Thursday, July 16, 2020

Letting Your Heart Fall in Love (romance blog #1)

I’d never had a boyfriend til this one.

Long before he called me and confessed his love, he’d become my favorite person alive. For years. And for years, I tried to get over him. I tried. But it didn’t work.

The way he paid attention when people spoke to him, listened, really listened, how he held his daughter like it’s all he wanted to do, his sense of humor (seemingly as odd as mine), his freckled skin, his farming family, his thoughtful words, & the biggest atop of the very long list—how he kept letting God do what He wanted with him. 

I’d watch up close and personal for a couple years when he first started knowing Jesus, then I’d watch from a far distance for several years—he said “yes” to that King, would face hard stuff, trip, but always come back to Him again. 

I watched it and I kept falling deeper in love. But I kept staying away. 

He was younger than me. 

With a very different history. 

I had this run-around-the-globe independent tendency, he had a daughter and stay-put life in my hometown. 

It didn’t seem our lives could mesh.

So I kept staying away. 

And surrendering him to God, crying, grasping my aching heart, and surrendering again.

He let me know he loved me once. And I clutched the phone, fell on my knees, and cried the same heavy tears I'd been crying for years. The tears coming from my heart that was in love with him but determined it could never be with him. So I told heart "no" again, told that man I loved "no" again, and kept up with the surrendering, crying, grasping, surrendering, again. 

Then God met me in my car at the gas pump at Kroger. There wasn't any thunder or thick cloud or burning bush. 

Just an old gray steering wheel in my hands, a gas pump to my left, and a gentle God pulling my heart out into the light, into the open. God helped me start thinking these honest thoughts I'd never let myself think. It was February 15, 2020. A Saturday. Me and God had a heart-confronting conversation at pump number four and I sobbed. 

Years and pounds of fear started bubbling up to the surface of my heart. So I could see it. It had been hiding pretty deep. 

I was terrified to date. 

I was terrified of Dylan Martin. 

I was terrified of heart break. 

I was terrified of not being super-single-missionary girl who skipped around the world.

 I was terrified of people’s opinions.

 I was terrified of romance. 

You get the picture; I was terrified. 

And before that gas pump moment, I'd had no idea. 

So there in front of Kroger I started handing God fear mountains & slimy pride & He started setting my heart free. 

This happens. 

We’re going about our lives, fear & nasty hidden goop tucked down into our hearts, leading our choices, our days, while we just let it. Fear is an awful leader. And that stupid stuff robs us blind. Because that's what fear does. But this is what God does—shows us the fear and other hidden slime, & then blasts it all out with courage-filled love. If we'll let Him, God will help us directly confront what’s going on in our own hearts--hard and scary and freeing. 

I called Dylan Martin the next day.

February 16. 

A Sunday. 

“I like you, Dylan. And I have for a long time. I’ve got a lot of questions and I’m not sure how this can work out, but, I’d like to try.”

So we’ve been trying. 

And it’s been working out. 

He's nicer and funnier and more thoughtful and more generous and more handsome and more crazy about his daughter and the top notch of the list--more surrendered to that King--than I thought he was. And romance! It's delightful! 

Regularly, I cry at the sheer joy of this thought; 

"I'm dating Dylan Martin."

Then he looks over at his passenger seat to see my tear-soaked face, again, and wipes the tears off, again. And we smile at each other. 


I've been saying "ah" often lately. 

I feel relieved, thankful beyond what I've ever felt, and happy. Man I like being in love. 

God is nice!

God is romantic!

God loves us!

God made Dylan Martin!


Love takes risks.

Love doesn’t listen to fear.

Love pulls our hearts out into the light and cleans them up, frees them up, and teaches them how to fall in love. 

p.s. pictured: holding hands in the woods on a family hike. Like I said, "ah."

p.p.s. I got more romance words than one blog can hold. stay tuned for more learning & falling in love. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

how to find hope in a global pandemic

How often does the whole world get in the same boat? And here we are. Together. 

We can't go to the grocery store when we want. And when we do go to the grocery store, it's strange, with face masks and missing food. 
Talking to a neighbor on an evening walk, the question forms quick, "Am I far enough away? Do they have the virus?" We know people who are sick and we sorrow and we pray. We question how long this is gonna last and why it's happening and what we should do in response. 

 Is it fear? Is it wisdom? What trips out the door are really necessary? How do I pray for the whole world? What words do I use to ask God to eradicate a virus from the earth? How do I protect the people I live with? Am I gonna get it? 

And asking this big question; 
what really matters? 

I don't have many answers, but here's one God's giving me loud and clear; He wants to hold us close. 

Staying with God. Staying at home. Staying with our families. 

He's helping me remember what really matters. 

It seems God's doing what only God can do; taking something horrendous and bringing good out in the midst of it. There are deaths and risks and questions and right here in the middle of the dark, there are families coming closer together and dinner tables being used and compassion growing and light shining bright. 

We each respond differently, in the ways we think are best. Some of us are still going to Target, some of us haven't stepped out of our front doors in two weeks. 

Life's different. For you, for me, for the world. 

My friends in India need help getting food to the families who live in the garbage. 

This week I talked to a friend in Hong Kong; she doesn't get out of her house either. 

My pals in Kenya and Uganda: also staying at home. 

"The whole universe needs God's mercy," proclaimed a friend in Uganda today. Yes. God's mercy is the thing we all need. 

Are you sick? Are you grieving? Are you lonely? Are you terrified? Are you hungry? 

God wants to hold you close.
Here, staying with Him; this is where the questions are silenced and the hope grows. In His company. He's got loads of mercy (endless) and He's inviting us all onto His lap.  

It's simple. We read the Bible, we talk to Him (pray), we stay still and listen. Here, there's refuge. There's life. There's comfort. 

"You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself."

Exodus 19:4

That's currently my favorite verse in the Bible.
God ends slavery, He ends darkness. 
He sets us free. He carries us. 
He lifts us up, like we're flying on eagles' wings. 
And He brings us to Himself. 

Caring for you and me is our Maker's passion. 

And we can rest in that. 

Here is the safety. The comfort. The hope. The restoration. Right here. On this giant beautiful lap. In God's arms. 

We're invited! 

He has enough hope! He has enough lap! He has enough healing! He has enough Heaven! 
And He's generous!

If you're new to reading the Bible and talking to God, I've been liking Psalm 91 and Isaiah 40. You could start with those chapters, take your time, and talk to Jesus about what you're reading. I like playing some worship like this, too. His attention is on us. And He's good. 

Saturday, February 8, 2020

How to ensure you’re not wasting your life

If you're 14 or 32 or 89, God's purpose for you is this; to love you and to be loved by you. 

I become even more sappy contemplative around birthday time every year. Aging, closer to death, purpose, what am I doing with my life—things worth considering. 

Looking at my daily schedule, my relationships, my thought patterns, my heart’s activity, my priorities; inviting God to share His feelings about all of it. 

Am I living how He wants? 

I don’t want to waste my life. 

There’s not much that matters. Two things, actually. 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it; love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 22:37-39

God, am I loving you? 
God, am I loving people?  

Surrendering to God makes love grow. That's what I'm discovering. 

God is love. The more I surrender to Him, the more room I make for love in my life. A good trade. Surrender is like emptying your life of other stuff to make room for God, for love. Geeze Louise! I want to surrender everything I’ve got — to be all filled up with love! What could possibly be better than love? Some habit? Some idea? Some person? Some dream? God (love) is incredibly better than anything I surrender. 

Love. That’s what our Maker made us for. 

So as I wrap my arms around 32 tomorrow, I’m praying something like this; 

Jesus! Thank You! Have me. All of me. I surrender! Let love grow inside of me; loving You and loving people. Let love be every motive and every thought and every conversation and every decision. Love. All year long. Soak me in it. 

We’re all getting older. Death is guaranteed. So go with Jesus. He is love and He is forever and He wants you to know Him (1 John 4:8, John 17:3, John 14:6). 

He’s a kind Jewish Man with a heart burning in love for you and me. And we can know Him. 

And just to put words to it, here are some things not listed in the only two things that matter; 
how many friends we have, how much money we make, whether we ever "make it big," what our faces look like, the definition (or lack of definition) in our abs, how comfortable our lives are, and everything else other than those two love commands. Sighing deep relief.  

Here's what I'm currently finding beneficial and maybe you will, too: 

Give your life some thought, ask Jesus what He thinks about it, read some Bible truth (I just enjoyed psalm 65), and surrender. You may not feel love growing in your chest, but it is. 

Love God and love people and you won’t waste your life. Guaranteed.

p.s. A decade free from hair dye has been broken into with some blonde. Come on, aging. #ready 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

how do I take care of my soul?

Heroin quickly enters the blood stream and flows to the brain where it releases dopamine in rushes; the interior world filled with a pleasant rush, a gentle ease. A friend explained it like this to me,
"You know when it's raining hard and you drive under a bridge? And for a quick moment, everything's still under the bridge? That's kinda what heroin feels like. You're under the bridge in a quiet break."

I went to my first AA meeting a few weeks ago. It was a delight. Felt like family and hope. And honesty. A room full of people who understand what it's like to escape life to get some peace inside. People who have realized that the peace substance addiction provides is fake, a lying fake. People who have declared war on addiction. People who are winning. And finding new ways to get peace inside.

Our insides.

These interior worlds we live in--thoughts, dreams, feelings, doubts, sins--are our permanent homes.
We can't get away from ourselves.

Like honestly, what's happening inside of you? Take a look around. What's your most frequent thought? Is it healthy or harmful? Bright or terrorizing? What words best describe your interior world?

A desert?
A septic tank?
A garden?

Sweating, lifting weights, jogging around the block; I like moving because God gave me a body to live in and I want to take care of it. But no matter how much I sweat and lift and jog, this body ain't gonna last. So the more important question; our souls--how do we take care of those?

"The body matters and physical exercise is of some benefit, but what we really need to guard and tend is our soul, for from it flows the wellsprings of life."
-Dick Brogden

Through this past year in Kentucky and through lots of past years in Hong Kong and Illinois and flying around Southeast Asia and becoming intimately acquainted with falling apart, I'm noticing my interior world easily becomes a stinky maniac place that's crammed full and drab and not at all like the kind of place where anyone would want to live.

It’s not just when we move across the world. It’s when we compare ourselves to other people or wonder if we’ll ever be good enough or start dreaming about sleeping with someone we shouldn’t be dreaming about sleeping with or we become obsessed with everyone’s opinion of us or we escape life with heroin or live consumed with stress or let a little offense turn into a nasty humongous offense or a jillion other things.
Life’s hard and it’s easy for our hearts to get hectic. 

But, but, but, no matter what condition I get my heart into, looking at Jesus heals it.

Looking at Jesus.  

My interior world needs His constant help. It can get ugly in here fast. I have found Jesus to be the only one with the ability to transform my interior world into a spectacular space.

Looking into Jesus’ Eyes always produces the same thing — wow. He loves me. Then He lights a candle and decorates with peace.

When I look at Jesus, I see Someone who is looking back at me. Someone who is enjoying me. Someone who likes my company. Which is what Mike Bickle believes is the greatest emotional need of every human being; to know that God enjoys us.

We look into Jesus’ eyes and He brings peace to the war, beauty to the ashes.

"Looking into Jesus’ eyes" is another way to say “pray.”

But we’re not praying to a far away phantom in the sky. We’re praying to a Jewish Gentleman with real eyes and a real heart and real hands who walked dusty streets in Israel in human skin and touched people with leprosy who no one else would touch and His touch took their leprosy away and He died and went to Hell and took the keys and now lives in Heaven in love with you and me, still with skin — this is the Man we’re invited to look at inside of us. 

If it’s possible to look at God inside of us, perhaps we should ask the question my friends in rehab have been asking, 

A lady who has given her life to prayer and worship, Misty Edwards, sings these words to Him--'You are as near as turned attention.”

She suggests we simply turn our attention to Him and there He is.  
Look for Him and find Him. Right here inside of us.

I like reading what the Bible has to say about what Jesus looks like. Revelation 1 is one of my favorites. 

Verse 14: 
 The hair on His head was white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire.  

His eyes are like fire. 

What does fire do? 
Warms, cozies, destroys, forges, spreads.

All activity I need to happen inside of me. 
I need my cold heart warmed, my lonely heart cozied, my sin destroyed, my heart forged and shaped, God’s good in me spread. 
And sometimes life is just frigid and we need a fire nearby to survive. 

His eyes are what our souls need. 

Hebrews 12:2—let us fix our eyes on Jesus.     

Our hearts don’t become beautiful places because life is easy peasy and we're dancing through our days like daisies. Life's got hard and sad and intense struggles and no one's excluded.

King David had monstrous problems and disgusting sin and enemies trying to kill him, but at the same time, seemed to maintain a vibrant inside.
King David knew about looking at God. 

Psalm 27:4
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His Temple. 

David’s heart always came back to that place--wanting and seeking and gazing upon God. 

One blog post doesn't fix your or my interior worlds. But maybe it can help us take a healthy step in the right direction. And because I have plenty of interior chaos, I have plenty of opportunity to let God teach me how to look at Him and find peace. Here are a few tips I've found to be helpful.
Ok. I love you.

p.s And, worshipping God in my bedroom while playing worship sets like this. That helps me, too. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

being loved is easy

“What are You gonna do with me?” I keep asking God. Despite the heavy confusion, intense sadness, pitiful pride, or any other I'd-rather-not-have-it smeared all over me, His answer remains the same:

“Love you.”

I can stay here. He invites me to. 
Loving me is all He ever wants to do.

Has 2019 been a doozie for anyone else? I’m gonna be glad to see that thing go. 

Yes yes, it was shocking and difficult. I’m a human who knows how to hurt people; and a human who knows how to get hurt. Two things now well-discovered. Also, moving across the world, regardless of which hemisphere I’m moving into, is hard. 

My 2019 was like this; heartbreak and pure delight, confusion and clarity, pain and healing. While at times, my heart thought it may not survive, it did. Even in the middle of the “Huh? Life wasn’t supposed to be turning out this way?” there was growing up and surrendering and new friendships that blossomed like lilacs and learning love. Jesus can use anything for good. Even my mess ups and confusions and tears.

Loving us is always His agenda. Always. 

When He crouched in a garden and crafted a lover out of dirt, love was His only motivation. When He escorted all those Israelites out of slavery, love was His only motivation. When He taught Kind David how to sing, love was His only motivation. When He entered into our depravity through the womb of a virgin girl in a barn, as a naked Jewish baby, love was His only motivation. When He took His last breath on a blood-soaked wooden cross as a naked Jewish man, love was His only motivation. When He grabbed the keys to Hell and defeated all the darkness it could conjure up, love was His only motivation. 

And right now, today, as He looks at 7.7 billion hand-designed human beings, and keeps their planet spinning, love is His only motivation. 

I don’t know what 2020 is going to be like. Maybe terribly hard, maybe relievingly easy; but I know what He’s going to be doing with me--loving. 

Love is all He's going to be motivated by, all year long. 
All eternity long.

And He's got the same motivation for you. 

Right now, with the extra weight, the broken heart, the unruly habits, the sadness you’re not sure you’ll ever be able to kick, or any other you'd-rather-not-have-it: all Jesus wants to do with you is love you. And being loved is easy. 

A year ago, I was in a jet lagged, reverse culture-shocked daze in Walmart in Carmi, Illinois. I held my one year old nephew in my arms and recorded a video on Facebook, rambling honest words about feeling thankful for all God did in Hong Kong for the years I lived there, reciting my plan for the upcoming year in Kentucky, thanking every person who supports me in any sort of way, and expressing a need for a car. 

I don’t have jet lag nor am I in Walmart, but I want to make a few December statements again:

God is still good and His motivation is still love.

We can talk to Him, cry to Him, read what He says in the Bible, and rest in His love. His love is the safe place. There is no one like Him. 

Regardless of our salaries or nationalities or relationship statuses, we face sad days, questions too big to answer, relationships that break our hearts, and many varieties of complicated pain.

But God is still good and His motivation is still love. 

I keep reading the end of the Story. Revelation 22 wraps it all up and man, what a finale. Jesus wins. And I'm with Him. 

He loves us, He pursues us, He wins us.

Night will be no more. They will never need the light of the sun or a lamp, because the Lord God will shine on them.
-Revelation 22:5

Go with Him, He's the one you want to end up with. 

A good chunk of my year plans were overhauled for various reasons, but the main plan stayed the same and I lived it out: letting God do whatever He wants with me. 

That's what He did. 
That's what He'll keep doing. 

And being loved is easy. 

p.s. The 2003 highlander y’all bought has 8,000 more miles on it now, is currently stuffed full of a moving friend's life possessions, and about 60 Bibles. And some snacks. Thank you for this car. 

And thank you for all the support. His motivated-only-by-love heart is being experienced by me, my friends in Kentucky, my friends around the globe—-thank you. 

p.p.s. If the question you're asking yourself is "Are those the same gold velvet pants you've been wearing since you bought them for $2 off the old woman on the street in Hong Kong?" The answer is yes.