BitterSpring

God has invited me to believe in Springtime, again. He’s invited me into this terrifying place that flowers will spring out of barren land and that leaves will burst forth off of bare naked, trembling twigs of trees. Believing that out of the same ground that the most heart wrenching, life stealing, ill-fitting, nasty things occurred on–that new life will spring forth. Something new will follow.

3 days before 2016 ended, I scoured my room. I had the most beautiful globe sitting on my bookshelf. A giant Omani flag hanging on my wall (I love the country of Oman, ask me about it. I’ll brag on the country all day.) Pictures perfectly framed and hanging, untouched since I moved home from Waco. Untouched. Dust settled. These were a few of my most treasured possessions. My Bible held Omani money that, every time I came across it, reminded me to pray for the country. Treasures. Treasures that held bitter heart ties and painful memories. Treasures that, if I was really honest and vulnerable with myself and you, held the only bit of comfort I could find in this season. Wrapped up in “this is not how it was supposed to happen, Jesus” and “let’s dwell in memories, Lord, because my reality sucks.”

I read a book, this last year, called Bittersweet. It says, “a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul.”

An invitation to “believe in Springtime”, again.
A call to daringly believe that if things come in pairs-that the sweet is coming to pair with the bitter. Bittersweet. “Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy.”

I ripped my flag down. Packed up a box of old pictures and letters, jewelry, my globe, clothes, anything that brought up a bitter sense of comfort, a sense of winter and not of spring and I got rid of it. I’d like to say I did it in some big bad girl way. I sobbed the whole way to give it to my friend. Because my friend had to be the one to do something with it.

**Sidenote: I don’t know what season of life you’re in, but find friends that aren’t afraid to get their hands messy with you. That link arms with you and do the things that you are absolutely incapable of doing and that will snatch a pretty globe out of your hands and not give it back to you no matter how many tears you shed, because they’re after your ultimate good, not your ultimate comfort.**

Afterwards, I realized that there was A LOT tied up in those things. Comfort. Hope. Emotions. When I got home I was face to face with blank space on my walls and in my book shelf and in my heart. Blank space.

Jesus always comes.
You see, 2016 was so bitter. The taste of it was so bitter that the mere taste of it causes immediate gagging. I mustered up the bravery to go through my journals to find Jesus’ faithfulness and write it down on paper hearts. 8 little paper hearts that reflect on ways of the faithfulness of a Father that never lets me down, that doesn’t let the little things go unnoticed.

I hung them up where my flag used to hang to take an instagram picture, when I heard the whisper of God say “leave them there, because I don’t leave you empty handed, beloved.”


Spring.
Flowers from barren land.
Paperhearts hanging on a wall that had been empty for a day.
Because that’s who Jesus is.

I believe 2017–no matter how hard or embarrassing or heartbreaking or good or joy filled or incredible or surprising or life changing–is a year of me believing in Spring again. In believing that Jesus is who he says he is.

“I believe that God is making all things new. I believe that Christ overcame death and that pattern is apparent all through life and history: life from death, water from a stone, redemption from failure, connection from alienation. I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything’s easy. I believe that loss and emptiness and confusion often give way to new fullness and wisdom.”  -Bittersweet

Happy new year, y’all! 🙂

*Quotes throughout this blogpost came from Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. Go read it.

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Holy Scrubs

I learned how to put on scrubs a few weeks ago. I learned what it feels like to breathe under a mask and what it smells like when medicine is coursing in and out of a 2 year old baby’s veins trying to keep him alive. “Oxygen levels falling,” I heard the nurse say.

“Beep, Beep, Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.”
It was a sound I have heard a million and one times on the ER television shows I watch. Flatline. No heartbeat. A lifeless baby laying before my eyes. A daddy, who is labeled a refugee, fearful of the coming minutes, lost in translation. Swahili is what is understood in his mind. English is what is being spoken. My friend, the interpreter, rapidly translating every word being spoken, a dad paralyzed by the reality that his baby is toe to toe with death.

A baby, body full of infection, born in Africa, with a broken heart. A hole in his heart. A body that consistently is against him unless this hole is fixed and it’s unfixable with an infection.

“He heals the brokenhearted and he binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

I drove that daddy home, after a few hours in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. He cried all the way back to his apartment. The moments were sacred. An entire family, lives torn apart from war and persecution and famine and drought come to land of the free and home of the brave to find themselves seated in a sterile, white walled hospital room staring at their intubated, broken-hearted, lifeless baby. Sacred moments. Holy moments where Jesus himself comes close to every single heart. Papa’s, Mama’s (who wasn’t there at the time, but you could feel her pain), Caitlin’s, Interpreter’s, Baby’s, Doctor’s, Nurse’s.

That baby’s broken heart was unavoidable. There was a gaping hole in it. Everyone had to acknowledge it because the baby needed to have it fixed. Should’ve had it fixed at birth (as to why he didn’t is another story for another day). But the point is, in that sterile, still hospital room we all sat. Staring at that baby. Hoping for a miracle.

The truth is. This week, that baby died. That two year old baby, took his last breath. His last, broken-hearted little breath. To be really honest, I’ve wrestled with it, a lot. When you hope for a miracle, when you hope for people to encounter the living God, when you hope to see the fullness of a two year old come back to a sense of normalcy…in a selfish sense of it all, I wanted to see a broken heart get healed. I wanted the baby to get all of the meds it needed, test healthy enough for the surgery, get the surgery, and get to see this little nugget have a battle scar and be strong, brave, and healthy.

Hope is a person named Jesus.

But I’m reminded that Jesus comes close. That he will always come close. I’ve been writing about hearts in my blog a lot over the last few months and I’m finally realizing why. Because broken hearts really are unavoidable. Broken emotions and habits and things in life are unavoidable and they need to be acknowledged in order to be healed. Jesus comes close to BIND or HEAL them. I’m not sure what unavoidable, painful thing you have in your life, but Jesus wants to come close to you. The process isn’t too long. It’s not too messy or too hard or too complex. He’s SO pleased with you.

It’s been sweet, this Christmas season, to be the messiest I’ve ever been. I’ve finally released myself to sit in the mess of grief and of confusion and all of the other things I’m currently carrying and just BE with Jesus. Because Christmas is the time to rest in remembering that the star-breather, the heart-creator, the dream-fullfiller covered himself in flesh with sweat glands and boogers and tangly hair just to get close to us so he could love us the best he could and save us the only way he knew how. So he laid, probably freezing cold in the middle of nowhere in some nasty manger because the Inn couldn’t make room for him, born to a teenage Mom who lost her reputation because she was an unmarried virgin…all to live a sinless life, to die on a cross to pay for my broken little heart–for that two year old’s broken little heart. For that daddy’s tears. For our jealousy and business and comparison and idolatry. He paid for it. He did all that just to be close to us. Just cause he loved us.

And I guess in the midst of the twinkly lights and the last minute shopping, I want to challenge us all to sit for a hot second and acknowledge that we really do have the greatest gift of all. We’ve got the presence and grace of God going before us and behind us, covering our tracks, making our crooked places straight and our rough places smooth. He’s too honest and too good to lead us astray and he’s the most joyful and hopeful One we’ve ever known. He’s Immanuel, God with us, forever.

Even in hospital rooms.
With backwards scrubs and shaky knees.

grace, grace little heart.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” -2 Corinthians 12:9

“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” -Romans 6:14

“But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9

G R A C E.

We all want it. Some of people know how desperately they need it, others do not really see how desperate humanity is for it. This complex word with such simplistic meaning. Sometimes overused and overextended, used to justify sinful actions and really bad habits. This word that so often helps people, like me, fall asleep at night. This word. It is weighty. Powerful. True. This word holds a story that’s far greater than I could ever truly fathom with my human mind. Yet, its accessible. It’s freely given. I get to live surrounded in it.

U N M E R I T E D F A V O R .

Grace. No matter how you flip the coin, grace is unmerited favor. Undeserved. Unable to be earned. Fully accessed through Jesus’ body on the cross.

I’m learning how to receive grace. I’m also learning how to receive the love of God. I struggle, battle, fight, have WWIII occur in my heart on a regular basis because I believe the lie that I can do something to earn the grace and love of God. In reality, Jesus did everything I ever needed to have full access to both of those things. But I’m learning that I need grace A LOT more than I ever thought I did.

Grace to fall on my face.
Grace to ask too many questions at my new job.
Grace to eat too many chocolate sprinkle donuts.
Grace to get frustrated with Cooper (my cutie little puppy).
Grace to cry for no reason.
Grace to learn how to be thankful.
Grace to be really hurt and really wounded.
Grace to heal.
Grace to not have it all together.
Grace to laugh until I cry.

That is the season of life I’m in. Life is too big for my little heart to handle. It’s not all bad, but it’s definitely not all easy. I’m learning that, for the rest of my life, my heart will be being molded to look more like Jesus. That has been my prayer.

“God, would you make me tender to your leading? Would you teach me how to trust your gracious heart? Would you solidify in my heart that I cannot earn your affection? Teach me, Lord, how to be abandoned in obedience and covered in grace. Show me how to walk with you and like you, Jesus.”

Grace to burn everything I cook.
Grace to get lost.
Grace to not set an alarm.
Grace to hug my boyfriend too tight.
Grace to not know how to accurately describe how I feel.
Grace to be insecure.
Grace to be overwhelmed.
Grace to figure out the hard stuff.
Grace to dream the biggest dreams.

That’s my prayer for you. That you, dear reader, would walk in the grace that has been bought at a high price for you.  That you would not be so hard on yourself; that you would draw near to Jesus, receiving his grace. Would you not be satisfied with playing it safe, but would you risk, take the leap of faith, jump too high, run too fast and experience the overwhelming grace of God in your own life.

I desperately need grace.
I need favor from God that I did nothing to earn.
Because ultimately, my life amounts to nothing if I do not have Jesus, and that’s what grace REALLY is, a person named Jesus.