Unscripted.

I have a tendency to day dream. Meaning that I think about things to much, plan out events, conversations, flesh out goals, shade in relationships, internally organize, and attempt to administrate the details of my life into tangible moments that I can order and control. And after all of that internal effort those carefully constructed day dreams have a devastating way of crumbling around me without a single piece of the debris falling into the place that I intended.

So I eat a lot of icecream. When the dust settles and there is just not a thing you can do about it, my best response is icecream. This week has been completely outside of my control, ending with a day that I can’t even begin to describe, and at the end, leaving 3 hours after I’d planned due to a situation that I never could have forseen I decided that the only appropriate response was to stop by McDonalds for a dipped icecream cone. Sitting in silence in a borrowed car in the drive-thru and trying not to think about the day, I pulled up to the sign to order only to hear that the ice cream machine was broken.

It’s amazing, just how unscripted this life is.

Joshua has been checking in on me quite a bit during the hurricane of the last few weeks. Yesterday evening I receive a message from him asking why I’ve not been blogging. I thought for a moment before telling him that things have been too personal to write about, to which he replied “I think those may be the best kind of things to write about.”

This Tuesday it will have been 4 months since the Southern Lady passed away.

In an incredible act of love her family offered for me to stay in the house until it is sold.  An estate sale was held at the beginning of July while I was home visiting my family and as expected, I returned to a house with out furniture, decorations, or any evidence of being lived in save for my bedroom. The week of my birthday I acquired two amazing vintage rockers from Craigslist, followed by a small table as a present from my brothers family, the three of which barely scratch the surface of filling the empty space.

The emptiness of the house serves as a very practical means of magnifying the turmoil in my heart;

I am a very communal individual, loving life with MANY housemates, and for four months my little dog and I have lived alone in the empty house.

I have yet to find a replacement  “job” to supplement my missionary income.

Two weeks ago my dearly beloved rust-bucket car actually died. This happened the week of the anniversary of Miah’s death, and the week that we were hosting a regional teen conference, in which I had a large role to play.

Some days later the hard-drive on my iphone crashed leaving it in a state of being completely incapable of connecting to the wireless signal aka, rendering the phone useless. I’ve never even HEARD of that before.

The last four week I’ve been under a constant barrage of irrational, in-explainable personal/ financial/ spiritual/ relational and ministerial events that I can only describe as the craziest spiritual attack I’ve ever experienced….which culminated in the drive-thru lane at McDonalds tonight as I heard that the ice cream machine was broken.

Completely and utterly…..not what I had planned.

Depressing as this story sounds….there has been incredible breakthrough over the last seven days. My physical and spiritual family both in the mid-west and on the east coast have banded around me in prayer and support and the fruit is being manifest in my heart and life daily. And there is light ahead 🙂

A friend has indefinitely given me use of her vehicle. Someone gave me an old at&t phone to use. And just so that you can believe that God does in fact give to us ‘everything that we need for life and godliness…..’  there was half a tub of Strawberry Haagen Das icecream in my freezer when I got in tonight.

When Miah died  Bob Falkner told me to buy Ann Voskamps book ‘One Thousand Gifts’. I had no idea how the next year of my life would be ordered around the Lord’s deep commitment to teaching me about the receiving of His grace.

Tonight I shared with a friend the emotional story of the last twenty four hours.  After some long moments of quiet reflection she said ” I love you Christina, you’re just so…….raw. Do you know what I mean by that? You’re just …..raw.”

Unscripted.

Sara Groves would call it “Wide open, like a lake”

Derek Loux called it “Green and Tender”

It’s learning how to force the fist to unclench, relinquishing the death grip on what I couldn’t control anyway, opening the fingers, smoothing down the palm. You open Your hands and You satisfy (Ps. 145.16), I open my hands and receive. It’s ghastly simple, and the most un-natural position for an anxiety ridden heart like mine; to take whatever You give, to call it grace, and offer it back to You in thanks.

I cry and I pray and I stumble. I think to hard, circle round the options, fight to come up with a plan, stay up too late strumming those same guitar chords trying to soothe the same old ache in my eternal soul. I accuse God, accuse His bride, break, repent, and while aching for answers fight to keep my hands off the details, stop trying to organize, lift up my eyes to the hills and lean into His strength. I am still keeping lists, because Bob say’s that if we’re not operating in Thanksgiving than we’re operating in atheism.

And I choose to live, raw. Vulnerable. To stop fighting tooth & nail to hide the frailty of my human heart, to give God the room to come in and bring healing to the broken, weak places. I bawl in the prayer room, in the weekly meetings when suddenly the room surrounds me in prayer and cry out for break through in my life, at stop lights, and alone in the quiet house that the Lord provided for me when there were no answers to an un-solvable situation.

And as my foundations are exposed and greatly shaken, I choose to cling to the Rock that is higher than I.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter)

Advertisements

In the Whirlwind, He still wants everything.

Last year was a whirlwind, start to finish. Each month seemed to bring it’s own fresh version of crazy, & December was no different. In fact, by the 1st of December I was suddenly facing two weeks to find new housing & either a new job or another cross-country move.  I’ll spare you the details & just say that in the beginning I threw up my hands in the air making a declaration in my heart to let the Lord lead my steps. And He did. He’s faithful like that.

The not so slow but dramatic demise of my beloved 97 Geo Metro, increased monthly bills & seriously needing of dental work forced my sudden need to stop working for Bound4Life International, a ministry that I have been honored to serve since my move to Virginia in January of 2010.  This decision was forced by unexpected changes & came with a flurry of job applications, long late-night conversations with my brother Jeremy about direction, & deep painful conversations with the Lord. Ultimately, it was good. Ultimately, it forged clarity in my soul. Ultimately, I am thankful. Oh but it was a rough, bumpy and painful transition.

One of those rough bumpy painful days found me sitting with a Pastor from Florida who had recently moved with his family to DC to help fuel JHOP-DC & serve with B4L.  His father has been battling against cancer  & he told me that his sister had made a large sacrifice to help lift the burden of the medical bills.

After this great act of love she was left with a small sum that she intended to put into savings. However, during a morning devotional time she heard the Lord say simply “Give it to me”. She responded with surprise, since she had freely given so much & replied “But……Lord, that is mine” to which He simply responded, “I know, & I want it.”

He told me, “Christina it doesn’t make sense, but sometimes God asks us for that tiny little bit that we’re holding onto for ourselves, just to see if we’re willing to give it to Him”. Oh how I cried when I heard those words. He’s right, it doesn’t make sense……. but do we trust Him? Do we love Him enough to give Him that last little bit that we’re reserving? That thing we think we HAVE to hold onto in order to make it?

And I felt that pull all through December, the Lord asking for my control, my self-preservation & the question lingered “Do you trust Me?” Even in the whirlwind, He still wants everything.

In a swirl out of my control, completely apart from anything I could have possibly tried to manage to pull together, He provided for me. Housing & a job. I would be moving into the home of an elderly Southern Lady in order to drive her to doctor’s appointments & serve part-time as her companion. Housing, & a job that enabled me to stay in the House of Prayer. This literally landed the day before I flew out of Virginia to spend 3 weeks with my family.

It was a glorious, restorative, joyful, healing three weeks. And getting on the plane to head back to the East coast was hard. It always is. Standing in line & swallowing the lump in my throat, refusing to look behind me at my mother watching until she can no longer see me with tears streaming down her face, tightly clinging to my little dog as if that will keep me there. It literally never gets easier. But I knew, I KNEW that He was worth it, that He had a plan & that I was walking in it.

I flew back to Virginia on January 8th. Exactly one year to the very date that I flew to Virginia in my original move. Tell me that’s not God! Only He would do that, just to catch my attention because He likes to talk to me in dates. I flew back to Virginia on January 8th, & as my plane hit the ground, the Southern Lady was being loaded up into an ambulance. I moved into her home on the very day that everything changed in her life, the day she began a rapid decline in health.

Two weeks in it was apparent to the family & myself that she was not going to pull up, & today, less than a month after my move-in, she began receiving Hospice services in her home.

I knew that the Lord was sending me back to Virginia to learn about Intercession. I thought that it had to do with America & the Presidential race, and somewhere along the line it probably does. I’m learning it’s much deeper than that though. Moses, Daniel, Jeremiah, John the Baptists, even Jesus. They made intercession on others behalf. They were in understanding, a level of compassion that moved them to feel the way that other’s felt in order for them to stand alongside & speak on behalf of. And I’ve realized, I’ve a thing or two learn of compassion.

It’s been almost a year since my dear grandfather Carroll stepped into wholeness & glory & the nearness of our Lord Jesus Christ. I wasn’t a part of his last days since I’d just moved to VA but here I am one year later, daily, intimately walking out this woman’s last days. I’m not a nurse or doctor, & even if I were there would be nothing to fix the problems. But I do other things. Rub her shoulders, wash her feet, clip her toenails, rearrange cushions, read the Psalms, sing Hymns. And sometimes I’m tired, & sometimes I’m frustrated, & sometimes I just don’t want to rub lotion on her itchy skin. But I’m learning to bend the knee, learning to cry out for grace & find it pouring on the inside of me. Learning to hold her hand & sometimes, like today, just cry with her because I can’t help her breathe, & I can’t make the itching stop, & I can’t make her kidney’s work. In the back of my mind all throughout the long days I am thinking of how I will stand before my Saviour & He will ask “Did you learn to love?” and my heart cries “Teach me!”

I’m learning that it’s easy to have compassion for the orphan baby. But what does the Lord feel for the elderly woman who kept me up late with her needs & woke me up early with her needs. Does my Lord bend the knee, receive the grace to do so, & gladly serve her? Can I enter into that kind of intercession? There are nights I step into my room & hit the floor in prayer, crying out for the sake of peace in her heart, opening the Psalms & with tears speaking loudly words of truth & life & comfort into the atmosphere of the home.

It carries over to my service in the House of Prayer. My tired tender heart is moved to feel, moved to enter in, moved to pray, moved to worship because there’s no other relief for the turmoil on the inside. Not when I’ve been convinced every step of the way that it was His will for me to walk through it with Him.

Psalm 84:11: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.

We’ve been talking a lot of Grace & Glory, & I tell her that wherever we have to lean in & reach out hard to receive His grace He will make that very spot a place to reveal His glory. If we cry out for Grace, we’ll receive it & He will glorify it. We ask God to give her peace, & I’m learning to live out of un-moveable heart peace. We ask God to give her a vision of eternity so that she will have the grace to let go when the time comes, & I’m learning to reach for it in my own heart. We thank the Lord when the night is over, thanking Him for the mercies to live out the new day. And as I pray with her my heart receives, probably more than I will ever know on this side.

And in the whirlwind, He still wants everything. Each whirlwind, He’ll never stop asking if we trust Him but that’s not an angry question. It’s gentle, said with a smile. It’s promising. And it’s safe, because He gave & He gives, everything.

My story will never stop being just stupid crazy. And that’s part of how I know I can trust, because He’s never stopped being FAITHFUL in every step of every crazy whirlwind. And every-time I think He’s asked me to do something I’m fully not capable of doing, He places the ability inside of me through His spirit. The more I lean, cry out for help, the more I find the help inside. The more His word becomes meat & bread & water & wine.

I listen to “Measure of a Man” on repeat. And Johnny Cash’s album “My mother’s Hymnbook”. I listen to Leonard Ravenhill speak with zeal & tears of the worth of Christ. I rise early to jog & pray. And I’m eating a lot of chocolate these days 🙂 I’ve filled up her room with primroses & when all attempts to relieve & comfort & bring joy fail, I just sing until peace comes to her. It reminds me of mid-morning nap time at the Bohlender’s. Singing a nursery of little girls to sleep & the crazy thing is that Amazing Grace never fails to bring the presence of God, to those little girls, to this dying woman, to my own weary soul.

Bob Falkner text me the other morning saying “You were made for hard things. You can do this.” And I’ll say to you friends, God made you to do hard things, & He will enable you to do them. Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. One bright morning when this life is over, I’ll fly away. And tis so sweet to Trust in Jesus.

 

The gladness of his heart

That’s what Josh tweeted this morning.

This is the day of the gladness of the gladness of my heart

It was crazy, it was crazy.

And it was beautiful. Having a hand to play in the creation of the decorations I was dang proud.

She was beautiful. Having a hand to play in the choosing of the wedding dress I was glad and satisfied.

The bridesmaids were beautiful, the groomsmen looked great, and I was so thankful for the love shown by so many who slaved and helped to make this day so magical.

Today my sister was a beautiful princess. She held my hand, frantically txted me over hair & makeup & missing car keys, I did my best to alleviate her stress & solve the numerous emergencies which would have been an impossibility without the Bohlenders, Annie, Joanna Eitel, my dad & aunt.

Today I gave my princess away, to a man who was stunned by her beauty and upon kissing her for the first time at the end of the ceremony declared ‘I think I’m going to faint.’

The day of the gladness of his heart.

I go to bed, as always, too late. Grateful, satisfied, joyful for them. Tomorrow I take my princess to the airport & send her & her new husband off for two weeks in Spain. Considering the last few vaca’s Kat & I have had together she’ll probably spend the whole first week sleeping.

Somehow we’d developed quite the reputation. The Styles girls. And I go to bed, mourning. Grieving the separation that comes with cleaving. Grieving my life forever changed along with her name.

But this morning I woke early enough to grab coffee with Bob Falkner before the madness began. He stared deep into my eyes and told me like he has hundreds of times, to work hard, accomplish much, cry freely and do hard things.

Getting in the car on Saturday morning to head back to VA will be a hard thing. The last two crazy weeks have been wonderful none the less due the presence of my tribe. Annie, The B’s, Jacob & Kyle, Kat. My constants, my faithful ones. But by the grace of God I go back to the un-known, unsettled, unfamiliar and press on for the grace of knowing Christ and loving Him as He loves.  All unto a day, the gladness of His heart.

There’s gonna be a wedding. It’s the sole reason why we live, to love like Him, to love Him like He loves. Fill us up Jesus, with the gladness of your heart.