when the land is not flowing with milk and honey.

my friend kelly has been posting words of truth on her blog.  she’s posting for 31 days this month and has been writing mostly about being in the wilderness.  she’s been camped out in exodus for the last week and so i’ve been thinking about my own wilderness season.  i can relate to most of what she’s saying about feeling lonely, the pain and practice of waiting and what it feels like when god takes you the long way around.  except here’s the problem.  i feel like i’m not supposed to feel any of those things because i have apparently entered my proverbial promised land.

in the months leading up to my move i had a perfect picture of what life would be like here.  i wasn’t completely naive to the fact that it would still be transition and there would be bits that would feel hard.  but the job.  the job was going to be everything i’d ever hoped for.  life would be good.  students would be in and out of my apartment constantly, my staff would always want to be together.  we’d drink coffee and talk about the deep things of our hearts for hours on end.  i’d be the cool one who took trips to fro yo at midnight and retold war stories from my time abroad.  i’d find friends easily, join a small group, help hold babies on sunday mornings.  ministry would be vast and easy.  the sun and would shine, the birds would chirp and i’d finally see the abundance i’ve been claiming.

i expected to bring the glory clouds and manna from the wilderness with me to the promised land.

instead, i live alone and miss having roommates desperately.  ministry looks like fire drills and discipline meetings and 80s skate nights.  most of my staff doesn’t like coffee and we have not once traipsed about town for fro yo.  i send emails and plan meetings and give feedback.  i’ve traded the manna for caf food and the glory cloud for a permanent indention on  my couch.  i spend most evenings alone and watch more netflix than i care to admit.

i like my job.  i am grateful for it.  but life looks different.  outside of leslie knope and my co-workers [who i am beyond thankful for] i don’t really have friends.  i’ve struggled to find new community.  the boxes are all unpacked and my apartment is decorated but i don’t always feel settled.

when the israelites crossed the jordan into the promised land they rested for a hot minute, thanked the lord for bringing them so far and set remembrance stones for what he’d done.  then they set up camp and looked at the walls of jericho.  the walls they’d have to go tear down.  the walls they’d have to march around until they finally fell.

they were in the promised land but they still had to fight for the inheritance of it.  

no one ever told me this part of the story.  i had no idea what i was getting myself into.  and instead of marching around my own walls with belief that they will indeed crumble i’ve been camped out, staring at them; looking backwards to the wilderness.  i’ve been missing the manna and glory clouds and people i was wandering with.  the truth is, i don’t want to fight for anything anymore.  i don’t even want to acknowledge walls are in front of me, let alone march around them and believe they’ll fall.  i just want the milk and honey to flow.  i just want to pitch my tent, hang up my hammock and enjoy.

but that is not the option.

the option is to, one more time, face the thing in front of me.  the walls of loneliness, bitterness, wondering and second guessing.  the walls of discontentment and negativity.  the walls of what ifs and if onlys.

my jericho walls are not an indication of defeat, but a chance for the lord to prove himself faithful again. 

so i’m standing up.  i’m getting out of the camp i’ve stayed in and moving towards the land that has already been given but has yet to be won.

vending machine jesus.

vendingmachine

put your dollar in.  push e16.  get your snickers. simple enough.

unless it gets stuck on those revolving metal circles.  in which case you will probably try to shake the thing and curse it when the snickers is still hanging there.  you’ll either sacrifice another dollar in an effort to get your prize  or you’ll walk away frustrated, angry and swearing off both candy bars and vending machines.  forever.  because they are from the devil.  am i right?

today is good friday.

 

i sat down and read the story of the crucifixion this morning.  because good christians should do such a thing on days like today.  i would like to tell you that my heart was overflowing with thankfulness and i am completely undone by how much jesus has done for me and that i feel the swelling hope that ‘sunday is coming’ and everything that means for my salvation and for my life.

but none of that happened.  instead.  i realized i treat jesus like a vending machine.

i worship and praise and read my bible and go to the women’s group.  and then i make my request.  e16, if you would, jesus.  i’ll take that perfect job, the healing i’ve been asking for, the husband and 2.5 kids.  i’ll take the provision, the relationships, the hope and peace.  could i please have the miracle.  e16 jesus.  i don’t think it’s too much to ask for.  afterall, i just put my dollar in.  and you know, that dollar was quite a sacrifice.  so if you could please oblige with the e16 that’d be great.

but then.  the e16 doesn’t come.  and i spiral into disappointment and rejection and frustration because of course the machine would break on me.  today of all days.  because the world hates me and i will never eat another candy bar as long as i live and i hate vending machines.  they must be from the devil.

and then i take a nap and have a cup of coffee and give the vending machine another go at it.  sometimes it spits out what i’m asking for.  it’s usually pretty good to me.

so, here’s the thing that struck me today.

i hate that i still think and act this way.  i don’t want to treat jesus like a vending machine.  i desperately want the presence of the machine to be enough.  whether it ever delivers an e16 or not.  i want to be a woman who is thankful and content with the presence.  so for as much as he has already done and given, today i’m asking for more.  i’m asking for more softening of my still resistant heart.  because even that has to be an act of grace.  a labor of love.

would my heart and my life be one that puts in the dollar without any expectation of something in return.

purpose in the in between.

as soon as she walked in she reminded me of my eight year old self.

i was skinny, awkward, unsure and shy.  i remember begging my mom to take me to church because in my head somehow it computed that if we went the things at home would somehow calm down.  i knew there was peace to be found in such a place, even at such a young age.  i was too scared to go off with the other kids and so i would sit with my mom and i would just cry.  every week i would sit in the pews at that baptist church with tears streaming down my face.

church pewseventeen years later it was all i could do not to cry during worship two weeks ago.  there was much pain in her eyes.  a lack of trust that has been built through disappointment and abandonment.  there was such a nervous energy and a desperate longing for someone to notice it.  i could see the tears welling up in her eyes.  she didn’t know it, but the lord was working and moving and tenderizing her little heart.  just as he had done to mine.  for all of the hard things in her eyes, i mostly saw hope.  hope that she doesn’t even know she needs.

for almost an hour all i could hear the lord say was “there is purpose in the in between.”  we’re constantly moving from beginnings to endings.  and so much of our lives are the in between of something.  for me, two saturdays ago, an ending came to something and i saw purpose in such a long in between.  there has been purpose in seventeen years of crying in churches.  seventeen years of becoming softer, more trusting and less walled up.  moving from someone who could barely speak to someone who has had to learn the art of just keeping my mouth shut.

the purpose often looks like a process.  in this case, it has looked very long and messy as much of my processes do.  but if it got me to the point of seeing her, hugging her, knowing in my spirit that “i get it” then that’s enough.  not because it has to be enough but because, for the first time, it really is.

as per usual, there are lots of in betweens happening in my life.  i’m in between jobs.  in between seasons of my life.  in between relationships looking certain ways.  i’m somewhere in between being a complete mess and being completely put together.  i’m in between having no answers and having it all figured out.  in jesus name, i’m somewhere in between being single forever and having found the perfect one.

there’s always an in between of something.  probably lots of somethings.  but there is purpose in it.  and today, that reminder is enough.

how about you?  what’s the in between you’re in today?

enough.

if i have wrestled through anything the past several years, it’s getting to a place where i actually believe that i am enough.

not that i will be enough when i figure a bunch of stuff out.  not when i get all of my stuff together and stop being messy.  not enough in spite of x, y, and z.

just.  i’m enough.  right now. with all of my stuff.

in as much as i’ve fought to believe i am adequate, sufficient and legitimate the new battle seems to be fighting the lie that i am also not too much…but that’s another blog for another time.

yesterday, the plan was to enjoy a free day with one of my girls.  we would have breakfast and catch up and romp around the city for the day.  i sat down at mcdonalds, opened up my computer and proceeded to check my emails.  a certain email sent me into a tailspin.  for whatever reason, one little well intentioned comment got me thinking about all of the things that i’ve done wrong.  all of the things i’m lacking.  all of the reasons i’m not good enough.  and in about five minutes i had myself talked into what a terrible leader i am.  what an awful christian i am.  how badly i fail at just about everything. and then in about two more minutes i was resolved to the fact that all of my friends would stop loving me.  my family would pretend that i don’t exist.  and these poor kids that are stuck with me for another five weeks.  i felt back for them.

and then.  then i got real pissed.
because all of that is bullshit.  nonsense.

none of those things are true.  not even a little bit.  i am loved.  i am a good leader.  my family knows me and appreciates me.  i have people that fight for me. god isn’t mad me – he’s really, really proud of me.  i’m not forgotten.  i’m not a burden.  there is a plan for my life.  i’m not really lacking anything.  and the list goes on.  

so, in the span of about ten minutes i had had it.  i was so upset that after all of my battling and my fighting and my struggling an email could send me into such a tailspin.  so i decided to get a tattoo.  a prophetic act that all of the things i’m declaring are indeed true.

it’s the hebrew word for “enough.”  it can also be translated as “satisfaction.”

so that’s it.  enough is enough.  i’m enough.

one of those days.

in the last three years i’ve trekked to eighteen different countries.  i’ve been a part of many different ministries.  i’ve talked to and prayed for a countless number of people.  i’ve seen churches, red light districts, four of the seven wonders, dumps, mansions and shacks.  i’ve walked on cobblestone streets, beaches, dirt roads and sidewalks.  i’ve seen poverty like you can’t imagine and the wealth that exists next door.  i’ve met and held prostitues, orphans, the handicapped and forgotten grandmas; the regular, hurting, broken people just like me.

i’ve seen some stuff.

but no matter how far i travel or how many people i meet, i still find myself walking through the streets of honduras, day after day, and thinking “this is not okay.”

it’s not okay that last saturday i saw an eighteen year old handicapped boy wearing a diaper and laying in a box.  a box.  on the side of the road, in front of a packed mcdonalds.

it’s not okay that, while we were praying for a drunk man, a well dressed man came out of a church and told us we were wasting our time.

it’s not okay that baby genesis lives here five days a week and then is forced to go back to a shack where there are no clean clothes, no diapers, no nutritious food.

it’s not okay that amalia, dania, and arielle lost their father to suicide.  he hung himself in their one bedroom plastic home because he’d reached such a place of desperation and depression that he saw no other option.

it’s not okay that marcos’ mom called tony last week and said, “you can keep him.  i don’t want him anymore.”

it’s just not okay.

and, yet.  i can only do what i can do.  i can only stop for the one in front of me.  feed the hungry man that needs food, hold the orphan who isn’t wanted, pray for the family who has nothing.  i can only ask god to come.  i can only teach a group of wide-eyed college kids how i know to bring kingdom to earth.

some days it’s exhilarating and exciting.  some days i’m thankful beyond measure.  some days i’m tired and frustrated and want to stay inside my tent all day long.  some days it’s easy and some days it’s really hard.  some days the kingdom feels very at hand.  and some days it just doesn’t seem like enough.

today is one of those days.

walking away from the red couch.

my emotions are on high alert today.  the conflicting excitement of what’s about to begin in the next twenty four hours mixed with the fact that i have to say goodbye.  just, well.  there have been some tears.  and maybe a cuss word.  or two. or twelve.

for me, it’s the goodbye of such a sweet season.  because when i come back, everything is sure to be different.  i’m not on hiatus from a routine and rhythm.  something is ending.  something new is starting.  and in four months it’ll be back to square one of figuring out the next thing.  my church is moving to atlanta.  my friends are getting married.  my apartment buddies are leaving and moving all about.  the office as i used to know it doesn’t really exist and won’t be waiting for me.  my job and position have been given up.  i have no idea what i’m walking in to or what awaits me on the other side.  but i feel, with full force today, the stuff i’m walking away from.

i promise this is going to sound absurd.  but one of the hardest things for me to walk away from is a red couch.  not so much the couch itself, but what it’s represented for me.

this red couch isn’t mine. it sits in an apartment just above me and i visit on occasion.   i’ve shared meals on this couch, laughed on this couch, slept on this couch and cried on this couch.

oh my word, how i have cried on this couch.

this couch has heard my dreams, my disappointments and my secrets. it has been a place of both truth and comfort, a place to grieve and a place to find hope again.

it’s been a safe place. a place to exhale.  a place to rest.

but, as good and sweet and necessary as the rest has been, i’m not meant to rest forever.  sitting on that couch too long makes me restless.  hm.  that’s funny – getting restless is maybe the prophetic word that it’s time to “rest less.”

it’s definitely time for me to go.  time for me to walk into some stuff, out of some stuff and away from some stuff.  there’s such joy in seeing some promises fulfilled.  but, man.  it hurts.  it hurts to walk away from things that are so good.  so comfortable.  it’s tough to make the decision that does’t always feel nice.  at the moment, i’d rather just stay on the couch.  

except that i wouldn’t really.  

i know this is right.  i know that i need to be away from the couch for a minute.  and today’s best reminder of God’s love and care for me is His gentle reassurance that the red couch will be waiting for me when i come home.

just calm down.

i have been struggling to write a blog for weeks.  in fact, i’ve started about eight different ones with the exact same sentiment.  they are still sitting on my desktop, half started.  i don’t why it’s been so difficult for me, lately.  i’ll blame it on the dreary weather.  it’s been dark and rainy.  but, the sun is trying to shine through today.  amidst the clouds, it’s peeking out.  so, despite the fact that i feel like i have so much to say and  nothing all at the same time – something is getting posted.  for all six of you to read.

we’re in another season of transition down here.  i’m beginning to wonder how long a season can really last – or if at some point, that’s just the way things are.  either way, things have changed and continue to do so.  for me, when there is a positional shift in a place, it naturally makes me wonder how it will affect the relationships i cherish.  i don’t really have answers to that question.  but i’m more confident in this community that i belong to then i ever have been.  i’m confident that we’re all in this together; good and bad, messy and put together.  we’re all here.  in the spirit, we’re knit together in a weird, supernatural way.  i used to be really afraid of these kinds of relationships because i was afraid they might go away someday.  my fear of what may or not happen on the back end of something kept me from blessings at the onset.  i’m not so afraid, anymore.  i wonder, sometimes.  but i think i can wonder without being afraid.

i’m doing a lot of pondering these days.  which can be both healthy and dangerous for me.  it’s easy to get excited about things, begin to dream up new ideas and possibilities.  it’s also really easy for me to look at the enormity that is life and get all super serious, contemplating the deep things of how the world works, why i’m on it, how there can be both good and evil, sorrow and joy.  it’s all very important to ponder.  but i go into debbie downer mode pretty quick, convinced that the world is, in fact, going to hell in a hand basket.  my insides get all dramatic and the voice-over guy in my head comes on.  oh, you don’t have a guy that does voice-overs in your life?  i do.  he probably works part time as a radio-show host.  he gets super dramatic on me with life lessons and how i need ot find significance in the flower petal that just fell to the ground.  it’s like life goes into slow motion until i slap myself.

but then i slap myself out of it.  stand on some furniture to, one more time, remind myself that god is good.  always.  that’s usually the cycle of my pondering.

my sweet friend caroline gave a really great word on monday at church.  yes, i go to church on monday.  there’s a chance we meet in a restaurant.  okay, fine. it’s a bar.  well, it has a bar.  and yes, women preach at my church.  young women.  and do you know what?  it’s the best church i’ve ever been to.  the worship is incredible, the teaching solid, and the people life-giving, honorable, and sincere.  i love my church in a bar.  whew.  now that that’s all out in the open….

so, caroline preached on how we need to rest.  about how when we find a deep place of rest and assurance in who God is the circumstances around us don’t really matter.  we can stop spinning and spinning and spinning and just stand with solidarity.  what i heard the lord saying through her was, “just calm down.”  so, i’m working on that.  calming down, knowing that it’s all under control.  the lord has it in his hand.  all of it.  remembering that can be hard.  especially in the midst of change, in the midst of watching people hurt, in the middle of confusion and chaos.  my thoughts and emotions go all haywire.  i get really riled up.  and right now, in the middle of it, the lord [and probably some of the people around me] are saying, “just calm down.  it’s all going to be okay.”

so, i’ll just be over here.  tea in hand, calming down.