Global Dating Part 2: She Said

The “she said” story begins with the array of circumstances preceding my trip to San Francisco in January (2013). The year 2012 was rough, but beautiful as I saw the Lord’s faithfulness displayed through some intense physical and emotional journeys. In pursuit of fresh escapades and with a passion to experience the truths I believed intellectually, I set out for my favorite city. It was crazy to be sure, but I couldn’t silence the unexplainable desire I had to go and adventure with Jesus. And adventure I did!

sailing in the SF BayThe four weeks I spent in San Francisco were a time of healing, of beauty, of repose. It was priceless. Jesus met His little princess there in the heart of San Francisco. He whispered His love to me again and again until its reality seeped deep into my very being. He provided for me. He sent dear friends to me to share more of His goodness. One of those friends was Joey.

And in case you suspect I was swept off my feet during that trip, allow me to set the record straight. No one did any falling (or catching). Joey and I did, however, have a surprisingly great time reconnecting and reminiscing about days gone by. In hindsight, the first day we hung out couldn’t have been a more perfect date. But we weren’t dating and I was quite persuaded we were nothing more than good friends.

Borel Hill

The San Francisco chapter in the story of my travels ended all too quickly. Then began the emails. More emails. And longer emails. And then another visit. This time Joey was in Atlanta for a mutual friend’s wedding. I was emphatically prepared to give the “we’re just friends” speech since I had suspicions that Joey was more interested than I was. But in an unexpected turn of events, lunch segued to coffee and I found myself lost in conversation with Joey. Somewhere between the drive rehearsing my speech and the end of the 3- or 4-hour chat I had trashed the “just friends” illusion and decided if Joey ever asked me out on a date, I would say yes.

Several weeks later Joey texted to say he would be in Atlanta over the 4th of July and if possible to “keep your schedule open.” What in the world?! I admit, I stressed over my response. Should I be sassy? Play hard to get? What if he was only coming to see family?

Surprised

My questions were put to rest a couple weeks later when Joey called and officially asked me out on a date. But he didn’t just ask for one date, he asked for the entire weekend! I was surprised and delighted. The weekend plan was impressive. And I had no idea the half of what was in store those next couple of days. Magnificent waterfalls, coffee, wonders of the sea, a family birthday event, a movie night, and a candlelight dinner (cooked by Joey himself) were all part of the whirlwind. It was a month’s worth of dates squished into 4 awesome days.

This time he did sweep me off my feet.

piedmont park

The adventures and stories continue as Joey and I date across the U.S. We are increasingly grateful for technology when we’re apart and savor every moment we get to spend together in the same time zone and in the same city. Long-distance challenges are real, but facing them together makes it worthwhile.

In the words of Agnes from Despicable Me 2, “I’M SO HAPPY!!!!”

minion party love

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Risking the Rattlesnake for Ravishing Beauty

It was an enchanting idea. Sunshine. Mountains. And the promise of a lovely view.  Until the jog turned to a tedious hike, the trail became deserted, and the air got thin. Despite the challenges, I was still determined to at least make it to the top of Horsetooth Rock before dying. The grave of a less fortunate hiker along side the trail sent a chill up my spine as I continued my solo trek up the rocky path.

winding paths

At last the dirt trail ended and the boulders began. I was shaking from the adrenaline rush, lack of oxygen, and unbelievable vista. Crawling on all fours for fear of becoming another grave along the trail, I managed to crest Horsetooth Rock (7,230 feet elevation).

almost to the top

Spectacular. Ravishing. Beauty.

Horsetooth Mountain

Still in awe of this dangerous and yet magnificent summit and exhausted from the hike up, I stretched out my hand to steady myself. Shock and horror almost paralyzed me as I realized that within just 12 inches of my hand was a diamondback rattlesnake. I gasped for air.

rattlesnake coiled up

That’s a…….uhhhhhhhh………SNAKE!!!!! And a rattlesnake at that!

rattlesnake

[Thankfully, my little friend didn’t strike, I wasn’t bitten, and I actually managed to get a decently close picture.]

Horsetooth Rock Trail

In many ways, a life worth living is like my hike. Cliffs, slippery rocks, jagged paths, and even rattlesnakes threaten the climber who dares to reach the pinnacle. Life is full of failures, disappointments, sickness, uncertainty, obstacles, fear, and an onslaught of other deterrents that would derail you and me from pursuing and enjoying the splendor of God’s promises.

Horsetooth Rock Trail start

Breathtaking views generally do not appear at the bottom of the hill, but we anticipate them as we hike. Promises are much the same. We must take God at His Word. Believe that Jesus is trustworthy. Believe He is good. Believe His promises are good. It is by faith we conquer and by faith we receive the promises of God.

the heart of Horsetooth Mountain

“…let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance and that sin which so readily clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us. Looking away from all that will distract to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith (giving the first incentive for our belief) and is also its Finisher (bringing it to maturity and perfection)” Hebrews 12:1b-2a AMP.

Life is risky. But the reward of believing God’s promises always makes the risk worthwhile.

purple flowers and a view

Extravagantly Loved by My God

A wonder-struck hush emerged as the snow steadily covered Yosemite Valley. The massive formation of El Capitan barely peaked from behind hovering clouds and the winding road became an uncharted white path. On occasion the fog would part for few seconds to reveal the grandeur of gushing waterfalls, daunting ravines, and a variety of towering evergreens.

photo

It was the epitome of a fairytale winter wonderland. Only it wasn’t a fairytale. It was infinitely better because it was real. And I was part of it.

(Can you find me in the picture below?)

can you find me

I’m told it is an anomaly in late February to have any substantial snow in the valley. But on that epic Tuesday, February 19, 2013, God displayed a glimpse of His splendor by showering Yosemite with over six inches of fresh powder. (Keep in mind snow is a rare and exquisite phenomenon for this Georgia girl!)  I have to believe the scene unfolding before my eyes that day was just a taste of the blissful, untainted beauty we will one day enjoy in heaven.

Although God’s purposes largely remain a mystery, one divine reason for this miraculous occurrence is undeniably clear in my mind. God extravagantly loves me. And He delights in revealing His capacity to demonstrate that love in tangible ways.

Snowy drive

My God not only engineered my circumstances so I could go to Yosemite (a particular desire of mine), but also performed the impossible in sending snow in an unlikely season just because it is His nature to love and to display His love.

Jesus loves me. Extravagantly.  This I know is true. Do you? Can you testify with the Apostle John “…we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him”? (I John 4:16)

The chorus to This I Know by Jenny Simmons says it well:

Jesus, loves me, this I know
And I know it’s not because of anything I’ve done
This love is unconditional,
So at my worst or at my best,
You don’t love me less, You can’t love me more,
This I know for sure
.

Traditions, Expectations, and Love: Valentine’s Day in Retrospect

I was highly amused by my Facebook newsfeed on Valentine’s Day and felt a few observations were in order. The newlyweds were gawking over the elements comprising romantic perfection (e.g. cards, chocolates, flowers, and special dinners). The singles were contrasting this day of love with their own life by generally either mocking the holiday, eating too much chocolate, or encouraging others with God’s love.

And then a select few posed an entirely different perspective. “Why should demonstrations of love be reserved for just one day of the year?” they asked.

This question puzzled me. As a sincere romantic, I initially thought this was disgracing the legacy of love. But thoughtful consideration has generated even deeper questions.

Photo Credit: Freakysita via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Freakysita via Compfight cc

Have we allowed holiday traditions to dictate our expectations of love? And consequently, have we reduced love to chocolates and roses?

Isn’t the truest love to lay down our lives for another? (John 15:13) To esteem others better than ourselves? (Philippians 2:3) Authentic, Christ-saturated love is not bound by time or tangibles. It is perpetual and powerful. (1 Corinthians 13:8, Song of Solomon 8:7)

Flowers wither in time and chocolates vanish once eaten, but real love never fades. Let me be quick to say, I love both flowers (especially gerbera daisies) and chocolates (the darker the better). And I realize these can be demonstrations of love.

My concern is the subtle replacement of intangible, self-sacrificing charity with tangible perishables. One box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day will never mask the absence of genuine love on the other 364 days.

Love endures long and is patient and kind;

Love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy,

Love is not boastful or vainglorious,

Love does not display itself haughtily.

Love is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride);

Love is not rude, unmannerly, and does not act unbecomingly.

Love, God’s love in us, does not insist on its own rights or its own way,

Love is not self-seeking;

Love is not touchy or fretful or resentful;

Love takes no account of the evil done to it (pays no attention to a suffered wrong).

Love does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.

Love bears up under anything and everything that comes,

Love is ever ready to believe the best of every person,

Love’s hopes are fadeless under all circumstances

Love endures everything without weakening.

Love never fails, never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end.

I want to propose a 365-Love Challenge. It is simple: each day pick one aspect of love (listed above) and intentionally demonstrate it. Take it one day at a time. Love is a marathon, not a sprint.

My desire is to be an incessant conduit of Christ-saturated love so that by next Valentine’s Day there will be a legacy of authentic love to validate gerbera daisies and dark chocolate.

Will you join me in purposefully and authentically loving those God has placed in our lives, every day for the next year? Would you take 60 seconds to send me an email so I can pray for you and encourage you along the way?

Let the 365-Love Challenge begin!

How Living in the Moment will Change Your Life

I frequently find myself living life in either rewind or fast-forward. Sometimes simultaneously, which creates a truly frantic scene.  Perhaps you can relate. Whether reminiscing of the good ol’ days, reliving the epic event from last week, or anticipating the adventure of tomorrow, the present becomes obscured.

Have I inadvertently become a bystander by watching my life through an awkward combination of trailers and documentaries? What happened to this moment? Right now?

A series of recent adventures and uncertainties challenged me to be fully present. To stop gazing at the past and fretting over the future. To enjoy each minute as it came. To trust God fully.

Image

Simple moments, like basking in the sunshine on a walk to the train, listening to a street band, or watching pedestrians from inside a corner café, don’t have to be boring elements of a bigger story. They could be delightful experiences themselves. But how?

“Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise, sensible, intelligent people, making the very most of the time, buying up each opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)

Seize the moment. This moment. Resist the urge to constantly rush to the next milestone. Enjoy what God has given right now. He daily loads us with benefits. Have we taken time today to soak up His perpetual goodness?

Living in the moment reduces worry and consequently increases our faith. It is impossible to both delight in the abundance of God’s faithfulness this moment and agonize over the uncertainty of tomorrow.

Living in the moment fosters gratitude. We are more apt to see the goodness and mercy of God (and thank Him for it) when we pause to notice the details of now. Maybe it’s the last available parking space we’re able to snag, a gracious smile from the cashier, some goofy time with family, a brief moment of absolute silence, or fresh air.

Living in the moment creates enjoyment. People who worry less, trust more, and are prone to gratefulness have more fun. True story. Incidentally, they are also more enjoyable to be around.

Should we still make plans and set goals? Absolutely. But don’t allow future plans to overshadow the opportunity to live each moment to the fullest.

It is interesting to note throughout Scripture how although God eternally is, was, and will be, He chose to introduce Himself over and over again as I AM, the ever-present Lord. Here are just a few references.

 “I AM your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Gen. 15:1)

I AM Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.” (Gen. 17:1)

I AM the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I AM with you.” (Gen. 26:24)

I AM who I AM.” (Ex. 3:14)

I AM the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” (Is. 43:15)

I AM the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.” (Is. 45:5)

“Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I AM the Lord…” (Jer. 24:7)

“Behold, I AM the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jer. 32:27)

“Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I AM the Lord who sanctifies them.” (Ez. 20:12)

“For I AM God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst…” (Hos. 11:9)

I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

I AM He.” (John 18:5)

I AM Jesus, whom you are persecuting….” (Acts 9:5)

I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8)

I AM the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” (Rev. 22:16)

“Surely, I AM coming quickly.” (Rev. 22:20)

Will you take the challenge with me to live in the moment? To grasp the present? To know and walk with the I AM right now?

What moment-by-moment opportunities are you buying up today? (Please share in the comments!)

When God is Silent

Earnest, desperate prayers have been brought before the throne of grace.

Yet God remains silent.

We double and triple check our motives and our requests.

Yet God remains silent.

In our feebleness we persist asking, seeking, knocking.

Yet God remains silent.

We question if God heard. We confess every known sin.

Yet God remains silent.

Could there be something more? Something bigger than we can imagine?

In response to this perplexing dilemma, I would like to share a couple excerpts from a tremendous book by Oswald Chambers titled “If You Will Ask.” The thoughts are based John 11:5-6 when Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead to visit. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He had heard therefore that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the same place where He was.”

“God’s silences are His answers. If we only take as answers those that are visible to our senses, we are in a very elementary condition of grace. Can it be said of us that Jesus so loved us that He stayed where He was because He knew we had a capacity to stand a bigger revelation? Has God trusted us with a silence, a silence that is absolutely big with meaning? That is His answer. The manifestation will come in a way beyond our comprehension…

“That is what prayer means – not that God may bless us. As long as we have the idea only that God will bless us in answer to prayer, He will do it, but He will never give us the grace of a silence. If He is taking us into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, He will give us the first sign of His intimacy – silence. The Devil calls it unanswered prayer. In the case of Martha and Mary, the Spirit of God called it a sign that He loved them, and because He loved them and knew they were fit to receive a bigger revelation than ever they dreamed of, He stayed where He was. God will give us the blessings we want if we won’t go any further, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing us into this marvelous understanding of Himself.”

Is this the case with you? Is God trusting you with silence? Then take heart, my friend! You have not been forgotten, rather, our Father is inviting you to experience Himself in a deeper, fuller way. Embrace God’s silence.

Confessions of a Planaholic

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved to plan. It began harmless enough as she inquired about plans for school, lunch, and playtime. But this desire to know what was happening, when, and why, steadily morphed into what some might classify as an obsession. Instead of a series of moments lived, life became a ferris wheel of calculated plans and regimented actions.

Perhaps you can relate. Is your life a scripted sequence of events with the vague promise of security and success? Or is it a mathematical equation where event[a] added to event[b] equals presumed happiness? Sadly, this was my life.

Through several job changes, a mission trip, a severe extended illness, and unrealized ambitions, God engineered my circumstances to obliterate my carefully crafted plans. Without a doubt it was an excruciating process. I was a control freak and I didn’t want to admit it. The only guaranteed path to success that I knew was snatched away and I was no longer in control. In hindsight, it seems evident that one of God’s divine purposes in this upheaval of my life was to teach me to trust Him.

Trust, not just a passing thought or a clever cliché, but real trust in a real God through real situations. Each event was like Jesus asking me, “Will you trust Me now?” I am ashamed to say, too often trust was my last recourse. As a natural-born planner, I had Plan A, B, C, D, and E readily available. Trust was Plan Z. Having exhausted my plans and finding myself in a state of desperation, I collapsed in the Lord’s ever-present arms. I discovered that all the while He was ready and willing to prove His faithfulness to me. He was simply waiting for me to wait on Him. To trust Him fully. To rest in His supremacy. To relinquish my plans in exchange for His perfect plans.

Trusting God is scary. Not because God is in any way inept or insufficient, but because the path is unknown to us. According to common sense, the unexpected is risky. But, this is not true when the unexpected comes from our omniscient God. “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” (Corrie Ten Boom) Trust is a daily, intentional act that requires courage. Although it still freaks me out to surrender my plans, I’m learning that Jesus is always trustworthy. Only through trusting Him can I find the authentic peace and security I crave.

 

The words to this old hymn by Frances Ridley Havergal say it best:

 

Every joy or trial falleth from above

Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love.

We may trust Him fully, all for us to do:

They who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest

Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.