Don’t Trip Over Me

I clearly remember the day I decided to leave my childhood church. I had walked away from that particular body of believers (who were and are amazing people) when I decided Christ was the last thing I wanted to pursue. When I returned after my two year hiatus, I was broken beyond recognition spiritually and wanted anyone to tell me the pain dulls someday.

Actually, I wanted more than that. I wanted someone to hear about my wounds and tell me how to heal; because I had no idea how to do it myself. Growing up, I was the picture-perfect Christian kid. I knew the right answers. When Christ renewed my faith, I knew the right answers but my life made those answers feel foreign, unfamiliar and unobtainable. 

I needed help but was given the impression I seemed “fine.” I was experiencing redemption, but I felt anything but fine. The day I told old friends why I needed a fresh start, a few people gave me very vague answers. I heard lines like, “I’ve been there.” “I know why you’re hurting.” 

… But in my childishly adult 20-year-old mind, those particular responses had come too late. I’d sat wounded and feeling alone for months. I had needed someone more spiritually experienced to get me back on track and it felt like that counsel never came. I’ll always remember the confusion I felt when I was told someone understood my struggles right before I walked out the door. I had no clue I had people to go to to get help… until it was too late. They seemed too perfect to include me.

So, I left and “started over.”

That was close to ten years ago now. Christ saw my spiritual hunger and gave me a Body of believers who loved me deeply but didn’t let me get away with anything. Change isn’t always a bad thing, and to this day, 3,500 miles away, I’m genuine friends with people from both churches. 

I was told recently that I seemed like a very “open book.” As a pastor’s wife, that sentiment is both terrifying and terrific. Too little transparency and people feel as if you’re fake. Too much transparency and your ability to co-lead with your minister husband gets hazy. I want to be relateable; I’m afraid of being a stumbling block.

As I struggle with finding that balance as a new wife to a pastor in training, I’m constantly kicked back to how I felt drowned in loneliness when I first came back to the Lord. I let people see my healed and now-beautiful wounds because I’m learning leadership first starts with being touchable. 

You don’t have to be perfect to be in my group of believers. You don’t have to have all of your sin “Christianized” before being a godly impact on others. You simply have to be willing to realize Christ is the source of your joy and your love. When you realize that, your story loses its shame and Christ changes the game by being the Victor.

If you stumble over anything when you notice I’m an “open book,” may you stumble over the Cornerstone of Christ just as I did.

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Forgetting to Enjoy Him 

When I was a kid, I loved figuring out new words. At four years old, I’d approach my unsuspecting mother with some variation of the question, “What does n-k-v-i-o-t spell?” I couldn’t wait to hear what word I had magically spelled. I loved the idea of making my thoughts known.

So, of course, I became a journalist. The challenge was always the same: Use the most descriptive words to say as much as possible with as little blank page used as possible. 

I was also the 8-year-old who secretly disliked playing with my peers but got a quirky amount of joy sitting with the elders of my church and listening to them talk about doctrine. At 13, I asked for my first concordance. I learned that I loved teaching others life-application within Biblical truths.

So, of course, I acquired a degree in Biblical studies. Within that realm, the challenge was always the same: Make one point as deeply understood as possible, all amounting to a minimum of 5,500 words. Create a masterpiece which looks like a mini-doctoral thesis. Good luck. 

Too often, I waste my time trying to fulfill both challenges when I share or teach Biblical truths. I wax as eloquently and precisely as possible. I use big words to sound authoritative and knowledgeable to appease my journalistic mind. For my theological background, I could write for pages upon pages to share truth I either found intriguing or applicable. My mind is constantly working through topics and how to share them.

What’s terrifying about that is I can be known for forgetting to simply share Jesus. It’s easier to fill a mind with knowledge than it is with love. It’s easier to foster a debate than it is to outline a soul’s need. It’s easy to teach about Jesus but difficult to simply share the essence of the beauty of Christ. 

I’m an analytical person, to put it mildly. I’ll study a topic till I’m blue in the face simply because I thrive on being intrigued. But when Jesus is the “topic,” I’m constantly being reminded it’s okay to sit still and simply enjoy Him. When we learn how to do that as believers, only then will the truths which we share about Him come to life for those watching.

Keeping or Making Peace? 

I was a chronic peacekeeper as a child. If my siblings got in trouble, I did my best to convince my parents they could spank me instead, just because I thought it’d keep the peace. It never worked (good parenting, Mom and Dad), but that didn’t stop me from trying. I hated conflict. I hated tension. Confrontation was the second level of hell in my mind. 

In Matthew 5, Christ speaks to the multitudes when he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Not peacekeepers. Peacemakers. So, what’s the difference? Why does it matter? 

I’ve spent the last five years realizing the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking. Peacekeeping appeases emotions and ignores sin. Peacemaking addresses emotions, lets them exist, but brings sin to the light in a loving way. 

Peacekeeping can literally exist within a lie — as long as things appear good, they are. Sweep hatred, lies, anger, and hurt under the rug. (Smile, Sweetheart, you’ll be okay.) Peacemaking allows for the tension of making things right, even if it takes weeks, months, years or decades and seasons of silence from the other party. 

Peacekeeping protects our reality and saves us from needing to make changes. Peacemaking breaks our reality to make it more like the Christ we say we serve and want to honor. 

Peacekeeping let’s hurt fester. Peacemaking confronts in love and actively seeks restoration instead of only giving it lip-service. 

Just like when I was a kid, peacekeeping only serves our conscience. I tried to make bad situations better, but it would have only made it better on the surface; so no change was made. 

What are you? A peacekeeper or a peacemaker? Do we as Christians have what it takes to be a peacemaker in a world which only wants peacekeepers? 

Blind to Brutality

Four little boys screeched, “Help us! They’re using batons and won’t stop! Lady, please help us! They’re beating us up! They might kill us. They’ll take me to jail! I didn’t do nothin'”  I quietly observed the boys’ laughter-filled playtime, slowly becoming more and more appalled at what they considered play.

Police brutality. They think it’s funny. The boys couldn’t have been more than seven. They already think brutality is funny. 

By the age of 12, I was a hopeless tomboy. I enjoyed horsing around with the guys much more than painting my nails or trying on my sister’s prom dress. I know what it’s like to have a childhood of accidentally going “too far” with wrestling and playing cops and robbers. It’s all in good fun. Welcome to a healthy childhood. 

But adding police brutality? Imagining the role of a “bad cop” misusing his authority? No, that wasn’t my childhood.

I know I’m not a parent. I realize it’s quite possible I’ll come back to to this post and disagree with my younger self after having actual parental experience. But at this point, all I have is frustration over the fact that our culture’s children have very little understanding of the sacredness of life. Many of them have even less respect for authority. 

I had a childhood packed to the hilt of learning respect and the difference between right and wrong. The current generation of children are learning their version of those things by watching media. They are also watching us — their parents and role models. 

Are we modeling wholesome characteristics which are worth them mirroring? Or, are we reacting in anger, sarcasm and cynicism and simply shrugging our shoulders and telling ourselves they’ll understand better when they grow up? 

A seven-year-old knew that a baton can kill. We need to stop shrugging our shoulders.

Beautiful Fear, Bearable Pain

I was 16 the last time I witnessed to a nurse in the operation room.

It was 4:30 in the morning and right before he put me to sleep for my third and final brain surgery, he asked me if I was scared. Apparently, when I answered that I “couldn’t be,” that was enough to delay the surgery for a few minutes while I explained the power of Jesus. I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember how he responded to the Gospel truth.

I just remember realizing my pain was a beautiful gateway to Hope. I had to come to grips with the fact that the sleepless nights, tears and unknowns were being woven together not so I could benefit, but so that I could be available for someone who I’d never see again. 

Three days ago, I went in for what was basically a low-end emergency surgery. The implanted technology that manages my epilepsy treatment was as dead as a doornail. The medical team could either replace it now, or I would go without treatment for up to three months due to scheduling complications.

I’m not usually a skittish person when it comes to surgeries. I’m skittish about other things like love, careers and the idea of motherhood, but emergency surgery? Meh. It happens all the time. I’ll be fine. Only this time, my fiancé and I had 12 hours to process the news of the surgery, let everyone know, fill out the paperwork and get to the hospital on time. We didn’t have time to breathe, think, or process.

This was also the first time I was leaning on my abundently-capable future husband for something completely out of my control. I trust him, but can I have a girly honest moment here? No one wants to have a memory of looking at their fiancé and saying, “You’re my primary emergency contact. No big deal. Nothing’s going to happen, it’s just paperwork… but, um, since you’re basically my spouse, you, um… I love you?” (It’s especially awkward when you’re making these statements at 5:30 in the morning.)

Three days ago, fear was incredibly present. 

When the lead technician came to investigate my implant, she acknowledged my tattoos, trying to get me to relax. Somehow, we went from talking about ink to talking about how she wants a tattoo that will remind her not to waste her life. “I’m just sick of wasting everything, ya know?” 

She was a genius medical technician, and she felt as if her life was worthless. Immediately, my fear left me as I reached for my fiancé’s hand. My life wasn’t wasted. My life wasn’t pointless. I was facing unknowns, but my pain had led both he and I into that room that very early morning for a reason.

We were given a very real moment to silently pray for a woman who felt invisible. That gave me hope. My pain has never been more beautiful.  

Emptying Myself

The green trees collided perfectly with the red splattered clouds against the blue sky this morning. Sunrises always make me smile. However, this morning, as I walked down the hill to my favorite coffeeshop, the Creator’s unique painting of the sky gave me pause.

Passing by a house that towered above the other houses, I noticed the sunrise reflected perfectly in the third level window. Every splotch of red and dash of blue was captured in the clean, empty window. As I walked further, the small amount of sunlight was magnified when it hit the window just right. 

Does my life do that, Lord? I thought. Is my life empty enough to reflect You? When people look at me, do they see You? Or do they only see my pride with a small attempt to reflect you on occasion?

I’ve said it a thousand times before. Biblical Christianity is weird. The world strives to teach us that our #1 goal needs to be standing out as an independent, awe-inspiring, basically egotistical, one-man show. The more people act as if we are the end-all to everything successful, the better.

But then Christ calls us to be “less than” in everything. The world calls us to be everything. Christ calls us to be nothing and let Him be everything within us.

It’s scary, being called to nothing. Initially the fear, “what if I’m not enough?” comes up constantly. To be honest, I don’t think that inward war ever goes away. No matter how much Christ comes through, no matter how old we get, there will always be a battle to be “more” so we can prove ourselves. 

Just like the sunrise in the window this morning, though, we start to learn that the more we’re comfortable in our emptiness and weakness, the more Christ can shine. 

Learn to accept being an empty canvas. Christ can fill more space in your life that way.

The Refugee Next Door 

“All ten of my children and my husband were killed in my village. I was left for dead. This was because we believe in Jesus. God will always be worth it. Now I just adopt anyone I meet from my country here in the United States. I am ‘Auntie’ to many. God is so beautiful.” 

I choked back tears as I cherished her smile so wide it could be seen from two states away. The dear woman next to me was considered royalty to many countrymen yet she is alone with almost nothing. 

Refugee. It’s no longer a political statement to me. It’s no longer something to vote for or against. It’s a people to embrace, serve and enjoy. “Refugee” includes a story, a heartbeat and utter love towards the smallest consideration of relationship. 

***

“I asked Refugee children who arrived here to Clarkston, Georgia, recently to draw their homes as an art therapy excercise. All of them drew their homes in flames, their family’s bodies disfigured and they drew just all around absolute loss. They smiled big because I brought paper. They were overjoyed because of paper.” 

While in Clarkston, I learned the heartbreak of hearing innocent children recount the death of family members as if everyone understood having war in their backyard. As they wrapped up their story, they would lean in for a hug, look at me and then ask if I’d play Tag. 

They’d laugh like they were listening to Jimmy Fallon when told an intentionally lame joke. Even the non-Christians had hope in their eyes because they knew English & had achieved their dream of being in America. 

***

“What brought you here?” The southern man drawled as he sat next to me. As I explained the week long trip to help various missions in their projects for the refugee community in Clarkston, his face grew grey, unwelcoming and fearful. 

“Ma’am, we have refugees here?”

“2,500-3,000 refugees from around the world every year are brought into Clarkston, Sir. It’s a need that won’t go away.”

“Why aren’t you afraid of terrorism? What if they kill you?  None are from Syria, are they? You know what they’re all doing in Europe, right? You’re f*$!in’ crazy. Thanks for what you’re doing to help… people.” 

***

I learned to step past the fear of broken borders, unknown languages and misunderstood religions. I grinned from ear to ear talking to a Muslim devotee about traffic. I giggled over my tired yawn with a Hindu follower. 

As Americans, we fret over borders, terrorism and being “run over” by foreigners. Humbly, to those of you that claim Christ, I ask you to remember God commanded us to love even when we didn’t understand the person or people receiving and needing that love. 

We’re called to love people and trust God for our protection and needs….. So, the question isn’t whether we accept the refugee population around us. 

The real question is: Do we want to put actions to our words when we say that God is big enough to keep us secure when we stretch out on a limb to obey His commands? Or are we just too spoiled by our easy lives to even try?