Monday, October 14, 2013

just in time.

we were sitting in bumper to bumper traffic last friday night on the way back home to jersey. given that i was famished and felt the weight of a long week at work that accompanies most fridays, one can expect that i was cranky and on the verge of losing my temper with each red light and taxi cab that cut us off. maybe i was outwardly a tad bit irritable but it was mostly alleviated by an intense calming joy and peace in my heart. earlier that evening J drove into the city with his childhood friend to make a special purchase and pickup from 47th street. excited and anxious, i rode the subway from my office and made plans to meet him right outside of the store. with J half an hour behind schedule, still numerous blocks away from the destination, and the store nearing closing time, i was losing patience and letting my paranoia get the best of me- again. my crazy imagination ran away with me as i started entertaining all these dramatic and sad scenarios- he changed his mind, he's not coming, i have to go home alone. i kept staring at each passing car, willing the next one to be J's, all the while feeling the knot in my stomach grow. with my gaze still fixated on the road i almost missed J running toward me at full speed, gasping and frantically looking for the entrance to the store, yet still managing to give me a quick smile. while he continued to rush upstairs, i waited outside and laughed to myself as i pictured J running (J hates running) through the crowded streets of nyc to make it in time and keep his word. although my fears quickly disappeared with his arrival, i rebuked myself in frustration for holding on so tightly to my plans and strict timeline after promising myself i'd let go of this chronic habit. time and time again, i'm finding that i need to give up my insistence for control of my life and accept that God and His glorious plans may not fit in my perfectly structured box. J came out of left field when my focus was elsewhere, like serendipity. this time i vow to fix my eyes on Jesus alone and allow Him to lead me through the rest. and when i get off track and need Him to hold my hand and bring me back every once in a while, thank God for His gentle kindness and saving grace. forever changed by His love- one day at a time.

"You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

Here I stand humbled by the love that You give, 
Forgiven so that I can forgive.
So here I stand, 
Knowing that I am Your design, 
Sanctified by glory and fire.
And now I've found the greatest love of all is mine, 
Since You laid down Your life, 
The greatest sacrifice

Your grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed but alive in Your hands 

Forever I am changed by Your love
In the presence of Your Majesty

Thursday, September 5, 2013

sufficiently loved.

my pastor said in a sermon a few weeks ago that if you fear man more than God it'll lead you to sin. right away i knew this was deeply profound but i didn't really grasp it until just now- after many hours of contemplating and praying for wisdom to understand this truth. it led me to survey my past and reflect on all the times i regrettably fell into sin, all the people i hurt along the way, and the reasons why. in addition to fearing man, i was more concerned about pleasing them over God. it actually makes me incredibly sad to think about how delusional i was for getting it so twisted. i was desperately searching for approval and acceptance that is first, foremost and ultimately only found in God. my quest for love was always diminished by my many failed attempts to find it. i still believe my desires and intentions were pure and genuine but my character and state of mind didn't match up. the main problem was i tragically believed i wasn't deserving of such radical and extravagant love. i settled and i paid for it. i'm probably still paying for it.
i was talking to sis this week about j and how much i don't deserve him or the love that he shows me. she immediately corrected me and said of course i do, but after all the wrong that i've done i thought i was right to feel this way. maybe it was false humility or gratefulness masked in self pity, but the Lord began to speak to me this morning on my commute to work about how i am still believing a lie and it's not ok. He took away everything in me that is so undeserving and unworthy when He died on the cross- once and for all. there is no glory in punishing myself when His blood is more than sufficient to wipe away and destroy all the ugliness inside of me. despite my refusing to take hold of it, He deems me worthy and says i was made for love. this kind of revelation just wrecks me and i'm so tempted to crawl back in that place where i just keep rejecting Him b/c i don't merit His favor and affections. but i'm not going to do that anymore b/c that's what has always led me off track. instead i'm going to joyfully receive and accept His love and thank Him forever and ever.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork,created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:4-10

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

in the company of mockers

every morning i pass by a technical school on my way to work. most days i opt for the sidewalk across the street, or straight up share the middle of the road with oncoming traffic, as to avoid the crowd of sexually charged and very inappropriate men spewing out whatever rendition of vulgarity they can come up with. their lewdness makes me shudder, especially so early in the morning, but i try my best to hide the blatant and instinctive rolling of my eyes as i pretend not to hear them. given that i have no problem standing up to confrontation or speaking my mind, i always give myself props for resisting the strong urges to either throw up in sheer disgust or knee them as hard as i can in the you-know-what.
however, on this particular morning i had too much on my mind to give a second thought to passing through the lion's den. all was well with the exception of one guy who wouldn't stop yelling out "ni hao. NI HAO!" are you freaking serious, guy? does it give you some kind of sick satisfaction by saying hi to me in chinese until i give you a reaction? i wanted so badly to turn around and scream "mother effer!" accompanied by other colorful profanities but spared myself the trouble.
as annoying as this incident was, it led me to reflect on Jesus and the cross. He was mocked, beaten and spit on and not once did He rightfully tell them off saying, "do you know who I am?? do you know who my Father is??"  i can't imagine the unbelievable rage and injustice i would feel if i were in the same position, given that Jesus is the Son of God, the Creator of the universe. heck, i was ready to attack this guy for saying hi to me in another language. and still, Jesus literally and actually died for those scoffers. i can't fathom that kind of love. i don't even know if i could ever begin to understand and be as gracious. what kind of love does it take to be able to stand firmly and boldly in the face of vicious mockers and be fully confident that your Father will always have the last word? that's Christ's love. i will never cease to be amazed.

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3

Friday, August 16, 2013

the waves will break every chain

i'm the type that needs instant gratification and immediate results & my biggest pet peeve is waiting around for anything. i'm positive i'm not alone here. especially when it comes to intangible and uncontrollable things such as a broken heart, the lurking stench of apathy or hopelessness, or unfulfilled promises, i'm particularly impatient. it's as if i literally can't wait for whatever is next & i'd do anything to get there. i'm not only this way with my own outlook but i've come to realize i share the same unrealistic expectation on behalf of those i love and care about. if there is even the slightest hint of hardship or discord in their lives, i always look for a way to rescue them from the pain as soon as possible. i would trade places with them in a second if it meant they didn't have to endure the discomfort themselves. talk about a savior complex. and although i'm no stranger to it, i never face adversity, for myself or others, with confidence or faith. it's like, hello? haven't i learned at all to trust the Lord in all circumstances? has He ever given me a reason to doubt Him? no.
the fleeting and petty desires in my heart have always come and gone very effortlessly for me- much to my misfortune. i became spoiled and ungrateful and my heart was quickly hardened. i never sought what was worth waiting for- the things that will last. looking back on the past few years, the Lord has taught me that there are no shortcuts and no quick fixes for His perfect plans and timing. no matter how much i cry my eyes out, i won't have the answers or figure it out on my own. which begs the question, whoever said i have to save myself anyways? did i ever stop to consider that Jesus may be using this time to prepare and mold me? maybe He has something to say. thank God for His faithfulness that He carried me through the valleys and dark seasons to realign my heart with His and whisper that He's still with me and He's scheming for my good.
although i still cringe when i think about the weight of despair that i sustained (and prolonged due to my slow learning), i'm utterly thankful that He made me wait. i kicked and screamed along the way but He allowed it because His ways are always better. i could have never dreamed of this given my limited perspective and lack of wisdom or imagination. everything is going to be alright. not just alright, glorious and epic if we'd only just let Him.

But a certain sign of grace is this
From a broken earth flowers come up
Pushing through the dirt

- David Crowder, Wholly Yours.
Listen to advice and accept discipline,
    and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
What a person desires is unfailing love;
    better to be poor than a liar. 
The fear of the Lord leads to life;
    then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

Proverbs 19: 20-23

That feeling that doesn't go away just did
And I walked a thousand miles to prove it
And I'm caught in the crossfire of my own thoughts
The color of my blood is all I see on the rocks
As you sail from me

Alarms will ring for eternity
The waves will break every chain on me
My bones will bleach
My flesh will flee
So help my lifeless frame to breathe

And God knows I'm not dying but I bleed now
And God knows it's the only way to heal now
With all the blood I lost with you
It drowns the love I thought I knew

The lost dreams are buried in my sleep for him
And this was the ecstasy of a love forgotten
And I'm thrown in the gunfire of empty bullets
And my blood is all I see
As you steal my soul from me

Alarms will ring for eternity
The waves will break every chain on me

Ellie Goulding- My Blood

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

not afraid anymore.

i remember when i first heard this song hand me down and i swore rob thomas was singing about me. the song got stuck on repeat as i sulked in my own self pity but i felt powerless and unmotivated to do anything about it. when i look back on where the heck my head was during that time, it breaks my heart that i allowed myself to wallow in that state for as long as i did as if i was in a trance or something. i can still recall all the mornings i woke up so unsettled and anxious, desperate to appease my restless appetite for wholeness in my soul. there was so much fear and worry in me and even though i always professed to believe in true love, i was so afraid i was beyond repair. (just read through my past blogs and you'll see what i'm talking about) i was such a poser. it was exhausting and entangling and i knew deep down inside that this wasn't the way it's supposed to be- not even close. it took years of wasted striving that amounted to nothing and a severely wounded spirit to finally break down and cry out to God b/c there was no other option. as pathetic and unfortunate as it was, it was so necessary and surprisingly pretty liberating. i must have wailed in that upstairs room in martha's vineyard for hours until i realized i don't know God at all. if i truly knew God- who is the Creator of the universe and the King of all Kings- as my Father, would i still live in fear? if i had faith that my Father is good and loving and would never forget about me, would i obsessively try to take control of every matter in my life? no, i don't think so.
i can't explain in words what happened to me after that meltdown- all i know is that i'm not afraid anymore. this past year can be simply summarized as intense detox and rehabilitation by God's love but i know there's so much more to the story. He's been pursuing me and after my whole heart my entire life, waiting so patiently throughout my countless mistakes and stubborn attitude. i guess i finally reached a dead end where i was forced to gazed at Him long enough to realize He was offering everything i was always longing for. i just had to let go of everything else. there is stillness and rest in my soul and my heart is overflowing- there is no more room for fear to dwell.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Someday they'll find your small town world on a big town avenue
Gonna make you like the way they talk when they're talking to you
Gonna make you break out of the shell cause they tell you to
Gonna make you like the way they lie better than the truth
They'll tell you everything you wanted someone else to say
They're gonna break your heart, yeah

From what I've seen
You're just a one more hand me down
Cause no one's tried to give you what you need
So lay all your troubles down
I am with you now

Somebody ought to take you in 
Try to make you love again
Try to make you like the way they feel
When they're under your skin
Never once did think they'd lie when they're holding you
You wonder why they haven't called
When they said they'd call you
You start to wonder if you're ever gonna make it by
You'll start to think you were born blind

From what I've seen
You're just a one more hand me down
Cause no one's tried to give you what you need
So lay all your troubles down
I am with you now

I'm here for the hard times
The straight to your heart times
Whenever it ain't easy
You can stand up against me
And maybe rely on me
And cry on me, yeah
Oh no, no, no

Some day they'll open up your world
Shake it down on a drawing board
Do their best to change you
They still can't erase you

Monday, July 15, 2013

love letters.

around three months ago when J & i first started dating, i was stuck in the phase where i was still skeptical of everything and couldn't shake off an intense fear of commitment. i kept wanting to run away and hide b/c i figured that would be easier than actually confronting my deep rooted issues. one night i had a dream that my paranoia drove me to push J away and with tears streaming down my face i demanded proof of his love for me. in my dream J walked away, remarkably still confident and unaffected by my craziness.
shortly thereafter he came back to me with armfuls of handwritten letters, notebooks and manuscripts, and as he handed them to me he explained that's his proof that he loves me. when i woke up i immediately felt like God was speaking so loudly and clearly saying that's the bible- undeniable proof of His love & God's own handwritten love letter, signed and sealed, just for me. when i'm so quick to doubt and forget, God leads me to read His word from thousands of years ago and i'm convinced all over again of how extravagantly, intensely and faithfully He loves me.
i never shared the dream with J b/c i was waiting for just the right time.
the day that i left for zimbabwe, J asked me to come over to his house b/c he had something to give me. he hugged me extra tight, told me how amazing i am and said for the very first time, "i love you."
then he gave me a long handwritten letter, just like in my dream.
i finally got to say "i love you" and share my dream w/ him. i cried like a hot mess and J was just as cool as ever.
how can i not be in awe of God's love and perfect timing? so good.

I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.

For I will turn their mourning into joy
And will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow.

Jeremiah 31:3, 13

Friday, May 17, 2013

hope- the joyful anticipation of good.

there was a pretty intense and significant period of time, not too long ago, where i allowed myself to succumb to so much regret and self pity. in theory, i always say that regret is probably the most useless expression and waste of emotion b/c there's literally nothing you can do to change what already happened. what's done is done and what's important is how you handle it going forward. there's no point in wallowing over the past and aimlessly dwelling over what you would've done differently. but that's exactly what i was doing. i kept playing back in my mind all the times i should have been stronger and wiser and holier. i couldn't help but think of how much better life would be had i not made so many costly mistakes- whether it had been for the sake of curiosity or love.
i was doing my quiet time this morning and finished reading the end of romans which, by the way, was pretty dry and mundane- right up until the last passage.

25 Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. 26 But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him. 27 All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.
Romans 16:25-27

 i just sat there kinda astounded, reading it over multiple times, and found myself smiling really big as i tried to fathom that God has had secret plans (really, really good plans) for us since the beginning of time. it has been His intention all along to save us, redeem us and make us His own. you know what though? it's so easy to believe that God has redemptive plans for us when we already have the fulfillment of it. that doesn't require any faith or hope. but when we're at our absolute lowest and we see no sign of rescue but somehow we still believe that God is good and He's coming, that's real. His word says this kind of faith is worth more than gold. all odds can be stacked against us yet deep down we just know that He's on the brink of something huge and glorious. this is foolishness to those w/o faith, but to us it's our saving hope.
not that i take pride in my mistakes or glorify them in any way, but i'm learning to be grateful for them. i was jokingly yelling at j last weekend about how it took him so long to find and pursue me. he could have saved me a lot of bad dates and heartache if we met years earlier. in all seriousness though, looking back on where my heart and faith was even just a month and a half ago, i'm glad i believed God at His word and anticipated His promised restoration before the actual revelation of it. i'm thankful for the painful and desperate experiences that brought me to my knees, drew me closer to His heart, and built my foundation in Him alone. i don't know where or who i would be without these scars but i know they help me to cherish and appreciate j more.
whether we know it or not, we all need a savior. our predicament is when we try to save ourselves and carry a burden that was never meant to be ours. i've had the same exact recurring nightmare since i was in grade school living in kansas city. in these bad dreams, i'm attempting to carry a large couch the size of a nj transit bus. this has subconsciously, and somewhat comically, instilled a fear in me of over-sized objects. i never thought much about the significance or sought to interpret what it might mean. but as i was randomly thinking about these nightmares last week, i also happened to be meditating on psalm 46:10 (again)-

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God..."

what's ironic about carrying a giant couch is that it's sole purpose is intended for relaxation, rest, and stillness. i felt like the Lord was telling me "just be still"- the same way a mother tries to calm down a rambunctious toddler. there's a wisdom and art in being still and shouldn't be confused with being idle or lazy or passive. it's about trusting in the Lord implicitly and having a relentless and resilient hope that anticipates His next move.

Oh great God
Be small enough
To hear me now
There were times when I was crying
From the dark of Daniel’s den
I had asked you once or twice
If you would part the sea again
Tonight I do not need a
Fiery pillar in the sky
Just want to know you’re gonna
Hold me if I start to cry
Oh great God
Be small enough to hear me now
Oh great God
Be close enough to feel you now
(Oh great god be close to me)
There have been moments when I could not face
Goliath on my own
And how could I forget we marched
Around our share of Jerichos
But I will not be setting out
A fleece for you tonight
Just wanna know that everything will be alright
Oh great god be close enough to feel me now
All praise and all the honor be
To the god of ancient mysteries
Whose every sign and wonder
Turn the pages of our history
But tonight my heart is heavy
And I cannot keep from whispering this prayer
Are you there?
And I know you could leave writing
On the wall that’s just for me
Or send wisdom while I’m sleeping
Like in Solomon’s sweet dreams
But I don’t need the strength of Sampson
Or a chariot in the end
Just wanna know that you still know how many
Hairs are on my head
Oh great God (Are you small enough)
Be small enough to hear
Me now

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

you won't give up on us.

i've been single for most of my life so it's no wonder i'm independent (so long as there's public transportation or a good pair of running shoes around) and absolutely comfortable and content being by myself. there are plenty of things i'd rather do alone and actually look forward to- running on any given day, eating at a sports bar on a friday night after a long workout, strolling around the city w/ no particular agenda, and watching college football all day saturday in my sweats. single life is kinda nice. it's safe and doesn't require much risk, faith or sacrifice. it's hard to imagine and prepare for having someone else constantly around who always wants to share all that precious alone time- especially when it's so abrupt and unexpected.
i notice that in the midst of this unfamiliar intense peace, laughing way out loud and my heart being so utterly full, i want to run away and hide. i don't know when i began to morph into such a frightened and reluctant little girl but it's harder than i expected to find my way back. it's not that i seek to purposely sabotage what i have but it's so tempting to simply give up. it's too hard and i'm uncertain if i'm ready or willing to trust someone else with my fragile and tender heart. it's as if there's this battle raging inside of me that tells me i don't deserve this, but the other side fights to give me permission to be happy and accept.
there's a tiny despicable voice inside my head that keeps whispering that these fears are well observed and warranted b/c they will soon be realized. and as ludicrous as it sounds, sometimes i give in and believe i should heed to these warnings now before it's too late. i hate this. enough is effing enough. i don't know when or how i'll finally be reassured that this time this just might be real, he might really be sincere.
i woke up much earlier than was necessary last saturday morning and spent a good chunk of time filling in my mom about all my commitment and trust issues. in true form and full of wisdom and so much grace, mom just simply said the best thing i can do is just be thankful. thanksgiving has the power to effectively erase the trauma of the past and release hope in goodness again.
so with great humility and a thankful heart, i went ahead and told j about all these annoying and paranoid thoughts that run through my mind. i was kinda harsh, definitely a mess- even crying in a crowded restaurant during dinner, but he was thoroughly calm and so patient. so cool, this guy. i even told him about how i use blogging on a public forum as my outlet and occasionally, as of late, i may discretely write about him (like right now). i explained how i felt so strongly that God was convicting me to write about this journey and the struggle and healing that accompanies it & that He would use it to bring glory to Himself somehow. surprisingly j was supportive and said he won't read it until i'm ready.
as amazing and trustworthy as j is, this isn't really about him at all. it's not up to him to convince me that i'm beautiful and it's not his responsibility to fix me & make me get over my issues. it would be incredibly foolish, unfair and burdensome to look to a mere man for that sort of validation. instead of focusing my energy on if i'll allow my heart to learn to love again, it really comes down to trusting Jesus at work in each others lives. from the beginning of time right to the very end it has always only been about Jesus. even now when this may seem like it's just another tale about two deeply flawed people, Jesus is faithfully and purposefully weaving us into His story. He is not intimidated by my commitment issues and He won't give up on us.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7

And when you're needing your space
To do some navigating
I'll be here patiently waiting
To see what you find

'Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We've got a lot to learn
God knows we're worth it
No, I won't give up

I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got, yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you're still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn't break, we didn't burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not, and who I am

Friday, April 26, 2013


i never really noticed this about myself until someone pointed it out recently, but i always go out of my way to make sure i'm conveyed exactly the way i intend. room for interpretation, the art of mystery and subliminal messages are all lost on me. i have no poker face, i'm obvious, i share too much information and what you see is what you get. even when i desperately try to, i can't hide or lie about anything and i'm also the first to point out and confess, "guys, i'm awkward" or "i'm really freaked out." so unnecessary, right? maybe i'm too self-aware and paranoid but the reason is just that i really hate being misunderstood. i'd rather be straightforward and direct concerning important matters than have others read into mixed signals and get it wrong.
while reflecting on why i may overcompensate when it comes to being blunt, i believe it most likely stems from being wounded by misinterpreting others in the past. regardless of who was to blame or if it was intentional or not, it's just a bad situation that i try to avoid at all costs. there's nothing quite as frustrating and disheartening as being misled and duped, but i eventually got over it and moved on. yeah, it sucked but you live and you learn and you grow up. we can typically get by with minimal damage but nothing so detrimental that we can't spring back from.
it's scary, though, when we misunderstand the character of God because we see Him through the distorted lenses of our experience and circumstances. in His word, He is clear about His heart for us- He makes Himself vulnerable to us, pursues us without ambiguity or boundaries, and yet we treat it as something conditional that's based on our mood on any random day. we complicate His promises and read into things that aren't even real. 
i know God's not sitting on His throne in heaven panicking or worrying about being misunderstood but i think it still hurts Him. throughout history He's revealed the abundance of His amazing grace and His relentless love after us. most significant of all He sent His only Son to suffer, bleed and die for us b/c He desperately couldn't stand the distance that separated us. that is love. yet somewhere along the way we got it all wrong and painted God to be someone who's stingy, angry and indifferent. i can almost feel God's anguish as He's crying out, "that's NOT me at all!"
i'm rediscovering who God is all over again these days but i'm so upset with myself for misunderstanding Him for all these years. instead of looking for the truth of who He is in the word and through the HS, i allowed my skewed perception be formed by whatever i chose to make sense to me. i withheld myself from living in His fullness and walking out His purposes and promises for my life. but in true form, He never gave up running after me in the most beautiful and gentle way to remove the veil. He's holding my hand and romancing my heart. and i am still. 

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Your eyes are full
Full of the future of us
The air changes as you look across
At me in that wondering way

It is as if
I knew you before we spoke
Do our hearts know something we don't?
Converging, conspiring, without giving us any say

You sing me to sleep
Talk down my walls
Look through my windows as I wait
You could be the thief
I give the key to

You're ruining me
With secrets and gestures and looks
With sonnets in second-hand books
Playing the chords in me nobody knew how to play

It fits in your hand like the water in rain
Unlocks our two different selves
And shows we are the same
Rather than wait til I
Put me out for the taking
You're breaking
You're breaking
You're breaking into my heart
And I'm letting you

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

we can love the way that we are loved.

as unpleasant or disruptive as it can be, i believe God purposefully allows certain events to occur that will shake and awaken us out of our complacency. we can kick, scream and resist as much as we want b/c it hurts like hell but there's no avoiding God's pursuit of our whole hearts. He will always have His way b/c His love is too fierce to simply leave us as we are. b/c we are relational beings, i know He will strategically place people in our paths who will cause us to violently fight off the deception and lies we subconsciously live under until there is real & lasting breakthrough and freedom.
in my case, it came in the form of the fulfillment of a deep longing in my heart. as cliche as this may sound, the whole scenario played out like i always dreamed and hoped for- with integrity, clarity and purity- the way it was always meant to be. it was precisely everything i needed and desired and yet it highlighted and magnified all the disgusting junk that was hiding inside of me. where did this come from and why the heck is it still here?? i felt paralyzed by fear and helpless to do anything about it. so many mornings i gave into senseless doubts and tried to sabotage myself from the intense peace and joy that threatened to replace it. i even surprised myself with how aggressively my damaged heart tried to deceive me. i naively thought, "ok, i just need to chill out and give this some time and getting used to." but battles are not passively won. there's a responsibility and an authority we have to take all of those false thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ and His truth. (JUST SAY NO).

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

this may sound ironic but i'm beginning to realize that desperation for Jesus is such a gift and an amazing invitation. each time i let my insecurities and painful history drive me to my knees before the feet of Jesus, He restores me and transforms me. He takes my ashes and crowns me with beauty. the enemy may have intended to harm me but God intended it for good. as much as i cave into these gross lies from time to time, i know that the light that is instilled deep within me shines brighter than the darkness that looms around waiting to devour me. yes, i'm still so broken but i am stronger than i realize and i do not have to keep punishing myself. He calls me beautiful and beloved and redeemed.
there is so much hope and good news. we can love the way that we are loved- by the One who is love & the author and perfecter of our faith. 

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:18-19

“In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

we can learn to love again.

i'd like to think i'm an eternal optimist. i'll even go as far as to claim it's one of my greatest traits- i'm resilient, always hopeful and believe in love above all else. or so i thought. it's only until very recently that i discovered that i'm actually quite the opposite- i'm deeply jaded, full of ugly scars and doubts and so quick to give up at the first sign of opposition. the thing is, i can typically anticipate the next steps in a relationship and mentally and emotionally prepare myself accordingly. since i'm naturally a doer and an initiator (gosh, sometimes i feel like such a dude), i almost can't help but be strategic in knowing exactly what i want and going after it. there's a ton of tireless effort that goes into this game- the extra lip gloss, the hair toss, pretending like i'm a lady, for sure not laughing out loud, & def not watching football in the presence of anyone i'm trying to impress or attract. basically, i'm not anything like myself at all, and where i'm lacking i make up for by being bossy and using the power of suggestion. this is all that i'm used to and much of what culminates my past experience so i don't expect anything that deviates from this pattern.
so now here we are and i have no clue what's going on b/c there is nothing familiar about this. it literally came out of nowhere w/o any signs or warning. i didn't even have the chance to try to act cute and sexy and domesticated. i was admittedly indifferent and standoffish at first b/c i didn't believe this was legit. i'm sorry but i still don't. there was no validity in what was professed even though it sounded sincere and heartfelt. i had a good run throughout the years and so unfortunately, i've heard it all and can't tell the difference btwn truth and lies anymore. even now, regardless of how convinced i am of it when i lay my head on my pillow at night, i'm back to doubting again when i wake up the next morning. i'm really great at convincing myself that it's safer to just dismiss any idea or hope of true happiness and possible romance b/c my heart just can't take the bs. it's a lot simpler to be alone and just theoretically believe in love and redemption. i never thought that the prospect of it could shed light on so many painful issues and insecurities.
i've never experienced God through a guy/girl relationship before other than receiving His grace to forgive and desperately seeking His healing and restoration. as evidenced through my own family and best friends, God has clearly made us for relationships and He reveals a tiny reflection of our ultimate perfect union with Jesus through those around us while we're here on earth. my dad is the best example of this. from my very first memory of him to this very day, he has always so accurately displayed to me the heart of God the Father. i'm confident that he will do absolutely everything in his power and ability to love me, provide for me and fight for me. if only all relationships were as healthy and affirming.
even through the annoying hazy filter that clouds my current experience, i'm seeing Jesus all over it. He's reminding me that He first loved me when i was at my worst and had nothing to offer Him. there's no way i can hide all my junk from Him- from the filth in my heart to the impure thoughts that go through my head, but He chose me in spite of it all. He is nothing like i expected or deserved, Jesus is better and more than enough to cover all my faults and mess. but most personally meaningful of all, He pursues me and i just let Him. although it certainly doesn't benefit Him to do so, He convinces me over and over again that He's genuine and He's not going to leave me or change His mind when i wake up. He's unbelievably patient with this erratic heart of mine although i know it hurts Him when i hold onto my doubts and fears instead of clinging to Him. confession: i'm horrible at receiving love and affection from anyone other than my parents. i get nervous and extremely awkward and subconsciously push them away b/c i don't believe it's real. like it's too good to be true and i can already foresee the end right from the start. sad, huh? but i know i'm not without hope. Jesus is still captivating me and wooing me after all these years. it's ridiculous to think i can ever catch up to Him and match His love for me, but i can waste my life trying so that's what i intend to do.

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don't know
My weakness I feel I must finally show

Lend me your hand and we'll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I'll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep, totally free

Awake my soul

Friday, April 5, 2013

the exception, not the rule

i hate that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you realize you may be held back or disqualified based on the past. the regrettable mistakes and inopportune circumstances that literally took years to actively shake off and overcome unfortunately still lurk around like a foul odor just asking to make us stink all over again. people naturally form judgments and whether we can fault them for it or not, everyone loves to talk about everyone else. i get it. i'm probably guilty of it, too. without grace and much of a second chance, our minds are already made up about others regardless of how well we can fake it to their face. we ask and desire to be more like Jesus and yet we can't even look past and genuinely forgive each other's momentary indiscretions to truly love them. these things are called set backs for a reason and it's the exception, not the rule, when we can be presented as faultless and blameless despite of our pasts.
whenever i question if all the detours and poor choices that i've made throughout my life will set me on the wrong course or cause me to miss out on what He initially intended, i'm reminded of the OT and Jesus's genealogy. it almost looks as if He purposely chose to weave in all the massive failures and disasters to set up the most glorious story of redemption and love. i don't want to imply that He predestines us to fall into sin or leads us on the wrong path. that's heresy. genesis 1 to this exact moment in time is just evidence of how powerful and amazing is His grace. He purifies and refines us until we're never the same. that old self is dead. we don't even recognize that person anymore. we're elevated to where we could never be given our own strength and strategy. it's so like God's character to use the least likely candidates, flaws and failures and all, to bring glory to Himself. the more i seek Jesus and the more He reveals Himself to me, i discover that He just loves to do this. He takes the most miserable and dire situations and shows up so that we're literally on our faces in awe and wonder. i think He likes the challenge and the shock factor.
i was riding the subway yesterday and just reflecting on all the events i have to look forward to in the near future- weddings, vacations, etc. but what takes the cake by far is looking forward to standing before Jesus face to face. i couldn't help but smile really big as i was sitting there by myself. i think i was even blushing. yeah, i know this sounds kinda crazy. i mean, who thinks about this stuff? i believe the HS imparted that to me to this time to remind me of how much i don't deserve Him. it's actually embarrassing how much i fall short. it's scary b/c more often than not i think we run the risk of subconsciously feeling entitled to God's mercy and exceedingly good love. it's so nice and cozy in His presence that we forget the depth of despair from which we were rescued.
it's enough that He presses the reset button and makes everything new with a clean slate. but He doesn't just stop there. Jesus takes our very areas of intense brokenness and deep shame and turns it into something beautiful. He gives us a crown of beauty for ashes. He contradicts the rule and it's completely unfair...and kinda scandalous.

to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:3

slightly more than your average little girl who daydreams of fairy tales and happy endings, i yearn and long for an epic love story. i'm not even ashamed to admit it anymore. haha, obviously. i am a romantic to the core. although it can be perceived as unrealistic or a hopeless cause, or even a character defect, i believe the Lord made me like this to reflect His original plan. He made us for extravagant love. God is love. by the transitive property, we were made for God.
this is going to get lost in translation and words will never suffice to express that Jesus is my epic love story. He's my perfect, fairy tale ending and fulfills every unreasonable and silly desire of this fickle heart of mine. He is everything i've been waiting and frantically searching my whole life for. He is my sweet redemption and the greatest reward. none of this makes sense and yet it's the only thing that's real and the only thing that matters. He is my exception.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

wise about what is good, innocent about what is evil.

one out of three of my executive bosses, who also happens to be a lawyer, is a huge stickler with words. whenever i speak with him i try to be extra cautious of whatever comes out of my mouth. i refrain from using slang (today i told him alec baldwin's wife is "preggers" and he seemed perplexed), exaggerations, or the word "like" as often as i'm used to. with the added effort that it takes to communicate with him on a daily basis, i have actually grown to appreciate the awareness this inadvertently brings to my speech, hopefully without being too particular b/c that can get annoying.
until recently, i rarely acknowledged how much words affect me, both negatively and positively. being the age that i am and having gone on quite a few dates, i've heard plenty of smooth lines, tons of flattery and empty promises. i was confiding in a girlfriend, semi-lamenting that i'm so used to & over this game of sweet talk, when she pointed out that no, i'm actually not. it still affects me because i still believe it. this is true. regardless of all the hot air that i've heard combined with good intentions, the multiple times i was disappointed when someone didn't follow through, or lofty compliments & praise that fell flat on the ground, i can't help but hold onto the benefit of the doubt and trust that this time, this person means it. (after all, it just takes one to make it all worth it.) the stark difference is that now i don't eat it all up like candy and get sucked into the delusion that words so often have the power to bring.
maybe i have a special kind of selective amnesia for certain messed up experiences that i've gone through or maybe it's just that i have a supernatural faith in love and goodness. given all the poor decisions, made in the name of "love" by the way, that led to unfavorable circumstances i should be a ton more jaded and discontented. perhaps it's naivety, resilience or seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, but more than any of these i believe it's evidence that God is protecting my heart and keeping it safe and tender for Himself. He must have glorious and redemptive plans for me :)
whatever the case, now i hold closer to and admire those who keep their word. as shameful as this sounds, i never really valued truth. i mean, who genuinely stops to reflect on this regularly? subconsciously i started thinking about this because i saw the passion of the Christ twice last week and this particular dialogue struck me-
  1. Pontius Pilate: What is truth, Claudia? Do you hear it, recognize it when it is spoken?
  2. Claudia Procles: Yes, I do. Don't you?
  3. Pontius Pilate: How? Can you tell me?
  4. Claudia Procles: If you will not hear the truth, no one can tell you.
so what is truth? better yet, who is truth? in the NT, Jesus prefaced almost 80 of His documented claims with "i tell you the truth..." you would think He was trying to make a point or something. if we believe that in His very words there is life (wow) i think it begs to be investigated and longed after.

63 The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. John 6

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4

i think it's pretty evident that there's something in each of our souls that crave and seek truth. those profound, sometimes daunting, questions that we all face demand sufficient answers- what's the meaning of life? what's my purpose? is there a God? He's been trying to speak to us since the OT but we haven't always had the discipline to deafen our ears to the senseless noise that surrounds us. in the past, i confess i placed a disproportionate amount of weight on anything that sounded pleasing at the time. but through years of asking for more wisdom, making lots of mistakes along the way and taking conscious steps toward obedience, He's increasing my desire for truth instead of flattery and bringing revelation to discern hearing what is good vs. evil.
my ears have heard of You. i can't wait to see You.

18 For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. 19 Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. Romans 16.

32 With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him. Daniel 11

say what you mean and mean what you say.