Thursday, July 26, 2012

Once upon a time in Tennessee...

I should've written about this yesterday, but I'm still processing.

I went to Tennessee last weekend for a wedding. This was wedding 4 of 8 for the year (April 2012-Feb 2013). I introduced Kelly and Drew at the Freshman Festival at Belmont 5 years ago, and they got married on Saturday. It was a beautiful evening filled with people that I love, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

I drove up Friday evening after work, and met my mom and sister at Fido (one of the best coffee shops in the world) in the middle of a monsoon. On our way home, we dropped my car off at the shop. This was planned. My car had been putting off a gasoline smell for the last two weeks or so, but my gas mileage didn't change, and there was never any other evidence of a gas leak, so I put off getting it checked out until I got to Nashville.
The wedding was Saturday night, so I was thinking my car would be fixed sometime Saturday morning, and I'd be good to go. My mechanic called me around 11 on Saturday (they close at noon), and said I wouldn't be able to get my car back until Monday. They had found the gas leak, but couldn't find what was causing it without taking the gas tank out of my car, and they couldn't do that until Monday. This is someone I trust, and I knew it was serious when he said "I can't let you drive it. Someone could flick a cigarette out their window, and you'd be a fireball." So I left it. I drove my mom's car to the wedding and rode with her to church the next morning. No problems. At lunch we discussed my options for returning to Georgia. 1. I could wait until Monday and drive my car back. 2. I could drive mom's car back since she's coming down tomorrow anyway. We decided that it would be best for me to go ahead and come back on Sunday evening so I wouldn't have to miss work. Mom would just pick up my car when it was ready and drive it down this weekend so we could trade. This was a good plan until we left the restaurant. We made it about 5 feet before realizing we had a flat tire and needed to stop. I looked at her and said "Looks like I'm staying until tomorrow!" I made all the necessary contacts and we called AAA to come take care of us. We made it home, and I was able to spend some time Sunday night with more of my family that I would've missed had I gone back to Georgia that day. I'm extremely grateful for that.
Monday morning came. Autumn headed to Giles Country High School to teach color guard at their band camp, and mom headed to work--leaving me at my grandparents' house with no car. I was just waiting. That's been the recurring theme of my life lately. Maybe you've picked up on it in earlier posts. I'm in a waiting phase spiritually, but on Monday, I was waiting in every way. I found out Monday afternoon around 3:30 that the gas leak in my car was a result of a broken fuel pump. Those things are made of plastic, and part of mine was cracked. I drive a Saturn. No one makes Saturns anymore. None of the vendors my mechanic uses had the part that my car needed. He had to call GM dealerships to find the right one, and he ended up finding a dealer who had one model like the one we needed. He couldn't get it to the shop until Tuesday morning. Mom's tires were coming in and being changed on Tuesday morning also. So I was stranded in Nashville for another night. I called my sister in New York because we understand each others' struggles. We talked for a really long time, and she reminded me that I had JUST blogged about how much I missed my grandparents' house. And that's where I was stranded. I should be happy in spite of the circumstances! She also reminded me that this world is not our home, and nothing will ever be perfect until we get to our real home--Heaven. If it wasn't the fuel pump on my car and the tire on Mom's car, it would be something else. Monday night, I was able to spend some time with just my mom. We haven't really done that in years. We made dinner and watched "Pride and Prejudice" and ate ice cream. It was great.
Tuesday morning, I got up and ran in hell. Seriously. The heat index was 101 and the humidity was at 70%. But I was grateful to get to run there again. It's my favorite place. I packed up my stuff and showered and went with my parents to pick up my car. It was really expensive, but through the generosity of my sister and some strategic planning from me and mom, we made it happen. Oh! And, for the first time in about 4 years, I drove between Nashville and Atlanta in gorgeous weather the whole way!

I'm so thankful for my family and friends and good memories and for my car. I try to not take anything for granted because I know that the Cross was enough. I don't deserve salvation, but God gave it to me anyway. Anything above and beyond that is blessing, and I want to be appropriately thankful for everything the Lord gives. This past weekend in Tennessee was a growing and learning experience for me. I feel different being back. It's always nice to gain a little perspective. I'll leave you with snippets of the weekend in picture form.


 Clouds on the way to Nashy

 Fido Fun

With my beautiful MARRIED friends! (and mark...)

 The Fellowship at Two Rivers

 Sunday Highlights

My favorite place


 Driving home

"Can't count the barns I've passed...painted red, white and black..."

Friday, July 20, 2012

a something, a storm, and an oversized fish

So there's this something in my life. Something I should've given to God a while ago. But I've been holding on to it. I think I've been scared that if I give it to God, He might take it. Really good logic, huh? Promise I'm an adult. I'm not going to tell you what it is because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't really matter, does it? We've all got one of those somethings. Most of the time we can trace our somethings back to pride. Why won't I just let it go? Why am I still holding on? Honestly, it's because I think I can handle it better than God can. Guess what. I'm wrong. Actually, I'm REALLY wrong. I can't handle anything better than God can. HE MADE ME. I don't get to call the shots.

Have you ever made anything? Cookies? Playdoh creations? LEGO buildings? A book? A song? A journal entry? When you are the maker of something, you have control. I can leave something out of a recipe or add to it. It's up to me. Because I'm in charge. Here's the thing about God though... Yes, He is in charge. Yes, He made us. BUT He also gave us the ability to think and choose for ourselves. What if your LEGOs could think for themselves? If you had that one piece that kept jumping off of your building because it just didn't want to be there? Not only would that be strange and kind of scary, it would also be frustrating. If that happened to me, my first instinct would be to just pick up that stubborn piece and fling it across the room (where I would undoubtedly find it with my foot in the dark at a later time). If it doesn't want to be used, then fine. I won't use it.

I'm impatient.

God isn't.

HOORAY! Good news for us! He loves us so much that He just keeps trying. He doesn't give up and fling us across the room. Sometimes we miss out on things and He does use other pieces/people to accomplish His will, but He never ever gives up. He wants us.

Look at Jonah.
God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. He wasn't vague. He said "Arise, go to Nineveh..." (Jonah 1:2). Plain and simple. What does Jonah do? Verse 3: "But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord..." Tarshish isn't Nineveh. Jonah heard the voice of the Lord, but he blatantly disobeyed and did something else. But God was persistent. (haha. understatement?) The ship Jonah got on to go to Tarshish faced a massive storm. The crew figured out Jonah was running from God and causing the storm. Jonah knew it too, so he had the crew throw him overboard. Once Jonah was in the water, the storm stopped. This caused the other men on the ship to fear Jonah's God, and they made sacrifices and vows to the Lord. God used Jonah's stubbornness to draw people to Himself. I love that. If you don't know the rest of the story, don't worry. Jonah didn't drown. He was swallowed by a fish that the Lord appointed. :) Verse 17: "And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." While Jonah was inside the fish, he gave up and prayed. He gave up his pride and stubbornness and decided to do what the Lord had originally said. "And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land." (Jonah 2:10) Chapter 3 starts out like this: "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Arise, go to Nineveh..." Verse 3 says: "So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord." Looks like Jonah learned his lesson. Jonah didn't get everything right after that. He still struggled. But he went to Nineveh and did what the Lord told him to do there. And the people in Nineveh repented. Mission accomplished. The book of Jonah could have been 2 chapters long instead of 4 if Jonah had just listened in the first place. But this way, we have a great story of God's power and persistence. God never gave up on Jonah. Jonah ran away from Him. God could've said "Okay. I'll use someone else." But He didn't. He wanted to use Jonah to reach Nineveh, and He wanted to use Nineveh to reach Jonah. So He used a storm and a very large fish to get Jonah's attention.

What is God telling you to do today? Where's your Nineveh? Maybe it's not a physical place. Maybe it's just a place of deeper intimacy with God. No matter how close we are to the Lord, we can always get closer. That's God's desire. I pray that it is mine too. Maybe you're in the middle of the storm or in the middle of the fish. Either way, don't you think it's time to let go of our pride and just do what God says? I do.

I'm laying down my something. I want to trust God with it because I know that He can do greater things with it than I ever could. I don't want my mediocre plans. I want what God has for me. He made me. He knows what's best. I don't want to pick my something back up again. I need your help. If you see me or talk to me, just say "Don't pick it up." "Leave it." "Let God handle it." Anything like that will work. And pray for me? Please. I cannot do this alone. I need the strength of Jesus and community to help me leave it alone. Will you help me?

Today at (in)courage, one of the writers quoted a song. She was talking about something completely different and focused on one line, but a different line resonated with me. Maybe you need one of these lines too.

Here are the lyrics:
At the foot of the cross
Where grace and suffering meet
You have shown me Your love
Through the judgment You received
And You’ve won my heart
Yes You’ve won my heart
Now I can
Trade these ashes in for beauty
And wear forgiveness like a crown
Coming to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
At the foot of the cross
("At the Foot of the Cross", Tammy Trent)

Friday, July 13, 2012

if home's where my heart is, then i'm out of place

"If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, 
the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world."
CS Lewis

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, 
but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God"
Ephesians 2:13,19

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ"
Philippians 3:20

I'm homesick. Not for Tennessee (although I think about it a lot), but for Heaven. For HOME. For a place with no imperfections. No pride. No jealousy. No insecurity. No uncertainties. No pain. No questions. Just Jesus. I want to be there.

Moving stretched me. It still does everyday. I love living in Georgia. If for no other reason (and there are TONS), I love living here because I believe God called me here. He orchestrated the events that led to me being here. He's still orchestrating the events of my every day.

But sometimes I ache for familiarity. For people who know my history and have lived it with me. For a place where I know where everything is and how to get there and how to tell you how to get there too. For songs that I know all the words and notes and rhythms to. For food that came from the woods and the garden that I walk through barefoot while the sun goes down. For the smell of tomatoes and cucumbers and okra and potatoes and just good dirt. For miniature iron skillets and homemade biscuits and headlamps and tractors and getting up before the sun to go hunting and staying up later than the moon to go frog gigging and fox calling. For sleeping less and feeling more. For family and blood ties and puzzles and heat lightning. For lemonade in jars and haunted attics and wrap around porches. For memories. For family. My heart aches to return. And sometimes I do. But it's never the same. Not like I remember. Things changed. Life happened. Home is different. I'm different. Everyone else is too. The originals are gone and new ones have joined us. Sometimes I grieve over the changes, and sometimes I rejoice. Don't you do that sometimes too? Grieve for the past and rejoice in the now?

If I miss all of those things that much, I miss Heaven more. That might not make sense to you because I've never been there. But the Bible says my citizenship is in Heaven because I have been adopted into the family of God. I miss my earthly family, but I miss my Heavenly family more. I ache for rest and for a place of no striving...a place of just being with Jesus. If my experiences of growing up in a family that loves me is a glimpse of what it's like to be in Heaven, then I cannot wait to go.

Of course, I will stay here until God calls me Home. And I will try to seek His will for my time here. If He had no purpose for me, I'd already be Home. The same is true for you. He has a plan for you. If you're still here, He's not finished with you. Let's not waste the time that we have because it's not very much.

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'--yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. 
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."
James 4:13-14