Word Dive

Did you know that I listen to country music more than any other genre of music? I hate wearing my hair up because someone years ago told me I didn’t look pretty with it up, and I know every single word to Taylor The Latte Boy by Kristen Chenoweth because, plot twist, I used to be a theater geek. I own a pair of cowboy boots, and I burn cheese nachos in the microwave.

But did you know I struggle with anxiety? There are days where social settings–large groups of people, the very thing that really excites me and fills me up– drains me and makes it hard to breathe. There are days where I’m snappy and short with the people I care about because anxiety is crawling up my neck and clawing at my cheeks for no apparent reason. There are days I doubt myself and apologize and overthink everything because anxiety is swallowing me. And when it rains for three days in a row like it has been, there are people who text me and ask how I’m holding up because they know that the gloom is crippling.

Anxiety is easy to dress up and filter out of daily conversation or posts online, but it’s still very present in the lives of people you least expect.

Today at the kitchen table, my mom said, “Last night two years ago was the first time I was hospitalized because of my anxiety when I thought it was a heart attack.” That had been the first night of a long, tiring journey of learning about the most intense levels of anxiety. When we stepped out of it at last, my mom and I had found some ways to cope with anxiety in every day life:

  1. Making a list of things we are thankful for.
  2. Praying. Talking our way through it to God or repeating the Lord’s Prayer when anxiety keeps us up at night.

It wasn’t until a few months later that I realized this was a Scripture-based routine, found in Philippians 4:4-9 //

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

I love three things about this passage:

First, we are commanded to never be anxious. We are told to instead be thankful. 

Secondly, we are told how to fight anxiety: prayer, going to the foot of the throne to make requests of God, and being thankful about things.

Lastly, Paul goes a step further and gives us a list of things to be thankful for– a “thankfulness blue print” of sorts, a “prompt.”

Now I make it a routine when I am having a tough day or when the people around me are having a tough day. When I hear others complaining, I swing my head around and shout, “QUICK!! Give me a list of three things you are thankful for today!!” My mom and Greg have now become the people in my life when they hear me complaining to swing their head around and tell me to do the same.

When your heart is overwhelmed, make your list; think of what is true, what is worth honoring, where justice has been evident, what is pure and lovely and excellent and worthy of recalling or speaking about highly.

Jesus has given us a step-by-step process on how to beat anxiety.

And what I think is even more lovely: on the days where I would just rather complain instead of make my list or remember God–when my human heart cannot fight the heaviness on its own– well just three verses after this “how-to-beat-anxiety” manual is a verse that says we can do all things through Him.

When I cannot fight, He can. When I can’t remember good, He reminds me.

 

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Word Dive

The very last chapter of Acts begins with the line: “After we were brought safely through,” and I just love that so much.

An “ebenezer” is an item raised up or placed along a path, literally or metaphorically, to commemorate God’s sufficiency; a reminder so that when we come back around to recall a darkness we walked through we can easily point and say, “Look, look at what God did here, for me.”
Well, I think this first line of the last book about the apostles’ journey to raise up Christ’s church is their ebenezer– and I think it can be ours, too.

They’ve hit all the major cities, been thrown in prison, escaped prison in miraculous ways, been disappointed by people’s lack of faith, watched fellow believers fall, experienced solitude, known rejection, starved, been deserted and left behind and betrayed and falsely accused and wrongly punished– yet the writer finished the story by saying, “We were brought safely through.”

And I wonder how many times I can look back on my life at all of the things I begged God to remove from my life when I couldn’t carry the pain anymore and now say, “I was brought safely though.”
I wonder how many things I am walking through now, how many things I’m about to step into, that when it’s all said and done and I can finally catch my breath– I wonder if I’ll say, “I was brought safely through.”

Right after this sufficiency of God is noted and recorded in this last chapter of Acts, Paul builds a fire for the natives on the island God brought them to. As he’s piling firewood together, a serpent slithers out and wraps itself around his hand; the natives assume that this means Paul is a murderer and “Justice” isn’t going to let him get away from what he’s done. Still, they watch in shock as Paul removes the snake from his hand and throws it into the fire he’s built, unscathed.
I wonder how many people are watching me and the things I am going through, waiting on the edge of their seats to see how I handle it, to see if it breaks me. And God, I hope I have the faith to reach out, grab all of the pain and the confusion and throw it back into the fire, unscathed. I pray for that faith. I pray for that perseverance. 

After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people1 showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice2 has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god.

Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him. And when this had taken place, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured. 10 They also honored us greatly,3 and when we were about to sail, they put on board whatever we needed.

Paul Arrives at Rome

11 After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. 12 Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. 13 And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. 14 There we found brothers5and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. 15 And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage. 16 And when we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself, with the soldier who guarded him.

Paul in Rome

17 After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews, and when they had gathered, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.18 When they had examined me, they wished to set me at liberty,because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. 19 But because the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar—though I had no charge to bring against my nation. 20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.” 21 And they said to him, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”

23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

26 “‘Go to this people, and say,

“You will indeed hear but never understand,

and you will indeed see but never perceive.”

27  For this people’s heart has grown dull,

and with their ears they can barely hear,

and their eyes they have closed;

lest they should see with their eyes

and hear with their ears

and understand with their heart

and turn, and I would heal them.’

28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense,7 and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Graduating college is a lot like leaving the party without even letting anyone know.


Life after college is restless. You’ll feel like a failure. Cause you had all the plans. Big, real plans. Didn’t you? Except the congratulations stopped coming, and you don’t have the cool city job you always had (or said you’d have). You’ll kinda feel like you let everyone’s expectations of you down. You’ll kinda feel uncomfortable in your own skin.

Growing up. Life after school– life after the only life you’ve known. It’s just something you grow into. Something that happens. Don’t get me wrong, nothing will feel natural about it, and you’ll feel confused about it all most of the time, but it’s not something you have to wing or work hard at. You grow into growing up.

Then, all of a sudden, a boy you met in October will take you out on dates and cook you dinner when you’ve had tough weeks. You’ll like words like “insurance,” and “priorities,” and “salary.”

 Then your skin will break out because, plot twist: finding a big girl job isn’t as easy as you thought it would be, and you’re suddenly competing with the people around you– this isn’t made up competition like you’ve always known where you mentally convince yourself that you’re second best or that you need to be better; this is real competition, where you’re actually being compared to other people who are just as good of an option (and sometimes even better of an option) as you are. And the two weeks it takes to hear back about your job application at one out of the seventeen companies you applied at one Tuesday morning doesn’t help hush any doubts or anxiety.

But then you’ll be scrolling through your Instagram feed to find an old video, only to discover how much you’ve changed.
You’re not a runner anymore.
You’re not always looking for things to get into.
You don’t have to be seen in the city or at the cool party or the newest coffee shop.
In fact, it’ll suddenly become cooler to save gas and not spend five out of the seven days of the week driving to and from Atlanta just for some new adventure you’ve designed.

You’ll feel like you’re drowning, but you’ll be taking steps forward.

You’ll obsess over clean eating recipes and neutral tone clothes and selling everything you own like it’s the equivalent to shedding our old skin.

The truth is, no one really prepares you for life after college. You don’t get the same easy steps laid out for you like you got your senior year of high school. In fact, your probably get too many outcomes and not enough how-to’s.

Except, one morning, you’ll be flopped out on your bed staring at a computer screen of endless emails full of links to jobs you found through job hiring apps, surrounded by the majority of what used to be your closet that you decided to try and sell to make some money. There will be a boy who calls you on his lunch break just to hear your voice and ask you about your day. And suddenly, there’s this unspoken understanding that somewhere along the way, you just became good at trying to figure it all out. More than that, you’ll discover that somehow, someway– “trying to figure it all out,” is a whole place on it’s own.

So maybe you’re not as lost as you thought you were when the summer after your college graduation ends and you don’t have much to show for it aside from new places you got to see and registering for two classes that’ll get you two steps closer to getting your graduates degree. Maybe you’re not drowning as far off in the deep in as you felt. Because you’re here, in a real place: trying to figure it out.

I’m learning that life isn’t about trying to figure out how to tie a ribbon on all of it, but it is learning how to send thank you’s up about all of the days you felt defeated.

Word Dive

A friend of mine told me that Acts is her favorite book in the Bible, which I thought was kind of strange because as far as I knew up until a couple of weeks ago, Acts was just a book talking about the beginnings of the church.

Needless to say, I’ve been flipping through Acts nearly every day ever since she sat me down and read chapter one with me.

Right now, I’m in chapter 20:

(starting in verse 17 and going through the end of the chapter) Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.  And when they came to him, he said to them:

“You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia,  serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews;  how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.

And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

 I did not shrink. 
Some of the most crucial years for the church– Jesus has left the disciples, His followers are being persecuted as they travel from city to city trying to disciple others… They are experiencing tremendous trial, constant rejection, endless persecution, and yet the writer says “I did not shrink.” He says this of himself not only once, but twice!
And I love that this is the example set for us today: do not shrink. We are not called to shrink.
The word “shrink” means “to become or make smaller in size or amount,” but it also means, “to move back or away, especially because of fear or disgust.”
We are not called to shrink. We were not created with the ability to become smaller, but sin made us smaller, and sometimes it makes me feel like I have to make myself smaller; but shrinking is not in our make-up. We were not created to move back or away or down; we were meant to push forward, to look head, to rise up. We are not called to shrink.
 Second: nothing is more important than finishing the things God calls us to. There is no room for distraction. There is no room for self. There is only God and what He wants to use us for. And whether He uses us in literal ministry or corporate America, our course is one in the same: testify about the grace of God.
I want to mention the last highlight that stood out to me because I group it with this verse about our mission– we are called to work hard. And I think I love this verse so much because I’m twenty-one and therefore fall in the “millennial” category, and no one thinks millennials work hard because so many millennials don’t actually work hard.
But to my other fellow twenty somethings: there’s Scripture right here telling us to work hard. Because Jesus worked hard. In fact, He’s the one that defined what working hard looks like when He said, “It is better to give than to receive.”
Lastly, I love the reminder: His grace is able to build us up.
We talk about how grace covers us and fights for us and changes us, but it builds us up. When we tear ourselves down, when we are bulldozed by life, when we are tired and breathlessly looking for a break– His grace is what is able to build us up.

Word Dive

The other day, a friend of mine made a tweet about how everyone should go read 1 Peter 2 because he said it was “very important.” So, even though I’ve been in Acts the past few weeks, I went to 1 Peter.

Plot twist: I never made it to chapter 2.

1 Peter 1:3-10 //

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,  obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

A few things that stick out to me:

  • We can rejoice in knowing that we have a God who is guarding our hope and inheritance in heaven, even as we go through various trials that are necessary. 
  • We can have this joy, that the writer says in inexpressible–even in trials– because we know the outcome: our soul’s salvation.
  • Our pain is purpose-filled: our experiences–the joy and the trials and the joy through the trials–isn’t solely meant to be kept close to hearts, but rather, it is meant for the purpose of showing others that there is unspeakable, guarded, holy, inexpressible joy, even in the midst of pain.
  • Probably one of my favorite parts is the last little phrase the writer slips in at the end of this section:”things into which the angels long to look;” I love that. I love that the angels are beings that at this very moment are sitting in the presence of God, YET we can experience this grace and joy and salvation that they will never know… And even though they sit in the perfect presence of God and have never experienced separation from Him, they still long for the one thing humans have: salvation.

I sent this chunk of Scripture to a friend of mine who’s life has been a walking testament to what it means to remain faithful in the midst of horrifying trials; she’s the definition of a modern day Job: she’s lived through the loss of a sibling, a mother crippled by grief and a lack of mental stability, a father she’s seen weakened by cancer. And just now at what seems to be her breaking point, her God-I-need-a-break point, theres a subtle realization about her life: my mother asked me why I thought my friend had to go through so much pain when she loves God so whole heartedly and lives this life for Him so well. I thought about how my friend wants to spend her life walking into homes of broken families who have watched sickness wreck havoc on their children’s lives and be a personal nanny to these kids; I simply looked at my mother and said, “Look at what she wants to do with her life. She wants to walk into broken homes and help their kids. You think she can do that if she hasn’t lived it herself? You think God wants her to do that without bringing Him into it? Of course this is the life she is going to have to live through.”

And I think we are charged with the same: God, let my life be a testament of faithfulness, especially in the midst of pain– not in spite of it, but because of it.

 

Send my love (To your new lover)

One day you’ll sit across from a girl who is going to take your phone and read through all of your notes about a boy with blue eyes and a boy on tenth street and the friends who broke your heart and the fast cars and city rooftops.

She’ll make you start a WordPress because she doesn’t think it’s right of you to keep all of those stories in the notes of your phone.

For two years, you’ll bleed out for the world to marvel at, hovering over your keyboard, talking about things like staying and going back and what happens when love breaks. You’ll tell your stories and retell them some more, and people who read them will give you one big “Me, too.”

It’ll feel good, editing your life.

But then you’ll want to have more to say than, “There’s a boy with blue eyes and now I know there’s nothing all that spectacular about blue eyes if they never knew how to be a good friend.” You’ll want to know that you’ve got more in you than a few good stories to tell.

You see, I’m learning a lot about consistency. I’m learning even more about the kind of writer I want to be and the things I want to write about.
I think consistency is important, and I think I can’t consistently write the same stories when life is always changing.

Because my life is changing. 

So consider this a new story.

You just flipped the page from prologue to chapter one.

The plot?

I want to write about what God is teaching me in the daily. What am I finding and hearing when I open His Book?

Let’s call it “Word Dives.”

It’s not that I think I’m qualified to be listened to about what I think God has to say over any other person who writes about what God tells them.
This is going to keep me accountable: posting weekly, sometimes daily, means I have to be diving regularly.
It’ll also be a way to keep a record of all the pieces of God’s stories that have carved into me. Like when you tab your favorite blog or quote someone on twitter.
And maybe, in turn, it’ll be nice to read for someone else.

I think there was a time for blue eyes and tenth street and learning how to have a broken heart. I just think there are better stories to tell.

And I want to tell them.