when saturday actually means something

as a Christian, this past weekend was full of significance for me. on friday, i joined with countless believers worldwide as we remembered the sacrifice of the God-man on the tree. on sunday, we celebrated with one another the miracle of his resurrection + his victory over death forevermore.

what i noticed, though, is that little was said about saturday. the in-between day. the day of which we don’t know much about. the day that didn’t appear to mean anything at all. on friday, we mourn, and on sunday, we celebrate. but what about saturday?

as someone who has become well acquainted with life in the in-between, i believe saturday has to mean something. Jesus could have died on that friday and risen the next day if he wanted to. but God waited. saturday was that day of waiting, the day of silence. all of heaven held its breath, anticipating the grand finale, but earth knew nothing of what was to come. all it could see was a dead body, buried in the tomb. it saw unmet expectations, dreams that would never be realized, hopes that had been brutally dashed. heaven knew the miracle was coming, but what of those who couldn’t see past the despair and the questions, all those questions which appeared would never be answered?

thousands of years later, so many of us are still living in saturday. i know; i’m there, too. saturday’s the day when nothing makes sense, the day when we fall on our faces and scream with our fists to the sky, “why, God? why?” saturday’s the aftermath of cancer and divorce, of accidents and job losses, of breakdowns and breakups. it’s the tension of a life lived between the tragedy and the miracle, the problem and its solution. it’s when things appear that they couldn’t get any worse, but that’s only because we’re seeing things with the wrong set of eyes. if we could get just a glimpse of what’s beyond ourselves, we’d see that Redemption was coming.

so if you’re living in a saturday like me, i pray your heart is encouraged and your faith bolstered. there is something sacred and holy and ancient in the waiting, in the in-between, in the way you ache for the miracle. saturday actually means something, even if we don’t understand it yet. but one day, we’ll look back, and it will make sense, and we will see what the saturday has taught us. we will see that nothing in this life is wasted — even the tears, the disappointment, the hope that was lost somewhere along the way.

after all, we can never get to sunday unless we first go through our saturday.

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this is it

today is the day, a day when one season ends and another begins, when old gives way to new, when another unknown journey begins. i sit on my porch, my sanctuary for the last four years, and i’m not really sure how i feel about all this. honestly, i guess i don’t feel that much of anything right now. i’ve been through so many emotions already that i just don’t know how to react at this moment.

the word that keeps coming to mind, though, is ‘thankful‘. i suppose if i feel anything at all, that’s what it is. thankful for four years of growth, of transformation, of stretching, of learning. thankful for each of my kids and how they have enriched my life. thankful for how they’ve taught me to love wilder, deeper, harder than i ever thought possible. thankful for an ever-present, always faithful God who has been with me on every step of this journey. thankful for friends who have seen both the best and the worst of me and loved me just the same. thankful for the chance to live a better story and write out all the parts of it. thankful for hope, for promises, for fresh starts. thankful for each of you who have loved and supported me along the way. thankful for a nation and people who welcomed me with open arms.

i am thankful, deeply thankful, so much that i can’t even put it all into words.

“give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (psalm 107.one)

[title unknown]

recently, i told you about the decision i’ve made to transition out of full-time missions in Liberia and consequently transition back to full-time life in the States. i also recently shared some of the difficulties i’ve been facing here in Liberia, all of which resulted in an epic unraveling.

i have continued to struggle in every way here in Liberia. physically, i’m exhausted. i’m sick of being sick and tired of being tired. i sleep fitfully most nights and can’t seem to keep my energy levels up during the day. emotionally, i’m drained. i’ve given everything i had in these last four years, and i am empty + raw + tender + bruised. my time in Liberia, rewarding and beautiful and life-changing as it’s been, has also been filled with grief, loss and tears, so many tears. it feels as if everything i’ve gone through during my four years here has caught up with me, like i’ve been unknowingly carrying it with me over time, and suddenly it’s all become too heavy, and i can do nothing but collapse under the weight.

so i’m crying mercy. i know i’ve reached my limit and for me to stay would be unhealthy. i leave Liberia in nineteen days, arriving back in the states in twenty. it’s not what i expected, but i know it’s for the best. i need to get healthy and whole again. i need to heal. i need to.

i look back and see that i have done what God sent me to Liberia to do, and i hear Him say i’ve done it well. i look at the kids, healthy and thriving, with happy hearts and dreams for their futures, and i see how much progress they’ve made. i remember where they came from, and i marvel at where they are now. i got to play a part in that. it humbles me and blows my mind, brings me to my knees in teary wonder. i can leave without  regrets; i did what i came here to do. the goodbyes will be heart-wrenching, but there is also a deep peace. it is time–time to go, time to start, time to change.

for now, in these days, i live in the in-between. one season is on the verge of its ending, while the new one has not yet come. i have both hands on the doorknobs, prepared to open as well as close the doors, respectively. i am saying goodbye while also saying hello. i am grieving what was and hoping for what will be. it’s a strange place, this in-between. it’s no longer the past, nor is it the not yet. it’s not yesterday, but it’s not tomorrow either. it simply is.

{i want to wholeheartedly thank all of you for the support and encouragement you’ve shown as i laid my heart bare and have shared my struggles with you. to be so transparent is not easy for me, but i have felt nothing but love from all the comments and emails i’ve received. thank you. thank you. i may still be a mess–but i’m a grateful one.}

holy places

i’d had a long, hard day; a long, hard week, if i was being honest. dirt under fingernails, feet covered in dust. my bones ached, and my head and heart felt full and heavy. words were few, replaced instead by deep sighs and weighted breaths.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
his words found me in my thin place, where i felt stretched and sore, barely hanging on. “yes, i’m tired,” i nodded. “yes, i’m worn out. worn down. burned out. yes, yes, yes.”

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
i stepped into the shower, an outdoor stall enclosed by cement block. the water hit me, warm from the sun, and tears fell down under starlight, washing away the dirt from my soul. 

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
his words washed over me like the water from the shower, like the tears that kept coming, and i saw it all so clearly. i had been collapsing under the weight of a burden i was never meant to carry. the heaviness hadn’t been intended for my shoulders, for he knew i would not be able to bear it. but i had forced a smile and bowed low, gritting my teeth as i settled into the yoke. it didn’t fit but i, never wanting to appear weak, refused to acknowledge that something was wrong. i carried the yoke, the burden, the weight, day in and day out.

and it had brought me to this place, weary in the deepest parts, kneeling on a wet concrete floor. it was then that i realized: here–in the ache and the mess, the pain, the grit–even here was holy ground. i was bent low in more ways than one, thick in this sacred moment, and it was here that his glory would come to pass me by.

Jesus doesn’t wait for our lives to be perfect, for all our problems to be solved, before he comes to us. he enters in the thin places, the messy places, the hard places.

and he calls them holy.

{scripture reference: matthew 11:28-30, The Message}

when we’ve come undone

can i just be brutally, completely, in-your-face honest with you for a minute? this whole being a missionary thing is no joke. it is hard, you guys. really hard. and there are some days where i would rather be anywhere but here, doing anything but this. some days, i feel so totally, completely done. depleted. empty.

i’m having one of those days. only this day has gone on for the past three weeks. i’ve been struggling–a lot. i’m tired, more than tired, really. i’m lonely. i’m homesick. i’m over the heat, the sweating, the sleepless nights, the fatigue that follows me day in and day out. i don’t feel like myself. i worry i have nothing more in me to give. i know that i only have a few months left and yet, somehow, those few months seems like they’re years away.

i don’t tell you this to play some sort of sympathy card; i’m not looking for pats on the back or pity of any kind. i’m sharing this because i want to show the world that all of us, every single one of us, even (and perhaps especially) those of us in ministry–we have a bad day once in a while. or a bad week. maybe even a bad year. whatever; it happens. it doesn’t mean we are weak. it doesn’t mean we’re failures. it doesn’t mean we’re not spiritual enough, not depending on God enough, or that we don’t have enough faith. it means we’re human. it means we have hearts and souls, and they’re messy and sometimes maybe we come undone. 

and it is there that i find myself, in that undone place, where i don’t have the answers and i don’t know how to get out of this and it hurts, but i keep hearing the whisper of Jesus telling me to just hang in there, babygirl. and i try, and i fail, and i collapse at his feet in a puddle of tears and disappointment and somehow, i get back up again. i’m in that place where words fail me, where my language has become the deep groanings of the heart, and yet i know that even those are some sacred prayer, a holy utterance.

i have come undone, and instead of hiding away all the broken pieces, i’m letting you see them.
i have come undone, and instead of attempting to explain it all away, i’m sitting down in the aftermath.
i have come undone, and i’m talking about it.

because perhaps you too know this feeling, know it well, and you wonder if anyone else in the world understands. perhaps no one has ever given you the permission to have a bad day. perhaps you’re stopping yourself from falling apart because you’re afraid that you’ll be too broken to ever be put back together.

i get it. i really do. but may i suggest that, though it may feel like it, you will not be undone forever? i know right now you may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and, to be honest, neither can i. but our limited vision doesn’t change the Light’s existence; that i can promise you.

be gentle with yourself, and remember: you are human. you are beautifully flawed, and that is the mystery of your heart and soul and flesh and bones. if you’re having a bad day, it’s okay. if you’re falling apart or breaking down, it’s okay. i promise you; it really is.

you, dear one, will not be undone forever. and neither will i.
because if there’s one thing i’ve learned about Jesus, it’s that he loves to stitch things back together.

the thief of joy

comparison

for months now, i’ve been fighting the comparison battle, day in and day out. some moments, i feel strong, and i’m able to keep my head and confidence high. others, i grow weak and start thinking that i’m not at all who or what i want to be, who or what i thought i would be, who or what i’m “supposed” to be. i look around at friends, family, acquaintances, measure their accomplishments and achievements against my own, and i wonder what i’m doing wrong.

i find it no coincidence that i’ve also seen the above quote everywhere i turn these days. i know it’s for me; i know i’m meant to read it. i get it, Holy Spirit. i understand.

every time i compare my life, my story with another’s, i believe the lie that tells me i am not enough. but if i’m confident that i have enough and that i am enough, my heart is at peace. comparison truly is the thief of joy because it draws attention to my perceived lack. 

and that void, that emptiness, that lack is simply not true. i am enough because He who made me is enough. my story is beautiful and one of a kind because it’s being written by an Author who is both beautiful and unique. the journey is more important than the destination, and i may not be where i want to be, but at least i’m not where i was.

how about you? have you ever struggled with comparison? what would it look like if you stopped believing the lies + embraced the truth?

the sarah in me

i was reading through genesis 16 + 21 this morning, the story of God’s seemingly impossible promise and the years it took for it to be fulfilled. truth be told, i see so much of myself in sarah. i often grow impatient while waiting on God + i try to twist his arm into giving me what i want. i figure if i pray the right prayer, do the right thing, confess the right sin, he’ll give in and bless me. and when that doesn’t work, i turn my back on him and go about it my own way. i try to take matters into my own hands, getting things done on my timeline, how want them.

BUT.
genesis 21.1. “now the Lord was gracious to sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for sarah what he had promised.”

what a reflection of God’s character, his steadfast faithfulness. though i try to get in the middle of what he is doing, though i muddy the waters + make things way more complicated than they need to be, he is still gracious and true to his word.

i know this to be true, deep in my heart and soul, in the part of me that houses truth. but the sarah in me is often a petulant child, pouting impatiently + stamping her feet when things don’t go her way. she clenches her hopes + dreams tightly in her fists, scared to let them go. she believes, and then she doubts, and then she laughs, bitterly at what seems so impossible.

BUT.
genesis 21.1.

and so i know. the sarah in me will laugh again one day. though it will no longer be bitter, but instead the laughter of joy, of dreams come true, of she who can scarcely believe the goodness of he who promised.

the limp

this morning i was reading the story of Jacob and his wrestling match with the God-man, found in Genesis 32. at the end of the struggle, his hip is disjointed, and Jacob, he who once grasped his brother’s heel, walks with a limp from that point on.

as i read, i was reminded of an interesting fact. i once heard that the ligaments attached to the hip are some of the strongest and toughest in the human body.

today, i can’t help but notice the significance that it  was there where Jacob was touched. sometimes, God has to put His finger on our strongholds so that we might be changed. Jacob walked away from his encounter forever different, and with a limp to prove it. he who was once ‘deceiver’ became Israel, patriarch of God’s chosen.

this is extremely encouraging to me, as i recount all the things God has touched in my life through the years, as i notice for the first time my own limp as a battle-scar from all the times i have wrestled. i wonder::  if something hurts when it’s taken from us, perhaps we were holding on to it too tightly.  the loss might actually be a blessing, for when we let go of that which we clutch, our empty hands can be filled by the God who blessed Jacob, the same God who blesses today.

[brave]

as i write this, i’ve been back in Liberia for a week. seven short days, yet somehow my life, my world in the States seems like it was forever ago. memories turn to fragments, replaced by here and now and the need, always the need. it’s a different pace, a stronger one, a busy schedule, everything consistent and steady yet somehow unpredictable as well. and i jump into it, this life here, because i want to inhale every moment and suck the marrow from it::

the blanket of heat, heavy in my lungs, on my shoulders. bright sun hidden by hammatan’s dusty haze. dirt under fingernails, sweat on the skin. car horns blaring, music crackling over old, broken speakers. toothy smiles and weathered hands, tattered t-shirts and grimy money balled tight in the fist. plastic buckets full for flushing toilets, a lukewarm shower under the stars. the hum of the generator at night, the ocean crashing, mosquito net tucked into bedframes. sticky rice and oily soups, sweet fruit, cold water. talking on the porch, laughing on the porch, praying on the porch. handshakes with snapping fingers, hugs with a kiss on each cheek. little hands clawing at my legs, little fingers running through my hair. hannah’s head on my lap, mercy’s head on my shoulder, jumah’s head buried in the space beneath my chin, resting on my collar bone.

this. it’s been my life for four years, a stark contrast to the direction i thought i was headed. at first, it was hard, and i fought and struggled against it, simultaneously loving and hating everything about it at the same time. and then i grew into it, grew with it, really, and it has become comfortable, somehow, even in the midst of so much discomfort. it’s familiar, dependable; basically, i know what to expect.

from a survival standpoint, this is good. it helps me to keep going, to move with the ebb and flow of life in Liberia. it helps me compartmentalize–my thoughts, my emotions, my experiences. without it, i would surely collapse under the weight of sorrow and guilt, of poverty, of illness, of hunger, of death, of kids who deserve a better chance, of systems that keep people oppressed and simply…stuck.

still, i feel a conviction, hollow in my stomach, gnawing on my insides. and it all comes down to one little word:: brave.
now, i wouldn’t exactly call myself by that name because frankly, bravery terrifies me. i’m a play-by-the-rules kind of girl. i like plans and roadmaps and explanations for everything. and up until recently, i was fine with all of that.

but now, i feel something shifting. i’ve had this sort of awakening, if you will, and it feels like i’ve been shaken from a long, deep slumber and brought out into the light. and i’ve discovered that i like it, this light i’ve been exposed to, but in order for me to have more of it, i must be brave. see, when i’m content with living an easy story, it makes it hard for me to live a better one. without taking chances and taking risks and embracing the adventure, i will never learn what it feels like to live fully, to live bravely.

but that means, of course, that all the rules might go out the window. it means change and transition, and it’s entirely possible that things might get a little messy. it means that there will be moments when i have no idea what i’m doing, times when i will be unsure. it means things are going to look differently, and i have two choices. i can run away from the mystery, hide myself in what’s easy–or i can be brave and let go, and see where the winds of change take me.

for now, i dig my heels in, determined to bloom where i’ve been planted. i take it all in, every moment, every experience, breathing deep to savor these days i’ve been given here. for it’s only been a week, and i’ve already noticed the difference in how i think and speak and feel.

i am learning to be brave, even in what has become uncomfortably comfortable.

you are good

since i’ve been back in Liberia, i’ve had a song that keeps running through my head and resounding in my heart. i wake up in the morning humming its tune, and the lyrics course through my thoughts all day, like blood flowing through veins.

it’s called you are good, and it has become a sort of anthem for me, a reminder, a psalm, a prayer. you are good. it’s not just a song. it is truth, and my soul has anchored itself to those three little words. you. are. good.

“your goodness knows no bounds; your goodness never stops.” he is altogether good, good beyond my comprehension, good beyond any explanation. he can be nothing other than good; goodness is his nature, and it surpasses any limitation that my finite self places on him. i give him boundaries because that’s what i do with things i cannot explain, things that are far greater than i. but he doesn’t stay there. his goodness knows no bounds, and it never, ever stops.

“your mercy follows me.”  his mercy is good, and it endures forever. when i’m in the States, his mercy is with me. when i’m in Liberia, his mercy is with me. when i am teaching or talking or praying or sinning or leading or laughing, his mercy is with me. there truly is no place that i can go in which i am not in his presence. his mercy follows me, and it is so, so good.

“your kindness fills my life; your love amazes me.” in every area of my life–the good and the bad, the joy and pain, the beautiful and the messy–His lovingkindness is there. and yes, it truly amazes me. when i think about the life i’ve lived, the choices i’ve made, the person i was, i can hardly believe that holy Love pursued me. but it did, and it won me over. and i stand in awe, until the weight of His great kindness is so heavy that it draws me to my knees.

and so there i stay. and i pray, and i sing, and He is good, still good, always, always good.