Thursday, June 30, 2011

keep it loose

There are so many people.

You know that, right?  It's kind of like the word table.  Or leave.  Normal, everyday words.  Until you say them.  Over and over again.

Anything you think on too long is capable of becoming strange.  

There are so many people.

And you don't know most of them.  But they're there.  They're real.  One of them just stubbed their toe and felt the sharp pain of it.  One was just born -- a small person with a heart that's beating.  One just did something brand new -- or laughed for the first time in six years.  Someone just lost their virginity.  And someone just went to jail.

There are so many people.

I woke up this morning and pulled myself out of bed.  I am not old.  But sometimes my body feels that way.  It's been beaten up.  It has some genetic disadvantages.  I was born with some hurdles to jump.  And 23 years later, I'm just now jumping them.  

But I went to the gym.  To circulate the pain.  Get the apathy moving through my bloodstream so it doesn't get stuck somewhere.  Keep it moving.  

Keep it loose.  

Keep it tight.

I was on my way to breakfast before the thought struck me.  Like stepping out onto a freshly cut lawn and realizing how strange grass is.  (It is.  Think about it.  Grass is weird.)

So, with a book in hand, I went to my favorite bakery.  With every intention of being alone.  In the middle of all those people.  We who do life together.  Without speaking.  And only occasionally nodding at one another.  

Why do I go somewhere public to be alone?  Perhaps it is the coffee.  Or the comfort of the white noise -- the cash register and the opening doors and the children.  

But then I got there.  And I could barely focus on the pages of my novel for all the people around me.

This is why I go there.

So many people.

There's a woman who is there as often as I am.  She doesn't wear a wedding ring.  And no matter how warm it is outside she's always wearing wool socks.  She eats an everything bagel and reads the paper.  I've never seen her smile.  But she's always there.

I wonder if she lives in an empty house.  If maybe home isn't so much home as this bakery with high ceilings and loud voices.  If so, she's kind of like me.  I am like this woman.  I find comfort then, in the likeness.  In the consistency of her routine, I am at home.

She is one of the people.

I don't know her.  And yet, I wonder silently, if maybe I know as much about her as anyone else does.  The woman with the everything bagel and the glasses perched on her nose.

There are so many people...

Who are living stories I don't know. Who have things to say I don't hear.  Who are saying words I don't understand and going places I've never been.  It's so easy to forget you are not the only one.  When pain or love or anxiety are so real, it's easy to forget you are just one.  One person.  

Valuable.  Important.

But just one.

I am struck by this.  

This involvement in such a big story.

And the involuntary participation in smaller ones.

What it means when you are dragged by your heels into a story you don't want to tell.  When someone reaches out and begins to write on you and your life without your permission.  Your heart is stolen.  Or the victim of a drive-by.  Just your existence is the cause of another's pain.  Or joy.  

You intervene.  Intercede.  Avoid.  

There are so many people.

Living so many separate, intertwined lives.  

Anything you think on too long is capable of becoming strange.  

These lives we lead are no exception.  It becomes all too apparent, overwhelmingly evident, as you catch the breath of another.  Brush up against someone else.  Interlace fingers or lock eyes from across the room.

You are not the only one.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

light up the sky

The whole sky lit up.

No thunder.  No rain.  Pitch black clouds.  And then an explosion of light.

Orange.  And red.  And fast.

Like He was setting the sky on fire.

I knew it was Him.  Not even trying to get my attention anymore, but announcing Himself.  A mighty shake of His head and a whisper I don't need to remind you of who I am.

I drove straight into what should have been a storm.

It wasn't long before the flashes of light were directly over my head.  Yet I kept going.

If it's You, I challenged, I need You to be bigger than that.

My own words felt ridiculous.  Like betrayal on my lips.  I knew it was Him.

Like walking into a room and running directly into the last person you wanted to see, I diverted my eyes.  I'd given Him a wide berth.  Because I know He's there.  Big and imposing and faithful and gracious.  And doing a bunch of crap I don't understand.

Even as the ridiculous words, the test, left my mouth I heard Him.  Why?  Why would I show up for you?   Why would I waste My time... you and I both know it won't change anything.  

The sky remained dark.  And I felt the hollowness some talk about.  The hollowed out place behind your  breastbone.  Not a threat.  Or a foreshadowing.  But the reality that though He may not, we often run very far away from Him.

The sky remained dark.  Until I pulled into the darker parking lot and the sky split in two.  Like someone had lit the almightiest of matches.  And on the tendrils of light, which raced across the sky, I heard Him.  I Am.  And you know that.  I Am.  And you are Mine.

How is that I hear so clearly.  And fail so deliberately.

As if when I walked in and shut the door, I shut the door on Him.  Standing on the doorstep.  Hands in His pockets.  I'll see you later, I said.  And shut the door on His words.  In that very moment, as the latch clicked, I just wished it would rain.

"These days I feel most connected to God when I am alone in a thunderstorm.  I don't know what it is about the rain, except it seems to wash everything away. (Vaughan, 2011)"

I'm not going anywhere.  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Between Two Lungs

I got out of the car and felt Him there.  As if He'd been waiting on me.  I walked past Him like a dark stranger, closed the garage door, and went inside.  I put all my stuff away, let the dog out into the back yard, and ran into Him there too.  

My heart knows.  My heart knows when He's after me.  When He's hot on my heels.  Lingering there, in all the exposure and all the secrecy and all the intimacy.  He aligns His breathing with mine, so what I take in is full and heavy and real.  Too much to hold in my lungs.

I knew He was waiting on me.  And it wasn't that I didn't want to see Him.  It was, fully and completely, that all I was and everything I was about to do and anything I'd done, teetered precariously on the edge.  And all He is would be too much.  

But I walked out anyway.  

Into a night full of Him.  Full in a way I've only known a time or two before.  On a white sand beach at high tide on a warm, October night.  And a small village in east Africa, hot air and low sky and a wind, which carried the sound of their voices.  

The wind was blowing now.  And the stars had dropped low and bright, surrounded by wisps of clouds and dark, blue sky.  

Those mysterious neighborhood wind chimes sang their song.  

I see you, I said, shrugging.  As if I was calling Him out, I'm here.  Now what?  

And the wind blew harder.

I know You're here, I mentioned again.  Standing on the driveway, arms crossed, tears welling.  But I just don't know anymore, what it is I'm looking for.  What is it I'm waiting for?

It is in those moments when He moves.  When you finally give Him room, in your honesty and insecurity.  I see you.  Even when you turn your face from Me, beloved, I still have my eyes on you.  

He sent others to speak truth into me.  Reminding me of the Spirit, which daily speaks into and over my heart.  Listen, I was told.  It's talking for a reason.

I listened.  And I heard.  But I did not heed.  As is often the case.  We are told all we need to know, we are given all we need to use, we are turned and pointed in the direction we should take.  He told me I was getting ready to make a mistake.  I heard the words of doubt, the words of the liar, slipping out of my own mouth last night. 

And I find myself now, sitting on a porch.  Wind gently blowing.  Bluer clouds on a blue sky sailing past me, tinged pink by the setting sun.  And I'm being immersed in grace.  The protection I've experienced over my heart for the past few years is in full force.  

As if I am under His wing.  

What's good, He whispers as though He's sitting in the rocking chair next to me, is that you know about My grace.  You wear it as a bracelet.  And you, my beloved daughter, belong to Me.  Your heart is enough Mine that none other can claim it.  Though you try.  Though you fail.  I do not.  You are mine.  And I love you.

There's not even enough room in my lungs, as I breathe Him in tonight, to feel anything but Him.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

For Your Memory

On Tuesday I prayed a prayer.  After once again having to separate the hurt from the truth, after a deep examination of my heart, I went to the Lord and said, "all I have is love to give.  It's not enough.  But take it.  Multiply it.  Give me a new heart of flesh.  Increase my capacity to love."

These are the prayers He answers.

During rest time at camp I sat in a pew with Que under one arm and De'Andre under the other.  Malipo sat on the other side of De'Andre, holding onto my fingers.  Every once in a while their little bodies would shake with laughter, or one of their heads would fall back on my arm in exhaustion.  I sat still, worried if I moved I might shatter the moment.  The purest moment of innocence and love I had felt in ages.  Something reached deep inside of me and gripped my heart.  And there was no where else in the world I would have rather been.  Contentment.

Later on Thursday I was standing in an open field, listening to the testimony of half a dozen men who are following Jesus.  Who have dedicated their lives to glorifying our Father with their art.  

I realized, standing there in the heat, how long it had been since I had explained the gospel to someone.  How long it had been since I had taken a moment to let the reality of sacrifice and atonement sink deep into my heart.

It is sacrifice, after all, which leads me to do what I do.  If not for Jesus, all this would be worthless.  It wouldn't mean a thing.  

Standing in that heat, I whispered some dangerous words.  Words I know He hears.  He always hears them.

A few minutes later I was standing beside the stage, listening to a man share the beauty and truth of the love of Jesus.  Calling us to stillness and honesty.  The wind started to blow, offering sweet relief to our hot, sweaty skin.  I was watching a young man I had just met -- I was watching him listen.  He is quiet, shy.  I think he already knows the truth.  But I wonder if he feels it.  I wonder if he knows what it means to have the spirit of the Lord grip your heart.  

While I was watching him, I saw Another.  Standing against the fence.  Dirty feet in worn out sandals.  Dark, cracked skin.  Sunglasses.  I lost my breath for a moment.  On the wind was carried the sweet words I knew to be true.  "I am here.  I see them.  I am here."

Yesterday was the last day of camp.  As children poured into the church, they would race down the steps and run up to me with arms open wide.  Some would jump up into my arms, others wrapped their arms around my waist and squeezed as hard as they could.  Yesterday, as much as I reprimanded, I hugged twice as much.  One of the prophets stopped me as I walked past him at lunch.  "Miss Anna," he tugged my shirt and began to tell me how he had asked Jesus into his heart in the bathroom that morning.  "Now I don't have to worry about everyone else, because Jesus is on my side."

During small group, Que climbed into my lap.  He leaned his face against mine and whispered, "I forgot to take my medicine this morning, Miss Anna.  I have anger problems."  I wrapped my arms around the little eight year old and didn't want to let go.  I whispered in his ear and told him I thought he was good and that I loved him.  And every part of my heart meant it.

The last day of camp was almost over and we were in art class.  Se'Vion, who had made it his mission all week long to make sure I didn't get lost in the church, handed me a rock.  He had painted it and he put it in my hand.  "This is for your memory, Miss Anna."

I stared at the rock, my heart all kinds of torn up.  "What do you mean, for my memory?" I asked him, pulling him in for a hug.  

"Miss Anna," he just shook his head, as if I should have understood what he meant.  "It is the last day of camp.  And I made this.  And I'm giving it to you.  So you don't forget me."

Good grief.

We went to worship one last time.  And during worship I repeated the dangerous words again.  With children singing and dancing on either side of me, my heart whispered:

"I have not felt very loved by You lately," I accused cautiously.  "I try and I try to feel You.  But if You've been trying to love on me, I'm not getting the message.  I feel like I've been doing all the work.  All the pursuing.  All the talking.  All the loving on others.  And all you freaking say is to be quiet." 

The children started singing.  "You're the defender of the weak / You comfort those in need / You lift us up on wings like eagles".

And I started crying.  Even as I write this, tears are welling.  Because in that very moment, He bent low.  Scooped my heart up in His hands.  Thank you for loving them as much as you can.  If you only knew, if you only realized, I love you just as much.  I am their Defender.  I am their Provider.  I am their Protector.  You are mine and I am yours.  It is through them I show you My love.  And it is through you I show them My love.  

Camp ended too soon.  I had to be at work at 5, which meant I left earlier than everyone else.  I held it all together until I pulled out of the church parking lot.  Then the tears started flowing uncontrollably.  I tried to repeat Colossians 3:23 over and over again: "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."

But in that moment, frozen yogurt didn't matter.  In the moment, my heart cried out to God the Father.  Reminding Him, just in case He forgot, that it was HIM who gave me this heart. HE was the one who led me straight into the lives of these children.  HE was the one who put them in my arms.  HE was the one Who had set my soul on fire.  Had He forgotten HE was the one who had put this mission on my heart?  

Why in the world can I not be one of those people who gets to do that for a living?   Had I not found enough favor with Him?  Was I not doing my job well?  Was I not good enough?  Why am I not one of the lucky ones whose work is also her passion, her job is also her calling?  The tears didn't stop.  My heart swelled twice its size in my chest.  Did He not realize how it felt to be separated from them?

With that thought, the tears only got worse.  Of course I do.  That is what this story is about, beloved.  Why do you think I've been trying so hard to get them back?  To get you back.

A friend heard this story last night, and with a smile on his face he whispered, "well, well.  Aren't you loved, Miss Anna."

Had I had any tears left, they would have come.  But I was fresh out.  My heart knows this to be true.  My heart knows this to be the kind of truth that sets you free, that gives you life, that comes straight from Jesus.  He is calling me to be faithful.  To Him.  To His children.  

This is what happens when you ask for a greater capacity to love.

He will stretch your heart.   Pull at its edges and stretch out the seams.  He will give you more to carry, so you will grow in strength.  He will send you more, to fill up the hollowed out spaces.  He will pour Himself into you, even as you are pouring yourself out for Him.  And although He continues to whisper "now" and "not yet", the "now" is sticky and sweet and strong.

He will give you new words.  And new eyes.  And new ears.  He will permeate all you are with His boldness and His grace.  He will whisper truth into you about what it means to hurt and heal.  And in those places you remain weak, He will ever be strong.

Anna, He whispers, this is for your memory.  I made them.  And I'm giving them to you.  So you don't forget Me.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I am getting ready for camp.  Day camp with urban kids here in Lexington.

"Wait, wait," you say.  "You're supposed to be resting!"

Somehow, I knew you were going to say that.

I've tried to come up with a few excuses you might accept to justify why I'm getting ready to spend most of this week working.

The best one I've come up with is: I want to.

Yes.  That's right.  Plain and simple.

Six weeks away from these children and my arms just ache for hugs.

Two weeks ago I drove through the streets of the neighborhood I have come to love.  I drove through on  a Tuesday night just to show a friend from out of town why I had chosen to stay in Lexington instead of leaving for the Race.  I turned onto Second Street with a subtle tinge of apprehension.  I was afraid the east end, on some level, wouldn't want me back.

But my car was bombarded by small children -- hands came through windows, my name was shrieked.   They asked me to come with them to a baseball game the following Friday.  And something in my heart resonated with their request.  Yes, yes.  I could do that.  Not only could I do that... I wanted to.

They still wanted me.  After a month of being gone they still loved me.  Perhaps this time I believed in the authenticity of their love more than ever before.  In that moment I knew the love I have for them trumps almost all else.

Over the last six weeks God has been exposing the unhealthy aspects of my ministry, the areas from which I need to continue to rest.   I have worried I would forget a lot of what I've learned over the past few months.  I was afraid these children would lose their respect and affection for me.  I didn't abandon them.  But I bet they feel like I did.  I would be mad at me too.  

But the other night, only one displayed such emotion.  He tried to hide it for a good, long while.  He even jumped up and gave me a big hug when I first walked up.  Later, one mistake on my part set his temper off and Marcus gave me the worst kind of silent treatment.  I almost resorted to begging with this one.  This sweet, teenage boy who wants to be a pediatrician; who hit a growth spurt this summer and went from a scrawny little boy to a young man who will soon stand a head taller than me.

Another boy told me to quit trying to make Marcus talk to me.  "He doesn't like you anymore," Ehmaud ruefully pointed out, shrugging.  Marcus punched him.  The first words to come out of his mouth all night were, "I did not say that".  Then he turned and looked at me, "Miss Anna, I didn't say that."

I've been accused of a lot of things.  I have a laundry list of names I've been called, negative qualities which have been attributed to me, accusations thrown my way.  I have a longer list of the things about myself I want to change.  There is a short list too, of ways I have changed.  A short, but growing list of what I have learned and what I have overcome and what I have to offer.

At the very top of that list, is Love.  

Is it enough?

Is the living, breathing Love inside my heart enough to make up for all the ways I fail?  


I pulled into the parking lot at Broadway yesterday.  Ironically, the camp is called "Can-I-Go".  Verbatim the prayer I lifted up to the Father on Monday.  "Father God, can I go?  I want to go to camp.  Can I go?"  For the children it was the second day of camp.  For me, it was the first.  An SUV pulled into the spot beside me and I caught a glimpse of small, dark faces behind the windows.  One of the little boys caught my eye and a grin split his face in two.  My spirit swelled inside me.  I had never seen that smile before.  But my heart immediately belonged to him.

I call them "my" kids.

I do it subconsciously.  I'm sure it comes from a not-so-subliminal desire for my own family.  I think it also comes from avoiding the impersonal "the" (the children, those children, the kids).  I know it comes from a love; rooted deep in my belly and intertwined in my heart and the very marrow of my bones.  

You may not see or understand, because I don't express this love the way some others do.  I'm still very unsure of myself.  I am still very wary of grown ups and I often forget boldness is required for the risk taking.  

I've told you this story before.  About sitting on Kat's front porch and having the five boys run past us on the sidewalk.  They were on their way home at midnight.  Home was five blocks away in the wrong direction.  I was overcome then, with my mission (the mission God had imprinted on my heart at 15 years old).

Since then, I've struggled with a wanting.  Wanting to do it all.  Wanting to move, to operate, to function far beyond my abilities.  My wisdom and my skill set have not been enough to tackle every single battle I have stumbled across. 

Not enough to cause radical change.  Not enough to break the cycle.  Not enough to stop the abuse, the neglect, the stealing, the trafficking.  I kick myself for not being everything they need.  I feel inadequate. Useless.  Unworthy.

But often I find myself in quiet moments.  Bathed in all my inadequacy.  Shrouded in all that is not good in me, about me.  And inevitably, a gentle wind will come.  Ruffle the feathers of the lies the enemy tells.  Blow back the curtains of all his treacherous efforts.  (Even as I write this, sitting on my front porch, a gentle wind just blew.)  

I am enough.

That is what I hear.  

When I find myself there: standing on hot asphalt with the same little boy with a huge grin standing with his arm around my waist, his perfect shaved head resting against my belly.  That's all he does.  Just stands there.  Watching the others shriek and run and splash each other with cups of water and wet sponges.  

His hug is enough.

My Love is enough.

And I know my story will never be about what I can do.  About the way I can help.  About the things I can fix or remedy.

If Ben's sweet, warm hug is enough to heal my heart, maybe, just maybe my love will change him too.

I hope so.  Because it's all I have to give.

In my rest, I have heard this answer.  It perfumes the wind and is like warm and sweet sunshine on my shoulders.  

It is not about what you can do for them.  


I will go back to camp in the morning.  What I thought I had forgotten has, in fact, grown intertwined into myself.  I cannot separate this from that.  As I am called, I have been created.  As I am called, I am being equipped.  

In humility, I will love.  May every shoe I tie, every tear I wipe, every reprimand I give, every hug I share, every word I whisper make a way for True Love.  For the One who is enough.  May it be seen as the washing of feet.  May everything I have be poured at His feet, given to them.  May I reach beyond myself.  Who I think I should be, who I want to be, who I can't be, who others say I am -- and live there.  In that place where I can't.  Beyond myself.

In that place where I am not enough.

But He is.


Oh, what a love story.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Proof Reading

The phone rang early yesterday morning.

I was awake, but still lying in bed.  

"Can you do me a favor?"

Anything.  Especially for him.

"Can you proof-read my book for me?"

I literally sat straight up in bed.  Way to go, Tuesday.  Starting with a request like that, there was no way things could go wrong.

I grew up in a family of writers.  People with words.  We are storytellers and explainers and creators.  None of us write in the same fashion, or build our work the same way.  

But sometimes I crave his words.  Full of humor and wisdom and secrets that his eyes tell me, but his voice never does.

So Tuesday was spent doing what I do best.  Being a big sister.  Applying sunscreen, and occasionally looking up from my proof-reading to scan the pool for two familiar faces.  I made the girls drink water, trying to explain to them when you're out in the sun for three hours at a time you get dehydrated.  Your body gets thirsty.  

They didn't buy it.

So we ate popsicles and Starbursts, which had melted on the beach towel.  Meghan managed to rub sunscreen right down the middle of my back (I was thankful, since that means my scar was protected) but absolutely nowhere else.  

Then we went home.  And curled up on the couches in the air conditioning and napped.  The warm, sinking kind of napping when all noises are loud, but not disturbing; and you fade in and out for what seems like hours, but is really only twenty minutes.  My valiant efforts at some rest were defeated, however, when the furry, gray cat fell on my head.

Today is Wednesday.  This morning we did it all over again.  Sunscreen, water, counting change for the concession stand.  Repeat.  

The phenomenon, which is my family, just really amazes me on days like today.  The love I have for the littlest girls who are not related to me by blood.  The friendship I have for the tall woman who married my Dad.  The way my relationship with my Dad has evolved over the years -- has endured so much pressure, pain, change.  Our stories are ones, which distinctly revolve around establishing roles and determining boundaries.  Have we learned to be patient with each other?  To bear with one another as we each set out to figure out our place in this dynamic.  To do our best to be what each other needs, and forgiving each other when we cannot.

I finished reading the book.  It has blessed my heart to realize I know my Dad -- as man, not just as a father.  He may not realize it, or even agree.  But I do.  And there are days when I just want to cry, wishing I could engage with him the way he does with his clients. Sometimes the closest thing I get are late-night workouts or burrito bols on the patio.  

Regardless, I am who I am because of him.  

The oldest little sister just walked in the door.  Shrieked and fell on me on the couch in order to give me a hug.  Wish you could have seen it.  Just a glimpse into my life.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


There are so many things we take for granted.  So much we forget.  So much I have to learn.

I've been single for a long time now.  Actually, in the grand scheme of things, three years isn't that long.  But it's been almost four years since I began a new relationship.  Looking back, I try to remember how I felt during that time.  My hesitation, my apprehension, my reluctancy, my excitement.  Olivia calls them butterflies.  But she's good at starting things.  

I don't trust easily.  In my eyes, trust is something to be built, something to be earned.  I don't know why I am this way.  Perhaps because of experience or genetics.  Regardless, I am a cynic.  

So when it comes to the idea of starting a new relationship, I am every kind of skeptical.  

If I had my way (which, let's be honest, might not always be such a great idea) I would fall in love with my best friend.  A man who had already earned my trust.  Someone I was already comfortable with.  Who already knew my tendency to talk too much, or not at all, without warning.  How I love to have my hair played with.  And all about my irreverent personification of God.

There are so many things we take for granted.  

I remember the first time I saw him.  It was July and he was in the pool.  I remember his unfamiliar, southern accent and the awkward conversation over the threshold.  I didn't know his middle name, or about the unhealthy dynamics of his family.

I also remember the last time I saw him.  I had memorized him.  I knew him by heart.  The way he walked, the gap between his front teeth.  His propensity to exaggerate and to leave.  

I don't remember the first time I met him.  But I remember him standing in the coffee shop, wearing that red hat and sporting that big beard.  We talked about grace and love and my middle name.  Four years later, I know how many days he goes without taking a shower.  I know his nickname, his need for simplicity, and how many months he will go without shaving his head and face.  I know about his dreams and his affinity for the X-Files.  

Sometimes I forget how much time these things take.  That these people I love, the men I've loved, the friends I have were all once strangers to me.  Relationships build and evolve and grow.  Just like trust, affection, familiarity, and intimacy.  

I found myself aching for it yesterday.  For someone who knows me.  For someone I trust.  For someone bigger, stronger than me.  For the hollowed out place under his arm where I fit.  For that strange thing we call love -- which in reality is not a feeling, but a choice.  Simultaneously, I discovered a deep resolution inside myself.  To not give up.  To not settle.  A deeper belief in my own worth.  

And then I got a phone call.  Muffled at first, her sweet little voice asked me when I was coming to see her.  She tattled on David and told me she loved me.  I remember the first day I met her.  Toothless, at the front door.

God bless the child who still loves quickly.  Fully.  Wholly.  

I stumbled across some truth in a broken iPod the other night.  When I was in the middle of a run, the music just stopped.  The iPod wouldn't turn on, wouldn't actually shut off; just buzzed, showing the time and the full battery life.  I finished the run in quiet.  And then plugged it up at home and left it on the kitchen table overnight.  

The next morning the iPod worked again.  And I heard God whisper something simple in my ear.  Sometimes, Anna, things take time.  Sometimes, things just fix themselves.

Yesterday at work a man came in, and while he was getting his frozen yogurt, my eyes were drawn to his shirt.

Some things just take time.

So here's my revelation for today (on the tail end of one of the strangest weeks I've had in months): 

I'm being called to risk again.  Stepping out onto the edge -- beyond the assumptions, the stereotypes, and the expectations, which are the love child of pain and heart break.  To take a step back as my walls, like Jericho, are brought down by a force from within.  

One day I will find myself holding someone's hand.  I will know him by heart; the way he smells and the way his breathing sounds.  But that won't happen in a single moment.  That won't happen holding love at arm's length.

It's time, which will tell us the story.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

All Forward Motion

It's amazing how growth reveals itself.

Yesterday I started running and didn't stop.  Breath filled my lungs.  My muscles pumped for a farther distance and a longer amount of time than they had since before I got sick.  When did I get strong enough to go so far?  When did my lungs expand enough, fill with enough air, to carry me as far as I needed to go?

Similarly, I am amazed at how an old, familiar situation can arise and you will find yourself responding in a new way.  With more wisdom and discernment and self control.  You always wish you had more, and you always wish you had, perhaps, avoided the situation completely.  But you are leaps and bounds ahead of where you were last time.

Words come out of your mouth, which you recognize as truth.  You realize you believe something new.  You heal more quickly, and some of the enemy's old lies don't hold water anymore.

You go looking for the hurt, the insecurity, the doubt, the brokenness, which you expect to be there.  Hollowing out your heart and setting up camp.  But what you find is wholeness.  An unexpected resilience.  

In that very moment, you must be grateful.  Grateful for every setback, every heartbreak, every wound, every rejection, every decision which led you here -- to this point.  Because now you are stronger.  Now there is fruit.

Progress.  You are not who you used to be.  You have grown.  Three steps forward, perhaps even two steps back.  But you are not the same.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


God doesn't waste things.

I feel like I may need to repeat that for you.  Just in case the world has convinced you that time's been wasted.  Or that opportunities have been wasted; that talent, effort, or energy may have been wasted.  That you have hurt in vain.  

Please, don't believe it.  Don't believe them.

We follow and serve and resemble a Creator who redeems.  The Lord of redemption and restoration.  The one true God of salvation and of creativity.  

I don't know what season you're in right now.  Perhaps it is a slow, cultivating one (welcome to the club).  Perhaps it is a season of preparation, which (lucky you) probably equates to brokenness.  Maybe you're in a season of favor, of invitation, of harvest.  Rejoice in that.  It could be, that you're in a season of planting.  

I also don't know about your past.  The past few years, months, days, hours of your life.  The choices you've made, the paths you've chosen, the mistakes you've made.  I don't know about the scars.  I know they're there, because I have them too.  But God only knows how deep they go.  

Every time I've found myself in a quiet moment the past few days, I've heard Him say: Anna, I don't waste things.

This makes me smile.  My life is testimony to this promise.   

But I am surrounded by people who are anchored down by their regrets.  Who are burdened with their sin.  Who wake up each morning to the alarming beep of the enemy telling them they are broken, unusable, and damaged.

I keep company with a lot of Christ-followers, who still believe every moment before they met Christ is unimportant.  Insignificant.  A cause for shame and nothing more.

Tuesday night He whispered in my ear about this.  


The dump was growing larger as I drew closer.  I could smell it long before I saw it.  I had stuffed everything into a large, black garbage bag.  Appropriate since all this was, was trash.  And so much of it, too.  A whole lifetime, wasted.

Sweat beaded on my brow and the muscles in my arms and shoulders were growing tired.  I had come a long way.  In every sense.

Not long ago, I met Him.  The one they called Savior.  The one they called Christ.  He had met me where I was, in the middle of my mess.  He had promised rest and peace and hope.  I had accepted His offer.  And until now, I had never looked back.

But I met a few, who also claimed to follow Him -- Christ.  "Where did you come from?" They would ask me about the days before Him.  About the place I'd dwelled before now.

Suddenly, in my eyes everything became filthy.  Garbage.  I had to get it out.

I paused at the edge of the dump to take a breath before hauling my bags into its depths.

What are you doing?

I looked around.  The familiar voice seemed to come from nowhere at first.  

Beloved, where are you going with that?

I saw Him then.  Standing not far away, as if He'd been waiting for me.  I wiped the sweat off my face with the back of my hand, took another deep breath, and tried to explain.

"I can't keep it," was all I could muster.  "All of it has to go.  It is dirty."

He took a few steps closer to me, with hands outstretched.

You're throwing it all away?

I nodded and I saw something flicker across His face.  Something the world might call compassion.  Something I unexpectedly recognized as grace.

"Isn't that what you want me to do?" I bent over and grabbed the knotted end of the garbage bag and tried to lift it up again.  Not much further.  I was almost there.

No, no, no.  With a single stride He was by my side, one hand on the garbage bag, the other on my shoulder.  I wanted you to give it to Me.  

"What?" I shrugged away from His touch and shook my head.  "You want this?  Do you even know what is in this bag?"  I took a step backward.  "I really would rather you not even look at it.  Just let me throw it away.  It's all just trash."

Can we look at it together before you throw it away, please?  He reached to untie the bag.  I dropped it and turned away.  I felt shame spread over my face and cringed as I heard Him rummaging through the contents of the bag.

Look at this, beloved.  I refused to turn toward Him.  I did not want to see all my garbage strewn out before Him.  I wanted to be pure and blameless in His sight.  I wanted to be new.  What I was before, my life before Him, was useless.  A waste.

Beloved.  Look at Me.

Reluctantly I looked up and met His eyes.

I was going to use this.  He pulled something out of my garbage bag and put it into His own, which hung from His shoulder.  And actually, I had a lot of plans for this too.  

I stared in disbelief.  He was taking all my trash, all my garbage -- the mistakes I'd made, the poorest of my decisions, the dirtiest parts of my history -- for Himself.  "Why in the world would you want that?"

Because.  He looked up from my bag and smiled.  I'm in the business of making all things new.

"You made me new," I protested.  "None of that is even usable.  It's all part of who I was before I met you.  I don't have room for it anymore -- remember?  This is what You saved me from!"

He stood up straight.  His tall frame cast a shadow over me and I felt the innermost parts of me breaking under all the embarrassment.  I was tired.  And I didn't want Him to see.

Deliberately He put the last of my so-called trash into His own bag and then held out His hands.

Empty your pockets.

He motioned with His fingers, just in case I didn't understand His words.  Come on.  I'll show you what we need to throw away.  

"I got rid of all of it, already.  What are you talking about?"

Empty your pockets.  I'll show you.

I turned my pockets inside out.  Shame and regret rolled onto the ground like spilled marbles, rolling around at our feet, gleaming in the sunlight.  He bent low and scooped them up in His palms.

Hold your bag open.  

He dumped the marbles into the massive, black bag.  I stared, dumbfounded, with out-turned pockets.  

Let Me see your wrists.  He reached forward and took my hand in His.  The scars on His wrists were jagged and raised, but His fingers moved nimbly to remove the bracelets on my wrists.  The woven braids of guilt and anxiety fell loose into His palms.  He turned and re-opened the trash bag.  In fell the bracelets, landing quietly on top of the marbles, resting deep down in the bottom.

Beloved, there is nothing I cannot use.  You are not meant to carry it.  And it is not yours to restore.  You were meant to give it all to me.  Every piece, every broken thing.  Anything dirty, anything worthless.  I want it all.  Let Me use it, as only I know how.  I do not waste things.

I rubbed my naked wrists.  Watching, silently, as He shouldered the black bag and took a few steps towards the dump.  Easily, He threw it towards piles of garbage and dirt.  

But He threw it so far, I never even saw where it landed.

He put His arm around my shoulder then and turned me around.  And together we walked away.