the least likely place to feel worldly secure

Where, would you imagine, is the last place in the world you could feel secure?

A fashion trade show in Las Vegas, teeming with the fashion conscious, industry hungry, ladder climbers, perhaps?

This is a very legitimate “least likely place in the world” if you find security by way of comparison. There are beautiful people everywhere. Literally, we’ve spent the last 3 days looking across the aisle at American Apparel models parading around in front of their 8 foot poster likenesses in all their ‘made in the USA’ glory.

If you go down the hall or up the stairs to the big times, it’s even crazier – where the largest global market week for contemporary fashion earns its title.

Everybody’s got a limit and I think I just hit mine like a brick wall. I’m not a fashion conscious, industry ladder climber and I can still feel like 15 years old around people who are.

But, guess what? Sitting right smack dab in the middle of the least likely place to feel worldly secure (with my TJ Maxxed top and my thrifted jeans and my plump petite size), I’m the same amount of self-confident.

I’ve done a lot of people watching these last couple days. I’m sure people have done a lot of watching me too, but I didn’t really notice. There is a point, in the wee hours of 6 am, where I shrug at the mirror and say, “It’s not going to get any better than this” without too much fight. But often, in all my watching of fashion comings and goings this week, I would start to smile a little bit (hopefully underneath my facial expression, but I can’t promise that).

I would smile because even if I always feel 15 around people who are supremely fashionable, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t feel less accepted or less approved or less loved.

Isn’t that magical?

Worth is not negotiable. Approval is not a trend. Acceptance is not a fad – not for this girl, anyway.

I already have the approval of the most important audience and I did absolutely nothing to gain it. Not a single thing. It’ll shock me every time, but maybe this week more than others because it feels like people try so hard to gain worth and approval and acceptance.

I smile because this day is full of reasons to rejoice and worrying about what I eat or drink or wear or buy is a big distraction to that joy.

Tomorrow, I’ll get off the plane in Brooklyn and call it home for my weary, vagabond feet. I’ll figure out the trains and maybe someday soon stop living out of a carry-on suitcase. I’ll find a local deli and make friends with the neighbors. I’ll people watch on the corner and join the massive morning commute. I’ll put one foot in front of the other and every footstep will take me in the direction of something new. I will shake off the distractions of “all other things” and smile because of the first and best thing.

I can’t think of a better/worse place from which to set sail, because I’m not really leaving from anywhere and that can really confuse an identity. But, not this girl. Well, that’s what I’ll keep preaching to myself.

I am approved, accepted, and loved because God approves, accepts and loves.

He is gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He is steadfast and certain. He is kind and patient, tender and just. He is my rock and fortress. This is my Lord who gives me identity, wherever my nomad feet roam and whatever my little hands do.

This is my Lord and my security.

if something or nothing or everything

I spoke at a little gathering this morning, in the basement of a little church in the belly of a little town in Iowa. The Griswold Optimist Club meets every Friday at 7 am. A hearty breakfast always accompanies the conversation and the updates and the meeting agenda, followed by the program.

After my grandma’s precious introduction, I stood up with the Optimist Creed as a backdrop to share with this little crowd. I spoke and they listened. Somewhere in the middle, as my words went out, I thought about the great tension of now and not yet – about being present in the moment while pushing toward something in the future.

Today is my last in Iowa before the Eastward adventure to NYC. I’m not as confident as I sounded as an 8th grader in the Optimist Oratory Contest, but I probably have more peace. There’s something safe about orating your dreams and something scary about living those words on paper. I learned to love speaking – to stand in front of a group and have the microphone; to arrange my ambition into words that hold the audience’s attention.

But the living out of those words – the dreams and hopes and ambitions that are prime content for speeches and blog posts and soap boxes – is a humble pursuit.

What if I fail?

What if I don’t ever do all those things I dreamed about in my winning 8th grade speech? What if I am never part of some sweeping humanitarian campaign that ends up in the news?

The older I get (boy, I never thought I’d say that), the more convinced I am that I don’t have any wisdom to share or advice to give. I write a lot of words, publish a lot of posts, scribble a lot of sentences… but often the questions repeat and the lessons are reruns.

This lesson that I am learning again on this Friday morning is simple: If something or nothing or everything comes of my dreams on paper, I am no more and no less a child of God. My inheritance is no more and no less heaven. My future is no more and no less the abundant life Christ promised in John 10:10.

Believing God for His promises means stepping forward in faith, knowing that the future does not depend on my performance. God is faithful – it’s just who He is. So, when He says He will complete the work and bind the wounded and mend the broken, I know that He will.

Obedience to Him as He redeems and restores might look like Paul’s encouragement to the people in Thessalonica, “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (Thessalonians 4:11-12)

Nobody writes speeches about that. Nobody ends up on a podium to encourage a simple, proper walking out of this life.

Having dreams is not bad. I love dreams. I remember my high school graduation announcement used a quote from Willy Wonka (who borrowed it from a poem by Arthur O’Shaugnessy), “We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams…”

I love dreams, but they are always held in the tension of today. Dreams are things that are not here in this moment, things that are often written on paper and read with confidence that the speaker can make them come true.

I don’t have that kind of confidence.

My confidence is in the One whose words create realities. He spoke and our reality came alive. He speaks and our reality stays alive. He never fails.

He is the dreamer. I just say, Amen.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

best and hard, hard and best

Why do the words best and hard go so well together? Why is it that the pairing of bitter and sweet make so much sense?

It’s a delicious intensity – where all the moments hold more weight and all the minutes hold more heat. There is a cumbersome madness of more that is crowding my last days in Iowa and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Coffee dates and backyard parties, rooftop adventures and state fair strolls, breakfast meet-ups and star gazing gatherings, living room laughter and back porch devotions – with each last thing, more of the best and hard and bitter and sweet crowd my days.

I cannot remember leaving a place I did not love. What a fortunate thing to say! The Lord’s provision in my past has always been beyond what I can rightly appreciate or enjoy. From the farm to Michigan, Chicago, Austin, Honduras, Ames, Des Moines and back to the farm again, the Lord goes before me and stays with me. He is my first and best delight and He has never sent me to bed without a healthy helping of His grace and peace.

His provision is always more than I need because His provision is always Himself.

Always more, always Himself, always abundant. Always.

There are few things about which you can truly say “always” or “never” and feel confident about the assertion. God’s provision is one of those things. It’s not an unnecessary superlative or an excessive affirmation…

He truly is best and most and always.

And that is why all these last Iowa things are more complex than a trite phrase about bittersweet goodbyes. I consider it a blessing to love what I’m leaving as much as I love what I’m starting. There is too much joy surrounding me on all sides to get bitter about anything, even if it is both best and hard.

The memory verse for this week from Fighter Verses is from Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” And, as I reflected this morning on the devotional from Verses Project, I thought about what is best and most in this life. All other measuring systems and scales shrink in view of eternity. The only way to wake up (in whatever state or country) is with eternity in full view and the greatest inheritance in mind.