The Garden of Enough.

Think of a time in your life where you felt stolen from. The pain of this theft is usually much more than the physical being taken away. But there it is. Something valuable was taken – and in exchange you feel like you might not ever hold something important again.

And whether that’s true or not – you breathe like it is. That brokenness – that stolen-ness follows you. Everyone meets your pockets named Empty and your heart called Closed. The fragrance of your loss leaps from Valley of Disappointment to a life that feels like Shallow. Although you have plenty of clothes, your friends call you Poor. And maybe this season is one hour or one year or one whole lifetime – but the time isn’t the indicator that you’re not whole. You just know it. You smell like it. You act like it.

Wise-One tells you to pull from the Garden of Enough, but all you can see is Winter. You look at your knees and the bruises aren’t from bowing. With each fall you feel further away from the Father and from any sign of Safety. And you see the One’s around you and you love them! But you aren’t fully convinced, no you haven’t chosen to fully believe that they are safe. So you throw up your creative walls and tell yourself that the exchange of information means intimacy.

So you stay in the confines of Shallow and the Valley of Disappointment. You do this because it’s familiarity is the only consistent One that you follow. And you still feel far! You feel far from the good smells, and the good people, and the Good Father. Fear becomes a new name for you and Love becomes an old distant friend.

An ordinary day of Devastation is what allows you to move. The pain of the ripping away hurts like hell, but you start to realize that you have to change in order to invite real Love in. You start to see yourself a bit different and you hear the hum of others around you that makes you feel closer to the Good-One. And so maybe you were wrong? Maybe people are just portable Garden’s of Enough leading you to Plenty.

And of course you won’t always feel the weight of loss this big, but there might be traces of it in the way you love.  So if you want to be a Garden yourself, you’ll have to step into Winter. Do not let it’s bareness scare you. Let that desperation you feel lead you to Love perfected. Until you learn to be planted by the Good-One, the broken one’s around you will not experience the mercy they need. Look after them, too. Be kind to all the fruit – and know that it’s really good for Gardens to gather together.

Break bread in the middle. If you feel desperate – come to the table. Drink the good stuff with family-people and keep serving when you’re suffering. Let yourself be together with other brokenness and believe the best in each others messy spots.  There is an exchange coming, and we get to live at the altar in the Garden of Enough.

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The Higher Rock.

Here I am,back on US soil which means my feet are instantly less dry and my heart is more overwhelmed. It’s not all bad, though, I feel grateful to have an unending access to lotion and an unwavering desperation to be led to the Rock that is higher.

Three months isn’t long in the scheme of things, but I feel like I could write a book about all the ways that I failed paired with all of the ways that I felt more loved through it. Many of you support me in the way of cash-money and the way of Spirit-filled prayers and if I could give you all the biggest long-awaited airport hug, I sure would. I love you. I promise that if you’re reading this – you have probably ran across my mind. I have felt so much gratitude for the people who have committed to connection and intercession for me and my mission.

Italy was full of Holy Spirit followers and Greece was filled with the most radical examples of people who love deeper than I can even explain right here. It’s not fair to try – so I won’t. What I do feel called to do, however, is to share with you my experience of pain, love, desperation, crying out, fear, anxiety, and a love that seemed to be bigger than all that. I learned real courage – true casting out fear kind of love – so I am absolutely obliged to share the ways in which my heart was opened, sanctified, stretched, and the ways that my heart was forced to change to be more like Father. (And an in-depth coffee date to go deeper!)

It wasn’t until the hardest 3 months of my Christian walk that I was able to realize how selfish I am. I have never asked for more mercy and I honestly have never seen the face of God quite like this. He met me – through the ugly face of my fear – and calmed me down. Taught me how to lead out of a place of deep Jesus-need and to continually (and sometimes hourly) proclaim truth to my own heart. Because how dare I lead if I am not then willing to first pour out my heart? How should I ever even dream to sloppy-kiss love if I am not then willing to be vulnerable and to share the ways I missed it.

I missed it. There were moments and days that I would forget this radical love. There were days that I’d remember – and I still chose fear. But what that does to you – is it shows you a microscopic version (the real version) of your heart close-up. It shows you how – apart from connection and feeling good – that you…but mainly I am so insecure when I am not rooted deeply in the truth of the Gospel. What is truth? Truth is that I scrubbed toilets and I organized cabinets and Jesus spoke to me when my head hurt and my hands were covered in rotten food. Truth is that I watched 17 people + me encounter Jesus and then live out the power of that testimony. Truth is that I saw people healed and truth is that my undercut got shaggy. I loved deeply, felt love even deeper, and discovered that Jesus isn’t just good when I feel good.

Truth is that I needed God and that I still do.

I feel promises being fulfilled and I feel fear leaving me head to toe. And even on the days when I forget – no one can take away the freedom I experienced and the Love I looked at! I was with students, big hearts that were always willing to say “yes”. I got to understand a little more of Muslim culture and I got to speak to those currently participating in Ramadan. I got to fail, and fail, and fail and then I got to realize that God’s version of success is really different than my own. I learned to seek truth first from the red-lettered words in the bible and the stories of Solomon and Peter in the Old Testament. I learned to learn to endure better. I learned that my happiness is fun, but that joy in Jesus is lasting. I learned that I am surrounded by accountability and people who champion me and I learned that sharing lives is more than just sharing feelings.

What did you learn over the last 3 months?

I hope you feel closer to the Higher Rock.

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The Compassionate One.

Slam dunk – you’d think.

From the outside in you see joy so deep that you’re convinced the heart is penetrated until you hit the rather shallow wall of “no!”

I take the bread and the wine and I think I’m moving. I convince myself that the inside is eating the outside – but in a good way. But the truth is that my flesh is rather festering, and the mess seems to be the one defining that inward organ after all.

So what does this make God? The smallness of my mind begs for a Savior that’s big enough, but there my hands go again – stealing any chance of a Friend to come in.

But the impossible does comes…and He just listens. His joy makes Him approachable but it’s His understanding that makes me want Him to stay. He’s on the inside of my wall. And slowly as I start to follow Him again, we walk past it together to the other side where other friends are waiting; where other family is staying. We walk right past the wall to the close people on the other side – and we all just wait for more joy to come as we stand with our compassionate God.

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This Whole Dang Time.

I am challenged while writing this because I am going against my usual pretense.

I have not figured it out. 

That’s right. The current mess that has jacked me up has no conclusion to it, yet. I will however continue to write because the revelations that are causing my heart to change are worth my chewed fingertips that will result.

I wrestle, not even as artistically as David did, because I’m no longer comfortable with the ebb and flow that is my small-minded reality of God. Of course I will never be able to wrap my mind around His bigness, but has this resulted in me serving a false God? I look at my past, even now I bury deep in the thick of the pain because it hasn’t always been like this! Because for me God was only big the moment I started to believe it. He couldn’t have been on the scene during the painful aches of childhood and the even more brutal moments that I chose to be a prodigal instead of an inheritor. No! He was only good when I thought of Him that way. He was only good when we were close! He was only big when I realized that I needed Him.

How hilarious it seems now writing all of that out because I really did spend most of my life thinking that God had only been good for 4 years of it. That wrecked me. That changed the inner parts of me, but not in a way that made me feel good. Rather in a way that made me crumble to the ground and repent. I couldn’t help but want to turn away from the wrong thinking I had. Because God, He had been good the whole time. In fact – He had been close the whole time.

Does that change you? I really hope that it does. I’m wrecked and it’s a literally mess but it feels really good to get closer. I always heard that “the pure in heart will see His face” but it is pretty transformative when you actually get a glimpse.

He’s been good, so so good…this whole dang time.

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Close.

My hands clap deliverance while my heart stays in the stagnant wilderness proclaiming that it’s rooted – that it’s diluted. What’s become of my praise?

Gratitude soon tells mind to wake up quick, and it’s also what uproots my heart to a Better Country. My mess will leave traces of a really good story.

I am convinced, no I am persuaded that this story will further the glory. So what now? 18 years of being divorced from the real First love has got these last 6 years screaming for an explanation! Where were You? Where are You? Why did this pain have to happen!

And I don’t always get the answers that I ask for. I don’t always feel, or hear, or see breakthrough. Sometimes I believe that everyone will abandon me, or betray me, or abuse me. And sometimes people do. But what I’ve learned is that the human condition is not the end of this search for cool water. When I’m walking through these really green pastures and I can’t find a good Father or any water and I trust suspicion more than I trust love – He asks me to look at His cup. And so I do. And then I drink it. And then I always, always feel better.

To be in His presence. To sit at His feet. Sometimes all I want is Him to answer my damn questions. Sometimes I want Him to clear things up, or justify my pain, or get rid of the doubt or even just show me truth. But I think the best part of the relationship…I think the best part of any relationship…is when you scream and yell and throw things and when you are the worst version of yourself…and the other person just stays with you.

And that’s what Jesus always seems to do.

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Samson.

Letting go is painful.

White knuckled me clenches tight to the layers and the years of ‘it doesn’t matter’. A lot can happen in four years and I can confidently say that a lot has. I found Jesus and I fled to Africa! It was no escape leaving school, it was simply God calling me to His kids to teach me what it looks like to be really free for the first time. And I served. I got my hands dirty and even though I almost died in that country – I found my way back on similar soil two years later. And it was okay that I hurt the same organ on the same foreign continent, and I’d even do it again because it’s always worth it with Him.

But I think holding on is worse.

I’ve learned a lot while being sick. You get malaria in your brain and knocked on the head so much that pain feels more normal than the absence of it at times. But you learn to trust. Yes you learn that you must do something more than gripe at the already there because the Lord is doing something, well He’s most definitely doing something much more substantial than I could ever see. But I couldn’t see! It was all about what I felt; what I held. It was safe to grip at something so I tried people, and when that fell apart too close to my heart I held that country, and then I held that child, and then I held that friend, and that school, and that job, and that dream, and then I even held onto my nappy head of hair and acted like I didn’t care much because it felt safe to be remembered.

So here I stood after giving up almost everything (I thought) to Jesus when He asked me to give Him more. He asked me to give Him everything. So I cut off my hair and I told Him I’d do it! That I’d be a missionary. And although I’m no Samson, it hurt a little more this time.

Freedom is costly, my friends, there is a price to walk weightless. But it is worth it. And the load is so radically light. (I mean legitimately, though, I think my dreads left me 5 pounds lighter).

 

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Bear Hugs & Clean Feet.

Judas was shocked.

Mary had just waltzed in the room blubbering and crying simultaneously taking her hair down in front of all the men. She then had the audacity to take the perfume that was more expensive than a whole years salary to wash the feet of Jesus. She was a mess. And if that wasn’t enough – she used her hair to wipe His feet clean.

“That perfume was worth a years wages. It should have been sold and given to the poor!” was the only thing Judas could spit out. (John 12:7)

Now we all know that homeboy was full of it. He was a thief that would soon betray Jesus shortly after this encounter. But Jesus, in the boldness of who He was said,

“Leave her alone.”

I can barely read this story without welled up tears building up and streaming down both cheeks. Because while yes, Mary was a bit of a drama queen, Jesus knew her heart. He knew that was the way she needed to grieve his death. And that’s what he does for us. He stands between us and the accuser and says “Leave her alone!” … “Leave him alone!” … He stands between us and the thief and restores our life.

He lets us sit as his feet and weep when we need to. Even if we seem a bit out of sorts or a little irrational, even. He sees the cries of our hearts and breathes deeply there with us.

So today as I sit at his feet, he bears hugs me as I wash them.

 

 

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