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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

found

   i am afraid of being found. 


   i rival gazelles in the art of running away. when it comes to putting up great walls, i could make even the dynasties of ancient china green with envy.

   upon entering a building, my eyes search for the comforting neon exit sign. i buy plane tickets. i map escape routes. i allow myself to remain missing & forgotten. 

   i’ve always thought of myself as the library book you checked out because you truly liked it, but gradually lost interest in and misplaced (probably under a couch cushion). the library might care a bit at first, but doesn’t lose sleep over it. eventually, a new copy finds my place on the shelf because i was never irreplaceable. with a mindset like this, why come out of the couch cushions?

   and because this is MY character and nature, i project that faulty picture onto my perception of the character of God. but let me tell you -

   He is never hiding. i make (wildly inaccurate) assumptions about who God is DAILY based on my instability & tendency to tumble into the darkness. but God does not play mind games; He doesn’t exist in mirages; 

   God is not "link bait" - promising what He cannot deliver and leaving us as the frustrated, foolish time-wasters. 

   God does not taunt us with crusts and shadows. His love is a raging torrent that reshapes the landscape of our souls, saturating our lives with His sufficiency, opening our eyes to His worth, satisfying our deepest intimacy deficit. He is not hiding, in fact, He is doing the seeking.

   this is why Jesus came to earth, putting on the skins of man - to seek & to save a people lost.

   as i found myself amused by & drawn to this tax collecting office in jacksonville, i felt God's Spirit - who for better or for worse never wastes a teaching moment with me - beckoning me to an “uncomfortably found” 2016 (and life). i don’t know a lot but i am certain of this: being found - by people and God - is uncomfortable. it’s annoying & awkward. it’s gritty with no grand promises of pretty.

   i think sometimes God just whispers, “chosen,” and i only have a view of Him that makes me hear, “less than.” so instead of climbing out of my sycamore tree & letting Jesus invade (all!) my spheres, i stay put. the view is nice up here. plus there are cupcakes (maybe. you never know. i like to imagine zacchaeus ran a bakery in his spare time off the profits of cheating his embittered fellow jews)

   but here’s the point: the place to find God when you think He is in hiding? the b i b l e. i cannot POSSIBLY say this enough: He's always there. He's always hanging out. He's always got something for you. whether it's a psalm or a lament or a parable or - my personal fave - a sucker punch of the goodness of His character and redemptive plan for humanity: He sees you. He doesn't go anywhere. He doesn't get tired of you

   you are not a library book to be checked out and discarded.
you are not a tax collector beyond the reach of His eyes & His heart.
you are valuable and you are needed, here.

   God probably thinks it's mildly endearing/wildly heartbreaking that we are so good at assuming He's exhausted by us. He isn't. He's no stranger to heartbreak. 

   He knows the dark because He has authority over the dark - He allowed it into the world. He allows it to refine. and you know what? some of the most beautiful things are refined in the dark. that's you, Free People. you're the stuff of the dark and light having a battle. your life is a victory song after the Light finds you. and wins.

   2016 could be an anthem, if you come out of the couch cushions, down from the sycamore tree.

   if you let yourself be found.

/ / /

   ALSO: if you are still reading. a little nerd trivia for you. the first verse of luke 19 - Jesus entered jericho & was passing through - so extraordinary. why? because joshua 6:26. after God gave the city of jericho into the hands of joshua and the people of israel, joshua pronounced a curse on the city. 

   the city was built under a curse, yet Christ honors it with His presence, for the gospel takes away the curse.

   i'll just leave that right there.

Monday, November 16, 2015

l i v e


who would i be if i ended my own life on the mission field - a pathetic attempt of a missionary? a lowly, pathetic attempt of a christian? what if these are my last words in this book - that there never has been a God all along?
- journal, 8pm

   here’s the truth: some things in life don’t come with all the right words to describe them.

| thailand, unfiltered |


   on a friday night, hours from ending my life

   in the bald, exposed space of this unremitting struggle

   i learned again that there is only freedom in forgoing pride and self-sufficiency by admitting i need help.

   if there is one nugget of wisdom i gained from a real, terrifying encounter with depression/near-mental shutdown it is that there is no shame in speaking out:

   i am bent toward self-destruction, and i am waving my hands in surrender.

   emily - my darling, God-sent roommate - intervenes when my life breaks in two the evening of June 26th. i've stopped telling her i'm fine. i am beyond the ability to cover this mess one moment longer.

   "my mind is breaking," i barely choke out. i'm rocking back and forth, my worst fear is happening, "it's this unending blackness that i can't see the end of, can't even see God inside of! i think i need to go home before i hurt myself. because i will hurt myself. i'm losing my mind. i'm afraid i'm going to need counseling.. my mom is going to be so upset and torn up over this. it's like God doesn't exist & my mind is breaking."

   heavy fear. tidal waves of anxiety crashing mercilessly into me. i didn’t understand. i genuinely thought i was going insane. can life actually flip in a minute?

   it was one of the most scary-vulnerable confessions, a moment i felt completely naked and helpless. emily is a wellspring of wise words, but now she calmly lays her hand on my trembling body and prays. i know she is worried for me, but she radiates so much peace.

   i want to go to a quiet place, an empty, silent place where i can sleep forever, i think as she prays. i don't even remember what she said.

   what i do remember is how she starts speaking some highly-encouraging truth over me after she says amen. i am listening, trying to make my foggy mind focus & agree. and then pain.

   sharp pain. all across my body. this sweeping feeling covering me from head to toe. all of a sudden, nausea. fever. chills. all at once. my mind starts racing, "i feel so sick," i cut her off, "i don't understand where this is coming from but i feel so sick."

   because, ya know, when you're having a mental breakdown, a high fever definitely improves the situation. “i just want the fog to go,” i murmur through a flood of snot and tears, “i just want the fog to go.”

   Daddy, please come back, i fall asleep simultaneously burning & shivering, emily laying a cool washcloth against my forehead. i just want the fog to go.

/ / /

   within twenty-four hours the man is back. "OY VEY," he says in a voice that sounds as though he suspects the rabbi might not have his best interests in mind, "this is rock bottom! my children are crying and fighting, my wife is screaming. my mother-in-law gripes about everything. the goat butts us with her head and knocks the dishes off the shelves. the cow, she eats our clothing & makes everything smell like a barn. and the goose honks and poops on the floor. i tell you, rabbi, it is wrong for a man to eat and sleep with animals! i don't think we could possibly stoop to a lower level of indecency!"

   "my son," says the  rabbi in a gentle voice, “you are right. go home and take the animals out of your house. you will find the answer."“

   the next day the man comes running to the rabbi. "rabbi!” he cries, his face beaming, “you have made life sweet for me. now that all the animals are outside, the house is so quiet, so roomy, and so clean! how wonderful!

/ / /

   somewhere between 3 or 4am my mind wakes up. and despite the fever, i feel strength returned to speak to Him. indignant, resilient. i want my life back. i am a fighter & i don't want to die. i want to live. i want to breathe the beautiful air & lie in the beautiful sun.

   and it is then i hear His voice entering my whole being again, like soothing balm against chafed skin. like oasis in desert. like a candle struck in blackest night.

    unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

   that's all He says. it's all He needs to say. too drowsy to read into it, but i feel secure, warm. found. He is here. i fall back asleep in my Dad's arms.

   the fever and the pure exhaustion from this week knocks me out until almost noon the next day. it's a lovely saturday. i'm still sick but something that feels like normalcy has begun to stir within me again. i reach over for my water and ikidyounot there is a grain of wheat on my nightstand.

   one beautiful, fragile, golden grain of wheat. unless it dies..

   when emily pops in to check on me, i am nearly hysterical, "WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?!"

   "i was out for a walk and saw it on the ground and God told me to bring it back to you."

    once alone, i weep. the fever burns away the last traces of this mind-numbing, oppressive week. i am feeling everything now. hungry, especially.

   i'm currently still in str8 sappy feeler mode, as i type this, because
of the graciousness of God toward me.
as hard as it was to recount Holy & Messy Week it is
even more difficult to explain the implications of it.

   in fact, the unraveling of why & for what purpose that week even happened has been a slow burn of a process. sometimes, out of nowhere, God will show it to me from another angle and i will just get all weepy & grateful again because the way He has chosen and still chooses to deal with me is equally confounding & dazzling.

   just to love You
is worth the hell


/ / /

   one thing God spoke to me in that weekend of recovery that followed was that this was an answer to my prayer about spiritual discernment. the one where i begged God to let me see the spiritual world. where i asked Him to come closer.

   i don't fully understand why God would choose to answer these prayers in such a painful and (in my mind) distorted way but i do know He is good. His goodness and mercy never stopped pursuing me even in those seven days when i felt like He had all but disappeared.

   this is where it all gets simple gospel: if my circumstances dictated the character of God, He would constantly be changing from good to bad to kind to mean to loving to hateful. if the character of God determined my circumstances, though, even the worst of situations could be a foundation for joy - knowing that all things work together for my good and his glory, and in suffering i am being molded into his likeness. i've found myself planted between these tensions: 

God is absolutely good, absolutely sovereign, and absolutely loves me. 
i absolutely felt the reality of a life completely devoid of light.

   why?

   this is where it all gets complex-andi-story-time: for a few months leading up to this week, i had begun to suspect that i was coming to the end of my short-term jaunts across the ocean, facing a decision to choose one life, or the other.

   at this point, i was leaning heavily toward thailand. how could i not? i was falling head-over-heels for this country, the sounds & aromas & hues of the landscape and the people were always playing in the back of my mind. i truly sought to love the country with the same love God has for it, but i am a near-sighted, self-focused human girl. 

   i am limited. but i didn't want to be. i wanted to understand the spiritual atmosphere surrounding this nation more. only two weeks prior to this i had a startling conversation with God about my future where i boldly, eagerly and possibly recklessly told God, i am coming back to thailand. forever. 
   
   He gently reminded me of this encounter now, as i sat upright in my bed rolling the wheat grain gingerly between two fingers. count the cost, andi. I am teaching you to count the cost.

   You wanted to understand my Love & Light even more, wanted them to come even closer? then first you must see what it feels like to never have them at all.

   "God, that's not how You work! that is so cruel and unfair," i protest, accusing Him of injustice, "i wanted to be nothing. i wanted to die."

   every day, my children. here. thailand. this country you say you want to love like I do. what do you think they feel, if they've never known True Life? 

   i'm stunned, seeing. the brokenness of the people around me broadens and i am amazed and appalled at how it all connects: enslavement from the Enemy. freedom offered by the Lover of their souls. the temples. the alcoholism. the way the primary religion of this country offers the solution of "becoming nothing" as an escape from the grim, unabating cycle of human suffering. 

   a web forms in my mind, silk strands fastening the pieces to each other. nothing is arbitrary. not even this messiest & holiest of weeks.

   you wanted to see, and now I want you to count the cost.

   unless it dies, it remains alone.
   but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

/ / /

   "now that all the animals are outside, the house is so quiet, so roomy, and so clean! how wonderful!

/ / /

   part of my innocent/happy/cute thailand (go ahead and barf) bubble was burst that week. no longer do i think of thailand as spicy food & adorable children & breathtaking views - although those are certainly still in existence. 

   what came into focus was that the enemy and what he brings to the table is real. it's super not-pretty to talk about the results of living in a broken world, struggling daily in the tension of the kingdom of God being both now and not yet.

   the bible presents the enemy as Satan, a real and present foe of our faith, who would love to keep millions in complete despair, devoid of light. without knowledge there is a God who is pure love + freedom.

   the obstructor, the tempter, the evil one, the accuser, the prince of demons, the ruler of this world, or the prince of the power of the air. whatever name you choose, he is the enemy, and he is real.

   honestly, i hate typing these words. i truly do. because i wanted to be passive for so long and believe in things like innocent/happy/cute thailand and not ruffle feathers when it came to Unseen World. but as powerful of a source of light in this world that exists, there is also a powerful source of darkness. and if we don’t talk about the darkness, it starts to win.

   because God is gracious, He allowed me to feel a little of that darkness. for seven days. for seven days i lived without even a guess of what form hope might take.

   for seven days, i lived dead. it was traumatic. it was terrifying. i wouldn't wish it upon anyone.

   in its wake, God whispered, if you choose this path - and beloved, it is your choice, I do not take your life from you - than you will know an even greater darkness than this, for the sake of the Light.

   super comforting stuff.

   it's easier to talk about now while i am home and the spiritual atmosphere is completely different and memories of fog & apathy & depression seem like childhood bullies that can't bruise me now, but i know better than to brush off counting the cost as a cute christian phrase.

/ / /

   after Holy & Messy Week one of my favorite stories from the bible became the one about jacob, where he wrestles with the God-man through the night and refuses to let go until the blessing is given to him.

   at one point in the fight, the God-man touches Jacob's hip and it's dislocated out of his socket. for the rest of his life, jacob walked with a limp. yet, for the entire rest of scripture, you never hear jacob calling attention to that limp. the glory of God giving him a new name is much greater

   depression might be the limp i deal with for my entire life. and i am incredibly thankful for that. i wondered if i would actually keep living after this past june, but God used that incredible darkness to give me a new song and burrow a 

   sympathy, a compassion, an experiential understanding of lostness inside of me that is deeper than anything i've ever read about or imagined. 

   some mornings i wake up crying because i am so floored at the privilege that He allowed me to go through the depths of darkness so i could be led into deeper appreciation for His Light and an urgency to see all of His children who are prisoners of the darkness be led into this Light also. 

   Holy & Messy Week happened. i cannot easily forget that kind of encounter with Darkness. the limp will always be there, but the glory is going to be eternal.

/ / /

   God's love toward me is often tough and hard for me to understand. i am not so good at unwavering trust in His heart or intentions. it's not a light thing for me to call something as serious & consequential as depression "the grace of God".

further and further my heart moves away from the shore.

   but here's something i do know: whether it comes through life or death i am being saved by the God who does not let me go - not this time or last time or ever, no matter how deep the darkness of my circumstances, or my heart. 

but He knows the way that i take; 
 when He has tried me, i shall come out as gold.

job 23.10

   (i was trying to get through this story without a reference to Job, but it seems fitting)

   at the end of it a l l - after the pain and brokenness and the rebukes and the truth and God questioning job - job says something profound. as he is repenting (repenting!) he says, “i have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You.” 

   but now my eye sees You.

  job didn’t repent because he did something wrong; he repented because he didn’t see God for who He was.

   he thought he understood all of God’s ways, and he thought he could argue with God. his accusations were based on the darkness of his mind, his not knowing the fullness of all there is to know. job didn’t see God.

   sometimes, job and i are literally the same person, give or take a few camels.

   i beg for eyes that can better see God's perfect purposes all over this - all over my life both here & in thailand, all over my yesterdays and tomorrows, all over the beautiful and the ugly. and yes, i can call the depression both refining & gift, the same as a grain of wheat knows its death will result in life onehundredfold. 

   I'M ALMOST DONE, i just want to keep things in context here: as the grain which dies becomes forever extinct and never again has an existence as a grain, having wholly given itself to produce others of the same kind, so with Jesus.

   Sweet Jesus, whom my heart longs to talk about most, became flesh for that very purpose. originally, the grain of wheat was talking about the man Christ Jesus who came to give Himself wholly, giving all that He had, in order to produce others -

   Christ-followers. children of God. disciples. 

   - to sow into the process of reproducing the human race lost in death through Adam. in this scandalous, gracious act He becomes the life-giver of all humanity, but at the greatest cost of all: He died so that we, all of us - His precious children enslaved to the Darkness - might live.


   when i am kept grounded in this truth, it is not so difficult to see God & trust His intentions.

   however it comes against me, the darkness is not the truest thing about me. and in the end, i suppose, the truest thing about me isn’t about me at all. it’s Sweet Jesus - He is wheat, i am wheat. 
   
whether i sink,
whether i swim.

   He is risen & i am being raised too.
   no matter how dark it gets, easter comes again.
 
   every single time. 

d i e

[tuesday, 6.23.15]

   i sat cross-legged, facing the mirror. i closed the door to shut me in. & i wondered how long i could just sit there. how long it would take to reconcile the pieces of this broken girl.


   call it dramatic. you know what, i will call it dramatic before you do but that’s all i really knew how to do during that time in my life - that week, that solid seven days - when i wasn’t crying, wasn't laughing, wasn't speaking, wasn't even vaguely emoting: sit in the mirror and look at myself and wonder what i was doing.

   before long, i am back on my bed again. door still shut, not sure if i want my roommate to pop in or not. i need help more desperately than i have in almost three years and just like that pathetic 17-year-old who was shriveling away to nothing i can't cry out. i can't make a sound.

   my bed. it has been the safest place during this week, the longest week of my life. it is the only thing that isn't falling apart. with my face pressed into the wall i realize that although i'm no longer peering into the mirror, i still see my reflection in the brick - unmoving, unfeeling. lifeless.

   5 hours passed. five hours. i am a mover & a shaker. i can barely sit still for ten minutes without itching to change positions but this was a different kind of motionless. it was eerie. i groaned when i saw what time it was. dinner already? my stomach growls low, but i don't feel like eating is really worth the effort. mainly i don't want to roll out of bed & see people and do the talking thing.

   five hours? i'm trembling as i try to think of what i have done in that time. i can't recall a single thought. it's like five hours of nothing except the brick wall.

/ / /

   there is a yiddish folktale about a man who petitions a rabbi because his home life is in shambles: one room for eight people, children crying and fighting, screaming wife, mother-in-law gripes incessantly. the whole bit.

   they are poor, life is terrible, and the man wonders aloud to the rabbi how things could possibly get worse.

   pondering the situation, the rabbi offers the sage advice to bring a goat into the home.

   without questioning the rabbi's intent or apparently considering how the inclusion of such an animal into their already cramped living quarters could improve this situation, this poor man - with no money to begin construction on an adjacent apartment for his mother-in-law - procures a goat. and brings said goat into the home. and lets said goat live with his awful, noisy family in their awful, noisy house for a few awful, noisy days.

   shocking to none, the woebegone, miserable pit that is this man's life does not become any less woebegone or miserable. man returns to rabbi, thinking perhaps there has been some sort of miscommunication.

   "oy vey!" groans the (yiddish) man, "i did as you said! i brought the goat into the house, and things are even worse than before.. except now there is a goat who butts us with her head and knocks dishes off the shelves."

   rabbi: "PLAN B. keep the goat. also, bring a cow into your house. let it eat & sleep with you for a few days and then we will evaluate the *sitch from there."

   again, the woebegone, miserable, but alarmingly submissive man does as he is told - and once again, in a matter of days, he is back on the rabbi's doorstep, oy vey-ing again.

   he recounts the awful, noisy living conditions and this time adds, "and the cow - she eats our clothing! the house is like a barn! we can’t sleep for all of the bleating and mooing! help me, rabbi.. i don’t think it could be any worse." 

(yes it can, bro. yes it can. but you're
just a character in a folktale who lacks implicational thinking skills & foresight
to convey some sort of moral and pass on the traditions of the
yiddish to future generations so yeah)

   rabbi: "a goose. you definitely need a goose."

   within twenty-four hours the man is back. "OY VEY," he says in a voice that sounds as though he suspects the rabbi might not have his best interests in mind, "this is rock bottom! my children are crying and fighting, my wife is screaming. my mother-in-law gripes about everything. the goat butts us with her head and knocks the dishes off the shelves. the cow, she eats our clothing & makes everything smell like a barn. and the goose honks and poops on the floor. i tell you, rabbi, it is wrong for a man to eat and sleep with animals! i don't think we could possibly stoop to a lower level of indecency!"

   "my son," says the  rabbi in a gentle voice, “you are right. go home and take the animals out of your house. you will find the answer."

/ / /

   this post might not make a lot of sense without the context of this one, where i puked out a bunch of thoughts about the character of God & then half-explained that i had every intention to tell the story of thailand 2015 as seamlessly as possible, in bite-sized, non-chronological servings.

   it starts with one week, Holy & Messy Week, a multi-layered narrative that may convince you never to pray again. or never stop praying. whichever.

   here are a **couple of things that might be helpful to know if you are so inclined to be part of unwrapping the bothersome bubblewrap that surrounds the broader story of The Year He Started Making Me Gold

   a. i did not go to thailand to SAVE THE CHILDRENZ!!!!1oneuno (although i did take a few of what i call TYPICAL WHITE GIRL VOLUNTEERING IN THAILAND/INDIA/UGANDA/HAITI PHOTOS w some cute thai kids that i hung out with on wednesdays, more on that later)


   b. i did go to thailand to study in a YWAM second-level bible school called School of Biblical Studies which i refer to more frequently in its acronym form - SBS. i did my ***DTS last year (first trip to Thailand) and YWAM was a good gateway back into Thailand. plus in my training years as a potential future career missionary i needed a biblical foundation. and where better to get this training but in the country that had my heart? (you have not heard the last of SBS, ****trust me)

   c. painfully brief description - but SBS is an inductive overview of the entire bible, read five different times from five different vantage points. before i started this year i had not read the entire bible & wildly enjoyed taking the book of isaiah out of context. my first week of lectures, i decided to start clean. it was, after all, a new year. so i chose to leave my accumulation of preconceived notions about what was in the book behind and come to the book with a fresh, expectant heart. in some ways, it was like looking at God for the first time.

   d. between DTS & SBS, i lived at home for all of seven months. in that time i planted trees, fell in love with student ministry at my home church, attended a hillsong concert that prompted me (also Holy Spirit was in the prompting bizness) to make an agonizing decision to finally end a toxic relationship & naturally, barely blogged. also, i prayed nearly every day something that sounded like this:


God, just open up my eyes to the Spiritual World already, i want to come closer. i want to be more discerning! it's not fair i can't feel spiritual oppression like other people. i am almost always completely oblivious to the spiritual atmosphere which other people tell me is so thick in thailand!

   super mature. not at all whiny & demanding. NOT. but i wanted it and i kept the petitions coming. from one june until the next, for a whole year. the prayer changed shapes. it added new dimensions. by the very last day until Holy & Messy Week broke loose there was only one line that remained the same from the original, and that was 

   come closer.

   except this time, i wasn't talking about myself.

/ / /

[sunday, 6.21.15]

   evening, i'm hanging my laundry outside my room on the railing and trying to remember what book we are studying tomorrow. something in the pentateuch... deuteronomy? who did jonny say was teaching this? why are my thoughts so scattered and incoherent?

   i have felt off for two days. and my hair is hot pink. it happened at 1am, in the girls bathroom and i have only vague images of doing this and absolutely no reason why. it was like in a completely hypnotic state i zombied into a shower stall on friday night and dyed my hair hot

   pink except it looks awful & my hands are stained. & my neck is stained. & my towel is stained. and i have felt off for two days.

   it was like my brain was doing the same thing my eyes had been doing when i was six years old and my parents realized i needed glasses - everything was blurry & smudged & didn't make sense & simple tasks seemed overwhelmingly. except this time i couldn't just put on glasses and fix everything, i couldn't even read the bible and fix everything.

   every time i opened my journal i felt hollow, like it was just a pen. and just a page. and nothing else monumental behind it like Creator-God who breathed inspiration into my soul and read over my shoulders every word, knew the words before they coagulated into full sentences. it was like

   Dad, are you there? the laundry is all hung and i am crumpled in a heap on my bed, suddenly too exhausted to think about anything else i had planned to accomplish before the weekend is over.

   there is no answer, i'm left staring vacantly into space for..i'm unsure of how long. it's like my mind is smothered by a quilt, steel-thick with despair and inexplicable emptiness. and my limbs are made of plastic drinking straws, attempting to kick off the quilt - but it remains unfazed.

   i can't remember how long i've been laying there, clutching a pen that hasn't written one word. i don't know

   that's what scares me most. i don't know.

/ / /
   6.22.15

   rarely do i live in autopilot, but today nothing tastes or smells or sounds right. it is as if all my senses have simultaneously decided to shut down. what is there left in a world where yesterday is a blur and today is an obligation and there is no feasible construction of any good tomorrow?

   after spending two after-dinner hours sitting at my desk staring blankly at my screen and not typing anything, i quit. my bed is the only safe place. i am completely motionless except for one tear that slides to rest on my chin. i can feel it wet against my skin and i don't wipe it away because i can feel it

   so i must still be alive. my fingers graze the top of my bible but i have no desire to open it, no desire for anything except sleep. sleep blocks out the terrible voices that speak through the fog & emptiness. i plead with God to make things just feel better but He is nowhere. all i hear is, you’re no good. you’re a liar. you’re a fake. you are nothing. you're better off being nothing.

   i fall asleep before 8pm, shaking. shaking with no answers. i am paralyzed with terror because all i hear is what i think is God, saying the words He's wanted to tell me all along, hey girl, I don’t choose you. I just don’t want you. I just don’t choose you.

6.23.15

   i cycle through the Reasons God Has Abandoned Me in my head forty times an hour but nothing makes sense. the thinker in me loves list-making but even that completely drains my energy before 10 in the morning -

1. this isn't bleak, dreary february in north american winter. this is june in the jungle - lush, vibrant, green.

2. i am not in habitual, debilitating sin (that i know of) i can't think of anything else to repent of (?!) but it's like i'm living in a reality completely devoid of God's Presence. and it doesn't just feel like a valley. it feels like a black hole.

3. my relationships are the best they've been all year! human connection + conflict resolution is at its absolute peak.

4. i'm nowhere near my period so i can't just pass this off as a lavish display of female hormones

5. i feel completely blindsided by this. last thursday i was joyful, driven, creative, ridiculous, and forward-thinking but now out of nowhere

   everything is

   hazy, like steam rising from my morning tea, and i sludge through
   daily requirements with a bleak sense of dread. by wednesday morning, i'm only showing up for life in my physical body, but my emotions and mental faculties have completely checked out.

   this is not sadness but something far more sinister and dangerous.

   a friend asks if i'm okay. "you just seem a little distant lately," he says sympathetically.

   "but i'm fine!" i say automatically. because i am fine. nothing is WRONG. everything about my life is NORMAL and GOOD. there is no LOGIC in feeling this sadness over absolutely nothing. what complaint can i give? not one that would make any sense,

   so i avoid the people around me even more, out of guilt that i am giving off a disagreeable, standoffish vibe. i'm fine, i brush off concerned looks. truthfully, my mind is begging, what’s wrong? what’s going on? what’s happening?

   later, i would never want to admit that this was both the longest + hardest week of my life, because that sounds laughable. it sounds like evidence to build up a case against a girl who is young & inexperienced & self-absorbed & has never known loss or pain or grief. maybe that's true. maybe all those things are true.

   just this: i thought i knew darkness before that week. in a lot of ways, i didn’t know anything until those days came crashing on top of me. sometimes you are completely content with how near-sighted you've been living - i'm fine. everything is sunshine & roses - until in one horrible, suffocating moment you go completely blind. 

   & then you see the truth: everything was not fine. everything was deteriorating and there will be nothing but gut-wrenching pain until you come out on the other side of the surgeon's knife and are brought back to sight again. full vision. true seeing.

                                                                                                                                                       6.24.15

   i facetime my brother and tell him i am probably, definitely coming home. "i can't be here anymore," i say, trying to put on the bravest face possible. keep my reasons for leaving professional, "i just feel like i should come home."

   i haven't washed my face or fixed my hair in three days. i begin seriously looking at airline tickets. i'm technically supposed to be in thailand for another four months, but i wonder if i can bear this fog another four minutes. while my internet is open, i stray from the airfare page to a blank tab.

   googling symptoms is usually a no because anything that seems like it might be the common cold the internet can easily diagnose as leprosy, but i am too certain i know what is happening -

difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
fatigue and decreased energy
insomnia or excessive sleeping

persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
thoughts of suicide

   the word shows up like a dark cloud against a white screen: depression. it's all mine, every inch of it.

   not me, my heart beats frantically, this happens to other people but not me. i'm, like, super happy. i've got peace that passes understanding. i've already been through hell and back, my joy is not circumstantial and it's definitely unshakable.

God, i say out loud, help me. every word takes immense effort.

   please help me. please help. pleasehelppleasehelppleasehelp. it all runs together. i'm not certain i'm actually speaking or if my thoughts have escalated to something near audible.

   where are You? whereareYoupleasehelpwhereareYou

   i can't find You. You aren't here. You left me. You're gone. there is no God.

   help me, i'm drowning. 

 i have a picture of myself shrinking
away into nothing, dissolving.
transparent. you can't see me or hear me and
i don't exist anymore,
in a world where there is no God.
there never has been.
and i'm happier.

   help gone drowning no God.

   i think the saddest sound a human can hear is their own screams.

/ / /

                                                                                                                                                       6.25.15

   on friday morning, i cannot get out of bed.
   can not.
   my limbs are dead weight, my breaths shallow. emily gets dressed for morning worship, i watch her through half-open eyes but i don't budge. i'm not really tired but the mere thought of showering and washing my face and throwing on my favorite Beatles t-shirt to make my way up to the worship room physically exhausts me.

   i can hear the sounds of ywam chiang rai worshiping on the floor above me & it takes tremendous exertion to whisper, i'm done. it's over. i don't want to go home and i don't want to be here. i don't want to be anywhere. i don't want to live anymore.

   95 degrees but i am shivering under the oppressive weight of unrelenting terror that has begun to settle over me sometime in the last 48 hours when i gave up the will to live.

i can't even remember what the light felt like. i'm beginning to think the darkness is the truest thing about me.
- journal, 1pm


*maybe the rabbi didn't say sitch, i was seven when i read this story from a book of fables so i am improvising a little here and there
**i said "couple" but then i listed four. typically i do know the definition of couple to be "two". not the biggest polygamy fan here.

***omg all these acronyms i am SO sorry, how pretentious. DTS = discipleship training school // YWAM = youth with a mission.
****you will hear so much about SBS you will unsubscribe from this blog & block me on every form of social media if i so much as whisper it again. which i will. i will whisper about SBS a lot and also yell about it because i like yelling.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

resistance

   i have not written.

   no, not recently. the excuse is that i moved across the world for nine months. the excuse is that in those nine months my calendar ran me dry. but now i am home and my instinct is to cower from this space & continue to use calendar as alibi. 

   but that’s just a lie to mask the real reason: i am resisting. i have been resisting for a really long time. because that is sometimes what we do when we love something so much that we are fully aware it could double back to hurt us - we resist it. because it changes us. and we are afraid to change. 

/ / /

   2015 was a lot. a lot of things.



   as i've sorted through the photographs, napkin poetry, paper scraps, SBS lecture notes, unburied love letters to city vendors & village children, journal entries, and scrambled thoughts typed into google docs i've only retreated deeper into my resistance.

   i don't tell half-assed stories. you get all the details or none. the more i love you, the more i want you to know because i feel the details enrich and if you begin to omit characters & scenes & whispers of conversation the bigger picture loses its potency and i tremble

   to imagine a world where we don't take the time to tell each other our stories, and remind the people who are part of ours how much we have needed them all along.

   my resistance?
   i changed this year (ok, typical) 2015 seared me real good (still acceptable)

   i am afraid this blog, my four readers (hi mom) and even myself will not recognize andi, will not be able to handle andi, will be disappointed in andi, will want the old andi, will after long last shake their heads quietly and walk away. close the door on the way out.

/ / /

   i stopped resisting this morning. call it a miracle or call it november, but i decided to stop waiting until all my thoughts have fully formed into distinct shape and form. i'm leaving them a little fuzzy around the edges. since january i've wanted to write here, ached to write here.

   for me writing is cleansing like rain, scary as hell-truth on paper, and brings relief like cold water on cracked lips and chafed soul. i've taken moments, mostly in secret, to draw a respectable outline for the story which i am temporarily calling Thailand 2015 but my heart knows better as The Year He Started Making Me Gold

   on late nights, dim lights glowing and ceiling fan click, click, clicking as it spins i find a proper beginning for my story - and it's in june, not january. if you stay for june than maybe all the sacred moments surrounding that Holy & Messy Week will make more sense. while those sacred moments were just that - holy and messy - my stumbling into the throne room to lay at His feet gently reminded me there is still so much within me from this journey.

   i have unpacked everything i own into the bedroom i share with hannah grace this winter, but i am still carrying this other bag around with me, collecting half-thoughts and shared quotes, it's overflowing with commas and run-on sentences. as i drag it behind me, now so full, i know it is time to open it. 

   to open and share - to lay bare so that every inch of limb, of life, is seen. the idea of The Year He Started Making Me Gold being seen, of sharing in word and phrase and sentence is intoxicating. i breathe deep, warm peace-air. the idea of relaxing tense shoulders is beckoning but

   jerking me suddenly is the hand that grabs this bag i've been carrying. a voice with the violent hand screams lies in to the peace-atmosphere. turning light air into frozen rain - shattering upon impact.

you're too much andrea.
if you write it all like that, they'll worry about you. 
it's too much emotion.
you can't go back and rewrite all that's happened.
it's been too long, you've forgotten too much. 
your motives are selfish.
you're too much, too much. too much.

   that hand wraps it's fingers possessively around the bag i carry and urges me to keep holding it.

   but i physically, literally can't keep carrying it. to think of all the letters and phrases contained inside - bold, deeply sad, surprisingly joyful. there is this flash of color that comes every time i peek inside the cloth, like peeking into a lunch your mother has packed and seeing the dessert-cookie.

   it is a deep hue of courage, color that dances in my mind long after i look inside.

   here i am now. it's time to clear the table, open the bag, and dump it out all over. it's time to let the courage saturate the room with it's color, to pick up forgotten phrases, trace the lines of half-thought and Truth. not resisting.

   i must warn you i am scared. & i am resisting that scared-andi showing up and showing off in a very vulnerable, not-private way. these last few months have been anything but ordinary and predictable - in the best and worst sort of way. the idea of letting this space be tainted by all sorts of new mess (maybe you're still awkwardly squirming because i said half-assed back there and you flushed and tried to ignore it but we both know it's there & not goin' anywhere quick so i think it's best if  we move on now) on the table is both terrifying & invigorating

   yet i know i'm not alone. there will be days i write publicly about The Year He Started Making Me Gold and no one will get it, and that's okay. but there will also be days that one of you will have a tear fall or a smile dance across your face because you will realize you are not alone.

   THAT is why i kick resistance to the curb & trust my syllables & find the will to write. because this is not my story and never was. this is our story. 

   you + me + Maker + beautiful humanity. we're all in this together, babycakes.

   on the mortal side, we are lost and confused and bruised - but more so we are breathtakingly exquisite, beautiful, and rare when we submit ourselves willingly to Maker and beg Him to do whatever it takes to make us His gold. that is when the story begins.

   that is when our eyes meet as we look up and know we are not alone.

   on the Maker side, the story begins when i can acknowledge that people, even the goodest ones, will get tired of my too-many messes, my too-long rambling, my too-muchiest days. i think that’s one of the strongest cases for needing God: we are too needy for people

   too grimy & complex to fix one another. there must be something, someone bigger to whisper, beloved, you are okay when human breath won’t cut it.

/ / /

   so i am starting this new story with chapter one beginning june. with chapter one not being I Arrive In A Thai Village & Begin SBS but rather Holy & Messy Week. i formerly called this The Week of Depression.

renaming it didn't change me.
it freed me.

   in nine months but actually seven days, my life broke and i am only starting to see now that God wasn’t being a dictator, He was answering a prayer. He was answering the prayer of a girl who pleaded to know if Love was real, if the Unseen World was real, if she could actually trust Light & Darkness to be real.

   and as i stretched and broke to figure out True Love - i stopped writing. i just put the pen down. i walked away from writing when i couldn’t walk away from God. it was my last shred of resistance towards Him. 

   that last way of saying, You have me in a corner. You have me pinned to the ground. & i will withhold my favorite gift You've given me if it means i have a last sliver of a chance to stay the dark.

   staying in the dark is easy because it’s a hell you can control.

   it takes changing to get out of it. & changing is its own private hell until you realize the truth: one day it won’t hurt like this anymore.
"i’ve been told to pray. in struggle. in strife. in times of confusion - pray, pray, pray.
i want to double back and claim i. don’t. know. how. to. pray.
i’m good at saying, “well, i’ll pray for you” because it’s a
blaring and sweet EXIT sign for a conversation i want to escape.
i’m good at closing my eyes and pretending.
i’m good at making lists of things that keep me from being content.
i listen to other people pray and i make to-do lists in my head.
i’m really good at humming loudly and thanking Jesus randomly.
i’ve fooled the world unintentionally.  
and yes God, You would have every right to be angry at my prayers.
but here's a new one:
somehow, i just want to be still
& beg You to come closer
Face-Shining erasing all this darkness
and ON THE REALZ this is hard
because it is a fearsome thing to beg something so
Great & Terrifying & Mysterious
to come closer.
come closer.

what are the repercussions of having Your Face shine upon me?
it is LIGHT. it is HOLY. it purifies.
it probably is going to burn.
it probably is going to be pain
because my eyes are accustomed to looking at the darkness
and the Light will be offensive
but this is a prayer i can pray and mean with all my heart -

come closer. i am not content. come closer."
- journal, 6.18.15

/ / /

   i can't explain it, this sweet assurance when i realized that for me writing is a lot like God.

   both are sacred. both give me life. both wrecked me once i recognized they were never here to keep me fragile. both free me, when i am ready to be free.

   (one more time in case you forgot, boo) this is our story, so this freedom expands to us all - not when we “hope” to be free. not when we “want” to be free. no, when we choose “ready” to be free. 

   when you stop resisting the page and you heed to the process -  you break to the process. you let go and whisper beneath your breath, “i let go. i believe we’re going somewhere better than here. so i finally let go.”


Your love changes everything.


   resistance shatters & fog clears simultaneously with coming freedom and suddenly i see the truth in God: it’s like everyday He stands in a crowded room waiting to lock eyes with me

   like a dance floor the moment a slow song hits it, i search for other partners frantically. i'm insecure & needy & i don’t want to be left standing alone. i search for the partners who i know will let me down so i can cry to my best friends while knowing i expected to be let down all along.

   that’s how you stay guarded and resistant - you only let near the ones who won’t stand too long at the lock before they get tired of fumbling with the keys.

   then there is God. and if He is the God of the bible that i got uncomfortably, fiercely familiar with The Year He Started Making Me Gold (cough. this year) then i can promise, PROMISE He never takes His eyes off of you. 

   they don’t wander. they don’t stray. He watches you because He is wild about you.

   He likes the drama you bring into daily life. the unruliness of your hair. He digs the acne & stray freckles you’d prefer to hide. He doesn’t mind the chipped nail polish. He knows that a lot of parts of you are chipped. & that’s because He already knows you are human and human is just another word for lovely + struggling

   He is not phased by you. He is not surprised by your darkness. He does not get bored or exasperated or shift His gaze, desiring something more beautiful to look at. you’re it. you’re just it

   He looks at you and sees poetry, not a mistake.

   mostly? He aches to be trusted, not resisted. He sees a whole new life for you just standing and waiting on the other side of  beloved, you won’t be disappointed you asked Me to come closer, won't regret the surrender, will never be ashamed of this kind of hoping

   will never be sorry you stopped resisting Me.

/ / /


led me out of
endless darkness


when i look in Your eyes, God


   i'm equal parts dizzy-joyful & throw-up-nervous about this (highly ridiculous, likely impossible) endeavor to tell the whole story well. 

   what if i burn out halfway through and leave unfinished pieces? what if i get to the edge of a Cliff of Sheer Honesty and i play the chicken, deciding its safer - if not less satisfying - to stay where i am? what if none of it even makes sense once it exits my brain and crystallizes in the blog-atmosphere? what if it is all for my own glory & not Maker's?

   but what if, what if even one person feels like they're not alone? what if one person drops their masks and ditches their costumes in favor of living genuine? what if one person just wants to see God's face shine on them no matter how much Real Light hurts?

   so i end with the (sort of) beginning, when a girl (about 5'7 / twenty years /  hair never looks loved) prayed to God with an ultimatum underneath her breath: i only want love if it has more layers for me. i don’t want emptiness. i don’t want something that keeps me full for five minutes. but i don’t want to fake it, either. 

   if You’re real, then be real. if there is actually a Spiritual World like i talk about with all my well-rehearsed christianese then i want to see that too. i don't want to drift through life only absorbing what my physical eyes can see and my literal brain can comprehend. 

   i want life & love beyond my comprehension so wash over me. wreck me. make me feel weak and woozy. i only want this thing if it is real. i only want love if it's the kind of Love i can go ahead and stop trying to understand. 

   i give up. make this dance too exhausting for me so that all i can do, in my own strength, is step on Your toes and let You lead.


there is some feasibility that this may, in fact, be continued.
p.s. ohmygosh i am SO sorry, the music bar has ADS and is letting me down
majorly. please just pause it and listen to anything from here.

Friday, June 26, 2015

lifeline

[some names changed because.. you know]

“we sinned for no reason but an incomprehensible lack of love,
and He saved us for no reason but an incomprehensible excess of love.”
- p. kreeft.

   two three eight fourteen *thirty-six weeks ago, seven students surrendered their lives to Jesus right there in the velvet seats of our theater-church.

   i instinctively grab at my elbows
   [nervous tic]
   as the room erupts in cheers and loud music blares from
   the bass & keys.

   i love that i had nothing to do with this, i whisper as one lone tear carves a heroic trail down my well-powdered face. i love that i am only here to witness the fruit that others have sown into for so much longer. i love that this is a victory. a transformation. a miracle. and i can only sit back in awe and feel so grateful for those who have gone before-

   i guess at this point God feels necessary to interrupt. but did you ever have anything to do with salvation, andi?

/ / /

   what i'm about to tell you has been banging around in my heart for several months now like a caged animal. i never felt ready to turn it loose because i wanted to iron it out in my own mind -

   was it bragging? would i sound.. holier than thou? could my intentions for sharing this be misconstrued to gain respect and admiration?

   i was afraid to find out the answers, so i locked up the story deep within me.
 
   in fact, i have kept many things to myself. some for good reasons but most simply because i either felt i could not handle reliving the heartbreak or {in this case} i did not want..

   i did not want..

   but, what exactly, didn't i want?

   as another tear joined the first at the bottom of my chin, i heard Him all too clear.

   "andi, you have always been all about you. and what you want. but when did My power working through you suddenly become your victories to privately cherish? why are you so afraid to gain recognition and attention for something you never even did?" - God, 9.19.14

   i repent. i am truly so obsessed with myself. this is something i am aware of and fight to bring under His Lordship daily. um, actually hourly and even more frequently than that.

  bc on the realz, every “good deed” i’ve done is a stench compared to the Holy One who never acts from an evil heart. sin is never just skin-deep.

   it is a sickness of the heart that pollutes everything i say, do, and believe. my motives for praise, power, and pleasure destroy any “goodness” you may see on the outside and reveal a heart consumed with itself. and thus, the war within,

   yet when i see myself as i really am, my heart becomes ripe for the gospel and desperate for good news. and that’s exactly what happened when i begin to step closer to Jesus and open His Word. the mirror unfogs and i can see not only the ugliness of my heart but the vast richness of His love.

   the gospel becomes this banquet that i can feast on daily, always leaving my soul full and thankful and overwhelmed.

/ / /

remember when i hated the word

   testimony /testəˌmōnē/ (noun):: evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.

   initially, when i met Ahmin, i don't think i had any idea that he would become a testimony. heck, i don't think he knew it either.

   but ahmin did become a testimony. and it happened on a nondescript Kolkata street as i pressed my back into a dirty building and tried to sing along with Manuel's guitar strumming + M, S, & L. but i was shaking so hard i could barely choke out,

   hallelujah, our God saves

   and my mind was just a frantic race of Holy-Spirit-please-zap-me-with-Your-courage-now prayers.

   if You are a God who can save, save me from my fear. i believe in You, i do. but i am the world's worst missionary. i do not have one bone in my body that actually wants to be standing here evangelizing right now.

   i mean, yeah. i love these people. i love this gathering crowd.. ohmygosh there's so many of them.. but i don't do that thing. the talking thing. the opening of the mouth and communicating thing. 


   the testimony thing.

   the song ended and Manuel smiled at us. ugh.. him. he is to blame for this! dragging us out here on our day off! this is totally optional and he is convinced street preaching is the way to go and i will never stop loathing myself for getting into this bind i.am.so.afraid.

   Manuel B, completely passionate about proclaiming the gospel, threw us - the hesitant, the incompetent - under the bus. his eyes said it all, this is your outreach. your moment. i won't speak for you. now.. who's going first?

    spoiler alert: i didn't go first. someone else did.

   see, i was completely awed, inspired, and convicted by my friend lynne that day. her example gave me courage to speak up. so, with permission, i am including a portion of her perspective.

   she wrote this months ago, for an end-of-dts newsletter. since God has already established this is not MY story, there's no reason why it should even be all my words -
 
|| on our last day in India, we were in Kolkata for a few more hours before flying back to Thailand & we were spontaneously given the opportunity to do ministry. 
   i was all in. i had an idea of what this would look like - we would stand there proudly singing about our Jesus as people scoffed at us. they would think, these white girls are crazy, proud of something only good for them, i wish they would just stop.  
   i had to have high expectations for God to move, there was no other option. 
   as we walked down the trash-lined streets of Kolkata, all i could do was pray. my sanity told me to run the other way, but the adrenaline God had given me to preach made me push on: you’re either all in for Jesus or you’re out
   we set up camp, to very quickly be driven out by security. maybe we’ll break laws today! we turned the corner and there was the perfect opening for our band of 5, God said stay so we stayed. 
   we sang loud and proud, the crowd gathered. we had no plan, only to let the Holy Spirit move. 1 Timothy 4:12 spoke to me earlier this week, don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example in love life and faith. to me this said, even though i am the youngest in faith, God wants me to set the example, 
   set the standard because it’s not about us and our level of ‘spirituality’, it’s about God and what His plans are. 
   it was time for a testimony, immediately the Holy Spirit reminded me of this verse. He wanted me to be the first to step out in faith. i passionately obeyed. Jesus, give me the right words to say.  
   the people listened intently. to what? i have no idea. the Spirit was speaking through me, saying what needed to be said to the hearts that were listening. 
   the moment i opened my mouth to speak i was filled with a joy like no other; it was like a high of pure Jesus juice. if you've never been on one of these highs, you should get a fix, it’s the most satisfying feeling a human can ever experience. 
   and though i was filled, Jesus wasn't done here. His plans are always so much bigger and better than we as humans can plan for. ||
   while we prayed & sang, God highlighted a man to lynne. this man was Ahmin, who frantically approached us when we finished singing and offered prayer.

   he was young, perhaps late twenties. he wore eyeglasses and spoke fairly good english, indicating some level of education. he wrung his hands with palpable anxiety & his voice sounded as if his entire world has been rattled from its core. perhaps it had, for he immediately blurted -

   "it's not my fault i was born a Muslim." 

   there it was. honesty. desperation. and he spoke directly to lynne & i.

   lynne, struggling with feeling inexperienced.
   andi, struggling with terrible waves of fear.
   ahmin, struggling with his entire identity and absolutely everything he had ever known to be true

   we bit our lips 
and stole brief glances at each other, 
prayed for him, 
and he rushed away.

   two minutes later, he was back.

   it started as your typical was Jesus just a good teacher or something more? debate but rapidly escalated. he was sweating furiously, perhaps completely eclipsing my own nervousness.

   and right there, i saw it. transformation. before our very eyes, God was working on his heart. ahmin had heard of this Jesus before, but this was his moment of decision.

   Jesus is the way. the truth. and the life. as we shared these things, even opening lynne's bible to show him where it was written in our Holy Scriptures, it was happening. Jesus was revealing Himself to ahmin as the only Way and it was all i could do not to just.. fall over.

   "i want forgiveness of sins," he said, trembling, "i want closeness with God. i believe Jesus is the Son of God! i have heard of Him before, but now i believe!"

   lynne leads ahmin in a prayer and there is no doubting his overwhelming sincerity. after, we are all just a mess of giddy gratitude.

   "i will be separated from my family for this!" he said, heart bubbling over with joy, not fear, "when they find out i am a Christian i will surely be beaten. it is not right for a Muslim to say Jesus is the only way to God. but i do not care! i want relationship with God!"

   "here!" lynne says excitedly, handing ahmin her bible.

   her first bible. her only bible. something in me cringes, how many bibles do i even have? so many! but she just has this one and she so willingly offers it up before the thought even occurs to me.

   "are you sure?" but he is already clutching it so eagerly, gently turning the pages through the gospels and reading the chapter headings. "Jesus turned the water into wine? He did this?"

   "YES!" lynne and i lean against each other. half-laughing, maybe half-crying.

   the rest of the day blurs. nothing else even matters because what kind of God is this Who does miracles like turning water into wine & turning lost hearts to His redemptive love?

/ / /

   oh, foolish andi, who ever thought such a story could belong to her.

   i am reading the psalms when i come across 51.12:
   "restore to me the joy of Your salvation..."
   
wait. literally my whole life i have been saying the joy of MY salvation,
   MY salvation story. my testimony. my redemption. me. me?
   as if salvation were ever a human thing
   as if somehow in my being a castaway lost in a violent sea
   i could have ever chose Him first
 
   as if i ever could have been my own lifeline.

when i lost my grip love held on tight
even my worst didn't change Your mind
my guilt and shame lost in Your grace

   quite possibly, it's just me. my self-obsession has already been established, so i would be comfortable swallowing the fact that i am the only one with a warped view of salvation. 

   of many things i am open, but exposing selfish motivation is still terribly humbling & challenging & awful every time. i hesitate to publish words - even in this sacred space - for that very reason.

   see, when it comes to salvation, i am constantly putting the focus on myself. MY joy. MY choosing. MY asking. MY salvation. and while seeking joy in the salvation is hardly a bad thing, i have been stripping God of His glory for the redemptive work. i can't think of the last time i thought of the Cross and didn't think of myself and just breathed thank you.

   salvation is the gift, the one wrapped in God taking on skin, laying His bare love out for the world, arms spreading to the very ends of the limbs of the tree of life.

   it’s not about the “dirty sinner.” 

   it’s this heartbreaking, simple, and yet stunningly complex story about a girl by a manger who probably looked up to the sky and asked, “really? THIS is your plan for a king?” 

   and she birthed a baby beside cow dung for the weary world to call him royalty.
   
   & that little boy grows into a man who illustrates to a broken world how to love people and treat grace like manna falling from the sky and have pretty decent friends and never, ever waste your emotions on jealousy and gossip and spite and dissension but actually love neighbors and lepers and enemies and foreigners and children and outcasts and e v e r y o n e deeply from a heart brimming pure. 

   and then He dies this horrendous death at a young, young age and He comes out of the tomb three days later and basically says to all the people who killed Him, “I died for you. yes, you. I don’t care what you did. I can’t love you any less. you didn’t know how to come to me. you didn’t have a map. you didn’t know the way. and so I solved all the issues - all your faulty GPS excuses - and just came to you.”

   i mean, that’s pretty radical, even if you can’t believe in it. 

   i think that even if i didn’t believe in anything, i’d have a really hard time finding anything more beautiful than thinking that the same Guy who created life out of dirt is the one who gets all choked up crying over all His children and all the empty things we do, thinking as He watches, 

   “I just love you so much that I will endure anything, ANYTHING to prove it. and I’m going to let you make mistake after mistake after mistake and I’m still going to take you back.

    even when you leave Me, I will wait.” 

   because that is love eternal - waiting and staying when the rest of the world walks away. 

   half of the time, i don’t know what
i want to believe in.
   but that?   i want to believe in something as beautiful as that
always.



/ / /

   i don’t know much about being in love, but i do know the intensified propensity for grace, the self-forgetting warrior tendencies that rise in the face of danger when that danger reaches for the one you want, the “blindness” of being in love that is ten times more beautiful than the blindness cynics belittle,

  beautiful because it sees the flaws yet falls deeper for you anyway.

   i don’t know much about suffering, but i do know the endless crumbling vacuum of self-hate, the bare-boned bloody-knuckled loneliness of defensiveness, the hollow senseless wretchedness of caved hopes,

   the aching-throat exhaustion of a striver.

   i don’t know what it is to be lost forever but i have stood on the edge of that pit, i’ve looked down at the swirling black and seen myself disappear -

"it seems it was good for me to go through all those troubles.
throughout them all You held tight to my lifeline.
You never let me tumble over the edge into nothing.
but my sins You let go of, threw them over Your shoulder - good riddance!"

   i don’t know what it is to be entirely wrapped in dank regret, but i do know the suffocating wrenching captivity of seeing all your mistakes laid one beside the other, left and right,

   horizon west to horizon east.

   i don’t know what it is to see the end of the story, but i do know how it feels to rescued, to be yanked backwards from the edge, to sit numbly and watch as mistakes are forgotten even though i cannot seem to let them go.

   i don’t know who You are, really. but i do know that You save my life not only out of love for me, but because

   You’re in love with me.
isaiah 38.17
/ / /

*OK HI MOM. what is this post. i know. i have been in thailand for six months and apparently forgot i had a blog and then finally come crawling out of the woodworks bc i found something unpublished from last november. well, september-november because the struggle to finish this was real.

tbh, i will probably not say one word about thailand until november 2015 when it's over. that's a year of silence. i impress even myself sometimes but actually here's how i feel about that:

just casually keepin' it perturbed in front of a hipster brick wall circa february

   also. readily admitting - i was absolutely dying to edit this post. srsly, my heart was bursting to add so much about salvation that hadn't occurred (been discovered? revealed? ew christianese i can't do this) to me last nov. but i wanted to keep it accurate to who i was then and also save all dat fresh revelation for THIS UPCOMING NOVEMBER when i (maybe) return to the blogging game.

   but i am going to throw THIS SONG out there as bait. if this doesn't whet your appetite for rejoicing in His (HIS!!) salvation then idk.

   peace on the streetz & we have a lot of catching up to do in four months, y'all.

   p.s. is this bkgrnd music annoying anyone else? just me? great.

Friday, September 5, 2014

vision

   “i think i’ve lost my life again,” i told her, twirling my spoon around in my bowl, clinking the sides. “that, or i don’t know how to justify my existence anymore. i used to actually be good at that.”

   there it was, my chunk of honesty sitting square on the table between two heaping bowls of asparagus and pasta. i had to say it out loud. it was the kind of thing you vocalize or else you risk exploding from the inside out.

   she just smiled. and said amen.

   i wish we all had this kind of friend. the kind of friend where you can just word vomit everything you've been feeling and they don’t say much or tell you that you’re wrong to feel that way. they just show up with a mop. and they nod their head a lot. and you feel less alone, but like you've gotten something off your chest.

   you’ve finally told it to someone who holds these fragile secrets inside of you like fine china.


   as you might expect, i'm in what the psychoanalysis experts call the "rebuilding phase of my life" again. i left things behind last winter, and they aren't here anymore. and i'm not even talking about all my shoes Hannah grew into seemingly overnight and promptly extricated from my closet.

   these aren't things i can touch and weigh. these are relationships & opportunities & feelings & passages. if only they were as simple as mere footwear. because then i could just hop over to target and find myself another pair of beaded moccasins or aztec flats and call it a day.

   but it doesn't work like that. and i have all but marched through the streets waving a banner proclaiming “EVERYTHING ABOUT MY LIFE IS FABULOUS! NO PROBLEMS HERE!”

   and it's not fair to pretend anymore::

two inches thick doesn't seem like much.
only five feet and six inches tall,
the perfect size.
seamless, smooth, and safe.

a strong defense, built over time,
keeping everything out, and holding everything in.
it has only one flaw;
complete transparency.

everything inside is in plain sight.
no hidden details.
no disguises, no masks,
no facades, no sound.

|via pinterest|

the most colorful display set to the rhythm of
silence.

suddenly, two inches seems like a mile,
no matter which way it’s seen through.
everything on the other side is so close,
& yet so far.

saltwater slides down the clear encasing
as senses long to be reunited.
sight with sound, and most importantly touch.

but at what cost?
harder than diamonds, and more valuable too.
what does it take to break
a glass wall?

from the outside looking in,
is what’s inside worth the effort?
from the inside looking out,
is what’s outside worth the risk?

only a few accepted the challenge
with gentle love and warm light
and the softest touch imaginable.

it shattered in a moment,
& covered the ground in white.

two inches doesn't seem like much
for a five-foot-six glass wall.
although successful at its job,
i wish it weren't there at all.

/ / /

   most people will tell you i weave stories far too long and detailed to hold your attention.

   i'm not here to defend myself. rather, i raise my cuppa to this emphatically. i just think the tiny little details deserve just as much - if not more - attention as the big overarching story.

   from childhood, we’re taught that certain things are just a given. you go to college, you get your degree. you get a job, get married, have 2.5 kids and prepare them to do the same. these aren't bad ideals. i'm not about to whack you over the head with BUT MISSIONS IS SO MUCH GREATER! ok.

   just this - somewhere along the way, i stumbled along the path of the unconventional.

   some people call it Gospel for Asia, i call it That Time I Looked Before Leaping.

   as a kid, i never stressed about one year folding into the next. when i was finishing up third grade, i didn't gnash my teeth and lose sleep over whether or not entering fourth grade was God's will for my life.

   i didn't implore God for a scriptural confirmation or a sign from the universe or whatevs. i just did it. because it's part of living and also i didn't really have a lot of control over major life decisions back then [thank goodness. because if so, i would probably be in Greenland. dead.]

   when i applied for Gospel for Asia's School of Discipleship the year following highschool, i honestly didn't think it was that big of a deal. later, people would ask for some Spirit-led testimony {usually angsty} about how God called me away from my former life to come live within the mission's walls and i was totes confused because

   "Ummm... i used to buy Gospel for Asia goats? because goats are cool and i had a secret underlying motivation that if i gave enough gift-goats to the destitute of south asia struggling for livelihood, someday God would bless me with a ten-fold return on goats for my farm that i'm going to have after i get out of this place and go to Texas A&M to study agriculture because unfortunately for my wild ranching dreams i live in a gated community? but first i saw the blurb about discipleship school and was like.. oh sweet! i wanna go to the headquarters & see where they breed, raise and package all the gift-goats!"

   on the initial drive from san antonio to dallas it was pouring rain, my mom was sniffling at the inevitable flying of her first child from the nest and i was nonchalantly reading through the pre-arrival pamphlet as i had forgotten which day the program actually started [i thought it was the following saturday] and had been called THAT MORNING asking if i were going to be on time for orientation dinner?

   oh hi, frantic-throwing-of-my-life-into-plastic-tubs.

  as we pulled into the Gospel for Asia parkinglot, my hair in unbrushed red bun and mascara flecks from the day before still in faint traces around my eyes because "they probably don't even care what i look like, they're all amish right?" my mom begged me to pull out my lone peace earring.

   "just feel around," my mom advised, "better not to come in looking like a rebel on the first day, okay? and if later, when they know you, it seems appropriate - then you can put the peace earring back in."

   i rolled my eyes so hard, but agreed. and reluctantly removed my favorite earring. this is for you, Gift-Goats.

   seriously. andi, meet the missions world.

   also, they store the goats in actual South Asia, in case you also are 
interested in applying for the School of Discipleship for ulterior reasons. 
i'll just save you a year-long stint. 
[just kidding, MATT SELAY. #applynow]
it was the best year of my life, but i'm getting to that.

/ / /

   i grew up giving my life to Jesus on a weekly basis.

   at church camps during thursday-night altar call. on Salvation Bracelet day at summer VBS. and mainly, in the midst of all the Left Behind hype of the early '00s, at the first mention of rapture or antichrist or mark of the beast.

   childish evangelical fears of being left behind and subsequently beheaded drove me in terror to my knees time & time again at the mere thought of unconfessed sins.

   "Jesus," i remember praying, age eight, as i lay on my back on my bedroom floor, "i love You. i really want to try to live for You for real this time. so please.. when you come back and leave all the clothes in piles on the floor PLEASE DON'T FORGET ME... i'm trying really hard to be good.. because i don't want to have my head chopped off. amen."

   and just in case Jesus popped in while i was in the middle of fighting with Richmond or lying to Mom or other such general sin, i had planned in advance a speech i was going to give the Antichrist when he dragged me from the cave i was hiding out in for seven years: please don't make me get the tattoo, sir. also, i don't want to die either. can we please be friends i will make you cupcakes and not even hurt you.

   even when i was old enough to vaguely know something couldn't be right about this self-preserving duplicity, i continued with my plans of appeasing both forces i feared so much. and that was just it. i feared God. but not in the reverent, He-is-Holy, i love His beauty and respect His Word sort of fear but just plain

   i am so scared of messing up. of disappointing Him. of burning in hell. 

   and none of this was love, or relationship. and i ended up at Gospel for Asia a barely-adult who knew a bit more about Jesus' love but still was so limited in relationship with Him, having given sweet, stiff, textbook answers on my application because

   i knew the right things to say by heart. i had memorized the Christianese Code. 

   but love? i didn't know the first thing about love. not real love. not God-love.

/ / /

   november 4th, 2012 was the last day i ever "said the prayer for salvation".

   and that time, i meant it. i understood. i had tasted of the Lord's goodness and i wanted to be His, wholly. intimately. undivided devotion from a pure heart. to be consecrated to His will. i didn't cling to Jesus because i feared hellfire but rather feared an eternity of separation from Him.

   to be separated from God? just the thought made my freshly-opened eyes pool with tears.

   i loved Him. i loved Him! it made me blush as i discovered the scandalous beauty of the four gospels as if for the first time & tapped my toes together under my desk randomly throughout the day in giddy delight.

   and He loved me. He had all along! always pursuing me, even pushing me to this place of healing using my favorite animal as bait.

   ...but then, things became, how shall i put this? complicated.

   i lost my long-coveted independence. as if in a relationship, suddenly i did not belong solely to myself anymore. for the first time, it seemed as if every semi-important life decision had to be submitted to Jesus for approval first.

   i needed guidance, and He apparently had all the right answers. i prayed a lot, cried a lot. fumed. abandoning submission, i crossed my arms and ran away. & then came sulking back as an adulterous lover and begged for mercy.

   i want to serve you God, i would always say. but i just need to know all the things! i need explicit instructions, something remotely resembling an outline, close friendships, safe spontaneity and a few days off a year. ya know? and can You please be more clear about whether or not i should be listening to this Pandora station? because i thiiiiink it doesn't dishonor You. i mean, You don't mind, right? FREEDOM IN CHRIST BABY. also, should i just stop buying new clothes? i'm a missionary now. target shoe sales notwithstanding, i need to be p-r-a-c-t-i-c-a-l. help me be practical. if i'm practical & wise,

   You'll love me. right?
   
   back-and-forth we went - should i join staff with Gospel for Asia? should i go home and get my most deeply desired agriculture degree at Texas A&M? maybe i could volunteer at an orphanage in Eritrea? or, i know! homeschool missionary's kids with Operation Mobilization in Russia! wait, here's something.. a Children-at-Risk focused DTS with YWAM? that looks interesting but probably not...

   signs, prayers, gut-feelings, scriptures, dreams, prophetic words, intuition? i fished for something, anything. waited for His inevitable peace or perhaps a semi-coherent no and then acted accordingly.

   off to Thailand i traipsed, and there were moments of complete emotional exhaustion where i doubted God's truth. and there were also moments i had never felt so alive, so completely sure that i was in the very center of God's will.

   it was a roller coaster of faith and fear, despair and triumph, mountains and valleys.

   life is just going to be. and i learned? when you're in the valley, farm it. goshdarnit.
   
   but as i sat with my friend, clutching my pasta bowl for dear life, in this place of what's next? again, i felt weary.

   weary of temporary. weary of the clash between two diverse cultures i considered home. weary of living out of the same buckets i had frantically packed for dallas two years before. weary of small talk with casual friends wondering why i was deferring from college education a third year and being a general liability to society. 

   i am more closely acquainted with God than i was when i started this blog. i know better now than to demand explanations and maps and flashing neon signs in regards to my future.

   but there are still days when i cannot think of a logical explanation for why i have done anything since november 4th, 2012, and therefore cannot write up a good reason to keep on living this way.

   what would happen, i wonder, if i loved Jesus passionately on a college campus? i don't want much. not prestige or a fat paycheck. and i was never one of those girls with white-picket-fence dreams who could imagine what her wedding would look like or if her babies would have her curls and wide blue eyes.

   would it be so wrong to get a degree and become a social worker or special ed teacher right here in America? after all, it has already been established that missions happens everywhere.

   or, I KNOW. let's talk about missions, God. how do i k-n-o-w that this vision for Southeast Asia is the EXACT THING YOU HAVE FOR ME? couldn't i serve You in Eritrea? or, yaknowwhat, i really want to go to Antarctica. always have. i can have an internship down at one of their stations. and You and i? we can still be in love. we can still have a close relationship?

   God! i am ugly-crying now. i don't want to keep moving around. i want something i can touch. something i can hold up when the world asks what i'm here for and say, "this! this is what i do! this is what i am good & useful for! i am not a bum or a charity case or a freeloader! i am andi and i.am.capable.of.things!"

   and just like that, i have lost my life. my purpose. my vision.

/ / /

   but, here's the thing of it.

   i know what it is to know you were born for something, formed and made with a passion that burns in your chest like coals that do not lose their fire, cannot be cooled, even in the darkest rains.

when I stood in filmy black socks on a stage
lights hot on my bare shoulders
hundreds of faces in the dark before me. my heart over-thudding in my chest so loud i could hear it.
that moment before i had to open my mouth and say-something-they're-giving-up-on-me
+ that moment just after & the last breath pressing from my lungs before the words begin,
i knew what it was to be made for something.

when i stood on the streets of cambodia
alone on a day off,
far from anyone or any place i knew,
soaked to the bone beneath a sky spitting violent gusts of rain into torrents on the cracked and dusty earth
whipping the bathwater currents to a foaming frenzy pooling down the alleys
pressed on all sides by glistening
dark skin, wide smiles, able hands and calloused sandaled-feet
as the crowds shuffled forward to find shelter under towering, trembling palms
i knew what it was to be made for a time, for a place.

   to take mortal words and create art was a taste, a teaser, of what it is to feel alive.

   to stand on a foreign soil and know i was home, yet far from home, was the sweetest sampling of what it is to know i was created for a place i never before knew existed.

   i know i was made for more. i know i was created for a place not on this earth.

   i know the ache, the deep and constant fever of surrender, of missing, of knowing but no longer having. i know the tautness of the tension between where you have been and where you are going.

   but what if… what if there is something on this earth that i was created for above all – something that can never be taken from me?

"you are My witnesses, declares the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me."
- isaiah 43.10

   what if i were made, formed, and chosen to simply know, believe, and understand. what if this is the reality, the simple, beautiful reality. what if i don’t have to worry about anything else, be anything else, do anything else?

   that feeling, the feeling of doing what you know you were made for, of being in the place you know you belong – there is no greater, more freeing feeling on this earth than that.

   but i am now knowing, too, the pain and the imperfection and the fleetingness of storytelling, of traveling, even of doing something good and useful for the world and its at-risk kids - all the things i seek after for their deep but momentary fulfillment.

   i hear it in the old song, be Thou my Vision, oh Lord of my heart...

   i'm so quick to run after my own vision. to seek after fleshly coordinates, human charts, a five-year plan - to keep some sense of stability in this sojourner life God has called me to.

  but what if to know God, to understand Him, to discover Him – what if that is the perfect fit for the ache i carry, we all carry

   Thou.. my vision? You are my Vision.

   i play so many games, trying to write myself in as the heroine of my own story. to justify my existence i need to remind myself repeatedly i-am-doing-okay. i-am-fulfilling-purposes. God-is-pleased.

   i quickly fall into the rut of making up my own vision. whatever feels right. whatever the general public thinks should be my vision. what seems will bring me most passion while making the best use of my gifts. but these visions?

   they are fickle shape-shifters. the winds of trials & change come blowing in and there-you-have-it, i am missing the mark again, have lost my life. it's ruthless + depleting. i have, quite frankly, had enough.

"riches i heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
You and You only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure You are."

   but what if there is one thing into which i can pour every last ounce of heart and soul and passion and thought – and have it never, ever, be taken from me? what if i were made for that?


   "blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! according to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. in this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. though you have not seen Him, you love Him. though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
- 1 peter 1.3-9

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