Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Goodbye, May

God ended the month of May for me with just a few sweet words.

He identified month one of Resting as one of stripping away.

He gave me a picture of an old piece of furniture, which had been painted over and over again.  The month of May was about stripping away the layers of paint.  To expose truth.  True identity.  Original design.

June, He said sweetly, is about reinforcement.  Rebuilding.  Restoring.

Goodbye, May.

I have dwelled inside these words for the past month.  Not fully understanding, not fully grasping, but being swallowed whole by them.

Anna, you are not defined by what you do.  Nor does what you do determine your worth.

Early this morning He released me.  Whispered a new, sweet truth into my ears.

Anna, you are not defined by your brokenness.  Your future is not determined by it.  Brokenness is part of your story.  But your story is not one of brokenness.

Ah.  He's calling me to lay it all down.  To throw off the identity, the definition, the burden, the responsibility, the work, the busyness, which hinders.

To clear out space.  To make room.

For this new thing He's doing.  For what comes next.

This is the start of something good, don't you agree?*

Hello, June.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Graduate

I don't really remember this.  But I know she was the first baby I ever held.

I remember being put in the car in (what I thought was) the middle of the night.  I remember coloring in my grandparents living room until sunrise.

I remember being sad she wasn't a brother.

I remember blow drying her hair and the horrible leg cramps she used to get.

I remember a ring-around-the-rosie game, which resulted in the scar she still bears on her eyebrow.

I remember her first dance recital.

Her first job interview.

Her first boyfriend.


What I don't remember is when she grew up.

Or when she became one of the very best friends I've ever had.

I told someone the other day, if given the choice I'd spend time with my little sisters over almost anyone else in the world.


I can only pray she's learned from some of my mistakes.  Benefited from being both a little sister and a big one.

She has a whole life ahead of her.  The whole world at her fingertips.  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Anticipation

I woke up this morning, asking the Lord to let me experience His presence.

On a daily basis I encounter Him.  I see Him everywhere I go.  So often I recognize His hand at work.  But  very often, our interactions are the equivalent of unexpectedly running into each other in the grocery store.  While picking out a loaf of bread, I turn around, and find myself face to face with Jesus.  And He is familiar and so welcomed.  But you know, I see Him all the time.  We pick out our bread and go on.

This afternoon I was working.  The store was quiet and cool.  I was wiping sticky yogurt off of handles and counter space when I saw him.  In a beanie and cordones and wool shorts.  He sat down on the couches on the patio and crossed his leg.  I couldn't help but smile.  Oh how I love this boy.  I walked slowly to the door of my store and opened it.  Leaning out, I whispered his name.

He turned around and his face lit up and he jumped to give me a huge hug.  "I have missed you", we both said.

This was the sort of encounter I wanted with Jesus today.  I wanted a rib-crushing embrace from my savior... to see him across the room and go running.  Because we love each other.  And we've missed each other.

After work I went to Jo-Beth.  In all my down time, I've been heading over there to hide.  I grab a book, find a hidden, comfy chair and just sit a while.  No one bothers me.  Everyone is speaking quietly.  They always play great music.  The whole place smells like new paper.

Today, I walked in on a mission.  Hours later, I still have no idea what I was looking for.  But you better believe I was looking for it.  Would you be surprised if I told you I didn't find it?

Maybe I was looking for help, inspiration, or direction.  I needed to read it in big, printed words:  instructions, perhaps.  Answers.

I felt suddenly lost.  Like I couldn't get quite enough air.  The words I needed -- to say and hear -- were on the tip of my tongue.  Too many disjointed thoughts and deflated hopes.

As I made one more disoriented lap around the bookstore, I passed the wind chimes.

I heard it then.  Quiet and clear.  The familiarity of it brought a smile to my face.  This voice had once told me to get my passport.  Another time, while I was making a peanut butter sandwich, had promised my husband had already been sent to Kentucky.  Yet again, while serving frozen yogurt to a beautiful, little, bi-racial boy named Jacob, the voice whispered, "I promise".

So in the middle of Jo-Beth, right beside the wind chimes, the still, small voice said "Quit giving up."

I think I broke out into the biggest smile.  Right there in the middle of the store.  "Well, there you are..." I replied.

The Spirit whispered to my heart again.  In a characteristic, funny way -- dripping with attitude and personality.  "Quit. Giving. Up."  Still quiet.  Decided.

I knew exactly what I was being convicted of... exactly what the Spirit was saying.

Wait, Anna.  Waiting means you are living in anticipation.  Not doubt.  Not worry.  In healthy, expectant, joyful anticipation and trust.  I promised.  Remember?  I talked to you about this.  Just because it may feel like I am taking too long... doesn't mean I've forgotten.  Just because the day has not yet come, does not mean it never will.  Wait.  Quit giving up.  

I was, in fact, searching for something in the middle of Jo-Beth.  But my heart was in tune enough to recognize that what I was seeking... was not the words of man, but the very presence of God.

Not much later, I was sitting on a patio.  Reading Ephesians 3, drinking iced green tea.  And the wind started to blow.  I couldn't help but smile and quietly whisper, Ah.  I've missed You.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's a List-making Kind of Day

Here's what I know:

Not much.

Here are a few facts.  A few mildly important things... just to set the pace:

I am 23 years old.

I have lots of sisters.

I have a disease, which at an early age required corrective orthopedic surgery.  I am a better person for it.  Stronger.

I got my first camera when I was fifteen.

That was the same year I decided I wanted to open a youth center for at-risk children (without ever having met such a child).

I have thought I was in love once or twice.

God's been speaking to me for a long, long time.

I have a lot of words.

I think way too much.

I want a family.  More than anything.  A husband and children.

It's a fairly short list.  There are a few things I could add.  Such as: I eat pancakes without syrup and cupcakes without icing.  But the jury is still out on almost everything else.

So here's a new list.  A compilation, if you will.  Of things I think about.  Of things I do know.  More so of things I don't know.  All subject to change, I suppose:

Because I do not know that much, I should assume less.  Which means I can speculate... but will do my best to be ready when things inevitably go differently than I imagined they would.  

I love Africa.  More than I think I even realize.  In some capacity, Africa will be a part of my story.  Whether my home, the birth country of my children (or my husband), or the home country of my clients.  African drums beat in my heart.

I love children.  I have asked God to give me my own.  My heart will only grow if one day you see me walking through the automatic double doors of Kroger with an army of children following me.  Of all different sizes, shapes, and colors.  Yes, please.

I am a social worker.  I think like a social worker.  I move like a social worker.  I talk like one.  

I could end up living in the inner city of Lexington.  Or in the mountains of Denver.  Or western Ethiopia.  

God speaks to me in the wind.  

Currently I work at one of the most popular frozen yogurt shops in Lexington.  I wear an orange apron.  Which brings about its own personal set of insecurities and humility.  Blog to come: The Girl in the Orange Apron.  Not quite the same as the girls Pat Monahan and Landon Pigg are falling in love with at the coffee shops.

I have no idea what's coming next.

But I'd like to think I have an idea.  I like to imagine.  I have a huge imagination.  I project far, far into the future.  I build things with my mind.  I have built my life there -- to a very, very old age.  I will tell you that I think I know what's coming.  I should rephrase our conversations.  I hope.  I hope, I hope, I hope.  

It's time to try something new.  To learn.  I should probably start with a zumba class.  

One of the greatest truths I've learned as an adult is the importance of eating breakfast.  

My favorite thing to do is connect the dots.  To make a connection between what is happening and what God is doing.  Behind the scenes work makes my heart swell.  I am really thankful for the times when God has given me a peek behind the curtain.  

Like doves in Africa.  And little boys racing down Maxwell Street at midnight.  And a child named Jacob eating frozen yogurt with his poppy.  

To tie it all together: I haven't had anything but coffee for breakfast this morning.  I am about to go to work for 6 hours and wear that orange apron.  Today was the day I was suppose to leave for the World Race Training Camp.  Instead, tonight, I'm going to meet some Ethiopian-American babies.  

Good morning, world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

the choices we make

I should be packing.

I should be preparing to drive to Tennessee.  

I should be getting ready to meet almost two hundred new people.  Spend a week in worship and training and equipping.

But I am sitting on my front porch.  On a beautiful Kentucky day.  Having been pruned and cut back and quietly instructed to sit still.

I do not regret my decision.  There's not a day when I wish I had chosen differently.  I know what lies ahead of me is what the Father in Heaven intended.  

But to say I won't miss some of these people... to say that my heart doesn't long for Africa... to say that leaving isn't tempting... would be a lie.

Instead of a year overseas, I am staying here.  In Kentucky.  First, I will rest.  Fill up and restore what has been exhausted and drained.  Then I will pour out again.  Invest.  Whether in one little girl, who will be in third grade in the fall, or in forty children in Lexington's east end.  I will give myself. Here.  

Even as I write those words the wind is blowing.  Someone's windchimes are singing to me.  I know this is where I should be.  

It's just that in the quietness, in the loneliness, in the stillness of rest I am already getting restless.  I know this is just the beginning of a beautiful, healthy, growing season.  

And I don't regret my decision.  

In just a few short days an army of brand new missionaries will step foot into my home.  They'll be dirty and hungry.  A few will be familiar.  A few are old friends.  A few will walk in as strangers.  But because of my decision to not physically join them on this journey, I will be able to give them a place to rest on the way home.  Feed them.  Hug them.  

God knows what He's doing.  

I am in the very middle of whatever that is.  

I am sitting in the pause at the top of the roller coaster.  

The choices we make add up to the direction and course of our lives.  I am here.  Ready for whatever comes next.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

the Hushing Sound

I am standing in a room.  

Standing, because there's no room to sit.  

I am surrounded by stacks and piles.  Boxes and folders rise as towers behind me; at my feet sit milk crates filled haphazardly with thoughts equally as random. 

Light seeps through cracks, and Wind whistles through even the smallest of crevices.  

This room did not use to be full.

It was not so long ago when it was all but empty.  

The emptiness had not satisfied.  The emptiness had caused my passion and desire to echo off vaulted ceilings.  Light had cast its way through paned windows and revealed only dust.  Empty was not fulfilling.  

It was not so long ago when someone was sent to my door.  Knocking, a boy with a beard had appeared at the threshold.  Boxes in hand he introduced himself, slowly handing me the parcels wrapped in recycled, brown paper.

The reality of grace, the concept of redistribution, the art of simplicity, and a demeanor of selflessness were wrapped in the boxes he brought.  He helped me unwrap them, explaining each as we tore away the paper together.  

Soon he left.  Leaving the gifts with me.  The harsh echo in my room was softened and shadows were cast as the Light found something to make contact with.

Occasionally I would walk to the door of my room and open the door -- just a crack.  Just beyond my room there was a lot of noise.  So much color.  Heavy weight and deep texture.  Light shone in the world outside my door.  And I was lured.  Beckoned.

It was not long until I threw the door wide open.  Propped its heaviness open with one of the boxes I'd been given.  I spent my days sitting on the threshold.  Listening.  Reaching, with such a short arm span, to touch what lay beyond.

My heart inside my chest swelled each day.  The edges of my mind grew -- adapting.  Others came to my door, handing me bags and boxes and crates.  Wind caressed my face, I recognized Light, and was overwhelmed by Truth, which was handed to me in the form of Resurrection.  Salvation.  

Sometimes I would venture outside my room.  A collector, I never came back empty-handed.  

Coping skills.  Conflict management.  Verbal deescalation.  Ethics.  Leadership.  Discernment.  Healing.  Prayer.  Motivation.  

Each parcel found its way into my room.  I was accumulating beauty.  I was handed a bowl filled to the brim with learning and the heart in my chest continued to grow.

Light had a voice.  Wind had a face.  And I became familiar with both.  Light called my name and one day, Wind swept me to the other side of the world.  

Back to my room I brought bigness and drums.  I painted a mural of a white dove across my wall and was introduced to Fire.  I was re-introduced to holy.  I became reacquainted with spirit.

It was not long before my room was filled with the same color, weight, texture, and noise as the world beyond.  The spirit inside of me knew this was how it was meant to be.  The lines, the boundaries, between my room and the world were blurred.  Bigness was edging in.

My favorite sound was one I learned to call laughter.  And though it was very rarely my own, my room was filled with its sound.  

There were days when I didn't see Light, however.  Nights when Wind didn't come.  Fire seemed elusive, but I learned if I sat long enough Holy would come.  

At my feet lay bags full of humility.  I had shouldered a pack filled with with intervention.  Someone had given me a hat of perspective.  And a heavy necklace of loneliness.

The best days I spent in the world were the ones when Light beckoned me out.  As I rose in the mornings, and the wind would urge me out the door, I encountered newness and the very bigness which was edging into my own space.  

It was not so long ago when I folded a few things into a shoulder bag and walked out of my room.

All because I had stumbled on a notebook in my room.  It had the appearance of being old.  As if, perhaps, it had been there from the beginning.  From the days of emptiness and dust.

Mission was scrawled across the front.  In writing, which was not my own.

At the top of the first page was written a small word: calling.

But before reading the rest, I left the room.

The Light of the world was calling me.  Surely.  To leave the room behind.  All the things I had accumulated and gained over the past few years were not important, were they?  Surely not. My mission was to go.  To walk away.  My calling was to leave the room.

I stepped out.  And my every sense was overwhelmed.  My nose was filled with the spices of Cambodia.  My ears, the drums of Africa.  My feet were covered with the dust of Romania.  My chest couldn't withstand the swelling of my heart.

It wasn't long before the self I was began to pour out.  Scattered like seeds on the wind.  Like water, cast from the sprinkler.  My feet were heavy, my eyes fixed on Light -- which, unlike I had imagined, was everywhere.  There was not a place I turned, not a corner I searched, which did not contain It.  Wind rushed under my feet and through my hair so I could not even know from which way It came or to where It was going.

I had left the door to my room propped open.  As I looked over my shoulder I saw Light pouring out of the perimeters of my space.  Wind caused the curtains I had hung on the window to flutter.  And from the depths of the room I could hear the echoes of laughter.

The voice of Light was what called me back.

The familiar face of Wind waited by the door, hovering over my box of prayer, which I had used as a doorstop.  

I dropped the heavily weighted bag of intentions I was carrying and I ran.  My legs pumped and lungs filled with Light and Wind as I drew closer and closer to the place glory was dwelling.

I fell to my knees just inside my room.  

The hum of the world still tickled my ears.  My hands were dirty and my back was tired.  Slowly I raised my head.  Oh so faintly, then, Light came.

In the quietest of hushing sounds.

Come to Me.

I breathed deeply and stood up cautiously.

It was not long before I realized I could barely even enter my own room.  For all that I had gathered.  For all that I had accumulated.  


I am standing in a room.  

Standing, because there's no room to sit.  

I am surrounded by stacks and piles.  Boxes and folders rise as towers behind me; at my feet sit milk crates filled haphazardly with thoughts equally as random. 

Light seeps through cracks, and wind whistles through even the smallest of crevices.  

This room did not use to be full.

It was not so long ago when it was all but empty.  

The emptiness had not satisfied.  The emptiness had caused my passion and desire to echo off vaulted ceilings.  Light had cast its way through paned windows and revealed only dust.  Empty was not fulfilling.  

The hushing sound finds its way to me again.

What I know as spirit begins to whisper.  About my real mission.  About love.  About rest and quietness.  About a new gift.  About preparation.

Make room.

What fills my room are gifts.  Skills.  Abilities.  Faults and flaws of humanity.  

My arms are aching to stretch now.  To open wide and be absorbed by Wind.  To soak in Light.  I am ready to receive this gift, which is being sung over me in the quietest of songs.

I know then this room is mine -- this room is my sanctuary.  

Again I am filled with a hushing sound.

Consumed by a well of deepest Truth: what fills my room is meant to be there.  Indeed, Holiness has created space for it, purpose for it.  

I have given you what you need.  Do not walk away from My gifts.

The hushing sound pulls me to my knees again.

Come.  Let's make room.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

gifts of the Spirit

Spiritual gifts.

Whether we realize it or not, we all have our own opinions about them.

Their relevance.  Their existence.  

The way they're given.  The way they're exercised.

So many of our opinions are formed by negative experiences.  Usually from within the church.  

My first exposure the concept of divine healing came to me because I was "sick".  Born with a severe case of scoliosis, I underwent corrective surgery ten years ago.  This means I have an 18" scar down the middle of my back.  And to be honest, my x-rays look like I've strapped a pipe-bomb to my crooked spine.

(This makes traveling through airports a little more difficult for me than for you...)

God has used my disease to reach out to others.  My faith was strengthened through surgery, through rehab, through the many years of strength-training that followed.  I became a stronger person each time I put on a bathing suit or a shirt with a low back.

But when I was about eighteen years old, one of my childhood friends came home from "college".  I remember pulling into my driveway with him in the car as he began to tell me his "college", his "church", believed all sickness, all mental retardation, all disease, were demons.  He was being "trained" to call them out.  Divine healing.

I stopped the car and turned to the passenger seat.  Livid.  "Did you know I have a disease?" I remained calm.  But after years of being made fun of, after years of asking God why I had to be the one who had a disfigured body; asking why I was the one who was scarred, His answer had always been clear: My power will be made perfect through this... 

Though my faith was strengthened through endurance... all I wanted to do was cry.

The boy didn't know what to do.  I told him he was welcome to try and cast my demon out.  But I didn't think it was going anywhere.

No one would be surprised, then, if I told them I was skeptical on all levels of the workings of spiritual gifts.  

I have seen people fake being slain in the Spirit.  

I have listened as people spoke in tongues out loud, but there was no interpreter in sight.

I have stood by and listened as people spoke about prophetic dreams -- as if they were a gypsy looking into a glass ball.

I was a skeptic.

A skeptical lover of Christ.  

In 2009 I got sick.  Much different than scoliosis, I kept quiet about it for some time.  And then finally when I began to get scared, I went to a free medical clinic at EKU.  I knew what the doctors were worried about.  Something in me knew, after that first visit with a NP in Richmond, my life was about to change.

They thought I had cancer.

I had no medical insurance.  I was enrolled in college.  I had just lost thirty pounds and was training for a race.  Suddenly, I almost couldn't function anymore.

Then I met her.  Rocking babies in the nursery at church.  She wanted me to come and listen to her perform at a local coffee shop one Monday night.

Something in me knew I had to go.  No option.  Cancel all plans.  Go.

It was no coincidence that as I walked into the coffee shop, she was holding her stomach.  Explaining to someone she had found a tumor.

They thought she had cancer.

I prayed for her that night.  Straight out of my own fear and my own worry.  Knowing such a disease was not from God -- but neither was it a demon to be cast out.  What the enemy had meant to harm, the Lord our God was going to turn around and use for good.  And we were witnesses.


Two years later, I have been diagnosed with an obscure sickness that is easily manageable and only occasionally annoying.  Two years later, my sweet friend has undergone surgery and chemo.  Her hair is back.  And she is smiling.  The most beautiful of women.  


The concept of the correlation between sin and sickness came back around to me last year.  I was still suffering from this chronic sickness and I met a guy who believed, not that my sickness was a demon, but that I wasn't being healed because my faith wasn't strong enough.

Sometimes I stop and think about how someone who does not have Jesus in their heart must feel about these things.  How detrimental such religious beliefs can be to those who are still seeking and haven't yet found.  Seriously.  What part of, "you have acne, you must be possessed by a demon" would make you want to know Jesus?


It was about this time last summer I was asked to attend a leadership training in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.  I agreed to go.  But it wasn't until I got in the van and was halfway to our destination that I heard how intensely this particular group of people operated in the gifts of the Spirit.

I stared at my seat belt.  And the road sign, which said we had just entered North Carolina.  I was stuck.  On my way to interact with people who would surely tell me my faith was lacking and the disease in my belly was attributed to my lack of faith and then whisper weird words in my ears.  Was I scared?  Heck yes I was.


I was prayed for multiple times that week.  For strength and courage.  I was told I was Moses.  Esther.  Ruth.  I was hugged.  They prayed against my sickness... but it didn't go away.  They acknowledged it as a battle -- not as a demon.  They prayed for unhindered progress.  

I took a spiritual gifts "test" that week.

According to the different tests I took, my gifts are discernment, wisdom, and evangelism.  

The woman leading my small group told me something others had only hinted at over the previous year.  That I might have the gift of prophesy.  

Good grief.  What does that even mean?

After all my negative experiences.  After all the miracles I've been witness to.  After all the directions I've received from the Lord.  After all the intervention, all the quiet, whispered words from Him.  


A spiritual gift is exactly what it sounds like.  When we accept Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit.  Along with His presence comes a collective calling.  To make disciples of all nations.  To love the Lord our God.  To love our neighbor.  

Along with His presence, combined with our personalities and individual make up, comes a specific gift.  

As if you were born with a muscle.  A stabilizing muscle, if you will.  Deep under the surface.  You wouldn't know it was there.  Unless you used it.  And it's not strong yet.  Because you haven't.

Some of us live our entire lives using these muscles, never knowing they have a name.

The world calls us wise.

The world calls us compassionate.

The world calls us hospitable.  

The world calls us restless. 

The world calls us brave.

The world calls us naive.

Wisdom, compassion, hospitality, faith.  Apostles, evangelists, teachers.

It is not some crazy, supernatural phenomenon.  It is not a game.  It is not a measurement of your spirituality.  It is not something we give to each other.

It is a gift.

It is the very way God has called you to reach out to His children.

It is your weapon.

It is the very way God speaks to you.  Through you.  For you.


On my wrist I have a word tattooed.

It is the greek word for "grace".

From Colossians 4:6:

"Therefore, let your conversation be full of grace and seasoned with salt so you may know how to answer everyone."

For the past year of my life I have donned the identity of a prophet -- as strange as that sounds.  My gift of discernment is there, surely.  It is the one I have spent the last year strengthening.  Asking God to develop my ears.  My eyes.  I was so resistant to this identity -- this gift -- at first.  Because it makes me weird.  Like maybe I should be eating locusts.

But tattooed on my arm is a reminder.  Of another gift, another muscle.

The call of my life.  To reach out.  


If you have been wounded by the "church"... by people who think they understand what it means to operate in the spirit; if you associate spiritual gifts with the handling of snakes and loud, obnoxious, public displays of "healing"... with harmful words about a lack of faith... with fear and admonishment...

You are not alone.

But God wants more for you.  He wants to use you.  In ways that draw attention to Himself, that bring glory to Him, that further and advance His kingdom. 

And such gifts manifest themselves in the smallest, simplest ways.

Monday, May 9, 2011

something beautiful

I just woke up.  It is 11 am on a beautiful May morning.  I just brewed some coffee, am eating red grapes, and just opened the back patio door.  Ben Rector Pandora is playing, but besides the music, everything is quiet.

Now what?

I've been building up to this very week for quite some time now.  But now we're here.  The second week of May.  It is Monday morning and I'm sitting in my kitchen and I don't have a clue what to do with myself.

A few things I know:

God has called me to rest.

And God is faithful.

God has called me to study His word.  Specifically Ruth.

God is moving.

He's proving both of these things repeatedly.  Through provision and deep spirit feelings.  Through shut doors and even through frustrations.  I've heard Him right this time.  Although I have no idea what's coming next, I cannot shake the feeling something beautiful is about to happen.

God just smiled a little.  Shaking His head, He just corrected my verb tense.  "Something beautiful is happening, Anna."


Friday night was my last Kid's Club.  What a beautiful thing I got to be a part of for a whole year.  They sang me happy birthday.  I turned a few shades of red.  I could not even wrap my mind around what I was seeing.  

One year before, we started with twelve little girls.

Friday night we about forty children.  Boys and girls.  Ranging from eighteen months to seventeen years old.  We had an incredible army of volunteers -- including strong, male leadership, which was absent for so long.

I could walk away.  Knowing my children would be taken care of -- that what had been started would be continued.  They didn't need me.  I smile ruefully, wondering if they ever really did.

Before the night was over one of the new little girls fell and scraped her knees.  I don't even know this little girl's name.  But I went and picked her up as tears started to stream down her face.  She tucked her head tight against my shoulder and wrapped her little arms around my neck.  And we just stood there.  

My heart knew, then, it was not the children God is calling me away from.  


It was Thursday, I think, when I walked out of my house feeling pretty for the first time in months.  The feeling of your heart swelling in your chest a little bit... whether it's because you are wearing good-smelling perfume or your hair fell just right.  I've had a few more moments since then.  Every time I'm taken slightly off guard by them.  But here's the truth: we've been working on my insides for so long.  Maybe it's time for the outside to match.

Saturday was my 23rd birthday.  23.  The year I've always thought would change everything.  Think: Hollywood transformation scene.  (Pretty Woman, Princess Diaries, Sabrina).  I always assumed that would happen this year for me.  (I'm laughing as I type this.)  

But there is no Richard Gere or princess tiara or Harrison Ford waiting for me on the other side of this particular birthday.  I'm just 23.  I've diligently spent the last four years of my life letting Christ transform my heart and soul and spirit and mind.  Then screwing up.  And starting over.

The product of such hard labor... is a good life.  Which I have.

I am 23.

Not until I typed that very sentence, did it feel weird at all.   


I spent the day in Nashville with some sweet girl friends.  Watching sweaty boys play their guitars, pianos, and drums; singing about the girls they loved, the girls who had hurt them, and the girls they wanted to meet.  Then listened to Matt Wertz talk about Africa.

I pray there is never a day when someone utters the word Ethiopia when I do not pause.  Recollect my breath.  And smile just a little bit.


Yesterday I found myself in traffic behind someone with a license plate that said: HOPE.

What a word.  I find myself grasping, trying to hold on to the last bit of it I have left.  Knowing I just cannot see what's in store.  Knowing the Lord our God writes better stories than I do.  Knowing that I've been asking for some things for a long, long time.  And I haven't had anywhere to put anything new.  My hands have been too full.  My heart too exhausted.  My mind too busy.  This is what I get for asking.

"Ask and you will receive.  Seek and you will find.  Knock and the door will be opened for you..." (Matthew 7:7)


This week, tutoring will end.

And there will be an all-worship service at church.

I will go to a new Bible study... where we are studying the book of Ruth.

I will have a few days off, which I spend reading and exercising and maybe even sleeping.

Soon... very soon... the words, which come out of me, will not be about resting.  

Maybe I will have a love story to tell you.

Or pictures to show you.

Maybe I will get dirt under my fingernails.  Maybe I will run a race.  Maybe I will simply share a recipe with you.

Who knows.

Thank you for being patient with me.    

Thursday, May 5, 2011

something good this way comes

Just a sweet thought tonight.

I have no idea what comes next.

Sweet surrender.  A surprise awaits me from the hand of the Almighty.

My nature is to try and figure it out.  Like it's a mystery -- and the blueprint is hidden somewhere, waiting to be found.

But no one has lived my life before.

And hopes and dreams will not jinx beautiful things.

Who knows whose field I will find myself in.

Who knows where we will all end up.

Who knows what comes next.

I am not supposed to know these things.  I am supposed to live these things.  To trust these huge things, which I have no control over, will be taken care of.  To have ideas and be wrong.  To hear the whisper of God and follow.  To have my heart beat fast and to laugh uncontrollably.  To explore options and change my mind.

Tonight my heart felt a glimmer of hope.  My heart is reassured that I have, in fact, learned some things over the years.  And that my heart is also in tune with some of what our Father wants from me and for me.

And I spent some time walking around with Jakob Dylan singing in my ear.

Something good this way comes.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

lay it down

I walked into the gym yesterday and sat down on the bleachers.  She didn't waste a minute but walked over and tucked her head against me, wrapping her arms around my waist.  Her words were muffled against my shirt, but I think she said, "Miss Anna, I don't feel good".  I rotated her little body just a bit and she laid her head down on my legs.  "What hurts?" I asked her and she whispered something about her head.  So we sat there for about twenty minutes, while I rubbed her forehead with my fingertips.  Like you do to a newborn baby to soothe them to sleep.  

This has been the week I've been anticipating.  Not without apprehension.  A week, which signifies and marks half a dozen different ends and beginnings:  

Yesterday I took my only two finals for the semester.  Now I am done.  One more year of college under my belt.  Two steps closer to my goal.  A whole year of reminders: 

That I am where I am supposed to be.

That I am smarter than I give myself credit for.

That God does impossible things all the time.


Last night was my last night at Serve the City in the east end.  After a year of spending every single Tuesday on Second Street, I wrapped things up last night.  Not without a few tears.  And in one more glorious, sweet gesture -- after a gray day full of rain -- God parted the clouds and stopped the rain right on time. 

I learned things about the world, about God, about people, and about myself while serving with the team in the east end.  I was witness to miracles.  And God used that little, forgotten neighborhood to grow something inside of me.  Something, which might grow to be powerful and certainly has become a very part of who I am.


Friday night will be hardest of all.  Hands down.  

A year ago a group of little girls got together in the medical clinic.  Eating pizza and making Mother's Day cards.  I remember walking into that clinic and being greeted by faces I wasn't familiar with yet.  But they all screamed, "Happy Birthday, Miss Anna!" 

So I would spend my twenty-second year drying tears and feeding the masses and listening to sweet, child-like revelations about Jesus and watching as "Girls Club" turned into "Kids Club".  

And suddenly a dozen turned into four dozen.  Or more.  

Something was born.  A fruit of the Spirit.  

I have broken up fights and rocked to sleep and tickled.  God has given me prophetic dreams about them.  And I have watched a particular group of middle school boys rise up, touched by the strong hand of God... perhaps to be the very ones who will break the cycle.

They are my kids.  Everyone who knows me knows I love them like my own.  

But Friday night is our one year anniversary.  The day before my birthday this year.  And for a season, I need to leave.

I won't be able to keep my self too far away.  

But somewhere along the way I fell prey to the prideful notion that these children needed me.  That Kids Club needed me.  That the east end needed me.  That anyone at all needed me.  


Even tutoring, which was the one thing I was going to stubbornly hold on to, ends next week.  I was under the impression it lasted until the end of the school year in June.  But next Wednesday is our last day together.

Through that, God has made Himself quite clear.

Anna, you will rest.  Come.  Let's be done for a while.


Saturday I turn 23.  I remember being in elementary school and watching the people in their twenties, thinking they were old.  They were adults.  They had it all together.  I remember thinking that I would "arrive" when I turned 23.  Surely it would be the best year of my life.  For whatever reason.

That remains to be seen.  Perhaps 23 will be a spectacular year.

But Saturday will mark the beginning of a resting season for me.  

A furlough.  

A sabbatical.

A season of filling up.  Of renewing.


When I decided not to go on the World Race, I felt God was calling me to pour out in one place.  Invest was the word He laid on my heart.  I didn't hear wrong.

But you can only pour out when you have something to give. 

And I am empty.

Exhausted.  Stretched too thin.  

God's been whispering in my ear for quite some time.  About how thirsty I am.  About how much I need Him to be more than I'm letting Him be.  About how I need to slow down.

Had I listened earlier, I might not need such a dramatic break.  Such a long one.

But I've been running on empty.  

And He is calling me to come and lie in between His shoulders for a while.  

He's not calling me to a season of sleep.  Or a season of laziness.  

But a season of abiding.  He's been pruning.  Pulling weeds.  Raining down.  And it's time to grow in Him for a while... so that through me He can continue to bear fruit.  (John 15)

He is the great Gardener.  

And I am His garden.


God is good, my friends.  

He knows me well enough to know that I need a good timeline.  Chronologically I need things to line up.  He's calling me to lay it all down.  To surrender.  To recognize that He doesn't need to use me.  He wants to use me.  But He doesn't depend on me.

So He called me to finish well.  To wrap things up nice and neatly.  To lay it down in a safe place.

As I've said before, I have a feeling, perhaps in a different capacity, He will lead me back to it.  


So we're almost done.

I have no idea what to do with myself.

Empty-handed I walking with heavy, tired feet to where I see my Father waiting for me.

He's extended His hand.

And He's singing something over me I can't yet understand.

“Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” (Deut 33:12)