Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Two Words.

Tonight, I sat on the couch and sobbed.
Buried under pillows and swallowed by couch cushions, I pulled my knees up to my chest and completely lost it. Thankfully, I had the apartment to myself.

There has been a feeling inside of me for a very long time (I'm not sure how long, but I know we're talking years) that I am missing life. That in many ways, I missing everything I was purposed for and living a life of warmth and comfort. Warmth and comfort are not terrible things in and of themselves, but as I search my heart I find that I have longed for and held onto those things far more determinedly than I have desired to live my life with complete abandon; worse than that, far more passionately than I have loved my God.

I have this memory that I cannot shake. It's an old memory, but one that has forever shaped my life. I am thirteen years old and I, along with my family, sit in an evening church service. This is one of those special services. One where a sermon is not given, and instead the whole time is spent in worship and prayer. Placed at the foot of the stage is a large cross, and my pastor has asked that anyone who has something to lay at the feet of Jesus would come to the cross, write that "something" on a piece of paper, and leave it there. My pastor was making no pretense about it; this night was to be a night of surrender. So there I was, sitting in my pew, head bowed, elbows resting on my knees, realizing I had no idea what it looked like to genuinely place something at Jesus' feet. But, here is what I did know - I knew I did not want to be normal, I knew I wanted my life to count for something far greater than myself, and I knew I served a good and powerful God. So, rising out of my seat, I made my way to the foot of the cross. Kneeling among many others who were also in the midst of surrender, I took a small piece of paper, and tearfully wrote two words.

Two words.

How life changing can two words scribbled on a small piece of paper be?
Though it may sound nonthreatening, I have found them to be two of the most powerful words a human being can utter.

"Send me".

In those words I was surrendering everything. And while at the time I did not know what all that surrender would entail, I knew it was a serious request and one that would require more than I knew I had to give.

Now, ten years later, I find that "send me" has turned into something more along the lines of "send me later". As I made my way through high school and college my initial surrender began to fade into the background of a busy life filled with classes, football games, sorority functions, jobs, and weekend road trips. The fading of those words was no accident, I loved my life. I told myself that I still wanted God to use me, just not yet. Not while I was comfortable. Besides, couldn't God better use me when I was out of high school... out of college... out of seminary? Even in all that, I have never fully been able to escape that night so many years ago when I laid everything at the cross and essentially asked God to take it all. Every so often, God speaks to my heart and says "You asked me to send you" and I am ashamed when I think of every time I have pushed that reminder away, or been too busy to listen.

But tonight was different.

God, in His great mercy hit me with the full blown weight of what I had been ignoring for so long. Tonight, I was sitting in the comfort of my living room, reading the words of Isaiah 6, and realizing that I have been missing the boat. Most of what I have done in my life has been under the caveat that it not require too much of me - that I be allowed to cling to the things I hold most dear. In this I have walked away from a Savior who gave up His very life for me. I sat and sobbed as I was brought face to face with the hardness of my heart. I thank God that by His grace, underneath all of my hardness, is a heart that still reaches for Him. A heart that is moved to tears when faced with the reality of how much time I have wasted.

In truth, I still do not know what it looks like to live a life completely abandoned to God. That kind of life is unpredictable, dangerous, inconvenient, terrifying, exhausting, life threatening, and one I will probably never master; but I do know that whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ will find it (Matt. 10:39), and that is my hearts deepest longing.

 I want to lose my life for the sake of Christ.

And, it is because of Christ that I once again say two words. "Send me".

**Originally written October 2012

Monday, February 23, 2015

Beneath the Mask

**Originally written 2/13/2011

In one of my psychology classes we have been talking about the "persona" and the theory that people are just a series of masks. The idea behind this theory is that we are never our authentic selves; in fact, the "authentic self" may not even exist. Instead, we are a product of different facades we have created in order to better thrive in and relate to the world around us.

The textbook for this class is called "Beneath the Mask", and it poses an interesting question; if there is a mask, what is beneath it? Could it be a series of more masks? Could it be that there is nothing beneath the mask? Or could it be that there is in fact an authentic self, a genuine heart, hidden beneath what one may view as a more appealing facade? Furthurmore, if there is a "real" core beneath the masks, what are the consequenses of disguising our true selves in relation to our faith?

For a long time, I have considered myself to be a very open, genuine and authentic person; and as a result, have appreciated that same vulnerability and openness in others. I have no problem exploring deep issues with someone I barely know. I have not thought myself to be someone who was afraid to let someone know who I am deeply. However, just tonight as I was sitting on my couch mulling this idea over, I realized that I am not as genuine as I thought. I put on mask, after mask, after mask, after mask.This mask-wearing particularly manifests itself in my faith.

So, what does this "faith mask" look like? Well, it looks like I have it all together, it looks like I am constantly in a deep intimate relationship with my Creator and continually seeking Him. It looks like I am completely trusting Him and like i actually believe "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me". It looks like I am not struggling with sin least, not as much as you are. Oddly enough, I find that the times when I am talking deeply and openly with someone I care about and respect are the times when I most frequently put this mask on. I'm even guilty of using the profound revelations of others and crediting them to myself, all in the name of the facade. I often sacrifice pure honesty with someone for a fake sense of openess and authenticity, all the while still wearing my mask. I do this because I'm afraid. Anyone who has ever worn a mask before knows what I mean.

So, while I firmly believe that human beings carry around a collection of masks, I disagree just as firmly with the idea that our masks are all we are. Underneath all those masks, lies an authentic self- a genuine core. The bible mentions this core several times in Psalms 139.

"Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me... You perceive my thoughts from afar... you are familiar with all my ways... Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, oh Lord... Search me oh God and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

All in all, we all have masks we wear and we all struggle with removing them to reveal what is underneath. I constantly fight with what it means to be completely vulnerable. However, I take great comfort in the knowledge that my heart is already seen. I am known by my God. And regardless of all the filth I hide, he not only loves me but chose to bless me with far more then I will ever deserve.

Finally, I understand that wearing masks is sometimes necessary. It is sometimes inappropriate to be completely vulnerable with your children. A facade often must surface when dealing with a challenging relationship; whether with your boss, or a family member, or a mere acquaintance. It is sometimes imperative to put on a mask of courage when one feels like crumbling. But, the masks that I am talking about are the masks that betray the realness of the heart.

I, as a christian, need to remove such facades because the consequences for misleading others are caustic. As a result, I am responsible for painting a distorted image of what it means to not only walk with God, but to be loved by him. No wonder so many believe they are not worthy of God's love. Through all our masks it is difficult for them to see that none of us are.

**Originally written 2/13/2011

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day 3, Boston (...that's right. I'm still going with this thing...)

You would think that one of my favorite things about Boston would be all of the historic places we visited and unique restaurants we ate at,
              but you would be wrong.

Before we left Boston, Sam asked me what my favorite part of our trip had been. As I thought about it, the thing that brought me the most joy was memories of the time we spent in Kathleen's cozy apartment. For some reason, that was the time that we weren't side tracked by all of the interesting things around us and instead just focused on each other. I loved the lazy mornings we spent breakfasting in her kitchen, eating frozen strawberries on her couch as we watched episode after episode of "Parks and Recreation" late into the night, singing together as Kath played her ukulele, the moments of deep laughter, and the conversations between Kath and I that continued long after the rest of the house had fallen asleep.

Sure, the sight of the Boston Massacre and The Kings Chapel were really cool, but the truth is that they paled in comparison to the time Kath, Sam, and I spent just hanging out and enjoying each others company.

But, lest you think that all we did all day was hang around in Kathleen's apartment in our PJs; I should also tell you that we also spent PLENTY of time exploring, and going to some places that it seemed only the "locals" knew about. From a funny hat shop, to an underground pub we also had experiences out and about in the city that will last a lifetime as well.

On another note, those hats are so NOT either one of us! What were we thinking?

See those people at the table just beyond Sam? Yeah, we listened in on their conversation for a while. Let's just say the date wasn't going well.

You see, the thing about best friends is that sometimes simply spending time with each other is some of the most fun you can have - no matter where you are.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 2, Boston

During our second day in Boston we visited the Fenway area, and of course took a tour of Fenway Park!

Here are a few things I learned:
1) An entire Tasty Burger meal can be eaten in 4 minutes (especially if you are needing to catch a tour.)
2) Fenway Park opened in 1912, but was 2nd page news since the sinking of the Titanic was the headline.
3) The Red Sox were originally named the "Red Stockings", but they quickly changed it... and all of Boston was glad.
4) Gate A is the original gate of the ballpark. All other subsequent gates, though labeled by letters are not in alphabetical order, but according to how old they are. 
5) Boston is a very windy place.

There you go! Those were freebies!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 1, Boston

I have this dear friend that I have known so long that I don't remember meeting her. We have literally been friends since diapers. She has seen some of my best and worse days, stuck by my side through my awkward years, and been a part of some of my funniest stories.
As we got older, we went to different colleges, took interest in different things, and she moved north.
                        Waaayyy north.
                        Boston north.

But, in spite of all of the distance, there has never been a time in my life where I felt like I couldn't call her and pick up right where we left off. No matter how long it has been, seeing her is always so sweet!

As Spring Break approached, I was long overdue to visit my longest friend - so Sam and I were so excited for a few days off school and the opportunity to get to hop on a plane to Boston to spend time with her once again.

The first day we were there, I was so excited to start our day that I woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep. So I took the opportunity to  photograph her trendy apartment in the last few undisturbed moments before all of the hustle and bustle began. The natural morning light was so beautiful, I had to take advantage of it!

After breakfast we hit the streets of Boston and took in scenery that was worlds away from anything we see in Texas. I loved every moment of walking around in the city. It felt like I had stepped into history. I guess that in many ways, I had!

Are these Hydrangeas not the most beautiful colors you have ever seen?

So thankful Kath had an app for everything we could ever need. Seriously, everything.

These are doors to the pews at "The King's Chapel". Each pew is sectioned off and numbered. Apparently, you used to have to pay for a place for your family to sit. Crazy.

We HAD to get some authentic Italian food in the Italian neighborhood of Boston! 

I should note here that at the moment of this picture, I was a creepy stranger taking pictures of kids I did not know. Hockey just felt so "New England" to me, so I had to! I'm sure you understand.

This would be living lobster, just moments before its death. He was pretty angry, and understandably so.

Such a great first day!