August 24, 2013

Sand and Surrender

    One of the best things, the best of all the fantastic times I had at family camp last week, had to be when we threw rocks into the lake. It's really quite hard to describe the spiritual brevity and freedom of those moments, but I'll try my hardest to make your heart understand.
    We'd just listened to a sermon. It was a fine sermon, like all the ones I digested last week, but the fact is that often I have trouble getting any solid nutrition out of sermons. I nearly always feel convicted, encouraged, inspired, or all of them together during any teaching on God's word. But then the speaker steps off the stage and the information and inspiration slip quietly out of my mind and heart. 
    This night, this sermon, was just tip-toeing out of my heart as we trailed out of the youth chapel and followed our leaders to the water's quietly lapping edge. My mind was just going with the groove I'd worn, doing it's job and "moving on" to "normal" thoughts. 
    We sat down, shoeless, on colorful beach chairs in two rows on the beach. 
The sand hugged our feet as Dutch (camp names, you know) picked up the already fading lesson we thought had been dropped forever by Ambush five minutes before. Ambush had talked living real, sold out for God. He showed us his testimony, about how he had lived as a "Christian" for so long before he truly knew the God he knew so much about. 
    As he started talking, Dutch pulled the retreating sermon back into view in my mind. It was that to live real a body's got to get rid of the fake junk inside. Jesus cleanses, we knew, but fake junk has a way of imprinting in the human mind, reappearing time and time again. And it's hard to live real when fake has a home in your heart. 
    So Dutch's words were Jesus's words, that sometimes we need to clean house. Sometimes our hearts need a deep cleaning job. And sometimes in order to make it a true deep cleaning job it's got to be from the inside out. So outside, Dutch said, we could wash our feet, our hands, our face. Symbolism, it's called; this mirror of the inside and out. 
    Dutch showed us another mirror, of sins thrown as far as the east is from the west, into the sea and never to be seen again. Rocks with sharpie words mirrored sins, and the lake shimmered forgotten and forgiven. Dutch said we could hurl them, our sins into the lake. Never to be seen again. Then Dutch stepped away and a huge awkward monster of silent fear took precedence. Who wanted to go first, to openly wash of our sins or make a splash of hurling them into the waters? No one, of course. 
    Finally, boldness showed up in the form of a 13 year old boy, asking "where are the rocks - I'm gonna need a lot!" The awkward  monster slunk glowering away, as boldness multiplied. But me, I sat smugly still as one by one others stood in obedience. Honestly, my mind was blank for a while of sins I could write on rocks, but I knew God was doing something when I looked down and saw my bracelet - surrender - and felt an undeniable twinge. 
Seconds passed, and sand shuffled under feet and rocks plunked quietly, calling. The words came, of course. Pride. And Selfishness.
    I gathered myself in a deep breath, then stood and moved with obedience, head bowed like all the others. Two stones plunking wasn't as satisfying as the freedom of sitting back down, head up and with a heart so full I could hardly smile. My heart welled up, liquid, almost, as I watched obedience shuffle and plunk and splash and cleanse. 
    I've never seen a group of teenagers so quietly respectful, so humble, with their heads so lost in Jesus-clouds. 
    That night is something I won't soon forget. Ambush's message made a lasting crater in my heart because I acted on it. I never would have thrown pride and selfishness into the abyss of forgiven and forgotten past if Dutch hadn't snagged Ambush's message on its way out of my mind. And we never would have obeyed if one brave soul hadn't asked where are the rocks? And I never would have shuffled sand, head down, if the Holy Spirit hadn't moved surrender from my arm to my heart. But that night had Jesus written all over it. So it all fell into place, and now my bracelet is more precious to me than when I paid $5.00 for it. That bracelet has Jesus written all over it. 

    Some of you girls reading this were there with me. Did it make a different impact on you? 
    If you weren't there, have you ever had a similar experience?

August 16, 2013


    My job is amazing. I work at a Christian horse stable, so in a day's work I can do anything ranging from de-worming a hundred horses, to scooping manure, to leading trail rides. I love it, but once in a while I catch the blues, the foggy sleepy brains, or the curse of the dragging steps. Working outside with the horses is lovely (I sometimes imagine myself a true cowgirl... sensitive enough to detect a horse's thoughts, but strong enough to lift countless saddles and innumerable shovelfuls of manure. Her only enemies are the horrible horseflies and dreadful deer flies. Her constant companion and partner is her trusty steed... but I digress; maybe I'll write a whole post about my fancies someday, hmm?), but it also lends itself easily to the whims of weather, fatigue, and grumpy horses. And my mood, I'm sorry to say, tends to fluctuate with the circumstances. 

    Typically my first trail ride is pleasant. The hour passes at a reasonable pace, and the surroundings and my horse are fresh and new. But then I have to go out for another hour, or maybe a third. And I get bored. Or tired. Or my horse is bored. Or tired. Or driven crazy by ruthless insects. And as I struggle to get my impatient mount to stand still and wait for the newbies behind me to catch up for the fifteenth time in the hour, my polite cowgirl facade wears thin. Sometimes I feel more like an outlaw than a Christian cowgirl. Sometimes the patient, kind instruction I'm there to give doesn't come. Sometimes I just want to leave the poky horses and their riders in the plentiful dust behind me. 
    Then I remember: these people paid $30.00 each for what may be their once in a lifetime, first and last,  much looked forward to trail ride. Almost every one of them will be sore afterwards, and some will be sunburnt, scratched, and dirty. They were willing to sacrifice so much for an hour on my trail ride. 
    And Jesus, He called me to a radical life. He called me to love the unloveable, to give till it hurts and then beyond. He said if someone steals one thing from you, to give up the next to them as well. He said to give time and advise, patience and love to these people. He called me to a radical, beautiful life.

    Still, it's hard to remember. And even if I do remember, it's hard to do and be what I don't feel. Radical isn't what comes easy. Radical is Jesus-breathed. So those times I feel like an outlaw? Those are times I'm listening to my old boss, the outlaw cast out of heaven. 
    Yesterday, on my ride number two, outlaw whispers breathed discontent my way as I noticed yellow leaves strewn on the path. Clouds settled over my heart as I listened to the outlaw's mutterings about how sad I am that summer is breathing it's last. 
    I'm so thankful for the Holy Spirit, because at that moment an alarm went off in my heart, where He lives, and shocked me into listening to a radical Jesus-whisper. He reminded me that watching fall emerge through a frown would make me miserable. The radical Jesus-whisper told me, crystal clear, that the way to stay cowgirl sweet was to find beauty. He sent me on a radical scavenger hunt of an hour. 

    Through radical lenses, I saw and counted 100 beautiful things I never would have seen with clouded outlaw eyes. My heart gasped time and time again as I beheld beauty I'd never noticed before. Leaves and rocks and stumps and flowers took on whole new dimensions of gorgeous awe. Even though I'd ridden those trails countless times, I can honestly say that was one of the most beautiful rides I've ever had, merely because I took the radical lenses Jesus had been holding out for so long.

    My heart glowed peaceful sweet, the clouds blown away by beauty radical. Yesterday, on my ride number two, I found my cowgirl sweet spot. Yesterday, I found beauty radical. 

    I can hardly take credit for this blues-busting idea of searching out beauty, of counting blessings. In the beginning, it came from God. Then I've been reading about it here, where Ann Voskamp shares beautiful words about eucharist, which is a neat way to say "thanksgiving".

    Do you have anything you always try to do when you know it's time to let go of the grumpies?

August 13, 2013

Normal? What's that?

    One of my favorite ironic theories is how there really is no normal person. In fact, I'd rather not live in a world where I was normal... because that would mean I would just be one of the many minions of  Sally, or Susie, or Jane. Bor-ing.
    Myself included, everyone has traits or tendencies foreign to Sally, Susie, and Jane, which are what makes life interesting, not to mention fun. Why, if we were all minions, words like "mine", "late", and "sometimes" would be nonexistent. New inventions would cease to be novel because every single person would invent them at the exact same time. 
    In short, our differences and "abnormalities" are what gives life flavor (you've probably figured that out by now, but I was on a roll with my writing, so ya know...).
    This seems to be a perfect time to share a list of some of the quirks I own that I've been itching to set free from my notebook. Prepare yourself... 

- I am stingy towards myself - I literally can't remember the last time I bought something for myself out of my pocket.
- I am a health nut who struggles with self-control when it comes to sweets. Ironic, I know.
- I love to ride horses, but don't want one of my own. I've seen how much work and money they burn up - trust me, you DO NOT want a horse!
- I feel weird if I'm not wearing my pocket knife. 
- I'm extremely shy around guys my age. *cringe*
- I'd rather climb a tree than read a book.
- My little sister is one of my two BFF's.
- I dislike carrying a purse, so my "purse" is actually a wallet with a homemade strap. If I must carry one, the smaller the better!
- My clothes used to be horrifyingly frumpy (loose, plain t-shirts and jeans/shorts was my staple).
- I hate having my nails painted.
- I'd rather listen to the outdoors than music, most of the time.
- If possible, I will make something before I even consider buying it.
- I got a big bottle of perfume for my 13th birthday, and have used under 2 Tbsp. of it, even though I love the smell of it.
- I chew gum a half piece at a time (as in, half a piece of Stride).
- When I acquire candy, I typically choose to sell it to my brother rather than eat it.
- I don't like flip-flops. What's the use of shoes you can't run in? Seriously, girls!
- I make my own sunscreen and toothpaste ('cause I don't like the list of chemicals and icky stuff in store boughten versions)
- I go to bed early, of my own accord ( in my little sister's words, "crazy early, like 8:30!").
- I don't like talking on the phone.
- I thoroughly enjoyed my high school chemistry class. 

So, I'm weird. But here's my one request: will you love me anyway, and comment on my blog? I really, really want to know who's out there reading the words that flowed easy from my Jesus-filled heart. Will you at least answer one question? 
What do you believe to be your craziest quirk?

August 6, 2013

Love and some muffins

    Monday nights our little Summer-girl comes, for laughter and doggies, and garden muck boots. I gain another sister, just on Monday nights, the little girl we need to even out the three sons and two daughters. And just on Monday nights, our Summer-girl has big sisters and brothers to drag laughing around. On Monday nights we have a chance to love.

   But Monday, Mondays don't give love. Sometimes on Mondays and Tuesdays and Wednesdays, on all days love isn't free for the feeling. Some days love isn't free for the feeling, but we do have a free mind and can choose to be love. Because love is a choice, an action, a verb. A choice to take life or give it, to drain wells or to overflow. But giving life is hard. Overflowing hurts, sometimes. Why? Because giving is taking - from ourselves. Overflowing flows over with what used to be ours. Being love - giving life - costs something.

    The currency of love is a funny thing. God gives it unconditionally, everlastingly, yet for us to pour out what He gave us to give, it costs us in this world. In order to love, we hand over time and energy, money and security. But love, it multiplies when given. Love boomerangs back with peace and joy when it flows over. The giver of love pays in fleeting comforts of this world, yet gains from an eternal point of view.

    Time was mine, on Monday night. I owned plans, and treating myself to a good long chill-time loomed in my sights. But Mom reminded me of love, asked me to give time and plans to be love - to give life.

    See, I love baking, and a certain banana butterfinger muffin recipe looked like a perfect prospect of gold, Monday night. But Summer-girl needed a sister. Summer-girl, unknowing, asked for love. Being love has a million different caps it wears, and Monday night it wore a bright pink feathered one called making muffins with a four year old.

    Once I'd committed to love, it just kept flowing and I carried on, surprised at the lightness in my smiling heart. It was easy to get lost in the flow of love, to find fun where I expected frustration. Love just works that way, sometimes. Love, it's patient. Love is kind.

Love does not envy. It does not boast.

Love is not proud. Love is not rude.

Love is not self-seeking, and it's not easily angered. 

Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but it rejoices in the truth.

And most of all, love never fails. 
Love never fails to cost something from this world. 
Love never fails to flow over it's giver with eternal reward.
Love, it never fails.