Week Twenty-Eight

52 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 28: Your past

to eighth grade

they’ve scattered like dandelion seeds
and you’re stuck in the skeleton seed pod
left behind with deflated dreams,
the pin of her brooch in your child’s balloon:
bright red, light-weight, poised to float away,
to break free like a firefly’s hopeful glimmer
and disappear into the mist beyond lost dreams,
to wait for you at the end of your pilgrimage

Advertisements

Not Comfortable Magic

About a week ago I was standing before my bathroom mirror and contemplating the sin of laziness, or “sloth.” Contemplating anything so serious at midnight is never quite a grand idea, but there I was, lost in the vortex of how dreadfully I’d been managing my time this summer. I realized there were days that just ran away from me on the treadmill of phone-scrolling or YouTube-watching. I spent more time lying in bed than being up and about, and that only added to the tiring cycle of sluggishness.

How could this be?? I had prayed and prayed for motivation and for things to get done. I had prayed for strength to wrestle with and fight off the sins that plague me each day in their unforgiving attempt to wrench my eyes away from following Jesus. But every day consisted of the same habits, the same head-long stumbles, and the same anxious discouragement as I fell asleep at night.

In that moment of dark self-pity, with the cold tiles tickling my bare feet and the toothbrush paused in my mouth, God sent me a lifeline.

Prayer is not comfortable magic.

In many ways, I was using “rest” as an excuse for my laziness. But there’s a line between rest and laziness, and I’d crossed it. All that empty space made sin (in its many forms) easier. Since I wasn’t making any efforts to fill it with good things, the bad barely had anything to fight for attention and so just set up house. To overcome sin on a regular basis, I can’t simply pray and jump right back into my bad habits. That’s not how it works. Prayer itself is in part a call to action with God’s help. When we ask, He provides wisdom on how to take proactive steps to continually pursue Him and do good work for His glory.

So, we come to God and confess our weaknesses, asking Him to help. We don’t exactly ask Him to do everything for us while we sit back and watch the show, but we do ask Him to provide the means for us to actively follow and pursue Him in all things. It’s a careful balance between God’s faithful initiative and our faithful response, and it makes a beautiful harmony.

Following Jesus isn’t comfortable, and we may not always understand all the “why’s” in the moments of spiritual warfare (which often come in daily forms like how to spend our time). But in Him there is freedom and eternal reward stored up in Heaven, for each little victory here on earth.


Here are some practical baby-steps I’ve taken during the past week. I’ve found that while they are difficult at times, I already see them resulting in increased productivity and energy throughout the day.

  1. Shutting down my phone before starting my nighttime routine.
  2. Making daily lists of things to get done.
  3. Trying to read a book rather than scroll through social media during the day.
  4. Limiting the amount of junk food I eat and drinking more water.
  5. Getting to bed earlier + setting my alarm for a decent time so I don’t oversleep.
  6. Beginning and ending each day by spending time in prayer and reading the Bible.

Week Twenty-Seven

52 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 27: Favorite spot in your city

trio – to m.g. and e.j.d.

Take my hand and let’s go on an adventure.

You’ll wake up me up forty minutes before the train leaves
in a freeing, thrilling moment of spontaneity.

And as we traverse through halls of art, history, and warm aesthetics
we’ll snap candid photos of each other before Googling the nearest boba spot.

You’ll declare that we can dress up and enter a winter wonderland
filled with sparkly costumes and little girls with big dreams.

And I’ll cry between each orchestral piece as the curtain rises and falls,
and the images from the silver box dance in real life before us.

You’ll ecstatically share of magical things happening in autumn
and invite me to experience the soft, English fairy tale with you.

And while we may be adults, we’re still learning how to fly,
and we’ll never let go of that childlike awe present in every breath.

Take my hand and let’s go on an adventure.
We can go anywhere, as long as we’re together.

Week Twenty-Six

52 Weeks of Gratitude, Week 26: Someone you got to meet

It’ll Be Okay – I Promise

I held on too tightly to what wasn’t mine,
so that even in the midst of joy
we were marked with an impending disaster
that I was too stubborn to see
and you were too stubborn to understand.

I’m a little bit lost right now,
but I’m slowly learning to cherish what once
brought stars to my eyes and warmth to my heart,
because even though it didn’t last,
it was meant to bless me while it did.

So I’ll stay right here where you left me,
arm’s wrapped tightly round an imaginary bouquet,
and repaint the memories
in more vivid colors than the mottled gray
we naively splashed onto the sky.

I’ll stand and hold my ground,
with my hands kindly marked with time,
and let myself feel the ache of disappointment
without letting myself stray too far
from the hope of chapters yet to come.

Making Progress

When life hits us out of nowhere, sometimes it’s easy to think we’ve failed. When our feet slip out from under us and the breath is knocked from our lungs, it’s easy to stay on the ground and commiserate with our tears.

It’s important to process. I can’t emphasize that enough. A lot of my writing comes out of times when things get rough and I have to journal through it in order to understand what’s going on. It’s important to admit that we’re struggling, and not live in denial simply to look like we’re always “looking on the bright side of life.” But there’s also a necessary balance there between giving ourselves time (we are, after all, imperfect individuals) and striving to get up and move on towards brighter alternatives.

___

Progress and positive change may not always be evident to us. Life can feel stagnant and dull. Our work can feel futile. Perseverance feels like a trial rather than a mark of God’s courage and strength empowering us. But who are we to say that we must improve quickly and see instant results? We’re part of a culture that demands instantaneous results/follow up. It’s contrary to human nature to wait, and the rise of technology, while beneficial in many ways, has only deepened that tendency.

We’re called to be counter-cultural children of light, swimming against the tide and following Jesus no matter the cost. So even when it doesn’t seem we’re getting anywhere, know that God is still working. Even when we can’t see results day-to-day, know that He is actively shaping us and our situation. Keep on seeking Him. He promises it’ll be worth it, and Jesus is faithful in keeping His word.

“… I have become like a broken vessel… But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand…” (Psalm 31:12b, 14-15a)

Week Twenty-Five

52 Weeks of Gratitude, Week Twenty-Five: Education

Getting There

Stand firm
when all you see is mist and waves,
when all you feel inside is pain,
stand firm and close your eyes.

Breathe deep
when all you know is chaos and sound,
when all your dreams come crashing down,
breathe deep and believe.

Move on
when your heart’s been shattered too many times,
when it seems like no one hears your anguished cries,
move on and love, anyway.

Look up
when the strength comes back into your bones,
when you learn to live in the here and now,
look up and give thanks.

Be ready
when all your fears come back to haunt you,
when the devil wants to keep you from passing through,
be ready with the armor of God.

It matters
when life has come to a shuddering stand still,
when you don’t know what your purpose is, or will,
it matters and God is moving.

Be still
when you find yourself rushing for answers,
and life’s flashing before you in anxious blurs,
be still and know that He is God.

Sometimes education feels rather depressing. Especially when you don’t know where you’re going to end up, it gets tedious and feels purposeless. But God is equipping you for His good work. You are working towards something, and He is working in you and alongside you. May your heart be still and wait patiently even as you tackle each day’s tasks. May you make the most of this blessing, even when it’s hard. The Lord is faithful and able to fulfill His purposes for you. Even now, in the seeming silence, He is preparing you for what’s ahead. So that when you must face the next chapter, you will be ready and He will be with you.

Week Twenty-Four

52 Weeks of Gratitude, Week Twenty-Four: A book you learned from

To the little girl reading a white, hard-cover book with pretty pictures beside the neatly arranged large font: I remember what it feels like to have lots of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask them. Don’t be afraid to learn. Don’t be afraid to stop what you’re reading and express your curiosity. That’s how God will teach you how much He loves you.

To the elementary school student in a late-morning Sunday school class, flipping through the pages of an NIV kids Bible: I remember what it feels like to be shy. It’s okay to be quiet, but don’t let that get in the way of making friends. Ask that girl to sit next to you. Give your cookie to the little boy who’s crying because he misses his mom. That’s how God will teach you how to love your neighbor in the same way He loves you.

To the middle school rebel who has neglected to read the Bible very often, wondering if God is even there or if it’s just a figment of her parents’ imaginations: I remember what it feels like to have questions that are unanswerable. I still do. But don’t be afraid to let God into your heart. He is real, and He wants to help you through the angst. In Him you will find peace for your trembling heart and joy in the midst of your heartbreaks. God’s knocking on the door of your life, and when you let Him in He’ll show you just how much He loves you.

To the high school student receiving a journaling Bible, soon to be highlighted, circled, and drawn in from the creative spirit pouring forth onto the beloved pages: I remember what it feels like to be excited about discovering Jesus in new ways. Don’t ever lose that wonder. Jesus speaks to us through art, through music, through writing, through prayer, through reading, and many other things. Don’t feel like you’re limited to a standard or a particular way of knowing Jesus. In each of these things, He will further reveal that He loves you.

To the college student tackling more intense Bible classes, reading commentaries, and making use of her study Bible: keep on chasing knowledge of Christ. While Christianity is certainly not based on intellect alone, and requires the Spirit’s loving guidance in revealing knowledge, Jesus challenges us to have a response when people ask us about our faith. And the more you understand the Bible and the promises of God, the better you’ll be able to share that joy with others. As you continue into adulthood, go back to those days in Sunday School, and love others as He loves you.

Because golly, He loves you more than you could ever know.