Friday, January 9, 2015

For Narnia and for Aslan

The Charlie Hebdo killings hit a little too close to home for me. I worked for seven years in the comics industry. I was never a professional journalist, but it's near to my heart. When I read about the killings in Paris, I was chilled. First, because freedom of expression is stained with blood. Everything I've known for the last several years is under attack. Second, because this is war. I don't just mean between journos and extremists, satirists and jihadists. Evil is mounting. Can you feel it? There is something chilling about Ferguson and its aftermath, about Charlie Hebdo, even about the Sony hack, that goes beyond just the human component.

I want to shrug it off as, oh, stuff like this has always been happening, we're just hearing about it more because of Twitter

And that may be so. 

But it at least reminds me that the things we can see are only a tiny little fraction of what's really going on. If we could pull back the curtain just an inch, and see the forces that are actually at work ... well, I shudder to think what we would find. We — or at least I — forget so often that we're engaged in battle. Not just against flesh and blood. Not just against ISIS or al-Qaida or our frenemies on the other side of the aisle.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12, ESV)
I already know every day is a battle. Not a battle through traffic, or a battle to find a parking spot. But an open field. Two armies: one good, one evil. Weapons gleaming in the sun. Quivers full. Shields raised, swords unsheathed. Think Helm's Deep. Think the battle with the White Witch.

It's on this kind of battlefield that I fight to love Jesus more than I love the idea of marriage. To treasure Jesus more than I treasure even the best and godliest of friendships. To desire to see God glorified more than I desire to see myself glorified. That every day, I have to beg the Lord, Make me strong for this fight. I cannot do this without You. 

If I'm at war with dark forces even in my cushy apartment, at my comfortable job and alongside my caring church, how much more are, say, the people in Paris? Christians under persecution? People of any religion under attack for not calling on Allah? What evil is this?

My heart hurts this morning. I realize it's not just Christians who are under attack on the surface — a Muslim policeman was among those killed on January 7, and hostages were taken at a kosher supermarket — but I do believe the terrorism we're witnessing is but a shadow of the cosmic battle between good and evil. More specifically, between the powers of Heaven and the forces of hell. And for those of us who do call on God as Father, we're conscripted into that battle. Our weapons may not be manhunts, no-fly lists or guns. We fight on our knees in prayer — for God's Name to be made great; for strength and endurance to put to death the things that would lure us away from our sweet Savior and from each other ("Be killing sin," John Owen said, "or it will be killing you."); for the encouragement and perseverance of our brothers and sisters all over the world who are watching the cosmic battle unfold in front of their very eyes.

Prayer is the battlefield. We love the imagery of the armor of God. Of suiting up to head into battle for our King. But after we've put everything on and taken up our swords, we're instructed to be:
... praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:18-20, ESV)
My biggest fear for 2015 and beyond is not so much ISIS or whether our personal freedoms will be taken away (though those do make me nervous!). My biggest fear is that we'll become complacent. That we'll choose comfort and reputation over proclaiming the truth. That we will love ourselves and our safety more than we love and cherish our God. That we will forget that we are engaged in battle every day, or that we'll whittle the battle down to merely fighting the sin in ourselves and neglect the reality of the outside spiritual forces of darkness.

I think that's just what Satan would like us to do — forget he exists, forget he's still slithering around, inciting terrorism, hissing in our ears to get us to leave the God we love. After all, we can't fight an enemy we don't remember exists. If we don't fight him, Satan's got the advantage. And we love God too much to pretend His enemy, and therefore ours, isn't real. Our mighty, powerful and warrior King is not Don Quixote, tilting at windmills, and neither are we.

Make us strong for the fight, Lord. Make us brave. And come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come. Quickly. 

Until then ...

Monday, December 15, 2014

I trace the rainbow through the rain

I am not getting married, am I?

This is the question I pondered in the haziness of the morning, as I lay in my bed (alone), beleaguered by a night of grieving over dreams that haven't come true, and traced God's hand across the tapestry of my life. Especially since high school, maybe earlier, loneliness has been a common theme, as it is in so many lives and across so many circumstances. Being hard of hearing has not been an easy pain to bear. I've had seasons of my life where I've been able to roll with it, to embrace it and even be grateful for it. And I've had seasons where I've wrestled with it, wished I could kick it to the curb and spent more time crying over it than not. The hardest part about those hearing aids of mine has not been not understanding what a particular sound is, or trying not to feel embarrassed at having to ask for help.

No, the hardest part has been the loneliness, the feeling of being on the outside of everything, of not keeping up, of not belonging. But it has also been the best part when it has pushed me into the arms of my Father, who has never, and will never, leave me alone. My loneliness in my hearing loss has been my limp, my thorn in the flesh.

Right now, I'm in a season where being single is bringing me more anguish than joy; a season that brings a different kind of loneliness, a different depth of pain. I do not know what makes this season harder than all the other single seasons, except that being single at 31 is a far different beast than being single at 21. I see more readily in my own body signs of aging, hints that it won't always be up for the task of bearing or raising a child. The loneliness is more palpable somehow, as friends with growing families are less and less available, and as the pool of potential suitors seems to shrink with each passing wedding season.

As I trace God's heart through the bittersweet loneliness of my hearing loss, and as I traverse the painfully lonely wilderness of spinsterhood singleness, a new question emerges: What if I don't get what I want? What if this dream must die for God to work?

I want to believe I'm asking the wrong questions, that it's not for me to know yet, that I don't know what tomorrow will bring. I want to believe that somebody, somewhere might still find me desirable enough to agree to stick by my side for the rest of our lifetimes. But God did not redeem my hearing loss by making me hearing. He drew me to Himself in the pain and in the quiet so that I might hear His heartbeat more clearly.

Could it be that He will work in my singleness as He has in my hearing loss, that rather than redeem my singleness by making me a wife, He will redeem it by making me love Him more? Could it be that the most loving thing God has done and is doing for me, besides sending His Son to die because I am sinful, is to make me lonely in this world so that I can see more clearly how precious He is?

I think of Paul and Timothy, who recounted their afflictions in their second letter to the Corinthians:
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10, ESV, emphasis mine)
Far be it from me to compare being a little lonely to receiving the sentence of death (!). But the same God who delivered Paul and Timothy from deadly peril can and will surely pour out His grace in such a way that I can clearly see I have no hope but Him, nowhere else to go but to Him.

I have wasted so many years of singleness angry that I wasn't getting what I wanted. Angry at God because it felt like He was withholding good from me. This time, though, I will remember what He has done before, count on His goodness, and trust that His ways are infinitely better than my ideas of how my life should go.

I am tired of wasting my single years. No more. I will ask the Lord, sometimes daily, for a husband, for the mercy of not having to go through this life on my own. And then I will beg for the grace to bear this cup of singleness well, until I'm married, Jesus comes again or He calls me home; that my singleness will not be in vain; that it will drive me to the arms of Jesus, the Very Best Thing I ever will and can have, the Greatest Love that will never, ever let me go.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Very Best Thing

I have not decked the halls. There are no lights in my windows, or wreaths on my door. In fact, all of my Christmas decor is still safely tucked away in their (many) boxes in my closet.

But despite the lack of Christmas cheer, this season of Advent has been good. It's been a bit quiet, maybe even a little lonely, but it's in those quiet, lonely spaces where I find God. Or rather, He finds me. And He doesn't just find me; He meets me here and we sit, my heart in His hands. In all my years wandering this earth, I have never found anything better than that, and for however many years I have left, I don't expect I ever will. And friends, I've eaten Nutella with a spoon, so you know I mean it.

In Jesus, I have the Very Best Thing I could ever possibly have, a most precious treasure that can't ever be taken away from me. I can't say that about a husband, or a church, or a family or good friends.

It boggles the mind, really. God, who is perfectly perfect in every way, who has literally never made a mistake, a misstep or a faux pas, who is exactly who we mean when we say, "could have anyone He wants," has set his affection on me — and yes, you. Sinners of the worst sort. A sorry lot. An unfaithful, unruly mob. He woos and pursues. He knows precisely who we are and has wrapped us in His arms around us and pulled us close anyway. He loves us, as Sally Lloyd-Jones says, "with a Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love."

My jaw drops to think that not only do I know this passionate, perfect God, I am known by Him — known in the way we all want to be known: completely and without reservation. "Lucky" isn't a word Christians like to use. We much prefer our "blessed"s. Yet more often than not, I find myself thinking, "How lucky am I?" Of course, it's not luck — not chance and not a gamble. But lucky in the "what did I ever do to deserve this" way that leaves you breathless with awe.

And the answer, of course, is I didn't do anything to deserve Jesus. Neither did you. We were just bummin' around with our abusive ex-boyfriend, Sin, and Jesus came along and said, "You can do better than that," and rescued us ... because we always belonged to Him. We just didn't always know it.


I don't miss my decorations as much as I thought I would. Presents under the tree don't hold a candle to the Very Best Gift we've ever, and will ever, receive.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Single and Sanctified

I read a lot of mommy blogs. I don't know why. I am not a mommy. But one of the common themes of these blogs is how sanctifying motherhood is. For instance, you never really know how selfish you are until you have kids. Or, you have little ones looking to you to be an example every day. Or, some days are just so mundane and the kids are so whiny and you have to call on Jesus all the time.

Motherhood makes you holy, is what they're trying to say.

For a long time, I felt like maybe I wasn't as holy, or wasn't as "set apart" or just flat out wasn't as good as those married and mommied ladies. After all, being single means staying up late every night, watching my shows and eating bon-bons, right?

If only, friends. If only.

For me, being single looks more like running nonsense errands and spending money just for something to do. Being single means wasting a lot of food because cooking for one? The struggle is real, people. Being single after a certain age means a lot of weekends and evenings with only Netflix for company (I mean, OK, I am going to be real with you; sometimes that's a perk. But day in and day out? It gets old fast.). Being single means that sometimes, every bone in your body is aching to hold and be held, and it's almost physically painful, but there's really nothing you can do about it.

As it turns out, being single is its own sanctification. A long time ago, I pointed you to Steve DeWitt's post on being a single pastor. He's since married (you go, Steve DeWitt), but the way Jesus transformed Steve's single years still hold true. More recently, I stumbled upon Fabienne Harford's excellent post on the Gospel Coalition, "Sex and the Single Woman."

I don't know what to add to their wise words. Some tears, maybe, as I ponder both the weariness of the fight, and the assurance that Jesus is enough. That however intense my longings might be — for companionship, to be a little less lonely, to touch and be touched — there is something even better up ahead.

In Hebrews 11, we're presented a list of people we know from the Old Testament — people who didn't know about Jesus yet; they only knew that salvation was coming. They were confident God was faithful, and they hoped in Him, trusting that He would, indeed, make all things new someday. But all these people — Abraham. Sarah. Enoch. Isaac. Jacob. Joshua. Rahab. Moses. Gideon. Barak. David. Samuel. The prophets. And many more. — all of them died having never seen Salvation come. They didn't get to see the fulfillment of their longing, but they trusted that God was good.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. — Hebrews 11:13-16 (NIV)
And so God was not ashamed to be their God! He promised them a home, and He does the same for us now. In Jesus, in God's good plan, we have a refuge for our weary souls. Fellow singles, take heart. This means that even if we never get married, never become parents, or always feel on the outside as an unmarried, that God is still good. We can put our hope in something better up ahead — something better than committing ourselves to another person, or in coming together to create another one. Our hope is not just in our God who is, but in our God who is to come.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. — Revelation 21:1-7 (ESV)
When I wish I had someone to sit next to on the couch, I can be at peace knowing the Holy Spirit resides in me. When I feel like the weight of being single and of living alone might be more than I can bear, I remember that Jesus has promised that His yoke is easy, and His burden light, and that God's commands are not burdensome. When I'm tempted to believe the lie that I am not enough because I am single, the Lord is good to remind me that He has called me His, He has redeemed me, and He loves me. And when I am tired — just so tired — of having to wrestle with not just my own flesh, but against the schemes of the devil and the spiritual forces of evil, I can rest on His promise that He is coming soon.

Has there ever been a relief so sweet as that?

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Nostalgic Burrito

Today has been the perfect fall day. A hoodie, fuzzy shoes and binging on Sister Wives on Netflix. I'm also looking forward to 19 Kids and Counting and What Not To Wear marathons in the near future. The last time I watched those shows regularly was when I was in college, and cable was a given in the dorms. Of course, back then, there were "only" 17 Duggar kids. WHAT.

I've also been watching this part of Enchanted on repeat:

It speaks to me because it perfectly sums up my relationship with Henry Cavill. I mean, he doesn't know it, but that just makes our love story all the more beautifully tragic.

I have also engorged on candy, Cherry Coke and pizza, and even though I should be having 64 ounces of water for dinner to flush it all out, I just got back from a Chipotle run. I think what I'm trying to say is that I miss eating like I'm in college, even though that was so seven years ago.

I also miss my old place. Most of my stuff is in storage. I sleep on the spare twin-sized bed in my mom's "Spare 'Oom." All I have in this house is my TV, dresser and clothes. More than many people have, I know, and I'm not complaining. I just miss hanging out in my own house, surrounded by my own things, my preciouses.

One of the reasons for my Chipotle run was that Once Upon a Time was on tonight. When I lived alone, and even before my last roommate moved out, I/we would often grab Chipotle and hunker down with OUAT, which I desperately used to try to fill the Lost-sized hole in my heart. It's silly, but it was a comforting routine, one I looked forward to every week. So basically, I bought a nostalgic burrito because I miss my couch.

Nostalgic burrito
Make your own Nostalgic Burrito: White rice, peppers and onions, steak, tomato/mild salsa, a little bit of corn, and cheese. If I'm feeling feisty, I'll add guac, chips and/or salsa on the side.

What are your favorite TV rituals?

Just to set the story straight, no one asked me to sing Chipotle's praises. It's just that good, and my gushing is unsolicited.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Stuck in my Head Sunday: Do you hear the people sing?

Well, it took me four whole Sundays before I offered you a selection from Les Miserables. I'd say this is a sign of growth!

I have too many several versions of the Les Miz soundtrack. The 10th and 25th anniversary editions are regulars on my playlist and I unashamedly downloaded the 2012 movie soundtrack as soon as it became available on Amazon.

One of my favorite tracks on the 10th anniversary edition is the 17 Valjeans. Valjean portrayers from all over the world share a 17-part version of "Do You Hear the People Sing?", each belting the lyrics in the language of his home country (Starting with Norway, I believe it segues into the main chorus of the finale version. Hearing friends, correct me if I'm wrong!). It's not uncommon for me to keep this on repeat during my work commute. By the time I get to the office, I'm ready to vive la France like the French student revolutionary I am, natch.

When I was listening to this last week, I wondered, "Is this what heaven is going to sound like?" (Not that I think I can take Les Miz with me to be with the Lord, but a girl can dream.) I was struck by the imagery of these 17 men -- each singing in his own language but expressing the same hope, the same call to stand, the same view beyond the barricade -- and what a picture that must be of what it will be like when we are Home.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,

who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”
Revelation 7:9-10 

On a side note, the dream I dream would be to find (or develop) an all-sign version of Les Miz. Will you join my crusade? :)

Happy Sunday (night), friends! Be brave this week, and if you're going back to school, remember, Cherry Coke is your friend.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Stuck In My Head Sunday: I love you most of all because you're you

Happy Sunday, friends! I was on "Tutu" (aunt) duty this weekend, watching my two-year-old nephew while his TWIN SISTERS were busy being born! Since I work during the day, I usually babysit him in the evenings, and am well-versed in the bedtime ritual. Naptime, however, is a different story, and I was at a bit of a loss yesterday when he kept begging me to sing "Mommy's Song." I stalled for a little bit by telling him, "Well, we're going to sing um, a few Grandma songs and then we'll sing Mommy's song." I frantically texted my mom and sister-in-law to find out what "Mommy's Song" was, and went through a few hymns I knew my mom sings to him (she, unlike me, knows all about naptime), as well as a few of my own. FINALLY, Grandma clued me in that he was probably looking for: "I love you, Samon/Oh, yes I do/I love you most of all because you're you."

How I didn't think of what can only be described as the family anthem on my own is beyond me, but I was finally able to usher him into the land of Nod with the right tune!

Today, at the hospital, I realized I'd been holding one of my nieces for an exceptionally long time (I'm a shameless baby hog. I admit it.) and offered her to my dad, whose arms were empty. "Oh, no," he assured me. "I'm just fine." I ignored him and placed baby Maggie into his arms and whaddya know? Papa melted into a puddle and almost immediately started crooning,

I love you, Maggie,
Oh yes, I do
I love you most of all
Because you're you

We love our sweet Grace, too!
Oh yes we do
We love you most of all 
Because you're you!

My brother and sister-in-law had told me that Mommy's other song is "You Are My Sunshine," so armed with the right music, I put my nephew down for another nap after lunch. Now listen, this is a kid who, for the better part of a year, has decided that he's done being rocked to sleep. After story and/or song time in the rocking chair, he slides off the lap and heads straight to bed. He can put himself to sleep, thankyouverymuch

Today, however, he curled up with me in the chair and I sang a mashup of "You Are My Sunshine" and "I love you most of all because you're you" until he fell asleep... in my arms. And friends, I'm not afraid to tell you I cried a little. And held him much longer than I needed to, because he's getting so big and I knew it was probably our last time to do that together. It was too dark in the room to get a good picture of us, but here's one of him from almost two years ago (!!!):

I love you, Samson
Oh, yes, I do
I love you most of all
Because you're you

I leave you with a montage of me trying to get a picture with all three kids. Hilariously unsuccessful.

Be brave this week, friends, and remember, you're loved because you're you!