chosen.

frozenChosen.
Chosen.

I allow words to define me. What I say I am. What you say I am. How the world sees me. How I see myself.

The words of my status like those on a resume. Harsh. Loud. Hollow. As if I believe the words were my identity–my wealth and value. Vainly seeking the approval of “them”, I fall short every time. Broken, beaten, weeping tears like acid rain on my cheeks. Angry. Bitter.

If comparison is the thief of joy, it robs me every time. Stuck, spinning the wheels that self-perpetuate the despair, self-loathing. I think there must be more than a vain attempt to gain approval–to prove I have worth. And for that worth I claw and grab whatever vain glory within my grasp. Then, safe within the tower I call The Approval of All, I never rest or sleep, working the billows, manning the parapets, drawing up my bridge, filling the chinks in my armor and walls with chain and mortar, hoping they won’t turn to elusive dust that blows away with the wind.
They must never know  I am weak. They must never see me foolish, or silly, or uncertain, for uncertainty screams out my lack of control. Screams out my failure. Screams out that I am not who I appear to be.

Then to fail. Hard. Horribly. To know they know the extent of who I am. Naked. Exposed. Bareness of sin. I want to hide– cower in a corner with my shame while fear eats away my joy and guilt robs me of my dignity. If courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart, then I’d rather cling to my shame in fear than expose it to the light. Afraid. Afraid. What will they think of me? What will they say I am? How will they look on me when they know my shame?

I cannot live forever with this fear dictating my life–a slave driver at my back whispering…
…the truth.
I am not worthy.
I am not good.
I am not powerful, or wise, or deserving.
But…

But now hear, O Jacob my servant,
Israel whom I have chosen:
Thus says the Lord who made you,
who formed you from the womb and will help you:
Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
They shall spring up among the grass
like willows by flowing streams.
This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’
another will call on the name of Jacob,
and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’
and name himself by the name of Israel.
|| Isaiah 44:1-5

I am the Lord’s.
He says I belong to him.

Chosen.
Chosen. 

No gift or merit that I deserve.
I have done nothing–could do nothing–to win his approval or affection. It’s freely given.
He is my identity. Chosen by him. Secure in him. My striving seems so hollow in light of all he’s done.
Holy. Pure. Righteous. Worthy. Chosen before the beginning of time.
Secured forever in his blood. If he does not condemn me, why do I condemn myself?Perfect love casts out all fear–and he loves perfectly.

Let go. Let go. You cling so hard, you weary child–you’re crushing worthless dandelions in your small, sweaty fists. Let go. I love you–my love will fill every nook and cranny of your restless heart. Let me be enough. I am enough.

Chosen.
Chosen. 

The weakness does not change, nor do the responsibilities and tasks. But changed is the heart. No striving to make up for past mistakes. No works-based merit to achieve. The past is the past, today is a new day. Live in the grace that is today. 

Chosen to do good works–first, chosen.

The gospel is this: you are more sinful and flawed in yourself than you ever dared believe, yet at the very same time, you are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than you ever dared hope.

|| Tim Keller

Advertisements

a memory.

TeaI am in love with a moment, so serene and calm. A moment in her kitchen, where we sat on the cold, gray stone floor with her Mariage Feres tea. China glasses so delicate, refined. Eating figs and blueberries while JS crawled on the floor, exploring holes and crevices in an attempt to fall through, like Alice.

She laughed like bells and cried with me as I told her the foolish woes of a girl in love with an idea. The ceiling high above like a cathedral, white. Light pouring through the windows, illuminating our tea and warming our cheery faces.

So let’s ring in the New Year

1424499_10151738101187666_1479343998_nEvery December , Facebook shows you your year in review.When I looked through mine, I was astonished and humbled. All I could think of were those moments in April where I found myself full of uncertainty and confusion over my immediate future.  I had never traveled, never done anything exciting, never been fearless.

Now I’m looking back and wondering who on earth I am that Jesus would look on me and choose to take me on adventures that were beyond my level of comfort, beyond my wildest dreams, greater than my dearest hopes.

I moved to DC. I met the best of friends. I joined the NSLT. I had a hard semester of PR classes. My family  moved from my childhood home. I went to the Philippines. I came back, changed.  I worked hard. I laughed, lots. I failed. I triumphed. I grew.

558517_10200926451697518_84337408_n

Life is full of uncertainty. This year I’ve traveled from the hub of political activity, to the spacious mountains of Appalachia, to darkest corners of the world watching men buy girls for sex,  to the humdrum of hunting eggs on my sister’s farm. I pierced my nose, got a new nephew, was asked to be in a dear friend’s wedding, lost my nose ring, wore sweatpants to class for the first time, ate a cricket and frogs legs, broke my toe kicking a facetious friend, watched the sunrise from Lincoln’s monument, ran through a fountain, drank far too much coffee, kept a blog. Moments, snapshots, changing scenes, changing seasons.  I’ve been utterly and inexplicably blessed.

So here’s to 2014. May it be full of the unexpected. I’m ready for the adventure.

And the light will drive out the darkness

I’ve been home for a little under two weeks now. As anticipated, I was ripped away from one flow of life into another, hardly able to slow down and think through the things I saw, heard, touched, tasted, thought and felt for that one incredible, life-changing week of my life.

I’m sitting in my living room, fighting through the thoughts that crowd and overwhelm my mind with tea and a three-page list of thoughts, to-do items, notes and reminders. People keep asking me how I feel. How do I respond? I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know what I think. Pieces of my trip pour out in random spurts, but not a constant stream. Often I don’t know what to tell people. It’s hard to know who wants to just hear how the trip was in general and who wants to actually hear my heart.

There is nothing I dread more at this moment than sharing that, even  though I want people to know. There is so much pent up emotion that I’m afraid if I open it up, it will gush out like an open wound. My trip and my experiences have mostly been shut up in a box and stowed in a corner of my mind until I can grab a moment to sort through its contents, pray and remember. That is hardly healthy.

There is so much to share I hardly know where to begin, so I’ll just start where I can.

I have encountered darkness before–vile dreams at night, heavy spiritual warfare–but before the Philippines evil never had a face or a physical presence. My mind is haunted by the faces of men who bartered over the price of taking a girl for the night before my very eyes. By the dull, neon lights that lit a dark street, illuminating the faces of young girls–children–dressed in provocative clothing and hanging on the arms of men two to three times their age. I see the lifeless faces of men, expressionless and dead, eying the girls as if they were pieces of meat to devour and spit out rather than human beings. American, Australian and European men with small, Filipino girls hanging on their arms. There was no other reason for those men to be at Fields Avenue in Pampanga aside from sex tourism. Pedophiles. Lost  souls. Bright flashing lights, hotels built exclusively for sex customers, the walking street 6 kilometers long with bar after bar. Happy Massage. Fantasy World. “Entertainment”. I see sweet faces, dark eyes, small frames. Abused. Beaten. Ridden and driven like nothing more than animals–treated as if beasts with no soul. Souls broken. Hearts broken seemingly beyond repair.

I can never unsee what I have seen. I’m not sure that I want to.

These are heavy, weighty things–they have opened my eyes to the harsh, painful reality of the world and have broken my heart, just as they break my Lord’s heart. Looking at the bleakness of the sex trade–how prevalent and rampant and disturbing that men would travel halfway around the world to satisfy their sexual desires–is sickening and overwhelming.

Yet, hope remains.

The field director for the Pampanga office told us that the darkness cannot stand when light is shone on it. Light exposes darkness. Always. However small or faint. IJM is helping bring that light. While I have looked evil in the face and felt its power, I have also seen the beauty of redemption and restoration in the faces of girls rescued, and that hope is far more powerful than anything I have ever known. That hope is a light from which the darkness has to flee.

On our flight back into the States, Alyssa and I flew over Greenland. I was greeted by the most amazing sight: the Northern Lights. Green and dancing, they waved like a great banner and beacon of hope. I felt the presence of God–serene and calming, filling my heart with hope and peace. While there is a God who reigns above, seated on His throne, there is hope for this world. Our God is forever working redemption and freedom in and through His people.  Fear a lifetime of seeking justice? What, when I have seen with my own eyes sweet redemption? Fear the darkness? Has not Christ already come to conquer the grave? Fear? Never. I have already said that fighting for justice is hard thing, but it truly is a worthy thing.

Yesterday I made my way to Local Lion to spend some much-needed time with the Lord. I reread through my North Star notes and found myself fighting back the tears that would spring to my eyes as I saw the Lord’s hand gently leading me throughout college on this journey to seek justice–Him equipping and guiding me and reminding me of His faithfulness and goodness all the while. I’m exhausted, yes. Emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. But I wouldn’t change my experience for the world.

Lights

Be brave.

A week from today.
I leave a week from today.
To the Philippines.
To go. To see. To love. To have my heart broken.
I don’t know what’s before me, but I know Who stands by my side.
I’m afraid. Afraid of what I’ll see.  Afraid of having my eyes opened in new ways. Afraid of my life being turned upside down.
But I’ll go. He brought me here. He says perfect love casts out all fear, so I’ll trust His perfect love for me and step into this giant unknown. He tells me, “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” [Joshua 1:9].
Palms up, hands down. Surrendered.
Go with me. Go before me. 

cropped-wanderer.jpg

Wildwood.

Hello.
These are two lovelies in my life: Sarah &  Kira.

Rooms

They are my rooms.
We live in Wildwood, an apartment aptly named.
Some have falsely called our home “The Shadowlands” or “The Birdcage” (you know who you are). It is neither.
Our apartment is cosy and snug, as every home should be. It also has a large collection of bird paraphernalia and woodland objects. Hence, the name.
We have a large collection of mugs that are used at an ungodly rate (but when you have three coffee and tea drinkers, what can you do?)
We love studying together in the living room that I sometimes call “The Library.” The book collection is quite (excessively) extensive.
Sometimes we cook delicious food. Sometimes we have disastrous results… Mostly I have disastrous results.
Meals together are rare, but we laugh and talk in the in-between times anyway.
Our rooms are cleaner this year than any year previous. Fewer academic hours (or perhaps better discipline??) are the kind benefactors.
We read aloud to each other sometimes.
We cry and laugh and sing and pray together often.
Cosy home. Cosy friends. Truly blessed.
Dear, Wildwood.
Please come visit, do.

Our home is always open.

Love is in the details

Speed Star 1.1377525  00My fundraising professor tells us that successful nonprofits  succeed because of their attention to details. “The devil is in the details,” she says. I agree with her about success, and I understand her sentiment about the devil, but I can’t help thinking she has it flip-flopped.

The amount of detail you put into pieces of your life demonstrates how much you care. To quote Mumford & Sons–“where you invest your love,  you invest your life.” When you care about a person, you know the small details of what makes them happy–their favorite movie, what they like to read, how they take their coffee, where they long to travel, the music they listen to. Paying attention to details takes effort. Some people have a knack for it, and others don’t. But I think it’s something we could all do well to cultivate.

Speed Star 1.1335628  00

My sister Lynne knows about details. She is one of the most generous souls I know and she is forever sending me gifts and cards to express her affection for me. Not only do her care packages contain objects of great usefulness (paper clips, lip balm, tape, tissues, occasionally socks), but she usually includes something edible (Starbucks coffee, jelly beans, candy corn), something old (used jewelry, clothes), and something fun (varies according to the season of the year). Everything she places inside that box was picked out with great care and thought because Lynne knows me and knows what I like. She sends me strange and funny cards that make me laugh, and sweet cards when I’m sad that express comfort.

Speed Star 1.1326612  00My roommates also care about details. Kira and Sarah write notes to each other and to me when we’ve had hard days or weeks, need encouragement, or simply want to express their love and appreciation for the Wildwood rooms. We have a Wall of Truth Kira implemented because she knows we all need to be reminded about Jesus’ love for us and the promises He gives us. Sarah posts cards at the foot of her bed of who she is praying for. My roommates selflessly clean others messes without complaint, bring food to friends who’ve had a rough day, give up their time and attention to minister to and love the people around them.

I’m not detail oriented. I’m selfish. Horribly. I don’t notice things about others the way I should. It actually grieves me that I don’t care about the details, because I know my Father does. He knows all his children intimately, loves them outrageously, and places the pieces of their lives together so perfectly, timely, and gently that I ashamed I do not take such care of what He has given me to steward. I want to be like my Father. I want to take delight in the details of His creation. But I just…don’t.

I felt very humbled yesterday as I sat in my hallway with Kira sitting beside me. I was weeping because of my sin. I was weeping because of my selfishness and failures and inconsistencies and pride and my arrogant belief that I can be perfect without Jesus. I can’t. No one can. As Kira prayed over me and spoke truth over me of who my Savior is and what He has done and how He views me, I was reminded of C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and of how Eustace was turned into a dragon because of his greed:

One night a lion appeared in the woods and told Eustace to follow him. Eustace was ashamed to look into his eyes, and afraid of him–not because he was a lion who could eat him, but because Eustace was ashamed of his own dragon skin. Yet unable to resist his call, Eustace followed the lion until they got to a pool, cool and bubbling. Eustace thought that if he could but dip himself into the waters, the pain in his arm would cease (for he had a bracelet stuck very tight that dug unto his skin). “You must first undress,” the lion him. Eustace remembered that dragons are like snakes and can cast off their skin. So he dug deep (or so he thought), and removed a layer. It felt good to have the weight removed and he walked to the pool to step in. But as he looked down, he saw he was still a dragon, so he tried a second and a third time to remove it, yet he could not. Eustace felt great despair and hopelessness that he would never be able to remove the dragon skin from himself completely. But the lion approached him and said, “You must let me take it off.” Eustace was afraid when he saw the lion’s claws, but he was desperate, so he lay down and let the lion go to work. The lion dug so deep, Eustace could hardly stand it, but what caused him to bear it was the pleasure of the dragon’s filth falling away from him. The lion picked the boy up, tender though he was, and flung him into the pool where he was at once refreshed and healed. When he came up from the water, the lion dressed Eustace in the clothes he had prepared for him and Eustace returned to the camp, human again, without a trace of the dragon left.

So Jesus is with us. Our sin and filth goes so deep and we strive to cast it off in vain time and time again.  But the only thing that can rid us of our sin permanently is if we let Jesus come in and cut down to our very hearts. It hurts. It’s awful. We know our sin and hate that He sees it too… AND YET… our sin is the very the thing He came to die for. He knew the depths. He knew the details. He knew how, why, where, when, and with whom we would sin. He knew full well what He was getting Himself into. He came anyway. And He clothes us with Himself. We have the radiance of Christ–His perfection, His holiness, His standing before God. And what is more glorious, He knows the details of who we are and where we fail, and He loves us anyway.

What? I don’t have to work and succeed and be perfect for Christ to love me? No! You never had to and you never will. There is no reason to live in guilt or condemnation or shame, because Christ has set us free from those things. I now live as a child of God–precious in His sight and the recipient of all manners of grace upon grace that covers every hideousness and deformity.

I’ve strayed a little off topic, I know.  But love is written in the details of the Cross. Love is written in the details of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Love is written in the details of the history of the people of God. Love is written in the details of my life. I’m not perfect. I don’t have to be. God is revealing my sin? Good. It means He’s at work.

A little garden of quotes

Speed Star 1.1443415  00Words are beautiful. I don’t have any original of my own to contribute today. I’ll let some of my favorite ones speak for me.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.  –Winston Churchill

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
― Martin Luther King Jr.

No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful.
— Eleanor Roosevelt 

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. — Jim Elliot

The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.
— J.M. Barrie

I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed. — Anne Lamott

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things. — Kurt Vonnegut

Be truthful, gentle, and fearless. –Ghandi

Only the ideas we live have any value. — Herman Hesse

Nothing great has been and nothing great can be accomplished without passion. — G.W.F. Hegel

I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. — Vincent Van Gogh

The best thing to hold onto in life is each other. — Audrey Hepburn

I am going to make everything around me beautiful–that will be my life. — Elsie de Wolfe

People who love to eat are always the best people. — Julia Child

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. — C.S. Lewis

A girl should always be two things: classy and fabulous. — Coco Chanel

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others. For beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness. And for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone. — Audrey Hepburn

A thing of beauty is a joy forever. — John Keats

A house that has a library has a soul. — Plato

Finding the Beautiful in the Ordinary

Tea Anyone?

I’m just plugging away at life.

Nothing extraordinary or exciting to report.

But–oh–life is so sweet and beautiful at this moment, exactly where I am! Some things are smaller–like my immediate circle of friends–somethings are harder–like balancing work, school and IJM responsibilities–and some things are crazy–like the fact that I’m an aunt all over and again and that I’m traveling to the Philippines in two months.

I’ll be honest: being present is a struggle. Especially after tasting life in DC. Especially after spending a summer–and now the fall–working a part time communication internship. Especially when many of my friends and work and leadership responsibilities are everywhere but in Boone. Especially when I am so eager and excited for the next stage of life.

BUT… that is not where I am called right now. I’m called to small acts of faithfulness in familiar places. A friend reminded me of Jim Elliot’s quote:

Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.

Another reminded me that being present, like anything else, takes discipline. It takes putting one foot in front of the other and walking the path you agreed to walk with God.

I like to see end results. I am impatient when I write, paint, read, work, study, or employ myself in any activity that creates a product. That translates easily into other aspects of life, too. I get so caught up in trying to get things done, that I forget half the joy comes in appreciating the process. I don’t want to live life that way–I want to learn to enjoy every single stage and aspect of life, even if I’m waiting or working towards the next one.

I’m starting with my classes. I asked the Lord to give me joy in the mundane and see beauty in the small things. Here’s a few I love:

  • Client meetings with the Solar Decathalon PR team every Friday. I get to dress up, arrive with an agenda and list of questions, and learn learn learn so much about how to utilize social media, create and sustain campaigns, and work with a variety of personalities.
  • Staying up late in the evenings to study with my roommates. We put on classical music, brew some tea, and institute 40 minutes of silence followed by 5 minute Youtube breaks. Kid President is one of our faves.
  • African dance every Tuesday/Thursday. I’m horrible, but by golly, I’m learning to branch out, be confident, and laugh laugh laugh at how fun it is.
  • Answering emails. I know it’s such a small thing, but since “through words we build our world” I enjoy taking a few creative moments to craft responses.
  • Blogging (nearly) every Friday. Regularity is good for the soul.
  • Driving back from school in the evenings and viewing my mountain from 421. It’s so majestic and beautiful.

We all live busy lives. How easy it would be to cover our ears, close our eyes, and numb our senses to the world around us. How easy it would be to live so much in the desire for tomorrow that we forget to live today. But I’m not called to what is easy.

So that’s what I’m working on.
Here is where I am.
Here is where I want to be.
I’m excited for what’s next. 
I’m loving what is right now. 

The Insanity of a Sane College Kid

Somehow life takes a turn (for better or worse) the instant a little college student is labeled an “upperclassman”. They tell you being an upperclassmen rocks: you’re established in your social spheres, comfortable with classes and workloads, have the whole studying (or non-studying-but-managing-to-squeak-by) thing down-pat, and you see great potential on your horizon. All is true. But they left out a few crucial facts.

Freshies and Sophomores have it easy (for the most part). All that “hard work” and “inability to stay on top of homework” talk goes out the window and is no longer legitimate compared to 18 s.h./6 work hrs/8 club hrs/ plus homework life you live now. What a life of bliss I once lived! What carefree days were those!

My life is run by lists, post-it notes, alarm clocks, and my planner, lovingly nicknamed “my brain.” It is quite literally my brain; when it is lost, my life is one glorious mess of confusion, as I learned quite recently. I am always amazed at people who don’t keep planners: how on earth do you manage life? Do you simply have a higher functioning memory system? I raise my hat in respect to you, O people-who-use-no-planners.

Insanity is a beautifully descriptive word. It means madness, extreme foolishness, or irrationality. How fitting.

Sometimes I look at this photo and smile:Honestly, any of the “Keep Calm and…” posters are a great source of enjoyment at the moment.

Madness. Yes, madness. Such is my life. But also moments of sweet serenity and gentle reminders of the Lord’s presence. The 20 minutes of riding the bus  are some of the quietest moments of my day. I do nothing but gaze out the window and observe as the sun peeps over the mountain tops and the mist dissipates into the warmth of morning.

The Lord is surely here on this campus, working in hearts, working in my life. I am so grateful for the wonderful experience of college and the privilege of receiving an excellent education. I am so grateful for finding a major that I love and am passionate about. I am so grateful for the lovely, dear friends in my life. I am grateful for a full life and how the Lord is using my insane schedule to bless others and to stretch me. Whatever the Lord has called me to, He will truly equip me to complete.

I’m learning to live life one day at a time, not “always looked forward to as though the ‘real’ living were around the corner,” as Elisabeth Elliot says. “It is today for which we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.”

Whatever season of life you may find yourself in, however crazy or scary or strange life may seem at this moment, be encouraged that the Lord is walking through it with you at your side. He shall cause you to walk in joy and be led forth in peace [Isaiah 55:12].