The Dark, Cold Waters of Depravity

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.

At You.

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.

blog image

 

 

Advertisements

Walking with Jesus – through my refrigerator

 I’ve been walking with Jesus through this life since the tender age of 7. Twenty years you guys. 20 years of his companionship, guidance, discipline and joy! And yet every year – sometimes every minute – I am learning and surrendering all over again. It’s amazing what happens when you take the truth of God’s word and hold it up against the subtle habits of your life.
May we never ever get it set in our heads that we have arrived. That we have learned all we need to learn or have grown into or deepest intimacy with Him. It’s simply not true. There is always more of Him than there are minutes in our lifetime. The real question is – will you find Him in those minutes?

Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food; but God will do away with both… All things are lawful, but not all things EDIFY. – 1 Corinthians 6:13 & 10:23

I wrote this little note this morning and placed it on my kitchen counter because I am re-evaluating my relationship with food. Something so simple and ordinary yet crucial to my life. It’s a relationship in which I have begun to adopt unsavory habits, in which I have begun to place food on some kind of comfort pedestal in my heart. I have not done the hard work of truly examining what I eat and why because I know, at the root, there is a restless mistrust of God’s goodness and an incredible ability to justify my sin into oblivion.

I’m just beginning the work of taking a long, hard and honest look into my pantry and fridge and figuring out what it might be telling me about my heart and my mind. They’re so connected you know? Thankfully, I have not reached a point where I am truly depriving my body intentionally or obsessing over a particluar size or image that causes me to binge. If this is you – please please talk to somebody about it. Oh what a hard spiral you are in – but you CAN be free from it!
For me? I’m addressing my apathy towards what I put in my body – “So what if this has stuff in it that isn’t actually food? So what if I’ve only got one life to live and one body to live in? Whatever. I have a high metabolism so I don’t have to “worry” about that stuff.” Not OK. Not a healthy attitude towards the blessing and nourishment that food is meant to be for me and my family.
So I’m asking myself: What is my relationship with food like? Is it healthy? Do I have auto-pilot habits and reflexes that need to be re-claimed and re-trained? (Answer: YES) — this little picture frame on my kitchen will sit as a reminder that God can use anything and everything to edify (to build up and encourage) His children. That He has given me food for my body but ultimately He has given me Himself to enjoy and find soul-pleasuring sustenance in – for my whole eternity.

I’m figuring out what all of this looks like and while it’s awkward for me to share and it will probably make me feel even more insecure when I let the whole freaking Internet world know about it – I want to be an encouragement to that one other person on the other side of the screen who is thinking about this too.

Momma's motivation <3

Momma’s motivation ❤

All I know is – I want to treat my body with care, raise my kids on food that will nourish and energize, and never ever eliminate the joys of ice cream and peach pie from my life because God gave me 10,000 tastebuds and I ain’t wasting a-one of ’em.

Sometimes: Confessions from the first 6 weeks

6 weeks into being a mom. It’s time to get a few confessions off my chest. Maybe you can relate, maybe you can judge. The only thing I’m certain of is this “confessional” will get longer as Samuel gets older.

Here we go y’all:

Sometimes when I’m “shushing” Samuel I’m really just doing it to occupy my mouth and distract it from screaming in frustration or from saying the not-so-nice words that are bouncing in my brain as he claws and screams and cries a few inches from my face.

thumb_IMG_6761_1024Sometimes I set my child down in his crib and walk away from him for a few minutes to collect my composure and take a few deep breaths after trying (unsuccessfully) to get him to sleep for an hour.

Sometimes I’m not smart enough to take deep breaths so I end up sobbing over the crib and begging this tiny human being to “please please please for the love of God fall asleep.”

Sometimes (OK every time) I giggle when I hear John’s commentary on the size of one of Samuel’s poops or when Samuel spits up on him. Nothing like being married to a fastidious person to make parenting that much more entertaining.

Sometimes I choose to listen to my bitter flesh and I seethe and grumble about my husband sleeping at night while I’m awake with Samuel.

thumb_IMG_6476_1024Sometimes I sneak a moment of daddy-son time after John comes home from a long 10 hour day at work and I swallow back tears of gratitude because there is no better man for this job. I’m certain of it.

Sometimes my son makes me laugh so much and love so hard I think my heart is going to explode from joy.

Sometimes I have a beer even though I’m nursing.

Sometimes he’ll turn his head when he hears my voice as I enter the room and it makes me feel like the most important person in the world.

Sometimes I’ll scoop him up and chat with him while he’s awake and tell him about my day or about the squirrels scampering outside our window.

Sometimes I leave him propped up in the boppy or swinging in a swing while he’s awake and alert and I keep working even though his sweet little eyes are open.

thumb_IMG_6661_1024Sometimes my first thought when I hear him waking up is, “Oh s^@%.” instead of, “Mom to the rescue, buddy! You are such a GIFT!”

Sometimes I pray over my son with eloquence and passion and sincerity. Dreaming of who God has made him to be and delighting in the idea that I get to see his life unfold in front of me.

Sometimes I can only pray, “Help.” or “Forgive me.”

Sometimes I leave myself no margins. I am walled in by my own expectations and standards and am left pacing inside of them, constantly disappointed in myself.

Sometimes I wake up determined to show grace and I feel like a super mom the whole day. Just totally nailing it with the diaper changing, feeding, working rhythm.

Sometimes I wake up determined to show grace and then proceed to bungle every opportunity I’m given. Every dirty diaper is taken personally and at the end of the day I’ve convinced myself for the umpteenth time that I can’t do this.

Sometimes I resent my husband for having a life that takes him outside the walls of our home several days a week.

Sometimes I stop in the middle of my day and give thanks for my hard-working, hands-on, hilarious husband who is an incredible source of support and encouragement to me.

thumb_IMG_6626_1024Sometimes I wonder if it’s all actually worth it because I miss having stability and structure in my day. And dairy. I miss dairy. (this is only day 3 of dairy-free, by the way. So far I only daydream about cheese every 20 minutes or so.)

Sometimes I stay awake and watch my son sleep in his crib even though I know I should be sleeping because I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to be his mom and I know that one day he’ll want his independence more than he’ll want my presence and I’m gonna have to let him go.

 

 

Grace for the ball-droppers and rule-followers

IMG_0622Well, folks. I just got done reading the entire week’s worth of Bible reading this afternoon. That’s right. Monday through Saturday reading turned into an hour on the couch on Saturday. In case you were counting how far along we are into the New Year, we’ve yet to break open the second out of twelve months. So, when it comes to goal-achieving — let’s just say, I’m terrible at it.

Also, I had another goal set up for the New Year — write one blog post a week. Seems reasonable and achievable right? RIGHT! Not that anyone is tracking this but uhh, I didn’t write a post last week. So here I am, hands clammy and mind racing for something to write about when I realize, I need to write about what it’s like to need grace. All those little things that remind you for the umpteenth time: you aren’t perfect.

If I look deeper into why I didn’t meet my two simple goals this week and last, it boils down to one thing: priority. In short, I prioritized watching Friends on Netflix and sleeping in until the last possible second over making time for Bible reading or disciplining myself to sit down and write.

The truth about me is I’m a ball-dropper. I’m a “yes-girl” with good ideas and little follow-through. I’m lazy and I struggle to get motivated. I’m scared to write because I’m never satisfied with the end result. I want accolades without effort and pats on the back without putting my time in. I’m selfish and cruel, I think dark and ugly things about other people, I hurt people who mean the world to me. I choose comfort over service 9 times out of 10. I don’t like sharing all of this because it may give you a more realistic view of who I am and that’s always scary. I don’t like letting people in because I know what’s on the other side of small talk and it’s usually uncomfortable.

I’m married to a rule-follower. A disciplinarian like I have never seen. His demons run in the direction of perfectionism, nagging at him to prove to the world that he is  A-B-C or X-Y-Z. He struggles to hold plans loosely, worry can sometimes keep him up at night and he’s constantly haunted by the past. (His paragraph is shorter than mine, but I’m leaving stuff out ok?!)

Yet we’ve both been changed  by grace. Him in his desperate attempts to have it all figured out and mine in my haphazard attempts to please everybody while parading around in a false confidence that everything will sort itself out in the end. Grace reminds us that our sins are no longer counted under the sacrifice of Jesus, even if we like to keep score with each other (Which is so healthy, right? We should get an award for how petty we can be at times.)

But grace isn’t just a blanket to cover our sins, it’s manifested in a God who gets under our skin. He digs into our unhealthy habits and slowly removes the tar of fear and worry and apathy. He is faithful to acknowledge not only how miserably lost we are without Him, but to move us towards a life that is marked by faith-filled contentment, open hands, and a desire to serve rather than be served.

God brings grace to the ball-droppers and the rule-followers.

I think one of the greatest attributes of grace is that it moves us towards hope. God sees our days, each of them is numbered until we see Him face to face — He sees our beginning and end and in-between. He hears our thoughts and sees our intentions and He enters into it — not carrying a blank check for a “do whatever you want” life but ushering in a lifestyle marked by a desire to “do whatever I can for the good of people around me to the glory of a God who compels me with grace.”

Grace does not condone us to keep on sinning, it compels us into a life of righteous living.

So, next week if  when I find myself sitting at the couch cramming in my Bible reading or snapping at my husband, I will also find grace to get up the next day and walk with a God who never runs out of mercies, delights in having me in His family, and loves me even when I skim through all the lineage chapters of the Old Testament.

 

 

 

 

The Question That Curdled my Sabbath Day Pancakes

IMG_3807 I settled into my chair, belly full of Saturday morning pancakes, and opened my Bible. I read  one sentence and immediately wanted to shut it and unremember what I had just read. I don’t  know if you’re like me when it comes to walking with Jesus but I have all these really grandiose intentions and about a 30% follow-through rate.

I like when He tells me how cherished I am by Him, I don’t like when He challenges me to live differently because of it.

When Jesus talks in parables I love it because imagery is my favorite. I remember learning about similes and metaphors for the first time in middle school — I went home and couldn’t stop describing things with ‘like’ and ‘as’ – “My stomach is rumbling like thunder!” “Mom is as beautiful as the sunset!” etc. I was clearly a budding writer even at such a young age. And a brown-noser.

The parts of the gospels that I am least comfortable with are when Jesus asks straightforward, no-hidden-meaning, you- can’t- interpret- this- differently, kind of questions.

Like the one I encountered this morning (Luke 6:46): “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”

Crap.

I think He actually wants me to answer that.

The thing about God asking us questions is He always asks them for our advantage. He’s not awaiting our response with pen and paper, eagerly hoping to gain some hidden insight into our hearts. He already knows the answer, which is exactly why he asks the question.

So, here’s my reasons for not doing what He tells me to do:

1) Fear of Man – Always first on my list. “What will people think of me?” God asks you to do weird stuff sometimes so if you’re all in, you have to be prepared to be misunderstood and judged. That terrifies me.

2) Apathy – This is where I lean almost entirely into the “Jesus loves me this I know” side of my faith, where I am forever protected and secured in His grace, and I completely abandon the “Go, tell the world about me and be my witnesses even to the ends of the earth” command. This is when I abuse grace.

3) Mistrust – Deep, deep down I don’t know always believe that God really knows what He’s doing all the time. Like my great-great (etc etc) grandma Eve, I often listen to the slippery voice that says, “How do you know that God isn’t holding out on you? What if He’s not all He says He is?” Doubt paralyzes me from obedience.

There you have it. If you thought I was some shiny Christian Wonder Woman before this, I have certainly set the record straight.

I still struggle with these things and I think a part of me always will this side of heaven — but the big “G” Gospel of Jesus Christ is what reorients my priorities when I feel like I deserve to be sucked into the black hole of pity and shame.

His Grace is limitless even when our obedience is so limited. We simply miss out on more of God when we choose not to obey.

He is not held back by our excuses and insecurities, we are. 

What are your reasons, reader? If you are a follower of Jesus, why is it that you call HIm ‘Lord’ and yet choose not to listen to His voice?

I just wanna say: I’m right there with you. None of us do this faith thing perfectly, but we have a perfect and good Advocate who empowers us to get up and keep going. So, keep going! We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I got 96 drafts but a post ain’t one.

Confession time, folks.

This is how I feel when I write most of the time.

This is how I feel when I write most of the time.

96. That’s how many “drafts” are moseying around in the land of the unpublished regions of this blog. Honestly? Some of them I could probably publish but I won’t because I have severe blogger issues where I tie myself to this ridiculous standard that must be achieved in every post and when it isn’t it never gets to see the light of the public eye. The point of this post is to convince you myself that I am no longer going to operate in such strict and impossible expectations.

When I started this blog I didn’t have any intention of actually making something out of it beyond a random storehouse of random Rachel thoughts. As I’ve continued in this endeavor however, I have felt increased nudging, occasional elbowing, and sometimes downright shoving towards taking this writing gig more seriously than I had anticipated.

I, like most bloggers, suffer from the “I only write what I feel and when I experience the feeling that comes when I have

This is how I want you to think I feel when I write most of the time.

This is how I want you to think I feel when I write most of the time.

a good idea/insight/story worth sharing” syndrome. Or, IOWWIFAWIETFTCWIHAGI/I/SWS for you acronym lovers out there.

I have scoffed the idea of scheduling posts in the name of “spontaneous inspiration.” In the beginning of this journey I had, completely on accident, painted myself into a very tight, oppressive and frustrating corner. I was only going to write when I “felt” like. While there is nothing inherently wrong with writing from emotion and experience there is also great value in writing from a place of discipline and diligence.

I remember when a former boss called me a “wordsmith” and my heart leapt as my shoulders straightened and my chin jutted in pride. Ah YES! I am crafty with words. They are my minions who do my bidding and I tell them where to go and how to go there and it is wonderful. Until it isn’t. Because they don’t. Not always. 

When I have to throw words together like some awkward high school reunion of adverbs and nouns for the sake of a deadline or in the name of (insert groan here) consistency it’s mortifying. I AGONIZE over putting things together just.so. Which is why, in the past, when I didn’t feel motivated or inspired to write, I didn’t do it! Simple as that.

I don’t want to publish these haphazard, half-thoughts because I don’t want you to read my not-best. This is foolish because not every single thing I will write will be my best. How absurd to think that’s even possible! And yet, that’s what I’ve been doing. I have depended solely on that emotional BAZING! moment to determine whether or not something gets published.

Somewhere along the way I had convinced myself that the only good writing is the kind that is born from the passion of emotion and never from the stubbornness of determination. But emotions can only take you so far. At some point you are going to have to work outside of your emotions, maybe even against them. Which leads me to believe that being a writer is a lot like being in love. 

I didn’t realize that I was courting words until I realized how much I couldn’t stop thinking about them, how quickly irritated I get with them, and how downright head-over-heels smitten I am with them. To craft a sentence or an idea in such a way that reaches into the reader’s mind and plucks an “Ah HA!” chord is the most delightful achievements. It makes me want to hug the words and tell them how fabulous they are! “Oh! You expressed that perfectly! Way to go you little adverb, you. That was JUST the noun I was looking for. Oh stop it. No, YOU’RE the greatest. Ok we’re BOTH the greatest.” It’s sickening, really.

My relationship with this blog has been volatile and unpredictable and I am determined (read: PRAYING) to establish a more normalized, day-in day-out, Tuesday-morning-kind-of-love with it. The kind of steady and sweet relationship that wakes up to your morning breath and still decides to give you a hug in all of your stinky mess.

The passionate and unpredictable love affair with words must come to an end if I hope to make any kind of lasting impression in the blogosphere or with my writing in any capacity. So I wrote these 2,287 words just to say this: I am a writer even when I don’t feel like one. And I am going to hit the “publish” button more often because I can’t expect to improve if I’m not willing to show up.

God bless you for getting through this post, reader. The whole point of this is to tell you that I’ve got a game plan to post more frequently and less… hormonally? This is an adventure that we’re in together and I thank you times a million for going on it with me.

An unedited confession

The whole church service today was absolutely beautiful. And compelling. And edifying. We, as a church, heard the earnest prayers from the lips of mothers and fathers to raise their children to follow hard after the Lord and we were able to lift up our own affirmations and promises to help these children seek the face of our good God. Then we were ushered into a time of worship that spoke so much healing and life into my soul, I had no idea how thirsty I really was until we sang the ancient hymn that charges our God to bid our anxious fears goodbye. Oh! How I long to rid myself of these anxious fears. To really believe that Jesus is one day returning and that my life is but a vapor, a minute, a drop into eternity. And yet, how careful God has been to bring me to Himself these past few years. How pressing, and purposeful, and painful my walk has been. I just sat on the living room floor, watching the clouds dance through our skylight and I was overcome with a deep need to confess. Everything. All of my fears and insecurities and all of my reasons for telling God that he can’t use me. I am prideful and cynical and self-centered and a slave to people’s approval and I have no idea how to really believe that I can get out of all of that.

I know that my true identity is found in the person of Christ. I know that I died with Christ’s sacrifice and it is no longer I, but Christ, who lives in me. But I can’t stop tripping over me. I can’t stop wrapping myself up into the same insecurities which convince me of how helpless and restricted I am in the Kingdom work. Even as I write this, my mind is thinking, do I share this? Would it be prideful to write a blog post about this and plaster it on the internet and expect some kind of kickback from it? Am I so scared of the approval (or lack thereof) of other people that I dare not post something that wouldn’t connect with all of them? Am I desperately longing to be influential for all of the wrong reasons?

But here is the honest to God truth about me, friends: I want people to know that Jesus is coming back and I want to see them celebrate, rejoice and weep with joy when that day arrives because they love their Maker, and they took Him at His word. I want to lead people to that place. That place where your ordinary life doesn’t stop being ordinary but it starts being hope-filled. Where nothing, no circumstance, no haves or have nots, can rob you of the secure and absolute assurance that Jesus Christ has wrapped you in righteousness. That when you stand before God He will have removed your sins as far as the east is from the west. Not because I was awesome or even faithful and certainly not perfect. But because Jesus was and is.

I can’t count the number of times I have backslidden in my walk with God. I’ve had my mountaintop moments, I’ve crawled through the valley, and I’ve wandered in the wilderness. I’m only 25 years old but my story is full of countless thousands of moments where I chose not to obey, not to listen, not to believe. I have left my Bible on the shelf because I was tired of reading it or didn’t give a lick about what was inside it. I fought the Spirit within me, I have grieved Him with my anger and apathy. I have gone weeks without praying for anything except that He might, “Bless this food to my body.” whatever the heck that means. I have entertained fantasies of a thousand sins, I have left room for bitterness, I have nurtured hurt into ugly, seething anger. And yet. YET! He remains. God has looked into the parts of my heart and mind that would taint my reputation with anyone who has ever known me. And yet! He will not stop. He knows when to wait for me and where. He knows how to pursue me and bring me back on my knees. He keeps reminding me that He wants to use me. All of me. He wants it. He’ll take it and He will ruin the parts that choke out my faith and softly massage those small kernels of hope that refuse to be uprooted in the center of my soul.

Even for all of my shortcomings, I am a daughter of the Almighty God. I will be singing when my Savior returns to make all things new and right and whole again. But what about right now? Am I faithful to my ‘right now’? Sometimes, y’all. Sometimes. But other days I am overcome with anxiety and bitterness and a rotten ego that fouls up every good intention. So I wake up and ask for grace the next day. Some days I am overcome with awe and find myself staring at the world I live in and loving the beautiful and hating the crippling evil. Some days I shake with grief at the millions who don’t know Jesus. Because even though it offends many, those who don’t know Jesus will not know eternal life. And it’s horrible. But it’s the truth. 

Some days I get the feeling that God wants to reach deeper into me and push me farther than I would go. And the only reason I don’t go, the only reason I try to run away from Him is because I’m scared about what other people will think of me. How would they feel if I told them they need Jesus? They would hate me! They would judge me! They would paint me in a corner and put me in a box labeled “Crazies” and I would have ruined any chance of the Holy Spirit intervening and opening up their hearts to a freedom I could never put into words. Because apparently the Spirit can’t work through the awkward conversations? I have this obsession to say it right. To say it perfectly. But sometimes God tells me to write out the aches and pains in my heart and resist the temptation to clean and polish all of those sentiments and insecurities. Because He desires a contrite and willing heart over sacrifices. He longs for obedience, not a State of the Union on my soul.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from having a relationship with Jesus for almost 20 years, it’s that He couldn’t care less about my accomplishments. He cares about my affections. Always. Always He will place Himself in the center, with a jealous love that surpasses any connotation our small minds can conjure up about that uncomfortable word “jealous.” God doesn’t pout and sulk, as we do in our finite and foolish jealousy, He makes it so that He no longer has need to be jealous. He wrecks our walls of stubbornness, He throws over the idols in our hearts with no gentleness or subtlety but with a love that refuses to be undermined by a lie. It hurts and it cuts and it heals. Walking with Jesus is not about a “Happily Ever After” it’s a “Be the light of the world” even when the darkness is deafening and everything around you mocks you for believing. You believe anyway. You shine anyway. Faith is a life surrendered to pleasing God in the here and now, without always knowing the how, when, who and hanging desperately onto the “Why.” Why do I believe all this? Because He first loved me. He first loved you.