Monday, October 27, 2014

easier

a while back, I had a conversation that's stayed with me. I honestly don't remember a whole lot of what was said, except that we talked about that little phrase that so often pops into our heads, "Wouldn't it be easier?".
Life has seemed incredibly difficult lately. I know that's super first-world-probs of me to say, but it's the truth. It's a season of nitty-gritty discipline and daily picking-up-of-cross, and it's just not easy and rarely fun. I've been really whiny about it, too.
Then on my drive home God gave me this lovely little wake-up call that revolutionized my mind (and was probably the first time {at least in a while} I consciously had my mind renewed by the Lord).

About a year ago, my old voice teacher sent me an encouraging text with some scripture, and I, being a typical white girl, instagrammed it. Then it appeared on TimeHop on Friday and God used that old picture in a huge way.

As I was mulling it over on my drive, God did His weird God-things and stirred His little pinky finger around and whispered. 

I've been so busy complaining that God took my five little loaves and two little fish. 

I was the one the offered them, I was the one that brought them to Him, but I held them out hoping he would say, "No, that isn't enough, you can keep it and I'll take miracle-worthy matter from someone else."
He didn't say that.
Come to find out, He never does.
He will always, always, always accept the widow's mite. I should have known.

Anyway, He took my five loaves and two fish of all the good little things that I wanted to keep in my life- my plans & hopes of: returning to London; graduating into a stable, promising job; having a boyfriend; being able to keep working with the best teacher ever at GMS; keeping my safe little circle of friends and not moving outside of it; maintaining my self-protective covering and not being this continually, obnoxiously transparent person.
I held these things out innocently, because it's what you're supposed to do, and assumed He wouldn't want them.

But He took them. He took them, and there made me realize that I had chosen the hard route, accidentally.
I had been whispering to myself all along, "wouldn't it be easier if....?" and setting those choices to the side (I thought) for later, for the day I would have the bravery to choose either the hard choice or the equally brave choice of the easy way. 
But in reality, I had been choosing the hard way as I went, by simply saying over and over again, "OK, GOD."

I didn't even know. THAT'S WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU ARE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH SOMEONE FOR 12 YEARS; GEEZ GOD, WAY TO CHOOSE SOMETHING FOR ME. (total sarcasm. I'm glad for it.)

Once He took those five loaves and two fishes of my life, lifted them from my hands, I immediately realized I was lunch-less (metaphorically). I had not much else to give. I immediately regretted my offer. 
But He comforted me with that look He gives your spirit sometimes, when you start reconsidering an offering you gave Him; the one that reminds you that He is so good and trustworthy, especially with living sacrifices. So I stood there by Him and watched Him give thanks for it-- HE GAVE THANKS FOR *MY* TINY OFFERING!?!? The one that couldn't go around to feed everyone no matter how small I cut the pieces up?

As I drove and saw this little picture sketching itself in my head, it all clicked.

Matthew 14:17-21 and John 6:11-13 tell the story:
"They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children."

 "Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten."

He reminded me that after Jesus gave thanks for the food, He broke it. There was no way it could be spread out to feed all the people that needed to be fed if the five loaves and two fish stayed as they were. They had to be broken.
This season of 'I don't know' and 'everything hurts' are my broken bread and split up fish.
They are broken that they may be multiplied.
They are broken that they may feed.
They are broken that others may eat their fill.
They are broken and promised to bring leftovers, and that 'nothing may be lost'.

"Becca," He said,"you brought me your little bit. I took it, I gave thanks, we gave thanks, and I broke it. Wait to see what I do with it. Wait to see how far I will multiply it.
'Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, see if I will not open the 
windows of heaven for you and pour down for you
a blessing until there is no more need."

"Wouldn't it be easier" if I didn't trust Him in this? "Wouldn't it be easier" if He were just some figment of my imagination that I could discard from consideration? "Wouldn't it be easier" if I could go about life on my own merry way and not have to give Him my little loaves and fishes?

Maybe it would. Maybe it wouldn't.
I really don't want to know.
It's hard, but knowing that my small sacrifice is broken that it may be multiplied and used to provide sustenance is enough.
Knowing that God is inviting me to test Him and see if He will not throw open the windows of Heaven and bless me abundantly (I'm not Prosperity-Gospel-ing, chill out) until there is no more need.
Not no more want.
But no more need.

choosing joy

Most days choosing joy is a chore. It's hard work and no one talks about that, and you feel wimpy for being worn out by choosing joy over and over again when it hurt and was inconvenient and tough. Most days your love tank doesn't get filled back up the way it used to when you were six and all the world was good and agreeable. Most days you're a pathetic mixture of hopeful and doubting, just waiting to be told that everything WILL be ok. Most days it's easier to lay there and watch Netflix and pretend your hurts and worries are nonexistent. Most days you try to get by with the least amount of effort and pain and the most amount of shallow "I'm good, how are you?"s. Most days you want to be the prettiest and the smartest and the wittiest and the best-known and the most-loved and the One That Everyone Knows Will Be Someone.
No one else talks about the little electrons of life, the tiny negative things that feel like they shouldn't make a difference at all, when they ultimately change everything.
Most days it's hard to find people who will talk about the electrons with you and listen to your electrons and tell you I FEEL THE SAME WAY.
But "we are all the same, really. When you close the curtain, I see me in you, I see you in me. Struggling and stressed, reaching for the best. You remind me of me."
Most days it's hard and it takes a lot of effort and a lot of choosing joy and a lot of rejecting the electrons. And let me tell you: all days, that is worth it. All days, the warmth in your heart at the end of a day that exhausted you with all the love you poured out is worth every tiny electron. All days, when the sun shines on your face, remind yourself that choosing the tough option is always the best. The ache and the struggle and the tears and the grunt work are producing beauty in you. Hold on to your hope and scare people with how much you love them and tell the negativity it can't come 'round here no more.
You beautiful things, choose the tough joy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I have no life dreams, can I interest you in tears?

As you might expect if you know me much at all, I have been an emotional basketcase lately. typical, I know. However, it seems much more obvious to me now that it ever has before. I cry so much, and at the weirdest things, you'd think I was pregnant (but that's impossible; no worries, y'all). I EVEN LITERALLY CRAVED PICKLES AND ICE CREAM TODAY. so that was weird and I probably shouldn't publicly admit that, but there it is in the WWW.

Just a few minutes ago, I was reading a HelloGiggles article entitled "How to Feel Better When Everything is Just the Worst", and it made me cry. They say there's a first time for everything, and today was my first time to cry at a HelloGiggles article, so there's that. Anyway, I was reading it and attempting to take some of its advice and I got down to #8 and I almost lost it. It looks like this:


A while back, I was talking with a friend and we were discussing our "crazy stupid huge dreams"- those things you envisioned for your life when you were younger, or things you consider when you daydream, that you would love to see happen in your life in some weird ideal version of adulthood. And he told me all these grand ideas and hopes that he had, some of which were quite possible, and we discussed them for a while.
Then he asked to hear mine. and I conveniently changed the subject and avoided the topic because I realized this one devastating fact:

I have none.

literally, my "crazy stupid huge dreams" note on my phone looks like this:
and has since September 14, obviously. isn't that depressing? I thought so too.
I re-realized it tonight upon reading the article and got super depressed all over again.

I feel like I should know what I'm doing with my life and where I'm going and what my goals and dreams are, but all I really know is the general direction I'm headed and that I, in fact, do NOT know what my goals and dreams are.

I want to be astonishing and live a bright, vivacious life. I want to do things that matter and love people and see things and think and cry and love and dream and scream and hope and fly and listen. 
and that's all I've got. 

Vague, cliche hopes of being someone important and doing things that count. Every human has that.

Somewhere I long the way, I think, I certainly must have had big, specific dreams. I remember praying detailed prayers and begging for His desires to become mine, and to be granted. But I really don't know what those desires are. And I'm not entirely sure that they belong to me yet.
And, gosh, the LAST thing I want to be is The Girl Who Had No Dreams. 
one thing I want to never have to be said at my funeral is, "she lived a small life."
and it scares me that I currently am.
with no specific hopes or intentions or ideas for changing that.

A big heart and a big life and big love and big hopes and big dreams and big adventures and big words and big, fulfilled promises: that's what I want for my life. 

and I don't know how to get there or what to hope for or what to pray or what to dream of.
because really, honestly, the only 'big' things in my life right now are big weird plans I don't understand and big buckets full of my tears. 

on the real, y'all, I have full-out wept three times in the last three days, and teared up 8 times in the last three days. 

last night I read my favorite author's most recent blog post: Stop Sleeping with Liars (and it facilitated one of the weeping moments). At one point, she said:

"you’re human. That’s it. You’re not super human. You’re not subhuman. You’re just plain human. You make mistakes. You don’t scale walls. You hurt people without ever intending to. You get your heart ripped out of your chest. Some days the only language you can endure is tears and you’re like, “I’M SO FLUENTTT IN TEARSSSS. WHATTT ISSSS WRONNGGG WITHHH MEEE???” Like I said, you’re human. Go with it." -Hannah Brencher 

and that got me good. I'm INCREDIBLY fluent in tears, especially these days. I have no dreams for my life and that terrifies me and all I know to do is just keep plodding along through each day. 

when all that I can sing is a broken 'Hallelujah',
when my only offering is shattered praise,
still a song of adoration will rise up
from these ruins,
and I will worship You and
give You thanks... 
even when my only praise 
is a broken 'Hallelujah.'
-Mandisa

Saturday, October 11, 2014

THE FAIR

Thursday night, I went to the State Fair for the first time ever. Since I'd never been before, when we first arrived, I was FLIPPING OUT. I'm talking exclamations of wonder and jumping up and down and pointing like a three-year-old who thinks she's in a wonderland. Overall, I was in disbelief at how cool this place was and how I had never been before, and I wished I had come sooner. For dinner, I ate chicken on a stick for the first time and loved it.
I marveled at everything and laughed at things that probably weren't funny, and I just had a ball. Then we bought our tickets for the rides. It was $2 Thursday, so $20 got me 10 tickets (so I could go on 10 rides!), and that was FAB. But after I purchased the tickets, I realized how quickly my money was flowing from my hands and I started wishing that I didn't have to give up so much to get so little in return.
We went on the giant slide and it was super. Then we made our way down to the Ferris Wheel, and it was my first time on a Ferris Wheel, and it was terrifying but wonderful. Mostly all the rides were just too short, though, and you'd think, "OK WOW, This is going to be awesome!" when you were getting on. Then a few blinks later, it was over, and you are just left there like, "...really? That's all?"
So you go on another ride.
View from the top of the Ferris Wheel
We went on "Freak Out", and it was horrific. My friends tried to convince me it wouldn't be that bad, but as we stood in line and I watched the people before me being flung around at an obscene height and parallel to the ground, I started regretting my decision. When we got on, I tried to convince myself it was going to be ok, but within ten seconds of the ride starting, I had decided to just brave my way through it. I held my breath and scrunched my face up and tensed my whole body and never opened my eyes the whole time, just wishing it to be over. I kept thinking, "I didn't want to go on this! Why did I let them talk me into it?!" But they had said it was "breezy" and fun. {it wasn't. they remembered incorrectly.} I thought I was going to faint or throw up or die and I was kinda mad that they had talked me into it, and that I had wasted a ticket on that terrible thing. But I was also glad that at least I could now say I had done it, I had ridden the awful ride and people would think I was cool for having braved it and come out on top.
We continued on several rides such as the Tilt-a-Whirl, Crazy Mouse, some spinny thing, and then the slide again-- all much less terrifying than the Freak Out.
I started realizing that we were the only ones screaming and laughing on the rides. Everyone else had straight faces during and after the ride, like they were numb to the exhilaration and adrenaline. The more I looked around, the more I saw unhappy people trudging around a fair, eating too much and riding these stupid rides, and getting absolutely no joy out of it. I, the Fair Virgin, was having the TIME OF MY LIFE (with a couple exceptions) looking at all the stuffed animal prizes, and bonding with the animals in the Petting Zoo, and screaming at the top of my lungs when the Tilt-a-Whirl flung me around unexpectedly. They, the ones who had obviously been there before, seemed to be doing everything aimlessly. And it was terrifying and depressing.
These guys came up to us asking us to kiss them for a scavenger hunt (we didn't). Creepy ride worker dudes hit on us. We almost stepped in puke. The majority of the fairgrounds smelled like fecal matter, beer, and fried things, all mingled together. People were doing everything they could to get you to try THEIR game or eat THEIR food and it was just exhausting being constantly pulled in four directions.
At the end, we went on this water ride. And it was disgusting. We got SOAKED in this nasty brow water that smelled like wet wallpaper. And we proceeded to walk around dripping wet.
Feeling nasty after the water ride
We bought overpriced cotton candy and sno-cones and funnel cake and suddenly the $50 I had brought with me (just in case I needed money for other things later in the week) was gone. I WASTED FIFTY DOLLARS.
And it was terribly disheartening and I can't help but overanalyze it all and think about it as a metaphor for the life of sin. Not that I am sin-free or perfect, but I live my life trying to run away from sin and seek the Lord, not embrace sin and live in its tangles.
It made me sad for people who live like that, who give away too much in exchange for nothing at all, and it reminded me of the Pleasure Island scene in Pinocchio.
Can we just praise God that He gives us a way out of that?! Because that is incredible and hope-inducing.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

the season of death

It's October.
I have shamelessly had potted purple mums sitting by my front door for a solid two weeks now-- even though the majority of those two weeks was 20 degrees too hot for mums.
I've been impatiently waiting until the day I could light my 'Autumn Leaves' scented candle that smells precisely like every good thing about fall. in wax form. And just so you know, I lit it the day before the calendar claims it's the "First Day of Fall".
I had my first cup of Hot Apple Cider three weeks ago.
And I of course have celebrated the start of football season, my first night 'needing' a hoodie, and the first few crunchy leaves to step on.
Fall isn't even my favorite season, and yet I'm ecstatic.

As I mentioned earlier, I have mums. And it's been too hot outside for mums.
Also, I'm a plant killer. Add these things together and what do you get?
Dead mums. Very dead mums.
HOWEVER, since I am a broke college student and could not let those $10 go to waste, I began watering that little mum plant like mad once I finally realized it was dying.
Assuming this act was "too little too late", I had internally given up hope of ever seeing green or blooms on the plant again, but I was too lazy to throw the plant away or stop watering it. Maybe there was a sliver of hope somewhere within me, too, that kept me watering it.
Either way, it came back to life, and, in so doing, shocked me.
the aforementioned semi-dead mums
After a week or so of watering it carefully and seeing it slowly come back to life, yet not rid itself of the dead brown bits, I sat down today with a pair of kitchen scissors. Pushing aside the green bits while I cut and tenderly pulling the blooms out from the tangle of the brittle, dead bits, I couldn't help but be reminded of the promise spoken in John 15, that God will be our vinedresser.

Those big kitchen scissors were probably not the best tool for the job, but they cut the tiny brown branches adequately so I stuck with them. I was careful not to let the big scissors open too far so they wouldn't accidentally snip off a green branch in the process of my pruning, but wouldn't you know that there was one little green branch with a perfectly lavender-colored mum bloom on the end of it that was too intertwined with the dead brown bits and too thin of its own accord to survive when freed from the dried twigs. I would have loved to save it, but even some things that live must die early when you know the outcome will be death anyway, I suppose. So I snipped it away, too.

I sat there, indian style, as the water droplets from where I'd just watered the plant, dripped onto the sidewalk. I sat there, scissors in hand, and I gingerly reached into the plant and cut away the parts that were only hindering it. I sat there, mind racing, as I saw so much of myself in that little purple mum plant.

This season has been one of dying. Some because of my own lack of discipline in watering that area of my life and seeking to help it flourish. Some because God touched the tip of his finger onto a branch and called it dead. Either way, he's been using his big kitchen scissors to cut away these dead parts of me-- some of which I'm not ready for Him to cut away, some of which aren't fully dead yet.

But He knows that very branch in me that does not bear fruit needs to be taken away. So He takes it away. And every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. He calls me then to abide in Him. Which I'm attempting. But I still don't really know what that looks like or feels like or is. So I'm just giving it my best shot right now (which is somewhat ironic, because the baseline fact of 'abiding' is that there is no 'going' or 'trying' in abiding. You just do it. It just happens. You just exist in it.) "As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." 

He goes on to command us to live in this lifestyle, "that your joy may be full", then He commands us to love abundantly and overwhelmingly.
The simple fact that these tales of being pruned while abiding in The Vine come right alongside the commandments to live in joy and love seem to make the abiding that much more imperative. If one is to be able to live joyfully and lovingly, one must first abide in the Vine. 

Abiding gives the implication of living in. The simple fact that we ABIDE in the Vine says that we are alive. Though He may be killing things, we still live. Though He may be cutting off parts of us, we still live. Though He may be freeing us from dead parts that have entangled us by getting His scissors scary close to us, we still live. Though the autumn may be fast approaching, He is caring for us so closely and so tenderly and so purposefully that He will not allow any part of us to die that does not need to die. 
And sometimes, the branches in us that are already producing fruit, He cuts off and re-plants so that it may produce more and better fruit.

I cannot honestly say that I am settled in my spirit with all the death in my heart lately. I can't tell you that I'm absolutely positive of all the exquisite fruit these deaths and prunings will eventually bring forth. I wish I could.

But right now, all I have to give is, "Ok, God. Ok. Do it. Ok. Ok. Ok. I am weak. I want to be happy at this. I want to have joy in this. But I'm not there. All I can give you is 'ok, do it.' And hope that's enough. Make me Yours. Make me alive in You as I abide in You."

When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll: whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say "It is well, it is well with my soul."

welcome to midnight.

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