A Light in the Dark

You are in the light.

They are in the dark.

 

They have been living in the dark as long as they have been alive.

The dark is heavy, suffocating, and full of fear.

But, to them, it is home. It is comfortable. It feels good.

 

You walk in.

To you, your light feels dim.

But, to them, it is blinding.

 

They turn away because it burns their eyes.

They do everything in their power to get you to leave.

The light hurts. It is uncomfortable. It is painful.

They struggle to figure out why the light hurts; why it is so intense.

So, they take their pain and agony out on you.

You get discouraged. You feel hurt.

“Stay.”

You know they need the light. You know it can save them.

“Stay.”

 

They slowly move their hands from their eyes.

They look at you.

There is something different about you.

Is it the light?

Is it your confidence?

Is it your perseverance?

No, it is the hope you have.

With you, because of the light, you bring life.

 

The darkness holds tight.

The struggle begins.

It is no longer them trying to get you to leave, but the darkness.

 

Some give in, deciding to stay in the darkness.

Some draw near to the light.

 

Their eyes are no longer blinded, but they are rejoicing in the light.

 

It is not you that saves them from the darkness.

The light has an incredible power to save.

You are merely a vessel.

 

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This Sucks.

I haven’t posted in a few weeks. Sorry guys. Life has not been easy these past two weeks.

My relationships are crumbling. My grades are falling. All of my internship plans for the summer very suddenly fell through. And instead of handling my problems like an adult, I have been lying on my couch watching reruns of Project Runway from 2009, when Lindsay Lohan was still healthy, and Cindy Crawford was still cool.

This is college. You want to be treated like an adult and when God gives you the opportunity, you consume unhealthy amounts of both ice-cream and outdated fashion advice from Lindsay Lohan. I was hit with a very difficult pill to swallow this past week.

My hope really is not in God. It really isn’t. I would like to say that it is, and I may even think that it is, but at the end of the day… It’s not.

When I was hit with the news that for a variet of reasons, all of my internship plans fell through, I cried. Got a coffee. And immediately began to frantically search for more opportunities because the thought of me having to work fast-food all summer scared me to my very core. But what scared me more was the thought of what all my peers who did get amazing internships would say.

What would they say. The theys that are interning in the White House, and global think tanks, and with the global refugee crisis. What would they say?

And then I was slapped upside the face with the realization that I did not care what God had to say or what God was doing because I did not need him here. I needed my 4.0 GPA and my peers approval. And I was willing to sacrifice my peace and joy to protect both.

My hope is in my ability to succeed. 

Oh, but that’s not all, folks. My relationships have been swinging on a thin thread for months. I am a deeply relational person, and between my class schedule, my life schedule, and the sinfulness of my heart partnered with the sin of the people I love, relationships have been difficult lately. I have been battling bitterness, anger, insecurity, and apathy like there is World War III going on inside of me.

BAM. A shot of apathy. BAM. An arrow of bitterness. BAM. A grenade of anger. And BAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMM. An atomic bomb of insecurity…. That’s what my insides have been like for a solid six months. And not only that, but I’ve actually been praying about it. And I would like to say that it’s getting easier… but I would be lying.

My hope is in my [collapsing] relationships. 

I would like to say that’s all– but that would be another lie. Along with my internal World War Z battle ground, I have been praying and praying and praying for **drumroll** HAPPINESS. While this may not be inherently bad (especially since God calls us to enjoy him), it is bad when all you look forward to is the day that you are done with the internal battle and are… happy.

Not holy. Not sanctified. Not godly. Not gracious. Not grateful. Not wise. Not compassionate. Not understanding. Not loving. Not even joyful… but happy. Good ole circumstancial, superficial, instagram worthy happiness.

Unforunately, my hope is in happiness. 

And so, now I find myself in a position, with my hope resting in success, relationships, and happiness. And it sucks because none of those are coming through. They have all failed me. And in my pride I have stayed hidden in my failure, like a girl in a bloody jacket trying to tell everybody that everything is okay.

So I humbly ask for prayer. But I also want to challenge each of you to seriously look at your heart and life. Ask yourself where your hope is… and ask yourself if your life matches up. I have failed (once again), but praise God that he is a   s a n c t i f y i n g  God. He does not expect me to come to him with it all figured out. In fact, he knew that we would be so helpless– so hopeless– that he sent his Son as our help and our hope. Don’t lose heart. Stay steadfast. Run the race. But y’all make sure you’re running on the right track, because it sucks running a race, thinking you won, and then looking back and realizing that you were on the wrong track the entire time.

Humbly your pal,

Hannah

 

Lord, forgive me. Mold me. Give me a teacheable spirit and a humble posture. Let my pain give way to show your glory as my only real rest. Let my losses show that all I truly have is you. Let me O’Lord be satisfied in you and you alone. May my hope be built upon the solid rock, and the sand castles I have built to fall. May you alone stand as the only thing, the only One who will not fail me. 

Amen.

 

 

The Girl in the Bloody Jacket

There stands a girl in a bloody denim jacket

Claiming she has nothing to hide

Though obvious that is a lie, she stands her ground, watching her relationships die

A stain on the shoulder from the stab of insecurity

One in the chest from the jab of failure

The sleeves are drenched from whispers and blank stares

The back drips from a deep, infected gash of loneliness.

With a smile, shoulders back

There is nothing here to hide

He beckons her to take the jacket off, afraid of the cold, she declines

Please, He begs, the wounds need to be cleaned, not hidden

Then it will be true, you need not hide or hold it all in

She tearfully allows the jacket to be removed

And her blood-matted arms shiver with truth proved.

The water is clear; He beckons her in

Afraid of the existing cold, she vows never to dive or swim

Please, the blood needs to disappear- He pushes her in

Cold. Crystal. Clear.

The water washes away the stain, but cold she remains

The cuts burn with the truth of scorn, and healed they scar,

Finally awake to the burden they are.

Slowly she emerges, convulsing uncontrollably, shivering to the bone

She looks back, the water blood red,

A reminder of the price He already shed

A blanket awaits for when she reappears,

A reminder of the provision he promises for those he holds dear

Though comforted, cold she will stay

For the pains of loneliness do not easily decay.

Uncomfortable she lives, and cold turns mundane

Her friends quickly start to drift away

Shivering, she grips her blanket provided only by Him

Panicked, she rummages for her jacket of bloody denim

Crying out, the jacket is nowhere to be found

He calmly explains one clean does not need to hide shame

He points back to the bloody water, her life flies before her eyes.

How long has she drifted from Him

Hiding from the truth He carries with him

Now her friends walk away

She is forced to stare Him in the face

Man of Sorrows, acquainted with blood stains

He too was wrapped in shame

Burial clothes covered His face.

Triumphant He arose, though the scars remained

I look down at mine, and He says this is proof of all you’ve gained

The race is long, and I know how you hate to run

But take heart, for Glory is to come

The girl in the bloody denim jacket has re-become

Though friends may pass and loneliness seems to ever last

The cold will soon die away, along with the sad and all the mundane

Triumphant you will rise, scars will remain

But you will have a new name

One of victory and peace

Peace with the guy who never acknowledged your name

Peace with the girl who you constantly blame

Peace with the one who turned their back on you

And Peace with the person who you once knew

Uninvited you no longer will be

You were treasured long before you knew me

Fear will not rule you

Loneliness will not become you

My name is tattooed on your forehead, He proclaims

So look me in the eyes, refuse to take on shame

Embrace your scars and walk in the beauty they are.

The young girl awakes

Her jacket still on

She cries out for that new dawn

Scared, she takes the jacket off

She jumps in the water and looks Heavenward, though far-off

Tears run down her face as she feels the cold embrace

The girl in the bloody denim jacket is no more, that identity no longer has a place.

Halloween Candy

One of my favorite types of videos to watch on YouTube are when parents eat their children’s Halloween candy. No matter how many times I watch the same episodes, they never fail to make me laugh out loud. The more I watch the videos, I realize that there are three types of reactions from the kids.

Kid One: crying and screaming, sometimes accompanied by profanity or hitting the parent.

Kid Two: stares at the parent for a couple seconds before falling to the ground; all while being completely silent.

Kid Three: forgives the parent and goes about their business.

After the parents reveal to the kids that the candy wasn’t actually eaten, these same kids have unique ways of responding to the news as well, depending on the aforementioned reactions.

Kid One: their screaming and crying drowns out their parent’s voice, so they don’t even hear the good news that their candy wasn’t actually eaten. When the parent finally breaks through to them, they are still mad, leaving the video still crying.

Kid Two: stares blankly at the parent before walking away in silence.

Kid Three: laughs it off and says thank you.

You may be wondering where I’m going with this, so let me explain.

The more I meditate on this, the more I realize that this is the perfect representation of how Christians respond to God. The way we react to God when he takes something away, perfectly coincides to how we respond to God when he gives us something.

One: We yell and scream at God because we don’t understand why he would take something from a child he claims to love. We are so caught up in our own frustration and confusion, that we drown out the blessings God has given and is giving to us. We are so busy yelling at God that we aren’t taking the time to listen to Him.

Two: We are so shocked that we don’t even want to acknowledge God. We don’t want to read his word, pray to him, worship him, or even live for him because of the pain or harm he has caused us. We allow this one thing to permeate every aspect of our lives. Because we can’t praise him in the bad, we fail to thank him for the good.

Three: We rest in our faith and trust in God, knowing that he only has our good and his glory in mind. We have confidence that God is purposeful and he is not wasteful. He is faithful in bringing life from death, light from darkness, and good from bad. He is redeeming, comforting, trustworthy, powerful. Even what seems to be the worst, he can make the most beautiful. He will not allow something to happen to us that isn’t for his sovereign glory and for our ultimate good.

These aren’t the only ways that people respond to God. They are generalities that allow us to see where we may fall – if not in one of these categories, somewhere in between. We may not always fall in number three, but that is the goal. As Christians, number three shouldn’t only be a goal, but a goal that can actually be attained. Sure, there will be times when we don’t want to talk to God, where we feel angry at times, we feel like he doesn’t hear our cries, the list goes on. But that’s just it, these are feelings. We can’t let these human feelings override the fact that God is real. He hears our cries, and he loves us dearly. He will never put us through a trial that can’t produce fruit and growth.

Sincerely,

Natalie Brown

Somewhere between two and three

 

A Holy Parking Job

Parking is a holy endeavor for me. Yes, parking. You see, I don’t like to pray. In fact, I didn’t pray for a really long time. If I told you that I was praying for you between the time of my junior year and November of last year, there is a 90% chance that I was lying to you. And now that I am typing this, I realize how absolutely petty this is/was, but the only thing that I would actually pray for is a parking spot by my building.

And I always– always— have a parking spot right by my building.

To give some context to this, there are nearly 650 people living within the block of where I park, and there are maybe 120 parking spots by my building. And my car? Always has prime parking.

While some of you may not contribute any of that to Jesus, considering it is the only thing that I regurarly prayed for, and I have always had it (even in near miraculous situations), I give credit to God for this. Even further, it is a running joke among my friends that when I am with them, they will blessed with rockstar parking spaces. But here is the thing about this holy parking endeavor: I have learned more about God from parking than I have in my devotional time for months.

He is so, so, so faithful. I was using him to get good parking, and He never let me down. He wasn’t using me for selfish motives, but was using my selfishness to show me how selfless he is.

He will provide. And not only will he provide faithfully and consistently, but fully. Excellently. I never had to go to the farthest spot, or an external parking lot… nope. My car is right outside of my window. He spoils us with his excellence.

He isn’t afriad of my selfishness. In fact, he turns all things to his glory. Through a absolutely brutal semester, full of a lot of relational and spiritual strife, he used my selfish motives to teach me that I can trust him. Don’t misunderstand me; He doesn’t like my selfishness, but I don’t (and can’t) scare him away with it.

God will laugh at you. Not in one of those bully kind of ways, but in those “Oh Girl, you have no clue what you’re getting into” kind of ways. Here I was just praying for PARKING– the most superficial of things– and God took me on a spiritual journey of lifetime, and his consistency in providing parking showed me that I can trust him to provide me rest. Peace. Joy. Patience. Relationships. All these things– and I’m pretty sure God was chuckling while he was blowing my brains out with his awesomeness. And after about my second month of having nonstop amazing parking, I KNEW I would have parking. I KNEW he would be faithful. He is and was and will be. And if one day I don’t get a parking spot, I will know that he is still faithful, and I just don’t understand. He is not out to tease me and play mind games with me. God is just gonna teach me something new about him.

I once had a friend tell me that parking is a mighty small thing to pray for, but then I reminded her that if God is bigger than all my problems, then everything is a mighty small thing to be praying for. There were some days where the only good thing that happened was that I was alive, and that I had a parking spot. He will not disappoint. And he will use your faults to teach you more than you ever imagined, and maybe wanted. Many of you know, and most of you don’t know, but this past semester really kind of sucked. But God was faithful in provision, presence, patience, rest. Don’t be so distracted by the extraordinary that you fail to see the holy ground that you are walking (or parking) in during your ordinary.

There is holiness in the mundane. Don’t be alarmed when it looks like a bunch of asphalt.

Bye for now pals,

Hannah Robertson

 

 

To the Quiet Ones

I recently took the Enneagram personality assessment. The fact that there are certain animals that represent each type is a bit reminiscent of a Buzzfeed quiz which makes me want to question the validity of the whole thing. Now, I know I’m a little late to the party on this one, considering I have a degree in Psychology, but it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know about myself.

Hi, I’m Abby, the introspective, quiet, introvert.

A while ago—yet, for me, recent enough to still be poignant—someone I greatly admired and respected told me that I am far too quiet and introverted to ever be truly effective in real ministry. At the time, I believed him, because he had significant roles within the church; so, clearly, he knew what he was talking about.

Just a couple months after that fateful conversation, God dragged me (yes, I chose that word intentionally, because that’s pretty much what He had to do) into the theoretical wilderness of the Middle East to be a homeschool teacher for missionary kids, and I’ve been here ever since.

I want to clarify before moving on, though, I’m not freakishly quiet or antisocial. I love being around people, but not 24/7; I love talking to others, but I lose patience with, as we say in Arabic, heckie fadie or empty talk. I am not at all an external processor, but I love to listen and process with those who are.

The belief that I would never be effective in real ministry because of the way God made me, weighed heavy. It is a lie, easily believed for those in a world where the ones most seemingly, “effective,” never tire of people and verbalizing their ideas. This false belief was hard for me to bring before God. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t true, yet, I couldn’t quite grasp the truth firmly enough to replace the lie. Thank goodness the Spirit acts as our intercessor in prayer during those train-wreck times, because God is showing me, little by little, what, “real ministry,” truly is and how He has created all His chosen for such a thing.

 

Even the quiet ones.

 

Language barriers are a regular issue I deal with living overseas. You don’t just pick up the second hardest language in the world, yet in the time I’ve been here, I’ve learned enough to be polite and survive.

Today, however, I was put in a situation where that wasn’t enough.

 

I went to visit the Gypsies.

 

With long skirts and covered hair, a friend and I left the familiarity of our fairly modern city and followed the roads until they became mud. The uniform, square, cement homes of the Arab middle-class tapered off and became crude, plastic covered tents.

The Gypsies are hated, despised, entirely marginalized, and treated with complete disdain by the larger population. They have their own culture, their own language, their own heritage, and sadly, not the best reputation. So, being the weird foreigners that we are, we went to hang out with the women and make jewelry.

A couple dozen of us piled on the floor in a tiny tent and began our work with the beads.

I watched their eyes, as bright as their colorful dresses, twinkle like the gold of the rings on their fingers, ears, and nose.

Verbal communication was essentially nonexistent between us, but it’s amazing how unnecessary it really is. The oohs and ahhs over the beaded creations, the kisses and cuddles of their sweet, un-diapered babies, and the laughter over their curly haired, barefoot kids climbing from lap to lap were enough.

To show that we see them; to acknowledge their existence, as women, mothers and daughters, not as a nuisance to the community, but as human people who the bear the face of Jesus; to squeeze their hands and kiss their cheeks, is to give them a radical love and dignity they’ve never known from the outside.

 

If that isn’t, “real ministry,” then I don’t know what is.

 

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the Truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the Truth.

1 John 3:18-19

 

My Lie

When Hannah asked me to join the blog, I responded with a resounding yes. A second yes ensued when she asked if I wanted to write the post for this week.

It is my goal this year to step outside of my comfort zone. I want to say “yes” to things I normally wouldn’t, and take on challenges I don’t feel equipped to handle.

All this being said, this is about the fifth time I’ve started writing something. The cycle went as follows: Idea. Write. Doubt. Delete. Repeat. The more I tried to think of something to write, the more I doubted myself. I have so many ideas in my head, but when I try putting them into words, I sound like a toddler who hasn’t quite grasped the concept of cohesive sentences.

So, I decided to write one of those cliché blog posts about how I don’t know what to write. But, the more I started thinking, the more I realized why I was having such a hard time figuring out what to write about.

I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

This incredible lie has infiltrated every aspect of my life. And, the most annoying part is, no matter how many times I speak God’s truth over this lie, it doesn’t ever seem to dissipate.

I know what God says about me. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am forgiven. I am worthy and loved and valued. I am beautiful, smart, kind, and authentic. I am His.

But that’s the point. These are things I know, but I can never seem to believe that they’re true.

Living a life for the glory of God is a foreign concept in this world. We are told phrases like “do more of what makes you happy,” and “just do you.”

But I don’t want to “just do me.” I want to live for Christ.

I am tired of this lie controlling my thoughts, my actions, and my words. I want to not only believe the truths God speaks of me, but live like I believe them. I am far from perfect. I make mistakes. I have flaws. I sin daily. I don’t love as much as I should. I am fallen.

BUT GOD.

To him, I am good enough. I am forgiven. I have nothing to fear. I am saved. I am free. I am His.

I know that this will take time for me to learn. I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and suddenly feel confident and assured. But that is what life is about. Trusting that God has a plan for you, and believing it to be true. Life will be messy, it will be uncomfortable, it will feel hopeless. But at the center of it all is a God who values you and loves you just as you are, flaws and all. Whether you believe it or not, you are chosen. You are His.

With Love,

Natalie Brown

Romans 8:15-17