Genesis

Here’s to beginnings.

My feet, still shaky from the unknown terrain of a wood I never imagined I’d drift far, far into, are walking out. Onto new ground.
Ground that is lush, instead of a murky mess.
Ground that is steady and beckons onward, rather than shifts and confuses.
Ground from where new life is born.
New springs well up.
New fruit blossoms.

How timely this spring equinox has been.
Praise the God of seasons, both of the heart and of the earth.

I recall a memory from a little over a year ago. A friend and I put on Disney’s Fantasia 2000, letting our nostalgia run wild with color and sound. And the best was saved for last, Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. Not only is the music breathtaking, but the story that accompanies it will forever be etched into my mind.

From the breath of the mighty stag, a beautiful nymph is born. The heartbeat of Genesis is present from the very beginning of the piece. He leads her out into the barren land, and she awakens as her very life is creating the masterpiece of spring all around her. Flourish. Abundance. Glory. Words that come to mind as the picture is painted to the sound of the composer’s handiwork. But, a fiery being, the “firebird,” stoops down to spread his wings of destruction over the creation of her new life. What is left is ashes and dust. The heart of Genesis beats on.

Tears begin to build behind the dam of my eyes. The film swirls together picture and symphony to ultimately point to the ancient story. A true story. The one of a mighty God. Of His creation, breathed into life. One of a garden. Of a snake. And the darkness that followed him. That followed us. Tragedy.

But, just as Stravinsky’s piece is unfinished, so is the story it shadows.

The stag searches through the rubble to find the nymph lying amidst the ruins. He breaths his life back into her fragile body. But she is weak. Stricken by grief. And unsure of what to do. Where to go. How to begin.

From there, he gently lifts her from the ground with his antlers, onto his back. As he carries her through what is left of the forest, her canvas of spring now devastated, she begins to cry over what has been lost. But her tears are soaking the scorched ground, and where they fall, life begins to sprout. What follows is the most beautiful and glorious unfolding. Regaining her strength, her hope, she soars over the land, her canvas. What was dead is now exploding with the color and fragrance of flowers and lush, green trees.

The dam holding back the flood of my tears gives way. And rightly so.

What the enemy left ravaged in my heart, my Heavenly Father is restoring. Is redeeming. Is making new.

Like the nymph, my tears are not wasted. They are kept. And not just to be remembered, but to be poured out over the dry places, so new life can spring up. I’m beginning to see the green emerge from ashes.

And as I do, I begin.
I dream again. I create again. I write again.

And if this is you, too, if you find yourself in the ruins, and you see the face of your Heavenly Father bending low to lift you from the shambles, take hold and begin again.

This is spring. This is genesis.

Open Wide Your Mouth

 

“Open your mouth wide and see if I won’t fill it. You will receive every blessing you can use!
Oh, that My people would listen to Me! Oh, that Israel would follow Me, walking in My paths! How quickly then I would subdue her enemies! How soon My hands would be upon her foes! 
Those who hate the Lord would cringe before Him; their desolation would last forever. But He would feed you with the choicest foods. He would satisfy you with honey for the taking.”
Psalm 81

I received a text message from my best friend, who is too far away from me at the moment, telling me that Psalm 81 showed up in her devotions for that morning.
Having not read my bible yet, I flipped it open to this Psalm of Asaph.
My eyes welled with tears as my lips mouthed the words, unraveling a song that sounds like a prayer my soul had been longing to pray.

These were the words of a man who knew, really knew, His God.
Who had tasted the sweetness of His goodness.
Who had seen the faithful hands of His provision.

I prayed with quivering lips,
“Oh Lord, I thirst for faith like that.”

In that moment I was both humbled and ashamed by my impeding lack of belief, much like Simon Peter when he found himself face down before the feet of Jesus in his fishing boat.
Let this story paint itself before you.

Simon and the other fisherman had been working under the heat of the sun until the sun began to escape them. Not one fish had been caught.
Exhausted, Simon was given the honor of lending his boat to Jesus to preach upon.
There was at least one good use for the boat that day.
After teaching, however, Jesus looked at him.
“Simon, sail out into the deep waters and let down your nets for a catch.”
Let down the nets?
The nets that produced nothing that entire day?
“Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.”
The nets dropped and caught what seemed to be every fish in the lake, spilling over and tearing the ropes.
Simon fell to the knees of Jesus.
“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.”
Simon saw the power of God’s providing hand and could hardly be in His holy presence.
Not with his sin.
Not with his doubt.
But he was called a disciple.
And he won something far greater than fish that day.

Friends, God invites us to let down our nets and watch with expectancy.
Watch the good He will bring.
Watch the people He will put in our paths.
Watch the assignments He will give us.
Watch the abundance of life fill us until we are bursting at the seams.

What would it look like if our prayer life was saturated and shaped by that faith that God is capable of doing whatever we humbly ask for and more in His name?
Now, this is not to be said that He will always answer with “yes.”
He may still answer “no.”
He uses noes for far better things than we can imagine.
But, like the Father that He is, He desires to hear the requests of His dearly beloved children.
Can’t you just hear him?
“Oh, my child, would you tell me what you want?”
He longs to hear your heart. Won’t you share it with Him?

Your life may not seem to be fruitful at the moment.
All you see is dry.
All you hear is silence.
All you know is failure.
But, when Jesus calls you to something that seems beyond your reach or impossible with your given circumstances, would you do it anyways, just because He said so?

Would you open wide your mouth?
Cast deep your nets.
Stretch far your hands.
And watch. Expect. Receive.
And when you receive whatever He brings, would You praise Your Father from whom it was given?
He who loves you with a relentless love is worthy of it.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”
Matthew 7:1

When God Throws You a Surprise Party

There I was, sitting in the car, crying over my Chicken Soft Taco from Taco Time, unable to finish it. Yes, I was that upset.
Worry hung over me like a little large black rain cloud, its rain flooding me with doubt and discouragement. I had taken a quick peek at my bank account after a rather impulsive purchase, something I hate doing….Looking at my bank account, that is. I love impulsive purchases. The number was small.  And the enemy decided to use that small number to pick me apart piece by piece.
This is what I began to hear.

“Undisciplined.”
“You won’t ever be able to flourish with such irresponsibility.”
“How can you expect God to work in you and for you when you’re lacking self-control?”

“You’re failing. Falling behind. Look at how hard everyone else is working?”
“Any efforts you make amount to nothing.”

 As I grow, both in years and in faith, I become increasingly more aware of my problem with discipline, or lack thereof. It is this awareness, however, that I have seen God use to humble me, gently convict me, and tenderly shape me more into His very likeness. Most days, I marvel and rest in this truth, thanking God for weaknesses that fasten my dependency on Him, but also for His strength to fight the urge to let those weaknesses define me. Other days, days like yesterday, the enemy rolls in like thick fog, clouding over any light of this truth.
And, for a time, the enemy “wins.” I feel defeated.
In my defeat, I weep at the feet of my Savior, praying that He would wash over my sin, make me new with His mercy, and help me begin again. Help me keep walking forward. Even though I know Christ died for this grace to be freely mine, I doubt, feeling like there will be consequences for such foolishness.
I’ll have to pay. God’s blessings simply can’t be for me anymore.

But then I hear Him whisper, “My grace.”
I get off work today to receive a text from one of my best friends and future roommates that we had found an apartment. This has been an unexpected burden to bear the past several weeks after our original housing arrangements fell through.
After weeks of searching and no openings, God opened a literal door. The door to our new home. The door to a place that meets our unique needs in specific ways.
I hear Him whisper, “My grace.”
After sending in applications and payments, I spend the afternoon with my best friend from Whidbey. She surprised me with a date, very much like The Bachelor, she added. We went to the beach and flew $1.50 Barbie and Cinderella kites till the wind turned our faces red and our hair into a mess.
I hear Him whisper, “My grace.”
We then drove to a little cafe to warm up over hot chocolate. Not only did our friend who worked there give us a discount on our drinks, but she brought us out a scone. For free. I’m telling you, God knew I didn’t have money to spend. He peeked at my bank account with me.
I hear Him whisper, “My grace.”

God’s grace is like the most perfect surprise party you could ever dream to receive.
After what feels like the billionth time I’ve failed Him, He reminds me,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
Grace is the very gift of God. Unable to be earned and impossible to drive away.
My sin, my foolishness, my unfaithfulness, my lack of discipline, cannot stop God’s grace. Which means my works, though works and growth is to be praised and is God’s mercy through sanctification, cannot earn God’s grace.
It is His gift to give and ours to receive. With humbleness, thankfulness, and an outpour of praise.

So, humble yourself. Repent. Walk in the forgiveness and freedom of God’s grace. And be surprised with what He will do in you and for you.

Thank you, Jesus, for Your mercy, which is new with every sunrise. You are God above the failings of my life, and You choose to not only work in spite of them, but also in light of them. Thank You for singing over me with Your unfailing love, reminding me of the joy and freedom that is to be found when I walk humbly in Your grace.

And thank You for surprise parties like the one You threw me today.
I was, indeed, surprised.

Be All There

I’ve been sitting on the lobby couch since 7:30 this evening.
I’ve been working on my TPA and cursing the state of California for making it so difficult to earn a teaching credential.
It’s been a great Friday night, friends.
In the midst of all of that loveliness, however, I witnessed various conversations and events throughout the evening on my floor.
And it made me stop and realize how much I appreciate the community I find myself in.
I witnessed girls rejoicing over new, Christ-centered relationships forming, along with the butterflies in their stomachs. Girls laughing as they skipped to the bathroom well past midnight with hair dye in one hand and snacks in the other. And girls returning from Friday night adventures, resulting in good food and even better conversations.
It’s things like this that make me cherish where I’m at.
I can feel the pull of age and reality tugging at me, and slowly drifting  me further away from the care free youth I once blissfully lived as.
And while there will be abundant blessings to experience in that future ever drawing nearer, I have some pretty great ones to be rejoicing in right now.
Blessings like late nights, hair dye, Taylor Swift albums, bags of chips, and new dreams that seem large enough to challenge us, but close enough to taste. Blessings that have not been tainted by future worries or doubts, but that are being enjoyed for what they are.
Right now.

Thank you, Jesus, for bringing me here. Keep me present. Keep me thankful.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”
Matthew 6:34