amid the cold of winter

The weather outside is legitimately frightful.

I stuck my frozen toes inside the warmed oven several times because there is a north wind creeping through all the farmhouse cracks around kitchen windows. And, obviously, the kitchen can’t be avoided with Christmas baking and coffee making and cookie decorating to be done. The winter struggle is real and it’s about to get more frozen when we go Christmas caroling in a few hours.

There are perks to living in an apartment in Brooklyn – and one of those perks is that the heat is regulated for the whole building and always cranked high. But we find other ways to keep warm here – like chasing caped superheroes, putting out pretend fires, and running from sock hand monsters. There is a lot of commotion, but it’s all the good kind covered in giggles and belly laughs.

Tonight is Christmas Eve and we’ve switched up all our traditions this year because of sibling schedules. We are foregoing the three ingredient potato soup that we’ve had every Christmas Eve since I can remember and we already opened gifts yesterday while one of the little ones took a nap.

And, well, some traditions are not as important as Tevye’s deep, throaty voice belting out rolled Rs in Fiddler on the Roof. Some traditions are like frosting or gravy or jam – not the main dish. Today’s deep breaths are about holding on to the main thing – God’s great tradition of peace.

“We are invited to know the peace God extends to his favored ones, those established in a relationship with him through Jesus Christ. This is the soul-satisfying peace of God.” Joann Jung, from The Advent Project

This soul satisfying peace doesn’t look like a certain Christmas schedule or a table spread a particular way. This peace is way, way bigger than that. This peace is about identity – our identity that gets wrapped up into the splendor of a baby King who would later invite us into adoption, as co-heirs of his inheritance.

Identity has been more of a fight lately, which maybe surprises me more than anyone else. I am not timid or insecure or self-conscious, at least that has never before been the case. I’m not too concerned about thrifted fashions and keeping up appearances, but NYC is a sneaky devil about these things.

I have noticed a crack in my armor – a little voice that makes me doubt old shoes and my non-profit destiny. The subway stares and coffee shop conversations are a slow fade and Iowa is different enough to make all the colors clear. I would like to give more gifts to more people. And I would like to look more put together and I would like to have more established things to say about my career.

I guess I would like to have a better identity and maybe that’s the root of it all. That’s the sneaky devil and the crack in my armor, because there is not a better identity to be had.

This Savior I am anticipating and celebrating is my identity. God speaks worth and life into my fumbling limbs the same way He spoke life into His Son’s. Not only that, but my future is tied up in the glory of the Son of God, who lived and died and rose again to secure my redemption.

Pardon me, I’ve got to go warm up my vocalizer so I can match the alto pitches on these Christmas carols. The cold really does bite into a good harmony and I’ve got to be prepared.

this tree grows in Brooklyn

What happens when an overflowing cup is set outside in a downpour – can it get more overflowed?

I don’t know the logistics or the practicalities of that question, but I can tell you that, yes, a cup that “runneth over” can get caught in a mid-summer downpour and that, yes, the overflow can grow. I can tell you this because it happened yesterday.

It was a quiet day – too quiet. I interviewed for a job last Monday in Brooklyn and they said they would let me know “by the end of the week” and it was already 5 pm EST. Somewhere in the middle of the day I realized I wasn’t waiting for the call. I wasn’t out-of-my-mind anxious or afraid or weary.

I was full to brimming with joy. With or without this job, I was moving to NYC on August 25th. With or without this job, I was trusting God to provide. With or without this job, I was enjoying God’s presence.

I didn’t need this job to confirm my cross-country move because the Lord already confirmed His faithfulness in my heart.

I didn’t need anything to be figured out before I got on the plane. I didn’t need this job to feel peace about moving. I was already overwhelmed with peace in the middle of all the madness.

But, God granted such a special grace yesterday when he unleashed the heavens on my already overflowing cup. I had just finished writing a blog post about this excitement being like jumping on a hot air balloon ride without a destination. I still knew nothing about the next month, but I was giddy with anticipation.

That’s when the downpour happened – a call from NYC and the invitation to join the team in the Cypress Hills neighborhood. I felt like my heart said, “Really, Lord? I was already all in, job or no job… and then you provided way before I felt desperate. This is too much.”

Anything else I write today will just sound like mush because I’m swimming in abundance. Why would God grant more when my cup is already overflowing? I don’t know, He’s just that good I guess.

This tree is going to grow in Brooklyn and I can’t wait to spread my roots! I’m super pumped to share Brooklyn space with one of my favorite bands, The Lone Bellow, and this is one song I’m sure I’ll be singing on these same streets. I’ve posted it before, but it’s too good not to share again.

lemme give you some advice

I know, you didn’t ask for it – but it’s comin’ atcha anyway. You don’t have to take my advice, but I don’t know why you wouldn’t.

Don’t ever (no matter how confident you feel or how cool you look), EVER point your rollerblades down the hill in the middle of the Iowa State campus by the MU. Seriously – don’t do it. You might end up with matching 5 inch abrasions on either thigh, a twisted knee, a banged up elbow, and a severely bruised pride. Yes, that happened.

Apparently, I won’t hit my humility quotient this month for quitting my job and moving across the country without a job or an apartment. Everybody needs a good spill every once in a while, even if just to remember that walking a normal straight line without a limp is a precious thing that should be appreciated. The wipeout was unfortunately epic and witnessed by several innocent bystanders. Don’t worry – I jumped up quick and bladed off so they didn’t feel awkward about leaving a struggling, crashed blader spread out on the pavement.

But, let’s get serious (because all my advice isn’t rollerblade-related).

I had dinner with my Uncle Tom tonight because I’m crashing at his house again – this time for just a couple weeks. It was home for a year, so living here again feels like putting on a favorite pair of jeans. Right now my favorite pair of jeans is literally soaking under an ice pack, so I’ve got time to process some of the wheels spinning circles in my mind.

We talked about belief tonight over drinks and guacamole and pizza and lettuce wraps – about what kind of belief pushes out fear and worry and anxiety and shame. Because we’re all believing something, Tom said, but we’re not all believing the right thing. And it’s true.

Only the right belief can displace all the ugly monsters wrestling for space in our hearts. Only the right belief is comfort when you realize all those catchy phrases your fifth grade teacher told you about “shooting for the stars” sound way easier inside the imagination station.

Only the right belief about who God is will give us the right belief about the power of our circumstances.

I’ve had my share of breakdowns. I am familiar with the questions that pound like downpours. I know the rhythm of a panicked heartbeat.

But there is hope in the middle and not just on the other end of all these wrestling wars for my peace. It’s never about getting over a phase or through a season or on top of the details. It’s never about any of that because it’s always about having the right belief about who God is in the middle of it all.

He is Protector.
He is Provider.
He is Comforter.
He is Healer.
He is Peace.
He is Joy.

And He is not these things only when my life makes sense – He never changes. If I believe He is who He says He is, then my belief makes room for joy where ugly monsters once wrestled for my peace. By His grace, I believe He is Protector enough, Provider enough, Comforter enough, Healer enough, Peace enough, and Joy enough.

He is SO ENOUGH that in this uncertain slice of August, the joy is bursting out my rollerblade seams and climbing into my borrowed bed.

He is that good. And He never changes.

I believe, I believe, I believe.

And my right belief about God is jettisoning my doubts as I pick up more trust in the One who overwhelms me with joy.

there is a peace

This last day of April stretched out long and I stretched out to test the seams of it – to try to be as patient as the moments that crept by so I could experience each one fully. It has been some time since one day has had so many slow moments and I was content to savor them all. Maybe it was the sun that slowed things down, begging me to look extra long at the city as I sped from place to place.

There is a peace.

Maybe it’s irresponsible to be unafraid of the future and maybe it’s naive to hope for impossible things. Maybe the illusive peace this world craves with groans is not a thing my soul can feel. But, maybe not.

By grace (o, mysterious grace!), we can say, “There is a peace” both with certainty and with hope. Our belief that God is Redeemer, Promise-Keeper, Defender, Lover, Savior, and Friend prompts our certainty and his faithfulness to be all those things prompts our hope. The grace empowered cycle of certainty and hope is a fountain that wells up and overflows in peace that covers all uncertain and desperate moments.

There is a peace to settle your soul. Well, it’s settling mine anyway.

What shall I do with a settled soul? How can I make sure the certain and hopeful moments are not wasted? Our memory verse (from Fighter Verses) for this week is Romans 12:11-13,

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

There is a gracious peace that has settled my soul and the Lord is calling me to make my peace productive. The same grace that allows me peace makes provision for good works (2 Corinthians 9:8) that have been prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). As I savor the cycle of certainty and hope, God is breathing life into my bones so that I may live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28).

All this peace is for a purpose – that the Lord would be glorified in my dependence, my delight, and my diligence.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

There are many, many ways to serve our friends, family, and neighbors. This is May 1 and every May I try to accept the Every Day in May challenge. This year, I am going to use my love for creative writing to bless someone new each day. This might be through a story, card, special email, or clever joke. I may or may not post everything I do, but I might report some of the stories that happen as a result. I encourage you to take the challenge as well – for the month of May, choose to do something you love every day. My little addition is that you would use the “something you love” to bless others – that way you are both glorifying God with your gifts and blessing others with your offering!

from @frenchtoastgirl

still

Heart of my own heart
Whatever befall,
Still be my vision
O Ruler of all

Still.

God is so good because He already knows whatever will befall. He knows that when we say “still be my vision” we are asking for His grace to make it so. He knows all the ways we will avert our eyes and look to others. He knows we will be ruled by other rulers in weak moments.

He knows, but still He keeps.
He guards us and He keeps us and He leads us.
And in His keeping, He is our peace.

We can sing “still be my vision” because His grace is what empowers us to see at all. 

We lift up proclamations only possible by His grace.The Spanish word for still is todavía or aún and both to me roll more steady into the future than stillThey seem to be words that point to another word coming after, hanging on for meaning.

“Still be my vision” is my promise that hangs on my belief that God will keep me and guard me and lead me. And He does.

Still.

peace is found in believing

“The key that unlocks the treasure chest of God’s peace is faith in the promises of God. So Paul prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). And when we do trust the promises of God and have joy and peace and love, then God is glorified.”
– from Day 7 in Good News of Great Joy, Advent Devotional.

Some days it feels like I need the treasure of God’s peace more than I need anything else. In those days, I turn life upside down in search of it.

But my feelings betray me because every day I need this treasure. And every day I either find God’s peace or settle for something else. Usually, when I don’t feel like I need the treasure of God’s peace I have settled for something far less valuable and my very settling will send me on a desperate search for the real thing as soon as the counterfeit runs out.

I love this reflection about peace – that peace is faith in the promises of God.

Both joy and peace come in believing – in the process of trusting we unlock the treasure of peace. An easier treasure map you could not find: trust in the promises of the One who made you, called you, loves you, and sanctifies you. Trust in the One who has no beginning and no end.

This is the map to the treasure of God’s peace: trust.

That’s it.

Thankfully, there’s no math. It’s not trust + effort or trust + deeds that we need to get to peace. But it’s also not an equation one can finish and present to God in exchange for peace.

I am a notorious short-lived truster: I trust for a moment and then fall out of believing moments after. But this in believing that Paul talks about in Romans 15 – this in believing is beautiful because our active trusting (in the present tense) means the peace is hidden there in the activity.

God has infinite joy and peace waiting to be discovered by those who trust Him for who He is from this moment to the next… and then for the moments after that.

Some days it feels like I need the treasure of God’s peace more than I need anything else. On those other days my feelings forget to make me feel what my soul always searches.

Every day I need God’s peace and every day it is found in believing.
He finds me as I am believing and gives me peace.

And in the giving of peace, He is glorified as the only One in whom we can believe for this peace – the only One whose promises are worth trusting.

[deep breath]

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

God, my place – article by Andrée Seu

This morning as I read this article, I was reminded that our comfort and refuge and peace is not a place in the distant future, but a promise for right here and now.

Be encouraged today by Seu’s words and remember that God invites you into His presence to experience His joy and perfect peace. After Hurricane Matthew loomed on the north coast this past weekend, a safe place seems much more urgent. In God’s grace, Tegucigalpa escaped with only rain, but our brothers and sisters in the North are feeling the repercussions of the tropical storm. Always – in times of uncertainty and in times of great promise – we will find a welcome location. Amen?

She writes,

Being “in Christ” was once an abstract doctrine. No more. It is a location. And when I obey His commands, those are doorways that bring me deeper into Him. The deeper into Him, the greater the experience of peace and joy. “Abide in me,” He says, and I had thought it was a metaphor, when all along it was a mystery.

Here’s the full article: God, my place.