vending machine jesus.

vendingmachine

put your dollar in.  push e16.  get your snickers. simple enough.

unless it gets stuck on those revolving metal circles.  in which case you will probably try to shake the thing and curse it when the snickers is still hanging there.  you’ll either sacrifice another dollar in an effort to get your prize  or you’ll walk away frustrated, angry and swearing off both candy bars and vending machines.  forever.  because they are from the devil.  am i right?

today is good friday.

 

i sat down and read the story of the crucifixion this morning.  because good christians should do such a thing on days like today.  i would like to tell you that my heart was overflowing with thankfulness and i am completely undone by how much jesus has done for me and that i feel the swelling hope that ‘sunday is coming’ and everything that means for my salvation and for my life.

but none of that happened.  instead.  i realized i treat jesus like a vending machine.

i worship and praise and read my bible and go to the women’s group.  and then i make my request.  e16, if you would, jesus.  i’ll take that perfect job, the healing i’ve been asking for, the husband and 2.5 kids.  i’ll take the provision, the relationships, the hope and peace.  could i please have the miracle.  e16 jesus.  i don’t think it’s too much to ask for.  afterall, i just put my dollar in.  and you know, that dollar was quite a sacrifice.  so if you could please oblige with the e16 that’d be great.

but then.  the e16 doesn’t come.  and i spiral into disappointment and rejection and frustration because of course the machine would break on me.  today of all days.  because the world hates me and i will never eat another candy bar as long as i live and i hate vending machines.  they must be from the devil.

and then i take a nap and have a cup of coffee and give the vending machine another go at it.  sometimes it spits out what i’m asking for.  it’s usually pretty good to me.

so, here’s the thing that struck me today.

i hate that i still think and act this way.  i don’t want to treat jesus like a vending machine.  i desperately want the presence of the machine to be enough.  whether it ever delivers an e16 or not.  i want to be a woman who is thankful and content with the presence.  so for as much as he has already done and given, today i’m asking for more.  i’m asking for more softening of my still resistant heart.  because even that has to be an act of grace.  a labor of love.

would my heart and my life be one that puts in the dollar without any expectation of something in return.

gratitude lately.

lately, i’ve been really thankful for :

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free entertainment [thanks, bo] and a chance to be famous for a minute.

road trips with friends that give room for catching up and worshipping like fools again. for small reminders that he is indeed faithful.  for provision that is beyond what i expected and the promise of abundance.  for snapchat declarations that my kids in africa send me.  for sunshine and the warmer weather.

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and for random reasons to celebrate.  [read : eat cake] happy international women’s day!

gratitude lately.

i read a lot of blogs.  i know it’s kind of geeky but i look forward to my google reader being full and having lots of things to browse.  one of the bloggers i follow pretty religiously does a series on gratitude.  she posts about things she’s thankful for every so often.  and i like it.  so i’m stealing the idea.

lately, i’ve been thankful for :

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creative provision that comes in the form of jury duty checks and gift cards i’d forgotten about.

for road trips with friends and new sounds to worship to.

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i’m thankful for snap chats.

and skype calls with favorites [especially when african babies are also included]

i’m thankful for hot tea and rainy days.  for friends that live upstairs.  for delicious dinners and facetimes with family.  i’m thankful for a car that drives and naps in my cozy bed.

for potential and possibility and for things on the horizon.  

goodbye desert. hello promised land.

for me, the traveling has finally come to a halt.  four months on the field and then eight weeks of traveling to san francisco to missouri to georgia to ohio back to georgia on to hawaii back to georgia and then seventeen hours to south africa and back to georgia again. i was tired.  after south africa i kind of crashed.  i was sick and jetlagged and just needed to rest for a minute.  i’ve only been home a week and a half, but already feel much more alive and recuperated.

in my resting this last week i’ve been sitting at home.  a lot.  it’s nice to be back in a place that feels familiar and cozy and safe.  sleeping in my own bed again.  sitting on my own couch.  sipping coffee and letting candles burn. my house is empty during the day as my roommates go off to their jobs. i need myself one of those jobs, so i’ve spent a lot of time searching, filling out applications, re-doing my resume (over and over and over), sending emails, waiting for emails.  i wait a lot these days.  and push refresh on my inbox incessantly.

waiting. hoping. praying.

in my waiting and hoping and praying i’ve had my itunes keeping me company.  some of my favorites are about to release a new album.  i pre-ordered it because i’ve got enough things to wait on these days.  it’s seriously been on repeat for six days.  one song in particular is settling on me.

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“you’re faithful. you’re faithful. you’re faithful.
and i’m thankful.
goodbye desert. hello promised land.
i’m shaking off the dust of hopelessness.
and i’m starting to believe again.”

 

one more time, these are the things i’m choosing to say yes to.  today, the declarations don’t have me standing on furniture and screaming (although i’m never opposed).  instead it’s in the quiet, peaceful, resting place that i can feel the “yes” becoming more and more a part of who i am.

purpose in the in between.

as soon as she walked in she reminded me of my eight year old self.

i was skinny, awkward, unsure and shy.  i remember begging my mom to take me to church because in my head somehow it computed that if we went the things at home would somehow calm down.  i knew there was peace to be found in such a place, even at such a young age.  i was too scared to go off with the other kids and so i would sit with my mom and i would just cry.  every week i would sit in the pews at that baptist church with tears streaming down my face.

church pewseventeen years later it was all i could do not to cry during worship two weeks ago.  there was much pain in her eyes.  a lack of trust that has been built through disappointment and abandonment.  there was such a nervous energy and a desperate longing for someone to notice it.  i could see the tears welling up in her eyes.  she didn’t know it, but the lord was working and moving and tenderizing her little heart.  just as he had done to mine.  for all of the hard things in her eyes, i mostly saw hope.  hope that she doesn’t even know she needs.

for almost an hour all i could hear the lord say was “there is purpose in the in between.”  we’re constantly moving from beginnings to endings.  and so much of our lives are the in between of something.  for me, two saturdays ago, an ending came to something and i saw purpose in such a long in between.  there has been purpose in seventeen years of crying in churches.  seventeen years of becoming softer, more trusting and less walled up.  moving from someone who could barely speak to someone who has had to learn the art of just keeping my mouth shut.

the purpose often looks like a process.  in this case, it has looked very long and messy as much of my processes do.  but if it got me to the point of seeing her, hugging her, knowing in my spirit that “i get it” then that’s enough.  not because it has to be enough but because, for the first time, it really is.

as per usual, there are lots of in betweens happening in my life.  i’m in between jobs.  in between seasons of my life.  in between relationships looking certain ways.  i’m somewhere in between being a complete mess and being completely put together.  i’m in between having no answers and having it all figured out.  in jesus name, i’m somewhere in between being single forever and having found the perfect one.

there’s always an in between of something.  probably lots of somethings.  but there is purpose in it.  and today, that reminder is enough.

how about you?  what’s the in between you’re in today?

simple reminders.

so, here’s the thing.  seven weeks ago i left a group of twenty three people.  i’d basically fallen for all of them and was devastated when i had to say goodbye.  since returning stateside i’ve been keeping myself busy; traipsing all about.  sleeping on couches, in other people’s beds, hotel rooms, and plenty of naps on plenty of planes.  tomorrow i’m starting my last big trip (at least a trip that’s planned) to south africa to see my people.

i’m basically beside myself excited.

i’ve been packing and prepping all week long and here’s what i’ve noticed.  i think that  the lord feels similarly about me as i feel about them.

i was writing notes to them and over and over and over again i just kept writing “i’m proud of you.”  and i am.  incredibly.  so proud of who they are becoming, the ways they are saying “yes” to whatever the lord puts in front of them.  i’m proud of how they have fun, how they celebrate each other, how they earnestly pursue the voice of the father.

and because i love them i’ve been running around like a crazy person to get them the stuff they want.  starbursts.  check.  chapstick.  done.  new underwear because, let’s be honest, six months of hand washing them suckers…..  but it doesn’t feel like a hassle to bless them.  i’ll spend all of the time and money i have because they’re worth it.

and, i don’t know.  maybe my sentiments are just extra strong these days.  but its been such a good picture this week of how the lord thinks of me.  he’s proud.  even in the mess and the brokenness and the having nothing figured out…he’s delighted.  and he’s happy to give me the things i ask for, just because i ask.  i don’t do anything to earn them.  i’m just worth it because he says so.  he’s happy to bless me.

so, that’s it.  nothing incredibly profound for you today.  just a simple reminder.  he sees.  he knows.  he’s proud of you.  he’s happy to bless you.

with that, i’m hopping back across the pond.

unanswered prayers.

at the risk of sounding cheesy and cliche and potentially making someone gag at my christianese :

have you heard that country song about unanswered prayers?  i couldn’t tell you who sings it, but the line has been on repeat in my head for several days now.  “some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

last year around this time i started looking for a new job.  i felt like i needed to begin exploring options outside of aim, outside of what had become really normal and comfortable.  i looked and looked and prayed and cried and looked.  and finally i found it.  it was the perfect job at what seemed like the perfect school.  it was far enough away that i would be on my own, but not across the country from my community and my people.  it was the ultimate blend of discipleship and administration. it was flexible.  it paid well.  it would offer me a chance to continue my education.  it was exactly right.  and i wanted it.  i really, really, really wanted it.  more than wanting it; i was absolutely, positively convinced that it’s what the Lord had for me.  every door opened up.  and i knew that in august i would be starting a new job in a new place.  and i was thrilled.

and then the door slammed right in my face.  

and i didn’t get the job i had dreamed about, hoped for and begged for.  i was upset, confused and spinning.  i had no idea what i was going to do.  and then i showed up to training camp.  and you all pretty much know what happened there.  the lord said that if i wanted a gift, i could have it. so i said yes.  mostly because i really wanted it.  partially because i didn’t have a better option.

i can promise you that the last three and half months have been one of the best gifts the lord has ever given to me.

it’s been an emotional and exhausting few days as i’ve wrapped up and said goodbye to my squad.  i’ve handed things over and worked really hard to not enter this transition kicking and screaming.  i’ve been sitting alone in the beijing airport for the last twelve hours and as weird as it is to be boarding a plane again, my heart and my spirit are really at peace.  if i’m overwhelmed by emotion it’s just because i am so very thankful for what this season has been.

thankfuli’m thankful for the ways i’ve come alive.  for the passions the lord has reignited in me.  i’m thankful for the way my kids have opened themselves up and let me be a part of their own processes and journeys.  i’m thankful for the fun i had on busses and beaches and malls.  i’m thankful for honduran street kids that reminded me that kingdom living doesn’t have to be complicated.  i’m thankful that i got to be a part of walking people through freedom…even if it was in the middle of the night.  i’m thankful for conversations and tears that came in my tent, for every coffee date i had and for furniture to stand on when i taught 23 timid people how to do declarations.  i’m thankful that they aren’t so timid anymore.

i’m thankful for people at home who love me and support me.  for instagram likes and blog comments and emails and facetimes and text messages.  i’m thankful for the ways he showed up when i needed him most.  i’m thankful for a new season of rest and celebration and provision.  i’m thankful that i’m more settled in who i am today than i was yesterday. or two weeks ago.  or six months ago.  and i’m thankful that as good as this was – it’s not the best thing or the only thing he’s ever going to give me.

i’m just.  yes.  thankful.  that he works all things together for the good of those who love him. and that despite my begging and hoping and praying – he had something good in store for me, even in the midst of my disappointment and confusion.

and at the moment, i am most thankful that even though i’m not there anymore, i get to cheer and pray and encourage and remind and blog stalk and visit the 23 kids i fell in love with. that now i just get to sit back and watch what they do and what the lord does.  it’s been a privilege to be a part of it.

uncomfortable rides.

david, katie, brian and i have been staying with team willow in chanthaburi, thailand.  we’ll be here for almost a week before we head back to bangkok and i have to get on a plane and say goodbye next week.

yesterday we drove in the back of a truck for about three hours so that we could attend a celebration for a church that was opening up their new building.  we were greeted with smiles and ushered to dinner where we were served a nine course meal.  of course we were asked to sing a rousing rendition of “lord i lift your name on high.” people took pictures with us and of us and we were given gifts; screen printed hand towels.  we enjoyed ourselves and were thankful to be a part of something so special.

and then we had to get back in the truck.  and we had to drive three hours home.  and it was freezing cold.  it was the most uncomfortable i have been in a really, really long time.  eight of us laying on top of each other, huddled together trying to stay warm.  those hand towels came in handy as little blankets that helped block the wind.

so, there i was.  really, really uncomfortable.  except, in the middle of it, there was also some sweetness.  there was a starry sky.  a cuddle sesh with some of my favorites.  extra squeezes when we went over bumps.  there were laughs and screams and sighs of relief when we finally made it home.  for all of the uncomfort, i couldn’t help but be thankful that this was life.  because how many times will i get to sit in the back of a truck in thailand?

and then i started thinking about how uncomfortable the next several weeks are about to feel.  leaving the people i’ve fallen in love with.  figuring how to fit back in to certain molds…again.  feeling like i’m missing out.  making adult decisions and adult plans for my life.   it’s hard and doesn’t feel good.  but.  there is sweetness in it, too.  there are stars in the sky and christmas celebrations to be had.  there are cuddle sessions with other favorites that are long overdue and coffee that’s brewing.  uncomfortable?  you bet.  but there is sweetness and goodness to be found in the midst of it.  and i’m determined to find all of the gifts the lord has hidden away.  even if i’m looking for them through tears.