Monday, December 22, 2014

widen your hearts

Three nights before graduation, my heart burst open. The tears took me straight to my knees as five years worth of emotions caught up with me in one rush. I cupped my face in my hands, I rocked back and forth, and I felt each moment wash over me. Solely because I had asked a few friends to pray for me, I fell asleep, only to wake up, brew  some Frosty's Favorite coffee, sit down with my full, favorite mug in my usual spot...and breakdown again, thinking, "this routine. it's about to be over."

This is how I debriefed it in my prayer journal:

"I began not just to know, not just to feel, but to see the image that You [God] gave me several weeks ago/maybe even a few months ago: the image of my roots being uprooted. of the fruit and good branches being skimmed over as at harvest. 

And it is harvest. for others. for those you've used me among here over the past five years. But for me, it is pruning. it is pain. For me, it is loss and heartache and doubt and fear. 

Your hand is on the vine, tearing it free from the ground it has so loved and longed for and lingered in, is a noose today. Your hands don't feel gentle, the whispered words of truth are being twisted into lies by unseen enemies, and I'm believing them like a naive child who has never known otherwise.

But, Jesus, I know otherwise. Your love is gentle and sweet and has greater plans than I could ever know. I've retreated into my roots, burrowing, avoiding the light. Avoiding the shift. But you are calling me. "New stages, new steps, new calling," Izzy reminded me this morning. And so I will follow. 

Tearfully. Tentatively. Eyes clamped shut in fear--not wanting to look back on what feels lost (it is not lost to you), nor to look ahead to the amazing things you have for me to find...

Help me to believe these truths, Father. To trust that you have good plans even when they don't feel good. Jesus, I love you. And I need you. So incredibly much. So, today, I will pull your presence near, as I lift You--my anchor--from the depths of the sea around me. It will set me drifting, carried by the waves of your sovereignty. But I can trust their tossings and direction. I open wide my heart to catch your wind, to set the sail."

Now, three days after graduation, my heart remains open. Laid bare. Grieving. Spent as I try to hold this sail to catch His sovereign wind. Sick to my stomach (literally) as I feel tossed by these circumstances. But also hopeful. Very, very hopeful, as I catch murmurs of His voice upon the wind: "Do not fear. It is I. Be not afraid."

The love of God slays us. It opens us to His better path for us. It opens us to a deeper intimacy with Him. And it opens us to deeper community with one another. 

That is where I land tonight: with you. With those who are walking with me in this. Know that your texts/calls/letters/etc are priceless to me as I transition into this new season. I echo Paul's words (2 Cor. 6.11-13):

"We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts  also." 

Join me here, friends. Write/call/text/etc. Let me know how I can pray for you. Let me know how the Lord is leading you to pray for me. Widen your hearts also. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

crowns.

Revelation tells the story of a coming glory and of a man chosen to see it before its day. It's a book that most people either avoid or try to hard to nail down each tiny detail to their preferred vision. But the point of the book is just that: it's not our vision. Nor John's, really. It's God's. The bottom line question is, Do we trust His vision above our own?

My vision often fails me; which is why we are called to have faith--belief that goes beyond belief into the realm of being assured for what we hope for, but do not yet have, and being certain of what we cannot see, but know is true (Hebrews 11.1). Faith moves us beyond our own vision to His. Again, the question of trust arises. 

In order to trust His vision, we must look into His eyes. To study their reflection, to see what He sees. The first glance reveals that He sees us

His vision is full of grace. 

Reflected back at us is this ethereal version of what we look at in the mirror every morning. But He delights in what we disapprove; He selects the very parts we scrutinize; He sees splendor in our imperfections.

Then, as our eyes remain fixed on His, we see something of what John saw in Revelation 4.

His vision is full of glory.

Reflected back here is what John was caught up in. A door was opened, and he was suddenly standing at the throne of God, surrounded by creatures and crowned elders on their own thrones, worshipping. singing. thankful. basking in the presence of their God.

I was reminded of this scene several days ago as my tear-filled eyes glanced at His for some hope of healing for a friend. I sat in the car, holding hands with a friend who suggested we pray immediately for her. So we did. I could barely speak through the heaviness in my voice, thickened by tears. So I stopped praying rather abruptly, and my friend took over. She prayed,

"God, I do pray the same things Katie prayed for [our friend]. But I also pray for those exact same things for Katie herself."

*cue me losing it, right there in the darkness.

"She still needs your healing and restoration too."

It's amazing how friends can call out for the very things you've been too afraid or too ignorant to voice.

"I pray that she will bring all these old emotions and hurts and experiences and lay them at your feet."

It's likewise incredible the amount of discernment that was moving in my friend's heart. But that's what happens when we let people in. I had just told her about the heaviness of the week--mirroring the heaviness in that car as we began to pray. My heart was so moved with compassion for my friend: sitting in the hospital with little answers why. Because I've been there. But I've also been moved from there. But the redemption in the in-between is still ongoing. This week has made that clear. This week, I've relived each emotion from that season. But prayer--I'll say it again: prayer (personal and, as with this scene, corporate)--has been the game-changer. Why? Because it has made me look into His eyes. 

"May she cast them down at your feet as crowns."

*cue the scene from Revelation 4, running through my mind like the fresh wave of tears running from my eyes.

"Because they are beautiful, for they are Yours. You did those works."

His vision is full of beauty.

This is what John describes seeing in that chapter: "Encircling that great throne were twenty-four smaller thrones with twenty-four elders clothed in white robes with crowns fashioned of gold on their heads...And when the living creatures declared glory and honor and thanksgiving to the One seated on the throne, the One who lives throughout all the ages, the twenty-four elders fell prostrate before the one seated on the throne, worshipped the One who lives throughout all the ages, cast their golden crowns before the throne, and sang to Him: 'Worthy are You, O Lord; worthy are You, O God, to receive glory and honor and power. You alone created all things, and through Your will and by Your design, they exist and were created."

My heart was simultaneously broken and un-burdened of the heaviness of the week. Broken in light of the reminder that His vision, both then and now, is filled with beauty even in the pain. Un-burdened of the lie that I must work to make the waiting worth it. That I must strive for the further redemption that is coming. When, in reality, I cannot make redemption happen. I can only be redeemed. It's a totally passive stance that I must take. That faith must take, knowing that His vision is actively at work in any and every circumstance. 

"For the vision still awaits its appointed time; 
it hastens to the end--it will not lie. 
If it seems slow, wait for it; 
it will surely come; it will not delay."
Habakkuk 2.3

These elders cast down their crowns, though they were considered worthy to wear, to worship the One truly worthy of even the crowns He gave them. They are worth casting down because He is worth it all.

Casting down the crowns is the first step in refusing to work to make the crowns more beautiful, more worthy. They already are beautiful and full of great worth, because they were fashioned by God's hands, redeemed from the ashes of suffering. My vision here on earth sees only a glimpse of their worth. But in His vision, they are fully worthy, transformed and fashioned in pure gold. They're beautiful, they're glorious crowns, worthy to be worn as reminders, but worthy even still to be cast down at His feet for the far surpassing worth and glory that He Is. Their worth is found in their loss, because their worth is but a shadow of His.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Worth

I'm having trouble beginning this post because this week has been so full. So full. Of relationships, tears, prayers, vulnerable moments. I've sat on my couch just watching the rain and thinking about gold. I've sat at kitchen tables and talked too much. I've sat at a well-worn dinner table and been floored by community. I've sat in rocking chairs and opened up more than I thought I could. I've sat alone and realized how my hand hurts from all the writing that has happened. And now I want to put it all out there for you, whoever you are, to read and be encouraged and challenged as I have. 

Tuesday morning, I sat in the quiet morning light and listened to a lone bird sing his song. 

I read Philippians 2.12-18.

"Accordingly, my beloved ones, just as you have always obeyed not just in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, with fear and trembling, work out the salvation which is yours; for God is the one working within you both to will and to work for the sake of His good pleasure. Do everything without grumbling and argument, so that you all may be blameless and pure, unblemished children in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as stars in the world, holding fast to the word of life, unto my boasting on the day of Christ, because I did not run in vain or labor in vain. But if indeed I am poured out upon the altar in the service of your faith, I will rejoice, indeed I will rejoice together with all of you; and in the same way, indeed you must rejoice and rejoice together with me."

And I wrote:

I think I need to be reminded of what joy is. It's not circumstantial and it's not something I can simply feel, and, most importantly, it's not something I can lose. I may forfeit it. But God will not take it away. Will the hard days come, when serving feels like a slaying of self on the altar for the sake of someone else (as Paul put it)? Yes. Yet Paul rejoiced. And he asked his church at Philippi to rejoice. Why? Because he knows that it is not--ever--in vain.

And that's where joy springs up, then: in the worth. In the "worth-it" moments of obedience. The easiest? no. The earnest? no. The hardest? yes. 

Because it's in the hardest things that worth is found. Gold is worth nothing until it is refined by fire, purified unto perfection. It's worth is only made known in the midst of the fire, as impurities rise and are scraped off the surface. Paul, here, is saying that he has found worth, and even joy, in the hardest obedience he has faced. And he invites the church to rejoice together with him. 

One verse here deserves to be repeated, as it is so often misused to steal joy instead of infuse it into the worth we have:

"With fear and trembling, work out the salvation which is yours. For God is the one working within you, both to will and to work for the sake of His good pleasure."

Monday, the day before this, I didn't do much of anything. That was the day I sat on my couch and just watched it rain. I wrote some letters and I wrote some about gold. And I realized that sanctification--this process of revealing worth as we become more like Jesus--is the process of working out what's already inside of you. 

I'm not trying to attain some next-base salvation; I'm working out the salvation that has already been freely and fully given to me by grace.

And even the command to work it out comes with a promise that it's not all up to me. This is not a one-woman show of good works to earn salvation. This is a joint-commission of me working out what's already there. Because there has already been--for years and years before I ever saw His face--One working within me so that I may have both this will, this desire and intention, to grow into gold, and this active energy alive in me to enable me to work the gold out.

But why the fear & trembling then? What worth is found in scared and shaky hands?

I don't want to be afraid of where this is all going, of the obedience it will take, or the joy that will be birthed out of it. I want to relish & delight in this worth like nothing else. Yes, and that's God's intention in burning out the worth of it all, too. His "good pleasure" is etched into the scars that work often bears. 

Yet there is also a reverence and awe that must be deeply seated in our bones. In the places that need to move and work for this working out to begin. I think fear and trembling are a clearer picture of humility than any other words could draw. Fear and trembling remind us that we cannot do this

We. Cannot. Do. This.

It's not going to seem worth it. It's not going to be easy or perfect. 

So, let those aspirations go with trembling hands and a stammering heartbeat that wonders if the emptiness you feel really makes the cut to become gold (it does, dear). To be worth it (it is, dear)

Because, remember what Jesus did (go back to Philippians 2.5-11): He emptied himself. He made himself nothing. And hear Paul's own words again, rejoicing "even if I am to be poured out as a sacrificial drink offering upon the altar in the service of your faith."

Empty hands are exactly what we called to. A heart that echoes in our chest because it cannot handle the fulness it has been invited to is exactly where this journey of becoming gold begins. 

Because Jesus' hands aren't empty, stretched open wide across a cross for us anymore; their pierced forms hold our own. His heart doesn't echo in a frail human chest with wounds inflicted for us to be made His own today; it resounds with the glorious, jealous, redeeming love of a Father who seeks to fill our hearts with the same fulness of love.

Worth is found is the furnace of loss. When we are taken to the end of ourselves and to the fringes of the Father's love. Reach out your empty hands. Lift up your overwhelmed heart. Find love vast enough to fill them both. Find joy that comes in obedience.

Find worth in the gold He is making you to be.

Monday, October 6, 2014

battle lines

ephesians 6.10-18 (the voice)
"Finally, brothers and sisters, draw your strength and might from God. Put on the full armor of God to protect yourselves from the devil and his evil schemes. We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places.
And this is why you need to be head-to-toe in the full armor of God: so you can resist during these evil days and be fully prepared to hold your ground. Yes, stand—truth banded around your waist, righteousness as your chest plate, and feet protected in preparation to proclaim the good news of peace. Don’t forget to raise the shield of faith above all else, so you will be able to extinguish flaming spears hurled at you from the wicked one. Take also the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how! And keeping all this in mind, pray on behalf of God’s people. Keep on praying feverishly, and be on the lookout until evil has been stayed."
The day I studied these words last week turned out to be a day of full-on attack. But was I ready? By the time the end of the day hit, I felt utterly defeated. Laid low by lots of flaming arrows and lies from the enemy. And so I reread these words from my journal:
"In order to stand in His strength, you must set aside your own. In order to tie the truth around your waist, you must remove the lies that you have mistakenly marked as truth all these years. In order to guard your heart with righteousness, you must remove the self-righteousness you've so long stood in. In order to prepare your feet for the good news, you must remove the dead-weights of guilt from them, and receive fully His peace. In order to take up the shield of faith, you must lay down your own busy hands--bent on working for your own protection and stability and good. You must cover your mind with salvation and fill your hands only with the Word and the Spirit. And you must pray, always pray, for others and for yourself, communicating with God--not just to Him. Listen and lean into Him. Lean upon Him for all your strength and battle tactics. 
He is on your side. 
He fights for you. 
Remove the chain mail of self-sufficiency. Take up the rusty and worn battle-ready armor of God. And stand. Stand firm. Stand against the darkness, because,
"although you were once the personification of darkness, you are now light in the Lord. So act like children of the light. For the fruit of the light is all that is good, right, and true. Make it your aim to learn what pleases our Lord. Don’t get involved with the fruitless works of darkness; instead, expose them to the light of God. You see, it’s a disgrace to speak of their secrets (so don’t even talk about what they do when no one is looking). When the light shines, it exposes even the dark and shadowy things and turns them into pure reflections of light." (eph. 5.8-13)"
The next day, I processed the defeats that came in the wake of this intimate moment of studying.
"Sometimes, God answers these kind of prayers by allowing you to fully feel your weakness and susceptibility. To be so overcome by your own weakness that you realize just how quickly you can read & commit to be conformed to the image of His Son before clenching your hands again, choking the circumstances, grasping for control of them...and you fall flat on your face at the end of the day. Hands still tightly wound around each other, tears spilling out with guilt and shame. 
But then His presence seeps into the stuffy room like the gentle arms of a father holding his daughter who has scraped up her knees on the pavement after her first attempt to ride her bike without training wheels. I crawl into bed like I'm crawling into His arms and continue crying, fully intending to continue to wallow in my tears and complain of the difficulties of the day.
But as I toss and turn, restless, He whispers. 
"I am sovereign. I know the vision." Habakkuk's words haunt me: "the vision awaits its appointed time. if it seems slow, wait for it. it hastens on; it will not delay."
He continues to etch them into my heart, making each phrase personal: "then you will write it. you will write it clearly, so that all who see it may run and endure by it."
"I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe even if I told you."
 In order to go into battle, I draw from the strength of a sovereign God who knows everything and holds it all together--from the smallest circumstances and worries to the very structure of gravity's force. I lay down in the lies in favor of the truth that He still speaks over us, even when we are having trouble listening above our own cries. I lay down the self-sufficient control I so desperately desire. I lay down the guilt and shame that keep my tears hot and unabated. I open my hands to the wide open spaces of peace He has promised to walk me into--even if it takes a long valley's journey to arrive in them. I empty them of the frantic deeds they seek to accomplish for my own good and glory. I take off my helmet of self-protection and cover it with the salvation won on my behalf by Another who laid aside self for the sake of others. I take up a sword, the only offensive weapon in the list. And it's not even one that I can claim--it's the Word of another.
And I pray. And I shut up. And I listen. 
And His answers draw the battle lines. His answers grant me tactics. 
Wait. Learn. Write. Lay it down. Take it up. Loose the tightened grips of control. Day after day after day. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

blessed

We are all easily offended people. We huff & puff, angry or frustrated at the tiniest of things: the spilt coffee, the unanswered text, the cut-off on the way to work. People fall short of our expectations, and we are disappointed. We doubt if we mean enough to them. 

We do the same thing with God, imposing our standards and expectations on Him as we would anyone else. "He's God," we say, "so surely He will take care of us." Translation: "Surely things will work out just fine, just the way I think they ought." We soon confuse His ways with our ways, and then we end up disappointed again. 

The last 6 or 7 months of my journey has involved a lot of pride, a lot of elevating my own ways above God's, and, this past week, I have sat in the rubble of disappointment as those plans have fallen, and God's way alone has been left like a brick wall in front of me, as my deep desire and expectation of returning to "my city" and "my students" in East Asia for Christmas is walled off with a resounding "No."

To say that I haven't been taking this very well would be a dramatic understatement. I've been ugly-crying at any mention of the trip, overly frustrated when I have seen others interested, and pridefully thinking, "I could lead them. I know that city. I love those kids. Take me back! Take me NOW!"

Frankly, I've been offended by God's answer, by His "No", and by the brick wall before me that definitively gives me that answer. Stiffening my neck, peering over the wall, I've been trying to figure out a way over its height. I'm asking "why" of God and whispering countless times, "I don't understand....I miss it so much." I want this. I desire to go back and once again tell the story of Christmas to those who have never heard it before. This aligns with the will of God, right?! What was such a clear and obvious expectation of mine when I returned last January faced many roadblocks of timing and money through the summer, until I woke up one day a few weeks ago, threw all the roadblocks out the window, picked up my map, and .... WALL. 

And, from behind the wall, there comes a voice, echoing from within and from around me:  "Blessed is he who is not offended by Me." These are Jesus' words to John the Baptist, His forerunning prophet who testified both to His coming and His divine nature. This promised blessing, however, is not in response to John's works, but to his doubts.

John too had been on a journey. He had proclaimed repentance to the masses as a training ground for the coming Messiah. He had seen Jesus and received revelation that this was God's chosen one who would take away the sins of the world. He had even baptized Him. It was a clear path.

But then, John too ran into a brick wall. Literally, one of each side of him. He was thrown in jail for his association with Jesus and His radical ideas. Yet Jesus--unlike John--wasn't acting particularly radically. There were no massive rallies concerning His political agenda, no public, grandiose displays of power. Instead, He was quietly teaching (though they were radical words) in synagogues and on hillsides, sitting with children, and stopping for the broken and the hurting.

These were not John's expectations concerning the coming one. All his life had been spent proclaiming this one's coming, but disappointment in Jesus' methods let to a question laced with doubt:

"Are you really the one we've been waiting for? Are you truly the promised Messiah? Or should we look for another?"

With this question, John raised another wall.

As have I. As we all have, at one time or another.

Jesus' response to John, and to us, promises blessing for the one who does not take offense at Him or His ways. The Greek word for "offense" is literally "to be scandalized" (we get our word for scandal from this Greek verb). What do we say when we confront a scandal?


“Oh, I would never…!”


I cannot believe they did that!”

See the theme? We separate ourselves. We make it all about us. Our needs or desires are not met, and we are offended. Scandalized. 

We do the same thing with God, when His ways do not rise to meet our expectations or standards. We erect another wall--against the blessing promised to us. 

Jesus' answer to John is, in many ways, affirmative. His words include many fulfilled prophecies by His hands. But in the same passages He alludes to are words concerning the Messiah who was coming to set the captives free. Perhaps He leaves it out because, for John, it wasn’t going to happen. He wasn’t going to be released by a politically powerful Messiah. So, in part, he was receiving a “No.”

No, John, I don’t fit all the expectations that you have nurtured over the years. But I am still the one you saw on the road coming toward you, when you said, “Behold! the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! Don't go looking for another.

No, John, I’m not working things out the way you expected. But I am working them out according to my Father’s plan and it is the fulfillment of prophecy you have been awaiting all these years.”

No, John, it is not how you expected or planned at all. But blessed is he who does not take offense at Me. Blessed will you be if you do not let yourself be scandalized by my ways. Even if they do not align with expectations or plans."

No, John, I am not the one who will rescue you from imprisonment. But I am the one who is coming; I am the one you have waited for. I am the one who will take away the sins of the world. Look at the evidence of my hands, even if it does not involve your own circumstances today. You will be blessed if you do not take offense at my ways.”

This passage in Matthew 11 doesn't reveal what John's response was. History testifies, though, that he did refuse to be offended, and eventually he lost his life because of that refusal. So, I believe, as he refused to be separated from Jesus, his second wall fell. Even if the prison walls around him didn't.

I know, for me, the wall in front of me isn't going to fall. But the one I've been harboring in front of it--the wall that makes it all about me, the wall that exalts my ways and my standards and keeps me separated from the "No"--it can fall. With surrender. With a heart that refuses to be offended by Jesus. With a heart that draws nearer to Him no matter what. 

And as I inch closer to the wall that does still stand, I find that this wall is adjoined to another, and it to another, as the way before me opens into a journey where there are no dead ends. Only guiding-walls to better things, greater lessons, deeper relationships, and stronger joy and peace in believing in the One who has come. It is here that we will find ourselves blessed. 

"Don't go looking for another way around the walls you face. I am the way."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

small steps & simple knowledge

Two years ago, around this time, I wrote a blog post entitled All I Know.  It had a lot of sentences that began with "I don't know", and then it had three things that I felt like I did know for sure at the time: that I would go back to India, that His word is true, and that He was leading me. 

And OH He was. Little did I know when I wrote that post, that just a few short weeks later, He would affirm His leading for me to go back to MC, through a series of events that takes several cups of coffee to get through telling the story. 

And today, two years later, I find myself rallying around those same truths. I--and many friends around me--find myself echoing those "I don't know..." sentences. 

I don't know what all the semester holds. I don't know what I should be involved in. I don't know what life after graduation will look like. I don't know how I will begin to pay off my student loans. I don't know how I will continue walking this path of obedience toward journeyman. So many unknowns surround this season, this closing of an old (old) season--I've been here at MC for a long time--and the soon-to-be unfolding completely new season, which I am simultaneously welcoming and dreading at the same time. 

And yet, as also alluded to in that old post, there is so much peace. My heart is quiet. My schedule is full of people. I am constantly going through this process of being poured into and pouring out. Which is exactly where I want to be right now. And which is exactly what I do know about this journey right now. And, it turns out, it's all I need to know: that I am somehow, by the grace of God, walking into the midst of small steps of obedience.

Because, really, it's in these smallest of steps that we find Him. 

Just look at Jesus: I read recently that Jesus' journey on this earth looked like a failing presidential candidate, who was always getting sidetracked: by this one person sitting in a tree, by the woman who could only approach Him long enough to touch the hem of his robe, by the man who barely had enough faith to speak to Jesus about his son. 

And yet, for each of these, Jesus stops in his tracks, reaches out to them, and does a marvelous thing. These smallest of gospel stories are what keep me going forward in the small steps of faith I'm called to each day. That, really, we're all called to.

In Ephesians 2, Paul prayed for the church to know some things too. Not what "the plan" was or how it was all going to unfold or what they needed to do right then and there. But for the eyes of their hearts to be enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, 

"So that you might know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance for the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power, purposed for us who have believed and put our faith in Him, according to the working of the might of His strength (not our own)."

We need to know the hope of His calling--that He has called us into something greater than ourselves; that we didn't invite ourselves or earn our way into His calling. We need this hope to endure even when we do not know what lies ahead; hope to take is one day, one moment, one step at a time.

We need to know where our truth wealth and abundance lies. Not here and now in what we can ear, but reserved for us in ways we can never imagine. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard what God has prepared for those who love Him." Through this, we learn to look to Him for all the provision we may need. And even in that provision that we see now? It's only the fringes of the inheritance we are promised.

Finally, we need to know just how great His power is and how it is purposed for us. That phrase is so beautiful to me. His power is set aside for us, because these small (or big) steps we are called to each day are not up to us to accomplish. He alone has the power to do what He alone has determined for us! My prayer is that we would kneel in our weakness, seek to abide in Him, and watch His strength and power arise to make us fruitful, even beyond our current small steps and simple knowledge.

Monday, August 18, 2014

an unexpected summer.

I just checked off another "to-do" from the stacks of post-it notes in my planner, stuck to this week's page. I crinkled it up, feeling accomplished. Even with something so very small: uploading the summer's pictures onto Facebook. Sure, not everyone wants to be updated on my not-so-fast-paced life, replete with recipes and selfies ("us-ies", really...I don't take many pictures alone). But it was a step for me, a good day of remembering how the Lord has worked this summer. It's been beautiful. peaceful. restful. blissful. Am I oversimplifying? sure. There were complications thrown into those "-ful" moments. But complications cannot displace Christ. And Christ is what has kept this summer so "-ful." 

I loved uploading all of those pictures because they tell a story. I even precariously worked the comments in such a way that told the story. "a summer of..." was the refrain. You can go to the album here to see the story. 

Here's what I didn't mention though. Only because I didn't capture the other moments of the summer. 

the moments of laughter. I'm not kidding when I say I have laughed/smiled more this summer than ever before. I cannot really explain it except by the word joy. the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy that joy. In the past two years I have felt that battle more than ever. But this summer has been a time of reprieve. Not that the battle has calmed. But the armor has been strengthened by the strength of His might, because I've been learning so much of how to let go of my own. Surrender: hands up, face lifted, heart enlightened with joy.

the moments of learning. I've been truly blessed to be a part of a church here, learning about the behind the scenes work that I have quickly become passionate about. As much as I love going, helping others to go has been so fulfilling, and I cannot wait to get back to it come January. I've also been able to have a lot of quiet, alone time in the Word. A few buzzwords of the summer? fellowship. returning. prayer. conviction. redemption. endurance. gospel. (more on a few of those topics reserved for a later post)

the moments of love. The best part of summer for me? easy. Leah & Matt's wedding. First of all, I have not cried so much in a very, very, very long time. But it was such a renewal of spirit to cry so much. And I don't just think that's a girl thing or a time of the month thing. I think it is a necessary thing. The gospel became a beautiful tangibility in their ceremony. And it was obvious. I learned so much about love that day, and it will impact me for the rest of my life. I pray I can experience the same thing soon. (again, perhaps a blog post will come from the wedding on my other blog)

I came into this summer with rapidly emptied hands. All my plans lay on the ground, seemingly ruined. Yet out of the ashes of sacrifice came such, such beauty. provision. joy. He is good.