Loving long

Today is February 8th, 2012. Today I leaned hard into grace & you know know what? There was enough for me today. God’s good like that, always giving more than I need though maybe not in the ways I expect for that “more than enough” to look like.

Tomorrow is February 9th & my Papa’s 57th birthday. I love him with all my heart & this year more than others I am pained to not spend the day celebrating with him. On his birthday last year his dad, my Grandpa Carroll went into a hospice home to live out his last week of life. A life stuffed full of stories,  full of adventure and cut too short.

My dad’s been dreading tomorrow, dreading his first birthday without his father, dreading the memories. I’ve been calling him everyday for about two weeks, sent him a card & a present, even mailed him a box of homemade cookies but none of those things can ease the pain of  living without one whom you so love.

He told me over a tearful skype date tonight that so much of the pain he is feeling today  is due to regret & guilt of things undone, unsaid, & too little time spent.

Oh the deep wound of regret.

We ended our call with no ending. No solution to the pain, no medication. And as I went through the motions of helping my Southern Lady prepare for the night, all I could see was my Grandfather in her face, behind the oxygen tubes & in the tired & sometimes fearful eyes. And my heart yearned to give more to ease her pain, longing for more time to ease his. To sit by his chair, stroke the thin skin on his hand & just be with him again.

There’s not enough time on this side of eternity, not enough time to LOVE. To love as long, as hard & as deeply as people deserve. And as I pondered that painfully tonight I heard a whisper in my soul,  “there’s only ‘not enough time’ for now. ”

So I called my dad back to remind him to lift up his eyes to the Lamb that was slain. My Grandfather loved the Lord & though now we do not see him & now we wait long to be reunited, my daddy doesn’t have to live in pain that his time to love his father is over forever.  Though now we wait. Now we ache. But only for now, only for a moment. We as the living, those who were dead & have been brought to life, we never ever have to stop loving & being loved. We get to love for forever & be loved for forever.

We get to love long & never stop. Life abundantly, overflowing for forever. Thank you Jesus for all of your love, for all that you bought us. We love you Forever.

 

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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.

 

“people don’t know what’s wrong with their souls..”

“….& what’s wrong with their souls is that their souls have shrunk to the level of their concerns. Their not concerned about the Nations. We were made to get our arms around the Nations with God. When you pray ‘Hallowed by Thy Name, Thy kingdom come’ that’s meant to take your heart & make it as big as history & as large as the globe.”

That’s a healthy heart, it’s a strong, large, healthy heart…..we’re made for this.”

Maybe a 22 pound heart Mr.Piper?

the magic of words

Something happens to me after midnight. The hands on the clock line up & in that single magical moment, emotions & minutes just as suddenly become clear & words flood through my mind. My fingers itch for a  pen or more often these days, a key board.

Today was the March for Life, probably the 20th march I’ve been a participant in, but my first in the Capital. But I’ll not write about that now.

Right now I want to write about my planner. Yes yes, we live in the information/electronic age but I’ve not yet caught up to it, frankly I hope not to. Each year I purchase a paper planner within the first seven days of the new year. A few years back I settled into a rhythm of loving the Moleskin planner, (thank you Matt Lockett for the White People Love link, it’s true) but this year I couldn’t find one. Surprisingly in my search for a second best I struck gold.

Ok maybe you won’t care but I found the 2011 Songbird’s planner. Each week contains a picture of a different songbird. It’s beautiful, its prophetic, it’s animals….. I’m happy 🙂 Tucked away inside the front cover is about 15 pages of mostly useless, random information though, most of which has found itself torn out & happily residing in my recycling bin BUT…. some of it is strangely helpful such as the “Useful Foreign Phrases” page.

So to all of my Japanese readers “Watashi wa rikai shi te i nai” and to my french subscribers “Bonjour!”

Ok that was really just for Annie.

What’s really on my mind tonight is the idea that little changes are the hardest to reconcile & to move past. For example; tonight my sister was reading The Singer. I know because she kept tweeting quotes & I have most of the book written on my heart. This only bothered me because…. we read this book together. Correction, I read this book out loud to her, usually when she has a migraine or during our many Emergency Room Adventures.

The fact that she was reading the book is good, because it is a sure-fire way to stir up the heart of a Styles. But her reading it without me there? Well that hurts. And it stirs up a plethora of memories, because we don’t just read The Singer out loud, I read everything fantastic out loud to her. This list ranges from Miller’s books, the Chronicles of Narnia to excerpts from The Man who was Thursday. I read & get my dramatic out & she listens & gets the books in. So in a minute I was stepping though memories of hundreds of nights, different situations of us reading together.

It’s just what we do. It’s what we’ve always done. But this little life change, the moving half way across the country? Well it changes everything, instantly. I’m not there to read good books out loud to Kat at night & I’m not going to be. And even though everything changed the moment I stepped on the plane, it’s going to take a long time to fully adjust to those changes. I can even feel confident in saying that I won’t hardly have begun to adjust by the time she get’s married & we’ll start the process all over again.

While reading a tear-stained txt from her about missing me while reading that book today, my eyes flooded with tears & my soul whispered “remember”. And I gave that moment back to the Lord.

Everytime it costs to follow You, count it as my worship.

I will continue to set my heart to give every single costly minute, every single costly emotion back to the Lord & ask for Him to write it in His book as done out of a heart of love.

Someday that process might be easier, but maybe not. Since someday hasn’t come yet I really don’t know. But I’m determined to offer my body as a living sacrifice. It is my spiritual act of worship. It is my practical act of worship. The practical side now is calling my mind & heart to remember, & to do it for the glory of God. The spiritual side now is that He actually counts it when I don’t yet believe.

Nearer… nearer…

January 8th. 7 1/2 hours until my plane leaves Kansas City. It’s a day that I knew would come but never could see. And still I can’t see it. My heart feels breathless, trembling with thousands of emotions as one standing on the edge of a cliff, the view blocked by clouds, wishing for a hand to hold and unsure of what lies beneath yet unable to keep my feet from creeping nearer…nearer.

In my ears is an album inspired by Aslan’s singing the world into being, & heavenly voices sing “Be still my soul the Lord is on your side…”  my mind whispers an agreement to my ever pounding heart “be still, be still, be still”.

Tonight I watched my sister glowing with love & joy at her engagement party, surrounded by so many rejoicing at the season before her & wondered how in the world it has happened that I could walk away & not be apart of it. But I know the Lord has thoughts I can’t imagine, plans I couldn’t dream of. Five, maybe six times today I burst into tears in different parts of the Compound while getting ready for the party, wondering how daily life can happen without the Bohlenders. They have been to me a family, a home, Shepherds, counselors, friends, & I have found more healing in two years of late nights around their kitchen table than I ever thought possible for my broken weary heart.

Tonight I visited the Nightwatch & couldn’t help but crack up laughing as I walked through the door, remembering. Remembering weeping through my internship in that nearly empty room, remembering the year & a half following of pouring out my heart in those chairs, singing out my soul on that stage, in those side rooms, in the night. Ten minutes later I’d hugged my faithful friends who remain steady; cried on Kyle’s shoulder, ever thankful for his wisdom & the kindred heart that beats inside his chest, cried on Jacob’s jacket as a lifetime of late night talks raced through my brain & cried again when Audra came off the stage to kiss my cheek. Oh how I love the family I’ve been blessed with in this city.

Tonight I placed my books in a box. Took the last pictures from the walls, but left the stars across the ceiling. Every room I’ve ever lived in has been left glowing with stars. Looking around it is no longer my own.

In every change, God faithful will remain

Over the last few weeks many have looked excitedly into my eyes & declared “you’re really going & the Lord is giving you the desires of your heart!”. And yes I’m excited, yes I am going, but can’t help but chuckle inside at the smallness in that idea. Fredericksburg & DC are not the desires of my heart.  From behind my eyes  it is as though the Lord has opened a door before me, a gentle invitation to take Him by the hand & though my heart may tremble, to step through & see what He might do. There comes a point when love-strings bid us follow & though fearful we find ourselves unable to deny their gentle call.

He never forces us to come. And at the same time love is a violent force, ever driving.  When the revelation came that my puppy would not be coming on this move I picked up my guitar & wept, knowing that my Friend knew the pain of my heart in leaving her behind, that He wouldn’t chastise me for the tears, & that He was worthy of them.

He’s worth of every price we’re asked to pay; the tiny and the most painful . The leaving of home, the comfort of familiarity, the years spent mining the hearts of my friends unto striking communion… only to leave. The leaving of family, my dear, beloved sister & best friend. The teens I’ve given my heart to, the ones who’ve becoming sisters & brothers.  No one is surprised by my abundance of tears, I’ll make no apologies for them, but I am surprised at the joy budding in my heart as I shed them.  He’s worthy of the costly offerings, & what costs me might not cost you, but if it’s of value in my heart then He treasures it. And so it becomes worship as I gladly offer them to Him. So I gladly offer them Jesus.

The desire of my heart; that Jesus would find faith… find friends on the earth. That broken hearts would be found bound, imprisoned hearts be found free, lame hearts be found leaping, dead hearts be found beating, all for the love of Christ. The desire of my heart is that the youth of the Nations would see Him, & that they would love Him.

There are no words to describe the thankfulness in my heart for the last five years at IHOP, the treasures He has given in the dear friends who have come and gone, the last 4 years of living daily life with my sister.

In a few short hours my favorite, my brother Nathan will hug me until I can’t breathe, make fun of my cane & cry when I walk away. I will kiss my Daddy’s cheek, squeeze his neck longer than he’d like,  cry on my mothers shoulder and hold my sister’s hand until we walk up to the gate where most likely I’ll weep in her arms. She’ll miss me more than all my friends combined. And when I step off Jeremy will be there to give my heart the strength to walk into whatever is waiting on the East Coast.

DC? A door that I must step through, simply leading to another door. When that door will open and where it will lead I haven’t the slightest clue, but my heart is set to follow the Lamb wherever, whenever He goes. 4.50 am. Breathless my feet draw nearer… nearer… “but the view from the top of the cliff is not as exhilarating as the free fall.”

Be still my soul, the hour is hastening on when we shall be forever with the Lord. When disappointment, grief & fear are gone, sorrows forgot, loves purest joys restored. Be still my soul, when change & tears are past, all safe & blessed we shall meet at last.

Love me

Some years ago a young man whom I hardly knew looked at me with sincerity in his eyes and declared that no one would ever love me the way that he loved me. And even in that moment I knew that sincere as he may be, he was wrong.

Tonight I remember that night, and couldn’t help but think on the truth that there’s no one who can love me like Jesus.

Today was one of those tender days; when I found myself speaking too much of the things that I carry inside that are waiting for a time yet to come while longing to be right now. When the burden from yesterday is going to be fulfilled tomorrow the load is heavy today. Sometimes to speak of that burden reminds our hearts of the weight in the waiting and relief can only be found in washing in floods of tears.

Bawling at my kitchen table, pouring out the situations that rubbed like salt into an old would today via text message to my absent roommate I was swallowed up in the overwhelming fact that Jesus makes all things beautiful if I choose to love Him through them. Knowing that there is a Man who knows all of my needs and is fully able to satisfy them is pretty dang comforting.

He is a friend who understands, fully, every time, who always has my back, who is incapable of failing me. He is a provider who meets my every need, right when I need Him to. He always gives me exactly what I need for each situation, each conversation and each pain, even when it’s not what I THINK that I need. He is a Father who champions me even in my weakness.

He is a lover who never changes His mind, and let me tell you that THAT is a deep revelation every human is in need of; there is a love that will never run dry, never fail, and never change His mind. There is a love that will pursue unto death no matter your response to Him.

He is a Brother who let’s me explode or break down and gives to me nothing but strength in those moment, calling me back to the greatness of what He can see in me. He is a creator, the one who dreamed of each detail of my personality, emotional makeup, and my frame. And He is ecstatic about those details. He is so intentional in His love for me.

And if I can believe these things, if I can trust Him enough to set aside my shield and sword and allow my emotions to be laid bare before Him no matter where they might be, then I can trust Him enough to let Him love me like none other is even capable of loving. And if I can chose to receive His love and give love to Him back through my misunderstandings, questions, wounding and desires, then He will take each of those things and make them beautiful. In time I will look back and marvel at the perfect timing in his intricate love for me if I can choose to love through pain.

Tonight I sat on a friends living room floor, the girl in the rocker next to me was roaring with laughter, overwhelmed by the Joy of the Lord and declaring the truths of who He is and His love for her, commanding the friend across the room holding a guitar to sing about it and he sang from the heart of God,

I think about you all the time,

You’re always on My mind.

over and over and over again.

When in love it is nearly incapable to do the simplest of task without wishing your beloved where somehow involved. That’s how Yahweh feels about me.

And if that’s the case than in every situation both today and tomorrow, all that I want my heart to say is ‘Come, and love me Jesus, like no other man can love me.’

He’s going to work the rest out. And it’s going to be beautiful.

Have to watch

The idea is that one day we’re going to love Him the same way that we breathe. So watch this video by one of my favorite musicians, Jonathan David Helser.

You’re more real than the ground I’m standing on, You’re more real than the wind in my lungs

Your thoughts define me, You’re inside me, You’re my reality

Abba, I belong to You

You’re closer than the skin on my bones, You’re closer than the song on my tongue