Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maya's Impact -- Words

There are days when I feel like an inspired writer. The image in the mirror actually looks the part. The stars hold hidden meaning. Worship songs hold depth and meaning. I sit like a lady and I write things with actual rhyme and reason to them. My work has structure, points, and sometimes even pictures and poems to go with it.
And then there are these days, or nights, I should say, maybe. Everything makes me want to cry. I'm sitting at the computer, Indian-style, in my grungiest pajamas, past my preferred bedtime, with Pandora playing. Partially because watching The Brady Bunch right now would be considered pathetic by most people. Mostly due to the fact that I was inspired to write today. Not the pretty kind of inspiration, though.
One of my favorite poets died.
Maya Angelou. I knew her story. I had written a paper on her. I'd read her poetry, and I even posted one here. She was not just a name to me. She was one of my heroes. I know she had faults - we all do - but her story ... it wasn't one I could just read and move on from. Even  now, as I Google her to get my facts straight, I have to hold back tears. Everything reads "She was" now ... last I checked, things read "Maya Angelou is." But now she was.
Here is the part of her story that gets into my blood. As a child, she was abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend. She told her brother, and word got around, leading to the man's imprisonment, for one day. Days after his release he was murdered, presumably by one of Maya's male relatives.
She thought her words had killed him.
So she stopped speaking.
For almost five years.
Silence. 
She had gone through all of that, but she kept it bottled inside out of fear for those around her. She had discovered the power of words.
Funny how her voice is now what she is most renowned for. She was silent for all those years, learning to listen, observe, and remember ... and then she learned how to use her voice to bring life instead of death.
I don't have every detail of her life memorized. I'm not here to write a biography. I will not praise all of the choices she made. I do not claim that all her work is classic literature that should be read by all. I only know this: she inspired me with this one bit of herself that was beyond extraordinary.
I have days that I wish I had no voice; wish I had just kept quiet. There are days when I doubt that anyone truly wants to hear what I have to say. There are days when the war inside seems to throw me over and I don't dare put pen to paper. Or fingers to keys. I forget the power of words.
Maya's story tells me that we have three choices when it comes to speaking. We can say words that kill, say words that bring life, or we can be silent. The worst words I've spoken have been the ones that I hurriedly spit out when I felt like I had nothing to say. No adequate comeback. No witty remark. No comforting thought. Sometimes there is exquisite help found in silence. Some things are better left unsaid.
And then there are things that you just cannot keep inside. I've kept things to myself, and have literally become sick from the weight and pressure.
Your story needs to be told. Maybe it can bring beauty. Instruction. Warning. Hope. Inspiration. If discretion is necessary, tell someone you know you can trust (and we have the constant ear of the One who is Truth itself; He longs to hear our heart-cries). The Lord will show you when it is time to tell your story, if you ask Him. That's how I wind up writing bits of mine here. It doesn't seem helpful or beautiful, trust me, but He knows better. He makes stars from the darkness. He can use my tired sentences. He can use my silence.
So I am surrendering. Letting go of my preconceived notions of what is or is not acceptable to tell people. Abandoning my opinion that my opinion actually matters. Opinion never matters. Truth is what matters. Opinion changes how we view the world, but no matter what lenses you look through to see, truth is what remains; God is what remains. So it does not matter what I think, but what He knows. And somehow He uses my past, my experience, my present, my perspective, my hope, my retrospect, my position, my opposition, the fragments of my life that I thought were entirely irrelevant, the dreams that never came to be, and my very life to do something that is completely unique. God's plan is always unexpectedly, extravagantly, hopelessly beautiful.
He gave me a voice. He told me to speak; to write. So here are my words.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Preached and Pondered


I was running on less sleep than I can function with, and praying hard, because oh how I needed to function. And not just your average survival mode functioning, no. I needed to be cheerful, Christ-like, efficient, creative, loving, and focused.
I slow down for a minute because I actually have the chance to. He pours himself a cup of coffee, and I smile at his kindness. We both know that's my job. We ask each other about life. I talk of weeks that just race by, and there's hardly time to even think, let alone make art with my life. He speaks of the busyness too, but there's a difference. In his world, he makes the time. He fixes someone's toilet while preaching truth into their lives. "She told me I should be a preacher. I already am a preacher, I said. I don't need a pulpit or a congregation - I just talk about Jesus one on one."
He's caught onto something and my stressing heart almost can't believe it's that simple. Can we really just live out our faith like that, no platform necessary?
So I pick wildflowers.
I send that text that I was hesitant to.
I stop being afraid to show vulnerability in front of people.
I resist letting my fear of people seeing me weak control me.
I still try and smile to the people who need it. And doesn't everybody?
Love isn't something you can share by preaching from a pedestal (and I'm knocking myself here, not anybody else), so I'm getting in the dirt and living it. Trying to. I still fail consistently.
So I run to my Role Model ... the One who stumbled through the dust and dirt, past the spitting, angry crowd, with a giant tree teetering on His raw and bloody back.



No, this thought process isn't why I've been neglecting this blog space. I just haven't had the time ... and some days, I was just plain uninspired. I was less concerned with my "6:30 a.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday" schedule than I was with other aspects of my life.
I made it past a major milestone of life. There was a party. There were speeches. I have to write thank-you notes. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, and now I have to figure out treatment, diet, and lifestyle. It ain't all sunshine and roses. But I've discovered that even then, He is still good. He is still constant. He is still sovereign. That's crazy and wonderful, and I can't quite get over it. I don't want to.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Answers

To tell the truth, I felt more drained and spent on this day with no to-do's than I felt all that week past that just refused to end. My friend tells me that sick people need rest; everybody needs rest, and if there's anything I've learned today is that I am sick and I am human.
I cough and sniffle as petals fall from the wildflowers I picked the other day. I relate to them. One day, all fresh and dewy, beautiful and fragrant ... then the next day they're fading. Pieces of them are falling off. Nobody look at me, because I'm not supposed to look like this. Give me a second to put on my makeup. I'll be acceptable, I swear.
Because somebody told me that when I wilt, I'm no longer beautiful. I think the name beneath that quotation was my own. 
Breathing is a fight today.
I had intended to rest and prepare myself for another crazy weekend. Halfway through the mandatory TV show, I get an email that changes everything. Finally, a diagnosis for my condition ... but it's so scary. I'm a basket case, caught between laughing and sobbing. So many people were there for me, but I felt absolutely alone. 
I twisted other people's words into insults, then reacted accordingly. I cried while sitting on a freezer in the basement. I ate a fudgesicle. I did my signature flying air kicks of anger. It wasn't pretty. 
I've had the urge all day to sit on a couch crying, with comfort food on one side, and a comforting friend on the other. In my pajamas. 
So the wigging out happened when I was asked to do Grown Up things, and have Actual Thought Processes, and make Decisions. 
I'm worse than a toddler at this point. 

There's also a thought war going on. Because I know better. 
I have voices in my head, from Scriptures, from family members, from friends, etc. 
Cast all your cares.
Take every thought captive.
You're safe with Jesus.
You're safe. 
You're going to be okay.
God is God and God is good.
Nothing can snatch you out of My hand.
He is with us. 
You are for me. 
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Even if the healing doesn't come.
Your love never fails.
He's got this.
You are not alone.

And then my own words hit me just as hard.

So I will run toward all You are,
Take Your hand and embrace Your scars,
Knowing that You bled so I could breathe again. 
Carry me, 
Help me breathe.
Your love alone can heal this fragile heart. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Beautiful, Beloved

(Photo by Anna Hart)
Have you ever wondered how it is that not a portion of nature is considered to clash, color-wise? Think about it. God used every color imaginable, likely inventing new ones as He went along, and we do not say that those willow trees really would look better in a different field ... one not quite so green, maybe. It's unheard of.
We put two articles of clothing together, and suddenly, it's unthinkable to wear that outside of your bedroom. What a disaster.
But we can't look at an unmarred piece of God's nature and call it an eyesore. Because He made it beautiful.
Society tells us differently.
They lie when they chant that age and beauty are not synonymous. They present them to us as enemies. They scorn wrinkles and grey hair, saying they are no longer signs of wisdom and cues for us to respect. Now we look at them as symptoms of a disease: old age. One step closer to the end of the road. It would be a bad thing if the end of the road was something to fear. It used to be. Death. Our greatest enemy. That was then. That was before Love took on flesh and conquered death.
They tell us we must fit in. Conform. Be stylish. How is it that nearly every teenager struggles with acne, yet it always seems like you were the only one? The world tells us it's ugly; detestable. Girls cover their faces to look "presentable." What kind of a world have we turned this into? One where something God smiles upon is suddenly deemed not enough, because of this little thing called puberty. Girls are throwing up on purpose, because someone called them fat.
Listen to secular music for ten minutes, and you'll know we're not okay.
Read the dystopian novels - they warn us of how quickly such a warped society could fall apart.
We've been fed the lies since the cradle, and it's about time the truth was heard.
You don't have to fit the world's idea of perfect to be beautiful.
You don't need flawless skin.
Your hair doesn't have to get immaculately mussed by the wind.
You do not have to wear a mask of makeup to be of value.
You are uniquely you, and we need to hear your story. We want to learn your song.
We cannot risk taking you for granted; you are far too valuable.
One does not cheaply discard what their Savior died to redeem.
If you have been discarded, I. am. sorry. They disposed of Him, too. Not a struggle can you face that He has not faced before you. He died to give you life, and rose to give you hope. Hear you me: nothing you face can change this fact. The world can try to rip you apart, even take your very life, but as long as your soul belongs to Christ, they have no power over you. Death has no sting; in it's stead lies the hope of an eternity with the Lover of your soul. And in that place are no more tears or pain.
That is love if ever I saw it.

(Linking up with Holley Gerth ... here)

Monday, May 5, 2014

An "Artist"

What sort of a thing does one write when the wind is blowing, their head is pounding, and frills and nonsense seem useless?
I'm in a rather practical mood. I am wearing plain, comfortable clothes that take the chill off, and my wild hair is pulled back in a most unbecoming bun.
And yet I should write something worth reading. Shouldn't I?
But who's to judge?

I'm beating around the bush.
I shan't keep you waiting much longer.

Sometimes life doesn't make sense. There comes a time when you realize that all your childhood dreams may not come true.
I found a page in a box under my bed the other day. It's one of those sheets that makes you see just how poor your handwriting and logic once were:
"If I was an Artist"
If I was an Artist I would make tons of pictures and hand some out for free at church. I would sell others at an Art Gallery. I would draw cards and send them to people. I would frame some and use them as gift's. I would use the money I earn for offering and to provide food for myself.
Some things just have to be capitalized, you know? If only all I needed was food. To be honest, I found my artwork in that box, too ... picture giant heads with hot dog buns for lips.
Nowadays, my work has slightly improved. I have a better sense of proportions and facial features. But I'm no Artist. I am simply an artist. I am terrible at drawing hands and feet. I sell most of my work for charity, and the few that I sell personally, usually end up going towards hair product or undergarments. Ah, the life of glamour. I do give some pieces away, and I've drawn a fair share of cards (translate: two), but I have yet to be featured in an Art Gallery, and I doubt that time will come. This is where the train of practical thought leads to ... unless you dare make a stop and acknowledge that our God has mysterious ways.
I am no prodigy, making billions of dollars without a single lesson, but I have seen God somehow use my sketches to make His voice heard.
I've sent a piece of artwork to a friend who was hurting, when I had no idea what to say, and He spoke through it in a crazy real way.
I may not have expensive, professional paints and brushes, but I can use an old mascara tube like nobody's business.
My pictures don't hang in Art Galleries, but they sit on kitchen shelves and office desks, and I think I prefer those displays.
It's not my elementary, picture-perfect plan, but I like it better. Because it doesn't depend on me. Who cares if I draw poor hands, if my hands are miraculously being used to do something good, that I couldn't have, and wouldn't have thought of on my own.
So this is my thought process. A wild and practical one. If I am to remain at home for longer than I had planned, and in a home that is far from my ideal plan, then God must have something amazingly good to do with my life here and now. And I might have missed out if I was able to sit in a cafe that looked out on the Eiffel Tower.
The same principle goes for the rest of my life. If it's not what I dreamed of, it's better, ultimately. Because I could never plan out my own salvation, or organize the redemption of a fallen world ... best to leave my little life in the hands of One who can, eh?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Beauty Time

(Photo by Tara Gourley)
The rain drips gently, steadily, and I have time.
Time to just be.
I've found that it's what you do in these spare hours that defines who you are.
When you're longing for a little peace, what do you do?
Some days, I just browse Pinterest. It's mind numbing, yet you feel almost useful, because who knows? That recipe you just pinned could very well change your life.
Most of the time, I crave something more. I often stop that craving with a heavy dose of laziness, but I know it was there.
Today, I use the moment to think on truth; to write it out in black and white, so I won't forget it ... and maybe you won't either. I'm a day ahead of schedule, and that's satisfying.
I stop that word before it rolls off my tongue. Savor it.
Satisfying.
The secret of life, or at least one of the big ones, is that only Christ can truly satisfy.
Only His love will leave your cup running over.
Only His truth will be firm enough to stand on.
Only He will fill that yearning empty in your heart.
There's no pew beneath me, so I preach it to myself: only Him. Always only Him.
And in these spare hours, I use what He's given me. I think on His name. I trust in His goodness. But not every time, don't get me wrong. I preach to myself in the voice of who I want to be, not who I am. Because how else can I learn?
I try to make beauty from what I have ... stitching fabrics together, writing poems, sketching sweet madness ... because handmade beauty is something precious and irreplaceable.
I try to see the beauty in what is. I count gifts from heaven. I watch the rain pour down. I note the stunning dimple on my sister's cheek.
I make music. Belt out tunes at the top of my lungs. Blare my favorite songs in my headphones. Write my own, when I can.
I aim to bless others. I use the things that I have made beauty from or found beauty in, and I pass them on.
I pray the feeble prayers of a person who still can't figure out why God loves her. Try to wrap your head around it, I dare ya. It's mind-boggling.
I whisper out half-memorized Scriptures, willing them to become the inhale and exhale of my life, because who doesn't need that kind of truth every second?
I write. I read. I am a word-lover. A wordaholic, if you will.
I read classic literature, breathtaking poetry, lovely Christian novels, non-fiction books that blow my mind, blog posts, Pinterest posts, etc.
I write letters, songs, poems, posts, stories, nonsense, texts, emails, and I don't dare shove them in a drawer and forget.
I dream about plants.
I make baked goods.
I snack an awful lot.
Sometimes, I cave in to the reality that we serve a God who offers peace and rest, and I sleep. It takes more bravery than one would think. I have to admit to myself that the world will spin on without me. I have to remember that my God is bigger than nightmares, and that His love casts out my fear. I have to be willing to cry for a while, if that's what it takes.
I pretend to be so brave, holding back tears like a big kid. But there is beauty and strength in the vulnerability it takes to let those tears flow. They say that "big girls don't cry," so maybe it's time I stopped being a big girl. Or maybe I need to start a trend among us Bigs. A group of honest people who don't judge pain and emotion? Sign me up.
So it comes down to this: a dare to find beauty in the here and now. In a blank piece of paper, in an unappreciated object, in the mirror ... God makes beautiful things. It's time we saw and experienced them for what they are.