Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent(ageous); carrying the wait of glory

I cannot recall a time of actively participating in the Advent season. Not on purpose, I have just had other things going on during "the busy holiday season."

But this year, the focus seems slower and I see this word surrounding me. Advent - what I have come to understand as a time that we wait in preparation of the birth of Christ.

We wait.

That is the season.

For me, this season is longer than the holidays and bigger than Christmas.

And I have never claimed to be good at waiting. I began to accept this as a character trait and gave into the impatience allowing it to drive my actions and reactions. But God has been gracious in (constantly) letting my patience stretch through the waiting. And just when I think I have it down, I wait again.

Within the waiting, I find myself becoming restless. I think this is partly because we have lost the beauty of waiting. We have become a culture so overstimulated that being without a filler of our time causes us to think something is wrong when it may be the most right place we could be. What makes this difficult is the unfamiliarity with the stillness; the uncomfortable or the struggle that becomes evident in that place.
Look at what you do when you are waiting in line at Starbucks, when you pump your gas, when you find yourself standing in the middle of an almost empty lobby. Reach for your phone? Check instagram? Start making dinner plans?

There is something lost in that moment besides time. That is what this season is calling forth. That time is precious and valuable, but not valued in that precarious moment.

What if we stopped?

And that was it. Just stopped.

What if we allowed our time to be broken in order to feel that gap of the wait? What if we shifted ourselves to be in a place positioned to see the coming of the Christ? What if we sought out the signs and wonders? What if we gave pause to consider the magnitude of the magnificence?

It is through compassionate love that Glory has already made the first move towards you and me; and it is through compassionate love that Glory continues to move towards you and me; and it is because of compassionate love that Glory will return for you and me.

The wait is weighty because the glory is glorious.

(If you would like a tool to help give pause during this season, try this free download of Good News of Great Joy, Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper. A lovely friend passed it on to me and I would love to pass it on to you.)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tis the Season; the present of the present

It's that time of year when you hear one question on repeat: what do you want?
The answer has changed from year to year- toys, clothes, cooking utensils, money for missions...

As this question comes in due time, this year it has become more like a call to take an inventory of my life- what does it entail, what does it encompass, what is it that I want/what is missing?

In searching through these questions, I find myself looking at my haves and have nots: the tangible things in my life that surround me in daily use. The almost countless books stacked and waiting to be read, the 15 purses hanging in the back of my closet, the 23 different pairs of shoes for a number of occasions, the bobbles of jewelry displayed haphazardly, the pots and pans that sit in the cupboards, the mugs that hang and wait to be used, the six different towels folded neatly and tossed in the closet (really, I have six towels all to myself). Truth is, my haves list is embarrassingly lengthy.

In searching through these questions, I find myself looking at my content and discontent: the areas in my life that I give attention to daily. Truth is that I feel more discontent than ever. And it is not necessarily due to the stuff. There is actually nothing I can think of that would bring happiness (other than maybe a hot pink stand mixer, or some work that needs to be done on my jeep, or a new tattoo). It has more to do with where I give my attention. I find that I am constantly looking for the next step- so much so that I forget to see where I am standing. I take pictures and skim articles and glance through pictures without any of it really sinking in; as though because I have taken that picture or read through the article that moment is saved and I can come back to it when I have some free time- there is no need or purpose in the present other than to get me to the future. Thus, I am discontent with the present. It has become a task that will always be behind the future, thus behind where I want to be.

In searching through these questions, I find myself looking at my calling and my hang-ups: the passion that drives my commitments and the defensiveness I settle into. I am taking inventory of where I am in my life. I happen to be a huge fan of my life. It's times like this I give pause to recount the last year, to see the good the Lord has accomplished through the bad, the glory gained from the miserable places, the grace given in the moments of sharp hurt. Am I continuing to move towards that calling or have I settled for good enough for now?

This place of searching and seeking is a place of stillness and waiting- in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. There are presents to buy, people to see, cookies to bake- and there are times to share with the people in my life.

So what do I want? I do not want to miss the present of the present, the wonder in the wait, the moments that matter.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The young and the restless

They say to write about what you know, which usually makes me feel like I shouldn't write anything. I would say I don't know very much, but I just may be on the way to being an expert in singleness.

I have seen several articles from people on being single. And they seem to mostly be written by single people in their early 20s or those who are now married looking back on their singleness.

And I get that- there is usually a short window of opportunity to write about singleness because singleness is usually a season; a season that changes to marriage or a season being fresh out of college, new jobs (or searching), watching the facebook world around you explode in wedded bliss and babies. It feels like you are missing out on something, like you missed the plane/train/automobile/memo and that can make you feel less: less than adequate, less than enough, less wanted...

It feels very real and very deep- it can rock your core.

It did for me. I remember that place- it wasn't too long ago.

But I will say this, it gets easier. And not just in a way of resignation; if you let it, singleness can be a sweet time. I think an important distinction is that being single does not mean you are alone.

It does mean you may have to work harder for the system of community than those who are married/with kids. It also does not mean you need to no longer be in community with those who are married/with kids.

And I realize that I am writing about being single in my late 20s- ok, almost 30s. And there are many miles left to go before I could be considered a true expert in this field. But there is goodness to this time.  I see people wrestle with this so often- and I did/do too- I don't know if there is a way around that. It has been through the wrestling that perspective and wisdom were and are gained- not because I won that fight, but because I (finally) stopped fighting.

You know the advice that people love to give? "Stop looking for it and it will find you." They are usually referring to a relationship. And there is some truth to that- when you stop striving, you don't carry a desperation or need for attachment- it is attractive to be comfortable with who you are. However, I have found that when I stop looking for relationship, it frees me to realize I am already found. When I stop wrestling and striving, I am then able to see more clearly that God has been pursuing me. It has been the losing that has allowed me to realize the relationship worth having is readily available.

I was asked to record a video talking mostly to 9-12th grade girls about being single and the ways I seek God. After much deliberation, I am including it in this post. Mostly because much of the deliberation was centered on vanity- I do not like the beginning screen shot of my face- there, I said it. However, I want to share the content, the vocalization of what all I have learned in this sweet time of singleness, the realization that singleness is a fight worth losing because it is in the loss I see the beauty of the gift of time I have been able to know who God is...

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When is enough, enough?

I love when the Lord answers my prayers in ways in such abundant ways it is really hard for even someone like me to miss.

As I have been honest with God- bringing my needs to him, sharing with him my heavy heart, listing out my frustrations, letting him hear my hurts, explaining my hopes and subsequent fears - he has been good in his responses taking care to not only let me "cry it out," but once I'm in a place where I have expelled all of that "stuff," he speaks in such tender ways it not only soothes my soul but quiets the whirlwind of crazy whipping around me.

This weekend and the last few days I have been enveloped in sweet community. I have been lifted in encouragement, covered in prayer, leaned on for friendship, allowed to rest in my own need of friendship, supported in honesty, held in love, directed in perspective, relieved in laughter, gifted with grace... I mean, the list could really just continue in simpler terms as well as the embellished.

These times of sweet community have offered much to think about in questions that stretch across differences and felt in hearts of women. Currently: What is right? What is best? What is enough?

We are pressed against - sometimes literally - by many needs: family, work, ministry, missions, the world, expectations, finances, grocery shopping, relationships, etc. And this is not even touching the perceived expectations we take on from places like Pinterest and facebook- rooted from a place of comparison.

So how do we choose the right thing? How do we know when we've reached not only the right decision, but when we have given enough? Enough money, time, resources to the right places?

Here's my perspective: maybe we are asking the wrong questions.

The world will never reach the point it has received enough of us or from us- the need is too great for us to satisfy.

Rather: am I seeking God?

In this moment- how do I see the Lord moving- in me, through me, around me? Can I allow him more space to work/move?

I don't think God is necessarily always expecting our answers to questions. But I think that's the point- I think it's the working out of the answer that allows/motivates us to come close to God, to practice faith, to build trust; and this enables us to continue to move forward and, as we go, as we work this out, we allow others to see God in those places- his grace and goodness, his relational qualities and his rightful reverence.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

There's more to it than that

Having a vast understanding of the highs and lows of the emotional and psychological see-saw, I sometimes fear the spiritual highs. Spiritual highs are unsustainable and insupportable. I know what those look like and what they can lead to: emotional decisions based on temporary feelings. I don't want a spiritual high- I desire the spiritual growth. But I am finding the good in those moments and the need for those times; that release of restraint is refreshing. 

And as the see-saw swings, after a spiritual high, there is typically a clear struggle. As much as I used to fear the fall from the "mountain top" into the "valley," I have come to understand that it is through this movement that there an opportunity to allow what was felt to become real, which brings about possible spiritual growth.

It is through these human experiences- the heartaches- that I experience God. To deny that I feel affected is not only an act of pretentious piety, but it is to deny the opportunity to experience God- of his presence and promise. If I never needed, I would not understand my insatiable need of Him. Not just his safekeeping and provision, but of Himself. If I never struggled, I would not understand his grace. If I never hurt, I would not know what it is to be comforted. It is in my need that I see him move.

Since coming back from Austria, I have been asking the Lord what to do. My heart was open and ready to take a giant leap… somewhere. I just needed the where and when. 
His answer? Wait. 
Of course. 
In my waiting, I asked God what he wanted me to do. 
His answer? Wait. 
Of course. 

In my waiting- which looked a lot like striving- I desired a platform.
But God desires me to have a purpose.
In an effort to share with and effect others, I was not letting it affect me.

So it was not until I stopped that I realized how much I have wanted the answer to my prayers for guidance to result in me staying where I am.

This morning, my heart hurt as it began to break at the realization that I am holding back from God. That I am choosing to hold on to places, times, hopes of the here.  There is a hurt felt when you realize all that you have come to love can be left; and that is real and that is ok. But it is not an excuse to be immovable. Avoiding the pain is not the goal of this life. And I would like to think I have learned not to be stubborn with the Lord- that I have learned to be movable before my entire life crumbles, again-  but I have desired the settling thus settling for a lesser god than God would desire for me.

Reading through Psalm 27, Matthew Henry commented:
The safety of believers however is not in the walls of the temple, but in the God of the temple and their comfort in communion with him.

As I am walking this out, that is my desire. Not the words, not the feeling; it is in the communion with him- as I step out trusting he is with me in each step

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Is there a reason you are feeling restless??

Because God is so big and I am so small
There’s a lot of space between there
And I am the one on limited time and resources

How do you handle a God like mine?
A God so… full and fulfilling.
He doesn’t fit in my small life yet he asks me to come along with him- he doesn’t ask to be fit into my life.

So there is the challenge: how does my small life step into his big plans?

Is there a balance- or is the idea of “balance” just a source and sort of safety I have chosen to hide behind? Can I be expended, can I be used up– have I been the one resisting God’s design to use me to the fullest?

Why so restless?

How do you handle plans bigger than you can fathom? Bigger than what makes sense? That is a huge weight! These kinds of questions make my heart and lungs race. And resistance to that idea comes (naturally) in the forms of distraction, rebuttal, procrastination, straight up NO, all in hopes of a return to the normalcy that once was.

But my heart has been separated- feeling the fullness- there’s no way to un-feel or un-see that.

In my desire to get going, moving towards the bigger life, I find myself very short with myself and others- I want to get to the point and get going. I have noticed that anyone trying to talk with me- have a conversation- with any amount of detail has been cut short by my desire to jump to the point and keep going. I am amazed at the grace extended to me in these conversations. Did I not learn anything in the last few weeks, months, years? God is not calling me to a task, he is calling me to a relationship and it is a relationship that extends out towards others. I need to give attention to finer details of life; there is something delicately essential there.

So there is a huge weight to this wait. There is importance in this place and there is something bigger coming. I don’t know how to be here and wait for there. These are the kinds of times that drive me crazy- one foot in and one foot out. I am here. I am now. I am willing to be there. I am waiting to be then.

I was recently reminded, “the promise is in the process.” Meaning that as I go, God is working to fulfill the promise/vision given. Without the process, there is no promise. So there is importance in the now. There is importance in the present.

At this point, the questions are much more What and When rather than How and Why. As I wait and seek those answers, my heart is overwhelmed to tears thinking about how much I do not want to get bogged down in the insignificant.

Friday, November 1, 2013

At what cost?

I find myself constantly feeling as though I am on the outside looking in. Participating but not really a part. Present but not included.

I don't fit.

I find myself  becoming edgy in my exhaustion. Feeling the emptiness of being spent.

And I ask: why? What compels me to stay here? What keeps me in this place of murky solidarity that has flares of mimicked connection?

That in the solidarity I am not alone. That God can use me here. That I am most useful when I am weakest. That not feeling included keeps me sensitive to the needs of others who feel the same. Not being a part reminds me who I am relying on and Who I rely on.

At what cost?

At all cost.