To You

I recently heard a pastor say, “God takes us from glory to glory. There’s glory, and there’s glory. But then there’s “to.” That “to” part. It’s the fine print of the Bible! But the whole Kingdom is built on it.” PREACH.

This particular season of my life feels like that “to” – a really slow and really long “to.”

I re-read my last blog post and legit considered deleting it because I’m having a difficult time today. Today, I definitely do not have faith – not even as small as a mustard seed. The other day, I ain’t gonna lie – I straight-up called God a liar. Of course, I repented (a few times). My head knows that God is good. My head knows that God loves me. My head knows that God is not a liar. My head knows which Bible verses to recite to counsel my soul. My head knows that I need to shift myself out of this funk. My head knows I will yet praise Him.

But, my heart. Oh, my heart. My heart does not believe. My heart does not feel any hope. My heart does not feel loved. My heart will not be counseled. My heart is in pain.

Honestly, I don’t understand why God has this annoying habit of making grandiose promises to people. Here you are, minding your own business, living your best life now, when God decides to appear to you in a vision, or in a dream, or in the flesh. Then, He proceeds to announce the grand plans He has for you, plans that span continents, generations, dimensions. Those plans weren’t even on your radar screen. Heck, you were just trying to settle down and live a normal life, raise a family and tend some sheep. Then, the Lord goes MIA for awhile. You wonder if you were imagining things. You wonder if your mind was playing tricks on you. But then, God reappears every so often to remind you that the dream is still alive. Days turn into months. Months turn into years. Years turn into decades. Then, maybe, finally, (hopefully?!) the dream becomes a reality.

I don’t understand why God bothers to announce His plans and His promises way before – way, way, way, way, way, waaaaay before – He ever plans to execute on them. Why doesn’t He just keep the secret to Himself and let me live my life?! Y’know, I was doing just fine before God decide to freakin’ plant all these ridiculous ideas in my head. I sometimes wonder – if I never had any of these dreams, these plans, these hopes, these ideas in my head, would I be struggling with discontent and dissatisfaction? Wouldn’t the quality of my life be so much better, wouldn’t my life be so much more peaceful, if God hadn’t started all this?

Christopher Nolan, you ain’t got nothing on inception. Y’know who the Academy Award goes to? GOD. God is the Jedi Master of all inception.

I often use the phrase “glory to glory” when I want to encourage someone (myself included). But, I often use it in the context of being taken from glory to glory – in other words, being taken or moved from one place or position to a better place or position. However, the Bible doesn’t actually say that. Rather, it says: But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” [2 Corinthians 3:18]

When I was complaining bitterly to God the other day, I heard Him ask me two questions:

  1. Do you love me? (In other words, if I never come through on what I promised you, will you still love Me?)
  2. Do you love my people?

Seriously, God? I wanted to talk to You about hope deferred. I wanted to talk to You about faith, because your girl is struggling so You better lend me some more. I wanted You to give me a sign I’m on the right track – throw me a fleece, give me some dew, give me something! And, in true “I AM WHO I AM” fashion, You come at me with some questions. And suddenly I realized – Dangit, I’ve got it all wrong. Again.

The way I define “glory” is essentially the same way I define success. In my puny, finite human mind, I’m thinking  God will take me from glory to glory by increasing me in position, place, promotion. I’m thinking influence, excellence, favor. I’m thinking blessings on blessings on blessings. I’m thinking of advancement and acceleration from one life stage to the next.

But, that’s not how the Bible defines glory.

The Bible says that we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory. Therefore, the transformation is a transformation of being, of likeness, of image – not of position or place. And what is “the same image?” God is interested in conforming me to His image. God is interested in conforming me into the likeness of Jesus, for “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” [Hebrews 1:3] This is how God defines His glory and this is how God “takes” us from glory to glory – that I would yield and, therefore, be transformed into the same image, the image of His Son, from glory to glory. That I would yield and be transformed into the image of Jesus, “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” [Philippians 2:6-8] That I would yield and be transformed into the image of Jesus, gentle and humble in heart. [Matthew 11:29] That I would yield and be transformed into the image of Jesus, who had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him,” who was “despised and forsaken of men.” [Isaiah 53:2-3] That I would yield and be transformed into the image of Jesus, who asked Peter to feed His sheep, who washed the feet of His disciples, who makes intercession for all of us even now, who is the conquering Lion of Judah but also the Lamb that was slain, who makes it impossible for us to be separated from the love of God.

So between here and there, between now and then, between the promise and the palace, as the pastor I quoted earlier said, this is the “to” stuff, this is the is “to” stuff that the Kingdom is built on. God is able and God is willing to come through on His promises. He is faithful – it is His nature, He cannot deny Himself. So, because of who He is, I need not concern myself with the when and how. All I need to concern myself with is yielding to this journey of being transformed into His image from glory to glory. All I need to concern myself with is allowing Him to teach me how to love Him and love others.

God, thank You for bringing me back to the stuff that matters, the stuff that is eternal. Thank You for shepherding my heart and my soul back to green pasture, back to the well that never runs dry. Even though the road is narrow and the road is long, I remember that it is one that leads to You.

 

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It’s Not Me, It’s You

This is actual footage of me walking into every situation and every room.

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All jokes aside, this visual does accurately depict how I expected to enter 2017.

My expectations for 2017 pwnage were further confirmed by a text my sweet friend sent at the beginning of 2017: “Nancy, 2017 is going to be your b!tch.” She texted this to me after sharing she saw an image of a double rainbow while praying for me (which double rainbow served as confirmation that 2017 was going to be “your year”). And she texted all this to me as I happened to be gazing upon an actual double rainbow in the sky. Let me give you some insider information on Charismatic Christians: We love rainbows. Double rainbows? Even better. In the Bible, rainbows symbolize covenant (which is like a holier way of saying “promise”). So, seeing a double rainbow while being told by a friend that she just saw a double rainbow image as she was praying for me?!? I mean, probably the only thing that could top all that would be an angelic visitation.

I’ll spare you the details about all the confirmations on confirmations on confirmations I received with respect to why 2017 would be “my b!tch.” Let’s just say, short of sending Gabriel the archangel to me, God wanted to get my attention. He sent me sign after sign, word after word, to remind me that I could trust Him to make good on all His promises.

Y’know what I realized about trusting God? If there is any amount of waiting involved in trusting, the spirit is kinda sorta willing and the flesh is definitely weak. In other words, I suck at waiting well. Sure, I can wait – while I cross my arms, roll my eyes, and throw a bunch of temper tantrums and all sorts of baseless accusations at God. Unfortunately, waiting well is a practice that can only be perfected by,…practice. Sigh. Of course.

What does waiting well even look like? Not that I have already obtained it but, what I’ve learned is that waiting well looks like hope, a joyful expectation of God’s goodness. Waiting well looks like faith, having confidence in what I hope for and assurance about what I do not see. Waiting well looks like trust, believing that God will make good on His word. Waiting well looks like worship, giving Him the thanksgiving and praise of which He is always, always worthy. Waiting well looks like celebration, rejoicing with other’s breakthroughs and victories as if they were my own and vehemently refusing to allow comparison or competition drive a wedge between me and my community. Waiting well looks like Jesus on the night before He went to the cross, praying “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” But, waiting well also looks like active wrestling with God, confessing “Lord, I do believe; help my unbelief!” and allowing Him to comfort, counsel, and exhort me.

Sure, I might know all this in my head but, that knowledge doesn’t translate into belief or action until it’s tested and refined in the fire. When hope is deferred and my heart is sick with longing and tired of waiting, it’s so easy to allow disappointment, unbelief, hopelessness, anger, bitterness, jealousy, envy, competition, and striving to take root in my heart, causing me to accuse God or try to take matters into my own hands. I legit need to counsel myself on a regular basis NOT to do as Abraham, father of the faithful, did. “Don’t go creating any Ishmael’s, girl.” Like, literally. Don’t do it. No matter how fine that boy is. Sigh.

But, God. BUT, GOD!!!!!!

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Alas, 2017 has come and gone and I have yet to see many of God’s promises fulfilled. Another year to add to more than a decade and a half of waiting. Sigh. So, on New Year’s Eve, instead of ringing in the new year with a bunch of fanfare, I sat in tears before God, demanding an explanation for 2017. God, didn’t You tell me over and over again that this was going to be “my year?” God, didn’t You assure me over and over again that You would not forget the promises You made? God, why bother telling me anything about anything if You don’t intend to deliver on it right away?!? Are You just playing with my heart?!?

As I sat with God, I realized that, somewhere along this long and narrow road, I had started to trust in myself – my faith in God, my love for Him, my works – and I had started to believe that I was earning what I had been promised. How so? Because I had been “oh-so-faithful.” Because I had been “oh-so-obedient.” Because I had been doing such a “good job” as a Christian. Because I had been working so diligently and with such excellence. Because I had waited on God for so many years. Because I had “paid my dues.” Because I was a woman of such “great faith.” Because all I have to do is believe hard enough, long enough,…right? Haven’t I checked all the boxes of what is required of me to be a “deserving” Christian? Haven’t I already fulfilled the quota of whatever is required to take possession of what God said He’d give me?!

Wow. If I could physically step outside of my body, I would smack myself so hard it would deliver the spirit of stupid right outta me.

I suppose better late than never. [But, as a wise man once said, “But, never late is better.”] With humble (yet still pitiful, when I recognize the gravity of my sin) repentance, this is what I have finally come to understand:

First of all, God doesn’t owe me anything.

Second of all, if God makes a covenant with me, if He determines He wants to bless me, the truth is I will never deserve, nor will I ever be able to earn, what He desires to give me. Yes, He is a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him. Yes, we do receive earthly and heavenly rewards. But, God chooses to relate to me, to us, as a Father. Every and good and perfect gift comes from the Father. God is not Santa Claus. Santa only rewards you if you’ve been a “good kid.” (Also, Santa isn’t real.) But, in the truest sense of the word, a gift is freely given without expectation of payment, without condition. Once there is a condition placed upon a gift, it becomes a reward. I earn rewards but I do not earn gifts. I don’t get a better gift just because I “paid my dues” waiting on God. That would incentivize a formulaic way of thinking. If He decides to bless me with an exceedingly abundant gift, that’s because God is  exceedingly and abundantly extravagant. Also, shout-out to my best friend who rebuked me and reminded me that, if I obey God because I expect Him to reward me, I’m doing it for all the wrong reasons. Obedience to God is done purely out of love for God. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. [John 14:15] 

For example, let’s say I’ve remained celibate for a number of years out of obedience to God. Let’s also say God has promised me a husband. I am not going to be rewarded with a “better” husband because, in obedience, I have remained celibate. If God has promised to give me a husband, the gift will reflect the unconditional love, sovereign goodness, and unmerited favor of God. God isn’t like, “Girl, you’ve remained celibate for “x” number of years. Great job. You get an extra doggie treat, here you go!” Dude. I am not a pet, I am His daughter! And although God is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and I give Him lordship over my life – He is my Father. If God granted me gifts based on what I’ve done, based on my works, then He would establish an incorrect belief system in my heart – one based on my works and my righteousness. Thankfully, His goodness is not dependent upon me. Thankfully, His goodness is not conditional. That is why He is THE LORD. HE IS WHO HE IS. He is not like a man whose heart and whose words can shift like shadows, winds, and waves. He is simply good, through and through.

Third of all, the only One I can trust and trust in, the only One who is good, the only One who is faithful, is God. Listen, if God said it, that’s the only confirmation I need. He is faithful, He cannot deny Himself. It is His nature. It is His character. It is who He is and who He is determines how He is. God’s word is sufficient so the only thing I need to do is believe Him. I don’t need rainbows 🌈 on rainbows 🌈 on rainbows 🌈 to serve as a sign in the sky. I don’t need a bunch of prophets and prophetesses retelling me what God has already told me. I don’t need archangels visiting me in the middle of the night to deliver a message from the Lord of hosts. And my “faith” (which, by the way, doesn’t even look or smell remotely like faith when I compare it to the faithfulness of the One who is called the Faithful and the True) is not going to force God’s hand, manipulate Him to sympathize with my cause, or speed things up to align with my personal schedule. There isn’t some magical spell prayer that will hocus-pocus summon the Lord and cause the stars to align. I can’t will myself to have even more faith so that, maybe if my faith is “big enough,” it will awaken mighty-sleeping-giant God to act. Who do I think He is?!? A magician? A genie? A puppet? A god (as opposed to the one and only true God)? A man? He is God Almighty, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the One who has always been and always will be, the One who spoke the heavens and the earth into being, the One who upholds all things by the word of His power. His words inherently have creative power. If He has pledged something to me, then I damn well better believe Him.

Yes, there are absolutely occasions when faith requires action. However, if that is the case, God will lead you, He will give you the directive and the directions. (There are plenty of examples in the Bible. Read it.) But, more often than not, God will give you the promise and that’s the only clue you get, homie.

How wretched of me to put my trust in anything but the Lord. How wretched of me to doubt the living and active word of God. How foolish of me to put my faith in my works and in my “faithfulness.” How wrong of me to believe that I could earn, that I had earned, what You have promised. How wicked of me to obey You, not because I simply love You, but because I had a hidden agenda, because I expected something in return from You. Lord, I repent. I repent. I repent. Have mercy on me, Son of David! My love, my faith, my works, my faithfulness, my righteousness – all of it is as filthy rags. The only one found faithful was You. The only One who is good is You. The only thing You ask of me is to trust You, to believe You, to take You at Your word. God, You always say what You mean and mean what You say. Once Your word goes forth, it will not return to You empty, it will accomplish what You desire, it will succeed in the matter for which You sent it. So, if You said that 2017 was supposed to be “my b!tch,” “my year,” and my reality looks different than the truth You spoke, that just means You’re not done yet.

And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God.” [Mark 11:22]

Billie Jean Is Not My lover

If you know me, then what I’m about to share is no big secret and no big surprise.

I have (I had? I’m working on this becoming past tense) a crush on this trainer at my gym. This isn’t my first time around this rodeo. Like I said, if you know me, I tend to develop crushes on guys who are hot trainers, hot bartenders, hot musicians, hot dancers. Hm. I’m sensing a theme. Okay, I promise I’m really not as shallow as I sound. As the Lord does, I, too, look at the heart,…underneath a man’s chiseled, hairless chest.

So, I accidentally found my crush’s Instagram. Accidentally. I promise I was not intentionally looking for any of his cyber footprints. Until recently, I didn’t even know his name, how could I cyber stalk? I was casually, innocently perusing Instagram when a close-up of his face materialized. His freakin’ hottie face. WHY LORD WHY. It was like cyber breadcrumbs beckoning me. So, dangit, how could I not click on the photo?! And, dangit, how could I not notice his Instagram handle (which happened to be his name)?! And, dangit, the next thing I know, I am casually perusing all his photos and marveling at how one dude could be so genetically blessed. And….y’know, sometimes I honestly wonder if the Lord or the devil is giving me inspiration and, how convenient, a Scripture is coming to mind.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” [James 1:13-17]

Okay, but, LORD. Every good and perfect thing comes from You!

Andddddd I just re-read the verse. Frack. It says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above.” Well, as much as I would love for him to be gift wrapped in a big red bow and given to me as a gift, he’s definitely not for me and he’s definitely not mine. Sigh. Okay, fine, God. I guess You weren’t the one who led me to my crush’s Instagram page. God, I repent for thinking that the Holy Spirit led me to my crush’s Instagram page. I am sure I have a few other things to repent for – namely, all the stuff mentioned in James 1:13-17. ANYWAY. This mini-episode of conviction and repentance was not the point of this post – although I did get a very quick response to my question about the source of inspiration so thank You, Holy Spirit. I can always count on You to guide me into all truth and away from hot crushes and their Instagram pages.

Where was I. Oh yeah. So, I accidentally found my crush’s Instagram and discovered that homeboy models on the side. Of course he does. Why wouldn’t he? Somebody as beautifully sculpted and aesthetically gifted as him would be doing the world a disservice if he wasn’t eternally memorialized on the Interwebs. I also discovered that homeboy has a girlfriend. Of course he does. Why wouldn’t he? Although I admit, I am a little perplexed that somebody as fine as him would be willing to tie himself down to just one woman. Before you denounce me, for the record, I am in no way advocating or justifying promiscuity (or any correlation between hotness and promiscuity – though I have been known to say, if any man deserves to date young and date often, it’s George Clooney). Rather, I find it admirable that my trainer crush has chosen to commit to one woman even though: a) some may assume an inverse relationship between hotness and commitment level and; b) he appears to have little reason or need to tie himself down since, um, thanks to Instagram, I also know how young he is (which, by the way, is not my fault because isn’t Instagram supposed to be the app that tells stories with pictures and not with words?!?).

Anyway. I need to let myself finish the point of this blog post. So, a couple weeks ago, I suddenly realized that the inevitable was about to occur. What is “the inevitable?” The inevitable is this: God never fails to remind me that He is both the lover of my soul and the c@ckbl@cker of my flesh. In Biblical terms, this is essentially what is means for Jesus to be both the lion and the lamb. Every single time I develop a crush, an interest, an attraction, somewhere in heaven, the angel sent to protect me is like, “AW HELL NAW NINJA GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN!” My angel must seriously have the best reflexes ever. EVER. Like, I barely even get the chance to think of doing anything stupid.

It’s a story I once loathed but now appreciate with hands-lifted-high praise because I see His grace all over it. Oh how He loves me! Whether God is banishing the guy from my building or to another country (because, yes, He has done that), He has saved me, time and time again, from so much unnecessary heartbreak. I sometimes joke that God uses Old Testament style interventions on me because He can’t trust me. But, all jokes aside, I know the real reason God has been so involved and so insistent on treating me like the wayward teenage daughter who isn’t allowed to date in high school: He loves me too much to let me get involved, get in trouble, get hurt, and get my heart broken. God isn’t trying to take away all my toys. God isn’t trying to control me. He is simply honoring a prayer I prayed to Him a long time ago. (Another story for another day because it’s too beautiful to profane with this heathen tale.) Thank You, Father, for doing Your part even when I forget (or, in many cases, refuse) to do mine. Thank You, Father, for never allowing me to “get in trouble.” Honestly, if God didn’t save the day (like, literally, every day), I might now be a bitter, overworked woman trying to stay on top of the hustle, support my poor lovechild, and fight back angry tears and curse words every time I hear Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Thank You, Lord Jesus. You can bl@ck the c@ck all day, errr’day.

So, just as “the inevitable” was about to occur, I decided to toss a little thought over to God. It wasn’t necessarily a prayer request, it was more like a low priority “nice to have” on a wish list. “God, right about now is when You typically intervene and remove the object of my attraction from my life. But, if You wouldn’t mind, could You please, please, please leave this guy alone? Could You just let him stick around? You know I won’t do anything stupid, I just want a little eye candy.”

The next week, to my delightful surprise, I saw my trainer crush at the gym! God, thank You for Your great mercy towards me!! Your mercies truly are new every morning! Your goodness truly knows no bounds! And the next day, as I reminded myself not to get too excited about seeing him again (after all, I told God I would stop acting stupid if He allowed my crush to stick around), as I spied the fine guy from the corner of my little eye, I also spied a vaguely familiar female walking next to him. Who was this mystery female? Where have I seen her before? And why is she wearing the same work attire as him?…

Because, friends and fam, as of that morning, my trainer crush’s girlfriend now works at the gym.

Wow, God. Good one. Good one, Lord. That was sneaky. So dang sneaky. Slow clap for the Lord of Hosts, y’all. Who can fathom the mind of the Lord? His thoughts truly are higher than mine. God: Forever Winning. Nancy: Zero.

Strangely, I am enjoying this unexpected plot twist. If anything, I am still laughing about God’s supreme sense of humor. Also, I am reminded that God is ridiculously merciful because, truly, my soul would have been a little downcast if I didn’t have a regular dose of eye candy. Thank You, Lord, for allowing the candy story to remain in neighborhood but ensuring that I have absolutely no reason at all to stop and hang around. Just “Pass Go” and do not collect. I get it, God. I get it.

Yes, I truly am happy that his girlfriend is around now. You can call me a lot of things – shallow, superficial, barely saved, a heathen, blah blah blah. But, one thing you can’t call me is jealous. Jealousy would imply that I like him but, y’all probably already know there’s another four-letter word that starts with the letter “L” that more accurately describes the real issue. ☹ (Also, please refer to bullet point number 4 below.) So, why exactly am I happy that his girlfriend is here?

  1. I am reminded of how much, how dearly, how jealously God loves me. [Refer to the section above regarding “the inevitable.”]
  2. I approve of my trainer crush’s choice of companion. Not that he needed me to sign-off. But, I ain’t gonna hate. The girl is pretty and she’s realllly cute – like, the super likeable, super cool, super down chick. Heck, even I legit wanna be her friend. Girl, let me at least shake your hand and say CON👏🏼GRA👏🏼TU👏🏼LA👏🏼TIONS. WELL DONE. To be honest though, if I had to choose an ideal partner for my trainer crush, other than choosing me, I probably would have chosen somebody like Gigi Hadid. Like, he is legit that status. But, I love that he chose someone who seems so girl-next-door approachable. I feel like that says a lot about him. (Also, it gives me hope that I might one day have a shot with somebody – somebody else! – as hot as him.)
  3. Trainer crush and his girl walked into the gym cracking-up over some joke. I had to stop myself from smiling. Let’s be honest – HOW CUTE ARE THEY?!? Now, I’ve ninja-style side-eye checked this guy out way more than I care to admit. So, other than his face and physique, I’ve noticed things like – I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile, I don’t necessarily get a friendly or warm vibe from him, and I suspect he has introvert tendencies. So, when homeboy walked into the gym, cracking up with his lady, it genuinely made me happy to realize – wow, she knows how to make him come alive. How can I be mad at that? And I noticed that he got a haircut. (Dangit, I am mad at that. Homie, can you please stop looking so good, it’s really annoying and distracting and I’d really like to respect your girlfriend so please tone down the hotness, okay?!?) I can only assume he did it to impress his girl. Okay, that’s super adorable. STOP IT.
  4. The fact that I am genuinely happy for my trainer crush and his girlfriend means, hallelujah, this is only a crush!! I most definitely do not like him. Whew! I know nothing about who he is underneath that Greek God body and, thank the Lord, I didn’t try to “fill in the blanks” by participating in that unhealthy, downward-spiraling game of “build your own idol.” It’s not rocket science but, after many failed crushes, I am finally able to separate fact (perfect abs) from fiction (perfect husband material). Remember those Old Spice commercials? Well, they’re fake. Lies. All lies. (Don’t judge me for being slow. But, yes, rebuke me for being stubborn.) Ladies, a word of advice to you: Don’t ever play the “build your own idol” game. Filling in the blanks is a slippery slope. The next thing you know, you’re combining your first name and his last name to see if there’s a “ring” to it (unintended pun) and imagining how beautiful your babies will be.
  5. The fifth reason why I’m happy my trainer crush’s girlfriend works at the gym is that her omnipresence provides a natural check to my prone-to-wandering eyes. She may be completely clueless about my crush but, that’s not the point – she deserves that respect. I wish I could say I had the integrity to respect her all the same if she weren’t here in the flesh and blood. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to; it’s just that, when I’m ninja-style side-eye staring at his trapezius, deltoids, triceps, and that head of beautiful, full, luscious hair, it’s easy to forget that she exists, that anybody else exists, that anything else matters.

Alright. Back to our regularly scheduled program, another episode of “Just Say No.” Thankfully, with the girlfriend around, I can already tell this mini-series is coming to a swift conclusion. Y’know what this reminds me of? It’s that familiar feeling of nearing the end of a most beloved ice cream cone. You’ve treated yourself to a double (maybe more like triple) scoop of your favorite flavors and, even though you have double or more the volume of ice cream, within three minutes, you are somehow already at the bottom of the cone, desperately trying to savor the last few licks, taking incrementally smaller bites in an attempt to prolong the inevitable end of your precious ice cream cone. Sigh. Good bye, hottie trainer crush. It was fun while it lasted. I can’t promise that I won’t ninja-style side-eye glance at you from time to time although I will try really, really hard not to admire you.

When temptation starts to call, when you’re standing right in front of me with the light of the sun creating an almost otherworldly aura around your hotness, acting like you don’t even realize how much of a distraction your existence is, I’ll just put my headphones on, turn aside and turn up the music, and remind myself how thankful I am that Billie Jean is not my lover.

 

Ask, Seek, Knock

7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” [Matthew 7:7-11]

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Lately, a few phrases have been on rotation in my heart, in  my mind. One of those is “how much more.” “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” Jesus even ends the statement with emphasis, with an exclamation point. This is serious! How much more. How much more! God, I know that this probably can’t be said of me now but – when I meet You face to face and You present to me an account of my life, I pray that You could say with joy that I erred on the side of obnoxious, offensive, childlike faith because I just asked, asked, and asked all that I could of You – because I trusted THAT much in Your goodness, because I trusted THAT much in You being a good, good Father to me.

 

I am not He

Dear ______,

I wish I had known you back then. I wish we could have been friends. Not the kind of “friends” who build a friendship on a collection of shot glasses, empty beer bottles, cigarettes, and forgotten Friday nights. I’d want to be the kind of friend who took the time to understand you even if you didn’t understand yourself half the time; the kind of friend who would listen, really listen, even if I didn’t agree with what you were saying; the kind of friend you could trust with your thoughts, your fears; the kind of friend who could bring out the best and the worst in you; the kind of friend you could argue with then laugh with in the same hour, then do it all over again; the kind of friend you didn’t have to impress with clever or witty conversation, or any sort of conversation; the kind of friend you could talk with nonstop but also sit beside in comfortable silence; the kind of friend that made you feel a little more alive and a lot more safe; the kind of friend who knew the deepest, darkest parts of your heart but was not afraid to go deeper still; the kind of friend who would fight alongside you and fight for you; the kind of friend who felt like home, like the family you always wanted but didn’t have.

I wish I could have been there when everything started to unravel, when everything started to crumble and it felt like you were being buried alive. I wish I could have been there when you locked yourself in a closet and cried so hard that your head and your heart felt like they were going to explode. You didn’t even know you had a heart until it started to bleed. You wondered how your heart could ache but not feel. You wondered if you would ever be able to sleep (unassisted) again. You wondered what you had done to be eternally damned “the walking dead.” I wish I could have been there when you started to remember, when everything started to make sense but then absolutely nothing made sense. I wish I could have been there when you started to demand the truth. The truth wasn’t kind, the truth took no prisoners. The truth set you “free” but the world seemed like a life-sized version of the same cage. You wanted to see everything in color, in the unforgiving light; strange how color so vivid could also be so flat, so bleak. I wish I could have been there when you couldn’t forgive yourself, when every look, every whisper seemed to be taunting you, when every finger seemed to be pointing at you. I would have silenced every look, every word; I would have chopped off every accusatory finger and hurled it back at the demons they belonged to. I wish I had been there when you tried to scream into the night but couldn’t because the screams and the shouts had been buried six feet under. I would have screamed with you, I would have screamed for you until I lost my voice and lost all consciousness, if it could have given you back your voice, if it could have given you back your childhood, if it could have given you back everything that was stolen.

I wish I could have been there with you through it all – every moment that seemed too long, every day that seemed so dark, every season that the sun escaped and hid from, every year that came and went but somehow stayed the same. I wish I could have held you when you felt the least lovable. I wish I could have been there to weep on your behalf when you were too numb to blink. I wish I could have held your hand when you felt the most alone. I wish I could have been by your side when you needed a friend. I wish I could undo everything that should never have happened, rewind time as easily as throwing back a piece of unwanted fruit, swap puzzle pieces in and out until they formed something cohesive, something beautiful.

But, I couldn’t be there. I couldn’t be that friend. And even now, I want so desperately to be that friend. Everything in me wishes that I could reach out and touch you. Everything in me wishes I could reach into your heart and resuscitate it. I wish I could open up your heart to trust again. I wish I could set you free to hope, to dream, to believe, to be. I wish I could make you understand, you don’t have to be perfect or right or good, you don’t have to be polished or put together – you only need to be you. I wish I could give you back the light in your eyes; I see it flicker when you laugh, when there is no caution, when there are no inhibitions. I wish I could peel away every layer of dullness and numbness that mummifies you so that you could see the softness, the tenderness underneath. I wish I could tear down the walls of cynicism and hardness that imprison the child inside. But, I can’t. I can’t make you see what I see. I can’t make you believe what I know to be true. I can’t make you feel again. I can’t turn back the hands of time. I can’t make it all better. I can’t be who I wish I could’ve been – who I wish I could be – for you. I can’t be what you need. Because I am not He.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
Psalm 139:7-12

30

You don’t have to tell me
What you think for me
In order for me to perceive
Exactly what you think
Of me

You don’t have to tell me
That you hate me
In order for me to understand
Exactly how little you think
Of me

You are not your brother’s keeper
So why be your sister’s keeper

You don’t have to tell me
That you don’t respect me
In order for me to know
Exactly how small I am
In your eyes

You don’t have to
Silence my voice my vote
In order to reduce me
To a number on a scale
(“not a whole integer, a fraction will do”)

All you have to tell me is
What you define as “beautiful”
What you swear is “your type”
What you believe is “the ideal woman”
What you revere as “worthy”
What you deem to be “truth”

And I hear
Your silence speak
I read the fine print of
A thousand words like
Ugly
Unattractive
Unworthy
Imperfect
Insufficient
Inadequate
Lacking

Perhaps it is true
that the Truth is ugly
that “there was nothing in her that man should desire”

Holiness is Godliness
But you found a way to purchase it for thirty pieces of silver

So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart,
To walk in their own devices.” – Psalm 81:12

money

A few years ago, one of my girl friends casually asked me, “Do you always wear flare jeans?”

Simple “yes or no” question, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong.

Allow me to demonstrate how somebody who scores high on “N” (that stands for “Intuition” on the Myers Brigg Type Indicator and basically means that I read into most statements instead of taking them at face value) processes what is supposed to be a simple question.

How a normal person interprets the question

1Blog - 1.2.jpg

How a strong “N” interprets the question

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Sigh. Yeah, I go 0 to 100 real quick.

Anyway, fortunately for my friend, I took my own advice and exited the “N” train at the suggested stop #7.

Me: “Well, I don’t wear skinny jeans because I don’t think my legs or my butt look good in them.”

Friend: “What?? I was just asking.”

Me: “Oh, you weren’t implying that my jeans are outdated? Wait. Are they outdated,…?”

Friend: “I mean, I guess they’re kind of 90s, early 2000s.”

Me: “Okay, fine. Britney Spears was my inspiration. Yeah, I guess I only wear flare jeans. I just don’t think I’d look good in skinny jeans.”

Fast forward about six months later. I am honestly so vain that I couldn’t let the conversation end there. I just had to know – Could I make skinny jeans work for me? (That and, I didn’t want to out my age by continuing to wear “I’m A Slave 4 U” jeans. I swear, denim is like carbon dating for women.) I literally spent half a year on the ultimate denim chase, hunting for the perfect pair of skinny jeans.

Anyway. Y’know what I discovered?

My ass looks money in skinny jeans. MONEY.

My legs looked longer. My butt looked even better. Lord, I repent for my unbelief!!

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am going to start writing again.

“Because writing is going to make your butt look even better?” NO. PAY ATTENTION.

Maybe the medium of choice is different. Okay, fine, my previously preferred medium of choice is now irrelevant, outdated, obsolete. Do not judge lest ye be judged. (R.I.P. Xanga.com. R.I.P. Blogspot.com. Respect.) And, for some reason, I now need to have rudimentary coding knowledge in my back pocket and an arsenal of “visual components” in order to blog. On top of all that, I might want to hire a freelance consultant of the millennial  variety to design a social media strategy. WTF. Is nothing easy anymore? I thought technology was supposed to make all this easier.

I guess I could just walk away from this. I mean, “this” isn’t much. But, am I really going to let a generation’s worth of developments on the Interweb stop me from pursuing an admittedly far-fetched dream of being a professional blogger and, perhaps someday, a legitimate author? Setting aside the impossible for a moment, am I seriously going to give-up before I even try? Am I going to write myself off before I even start writing again? Besides, isn’t every dream a far-fetched dream, an impossible dream? Isn’t every dream one that teeters between “so close” and “so far,” between an abyss of hopelessness and a horizon of possibility? I suppose it wouldn’t be a dream if it wasn’t, if it didn’t.

If I had never given skinny jeans a chance, I never would have known how money I look in them. Not only did I rediscover my backside and my legs (Glory, glory, hallelujah! Honestly, it still makes me wanna praise Him.), I also discovered that I don’t look as bad as I imagined I did – actually, that I look damn good – in a variety of cuts and styles. In fact, I discovered a whole new world of wardrobe possibility, not only in denim but also in every other clothing category.

What I am trying to say is – I would have remained in fashion and mental bondage if I had continued to limit myself to low-cut flares. Similarly, I will never know what I am capable of, where I could go, who I could be, until I try writing again. As Master Yoda would counsel, “Try, you must.” I would rather fall, fail, risk heartbreak and humiliation, than not try at all. Goodbye, comfort zone. Goodbye, pride. Goodbye, self-preservation. Isn’t there some inspirational quote that goes something like, if something is worth pursuing, it will always cost you something? Well, if I’m willing to buy designer skinny jeans, then I’m willing to pay $2.99/month and some heart palpitations, sweat, and tears to pursue this dream thing.

And, hey, if I fail, at least I fall on my cute butt. If I fail, at least I fail with style. And I wouldn’t trade that, any of that, for all the money in the world.