Magic of Beginnings

IMG_7664Quick life update and the “magic of beginnings.”

This summer, reality hit me just like that window. Suddenly, I knew it was time to start something new. Or a lot of things. All at once. Why?

Dear Mary, why not? Love, God.

I’m glad this sudden & jarring realization came smack dab in the middle of summer rest. In the midst of ocean views out my window with family. In between my best friend and wild bunnies. Where kayaks glided on glassy waters. When I sat with my dad next to the flowers by his grave. Or the time I opened a box of I do’s and yes’s to being Maid of Honor. Where coffee stands existed in Southern California on a hot day with my favorite people.

So, this blessed rest gave me the chance to process. Anticipate. Grieve. Plan. Hope for all the new. New car {with AC, amen}. New dwelling. New roommates. New {frightening} bills. New job. New classroom. New {precious} students. Brand new season.

And the Lord has gone before every single step. Every one. My mom often says to me when I call to tell her how things are, “you know this isn’t normal, right?” Rejoicing and in awe of what the Lord is doing, even in the small daily happenings. Teaching me to stop and praise my Maker, my Father. A reminder that God’s hand of provision is mighty and at work in the middle of big scary transitions in my life.

Despite the screw up I sometimes am. Despite my foolish mistakes {like how I accidentally subscribed to a year’s worth of commercial free Korean dramas for too much money and couldn’t get a refund, oops}. Despite my naivety and put it off personality, at times. Despite myself. The Lord keeps being Himself, and chooses to not just work in spite of me, but with me and for me, for His glory. What love is this?

So, in the words of fifth grade hero August Pullman, “I’m pretty much totally and completely petrified.” Of this new season. Of change. Of my own limitations and weaknesses in it all.

But my confidence is rooted in a God whose love is radical and whose provision is “not normal.” It’s what allows me to trust the magic of beginnings. Lots of them. All at once. Why?

Dear Mary, why not? Love, God.

Hello, Old Friend

Welcome, friend.

I’ve been away on business for quite some time, but I am pleased to return to this home of mine.

Come inside. Sit down in that chair by the window, would you? The kettle is on. Tea?

This is exactly how I hope you to feel { at home } when you find yourself here.

//

For a long time, I simply had words. Often too many of them and usually coming in at speeds my lips could not keep up with. If you listen closely, you can still catch me stuttering like a little girl.  And every now and then, I hear someone calling me by the name of my childhood, “Chatty Cathy.”

The Lord in His kindess, rather than silencing me, gave me a pen.
And with that pen, He gave me stories.
Stories of grace upon grace upon so much grace.

“The free and unmerrited favor of God.”

//

And so, despite changes and seemingly unfruitful seasons, this online abode continues to house such stories of free and umerrited favor from the Lord.
Sometimes big. Oftentimes small. Always treasured.

This is a place that seeks to capture God’s daily graces like a butterly, only to release it, spreading its color and joy wherever and to whomever it flutters.
I pray it lands right on the tip your nose and kisses the side of your cheek.

With that, I invite you to join me, and all my words, as I walk { still } through the seasons of life to the rhythms of grace.

 

Lesser Lights

My bare feet swayed across the cool kitchen floor as I wept over the cold pizza I took out of the fridge for lunch.

Yet, never has a moment been more abundantly full of blessed and restful happiness.
The tune of Hillsong’s “So Will I” filled my stuffy apartment, alongside the gentle humming of the fan, mimicking a breeze I’d like to imagine the ocean was bringing in.

With teary eyes closed and an abandoned heart wide open, who’s to say the kitchen tile was not actually a sandy shore?

I twirl, hum, and cry, in between each savory bite of leftover lunch, and I ponder today’s word on Psalm 27.

“The one thing I want from God, the thing I seek most of all, is the privilege of meditating in his Temple, living in his presence every day of my life, delighting in his incomparable perfections and glory. There I’ll be when troubles come.”

One thing.
We were made for a One Thing.
But only One Thing is secure.

The psalmist, David, holds fast to this One Thing.
The truth that only the Lord is His light.

All else, all other lights, will dim. Flicker. Fade.
And yet, when we hold the candle of another, however good and fragrant it is, we doom ourselves to a life of anxious toil, protecting the vulnerable flame at all cost.
For where will we be if that flame is snuffed out?
What darkness is sure to consume us if that light no longer shines?

If we seek another glow,
If we raise up the candle of some thing that was not meant to be our One Thing,
We will only know the fight. The tight-grip of fear. The ceaseless striving.
Because our mere candles, our some things, are not certain.
Not secure.
Not able to weather the winds of change and sorrow and sin.

But God invites us to trade our flickering flame for a torch that will never burn out.
What a beautiful exchange.
To release the fleeting that keeps you fighting to receive the infinite that keeps you indwelling.

I bowed my head before the Great Feast, the Lord’s Supper, repenting of lesser lights I’ve clung to, however splendent they may be.

I pondered over the night before, windows down and singing along to a sweet song of slow dancing and bright and pretty things.
I felt blissfully happy to be dreaming of such a love, one day, coming soon, maybe, perhaps.
The dream is good, one my Father cares for, but it is a lesser light.

I thought back to coffee with a dear friend, opening wrapped boxes and reading the words beautifully written on a just as beautiful card.
I hugged the warm mug of my most favorite drink as I laughed, listened, and shared thoughts with this gift of a Jesus sister.
The fellowship is good, one my Father blessed me with, but it, too, is a lesser light.

Oh, how we miss the brilliance of the torch when we put it down to pick up a mere candle.

Those good things are better seen and appreciated for all they are in the light of the torch, rather than the flicker of a small flame.

And so, I repented and came to the table.
I was satisfied with the fullness of Christ and all the promises He secured for me on the cross.
Promises to be known.
To be ever-loved.
To be saved from and for.
To be made new.
To be made an heir.
To see glory.
To be Home.
All my heart could crave was found in these covenants.

This brings me back home, eating a lesser but necessary meal, in my kitchen, bare footed in front of a breezy fan.

My feet danced upon the tiles to this song of praise.

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

Oh, and my heart couldn’t take it.
My little easy bake kitchen could barely contain the love swelling up inside of me.
My big blue eyes couldn’t hold back the flood of tears, beginning to rain down from my cheeks.
What else could my feet do but spin and sway and dance before this King?
What else could my hands do but fling wide open and high and ever reach toward the Lover of my soul?

The Creator of the stars in all their radiance, burning bright for Him and all His people to behold, shines a brighter light still.
A light that we are freely given to cherish and share.
A light that never runs out.
A light that burns brighter than the galaxies.
A light breaks through the engulfing bleak and black darkness.

And He came down to us, like one of us, as this very light.
The Light of the world.
The One Thing our hearts were made for.
The Only Thing that satisfies and causes our soul to find rest.

And I realized, sobbing over my pizza, that there is no other love, no other light, no other thing that can bring me this much overwhelming, all consuming, all around me, kind of joy and delight.

No other love makes me dance, foolish and undignified, barefooted, pizza in hand, weeping and singing and praising.
No other friendship turns my stuffy kitchen into a throne room of brilliant color and glowing grace.
No other thing brings me this much unwavering and steadying peace, the kind that opens my fighting hands to be held and stills my striving body to be enveloped by the arms of a Father.

So, I set down my candles, beautiful but flickering.
I pick up the torch, brilliant and steadfast.

And I let the light illuminate my heart, setting it ablaze, and ruining it for the lesser glow of any other thing.

Oh Lord, we repent of lesser things and lesser lights.
Come.
Be our One Thing and our One Light.
May we want for nothing but You.

What Does the Lord Require of You?

I’ve been meaning to write this.
For those struggling to separate purpose and career.
For those who took one sure step into the world and became all kinds of lost.

This messy and longing and lost chapter in the book the Lord is writing on my life is not just for me, but for you.

And I’ve turned a page.
It’s far easier to read to the world a chapter that is finished.
A chapter that now uniquely fits into the grand story of this Author’s purpose.
I can, reading back, see this.
But there was a time when my eyes were discouraged and the scene around me seemed out of place.
Like a mistype. A misstep. Something to be erased. Something that needed fixing.
I graduated from the school held high all throughout my junior high and high school years.
It was the dream, the goal.
And during my time at the university, I worked toward a bright and flourishing career.
It was the new dream, the new goal.

But, in the words of the beloved Flynn Rider, Eugene Fitzherbert (because who am I if I don’t squeeze Disney into my own writing?),

“For one moment, everything was perfect…and then that moment ended.”
Graduation, one moment of perfection.
And then that moment ended.
What began was a mess.
A mess of anxiety.
A mess of comparison.
A mess of doubt.
A mess of fear.

This dream that I wrapped like a present through the years was finally ready to be opened. Now, the paper was torn, the ribbons scattered, and the gift inside was far more disappointing than I had imagined it would be.

Everyone else’s gifts seemed perfect. I watched them take it out to play and show the world, a testament to how wonderful their gift Giver was.
And even if their gifts were not as they seemed, I knew their Giver was wonderful.
I rejoiced for them.

But mine…I feared was meant for someone else.
What I hoped was a shiny new toy, ready to be played with, batteries included, turned out to be an oversized dress, big enough for me to swim in.
And that’s exactly how I felt.
Small and swimming in something too big for me.

I sought answers, advice, and counsel. I scheduled and canceled several advising appointments, spiritual, emotional, and academic. And I longed to find someone walking around with the same baggy dress that I was wearing.

Oh, how we ache to relate and be understood. To be found and known in the dark.
But the Lord let me get lost. Be lost.
For He alone needed to be the one that found me.

Unknowingly, I rested in the security of people’s certainty in my choice of profession.
I fed off their affirmations and drank deep their praises.
“Oh, you were made for this!”
“You will make the most incredible teacher!”
“Teaching suits you so well!”

Oh, their words were my comfort, because my heart doubted.
Again and again it doubted.

Pondering these things, now, I truly do believe the Lord used these words. They were well placed. They were thought through and honest. They saw gifts I was too blind or insecure to recognize.
But, in the end, it was often their word I clung to, and not the Lord’s.
Their confidence was often my foundation, and not the Lord’s unchanging promises.
And soon enough, their words, their confidence were not enough to convince me.
My own doubts overshadowed their sureness and the foundation that held me up crumbled.
Inevitably, I fell.

It was a long fall and the Lord took His patient time lifting me back up.
For He was not merely seeking to raise me, but to build me up.
I needed a new foundation. One that was planted on solid ground.
Built from unwavering truth. Carefully fixed. And designed to endure.

And, the truth He chose to be the cornerstone was entirely unrelated to my career, which I often equated to my “calling.”

Rather, He gently spoke the words of Micah 6:8.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” 

The verse that I was taught again and again as a young girl in GEMS throughout the years (please tell me y’all did GEMS, too?).
I sang it every Wednesday night. I’m pretty sure it was to the tune of a Greece song.
Ridiculous to think of it now, but boy, did my heart need it, more than I knew at 10 years old.

This verse comes as a response from the minor prophet to the question, “What does the Lord require of you?” It goes through a long list of costly sacrifices and weighty duties.
I hear the sorrow and the agony in the voices, crying out, “Lord, what must we do?”
I hear it because my voice uttered the same words with heavy, heavy tears.
“Lord, what must I do? I need to do this thing to please you. I must do this thing to follow you. Surely, I’m required to do this thing to find my purpose. Fulfill my purpose. Otherwise, I’m wasting. Wasting my life. Wasting my time. Wasting away.”

My purpose. The Lord’s pleasure. A fulfilling life. It was all rooted in this career.
And to my surprise, in response to work-harder-do-more perspective, He gently offered these words.

“Mary, what have I told you? What is good? That you live just and free. That you take great delight in My steadfast love. That you walk ever nearer with Me. This is what is required. This pleases me. This is full life. This is where you find your purpose, because, my darling, this is where you find Me.”

I was looking for an occupation. I was looking for a job.
I was looking for purpose outside of the One Who purposes me for good things.

He took me aside. He took away my security.
He let the foundation that other’s had built tumble down, with me tumbling after it.
And what caught me was not a job.
I fell to be caught by the hands of my Maker. The One who gives me purpose.

And so, I start again. Fresh. New.
Same gifts. Slightly new direction.
I’m back in school.
Yes, teaching is surely my future. But making coffee is my present.
And with this new time, this blessed and purposed time, I have the space to use my gifts still.
Not in the school. Not teaching geometry and history. Not to a class of 30 students.
But rather, in the Church. Teaching the Gospel. To a group of 12 hungry, seeking, and delightfully eager sixth grade girls.

It took a year. It took a long hard fall. My moment of perfection had to end.
But, a moment of perfection gave way to a lifetime of purpose.
Purpose rooted in Christ and loving Him, in all I do.

And, to quote Tangled just once more,

This is my new dream.

Oh, and that dress?
It fits now. Like it was made for me.
Our Father really does know how to give good gifts.