

And snorkeling gear.

I didn't use the snorkeling gear much, because it rubbed my nose raw.

But I distinctly remember the first time I went underwater.

And how the rest of the world faded away.

Everything was muffled and blurred.

Quiet.

Still.

Nothing else existed.

-

The Lord sent a big fish (or whale....) to swallow up Jonah.

And in the belly of that sizable fish,

I believe the rest of the world faded away.

Everything was muffled and blurred.

Quiet.

Still.

Nothing else existed.

-

Jonah ran.

The Lord followed.

Stole him away from his tragedy,

and hid him away quietly.

Made him be still.

-

The fish was not a punishment.

Not a scaly manifestation of the Lord's wrath.

Quite the opposite.

The belly of the fish was a sanctuary.

The safest place in the world...

a holy place.

-

The Lord loved Jonah.

So much that he plucked him out of despair.

Out of a churning sea.

Out of the hands of death and betrayal and sin.

His remedy was creative.

And terrifying.

Life-saving.

-

I find myself, today, wishing a fish would scoop me up and swallow me whole.

If only...

so I could have three days and three nights of quiet.

Of stillness.

Of one on one time with the Lord.

-

I am not Jonah.

I have not been running from the Lord.

If anything... I've been running towards Him.

After Him.

But my ears have been filled with noise.

And the chaos of my life is reverberating off my ear drums...

so loud.

Deafening.

I sometimes cannot hear His voice.

-

It's time to put on the snorkeling mask.

Let it rub raw the space between my nose and lip.

Let the fish God sends, swallow me whole.

And keep me safe for a few days.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

NYC

There was never a question that God wanted me in New York City this summer.

But here I am, on the other side of the four-day trip, and I am wondering exactly what His purpose was for me there.

-

New York was exactly what I expected. Tall buildings, lots of people, loud noises, yellow taxi cabs.

Everyone keeps asking me to "write" about my trip.

We are all used to life-changing mission trips. Where amazing things happen, you learn profound lessons, you see life change.

To come home from a mission trip, with great experiences but no mind-boggling revelations... is a new phenomenon.

But isn't that the way life is?

Sometimes, the Father just wants us to be present.

To attend.

To do His work without immediate, or obvious, results.

To work and be obedient.

-

He is teaching me lessons about my heart.

About how to work with people who are different than I am.

About how much I love the people I am doing life with.

About how far a smile can go.

About how much work He has done and will continue to do in me.

-

Right now, I can close my eyes and see the towering buildings. Dizzy and reflective against the sky. I can hear the honking horns and the sounds of thousands of people shuffling down the street. I can feel the wind that hits your body just a few seconds after the train flies by on the underground track.

I can see the face of a photographer in Union Square, hear the laughter of a homeless man from Jersey, and feel the heaviness that hung in the air around Ground Zero. I can smell the honey roasted nuts and the hot dogs and the mountain of trash that gets piled on the curb at the end of the night.

I tried to count how many granola bars, water bottles, and packs of gum I passed out over the four days I spent in NYC. How many pies I cut at the Bowery. How many people I smiled at on the corner of 96th and Amsterdam.

I will never know just what our work did in the city of New York.

But that is not the point.

He told us to go.

And we went.

And He will continue the good work He began.

Because He is faithful.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

surprise


have a surprise for you."

I could hear a smile in His voice.

"What is it!?" I asked, excitement and curiosity filling my own.

"Close your eyes," He instructed.

I did.

"What is it?"

"Hold out your hands," He told me.

"But what is it!?" I held out my hands, obediently.

"I told you, it's a surprise." He laughed quietly.

"Give me a hint," I pleaded.

"But that would ruin the surprise."

"Just a small hint... or... can I guess?" I couldn't sit still. My fingers opened and closed and I opened my right eye, only a little bit.

He wouldn't be able to tell I was peeking.

"Dont peek!" He covered my eyes with His own hand. "It's not ready yet.... just wait. Hold still. Trust me, you'll love this."

I waited for what seemed like forever.

I listened to Him, somewhere beyond my closed eyelids, working faithfully.

Anticipation grew.

Grew into impatience.

I called out my guesses. Trying to solve the mystery, to end the waiting.

I threatened to open my eyes. To close my hands. To leave.

He listened to my words, increasing with aggravation. He didn't quit, however.

Whatever work He was doing, He continued.

I could feel Him standing over me, then.

The coolness of His shadow, cast over me.

I was quieted. My His presence, by the love I knew He had for me.

In my impatience, I had forgotten that what it was I waited for ...

was a gift.

I uncurled my defiant fingers.

The furrows in my brow relaxed.

He was near. Singing over me.

In my hands He put something that was both heavy and weightless.

Cool and warm.

Smooth and rough.

"You can open your eyes now," He whispered.

It had been so long since I'd seen His face.

I looked into His eyes, almost forgetting the gift in my hand.

"Surprise," He smiled.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael

I almost didn't sit down to write this.

But the thoughts are running too rampant in my head.

I logged onto Facebook last night and the majority of my friends' statuses clued me in on what had just happened.

Michael Jackson had a heart attack. He had passed away.

Overshadowed by the King of Pop's death, was the passing of Farrah Fawcett.

On the same day.

-

I was immediately disgusted.

Pop culture is something I am hit in the face with almost every day.

On the internet. In my office. On the radio.

But it is something I honestly try to avoid. Dodging it in the tabloids, turning the dial on the radio.

I am not exactly sure when our culture began to revolve around other people's lives.

But we are an obsessed society.

I'd go so far as to say our obsession is a sickness.

But last night, after I checked CNN for myself, the disgust slowly melted into sadness.

-

But not a normal sadness one might feel when they've lost a friend.

I didn't know Michael.

America is "mourning" today for the loss of one of its greatest pop icons.

But we didn't know Michael.

-

How can you mourn someone who you did not know?

-

I am sad today because a life ended yesterday that may or may not have had any real witnesses.

The person Michael Jackson really was, was a stranger to us.

He was one of the most talented artists in pop music history.

Iconic.

Insanely talented.

-

Terribly sad.

-

The young Michael's face is the one that is imprinted on my mind today.

And I wonder what happened?

Because no one knows.

No one knows why he so drastically changed his physical appearance.

No one knows why he did what he did in his later years.

Because we are not obsessed with who celebrities are.

We are obsessed with who we want them to be.

Who we expect them to be.

-

I am sad today, because a fifty year old man died in California yesterday.

He had brothers and sisters.

And children of his own.

A father who he may never have gained approval from.

But those who claimed to love him most... those who, today, are declaring that June 25th 2009 was the day music died...

had no idea who he was.

-

This is an epidemic in our culture.

Deriving from a single grain of gossip.

A desire to find fault in perfection,

and find perfection in the midst of normalcy.

To point the finger of blame and accusation and judgment away from ourselves, our lives.

-

America will mourn today.

The kind of empty mourning that happens when you truly have no idea what you just lost.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kickball

God's still, small voice is sometimes not so still and small.

The earth is jam-packed with His presence.

But we become accustomed to Him.

Hours, days, weeks will go by and we will fail to see Him.

And then one day...

He is evident in every small blade of grass, every song lyric, every casual word, every passing stranger.

-

Last night, Jon reminded us that the hardest work of hope is the waiting.

Tonight, sitting on a bed with a dear friend, I was reminded that everything happens for a reason. We are all connected. Everything we do circles back around.

Driving to Togethership, I passed him on the sidewalk. My first english professor in college. The one who taught me about John Prine and called me a fundamentalist Christian and told me I was the best writer he'd ever had.

I sat in their living room floor, listening to Rob Bell. A Nooma video I'd watched years and years ago. Like a joke you already know the punch line to... somehow, I heard it with new ears.

-

Did you know God is good?

Not just righteous and almighty and omnipresent.

Good.

That He is not only interested in the smallest details of your life, He is invested.

He is creative.

He is funny.

He is to be feared.

One of the best writers once said He wasn't safe.

But He is good.

-

I sit here tonight, with more thoughts in my head than I could ever convey.

Thoughts about waiting.

And giving up.

Of trusting.

Of stability and loyalty.

Of peace.

-

Why is it that while I'm walking down Maxwell Street, my thoughts make sense and flow ...

but I sit here and they jumble up in front of me. Disintegrate in my hands.

Some thoughts, perhaps, just aren't meant to be verbalized.

Some lessons, are intended to be internalized.

-

Tonight, I want you to go to a place where you can be still.

Where you can come close to God.

Let Him hold your face in His hands.

Be reminded that He is good.

And because He is good...

What He has in store for you is better.

-

I am hit, square between the eyes, with the realization that I have no idea what is going on.

In the midst of it all, I am unable to see the plan that is unfolding.

It is not until later, it will not be until later, that I will see.

And I will know.

-

For now, I have hope.

I am full of hope.

dialogue

I have never questioned Your love for me.

Through all the trials and pain and obstacles I have faced, I was always certain.

I have never doubted that Your plan was best, that Your will was divine.

But from the beginning, with the exception of a few moments of clarity along the way, I simply have not been able to see.

Sometimes I have been unable to know and see Your will for what happens next.

Sometimes I resent You. For leaving me here. For sending others out. For giving them adventures.

Sometimes I feel left out. Not good enough. Ignored. Bored.

And I realized last night that I have not sought any of that, which I desire so deeply.

I have sat here. Hands open. Waiting for life to be delivered to me. Laziness. Fear. Confusion. Uncertainty. All have kept me tied to my seat. Stagnant.

Which is exactly the opposite of what my sisters and brothers have done.

I am now compelled to move.

Inspired to seek.

I'm here praying that if I draw close to You, You'd draw near to me.

If I go out in search of my adventures - the path You've laid out for me - that You would help me find it.

... I would come forth as gold.

... my seeking heart would find You.

-

At the same time, I realize that Your will might be for me to be right here.

Right now. In this place.

-

One of Your children found me at work today.

She asked where I had put my happy face and I told her that I'd left it at home, where I wanted to be.

I told her some of what was going on in my life right now and she just shook her head.

"Sometimes you grow the most when God pins you down in one place. Just be still, Anna. Just be still..."

This is the lesson you want me to learn this season.

How to stop, in the midst of the chaos and demands and anxiety, and be still.

In Your presence. Because You... are most important.

You want to fight for me.

You have plans for me.

But I'm too busy, too hurried, too active to hear.

-

You are teaching me something.

Lots of things.

And You already know this, I don't have to tell You, but I'm still frustrated.

I still don't feel like I'm doing anything important.

Most days.

There are other days when I hear Your voice a little clearer...

And I know that I am sinful.

I am finite.

I am blind.

-

There's no telling what You're up to.

I know You are good.

I know You love me.

I know You have a great sense of humor.

So even when I'm frustrated...

I love you.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

the things we feel

Heart beats faster.

Rising.

Full.

What you feel consumes you.

You are engulfed in what we have come to call emotions.

Internalized,

your thoughts swim in a sea of anger and fear and love and suspicion.

Rising.

Your eyes are brimming with it.

Your ears are full of it.

-

You hand covers your mouth.

You cannot speak of it.

It remains a secret.

These things you feel most deeply.

Echoing in the caverns of your soul.

But they will remain there.

Where you can control them.

Where they are contained and tame.

-

Rise.

-

From the depths.

You feel.

You give emotions names.

Uncertainty.

Doubt.

Fear.

Interest.

Curiosity.

Passion.

Confidence.

Insecurity.

-

Your self is exploding with it.

Secretly...

You want me to know.

You want to share all this with me.

With the world.

Because there are days when it is too much.

-

You lower your hand.

Your lips part.

A song comes out...

materializing before you.

Into shape.

Color.

Weight.

Texture.

-

What you know,

what you feel,

the deepest, strongest parts of you

are suddenly real.

Tangible.

Undeniable.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Peace

The way we change sometimes blows my mind.

The ways in which I am different today, than I was this time last year, is unfathomable.

-

I want to say that I have grown and matured and become more gracious and patient.

Not always.

I want to say I have a clearer purpose today, a more determined sense of direction.

Not usually.

I want to say I am more gentle and kind, that I sin less.

No.

-

But I am trying.

And if nothing else, I am learning.

Striving to learn.

-

I have left my real identity in the dust, only to return and shake out the dirt, reminded that God made me the way I am for a reason.

I have stepped back and examined and pruned and intentionally stretched.

I am jumped in, headfirst.

There are days, my insecurity is wiped clean away by the Voice of Someone bigger than me.

Reminding me, as Jon said a few weeks ago, that humility is not about thinking too little of yourself. But seeking the opinion of the One whose opinion matters most.

Sometimes I really impress myself.

Only to turn around and really embarrass myself.

Is this life?

I believe so...

-

But the greatest lesson I may have learned, is to listen for His voice.

To decipher between His quiet whispers and my own selfish ambition.

To recognize Him, His gentle, persistent way, even when the world around me rebels in chaos.

And last night I listened.

And the Father showed up. In a familiar coffee shop across town.

Reminding me that He has a plan.

A purpose.

That He wants something from me.

Mainly... my attention.

-

I awoke this morning with a unprecedented grasp on peace.

Perhaps, even understanding...

What it means to be hopeful.

To trust.

To stare into the face of fear, of doubt, of cynicism, of panic...

And be unwavering.

-

By the grace of God alone will we get through all the obstacles thrown our way in this life.

But I believe, with all my heart, He has instilled eternity within us...

the deepest desire to know Him...

whether we know to call it that or not.

To return to the Father.

To confess, "I am a sinner"

And know He loves us still.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Thirsty

Open and close my fingers.

Reach.

Grappling.

My hands are wet.

And empty.

My lips taste, but my mouth remains dry.

Thirsty.

I am thirsty.

But I cannot take hold -

that, which I need most desperately,

slips right through my fingers.

My efforts are in vain.

My energies wasted.

All for a few drops on my tongue.

-

I've been doing this for too long.

I see.

I know exactly what it is I need.

In fact, what I need has already been provided.

Given to me.

Over and again.

Like rain, it pours over me.

-

But what can I do?

How do I accept this gift?

My frantic gestures, my greedy reach, just seem to fall short.

-

I find myself, now, on my knees.

I am soaked.

There is absolutely no denying that I have been provided for.

Blessed.

Taken care of.

I just don't know what to do with it.

-

I bow my head and feel grace splashing on my neck. Trickling down my cheeks. I am washed with it, covered in it.

I lift my hands. Empty hands.

I don't have the words to explain to my Provider to explain the peace I long for, the deep thirst I need to satisfy.

I am still.

No more grappling.

No more desperation.

No more panic.

I am quiet.

-

Suddenly, I have surrendered.

My inability to satisfy my own thirst has sent me back to Him.

He must have heard what my heart was crying.

In my stillness, my quiet, my surrender -

In the abandonment of myself -

He came close.

And in my uplifted hands,

I felt Him pour His blessings.

Pooling in my cupped hands,

overflowing.

I bring my brimming hands to my dry lips, my thirsty mouth.

And I drink.

And I am satisfied.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

fearless

We all pulled into the parking lot about the same time last night.

Piled out of the cars.

Some of my favorite people in the world. In from the mountains. Over from Winchester. Down from Stonegate Way.

We were going to learn something new.

It was a perfect night. And the Vaughan men patiently taught the Vaughan women how to play disc golf.

-

My initial reaction was to balk... to hold back, for fear of looking stupid. Of doing poorly. Of messing up.

The younger Vaughan men casually played, subtly displaying their excellent skill. The two older ones, very different in personality and teaching style, quietly coached the three women. The Vaughan way. The family way. Gentle encouragement, light hearted banter, silent competitiveness.

I don't know whether it was the first hole or the seventh, but at some point I gave up on looking "good" while I played this new game. And I just played. Laughing and chasing the black lab who kept stealing my disc. Joking and putting a little more effort into every throw...

I watched my sisters.

Missing the one who is in a different country.

Amazingly proud of the two that stood before me ... so different. And so grown up.

I watched as one of them displayed behavior very much like my own.

I walked over to her, wrapped her in my signature hug, which really means "hold still, so i know you're listening to me...."

"You know what we need to learn?" I asked her.

She looked at me like I was going to say something stupid.

"We both need to learn how to not be afraid of looking silly."

I pulled away from the hug.

The look in her eyes told me I had just read her thoughts.

"I want you to learn that lesson... right now." I told her. "I didn't learn it until I was nineteen years old. I'm still learning it... years later. But I missed out on a lot of fun when I was a teenager because I was afraid people would laugh at me. People would make fun of me. That I would look stupid."

She just nodded.

I replayed scenes in my head .... of me, watching from the balcony, as my friends played tackle football in knee-deep water in South Carolina when I was 15. Of dance parties where I sat at the sidelines. Of costume parties and hikes where I refused to be bold.... to branch out and have fun.

This is a lesson we learn continuously. A lesson that is never fully learned for people like me.

But I remember the day I learned it.

And it happened pretty late in life. Late enough, that I am now a firm believer that childhood should last a lifetime.

Last night, I wanted more for my littlest sister.

At 13, almost 14, I wanted desperately to see her free from the insecurity, self-consciousness, that cripples. That paralyzes.

-

There are a lot of other fears that paralyze me these days.

A lot more uncertainties that stop me in my tracks.

States of mind, in which I find myself lingering. When I should be moving on.

-

Life is drastically different today than it was yesterday.

Will be dramatically different tomorrow than it was this time last year.

I look at the woman I am, right now.

Sitting on my new balcony, just back from a night of community, I can't help but think about who I used to be.

And thinking about that... I am amazed at how far the Father has brought me.

That realization, gives me hope that the changes that are occurring in my life right now... are going to be for the better.

Romans 8.

-

I need someone to come and wrap me up in a hug. The kind of hug that says "hold still, so I know you're listening to me".

Tell me to not be afraid to be bold.

To risk looking silly.

To reach out.

To release my grip on fear.

-

Tonight, I feel fearless.

I have heard, felt, the call of the Father to come home.

To rest in the shadow of His wings.

To relinquish anxiety and allow myself to be quieted by His love.

His call to cast all my worries on Him has been heard tonight.

-

His perfect love will cast out fear.

And in every aspect of my life, I hope to be bold.

To think outside of the box society has built.

To exceed the expectations of those around me.

To rise above approach.

To build a home where none exists.

To cultivate love.

-

Here's to a new tomorrow.

When we are different people and the world is a different place and our God remains the same.

May we rest, be still and content, in His love.

And then love.

Actively. Passionately. Without fear.