Ever find yourself waiting for that perfect moment? Every new season of life finds me waiting for the stars to align over a particular circumstance or relationship or dormant dream.
As a Christian, there is only one perfect moment to look forward to – the return of Christ. But there is something to take heed of in Jesus’ words to His followers. Here is a rough summary of His commands to anyone who claims to believe in Him – “Wake up. Obey. Go. Serve. Love. Tell others.” And when He says that, He doesn’t mean, “Wait for the perfect moment, the opportune time to live your life exactly as you imagined it would be.”
He means – even as you go to grade school, even as you move into your dorm room, even as you wait tables, even as you grieve the loss of loved ones, even as you parent, even as you sit at your office desk, even as you post on Social Media, even as you get married, even as you travel the world, even as you pay off your debts, even as you watch others get married or get pregnant or buy a house or get promoted or work their dream job.
We’re missing something about God and the life He has called us to if we are constantly waiting for our life to change.
The Christian life is so much more about where we put our hope every morning than it ever will be about our circumstances. The Christian life is a plodding. A believing heart and mind tempted and distracted by an unbelieving world. Day in. Day out. It is surrendering and rejoicing. Repenting and receiving. The Christian life, at it’s core – is a happy obedience, no matter where we find ourselves.
I’m beginning to realize that myself. I am the queen of excuse-making – my favorite excuse to date is parenting a toddler. So I tell God, “I can’t do that because parenting. SO HARD.” And God says, “Do this.” and I say (in absurd exasperation), “When?!” And God says, “Do this.” — this goes on for days, weeks, months etc etc.
I tell God that I will love my neighbors tomorrow, I will sit down and write when I have the time. I tell God I will put my husband before myself when I’ve had a day to myself thankyouverymuch. I tell God I will dream big and trust Him to use me when I’m done raising little kids. I tell God all kinds of things.
And God says, “Do this.”
Even as you parent your little one – love your husband. Be intentional with your time with him.
Even as your days rush by – honor your parents. Call home.
Even as your home is unfinished and messy – love your neighbor. Invite them inside.
Even as you wake up early to work out – love your body as it is right now. Smile at your reflection.
Even as you buy groceries and run errands – love the words I give you. Love them enough to write them down.
I’m waging a battle of convenience against God’s commands and it’s not working. When I stifle His Spirit, when I choose self-indulgence again and again, when I make excuses – my world becomes so small, so self-obssesed. I want out. And the only way to get out of my own way is to acknowledge that HIS way is the best way. (that sentence has the word “way” in it 4 times. ridiculous. I should be a rapper.)
Even as the Day of the Lord approaches, there is work to be done. I don’t want to be found waiting around for the perfect moment to get started on it.
Are you waging a battle of convenience with God? My advice is lay your excuses at His feet, then your hands will be freed up to do His bidding. You might be surprised how sweet it is to be inconvenienced. Gotta go – my kid’s awake and I gotta go buy groceries before dinner. #evenas
Jesus, you are returning. You are right now seated at the right hand of God and you are waiting. Oh God! WE are waiting too. We look around us and within us and we inwardly groan and we outwardly weep because it is hard being here. Some seasons threaten to suck the very breath from our mouths. We, like David, eat our tears and lament what was so precious that was lost to us. Around the world this very moment, my brothers and sisters are being persecuted, imprisioned, and murdered because of Your Name. Because they refuse to renounce You. I cannot understand the way You work. You are God and I am not. But I hold fast to Your promise that You are with me, You are with them even in the darkest and scariest of places.
You have gone before us, Jesus. You have fought for us and You have already won. By laying down Your life You gave Satan a glimspe of what it would be like for hell to have no boundaries and for humanity to have no hope. BUT YOU ROSE AGAIN. Hope fell fresh and new and for the first time in mankind we had a clear road to it. You tore off the suffocating seal of death and sin and grace came pouring in like a waterfall that never stops gushing and pouring and moving and changing the landscape around it. You change hearts. Nobody else can do that but You.
Change our hearts, Lord. Change mine. Create in me a pure heart (Psalm 51) and lead me into the way everlasting (Psalm 139). Because your love is better than life, my lips will praise you (Psalm 63). Because you are alive right now that means you are also listening right now, you care right now, you see right now, you know right now the numbing depths of pain we carry. You see how we medicate with stuff and distraction. I confess Lord that sometimes the news is so horrible, I turn it off because I am overwhelmed. Why has Satan been allowed to exploit so many? To kill so many? To possess and inflict so much pain? Why?
God, I know that Satan is a desperate loser who is frantically racing to beat the eternal clock. He knows his time is coming and he is anxious to bring down nations, to tear apart families, to maim children, to rape and to violate and to destroy as many lives as he can sink his claws into (1 Peter 5:8). God, I know that suffering is the lot of every man. That all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will. be. persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12) but we can take heart because even in those impossibly hard seasons, You have overcome this world. (John 16:33). Some suffering is more distinctive and apparent – we turn our eyes to Aleppo and we weep because it is palpable there. Some suffering is silent, like a tumor that grows undetected until it chokes out the life ot it’s host. Depression, anxiety, paranoia, postpartum depression, alcoholism, addiction, phobias of all kind that posses our minds and convince us of our doom and our uselessness.
God, I am so loved by you. I cannot look at the cross of Jesus and say, “Nobody loves me.
Sometimes, when life is going smoothly, Satan will turn my eyes to other people and I will instantly break out my mental measuring stick and make sure that I am doing better than the next person. I will congratulate myself on such a wonderful marriage or beautiful child or great job and I will forget that I even needed God, that I even needed forgiveness of my sin – “What sin?” I think to myself, “I don’t see where I’ve messed up! Clearly, I’m doing an awesome job at life.” It makes me sick to write this out but God you know it’s true.
It’s like Agur prayed so many thousands of years ago, “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Prov. 30: 7-9)
You are all I have. And You are all that lasts. Yet I cower at the thought of someone disagreeing with me on social media or calling me names because I believe your Bible is true and because I center my life around You. I’m so scared of other people because I have given them your throne. The influence that ought to belong to the living Spirt of God to move me steadily forward with confidence and courage is instead tossed loosely from hand to hand of the people I interact with on social media and in real life. That is not their fault, God. It’s mine. I handed the reins of my value to people who are just as screwed up and insecure as I am. Not my best idea.
I feel as if I’m beginning to wake up a little. I am not inclined to incite arguments or look for disagreements but I am called and commanded to stand my ground on truth which will very likely incite arguments and disagreements. I will lose friends, I will lose perhaps even some kind of reputation that others have built up in their mind about me. Yet I have to stand in truth because You are ultimate, God. Your Name will be glorified whether I stand or whether I sit. But the invitation to come and participate in what You are doing in the world has set my chair on fire. I can’t sit still. I can’t be silent.
People will misunderstand me, God. And I will misunderstand them. We will likely hurt each other’s feelings. But I don’t want to be known just as someone who could make a person laugh or smile. I want to be known as someone who made much of Jesus. Sometimes I make people laugh because you have given me the gift of humor and comedic timing and a love for words. Those are good things! They are not ultimate things. I think my seasons of unsettled discontentment often stem from my placing my value and hope in the good things you have given me instead of the ultimate things you have promised me.
Ultimately – You get the glory.Ultimately – You are victorious.Ultimately – Satan is damned.Ultimately – Your children are saved.Ultimately – Souls are reunited with their Maker.Ultimately – Heaven arrives.
In the mean time, you have asked me to step out into the public arena and to tell people about the Ultimate things. You are looking for willing vessels. I have been docked at the harbor of my reputation (both real and imagined), my anchor of fear is nestled comfortably in the shore and I haven’t budged. Because I am afraid. I think I’ll still be afraid even now. I know you tell me “Don’t be afraid!” more than you tell me anything else in your Word. But You need to give me that courage, Holy Spirit. Embolden me with the presence of You. (2 Tim. 1:7) I won’t start out with thick skin, so it’s going to hurt a little. But I want to end my race on earth with a full, open, warm, heart to the world.
Do not allow me to become prey to the cynicism and bitterness that bids me to build walls and throw insults. Do not allow me to be consumed with consumerism. Sharpen my eyes and my mind to see You and to seek You in all of my days that I might find You even more beautiful than before. (Jer. 29:13) Even on Tuesday mornings like today. You are at work in my home and my neighborhood and around the world. Open my eyes, strengthen my knees, don’t let me quit because You have called me and You are faithful and You will surely do it. (1 Thess. 5:24)
Samuel is napping while I fluff up our home with festive touches of fall and consider the season of Thanksgiving that’s approaching. I don’t know about you but I often fight gratitude with reasons. With cold hard facts and cruel reality. I have my reasons for being bitter and resentful and unhappy.. Don’t we all? Life can be a real beat down. But I’m learning that truly being grateful for my life isn’t just giving thanks that my “happies” outnumber my “crappies” – it’s often a fight for the right priorities. What things, of all the list of happies and crappies really matters? Long term. Big picture. Eternal perspective. That shift in focusing on priorities helps me so much when I’m struggling to be grateful. It also helps when I remember that I’m not supposed to endure crappies all by myself.
Listen to me – You will drown in your crappies if you’re trying to go it alone.
Here’s what you do to avoid drowning:
1. Get to know God. Study Jesus. – This sounds so “woo woo wacko” if you’re not someone who thinks about or cares much about who God is or isn’t. It also may sound like 2 steps but they’re one in the same. This is a crucial step. Why? Well, if for no other reason than you were made in His image. He put you together so if you have beef with Him or questions about stuff that’s true of you/been done to you/you’ve done to others – start the conversation by pursuing Him. *Spoiler alert – He’s already and always pursuing you. So, you’re about 15…20… FOREVER years behind. It’s OK though, totally worth jumping in and getting to it. I recommend picking up a Bible and reading the book of John – it’s in the New Testament, 4th book down if you’re looking at the Table of Contents.
The more you learn about God, the more you understand about yourself. I do this by reading the Bible on a regular basis, praying, and talking to other people about just about anything from God to parenting to careers to hobbies etc. Which leads me to my second tip to avoid drowning in your own crappies
2. Let yourself be known by other people. – Full disclosre: I’m bad at this. All of my closest friends (spouse included) will tell you I’m bad at this. I have a tendency to hide behind all of my happies, sweep the crappies under the rug until they explode and then it’s like a shitstorm. Pardon my french but it’s a quite accurate metaphor is it not? When you let other people know when you’re hurt, angry, lonely, scared, or confused you may be amazed to discover they still love you any way. EVEN ALL OF YOUR CRAPPIES. Use caution with who you let into your shitstorm though because it ain’t a pretty place and you need the real troopers who will wade in and pull you out without feeling the need to pinch their nose.
Have you ever been in a place in your life when you think, “Maybe one day I’ll look back on this and see God’s fingerprints all over it and it will be grand and I will encourage people and it will be so lovely and I will summarize all of God’s faithfulness over a cup of coffee and isn’t that nice ?” But as you wade through that season of life you’re just thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this.”
That’s me right now!
So much of me longs to gird my loins, put on the armor of God and storm into this season with gusto and enough faith to drown out all of the anxieties and doubts. Oh but friend, I am tired. I am longing for respite. I feel stretched, weary and weak. I want to withdraw, to quietly pack up the armor of God, to pull out of every battle raging internally and around me and just wait for Jesus to clean it all up. (Try not to be too bedazzled by the tenacity of my faith.) If there’s anything you may learn from my spiritual journey it’s that trusting an invisible God does not come very easily to me. I guess the beauty is, it doesn’t have to.
My head knows the truths about God and His promises, but in times of adversity or confusion my heart swallows the truths with an obligatory gulp – and it often takes a while for it to be digested. Maybe you can relate?
Becoming more like Christ often means surrendering parts of your human nature that are familiar and easy – and crippling. I am a sucker for creature comforts, for happily ever afters, for “ignorance is bliss” and for the American dream. Every time any one of those things is gently rendered from my tight fists, I am left with open, empty hands. Which is (not surprisingly) exactly what enables me to connect with God and with others. How can I receive and enjoy the Good News that Jesus is who He says He is, when I am preoccupied with what other people think about me or how my life adds up compared to someone else’s (aka: things that don’t matter. ever.)?
My small piece of the world feels very unsteady and uncertain and I am uncomfortable in it. Yet it is my reality. Yet God has placed people in my life who remind me of His steadiness and certainty and the comfort of His Presence – even as all of those things seem tucked into a pretty sermon rather than winding through my story.
In addition to the uncertainties that plague my small corner of the world lately, my head has been spinning the last few weeks with questions about race, racism, and reconciliation. It all feels so big to me. Like too much. My pride bristles at ideas and perspectives that challenge my own, yet my spirit within me is restless for unity and peace and the mission of God. I have entered into conversations that require me to listen and reflect. I have walked into territory that is new and scary and humbling. This season of my life is uncomfortable, guys. Have I mentioned that? The issue of racism in America is uncomfortable. The searchings of my heart have led me to dialogues that have challenged and moved me to uncomfortable, refining places.
The firmness of my faith is being tested as I walk out, unwillingly, onto the waters of this season. Again I find myself looking at a future that doesn’t look like what I thought it would. Again I surrender to God and again I find it all difficult to do. Oh! To present to you the face of a woman who is so confident in her God and in her future. But honesty is too precious and saving face costs all of us too much.
Instead I am resolved to take a deep breath, one conversation at a time, one step at a time and wake up tomorrow knowing that the same God who sent His own Son to die a brutal death on my behalf, and live a resurrected life also sends me into my corner of the world with purposes He will fulfill through a life lived honestly, imperfectly and uncomfortably.
Life is hard. God is faithful. Amen? Amen.
John’s grandma died yesterday. She was 95 and managed to live like she never passed 50. I didn’t know her in the way a grandchild knows her grandma. We don’t share many memories together and our conversations, though sweet have always been brief. Yet, her faith and her hands have shaped someone who has become the most important person to me. Apart from his mom, John’s grandma was the most influential woman in his childhood. She lived with him for his first 12 years of life and raised him and his siblings. She disciplined him, loved him, and prayed for him.
I owe a great deal to Fanny Gialdo, a woman from Trinidad who had faith that burned ferociously. The ferocity of her faith did not leave people scathed and wounded however, but rather drew people towards her… towards Christ, with warmth and wisdom. She had her faults, like all of us. I don’t know them in particular so I have the happy job of remembering how her example changed me in profound and beautiful ways.
I met her on our wedding day. She wore a lovely blue dress, comfortable white shoes, and a warm smile. She was the one who made John break down in tears that day. Not his blushing bride, mind you. Looking as radiant as a thousand freaking suns while vowing her undyng devotion to him. (I am totally over it, by the way.)
There was a bet going among the groomsmen concerning when John would cry because (bless him) he’s a crier. I thought for sure he would break down at the vows. He was a little shaky but there were no tears. Enter: grandma. There we were in the recieving line right after being pronounced Mr. & Mrs. – I saw John stoop down as her tiny, strong arms looped around his shoulders, speaking of her love and affection for him. He straightened up with a shining grin and tears streaming down his face. “Way to go, grandma!” I thought. It is only appropriate that a woman so deeply nestled in the heart of my new husband would open the floodgates. No hard feelings, Fanny. Nothing but love.
A little over a year into marriage, I saw her over Christmas. These are where some of my most favorite moments with her were unwrapped and tucked into my memory.
One day, I saw her sitting on the front porch, hands folded in her lap, looking out at the road. I was a little intimidated by her, I’ll admit. John told me stories of her voice carrying with it a thousand daggers when he would get in trouble as a boy. She was a sweet woman, but not to be messed with. I approached her and commented on the weather because that’s what you do when you come into the presence of someone you want to be like, but you also want to be cool about it so they like you back. I’m certain she would have laughed if she knew my palms were kind of sweaty. Once we talked about the weather I just jumped right in with, “If you could give me any marriage advice, what would it be?” (I’m so good at transitions.)
She continued to look out at the road and while I can’t remember her exact words, here was the gist: “Forgive. Let it go. Know when to hold your tongue and keep your peace.” It sent all these red-hot flags flying in my brain, “I WILL SPEAK MY MIND SO HELP ME! I hope you tell JOHN to know when to hold his tongue too because he’s not perfect!” Instead I smiled and nodded and (God help me) dismissed her notions as maybe a bit dated or old-fashioned. Full disclosure: As it turns out, her advice comes straight from a heart that actually understands the gospel of Jesus so if you need me I’ll be eating crow until… forever.
The next morning, I walked into the kitchen and saw her at the small breakfast table, hands raised, face lifted, and thanksgiving spilling from her lips like the sun spilling across the kitchen floor. When she instructed me to “hold your tongue and keep your peace” she was most certainly not referring to my prayer life! Fanny did not hold her tongue when she was giving thanks to God. She had a relationship with Jesus that I could almost see emanating from her. She loved Jesus. Unapologetically.
She kept company with her Savior in such a peculiar and compelling way. As if he was there, eating breakfast with her – wrapped in all of the intimacy and familiarity we feel when sitting with a close friend and sharing a cup of coffee. Yet she was worshipping him. He was familiar to her and holy to her. She revered him and she trusted him like a bosom buddy. The two were inseparable. It was awkward for me because I sort of felt like I had stumbled into a moment that was supposed to be just between her and Jesus. But Fanny did not bend to her surroundings or the people around her, she bent her knees and her will only to Jesus. So if her praying out loud made you uncomfortable that certainly wasn’t her intention but she certainly wasn’t about to stop. Political correctness be damned, Christ be exalted.
Gosh I want to be like her.
The final memory I have of Fanny during that visit still makes me cry. We were all gathered, a bunch of family, in one of the large rooms in the house. People were sporadically sharing about what was going on in their lives when someone asked John about seminary. At this point we were about halfway through that journey. John answered honestly – seminary was hard. One of the most exhausting and draining seasons of John’s life. Fanny could sense it in his answer and responded to it with singing. Because, of course.
It started sort of soft and low, then grew stronger and louder. Fanny stopped all surrounding conversation, ushering everybody into a thick silence and we listened as this woman’s love swept over her grandson. Her john-boy. John and I’s tears poured out as our ears opened up all the way down to our hearts and one promise found it’s way in: God will take care of you.
“Be not dismayed whate’er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.
God will take care of you,
Through every day, o’er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.
All you may need He will provide,
God will take care of you;
Nothing you ask will be denied,
God will take care of you.
No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast,
God will take care of you.”
She ignored the squirming in the seats and the darting eyes that didn’t know what to do with this old woman filling up the room with notes that may not have found the right place but words that certainly did. She was about doing God’s work and she never asked for your permission to do it. Again – never from an aggressive posture but in a surrendered and obedient one.
She finished up and the room exploded in “Amens” and “Thank you Jesus” and I sat, her words covering me like a warm blanket, assured that God will take care of me.
Our paths would cross a handful of times after that. She “met” our darling Samuel thanks to the wonders of the internet. Oh! How she smiled and laughed as she said his name and told him how beautiful he was. I told him over and over, ‘That’s great-grandma Fanny, buddy! She helped raise your daddy and boy do we love her A LOT!’ He smiled and reached for the computer screen as she leaned in so close to the camera I thought she might fall right on through and land in our laps! (if only!) Many times I have talked with Fanny over the phone. Many times her words, steeped in a rich Trinidadian accent, wouldn’t be fully understood by me (essentially the most un-accented person on the planet. thank you, central Virginia) but her meaning would come ringing loud and clear: “I love you. God bless you. God bless your child. I pray for you, take care.”
I will miss your prayers, Fanny. Your impromptu worship and your frank wisdom have left in it’s wake a legacy of faithfulness, service and joy. You changed this world. You did it gracefully, amidst adversity and trials I know nothing about. You did it imperfectly, with your own baggage and prejudices that tripped you up along your journey. I will never fully know, this side of heaven just how much your prayers changed the course of my life by changing the course of my husband’s. Thank you. Thank you for showing me that following Jesus means loving people even when it’s weird or (especially when) unreciprocated. Thank you for all of the times you approached the God of the universe and laid John, me and Samuel at His feet. Asking for His love, His wisdom and His protection over us. We are left to grieve you, but we look forward to seeing you again.
I picture you now at a breakfast table with Jesus. Talking as friends, learning more about Him than you could have ever imagined. You are happy, whole, vibrant… and home.
On the day I should be humble, Lord
Stricken with grief and despair
I find myself looking up at You and
mocking you with my stare.
“If you are the son of God,” I yell
“then get off that cross. Do SOMEthing.
Save yourself. Call the angels. How foolish
that you do nothing!”
I watch you speak to the criminals as your lungs start to collapse,
offering a seat in Paradise? Please. You’re nothing but a man.
Eventually you die and as the sky and ground split in two,
I shrug off the scream of creation, my eyes are fixed only on you.
You are dead, Jesus. That’s what I see.
I feel nothing but disappointed.
What a joke I played on my heart, to think you were somehow anointed.
Now here I am, generations removed from the actual moment that you died
and I am so so angry Lord. I want to do nothing but scream and cry.
It alarms me because I have always been for you, with you, trusting every move you have made.
Now I find myself retreating from the wings that gave me shade.
Do you see what’s happening around here, God? Do you hear the bombs and screams?
As girls are ripped from their innocence and the heads of children fill the streets?
I’m back at the foot of the Cross and I am yelling at you again to move, to ACT
my voice catches in my throat because it’s actually desperation I feel. Not anger.
I am so tired of holding out nothing but hope. It seems so not enough for that mourning mother.
What of that child who watched themselves become an orphan? WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR THEM?
For years I have recited the rhetoric. I have looked at the cross with deep sorrow yet JOY.
But this year, God I am struggling SO HARD to believe this isn’t just a big ploy.
I have broken down for the broken down and feel entirely spent.
I know you offer eternal life, but does it matter when this life, for so many, is hell?
Yet, before your eyes close in death on the cross, before you surrender your life,
You look down into my hateful heart and am compelled, for me, to die.
You know that I will doubt you, that I will try and flee from your presence.
You have gone with me every place I am, You will continue into the next one.
God I weep at my unbelief, at the doubt I have nurtured, coddled and kept
But just as you saw me, clear as day on that cross, you saw billions and billions… and wept.
So even though sometimes it’s hard to swallow the truth lodged in my imperfect, wayward spirit,
I will proclaim to the nations, to neighbors, to friends, to anyone who will hear it:
God saw and He moved and He entered into our hate. He suffocated under our darkness.
Today, RIGHT NOW, the Enemy tears through flesh and nations to convince us that our God is absent.
Oh friend, skeptic, critic, and saint – do not be deceived any longer.
The glimpses of terror we have seen in our time, are a fraction of what laid on Christ’s shoulders.
We will not ever fully know the dark, cold waters of our depravity, as Christ has known them.
The Enemy likes to make us think those waters will drown us in despair and pain,
But Jesus’ death gives every soul the chance to come up for air, and remain.