Saturday, December 7, 2019

because we all need friendship and hope: life goals today

There are used condoms and needles and empty bottles of Vodka and my eyes are scared of what else they’ll see so I look up into the sky.

It’s blue and vast and open and looks like hope.

I'm waiting for a friend to come out of her tent so I can take her to the bus station and she can get off these streets. Home. Her mom's waiting for her. We've already called.

When I first started visiting my friends downtown, before they were my friends, when they were just "homeless people," there was a ministry feeding them sandwiches out of the back of a truck. I introduced myself.

"Don't come here by yourself. These people are always armed."

That's what the church lady told me.

"These people."

Like they were the infected and the church lady and I were the sanitized. I've never lived on the street or stabbed needles into my veins or sold my body to get another dose of heroin or had my one bag of spare clothes stolen every time I got another bag of spare clothes or stood on a street corner with a sign begging for money because I'm terrified of not being on meth. But if that's how my life was, and if these streets were my home, I think I'd want to be armed, too.

That was months ago, and now when I pull up, I get smiles and hugs and God keeps dumping out hope. And no one's ever pulled a weapon on me. And a couple friends have been coming to church with me and I'm learning what everyone likes at Taco Bell and I know CJ drinks coffee all day, loaded with sugar, and Alice likes chewing on ice and Tony misses his four-year-old daughter in foster care and Kendra's leg hurts her and Jacob's mom died in 2014 and he really misses her.

They're human beings.
Not projects.
They’re human beings. And my friends.

Don't we all know what mediocre and unwanted feels like? And doesn't no-strings-attached authentic friendship help those awful feelings dissolve?

I want to spend my life fighting mediocre and unwanted, proclaiming with my time and my words and my no-strings-attached-friendship--THERE AIN'T NOTHIN MEDIOCRE ABOUT YOU AND YOU ARE SO SO SO WANTED.

Looking into beautiful bloodshot eyes and smelling what happens when we stop showering and immerse our lives into numbing addictions trying to live a pain-free existence, I've been giving some thought to the goals of my life.

To be safe?
To be comfortable?
To never hear inappropriate remarks?
To stay away from "dangerous and dirty" places?

No. Those are nowhere on my life goals list.

To keep looking at Jesus and falling in love. That's my life's big goal. And from there springs all sorts of wonderful activity. Like finding the unsafe and the uncomfortable and the inappropriate remark-ers living in "dangerous and dirty" places and to make friends.

Jesus has enough hope.

When He watches Jay meander through the streets, dazed and dirty and eyes locked on the ground scanning for change so he can collect enough for a bag of numb, what is God feeling?

When Jesus hangs out with me everyday, it's not because He wants to put me in the become-a-more-decent-human-being program.
It's because He likes me.
Friendship is what we've got.
As we're doing friendship stuff, His love changes me.
He's teaching me His ways.

So when I drive downtown day after day in the 2003 Highlander a bunch of loved ones bought me (thank you) and hop out to see who's there and who's hungry and who wants to walk to McDonald's, it's not because I'm running a program.
They're my friends.
Friendship is what we've got.
Like any friendship, there's getting to know each other and helping each other and becoming better human beings in the process.

My friends who are currently homeless, I'm a better human being because I know them. And the brightest highlight--I'm getting to know Jesus better because these friends let me be in their lives. His heart is even better than I thought and we're exploring it down there on East Broadway amidst bodily fluids dried to the sidewalk and spice rolled up into blunts with any sort of paper available and coffee dates at McDonald's. His heart is even better than I know. Bigger and more diverse and stronger and more hopeful and better.

He seeks us out and makes friends out of us.

Jesus said our eternal destinies are affected by how we treat the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and imprisoned. That means the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, and imprisoned are quite important to this King I'm serving and I'd better make sure to treat them well.

Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, He asked him, "Do you want to get well?" 
"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."
Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk."
At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
-John 5:3-9

It was like a nursing home without nurses.

I can't imagine the stench. And it's where Jesus chose to go.

It's bookmarked in my Bible with a polaroid of me and the girl who was trafficked to Hong Kong but got rescued and moved in with us and fell in love with Jesus and is now back home with her family, living in freedom.

He rescues African women in Hong Kong and He can rescue men from upstate New York homeless and addicted on the street in Kentucky.

I keep crying because life keeps being sad but I keep hoping because God keeps feeling hope.

Jesus reminds me He can do anything and He's loaded with love for every soul. And when we lay in the same spot for 38 years, hopeless and bitter, or decline our bus ride into freedom, or judge homeless people when we drive by them, He can heal us and help us stand on our feet.

God feels hope for all of us. We're all broken humans needing mercy.

Last night, Al started screaming profanities at Cindy and I interrupted him with “Let’s pray.” We stood in a circle and bowed our heads. I asked God to please help us all because we all need help. We said amen and I drove home, listening to “What Child is This” loud on repeat.

“Nails and spears shall pierce Him through,
The cross He bore for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.”

My friend didn't come out of her tent that day. She cried to me, "I can't do it. I'm not ready. I'm just not ready." I told her I loved her and watched where I walked on my way out.

But Jesus became a baby then bore a cross so He could help her leave the streets and I'll drive her to the bus station when that day comes.

“Our friends, our enemies, the children of God, and the children of the world are worthy to be loved. Those who are the hated, the ransomed, and the lost, the world as a whole, and every individual creature in particular are all embraced by the love of God.”

-Andrew Murray 

p.s. to the still-concerned-for-my-safety-loved-ones, thank you. I appreciate you. I'm being careful and bringing a friend as often as I can. Plus, I'm surrounded by angels.

Monday, October 14, 2019

how we can find hope in leaves and homelessness

Ten of my newest friends live on cardboard under a bridge and last night we had a birthday party. 

The birthday boy turned 54. I got 12 cupcakes for $9.99 at Kroger, stuck a purple candle in the middle cupcake, and we all sang happy birthday underneath that bridge. Know who else sang? Heaven. Because the cupcake-buying and the candle-lighting and the song-singing: all the King of Heaven’s idea. Jesus is the Great-Birthday-Party-Thrower. 

Leaves are falling and I’ve been taping them to my bedroom wall. They're pretty. I look up there and remember the way God makes things change. It’s a hopeful relief. They’re different sizes and different colors from different woods and different trees, but they all change. 

I told the birthday boy that God bought the cupcakes because God likes celebrating him. Then I reminded him that God can change things, turning rotten into beautiful and broken into whole. 

“Things don’t have to be like this.”
He nodded, said “I know,” and thanked me for remembering his birthday. 

A lady who’s always got an aching leg laid on piles of blankets and cried when I told her God can help her life change. She said she believes that. The man sitting next to her said “I’m her boyfriend,” then asked if he could have another cupcake.

All 10 friends bowed their heads as the traffic on 65 South drove 70 miles per hour above us, some stayed laying on their cardboard beds, others stood next to me; we asked God to have His way in our lives. We said “amen,” ate autumn-colored cupcakes, and I heard God tell me how much hope He has. 

Jesus loves us. All of us.

He changes leaves and He changes hearts and He’s loaded with hope. 

Who can we celebrate today?

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

the best way to get ready to die

We’re all going to be dead soon so I'm sitting in the backyard grass surrounded by 42 Bibles.

My friends in rehab want new Bibles and Goodwill keeps running out because I'm buying them all so my home church put their extra Bibles together and sent them with me to rehab because the Maker God enjoys our company and wants us all to know Him. And Hell’s fiercest fighting has been defeated. Jesus died but now He’s alive. 

Billy Graham writes, "There is nothing more important to know and to have clear in our thinking than the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

The Gospel--Jesus died, was buried, and rose again, because God's in love with human beings and wants to spend forever with all of us in Heaven, in holy matrimony. That’s right! Married. Joined together with an inseparable joining, humankind’s mess-of-a-heart and His perfect-God-Heart, joined together in love.  Ah.  Jesus took the punishment for our sin so we can marry Him. Now we get to decide if we want Him or not. He leaves it up to us. 

Oh God wants to be loved! 

I just left rehab. Four of the Bible’s found happy new homes. One lady asked if she could have two and God loves this lady and He loves hunger and I still have 38 Bibles in my car so I said “Sure ya can!” She smiled big and said,“What a blessin’.”

Life is super duper short and it's oh-so-easy to get distracted by what doesn't matter at all. So here's what I'm remembering today, on this beautiful and hot and sunshine-y October 2, 2019--
Jesus is Lord, He wants everybody to know Him, He enjoys our company, and He wins. 

What else matters? 

In drug rehabs in Kentucky and in red-light districts in Hong Kong and in orphanages in India and in every home, street, and heart in between--He wants to be loved. 

Reading the Bible. 
That's the best way to remind ourselves of all that matters in life. 
And the best way to get to know God better. 
We find the purpose of life and the heart of God and the way to Heaven and the way to hope and unconditional love in those ancient pages. 

I like to read a couple different chapters from a couple different places, loaded with colored markers and pens and highlighters and I go crazy on the pages every day (underlining and drawing flowers and writing prayers). I read super slow, too. Like, I'll read a sentence and then stop to talk to God about it for five minutes. I also like to have a cup of coffee in my hands. If you're just starting, Psalms and John would be good places to read. 

Life is complicated and I know what dark days feel like and the tragic stories I hear every week are heavy and hard and we all face big challenges that look like cold, ginormous mountains but guess what? Jesus wins.  He gets to write the end of the story and Love comes out as the champion.  

Every night for a couple months now, my bedtime reading involves Billy Graham's autobiography. It's huge. Because he lived quite a life. I'm currently on page 362 of 1265.   

When President Dwight Eisenhower was on his deathbed, he requested to speak with Billy Graham. The president asked the doctor and nurses to leave the room; he took the evangelist's hand and said, "Billy, you've told me how to be sure my sins are forgiven and that I'm going to Heaven. Would you tell me again?"

"I took out my New Testament and read to him again the familiar Gospel verses, the precious promises of God about eternal life. Then, my hand still in his, I prayed briefly. 'Thank you,' he said. 'I'm ready.' I knew he was. As I stood to leave, he grinned and waved." 

Jesus made the way for us all to be ready. 

If we want, we get to spend the rest of our days on the earth, and the rest of eternity, intimately intertwined with the Lamb of God. And even death won’t do us part. 

Do you have a Bible? If not and you want one, let me know. I've got a few to

Do you read the Bible every day? If not and you want to start, you can. God's inviting you. 

p.s. here’s a telling of the Gospel by my friends around the globe.

p.p.s. thanks for giving the Bible’s, everybody. Ladies in recovery are getting ready for a wedding. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

7 years today: what I'm learning about recovery

I've handed my dentist $3,000 in the past three months. 

Because on August 25, 2012, I wrecked a motorbike in Thailand.
Skull smashed into metal pole, two front teeth broke off, one pierced right through my bottom lip, we didn't know if I'd live, but I did.

Seven years? 
Shouldn't I be done with wreck-repercussions after seven years? 

When will I be recovered? 

My friends going through AA’s 12 Steps of Addiction Recovery, they're awarded these colorful celebration coins for remaining sober. For the first 24 hours of sobriety, the first 30 days, the first 60 days, etc, they're handed a token and celebrated. 

No matter what we're trying to overcome, walk through, conquer--why don’t we all give each other “I see you recovering and walking forward and I’m proud of you” tokens? I wish we did. We should. 

I wish I was better. 
Better at living, better at loving, better at surrendering, better at influencing, better better better. And I miss my un-scarred face and matching eyebrows and original teeth. 

But God isn’t wishing.
He’s delighting. 
In me, right now, scarred and giving the dentist my money, and still so far from where I should be—-my Maker is delighting in me.

In the process, He loves us. 

Some things take a long time to heal. That's what I'm finding out. Not just with a "failed" root canal (that's how the dentist put it) but with failed marriages, failed friendships, failed therapy sessions, failed jobs, failed (insert whatever you want). 

"Your wounds will heal and be scars that tell a story," my sister told me seven years ago, as the new deep red indentions on my face glowed back at me in the mirror. She was right. They've healed-- those deep red indentions have faded into scars and I'm telling their story. But what about when the root canal fails? What about when we go back to the awful habit we left? What about when we're terribly disappointed in who we've become? 

I've been reading Luke 15:20 to myself and to my friends in rehab and we're in awe that this is the God-Dad we have. 

So he (the selfish son who wasted his inheritance on a wild good time and was now dirt poor and smelling like the hogs he'd been feeding) got up and went to his father (because he thought if he begged hard enough, his dad might let him work as a hired hand).
But while he was still a long way off, his father (who had already forgiven his son and was dreaming of hugging him again) saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
And I'm guessing the dad got the stink of hogs rubbed all over him. But he didn't mind a bit. 

 Nothing helps us recover like letting our Maker sprint to us, kiss us, hug us tight and throw us a party, no matter how we're smelling. 

Jesus told this story to teach us what God is like. Not mean, not disappointed, not bummed at us. But sprinting! With mercy! And in love with us!
And ready, at all times, to give us hugs and kisses. 
And to give us celebratory recovery chips.
Oh oh oh He’s better than we know. 
Better better better.

We don't have to hide in shame, wallowing around in the mistakes we made--we can approach Him with the stench of our decisions rolling off of us, just as we are. 
And we don't have to strive to get Him to accept us, laboring hard enough to get Him to tolerate us again--He's already in love with us.

I'm so relieved. 

Luke 15:20--
Get it in our hearts, God.
You’re nicer than we’ve ever imagined.

The holy God who runs to His messed-up kids.    

No matter where we're at right now, giving a dentist our cash or trying to get over an addiction that keeps seducing our tired hearts or simply disappointed in our process--we have a Maker who wants to hug us and kiss us. And that place, getting hugged and kissed by Him, is the place where we recover. 

August 25. 
I'm still alive.
Jesus is my recovery

A few thousand bucks later.
My fake teeth are doing great, infection-free

And not to brag, but the dentist office is blowing up a picture of me and my fake teeth and hanging it in their hallway gallery. It's like God's handing me a celebration recovery coin. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

how to relish today: kissing and dancing in the everyday mundane

I whispered “I love you” a hundred times in his little ear. 
He threw his soft one-year-old arms around my neck and buried his chocolate filthy face into my chest. I told my sister to take a picture and hurry. 

It’s not always going to be like this. 

But today. We have today. 

The five-year-old, one and only niece, stood outside my bedroom door, “Will you play Candyland with me? I have it all set up for us.” 

 Look around and appreciate?
God's teaching me how. 

They’re growing up and I’m growing older and nothing’s slowing down. But these days God’s giving us, gifts—-fragile mundane beautiful and never going to get back—-gifts. I want to open each one with zeal-soaked fingers, taking my time, relishing, embracing and kissing chocolate faces.  

As I’m living with these four kids, in the suburbs of Louisville, Kentucky, driving to drug rehabs and falling in love with the Grace-Giver in ways I hadn’t until now, He's teaching me to dance through the aisles of Costco with sister's youngest baby because God is good and relishing today is His idea. And a good idea. 

Look around. 
Who do you see? 

It won't always be this way, but God's given us today. 

I miss Hong Kong and the other places I'm not in right now and those African women and those hard days that don’t seem so hard now--but good grief, look around. When am I going to open my eyes and see my today? My right-where-I’m-at with these people and relish it like a gift I’m never going to get back? Now. I’m going to do that now. 

Things still aren't perfect. 

People still disappoint me, I still disappoint me, life still isn't exactly going like I thought it would.
But God--He's still perfect. And He still likes living in me and being with me and letting me rest my head against His perfect Chest and breathe. And He's teaching me to look around and enjoy, to pause and just be--here, in the moment, this right now. 
He's gifting me with today. 

 Even with the extra pounds and the messy kitchens and the big questions--When these moments pass, we'll miss them. So let's  value the present as a true handed-to-us-by-God present, while we're in it. 

Enjoying today and enjoying God. 
In the everyday monotony? Can enjoying God be the answer to how to enjoy our lives? 

And how do we enjoy God? 

Here's what I'm learning to do: 
Pausing on the countless--literally, so many that I can't count them--things He's doing for me, giving to me, sharing from His Heart with me. Letting my pausing turn to thanking and dancing. Then today becomes the moment I'm living in, enjoying. 

And then I start dancing in the aisles of Costco, that soft laughing baby in my arms. 

These aren’t my kids. This isn't my house. 
But I get to live here with sister and her family all year, and I’m aimed to absorb these memories, soaked into my heart and stored there till I die. 

And that day’s gonna be here before I know it. All of us. Our lives have an end. Let's not forget. 

I've got this rotten habit of waiting until the "next thing" comes, with the feeling that when "next thing" has arrived; the country, the husband, the achieved goals, the whatever, then I'll be able to stop and enjoy. What's a lot better than this rotten habit is to look around at the four wild beauties I'm living with and hug my sister in the kitchen and tell her "thank you" for what she's giving me and know that here-and-now is the "thing" God wants me to enjoy.  

The girl who’s five won’t always want me to hold her and tell her stories before she falls asleep, or want her hair to look a mess like mine because she thinks I'm cool. My bed partner isn’t always going to be three and pleading with me to read “all the Bible stories” every night and then reaching over in the dark and touching my hand right before he falls asleep. The oldest of the crew, 11, will not always think eating sushi with me is a big adventure or want me to show him again how “Heart and Soul” goes on the piano. And the youngest, he’s not always going to fit in my arms in the aisles of Costco. But today. Today he does, so today we dance. 

And God, help us see today as a gift, even with its flaws and hurts and disappointments, help us look around and treasure today anyway. And to enjoy You. 
And help us dance more often. 
Thank You. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

10 years of living with a ton of people from all over the globe: 3 take-aways

I live in a mansion in the woods with a bunch of people. 

Last night we had a ping pong tournament and watched a Chinese movie called "Red Cliff." I'm not into staying up past 9 or watching movies but I miss Asia, so I joined the whole clan on couches in the basement. 

My bedroom is across the hall from the kids' room, I share a fridge with two men and a seven-year-old, and the three-year-old is in my bed 95% of nights. 

Community it's called. Been living with wild assortments of people for 10 years now. Unless you call my family a wild assortment of people, then I've been living in community my entire life, minus one year (it was a gloriously easy year after graduating college).

From the farm house where I grew up into a 12x15 feet dorm room with a Japanese girl. We had some different habits, me and her, our floor stayed covered in long black and blonde hairs, but she was kind and so was I (most of the time) so we managed along just fine. She made sushi for me before she moved. I drove her to the airport and she gave me her favorite pair of jeans. 

The next nine years entailed roommates like this: sisters, women from six countries in a little house in Mozambique, a girl I'd met once in my Grandma's renthouse (she became my good friend even though I wasn't really into the 'roommate' thing at the time, having just come out of the gloriously easy living-by-myself year and was a jerk to her frequently), 95 kids in a children's home in India, a pretty and creative blonde South African and a coffee-loving and thoughtful American in Hong Kong, a missionary in Thailand, a barely-knew-her-interesting girl in a hotel room in Myanmar for a few weeks, six African queens and an American BFF in Hong Kong, and now, the commune in the woods.    

The guy who lives upstairs has red facial hair, is the loudest laugher I've ever heard, and has a tender heart. He asked me how my dentist appointment went the other day. The man who lives with his seven-year-old daughter in the floor below me has an unusually deep voice, cleans a lot (hallelujah) and just bought his daughter a trampoline, which is set up in the grass right below my bedroom window and I often get invited to jump on it by all the little roommates. His daughter may be an angel. And she has awesome hair that she ties handkerchiefs around. Because that's what angels do. The guy in the basement is a musical mastermind and gave me a piano lesson this week, the husband and wife who brought all the other little roommates into the world are my sister and brother-in-law (and friends and life-encouragers), and the guy who lives out back with his new wife is a caring computer genius, his wife a polite ping pong prodigy from China. Oh, and we have a new dog and two kittens. 

I'm an intro-intro-introvert. Some people are surprised by this, some even argue with me; because I like people, they tell me, I must be an extrovert. But as much as I like them, being around them isn't how I get fueled--being alone, very alone, is how I do that. And being alone, very alone, is challenging when you live with half the population of Kentucky. 

For 10 years now, I've been learning to adapt--to wake up at the crack of dawn before the others emerge from their beds, to relax about spilled stuff on the kitchen counters, to not flip out about all the activity happening in the fridge, to go on lots of walks, and to be nicer.  

Life isn't about me. 
But boy do I forget that. 
Living in community is a super good reminder. Life is about loving God (and thus becoming more like Him), and loving people. 
Love--that's the whole big point of life.  

It would be easier to live by myself--only my shoes at the backdoor, decorate how I want, go to bed without trying to drown out the roommates' noise--easy stuff. But then I don't get a pair of Japanese jeans or piano lessons or in-depth lessons on mothering or become family with women from Africa as we dine on Ugandan dishes at the dinner table or become family with the odd collection of people in the big house as we watch Chinese-subtitled movies. Living with all these people--God is growing love in my soul. 

He said He made human beings in His image. I've noticed there's quite a bit of variety in human beings (20 year-old Japanese girl roommate and 46 year-old American man roommate have a few differences) so it seems to me, the more people I live with, the more of God's image I see up close and personal. That makes sense.  

Don't get me wrong, you don't have to live with a bunch of people to have community or have love grow or see God's image. You can live by yourself and find community and all it's benefits (and trials) in a number of ways. 

This week I got to hangout with a couple friends who believe in me; it's amazing what a nice friend can do for a person's heart. God made it that way, where we need and help and lift and refresh and encourage each other. Whether we share a house or just coffee, we can regularly help someone's heart by believing in them and being nice. 

 3 take-aways:

1. improve on loving your neighbor (and not be a jerk) 
2. all the mercy (God floods us all with it)
3. sorta how Heaven is (tons of people together)

Community: it's hard and good for our selfish hearts and fun.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
-Psalm 133:1

Thursday, July 4, 2019

the fireworks flowers (some practical thoughts on hearing God's Voice)

Sister picked them in her front yard--flowers looking like fireworks. 

The bouquet is sitting on our table in a glass jar, presenting bright colors to the kitchen. 

But flowers and fireworks are different. Yeah--they're colorful and pretty and fun to look at, but that's about all they have in common. 

Fireworks are fast explosions, loud show-y bursts of color and then gone.  Potassium nitrate, chemical reactions, fuses, and some other stuff, combining to explode color into the sky—-and last year, sending more than 9,000 to the hospital.
 Attention-seeking, potentially hazardous, and gone in an instant. 

Very different are flowers--they grow slow, steady in the sun, unnoticeable daily progress taking their time in the dirt, roots growing down unseen. They're not striving, they're just being. 
Eventually, in silence, they bloom. 

My 74-year old Great Aunt had her first wedding a couple months ago. After years of teaching school, playing the organ at church, raising cats, and waiting, she got her husband. At the reception, where she swayed close to her groom on the dance floor, my cousin and I talked about what it's like to hear God talk. The Creator God's voice spoken to our souls--How? And what's He sound like? 

Smelling sister's bouquet today, touching the textures, admiring the colors--I'm thinking about flowers and fireworks and God's voice.

 I've wanted (and expected) Him to be more like fireworks--flashy loud booming instruction across the sky of my soul; "HERE I AM AND THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO SAY, SO MAKE NO MISTAKE, I'M TALKING!" with other loud and obvious words. Like if I mix up the right things and strive hard enough, maybe He'll show up flashy for me. 

But from what I can tell, God doesn't usually talk like fireworks. I'm finding His voice to be more like flowers. And more like my 74 year-old aunt swaying on the dance floor. 

A friend recently asked, "Does His voice inside of me sound like my own thoughts? And if so, how can I tell what's His voice and what's just my thoughts?" Now that's a question. 

I didn't have a polished perfect answer, and I still don't. And I'm not an expert or a theologian but man, I love Him. He's the reason I like getting out of bed every morning and the reason why I light a candle and turn on twinkle lights and open the Bible and read real slow--and thinking about Him now, I'm overwhelmed He's made it so simple. If I can know Him, anyone can know Him. He doesn't speak in the try-to-figure-it-out flashy striving; He speaks in the take-your-time resting. 

When we look for Him, we find Him (He said that). 
If we want to hear His Voice, we will.
Like the flowers and my aunt, He's steady, calm, patient. He's mystery and romance. And I hear Him best when I'm quiet. When I give Him time to talk. 
God help us give You time. 

He wants us to hear Him way way way more than we want to hear Him. Dialogue--us talking to Him, Him talking to us; it's how He wants to fill our days. Our minds interacting with Him, our hearts hearing what He says, from Monday to Sunday, from wake-up to bedtime. 

So I'm sitting here typing, and my blog-beginning enthusiasm has turned to ugh: I just now entered into conversation with Him--
"What am I doing? Writing about hearing Your voice? I'm not qualified. This is dumb."

He responds, 
"I love you. You can do this, Love."

He sounds sorta like my own thoughts, except nicer, and truer, and always matching what the Bible says. His voice is on the inside of us (He loves this place) and listening to His voice is the most important thing we can do. Ever. And His voice is why I'm going to follow-though and finish this post. Help me, Jesus. 

"God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer."
-Mother Teresa

If given the choice of a fireworks show or flower garden growing in my soul, I'd pick the flowers any day. Thriving, steady, spreading color and beauty--like God's voice. 


 a practical idea; 
Read John 10:1-30, taking your time.
Think about what you're reading, talk to Him about what you're reading. 
Ask Him to help you hear His voice.  


Happy July 4th. 
I hope you get to watch a lot of fireworks tonight. 
And I hope you hear His Voice, like a pretty bouquet of life. 

"My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me."
John 10:27

Friday, June 7, 2019

five life-giving steps for walking through change (and remembering who you are)

I’ve dubbed the first few months of 2019 the hardest I’ve ever lived. This moving out of the safe house in Hong Kong with those remarkable lively women, back to my homeland--for a few different unpredictable reasons that dug their ugh deep into my heart--it has been hard. 

But tonight I went to the movies with my sister and the kids and watched The Secret Life of Pets 2 and laughed hard and loud and then we came home and caught lighting bugs in the backyard and man, life's hard but not nearly as hard as it is glorious. 

And as the hardness of the change lingers but the awareness of God's delight in me grows, I've decided to read more books and grow more plants and wear more lipstick and talk to my delighted-in-me God more often. 

So let me make a public declaration:
I'm done whining and worrying about my life right now. 

It's true that I don't live in Asia anymore, I don't walk by the ocean every night, those beautiful women from Africa are no longer my roommates, and there are approximately 8,000 things I miss. And about 8,000 more I don't understand. 

 But it's also true that my sister's kids who I cried for during the two years I lived in Asia are now living across the hall from me and asking me to tell them stories every night before bed. 

And here's what else is true, change is a booger and boy we go through a lot of it in life. All of us. Extremely painful change, inevitable for everyone. 

I keep burying my head in God's chest and crying. He keeps wrapping big arms around me and saying kind and true words to my soul. 

Help us go through it well, God. 

If we'll join our hearts up with His during the changes, He will use them to shape us and help us and teach us important things we need to be taught. Like, He loved taking care of us back then, and He loves taking care of us right now. The care coming out of His unbelievably good heart is constant. Stable. Doesn't change. 
What a relief. 

An expert at comparison--my life to her's and my purpose to his and my happiness to their's and then I even compare my current self to my used-to-be-self and think that my used-to-be-self was better--let me tell you that being an expert at comparison is an awful and stupid thing to be an expert at. So I'm retiring.  

Comparing and changing and self-pitying helped me to kinda forget who I was. So me and God are still in the teaching-me-who-I-am process. And the amazings He's given me as friends and family, they're teaching me who I am, too. I taped a bunch of pictures across the wall beside my bed--smiling people who love me, secured next to my head. I named it my "identity wall." 

Five life-giving steps I've found helpful as I'm walking (not crawling...anymore) through change: 

1. Don't have pity parties. 
Look around for something to be thankful for, then be thankful for it. You'll probably find a few million things and spend the rest of your life listing off the thankfuls. 

2. Don't compare yourself to A.N.Y.B.O.D.Y.
 Including your old self. 
You're not your heroes, you're not your parents, you're not whoever else you may think you wish you were. You're you. Do you. Be proud of you. Explore you. Are you super weird and don't know anybody else like yourself? Awesome. Me, too. You were God's original idea and He only has good ideas.

3. Don't worry about what others are thinking about ya. 
Talk to Jesus, worship Jesus, read what He's saying in the Bible, listen to Jesus--then don't mind at all if others think you're not amazing. He thinks you're amazing and His opinion is the only one that counts.  

4. Find friends and lean on them. 
"Community" it's called and it's oh-so-important. Call up some friends, cry to them, bare your soul to them, listen to them.
(and maybe tape pictures of them on your bedroom wall) 

5. If you only listen to one of the suggestions, listen to this one:  pray pray pray. Talk to God about every single thing going on in your heart during the change and ask Him for all His help. He loves an open heart, even if it smells like manure and looks like poison. He's not intimated and can cradle those things back to healthy thriving life. That's what He's been doing with mine. 
(and get all the friends taped to your wall to pray for you, too)

I've been studying new ways to pray then taking my findings into drug rehabs and we're getting closer to Jesus together. He's the best conversation Partner and the best helper and the best everything. 

We're going to make it. And when He's the leader of your life, everything really is going to be ok. 

Chin up! He's got you. 

Those who hope in the Lord will not be disappointed. 
-Isaiah 49:23

p.s. The Secret Life of Pets 2 is my new favorite movie.