faithfulness

When God meets you in the middle of the drive-through

I was driving home from school today when the woman behind me started honking. We were turning left, and I think the person at the front of the line wasn't moving fast enough. The light went from green to yellow as I turned, and she swerved behind me through the red.

At the next light, she laid on her horn again.

"Holy crap, lady," I said within the safety of my car. "Back off."

I was exhausted from a busy but fantastic weekend, so I decided to loop through the McDonald's drive-through and grab a coffee. Somehow I wasn't surprised when she turned into the drive-through behind me. I rolled my eyes. She was such a pain.

I ordered my coffee, and pulled out my debit card to pay. As my car slowly inched forward toward the payment window, I felt a softness sway inside of my chest.

Pay for her order, I heard.

Immediately I knew it was God. This morning I asked him to start speaking to me, but this was not what I had in mind. I decided to ignore him. There was no way I was paying for the rude lady behind me. She needed to chill.

Glancing in my rearview mirror, I saw her. Her lips were pressed in a tight line, her eyes sunken and hollow.

"She'll probably order something expensive, God... and you know I'm trying to save money because of school."

Pay for her order. 

"She was so rude to me! Who needs to honk that excessively? I was literally just following the flow of traffic." I heaved a huge sigh.

I didn't hear anything again, but my debit card felt heavy in my hands. My car moved along and the boy at the window told me my total.

I looked in the rearview mirror again, then said to the boy slightly begrudgingly, "Can I pay for the woman behind me, too?"

The boy smiled and said, "Sure. Her total comes to $1.15."

"Of course it does," I said. Of course God would orchestrate something like this and only ask me to pay a dollar. It wasn't about the money, I knew -- it was about listening to him, about doing what he asked of me. Being faithful in the small things and all that.

I tapped my card and moved along. Watching her in my rearview again, I saw her face looking surprised, and then her face looking softer, and then she was looking at me. Our eyes met in my mirror. My window was down and I heard her yell in a low, gruff voice, "Hey! Thank you!"

I gave her a thumbs up and drove off. As I turned back onto the highway, I cringed at the prospect of my pride getting in the way of loving her. I speak of love and goodness and honouring God -- but do I apply that to my real, actual life? More often than not, I'm afraid the answer is no.

I hope that lady saw God today. Or maybe she didn't.

But I sure did.

100 things I'd rather hold (instead of my iPhone)

I check my phone too often. I'm finally admitting it.

It's my alarm clock -- because, you know, the Bed Time App wakes you up nice and slowly and I'm not ready to give that up yet. (In reality I should go buy a real, actual clock.)

I have been thinking a lot about habits recently, the good and the bad. There is scientific and psychological evidence to back this up -- about how habits become ingrained into the core of our brains, whether they are good or bad, and we get to the point where we don't have to think anymore, we just do. Good news: it's possible to rewire these habits. Bad news: it takes a lot of effort -- generally more effort than most people are willing to put in. (You can listen more about this from someone smarter than me, right here.)

So I'm working on ingraining exercising into my brain, and reading books on spiritual discipline, and going to bed earlier, and handing in my assignments a few hours before they're due instead of a few minutes.

But in order to have time for these, I have to take time away from other things. Mainly, my iPhone.

I love social media. In all honesty, it's a bonus for me when it comes to blogging or sharing my artwork. People can see it, then can commission me to write or make art for them. For a non-business-y person, it's an easy-ish marketing plan.

But it's becoming too much. I don't want too much. I want slow, steady, relational -- deep, not wide.

Maybe I'm thinking too much about being a millennial. (Did you see this video? I can't get it out of my head.) Maybe I'm worried about how I spend far more time on my phone than talking, listening, or thinking about, Jesus. Maybe I'm finally coming to the realization that I actually may be far more addicted to this thing in my hand than I thought before.

Prompted by Colleen's post here, and by months of thinking about starting to attempt the rewiring of my habits and brain, these are the things I'd rather be holding than my phone.

100 things I'd rather hold -- 

  1. Pressed, dried flowers
  2. The pages of my Bible
  3. Someone's hand
  4. The wispy hairs on my nephew's head
  5. A travel mug filled with peppermint tea
  6. My gray, leather notebook
  7. Snowflakes on my eyelashes
  8. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
  9. A fresh watercolour palette, filled mostly with greens and blues
  10. A spinning globe
  11. My passport
  12. A bottle of beer and a plate of nachos to share
  13. Logs of wood to make a fire
  14. Weights that make my arms feel both tired and strong
  15. Glasses of water
  16. A package of thank you cards
  17. The handle of my favourite mug
  18. Soft, delicate paint brushes
  19. The hands of my friends when we pray for each other
  20. Warm, cozy socks
  21. A candle and a match
  22. A cup of tea for someone else
  23. My grandmother's calligraphy tools
  24. An actual newspaper
  25. Someone's memoir
  26. A paper map instead of a GPS
  27. Kombucha
  28. Movie popcorn while at the theatre on half-price Tuesday
  29. A slice of cheesecake
  30. Coffee with too much cream
  31. A blank canvas
  32. This book I had the pleasure of writing a chapter for
  33. My nephew's small body within my arms
  34. The handle of the door to my church
  35. A glass of Pinot Grigio
  36. The steering wheel of my small car, filled with people
  37. The hands of someone while we dance
  38. My sister's blonde hair as I braid it back
  39. The red button on my Polaroid camera
  40. Slices of brightly coloured fruit
  41. Black nail polish
  42. My mother's arms around me
  43. Fastening high heels around my feet
  44. Pushing snooze on an actual, real alarm clock
  45. Podcasts
  46. Books I wouldn't normally read -- on psychology, and science, and spiritual discipline
  47. Books I've read a hundred times before
  48. Scarves from Africa tied around my neck
  49. My ukulele
  50. My nephew's hand when he starts to walk
  51. Dutch Blitz
  52. My school textbooks
  53. Salty, ocean water
  54. Poetry I've written
  55. Poetry written by someone else
  56. The white comforter on my bed
  57. Framed photos of the people I love
  58. Tubes of old paint
  59. A Psalm and a chapter of the Gospels, every morning
  60. My hands on my crossed legs, breathing in slowly, thinking nothing at all, but basking in peace, in the presence of Jesus
  61. Games night with my family
  62. The classrooms that are teaching me to be a journalist
  63. My favourite inky markers
  64. A brand new package of sharpies
  65. Bread boards I've painted on
  66. A bouquet of flowers I'll give to someone
  67. Soft soap
  68. A plate of good food shared with someone
  69. Pink blush and a soft brush to put on my cheeks
  70. Vanilla lattes with my best friend
  71. The keys on this computer to continue adding to this blog
  72. My purple yoga mat
  73. Shaking the hand of someone new
  74. The books I read to my nephew
  75. The book I want to write for my nephew
  76. Slivers of dried mango
  77. My agenda with plans for the week
  78. The swish of summer dresses against my bare legs
  79. Holding someone close after talking for hours
  80. Arranging the letters of a quote onto my letter board
  81. My hand against my mouth after laughing too hard
  82. Scraps of paper with verses that remind me who I am
  83. Scraps of paper with verses that remind me who Jesus is
  84. Artwork I'm giving away, just because
  85. The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning
  86. A deck of cards played with friends, late into the night
  87. The grass below me, the stars above me
  88. Sand sifting through my fingertips
  89. My leather school bag
  90. A necklace engraved with the word beloved 
  91. My running shoes
  92. Long, hand written letters
  93. The courage to try something new
  94. Warm mittens
  95. Cold lemonade
  96. Wooden slices awaiting being painted
  97. My phone on my ear, instead of in my hands, having long conversations
  98. My nephew after he's woken from sleep
  99. A list of adventures to go on
  100. My hands outstretched and open -- offering all that I am

When you decide to go to college after swearing you'd never go

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I thought I'd go to my grave before I would ever go to college or university. I honestly thought I was going to be the girl who could prove to society that university is not needed to make it in the world.

For the record, I still think this. I still believe that your education does not determine your value, and that your grades and your degrees and your certificates and your diplomas do not determine your worth. I still believe your schooling does not determine your future.

But four and a half years after graduating from high school, I found myself humbly applying to college. I was terrified. I thought, "I have been standing on my no-school soapbox for years! And now I have to meekly climb down and admit that maybe I didn't know the things I thought I knew?" Admitting you might be wrong, or that you might think something different than you once did, is not my most favourite past time.

I have come to the conclusion that my life felt stagnant. All of my eggs were in one basket, the basket labelled "Get My Novel Published" and I felt as though I was not growing or flourishing like I hoped I would. I'm certainly not giving up on my novel. I'd just like to be writing other stories too.

It really came down to this: I realized that I want to better myself. By not going to school, I was missing out on an enormous amount of learning that I could use to broaden my skill set! It's almost funny how it took me, quite literally, years to realize this. (It often takes me awhile to understand things.) So I decided to take active steps toward getting better at the things that I love, and the things that I'm good at.

I was always scared to admit that I was good at something, in case that automatically doused me with arrogance. This is another thing I'm learning: it's okay to be good at something. And it's okay to want to continue to get better at it.

I always thought I wouldn't go to school so I could stick it to society and prove that they couldn't tell me what to do. But then I went to Africa and grew a little older, and hopefully a little wiser, and I met people and I went places and I heard stories I longed to write. I'd like to make a difference, you see. And three weeks ago that meant applying to Journalism four and a half years later than my friends did.

It's okay to be good at something.

It's okay to want to be better.

It's okay to do things a little late.

It's okay to change your mind.

I mean, here I am, a girl who swore she'd never go to school.

And then this morning I got accepted into college.

When God gives you what you need before you even know you need it

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Processed with VSCO with p5 preset It’s strange, when you first meet someone and immediately know you’re going to be friends with them. I’ve met people before and have known in my heart that I’m supposed to pray for them, but it was an entirely different sort of knowing when I met Cass.

It was late winter, those months when the Earth is trying to decide if she wants to stay frozen or dive into spring. I had started a new job, and quite honestly, was frustrated about where my life was headed. By headed, I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere, and if I was going somewhere, I sure wasn’t getting there fast.

My plan was to get my novel published — which was proving to be more difficult than I thought. I was doing my best to be faithful, and I’m learning faithfulness often looks like taking a step forward. So I sucked in my pride and set my writing aside until evenings; I took a step forward and chose the logical thing: I got a job.

I was confused. I didn’t want to be working another minimum wage job.

I wanted my book to be published. I wanted to be writing and doing art full time. Didn’t God see my dreams and plans? Didn’t He understand what I wanted so desperately? I thought I had it all figured out: my career, my future . . . and yet there I was, feeling quite discouraged about how my life was seemingly going the opposite way I had planned.

Then I met Cass.

I had been working my new job for a week or so, and Cass had been away for a couple of days. But on that specific day we ended up working together. She came up to me and introduced herself. She was kind to me — a genuine kindness. Still, she was reserved, and for some reason I kept thinking I hope someday she trusts me. I couldn’t understand why I was thinking that when I didn’t even know who she was. We talked for a few moments, and throughout our conversation, something inside me shifted.

I'm over at (in)courage today and I would love for you to join me... 

Here's to choosing you belong

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Processed with VSCO with p5 preset I spoke at a young adults gathering last night. My best friend and I drove two hours, and the entire drive my stomach continued to plunge lower and lower, as if I were on the DropZone at Wonderland. I swear my vital organs were mixing themselves up within me. My liver and lungs and heart and kidneys seemed to be trading places with each other. Stop it, I told my organs. They ignored me and kept moving around.

A few of my friends were leading worship before I was set to speak, so when I arrived at the church I saw kind, familiar faces. "They seem very natural up there," I thought as I watched them practice. They looked like they belonged on that stage -- humble, but still confident. Modest, but still sure of themselves.

I placed my hand against my stomach and tried to settle my nerves.

I don't belong here.

The thought came from out of nowhere. But like the pattern of thoughts I've experienced before, once one thought seeps in, a dozen more follow.

I had prayed over my talk for a month. I was going to be vulnerable and share exactly what I've been feeling recently -- that waiting is hard, that rejection is utterly crappy, and that faithfulness looks like a little bit of all of that: waiting, taking a step forward, and growth.

I was prepared. I was ready. The preparation wasn't the problem. The problem was my overwhelming mind telling me that I didn't belong.

//

Last week I was away for a few days at a leadership retreat. I felt like I didn't belong there either. It was me, a writer and artist, among twenty-five pastors and worship pastors and youth pastors and ministry organizers. I sat there and learned far more about leading, and healing, and freedom than I thought I would, but I still had that niggling sense of unbelonging deep within me.

Someone kindly called me out on that. I'm going to tell you what he told me.

What to do when you feel like you don't belong:

When you are invited to the table, and you feel like you don't belong, you have one moment to feel that way. You can ask yourself, "what am I doing here?" and then, once your one moment is finished, you move on. Once you've moved on you say, "I'm here now, in this place where I have been invited. What can I offer to the people around me?" And then you hold your hands out, and you understand instinctually that you were created uniquely with strengths and gifts, and you offer your very best.

Even if you feel like you don't belong, you choose to move forward. You choose that you belong. Because God has made you intricately with strengths and gifts and purposes and abilities that you alone were designed for. It has taken me far too long to believe that.

//

Looking out at the young adults who were coming to sit down in the church, I watched their faces pass by me. I was going to be speaking to them in a matter of moments -- about how faithfulness looks an awful lot like planting a garden: carefully and gently tending each day, hoping and praying something is growing deep within the ground below you.

You don't belong here, whispered harsh and raw against my brain. I paused and closed my eyes. I took my one moment. I asked myself, "what am I doing here?" and then my moment was finished and I was moving on. I added gratitude to that too. I said, "Thank you, Jesus, for bringing me here, to this very place, in this very moment."

I was there then, in that place where I had been invited. I had so much to offer the people around me. So I rose from my seat, and I stepped on the stage, and I understood instinctually that I was created uniquely with strengths, and gifts, and purposes and abilities.

And then I opened my hands and offered my very best.

I'll be planting a garden

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 8.50.59 AM God told me to plant a garden.

Not a literal one, although I'm debating starting that kind too. Sunflowers that stretch taller than me -- I'd like to have that. It's not my hands that are stained with dirt, instead it's my soul, which Jesus kindly whispered to pay attention to.

It was a nice thought, to plant a garden. So I told Him, "Okay."

The problem with creating a garden is finding understanding that what you will be creating will not be immediate. I don't know exactly how the whole process works, but I do know gardens take time and tending and watering and waiting. You don't see much progress for awhile, do you? You just plant your bulbs, dust your hands, offer a little water each day, and wait, hoping that something is forming deep within the ground below you.

I did the same thing with my soul. I got real quiet -- just me and Jesus and my innermost parts which were feeling shaky and untrusting. I prayed for faithfulness and patience, two things that are not my forte, and I planted my bulbs. I could picture them rooting inside of me. Red and orange tulips, I liked to think.

One thing I'm realizing: if you're going to pray for patience and faithfulness, God is most certainly going to provide you opportunities to grow those bulbs.

The past month and a half I have felt like my life has been on hold. Like I'm waiting for something, for anything really, to just click into place and get things moving. In the beginning of my waiting, I didn't mind. I thought, "I am being such a faithful, patient servant. Jesus is working in me so clearly." And then my waiting felt like it was stretching out much too long, and much too slowly, and soon I was done with waiting. But I was praying for patience and faithfulness -- so why would anything come quickly when what I deeply wanted was to learn how to wait?

One night, when I was significantly tired of waiting for something to happen in my life, I told Jesus how I was feeling. "You say You have good plans for me, Jesus? If this is true, tell me, where are these good and lovely plans and why aren't they happening yet?"

I'm over at (in)courage today and would love for you to join me...