Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Recently I wrote on my facebook status, "I love my life." It's like this revelation hit my heart: I am abundantly blessed! Just two years ago, life was drastically different. On a typical day, I would drag my tired body out of bed at 7am, go to work for a few hours, then drive to my counseling internship in Everett and generally work another 4-7 hours (depending on whether or not I would be sitting in an evening class for 4 hours in Kirkland), and spend the last few hours of my night at a coffee shop studying, after which I would drop into bed some time after 1am, ultra-caffeinated and mentally keyed up, trying to relax enough to fall asleep and do it all over again the next day.

I was aware during this period of my life that I was incredibly blessed to be receiving a higher education, and I genuinely loved being a student, but I mistakenly believed I thrived off the pace of life I led as a grad student. Professors and supervisors would warn us grad students, "Just wait until you finish school and have a break for awhile, you'll be bored." When I finished grad school, however, life as I knew it came to a grinding halt. My dad's death forced me to slow down whether I wanted to or not. I suddenly had no clue where I was going with my life any more, what I was passionate about, or what ambitious things I would aspire to do with my education.

So, I spent a month with my family in Oregon after Dad died, and the following month with a close friend in Guatemala. When I returned home to Seattle, I spent nearly the next three months searching for a job. I felt lost, adrift, and frustrated. Job searching had never been fun for me, but now, it felt torturous. Each time I sat down at my laptop, I wanted to bang my head against it. Nothing that would have previously interested me held appeal any more. I finally ended up taking a position as a barista at Starbucks, figuring it would help me bide my time until I moved onto something more meaningful.

And life gradually settled into a new rhythm. I worked about 30 hours a week, making people smile as they came and went for their daily caffeine fix. I went for long walks with my camera around my neck, talking with God and soaking in the solitude. I continued to sit at coffee shops, reading and writing, enjoyed leisurely time with Mom, reveled in the luxury of making meals, spent more time with friends, reconnected with parts of me that had been lost in the busy pace of life, and picked my guitar up more frequently again. I was slowly learning not to strive.

I've got a confession: I just passed my one year mark at my job, and much to my surprise, I'm not bored yet. I've had a year to build relationships with the customers that frequent our little kiosk, and I'm actually quite fond of them. I've even become friends with a few of them. When I come home, I leave work at work. And in my hours of free time - when you work 5:30am to 2pm, there's a lot of time left in the day - I'm still not bored. I live in a beautiful part of Seattle, just blocks from a view of the Puget Sound and Olympic mountains. Lots of families, lots of people walking their dogs, lots of charming local businesses within walking distance. It makes me smile. I often spend part of an afternoon sitting at a neighborhood coffee shop, drinking the cup of coffee I ironically didn't consume at work, reading my bible and writing. I go for a run or walk to the gym for a yoga class. I meet up with a friend and enjoy a good conversation over a bowl of pho. I play guitar and sing at the top of my lungs. I have dinner with Mom and go for a long walk together afterward. I attend a small group through my church and worship with my church family on Saturday nights. I rest. I am content. I have nothing to prove.

Yet all this, alone, was not the inspiration for my facebook status. I think Mike Bickle (founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City) says it best:

"Enjoying God is important to consistent spiritual growth. I have tasted this pleasure in some measure but not in an uninterupted way. There are moments when pleasure in God can erupt in our spirit. Even though this does not happen all day or even every day, nor do we feel this for extended periods of time, yet, a little touch of this pleasure does a remarkable thing in changing how we think and feel about life."

The more I enjoy God, the more I feel God's enjoyment of me, the more I, in return, enjoy life. All of life is about finding pleasure in God and living from a place of knowing and experiencing His pleasure in us. This revelation absolutely alters how I think and feel about life, and it causes me to look at my life and say, with great joy, "I love my life." And someday, when this particular season of life transitions into the next, I pray I take with me this revelation, that my capacity for enjoying God only expands and deepens with each season.

"Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." ~ Song of Solomon 2:3

Oh, that we would daily sit in the shade of God's expansive love and taste the sweet fruit of His goodness and delight in us! For there is no pleasure like Him in all the world, no fruit that will satisfy us as Jesus does.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Of lilies, foxes and myrrh

* These thoughts came to me as I read Song of Solomon. If you haven't read this unusual book of the Bible, this probably won't make much sense to you. As usual, I'm very open here about the journey I'm on in life, and specifically, with some healing God is doing in my heart. I share so openly in the hope that my honesty might speak to where someone else is at, for with authenticity comes freedom. *

Song of Solomon 2:1 - "I am...the lily of the valleys."

The path to healing is certainly not a paved one, but for me, it is rooted in the knowledge of my true identity in Christ. In my mind's eye, I see a valley, not too far from the base of a mountain. Where the mountain has a rugged beauty, containing wildlife and plantlife and the elements of nature, the valley is rocky, shadowed and desolate in comparison. But somehow, peering closely into this valley, my eyes fix on a splash of color. A beautiful, tenacious lily springing up between the rocks. Not much sunlight reaches here, yet still the lily thrives. The lily defies the odds, not by striving, simply through being. In season, the lily grows and flourishes in beauty against her bleak backdrop. She remains, knowing she is the lily of the valley.

Song of Solomon 2:15 - "Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes."

I'll be a little vulnerable here, if you don't mind, but it's for a purpose. There is a recurring theme of rejection in my dreams the past few months; an insidious lie that I am the least likely to be loved with a faithful, lasting love. These lies are the little foxes that I must catch, for they endanger the life and healing of my heart. And the way I catch them is through forgiveness. I choose to forgive: for the judgment passed on me through rejection, for the inability of another to see my true beauty and value, for all the broken promises and failed love. I catch these little foxes and place them back at the cross of Jesus, and I release them from my debt. They owe me nothing - nothing. And I, in turn, am released from their judgment. I am free to love and to be loved.

Song of Solomon 1:13 - "A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, that lies all night between my breasts."

At the risk of sounding risque here, I merely love this imagery. The imagery of Jesus, my Beloved, being like a bundle of myrrh resting at night on my chest, near my heart. It speaks to me of His sweet fragrance, for myrrh is fragrant, used in incense and perfume. The fragrance of Jesus is salvation, grace, forgiveness, joy, healing, love, peace and life. I want that near my heart at all times. It speaks to me of Jesus as the Anointed One who covers me, for myrrh is an essential ingredient in sacred anointing oil. And it speaks to me of His ability to soothe the pain of a wounded heart with His love. Some bible scholars believe the sour wine offered to Jesus when He cried out on the cross was a mixture containing myrrh and would have helped moderate His excruciating pain. He refused it; but He offers Himself to us as our anointing oil.

That this verse speaks specifically of Christ's presence in the night resonates with me, particularly in light of the recurring dreams. I need not be tormented or disturbed in the night with the presence of Jesus resting upon my chest as I sleep. There is an intimacy conveyed in this that has nothing to do with "doing" and everything to do with position. I am positioned, in rest, with the anointing of Christ, in a posture of safety, trust and intimacy.

I know who I am. I am the lily of the valley, thriving in, at times, difficult terrain. Through forgiveness, I am catching the little foxes - the lies that often emerge from being hurt - that threaten the growth that is happening in my life. And my heart is covered by the fragrant, anointing presence of Christ, in a position of rest.

Yes, I am my Beloved's, and He is mine.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

To know her voice

Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice?
She takes her stand on the top of the high hill,
Beside the way, where the paths meet.
She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city,
At the entrance of the doors.
Proverbs 8:1 (NKJV)

Wisdom stands in a high place, shouting, "Listen!" If she is crying out so loudly, how is that we so often miss her? She is not hiding from us, that much is clear. No, but where she stands there are many others standing and shouting, in competition with Wisdom's voice. Evidently we need to intimately know her voice so we can pick it out in the noisy crowd.

Wisdom stands at the crossroads in our lives, "where the paths meet." She is not hanging out miles beforehand, or waiting far off in the distance. She is planted right where we need her, right when we need her. If we are already acquainted with the voice of Wisdom, we will be more likely to know her voice when we reach these crossroads, these places of crucial decision making.

Just a few months back, I was standing at my own crossroads, I just didn't realize it. Wisdom was shouting, but so was my heart. I couldn't really discern the two, for I had mixed them up. Thankfully, Wisdom guides our steps, even when we're not aware we need to be rerouted. Wisdom searches our hearts, and she knows far better than ourselves what is there. Though God, in wisdom, may allow our hearts to be broken to reroute us, in His faithfulness and compassion, He will also bind up the brokenhearted, as He has promised (Psalm 147:3). Surely it is better to suffer a temporary broken heart than to suffer the long term consequences of a poor decision. This is Wisdom, teaming up with Grace, at some of her finest.

If we need Wisdom, all we need to do is ask, and then believe. That's it. If in asking, there is still confusion, wait... wait, until Wisdom's voice emerges. We will never be disappointed.

*Inspiration for this entry came from a bible study

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Patchwork (part 1): Animal lover

Have you ever stopped to reflect on where some of your interests or characteristics have come from? I've been doing some of that lately. Over the past year or more, since life has taken a much different, slower twist than before, I've often found myself surprised by the depth of childlike joy elicited when I'm around animals. Like some "kid switch" gets flipped on in my brain and the experience is almost nostalgic. I've wondered, Where did this come from, and have I always been this way? I am giddy, no joke, around goats. Yeah, goats. I'm talking, bouncing up and down, dorkishly giddy. Sheep make me laugh like I'm staring at a joke that God just told. When I need a pick-me-up, I go to the Seattle Aquarium and smile contentedly as I watch the fur seals awkwardly scratch themselves with their huge flippers, the river otters gracefully playing beneath the water, the sea otters floating on their backs on top of the water. I study the intricacies of the fish in the aquarium tanks and marvel at their design. At the zoo, I giggle at the emus, chuckle at the apes, and coo over the sun bears. On the streets and in the parks, I grin at (almost) every dog I pass. I stop and pet the kitties that run up to rub around my ankles and purr as I walk through the neighborhood. I feel sadness when I see an injured bird, and I even feel an appreciation for the lives of bugs. It's strange, I tell you, but also strangely wonderful. My heart feels lighter around animals.

I can't say exactly where my tender heart for animals came from, but you might call it a bit ironic, considering my rambunctious beginnings. Among my earliest memories - I must have been a toddler - involves an empty refrigerator box, my older sister, Jenni, and our cat, Patches. We were living in Phoenix, a place where kids didn't play outside much, except in a pool or sprinkler. So indoors, Jenni and I had created a magnificent playhouse out of a refrigerator box. Well, most likely Mom had created it, cutting us a door and window. We must have been playing house or something, with our "baby," Patches the Poor Unsuspecting Kitty, but all I really remember is reaching through the cardboard window and yanking Patches through by the tail. And then I proceeded to swing him around by the tail. I think Jenni was mortified (the responsible older sibling), as was the cat, but I was clueless. I hadn't yet developed the deductive reasoning to explain to me how consequences fit with actions. It hurt my feelings that, upon entering the bedroom we shared, I would always find Patches sleeping on Jenni's bunkbed, never mine. I think, deep down in my three or four-year old brain I felt guilty for how I sometimes treated our kitty. But my tender moral conscience has always been accompanied by a flair for the mischeivious.

Take our cat, Snickers, for example. I was an older and wiser eight years old, living in Richland. Snickers was a feisty little furball, with the markings of a racoon. She wasn't what you would call, affectionate. In fact, she had this incredible growl that I found hilarious, much to her misfortune. When bored, I looked for ways to, ah, encourage her growl. Like the time I tied a balloon on the end of her tail and watched her growl and streak her way through the house, up and down the stairs, with the balloon bobbing frantically behind her until it popped and sent her leaping with saucer eyes in the air. Or the time(s) I dressed her in my doll clothes (bonnet included), then recorded her growl on my tape recorder, periodically busting with laughter in the background. I wasn't mean-spirited about it; I genuinely found her delightfully amusing, but she did not seem to return the sentiment.

I wanted so badly for her to like me better than my sister. Now that we had separate bedrooms, the competition was on to see whose room the cat would occupy the most. We both had queen-sized waterbeds, bought at some liquidation sale at a furniture store. Snickers seemed to be in need of "guidance" in finding her way to my room, so I devised a plan to help her. About an hour before bed, I'd shut her in my room to allow her ample time to settle in. When bedtime rolled around, I'd sneak in, close the door quickly behind me, and usually find her stretched out in the middle of my bed. Mission accomplished! Well, sort of. Snickers was a finnicky sleeper. She did not like to be disturbed by the bed moving - a nearly impossible feat on a waterbed. I would slowly, carefully lower myself onto the bed, then flatten my body up against the sideboard to allow her plenty of space and minimal water disturbance. If the bed moved, she would growl, I would laugh, and the whole ritual might be defeated for the night. Unless I could cajole her back to sleep with some nice, thorough petting, which unfortunately for me, did not necessarily aid in my ability to sleep. For it almost always culminated in Her Highness kicking her purr box into high gear, loosening her claws, and switching into Kneading Position, generally on my chest. I could withstand maybe thirty minutes of this mode before I threw her out of my bedroom (gently, of course). Looking back, perhaps she was more clever than I gave her credit for...

Oddly enough, though, I had a very sensitive heart toward all animals, including worms. In the second grade, I remember my teacher passing out an earthworm to each student during our lesson on earthworms, which we were to take home with us to care for. They were handed to us in a sandwich baggie with some dirt inside. My earthworm appeared to be pregnant, and I named it Ed. Ed, the pregnant earthworm. Not my most creative moment, but an endearing one. Ed, sadly, did not last through the week. He/She died in the sandwich baggie halfway through. I have this vivid memory of clutching the baggie with Ed inside and sniffling into my mom's shoulder, and she was shaking. At the time, I thought she was sharing in my sorrow, but as I look back, I see she was trying very hard to contain her laughter. I guess I could be a melodramatic child at times. We held a funeral for Ed out in the garden and laid the worm to rest in the soil. I cried crocodile tears over a worm, yet got a big kick out of being the designated Flusher of Deceased Goldfish for our subsequent pet fish. I was a mass of contradictions.