Friday, August 23, 2013

Receiving the Rainbow

1 Thessalonians 5:18

"Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live."

I cried my eyes out three times in the last week and a half… THREE TIMES! All three times, happen to be the nights that Sheldon and I had more than 5 minutes to spend with each other. Really feeling like I was wasting our moments together, I would try and suck it up. Only to burst again 25 seconds later. Fed up. He was so kind to let me talk, wiping my tears off my cheek with his pointer finger until it grew tired and he grabbed a box of tissues. He's so funny, he began to hand me a new tissue every few seconds (a little over the top) and it made me smile.

As I cried, I talked… and talked… AND TALKED!

My natural and most impacting processing method is by far, verbal. Everyone who knows me well, knows my processing well. They also probably know that if they just let me get to my own conclusion, it's easier for them and probably more conclusive than attempting to chime in with a response of their own. By the end of my speech, I have usually found a resolution to my current issue. Can you relate? I hope someone out there can! Haha!!

With my emotional breakdowns explained, let me move on. Why? Why was I losing it every few days? Because I was confused.

How do you handle confusion? Does it eat you up? Do you feel out of control?

These are two of the many feelings I have when I'm confused. I'd rather be mad than confused any day of the week! Because at least I would have a concise reasoning behind my fit! But no, not with confusion. There's nothing to glean from or to bring forth into the light.  Because although my heart tells me the light will indeed come and shine truth over the mulling of my mind, I have yet to see in what seems to be darkness and so I despair.

Most of the time, I'd not be very keen on writing a blog post about my wrecked moments but then again, aren't those usually the blog posts I read most from other writers? The ones that feel real and acknowledge that someone has been through what I have and made it out with victory to exclaim over?! So here I am, telling you about my emo days and my "crazy brain" that I often get (Shout out to my fave, Shauna Niequist who coined the phrase "Crazy Brain"). Sometimes when I have a lot on my mind to work out and sometimes when I have a lot on my mind that I just can't seem to work out. So I hold it in because I have no one right here to listen to all my confused thoughts besides God… and well, doesn't he tire of hearing me rough house all of His plans? So I wait until suddenly that look that I guess the man you love can only give you, causes me to burst and go on and on. As he patiently waits to say one key thing (Unless I choose to allow more wisdom beyond the one thought!)…

He says, "Lauren… I believe God is trying to tell you…"

Yeah. I knew that already. But I wouldn't listen to God. I was ashamed! I didn't want to admit that He knew where my heart was at in regards to His clear message!

You know, sometimes I really listen to God. Usually in regards to other people and how He wants to speak with them. Recently, I have acknowledged a new and humbling truth. My heart puts up a seemingly "God-sized wall" to protect my pride. It's easy to say, "So and so… God wants you to know…" as Sheldon did so sweetly for me. But it's so much harder for me to say,

"God. I'm listening. And even if I don't want to hear it… tell me anyway."

… when it's about me. God gave me my first "promise rainbow" 7 years ago. I know I've written about it before and probably will again but for those who don't know, God has consistently placed rainbows in the sky for the last 7 years at exactly the right moments. The moments when He desires to remind me of His promise to give me the desires of my heart based on my obedience to His calling on my life. The whole, "Seek first His kingdom" stuff. Sometimes He speaks to my heart with a word and sometimes it's the rainbow of light in the sky but He always speaks.

I'm honestly not sure why it's harder to listen when the word is for me as opposed to someone I know, beyond the one issue of pride (He can be monstrous though!). I mean, Scripture says all things work for my good as a purposed daughter of God? And if He controls the entire universe with no effort beyond His natural identity as God, then why on earth do I think my plans for myself are better than His for me?!!

Oh yeah, it's not about me. If I had a dime for every time I have written that truth in a blog post, well… you get it.

So I'm grateful. A long way to tie back to the verse at the beginning of this post, I know. But today, I honestly wasn't sure where this was going. I'm writing along with my hearts' cry and it's led me back into God's Word in a waaaay roundabout direction. I'm grateful in all things. 

I said that Sheldon reminded me of the voice of God but I actually did not receive that reminder when it was given. I just cried on his shoulder until I started laughing again, pushing my frustrations aside… or truly back in. But the next morning, random in nature but divine in plan, I heard this verse over my radio on my way to coffee with two dear friends. As I waited for them to arrive, God just laid a new foundation in my heart for what was next. A defined plan. Not that crying is bad, I'm quite comfortable with it, actually. But there was no need to cry anymore

He has a plan and He owns the rights to it. If I don't like it, I need to search my heart for sin. I believe that my "not liking" God's perfect plan, might just be coming from that dark of a spot on my heart. Is He patient with me, absolutely. Did He want me to let Him wipe the tears from my cheek, probably. Will I listen better next time to His calming voice, I hope so. But here I was, sitting still in His presence and finally able to listen. In that moment, I wanted whatever He wants for me because I know He loves me through my selfishness and still sees me as blameless. What a gracious God.

No matter what was coming "next" in His conversation with me that morning, I was already thankful. Because I'm not alone or in charge and His timing is perfect.

See… I heard the word "build" in Malaysia and my next blog post will explain what I believe that word means after 3 months of being home and seeing a whole lot of rainbows. As opposed to the meaning I thought the word would hold in the next season of my post-race life, it has come to mean something very different and although not shocking at all… clarity has brought forth peace. 

I'm not crying anymore. I've made it to the other side of this specific trial of confusion and like the bloggers I've read before exclaimed to my own heart, I'll share with you that I've found victory! It wasn't in the tears or in me working it out on my own. It was at the foundation, where God prepared a plan that was way bigger than I could ever imagine. The ancient ruins have been torn down, the foundation of gratitude has been lain, His rainbows of promise are visible, and I'm now ready to listen… to build.


What areas of your heart cause you to give in to frustration? For me it is confusion but yours could be different. Feel free to share below about what brings you to your breaking point and how Papa pulls you out! What does He use to bring you back to Him?

Friday, August 9, 2013

looking my stove in the eyes

For much of 12 years, I cooked for 5 people multiple times each day and every week of the year. No questions asked. This began at a very young age. Part of my story equals a "trapped" existence and much of my bitterness to overcome, revolved around the kitchen, where I had spent the majority of my teen years.

While others were enjoying concerts and Friday nights with their friends, my evenings… mornings, afternoons… etc were spent prepping the carrots, beans, rice, and potatoes for the next meal. And often kale, wheat berries, and flax oil as well for only some apparent reasons.

For so long I have tried not to even glance back on my years of natural and somewhat forced training in the kitchen because of the sore spot it has been in my heart for all this time. Sheldon and I attempted to cook in the kitchen together on one of our first dates and I quickly realized that we would have to revisit this at a later date because I was testy on being questioned in my methods and he was just confused of why pancakes made me so irritable. We have ventured down the story-telling path now, of course, and even back into the kitchen. Successfully, I might add.  But the kitchen reminded me of my wounded heart and I wasn't ready yet to accept the emotional scars as a gift.


BUT GOD in His infinite wisdom and mercy, brought me recently to a new found joy in a place that once embodied home in a way that felt neither comfortable or loving. He has begun to redeem the kitchen as a latter way of bringing more healing to an already overjoyed heart that has known sorrow and now enormous victory!

What I mean to say is… it's time that this feminist (in the true and most blessed meaning of the word) returns to her kitchen.

I remember so long ago, before the hardest days had come, our table was KNOWN for the kindred spirit moments that make up the most memorable of gatherings of loved ones. I remember feasts of stir fried veggies and chicken breasts and bowls and bowls of yummy spaghetti, passed and passed again around a hearth of inner wealth. A mantel of love and acceptance. It was called "Home Group" and it was held in our dining and living room but to me it should have been called "heaven" because hosting it felt like we were there visiting, even if for just a few hours every Tuesday evening. 

The house always smelled good on Tuesday evenings and the sound of my mama cheerfully talking as she pulled the corded phone around the corner to chat while she cooked, used to make me smile and feel warmed inside, even as I played in the adjacent room. Another benefit to Home Group being at our house was that it was always sparkling clean one night a week. That just seemed fun to me. And still does.

People would laugh, share stories of their week apart, and sometimes become more serious than ever as one person declared change in their life that we all knew would alter life as they knew it in one way or another. Everyone was welcome at our table and many people, young and old, would drop in and were hemmed in, as if they were meant to be there in that minute… and for a perfect reason.

Sweet tea. There was always my mama's incredible and overly sweetened, Southern Sweet Tea.

… and everyone enjoyed a glass. Or 12.

I was so young then. I may sound from that recollection as if I were an adult among the fold but no, I was only 7 and it still felt like I belonged.

I want to bring back the table. The community. The heart felt taste of something good no matter what this world confronts us with. And now, because of the dark years faced only a twilight or two after the good ones, I know what I'm doing in the kitchen. And there's the blessing in disguise.

Because let's be real… Anyone who has known me well, or maybe even just a little, can guess that I'd prefer to stand in the kitchen and talk, over my hands actually getting dirtied in the bowl of flour or by pulling chicken from those wretched bones. Some of this, I'm figuring out as I explore my past feelings of distaste for the kitchen, has simply been the emotional tie to the years it so readily connects itself with, the abuse of days gone by.

BUT GOD is doing a new thing, as I've already mentioned, and this time He's combining my love for the work He does with hearts around a table and the ever present help He was to have me garner such knowledge around organic oats and natural cane sugar syrup while fighting back tears of desperate longing to just "get out." He's combining them in a healing wholeness that can only be described as messy… slightly confusing… and altogether lovely.

It's romantic, really. To bring us back, He and I, to places that we've been together and where I've so clearly felt and needed His presence. I believe that it's all in effort to bring others in again to this same space of divine love and creation.

I want to create new. From the old. With skills from within and in spite of.

Nothing is for naught and my time spent over the stove and clearing dishes again and again were all for a reason… because just as my heavenly groom wooed me as a child around cutlery and caringly placed dinnerware… and held me through meal after meal of lack and want as a teenager… now as a young adult, He says once more to my yearning spirit... 

"Come away with me, dine with me, and bring others into this same heavenly existence that so beautifully depicts my heart for them in their daily life, around the table, tasting the good things and seizing the moment and their taste buds for all I can offer both of them."

(Photos were all taken in Moldova - Month 3 of my World Race - Photographer: Ali Kendrick)

So I say yes. Yes to the table of my childhood, so dear to my heart. Yes to the table of my youth, so seemingly hopeless. And now yes to the table of THIS SEASON. So bright. So connected to both eras of my past. And yes to the way it will bring my loved ones and I closer together and closer to the presence of a God that never left my side. He is faithful and He has a promise to fulfill in me.

… and besides, I know how to cook so I might as well explore that a little. I'm sure a few people won't mind eating the rewards of a healing heart at "home" in the kitchen. 

How has cooking brought healing into your life? Any thoughts into God redeeming your past for future growth? Please comment below and share your heart! I'd love to hear.


PS A big thank you to Shauna Niequist for writing the book "Bread & Wine" and for (in) and their book club called "Bloom" for the intrinsic need they helped to bless in me when I dug deep into the pages of this summer's read and found a ripe blossom in my life ready and willing to be pruned. Soon I will pick it and throw it in a vase but one step at a time :)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Love Divine

As we were driving the other day, traveling over one very long state of Florida, Sheldon and I talked about something we are learning to live out… love.

As we talked, I realized something that I literally never have before and I decided to share my heart with him about it… actually, it felt risky and I was trembling as I spoke.

"Sheldon," I said quietly.

"Yes, lil lady?" He responded as jovially as always.

"I have really fallen for you… deeper than I have ever fallen for anyone. I know you probably know that but I feel I need to talk about it. With you."

He simply nodded and glanced over long enough to notice that I had become serious… nervous even. He could tell this was heart-felt and worth turning down the Temptations a few notches.

I continued, "My love for you is different and deeper than any love I've ever known. It's grown so far… so big… and… well, it hurts."

He looked over again, more quickly this time. This was an abrupt change to where I believe he thought my ideas were going.

"Maybe you don't know what I mean or just don't know yet. Maybe you do and haven't said but sometimes the thought of losing you… God forbid… makes me ache from the inside out. It's so weird! Haha," I chuckled then, realizing the seeming absurdity of my dramatic speech.

I saw he was about to respond so I halted him mid-breath by adding, "It makes me feel out of control and although I realize it's the natural progression of love to become a gradual part of the person you love, It makes me scared that I will put you first before the Lord. You know how that has kept me from deeper romances in the past… I've literally pushed them away because of my fear, irrational or not, that somehow I would replace my intimacy and dedication for God, with a mere man. A temporal being. An earthly love."

My thoughts ended there, as my heart picked up pace in anticipation of what I might hear next… would he think I was crazy for feeling for him so deeply already…

Would he consider my heart crazy for risking so much?

…and then he blew me out of the water with his wisdom in response to my emotional overthrow.

"I totally understand and you're not crazy for feeling that way. "The two shall become one," (We've been referencing this verse in jest a lot as we've been learning to overcome our individualistic ways, lol). That's a painful process and it's sacrifice of self but if you feel that deeply for me and have that strong of feelings in the thought of losing me… just think how Jesus feels at the thought of being replaced. His love is waaaaaay deeper and stronger than we'll ever be able to give and yet he risks sharing us with the loved ones he gives us on earth, knowing that we could choose to focus on them instead of Him. We're worth the risk. He hurts at the thought of us loving something or someone more than Him. And yet He chooses to love us anyway."

"First. He LOVED. us first," I added as cement to his already solid proposal.

"I never want you to love me for than you do Jesus, baby. He loves you better than I ever can or will," Sheldon continued.  "And as long as you seek Him first, above me or anything or anyone on this earth… He will add all of the things you desire most to you… like our love. And the more we love Him and seek His kind of love, the better we'll understand how to love each other."

I asked Sheldon for his blessing in sharing this personal story of ours because it taught me something brand new about the love of Christ. I feel there are a few more people than me that continue to be blown away by the depth of His perfect love.

Jesus sacrificed His life for us. He gave it all. He hurt in ways we truly cannot understand but as a friend I had coffee with this week pointed out… Jesus was tempted in every way and yet endured, even to the cross without sinning. It wasn't in the temptation that was relieved of sin but in His choice of obedience in spite of temptation that He overcame. And so must we to be like Christ. He is our great example in all things. And just like overcoming sin, we must seek Jesus first for that victorious and loving spirit to overwhelm us in word and in deed. It's not enough to say we love Jesus if we are numb to choosing others and our stuff over Him. He is so jealous for us.

I get jealous, I'll admit it! I try not to, I pray through it like a good Christian girl should… but in the end, I want to be 1st place in the lives of those I love most. Specifically, in the eyes of the man I love most and want to be my groom. And there's the point. Jesus is the spotless groom and we are His radiant bride. He longs for us with a love that is so pure… so transparent… He LONGS to reveal to us the truth of who He is and how He feels about us, His beloved.

1 John declares that God. Is. Love.

I want to be LOVED. more than anything else in this world and well, as I write it is confirmed… I want to fall in love so deeply with the Lord that the chest pains I have at the thought of losing the earthly man I love… pale in comparison to the ones I have when I am found distant from my heavenly love… my God.

I love Him because He first LOVED. me. Period.