Still out on that limb

Not much today, just needing to hear and know and believe this…you too?

Still out on that limb, still in that mid-leap of faith.

Currently, hovering somewhere around #100 with only four days left to vote!

Also, though, it’s important to share this—the founder of Noonday’s heart behind this whole extra spot on this trip situation.

Really, just beautiful.

Because what we do in this life, it matters. How we spend our time and our energies and our resources, speak powerfully of the things we hold dear…give a window to the core of our very heart. The hidden, made visible.

Just a few things to ponder today, and everyday, in this stepping out of faith.

The Best Kind of Crisis

So for the past few weeks, I’ve been jokingly mentioning to friends that I’m going through a mid-life crisis.

And it’s funny really, because hopefully it’s more a crisis of the quarter-life nature. But also not funny, because in many ways it’s true.

 

So, my husband is in the military, right? Which equates to frequent moves and constantly uprooted lives and homes and friendships, to name a few. All of which is….not much fun.

And each move and transition brings for me a host of unexpected feelings, beyond all the obvious ones.

It leaves me a bit stuck.

Not sure who I am. Not sure how to go forward. Not sure how what’s behind connects with what’s now and all that lays ahead. Disjointed realities, always searching for the cohesiveness of God’s plans.

Always back again at the preverbal drawing board of my life, trying to understand what exactly I was created for and how exactly it intersects this specific space and season of life. Or really, just any piece of life.

Hard questions. Good questions.

Not questioning my worth and value in the eyes of my Creator, or my ultimate purpose in bringing Him glory. Just, what does that even really look like? And how do I even really begin to live that out?

So it’s been rather comical, in a not-so-amusing kind of way, to find myself right back there again. No move, no upheaval. Just a simple change of season.

Really, a change of chapter within a season. Part two of life here in Japan. Who would have thought it possible.

And this change of chapter is really great. Most days, it’s exciting to think about what’s ahead and dream with the Lord in what He has for me. To rest from what is behind, and prepare for whatever’s to come.

But some days, it feels a bit more like a crisis of the milestone variety.

You see, I’m still out there on that limb. Trusting God, without really fully knowing. And it’s true, I don’t know what He’s doing, but I do know who He is.

Whether it is this, or not, doesn’t change His good plans for me. It doesn’t change His pure and loving heart towards me.

And I thought today, that maybe these weeks of crisis….maybe they are more than I’m giving them credit for.

Maybe they are more like the best kind of crisis.

Restlessness and deep questions, bringing me to my knees before my Savior. Discontentment and frustration, drawing me to raw prayer. Heartache and hunger, calling me to the very Words of life.

Is it really a crisis if it ushers me to more intimacy with Christ?

There is meaning, in the before and in the after. But especially, there is deep meaning in this in-between of waiting. In this seemingly crisis-like, in-between of refining.

 

And the beauty of it?

Not only am I being refined, but what He has for me and who He’s made me to be is getting clearer as well. How all these dreams and passions and gifts and opportunities and needs align for such a time as this. All these desires and experiences He’s shaped, just may all fit together to create a story no one would ever believe, let alone even fathom.

He’s more than capable of that.

And if that takes crisis-inducing waiting to birth forth…

Then without a doubt, it’s the best kind of crisis. And one worth wrestling, all the way through.

 

“Look at the nations and watch– and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5

“That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

 

A Weekend of Grace

I awake Sunday morning, and no…it’s not an early rising.

I’ve just enjoyed one of the last big “moments” in this season of leading a women’s ministry. And if you’ve ever served in women’s ministry, you know it’s a big one! We just had our annual women’s retreat, a weekend of fun and laughter and delight over the Word.

Now you understand the extended slumbering.

It was a weekend of joy in so many ways, but really, it’s been a weekend of Grace.

And the things we pondered, the words we lingered over, they are still floating on the forefront of my mind, settled in the corners of my heart, even in the not-so-early morning hours.

Words and thoughts and Grace to be shared.

We focused on the miracles of Jesus, the turning of water into wine, the healing of a paralyzed man, and His healing of Malcus’ ear as He headed to the cross. Grace for us, grace for our friends, and grace, even for our enemies.

But ultimately, and beautifully, we looked at the Grace of the cross. In the scoffing, scheming, blaspheming of the cross…Grace.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

What profound words. What scandalous love. What amazing and extravagant Grace.

 

 

Something struck me though, as we glanced at Christ’s miracle of turning water into wine. It’s recorded in John’s Gospel that six stone jars, holding twenty to thirty gallons of water were turned to wine. But some scholars have estimated that Christ didn’t just miraculously turn twenty or thirty gallons of water to wine, but upwards of a thousand.

And I was thinking, in amused wonderment, of course…

He doesn’t just give us enough to skim by, He gives us an overabundance of grace.

His grace doesn’t just meet the perceived quota, He lavishes it on us.

Not meager scraps, but amazing, extravagant Grace.

Jesus is telling us who He is here; He is God, He is over all things, He is perfectly faithful to provide.

Everything He does is not without the utmost intentionality; not without His best for us in mind.

We can depend on Him, because He is perfectly faithful to provide, even when we don’t understand. (1 Thessalonians 5)

We can trust in Him, because He works all things together for good, even when the sanctification is costly. (Romans 8)

We can believe Him, because of the measures He has taken to show us His great love, even when fear crouches in the dark. (Ephesians 2)

I need to be reminded of that, don’t you?

In this encroaching season of unknowns, counting the cost, and temptations to be ruled by fear, I need to remember this Jesus who is God, who is over all things, and who is perfectly faithful to provide exactly what He knows I need.

I’m still out on that limb, trusting Him and leaping forth in faith.

And honestly, most of the time I don’t like it one bit.

But then His reminders come, through His sweet Word; surfacing evidence of His miraculous and extravagant Grace.

And they come, through the most unexpected weekends of Grace.

 

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

A Leap of Faith

Friends, we don’t know the days ahead of us. And if we’re realistic, we don’t know what the next second holds.

All of it is a gift, and life is a process of learning how to receive with joy whatever it is the Lord desires to give.

I don’t know the plans He has for me, but He does.

So, out on a limb here, a bit of a leap of faith…

I applied to be a part of Noonday’s trip to collaborate with vulnerable individuals in Rwanda to promote justice and economic opportunities that break the cycle of poverty. There is quite a cast of inspirational ladies that are a part of this trip in July. One spot is open though, for anyone who wants to apply to join them. This person is chosen based on daily votes.

If you feel so compelled, jump over here to read my heart behind going on this trip and vote for me daily until May 28th. After that point, the crew will choose three individuals for a final round of voting before deciding on the ninth and final member of this incredible team.

Africa got right down deep in the crevices of my heart, that’s true.

And if I’m honest, I’m really tired of living in the paralysis of fear. Aren’t you?

Why not step right out on that limb, and see what good plans the Lord has for you. Why not take a leap of faith and trust in the God who weaves all things together into the beautiful tapestry of a purposeful life.

I’m learning that, albeit, slowly.

And no matter the outcome, God is still God, and His heart towards us is still very, very good.

A Psalm to share

You know those times when you think that life is just a bit not fair.

When the hurt and pain runs deep and dark and right ugly in this world.

How can anyone get a deep breath for all the brokenness? A lot of questions, most of them unanswered, are left hanging in the air. But the chief of all, Why?–

Why?


This, and others, are really good questions to ask. And it’s not surprising that the Lord has something to say in return.

Hence, my reading from this morning, worth sharing with you I think:

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land. In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” Psalm 37: 1-11

It goes on…”Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance.” (vs 16-19)

So I was reading that and thinking…how beautiful.

God Himself will break forth in justice, either here and now or in eternity to come. Thus, we don’t have to be fretting, scheming, angry, and wrathful people.

Instead, we can be patient, refrain from anger, forsake wrath, live in contentment, and trust God to provide, even in times of famine. We can befriend faithfulness, commit all our ways to the Lord, and just be still in His presence.

Don’t we want that?

It doesn’t mean it won’t be confusing and often painful to behold or endure. But God is offering us a better way. A way of abundant life, here and now, that bubbles up from a deep well of trust in our Sovereign Creator.

I think we do want that.

Life, even in death. Contentment, even in little. Utter abundance, even in famine. Stillness and peace deeply anchored, even amidst great evil and wickedness.

And my favorite…did you catch it?

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Not a gene poised to grant our every wish.

No, in our delighting He becomes our delight!

He becomes the deepest desire of our hearts.

And I want that too, don’t you? I need that.

There’s a better way, and I want to live it out, each day.

Long time no see

It’s true, it’s been quite a long while dear blog-reading world. And as clique as the above phrase is, it incapsulates a bit of what I’ve been up too.

Currently, I’m winding down a year long commitment to leading a women’s ministry. It’s been an incredible and all-encompassing kind of experience, much of which I’m sure will be unpacked a bit in this space. I’ve also found myself regularly teaching multiple English classes, to various students with various levels of expertise. One of my favorites is a class of eight ladies, most of whom could be my grandmother. It’s kind of amazing. Also, it’s there that Akemi begins each of her English discourses with ‘long time no see.’

Ah yes friend, it has been quite a long time.

There has been a void though, one that nagged at times, and numbed at others, but a void that nonetheless remained. A space that existed and still does; soul cravings to express and create through the use of words. Typed out, and strung together, these words hold more weight in my living than I sometimes know.

At times this past year the words burst forth. Sometimes in the hiddenness of prayer. Other times in the ink smeared scribbles of my journal. Not often in this space though, at least, not often enough. But other times, the words felt a bit blocked up. At best, just cloudy. At worst, dried right up. That’s honesty, and that was hard.

I’ve found, though, that I wasn’t meant to be without these words and their consequent expression. Irregardless of their final resting place, the words needed to be labored forth, birthed out, and released.

Friends, I haven’t done that well. Sometimes it was easier to just ignore the impulse. And you do that often enough and well…

But, it’s time to turn a new page on that story. Wherever this creative journey takes me, we’ll just start right back here again. I honestly do not know what lays ahead, but that truly is okay, even when it doesn’t feel like it is.

So, it’s good to be here again—because it certainly has been quite a long time.

Yubi: Japanese for Grace

When a foreign country becomes your home, there is much adjusting and things to get used to…

Like driving on the other side of the road, on the other side of the car.

Yikes!

And never being able to read anything that’s around you.

I’m sure this is important…

And odd smells and eatery choices.

Yum.

A local fish market

These things are certainly adjustments, but living overseas also comes with adventure, new appreciations, and an abundance of Grace.

My husband and I are stationed with the Air Force here in Misawa, Japan, which will be our home for the next three years. And in our short time here thus far, one of the things I’ve most appreciated about this country are the people. In the travel I’ve done, it is very evident to me that every culture, every people are covered with the fingerprints of God. There is something, or many things, that are so unique about each people and that speak so clearly of the God who crafted them.

Beautiful things. Inspiring things. Things to treasure and learn from.

For the Japanese people, what’s stood out the most to me has been their grace. Could there be a more gracious people on this earth? I do not know.

Like when you’re speaking with someone who keeps profusely apologizing for their “poor” English, when actually you’re understanding each other just fine, not to mention the fact that you yourself know basically zero Japanese and are in fact in JAPAN for heaven’s sake. ‘Good morning’, and ‘Where’s the toilet’ and ‘Nice to meet you’ will only get you so far…

Kuduo-san.

With Kuduo-san, picking strawberries

Whether it’s just extreme politeness in every interaction or going above and beyond to make sure you are comfortable and happy and content, these people have so beautifully captured the heart of servanthood. It’s humbling, to be given so much grace.

To be getting what you do not deserve.

Celebrating Spring with cherry blossoms

Celebrating Spring with cherry blossoms

Consequently, grace has been on my mind frequently here.

I recently read again about Simon Peter’s first encounter with Christ (John 1). Simon, whose name means “Shifty” was going about his life when confronted by the Son of God. And what does Christ do? He renames him. No longer Simon, but by Peter will he be known. And the name Peter, it means “Rock”. But if you know the rest of the story, you know that Peter certainly didn’t act very rock-like from then on (Matthew 14). He was often afraid, distrusting, and even denies Christ (Mark 14). After Christ arose, He began living in the reality that God called him, but Christ choose to name him Peter, Rock before all that.

Before the fear, before the rejection, in all his shiftiness. Peter, Rock.

Christ saw in him who he really was. Who He made him to be. And he called him that. He loved him towards that end. He believed in him towards that end. Giving Peter what he did not deserve. Grace.

What if I loved like that?

What if instead of wading through love that’s disillusioned by what is before my eyes, I saw instead who God made that person to be. And called them to that. And loved them to that. And believed that with them and for them. What if instead, I heaped grace upon grace on their life and like Peter, I treated them as the Rock Christ knew they already were?

Not because of their own efforts or boot-strap pulling, but because the very Spirit of God dwells within them.

Because listen, isn’t this the grace I’ve been given? Isn’t this the way I am loved by my Savior, getting what I do not deserve?

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

While I was a sinful mess, shifty and weak and marred by my sin, Christ died for me. He saw in me who I really was, who He made me to be, and made a very costly choice to rescue and rename me. To be his child (Galatians 4). To be his redeemed (Isaiah 43). All the while knowing I would still live in fear, and distrust Him, and even deny Him by the actions and inactions of my life.

What incredible love. What amazing Grace.

I now have no excuse to not extend it. And in my relationships, wouldn’t this just change everything?

Grace that says you are a Rock, and I’m going to pray it and believe it and see it and will love you towards it even when you think you’re really Shifty. Because you house the very Spirit of the Living God within.

Grace that extends undeserving love, because of the love undeserving I’ve received.

Beautiful Ocean

A view of the Ocean

So it’s in our new home of Japan that God is teaching me about Grace. Because the grace-prints of God on these beautiful people? They’re a reminder of the extravagant and costly grace that He has lavished upon us.

Grace that He longs to teach us how to extend.

A lesson of Grace He yearns to teach us all, right where we are.

A Season of Stilling; Thoughts on Advent

I just returned from spending a month back in the States with my family. And as the Lord, in His grace, often does, I was able to have some time to reflect and gain clarity on all that the Lord is doing in and through me during this season of life. He gave me moments to step back, and to look at this season with fresh eyes.

One of the things I came away with was a strong realization of the lack of rest in my life. A lack of slowing and stilling to receive daily what I need from the Lord; a lack of quieting my soul to listen to what He has to say. It seems timely too, that the Lord would bring this up as we enter into one of the busiest seasons of the year, Christmas. What should be a time of contented treasuring and joyous togetherness can quickly become calendars packed beyond full, and hearts and wallets running empty.

I often think of this verse in the Psalms, but especially during this time of year. David says in Psalm 39: 4-6 “ LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.”

Did you catch that last part? All our busy rushing ends in nothing. Spinning our wheels and cramming our lives and attempting to control the hand of God, these things end in nothing. Busy rushing never brings about the rest of God that we are seeking. Anytime, but especially in this season where our culture says that MORE will give us the peace and rest we are searching for.

We are in the season of Advent, the season of reflecting on the coming of Christ, His coming into our lives daily, and His ultimate coming again. How beautiful it is that this Immanuel, God with us, has come to dwell with us, has come to make Himself known to us. I love what the Word says of God in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Not just, KNOW that I am God, but BE STILL so that you can KNOW. Be still in order to know this God who has made Himself fully known to us as the Immanuel, God with us.

I want to challenge us all, to consider what it means to be still, to rest in the presence of God. During this season of busy rushing that often ends in nothing, and during all of life. He IS Immanuel. He IS God with us. He has made Himself fully known, gently wrapping Himself in human flesh and taking some costly steps in order for us to know Him.

So who is ready to still, who is ready to quiet down and know Him as God?