A Work in Progress

It’s funny, this constant jumping back-and-forth. The two points are so similar and yet so different, and I find myself using language that makes it all the more confusing.

Where’s “home?” Who am I talking about when I say “our?” What am I referring to when I say “my?” Am I searching for kindred spirits or do I already have a family and all this uncertainty and isolation is just… temporary?

My belongings, too, have taken on an identity of their own. Living out of a seal-able box doesn’t seem normal. Closets are half-empty (or half-full). Humidity variances force me to see “65 degrees” as many different things in many different places. Not to mention the whole Celsius thing. Ahem.

I think I can safely say that at the very least, I’m building my world. My heart is expanding to contain more of beauty, of knowledge, of friendship, and of Jesus. I’m learning how to push out the polluted stuff in favor of fully cherishing that which sanctifies.

As a writer, world-building can come as one of the most exciting parts of sketching a new story. But it’s also super stressful, this being the foundation for which all else will rely upon for strength and stability. In the same way, I find I’m building that foundation now in real life.

I recently heard a speaker say something along those lines. For now, we need to seek out heart-connections. We need to build our faith, polish our armor, and sharpen our swords. That way, when true trouble hits, we’ll be ready, and there will be people around us to help us in our fight.

The armor of God is a powerful thing. In donning it, I’ve only just begun.

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Snapshots

Language study suddenly became a discussion of how to share the gospel with that culture. There was no desire to turn the conversation back to the lesson plan, nor was there any pressure to hush up for fear of offending. We explored cultural differences and how to cross those bridges. We talked about the importance of friendship and showing somebody that you truly care for them and want to take the time to be invested in their life. We conversed of how discernment is essential for determining situational factors that may spur on or impede someone’s receptivity to the gospel. It sparked something new inside me, and brought me peace in the old.
4FF4 was attentive today. She hung on every word from the man across the sea inspite her initial hesitancy. She grew fervent in her desire to praise her Savior, the one who came to seek and save the lost. She longed to share that glow with others.

A girl tripped and fell on the slippery cobblestones. With a bag of books pitching her forward, she hit her head, hard, and lay stunned. She was expecting people to laugh, to move on with their life and shake their heads at the girl who couldn’t walk in the rain. But many stopped to ask if she were okay, and a few waited with her, offering encouragement. And by their kindness, soon she was on her feet again. A few strangers took time out from their own busy schedules to walk with her to her next appointment.

A boy with an armful of heavy boxes walked up to the door and looked over at a stranger standing nearby. Without hesitation, the stranger smiled and used her card to open the door for him. He laughed and thanked her, and they went their separate ways.

These are the little things. These are the snapshots of life we too often miss.

Here’s to looking up more. 

Stories from 4FF4: Check Your Wattage

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV)

Like a dimly flickering candle, I floundered around in a vain attempt to lift my own way. I could only see so far ahead of me, and I was burning out. Fast.

At first I didn’t see the basket. I was so caught up in my immediate space that I didn’t realize I was going in circles. The weeks dragged on, and something inside me sensed wrong.

I was trapped. Beneath the rushes, woven together in a beautiful, ugly prison, I wandered, suffocating slowly. I was deaf to cries from the outside and oblivious to the ones from within. I’d shut out all but my immediate concerns and self image. 

A brightly shining light rose in the east and pierced through the gaps in the reeds. It filled the tiny room, illuminating rosy walls containing a stone-cold heart. The heart stirred. Finally, awakening, it stretched its tired muscles and began to beat again, harder, for something greater than itself.

May our hearts always beat for Jesus. May the breaks in our pottery serve to shine His light. May we never place our God-given light beneath a basket, but may we set it on a hill for all to see, not for our glory but for the glory of the One who saves.

A Different Kind of Sickness

The flies are fat.

You’re losing your appetite.

The big kids are exploring the city on a Friday night.

You’re holed up in the library’s basement in a frenzied attempt to catch up on studying, even though that’s all you’ve been doing for the past five hours.

The sun is shining.

Your heart feels cloudy and heavy with rain.

“I’m just staying here.”

No, wait. This is home.

Maybe you’ll go away for a little while. Take a walk, catch a plane, hail a cab, run. You’ll escape. You’ll take your mind off reality and settle into the past, just for a little while.

Perhaps when you return you’ll discover a new vigor.

You pray for that.

And He hears.

Broken and Bandaged

I’d walked these roads for five weeks. I’d memorized the cracks in the pavement. I’d gotten used to the way my shadow fell across the grass at different times of the day. I’d listened to the crickets sing. I’d gotten mosquito bites. I’d gotten sick. I’d cried. I’d felt the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I’d soaked in the sunset, and hadn’t been disciplined enough to absorb a sunrise. I’d felt like going through Narnia every other lamp post.

I’d spent hours pretending everything is okay, like if I could only convince myself of that fact, all would be well. 

But all had not been well. There’d been a wound I hadn’t known was there, a bruise I’d never felt the blow of. There’d been one crack in that sidewalk I hadn’t memorized. 

Until it had to be bandaged.

The bandaid on the cracked sidewalk is a reminder. I don’t have to pretend to be whole. I don’t have to pretend to be okay.

I’m a broken jar of clay, and God is in the business of putting that jar back together. He redeems every broken piece, rescuing every shard from where they’ve fallen and shattered against the sidewalk, inside the yawning gap of missing tiles. He holds out His hand and beckons me.

I follow. Timidly. Willingly.

Broken, yet healing. Broken and bandaged, I follow Him, step by step and day by day.

Stories from 4FF4: The Inner Dialogue

I’m walking down this narrow path, but I’ve never been here before. I’m swimming in these ocean waves, but I’ve never swum before.

The path branched into three different choices. I chose one, and walked it for three years. Then, suddenly, I had to go back to the beginning and found out I’d walked down the “wrong” one. Granted, I had grown a lot. But it was painstaking to start all over again.

Now I find myself with another dilemma.

Do I start over yet again?

Trembling, I sat in my seat with my hands sweating. Who knows? the speaker posed.

Who knows?

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School Bus

He slammed the doors in her face.

There’s no more room, they said.
This space is ours, they said.
Get out!
they said.

She held her head high and picked up her steps
as she bore the moldy books in her arms
and the shiny nickle between her work-hardened
first and second fingers.

It disappeared through a narrow eye
in the glinting metal,
rushing down its neck
like a tumultuous river over a cliff
but more intense,
like a dinosaur, a monster
that has swallowed a boulder:
it rears its head in sudden heat,
blindly wrecking havoc in its wake.

That nickel was heavy with oppression
and they knew it.

She experienced it.

The bus deserted her
on that chip-ped sidewalk,
the piece of her heart trapped in the monster’s neck.
It mocked her.

She sang a different song.

She sang a song of charity and of peace,
of humility and of love.

She bore the fruits of the Spirit in her heart
and harvested them in her open arms.