Friday, December 11, 2015

love letters => gratitude

if you know me at all, you probably know a couple basic things about me.
1) I cry a lot and talk/ramble even more (or maybe swap those?)
2) I'm into love. and not necessarily romantic love- though if we're instagram buddies you know all about my incredible Casey and how stoked I am to get to do life with someone I love so much, and who loves me so much. I just like any kind of love. my favorite is Love, the person/being/actual Savior of the world.
I'm also quite partial to love letters to other humans. but you know, if it's "love to watch the sunrise" or "love pizza" or "love a sick bass beat", I'm also into that kind of love.

A wonderful now-real-life-friend of mine (I'm claiming it forever, HB), Hannah Brencher, started this amazing nonprofit organization called More Love Letters (MLL). basically people just write other people "hey, human, you're incredible and loved and thanks for persevering" letters, and leave them places or send them in bundles and it is phenomenal.

so basically OHMYWORD am I all about some Hannah Brencher and her Monday Email Club and If You Find This Letter/If You Find This Email and MLL.

Every year, MLL hosts a time of celebrating and loving on wonderful people who need some loving-- they call it "12 Days of Love Letter Writing". During these 12 days, we participants flood inboxes with love letters. We obnoxiously post about it on every social media outlet. We write letters. We write blogs. We cry (or at least I do) at the beauty of it all.

This year, I signed up to share the mission & love of MLL with you all on my little corner of the internet, so here it is: today's Love Letter story & request. Please join me in writing a letter to Kevin. here's his story:


“Kevin is just an all-around wonderful human. He is always going out of his way to make other people feel loved and included. It doesn’t take long for any random stranger to add Kevin to their “top favorite people” list.” A close friends writes to us.

Recently Kevin’s girlfriend passed away suddenly due to a brain aneurism, she was only 32. It happened so fast that all their friends are struggling with ways to grieve and ways to heal, and of course Kevin is still going out of his way to make sure that everyone else is doing ok with the loss of their friend. Join us in showering Kevin with all the love that he consistently shows to everyone around him!

Kevin’s bundle
℅ Kayla L.
139 Ordale Boulevard
Pittsburgh PA 15228

I feel kinda weird sharing my exact letter for Kevin with you guys- it was oddly personal-feeling for me, so I'll let it stay in that little envelope for Kevin. however, I've also been in the midst of my #100daysofgratitude lately, so here's a combination of the two.

thank you, sweet Jesus, for this dear old world, and for Kevin. thank you for his heart, his vulnerability, and his resilience. thanks for giving him such a big, home-y heart that openly welcomes people in. thanks for teaching him about love. thanks for giving him so many chances to exercise it and therefore make such a large ripple of difference in this world.

and thank you, Kevin, for being fully Kevin. for being a mess when you need to be a mess. for being a light and a voice and a cathedral and all those wonderfully needed things. Kevin, you're incredible and I couldn't do what you do, but I applaud you so fiercely. Your determination, compassion, and attention to others matters so deeply and it inspires me. I don't know if you ever feel like you're not sure you're doing any good in this world or not- I feel like that a lot- but I can tell you, YOU ARE. You're doing a lot of good in this world and it matters and it's stretching so much farther than just yourself and your community. Thank you for being the kind of person who's willing to put in the kind of effort it takes to do that. Thank you for being so selfless that even in your own loss, pain, and heartache you are seeking out others to be there for them. That's something our world (and my life) needs more of- thank you for being one who started giving MORE when you saw the need.

thank you for impacting my life unknowingly.
funny how we humans always do that to each other.

and thank you, God, for putting him in my path so indirectly to influence me so directly. thank you for his story and how it fills my heart with hope. thank you for all the kinds of things you send me that also fill my heart with hope: sunrise, LoveQuirks, Christmas lights, "childrens' faces looking up, holding wonder like a cup", poetry, and hot tea. thank you for soft sweatshirts and giggles and surprising honors. 

thank you for my amazing college experience and the lifelong soul-friends you gave me there that have continued on. thank you specifically for Meg and how grandly she loves me, how well she knows me, and how lovingly she listens to me. I don't want to know what my life would look like without her in it. thank you for making us Anam Cara- "soul friends"- and keeping us bound to You.

thank you, too, for Casey- I think I never really thought I would fall in love like this. I think I never really thought I would have someone like him in my heart; I think I always told myself that he couldn't exist and that love couldn't be this grand in real life. thank you for teaching me otherwise. thank you for humiliating me everyday with how loud and raw and soft and refined and oxymoronical my love for Casey is. 

thank you for giving me a heart and a voice that are okay with loudly declaring how much I love certain people and things. thank you for making me the way you made me, even though I usually just see my own flaws and downfalls. thank you for knowing me so intimately and so much better than I know me. thank you for making my heart Yours- in the sense that it belongs to it and looks more like it each day. thank you for giving me so many tears and such a sensitive heart, even though that's sometimes super crappy because it means I cry too much about things that don't matter. 

thank you for Hannah Brencher, her words, and how they have changed my life. thank you for using her to show me that I am a writer and that it's okay to be completely fluent in tears. thank you for those five glorious hours I got to spend sipping lattes with her and for her big heart that now lets me claim her as a personal friend. thank you for all you did in her life to bring her to where she is now so that she could impact me, and millions of others, with her words and her love and her spunk.

thank you for the ability to write and blog, and for the people who read and listen and share and care.  thank you for the encouragers and teachers and mentors you give me at every turn, to keep me snuggled in right beside You. thank You, thank You, thank You. 

Friday, October 23, 2015


sometimes I have a lot of words in me and once I start sorting them all out, I realize none of them are original in the least and that frustrates me to no end. darn Solomon, being all wise and stuff with that "there is nothing new under the sun" business. Ecclesiastes 1:9 has it right. no matter how hard I try to think of novel ideas or eloquent, original wordings or fresh perspective- it is guaranteed someone has already thought, written, or seen that already. "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." it says.

we are all under the sun... and I don't really know the theology behind the actual 'placement' of Heaven and whatnot, but given how we see Heaven as "above" the earth, I think it could (should?) be excluded from being under the sun. mainly because there is only ever 'new' in Heaven. new praise. new bodies. new reality.
so most of the time it trips my mind out to think of Heaven as a reality, when I really force myself to try to grasp it. (all that newness is too much good, perhaps.) my feeble human mind just implodes when I tell it, "I'm going to live there forever someday".

and maybe we should tell ourselves that more often. even if we aren't talking about actual Heaven. I don't mean to be sacrilegious, but I'm of the mind that this Earth could stand some more Heaven on it.
maybe for you it's just embracing the new (therefore scary, if you're like me) reality in front of you- a job or a city or a person or a ghost you haven't slain that is begging to be dealt with. at that kind of junction, I think the only option is to say "welp. this freaks my mind out and seems impossible but. that's the home I'm claiming. and I'm gonna live there forever someday. I'm gonna let this weird God-work be my Heaven on earth."

Because, hopefully you realize by now that it takes a few years to find home. And home can subtly change or sleepily leave or suddenly bloom. but I think once we find our 'homes', it's important for us to realize that this incredible, new thing is only new for a while, this side of Heaven. It's only fresh and unblemished and ours for as long as we hold it firmly yet tenderly, like it's the kid trying to wrestle his wrist from our grasp.

when we find those "new" things, it's tempting to shy away from claiming it in the FOREVER way.
with all the failed marriages and lost jobs and cities that don't suit us the way we thought they did, it seems easier and less painful to hold timidly to convictions and commitments and covenants.
but SURELY I am not alone in feeling so done with timidity. so done with old things. so done with not clinging lovingly to what captures my heart. so done with letting my life under the sun be so earthly. so done with giving up on home because it seems far away or impossible.

so can we be a little more audacious in our claims of home and our own personal, God-given "Heaven"s here? is that blasphemous? I don't know. I'm just thinking jumbled thoughts about this life under the sun. I'm just thankful for the new things that He slips in beside us. I'm just thankful for finding home in so many people and places.

I guess when you find people and places that make you cry with love, cling tenderly and claim them forever.

#thisstartedasaninstagramcaption #BeccaCriesAtTheSunriseAgain

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

and she's back!

greetings, my friends, from the lovely world of "Mith Nobaw". how are things out there?
for MONTHS now, I have been planning on returning to this little internet-canvas of mine and throwing some brightly colored paint on my world... then my laptop died.
so here I've been, holding my thoughts in until an innocent bystander asks how my day is or what I'm doing the next weekend. and then out trickle my observations and convictions and decisions and ponderings, with the force of something much fiercer than a trickle if I'm being honest.
there are many things that have changed semi-drastically since I last mentioned them out here in the blogosphere: I got a new car, I moved into a sweet rental house with my sister, I obtained and began a job as an elementary music teacher in a lovely little school in a heart-wrenching school district, the seester and I got a puppy (he's mostly hers), Casey and I got back together (which happened a while back but I don't think I've mentioned it here), I began and ended work at Bath & Body for the summer, and my Mee-Maw died.
-----> all of that happened in an order very different from how I listed it but who cares.

so life has looked like a lot of things lately:
it's looked like wet hair being slung around on the 7 AM drive to school (leisurely late-morning, compared to Spring semester!)
it's looked like being terrified of/for my achey-breaky old car and thrilled for/over my new one.
it's looked like my first ever panic attack the week before I started school because 1) I loved these babies before I met them and 2) Satan uses that against me.
it's looked like falling asleep at 6 PM because I was working two jobs for a while there-- and I have a whole new respect for anyone who has a full-time job AND another job on top of it.
it's looked like forgetting, for probably the first time in my life, that skin color is an actual thing that affects some people's views of others, and often finding myself having this sudden, shocking realization that I am not, in fact, African-American too.
it's looked like sitting in 'my' house being absolutely mind-blown at how God has worked and provided in just one year.
it's looked like renting five movies from the library at once because that's the max, and watching them all as fast as possible.
it's looked like eating out too much.
it's looked like being really unsure about all the grey areas in my relationship with God.
it's looked like trying to learn how to rest.
it's looked like occasionally hating myself for being so empathetic.
it's looked like getting to hold a loving, bearded face in my hands, and realize that the kind of relationship we have is one of rare vulnerability and depth [and it's wonderful that we get it but so sad that some humans forsake this for their own comfortability] and cry-laughing the happiest tears out of my eyes because Casey Key is a living, breathing, hugging answer to prayer.
{the kind of prayers that aren't happy and pretty and well-formulated. the kind of prayers that contained the occasional curse word and a good bit of yelling and a lot more crying and all kinds of groans from my heart. the kind of prayers that I had never prayed until I suddenly woke up on August 25th, and every morning after that, needing to grab the door handles of God's heart and shake them and scream and pour out bitter tears because He had wrecked me in an awful, beautiful new way that brought about so much dependance.}

and, of course, being a teacher now, it's looked like doing a lot of things that "aren't my job".
Translating as much of his class as I can for a 4th grader who can't speak English "isn't my job".
Teaching a 5th grader to read because no one took the time to when she was younger "isn't my job".
Helping administer pre-testing so that students who need reading intervention can get it early on "isn't my job".
Squatting down to tie the shoes of a 3rd grader who can't tie his own "isn't my job".
But yet... all of those things are my job.

and one day, amidst sharpening a few score pencils, I started pondering. on pencils, and what 'is' and 'isn't' my job.

I'm weird about the kind of pencils I buy for my students. I only buy Ticonderoga #2, even though they cost a bit more, because the lead doesn't break as easily as off-brand or even Dixon pencils. Now Dixon pencils, I swear, were made by Satan himself. Just when you ease them into the sharpener to bring them to perfect sharpness, they come out with the lead at an awkward angle. You touch it with the tip of your forefinger to see if it's sturdy enough to write with, and the lead falls out. So you slide it back in the sharpener, and out it comes: the wood rounded around the end of the lead to the point that it can't be used to write at all anymore.
It's one of the more infuriating things I experience in a given day.

and it makes me think: I don't want to be a Dixon pencil. I don't want to break off when people need me and say "that isn't my job today" or "not feeling like it, sorry." I don't want to be the kind of person that when Christ draws me in to sharpen me, I pull my shell up around me and protect myself to the point that I'm not even a tool worth utilizing anymore.

I want to be the kind of writing utensil that is the worn-out, tried-and-true, tiny little knub of a pencil because it has given every bit of itself being sharpened and used and sharpened and used and broken and sharpened and used. It has loved others by simply making itself available and sharpen-able.

which reminds me.
Someone needs to tell Taylor Swift that love is NOT
"a fragile little flame that could burn out."
On June 2nd I wrote:
I'm learning that love is not 
some "fragile little" thing that I have to keep 
hidden away and protected.

I'm learning that love is fierce and strong
and a weapon for the battle to find
and create joy every moment.

I'm learning that love is gorilla tape that 
binds and corrects and sticks and stays.

I'm learning that love is 
misunderstood by everyone,
most of all me.

I'm learning that love is the heart-wrenching
waiting and staying. It is the

I'm learning that love can be found 
in absolutely any situation,
circumstance, or emotional ecosystem.

and today I'm adding:

I'm learning that love doesn't ask me for 
anything but my SELF.

I'm learning that love doesn't ask me where I'm going,
it asks me where I am and knows
that I sometimes just need to be held there.

I'm learning that love doesn't ask me
to always be energetic or enthusiastic or positive, 
but simply to be real.

I'm learning that love isn't always painful,
isn't always perceived as beautiful, and 
isn't always noticeable to eyes unfamiliar.

I'm learning that love's motto is just:
"wow. you."

I guess I say all that to say I'd rather be a knobby pencil and Gorilla tape than a Dixon pencil or a Taylor Swift song. and I really want to hear what you're learning, whether it's about love or not, because I want to know if I'm kinda close to the target or if I'm just really far off. share your hearts, friends, I look forward to it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

the one where she is sad

It's been over a month now that I've been out of words and I'm not going to pretend I'm okay with that. So many times I've tried to force myself to write, to blog, to journal, ANYTHING. And it just hasn't really worked. Tonight, however, there's a heaviness in me, that kind that I think brings wordiness, though I am currently completely unsure of what words will spill out.

Today I finished my last official day subbing. It's been an incredible three months, full of tears and laughter (the only way to spend the months), and my heart will, I think, forever be attached to some of these students. Seems like that's the way this teacher-heart of mine works-- getting too attached to people that rarely/never know how deeply my heart buried their name. It's made me do a lot of reflecting and a lot of note-writing and a lot of thanking.

It makes me wonder if my teachers ever felt about me the way I feel about my students. I wonder if they searched for the joy or pain in my eyes and sometimes put their hands on my shoulders because they knew how much I just wanted to be seen. I wonder if they ever cried when I left them or they left me or whatever our 'goodbye' looked like. I wonder if they ever got frustrated because I didn't listen to them the way I needed to. I wonder if they ever sat alone at night and prayed their hearts out for me until the tears stung the backs of their eyes.

I've been doing a lot of job applying and interviewing lately and these boss people always want me to "tell [them] about [myself]". And every time I've started with, "Well. I love loving people." because some days that's all I really know about myself. Some days I say vague things after that or spout of facts that other people have told me, because I'm supposed to know who I am beyond just knowing I'm a bucket of love that's got an unfixable hole in the bottom of it.
But most days, that's all I really know.
There's a hole in my bucket and I don't plan on trying to fix it, cause I like splashing around and at least helping turn the dusty parts to muddy parts. Everyone needs their dusty parts to be splashed on, even if it makes mud, because that's when you can really finally muck it away.

As you can see from the past four paragraphs, I've been really into me lately. And I'm very tired of it, but I need training on how to stop using "I". Because I'm selfish and talk about myself a lot and sometimes it literally nauseates me. CAN YOU PLEASE JUST START BEING LESS ABOUT YOU, BECCA?

Guys, my mind is such a jumble lately and it's so frustrating. I can hardly string coherent thoughts together a lot of times, and I'm not sure what to blame it on besides just busyness (which is a lame excuse). A little bit back, I had coffee with a friend and we talked about this whole being a "writer" thing. I try to tell myself, "you're not a writer, Bec. you didn't even get a minor in it. stop posing and give it up."
However, it's a thing God uses to minister to me. Writing is and always has been a way for me to figure out my own thoughts and feelings. When I was seven, I would get so bogged down in my own thoughts I couldn't get them out enough to tell my mom that I wanted to eat dinner at a specific place or get my ears pierced, so she bought us a mother-daughter journal and I would write her little notes.

Thinking about that makes me cry. Y'all my mom is (and was) superwoman.
Who even thinks of that?

Anyway, it's always been an outlet and a method of dealing, for me. so who the heck do I think I am to tell God, "No, you can't use me in that way," although I hate being used in this way because I am so small and inadequate.
For such a big God, He deserves a writer that is also big and talented and popular and at least has a degree in it or something. I just write because I like words and think too much.

In the end, I guess I should boil it down to: I never have enough/the right words to say, and that drives me crazy. Maybe, hopefully, someday I'll find that I have exactly the words I want to use at exactly the moment I want to use them and there will be just enough but not too many and they will have a perfect audience and response.
For now I'll just sit here and claim to be a writer until I feel like one.
Sidenote: to all you real writers, please don't be offended that I'm trying to be one of you. Just let me in.

Also, here's a sobering bit: my grandmother just died.
I'm sorry to be so blunt about it; I hope it doesn't seem apathetic or disrespectful. However, it's a fact. She was in her late 80's (I can't remember if she was 87 or 88) and in the late stages of Parkinson's and it's just inevitable at that point. And I don't know how to process it- sometimes I'm a puddle of tears when I talk about it and sometimes I feel so far removed from it. Both of my other grandparents (dad's parents) have died during my lifetime and neither of them really struck me the way this has. They were sad affairs, to be certain, but I've been crying like a bipolar lady the past week or so.

Basically I'm probably going crazy, guys.
Welcome to my world.

I want to be less about me, but I also want 'me' to be better. I want to be more stable, less extremely wavering in my emotions, more adequate, less doubting, more talented, more sure... and the list goes on.
These days, Satan's doing a lot of tearing down and I don't really know how to stop it when I can barely stand up straight most days.
It's my own fault, I've failed to stand and fight for too many days in a row. But I just feel small, in the bad way. Like I've somehow lost my way, along the path to adulthood. Heck, maybe this is adulthood. I don't know.

There's just something wrong and off and I don't know what it is or how to fix it or how to tie it all up in a happy, pretty bow to display.
I'm just sad.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

on pilot lights, being a garden, and springtime.

It’s testing month at school, which means every day this past week I have had a few hours each morning to just sit and breathe and think. Which you know, if you get me at all, is quite dangerous for me.
But last week it was beneficial.
“Somewhere along the way, my dears,” (she says, quoting a favorite musical just because her brain turns everything into song) my little flickering flame inside me got turned up, I think. For a long time I relied on the pilot light of my spiritual gas heater to keep me okay. I know it’s not a good consistent state to be in, but I also think it was a necessary phase and for a while it was the best I had, so it was good enough. But somewhere in those months of relying on the pilot light to warm the house, God refilled the tank and turned the heat up. And I had this realization the other night that my soul, at some point, settled into a toasty 4 on the heat dial and is thawing out the numbed extremities.
Please understand me; this is not my “I’ve made it and have everything together, guys, so you can stop trying to help me” speech. I am far far far from making it and having things together (the very thought of which ever being possibility for me literally makes me laugh). I don't think I will ever stop needing people and flailing around in life a little bit (or a lot-tle bit) as I go.

This is simply a public recognition that the clean-up work in my heart, the renovation, the Big Remodel, the turning me into His cathedral is happening. It has been, little by little, unrecognizably so, until a glimmer caught my eye and I took a peek back into the land I’ve been trekking these past three months.
There He said, “We’re moving. Do you see that we’ve moved? You’re thawing out. Your weeds are being pulled. I am tending you every day, my little garden, and Spring is on her way to us. Life is ebbing in.”
Sure enough, as I looked down into my own often-too-small heart-garden, I saw He had expanded it a size or two (enlarge my borders, Lord! including my Grinch heart that needs so badly to grow!). I saw He had planted a few things- I know not what they are or will yield yet- and the little bumps under the soil promised fruit soon enough. I saw a few more holes in the ground where the deep-rooted weeds had been excavated; I saw new weeds trying to settle into the newly fertile soil.
Rain and sun that fall into me are nurturing all they touch, and He reminds me we- He and I- must be careful to tend this garden every day. We must be careful to arise early and pull the new weeds out before they have a chance to be nourished by the smiling sun or crying rain.

The cathedral has a garden! I love that! I love cathedrals with courtyards and gardens and life!

It’s as if my heart is literally undergoing spring cleaning, and I’ve been lathered up and scrubbed down and rinsed off, and set by the nice, toasty, 4-on-the-dial heater. What a tremendous feeling.

Recently, I’ve been reading a few books that are changing my life (as good books tend to do) and that I think have induced this Springtime.
  1. LOVE DOES by Bob Goff. It’s unexplainable how this book both wrecks and revitalizes me at the same time. I don’t understand it. It’s obviously God.
  2. Parables of the Cross by Isabella Lilias Trotter. Honestly, this book (or pamphlet, I suppose, as it’s only 23 pages) makes me feel like such a Christian hipster because NO ONE has heard of it. Literally no one. I discovered it because Elisabeth Elliot referenced it in her life-wrecker, Passion and Purity, and it was just a few dollars on Amazon, so I ordered it and wow. Just get it and don’t try to read it all in one day. It’s too deep and rich.
  3. If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher. I feel like this one explains itself. It’s her story, her weighty words, her heart in a book. So far I have cried every time I’ve picked it up and it is astonishingly beautiful.
  4. Winged Life by Hannah Hurnard. Her first book, Hinds’ Feet on High Places has always been one of my favorites- it’s an allegory centered around the journey of Much-Afraid as she follows the Good Shepherd’s leading to the High Places. And man, Winged Life doesn’t disappoint either. So far it’s teaching me a lot about what Love really means and goodness knows I can always use more of that.

if you couldn’t tell, there’s really one main theme in these four books that are transforming my heart and mind:
Which is great because it just confirms in me that this is His work. Because He is Love, so of course it makes sense that the books and many other facets of entertainment in my life right now are just pointing me back to Love- even the ones that seem like they would never be able to teach me anything about real Love. Funny how He can turn anything into a window.

While I am learning about Love and being bowled over by my God at least four times a day, I’m in need of prayer and support and encouragement and life-giving truth.
Here’s how I need you to pray for and with me, beloved people:
Pray for consistency. Pray that I would have a new sticktoitiveness (which I rarely have the motivation to find in a lot of cases). And pray that I would stop making this about me and just abide.
We all know I tend to be a person that throws herself into things. For the most part, I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person.

That has its downfalls, certainly. I tend to give up on things: I start projects and never finish them, I start books and stop ⅔ of the way through, and when I start a new friendship/relationship I either give up too soon or go a little overboard showing that person love. It also means I tend to ramble, as I’d rather give too much information than not enough. Additionally, people think I’m constantly exaggerating. Granted, I exaggerate all the time (irony). But in the moments when I’m not exaggerating and I’m genuinely IN LOVE with a lovely plastic box of perfectly yellow paper clips, it’s easy for my words to mean less than I want them to, because so often I use the same exaggerated words when I’m trying to make a point or tell a story, and now all the sudden no one understands just how much a tiny clear box of yellow-coated metal thingys can cheer me up.

However, I am also beginning to see a lot of strengths in my throw-myself-in-with-no-looking-back personality. I’m GREAT at starting projects or books or road trips. I love easily (or maybe ‘quickly’ would be more accurate, because GEEZ don’t I know that real love should never be easy) and wholly and, if need be, fiercely- that also means I tend to forgive quickly. Everything in my world is rose-colored, and I don’t even need glasses for that; it’s just constantly rose-colored and I love it because rosy hues are probably my favorite of all the hues.
(she realizes even in her explanation of how she loves easily that she proves how sickeningly optimistic and enjoying-life-at-all-times she tends to be)

And here comes the part where I know I need the prayers and intercession::
I throw myself into projects and relationships and even God’s Work.
And then when it starts getting kinda hurt-ey, when I’m getting cramps in my Faith muscle or when someone hurts my heart or when I realize I still have to go back and edit and re-write the entire paper, I stall.
I find it really really tough to stick to it. To be consistent. To be a train and chug ahead.
I say, “eh, good enough” and turn the paper in because it’s 4 AM and if you include the bibliography it’s 8 pages, so that should pass, right? or because I’m a pretty good person and God loves me and there are other, better Christians out there who can do it better than I can anyway. or because that was the third time they have spoken hurtful words to me in the past month, and I don’t need people like that in my life bringing me down.

“Brothers and sisters, this should not be.”
I need to do the paper to the best of my ability. I need to do what I feel God tugging me to do, even- no, ESPECIALLY- when it makes me feel inadequate or uncomfortable. I need to love and treasure that person anyway, because the only thing that can drive out darkness is light, and the thing that draws me closest to the heart of God is my own pain.

In the end, though, I know it’s not about me. That’s a thing I’m having to remind myself second by glorious second. Abiding in Christ and making much of Him is my ultimate goal. This is a portion of my journey in which I’m extremely introspective, but my end goal is not my own profit or gain or goodness but simply CHRIST.

So yeah, it’s Spring in my heart again, and for that I am unendingly grateful. But there are weeds to be pulled and work to be done in this garden. Feel free to step in and water the soil and help me pull up weeds when you’re around. I’ll need a reminder to stick to it, to abide with His nourishment so these plants can grow.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

everything. perhaps we should call it The Big Remodel.

Somewhere along my way here, something told me that I had no right to talk about my pain. I started believing I shouldn’t acknowledge or talk about the things that hurt me and the season of death I’m encountering (leaving?), because mine is so ‘easy’. Which, I guess, is true.
In comparison-- ground gets shaky and dangerous once that word enters the picture-- to much of the world, my pain and sorrow is negligible and laughable.
But believing that I have no right to be open about sorrow I experience is just SATAN.

Let me back up.
Over the past three weeks that I've been blog-less, God has been whispering so much I can hardly hold on to one thing long enough to sketch the most vague idea of it down before another wafts my way. Living in a community of God-lovers (which I love so much, don't get me wrong!) is exhausting in times like these because I am CONSTANTLY being asked, "What is God teaching you lately?" and I always want to respond, "EVERYTHING."

He's teaching me to die to self every day, pick up my cross, and follow Him.
He's teaching me to dwell on things of God and not on the things on man. (Romans 8:5)
He's teaching me that losing my life & dreams is the only way to find life & come alive.
He's teaching me how critical it is for me to surround myself with words of Life, people who speak Truth, and music that breathes Hope.
He's teaching me to hide His Word in my heart, and how greatly it affects my desire/lack of desire to sin against Him.
He's teaching me to see people and listen to them, even to things they don't say.
He's teaching me redundancy is okay.
He's teaching me to live a messy life reeking of redemption and splashing on passersby.

He's teaching me to pray.
He's teaching me to cry.
He's teaching me not to hide.
He's teaching me to stop trying to be tough and sassy.

He's teaching me to be honest with myself.
He's teaching me to love myself AND others.
He's teaching me to rely on Him and abide in Him.
He's teaching me to bear fruit.

He's teaching me to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but to humbly consider others better than myself.
He's teaching me to look out for others' interests and heartbreaks.

He's teaching me to stop comparing.
He's teaching me to replace, "How am I better? How am I worse?" with "How can I bless them? What can I learn from them?"

He's teaching me to stay.
He's teaching me to speak.
He's teaching me to be renewed.
He's teaching me to leave shame behind.
He's teaching me how to study a living, breathing Word that reads me even as I read it.

He's teaching me to see His patterns.
He's teaching me to hear His voice.
He's teaching me to read His signs.
He's teaching me to question.
He's teaching me to measure everything I see, say, hear, and do against His Word.

He's teaching me to empty myself.
He's teaching me how to be filled.
He's teaching me what to let fill me.

He's teaching me to be a cathedral.
He's teaching me what it means to be a cathedral.
He's teaching me to say, "OK," through the tears.

He's teaching me love.
He's teaching me to love.
He's teaching me how to love.
He's teaching me how to be Love.

((if you didn't stop and think about at least a few of those, please go back and do so. Let Him whisper to you, too.))

And you know, there are probably more things He's teaching me that I haven't thought to put words to yet. I am, at all times, as constantly as I have ever experienced in my nearly twenty-two years of life, being amazed by Him.

I would love to be able to wrap that in a pretty little box for you and tell you that all the things I am learning and being amazed by are so fun and lovely and painless.

The searing pain of spiritual discipline is deeper than any other pain I have ever known.
It's life-wrecking.

It's the kind of pain that leaves you
sitting in the big chair in your new apartment's living room,
a roommate on either side,
shaking and crying and attempting to breathe,
while the world passes by on the road outside our window
with no knowledge of the revolution going on
in the little girl's heart that lives in that old house.
No matter how hard I try to convey that spiritual pain to you, it's not one you can understand until you've experienced it.

I've said this many times in my recently-passed conversations about the God-things in 2015 so far:

I always thought I knew what self-sacrifice meant until now.
I thought I knew what it meant to undergo spiritual discipline.
I thought I knew what Love was and what Love did and what Love looked like.
I thought I knew what that pain felt like.
But I didn't.
I know now: I never knew. 
I still don't know.
I see a tiny, tiny, beautifully tragic fraction of what it looks and feels like.

When I get to this point in the thought process, I always try to boil it down to one big thing. And right now, it all comes down to this:
be His cathedral.
the commandment of my year. my heart.

I'm still not entirely sure what it means or should look like, but I know this:
without the presence of God in it, a cathedral is just a sad, old building.
The only thing that makes a cathedral beautiful, sacred, and holy is the Shekinah Glory of God- the very presence of the Lord- filling it. **side note: I still don't know or understand enough about Shekinah Glory, but if you know nothing about it, read up on it (a little). 

So my quest then becomes: find the presence of God. figure out how to let Him live in me.
Which is a funny thing, because with all that He's teaching me, He's doing the serious remodeling needed to make my sin-filled, self-inclined human heart a place where He can dwell.
I also know He inhabits the praises of His people; He lives in "our praises, filling up the spaces in between our frailty and everything [He is]." (Restless by Audrey Assad). We have a God who responds when we ask "as I sing to You, in my praises, make Your home!" (Audience of One by Big Daddy Weave).

I find it so beautiful that in Exodus when God outlined for Moses and the Israelites EXACTLY how the Tabernacle was to be designed and set up and consecrated (He spent CHAPTERS doing so!), He had a purpose in it. It was ornate and beautiful and sacred and holy- because it was His dwelling place.
Then, when Christ died, the veil, which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Tabernacle-- literally the only place where redemption of sins could be found, and the only place where God's spirit could dwell (Exodus 26:33, 30:6)-- was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). There was no more separation.
We got to become His dwelling places. We got to be made holy because His glory could now fill us as it used to fill the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:14).
We got the chance to become His tabernacles, His cathedrals; We got the chance to become inhabited by the Spirit of the Living God as our hearts and minds fill with praise for Him.

What an undeserved blessing.
What glorious newness is there to be found amidst the searing pain of self-sacrifice.

In my learning to study His Word, I have found a new connection with several hearts that fill the Old Testament- one of which is Joseph. Mainly because he cried a lot.
In Genesis 41, shortly after Joseph has risen to a pretty significant position under Pharaoh, we see a little section about Joseph naming his kids. Verses 50-52 say:
"Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. "For," he said, "God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father's house." The name of the second he called Ephraim, "For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."

Now, I'm obviously not claiming to be on Joseph's level here. But I love finding a treasure like that in an odd place.
I love seeing it and clinging to the truth:
God will make me fruitful in this land of affliction.

{this blog and Becca's current heart-movements inspired by Mark 8, the book of Lamentations, Romans 6-8, and the following albums:
Majestic by Kari Jobe
Cathedrals by Tenth Avenue North
City of Black and White by Mat Kearney}

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ten Products & Companies & People That I Love So Much

Sometimes I am amazed at how much goodness there is in this dark world.
Over the past few years, but especially the past 12 months, I've discovered several companies/products and people that I love and am so encouraged by.
I decided I want everyone to know about them, too. I'm not getting anything cool for doing this or benefitting from it in any way except having friends who know about the things & people I love.

So here they are (at least the ones I could think of off the top of my head).  Please comment any others that should/could be added to the list and let's all support fellow God-lovers and good-doers. :)

1. So Worth Loving : a clothing company (once blog? also they send encouraging emails just for fun?) to remind each of us that despite having felt alone or unworthy at various points in our lives, we are all SO. WORTH. LOVING.

2. Giving Keys : a jewelry company that employees homeless people trying to get back on their feet. they engrave a word of your choice on a key. you buy said key jewelry. you pass the key on to someone else when you feel the urge.

3. Hannah Brencher / More Love Letters : one of the most inspiring yet relatable women I know of, Hannah Brencher, sends out heart-wrenching emails every monday morning if you're in her email club [I quote her and post pictures of her words quite often]. she also writes love letters to humans everywhere, started the More Love Letters movement, and accepts pain-filled emails anytime.

4. Sara Hagerty / Every Bitter Thing is Sweet- Daily Adorations : a dear friend told me about this  woman who's so transparent it brings tears to my eyes. her heart for the Lord and His work challenges me daily and following her on instagram was one of my best life decisions.

5. Hannah Hurnard : While many people who are familiar with her writings point out how she strayed from Biblical truth toward the end of her life (article here), I have personally been taught SO MUCH in my relationship with Christ via her writings, specifically Hinds' Feet on High Places and Winged Life. I strongly encourage everyone to read her books!

6. Elisabeth Elliot : where do I even begin. Her mindset, heart attitude, and book Passion and Purity have wrecked my life. Don't read that book unless you're ready for at least a partial life change. It has God all over it and will make things happen. She has many more books, but I've yet to read any others. All I can say is that God has used her as a huuuuuge instrument in changing me to be more like Him. read about her & read her book(s).

7. Punjammies / International Princess Project : fun, adorable pjs made by women who've survived and been saved from sex slavery.  you don't even need more of an explanation. wonderful company, wonderful heart.

8. Penny Powers Jewelry : it's straightforward: pennies flattened and engraved with weighty words and worn as reminders of various truths to our souls. run straight out of Alabama (gotta love that home state representation!) and their Etsy shop is WONDERFUL.

9. She Reads Truth : bible reading plans. adorable scripture screensavers. encouragement. an awesome app. TRUTH. all designed/catered specifically for/to women after His heart.

10. Bob Goff / Love Does : a man who wrote a book that I am currently reading and trying to soak up and savor because it is revolutionizing me and doing a spectacular job of transforming me by helping me renew my mind to Christ moment-by-moment. again, HIGHLY recommend this book and the guy who wrote it!

I hope you check these people & companies out and follow them on social media and are encouraged.
I've found that filling your life with as much light from as many venues as possible changes everything for the better- even if it's just seeing these things, people, and updates on twitter/fb/insta.

Friday, January 16, 2015

the LoveQuirk

I have this quirk in my face that says "I love you."

It shows up whenever it wants to, and it's easy to spot. It's kind of inconvenient sometimes when I want to be mad at someone, or not care about something, or be a tough teacher. Honestly, it's incredibly narcissistic of me to know that I have it (because I am apparently the only person to have studied my face enough to know this about it. #vainmuch?)
But I can feel it on my face sometimes, and I've seen it in a few pictures, and I see other people recognize it and reflect it back to me occasionally.
And, truly, I wish I could control it.
It would be wonderful to be able to turn it on and off.
But I can't.
It's just this quirk that lives in my skin and frequently makes itself known when I find myself looking at someone that astounds me in the best way.

I bring this up because I've been looking at engagement photos here and there (there are an abundance these days) and are a few that look natural and happy, but several that just lack what I have recently (five seconds ago) dubbed the LoveQuirk.
I'm convinced some people's faces just haven't seen enough Love to know how to LoveQuirk yet.
But me, I've seen a lot of Love. And now my face is so good at LoveQuirking that I can't even control it.

That really freaks me out sometimes, because a LoveQuirk is something that I can feel but can't control. Then I realize HEY THAT'S LIKE MY ENTIRE LIFE SO HEY-O THAT'S AWESOME.
And, I don't know, it just makes me wonder: maybe if we all let our lives be things we feel but don't control, then maybe we would be better people.
Maybe the world would be a better place.

Maybe if we let ourselves be vulnerable and transparent enough to get hurt and feel it, then heal and feel it, then have incandescent joy and feel it, maybe THEN all the things we find wrong in ourselves and our world would start fixing themselves and being fixed by all of us who started loving more.

Maybe if we stopped trying to rig our own destinies and fix everyone else's problems and control how the world works and put God in a convenient smallish-but-not-suspiciously-small box (the kind of box that is almost camouflaged against the searching eye of other hearts who keep ours accountable to the Truth, because it's just big enough to look like it isn't a box to hold Him in, but it's just small enough for us to stuff Him in when we get uncomfortable with how vast He is), maybe THEN some of the terrifying circumstances would be sorted out by the God who is able to speak the earth into existence (and therefore speak our heartaches and troubles away, and/or use them for His glory, yes?).

Maybe if we let our lives become LoveQuirks- things brought on by Love and that happen naturally and effortlessly and are uncontrollable because you're just abiding in Love- then we'd find so much more Love in the world.
We could finally be the people who saw so much Love that our faces became experts at LoveQuirking.
We could be the ones who know real Love so intimately that it's hidden right under the skin and seeps out without our knowledge sometimes in public LoveQuirks that we're oblivious to but that are so obvious to others.

There's a lot of "I don't know"s and "Maybe"s here, mostly because I'm afraid some cynic will come along and talk some reality into me about how LoveQuirking isn't a real thing, just a figment of my overactive imagination, or how feeling things and losing control of life is the opposite of what it takes to solve the world's problems or at least soothe some of the world's heartache. Maybe they'll come and they'll prove me wrong and show me up.
Just go ahead and do it, realists/pessimists/cynics/others.
I know that Fear is the only true opposite of Love. I know that LoveQuirking will only be made impossible by me being afraid of the What If's, those evil wonder-wanderers.
So I'm not gonna What If.
I'm just gonna LoveQuirk and let my life become a reflection of that. Because at the root of it all, Love is a quirky guy that just calls us to be His reflections.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

so for a long time she sat-- remembering, wondering, and thankful.

For some reason, my words never quite fall the way I want them to. Especially when it comes to nights and moments like this, times that matter and that deserve eloquence. I’m just really not the eloquent kind of girl, I suppose.

It’s New Year’s. Happy 2015, my friends!

Apparently there is something about this day that makes me melancholy every time it rolls around. Maybe it’s the vast amounts of reflection it requires, maybe it’s the tidal wave of emotion that sweeps over me as I remember every big & small thing I encountered throughout the past year. 

Whatever it is, it almost bowls me over every year. In fact, last year it really got me.
Last year, God told me on New Year’s Eve that 
“someone will die this year.”
Just that one sentence.
That terrifying fact,
Whispered repeatedly when I asked for an explanation.
I remember it so vividly- I was in the theatre watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug for the second time, and He dropped it on me.
And when I asked “why?’ and “who?” and “when?’ and “WHAT?”, He simply restated Himself.

Sometime in the past couple of months, I have realized it was me He was talking about.
It was me that was to die in 2014.
It is me that sits typing at almost 1 A.M., tired of holding back tears, tired of having no words that adequately explain my heart condition, and dead.
Dead to self. Dead to false hopes. Dead to frivolity. Dead to shallow relationships.
And I think the reason that this particular New Year’s is so melancholy is because I know that I’m not done dying yet.

And I hate dying. And I am so bad at it. And I wish I were a natural.
It almost do wish it were easy for me present myself as a living sacrifice. 
But it’s not. 
It’s freaking hard. 
And I feel like such a wimp because I cry about it a lot.

Because I should have expected this. People told me it would be hard.
But I don’t know, I guess it’s one of those hard things that you don’t understand until you’re under the weight of it yourself… and by then it’s too late. By then, all you can do is cry and hope to find someone along the way who will encourage you and remind you:
It isn’t easy to offer yourself up to be crucified. It’s not supposed to be.

And the fact that you finally are offering yourself up doesn’t mean you’re some awesome, strong person; it means you’ve come to the end of your weakness and realized you have absolutely nothing left to give. You are the utter weakling. At least for me that’s how it’s happened. It’s almost a last-ditch effort, this final surrender. It’s the:
“OK OK HERE, TAKE IT!” that seems to be human instinct when we are met with someone who wants something from us and won’t back down.

On Christmas Eve, Jesus did another of his whispering acts. Except this time instead of warning me of coming death, His words were spoken so softly and tenderly it was almost like a proposal.
But instead of “Be my wife”, it was
“Be my cathedral.”
And I really don’t know why or how or what, but something in my heart understood that. Something clicked.
Before I even really had a chance to think about it, my heart was whisper-screaming and crying out and twirling around before Him the most wholehearted
I think has ever existed in a human heart.

I didn’t even know it was there; it’s like she, strong little Yes, had been lying dormant and growing stronger as the other things in my little human heart died off in 2014. And when enough of them had finally had died off, she had the space to stand and twirl and leap and shout her strongest.

It was then that I remembered that lovely (though terrifying) C.S. Lewis quote:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

It turns out, Jesus was never interested in turning me into an adequate little residence. He wants me to be His Cathedral. 
And don’t you think it’s fitting that in Cathedrals, you find stained glass windows? 
And that this year of the most brokenness of heart I have ever encountered has surely left some tinted glass bits behind somewhere?… they, I am sure, will be used for the windows.

It reminds me of Joel 2:12, (the first verse I am memorizing this year!) where the Lord calls on His people to come back to him AS THEY ARE: broken/shattered/weeping/etc.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning, and rend your hearts and not your garments.”

If you haven’t heard of it before, that verb there, REND, literally means to rip apart violently. Applied to the heart, it means “to harrow or distress the heart with painful feelings.” (thanks, Webster).
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve completely understood this verse until right now as I type, but here it comes:

He is inviting us to let our hearts be distressed.

After all, a broken and contrite heart is an offering He will never turn down (Psalm 51:17).

Last NYE, I posted something about sweeping out the dark corners of my heart to make more room for Him, and boy has that proved true. I almost think God is in the business of Corner-Sweeping-Out of Hearts. Mike Donehey, lead singer of Tenth Avenue North, put it this way: 
We are never trying to win divine approval, Christ has already bought that for us. No, we are in search of simply creating more space where He can fill.”

And all the little corners in my heart need to be swept out and filled with Him.
So 2015 is a year of that. Of continuing to sweep out and let Him fill the vacancy. Of inviting Him to renovate this old shack into not just an “ok” cottage, but a palace, a dwelling place where He alone will reside, a stunning CATHEDRAL.

What does it mean to be a Cathedral of God?
We are “sanctuary” for each other.
Like those great and mighty structures of old, 
we too can be a place of refuge for those in trouble.
People are no longer a threat.
They are fellow sojourners searching for that eternal spring.
Weary sinners can find a harbor for their souls when they come 
to those who know they have been redeemed.
We are safety for the stumbling and still waters for anxious hearts.
We have tasted.
We have seen.
And now, we can show them the way.” (Mike Donehey)

So with that, let me share my few resolutions for the year:
1.  Become a Cathedral, or at least more of a Cathedral than what I am now.

2. Within that, stop viewing other people as a threat. Stop seeing myself as “small sauce” (thank you, Hannah Brencher, for those perfectly paired words). The time of “we seemed to ourselves likegrasshoppers” in comparison is OVER. Love people, be a hospital, and claim what the Lord has given you and built in you, so that you may use it to bless others.

3. Write one encouraging/thankful note per week.

4. Memorize 24 scripture verses- one every two weeks (I'm doing this with Beth Moore & friends...  "SSMT 2015", they call it. Please join. It's going to be a tough and so worthwhile commitment!)

I’ve only recently finished re-reading an old favorite book of mine, Hinds’ Feet on High Places. 

At the end of it, when Much-Afraid has reached the High Places and received her hinds’ feet and had her name changed to Grace-and-Glory, she runs around on the High Places rejoicing.

And then, at the close, it states: 
“So for a long time, she sat silent—remembering, wondering, and thankful.”
May that be each of our hearts’ attitudes today and throughout 2015.

welcome to midnight.

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