Announcing With Love, H

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Dear friends,

You’ve probably noticed that this blog is pretty stagnant.  Apologies, but don’t let it fool you: I haven’t been idle.

For the last few months, I’ve been spending lots of time working on a new blog. It’s called With Love, H and I’d love for you to join me there.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions about With Love, H.

About it’s purpose and what’s different about it from Things to Come. About why I stopped blogging last May and what in the blue heaven possessed me to take it up again.There are some very simple answers to these questions, but I haven’t (until tonight) found the words.

Because that’s kind of the trouble– until recently, I lost my words.

Oh they were hanging out there somewhere, probably between my left and right ventricle, since that’s where their sustenance comes from. But for the life of me, I couldn’t get to them. I couldn’t access that particular corner of my heart where they stood, not hiding, but stubbornly holding a grudge. They’d spent a long time waiting for me to come back.

But let’s be real, if you went to your door and the person there conveniently hadn’t remembered to come home to you for six months, would you be real inclined to let her through the door?

Yeah, me neither.

The truth of it though is that I’m still in a place where I don’t know what to tell you about the last six or seven months of my life except that they have been–by turns–magical and surprising and broken and lovely. And I have been more overwhelmed by grace and goodness than I’ve ever been. And I’ve experienced things–like wholeness and being loved wholly–that take time to understand, let alone explain.

But I suppose that’s the purpose for starting a new place–to explain it and in doing so, to understand it better myself. To make myself–who is such a poor visionary and often forgetful–keep track of the surprising joy this life is so apt to bring.

And in so doing, to recognize the God who gives good gifts and full life to the ones who come asking to see.

On With Love, H, you can expect the honest thoughts, heart, and challenges of a woman rescued by grace.

It’s a safe place, a selah place,  a place to work out things like faith, identity, and truth. It’s a place where the rescued become rescuers. It’s a kitchen table and a confidante with a mug of coffee.

And it’s for you.

Let’s share the journey together.

With love,

H

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Los Dias Locos.

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The girl in my car handed me her phone. “Please talk to my father. He thinks I’m lying.”

The car swerved a little on the winding north Georgia road as I took the phone. I drove with one hand. “Hello?”

The voice on the other end was harsh and heavily accented. “Who this is?” He asked. “You are a teacher?”

“No sir. I’m a volunteer. I’m driving your daughter to a senior cookout.”

“A cookout? Where you are?”

I told him the city.

“Who this is?” He demanded again. “Who this is?”

“Mi nombre es Heather,” I tried, and then tried to spell it in Spanish. “Soy un voluntario en la escuala de tu hija. Vamos a la casa de  pastor … ” I fumbled. My Spanish was rusty at best and I knew that even if my vocabulary was close to correct, my grammar was far from it.

“Give me mi hija, my daughter,” he said.

I heard him begin to shout as she took the phone. I understood fractions of the very one-sided conversation. He wanted to know where she was, really, and no lying. Who was the white girl on the phone? Where was the gringa taking his girl?

And then–

Her brother had been arrested again.

I listened as she sobbed. When she hung up the phone, I reached behind the seat and squeezed her hand. Can’t she catch a break, LORD? I prayed. She’s been through so much.

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Many of the girls I work in the youth program have stories like hers.

Brothers, parents in jail. Many of them are pregnant; some have two or three children. Others are seventeen and divorced. There are stories of gang initiations gone wrong and overdosing on everything from cocaine to cough medicine.

And this is the easy stuff.

My day–conversely–consisted of a lunch meeting at a mid-range restaurant  where I was showered with gifts and a morning of writing blogs. Some semi-stressful things were thrown my way, but they mostly consisted of running errands using someone else’s credit card and someone else’s gas.

Until I picked her up, my day felt overwhelming and crazy and exhausting.

But this girl, on her way to her senior banquet, experienced something I couldn’t comprehend–a family torn apart and a brother sitting in prison. I looked at her and saw a girl trying to be old beyond her years, but who was overwhelmed and exhausted in the face of “los dias locos”, “the crazy days.”

And to her, this life is a stream of los dias locos.

I wish I could say that I immediately recognized the innate differences between the difficulty of her life and the relative ease of my own. But I didn’t. I came home and complained to one of my roommates about how hard my day was.

In fact, I had every intention of writing a blog post about it here.

And then I started to actually write about it.

I don’t think I have any really pretty way to tie this up except to just ask you to pray for my friend, who is so young and so vulnerable. She–and the others I’ve worked with for a brief time–are what the news would call “minorities” and “at risk”. They’d probably be called a lot of other things too, mostly not so nice things.

Pray for reconciliation within her family.

Pray for her brother as he faces the judge this week.

Pray for her parents as they continue to work multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Pray for her cousin as her pregnancy continues.

Pray for her school as it transitions to a new year with new leadership.

Pray that I–and the others with me–are allowed back into the school in the fall.

Pray that my friend doesn’t give up.

Just pray.

The Weight of January: a Reflection

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The first days of January were fraught with tension. 

There were these perfect moments, you know? These moments where the rain got caught in the soft light of a streetlamp as a girl in a white dress and a man in suspenders ran for the getaway car.  Moments when all it took to feel alive was to sit in a chair with a cup of coffee, holding my boyfriend’s hand.

And then there were the ones that came later. The ones where we packed his life into a sixty liter backpack. Or the last prayer we prayed together before driving to the airport. And the moment he walked towards his gate, and I made myself keep walking, not looking behind me.

January was painful.

There were always better things ahead of me than what I’d leave behind; I knew that. But sitting in my car, driving away from the airport, all I could see was that bleak, difficult January. It felt like that day, that month, that season was never going to end.

I spent a lot of time walking along the edge of the lake, that month. The lake looked as drained and unfulfilled as I felt, and I gave many hours to the shoreline, just talking to Jesus. Or not talking, just trying to hear Him.

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But things changed.

I watched as, month by month, the lake filled up. The rains came heavier than anyone could have predicted. Soon, I was wading through the shallow edges of what used to be a shore, and then, finally, climbing into a kayak to trace the edges.

The lake was different. And I was different too.

With each hour I invested standing on the lake, I began to fill up. My heart, bruised and angry, expanded and healed. I heard Jesus speak His promises over me–promises of health and fullness and life abundant.

In this season of absence and separation, He’s asked for my trust and given me the chance to choose it. When I’ve said yes, He’s given me a greater capacity for trust and a heavier–yet somehow less weighty, if that makes any sense–knowledge that He is going to come through.

It’s May now, and the lake is full.

There’s no shoreline at all, anymore, so some days I just sit at the dock and dangle my feet in. Sometimes I think about January and all the angst there was, all the uncertainty and fear.

But mostly I think about the lake, and how something that at one time seemed so empty now feels so alive. I think about how everything in this season has been so intentional, leading me back to His promises over me. And I think about how His banner over me is love.

And I think that this is life–and life abundant–but how I wouldn’t have understood the beauty of May without the bitterness of January. And I’m thankful.

Yes Lord. What’s the Question?

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The master bedroom in my house is the kind of gorgeous you only see at a retreat center.

A wall of windows. All muted browns and iridescent blues. There’s a remote that raises the curtains so you can look out over the lake. If it was my room, I’d be hard pressed to leave it every morning. I’d probably turn on the fireplace, wrap up in a blanket and just stay for a while.

I spent some time there this morning with my mentorship group. It’s a small group, just the three of us, and we’re pretty close. It’s not unusual for one of us girls to have a small breakdown– to let our tears fall on shoulders and pillows as they will.

Today was no exception.

We prayed over her as she cried, and then listened as she interceded for herself. She’s a passionate woman of prayer, and at one point she said, through sobs–

“I just say “Yes, LORD.””

and then,

“What’s the Question?”

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I’m so unwilling to give up control in this way, to say yes without first knowing what He wants of me. I am so unwilling to say the quiet, the unrestrained yes, without reading the contract all the way through, into the fine print. I want to know every angle. I want to understand every clause.

But Jesus doesn’t work that way. And the thing is, He shouldn’t have too.

What more do I need to know but that He loves me? But that He died for me? But that He came to give me abundant life now, here, and not only in some different, distant heaven?

I shouldn’t need anything more than that, if I really believe His promises and words.

But let’s be honest,this semester, I’ve been working through the bruises life’s left on my heart. I’ve spent a little time being angry with Jesus. I got angry for things I’ve never been angry at before.

I discovered, much to my surprise, that He’s okay with me being angry. I think He’d rather me be honestly angry than consciously hiding how I feel from Him.

And after the anger, I’ve found the chutzpah to actually trust Him, just a little bit at a time.

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This week, I’ve found myself looking at my life with more openness. There’s a peacefulness that comes over me at the thought of making big decisions and saying big things and, generally, moving on with my life into the next season.

And I don’t know what that season looks like, honestly.

I want to give my heart without the fear of it breaking, because I know regardless of what happens, He’s holding it. I want to trust that since He’s led me to this place–even to the point of death–He is still the Messiah, the Holy One, and He Who Loves Me.

With that knowledge, I can become the kind of woman who says YES to the LORD first and asks what the question is later.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

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He hands us paper in eight different colors.

Purple for me. Tan for another. Green for one of the men.

We’re asked, simply, to pray and speak life over each person, writing down what we hear or see on the card.

The exercise takes thirty minutes or so. I don’t think much into what I’m writing. If I think it, I overthink it, and so I pray “Jesus, what do you say?” then write, not reading over it. On one card, a tree with roots in a river. On another, a wedding bower. Symbolism, maybe, but I hope it means something to them.

When I get my envelope back, there’s a pause, a catch as I read through them. Mostly, they speak of rest–something I’ve struggled with all my life.

But one makes me stop completely.

On it is a crudely drawn sidewalk full of holes. The artist’s written:

There are some cracks in you that cause emotional instability. But the Lord is wooing your heart, gaining your trust. And as you release more and more control to Him all of those cracks become filled up with His love. And you are being built up into a secure, stable and steadfast woman of God.

This is almost offensive honesty.

I don’t want to hear that I’m unstable, uncertain, although this month it’s been true.

April has been the month that wouldn’t end. The roller coaster month of emotion and communication and angst and the question, What if? and What now? It’s been the month of uncertainty at war with peace– and winning.

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Or almost.

Something’s been shifting in my spirit lately. Since Sunday really, when I found myself sitting on my bed surrounded by journals, searching for answers.

I needed God to speak some really clear things to me. I needed a yes–to see where it’s His hand leading me to this place that feels so uncomfortable sometimes. It’s the edge of a cliff and I’m looking over, wondering about the logistics of jumping off.

Will I hit something on my way down? What if I get hurt? How far down am I jumping, anyway? What if I land on something at the bottom and smush it?!

There’s a routine for this kind of questioning. It goes something like this: Massive freakout. Seclusion. Quiet. Emergence of stubborn determination.

And then the search begins.

When I began to search for the answers, I started seeing patterns. I started writing all the promises spoken over me in vibrant color, pulling them up and away from my own words so I could see the truth of the LORD spoken so clearly over me, singing over the things to come.

When I see them, the cracks in my sidewalk get caulked up, filled up, with the tangible expression of His love. I know I’m valuable, seen, loved and adored. I remember how I got here in the first place, and why.

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I think, if I’m willing to jump from such great heights from the edge of the sidewalk, what I’ll find at the bottom of the cliff is a garden, wild and rambling, the trellises overtaken with cabbage roses and sunflowers higher than my head.

I think I’ll find my heart.

Digging for Oil in the Desert

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If you’ve ever been in a long-distance (in my case, intercontinental) relationship, you know there’s a point where you’re just over everything.

You’re over Skype calls that drop randomly or delay for no reason.

You’re over the time difference that keeps him 10.5 (what?) hours ahead of you all. the. time.

You’re really over paying .25 to even send a text message, and the $40 surprise that got tacked onto your phone bill (whoops, sorry!).

More than anything, you’re over simple things: like cooking dinner for one, or feeling single (when you’re definitely not) or having (well meaning) people ask how many more days you have until he’s home.

It’s forty days, people. Forty.

Today was the day that I realized just how very over distance I am. It wasn’t because I had a particularly hard day. It was eventful and packed with things that needed doing, sure, but it hadn’t been particularly hard.

It was because I could tell that the distance had finally gotten to him.

Just this once, it was incredibly evident how wearisome being apart has been on him too.

And that pushed it over the edge, just a little.

We’ve been apart for going on 115 days. We knew, going into it, we could do it; we could make it work. We even realized that it would be difficult, that we’d have to learn new ways to communicate with each other.

What I didn’t understand was how absolutely tiring it is to be apart from someone who brings me so much life, and joy, and the freedom to be myself.

It has been so exhausting.

We got to talk for just a little while early this morning, and afterwards, I sat on the dock and let my feet slip into the pollen-infused water and let the rest of me just lay down in the sun.

Honestly, I didn’t even know how to pray, so I just asked the Lord to give me something to go on. He gently pointed me to John 12, where Jesus is anointed at Bethany.

If you don’t know the story, basically, Mary (full of reverence and gratitude and love) pours a jar of really expensive oil over Jesus’ head and then wipes his feet with her hair.

The disciples–you know, guys like the ever trustworthy Judas–make a grand ol’ fuss and say she’s wasted valuable oil for nothing. The money spent should have been given to the poor.

But Jesus says she has done a beautiful thing to him and tells them to leave her alone.

In this quickly ending season of separation, I’m learning to pour out my oil for Jesus.

I’m learning to go looking for precious things in this desert time, and then to return it to Jesus with praise because He doesn’t owe me anything.

Not better phone connections.

Not closer time zones.

Not my money back.

Not for this man to come home to me at all.

Nothing.

The fundamental difference between the hearts of Judas and Mary, is Mary’s scandalous humility and love.

And I’m hoping that in the next forty days, that’s what I learn–scandalous humility and audacious love and monumental trust in Him who owes me nothing.

But who deserves to have all my precious oil poured out over Him.

And I’ll pour it out in long moments laying on the dock and quiet thankfulness for any phone call at all. And in deep breaths, taken in defiant peace while the enemy tries to wage war on my confidence. And in hope for the things to come.

I can’t ignore the idea that we dig for oil in the driest deserts. We look for something precious in a wilderness.

But even the things we find there aren’t ours.