Wednesday, December 21, 2011

When dying of hypothermia, warm fuzzies are indispensable.

These past months have been hard ones for me. I know it’s cliché but they have been some of the best and hardest of my life. Being married is great, more than I had hoped for from all the Christian nay-saying I grew up with. The hard part is the same thing that has always been hard for me; what’s going on inside of me.

With the opening of my heart to Jon, which has been miraculous, God has put his toe through the door to previously closed rooms in my heart. I had very little idea that these rooms existed, much less were closed. They were like secret passageways that I had put out of use and forgotten about. But God never forgets and apparently he wants to tour them, and then make himself at home in them.

This sounds fine on paper. There is nothing I’d like more. But in real life, it has been so much messier, and so out of my control, and so confusing, and so exhausting. I have felt as though I am being ripped open. I mean literally felt as though my chest is exploding. Jon has watched, helpless, as I have cried and even screamed uncontrollably from pain long locked away.

One of my worst fears has finally overtaken me, I have experienced emotional take-over, lost all ability to reason or even interact with anything outside of me. I have experienced loss of control, much worse loss of control than other emotional people I have scorned. I have experienced helplessness. I have been humbled.

I have felt the distance I created between God and I long ago and no longer have the power to revoke. I have experienced the terror of God that I have been denying was inside me for years. The confusion I have kept on the shelf keeps falling off on my head. I have admitted that I don’t feel loved by Him. I have faced the fact that mostly I feel pain. I have started to accept that all of this is true even if it’s illogical. I have admitted my need of God not just in my mind or my actions but in my emotions.

I have been asking to experience him. I have been asking to feel his love. I used to think that you shouldn’t need these to be a good Christian. That people only searched for these because they would rather have warm fuzzies than face reality. That people cared too much about how they felt about God and not enough about who God actually is. But in my humbling, my mind has been changed.

In none of my other relationships do I find that feeling love from someone is neither here nor there. In none of my other close relationships do I believe that it doesn’t matter that I’ve never felt loved by that person, or that if they told me they loved me then that should be enough. In none of my other relationships have I put the blame on myself when someone else has not acted out their love for me. In none of my other relationships do I make excuses for the fact that they once did something very loving but I haven’t really heard from them since.

If it’s relationship that God wants, then good emotions towards him are certainly not enough alone, but they are also certainly not dispensable. It is reasonable to want to feel love, to see love, to understand and experience love from someone who declares that they love you.

I wish that I could let you into the convoluted confusion of my mind and emotions as I have reached and wrestled with this conclusion. The many questions swirling, the uncertainty, the feelings of guilt and unworthiness and “What’s wrong with me?” and “Why am I so messed up?” and “Is it my fault?” and “I thought I dealt with this all before!” and “What if I never feel loved by God?” and “Am I refusing to accept the love of God?” and “Why hasn’t God shown up yet?”

On the one hand knowing so certainly that He does love me but also experiencing that my emotions are not in unity with this knowing. I am very ready for everything inside me to be on the same page.

I’ve been thinking about practicing the presence of God. I mostly haven’t gotten anywhere with the thought but it’s still been bothering my mind. Is there something I can do? I know my works are useless, but in my other relationships I know what to do to hang out with a person. With my Mom I might run errands or go out to eat. With Gracie I sit on the couch and drink coffee and talk about whatever pops into my head in no particular order. With Ellen, I follow her around the farm. With Jon, I work on a project with him. With Cassie and Connor I go on long walks up the road.

But what do I do to specially spend time with God? Being a good Christian for all my life now, I know lots of answers, but I couldn’t figure out the way God and I connect most easily. Then yesterday, I had an “Aha!” moment. I have always felt most connected to God outside, or in enjoying nature.

Today, I realized that at different times there have been different things that God and I did to connect. When I was rediscovering him while walking through darkness, the Psalms connected us. When the darkness was dissipating, reading the Psalms was no longer the same, but journaling about all my questions connected us. Then the journaling didn’t seem to work anymore. But always, always, marveling at his creations has been our favorite connection. I never realized it before because I didn't recognise it as spiritual enough.

Tonight, as I tried to go to sleep, I was thinking about this and my brain exploded. My earliest, clearest, happiest, most restful, most peaceful, most joyful, most simple, most happy, most awe-inspiring memories have always been of the outdoors. And in remembering, it hit me. There was God, loving me, enjoying me, spending time with me, investing in me, protecting me, healing me, comforting me, being with me, when I was outside. That’s why those memories are so important. I didn’t see it then, but I felt it; God was loving me in my language.

Memory after beautiful memory rushed through my mind. Memories untarnished by confusion and pain. Memories I’ve always enjoyed but never connected to each other. I felt as though I had suddenly received 23 years worth of juicy letters from someone I thought hadn’t been communicating with me.

All those years of confused memories, memories half happy half troubling, memories of tension I didn’t understand, and hurts I can no longer deny, and darkness I desperately tried to hide from. Memories of feeling that God was distant or maybe didn’t care, or was waiting on me to straighten up. Those are still there. Those memories were always connected in my mind. But now, with these bright memories connecting too, those other memories changed.

Most of those memories are of a darkness I couldn’t understand and couldn’t put my finger on and couldn’t get away from and couldn't seem to find God in. But they started changing as I got the idea that he was there, standing right in front of me, with his back towards me. But he hadn’t turned his back on me; he was busy fighting for me. I was safe, but the danger was real and really scary and I didn’t understand why he wasn’t holding me.

But then, when I’d go outside, the danger would be gone and the fear, and he would soothe me and comfort me and make me laugh. I can’t explain it to you. I wish I could. I have never felt so loved.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Only the buyer can give something worth. The seller can set a price that they believe it is worth, but when the buyer pays the amount then the item’s worth is proven.

Some things are worthless because no one will buy them, exchange them, or take them for any reason. In a country whose wars had lessened the worth of its currency a basket full of bills was left outside a store for a moment. When the owner of the basket returned, his bills were scattering in the wind and the basket was stolen. The money, although it had its supposed worth printed on it, was no longer worth anything because no one would accept it.

To a horse owner, horse dung is worthless. Unless someone comes by and wants to buy it for fertilizer. Then it is worth whatever the person is offering.

It is the same with us. When we were in sin, it seemed that we were worthless. We had such a huge debt, and had nothing to commend ourselves with. In our pride, we didn’t even believe that we needed help. If someone had offered to pay our debt, we would have laughed in their face.

God saw this, our need, our pride, our debt, and he saw worth. He and Jesus knew that to bring us out of this state and into the glory we were made for would take death. Then they agreed that we were worth the price. To all appearances we were worthless but then a Buyer came along, gave us his attention and decided we were worth his effort.

wor·thy Adjective: deserving effort, attention, or respect.

We certainly did nothing in ourselves to be worthy or have worth. God created us with worth. Then he redeemed us after we had separated ourselves from the Source of our worth. Through Jesus, he made us twice as worthy again.

My worth is phenomenal. My pricetag reads, "Priceless". I am worth Jesus. If you believe that this is going to give me a big head then you didn’t understand a thing I just said. I am worth Jesus because Jesus said so and for no other reason. If I turn from him to honor my own worth then I am denying the One who gave me worth. It would be madness.

On the other hand, if I look to myself and proclaim, “Without Jesus I am worthless.” This too is madness. I am not without Jesus. Why would I try to take Jesus out of the equation? He IS the equation.

No person is so far from Jesus as to be without worth. No person has ever been so far from Jesus as to be without worth. The unsaved deny the one who gives them worth and try to claim their worth apart from him. Regardless of what they deny, regardless of the worth they are constantly scrambling to prove, the truth remains. Jesus considered them worth dying for.

I would call that priceless.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Worship: Sharing the Thoughts of God

I recently realized that I pray and worship nearly without stopping through my days. Of course I've always known the verse "Pray without ceasing," and, with most other Christians, just stared at it with an uncomprehending look on my face. So to realize that I was, in fact, more often than not fulfilling that verse was quite mind-blowing.

wor·ship: Adoring reverence or regard.

"Wait a second!" I thought, "I haven't been working on this! Shouldn't praying and worshiping be much more trouble than this? Surely I'm not . . ." But the truth is, I was. So I tried to figure out how this miracle had happened.

Whenever I say that I am trying to figure something out, that usually means that I am talking to God about it. I asked God if this could really be true about me and how in the world had it happened. He began to give me a short history of myself. In fact, though not in nearly so many words, I'm pretty sure He told me a story.

"Once, there was a girl named . . . well, okay, there IS a girl that is you. Anyways…You eventually began to get the idea that I loved you…That I liked you…That I liked hanging out with you, that I thought you were perfect and beautiful…That I liked you all the time, not just when you were on your best behavior.”

"When you FINALLY started to believe Me on these points... ('Cause, good grief child, you took a time being convinced.) …you started to forget about yourself and enjoy being with Me. You quit pretending that I was sometimes far away because you quit being ashamed for Me to be near. So we were always together.

"The more we hung out, the more you liked Me. The longer we were together the more you realized what it meant that I loved you perfectly. ('Cause if I do say so Myself, it's a pretty amazing love.) So you loved Me even more.

"We got comfortable around each other. It's not as though everything was always rosy. I'm pretty sure you could pick a fight with a fence post because you picked all sorts of fights with Me. They often ended with Me holding you while you cried. Sometimes they ended with you looking sheepish after finding My answers amazing and delightful. Don't worry though, you're learning to ask questions nicely before you pick a fight with the Lord of Angel Armies and your Loving Redeemer. Not that I mind. It just causes much less emotional trauma for you.

"In the mean time, we shared the way we see the world. I showed you millions of glimpses of what it was like before the curse came. I showed you what I saw when I called it all "good." I showed you that only eternity matters and that eternity is made of the moments called "now." I shared your pain, confusion, and darkness. In return you shared My dreams, my delight in people, my joy in my own creativity.

"Now we're up to the present. You declare beauty in the world around you because I declared beauty in You. You have love for me and those around you because you have accepted my love."

beau·ty: the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction

I don't go through my life spouting Christian songs (not that there's anything wrong with that but believe me, you should be grateful I don't). I don't go around quoting Psalms. I don't recite the Lord's Prayer non-stop. My thoughts act very much the same as they always have. They wander, they remember, they get distracted, they imagine, they process and they are impossible.

The difference is that I know that God is here. All my thoughts belong to Him, they are His concern to mold, to sort through, to keep, to discard, to mature. I do not say that I pray because I continually ask things of God. I say that I pray because I am in continuous communion with God.

I do not say that I worship because I continually sing. I say that I worship because I live in His thoughts. His thoughts are mine to treasure, to keep, to hold, to love, to wonder at. I am continually amazed by them and this adoring amazement is worship.

I find that worship itself is not hard work, prayer is not either. They both come very naturally. What is hard is believing God's thoughts towards me. Countless times I have tried to talk Him out of His love towards me. I have often doubted His delight in me. Many times I have refused to believe that He has redeemed me fully, perfectly. So many times I have struggled to believe that my actions cannot separate me from Him.

When I am hindered from believing God's thoughts, prayer ceases and worship withers into worry.

Worship springs from Love. Don't determine that you will pray more often, or for longer periods of time. It won't work. Determine that you will accept God's love whether it comes like a gentle spring rain or a tornado swirling and ripping through your life. Accept it whether it is as ridiculous as a green one-eyed alien knocking on your front door or as sensible as your mother fixing you supper.

[The post When God and I Do Lunch is a small example of when God shares how He sees something with me. I hope to write of many more moments like this one to make myself clearer. These times happen so quickly and are so simple it is hard to grab them and put them into words.]

Monday, March 14, 2011

When God and I Do Lunch

Yesterday afternoon, I was fixing lunch for the family. No big deal, just four turkey sandwiches. I opened a new loaf of bread. A boring loaf, it looked just like a hundred others I could have picked off the grocery shelf. I don’t even really care for the taste of it. That’s why it was particularly surprising that as I took out the first two pieces I was suddenly struck by how beautiful bread is.

It was a peculiar moment. All these thoughts and half-thoughts, memories, stories, ideas, tastes, smells, and feelings welled up. Jesus breaking bread for His disciples. Hungry children begging for bread. Mothers teaching their daughters how to bake bread down the centuries and across many cultures. Robin Hood sitting on the side of the road eating bread and cheese before he continues to wherever he’s going. Wasn’t there something about yeast bread first being made in Egypt?

…Merry and Pippen eating way too much Lembas Bread. Samwise denying himself so that there will be enough bread to get Frodo back home. Farmers planning the whole year around their grain crop so they can feed their families bread. The French peasants of the revolution crying for bread before they cried for blood. David, on the run, eating the showbread from the temple with his men.

…Jesus eating bread with tax collectors and Pharisees. Jesus being the bread of life. My older sister’s many frustrating attempts at homemade corn bread. The wonderful smell of homemade bread while muddling my way through Algebra. Bread and butter at a friend’s house and being chided for not drinking all my milk. Naan, the middle-eastern bread my mother and I tried as we cried our way through a dish of spicy Indian food. My younger sister making biscuits for many grateful friends.

…Taking forever to bake a simple loaf of banana bread at the age of nine and eating large portions of the batter when it was only sugar, butter, and vanilla. Taking bread to neighbors at Christmas. The KFC honey biscuits in Hong Kong. (I dreamt of buying a bucket of them and eating them all.) My littlest brother carefully picking the bread items out of his meal to eat when he was barely old enough to get it to his mouth.

Hunger, satisfaction, frustration, adventure, pleasure, friendship, sacrifice, anticipation, laughter… these are the feelings that go with bread.

At the speed of light, I was back again; making a simple lunch for my family.

This frequently happens. A simple thing that I’ve happily taken for granted suddenly reminds me that it’s the simple things that matter. I feel as though I’ve suddenly seen God’s signature in two slices of bread and seen two slices of bread the way God intended them. They are full of wonder, full of life. In that moment I am truly grateful. Thankfulness wells up in me that God has always given me the privilege of taking bread for granted. I definitively decide that making turkey sandwiches is a Godly way to be spending my time. I finish lunch smiling over a new memory… the time God showed me bread.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I have this picture on my desktop right now. I took it myself so I know the actual events surrounding it. I hadn't seen it for a few months though, and running across it the other day it wrote a new story in my mind. It reminds me at the same time of distant shores and of coming home. The water and the sky are grey and troubled. The rain may be coming or going. Somehow, it still speaks peace to me. It's beautiful and hope clearly shines on the horizon.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Grace, Love & Fireflies

It was moving day. Actually, it was the last day of moving week, or moving month. At the age of six I wasn’t very good at knowing how long it had been, I was only old enough to know it had been long enough. Finally, we would be living at our new home.

As any moving day, it was busy and long. There were lots of family and friends helping. Lots of people asking, “Where does this go? Can you grab the other end of this? Be careful with that! Has anyone found the ___?”A six-year-old wasn’t much help, so I spent most of the day being kindly shuffled out of the way by one person or another. It was an eternally long day to me.

When things quieted down, the friends left, and all the boxes were stacked high at the new house, I became aware that my two older sisters got bay windows in their new rooms but I didn’t. I just hadn’t really thought about it until then, but those windows were beautiful and perfect for reading in. If I could have one I’d be just like a girl in a story with my own little cubby to sit in. But I didn’t have one.

My little sister and I had the big room up front, with two boring floor to ceiling windows that had window ledges too small to even fit a knick knack in. It was the last straw of a long, tiring day at the end of a long, tiring week and I burst into tears. My family was a bit flabbergasted. What were they to do? They were sorry, but they couldn’t just give me a bay window! They tried to explain to me how wonderful my own room was. It was much bigger, I got two windows instead of just one bay window, and it would have all my things in it. But I was inconsolable.

Then Mom talked to Dad and they came up with a plan. Dad took me for a walk, just him and me. I remember feeling a little sorry for my other sisters that they weren’t coming too, but still grateful it was just him and me. I was relieved to have Dad time after that embarrassing teary outburst, but I also wasn’t going to be talked out of the wonders of bay windows if that was his next plan.

Dad didn’t try to talk me out of bay windows. I don’t remember if we really talked at all. We walked a short way down our new street to the empty corner that was woods with a little foot path. It was dusk out and the day was cooling off; it was beautiful and calm. Just a little way into the woods, it happened. A flicker here, another a short way off. In moments we were surrounded by fireflies.

Fireflies are always beautiful. But that evening, with a long, disappointing day behind me, and my Dad’s hand holding mine, fireflies weren’t just beautiful. They were heart-healingly magical. We stood there and soaked it up together for a few moments.

“There’s one!”

“Did you see that one?”

“There’s two at once!”

Then Dad caught one to show me up close. It was so tiny in his hand, struggling to get away, but still lighting up. He carefully held it between his fingers so as not to hurt it and turned it upside down to show me. I was filled with wonder. It was just a bug! Yet, it was so much more than a bug; it was a beautiful mystery.

That night, I slept in my new room that didn’t have a bay window. I was still tired. It had still been a long and disappointing day. I never got a bay window, and I still want one. But somehow none of that mattered anymore. I had shared fireflies with Dad. A short half hour of shared love and beauty changed that whole long day into one of the most precious memories of my life.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

To Those Who Know Me

Friend ... that loaded word.

I love people. I adore them actually. When I people watch, I sometimes literally feel sorry for myself that I can’t get to know them. I know it’s terribly sappy and ridiculous, but I’m trying to be honest here.

The even weirder thing is that in spite of this wish to know every interesting person in the world. (Okay, there might be a few exceptions.) I am often afraid to get to know my own friends. There is always one question looming over me. “What if I fail them?” This comes in a few varieties, including but not limited to, “What if I end up being that one person that they learned to count on and then isn’t there at the critical moment? What if I don’t talk to them very often? What if I do something that makes them feel judged? What if I hurt them?”

With my weird and bad health thrown in, some of these questions felt even more pressing. What if this person knew that all I can think about when I talk to them is how tired I am? How would that person be able to trust me again if they ever found out that for a few moments I absolutely could not remember who they were? How could I ever explain that even my love can’t overcome my physical weakness?

I’ve even gone so far as to tell people, “I love you, but I can’t promise to be there for you. I’m simply not reliable.” I’ve explained to people, “You can call me, but don’t be surprised if I don’t return your calls. You can write me, but I’ll probably forget to write you back.”

I said these things because I thought they were true, I wanted to be honest, I didn’t want to disappoint. I said these things because I wanted to be perfect for you and I knew I would fail. I thought I was breaking it gently, but the truth is that I wasn’t trusting God.

I thought that you needed me to be there all the time, preferably in the same town, or even the same house with you. I thought you needed me to be able to have hours and hours of phone conversations and encouraging letters every month at least, and regular Friday night hangouts, too. I thought you needed me to never be awkward or just plain wrong. I thought you needed me to never disappoint you. Now I realize, I thought you needed me to be God.

The strange thing is that none of you ever asked this of me. I’m the only one who decided what kind of friend I should be. I’m the only one who let friendships die, not from lack of communication, because some of the people I communicate the least frequently with are some of my closest friends. Instead, I let fear starve my friendships. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to be there all the time, so I eventually wasn’t there at all.

I’m writing this to tell you that I am so sorry.

I’m writing this to tell you that I’ve missed you. I’m sorry that I convinced you that I’d never return your phone calls. I still might be terrible at it, but I’m grateful for every chance you give me. I’m sorry my health sometimes makes me boring, forgetful, moody, and airheaded. But if you can put up with a friend that is all those things, I am so willing. I’m sorry that I’ve wasted so much time wishing I could be God to you, but if you want a friend who struggles with a God complex then I’m the person you’re looking for.

I’m sorry I don’t have all the time in the world but if you’re willing to work with whatever God gives us, then I am more than willing to treasure the moments He gives us to share. I’m sorry if I’ve ever communicated that we can’t be friends because we believe differently. Believing differently had nothing to do with it; we couldn’t be friends because I was too afraid.

I’m especially sorry for those of you in the past that I judged and condemned. I was playing God then too, and I’m terrible at the part.

If you are willing to remind me that you don’t need me to be perfect, then I want to be there for you during those times when you do need me. I don’t want fear to steal any more of the lovely relationships I could be sharing. Thanks for being patient with me and giving me more grace than I was even capable of accepting.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Lauren the Omniscient (and a bit about trust)

Everyone prefers knowledge to stupidity. Almost everyone gets frustrated when they can’t understand. No one likes to be in a situation they feel unqualified for. Humans like to feel in control, and when you don’t know the ropes, you are most certainly not in control. Practically, you simply cannot make informed decisions if you cannot find or cannot trust the information.

Some of us are more aware of everything we don’t know than others of us are. Some of us make information and understanding our god. We simply will not make a decision without perfect understanding and, therefore, never make decisions. We are the people who will study and study and study a subject and feel our paper on the subject is dribble because it is not exhaustive. We are the ones who can’t form an opinion because it might be the wrong opinion.

How do I know that these silly people exist? Simply, I am one.

I would prefer that I know and have perfect comprehension of everything. This is nice in some ways. There is nothing I am not interested in learning. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to pick any one thing to learn because I cannot learn it perfectly, and I don’t know enough about it to know whether it’s what I want to learn most.

It also becomes quite a problem when I’m not talking about learning a subject, but rather a person. It gets downright horrible when it comes to knowing God.

I have recently felt that I had to keep my mind so open about God and people that my brains simply must be dribbling out. Don’t get me wrong. There are some things I am very closed minded about. It’s just that they are very few. I don’t want to ever believe something about God again that He did not personally verify to me.

Being open-minded is not all bad. It is reasonable to understand that I don’t know everything and that lots of things I do know, I don’t understand. It is also part of humility to know that I don’t know everything, that in fact, I don’t know much. Unfortunately, it is pride to refuse to make a decision because I can’t make The Perfect One with my limited comprehension

So, there I am stuck. It turns out that I have to trust God with my imperfect knowledge, whether it’s about where I live, buying something, or even knowing Him. Basically, I have to learn to live without being omniscient. You would think I’d be used to living limited to a human brain, but I tell you it comes as a blow to find God reserves the right to be the only Omniscient Being. I must trust even what I don’t see and will never know of God. I must trust that if I forget, misinterpret, never find or even misunderstand the information, I can still make a good decision.

I used to scorn people who ‘blindly trusted’. Now I suspect that trust at its core is blind. I trust a light switch to turn on the light without shocking me or burning the house down. I could say this is well-informed trust, because I have a history with that light switch and it has always behaved reliably in the past. Or I could realize that no matter how many times it has worked in the past, my trust of it has always been blind. I certainly have never followed the wires between the walls. I have never checked to see if any are melting, eroding, chewed on, or badly connected. I’m not even sure that those are the things that would need to be checked.

So I’m giving up my right to control, my right to understand, and even my dream of omniscience. I’m admitting I’m blind, and I’m choosing to trust.

What do you think? Can trust be trust without an element of blindness?