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.

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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. 

The Summit (a letter, of sorts)

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My boyfriend–my wonderful, wonderful man–is out on the mission field right now, leading the next generation of World Racers. About every day I see videos or pictures of him doing incredible things, like bouldering his way up a mountain in Swaziland, or surfing in Cape Town.

That was today, PS.

He’s always been far more athletic than I am. When we first started dating, he took me “hiking” up Stone Mountain. When I say hiking, I may in fact mean that we walked up a rather steep hill. By the way, I got winded about two-thirds of the way up and had to stop. Boyfriend could have run his way to the top and I was standing there completely unable keep any air in my lungs.

I thought this meant that I wasn’t athletic enough for him. He thought it meant he had to keep my pace. Slow. 

He adapted. He knew I wasn’t strong enough to keep up with him, so he stopped and waited, holding my hand as I pulled in a breath and then two. He didn’t laugh at me or sigh with annoyance. He just smiled and pointed out a particularly lovely part of the Atlanta skyline.

We made it to the top eventually, and we lingered there for a long time, leaning against boulders and little shrubby trees. And I found that I loved the view even more for how much it took from me to get there, and how much patience he had with me while I made my way behind him.

If we’re being super honest, this is the story of our entire relationship. Him, ready and willing and excited to just go for it at full speed.  And me, well, mostly willing, but moving at a much slower, more hesitant pace. Him, slowing down, waiting for me to catch up.

I needed a little more coaxing and a lot of encouragement. I needed space to figure it out and minutes to take deep breaths. I needed him to be more sure than I was, and for him lead me gently by the hand behind him.

And, praise the LORD, he’s given me all those things. He’s given me so much more than that.

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Today marks our seventy-sixth day apart. It is the halfway point of our separation. Everything after today is downhill. And for just a second, I want to pause and take a breath and remember. We’ve climbed up a pretty steep mountain to get to where we are now, and let me just say, the view from up here is just breathtaking.

We are living a beautiful story. There are many more mountains ahead for us to climb.There are summits to linger on while we take in the things before us, and remember the things behind.

But I’ll say this– there’s nowhere else I’d rather be and no one else I’d  rather live this story out with.