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when God the Father seems overly protective

Though I sometimes suspect I’m turning into A Morning Person, I have to admit to a life-long hatred of alarm clocks. The sound my phone makes across the room when it’s time to get up for work is one of my least-favorite ditties ever to exist. In that inevitable moment, I forget that I am the one who told the alarm precisely when to go off and that, after all, it is just a piece of technology, not some demon set on ruining my life. I always give myself time for one “snooze” as I dive back under my comforter and appraise the day for nine minutes.

After forgiving God for allowing this injustice to happen so early in the morning, I begin to pray in short, sleepy spurts. What shall I do today, for The Kingdom? What are His plans for me? How can I glorify Him?

These prayers may sound quite pious for 6:30 AM, but I assure you they are merely the product of sleepy habit and a lot of grace. I cannot even say that my heart is necessarily “in it” at this point in the day (as is sometimes evidenced by my grouchy behavior once I leave my bedroom,) but it’s definitely a good way to start the day. I often look back on these little prayers around noon and think, “Well? Have I begun? Am I doing His work, or not?”

But do you know what irks me about these prayers? It’s the calm, consistent answer they so often receive. I can almost hear the smug tone in God’s voice at 6:33. There is no special assignment. There is no exciting task. It’s almost as if He replies with a small smile and a, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

Day after day after boring day.

I hold my palms out in reverent prayer. WHATEVER you might want me to do, Lord, I’ll do. I’m available to you. I am willing.

“Okay,” He replies with that little smile. “Just keep doing what you’re doing for now.”

So, I know I’m being a bit sacrilegious by characterizing God the Father this way. After all, smugness isn’t exactly a fruit of His spirit. But this is the way I feel, sometimes. Like God is not using me. Instead, He’s just keeping me on a shelf, safe and still. I can almost see the dust collecting around my feet.

The truth is, at eighteen I thought I was ready. Everyone thought I was mature for my age. They applauded my wisdom and discretion. I wanted to be married, to adopt kids, to go back to Haiti do mission work. I wanted to be on the New York Times Bestseller’s list with a riveting scrutiny of society. It wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid at times, or that I never felt unqualified, but those feelings never really go away. Big things will always make little people nervous. Why not just start now?

And God gave me that little smile. I think it was the first time I’d seen it. And he patted me on my little head and tucked me into my little bed and told me to grow up. And, like all little children do, I told Him I wasn’t sleepy and I didn’t want to go to bed! I wanted to stay up with the grown-ups and do grown-up things and have fun! And He chuckled a little as He turned out the light and pulled the door, as if to say. “That’s nice, Deary.”

So I pitched the riveting manuscript and was rejected. The guy who would’ve married me got turned down. The tickets to Haiti were never purchased. The alarm clock continued going off at the same time every morning and I continued to lie in bed, nine minutes at a time, wondering what the heck my purpose was.

Now I’m twenty-two and, I’ll admit, a bit weary of God’s overly protective tendency’s at times. I get the feeling He’s holding out on good things for me because He just wants me to be near all the time. To get to know Him better. To spend my hours with Him and talk with Him. Where’s the adventure? Where’s the launch? Where’s the applause from society that comes with great accomplishments? Where’s the fodder for my blog, for Pete’s sake? Nothing every happens to me! I shriek (and throw myself onto my bed with the grace of a prepubescent brat.)

God gives me that look like I don’t know best or something, and leaves me to my pouting.

Other girls get married. Other girls have babies. Other girls travel. Other girls get published. I was never jealous of the girls who had phones before me, cars before me, pierced ears before me…but this? Are they really more qualified? Why can’t I be an early bloomer? (Stomps Mary-janes indignantly.)

This may be an exaggerated description of my relationship with God. I would like to think there’s a little more mutual respect between us, and less whining. But the truth is, I do complain a lot, about my lot. Elisabeth Elliot says of Psalm 16:5, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup and have made my lot secure.”

My “lot” is what happens to me-my share of that which comes by the will of the Power that rules my destiny. My lot includes the circumstances of my birth, my upbringing, my job, my hardships, the people I work with, my marital status, hindrances, obstacles, accidents, and opportunities. Everything constitutes my lot. Nothing excepted. (Be Still My Heart, pg. 35)

Can I accept the fact that My Good Father secured the lot that is my singleness? That He designed me this way and set me on this path? Can I accept the fact that He ordained for my book to be rejected? That I’d have to break someone’s heart? That I’d have to learn from mistakes? That my friends would move on and move away without me?

One of my favorite stories from the Bible is about Mary and Martha. I think I love it because it’s about women, and sisters no less! And it takes place in their home and shows their personalities and, let’s face it, tells a story all women have experienced. Martha is cooking and cleaning because they have guests and she is ticked that Mary isn’t helping. She’s just sitting there, hanging out with Jesus. Hello! I  can imagine Martha thinking while she gives Mary a wide-eyed glanced over Jesus’ shoulder. A little help here?!

But Jesus is sort of related to the God I’ve been describing here. He has a way of snuffing out our self-righteous plans with a look or a word.

“Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 The VOICE.)

So what if I have an extended adolescence? So what if my life looks boring to other people? So what if I’ll never get to prove how good of a wife/mother/author/missionary I could’ve been at nineteen? God hasn’t been smug with me. He’s been patient. He’s given me years of chances to “choose that one thing” that cannot be taken away from me. I wanted to be Martha, working and doing big things for Jesus. I wanted to show the world how dedicated I was to Him. But it turns out He really doesn’t give a darn about what the world sees me do. He cares about my heart. If I cannot sing a serenade to Him, why do I think a solo concert in front of a big audience will bring Him glory?

I have a  feeling there is a Mother Theresa out there right now who hasn’t been discovered by the media and never will. An Elisabeth Elliot who doesn’t land a book deal. A Gladys Aylward who still hasn’t made it to China, despite her efforts.

God’s ways are not my ways. He actually does know better. So maybe I’m a slow learner, a late bloomer. Maybe I did need a little more time on my Papa’s lap, as my friend Jessiqua would say, before chasing my dreams. Maybe He’s preparing me for a greater work than I’ve ever cooked up on my own. And maybe it won’t win me fame or esteem. But maybe it will matter.

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what the transfiguration taught me about blogging

smart phone photo

One day, Jesus and I walked to the top of the mountain and Jesus was transfigured, showing me all of His glory. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared and they started chatting it up like old times. And I said, “Jesus, it is a good thing I’m here, because I have an iphone and this totally needs to be on Instagram!”

Besides the fact that it was actually Peter and not me, this story is pretty much a retelling of the true transfiguration story in Matthew 17. The actual scripture sounds just as ridiculous.

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

It may sound like a stretch, but this is what the transfiguration taught me about blogging. Peter has just seen Jesus Christ transfigured and Moses and Elijah, both long-dead, standing and speaking, and yet it isn’t until God Himself speaks from a cloud in heaven that Peter falls on his face. First, as my Bible says in the notes, he desires to set up an appropriate memorial for this moment.

I love that it says that God interrupted him. Memorials are all fine and dandy, but Peter was, as is the often the case with myself, missing the point. God commands Peter and the other present apostles to listen to His son. They fall on their faces and, when they look up, see nothing but Jesus. This is exactly as it should be. We hear from God and fall down and worship, seeing only Him. And yet, I think we have a tendency to go with Peter’s first inclination.

Something amazing happens: a mountain top moment. I hear from God! I witness a miracle, receive a message, see a vision. The next thing I want to do is blog about it, tweet about it, instagram it. I want to share with the world immediately! What great blog fodder that was, God! Now I’ll help you out by spreading that message to the world via social media! It’s a good thing I was there, because this needs to be documented!

Here God, let me tag you in this picture so all the world may glorify you! Let me hashtag #thewondersofyourname that we might worship you! Let me get the SEO just right on this post so we might share your good news! And then God knocks me on my face and says, “This is my son we’re talking about. Listen to him.”

And I lie there panting in the dust for a moment before Jesus touches me and says, “Rise and have no fear.” And for a beautiful moment, I’m actually focused on Him.

Not focused on being a Christian, but on being in the presence of Christ. 

It is so much easier to talk about God and tweet about God and use God as a marketing tool than to actually see Him. It is so much easier to “live the Christian life” than to fall down in his presence and listen to him.

As they walked down the mountain that day, Jesus and James and John and that guy Peter with whom I often relate, Jesus tells them not to tell this story until later.  It was not the time or the place to whip out the smart phones. It was not their story to tell. He would be glorified later, He assured them. And after seeing him “transfigured before them,” his face shining like the sun and his clothes white as light, you’d think they’d trust him on that one. You’d think I would too.

We serve an unseen God who listens to the prayers of unseen people in unseen places and works unseen miracles. Everything that happens on this earth is preparing us for an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Just wait for that weight of glory, beyond all comparison. I don’t think social media will even cross our minds when that day comes.

P.S. I understand the irony of this blog post about something God taught me. That’s really not the point either. We are told to share the things God teaches us, but more importantly, we should worship God. He put this on my heart many months ago, perhaps this was the right time to share? 

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a month since meggie

EP phoebe and meggie in my bed

It’s been a month since Meggie left, a month since I penned a teary letter to her. The adoption process is hardly moving. It reminds me of a spider, dragging it’s prey up a wall. If you’ve ever witnessed these efforts, you know what I mean. If not, I’ll just tell you it involves a lot of struggle, a lot of falling to the ground and starting over, a lot of patience on the part of the spider as well as the paralyzed victim.

To tell you we miss her would be redundant, but life goes on. As a matter of fact, amidst the absence of our baby sister and the wintry weather and the constant stress of trying to build a house with our bare hands while still keeping our “real” jobs, things have been quite joyful. I spoke briefly with a good friend on Sunday with whom I’d really like to catch up, and I found myself wanting to grab lunch with her just so I could reassure that I am quite happy and content in this season.

I appear to be getting singler and singler, which is apparently the most prevalent cause of discontentment in young women today, but I am also becoming wiser and wiser, stronger and stronger, less and less susceptible to every passing wind and therefore, in generally better spirits. As much as I loved being very young, it’s kind of a relief to just be “young” now. Growing up is hard work.

To conclude the personal update, I love writing more than ever and I am rekindling my love of visual art. The desire to create visual art is perhaps just as strong as the desire to write, but the craft is much more difficult for me. I’ve been writing in my journal and preparing this and that for various blogs and sketching and piddling with watercolors. I think I need to share more of my illustrations, but it still makes me uncomfortable. It’s taken me long enough to become confident as a writer. Sharing a sketch is like starting all over again in first grade.

What I will do with these thoughts and words and lines and dots, I am not sure. I am praying diligently and practicing, and I think that’s obedience for this season.

Another thing that has kept me busy and happy is The Serve Team. This team was started by the college ministry I’m involved in last semester. The idea is that a group of students gathers each week and goes and meets the physical needs of those in our church community, primarily senior adults. I really look forward to this throughout the week. We do anything they need help with: pull weeds, wash windows, vacuum, make repairs, trim trees, organize, move furniture, etc. The best part is getting to know the older generation, hearing their stories and gaining wisdom from them. They’re also typically sweet and appreciate, so we all leave on a high.

I woke up a couple of weeks ago with an idea in my head and the leaders in our church were kind enough to bring it to life. On Sunday, about seventy widows received a Valentine’s rose after church. It was a memorable time for me.

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My older sister and her husband have now been living with us for almost eight months. Everyone has been a trooper, squeezing in and making due with the little room and privacy we have to offer. The men in the family are literally building the house by hand, so it isn’t any wonder it’s taking a…while. They all toil at it in their minimum spare time, and it slowly makes progress. It does look like a house now…just not a very warm, safe or comfy house.

I leave you with an recent excerpt from my journal and a promise to come back again soon to write more:

“My world is swirling with robins. The extremely low temperatures have graced us with a massive migration of birds. Jays, sparrows, juncos, doves, cardinals, wrens, titmice, crows, chickadees and more, soar and dive across every window’s view. This seemingly long Winter will soon melt away and Spring will be here in full force. I am looking very much forward to sunshine and wildflowers and cheerful, uncomplicated clothes. However, I also have appreciated this frosty, feathery season.”

everly

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january thoughts

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I thought about starting this post with an apology for being quiet around here, but the truth is that things have been loud outside of my computer and I’m not sorry. As a matter of fact, I think I’ve told Meggie to please be quiet about ten times today. Like many of you, I love January because of the bright, clean newness of it. My calendar is clear and tidy, my year lies ahead like an open road and even the cold air feels pure when I breathe it in. Sadly, our noisy and lovable new sister flies away this Saturday. Back to the orphanage and the boarding school with all of the miles and oceans and silence between us. Back to freezing temperatures and only thirty minutes of sunlight a day. Back to loneliness. We’ll miss her very much.

My heart has been brimming with plans for a wonderful twenty-fourteen, but I am putting most of those things off until after the eleventh. Once Meggie is gone, we’ll need to busy ourselves with all the things we didn’t get done while she was here and prepare for her permanent placement here. I’m really hoping she’s home by the time we usually take our trip to Galveston Island. Still, despite my assurance that the first eleven days of January should be spent mostly cuddling with Meggie and listening to her adorable accent, I am feeling antsy and behind. I’m still working on reading books I started last year while my big reading list for this year sits idle. I’m still not sure which children’s book I should be working on or who is going to illustrate them. Should I be signing up for any conferences this year? Planning to go and visit any friends? Applying for jobs?

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the little sisters

There I go again, cluttering up my calendar and throwing all sorts of obstacles on that open road. I’m trying to remember to breathe and be present and most of all, not to worry. There are a billion good things I could try to do this year, but I’m only capable of really doing one thing at a time. I know I’ll end up panicked and unhappy if I try to do too much, especially too many new things.

I did apply for one job last week and I did start collecting illustration lessons and inspiration on Pinterest and I did email a local artist about possibly teaching a beginners water color class. I did find out when the next welcome class for Bible Study Fellowship is held and I did put that on my calendar, but for now, that’s quite enough.

If I told you that I’ve been thinking a lot about how loud and fast the world has become, I know I’d sound like a broken record. I am honestly seeing people grow up for the first time and it kind of gives me the chills. I just watched some old videos of when Willin and Jubilee were toddlers. The thing is, I didn’t realize they were toddlers so much at the time. They were just Willin and Jubilee, my brother and sister. And now I hardly recognize them, hardly remember their accents or what their skin felt like. They’re tall, lanky things now who rarely need my help with anything and I wonder if time will have picked up even more speed when the next ten years have passed.

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one of my favorite things: swirling swarms of grackles as the sun sets

I spend a lot of time on the internet (hello, here I am!) and I’ve been convicted lately for the billionth time that it’s really too much. And yet I have trouble knowing how to separate myself from it. I log into Facebook and a visual of a strainer pops into my head. If only I could log in and receive all the benefits of social media (inspiration, education, interaction, friendships, professional connections, entertainment,) without drinking in all of the negative effects (conflict, controversy, anger, distraction, mental pollution, jealousy, waste.) I mean, I suppose I wish I could take this strainer with me throughout all of my life, but it feels like the internet is a concentrated version of the rest of the world.

In “real life” I live in an upstairs room in a big old house on six acres of Texas land. I surround myself with people I love, things I enjoy and the work set before me. I’m guessing I’ve spent 90% of my time at home over the Christmas break and will spend at least 75% of my time here during this next semester (depending, of course, on whether or not I get a job.) On the internet, however, this blog is my upstairs bedroom. Facebook is like a mall/battleground/locker room/vegas with little alcoves cut out where friends are huddled with their coffee and tea and kind words and winky faces that tell me they’re being sarcastic/speaking my language. When I log out, I’m both full and empty. Sometimes I actually slam my laptop shut and make myself take deep breaths. And then I’m back. Five minutes later.

It’s like a bag of chips. You eat until you’re full. And then you finish the bag because, “Wait-what just happened?!” And it was tasty, but now you feel like a cow about to give birth and you’re a little bit furious with yourself.

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Putting the junk food metaphor aside, I don’t want to give up the internet. It is probably my favorite tool in the world. At risk of sounding really sad and creepy, I have a lot of friends on Facebook who I only know online, only communicate with on social media and feel like I am actually close to. Through this blog and the other blogs I contribute to, through conferences and writer’s groups, the internet has revolutionized the life of this solitary scribbler. I don’t want to throw all that away because I have an addiction problem and trouble saying no to futile internet arguments. As a matter of fact, I can’t imagine cutting off some of those relationships forever. That’s just not happening.

So what do I do? How do I apply a strainer to the internet? All I know is it’s probably going to break every rule for modern-day authors. I’m not going to be the most popular person on Twitter or have a post go viral any time soon. As a matter of fact, I might become a total flop. “Remember that girl with the fake name? What was it, Waverly? I really thought she was going places. #whatevs.”

But, I’m becoming more okay with being a “flop” in the eyes of the world. The more I learn about traditional publishing, the less appealing it becomes. I have not the means or desire to be Beth Moore. The idea of millions of people reading my Tweets makes me feel nauseated. Deadlines have the potential to send me to the psychiatric hospital down the road (and I’m only slightly kidding.)

Woah. What is the post even about? I’m not sure, but I hope you enjoyed rambling along with me. I want to write another post soon giving a real-deal update on my family and then another post about how Jesus handled fans and friends. And then eight million more posts because I really love blogging. See you on Twitter! But maybe less than usual? Email me for my snail mail addy. :)

everly

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table talk and a new series

fall colors

The meal was a simple one of eggs, bacon and fried potatoes but the preparation had been almost strenuous. My dad had fried the bacon on a skillet on our grill, my mother had fried the chunks of red potatoes one little batch at a time at the stove and I had scrambled eighteen eggs (which barely landed a pile on each plate.) The meal had been gobbled, glasses of milk and pomegranate juice guzzled and coffee sipped. My mom leaned her face on her palm.

“Does anyone have any ideas for Thanksgiving this year? I know we’re all thinking about Christmas already, but we need to remember to be thankful first.”

We glanced at each other over sticky forks. Jubilee started off on a rabbit trail about what she wants to get everyone for Christmas. “You did say something about Christmas, didn’t you?”

Eventually we circled back around and began to open up. Jubilee ran and grabbed a few leaves off of our thanksgiving tree and we read the verses aloud. My dad begins to speak and soon we were all sharing things we are thankful for: warm clothes, warm water. A homeschool football team. Unusual fall colors (thanks to our Autumnal rainfall!) The benefits of living in a large college town. It’s amazing how a good conversation is sometimes just a question, or a paper leaf, away.

thanksgiving tree

Soon the talk turned to those “less fortunate” and how we might help them by sharing what we’ve been given. Earlier my dad had to told us about the little girl he’d seen in the ER the night before. She suffered a head injury and may never wake from her coma. He tells us her mother is beside herself. We talk about aging out of foster care, about homelessness and abuse. We mention human trafficking, abortion, hunger and jiggers. We talk about slave children on cocoa farms and how every single purchase really does make a difference to somebody.

I begin to share about the lady I’d met just that morning who doesn’t have a sink in her bathroom, and how she told me she was going to spend Thanksgiving at a place where they serve meals to the needy and I how I thought she was going there for a meal, but she is going there to serve. My voice snags at the thought and I stop talking and just wipe away the tears. We are so blessed.

The children ask questions and we travel from Haiti to Latvia to Bryan, Texas in our conversation and we are trying to hammer it into them that, around the corner, down the road, Jesus’ feet need to be walking and His hands need to be healing and that’s us. I tell them about Ann’s talk at Allume and the part where she told us that we’re all Queen Esther-s inside of the palace walls. We’re the only people that can help those begging at the gate.

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The dishes cease to clank and our stomaches are heavy with (too much) good food. We collect the plates but there are no “fragments to gather” because we’ve licked the platter clean. We cheerfully help each other rinse the grease off under purified water and load the glasses into the shiny dishwasher and pour Mommy’s homemade detergent into the door.

I make my way upstairs in a hurry and open my lap top. There’s this series I’ve been dying to write here but I’ve just been floating down the river of thought gathering things from this bank and that but now I’m tipping over the waterfall and I have to write.

(Would you join me in a short and likely scattered blog series on the idea of “gathering up the fragments”? Thoughts on gratitude and giving? Reflections on Emmanuel and why He came to us?)

Last night as I breathed under my covers, I looked out the big window I’ve stubbornly kept uncovered and marvel at the audacity of the Christmas story. I wonder how many folks going to Christmas parties this year with their cross necklaces and cheery nativity sets and chocolate Advent calendars actually believe the story. Have you thought about it lately?

I mean, God the creator, ruler of the universe, all-knowing and all-powerful, chose to be conceived in the womb of a poor virgin girl, born among livestock and manure in a stable room, raised by a carpenter, rejected, betrayed, tortured and finally butchered naked on a cross at the age of thirty-three.

He who knew no sin knew our sin intimately at that moment. Every evil act, every creepy motive, every cruel word. Every moment of hatred and bloodshed. Every desecration and rebellion. He bore that sin and became it and then gave up His spirit. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and then returned to His dead body after three days to clarify things for us one more time before ascending into Heaven and promising to return for us.

This is not Frosty the Snowman singing, “I’ll be back again someday.” This is The King of Kings promising to return for us. We who refused Him room at the inn. We who started an infanticide in hopes of ending His life. We who called Him crazy. We who betrayed and denied Him. We who pulled out His beard and spit in His face. We who doubted, and doubt still…

The moon has gone behind a cloud and I can hear raindrops plinking on my balcony furniture. I roll over. There’s nothing to see out in the dark and my mind is back at that stable. I’m somewhere between the piglets and the llama, kneeling in the grimy hay. I’m staring at a seemingly ordinary baby and my jaw is dropping in utter confusion. “Why, Jesus? Why would you come for us?”

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2:14

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