Still Waiting?

I moved back into my townhouse after waiting for seven months, while repairs were being completed after a waterline broke and flooded my upstairs and downstairs.  It has been a long and crazy ride, but I am thankful for the refining that God has been doing in my heart, in providing peace and patience in circumstances that is didn’t belong.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Last night, as my Bible sat three feet away from me, I allowed myself to be led down a rabbit hole of videos.  I landed at one entitled, “The Perfect Proposal”.  My 33-year-old single heart was already in fight-or-flight mode, but I watched as a man in his twenties explained to the camera that he had been saving up for the perfect proposal since he was 12 years old.  I continued to watch until tears streamed down my eyes.

When will it be my time? my heart cried out.

Still waiting?

Maybe marriage is not what you’re waiting for, but I’m sure there’s something that you could fill in the blank of the unfulfilled desires of your heart.

But Jesus hears our cries.  He knows our pain.  He shares in our sorrow.

So as the tears stung my eyes last night, I refreshed my screen and at the top of my news feed appeared words that caused the tears to stream even faster.

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie.  If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.”
—Habakkuk 2:3 

I’m not sure that I’ve ever opened the book of Habakkuk.  I honestly didn’t even know where to find it in my Bible, when I finally picked it up.  But its words became a soothing balm for my heart.

I took some time to talk with Jesus about my desires and thanked Him for the promise that my waiting is not in vain, that my desires “will surely come”.

I wanted to share this with you today, to encourage your heart for whatever it is that you’re waiting for.  It might not be in the timing we hope for, or even in the package that we expect, but Jesus has appointed the time, His perfect time.

The Place You Chose For Me - www.imperfectvessel.com

The Place You Chose For Me

Not long before my paternal grandmother passed away at the age of 93, she told my dad that she had been waking up with a song in her heart, of which she looked for the lesson of the day.

Music was such a huge part of her life, singing in the church choir for decades, and traveling the globe with the Ohio Valley Chorale.  Music was her avenue to God and the lessons He had to teach.

I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

At the age of seven I began my journey in the musical world.  I’d eventually go on to play violin, clarinet, tenor saxophone, and steel drums.  Music awakens something inside of me.  It makes me feel alive.  Just like my sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence, music gives me goosebumps.

A few years ago I had the honor of assisting my paternal grandma as she continued to age and decline in her day to day activities.  The two of us were not particularly close, but we shared a love for NCIS (the original, though we would was NCIS: Los Angeles if we were desperate), and she would freely admit that Abby was her favorite.  We both shared a sweet tooth and of course, a love for music.

Some evenings, when we’d watched all of the NCIS episodes we could find, we’d turn on Comcast’s 400s and find a music station to sit and listen to.  Sometimes we’d talk, but other times we’d just allow the music to fill the apartment.

I remember one evening, as I finished up washing dishes from dinner, she asked aloud, “Why am I still here?”

She’d gotten frustrated with her failing eye sight and shaky hands and spilled some of her dinner on her shirt.  Through tears welling in my eyes, I managed to tell her, “Grandma, He’s got plans for you.  There’s still time left.”

Once she moved to an assisted living facility, we’d remind each other that He had big plans for both of us.  And so after she passed this April, I began waking up with a song in my heart.  For a few weeks it was My Story by Big Daddy Weave, but eventually drifted into To Live is Christ by Sidewalk Prophets.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
—Philippians 1:21, ESV

I cannot listen to this latter song without finding my hands in the air and tears streaming down my face.  The chorus just reaches in and grabs a hold of something inside of me.

“My great desire is to be with You
But this is the place You chose for me
This is the place You chose for me
To lift my cross and give everything
This is the time You gave to me
This is the time You gave to me”

I discovered a part of these plans that Grandma and I talked about.  I wasn’t looking for a new job.  I love the people I work with, but another position found me.  Last week, I went for an interview for a position with a lofty title, at an outreach ministry organization in a rural town about 30 minutes from my home.  I prayed Proverbs 3:5-6 and listened to Lauren Daigle’s CD on my way to the interview, to remind myself to trust in whatever path He had for me.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek His will in all you do,
and He will show you which path to take.
—Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT

With this scripture and Lauren’s song, Trust in You, still ringing in my ears, I walked into the fellowship hall of the church where my interview was to be, and faced a picture of Jesus with the words, Trust in the Lord, written plainly at the bottom.  And so I did.

After a battery of grueling questions before a panel of six, I felt at peace with whatever decision they made.  But the phone call I received a week later, while driving home after dinner with some friends, was the invitation for a different kind of peace and coming home.  Once again, I decided to trust His path.

Starting August 15th, I will be the Executive Director of Epworth Center in Bethesda, Ohio.  Lofty title and big shoes to fill, but this is the place He chose for me.

So I will continue to sing the song in my heart, just like Grandma, and trust in His promises.

“If I rise, let me rise on You
Not on all my successes
My esteem or my pursuits
If I lose, let me lose my life
Cause if I belong to Jesus
The flesh is crucified

For me to live is Christ
To die is gain”

—Sidewalk Prophets

The Importance of the Holy Huddle

Sundays after church, we’d all hop in the fifteen passenger van to go stuff our faces with the finest grub at the Chinese buffet in town before heading back to camp for our holy huddle. At least that’s what I called it.

Sun sick and tired from the week before, we’d find our spot on the camp store floor. Heads resting on other’s knees, or slouched up against the wall, we’d spend an hour in preparation for the week ahead. Sure first aid kits needed packed, as well as our gallon size bags full of supplies for Bible studies and campfires, but those things could wait.

Camp life isn’t for everyone; I get that. But to me, it’s as natural as breathing. It is an environment that I feel most at home (even compared to the place I lay my head every night), and it is a place that my Martha can be parked in a corner, and I can pick up my Mary.

Working on staff at the church camp that I grew up attending is one of the greatest blessings of my life. Even though I participated in those gatherings each Sunday afternoon for many summers, it wasn’t until years had passed and I longed to go back, that I recognized the importance of the holy huddle.

Read more at the Biblical Wives Book Club study of “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World”.

It’s Time to Get Our Hands Dirty

Have you ever tended to a plant?  First you have to get your hands dirty, make room for this tiny, itty-bitty seed.  And then you water it.  Not too much, but just enough.

It’s a process.  But it’s beautiful; watching things grow.

Recently I have felt so burdened by so many heartbreaking things happening in our world (Orlando’s tragedies // Flooding in WV // Deciding which lives matter).  It has been the very opposite of growth.  It has been heartbreaking death and destruction.

Those events and souls who have been affected are weighing heavily on my heart.  And the weight of it all has felt unbelievably heavy.  An elephant doing dead lifts on my chest, heavy.

Last night, as I turned on the reading lamp by my bed, and opened my illustrated study Bible, I finally felt the crushing, suffocating burden lift.

I finally took the time to get my hands dirty and opened my Bible.  I wasn’t sure where to turn in this ancient text, but I didn’t want it to be a page at random, like I used to read it.  Flipping through without reason until my finger fell upon a strange and thoroughly out of context passage.  Instead, I flipped to a familiar book and read a few footnotes and some background on the culture of that day.  But I was looking for something.  Something to hold onto.

I was looking to find answers to this heaviness; to the sorrow our nation is facing.

I bought my illustrated study Bible a few months ago, just before my small group began studying Romans, so I haven’t yet explored all of my favorite passages in this particular copy.  So when I turned to the tried and tested passage that was my spiritual life jacket over the last couple of years, I was suddenly faced with a different take on the verses that I had memorized through much meditation during the fall of 2014.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
—Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT

The weight of the words, light and refreshing, replaced the weight and heaviness of the sorrow I’ve been carrying.

You see, in 2015 and 2016, I have selected focus words for each year.  Instead of choosing a sure-to-fail resolution, I’ve selected a focus that would allow me to grow throughout the entirety of the year.  In 2015, I chose the word, “trust”.  In 2016, I chose the word, “seek”.

This new take on a familiar passage includes both.  TRUST in the Lord with all of your heart.  SEEK his will in all you do.

I don’t know how long it would have taken me to come across these two verses if it weren’t for my desperation for answers.  If I hadn’t gone digging, to get my hands dirty, I would have continued to feel the destructive pressure instead of the freeing hope of growth.

As I sat down to write this post, some other freeing words have come to mind.  Those of Natalie Grant’s song, Be One.

It’s time to get our hands dirty
Be love there’s a whole lot of hurting
Calling all hearts
Calling all hands
Calling all feet to take a stand
Why sit around and wait for a miracle to come
When we can be one

What do you say?  Can we tackle the heartbreak together?  Will you pray with me?

Lord, help us to take action.  Let us not be afraid to dig in, to be the love and hope for others.  It’s not time to surrender to the destruction, but to seek to find answers. Help us to trust You.  Help us to seek You first.  Lord, let us join You in Your work.  It’s time to get our hands dirty.  We pray in Your name.  Amen.

 

When Darkness Falls

Every fourth of July, when I was little, my family would pack up a bag with snacks, grabbed our yellow comforter we used for picnics, and headed to join my grandparents along the riverbank to watch the fireworks.  I adored unpacking our bag, setting up camp to wait for the darkness to fall so that the fireworks, and lightening bugs, could light up the sky.

Little did I know that years later our family would move right across the street from our firework perch, and even now I enjoy the fireworks each July from my parent’s front steps.

This week has reminded of those simpler times.  As I have worked to unpack my belongings at my townhouse, a light from the darkness that took more than seven months to ignite, I have come across items that have splashed memories across the canvas of my mind, like the fireworks across the sky.  I have found books, given to me as gifts from long-lost friends.  I have found notes tucked in tattered journals.  I have found pictures of times and places that I cherish.

Precious memories.  Ones that make the past come alive, and make me question if my present is as exciting, as fulfilling and as important as the work I’ve done for God in the past.  And darkness falls.

I recently learned that if someone experiences a bout of anxiety or depression once in their life, they are more susceptible to experience it again in the future, even with treatment, since it can literally remap the workings of the brain.

I am hard-wired for anxiety and consequently, I am susceptible to depression.  It has hung an impenetrable darkness above me for seasons.  It has crept up the back of my throat, like bile rising, and threatened to choke me.

But in the seasons since I first experienced the darkness as a teenager, I’ve learned to look for the light.  Sometimes it is as small and as sporadic as the lightening bugs that dance across the riverbank adjacent to my parent’s home.  And sometimes it breaks through like the flash of fireworks, quickly illuminating the world, before it dissolves slowly to blackness.

Each time the light peeks through, I hold onto those moments.  The sound of my sister belly-laughing at the ridiculousness that is my family.  The way the sun filters through the clouds as I drive home from work.  The song that softens something within me.  Each moment, a simple and small gift to hold onto, to cherish when the darkness seems so thick and impossible to wade through.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
—John 1:1-5

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  From the beginning of time and forevermore, we have hope that the darkness has not, cannot, and will not overcome the great light that is found in Christ.  Through Him all things were made.  The small moments; the gift of laughter and sunbeams that melt into my skin, they were created by Him, with just as much care as He crafted my 5’6″ frame.

So when the darkness falls, when I begin to doubt and wonder and think that I am far from His path, He sends something to catch my eye, my ear, or my heart to remind me that He’s still there right beside me and will not allow me to be overcome, to fail or be swept away without His notice.  In Him is life, one worth living and fighting for.

What small reminders has God sent your direction lately to remind you of His love and light?

Waiting on God

His sandals probably squeaked from the water pouring off His feet, as He made His way past the crowd that had gathered at the banks of the river.  I imagine He smiled at the faces that looked back at Him in wonder at what they had just witnessed (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  Did He know what was waiting for Him beyond the crowd?

The heavens had just opened, the Spirit descended in the form of a dove and God spoke His blessing over Jesus, His Son, in which He is well pleased.  But just steps away, in the wilderness, Jesus spent a period of 40 days being tempted by the Devil.  And on top of that, He went without eating for that time.

Talk about the ultimate excuse for being hangry!  But He wasn’t, not even when the Devil persisted with His attempts of trickery.

“If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
—Luke 4:3

Tell this stone.  Jesus could have done it.  He spoke creation into being.  He created that stone that the Devil held before Him.  But He resisted.

“I will give You all of the kingdoms of the earth, their splendor and all this authority, because it has been given over to me, and I can give it to anyone I want.  If You, then, will worship me, all will be Yours.”
—Luke 4:5-7

All will be Yours.  Jesus could have taken it.  He created all of the people within those kingdoms.  He created man and woman for the purpose of worshiping Him.  But He resisted.

He knew that He would soon receive something to satisfy His temporary hunger.  Still He knew that what He was being offered would eventually become His.  He just had to wait on God’s perfect timing.

I’ve been waiting too.  Not for bread or for kingdoms to fall down at my feet, but for a change of status of the ring-finger of my left hand.

I have been single for 6.5 years, and in that time I have watched countless friends and loved ones walk down the aisle, and usher in precious bundles of joy into their homes and lives.  And I’m still a party of one.

Waiting on God is hard.  Though I understand that my single status does not define me, even thousands of years later, the Devil is still up to his tricks, as he tries to convince me that the time I’ve waited for God and for a man to take notice, demonstrates that I am unworthy and unloved.

No matter what you may be waiting for, I’m sure you’ve been dealt your fair share of trickery, since none of us are exempt.

Likewise, none of us are exempt from His notice.  We are worthy and we are loved.

“What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”
Luke 12:6-7

My sweet fellow Peony, Natalie of A Tiny Traveler, has recently opened an Etsy shop where she shares some stunning designs.  At her invitation to visit her shop, I was immediately drawn to these three designs.

Artwork by Tiny Traveler Creative - enjoy during the wait
Artwork by Tiny Traveler Creative - enjoy during the wait
Artwork by Tiny Traveler Creative - enjoy during the wait

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What beautiful reminders that no matter what path we’re traveling, or season we may find ourselves in, we are worthy, loved, chosen and redeemed!

Jesus resisted the temptations of bread and power because waiting on God is possible.  Jesus resisted the temptations because we are worth the wait!

In what areas of your life are you waiting on God?

 

Yeshua

What’s in a name?  that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
— William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare, I’ve been to his home in Stratford-upon-Avon in the Midlands of England.  I’ve seen the site of his Globe theatre in London, and have read a number of his plays.  The above quote is one that I’ve heard countless times with my history in theatre and studies in literature.  But it is one that I never really considered until recently.

Shakespeare’s works are found by many to be difficult to understand and decipher meaning from.  I remember spending many months dissecting the work of Othello in my senior English class in high school, wondering why the man would choose to speak through his characters in such cryptic prose.  Just three years prior, I had studied Romeo and Juliet and though very little of it made sense either, the quote where Juliet argues that names of things hold very little significance, that it is what they truly are, their purpose and meaning that matter, that quote made sense.

Just as cryptic as the acts of Shakespeare’s plays, are some lyrics to songs that I listen to on the radio or through the CD player in my car.  I often laugh at myself for some of the words that I believe the artist is singing when I finally learn the right words.

This year has been an intentional act of seeking to know Him better.  I’ve sought after knowledge of what life was like when He walked the earth, what His character was like, and how He conducted Himself when in the company of His closest friends and disciples.  And so I find it strange that we have taken something so personal, such as His name, chosen by God and announced by the angel Gabriel, and changed it from its original spelling and pronunciation.

The English transliteration of His name, Jesus, is written in bold letters in our churches, our homes and in familiar worship songs.  But the Aramaic, Yeshua, it is unfamiliar.  So imagine my surprise when a, what I believed to be familiar, song surprised me as its cryptic lyrics were finally revealed to me, as I drove to work just the other morning.

We’re a people who love to see Your presence here
In the chaos of life, God let Your name be near

Yours is the kingdom
Yours is the power
Yours is the glory God forever

And then I belted out the chorus that I thought I knew by heart; one that reminds me of Mike Weaver’s visit to my church in the fall and the presence of the Lord was so full during his time of worship:

You are welcome here
Have Your way come and glorify Your name
Yes, you are, You are welcome

But then suddenly the breaks were applied (not to the car, just in my mind) and I heard the words for what they really are:

You are welcome here
Have Your way come and glorify Your name
Yes, you are Yeshua, You are welcome

I started the song from the beginning.  Sure enough, His name was in there.  Just as His friends called him.  Just as His mother whispered in the quiet of a stable and cried at the foot of the cross.

Yeshua, you are welcome.

Sure Shakespeare writes, what’s in a name, but doesn’t Yeshua sound so sweet?

Moments That Matter

In my Notes app on my iPhone, I have 184 “notes” that I’ve made for myself.  Things to remember.  The credentials to my family’s Kindle account.  Quotes that inspire me.  What I need to pick up at the store on the way home from work.  You name it and it is probably in there.

My favorite notes, however, are the lists of moments that I don’t want to forget, such as:

31st Birthday Blessings

Breakfast with Mom & Dad
Morning massage
Lunch with Mom, Dad & Andy
Video shoot at TSG for church
Birthday get together with family
Surprise retirement party for Dad
Hour long call with a great friend
Relaxing & soaking in the blessings

They are simple reminders of the parts of that particular day that blessed my heart and made me smile.

And those are the moments that matter, right?

It’s not the number of followers you have on social media, or the amount of paperwork you accomplished today.  It’s not the things on your to-do list or the shows lined up on your Netflix queue.

It’s the moments that you spend with the people you love.  It’s the moments doing the things that make you feel alive.  It’s the air in your lungs and the pep in your step.  Those are the moments that matter.

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi,

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

Whatever is lovely…

This past Sunday I finished a book, that is filled with lovely. No spoilers or anything (especially in case you want to join me for my upcoming online book study of Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs), but I promise there will be laugh-out-loud moments, convicting moments and full out you’re-going-to-need-lots-of-Kleenex moments!  This book makes me grateful for the work that God has done in Annie’s life, so that she might be able to write this book and remind me of what He has done in my own story.

So when you get caught up in the hum-drum of life; when every day seems like the next, or life is beating at you like choppy waves at sea, take a minute and think back to Paul’s words, and extend it one verse farther.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.  (Philippians 4:8-9, MSG)

Make a list of the things in your life that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, and take a minute to thank God for them.

How do you find the lovely in the everyday?

Jesus as a House Guest

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door,
I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
– Revelation 3:20, NLT

Can you imagine Jesus showing up at your house?  Take a moment and imagine it.

Jesus as a house guest.

The thought intimidates.  It can even terrify.

My small group finished a study of the book of Revelation in February.  What an intimidating and terrifying book!  But before all of the bowls full of plagues and judgement come raining down, Jesus boldly asks for an invitation to come in and rest awhile… as friends.

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door,
I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.
– Revelation 3:20, NLT

If He arrived on your doorstep, would you be prepared to let Him in?

Like little Martha’s our minds immediately jump to,

What does He like to eat and drink?  Will He judge how I keep my home?  Do I have enough crosses and Scriptures on the walls?  

The list goes on…

What’s on the schedule for today?  Could I pretend that I didn’t hear His knock?  He’d know wouldn’t He?  He’s omniscient after all!

Rather than running down the list of how to be the hostess-with-the-mostest, consider your heart.  Is your heart prepared to let Him in?

I have been reading, Beautiful Outlaw, by John Eldredge and it has opened my eyes to see Jesus in a way that I had a hard time thinking about when I read the Gospels.  Over the years I have worked hand in hand with other Christians to stitch that great veil back together.  You know the one, that veil God the Father tore in two as His Son took His last breath upon the cross.  And all these years that veil has been a blockade, keeping me from seeing Jesus properly, and subsequently keeping me from seeing myself properly.

Yes, Jesus loves all of humanity, but He loves the individual.
Yes, Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses, but He also closed the gap between the marginalized and the lofty.
Yes, Jesus endured torture, humiliation and death for us, but He did so as a 33-year-old man.

Jesus, while being the Son of God and the Creator of the heavens and the earth, is also a man who had to learn how to walk, to read and to nail two pieces of wood together.

Recently I also had the privilege of reading and reviewing, Beautiful Uncertainty, by a sweet friend of mine, Mandy Hale (aka The Single Woman).  In the book Mandy discusses reading Eldredge’s book and even shares about a practice she inadvertently adopted from a friend of her’s, dating Jesus.  Sounds strange, I get it, but what she shares about her experience is a beautiful depiction of answering the door and allowing Jesus in as a house guest.

“I was in line at Zaxby’s waiting to order lunch when I felt God begin to tug at my heart. “Order something for Me too,” I could feel Him whisper into my spirit. (And when I talk about God speaking to me, I should clarify that I’ve never heard an audible voice.)

He lays things on my heart in such a powerful way, I know it’s Him nudging me or leading me to do something.

When I felt His gentle tug, I immediately started to argue with Him. “But, God, Zaxby’s is a little pricey. You want me to order a full meal for You that’s just going to sit there and go to waste?” As soon as I responded to God with those words, I could just imagine him laughing at me. (Yes, sometimes I wonder if God is chuckling at my shenanigans. Often, actually. I think He must get such a kick out of me and my ridiculousness.) “Mandy. I give you breath and life and a heartbeat every single day, and you can’t spare seven dollars for Me?” So I ordered God a chicken finger plate with extra Zax sauce, just like me. (I figured God surely loved Zax sauce since it has to be the modern-day equivalent of manna from heaven.) And when I got home, I sat down at my desk with both our meals and started to eat.

Now obviously God didn’t beam down from heaven and join me for chicken tenders. But what followed was the sweetest thirty to forty-five minutes of communion with Him I had ever had. There was something so moving about sitting at my desk that day, quietly sharing a meal with the God of the universe. There was something even more moving about the fact that He wanted to share a meal with me. Me. Little ol’ me. Imperfect, greatly flawed, often the conductor of the Hot Mess Express me.”  (Mandy Hale, Beautiful Uncertainty – Part One, Pg. 4)

I don’t know about you, but if the Creator of the Universe knocked on my door, I wouldn’t leave Him standing outside alone.  Of course once He crossed the threshold, I’d be a ball of nerve; heart racing, palms slick with sweat and words coming out all wrong.  But once I invited Him to sit down at my tiny dining room table (certain that it wasn’t in the chair with the loose leg), I’m sure my breathing would return to normal and I might be able to focus better on my Savior.

And though the idea of “dating Jesus” sounds a little out there, what better way is there to spend your day, then to focus your undivided attention on Jesus?

So again I ask, can you imagine Jesus showing up at your house?
Jesus as a house guest.  Would you let Him in?