Sunday, December 1, 2013

Un Pezzo d'arte

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

While there are many new things in my life, no one can be pinpointed as the cause for the crash courses I've been going through lately. Lesson after lesson after lesson has bombarded me without rest or respite. As soon as one has ended another has taken it's place, sometimes within the hour. My mind and heart have been going through a boot camp I did not see coming. This is not a boot camp I volunteered for, it is one I have been drafted into and can only pray and rest in the hope that God is preparing me for whatever it is He has in store for me in my future. I will not claim to be handling this gracefully. The original black notebook looks as though it was dropped off the side of a building... in a thunderstorm... after being trampled by a marching band. It has seen quite a bit of action these past couple of months.

This morning I began to feel yet another lesson coming on, and in my state of recovery from this week's unexpected visit of amoebic dysentery (I'm not known to exaggerate in the slightest) I found myself growing angry. At what point does the heavenly firing squad stop? When do I get to enjoy the fruits of my education? When do I get to feel as though I'm actually further up the side of the mountain rather than spinning my wheels in the mud?

I had been thinking about a question I had been mulling over for a couple of weeks and the answer was beginning to reveal itself, yet there was a large piece still missing. I knew that it was the part where I'm actually shown how to do it. The frustration that flared up inside of me had me saying in exasperation, "Lessons mean nothing if You aren't going to show me how to apply them. Why does everything have to be so cryptic? Why does everything have to be so draining and hard and why can't You just give me a break?" Because, you know, getting frustrated with God is helpful.

The question wasn't just a passing inquiry, not just something I was curious about. It was a genuine matter of which side of the fork do I take? A "where do I go from here" big deal kind of question.

After yet another session of praying and seeking without a reply, I reached a point where I was fed up. Fed up with myself for being so apparently dense and fed up with my petitions to God to help me on this one.

Then I did something I'm not accustomed to doing: I stopped moving and shut down my mind. Truthfully, I did it because I was so angry and wanted to think of nothing. I wanted to shut everything out and stew in my own mix of unproductive emotions. Okay, I'll admit it, I was pouting. At God. I felt the cosmic eyebrow raise of "really, Jess?" right there in my living room.

You want to know what happened?

I got my answer.

And it stung.

It pricked like the needle of a vaccination. What followed behind the correction was exactly what I needed, but the delivery itself was humbling. Today my answer was almost secondary to the realization that all of this is preparation.

Sometimes we will go through seasons that aren't what we imagined. We will be expected to do things and face things we have never had any intention of dealing with. Seasons that leave us feeling as though we are being pruned to the point of there being nothing left. We tend to forget the beautiful tree we become. We forget the growth that happens after the forest burns down. We forget that He never promises us it will be easy. 

Yes, I have felt angry at God asking the question of, "when do I just get to enjoy it?" I have been feeling as though I have been robbed of moments I've been waiting so long for. It seems as though after each of them there is something He has for me to see, and sometimes it is downright painful. There are things coming up out of me that have been buried for literal decades and I never saw it coming. And sometimes the places and company He has me in when He reveals this to me isn't exactly opportune. But we don't always get to hide and look like we got it all together. We don't always get to deal with it on our own. Sometimes He puts people in our lives to help, whether we know how to accept that or not.

What I realized this morning is that despite this, despite all of the turmoil, despite the almost constant uncertainty, there is something new growing. 

What I thought was a state of stagnant progress is, in fact, a new piece of fruit ripening on the vine. What I believed was evidence that I am a nut job with an underground garage of crazy is actually signs that I am actively, purposefully, being targeted by God for something new.

The moments of weakness I have been ashamed of have, each and every one of them, made me just a little bit stronger.

While I have been so busy focusing on all of the debris coming off on the threshing floor, being embarrassed by the sheer quantity of it, I have managed to forget the new creation that the Master is revealing underneath it all.

And can I tell you something else? I discovered the little pearl buried underneath all of this mess that has truly been eluding me. I have struggled and wrestled with how a person can just enjoy it all while this is going on. When, God, do I get to enjoy these new things while you are cutting away at me like a Christmas turkey? Do I honestly have to wait until You’re done before I get the release?

No.

The enjoyment comes from picking your eyes up off the threshing floor and looking to the wheat. It comes from Him showing you what He is revealing and reveling in how much more beautiful your heart is becoming. It’s knowing that despite all that is being taken away, despite the pain of it and the vulnerability of being so exposed, you are so truly loved by God that He is taking the time to do it. He is taking those little moments that you think are being diminished by all of this instruction and He is preparing you for even richer, deeper, more beautiful experiences free of all the waste that clouded them before.

In that knowledge alone, for whatever reason, I felt a peace and a weight lifted from me. I am not such a far distance from what I am becoming, and I am free to taste and enjoy what He has in front of me right now. It really is just that simple, and while I may be an incredibly slow learner, I am happy that it finally clicked.

Each lesson is another swipe of the knife, sheering off more dead weight, revealing that much more of who He is calling me to be. I am not the excess waste being clipped. I am not defined by what I have carried with me this far in life. I am the new piece of art slowly being exposed underneath.

I. Am. A. Masterpiece.

And those don't happen overnight.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Zombie Apocalypse: Somebody Just Needs A Hug

"in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." (Isaiah 30:15)

You were hurt. You were wounded to the point that there were more holes than heart left. Essentially, you were just another walking dead. You were moaning through life single-mindedly trying to find one thing that could satisfy you despite being so broken. You couldn't enjoy it even when you thought you found it, and usually those things just left more wounds.

Rejection was par for the course. Abandonment was always just a matter of time. Bad relationships were the only kind you knew. Words became something to fear and the idea that you were someone worth loving and caring for was about as foreign as it could possibly be.

Tonight I'm sitting here in my apartment reflecting on yet another point God has been walking me through, because it's a lesson ALL OF THE TIME ALWAYS.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Don’t Be That Kid in Walmart

So often we ask God for something, and so often we are not given it. How do you respond to that? Do you find yourself suppressing feelings of resentment because you haven’t received the answer to your prayer? Do you feel guilty for having thoughts like that toward God and then feel an element of defeat? You wish you could remember even in the midst of your loss or denied fulfillment that God is a good God and you have to trust Him even when it doesn’t make sense. Why can’t you be the gracious child that may be disappointed when their mother tells them “no” in the store but acts respectfully all the same? Rather, you’re more like the kid that throws themselves down in the middle of an aisle in Walmart kicking and screaming in rage that they can’t have the toy they’ve asked for.

I’ll admit it, I’ve been that kid. I’ve thrown an epic holy fit because I was denied something I wanted and I can tell you that I didn’t feel the slightest bit better when it was over. Not one bit. As a matter of fact, I felt ashamed that I allowed a flesh-flash to take over and make me come unglued. To make matters worse, I’m a thinker. I think and think and think on something until my head looks like a cassette tape that got chewed up by the radio in my first car. No pencil-winding could ever straighten out those ribbons after the jaws of death of my tape deck got ahold of them. My mind can sometimes resemble that if I allow it, making my frustrations even bigger and my reactions even more nuclear.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

You Can’t Have My Bucket - The Wisdom of My Father

I was talking on the phone with my Dad, a man that somehow manages to read my heart better than I do half the time. I didn’t say anything about what I was feeling, I just participated in small talk and told him about my day. The conversation didn’t go very long before he asked me what was wrong. I don’t know how he does that, he just knows. I told him I was tired. Not physically tired, just weary. I felt like everything I was doing was right but that I was running out of ability. I just left it at that, but he knew what I meant. I am so thankful that I had enough foresight to grab a pen and paper when he responded. This is what he said to me:

~~~

Jessie, your bucket is called the Joy of the Lord. You use it to access the wells of God called Power, Security, Healing, Authority, Peace, Knowledge of Who He is. There are more wells than you can name and each of them is filled to the brim, ready for you to drink from them. This is the tool you use to draw from Him.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shelving Emerson - Why I Am Done Making Plans

I’ve been reading a lot of Emerson lately and I have found myself struggling between two philosophies.

On one hand, I see the merits of living a life full of plans and goals and working to make them come to fruition. Most generally, this is the way we work as human beings as we are taught from childhood that certain things equal success, and meeting or surpassing these benchmarks will make us happier overall. We equate the completion of a goal as something to be proud of and we honor the great people that do amazing feats that take months or even years to complete. As a rule, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this ideal.

We applaud the Olympic athletes that make the records and walk away with the medals. We watch in awe as men and women launch themselves from obscurity to world-renown. We read biographies of people that have clawed their way out of humble beginnings to become goliaths in business or art or science. These people keep us motivated to move forward as a species and reach even greater heights.