Monday, September 9, 2013

"For such a time as this"

Time. What a concept. I seem to never possess an adequate amount of of it, and what I do hold zips by at lightening speed. Buzzes right by. I blink and just like that, it’s nothing but another memory.

I recall sitting in a desk tarnished with pencil markings and Sharpie doodles, wishing every day away except for Friday-Sunday. My mind would meander days ahead, craving for time to pass rapidly. 

I just didn’t get it.

So often, I recall a conversation with a treasured friend that took place about six months ago. She and her husband slipped away for an impromptu date night, while I spent time giggling and twirling the night away with their girls.

After many out of key lullabies and smooches goodnight, the princesses were each asleep, and I tiptoed back downstairs. Shortly after, their mother snuck back in, joining me in the quiet. For a while, we chatted candidly about their date- how sweet it was, how romantic her husband was at the restaurant. She beamed. My heart filled as I felt myself hopeful for those moments. Those future moments with whoever my sweet Father is preparing for me.  

Then, tears filled her eyes, as she turned her gaze towards me. She looked to me, as as she knew what I was dreaming of. My mind will never be able to forget the weighty words she stated:

“Oh, Lauren, please enjoy this season for what it is. 
You will never, ever get it back again. It will never be the same.”

Tears rolled down her face as she spoke truth to me. These single days- they are the most special. These days without a husband, children, mortgage payment, responsibility... they are distinct. Set apart. Marked with purpose and scripted for God’s very own glory.

It will never be the same.

As I continue to walk with Jesus, holding onto the very hem of His garment, I must face the facts. How am I using my free time to advance the Kingdom of God? These days-where my responsibility is focused completely on myself- How am I using them for Him? Am I spending every single moment, every single day, for the expansion of the Kingdom? Am I taking this season of singleness, of solitude, for granted? Or am I using it for what it’s meant for?

My heart beats fast for women’s ministry. My very soul longs to see women come to a better understanding of Jesus Christ. Everything in me yearns to see women chasing the Lord in a real, radical, dangerous, precious kind of way. Will I spend my free nights, mornings and weekends pouring out into those younger, those older, those around me during this chapter? Or will I grasp them selfishly for myself?

I am reminded of Esther immediately... a woman whose story is spelled out in scripture. A woman with her own book. A woman with her own story. A woman that had to make critical decisions- problematic ones. No, not just decisions about what tiara to wear with her evening gown- but decisions that would, and did, affect an entire people group- her people. In Esther 4, Mordeicai, her “Big Brother” figure, tells her, straight up, “Who knows? Maybe are RIGHT here for such a time as THIS.”

Such a time as this. Single sisters. Do not let impending engagements, deep desires, or love life letdowns distract you from such a time as this. May we not hoard our free hours for naps, Netflix marathons or laziness, but give them freely to Him- to do what He wants with them. 

Your nights are not reserved for cooking a meal for a husband, or calling out a child’s spelling words to them. You do not have twelve loads of laundry ahead of you when you get off of work. You aren’t hopping into a mini van to pick up 3 worn out children from soccer practice every afternoon. 

Your days are free. Wide open. Special, in the sweetest kind of way. Are we wishing them away, wasting them away, or committing them to ministry? We choose, and we must choose wisely, for we will never get this season back again.

“Don’t listen to one thing I say, but this: spend single days with the Prince of Peace. Chapters close. Chapters open. Use all your free time with your Holy Husband. Bask in Him.”

Monday, September 2, 2013

I'd like the cake, please.

She lets out a shriek.

In a crowded supermarket, a yelp, no matter how stifled, rings out through aisles methodically lined with baked beans and canned cabbage. Decibels skim over the snow white polished floors and whiz speedily past carts full of cheese sticks and coffee grounds. Heads begin to turn and eyes begin to widen as deafening cries drown out the pleasant tune trickling out of the speakers.

A pint sized gal with straw colored hair pulls out her polka dotted bow and hurls it to the floor below. Her father stands tall, trying to reason with his girl. She falls to the ground, knocking over a display of freshly baked cookies. With karate style kicks and ear-stinging screams, she flails about on the solid ground. She squirms. Her words become knife-sharp and her rosy cheeks become moist with hot, angry tears. People begin to stare.

"Attention, temper tantrum on aisle 6. Temper tantrum on aisle 6. Thank you."

She begs her father.. "PLEASE, PLEASE just LET ME HAVE THAT PIECE OF CAKE!!!!!
Please give that to me!!! It's all I want!!!!!! Please GIVE IT TO ME!"

Her father looks down at his daughter, and calmly whispers, "No, honey. You just can't have that right now. It's delicious, and so filling, but you haven't had dinner yet. Just wait, and I'll give you cake afterwards. You have to wait."

Her voice gets louder. "NO. YOU DON'T GET IT!! I WANT IT NOW. I WANT IT RIGHT. NOW."
Still, the Father looks into her tear-flooded ocean blue eyes. "No, sweet girl. You cannot have it now. If I gave it to you now, you would miss the chance to eat this wonderful dinner I have laid out at home. You would be too full to enjoy it. Please, just wait."


As customers begin to glare in their direction, her wails only heighten. Her discontent echos out until the entire store knows she is unhappy with her Father. Her complaints flood the the spaces in between check out lines and cake squares. Still, He reasons with her.

"Oh, daughter. You don't understand!!! If I gave you what you craved right now, you'll miss out on what I have prepared for you. Why would you want to skip ahead to your dessert before you sit down before the feast I have made for you? Please, please wait. Please, please trust me."

He reaches down, picks her up, and lays her head on His shoulder. His voice whispers, "Please, please just wait. I have immeasurably more for you than you could dream about.. just wait. Just wait."

And in that moment, she stills. She rests her head on her daddy's shoulder. The crying ceases, the tantrum is quieted.

That girl.. she and I have more in common than not. How often do I find myself at the feet of my Father, screaming out, crying out, for something I desire? Something that, in and of itself, is not bad for me? How many temper tantrums do I throw when my plans don't come to fruition? How loud are my cries of frustration to a God who is only good?

I sit at His feet and flail about.. agitated, discontent and fed up. Why can't you give me what I am praying for? Haven't I waited long enough, Father? Haven't you promised me these things? WHY DO I HAVE TO KEEP WAITING?

He knows this soul. He knows the anxiety that courses through it, the waves of comparison that pass over it and the series of doubts that compose it. He knows every ache, every cry, every tear. He stands tall before me as I kick and scream.. begging for me to simply WAIT.

And oh, do I want that piece of chocolate cake.. but what a shame it would be to miss out on the feast set before me in these days. The hours of quietness in His word, the moments available to spend with girlfriends. The days wide-open to serve Him with. Why hurry along the next course and miss truly tasting the plate in front of me?

He works EVERYTHING for the good of those who love Him. He withholds NO GOOD THING from those who love Him. 

So.. that piece of chocolate cake? It's GOOD. It's TASTY. It's RICH.
But it won't be filling and satisfying if it's not what I need right now.

If it's good, He freely gives it. If it's not good RIGHT NOW, He holds it in His arms it's time.

What a Father. He knows what's best for His girls. He is not phased by my begging and pleading. He simply cups my face into His hands and asks me to wait. To be still... and still I will be.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield unto us; the LORD will give grace and glory; he will not withhold good from those that walk uprightly. Psalm 84:11.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Loud & clear.

You could say that I’m a fan of messages.

Voice messages, text messages, iPhone prompts, sticky notes.. You get the gist.  I’m an enthusiast of them all. Type-A. List maker. Organization appreciator

I am a girl who needs cues, to-do-lists and alerts. Without these things, I mosey away from things that beg to be remembered. I float out of pattern and get unfocused and preoccupied. Reminders save most of my days.

Thankfully, all this blonde-y blonde girl has to do to remember something is simply ask her phone to call her and remind her. (Major victory shout resonates. Twirling follows.)

The best part of this whole smart, clever technology-fabulousness is when I type my memo up, my phone ousts just that. It doesn’t change my memo to confuse or befuddle me. What I type in is what I am reminded of. What I put in, it puts back out.

Each morning, I am forced to stand before a closet, full of garments that I have chosen as my own at one point or another. There comes an instant when I have to choose. A point in time where, each day, a decision must be made. A critical, serious, fundamental decision. What am I going to wear?

Many a thought begins to cross my mind. Where am I going today? What is the climate like? Should I wear heels or flats? Boots or wedges? Tights, or no tights? Belt, or no belt? Scarf? Necklace?

I begin to work as a composer, comprising an ode to attire. I slip things on, fling them off. My flooring begins to look like the ground at the NY Stock Exchange, except I have traded paper scribbled with figures and facts for frocks, blouses and denim. 

Finally, something works. But… is this a little too skimpy? A little too short? Can I bend over in it and not fear for mortification?

What does this ensemble say about myself? Does this tell the world that I am a daughter of the most High King? Does this short skirt announce that I am a girl redeemed by a perfect Father? Does this low-cut top honor the ransom Jesus paid for me on a cross?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.

Will this amount of skin sidetrack my brother in Jesus? Will he look at me and have to brawl around with his thoughts? Will my v-neck shirt make him trip and fall into a big, muddy, battle against his flesh?

Whatever message we are shouting through our appearance WILL be echoed loud and clear. Our short dresses, tight jeans and bare chest, no matter how innocent, will eject a loud alert about who we are… and WILL have a weighty effect on the men who stride through life with us.

Our exterior will speak volumes… whether we wish for it to, or not. It will blast a memo that will prompt your brothers in Christ, in one way or the other. Will we encourage them to pursue holiness, godliness and purity, or lust, sexual thoughts and sinful patterns?

Sisters, as we stand before a closet of clothes, we have a bullhorn in our hands. 
What message are we blasting?

1 Timothy 2:9. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Miley & Me.

I’m certainly heartbroken.

No, I’m not the kind of dejected that a pint of Ben and Jerry’s & a tub of cookie dough can rectify. I’m also not the kind of distraught that slips on a ratty pair of sweatpants, cranks up old Dashboard Confessional harmonies and slinks beneath a down comforter.

It’s worse than that. So, so much worse than that.

A few nights ago, my eyes watched a sister take the stage before an profound amount of people. As she stripped her garments off, she sauntered about as if she was starring in an X-Rated film. At first, my eyes broadened. Then, I felt my jaw falling.

Just like that, I was enveloped by a muddy, repugnant feeling… a emotion that summoned me to sprint up onto that platform and look her right in the eye. I wanted to raise my voice in such a way that my very words could reach the room she was in, miles and miles away.
Then, a bewildered feeling swept over me. As the cameras panned across the stage, my heart began to crack. I found myself hoping that someone, ANYONE, would just halt the music and escort her away. I longed for someone to be so infuriated, so revolted that they would shift to commercial break instantaneously. 

But… they didn’t. 

There was no halting of the music and no commercial disruption. No one felt the need to censor the moment unfolding before America. Everyone stood motionless and just…watched.

Including me.

After the fact, I sat out on an endeavor to process what my eyes had just been saturated in. I speculated…did anyone else see what I had just seen? Is she feeling liberated? Humiliated? Violated? Desecrated? Empowered?

Then…my heart began to break. My heart fractured for the girl I had just seen parade her body on a stage in front of billions. As my mind repeated the five minute escapade, my heart craved discernment. How do I talk about what just happened? What will my reaction be?

First thing the next morning, I was bombarded by people asking, “Did you SEE her last night? Did you SEE what she was doing?” Right away, I found myself defensive. Protective. Why? Because I know that girl, and I know her all too well.

My story of redemption is nothing but a narrative of the grimiest, most nauseating sinner girl EVER being called out of obscurity by a sweet, resilient Savior. I was once the girl looking for immediate gratification, instantaneous pleasure, total attention, constant affirmation. I simply preferred my sin over my Savior. I sought grace… but I craved sin more.

And there came a time where I was her. As I tread through thick, murky mire on my own kind of stage, I felt trapped. I was dazed. I was a girl wandering through a brawl, doubting if anyone was going to notice or aid me. Then, as I was about to collapse flat on my face, Jesus dashed in. A sinner girl was tugged out of the filth, bathed and dressed in a unsoiled, snowy frock.

As I overhear conversation whirling through the air over this socialite, I am grieving.

Yes, I am concerned that young girls will see her and reason her behavior is “cool”. Yes, I am nervous that little middle school girls will admire tainted, belittling, immodest behavior. But more so, I’m concerned about my sister.

May we be slow to speak, swift to pray. May our cores be searched and our mouths be closed. May our souls ache for our sisters who are searching for worth, meaning and purpose apart from Jesus. May we be PROPELLED to love our sisters so very hard that we don’t have to witness such horror in their lives.

And, lastly, may we see ourselves for what we are… sinful, dirty, vulgar girls, parading around in our flawed, marred and tarnished state, in desperate need for a Savior.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Enough is enough.

Sometimes, something so vast, so bulky, SO weighty, gets thumped down hard on my soul. It becomes a force that I cannot disregard, a burden I cannot discount.

In instants such as this, I must share. I must expel the truths that are wearing away at the cords that comprise my heart. I must open my mouth, and I must speak.
More often times than not, I am not armed with eloquent language or sparkling words, but only the most core, concrete truth. As I try and tie a ribbon around certain things, I realize that not all things are meant to be knotted together with a bow. Some things are just not meant to be attractive, pleasing or appealing. Some things are meant to be raw and uncooked- sentences, fragments and resonances that lay hefty in thin air.

Over the past few weeks, I have heard pleas for prayer- calls in the middle of the night, anxious text messages in the middle of the morning, frantic tears in the late afternoon. As hours pass, more prayers are necessary. Sisters scream out, with souls throbbing over loneliness, sorrow, discontent and self-perception. With every appeal for intercession, my heart feels heavier. Oh, these sisters… sisters with stunning tresses, impeccable skin, the ideal job, the most superb friends…they are the ones who are aching. They cringe over their circumstances, their current season, their struggles. 

There are no words of mine to ease the agony, no paragraphs composed that take away the ache. So, I crawl on all fours to Jesus. I reach, and He reaches back.

And as I sit and wallow and cry out and writhe in front of my perfect Creator God, my Yahweh, my Eloheim, I am angered. I am TICKED. I am livid. I am MAD.

Sisters, we have our ears tuned in to the station dispelling all of the lies.

We have funded our subscriptions to Cosmo and signed up for the credit card at Nordstrom. We’ve scheduled the consultation with the botox clinic, the breast implant meeting with the plastic surgeon and the session with the personal shopper. We crack open books that encourage us to be overpowering, independent women, while our eyes pour over television shows that tell us to sleep with any man who walks by to find love.

We look out to a depraved world to find fullness. Somehow in our brokenness, we end up searching for more mess. Sisters, the Father of Lies is wooing, and we are swooning right into his arms. He is enticing, and we are being knocked off of our feet.

I do not have a self-help book that will solve every problem moving in your situation. I don’t know a single psychologist or mentor that can take your distress, your agony and your restlessness away from you. But girls, I know Jesus, and I know His word. I know that He does not ever want to sway you to believe lies. Lies that say you aren’t good enough, that your personality is too much or that you don’t deserve grace. His heart just cracks in half when He sees you falling under the weight of deception.

He created you. He knows you. He looks at you with a twinkle in His eye because He sees redemption coursing through your veins. Redemption that He pumped into your dry bones.

But, don't be fooled. I am not writing for the purpose of convincing you that you are beautifully, wonderfully enough.

If you are convinced that you are not pretty enough, good enough or skinny enough: I CAN NOT CONVINCE YOU OF THAT ON MY OWN. No one wrapped in human flesh and bone can. My words are flawed. My encouragement has traces of human understanding and is completely empty on its own. 

But He, our redeemer, our rescuer, our beloved Father… He murmurs truth. If you are called back to your brokenness, disheartened over who you are, that is NOT the voice of the Lord God. That is the voice of His enemy.  

Oh, sisters, I plead to you... TURN TO JESUS. Turn to Him. Look Him in the eyes. If I could, I would yell it from every rooftop around the world.

No, we are not worthy on our own merit... there was nothing good about us before Jesus. But, a sacrifice was made because He KNEW that. A price was paid for our redemption and our rescue. Claim it, live it, recognize it, and stop tuning in to a bunch of lies.

Psalm 139: I will offer You my grateful heart, 
for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe. 
You have approached even the smallest details with excellence; 
Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bursting Forth.

Who doesn’t love a good mystery?

For as long as I can recall, I have been captivated and besotted by mysteries. Fictitious or otherwise, I have always hankered for that one instant… that very moment that a mystery is solved. I spent afternoons sitting beside my grandfather, engrossed in mystery themed shows, when I was supposed to be napping. Instead of sawing logs, I would think through what I was watching, dreaming up how I, the dashing blonde in her Keds, would come to the rescue, saving the day and bringing justice, with a bow in her hair and lunchbox in hand.

For a little miss who loves mysteries, the news was her favorite network, while the newspaper was in her teeny-tiny hands all morning during breakfast at her grandparent’s wooden table. I truly cannot remember a single day in my childhood (or adulthood, for that matter) that I didn’t pick up a copy of the news for my little blue eyes to peel over.

As I open up the news each day, all of the years later, I find myself frequently having moments of unquenchable, grueling heartache over it. Each morning, my eyes scan over stories of loss, tragedy and heartache, and I find my heart begins to weigh a little heavier in my chest  with every syllable my mind soaks up.

Lately, I couldn’t help but notice an abduction taking the nation by storm. The tragedy was laced with disastrous moments, demise and calamity, and my heart split open for the father feeling the brunt of the agony. His spouse and son had lost their lives, while his daughter was marked vanished. He plead, day in and day out, for her captor to release her. He wailed, “PLEASE LET HER GO! Just let her GO.”

With every sentence he uttered, my vision blurred, as tears welled up and spilled out of my eyes.. This daddy wanted his girl... and he wanted her NOW.

After days of unyielding search operations, her captor was found and defeated, and her father got to wrap his arms around his girl, welcoming her back home. She was found. She was safe. The battle was over. The evil one was overpowered, overcome and conquered.

WHAT a story of redemption. A girl became TRAPPED in the snares of fear, hoping that she would be spared by the one who had no problem taking life. I imagine her prayers in the nightfall, asking her Father to deliver her. Asking for His favor. Asking for His hand.  Asking for rescue. And.. He did just that.

In the hopeless shadows, He burst forth, and He got His girl.

Oh, the common ground we share with that precious life. We have been swept away by darkness, wooed away by an evil one. We were trapped, ensnared by a force we couldn’t defeat with our own muscle strength. Without a rescue operation being orchestrated on our behalf, we would be helpless to escape. The enemy would have us. He would win. He would claim the victory.

But.. there He is. Our Father. Weeping. Pleading. BEGGING for His girl to come home. Waiting patiently for her captor to release her. For her to break free of her sin. He wants her back. He wants her home.
Moments pass, and He just cannot stand to wait any longer. So, the mission ensues.

The Father rushes in to the darkness… calling out for His daughter.
He finds her in her mess, and lifts her up onto His shoulders.

Before He takes her back home, He defeats her captor. He conquers evil. He wins. HE is the victor. The battle has been won. Our lives have been spared. He wins again.

Colossians 1:13: For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

PRAISE be to our Father who pursues us, liberates us and submerges us in a sweet embrace. He wins.

In the end, He gets His girl.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I used to.

I used to write.

The keywords there are “Used To”. The Lord used to lay thick words weighty on my heart, and would compell me to expel them out of my fingers and onto a blank computer screen. My heart seeped out in the form of nouns and verbs, enunciating words that Jesus painted vividly into the crevices of my soul.
Throughout high school, the Lord would ever-so-sweetly burden my heart with passages and paragraphs of Truth, meant to seep out for others to read. He permitted my words to be distributed as devotions for my youth-group for years, incognito. He would escort my eyes to scripture and move my heart to form rhythmic beats into words. The blood pumping through my veins transformed quickly into pulsating syllables, taking up space in the atmosphere. As my fingers skimmed across a clunky keyboard, the Lord spoke. He breathed out. He sang. Then, all of a sudden, I just couldn’t bear to do it. I couldn’t.

As I entered a new season of walking with Him, words didn’t drip out of my heart quite as easily. My time spent snuggled up in Jesus’ arms was not meant for words to articulate or illuminate. Trying to pull fathomable sentences out of those intimate moments with my King was nearly impossible.. It was like trying to draw water from a well as dehydrated as the air in the desert.  Attempting to solicit words from a weary, worn down heart was painful. Excruciating. Heart throbbing. Agonizing. So, I stopped trying. Desperately disheartened, my hands ceased from forming words. I ambled away, defeated.

That season of darkness- oh. Much too grim to speak of. An episode in my series soaked with salty, warm tears. In a matter of months, I became a girl drifting around aimlessly in the snares of anxiety, trying to wipe my eyes clean...  eyes that were stinging and blurry from nights crying out for my King. This age of my existence was marked by tear tarnished pillowcases and leather bound journals occupied by shouts out to my Father.

Before I knew it, I was standing upright with my two size-7 feet established in a shadowy place. My eyes were immersed in the dimness of my season.  Me, a sinful, selfish girl, had preferred her sin over her sweet Jesus. She had chosen fear of man over fear of Him. She had made a decision to worry, instead of a decision to believe. Turning my head from left to right, no light could be found. Then… a spark. A little bit of a glimmer is enough to see again. A little bit of light wrecks any darkness & ruins it for what it was. When light rushes into darkness, it just isn't darkness anymore.

He rushed in- like a doctor after a coding patient on the table, and he brought life. My heart rate began to drop, and He wasn't going to watch me give up. With both hands on the paddles, He shocked my heart back to it’s normal cadence.. He brought it back in synch with His.

Reader, I can’t promise you eloquent words. And if your eyes are searching for something special, you may want to go ahead and exit out there at the top right hand side of your screen. I am just a redeemed sinner-girl. Nothing more, nothing less. I am a girl hanging on to the very hem of His garment. I am the girl healed from her nasty, sinful choices that have stained her for years. I am marked by redemption and pursuit. I am nothing but a story of a rescue operation conducted by the Creator Himself. I am a girl who has been freed, that just can’t help but talk about it.