The Success of the Seeking

A text I just sent Seth a little bit ago talks about hitting things and yelling and crying and a desperate need for coffee ice cream and a fluffy bed. Ok so maybe I’m not the greatest at keeping the emotions steady and maybe (absolutely) exams are getting to me. And maybe, if we’re being terribly honest here, I really just want to have a good cry and throw a tantrum that could rival a 4 year old and try to justify it with ugly words like stress and anxiety and exhaustion. But, you see, God’s doing that thing where he keeps whispering truth. And a really big part of me just wants to yell and say ’no God, you don’t get it.’ And then I remember. Two thousand years ago, Jesus was in the garden before the soldiers came and took him away. I close my eyes and see him bent over, weeping out prayers, and sweating blood. My stress is nothing.

But I shake the image from my head, desperately wanting to justify my desire to complain, to justify my stress. ’Ok but God, why do you let me experience this? Why did you make me that I care so much about exams that I literally stress and study myself to sickness. Why did you make me like this.’

His answer cuts deep. ‘I did not make you to want a certain grade so badly or reach a certain accomplishment so desperately that you settle for what you are currently going through. Sweet child, that is what you are settling for by your own choice.’

And then the real root of it all quietly slips from lips. ‘I just want to be successful. And I want to be recognized for my success.’

My breath flows over my lips as I curl my knees to my chest. How desperately I want to be more like my Jesus and how intense the refining can be. I stay like this for a bit. Quiet. Tears shamelessly resting on cheeks. Lashes pointed down. The stress and anxiety grab at me as Christ begins pulling it away. I pull my knees a little tighter and the tears flow a little faster. I don’t want the areas of sin that hold me, grabbing and pulling, bruising, they hold so tight. I let them be pulled away. A quiet plea of ‘Jesus’ makes it out as my breath travels across tear streaked lips.

And so quickly, he overwhelms me with truth.

My daughter, do you not know what I made you for? I made you for worship. Even if you just seek me with the desire to worship, you have been more successful than any other accomplishment you may be recognized for. And because I created you to worship, I created this world to encourage worship. I wrote every single moment of your life to inspire worship. I wove worship into every event, every exam, every relationship. So daughter, will you be content with worship.

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Distance and a Groom

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Sixteen days. That’s how long it has been since I sneaked into Seth’s apartment at 5:45am, kissed him on the forehead, and said see you later honey. Just two more until I’m back for a few days. And then the countdown just starts over.

It seems to be a popular thing to tell me 3 hours distance isn’t bad and I seriously wish I was paid for every time someone tries to be encouraging and let’s me know that I’m lucky I get to see him every few weeks or once a month or so. And you know what, they’re right. We did three months of distance after two months of dating, from North Carolina to California, with no visits, and usually a phone call a week. This semester of distance rocks compared to that. Ok ask me in the moment and I’ll say something totally different and probably accompanied by a tantrum that could rival a two-year-old, but really distance may be the greatest thing.

You know why? Because mine and Seth’s story isn’t about the giggles and dating and love and engagement and soon, marriage. It’s not about the mess ups, the tears, the fights, the miscommunication. God didn’t create relationship so we better know each other. He created relationship so that we better know him.

Let’s be real here. Dating is hard. It’s really, really, really hard. That’s the beauty of it. I’ve never been so humbled by anything as I have been by my relationship with Seth. Every single day, I say the wrong thing. I do the wrong thing. I don’t do the right thing. If we’re being terribly real here, I hardly ever get it right. But Seth continues to love me (verb here, you guys. Love is always a verb). But sometimes the greatest way he shows me love is by calling me to be a better reflection of Christ. Sound nice, right? But, sweet friends, that kind of stings sometimes.

And it’s that sting, that rebuke, that has taught me something absolutely crucial about my relationship with Seth. My relationship isn’t supposed to be between or about me and my man. Let’s be real here, my relationship with Seth has definitely gone through a time where we tried to make it all about us. And it nearly wrecked us. No, relationship is about how Seth and I together, you and your person or your future person, reflect the person of Christ.

How neat is that? Individually we strive towards being more like Christ but something really special happens in relationship. You two together become a more complete image of Christ because he himself is a relationship – the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit. You get to see and experience and understand aspects of Jesus in a new way through relationship, whether dating, engagement, marriage, or friendship, that just isn’t possible alone.

And that, sweet friends, is why I am so blessed by distance. It’s a constant reminder that this isn’t how it is supposed to be. Complete relationship as a reflection of Christ isn’t supposed to happen over distance. But you know what? The groom is coming for his bride. And until that day comes, I will wait and prepare and long for it.

Distance is humbling because relationship is humbling. It is hard. It is frustrating. But it is so good and so worth it. Relationship is never something to take lightly because it is one of the greatest ways we experience who Christ is. And let me tell you, God takes relationship so seriously. He loves to bless it and he will not hesitate to do work in it, however painful, so that it is as honoring and glorifying as it can be.

You guys, I long for the distance to be over. Just a few more months. I keep telling myself, just a few more. I so feel the absence of Seth in really everything I do. I know, cheesy, but it’s just so true. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.

I thought this was going to go a different direction. I planned on writing more about how God has so beautifully written mine and Seth’s story to include this distance, which is true. But sometimes God says ‘no, I have something better.’ He always does. Sweet friends, the best is yet to come because your Jesus, your groom, is coming and he’s chosen you as his bride. You are chosen. You are loved. Do you know your groom? Will you know him when he comes?

Sleepy Sunday Thoughts

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  • I’ve missed you. I’ve missed writing. Someday soon I’ll do another one of those verbal processing posts you somehow have to courage to read and even respond and share. You all always blow me away with your reaction to those. Thank you for loving me through my mess. But for today, we’re just talking bullet points and sleepy Sunday afternoon thoughts.
  • Such as my turning into a plant lady. Apparently this is the new cat lady and I’m feeling pretty good about this. So are my twelve plants. Yes, twelve.
  • I’m also increasingly aware that the older I get (we’re talking twenty now, so yeah, you know, getting up there), but yes the older I get, the more I fail to notice things. For example, the other day I knocked my globe off the bookshelf and the spherical part fell of the axis. I preceded to put it on upside down. And so it stayed for five days. FIVE DAYS, you guys. But whatever, it sparked an interesting conversation as to the origin and nature of North and South. Good stuff.
  • Speaking of good stuff. I helped my Dad go through his closet yesterday afternoon and gleefully claimed some of those good 80’s style sweaters – you know, the big stripes and bold colors, and turtle necks that make it almost to my knees. My mom’s comment when I waltzed downstairs in my favorite of my newfound treasures: “I used to wear that all the time when I was pregnant with you.” Great. Apparently all good things do not come to an end.
  • Though my grades may disagree with that statement because goodness gracious this engagement ring is the most distracting thing. (Thanks, Seth, for picking out one that is so freaking pretty and sparkly. I’m obsessed). I may have stared at it for fifteen minutes when I was supposed to be writing an essay on the introduction of the telephone and it’s impact on the family structure. Blah. I think the sparkles may have distracted the person trying to diligently focus beside me. Sorry about that bud.

Choice

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I was told once, a long while ago, to not be afraid of the tears because the tears mean I’m alive.

These months must be extreme aliveness then because the tears keep coming. Sometimes for no reason. Sometimes in public. Often in darkness. Sometimes for joy, other times for sadness. Sometimes they come because of loneliness. Sometimes fear. And then sometimes they just fall.

Sometimes it all overwhelms me. I sit in the solarium balcony, staring out the floor to ceiling windows. Students move through their days, oblivious to the watching eyes. Groups, one, two, are they happy? I’m not. I try, I really do. I want to be happy. And sometimes I am. But it fades. And I’m alone again, sitting in my dorm, hearing conversations through thin walls and shouts of community out my window.

I was told that joy isn’t something that comes after the storm. You don’t do the storm and then have the joy and the faith after it is dealt with. You have to claim it in the midst of the storm and lean on that because without that, you have nothing and the storm is going to wreck you. It’s wrecked me. But no more. I won’t submit to the wreckage. I choose something much harder and something I don’t really even know how to choose. Joy. I’m not waiting for it to come to me. I’m chasing and pursuing in hope that it overwhelms me.

I’m choosing to notice the way the trees are finally donning their leaves and it looks like a green mist is seeping through the mountains and how the stone wall is always warm and how those two who pass outside the window are so filled with love and the way he looks at her and the way her laugh fills her eyes. I’m choosing to wake up early just so I have a few minutes to read or to write or just to sit. I love that morning still. The morning darkness is like my mom’s arms that welcome and beckon and mean safety and rest. The night darkness threatens to smother.

I choose to capture my thoughts. The mind wanders so easily but I won’t let mine drag me to the darkness. When the thoughts creep in, threatening to bully with loneliness, anxiety, I touch my hand to my pocket where the crumpled paper reads hope or glance at the back of my hand. “Abba, you are greater than this.”

I choose my posture. I won’t submit. My head won’t bow. My shoulders won’t bend with shame. I won’t hide behind headphones or exhaustion. My daddy told me he gave everything for me so I do not have to be afraid anymore. I’m safe now, nothing will reach me. The darkness is just darkness. The darkness is alone. It doesn’t have me.

I choose to worship when I would rather lie down and give into the pressures of the semester. Sometimes it’s a meek worship. My father knows me, though. He knows my heart. He loves to hear my meek worship. He loves to fill my heart with girlish giggles and unabashed dancing. He delights in my choice of joy. He multiplies my meek attempts with an abundance of goodness. Because he is my Abba, my Daddy.

We Celebrated a Year, Sailboat Brigades, and Flying Silverware

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The guy and I celebrated a year yesterday (a YEAR, peoples! That’s exciting stuff and I love this man of mine!) There were picnics on piers with Japanese takeout and pink lemonade. And a shared fork because the wind stole our other one along with the plastic bag, but no worries, Seth faithfully waited on the edge of the lake for it to float over.

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There were precious old men having motor sailboat brigades. Seriously, you guys, they were the cutest!

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The guy gave me my most favorite piece of jewelry ever. Get this, I mentioned my love of rose gold back in August and he has remembered it since then and even picked this out all by himself! What a keeper.

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We found a dream couple (Hey guys, I’ve got a couple crush on your cuteness and canoe and dog, too.) and blue skies and sunshine and perfect weather.

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This boat may look sketchy but it was ready to go and I’ve never been so tempted to hop in it and enjoy the sunshine…if only the old men sailboat brigade weren’t watching.

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Ah it was such a perfect day and my man is the best. But it’s time to scoot up (fly up?) to New York for a few days of doing touristy stuff with no shame so prepare yourselves for a multitude of photos!

Be Loved. Beloved.

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In fifth grade, I was given a pair of bright pink crocs. Outrageous in every way, but they went perfectly with my dresser full of gauchos and closet full of long, skinny scarves which matched with the layers on layers of brightly colored tanks, so the crocs stuck around. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just google 2000’s fashion. I blame my middle school woes completely on the fashion faux pas that was the 2000’s.

Anyway, the crocs. They were perfect in every situation – waterproof and floatable for afternoons spent down at the creek; I could add jibitz to dress them up for church; throw on a pair of socks, lace around the top, of course, when it was cold. I loved those things so much so that they had holes in the soles within 6 months. Sixth grade year, I figured it was time to grow up and went with a pair of black mary jane crocs. They were traded out for a pair of black converse when I realized crocs weren’t quite as cool as I originally thought.

Fashion is a funny thing. We become obsessed with a style and then 10 years later, we look back and call it the greatest mistake of the century. Oh, we are such fickle people; but we sure do love those trends outrageously.

Outrageous: going beyond all standards of what is right or decent.

This fall has been a funny time of realizing, much like these fashion trends, how outrageous my faith is. I wouldn’t want anything less than that because God is an outrageous God.

He knows no limits. There is nothing he will not do for the sake of love. He loves outrageously because that is how he loves, that is who he is. I try to understand his ways and his methods but they go ‘beyond all standards of what is right or decent.’ They know no boundaries. They are unfamiliar with the paradigms of love we try to cast upon them. His love says that there is nothing that will separate us from him. There is nothing we can do to receive more love because he already promises us it all. And so, he loves because that is what he does – he is the one who loves. That is who he is – he is the lover.

That’s just who he is. You’re welcome to try to understand; but expect to be overwhelmed by the outrageous nature of it. We cast him aside, condemn him, and he returns with the most extreme gesture. He gives his life for our sake. Be loved. That is who you are – the beloved. That is why you were chosen – to be loved.

Get rid of everything you expect love to be, cast aside all paradigms, because he promises he will love you outrageously every day from forever until eternity. He loves in order to set you free. That’s just who he is. It’s not an act. There is no effort. It is just his nature.

I AM…Lover. I AM…Love.

His perfect love casts out all fear, all hesitation. There is no room for fear in the presence of love. His love hates fear. There is no need, no desire, no threat of any sort because his love is complete. It is good. It is perfect. It is outrageous. His love is powerful beyond anything we know. And so, be loved.

You are beloved.

That is who you are. That is who you were created to be. In that, you know completion. You experience complete joy, complete peace, complete knowledge of who you are. Give him any obstacle that is keeping you from his love because he loves you as you are right now. He will always love you as you are right now because that is how he sees you, how he knows you, how he created you. Set yourself free from how you see yourself. Be loved. That’s who you are. And love him back. Outrageously. He has so many places he wants to take you – new levels of outrageous love. New ways of completion. New adventures with no fear for love knows no fear.

So, be loved. Be loved outrageously. That is who you are – the one who is loved outrageously: beloved. The God who only knows outrageous love said ‘I love you. You are mine. I love you for who you are, right now, in this moment because that is who I am. That is what I do. That is just my nature. I love. I love you. I want to love you for all eternity. I will love you always and will never stop loving you.’

Be loved.

Seek Adventure. Yeah – I said it.

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A recruiter from Waffle House spoke to my Communication Theory class this morning. For half an hour, he waxed eloquently about the excellent career move that starts by being a manager for Waffle House. For thirty minutes, he talked salary. Money. Wealth. There was no talk of values or service, just money. Fidgeting with my pencil, I watched my classmates during his presentation. The majority payed closer attention to him than they ever do to our professor – the assistant chair of the department. Money catches attention.

I understand students wanting a return for their investment in college. I pay for my tuition, room, board, leisure activities, clothes, whatever. I get it. College is expensive. But I’m not sure I’m willing to be swayed by the idea of a six figure salary.

Am I alone? Maybe I’m a romantic, but I want more. Perhaps I’m foolish, but the salary of a job really means nothing to me. So what do I want? I want my life to be wrapped up in the adventure that comes from following Christ. I’m not some kind of ‘super christian,’ I’ve just tasted the thrill in adventure of a life that is the Father’s and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to lose my desire for that.

There’s an article circulating about the dangers of seeking the next great adventure. If you’re on Facebook, it has likely shown up on your news feed and essentially everywhere you look. It has a good point – be content with where you are right now; but there’s a danger in that. Don’t seek the next adventure, seek the great adventure. Go anywhere, do anything to see his face, to be a part of his adventure.

How much do you trust him to offer yourself and say “here I am, send me”? How far are you willing to go? That’s the key question – how far. Will you seek security in a salary or will you give up anything, go anywhere, be completely willing for the sake of the greatest adventure.

I’m quietly giggling to myself as I sit writing this in my dorm room because I can’t get Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, relevantly titled “The Great Adventure”, out of my head. It goes:

Let’s follow our Leader

Into the glorious unknown

This is a life like no other

This is the great adventure

How far are you willing to go? What keeps you from joining in on this adventure – salary, security, comfort? What do you place ahead of the Father?

Will you join me in the greatest adventure? Go anywhere. Do anything. Chase where he is. Oh, this brings the greatest fulfillment, the greatest security – an eternal security. What would it look like if students pursued jobs after college based on where God was moving rather than the best career move? Can you imagine that. Chase where he is. Be a part of what he is doing in the world.

I love adventure with regards to how the word is most often used – exciting, unusual, typically hazardous activities. But I want more. I want adventure that brings completion, peace, the greatest excitement, the most intense joy, an overwhelming thrill that happens when you say “yes, Lord, I am yours. Send me. Use me. Let me join you and adventure with you.” Can you imagine a better adventure partner than our creator?