Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blessings in disguise

"Birdsong" via We Heart It
Listening to: "Strong Enough to Save" by Tenth Avenue North
(Yet another song that has come at the perfect time. I like how God tends to speak to me through the things I enjoy the most: music, books, nature, friends... It's kinda cool, really.)

(I have a lot to say lately. To avoid writing the longest blog of the century, however, I think I'm going to break it up into smaller pieces. It's a little too much to take in all at once, even for me!)

I was reading some of my old posts the other day, and I came across one I wrote back in April that made me laugh. It wasn't actually funny, but oh, the irony! Life wasn't bad, just really boring and routine, and I was getting tired of it. I even went so far as to say that I missed sophomore year. Ha! Well, wish no more, because I'm pretty sure I'm living out fall 2009, round two. They're so parallel, it's a little freaky. That's what I get for asking God to teach me something. Never again! From here on out, I will be content with boredom and let Him teach me on His own time. This isn't quite what I signed up for! Geez.

Anyway. As promised, I wanted to blog about this song:
Laura Story
"We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

And all the while, you hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You're near?
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home

And what if my greatest disappointments
Or the achings of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?"
I think I could go on for days about these lyrics. To be honest, this isn't the kind of song I would typically like, but the lyrics are so meaningful that I can't help myself.* I heard it so many times this summer (it made me cry almost every time, but at the same time, I tried my hardest to ignore it. What my problem was, I don't know). The other day, though, I was driving around by myself for 3 hours straight, and it came on at the most perfect time possible. I've been hooked ever since. It is so fitting to where I am right now. A few lines I wanted to comment on...

* * *

"All the while, You hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things."

Whoa. It hit me so hard the first time I realized what this actually said. God does hear every word I say; He's not up there ignoring me or withholding the things I so desperately want just for the heck of it. When God says no, it's for my benefit. Always. If what I'm asking for is less than what is ultimately best for me, He loves me too much to give it to me. He can't give me less than His absolute best. It sounds cliché in some ways, but when that kind of realization really hits you, it's huge. That's something I've been trying to get through my head lately. It's not easy. Most of the time, I feel like, "Well, I don't want better. I just want this!" Yet I can't see what's ahead. I have no idea what's coming next in my life. In reality, I have no idea what I really need. I just have to trust that He does.

* * *

"We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear. We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near. We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love, as if every promise from Your Word is not enough."

Well, that's my summer summed up in three sentences. Praying over and over and over for wisdom, for God to speak to me, to know what the heck I'm supposed to do next, yet...no answer. It's so frustrating, and yeah, anger has been my response a good bit of the time.

A couple of weeks ago at church, Allan Lockerman pointed out something that I had never thought about before.** He was talking about Isaiah 50:10-11, and at one point, it refers to trusting "in the Name of the Lord." Not in the Lord--in His Name. I've always kind of wondered about that, but assumed there was no distinction. Not so. He explained that, particularly in Hebrew culture, someone's name is who they are, their character. I can't always sense that God is near, but I can always trust Him to be true to Himself. I can always trust that His character will never change.

I doubt God so much, yet I have no legitimate reason whatsoever. He has proved Himself over and over again, not only in the lives of others, but in mine. He has never, ever shown Himself to be anything less than what He says...but still, I doubt. Why? He has promised me so much. That should be enough, even if I don't see it right now.

* * *

"What if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights, are Your mercies in disguise?"

This is a concept I've struggled to grasp. I get it in my head, and I can totally apply it to other people. Actually, I can usually apply it to myself, but this time? I've had a really, really hard time with it. I think I'm starting to get it though. I don't understand much of anything that's happened over the past few months, but I'm coming the the conclusion: the less I understand and the harder the situation, the less I can depend on myself. That forces me to depend on God, causing me to trust Him and grow closer to Him. Even aside from the fact that it could be preparing me for something I can't see yet, or protecting me, or whatever...isn't that in itself worth it? He's worth everything. Knowing Him is the most important thing. Whatever it takes to get that is absolutely worth it, no question.

"And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28

* Generally speaking, I haven't been a huge fan of Christian music for the past few years. Lately though, I'm finding myself listening to it more and more. Go figure. 
** Common occurrence. I love that man. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"When it's hard to still keep on hoping..."

Credit: theonlysong
Listening to: "Blessings" by Laura Story
(This song came on the radio the other day at the most perfect time possible. I'll actually probably post something more about it sometime in the near future. The lyrics are wonderful.)

Generally speaking, I'm not one to re-post stuff other people have written unless it's a short quote or song lyrics. I randomly came across this today though, and it could not have been more perfect for where I currently am. This week has been especially difficult, and earlier this afternoon, I prayed that God would give me something to encourage me and help me. Thirty seconds later, I read this (once again proving that He knows me well).

*      *      *

"The earth’s cold under the finger nails.

I dig holes with a wedge of steel and around fringes of the domed sky, the clouds scud gray.

Dad had called first thing in the morning: if I had anything to do outside, today looked like the last day. Might be the last warm day to dig in bulbs, before autumn begins her blustery, muddy wrestle.

I’d nodded. Yes, Dad. Bulbs, today, will do. And last clean up of the flowerbeds. Thank you for calling, thinking of me, Dad.

I’d hardly hung up the receiver before it rang again, a friend, whose first words spoke of weather too: brooding storm bearing down.

'What do I do when I just don’t know how to go on?' Her voice cracks, flash of pain forking across skies.

I listen to expectations struck, her hopes snapped off in gale.

'Just a day to be sad, I guess,' she finishes, beaten. 'Today, I’m not up to trying to fix or solve any of it. Just grieving today.' And then the quiet rain of tears. Together, we let the lament come.

Then I gather bulbs. Pull out the spade, and go dig holes, because I’m just dirt with no answers, only prayers.

'Why do we have to dig so deep?' Son’s face reddens in the excavating. Little One digs her own hole alongside mine.

'Well, Child, some things are meant to really be laid down.'

'I’m going to drop mine in now.' Son’s holding his bulb poised, looking my way for assurance.

'No!' Little One wails. 'Don’t put the flower so far down in the dark!' She tries to wrest the bulb from his hand. I scoop her angst all up close.

'But it has to go down in,' I brush the hair out of her eyes, kiss tip of that pug nose. And sometimes, Child, hope’s waiting is dark.

She turns her face up towards mine and our cheeks brush. 'Will we have to dig them up to get the flowers after the snow?' I squeeze her tight.

'No, Little One. When He’s ready, they will come up through the black earth as if by themselves.' We kneel down, drop a bulb into opening earth, then wait 'for the forces above and below and beyond our control to work upon' all these things. Son pats the earth down and over and Little One watches.

We bury hope in a tomb of its own.

Like the faith diggers do every day. We bury our swollen prayers in Him who’s raised from the tomb. We lay our hope, full and tender, into the depths of Him and wait in hope for God to resurrect something good. Good always necessitates long waiting.

Every tulip only blossoms after cold months of winter wait. Every human ever unfurled into existence through nine long months of the womb waiting. And the only kingdom that will last for eternity still waits, this millennia-long, unwavering-hope for return of its King. Instead of chafing, we accept that waiting is a strand in the DNA of the Body of Christ.

That this waiting on God is the very real work of the people of God. 

Son digs again and I drop a bulb, life warm, into depths as dark as my friend’s sadness today.

Every person needs hope planted at the bottom of their hole.

Maybe I could plant a bit of hope in my friend’s ache?

I smile all the drive over to my friend’s. Knock on the front door. Read her confusion when she opens her front door, finds me standing there.

'Gotta little spade I can borrow?' I grin, hold out a hand full of bulbs.

'I just wanted to tuck some hope into that hole today. He’ll resurrect good things out of this too– hold on…. "Blessed are all who wait."'

Her chin trembles and she nods.

'They’ll be pink. Tall.' I show her hope with my hands.

'In the corner of the front flower bed? So I can see them from the window.' She manages a smile.

I grab her hand, squeeze tight.

We live in wait.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cake, classes, & flannel shirts

Listening to: "All About Us" by He Is We (featuring Owl City)
I love this song so much. I've kinda liked He Is We for awhile now, and of course, if you don't know that I love Owl City, we obviously have not been friends for very long. It's a nice combination, I think. :)

It feels like fall today! Unfortunately, I think this is because it's going to rain, but whatever. I'll take what I can get. At the very least, it's a good excuse to wear a flannel shirt.*


I am currently eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake from City Café. It is so good. City Café is a diner in Chattanooga that I, along with a few friends, went to yesterday for Audrey's birthday. They have a little bit of everything as far as food goes--also very good--but the cake! It's amazing. They have approximately 943204328 different kinds (regular cake and cheesecake alike), from Butterfinger to Coke to Raspberry White Chocolate. It was a little pricey for my tastes ($6 a slice), but since the slices are huge...it was justifiable. Besides, it's cake. How can you not justify cake?

In other news, I've just been (basically) enjoying the start of my senior year of college.** Classes are pretty cool, I got a job as a TA, and I've pretty much been living an otherwise uneventful life. God's been teaching me a lot, and I guess I'm slowly learning, as usual (two steps forward, one step back, repeat. I'll get there eventually). I could go into more detail about that, but I'll save it for another time. I'm not feeling particularly introspective at the moment. :)

In the meantime...

"So I watched the leaves fall
All of the way to the ground
And I knew that that was what love was
To die so that it could be found...

Winter's chill won't leave until
I let it lay me down
And you can't see the spring
'Til you're like the leaves
Here on the autumn ground"
  • Spotify. Free music + it's legal. Enough said.
*I'm kind of addicted to flannel shirts... I'm tempted to buy one every time I see one. Unfortunately (or luckily?), I rarely have money in my bank account to act on these temptations.
** Senior year? Um, what?(!?!?!?!)