Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm Not Right

Chad and I had lunch together in Tyler one day before Eden was born, and we had gotten in the habit of assessing our life as a married couple a lot. I think it was because we only knew that this new person was entering in our family and we wanted to be sure we knew who we were and what we were about before we started training a mini-Freije. I could laugh now that at the time we were so afraid of what this new person was going to do to "us". We're more "us" now than ever before she was born.

But anyway, we were talking and I won't ever forget Chad's words. He looked up at me and had tears glistening in his eyes, (something not uncommon for Chad since he started considering his role as a dad...something that I still fight him over...there is only room for one emotional person in our family, and that role was filled a long time ago) and he said, "I just want to make sure that we always remember that we aren't right."
I nearly choked on my meal. What do you mean we want to remember we aren't right? If we aren't right, why are we living this way? If we aren't right, what's the point to making sure we stick to our convictions? But he calmly explained that he knows that at some level, our theology, our thoughts on a God who is much bigger and better than us, and on the millions of different people that God has lovingly formed and created totally unique from one another, are not always right. We don't have all the answers. We never will. We have some blind spots, because we're human, and because we're not in Heaven.
So where do we go from there? What do you do with the realization that you aren't right? Because I've lived my whole life pretty much thinking I was living the right away, and judging other people if I think they are living the wrong way. And that's what Chad meant, we don't have room to judge. Yes, the Bible is pretty clear about sin and immorality and greed and lying and things like that...but there are alot of gray areas. Like how to spend time with God. Is it morning or evening? Is it an hour a day or should I really be spending seven hours? Is it with worship or without? Or how to spend our money. Are we supposed to just tithe ten percent or do we always tithe thirty percent and never buy Starbucks because they may or may not be fair trade? Or, should every mom be a stay at home? Or should every mom realize that she needs to bear some of the financial load? Or are some mom's called to different things and some can work as nurses or nutritionists or photographers and am I missing that calling by staying at home? You get my gist. Almost every area of life is, in a sense, up for debate.
And over that lunch with Chad we both decided that ultimately, the reason we want to know we're right is because we want justification. We want approval. We want to know that we're doing okay, that we're on track. And so we look around and compare ourselves and try and judge ourselves by other people, totally unrelated to us, and we try and give each other thumbs up and thumbs down. But maybe the point of life is getting our cue from God. Letting Him direct us, and not looking to the right and left, trying to figure out whose more right than us or who is more wrong.

I don't know if we're the only couple who is tempted to think we're right all the time, but I know that it was at that lunch that the Lord threw down the gauntlet in my heart and said, No more. No more pride like that. And its not like I've never thought I was right since then or that I've never judged another person, but it's become really evident that I need more humility in my life. And its been really mind-blowing to tell myself, "Charis, you are not always right. In fact, you could be very wrong right now, so you better hush your mouth about your "neighbor" and go ask the Lord to search your heart." It's not been the easiest thing, and it's probably a life-long process of failing at it and reminding myself (or having the Lord remind me) and trying to walk in Love again. I'm not right, but Jesus is. It's a bitter pill for my pride to swallow. But its a good one. It's a true one.

It's like the tool we use to measure one another is broken, because we are all so different. So we have to throw it out and realize we aren't God. Not that this gives license for sin or for things that break God's heart, but it gives license for us to express His will in such different ways.
I'm starting to think that getting to know Jesus, and getting to know Truth, isn't something that happens in one day. It's not something that even happens in a few years. Really, no one is finished in their learning process, not even until the day we die. We're always learning.

"For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect, and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect. But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded)." 1 Corinthians 13:9-10

"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter until the full light of day." Psalm 4:18

Maybe in Heaven we'll have full knowledge right away, in that blinking of an eye, and we'll understand why everyone has their own journey, and why Jesus didn't expound on some things in the Bible. I've often wished we'd have more details about Jesus' way of life: what did He eat? Did He ever eat sweets? Or was He always mindful about health and wholeness? Did he sleep in ever, or was He always the first one awake? Is it wrong to press the snooze button? I mean, these may seem silly, but you see where I'm going.
Maybe He purposefully didn't give all the details so that we'd learn to listen, and learn to walk when and where He tells us and not try and tell everybody else what to do. And maybe that's what the journey of faith is, of learning to listen for His still small voice behind you saying, "this is the way, walk in it." And the way for you might not be the exact same way for me. It will look the same in some places, because we have the same artist painting out picture and every artist has his trademark strokes and touch. But at the end of it all the portrait of our lives won't look a thing like the person's next to us. And maybe that's just how He intended it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

"I think thankfulness is like a flower. It needs care and cherishing if it to live and grow. Perhaps thankfulness, even more than some other qualities that seem to come naturally to us, is in need of cherishing, because of the withering winds of life. The best way to cause it to grow strong in our hearts is to be careful never to let ourselves be unthankful. Has anyone done anything to help me and I have said nothing about it? (It is not enough to thank God; we should thank the one to whom He gave the loving thought that caused the loving deed.) Has anyone prepared a surprise for me and I have been blind to it? or if I noticed it, have I been dumb? If we have been careless about this, let us put it right. I often think we must disappoint our kind Father by not noticing the little things (as well as the countless great things) that He does to give us pleasure. Perhaps we should begin by thinking more of what His children do for love of Him and for love of us too." - Amy Carmichael

Last night I let Eden watch a few minutes of Nick Jr. and the Blue's Clues guy came on and was talking about thankfulness and what all the characters on his show are thankful for, and I thought-- this is such a wonderful reminder. Everybody, whether they know God or not, can recognize that an attitude of thankfulness is a good thing. Not only does it serve as a hot air balloon for my heart, it also is a weapon against destructive thoughts and self pity. I found myself this morning thinking about problems I see in other people and I had to stop myself and say, "Charis, how about we be grateful for the wonderful people in our life?" and so I started to list out reasons I am thankful for the people I know and those nasty little thoughts retreated. I think it goes along with the verse that if we draw near to God, the devil will flee from us. Psalms tells us to enter His gates with thanksgiving in our hearts, and our courts with praise. When I was little I'd associate that verse with actually being in Heaven, but I think it's a right-now-reality. If our bodies are temple of the Holy Spirit, then His presence is with us, and He is attracted to thankfulness. So boom...when you get thankful, things like depression, moodiness, anxiety, complaining, bitterness, basically anything that is against God, flees from you. It's like turning on a light in a dark room. I've never seen a shred of darkness put up a fight. It's go to go.

As for the quote at the top, I stumbled across this little treasure of a reminder this morning, and it seemed so fitting for today. Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India, and for the last twenty years of her life she was bedridden with a chronic illness. She spent those years writing letters to all of the people she knew and cared for, encouraging them to love Jesus, to love others, and to keep the faith. This is one of her letters. It never really impressed me so much that she'd write all these letters (which have been compiled into multiple books)until yesterday- when I had my first encounter with food poisoning.

Chad and I spent almost an entire day literally plastered to our couches, and the worst part was, we couldn't watch the food network shows we love, because we'd feel even worse. There were so many times yesterday where I thought about how terrible sickness is, and how its really hard to focus on the Lord when I feel like my stomach is attacking me.

While we were laying on our couches, bundled in blankets and trying to nibble on saltines and taking tentative sips of ginger ale, Chad kept saying how we needed to focus on what God's done for us (probably because I was complaining too much). And when we started reciting all the ways He has been faithful to us, it wasn't long before we started to forget about how sick we felt. And during my worse moments, Eden would be zooming past me with her popper vacuum trailing behind her, and I'd burst out laughing. And it helped so much to laugh too. Its amazing how God made laughter, made thankfulness and praise as buoys for our souls. They keep us afloat.

It's amazing too what being sick did for my perspective. I woke up this morning and all I wanted to do was clean the house. I have been beside myself with happiness. I've managed to do three loads of laundry, clean two bathrooms, scrub down our sinks, refrigerator, oven, and microwave, and organize our ungodly number of magazines...and its only 10:30. I feel like walking outside and shouting, "I'm alive! I will be okay!" There were moments yesterday I thought I'd never eat again. And really, I have to admit that I'm really thankful for food poisoning. Because it taught me how great my day to day life is.
"through Him, then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." Hebrews 13:5

Monday, September 19, 2011

Snot & Sin

In the brief but wonderful 13 months that I’ve been a mom, I have seen that parenting lends itself to perpetual parallels between the Spiritual and the natural. There are so many lessons I’ve learned about God’s nature hidden in how I feel about Eden. This is one of them.

Note: This particular blog entry contains some graphic descriptions that may be disturbing to people without kids, and people with kids who have an aversion to snot.

Last night I found myself following a trail of chocolate bunny snacks to where Eden sat, attempting to play with some of her favorite toys, with snot all over her face and hands. (I know of at least one person, Ashley Siner, who would be gagging just at the thought. I, however, grew up in a family that staunchly believed in the use of Kleenex -that was before Puffs Plus Lotion was available-, and a Mom who couldn’t handle when kids sniffed back their snot. In short, snot doesn’t really gross me out. Leave me alone in a room with a kid whose not my own and their dirty diaper, and that’s a different story.)

All that to say I felt terrible for Eden because I could have cleaned up her mess so much better than she. Since this cold set in, she’s all about trying to wipe her own nose, and to be honest, she is just not very efficient. She makes it worse every single time, and she ends up getting everything around her contaminated. As I was cleaning her off yesterday, and she was screaming her little heart out, I started to laugh just thinking about how similar we are sometimes. (Or maybe it’s just how similar I am.)

Don’t we frequently walk away from where our Spiritual Daddy sits, to go wander off and inevitably we make a mess of ourselves? And then, when we’ve made the mess, we try and clean it up, but we only make the whole thing even worse? So often I find that one “little” sin leads to so many more, and it just gets all over the people I love, and all over me. I let myself think discontented thoughts early in the day, and when I realize what I’ve done I end up so disappointed in myself that I can’t find the guts to spend time with God, and those thoughts slowly turns into me being easily irritated with the people I love, or selfish with my time, or I grumble and complain, and by the time I crawl into bed I’ve made my husband, my friends, and whoever happened to call me on the phone feel like I’m a perpetual little rain cloud.
I was reading something the other day that talked about how eager God is to meet us, even in the midst of our sin. He longs to set us free, and He looks at us graciously, like a Father with compassion. I wonder if He feels anything like what I felt last night finding Eden all messed up with her own snot. I felt so bad for her; all I wanted to do was get her cleaned up so she could enjoy the toys that I’ve given her to enjoy.

Since the beginning though, since Adam and Eve, its innately human to run away from God when we sin. Isn’t that the silliest thing? It’s as if He didn’t know we had it in us, as if His arm is too short to wipe our proverbial noses. But God’s desire, from the first moment we sin, is to get us clean. He wants to help us, He wants to set us free to go and enjoy life and not wallow in guilt. There is a verse in Proverbs I love that says, “The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord.” Somehow, whenever I sin, I start to feel like God must not want anything to do with me anymore, and that I ought to somehow get myself straightened out before going to see Him. But He is nothing like us, and His logic isn’t our logic. He knows the secret, that only He has the perfect way to clean us, and that we do a pretty shabby job of it.

And sometimes when I sin, I start to identify myself with that sin, and think that God must hate me because I have sinned. God’s heart towards us and His heart towards sin are two different things. When we know Jesus and have invited Him into our hearts, He declares us His sons and daughters, and His heart towards us is pretty much summed up in Psalm 23, with the final verse adding the best part: “Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” He doesn’t lose sight of us in the middle of the sin- He doesn’t start identifying us with our sin. I don’t suddenly think of Eden as one big piece of snot just because she’s covered in it, I still see her worth and value in the middle of it. I just want her clean. I just want her to be able to live a better quality of life in the middle of her cold.

If I’m just Charis, a 24-year-old girl who helps out her precious daughter just because I adore her, don’t You think an ageless God has a much better understanding of the human spirit, a much better method of cleaning “noses”? Jesus says if we think we’re good parents, we should see God. “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11

“But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins- and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” 1 John 2:1-2
We know that Jesus literally stands in Heaven and makes intercession for us (He prays on our behalf) and we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of Grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) So instead of running away next time, hiding in our corners leaving a trail of uneaten mess, and sitting in a pile of our own self-wiped snot, let’s do the wiser thing. Let’s run to our Heavenly Father, asking Him to wipe our noses, get us clean, and set us straight.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"A sound heart [is] life to the body, But envy [is] rottenness to the bones."
Proverbs 14:30

I've always loved this verse. Isn't it true that when we begin to envy or grow jealous we almost feel crippled inside? I have grown to hate the presence of jealousy, and to despise it when I start to feel it knocking at the proverbial door in my heart. I know to be true what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:6: "But godliness with contentment is great gain."

Have you ever been going about your business, only to suddenly be accosted with the realization that someone has something that you need? And what was once at peace inside of you becomes a restless anxiety, one that won't be quieted until you possess whatever it is that you are missing? It doesn't have to be a "thing" as in a material thing, it could be a way of thinking, it could be an intellectual achievement, it could be a manner of talking or carrying oneself, whatever that "thing" may be, it can take whatever peace was in you and create total chaos. It's like that verse in Proverbs says, "anger is cruel, and wrath is like a flood, but who can survive the destructiveness of jealousy?"

During my quiet time this morning, I tried to figure out what the word "sound" meant, and why having a sound heart is life to my body. What I found was so encouraging, I just have to write about it! It means "health, healing, cure" and comes from the root word rapha, which is actually one of the names of God, Jehovah Rapha "The Lord My Healer".

For some reason, the idea that a sound heart means it's a healed heart makes having a sound heart so much more attainable! If sound heart meant it was something I had to innately possess, I'd be rather discouraged. I don't wake up every day feeling content, feeling perfectly happy. Some days I do, and aren't those wonderful mornings? Yawning yourself awake happily, with sunlight dancing across your room? But not every day is like that. Wouldn't it be so nice if we all were born naturally content? If it wasn't in our nature to want what we can't have or don't have or won't have? Even Eden, at 13 months, would rather have the "off-limits toys" than play with her own, ie: the trashcan, the glass pitchers, etc. She knows what it is to look beyond the wonderful world of pink cars and pink building blocks to the unknown area of the kitchen, and think that she'd be happier if she could play with what she hasn't been given. It's an innate part of our hearts to long for things that aren't supposed to be ours. But God came to heal those parts in us.

And if I'm faithful to present to Him the parts of me that aren't content, He can heal my heart and fill it so that I'm not busy looking around and hurrying to attain whatever I can. For what profit is it for a man to gain the world, but to lose his soul? God is the great soul-calmer, our soul's very best Physician. He's never turned away a patient yet. Isn't that good news? We can have a heart that is sound, giving life to our bodies, because He heals us.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" by Helen H. Lemmel

We would see Jesus; other lights are paling, which for long years we'd rejoiced to see, the blessings of our pilgrimage are failing; we would not mourn them, for we go to Thee.

"We Would See Jesus" by Anna B. Warner

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's been a rather depressing shade of gray here in Indiana all week long. I've traded in my sandals and shorts for skinny jeans and boots, and I haven't had the best attitude about it, to be honest. I did decide, however, to have a better attitude about the cold in the winter-- just as long as winter doesn't try to steal my warm weather moments, and vice versa, we're going to get along just fine. Today, however, I woke up to the sun shining through our window and I nearly leaped out of bed. What is it about the sunshine that makes life so much better? On every level? Naturally, the minute Eden went down for her morning nap I threw on a tank top and the shortest shorts I could find (no nosy neighbors here)-- and ran to our backyard lawn chair to have some time with the Lord...and here I sit...typing away on the computer screen that I cannot read because the sun is so bright. Praise the Lord.

The point of writing all of this, (let's hope I have a point), is that a few moments ago I had the most wonderful reminder of such a simple truth. I walked back inside of our house to retrieve some cookies from the oven (because when I'm happy, baked goods inevitably are produced in huge quantities- heck, if I'm sad, the same thing happens). And when I walked in to get them, I suddenly felt blind in my own home. I couldn't see the tray, the oven, the oven mit...etc. But I was so tickled by it, so delighted that the reason I was blind inside was because outside I was sitting and soaking up glorious September sun-- that I didn't care if I burned my hand. Or that I couldn't tell if the cookies were burned or mushy or what. It didn't take long for my eyes to readjust to being inside, and as I was shoveling cookies onto a paper towel, I kind of panicked thinking I wanted to get back in the sun so I would think inside was dark again.
Just then it was like the Lord reminded me of that verse in Matthew 6:22-23:
"the eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye us clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"
I experienced this principle just this week- maybe it was because of the weather too, but I just didn't invest much in finding time to spend with God. I made myself busy doing who knows what, and entertaining my brain with Pinterest, or friends on the phone, or Eden's most recent antics. But by Thursday, I felt really stupid. I felt really irritable. I felt really ugly and insecure and as all of those thoughts started lowering into my mind like the bazillion layers o f clouds outside-- I realized that the key to all of my mental distress was my lack of intimacy with God. So i dedicated an hour to reading yesterday and talking to Jesus, and it was so wonderful. I felt so relieved, so much more alive. And what was most interesting was that the negative thoughts I had been marinating in only moments before my quiet time looked totally ridiculous and unthinkable just after it. It was like my spiritual eyes had adjusted to a new standard of brightness- and the junk of my flesh looked really unnappealing. Isn't that how it is supposed to be though?
When we were little, I can't tell you how many movie nights were ruined by Mom's incessant complaining about anything in the movie wasn't absolutely pure or above-board. At the time, I was so annoyed that she didn't think we could handle a few cuss words or a romantic scene-- but now that I am older, and even more, now that I am a mom, I understand exactly where she was coming from. Mom spent so much time with God that her conscience was really sensitive to anything that was anti-the Gospel...and she just wouldn't tolerate it. It is amazing how what we behold is what we become, what we look at becomes the standard of what we look for. When we look at comparison and jealousy, discontentment or complaining, we become someone who is insecure, jealous, discontented and sad. But if we look at Jesus- that great Light of the World and the great Light of eternity- the darkness looks just like what it is: dark. So be careful what you look at, be careful what you allow your eyes to be adjusted to. And if its sunny outside where you are- be grateful, for my sake.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I decided that I'd start making sourdough bread again this morning. We had a nasty falling out a few months ago, and I've really not been able to stomach the idea (no pun intended) of going through the arduous bread-making process until now. It's so much more than just a process, making sour dough bread alters my way of life. I have to feed it and fix it and let it rise and knead it and take care of it and monitor it, and to be honest, after a few months, I was worn out. It's like a having a pet, except the pet doesn't lick you or cuddle up or get excited to see you when you come home. It just sits there, bubbling like a witch's cauldron, just waiting until it can give me another deadline.

OK. I am being dramatic. Basically I thought I could whip up some bread every now and then, and I was excited about it. I didn't realize the bread would have me whipped. I think I am realizing that for most of my life I've taken pride in the fact that I hate commitments and I shy away from responsibility, and the Lord is putting me in a lot of situations where Charis can't operate that way anymore: Eden, for example. (This is a responsibility I gladly shoulder) Bread dough, on the other hand, isn't.

So why, if I've spent this long complaining about it, am I making it again? Good question. I guess because I had a dream last night that it snowed in July and that everyone was decorating for Christmas already, including H&M and I stomped out of the store telling them I wasn't coming back. I am already having a little bit of anxiety over winter's ominous approach. And naturally, I overcome my fear by trying to recount the things I do enjoy about winter, ie: warm, fluffy, oversized pieces of sourdough bread.

I started thinking today while I was plopping potato flakes into active dry yeast and smelling the warm air wafting up from the mixture, of how many other things I quit in life just because the process isn't what I was expecting. In simpler terms, it wasn't as easy to reach my goal as I had initially believed it would be.

Sometime in March my training program for the Indianapolis half marathon launched into killer-mode. Meaning I actually had to push myself, and run further than I'd ever gone before. The first few times I ran long milers, I loved it. I felt enthralled with the idea that I was finally going distances instead of circling the same three or four miles I usually did. But as the miles added up and I had exhausted all of my mental conversation that one run could afford, I began to hate it. I started to think that no race could be work that many weeks of boring training. And because I'd never competed in a race, I had no idea what kind of a reward the race would actually be. What if I spent the thirteen miles of race day being equally as miserable as I did on the days that I only ran ten for training? I started to resent anyone who thought they were capable of entertaining their own brains while running one and two hours straight. I started to think I was in over my head.

Thankfully, I'm married to a level-headed man who doesn't care about whether or not I feel mentally drained during runs. He cares that he's paid a forture for races, and he didn't let me quit training. So despite all of my grumbling, I showed up to the big day, (it helped that I ran the first race with one of my dearest friends who I hadn't seen in nearly two years) and as I crossed the starting line --yes, the starting line-- I was so struck with gratification and excitement that I was literally in tears. It was the first time in my life that I had applied myself for a length of time to anything, and that I was actually following through. Needless to say, the finish line was equally as exciting, but I was to exhausted to cry. Good thing I took care of that at mile 1.

In the weeks that followed those races I started to think differently about alot of things in life. I started to believe that if I set my mind to it, I could probably get a lot more things done. It reminded me of a prayer I had prayed around the time Eden was born, where I asked the Lord to bring me closer to Him. And at the time I was studying trials, and sufferings, and I was struck by how often God used hard and difficult things to get a hold of people's hearts. And it wasn't like I prayed ignorantly that I'd be brought closer, or that I'd have a bunch of trials so I would get closer. I just prayed something like, "God, I just want the honor and privelege of knowing You, and pressing in, and I don't care what it looks like because I know that You are good. Your character is perfect, and there isn't anything unfaithful in You." (I didn't pray this exact prayer, but its a paraphrase of what was on my heart)

Let me just say here, that the danger, of course, is when we pray to get close to God but we harbor fear about what that means for our lives. Being close to Jesus is the safest place we can absolutely be. Like David says, the nearness of God is our good. The enemy is constantly trying to trip us up, and convince us that when we get too close to God, God is going to ask too much, and we'll end up with too little. The truth is, the more we crave Jesus, the less it matters what we have, and so He ends up just spilling blessing in our hearts because it isn't the blessings that we value anymore- its Him, and finally our hearts can be trusted with abundance. (Interruption just to clarify: I feel like I am saying all of these really firmly because I believe them to be true, but I'm not an expert, and I don't know everything about God and how He works and why He lets bad things happen to us sometimes and why the circumstances don't always reflect the reality that He is good...but I know He has answers for us, and if we ask, He'll either give us the answers or give us the peace to make it to eternity without them)

Anyway, back to the main point. The main point is that it's taken me many miserable days, tears, moments of missing my family and feeling so torn between a new home that I love and the old home where I feel like I used to belong so well, to finally realize that this is maybe part of the answer to the prayer I prayed. There isn't a day that passes where I'm not aware, at some point, that I rely on Jesus for my happiness and joy. And even though I fail at it sometimes, it's been so life-giving to trust HIm for joy, and to actually know my need for HIm every single day.

When I think about the woman I want to be at the end of my life, she isn't very much like the woman I am today. But I know that if I continue to obey the Lord, and if I stick it out in trials (even though my trials seem trivial compared to so many other people's trials) that the process will be worth it.

And so, naturally, in light of my new determination to appreciate the processes of life, I'm going to make sourdough bread again. And I'm going to enjoy being chained to it. One bite of it fresh out of the oven, and I'll know exactly why I went through all of the trouble. That's a good word about Heaven too. One bite of it and we'll be thinking, "Now that is worth it all."

Monday, April 11, 2011

In telling the story of Caleb, I should first excuse myself by saying that I'm not the first nor is mine the only version. I can offer nothing about it, except for what I heard directly from his mouth.

First I must tell that Caleb lived in a place very nearly the same as ours. It is marked by one street, crowded with bodies busily flying and flitting to their occupations and whims and agendas. Some go to work, others to play, some go to take hold of their dreams, and they flood the street with noise and feet and a swirl of colors and shapes and sizes. The busier they get, the bigger they grow, up and up and up until they cast such long shadows on one another that it seems sometimes as if the ground of the street shall never see the light of day again. This is just the sort of street that Caleb's Mother brought he and his brother and sister on one of the busiest days of the year. She had, after all, three mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, and just enough money to do both.
Caleb was a good sort of boy, the kind of boy whose Mother can trust to keep care of his brother and sister should she need to enter a store by herself. But Caleb was, to be sure, of the more curious nature. On this particular day, his attention was captivated by a peculiar looking bug, and upon chasing it, he almost caught it. When it had eluded his hand for the last time, Caleb found himself quite lost from his mother and brother and sister. Though he searched between the busy bodies of those around him, he was very nearly trampled in the effort, and his family was no where to be seen.

With a heave of a sob, little Caleb sat himself upon a curb on the far side of the street, and laid his little head upon his hands. "I shall never find Mother, or brother or sister," cried he, and he let himself shed a few tears, for after all, nobody was here to witness him, and he decided all brave boys must at some point have gotten themselves lost from their Mother, and Caleb felt quite sure that this circumstance, above any, was worthy of a few tears.

It's not unusual that little boys believe themselves to be capable of crying more than they truly are, and Caleb found, after only a few moments, that he had grown quite weary of crying. His head soon grew heavy on his own hands, so he lay himself sideways on the narrow curb.

It was not too long before he began to think of sleepy things, which we all know cannot be described, or else one wakes up. Just as he was quite nearly asleep, Caleb fancied that he heard voices. Now, we all know that on the busy street where bodies were bustling in front of him there were many voices shouting and laughing and calling to one another, but Caleb's voices were not any of these. These voices sounded so lovely that Caleb thought to himself, "I must now be dreaming,".

But the moment he had the thought he knew it to be impossible, for he opened his eyes and could still see all of the large people passing hurriedly alongside of him.

"Well, what is this now? If I am not asleep and yet I hear these voices still, they must be real," thought Caleb. Little boys have no trouble believing what their parents would often scoff at, for little boys still believe the world is large enough that it can fit in things that cannot be explained. They have not yet convinced themselves that if something cannot be proven, it does not exist, because to a little boy, the whole world is a mystery and a fancy in itself. That is why little boys' dreams are so much more entertaining to watch, if we could. They include lots of fanciful creatures and darlings, and the whole lot of them would so far surpass all of our fairy tales to date that it would quite nearly shame every author.
Caleb kept his ear to the curb, listening to the glorious voices whose seemed now to be growing louder, which of course they were. The more Caleb listened, the louder the lovely voices grew until he was quite surprised that none of the busy feet near him had stopped their movement. In fact, as he listened, the street itself seemed to grow so distant, its noises and its sights. This too, Caleb was not the least disturbed by. For little boys are still yet novices to the ways things are, and they are quite ready to believe in anything fanciful, which is probably why everything that is fanciful happens to them. They have not yet suffocated magic by calling it mere imagination.
And Caleb could very nearly make out the words of the voices he heard, partly because they were being repeated over and over in beautiful cadence. It became so much for Caleb that he felt his arms light up with goose pimples and he couldn't help but shiver with excitement, for the goose pimples in themselves are a such a delightful feeling.

Finally, when all Caleb heard was the multitude of voices, he sat straight up in wonder at all of the large people who seemed undisturbed. But the moment he lifted up his little body, the lovely voices were quite nearly silenced by the harsh sound of the large feet and the large voices that now seemed grating and ridiculous to Caleb's little ears.
"Well!" Cried Caleb, and he stared down at the place where his head had been laying, trying very hard to figure out what was the matter with the place. And that is when he first saw it. Just next to where his right ear had been laying, there was a a very small beam of light escaping into the darkened street. Caleb bent to examine it, and saw that the light actually shown from behind a very tiny door, almost too tiny for even Caleb to see at first. And yet as soon as Caleb had recognized the light and the door, both began to become larger. I do not say that they grew larger, because that would not be true. They simply were larger. And the longer Caleb beheld them, the larger and more beautiful they became. The door was not like any Caleb had seen, its carvings so ornate, its wood shining as if it were lit up. And the light that poured from the door seemed at once as lovely as the voices, and then Caleb could not decide whether it was the light or the voices he was actually seeing, for the light carried the voices and the two seemed one.
Caleb clapped his little hands in excitement, for as he sat, the door grew to the size where he fancied he could actually fit inside of it. Caleb scrambled towards it, and just as he did, the door seemed suddenly so large that it stopped him in his tracks. It now was as enormous as the tall people, and yet it was larger then even they. Now Caleb was not sure whether or not he was meant to enter it all, for it seemed to magnificent for someone as small as he to pass through. The same force with which his elation came, a profound misery passed over Caleb, for he so wanted to get through he door to the lovely light and voices. But just as Caleb was very nearly crying with disappointment, he heard someone call his name.
He knew it was not anyone on the street behind him, because again the entire street and people were now only a blur, like a distant dream that Caleb was not sure truly existed. All he knew now were the door and the light, and as he stared up at the lovely door, he heard it call him again.
"Yes, I'm here," Caleb said, all the while chastising himself for not adding a "ma'am" or "sir", for in truth he could not tell whether the voice was that of a man or a woman. It was just lovely, and in its loveliness there was a wholeness that needed no differentiation.
"Well open the door, already, we have been waiting for you," said the lovely voice with an even lovelier laugh. Caleb could not collect his excitement and tripped towards the door, which as he stepped nearer seemed to fit him perfectly now. He reached out and pulled at the enchanting nob, and the brilliant light and voices seemed to blind him.
How different everything seemed to Caleb then! As soon as Caleb had opened the door it was is if the voices and light had carried him passed the threshold. He rubbed his little eyes, for we all know that when we step from a dark room into a lit one, our eyes have a hard time with it. What he could see when he finally could, I will have a hard time explaining, for it is nothing like what we've seen here. In fact, even little Caleb could never explain it without much difficulty and halting, and many, "Oh there is nothing quite like it!" muttered over and over until the his listeners grew tired of his tale. "It as if the very buds of spring time and the glory of the sun in the height of summertime have kissed and the whole world applauds at the same moment", was the best description he could muster and it is, indeed, the only one we all use when telling the tale. Of course we cannot assume it to look like our springtime or summertime, and Caleb himself says there is no true sun in its sky, but again, Caleb was only a little boy when he saw the place. There is nothing that is colored like our world would be, for everything is exactly what it ought to be and therefore no two things are alike. The trees and rocks and rivers and fishes and birds are all the friendliest, most welcoming things, not at all like how they are here, where they are either aloof to our existence or afraid. Here they welcomed Caleb, and for a little boy to be in a world where nothing seemed naughty and everything new him and allowed him to play, you will understand why he took so long to finally see anyone. He had quite a day of frolicking and running as fast as he wanted, falling many times and yet it did not hurt him. This was the best part of all, for his Mother would have been quite upset, Caleb was sure, if he had returned with ruined clothes and cut up legs. While I can, I must tell you that this whole time Caleb often had thoughts like this: "Oh how fond Mother would be of this place! And Brother and Sister too!" For Caleb was a kind boy who loved his family very much. But his former fear at being lost had been entirely replaced with the notion that he was somehow as found as he could possibly get, which he was.
The voices that Caleb had at first heard were, indeed, the light itself. For in this place, the whole of it seemed to be speaking. The words of it were something like a jolly prayer, and although he cannot repeat the exact words of it now, Caleb speaks of it often.
When finally Caleb had played as much as he liked, (though in this place it was not possible to grow weary of playing) Caleb grew instead more curious about other things, and wondered to himself, "Who was it that called me here?" The moment he thought it, a figure appeared before him. Behind the door the beings are not at all like us, and yet they are exactly how we ought to have been.
A little girl appeared before Caleb, (we will call her a little girl because that is what she was but yet there was not the same feeling of "differentness" that Caleb often felt when he was with other little girls. He felt as if he knew this one, and she him.) She was one of the loveliest creatures he had seen, yet it wasn't that she was wearing her own loveliness. It was Somebody Else's, and Caleb felt quite sure he had met the Somebody she was wearing, for he felt at home around her. The girl was not exactly smiling, she simply was what a smile ought to have been. This, however, did not surprise Caleb; he had felt when he first stepped through the door an absence of anything that seemed other than joy and delight. For here, in this world, there was no room for anything that did not quite fit, and sadness, despair, anger, disappointment, had long ago been pushed out.
"Why, I feel as though I know you," Caleb said with a delighted laugh, which echoed off of the happy wood and sent the air around him giggling. The girl nodded, "Yes, and I know you. But I suppose what you see is Him, for He is what makes all of us know one another." Caleb was not sure he understood completely, but he felt in his heart that agreed.
"I feel as though I know Him, then," Caleb said, too happy to be confused. The girl nodded again, and the smile that she had seemed to grow larger, "Yes, that is why you're here of course, He asked you to come." The little girl gestured with her lovely hand for Caleb to follow her, and before her emerged a path lined with wildflowers who looked at once so wild and so happy that Caleb longed to touch one. He followed eagerly behind the girl, for Caleb felt undoubtedly that he was quite welcome here.
When they had not walked very far the little girl turned around to Caleb and let out a happy laugh, "Stay here, for He is coming." And with that, she was gone. Caleb did not feel lonely, however, or upset that she had left. It seemed the most natural thing in the world that she should leave at that moment. For everything in that world happens precisely when it ought to, and nothing happens that is not full of a lovely purpose. But while Caleb stood he felt rising his little heart a joy and a hope so strong that he wondered whether or not his little body could contain it all. He laughed again and again, with the sort of laugh that sends a room of others laughing and smiling at the sound of it. And just when Caleb knew he could not grow more happy, he saw Him. He was at once more familiar than Caleb's own mother, and all the same more different than anyone Caleb had ever seen. His face was lit up with kindness, and whatever piece of Him was reflected in the little girl was discovered in His features. Caleb felt a thrill of pleasure and fascination race through his little body even looking at the Man, and could not help but run to Him. The Man's laugh seemed to make the world around him laugh in agreement, and with his embrace, Caleb felt quite at home. There was nothing else that mattered in Caleb's little mind at that moment than this Man and his opinion of Caleb.
"I've been waiting for you Caleb," said the Man, and Caleb pulled away to look at the beautiful face before him. Caleb still cannot describe the face, for it was nothing like a face and yet it was exactly how every face ought to be.
"I've been waiting for you," replied Caleb happily, for in his little heart, Caleb knew he too had been waiting for this Man, even if he had not always known it.
I cannot tell of all the happy and lovely things that were said between the Man and Caleb, but anyone who knows Caleb can attest to the different boy he was after the day he walked through the door. He no longer tried to be brave or good, he simply was both brave and good, but without the reticent pride that comes from behaving well on your own. All that can be said is that the Man spoke such good things to Caleb and that Caleb fiercely believed all of the wonderful things that Man promised him and said about him.
The time had come for Caleb to leave, for he felt in his heart that it was right that he not stay here forever, as much as he would have liked. The memory of the street outside of the door and all of the large people and his own Mother and Brother and Sister seemed to grow larger in front of him. Caleb looked towards the Man, but he had gone, which Caleb had expected even as he looked for him. The little girl had replaced him, but even her features had begun to fade, and she was but a lovely haze before him, leading him by the hand towards the door.
"Wait," said Caleb, and the little girl paused, and waited as if she had known he had questions to ask. "Why could not everyone on the street see the light and hear the voices?"
Many might think Caleb would have asked these questions first, but the moment he stepped through the door there was no room in his mind for doubts or sad thoughts. We must remember that he was, after all, a little boy. The little girl did not stop smiling, but somehow her smile seemed more tender, "It is not that they can not see the light or hear the voices, Caleb," said she. "It is that they choose not to." Caleb felt at once that her words were right, for even while the voices and the door grew, he saw the large busy people moving away from him and around it, which at the time he had thought meant they did not see it. He saw now, rather, that they did see it and were irritated by its brightness and bigness.
"But how come the door is not always so large and so lovely?" Caleb remembering now how small the door at first had been, that he fancied it a speck of light on the sidewalk, and how it only became larger as he stared at it. The girl answered, "It is always large and lovely, but the people have chosen to make themselves larger than it, and they have forgotten how to get small enough to fit in."
"Why doesn't He stop them?" Caleb felt now a deep sadness for the people on the street, and as his heart grew more sad the world around him seemed more dim.
"Because He cannot make them want to come inside, they must choose it for themselves," The little girl said.
"But don't they know what lies behind this door, and how much more lovely it is than all of the things on the street?" Caleb knew in his little heart, in that moment, that nothing in all the world could compare with the one he had entered that day.
The little girl shook her head sadly, "They know but they have let themselves believe that their world is greater. And so they cannot enter, even if they tried now. They'd have to think less of their world, and of themselves. For that is how you got in, Caleb."
Caleb could not just then remember the sequence of events that led him to discovering the door, but when he began to try and remember he found at once that he did remember. He had been frightened and lonely and lost, a combination which makes all little boys sleepy. And Caleb could not keep himself from falling asleep, and when he had laid down his head he heard the voices and saw the light, and had suddenly grown quite curious over it. And the more he wondered at it, the bigger it became.
"Will I always fit in, now?" Caleb felt, for the first time since he passed through the door, that he was afraid. He felt afraid of not seeing the Man again, or the little girl, whom he loved although he hardly knew her.
The girl nodded her little head, "So long as you choose to look at it and not get yourself too large, you can fit. It never changes sizes. You do."
Caleb felt determination rise in his little body, "Then I shall always make it bigger than I," said he. Through the hazy distance he knew the little girl had smiled again.
"That is good, Caleb," said the little girl, though her lovely voice was fading and Caleb heard another voice saying his name. When he blinked again, he was back on the curb, staring at the large feet and the large bodies, hearing his mother's voice crying out his name, "Oh Caleb!" Said his Mother, rushing to him and gathering his little body in her arms. I will not waste time to tell that, as all mothers do when they fancy they've lost or misplaced a child and they find it again, there was a surplus of tears and many "Thank Heavens" said, and Caleb never got so many kisses as he did in the next few days.
For the rest of his life, though, Caleb was talking about the door and lived in such a way that people wondered at his general smallness, and how he never made too much of what he could do or needed to get done. For as Caleb promised, he never made himself so big that the door was not bigger still.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"There is a road that leads to Heaven. It is both narrow and wide, both flat and steep, both restful and treacherous. There is a Man who walks this road, back and forth, back and forth He goes. He races with the strong, He nurses the wounded, He calms the afraid; there is not a single one who has traversed this road who has not, at some point, met with Him. He is both gentle and stern, both full of love for good and hate for evil, both full of youth, and yet older than any other. He has a wise and noble brow, hands that are strong but tender, and a gaze that strengthens just as surely as it penetrates.

As He walked one early morning, on a wide portion in one of the most pleasant valleys of the road, he came upon a little girl, curled in a tiny ball, crying rather pathetic looking tears.

Ever full of compassion, the Man stooped to her, "Little Girl, what troubles You?"

The little girl turned her tear-streaked face to the Man, not realizing who He was, "It seems as though I shall never make it to the end."

The Man fixed His knowing eyes on her, "The end of what?"

"Why, this road," she sniffled, gesturing towards the lovely portion of path where she sat.

"The best way to find out is to keep walking, don't you think?" The Man looked down kindly at the little girl, who huffed a big huff, and shook her little curl-covered head. And although she had not meant to, the little girl replied with a voice that sounded very much like a whine, "But it isn't just about me!"

The Man bent his head nearer to the little girl, "Isn't it though?"

The girl sobbed a tiny bit more, "No! Can't You see the other little children that are so much further down this road than I?"

The Man stood and shaded his kind eyes, barely making out the forms of little bodies quite a ways down from where he stood.

"I can see the others," the Man replied thoughtfully, "But I do not know that their progress has anything to do with yours."

The little girl sniffled miserably again, and as most children do when adults' responses do not suit them, she jutted out her bottom lip, which trembled perilously. "Oh but it does! It means that I shall never catch up with them," sighed she, crossing her little arms over her chest.

The Man nodded again, "Maybe not."

To his calm reply, the little girl's eyes filled with fresh tears, "Then what ever shall I do?"

The Man stooped again to her level, and grasping her shoulders, pulled her gently to her feet. "You may keep walking. And even if you should never catch up with them, at least you will still be traveling the same road as they. You will see all that they've seen, taste all they've tasted, if only you'll not tarry here, or worse yet, give up."

The little girl felt her little heart growing more brave with the kind Man's words. She squared her little shoulders and did her best to swallow down her tears, which we all know for a little girl can be quite a triumph in itself. She thought over what he'd said, realizing that although not quite so fast or far as they, she was just as able and willing to keep at the path if it meant she could experience all that her friends had.

But just as quickly as her heart grew bold, a whisper of a doubt sent it crashing down again. "But I am all alone, and they, they at least have one another!" The little girl cried.

The Man's eyes grew tender towards her.He gathered her against his chest and let her cry, which was truly hard to do, she realized, while situated so comfortably in the Man's kind embrace.

When she could not manage one more tear, the Man extended to her one of His large hands, "I will walk with you, if you like. Then you won't be alone."

The little eyes on the little girl grew rather big, considering her size. Her litte heart took flight, like a hummingbird's wings, "Oh, would you?" The Man nodded and smiled the kindest smile down at her as she placed her little hand in his.

It wasn't many steps before the little girl found all thoughts of her companions, whose progress had caused her so much grief before, were erased by the kind company of the strong Man who held her hand and warmed her heart. The road now seemed neither lonely, nor long, so long as she had Him."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How We Grow

Lately there has been this idea growing in my mind, and I keep encountering it wherever I turn. The most recent podcast I listen to is about it, Chad and I flip the channel to GodTV and Sid Roth is talking about it, the book I randomly pick up on the desk is earmarked to the exact page about it. Seriously. Its kind of a creepy, inescapable sort of thing that keeps evolving until I finally look it square in the face and give words to the impressions on my heart. So this is it.

My grandmommy used to always say, (who knows why she was always saying this, but she did) that "the thin just get thinner, and the fat get fatter." I always kind of bristled at that statement, because I was never sure which side I was on...and if I were thin, that was exciting and sort of liberating in a way, but if I was fat, well that just added an impossible anxiety. You get the idea. But there is this spiritual side of this statement that I can't resist pointing out today.

Do you ever notice that people who are really passionate about Jesus just keep going deeper? Its like they just keep getting larger and larger ideas about life and God, and soon its not just every other word they say is life-giving, its every word they say. They just ooze encouragement, and when you ask about their walk with God, they have a sparkle in their eye and a skip in their step and they seem indefatigable. And you wonder, will I ever get there?

Its probably pretty useless to outline the people who first take babysteps away from the "good life" of prayer and devotionals, tired of the routine, and bored with the faith...and a few years down the road they would rather call themselves cannibals than Christians, and they'd rather discuss the goodness of humanity than the greatness of God. And then you wonder, did they ever really meet with God? Did they ever really feel Him stirring in their hearts? Because if they did, they couldn't just walk away from it.

And maybe you're kind of like me sometimes, and one extreme looks unattainable, and the other looks totally unappealing. I heard some words recently from a pastor about how spiritual hunger and physical hunger work in opposite ways. Normally, people eat in the physical when they're hungry...and once they eat a certain amount, they aren't hungry anymore. (Notice I didn't say they stop eating, because if its a bag of pretzel mnm's in my hand, hunger or no hunger, I feel compelled to finish it) But in the spiritual, when you're not feeling hungry, all you have to do is start feeding yourself and you realize, you're hungry. And the more you eat, the more hungry you get. And so its like this endless stream of eating and hunger and eating and hunger, except there isn't obesity or gorging in the spiritual realm. Its more like Eden, when she is in the middle of a growth spurt, and all of the sudden it doesn't matter if its sweet peas or sweet potatoes or formula or milk or whatever, she could eat for an eternity. And her little body metabolizes the food and she grows more, so she eats more, and then she grows more effort to not bore you, I will digress.

I was thinking this morning while I fixed my coffee that, I wonder why some people can get away with only putting a packet of splenda in their cup and they're fine, and why I am gagging unless mine has two heaping tablespoons of sugar. Literally. And then I thought, I bet its because those people haven't had real sugar in their coffee in so long that they think splenda actually tastes good. (I've probably just upset a bunch of splenda-loving people out there, who are spewing at their computer reasons why real sugar pales in comparison to artificial sweeteners...but I know they're dillusional, probably because of the chemicals in their sweeteners anyhow) Anyway, I was thinking that if they knew how good sugar was, they'd toss out their yellow or blue or pink packets. I think its the same way with Jesus. Sometimes I'm content to just live off of fifteen minute reads in the Bible, and a few worship songs, just because I've forgotten what it feels like to read something and pour over it for an hour, and be totally touched to the core of my heart in a way nothing else can touch me...but if I could remember that feeling in its perfection and entirety, I wouldn't be content with anything less.

And that's why I think the spiritually "fat" just keep getting bigger. Their memories are thick with moments like that, where they walk away and their hearts are practically screaming "God is with me!!!" And so they have to keep going back for more.
And sometimes I look at those people and feel discouraged, like I won't ever get there, or that I was once there but I can't figure out how to get back. This morning, the Lord just reminded me though how His economy works. His is not like America's. He doesn't have a certain amount of money in the bank or gold in the reserve that is exhausted at a certain point. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills...and in a non-monetary way, He has riches that are eternal for all of us. There is space enough in Him for all of us to press in. And if you wake up and feel satiated already, and you think, I just don't feel like I need God, go get with Him. Your feelings don't determine reality. And the more time You spend, the more You'll want. The more you feast off His word or in prayer or in worship, the more space you'll create in your spiritual stomach for Him. He is always waiting, always ready to run to welcome you. Its good for me to often remind myself, when I'm tempted to compare my spiritual lot with someone else's, that God never shorthands us. We do it to ourselves. So, hungry or not, go get some.

"The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, although exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us." -AW Tozer

Monday, January 10, 2011

Apparently the world's worst storm was chasing us yesterday as we exchanged Abilene, Texas for a flight back to Indianapolis. In between strapping Eden into the baby bjorn and boarding our last leg of the journey from Atlanta home, I felt sure there was a silent sadness that was creeping in the clouds behind us: that one haunting sadness of bags still unpacked, neatly stacked by our bed, and the realization that I am thousands of miles (okay maybe just 1000 miles) from the people I so love and miss. I hate even the dreading of that moment, and yesterday on the plane I was about to get lost in the feeling when I remembered some words the Lord had put on my heart a few weeks ago: "Frame your heart to the burden."

I'm naturally a happy person, maybe a little bit pensive at times and a tad bit too intense for some people (my apologies), but I generally wake up in the morning feeling excited for the day. I have loved my life all of my life. Not in a prideful way, but in a, I-will-do-the-best-I-can-with-what-I've-got-and-what-I've-got-might-not-be-alot-to-some-people-but-to-me-its-the-essence/extent-of-my-potential. (Its probably illegal to write a sentence like that, but I think you know what I mean). I love the man I married, I love the baby God gave us, I love my family, I love the skin I'm in (or at least I am trying to-- albeit I spent years of my life examining and obsessing over its flaws) and I love love...the fact that I am a victim of grace. (I got that from a book I read yesterday, maybe its one of those well-known Christian colloquialisms, but I hadn't heard it til about noon yesterday and therefore its truth is pretty striking still).

In the past year, however, I have found it more of a struggle at certain points, to wake up blooming with hope. Its been a point of shame for me, and something I hate to even acknowledge. I, who have been given so much to be thankful for, have had the audacity to grumble in my spirit. (My spirit is shuddering even at the thought-- 1 Corinthians 10 makes it very clear how God feels toward complainers). In the wake of the wonderful gift of marriage and this baby and new friends in Indianapolis, I've been hit also with the reality of living away from my family, and the missing of certain people who had become necessary to my everyday welfare. And there are many moments I have found myself comparing my lot to others, whose families are down the street, around the corner, and who are irreparably connected to their hometown, their friends, their place of being presently that they have no need for new friends. And I've muttered under my breath, cried in my car, and tried to figure out a way to get home, to manipulate friendships to fit my needs, and to bother Chad until he does something about it. And quite often, I wish I could see a bunch of trials laid out on a table in Heaven and be able to handpick mine. "Lord," I say, "I could so much better handle financial stress or trouble with a friend or something else...just don't split my heart like this." This, I admit, is totally and completely wrong. Not the missing, not the momentary sadness, but the sense of entitlement to have life on my terms. As if I own my life.

"Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup, you have made my lot secure." Psalm 16:5

I usually have the hardest time with it when I'm freshly home from a visit to Texas. The people, the companionship, the warmth is so accessible to my memory that it makes everything seem paled in comparison. I was anticipating this sadness a few weeks before Christmas, knowing I'd be home for a substantial amount of time and I was asking the Lord how to prepare myself and possibly how to prevent my turning into the worst version of myself.

Very clearly, I heard the Lord say, "Charis, frame your heart to the burden. I've placed you neither by accident nor by punishment in your present circumstance. I know that this very burden is the exact trial I've chosen for you, and if you lean into Me, rather than try to squirm away or exchange it for something else, I'll teach you not only to survive, but to thrive in the face of it."

So yesterday, following the lone line of weary passengers onto the plane, I mentally stood up to the gathering clouds in my heart and told them: "The Lord has promised me that I can thrive in the midst, in the very heart of the trial. And I choose that inheritance." I have to and must learn to frame my heart to the burden, and let the clouds that promise trial produce fruit in my life. I woke up this morning and remembered this verse:
"For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned." Hebrews 6:8-9

I don't believe I'm alone in having a specifically assigned trial, or even a circumstantially assigned one. Whatever your burden is, whether its grad school or that one teacher or maybe even the fact that happiness is so much more of a task for you this season in your life...maybe you can take comfort in the Truth that God is faithful to use the trials we go through, and more than that, He is with us in the midst of them, and His voice and instruction will be LIFE to us if we listen and lean into Jesus. He is sturdy enough, surely. He has joy enough for all of us to glean off. And He can teach us to say what David says at the end of Psalm 16:

"The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever."