Sunday, April 24, 2011

And then, it all made sense.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. -John 20:1-8

Three days later.

Three days after their best friend, their leader, their messiah, their everything...died.

Dead. Gone. Wrapped. Sealed. Not coming back. It was over.

Everything they'd ever believed in died right in front of them.

Towels thrown in. Fat lady singing. Nothing to see here, boys. That's it.

For three days.

Three days of confusion, terror, and heartbreak.

But then...then.

A stone rolled away. Folded grave clothes. An empty tomb.

And then it all made sense.

Because He didn't stay dead.

He was risen!

He was back. He was very much alive. He is very much alive. Because of Him, we have life. We have forgiveness. We have freedom.

Because He's alive, we have forever.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday Morning Teatime: A Strange Darkness

It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. -Luke 23:44-46

When Jesus died, the whole Earth was plunged into darkness - literally and figuratively.

No one could see.

Nothing made sense.

Jesus was supposed to be their savior.

But He was dead.

Everything was dark.




Have you ever felt that way?

Where am I? What happened? How could this happen?

This doesn’t fit with everything else God said.

I don’t understand.

Is this really the way the story ends?

But it’s not. We know the story.

All we have to do is give it a day or two.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

30 Going on 13

It really started in junior high. As a 4’7” painfully scrawny, be-speckled and braces-clad principal’s daughter who hadn’t grown into her red curls or out of children’s clothes and was more interested in Shakespeare than snogging boys, I knew what it was to be teased and ostracized. Every day was a circus sideshow act of name-calling, pitying looks, and ridicule. So I got tough. I got good at not caring and letting it roll off me like water off a duck’s back. When girls brayed at me like a donkey in the hallway, “imitating” my singing ability, I’d look them straight in the eye and deadpan, “I’m sorry, do you have something in your throat? Cause you might want to have that checked out.”

That attitude carried me through high school and even into my early college years. I was hard as nails. Disappointing, heart wrenching betrayals by so-called friends and my first real love only hardened me more. I lived up to the redheaded temper stereotype and was proud to do it. I was fiercely loyal to people I loved, but break my trust once, and we were done. Look twice at the boy I was interested in, and it was all-out war. I sussed out other girls’ insecurities and failings with one glance and was quicker with a bitingly snarky (and scathingly true) one-liner than anyone else. Dynamite comes in small packages. You know not with whom you mess.

Then God called me to England as a college junior in 2003. And there, He broke me.

After enduring loneliness like I never knew possible, and then finding an incredible church full of the Holy Spirit and genuine, loving Christian friends, I came back from England humbled and softened. It didn’t happen overnight, though - I was broken for a long time. It took another two years for Him to fully strip away (most of) my volatility and split-second instincts to act defensively and push people away. But He did it…because He brought me, and still continues to bring me, closer and closer to Himself. I pray He never gives up on me.

I recently had an experience where I felt like I was back in junior high. It blindsided me a bit, to be honest. Back amidst those girls who shared despising glances and turned their backs to me. Except now, we’re 30. (Well, I’m not, yet. Heh.)

And it broke me all over again.

My heart ached at the silence, the coldness, the obvious dislike, when I wanted so very much to be liked. I bristled at a “joking” comment about my height. I felt awkward, unwelcome, out of place. Worst of all, I felt it creeping back up again - my old hardness, my walls of defense. It wounded me. I know all too well how to play this game…but I couldn’t. Not now, not again. So instead of throwing out biting, passive aggressive comments shrouded in the fuzzy, prickly sweater of sweetness, I bit my tongue. All I had done the whole day before was pray for God to work through me, to speak through me, to give me grace and maturity and peace. And by Heaven, I was going to stick by that - even if it meant I didn’t say a single word the whole time.

Instead, I stood back and listened. Listened to the insecurity. The fear. But more than anything else, I heard myself in their dialogue. Myself, eight years ago. Myself, trembling in terror. Desperately trying to one-up the other girl. Desperately trying to make myself look better. “You stay away from my future husband!” I know I said that at 20, probably verbatim, about my now ex-boyfriend. Myself, striving to do anything I had to do if it meant my own “happy ending” would just be within reach. It shocked and humbled me.

I couldn’t say anything. I went home feeling numb, with pain and yet also with a strange sense of relief. When I crawled into bed that night, I crawled up into God’s lap and asked Daddy to hold me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get angry and jealous and insecure sometimes – a lot, actually – but now, it only hurts. It aches. It’s not right, and God swoops in and convicts me within seconds. I back down from arguments rather than starting them. When snarky comments roll off my tongue, they burn on the way out. If I start getting at all puffed up with myself and my own virtues, God wastes no time in very obviously reminding me of my quite helpless estate and utter dependence on Him.

I know what it is to be that girl. I know exactly how all of that feels. And praise Jesus, thanks to my merciful, loving Daddy and Lord, it’s taken more than two decades, but I’m not that girl anymore.

Monday, April 18, 2011

...or just this one.

"...and it doesn't matter if I have ten thousand more moments like this... or just this one." -Love and Other Drugs

As I watched this movie on Friday night and Anne Hathaway paused in the middle of that line, I whispered "or just this one" before she even said it. I was pretty pleased with myself - maybe I had actually learned something in the years I spent studying screenwriting. Well, I'll be darned.

But I didn't learn that in a classroom.

So many of us find it easy to pray when things are confusing or troubling or don't make sense, but forget to thank God when He rains down blessings on us. It's taken a long time and a lot of trials, but most of the time, now, I remember.

Most of the time, now, I nearly fall to my knees in gratitude when He gives me even the smallest of moments - a story of mine that results in tears of laughter, a hug like one I've had hundreds of times before. Little, fleeting moments that I will cherish forever.

Because I know things change. People change. Circumstances change. People fall out of my life for one reason or another, leaving a hole where they once were and leaving me missing them terribly. All I can do is play through the video recorder in my mind of those moments we shared, and praise God that He blessed me so very generously with them at all.

And so, Daddy, I want to say thank You. Thank You so, so very much for the moments You've given me, whether I get ten thousand more...or just this one.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday Morning Teatime: The Sick Girl

I rented "Love and Other Drugs" from Redbox last night. (Be warned, if you're interested in seeing it - it's rated R for a reason.) I found it to be, albeit heavily peppered with sex, very deep and emotionally charged. It's nothing like a "typical" romantic comedy, that's for sure.

Anne Hathaway's character, Maggie, has early-onset Parkinson's and meets drug rep Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) at the doctor's office. They fall into a no-strings-attached fling which (predictably) deepens as the movie progresses. But, of course, Maggie's symptoms start to get worse, and will only continue to do so. Repeatedly throughout the film, she calls herself the "Sick Girl" and Jamie hears a lot of advice to find himself someone who's healthy, from her and from others, too.

(I'd go into a screenwriter's critique about how the script was, interestingly, far more centered on Jamie and his own personal bildungsroman than about Maggie at all - she was really just a catalyst - but I don't want to bore all you normal people out there. You've been spared!)

The "sick girl" thing, though, really got to me.

See, I was born six weeks prematurely and, after the incubator and then the oxygen tank at age 2 and the doctors telling my parents I wouldn't live until I was in elementary school and open heart surgery at age 5...well, I'm a stubborn little mule, it seems. And also, of course, God works mighty miracles! But I only ever got to an adult height of 4'10" and have suffered my entire life with severely reduced lung capacity. As a child and teenager, it was around 10% of normal - now, my pulmonologist tells me it's up to 50%. I take inhalers every day. I get winded a lot. Running and going up long flights of stairs can be challenging. Smoke and bonfires pose real threats if I'm not careful.

I'm like Maggie, though, in that I just want to get on with it. I can manage. I don't want to be treated differently or pitied. I don't act needy. I don't know any other way of life so I just live. It might take me a little more time to walk places (short legs also don't help that), but I'll get there.

Maybe it was the late hour, or the long week I've had, or lots of other reasons, but the climax of this movie really made me cry. Maggie cannot ask Jamie to take care of her as her Parkinson's gets worse, so she pushes him away. It takes him several weeks and a new job offer in another city, but he finally realizes he wants to step up to the challenge and goes to find her. She's on a bus to Canada with other patients who can't afford their medicine. He gets the bus to stop, and outside, they have this dialogue (with some slight edits on my part, by the way):

Jamie: I'm full of crap, okay? No, I'm...I'm knowingly full of crap. Because, uh...I have never cared about anybody or anything in my entire life. And the thing is, everybody just kind of accepted that. Like, "That's just Jamie." And then you! You. You didn't see me that way. I have never known anyone who actually believed that I was enough. Until I met you. And then you made me believe it, too. So, uh...unfortunately...I need you. And you need me.
Maggie: No I don't.
Jamie: Yes you do.
Maggie: No I don't.
Jamie: Yes, you do.
Maggie: Stop it, stop saying that.
Jamie: You need someone to take care of you.
Maggie: No, I don't!
Jamie: Everybody does.

Cue the waterworks.

And that's when I realized it. I'm not nearly as sick as a Parkinson's patient (praise God) and my condition isn't going to get any worse. But, as much as I hate to admit it, I'll always be just a little bit of a sick girl, too.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Turst and...what now?

Earlier in the year, I had a decision to make. After starting a new job in January and settling into it by March, my work schedule finally allowed me the time and opportunity to pursue an avenue that I’d been considering for awhile.

Now, I had to decide just whether or not to do it. I was rather indecisive about it, having gotten differing opinions from different friends, and I just wasn’t sure. I was leaning towards doing it simply (and, in my view, most importantly) because it felt like it would be a step in obedience to what God has spoken to me in the past - even though, despite my prayers for guidance, He had been uncharacteristically quiet on the matter.

And then, the very week I had to decide, I got some other news I didn’t really like and consequently concluded, well then, that settles that, I wasn’t going to do it. Decision made.

Truth be told, I was being a stubborn child. God hadn’t given me what I wanted, so I was just NOT. GOING. TO DO IT. Cross my arms. Stomp my feet. Harumph. So there.

I had all kinds of excuses why not. It’s time. It’s money. I’ve got so much else going on. I’m overwhelmed. I’m scared. I hadn’t gotten the direction to do it straight from God, as I usually do; in fact, I hadn’t heard from God about it at all. Maybe it wasn’t His will.

But the truth of the matter is, what I was really thinking was why should I do it when God hasn’t held up His end?

So there I was, sitting in a restaurant by my office, writing the previous post on soul mates, and God spoke.

“You’re lying.”


“You’re lying to these people. You’re writing that you believe what I said and that you know I don’t lie. But you’re not acting like you believe. You don’t really believe.”

I was speechless.

That’s when He told me to do the thing I didn’t want to do. Clear as day. Do it. DO IT. It wasn’t even up for discussion. Doesn’t matter what it looks like. Doesn’t matter if I can’t see through the fog. Doesn’t matter what happens even in the next days, weeks, months, whatever. What matters is what He said, and that He doesn’t lie. And I am supposed to act in obedience. Do it anyway. Hold up my end of the bargain and trust Him to hold up His.

God kept speaking.

“Have I EVER lied to you?”


“Haven’t I prepared you for EVERYTHING that’s happened?”


“Haven’t I done IMPOSSIBLE things in the face of IMPOSSIBLE odds?”


“Haven’t I told you EVERYTHING you needed to know just when you needed to know it?”


“Haven’t I blessed you in ways you never even imagined?”




“All right then. So here it is. Right here, right now, I’m telling you to do it. DO IT.”

So I did.

One month ago tonight, I stepped out of my car onto the dirt parking lot at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and headed towards my first ever seminary class.

I’m not sure I’d have done it if He hadn’t spoken to me so directly. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have. My mind was pretty solidly made up. But when I stepped onto that campus and walked past Binkley Chapel, the place where He has spoken to me and blessed me so many times before, it was as if I were stepping into the very center of the Holy Spirit. It was the same feeling I had the first time I stepped out of my car onto North Carolina soil almost four years ago and knew that’s where He was pointing for me to move.

It’s just one class so far - I’m not going for a Master’s of Divinity or anything (yet), but it’s about me being obedient to what He said. And honestly, I love it. Every single Thursday night, in that class, on that campus, God moves in my heart, and makes things clearer, and draws me closer to Himself.

I can’t see the future, but I do trust Him, and I’m so glad I listened. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t.

Obedience is trusting Daddy and doing what He says. Anyway.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Checks, Socks, and Souls

Do you believe in soul mates?

My married best friends do. They believe they were created for each other, prepared for each other, and brought together on purpose - that no one else in the world would be right for them.

Another good friend of mine doesn’t. He believes any number of people could be “the one” - that God cares more that we’re serving Him and working to advance His kingdom than whom exactly we marry.

I’ve been grappling with this question for a few months now. At a time in my life when disappointment and discouragement sit perched on my shoulders like snickering cohorts about the topic of romance (now there’s an image), I’ve written several drafts of this post in the past month and most of the time, I end up with the defeated conclusion of I don’t know.

But that’s not quite true.

I don’t believe in soul mates...I believe in God.

I believe that God does have a will, a plan, for each of our lives, based on how He created us and how He wants us to use the gifts and passions He’s given us to serve Him best. I believe when we commit our lives to serving Him, that plan rolls into action like a divine juggernaut.

I believe He does care who we marry, because He planned it all out from the start. He knew everything we would do and when we would do it and what would happen as a result. Not so our lives will all be fairy tales and we’ll have someone to “complete” us - hello, our Savior already does that! - but because He created us. He knows us. And He knows what - and who - is best for us to, in turn, best glorify Him.

For myself, I don’t have the faintest idea who that person is. All God says about it to me lately is, Trust Me.

But I know He knows, and I believe what He says. He does not lie and He keeps His promises. Now, in His time, He has to break the news to that poor, unsuspecting gentleman - whoever he is.

I just hope he likes short redheads.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I can wait.

In college, I had a gorgeous and really unique pair of brown wedge sandals that I loved. I left them at home as I traipsed around London for graduate school, and one day my parents forgot to close the door to my bedroom and our new puppy Jazzy ravaged my shoe collection, chewing my beloved brown sandals to pieces. I was inconsolable. I searched for a replacement pair for years - four, to be exact! - but none were quite as special as those. Finally, I found a pair on Payless' website and, after having to wait (for what seemed an eternity but was really about two weeks) for them to be available in size 5, I was able to snag them at a great deal. Totally worth the wait.

That's not even my best shoe story, though. Just this year, I discovered the pure shoe euphoria that is Nine West. Oh, my goodness. I found a pair of dark teal suede boots at their after-Christmas sale the likes of which I had only ever seen dancing through my imagination in those sweet moments before sleep. Best of all, I got them at 70% off - they were some of the least expensive boots I've ever bought! I was in boot nirvana - I never knew the boots that I was really waiting for until I found those. All other boots paled in comparison. I wore them to church today and I actively had to stop myself from staring at them in glee because of how marvelous they are.*

And so this afternoon, I decided to give myself a bear-hug to the soul with some therapy (ahem, mostly window) shopping, and excitedly made a beeline for Nine West again when I saw they were having a 40% off sale. I found a pair of lovely pink sandals the likes of which I've also been searching for for quite some time, but...but. But no. They were on sale, but see, the previous sale I'd experienced spoiled me. I know they'll go down more in price. I wasn't going to pay more for them than I paid for my beautiful boots. I looked at the sandals forlornly, even picked them up and petted them a little, but I knew they weren't coming home with me. Not yet. Not quite. If I give it just a few more weeks, maybe a few more months, they'll go on clearance like the boots. I know I'm risking them not being in my size, but it's a risk I'll take. If I'm meant to have them, I'll come back and they'll be further discounted and it'll be the right time and they'll be mine. And if they're gone, I wasn't meant to have them anyway, and God will give me better pink sandals that I can't even imagine yet.

I can wait. It'll be worth it.

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD. -Psalm 27:13-14

*My shoe love may be slightly exaggerated throughout this post, so please read with tongue firmly planted in cheek. But, uh, I have to say, those boots are pretty darn amazing.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Saturday Afternoon, um, Post-Teatime

I'm actually working on about five longer blog posts right now that I'll hopefully complete within the next couple of weeks, but I got moved to a new team at work last week and I've been concentrating on working hard and doing well there - cause, you know, First Impressions* and all that. Blog posts are forthcoming, though!

But, in the interest of starting a "regular feature" and wanting to stick with it longer than one week, I am gracing you all with my mind's meanderings today. You should really be trembling with anticipation.

So, I needed some Biblical encouragement on a decision I made this morning and did a quick Google search for Bible verses on character. I found this: "In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything." (1 Timothy 3:11) Timothy is referring to deacons' wives in this particular passage, but I think that all women are called to be this way. I've been mulling over it all morning. Character is so important, even though it's really difficult to develop and maintain because it involves maturity. I'm coming to see maturity as, bottom-line, a deep sense of real trust in God and the actions that result from that trust.

Also, the phrase "It will all come out in the wash" has been big for me this week. Sometimes, life gets really confusing and it seems like everything is upside down and not the way it's supposed to be. I've been around long enough to see things change and come full circle. That phrase makes a lot of sense to me.

But then I started thinking about "the wash" itself. Have you ever thought about the process your clothes go through in the washing machine? It's pretty intense. There are several steps - soaking, the actual washing (which involves the clothes being churned around in hot water and soap), rinsing, and the spin cycle. If I were a sock (and, let's face it, at my size, that's what I'd be), I'd be pretty traumatized at the idea of going through the washer. But then you take the clothes out and the stains are gone, the smells are gone, and everything is right again. Things that aren't meant to be there definitely do come out in the wash, but it takes a rather unpleasant washing to make that happen.

Hmmm. I wonder which step in the cycle I'm in right now.

Hope you've enjoyed my musings and that all that trembling you did was worth it!

*Pop Quiz: Of which famous Jane Austen novel was "First Impressions" the original title?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Saturday Morning Teatime

Since Saturday mornings are the only time I really have to savor a cuppa and think about life, I'm going to make Saturday Morning Teatime a regular feature here. Here are some things I'm particularly grateful for this week:

-A church that needs me and a church family who is for me.

-Parents and a little sister who are my biggest fans.

-Random compliments from strangers about the brightness of my hair just when I need to hear them.

-Friends on whom I can depend and memories with whom I will always cherish.

-Twinings tea sold cheaply in the US.

-Trying on a pair of jeans in my normal size and they're ever-so-slightly too big!

-The peace and blessings that come with real obedience to God.