Friday, October 23, 2009


"Before I formed you...I knew you..."
Jeremiah 1:5
He knows me well.  

He maps out the lines in the palm of my hand and traces them with eternity.
He instructs my freckles when to appear and hides them again with his seasons.
He paints my eyes from his infinite pallet and captivates them with creation.
He dictates the details of each vital breath and blankets me with his rest.

When my spirit is light and my step has kick -- He sees.
When my heart is moved by the sound of melodies -- He knows.
When my mind is numbed by my own selfishness -- He is not finished.
When my soul grieves deeply and despair encroaches -- He is not without purpose.

For He knows me well.
And set me apart.
And raised me up.
With much intention.

Be known.
Be really known.
Purpose resides there.
So does power.
And a glimpse of a love that never fails.

I mean, what if?

"But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."
Exodus 9:16

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I love words. I love the challenge of putting them together in a way that inspires reaction. Consequently, those that do this well, often inspire me -- or at least their words do.

Yesterday, Jourdan, my organized roommate, was performing her quarterly note purging ceremony. I'm not exactly sure what elements this ceremony entails but it has something to do with her sifting through old notes and mail, keeping the items that are still meaningful, and tossing those that are no longer relevant. Then I think she performs a ritual trash dance and closes with the Sevenfold Amen while blowing a kiss to Jesus and lighting a candle for each note she sends packing...or something along those lines.

Anyway, at some point during the day, Jourdan emerged with a note I had written her probably about a year and a half ago. It had survived past note purgings and looked like it was going to stay in the "meaningful" stack. She handed it to me and said "Here is a note you left me a while back, it was a good one and I continue to keep it." To which the insecure, affirmation addicted self inside of me replied with something like, "Aren't they all good ones??!" Gaaaaahhhh. I am exhausting and am putting myself in timeout as I type.

When I took the note from her, I looked at the card, written on some old, personalized stationary, and as I opened it up, I remembered. Inside were words that were not my own, but a quote from Rob Bell that had caught my attention once upon a time.

It was late one weeknight, about 18-20 months ago. The roomies were already snoozing and I was reading a book and honestly just wanted to go to sleep. But the words I just read were resonating with me and making me think of Jourdan's situation at the time. So I found a card, grabbed one of my millions of beloved, colored, fine-point sharpies and scribbled out the quote in my asianesque print. Here is the card in it's entirety:

Read the quote below and thought of you:

" is messy. Gut wrenching. Risky. Things don't always turn out well. Sometimes they don't turn out at all. Sometimes everything falls apart and we wonder if there's any point to any of it. We're tempted to shut ourselves off, fortify the walls around our hearts, and forge ahead, promising ourselves that we will never open ourselves up like that again. But I have to believe that we can recover from anything. I have to believe that God can put anything - anyone - back together. I have to believe that the God Jesus invites us to trust is as good as he says he is. Loving. Forgiving. Merciful. Full of Grace."

Rob Bell

Praying you can believe Him a little more each day. Love you.

And that was the card. What is significant about this quote is not that I was so thoughtful to think of Jourdan during her pain because I am keenly aware that no goodness in me exists apart from Christ. At best, I am a self absorbed train wreck. What is cool though, is that God would remind me, through words His spirit prompted me to write down for someone else close to two years ago, who He really is.

When I scratched out that card late in the night, things were going well for me. I was working purposefully, involved in a healthy relationship, and walking confidently. Since then, much has changed. God challenged me with my own pain and doubt by taking away most of the "knowns" in my life. And during this period, I often found myself doubting his goodness. Or at least, his goodness to me.

Thankfully, I learned that His restoration is real. And while I don't know much else, I do know this. He absolutely brings recovery and He does put us back together -- from anything. From the darkest evil occuring to children in brothels worldwide to the numbing apathy induced by self absorption I encounter daily. He can rescue me. He can remind me of his goodness. He can make me ready to risk again. And while it may turn out messy and painful, I know this time around, it will not undo me.

Perhaps what struck me in Rob Bell's quote was the realness of it. The reality that life really is not for us. But God is. That little card reminded me how God planned for Jourdan and I, through our own experiences, to know him for ourselves a little more each day. Wow.

And He really is as good as He says He is. Even though my life in no way resembles our culture's formula for success. I know He is good. To you, but to me as well. Which is much of the battle.

Praying you, wherever this finds you, can believe Him for you a little more each day.

I mean, what if?

Monday, August 31, 2009


He does not need me.  
Yet he chooses to pursue me.  
All of me.  

My heart.  
My mind.  
My being. 

He captivates.  
He takes hold.  
He never lets go.  

And a beautiful thing happens.  
In him, I begin to live.
To move.
To have my being.

All that I thought was lost, is not.
I am completely found.
And known.
And he allows me to be like him.

In his purity.
His compassion.
His love.
His justice.
His grace.
His laughter.
His pain.
His movement.
His mission.

And like the woman caught in adultery, 
He dusts me off,
Looks in my eyes,
and says "Now go, and sin no more."

And I finally begin to get it.
His grace crashes into me.  
Undeserved but finally accepted.

And all things are new.
And I begin to run well,
For I am learning the source of my breath.

Breathe deeply of grace. 
Run purposefully.
Found in him.

I mean, what if?

"For in Him we live and move and have our being..."
Acts 17:28

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Notorious Highland Park Clowns

Well hi there.  It certainly has been a while, and that is all my fault. This is a blog.  This is not an essay writing contest, a novel, a magazine, or even a final paper for a class.  Yet, perhaps I have been treating it as such.  While several ideas have gone through my mind to share over the last several months, the pressure I subtly place on myself to make my thoughts perfectly cohesive and/or inspiring made procrastination the most enticing choice.  Dumb.  I know. So to alleviate my self-induced pressure and use this forum as an appropriate form of simple expression, I will tell you a tale of some potentially notorious, Highland Park Clowns.

Earlier this evening, Jourdan, Kristen and I were driving through Highland Park back to our apartment in Dallas.  For those of you not familiar with the Dallas area, Highland Park is what I like to call Fancyland.  The homes are elaborate, the cars are shiny, and high-maintenance personal grooming is expected. Highland Park is about as diverse as Barbie, Ken, and their friends, minus the ethnic dolls. Honestly, it's an area of town I do not fully understand, but is fascinating nonetheless.  

As we drove down Lovers Lane, chatting randomly, we somehow got on the topic of clowns and their cars and I can't exactly recall how, but the conversation took a delightfully silly turn and somehow morphed into a scheme. At one point in our clown convo, Kristen asked what we imagined when we thought of a clown car.  The general consensus was an old model, VW bug type car, perhaps painted pink with all sorts of bright, flower decals.  Jourdan made the point that the horn would probably honk a tune like the Entertainer or some other circusy sounding song.  Kristen, said she imagined a red clown nose on the hood.  I asked if we could upgrade our clown car to a clown van, and have an old, pink, flowery VW bus complete with silly honk noises and a squeaky red nose.  They both agreed.  

As we were laughing about clowns and wondering how the stereotypical clown in our minds became, in fact, the stereotypical clown (I mean, who decided huge red, clown shoes were funny, and why is it only socially acceptable for clowns to wear them?), somewhere between those thoughts, Jourdan piped in with a great idea.  She said, "I keep laughing to myself, imagining the three of us dressed in full-on traditional clown gear while driving our VW clown van around Highland Park, making it our mission to bring some momentary joy through the squeak of our noses, a clever clown skit, or our multi-colored afro wigs."  She went on to say, "I'm trying to think of ways that we could pull this off in Highland Park where the majority of folks there would most likely perceive "clowning" as disruptive to their orderly neighborhood, but because we were not breaking any laws, could do nothing about it."  

So we began to laugh and plan ways to become the Notorious Highland Park Clowns.  Much of this scheme included driving our clown van slowly down the manicured neighborhood streets, looking for someone who needed some "happy", and cheering folks up with the squeak of our noses, the clown songs we would sing from our pink, VW, clown bus with the windows down and our colorful, synthetic, afros blowing in the breeze, and the way we would get out and run around our bus, chasing each other at stoplights while wearing our bright, polka dotted baggy clown suits

Although many in "Fancyland" may initially complain that we are disruptive and an eyesore and strive to send the clowns packing, we never break any laws, and consequently cannot be touched.  Our days of clowning continue happily in the pink VW bus as we bring some color to the HP, and eventually the pretty folks there begin to warm to us and perhaps even like us! 

If this whole plot were a movie however, of course there would have to be one character who is always trying to thwart our clown antics.  A fancy older lady perhaps, who is mortified to hear that her three handsome sons are falling in love with the three refreshingly unusual, clown girls.  But in the end, after the fancy mom tries to throw water on us, but to her frustration, realizes that only makes witches, not clowns, melt, the clown love prevails.  The three handsome sons marry the three delightful clowns in a lovely joint wedding planned by Jourdan. And in true clown fashion, the bridal bouquets were actually decoys for our super-soakers because everybody knows flowers that squirt water are hilarious :)

Oh, and the fancy mom finally comes to her senses after a heartfelt moment with the clowns, when we take off our makeup, wigs, and costumes and reveal our true identities.  She realizes that, in the end, she and the clown girls are not so different after all.  And she also, has a plastic nose - just not the red, clowny kind - but plastic nonetheless.  
So if you are ever driving through Highland Park, be on the lookout for a pink, VW clown bus with three afroed gals stopping every so often to clown on folks. It just might be those Notorious Highland Park Clowns...

I mean, what if?

"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart..."
Proverbs 15:30

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mawmuh's Day

I thought I would give a little shout out to my mom on this day we pause to honor mothers.  

Her name is Joy and I always tell folks that she wears her name well.

When I consider my mom, I think of her laugh, which tends to sound more on the cackle side of laughter.  It's a laugh that sets her apart for sure and a laugh that God gave her that has helped her both endure and persevere.  

When I was younger and living at home, I could hear my mom's laugh, no matter where I was in the house, from her laundry folding station in my parents room at something silly on TV (most likely Mama's Family re-runs, on TBS).  I also remember very clearly, making my mom laugh when I was in 3rd grade after reading her a ridiculous tale I created when I had to write a story using all of my spelling words.  It felt really good to make her laugh her loud, distinct laugh -- and it still does :).  

Mom has the type of laugh that is contagious, which sometimes drove me crazy when I wanted to pout and be mad.  As much as I tried to be fussy in those situations, her laugh usually got the best of me and I would eventually crack a smile and my drama would quickly subside. One day, I plan on using this clever trick with my own, most-likely ridiculously, dramatic kids.

While I unfortunately, do not bear the distinction of the sound of her laugh, I do love to laugh and am thankful my mom instilled her laughter in me and my sisters.  After losing her husband (my father) to cancer when she was still in her twenties with two babies to raise, my strong mama, came away from the depths of that loss with an infectious laugh rooted in an eternal joy -- and she wears it beautifully.

Besides her laughter, when I think of my mom, I can never escape her southern accent.  And if I am telling other people something that she said to me, I typically fall into impersonation mode.

My mom was born and raised in the panhandle of Florida, and except for a few years in Georgia and Texas, has lived there her entire life. For those of you not familiar with the culture of Northwest Florida, think southern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia instead of blingin' Miami or West Palm.  It's a place where airbrush is common, mullets are still a viable style at many local barber shops, grits are always a good side choice, and southern accents are just the norm. And my mom has a great one.  It's slow, drawn out, and perfect to imitate.  In fact, I have had several friends over the years who have taken a stab at "Miz Joy's" voice because they have heard voicemail messages that go something like this: "Haaay Saaaaruh.  This is yooor Maaaawmuuuh..." or have witnessed the accent firsthand.  

A couple of years ago, my sisters, dad, and brother-in-law were in Destin around lunch time and we were looking for somewhere to eat. My mom said "how about the burritah place?" Needless to say, we all had a field day with "burrituh" and I think she secretly hopes we forget that one.  I have a pretty good feeling we won't  and I might even use it for a future kid (lil' baby Burritah) -- or at least a dog or fish name :)

For those of you who do not know my mawmuh, she is lovely, smart, creative, perceptive and funny. Rest assured, a southern accent does not equal dumbness.  In my mom's case, it just makes her even more charming, memorable, and awesome.  It would be absolutely strange and exceedingly boring if my mawmuh talked like a news anchor.  

Hopefully, this post has given you a tiny glimpse of my mom.  While her laughter and accent make her uniquely "Joy",  it has been her deep faith, abiding love, and steadfast joy that have made it an honor and a gift to be her daughter.  In both loss and abundance, she has always known whose she is, and is creating a legacy worth celebrating and repeating.  

I love you mawmuh.  Thanks for loving me well and for your continual support even though I make decisions that possibly make you antsy and even when I say "burrituh" perhaps one too many times :).

And another quick shout out to all of the other "mawmuh" figures in my life with whom God has seen fit to cross our paths either a while ago or more recently. Disclaimer: this does not mean you are old enough to actually be my mom, it just means you have loved me with your wisdom, your generosity, your humor, your home, your food, and the way you continue to believe in the Christ in me, especially during the seasons when I could not.  

Now imagine I am talking in a pageant, hostess voice: "In no particular order, these are the incredible mawmuh figures that I love, that make me better, and are all deserving of the "Mawmuh Figure of the Year 2009" award:  Beth Tomlinson, Cindy Harris, Julie Ware, Barbara Burks, Melissa Nichols, Lisa Sawyers, Kelly Evans, Jenny Pruett, Kimberly Coatney, Shelley Lucas, Mindy Beams, Amy Latham, Sheila Everett, Jessica Howard, Beyonce, Chris Martin, Jeff the Purple Wiggle, the Manatee at the Dallas Aquarium, Izzy Stevens, Blanche my fish, the cat calling lady in the apartment below us, the Somalian Pirates, and Tyra Banks."  

Perhaps you can figure out who actually made the top 14 :)

To my mawmuh and my mawmuh figures on this mother's day: 
 "Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance."  
Jude 1:2

Love you!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Drawing Near -- Broken Shards

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18

Last fall, I worked in a corporate office as a project manager for a brief, three-month stint.  One of the projects I was always eager to manage was making the coffee in the morning.  I enjoyed having a task to focus on which I knew would result in happiness for the staff and also keep me busy with minimal human interaction until I was more fully awake.  One morning as I picked up the glass jar that held the coffee beans, to my surprise and extreme frustration, it slipped right through my hands and shattered into hundreds of tiny shards all over the laminate floor.  Nothing of the old form could be salvaged. Every part of the container was now trash.  And a few days later, the old glass container that had served its bean holding purpose well, was replaced with a sturdier, plastic canister.  The glass jar had been adequate but the plastic canister turned out to be a better option for an office environment.  It was tougher, lighter, handier, and more accessible.  And yet, I never would have realized the greatness of the replacement if it were not for the shock of brokenness.

Frequently, I find myself trying to avoid brokenness, or at the least, the appearance of it.  It leaves me exposed, humiliated, and needy - none of which sound very attractive.  And yet Christ, in his counter-cultural way, has been most apparent during my times of complete brokenness.  While enduring periods of great loss and disappointment, his gospel becomes experienced truth to me and no longer a learned religion.  Jesus draws near, and he so mercifully becomes my own.

Most often, I realize my intense need for Christ in my shattered piles of mess rather than when life is lived in the confines of my control.  A death occurs, a relationship ends, a job is lost, a disease detected - in those times where I can no longer strategically manage my life, I need to know that the God of the universe will see my shards, pick me up, and create something stronger.  His nearness and mercy hover in my brokenness, as he is faithful to fix my eyes on him and rescue me once again from the binds of my limited perspective.  

If you currently find yourself in a place of brokenness, or when you do in the future, embrace his nearness and wait for him to lift your head (Psalm 3:3). Wait for him to make you stronger (Isaiah 40:31).  Wait for him to give you the best from what appears to be shattered and only good for refuse (Isaiah 60:17). As you consider drawing near to the Lord as Easter approaches, remember that Christ came to bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1).  And the cross was, and still is, the perfect, healing bandage for our broken shards.  Take comfort in knowing that restoration rises from brokenness and that resurrection is imminent.  Sunday is coming, my friends.  It just is.

"See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:19

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Drawing Near -- Better in Love

"This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."
1 John 4:9-12

Sometimes it takes a theme ushered in by a circumstance for me to sense the nearness of God. Of all the themes of life out there that persuade me to recognize God coming near, love would have to be at the top of the list.  

I heard a musician perform a song he wrote the other day and the chorus said "I'm just better in love."  Those words resonated with me and I thought, "yep, me too."  The times in my life when God gifts me with someone to very specifically love and I actually jump in without worry of the outcome and just love lavishly, I detect without a doubt the nearness of God.  I sense his pleasure because no matter if the object of my love returns it in a reciprocal way, or in any way for that matter, I am identifying with Christ in his character. He is love (1 John 4:16).  No matter what I do or do not do, he remains love.

For this season of my life I find my heart a little worn from loving in obedience, loving fully, and loving in a way that considered another better only to have it end in seeming disappointment. And yet, to identify with Christ is to take the risk to love even when it is messy. The cross, the most beautifully tragic example of perfect love, was heart-wrenchingly messy.  My imperfect attempts at sacrificial love will always be tattered and unruly, my heart will always run the risk of being worn, but my joy will be complete.  And despite the wounds a heart will most likely incur when loving fully, I can say on this messy, frustrated, and disappointed side of my own circumstance, it was and is worth it.  His nearness hovers in unhindered love and it absolutely hovers in the aftermath.  His love makes the best kind of fool (1 Corinthians 1:18) and I am just better in it.

As we contemplate the nearness of God, consider his love.  For many of us, it's the love story that draws us to Him.  He found you worth it to go to the cross. To be broken, bruised, and literally tattered for you and his ultimate glory.  If you know this Christ, his love covers you completely. Even now, I sense his love crawling up over my skin and reminding me that love is worth the risk. Love is worth feeling like a failure, it's worth rejection, and it is always worth someone else seeing a picture of Christ that beckons them to lose their lives so they might really find it.  

Draw near to God in his love.  When Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that "love never fails", even when earthly relationships seem contrary to that line of reason, I absolutely know Paul was right. Love never does fail.  The circumstance may look differently than anticipated but his love through us does not fail.  

Take the scary risk to be fully known in His love and to love unhindered.  His nearness is found there, it pushes us forward, and it absolutely sustains.

Consider the depth of Christ's love and let if find you.  While foolish to our self-preserving nature, within it lies transformation and nearness to the God of the universe -- and I am convinced, we are all just better in it.

"Love never fails..."
1 Corinthians 13:8

Drawing Near

"Draw near to God and he will draw near to you."
James 4:8

I wish I could say I wake up every morning longing to draw near to God.  Too often I am consumed with myself.  My life.  My agenda. My desires.  My confusion.  And I miss the beauty found in drawing near. Of being fully engaged with the God of the universe.  

As Easter approaches, the time on the cultural calendar that we are more inclined to consider our faith, it would be fitting, and hopefully even altering, to step closer to Christ and allow our eyes to be re-awakened to his movement, his heart, and his intention for all people as we realize his proximity to us.  To allow our lives to regain a footing with purpose.  And then, to walk with bold confidence in his nearness, like the beloved bride that we are.

Over the upcoming days, I plan on sharing a few instances/themes that help, and sometimes force, me to consider the presence of a vast God that is yet, so very near.  Some are practices, some are experiences, and some are choices. Each one however, have put me in a place to absolutely know God is love, he is active, and he invites us to engage in his reconciliation movement as the earth and everything around us increasingly groans for redemption (Romans 8:22).  

My prayer is that these next few days of reflection would set your heart on the God that came near to redeem you.  And that you would know with fresh confidence how his blood really did set you free (Galatians 5:1).  May Easter Sunday be a new day of joy for you that has nothing to do with a large, imaginary bunny and his colorful eggs, but everything to do with the knowledge of the depth of our reconciliation.  

Let us draw near in such a way that our ears would hear the groans around us, our eyes would risk looking at people and then loving them, and our lives would become his patient relief.          

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fixed Eyes

As I read over the following post, I realized the words are motivation for my present place and truth for my somewhat tattered heart.  If I seem a little passionate, it's because I am.  Hopefully the words in this entry will remind you of what is true no matter what hardship is at hand, and serve to push you forward with fixed eyes on the God who saves.

Last week was one of much reflection, much perception, and much pressing in for me.  The week started with the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday.  If you do not already know, I was a history major in college and my nerdiness struts around like a peacock on such days as this.  My two roommates can both adamantly attest to this truth.  

On Sunday evening, I was nerdily excited to flip to the History Channel and see a documentary covering the life of MLK.  I wish you could hear my nerd laugh impression because that was exactly what I was doing as I lucked upon the show.  Kristen began watching the beginning with me until she was falling asleep and then the following day, when Jourdan arrived home, it was, to my delight, on again, and I coerced her into watching the second half with me.  Both were good sports about my excitement but I'm sure they were wondering where my head gear and graphing calculator were to complete the totally nerdalicious scene.

In my defense, it's not so much that I'm some History Channel junkie and have to know every random nerdy fact about really boring stuff like the electoral college or the Monroe Doctrine. It's just that since I was young, I have always been captivated by the stories of people who incited movement, both positive and negative, and how they were able to influence others to move with them towards their goal. 
Martin Luther King, Jr. fits this bill.  God gave him a vision and he dedicated his life to that end. While far from perfect, his life was about bringing relief to others and I have always been intrigued by the power of his words and how God used them to bring so much hope, unity, passion, and change.  There is something about words saturated in wisdom and truth that rivet the soul.  King knew what it meant to let God use his voice.  He knew what it meant to cast his eyes on God's heart for justice and His vision for all people, making the Civil Rights leader walk fearlessly towards God, even when his life was at stake. One of my favorite speeches that King gave was in Memphis the night prior to his assassination. Below are his closing remarks:

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place.  But I'm not concerned about that now.  I just want to do God's will.  And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.  And I've looked over.  And I've seen the Promised Land.  I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!  And so I'm happy tonight.  I'm not worried about anything.  I'm not fearing any man!  Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!"

Words from the lips of a man who knew God's purpose for him, and understood that His life had to be about relentlessly moving towards that goal, and as a result, a peace that passed all understanding settled well on him.  King knew the cost yet trusted God's plan, for his eyes had seen the glory of what was to come.  It was almost as if he sensed his life would soon be taken from him, yet remained calmly unafraid.  

As I was reminded of the dream, vision, and action of this man, I couldn't help but be moved and ask God for similar vision and movement in my own life.  I think too often, our God given dreams get squelched by the fear in our minds. Sometimes we are afraid of how ludicrous it may seem, or how unconventional it could look if we really lose our lives for the sake of Christ. Other times, we don't want to sacrifice our comfort and convenience for His immeasurably more because we are fearful of taking that unknown step of faith and trusting God with the end result.  

I am at a place where I must refuse to live my life cowering to fear and expectations.  I cannot waste my time second guessing myself as a result of another's unbelief.  King knew his call, and walked towards it unswervingly, to the point of death.  And as ironic as it seems in our insulated world of health insurance, retirement funds, and vacation days, the sacrifice was and continues to be worth it.  When we hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, He who promised is always faithful (Hebrews 10:23).  A truth that empowers us to move fearlessly toward hardship and death knowing that we are living our lives purposefully, far surpassing our limits.

Let's be those people.  Our world is aching for those of us willing to speak the dreams God places in our hearts and then be faithful to follow them.  Relief and hope are found in this obedience.  Inspiration to others is found in this obedience.  Life is found in this obedience. Even, oddly enough, in death.  

After reflecting on King and then on Tuesday experiencing history with the inauguration of Obama, my historical tank was getting full and I began to consider my part in being faithful to God's dreams for me. And without fail, just as I began the process of really pressing into the Lord, I learned some disappointing news and my heart shattered a little bit more. While my mind and heart were a complete mess for the next 24 hours, I knew in the back of my head that I would rise.  Even from literally crying on my knees in the shower, I would rise.  That what the enemy intended for harm, God would use for his good (Genesis 50:20). 

And even now, only a few days later,  I am rising.  I refuse to be conquered by circumstances, rejection, deception, or fear.  I refuse to miss out on the God of the universe using a broken, messed up girl like me.  Honestly, that is just too good of a story to not get in on, not to mention some definite instances of random hilarity.  God using the utterly foolish, Sarah Mullins (insert your name here), to be His fragrant aroma.  Isn't that just like our crazy God?  Taking our glaring flaws, the things that we think make us "unmarketable" and using every part of us, to be part of the relief story He is creatively writing across the earth.  

In the words of Jourdan's timely song, Mend (, "mend my heart, and pull the thread..." so that I might chase His dreams down in a way that brings light to darkness, freedom for captives, and tenderly binds the brokenhearted  (Isaiah 61:1).  

May he give you boldness to fearlessly move.  May you not be conquered by the flaming arrows of the enemy. Like King, may your eyes see the glory of the coming of the Lord.  I mean, what if? 

Who knows, a black man in a country scarred by slavery and inequality could become President. That is what-freaking-if.

Speak your dreams.  Wait expectantly.  Inspire others.  Get out of the way.  He will move the mountains.  He just will.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

To Create

So last week I found myself back in Dallas after two weeks of holiday travel. Some planned and some spontaneous yet both ushering in much needed perspective to my current life, and honestly the perspective had little to do with my circumstances. 

The Tuesday before Christmas, Jourdan and I packed her car up and headed to Florida to spend some days with our families.  Typically we spend about 11 hours in the car together and always come away from our trip with some interesting stories from our stops in Louisiana or Mississippi. For instance, at one gas station in Louisiana, not only did they sell your typical fare of Slim Jims, dill pickles, and Twinkies, but you could also purchase slightly outdated Nike's and Pumas if you needed some shoes.  Really.
Once we hit the Florida state line, I started collecting my things, we exited and pulled into the Firestone store to meet my mom, and I wiped my greasy, travel bangs across my forehead. Soon after, my mom arrived, I put my stuff in her car, hugged Jourdan, and drove away for the holiday stay as Jourdan headed on to her own homestead.    

Sometimes when you grow up in a place that has access to views of creation that can take your breath away like Pensacola Beach does, you tend to take it for granted.  Yet, I knew in the back of my mind, that I had to get out to the beach at some point during my time home, if only for a few minutes.  My heart, mind, and vision were begging for the restoration that often meets me in creation.  

After spending the night at my big sister's house and helping Livvy give her little four month old chub-fest, Jonah, a slippery bath in the kitchen sink that morning, I realized I was returning to Texas soon and somehow in the activity of the holidays, had yet to go to the beach.  I surveyed the day's activities and realized if I didn't take the opportunity now, I probably wouldn't make it out there.  Only having about an 1.5 hours to spend, I told Livvy my beach plans, grabbed my backpack and a towel and made the 20 minute drive over the two bridges to Pensacola Beach. Remembering the more secluded spot where my friend Susan and I spent many summer days in high school with our route 44 sonic drinks, I parked the car, took off my flip flops, squished through the sand, walked onto a boardwalk, down some stairs and then saw the expanse of the gulf.  And it took my breath away.  

Late December or not, it was a perfect beach day.  The sun was bright and making the water sparkle, the sand was cool and glistening white from the sun's attention, the waves were excited and making the best crashing sounds ever -- God was showing off, and his show was exactly what my heart needed.  

I quickly found a spot, knowing my time was limited, sat down on the towel and just took it all in. Not surprisingly, tears began to travel down my face and God's presence was thick.  This was a moment I wanted to remember.  I sensed it was a time of marking and hope in the middle of so many unknowns in my life and a daily struggle to confidently walk in the truth that I will see God's goodness in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).  Reaching into my backpack (random side note: whenever I see the word backpack, for some reason I always imagine Dora the explorer saying "backpack" really loudly and then getting her viewing audience to repeat her, which undoubtedly stems from living with a family with a three year old for awhile), I grabbed my journal and began to write.  The words written were from a place of authenticity and desperation that God purposed and brought to the surface through his creation in those moments.

As I sat there and pondered how God thought to create the beach, I laughed to myself as I considered the sound of the waves crashing.  That sound alone inspires so much creativity --- songs are written, art is painted, love is inspired, and minds are sharpened from hearing the crash and roar of the water.  If God had given me the task of coming up with a sound for waves, cool crashing would have never even crossed my mind.  It probably would have been some annoying sound like a dinky car horn or the dial-up Internet noise making people never ever want to come to the beach.  The beach would be more like the dentist office to folks if I had been in charge so thankfully, God, in his wisdom, created and it was good.

As I inhaled the smell of the salty air, stuck my feet in the cold water, reluctantly packed my stuff and headed back to the car, I couldn't help but be inspired by God's glory and his love for me.  He created the beach and met and calmed me there and showed me himself.  My focus was shifted to his redemption through creativity and his continuing invitation for me to be a part of that. And he never had to do that, he never had to be that intentional with me -- ever.  So while creation screams the vastness and power of God, he meets me in it in such a way that reminds me he is very much involved in the details, in my details, and he has not forgotten me.

So I returned to Texas the next day with a pocketful of God's glory from my brief time at the beach which made the expanse of concrete I noticed as the plane descended on DFW a little more bearable. What I did not know as I made it back to my apartment in Dallas is that God was not finished with the creation-fest he had planned for me.  The following day, my roommate, Kristen, along with our friend Jen, decided to take a road trip to Breckenridge, Colorado.  We made the decision at 2pm and were on the road headed toward the Rockies by 8pm that evening.  As unexpected as the trip was for each of us, I am confident that God purposed our eyes to see Him that week in the ways that we did very intentionally.

Kristen had never been to Colorado so it was cool to see the awesomeness of the mountains through fresh eyes.  My heart was convicted that I may have grown slightly calloused to God's creative glory because of my more frequent exposure to the grandness that is much of Colorado as I heard Kristen's exclamations of awe as we spent time in the picturesque peaks.  I remembered thinking to myself, "God, let me not be dulled to your creation or ever grow bored with your work.  Let your work, and your expanses make me long for your redemption and serve to inspire my own creativity."  So over the next few days, my eyes saw the mountains in ways I had not seen them previously and my heart rested.  There is something about seeing mountains that reminds me that God is indeed in control and my worry really is pointless.  And that reminder was a much needed gift.

On our final full day in Colorado, we made the decision to drive over to Vail. The views along the way were unbelievable.  Kristen was freaking out over all we were seeing and similar to to my beach experience, I found myself wondering how God even thought to make a mountain. He created where no precedent previously existed, making me realize his authorship of all human creativity. No matter how edgy, original, or creative we may think we are, it is inspired by what already is.  Yet when God created, he took nothing and fashioned it into something that with one glance can cause us to gasp in awe or even weep.

Over the last couple of weeks, I experienced both reactions and realized that to become more like Christ means to take the risk to create.  I cannot allow fear in my mind to numb the  ideas he has inspired. Whether or not anything becomes of our creations, we get to identify with the creator in the process and I have to believe that makes the risk worth it.  

From the crashing of the waves to the rugged crags of the mountains, my eyes saw my God and I am without excuse.  Like his works, I intensely desire my life to scream His redemption, restoration and glory until my work here is complete. Risking foolishness, I want to create and become in ways that inspire others to do the same.  And as a result, be a part of building a community of creators that still gasp in awe at the mountain tops or shed tears at the sound of the waves because we are continually moved that the God of the universe would choose to come near to us.  That he loves us that much.

May his creation make it hard for you to breathe.  May his creation cause a tear to slide down your cheek.  May his creation remind you that the God who created the vividness, vastness and intricacies of the Earth out of nothing has not forgotten you. May His creation cease your anxieties and bring your mind rest.  May his creation inspire you to risk.  May his creation bring you to a place to create in a way that others can't help but sense Him.  May his creation deliver you from your fears and selfishness.  May his creation bring joy to your heart, light to your eyes, and a new song to your mouth.  May his creation set you free to create -- immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine.

I mean, what if?