May 6, 2011
The other day, after what started off as a seemingly meaningless search for some scribble paper, I came across an old notebook that I had kept to collect both random and important thoughts, while I was living in NYC. As I flipped through the pages for a clean writing space, I discovered something I had completely forgotten about up until this point. The last few pages held an outpouring of my heart as I had begun to realize that my time in New York was coming to an end...
"Walking down a lonely street,
Lots of people around you,
But no space in-between,
you and the faces around you,
that seem so empty...
But I look up...and see...
The beauty in the ashes."
"I feel the end of something and the start of something new,
Came here with a dream and watched it fall apart.
Now back where I started and where does that leave me?
Broken and alone, feels like I'll never get home.
Your dream became your prison.
Now "trapped" in a place you're not sure you even want to leave.
Bound by a phantom of what you wanted things to be...
But hold on and don't let go,
'Cause I'm not bound and I'm not broken,
And the very thing that's left unspoken..."
(That's all I had for that one, I had stopped because the tears had started to flow)
...As I read through the disheartened words, I began to feel something stir inside me...and it was bittersweet. I remember where I was the day that I thought to write that. It was a cold and rainy February evening in the city and I was walking home after a long day. I had made it a point to take everything in, sort of burn it into my memory so that I wouldn't forget. As people were passing by, I noticed their expressionless faces, now much more than I had ever before. This blank stare had been the same expression I had held during my tenure in that concrete jungle. New Yorkers call it their "armor"; a sort of defense mechanism to keep out the bad...but in the process, also keeps out the potential good. They say in that city, you can be surrounded by people and still feel completely alone...and it's so true. Millions of people everywhere you go, personal space quickly becomes a thing of the past, and yet, still somehow, your heart can feel so alone, lost in a sea of empty faces...
Now 2 years removed and back in my home state of Ohio, I remember what had inspired that beauty in the ashes...walking through the rain...I happened to look up. A magical things happens in the city when it's raining. Especially at night! The clouds descend upon gotham and mix with the lights from the buildings, and suddenly the city is surrounded in a luminescent glow so beautiful, it almost takes your breath away. Couple that with what must have been my daily scripture for the day and there you have it..."beauty in the ashes"...
I smile as I read back through these...because now I know "what was left unspoken". I had no idea what was coming...
that my loneliness would be traded for a Faith family so loving that just keeps on growing...
that I would embark on a marking mission to Haiti...
that I would meet a Sister in Christ who would become the sister I never had, so close that I seriously cannot believe that I didn't even know her 2 years ago...
that I would pick up where an old friendship left off and that we grow even closer than we ever were before...
that my Faith would be challenged and grow in ways I never thought imaginable...
that I would be "saved" from my own prison of doubt, hopelessness, fear, and despair...
that I would discover Spiritualities (God manifested through us) that I still cannot wrap my head around...
that God would show me so many things in my dreams, that when I awake, leave me humbled, awestruck, and thankful...
that I would find the meaning of true "success", that no wordly or materialistic ideal could challenge
I smile because I had forgotten that I had ever felt that way; lonely, hopeless, and scared. I smile because I have joy...a joy so deep, that even the tears of sadness cannot erase.
And I found myself smiling as I read, whispering, "I had no idea what was coming..."
Sometimes, we have to give it all up before God can truly move us, before we can see what lays ahead. I can truly look back now and say that I may have surrendered what at the time was my entire life, but I would have missed out on more blessings than I can fathom or deserve. Even more amazing to me is that there is even more to come! I have most certainly not "arrived" by any means, but I'm definitely not where I was either. This wild ride is not over by any means!
And for everything that has happened the past 2 years...I can't wait to discover, still...what's left unspoken...
Feb 6, 2011
I am soooo excited! Seriously, I can't say that enough, if I could shout it from the mountain tops, I would get the the top of the mountain and then jump up and say it in mid-air, just so that the words would carry higher! I thought last year was a revelation within itself, but as if all of those glimpses into His plan weren't enough, God did it; He wowed me again! Not just once, but relentlessy since the beginning of the year, it's just been one Word right after the other just, bam, bam, bam!
It all started New Year's Day, I felt a change coming...I just didn't know what. I've been waiting for so long, I'd started to give up hope, but still sensing, even ever so slightly that it was coming. The next day came the day most people dread...I turned that daunting age of 30. But this wasn't just any day. I woke up and I knew that something was different. I couldn't place it, couldn't put my finger on it, but I just knew that things were about to change. My birthday happened to fall on a Sunday and just happened to fall on a day that I was to help lead Worship. As I arrived early that morning for practice, someone had pulled me aside and asked me if I was okay. I scoured my mind, searching for the reason that she might have asked me that, "yeah, why?", I asked expectantly. "Well, I know that most people get upset when they turned 30.", came the reply. I thought about it for a second and a crazy thing happened...I realized that I was actually excited about it! My 20's were so full of heartache and struggle, that I was glad to be done with them. My feelings toward it were something like, "pshh, whatever 20's! Let's get rid of that! Let's get a new decade in here!". This person later told me that she had never seen someone so excited for this "treacherous" birthday in her life! lol I love it :)
On that day, I felt God giving me new life. I heard Him telling me that this year was going to be different and that the new year not only symbolized fresh time, but a new decade, new life, and a new start. Sometimes, things like that are so mystical, you just can't put them into words. It's just something you know and feel from the bottom of your heart. It's like He whispers into your ear and you know that you will not be the same. I felt a peace and a reconciliation for those earlier years.
I had been wanting to get rebaptized for a while, I knew that was something I had to do to take that final step of obedience and sweet surrender. To lay that old life to rest and be cleansed into a new beginning. I just wasn't sure of when that day should be and had been waiting for when the time would be right that I could step into that pool and emerge a new creation and life. I knew on that day that I had to do it soon. A dear Sister and friend reminded me that I could do it on a Tuesday night after Worship practice. Wanting a more intimate setting with just those that have been significant in my walk, this seemed the perfect setting. I wouldn't be singing on the Worship Team again until Feb. 6th, which meant I would have to wait until that Tuesday night's practice, which would be Feb. 1st. Feeling that date was sort of random, with no meaning attached, I wasn't thrilled with it, but figured it would be special regardless of any timely attachment.
I have a mentor friend who is gifted in prophecy. He told me to wait...that although I couldn't see the significance of the date now, I would in due time. Well, wouldn't you know it? I was offered the chance to move this past weekend and was to be moved in by Monday...the day before my baptism! Now, I'm sorry, but if you can't see the sigificance of that, than I don't know what! Seriously, now. So, here it was, the opportunity for freedom, the chance to flee from such a dark environment that I have called "home" for the passed year and a half...the gates were FINALLY opened! The freedom I had longed for for so long was only one step away....then a funny thing happened....I hesitated...I was petrified! Now that just didn't make sense to me.
Why the heck wasn't I running with both arms in the air as fast as I could out of that door? A funny thing can happen when we've been in negative environments for a long period of time. We start to lose hope, we start to believe the lies around us, we start to fear a better life and even believe the lie that we don't deserve it. I am so so blessed to have an incredible support system around me who were able to smack some sense into me when I needed it the most. I took the bait, made the leap, and was settled in by Monday night, thanks to my super-fantastic Sisters, friends, and faith family that just keeps growing by the day. Gosh...I never thought I would see this day come that I would be so surrounded by support and love that I just would not know what to do with myself! Man, oh, man...to take some time and reflect on that, I realize I am literally shaking my head with a grateful smile! THANK YOU, GOD!!!
So, what happened after that? Arctic catastrophe hit Northeast Ohio and we turned into one gigantic igloo for a minute there...closing the church building for not one, but 2 days. Now I had a choice here...I could sulk and feel that I had been let down...or I could shut up and take this time as a gift and force myself to sit still and reflect (something I don't often let myself do) in my new surroundings. God was not being unfaithful, he was giving me time, on the house to find some peace amidst the overwhelming.
The church building was reopened on Thursday and that precious event was completed. What a happy, happy night! That joy lasted into the next day and still hasn't completely dissipated.
Yesterday, I went back to the place I called home to check on things, make sure the dog was still alive, etc. I expected anything, but what I felt...an overbearing burden so disturbing, it took a good part of the day to shake. I felt everything from that environment that I had been blocking while I was living there to be able to deal with it...the darkness in the atmosphere, the dysfunction, and the depression of the hopeless. It was just so, so dark. I felt the burden of their choices...and it made me angry. How someone can make the conscious choice to completely give up on life and on themselves is just beyond me.
I cried for hours after I left just overwhelmed with emotion. A dear friend and mentor spoke wise words...you can feel what you're feeling right now, and be thankful that you have a tender heart despite everything...but don't "live" there with them...don't let their choices keep you in the pit of depression that they choose to live in. Live your life to glorify them. Live your life to make them proud of you even if they cannot be proud of themselves...wow...what powerful words! She went on to say that maybe even the only way for them to cope is to live in literal darkness..maybe what I see and feel as overbearing heaviness is really the only way they are able deal with life. I had never thought about that before, but it is so true when I think about it. My heart is breaking, but I cannot sacrifice my own life as a sympathy offering. At the end of the day, it doesn't change anything. Maybe we all have our own "something's" just as heavy that we need to learn to lay down.
Life is ever-changing and if you're open to it, you can see amazing things throughout the course of your life. You can choose to let events and circumstances steal your joy or you can fight for it. That's not to say that there will never be times of sadness...it's how you feel underneath it all. And if you're willing...you can let Him trade you...beauty for ashes....
Nov 19, 2010
Oct 3, 2010
As we near the runway, concrete, blue tarps, and rubble replace what on an American landscape would be strip malls, highways, and neon signs. Smoke billows up randomly around the land, which we would later find out to be charcoal fire pits where people cook their food. As we land, it's as if we are surrounded by mountains on either side with the ocean beckoning behind us. Then it hits me this absolutely gorgeous land is also the most impoverished country in the world. How can that be?
Then, as we debark from the plane and begin our long walk down the windowed departure gate, the cracks appear...literally. Out the window to our left more magestic mountains...to our right, the old departure gate, no longer safe for usage due to huge cracks caused by the devestating earthquake. "Over 300,000", someone says in the background...the number of lives lost in a matter of seconds.
About an hour later, we are out of customs, out of the airport, and into mass chaos. Men in "uniforms" try aggressively to latch onto our luggage in an attempt to collect some sort of monetary compensation. Our 25 pieces of luggage are causing quite a stir in the eyes of the hundreds of hungry Haitians gathered outside of the airport...some to stay cool in the shade, some just to people watch, and some to work as "skycaps" in the hopes of a tip. "Women in the bus now!", Nadar our bus driver says as the guys stay back and guard our luggage as it's loaded onto the bus. The independent woman in me laughs at this, but I'm also relieved to be out of all the chaos. I see the reason for the hurry, as Nadar climbs into the bus and slams the door behind him, before random people make an attempt to beg. At this point, a few people are beginning to gather around outside the bus as we drive off to Tortug' Air, which will take us to our final destination...Port-de-Paix. And so begins what will be the most marking and memorable experience we could have ever hoped to have had.
Each of us went on this mission with something different in mind...some fulfilling a lifelong dream, some for a fresh perspective, some dreaming of the chance to work with the kids. My reasons for partaking in this mission stemmed not only from craving a fresh perspective, but having an unexplainable feeling that God was going to move in a big way. In my own limited human thinking, I went expecting one big revelation. As if God could prepackage destiny in one message. But once again, God in his amazing way, and as He so often does, opened my eyes to so many things and in so many unexpected ways.
One thing that is striking down there, is this incredible sense of peace that you feel. God's protection and provision are tangible. Lack of phones, internet, and tv, translates into no distractions, agenda, or unnecessities, and an amazing thing happens...God speaks instantly! I wonder how often we miss this at home, caught up the midst of our own distractions and obsession with more, more, more. Even at the American poverty level, we are still considered rich in comparison. What would happen if all excess was stripped away and only necessities remained? Would we actually begin to want and be content with what we already have? That's not to say we should never have or aspire for greater things, but it's the attitude that goes along with it. Not deserving what we have, but rather thankful for the privilege...and we are privileged. And maybe someday, if we are able, to spread that those less fortunate.
Over the course of the week, I think God spoke to each of us in different ways. Whether it be forming friendships with resident missionaries, touching the lives of the children, creating a new-found appreciation for our own lives back home, fueling the fire to be a traveling missionary, or creating an even stronger conviction of a calling to be a resident missionary.
Touching back down in the states, our group was a mix of emotions. Some cried, some thankful to be home. The first thing I noticed was the landscape, this time descending into Miami. Trade those magestic mountains for perfectly manicured lawns and pools. I don't know why, but the first thing that popped into my head was the Berkin bag (more commonly known as the purse on "Will and Grace" that Karen's puppy pooped in). This purse at one time cost $20,000...! $20,000! The fact that anyone would charge or even thinking of spending that much on a bag to carry around your stuff that's going to wear out in a year or so anyway is absolutely ridiculous to me. So, I guess my mind just went to the most extreme example of excess that it could think of in the moment, lol.
One thing I'm noticing this week is American excess is becoming so much more obvious. Things that seemed to matter before, just don't anymore. My faith increases as I see how God provided for and protected us in so many ways on this trip. As He continues to reveal the bigger picture, I am so thankful for this experience and I can't wait to see how God will piece everything together!
Aug 28, 2010
An acquantance of mine once told me I have a rebellious spirit...and while that may be true, I think "stubborn" is more appropriate. I'm stubborn in that I don't always want to take the time to listen to what God has to say. It's more like, "Ok, God, I'll listen, but I have to leave in a half an hour. Oh, wait, if I'm leaving in a half an hour, I need to get ready now. Ok, I guess I'll just listen while I wash my face." ..and etc., etc. Not out of pride, but rather fear. Fear that if I don't fix this situation, it will get worse or fear that if I must take control over my life before it spins out of control. And so this went on until God decided to take away everything in my life that could cause a distraction...namely, my job, lol.
And so, I've spent this past spring and summer searching for what lays ahead, be it employment, a relationship, a move, etc. I went on countless interviews only to find that either the person who was leaving which made the position available had decided to stay in that position, or the company ended up hiring from within, or the position became unavailable due lack of company revenue to finanace the position, etc. So, of course, if you're human, you think, "ok, what the heck is going on here? Am I missing something here?". Little did I know, God was saying, "No, not this. I have something better for you." And so I went off the beaten path and tried something new, never expecting it to work out, almost doing everything I could to make sure it didn't work out...and you know what? Not only did it work out, it fell right into my lap! To quote one of my favorite pastors, 'Jesus is sneaky like that!'!
The worker in me saw 6 months worth of "missed" opportunities and paychecks. God saw 6 months worth of spiritual bonding and preparation for what lies ahead. I am about to embark on what I'm sure will be a life-changing, pivotal point in my Walk. As I prepare to travel to Haiti with 11 other members of my church, I can feel a change coming. I feel the start of a new chapter where the "I want's" fade away and the "God, what will you have's?" become increasingly prominent. And so on that day, I will close my eyes, hold out my hand, open my heart and say, "God I am ready!"...only this time I will mean it! I don't know what lies ahead, but this I know for certain, God is going to MOVE.
May 5, 2010
We as Christians, we have a dire responsibility to try our best to "get it right" when it comes to Christ. Not only for God and for ourselves, but as an example for those around us who don't even know the Truth yet and may be looking to us for some glimmer of an example. Yes, I know that we should look to God first for that knowledge and not to man, but let's face it, how many of us, before we learned the truth, sought out the advice or mentorship of someone who already had a relationship with God? Why? Because until we knew the Lord, we needed a tangible reference.
People who don't know what it means to be a Christian are going to look to other Christians first for an example if for no other reason than the fact that it's human nature. How many times do we see people talk about God's love and then turn around and talk crap about another person? Or shun someone because they "don't feel like" dealing with their drama or they think that person is "weird"? Or commit a hate crime? Or just be completely small-minded and ignorant in general? Hello?! I thought the whole point of Christianity was to die to self and stop walking in the flesh.
Of course, we "don't feel" like dealing with certain things...we are human! Our fleshy side doesn't feel like doing a lot of things, which is why we look to God in the first place. He is the one who gives us the strength and perserverance to push through where we as humans do not want to go. Yes, there are times that we need to guard our hearts from those who actually cause us harm, but we can't purposely shun someone for not fitting into our "social circle". We can't just sit back, smack a "Christian" label on our foreheads, say "Ah, well, I'm saved now", and then go back to being a jackass pulling the "saved card" whenever it's convenient for ourselves! For Pete's sake, Jesus even made the effort to save someone while he was flippin' nailed to a cross and beaten to a pulp! You didn't hear him say, "Sorry, man, I just have too much going on right now." We ALL have drama in our lives, but that is why God gave us to each other so that we can relate to each other and lift each other up when we fall.
We sit here and talk about the anti-Christ movement which gives Christianity a bad name, but honestly, it can also be our own sisters and brothers. I'll be the first to admit that I am a heck of a long way from "perfect". Lord knows, I screw up many times and fall short of His glory. My heart is just on fire for the body of Christ to step up and not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.
We will never be "perfect" and that is where His grace comes in, but God intends this not only to be about a relationship with Him, but our relationships with other people. How foolish would it be to ignore that?
Apr 18, 2010
I learned the power of letting go...lifting up and surrendering my life to the only One who can make it right....only to take it back just a few weeks later...and, boy what a serious boo-boo that was! At first it seemed harmless, but oh, the heartache that followed. Lesson learned? If something is not right for you, no amount of love can make it right. Everyone has different capacities to love.
"Just because someone does not love you the way you want them to, does not mean they don't love you with all that they have".
I've never liked that saying. When you get right down to the point, that "all that they have" love is still not enough. To me, it sounds like a cop-out; a weak and useless way to justify what is undoubtedly behavior that is painful to another person. I could almost gaurantee that one person in that scenario is laxidasical and the other person, as a result, is undoubtedly left with a horrible void in their heart. In short, at the end of the day, that "love" is not where it is supposed to be.
Yes, I am aware that there are people out there who have ridiculous demands and diminish love down to nothing more than a series of intricate hoops to jump through... and I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about Love in its purest form; the real and true definition. When Love is real, there is no room left for question. It is as evident as night and day; tangible. You need not search for the actions beyond the words...not because the actions are unnecessary...rather because they will stare you in the face. You will trip over them. Accept no immitations...true Love walks the line!
Love is not a toy; it is not a game. "Love" is not a word to be taken lightly or to be said in passing. Love is not a power struggle; not something with which to beat another person into submission. Love is not meant to be used as a trinket to dangle over another person's hopeful head. Love is not neglectful, conniving, or fruitless. And most definitely, love is not manipulation. Love is a precious gift; and when used correctly, it has the power to transform a person's life. Love can build a person up or send them crashing to the ground. No doubt, love is powerful and it is a critical responsibility to use it wisely.
When "love" falls short, it's not mature or it's not right altogether. This is not God's best for us. We need to trust Him...obviously he knows what He's doing! lol
God reaches His hands out to us; not so that we can take back what we have already given to Him, but rather that we may take His outstretched hands and let Him gently lead us away from what is harmful to us and towards where we are meant to be. It's so easy to forget that His plans are perfect and anything that I may try to create or accomplish, in my own power, pales greatly in comparison. It is only when we truly and honestly relinquish that power, that we become more powerful than we ever could have imagined.