Coffee Money

I looked up from the work I was doing on my computer and he said to me, “Te lo prometo que no es para drogas.” It’s not for drugs, he said, the money he’s asking for.

I told him no, that I didn’t want to buy his trinkets or give him money. He asked again and I said it more firmly and averted my eyes from the pair of eyes staring back at me; turned away from the human being standing before me.

Steeling myself to stare at my computer until he went away, in the same instant something inside of me turned toward him to ask if I could buy him a cup of coffee. The words just came out of me. Un café solo is what he wanted and I hopped out of my chair to order it. Of course I would buy him a coffee. Why wouldn’t I?

Why didn’t I give him money? Several reasons (were they reasons or excuses or some of both?) ran through my head.

That night at Bible study we read Proverbs 3 and my heart listened: “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”

I know all the reasons not to give money to panhandlers and beggars. I know them from a social work perspective as well. And they’re not necessarily incorrect. But still, God prompted me to check my heart.

Whether it’s a cup of coffee or cash, do I need to be a bit more reckless with giving my money when people ask me for it?

Throw it around more freely as if I don’t depend on it (I don’t).. as if I’m not the judge of what people do with it (I’m not).. as if it’s not mine in the end (it’s not).. and as if the other humans in front of me are as important, or more important, than me (they are).

2019

2019 was good! And it was weird. Very unusual. I’m having trouble coming up with another word for it.

And here I am, almost two weeks into 2020, and having the marker of an old year and a new year does seem appropriate as I figure out how to categorize 2019 and how to be in 2020.

I’m ending 2019 and counting it as the past. I move on from the unsure choices I made (even if I’m still unsure about them). I move on from the decisions that were made for me and the ones I didn’t want to make. I move on from the confusion and all questions I asked. I learned so much.

I leave those things behind, having grieved what needed to be grieved, knowing that I brought decisions to the Lord for guidance, trusting that I made the best choices I could, and rejoicing that I have been shaped in tangible ways by the things that happened to me.

Still open to learning from all that 2019 held, on a practical level, I leave it behind and focus on and look forward to the things to come. I don’t know what they are, but I know they’ll be good. Why?

La imagen puede contener: árbol, cielo, exterior y naturaleza

John Steinbeck said this in a letter to his son: “Nothing good gets away.” I don’t think he was thinking along the same lines as me when he wrote it, but I can get behind it. (If you’ve never read this lovely letter, read it here.)

Because for me, a daughter of God, secure in Christ, nothing good gets away! I strive toward goodness, holiness, and choices that honor Christ. I see God working in me and I actively receive the gifts I see the Lord giving me. And in the end, no matter what a given year holds, I can live freely and with great hope because none of my “good” gets away.

The best things in my life — my identity in Christ, the joy, hope, and love I have in God — are secure. I have them forever and always. There is no losing from here on out as I walk with Jesus. My future is bright. So, I process the past as I need to, then move forward to more learning, growing, and serving the Lord and those around me.

In 1 Samuel 16:1, the Lord says to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul…? Be on your way.”

Be on your way! Process it, mourn it, grieve what you need to, and then be on your way. Upward and onward to a good unknown.

I move forward unsure of myself, but sure of God. I move forward with a spirit of adventure, trusting as I live this story.

 

 

Loneliness

it was run-of-the-mill loneliness. Nothing that other people don’t experience now and then, I guess. What do I know? I can’t feel other people’s feelings.

Either way, it was real, weighty, and it was mine to feel. No one else could feel it or take it or fix it. Where should I heave the weight of it?

My friend’s confused response made sense when I thought back about what I had said: “I feel lonely. I need some alone time.”

As I sat there slumping, thinking about what I needed, feeling the ache of aloneness, I tried to pull myself out of it. I took mental stock of the wonderful people in my life. I also reminded myself that this too would pass. But the loneliness was there, despite the true reminders of all the good in my life. And I had to decide what to do.

I wanted to cut the loneliness and ease the ache. But I knew that the people I could bring around me would only mask the ache for a time.

It’s not that I don’t need people in my life. I do (we all do). Sometimes we need someone to shake us out of a slump and get us out of the house. Sometimes the best thing we can do is awkwardly call on someone to enter into our pain with us rather than sit alone in our spiraling darkness. But this wasn’t the time for that and somehow I knew it.

My loneliness was no sickness that needed to be cured. I just needed to sit alone in the school of loneliness, even if it was uncomfortable or sad.

In his new book, Andrew Peterson talks being alone and meeting God: “The loneliness of the dark field was a prerequisite for the company I felt.”

The aloneness ushered in the company of Christ, our brother and King.

Elizabeth Elliot, no stranger to loss and loneliness said, “Loneliness is a wilderness, but through receiving it as a gift, accepting it from the hand of God, and offering it back to Him with thanksgiving, it may become a pathway to holiness, to glory and to God himself.”

I will not mope and moan, stunting my growth, but I won’t hastily look for a quick fix for loneliness. I won’t let it conquer me, nor will I run from it.

So, for that evening, I sat alone in the loneliness of my own dark field and sought Divine company — to which I have astounding access through Christ! — or no company at all.

The other side of open-handed living

I Iistened to my feet crunch this road on Saturday and sat in the sun and touched the leaves and took deep breaths of dry, fall air. Earlier, I had caught up with a friend and there came a point in the conversation where we both acknowledged the constant need to live open-handed — to hold our lives loosely before God, not frantically grabbing on with our fingernails to keep what we think is good in life. This is one side of open-handed living.

img_1026

Bob Goff talks about it when he mentions living “palms up” and says, “it was Jesus who taught me there was nothing I could really lose if I had Him.” Amen.

That takes a heart certain of what I have and who I am in Jesus and the humility to admit I don’t always know what I need in my life.

We always talk about open-handedness in that way, don’t we? But I think there are two sides: letting go and receiving.

What’s harder? Receiving or letting go? I would say letting go is more painful. But is it possible that receiving takes more humility?

Sometimes it’s just easier to reject a gift. I might want to feel good about myself and “earn it” on my own some other way, rather than it being given to me. I might halfheartedly receiving it, swearing to myself that I’ll pay it back (which isn’t really receiving a gift at all). I might turn my head and like a martyr declare that I don’t deserve it (if I deserved it, it would be called a prize or a paycheck, not a gift).

It can be hard to just say “Wow, thank you!”

Sometimes I look down and my hands are full — I didn’t even realized I had been given gift after gift!

And other times, receiving feels weighty and requires much humility and, of course, unadulterated gratitude. Grateful acceptance is the only good and respectful way to take a gift and honor the giver.

Kelly Belmonte writes this: “When there is such a command to take from the selfless giver, I am flummoxed. I see that other people struggle with this as well, shifting uncomfortably under the weight of an unconditional gift. Could someone really mean that there is no expectation of reciprocity? What would happen if we took them at their word? Maybe, if we allowed love its full expression, it would not be emptied of intent by our trying to even it out.”

I see my struggle to live open-handed — both receiving and letting go — with the daily, earthly, life-gifts. But I also see that I can struggle to actually receive the Lord’s love.

Ephesians 3:18 says, “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”

What a love, unlike any I’ve known. I need power to comprehend it! I need help to understand it! And I need hands that are spread open to receive it with a grateful, humble, overcome heart.

Read a Psalm and go to bed

Spanish ham toast and coffee make me smile 😋

I feel like I’ve been running on melatonin, coffee, handfuls of chocolate, and a few tissues these past few days. There are worse things to live off of, I know.

Jet lag teamed up with an overwhelmed heart and an overloaded mind to get the best of me. Smaller things come together to create a perfect storm.. or as they would say in Spanish, “se junta todo.”

So I’m doing what I can to be awake and asleep at the right times and rein in my emotions that tend to run especially amok when I’m tired.

The bad thing about sharing what you write is that your friends can throw your own words back in your face. 😉 Or maybe I should say that your friends can gently remind you of your own words when you need them. One sweet friend told me yesterday, “I think someone said once that it’s okay to not be okay.”

Alright, let me guess: Me. I said that. Got it.

And it IS okay to not be okay, but it’s just so uncomfortable when you’re there! However, I’ll sit in the not-okayness for now, talking to my own soul when it needs truth, calling it always upward toward rejoicing, but not rushing the process.

Speaking of my own words coming back to me, I remind myself frequently of advice I’ve given to friends when they’re not okay: “Read a Psalm and go to bed.” I think it’s pretty good advice, if I do say so myself.

A Psalm to still my heart, to draw me back to the centering greatness, power, and kindness of God and the littleness of me. And a good night of sleep to change my perspective. The need for sleep is a gift that God gives me to remind me of my human frailty and at the same time equip me to handle life with a bit more energy, grace, patience, and poise than I can without sleep.

A Psalm, a good night of sleep, and the constant reminder that it’s okay and I’ve got Jesus and life with Him is sweet.

Idols

I bent over my journal, pen in hand, trying to deal with good things that have turned into supreme things in my life.

“Just take this idol from my hands. I want to be done with it!” I cried inside my head, a lump in my throat. As soon as I glimpsed the reason behind that plea, the lump in my throat turned into tears in my eyes. I wanted the idol stripped from my hands — that’s all well and good — but my motive was sobering to me.

No hay descripción de la foto disponible.

I realized that I only wanted the idol gone now that it had turned on me. Now that it was causing me pain. Now that it was controlling me, not the other way around.

Big tears fell over the realization that in that moment, my desire to smash my idol came out of a need to self-protect in the midst of pain, not out of grief over hurting my Savior and replacing him with a poor substitute.

I want my desire to dethrone idols to stem from a deep realization that they’re offensive to the God I love, that they’re taking his rightful place in my heart. I want to work daily to dethrone them, asking the Lord to do what I can’t do in myself, prying open my hands and changing my heart.

CS Lewis talks about how our love for God is deeply based in our need for Him and goes on to say “… our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knitted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose.”

What a comfort to know I belong to a God who can untie the knots in my life and my heart and tie up the loose ends that my hands are grasping at.

The idols to which I turn do a shabby job of filling the spaces in my heart that ache with emptiness. That is true. And they are an act of unfaithfulness to the one who loves me again and again.

May the good things in my life that I have given a supreme place be ousted to the proper position in my life as I am overcome with the beauty of Jesus and grieved by my sin that throws His faithfulness in his face.

Trust

One thousand and eighty two days ago, I put this recurring reminder on my phone: trust God to do what only He can do.

At the time, I needed the reminder every afternoon before I went to one of the after-school programs I was directing. The group was particularly challenging and in a lot of ways I was at the end of my rope. The reminder was needed as a deep breath before walking in with love in my heart and firmness in my voice.

I needed the reminder that God is the only one who can actually change my heart my for the better – and the hearts of the kids. I needed the reminder that God is at work in ways I will never see and my role is faithfulness. I needed the reminder that my plans for those kids were small-minded in comparison to his plans for them. I needed the reminder that I am weak and He is not and more often than not (okay, always), I should trust Him to run the show.

The reminder shows up on my phone to this day. Mostly because I never took the time to take it off. I guess I can be somewhat of a virtual hoarder.

But, now I find that when I actually take the time to read the reminder and let it into my brain (instead of it going in one neuron and out the other), it always applies to something in my life. Always. There are things that only God (not me, a human) can do and so often I don’t trust him for them.

I want to trust God to do what only he can do to the point that it creates excitement in me. Excitement because although I don’t know what he will do, I trust it and wait expectantly to see what it will be.

I want to have such trust that it creates a deep well of peace that’s never dry. I want to have such trust that it creates an emotional fullness and security that allows me to be vulnerable and offended without fearing rejection. I want to have such trust that anxiety has no power over me. I want to have such trust that hope stays alive within me.

So, I lead my heart to imagine what God could do, whatever my current situation is. What is it that only he could do? Then I tell my heart to stop trying to imagine that, because I can’t even begin think up all that he wants to do! Trust him to do what only he can do, even if I can’t imagine it.

I counsel my heart to trust in the God who has already given me everything; who, in Jesus Christ, has already come to me, a person designed to be close to God but incapable of achieving that myself. I remind myself to trust his heart, trust his intentions, and trust him to do the things that only He is capable of accomplishing.

“Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)