Hey pals, as many of you know but most of you may not, I’ve spent the last week with a team from Adventures in Missions (AIM) doing disaster relief in the Greater Houston area. Our team of ten partnered with Dream Center Gulf Coast and […]
I’m reading a book.
This, if you know anything about what my life looks like right now, might be the most surprising statement of this whole blog.
Anyways, 3 pages in (because that’s literally only how far I’ve gotten since I bought it. I know, I’m embarrassed too.), there’s a quote I’ve heard many times before, “the soul rejoices in hearing what it already knows.” I think that must mean there’s beauty in familiarity. A sense of returning. Coming home.
Today I’m returning to one year prior. One year ago this week, I boarded a plane and ugly cried the entire five hours flew to Ecuador. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I could write you books on the things I’ve learned since I’ve been home. The things I’ve struggled with, the things I’ve overcome. It’s never ending. But the one thing that I keep finding myself saying over and over again lately is simply, “I want the beauty back.” There’s something else about this good ole familiarity that, as time goes on, seems to become mundane. And I think most people’s existential crises come from the threat that it’s impossible to find purpose in the humdrum Tuesday nights of everyday life. “Help! More! Hear us world! We are scared of being boring, useless, meaningless people!”
Journal Entry 9/25
I want the beauty back.
That’s the season. It’s not cute. It’s not aesthetic. It’s me, searching high and low for the beauty. It’s me trying to bring it back and then taking a small impatient dive off the deep end out of frustration when it’s been 24 hours and I haven’t made any progress.
I’m exhausted. And I’m doing everything in my power to not let the people around me see that right now. I’m restless and I’m being careless and I’m making a lot of mistakes. I know, everyone does, but I’ve been making way more than usual. Sometimes, they’re even intentional, because my heart wants to feel something so bad that I don’t even care if it’s regret anymore.
This cry for the return of beauty has been the stuttered pleading prayer for months since I’ve been home.
On the Race, we used to play this really ridiculous game where we would try to guess which time of day best described each person on our team (Look… I know, okay? But there just isn’t much else to do in Northeast India). Today my morning classes got cancelled so I was able to get off – yes, off – work at 8 am and get so much stuff done. As I was driving home, the weirdest peace came over me and before I could stop it, I thought, “Wow, if I’m anything, I am definitely a 9:30 a.m. on a slow, easy, off-day Monday morning.” Aside from the fact that this too-late-to-take-back thought gave me secondhand embarrassment for myself, I couldn’t believe how at home I felt in that moment. A song came on the radio that I’d heard driving through the Appalachians in Virginia a month ago and it took me back to that beautiful drive. I’d left work and run all over town looking for a pair of shoes for a friend just to realize that they were actually at the store 1 mile from my job and I tried to be angry about the gas I was wasting but there was something about the return of a generous spirit so strong that I just couldn’t be anything but present. I had missed serving so much that I wanted to take the air out of that moment and bottle it up. The sun shining on the river as I was crossing the bridge to go home made it sparkle in a way that I don’t even want to try and use words to describe. I called and restarted my yoga membership. I signed up to run a 10K at the end of this month. My Monday morning email from my favorite author was overflowing with good (and so relevant) stuff. My soul was so full of a 9:30 Monday morning.
This doesn’t mean that from here on out, the drought is over. But it does mean that I have the little memory of rain to give me hope for the next one. I wish I could give you a map or be the wish granting genie that can bring the river back to your wasteland, but I don’t have the one-size-fits-all key. I think life does that on purpose. Maybe it thinks one set of yellow brick instructions for billions of people to follow all the way to a purpose would be boring, the one thing we’re all trying so hard not to be. So I can’t give you a secret passcode, but I can tell you what I’ve learned.
- If you start no other project, take on no other job, the one thing you should strive to do before the year ends is learn what it means to love well. I think sometimes this phrase is inching close to becoming a cliché because it’s being used so often, but really, it’s so important. This looks different for literally everyone, but it is well worth it to learn the unforced rhythms of modern love by taking a little extra time to invest in the people around you and walk with awareness for those you just pass on the streets. This world is uncertain. Be someone who carries hope.
- Start thinking in terms of hallelujah anyway. This also happens to be the title of the book I’m reading right now which you can find here. Sometimes things happen that we didn’t account for. That we couldn’t have predicted. Our wastelands somehow find themselves in a wasteland (ya feel?). There is so much freedom in the day we choose trust over control and just say, “you know what? Hallelujah anyway.” (btw the devil hates this.)
- Self care. I feel like this topic can be really overcomplicated because it’s gotten so much media attention over the last few years as things like holistic wellness and mental illness awareness have become more publically discussed and promoted. This is another thing that looks pretty different for every single person. For me, it looks like making better food choices, getting up for yoga and the boldness to say no the party when I know I’m too tired. I don’t always do these things perfectly every time, because personally, I think self care (and honestly just the time that has to be set aside for it) can be really hard in today’s world. Figure out what works for you and pursue it – your body, your soul, your heart and your mind are all big, influential parts of you. Don’t leave them behind. If you don’t know where to start, wash your sheets.
I know it’s not an overnight thing. And I know what it feels like to just be straight dog tired and longing to feel something. Anything. What I want to tell you is that in the midst of your frustration, dig deep and pray and meditate until you’ve properly aligned your spine and have rhythmic breathing and are full of peace, dude. But this life is fast and the clock doesn’t stop. We still have responsibilities and our lives are full, the good kind, but the tiring kind. The charming language looks good on paper but practicality is a whole other thing. I think the second part of our job is just to not to beat ourselves up when our frustration gets the best of us and remember how beautiful a thing it is that we decided to keep going where most people tap out. That once upon a time, we wanted to grow. We wanted the beauty back.
I hope today you find newness in familiarity, a ray of light in the routineness of life. I hope you hear it in a song that takes you back to a beautiful moment and refreshes your soul. I hope you find purpose in a tiny overlooked detail. I hope you say hallelujah anyway ten billion times and it never gets old.
And I hope that once you’ve done all you can do and you finally throw your hands up in surrender, the beauty finds you.
This morning, I woke up to news station reporting an attack on London Bridge. My heart felt like it was being suffocated. I could sense the knot forming in my throat. I put my back up against the back door and slid down to sit on the floor. One hand held my phone and the other was clasped over my mouth.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to throw up. I wanted to cry.
I wanted to understand.
I needed to know why this city has been attacked three times since I have been on the mission field. I needed someone to tell me why I was healthy and happy and living in an orphanage in Africa, helping lead teenage girls to Jesus and the city of London was feeling the weight of a third blow. Why I was here, eating a peanut butter sandwich on the kitchen floor waiting for my friends to come home from church so we can cook pancakes and the people of London were mourning their lost ones. Why I was alive and the victims were not.
I think “why?” is probably God’s most popular question. I think if He had to rank all the questions He got by volume, this one would slide its way on up to the very top. I also think that He’s just as outraged as you and I. Our God is a God of love and of peace. A God of sovereignty. He isn’t biting His nails and waiting to see what’s going to happen next. He isn’t shocked or surprised when the terrorist kills the sixth person.
While I believe that our God is not a God of injustice and He does not construct tragedy out of malicious intent, I also believe that He wants only to draw us nearer to Himself and even bad things do not happen outside of His control.
“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. ” (Isaiah 46:9-10)
I believe that heartbreak can leave us at a crossroads. I think it can create a space of more intimate communion with Jesus as we come to Him holding a bunch of broken pieces and unanswered questions in our hands. I also think that, if we let it, it can drive us away from Him as we look to other people, to social media and to other things to fill that void with what can be cleverly disguised as hope. Isn’t that what we all really want from this? We want our friends to come back to life, we want to create a safer world, we want justice. We want hope.
I know that my hands are small and my empathy can’t change what has already happened, but because I believe my community is hurting with me, I want to share with you how we’re processing this tragedy.
1) Run. Sprint to the Father. Make a v-line for the throne room and ask your questions. Ask all of them. Shake your fist, scream, cry, and punch a wall. Grieve for this fallen & broken world and take Him up on His offer of that shoulder to cry on. You don’t have to stay at that crossroad and you don’t have to carry the weight of confusion. Peace has been disrupted and injustice has taken place. In the midst of the darkness, run as hard as you can to the light. (James 4:8) Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
2) Trust. Trust that although our world is full of sin, His purpose is holy. Trust that He promises to restore and to make good of everything. Trust that He sends people like Isaiah to ”
bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Trust that He really is in control even when it doesn’t look or feel as if that’s the case at all.
3) People. Your community is there to function the way the body of Christ should. For us, that means coming around each other in tragic times. These people are here to speak life into dark places and to bring light to the places where it seems there’s no more hope. Let these people in. Seek out the beauty in community when it comes to healing and processing. We were created to need people and we can’t do this alone. Lean in to what Jesus is doing in your people.
It may not be until we’re actually side by side with Jesus that we ever have answered to our “why’s”. And I believe that at that point, we won’t need them anymore because everything will make sense. So until then, we’ll stay on our knees. We’ll stay wandering around this broken world. We’ll stay trying our best to seek Heaven and to forgive those people who do things that we don’t understand.
All my love and prayers to my friends in London and my community around the world that is hurting for this city today.