Thursday, September 13, 2018

beautiful, finally


I cried myself to sleep two nights ago.

The darkness around me didn't seem black but grey, grey even as my now coverless duvet was white on my new mattress that replaced the air mattress I'd used for ninety days. The air mattress was almost symbolic. A symbol of how I'd viewed this time as transitory: a place to stay, to sleep that will work for quite a while, but not something that smelt of commitment, of semi-serious settling.

My translucent tears, to me, seemed as wet, heavy droplets landing on my cheeks, illuminating the grey around me.

I'm not really a crier. I know this doesn't make it seem so, but it seemed that the past six months had seen more of my tears than potentially all the years before. When God is working deep growth in your life, it can bring so much new life and fruit. But, sometimes in the meantime, we are left in the pain.

I'd cried pain-tears. So, so many of them.

Pain that my life wasn't like what I thought it would be. I'm in a state foreign to my Midwest heart. I'm hundreds of miles from the places and people I love.
Pain that I didn't have some things in my life I thought I would. I'd been walking with someone, and he decided we were walking separate ways, and I didn't realize how deep I'd gone. Plus I hadn't written the book or chased the big dreams or started a company like I thought I should have. 
Pain that I didn't let people in like I needed to. I'd let phone calls go uncalled. I'd let phone messages climb over sixty daily.
Pain that I wasn't the fully-sanctified person I am ultimately unable to be here on earth. I was more aware of battles that I'd be called to fight against my flesh till my flesh did I part.

But I wasn't feeling the black hopelessness. Just a grey, almost neutral numbing like a medical procedure you know is necessary but which does not seem to have an end.

When I was eight, I had two racks of sharp points pushed into my back. My bare skin flinched against the cool, sleek nails the doctor called needles. I'd bit my lip and squeezed my mom's hand. I knew the procedure was going to make me feel better in the end. The rack would go to my back. It would show reactions on my skin. Then they could treat the allergies, and I could go free and be happily frolicking all my live-long days. In the meantime, I was helpless. Out of control, surrendered to the doctor's work. Enduring the pain. Enduring the reactions. Enduing the pressure points that lingered. Working towards healing, a healing I couldn't picture.

And here we are again.

The master surgeon is working. He's exposing things inside me through exposing me to new things around me. But the waiting is hard. My impatience is real. I want to know where we are going and when we will get there. And I want to have done all in my power to be there yesterday, because that would have been better (no best), right?

I called my parents the next day. I was floundering. Frustrated that I was getting caught in the details of a job and feeling like I'd pinned myself down prematurely. They talked me down. I'd danced it out. I'd kick-boxed my way through it (not even kidding. Y passes unlock a whole new world).

But it'd taken days, and it's taking days. Days to learn what dependence really means. Days to wait through the growing pains of what God's doing. Days to lean into what it truly means to follow Jesus when it doesn't seem like the following is bringing you what you thought, and instead, it seems like you're wallowing an awful lot.

But today I woke up. I woke up, and a song.

"Where will you run, my soul? Where will you go when wells run dry? When the wind starts to blow? How you gonna keep this flame alive? In the fading night when light is breaking, I know you will always be waiting. You'll always be there. I'm running to the secret place, where you are, where you are. I'll sing to you of all the ways you stole my heart, stole my heart. Better is a moment that I spend with you than a million other days away. I'm running. I'm running. I'm running to the secret place."

And I'd smiled. Not just on my skin but in my soul.
It was a smile of surrender.

Yes, I'd surrendered my life years ago, but apparently I still am very much a sin-sick soul in need of a Savior who is learning to surrender her days.

Thankful.

I'd been trying to start the first hour of the day with prayer and Bible for the past few months. Today, in the prayer all I did was thank. Thanking Him for the truth, goodness, and beauty that was all around. Thanking Him for the constancy of Him and the simplicity of that, praying to be caught up in eyes of wonder.

Sitting in the cubicle, later, surrounded by sharipes and notebook paper, I found myself viewing photos in backwards order of the past few months, my time here in this new city and state. Thankful. It hadn't left, and I was struck.

Who am I not to see how beautiful my life is?

And I ran to repentance, inside.

Yes, it might be grey around me, a lot these days. It might be grey and feeling like I have to fight it everyday. But He is faithful. He is good. He is holy, and who am I to fret and fight when the grey isn't gone immediately? Who am I to have a heart cry of anything more than thy will be done, even as I pray pray pray that life would settle, I'd have things I'm asking for, I'd feel established once again?

Who am I not to see how beautiful my life is?

My life is beautiful, with all of its impatient complexities because this is the life that He's seen fit for me to lead. No, more than that, this is the life that He's seen fit to give me to live with Him.

Thankful.

For I will not be lost in the grey, but I will surrender to a life of wonder at His greatness.

Thy will be done.

© 2018 Deborah  Spooner
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Friday, August 31, 2018

when they say you'll do great things


Bath soap and a thank you? Are you kidding me?

My teenage indignation was so thick it could be reached for and thrown (into my dad's face as my verbal assault was affectively doing).

It'd started six years prior.

Sitting on dusty, wooded windowsills in northern parkas in the church basement in the soon-to-become youth room, we were choosing a name. From seeing, in the bare room, a yellow ball randomly labeled BLUE, I'd effectively named the youth group at age thirteen and did not know what else I was going to be called on to do.

I was happy to do a lot of it a lot of the time. Arriving over an hour early, plugging in my jet black guitar, finding myself as the first example in the human sundae ice-breaker and the last to finish cleaning up.

I'd spent life in youth group where I was a few months younger than my friends, my friends who got to be in the big kids group while I was the old one of the young group, called out to answer the questions, share personal stories, and give examples of my sin while everyone was quiet. Needing help myself but not being able to help myself by opening up because what I said reflected back on my dad, reflected on me the example, reflected on my mom trying to counsel this woman who was supposed to be leading us.

Welcome to the life of a pastor's kid.

Bath soap and a thank you.

I'd come home from youth group graduation. My puma shorts now rested on the laminate countertops as my words rang out.

They'd handed my sister and I each matching soap and small trinket baskets and said thank you for what we've done. Although they'd given sagas about two other girls who were leaving a few weeks prior, they said a simple thank you and how they believed in us.

I was beside myself.

"Dad, when have they come up to me and ask me how I'm actually doing? They assume I'm fine, so they don't invest in me like everyone else. They just have me lead."

I'd have various rants like these with one of the parents almost every week. Painful. For me, yes. For them, probably more so as I realize since the years have past. Don't get me wrong, I deeply love the people in my church. They've done so much for me and my family, and I was a very strong-willed teenager who didn't see things clearly. This is very much a reflection on how, in my worst moments, I perceived their actions. But this is still what I would feel, even if I would blow it out of proportion.

What my anger fed from those counter-sitting days would later feed off what was apparently deeper inside me.

The $14 H&M creme dress constrained my legs even as the black thin belt snugged against my waist. I was sitting with hand-pottered, deep purple mugs with my college's insignia plastered across. Sitting as a student among two other people with power.

One said it first: Deborah is a force. The second agreed.

I appreciated it. Really, it means a lot. But in that moment, the weight of being a force, being able to lead, being believed in felt more like a burden than a gift.

You look at me and smile. 
You had me soap and tell me I'll do great things.
You nod and say I'm going somewhere.

But who will go with me?

Forward more months, and the tan-white tiles hit my feet even as the Audible words hit my ears. One summer ago, words from the dad had slid into my heart as John Piper's Desiring God had come to change my perception. Now, Barnabas Piper's words came through:

"One of the greatest defense mechanisms a PK can develop is the ability to sound good without risking or revealing anything of substance... We learn to answer questions and deflect probing without exposing ourselves... Making people laugh or a play on words is a perfect deflection of the topic at hand" 

The tile beneath my feet soon slid into rug carpet as I felt the tears well and my knees grow weak. The ability to sound good without revealing. The ability to read people and respond without letting them in.

I thought I was vulnerable. Who shares their sin with a group of strangers? I thought I welcoming people in. How often did people come stay in my home as they are passing through, sheltered by the pastor's family?

But B. Pipe's words ring more:

"Relationships are built on authenticity and trust, two component missing from the political PK"

Authenticity and trust.

I'd been sitting on the floor of a small room at what would become my first real job. I was facing the prospect of having to walk into the same building day after day after day to see the same people and build relationship with them. To really have them... know me. To really have to... trust me, and let myself trust them.

I'd been sitting across from four new friends, burgers on plates, avoiding the three questions that triggered immediate judgments: my age, my dad's job, my high school. I was looking at them, they who voted me with the superlatives most likely to be president and to rule the world but about whom I wondered. What would it really be like to have them... know me. To really have them... trust me, and let myself trust them.

I've been known of, a lot. The pastor's kid. The person in this leadership. The (fill in the blank). But to be truly known?

"Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we truly are" (cinderella)

I'd hide when I'd start to be known. I'd try to shape what people thought they knew of me. But maybe my first mistake was seeking to be known for who I am before learning to rest in (and not just know) whose I am.

"For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts toward the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; no, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone" (john calvin, the institutes, 1.1)

Subsistence in God alone. In Christ, alone.

I just finished FaceTiming with a college roommate, hearing how much the campus is not the same, reminiscing of our cow-sock late night sprinkler runs across the MN green. Thinking of all the things I did do and things I wish I would have, of the fine balance of confidence and caution I had tread.

I pulled up an ancient video once I ended the call. She was in her giraffe footie pajamas she never actually wore, and we were fully embracing our girlhood as we changed the lyrics to a T Swizzle song.

What I saw was a girl struggling to become a woman. A girl projecting more confidence than she felt, a girl who only few could see through to her insecure core and desire for affirmation and love she didn't even know she was searching to have. A girl who wanted to trust but who didn't know how. A girl who wanted to embrace who she was made to be but who did not understand that-to embrace who she was made to be-meant losing herself in the embrace of a Savior, in the knowledge of God where she finds who she is.

Subsistence in God alone. In Christ, alone.

"One thing I ask from the Lord. This only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple" (psalm 27.4)

Only when we look to the face of Jesus in the truth of His word do we see the depths of how much we need Him, that He is holy and we are not.

"We have, in our day, started by getting the whole picture upside down, starting with the doctrine that every individuality is of infinite value. We then picture God as a kind of employment committee whose business it is to find suitable careers for souls, square holes for square pegs. In fact, however, the value of the individual does not lie in him. He is capable of receiving value. He receives it by union with Christ... We are through and through creatures not creators, derived beings living not from ourselves but from Christ." (cs lewis)

If I am called to lead when somedays I would prefer to do anything but, so be it.
If I am called to follow faithfully alone, so be it.
If I must struggle through what it means to trust, to be truly vulnerable, to have to learn to let people in, then so be it.

For I'm seeing more and more that we all have burdens to bear, but we are always living bare in our need before the One who is All-Sufficient.

I need only to need Him more.

To learn that to trust others, I must first learn to be hidden in trust in Him.
To receive love from others, I must find what it means to be filled with love from Him.
To let people in, I must let in the truth that it is about dying daily to my sin and living to Christ and that joy unfolded is within surrender to the plan of all plans.

So be it, for He is, was, and is to come.
© 2018 Deborah  Spooner
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

breakthrough



I don't know where the peanut butter is.

Dark-denimed and hoop ear-ringed, I had just walked through the automatic sliding doors under the lit Publix sign. I'd been working remotely at my new job in an unfamiliar Starbucks after sitting for two-hours at a DMV changing my residency.

I'd selected this spot about half an hour from my new home because the area was known for being good, and I was going to be a good human saving gas and centralizing a lot of my errands.

YMCA membership. Drivers license switch. Grocery store. DSW. Sam's club membership. Walking into the Bank of America only to see too many men in suits, get overwhelmed, and turn right back around and walk out the doors.

I don't know where the peanut butter is.

Everything was so new. I was hating it and hating that I was hating it. I need to get a credit card. Great, I don't even know how to change my direct deposit yet alone get unlimited access. I need to get insurance. Wonderful, the only thing I'm sure of right now is that I'm not sure of much.

Everything was unfamiliar, and I felt so incompetent. How do I ____ ? Fill in the blank with seemingly over thirty tasks every day, many common life skills. I felt that I knew none of them.

But I wasn't just incompetent. I was alone.

Alone and very aware that I cannot just call my mom to quick come over, and we can run errands together like the good old days. Ever aware that babies seemed to be everywhere, and I finally have reached the point where I actually want babies, but no one wants to call me baby. Ever aware that I've chosen to tie myself to a new city for an unknown amount of time, tied up in my head that my feet are not where my heart is (but that each remembering of the MN green reminds me that I wasn't what people needed me to be there, I didn't do what I could have for them according to my own self-standards).

I don't know where the peanut butter is.

And it seems parallel that I don't know where my life is exactly heading. I don't know when these pieces of my life that I'm waiting to fall into place will finally land. I don't know when the new normal will start but also know that when normalcy comes again, I'll be prone to start wanting to move on, ever chasing something better I imagine is just around the corner.

I don't want to be so ajar in side, being so jarred by all the thoughts and emotions. I just want to walk into a store with someone I love and find an item I love without having an existential crisis, a deep tiredness and frustration corrupting my blood and coursing through my heart to my mind.

I don't know where the peanut butter is.

You see, as things had somewhat slowed down from the crazy blur of the last three years where people's "how are you still alive? how are you doing so much?" had begun to burn more than the burnout they said I was coming towards.

You see, I've been starting to see myself. And I'm a little startled by what I see.

Good gracious, I'm so, so prone to wander.

My love for the Lord and surrender to Him is something that has guided my life internally for a long, long time. I'm thankful for that. But I'm not thankful that I've learned how to become so incredible creative.

I justify my sin.
And I'm going to be really honest now.

I struggle with sexual temptation. A lot. And what's scary? I've never even kissed anyone. But I have a world inside my mind that I didn't realize how fortified the walls are.

I struggle with swearing.* No one has ever heard me swear. But I've started to let myself, just to myself. But it started inside my head and now comes out.

I am incredibly jealous. I have this insatiable desire to be the best. Look the best, act the best, be the most well like. I'm not always happy when others succeed beyond me.

I'm terrible with communication. I just tend to cut people out till I think I have it figured out.

I am not disciplined. I'm full of pride and a strong, strong desire to protect me, my number one. I'm much to quick to speak. I've learned to scorn gentleness.

And I'm only just beginning.

Many people would push back my confession, looking at my life and showing me the fruit they see. That's needed. Encouragement is so vital, and I truly am seeking to live a life surrendered to Jesus. But I'm seeing, you see.

I've learned that the closer we come to the light, perhaps truly the more we see how many spots we really have. I feel that I've been having miracle-grow these past two months. I feel like I've been praying for the miracle-grow of breakthrough more than ever before. But I'm really just feeling the miraculously difficult growing pains, instead.

God, I'm ready for the epiphany. I'm ready for the big moment of transformation. I'm ready, I'm waiting. I'm asking.

It hit me as I was in the kitchen, eating peanut butter, naturally.

Deborah, what if it's not one big moment of breakthrough? What if it's a lifetime of moments spent breaking to your will and falling into mine?

And I stopped, just as I later did in the grocery isle. It reminded me of when I had been a freshman in college, making an appointment with the college's chaplain. I was feeling so off and just wanted her to pray that a demon would come out of me. I figured there must be something deeply up that could be removed so I could go back to normal. But no demon came out, and I sat by the cool lake with the slightly dying grass and realized I had to daily die to my flesh and choose Christ.

Here I was again. Years later but seeing that this might be a lesson learned over the years.

It takes years.

And years take months and months take weeks and weeks take days and days take hours and hours take seconds. And it all adds up to a lifetime. A lifetime that's either lived for us or for Christ. A lifetime that's either made up of choices of surrender or succumbing: freedom or a little bit of hell on earth. Delighting in ourselves or losing ourselves enraptured by a savior who saves.

You see that's just it.

I sometimes have zero desire to change. My sin feels so good sometimes. And when I try to reform, I just relapse.

Because, guess what, little child (I have to tell myself). I can't. You can't. We're sinners, but we are sinners saved. Saved by one who made the world and who loves us enough to send His Spirit to empower our every day.

That's what I want, and that's what I have to remind myself daily that I want.

I want the sweet moments of waking up at 5:45 AM because I really just need my hour of prayer and the Word with Him. I want the car blasting music viewing the Tennessee hills and praising Jesus. I want the freedom of sitting myself down and actually writing, knowing that my heart will be restless until it rests in working hard and doing good.

I want to want daily surrender.
I want to want Jesus' way more than my own.
I want to want to die to myself more.
And I know that all I want is for Him to do it through me because it never was and never will be about me.

Yes, I still don't know where the peanut butter is. I still don't know how many of these pieces will fall and how I seem to not have pieces I wish I did. But I truly don't know the depths where I would be without Him, either. And I want that to scare sense into me more.

I know I want Him.
But maybe what's more important, He wants me. He wants you. He wants us. And He's given Himself to us.

How foolish we are, how foolish I am, to forget.

___________________

*I am not trying to start a moral debate on whether swearing is sin. I'm not going to get into that here and now. For me, though, my swearing is coming from a place of deep hurt and anger and my conscience convicts me.

© 2018 Deborah  Spooner
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right
of "You Might Also Like" images)



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

breaking basic


"People may teach what they know, but they reproduce what they are" ( j o h n   c   m a x w e l l )

We all have a role in each other's lives as women. To the girls coming after me, I want to say I'm sorry.

I was scrolling through Instagram tonight. I'd been sitting at the lingeringly sticky, mahogany tinted table at Starbucks (yes, I'm at a chain in a city renowned not only for its festivals but food. Don't judge. They're open late).

I saw the caption. "Sweet 16, baby." She was by her new sedan. High waisted jean-mini skirt, legs tan and posed, hair billowing, blush pink crop top emphasizing her womanly features, she reclined on the hood. Swipe right and you got another downtown lean, long legs sliding towards you from the screen, eyes to the side, slight smile sitting on the pronounced lips.

Did we do that to you?

The thought came without me trying to put it there. Did we do that to you? Did we teach you that the way to be, the way to be happy and to fit in and make it was to make yourself basically like every other basic girl out there?

The body. Did we teach you that sliding out a leg was the way to be selected by the girls, the guys? To enter the inner ring? That the best way to find happiness was through making other people happy to see (and happy to want to have) your body? That the best love comes when he pushes the heart on your photo that all your friends say makes you look so hot? Did we model this for you? Did you see it in us?

We didn't tell you, and I'm sorry.

We didn't tell you that sticking that leg out could get you selected (yes). But it's seductive. You can be at a concert and find that guy, beer in hand, who is more than happy to have you. I've seen, now.

We didn't tell you that getting their eyes on you can make you happy (yes). But it can mean they are looking at you with lust not for your heart but for your flesh. You can be walking through Target and feel their stares. You can be sitting at Panera and notice the garbage near you is being visited. Every three minutes by a man who noticed. I've seen, now.

We didn't tell you that people can push the heart on the screen and push your heart into places it was not meant to be. That beauty is a game girls play and never feel like they win.

We didn't tell you, and I'm sorry.

I'm sorry that we get caught up in this game ourselves and neglect our responsibility, our responsibility to warn you, to show you through not just our words but our actions that this game is bondage when we've been offered freedom.

You see, we really didn't tell you. We didn't tell you about holiness. We didn't show you in our actions. And I'm sorry. We didn't get lost with you in the wonder of what it means to be a true woman, what it is like to live knowing you are pursued by a divine redeeming love. We didn't tell you what you are actually made of, that whose you are is more important than who others (and even yourself) say you are.

Instead, we just heart your Instagram stories, becoming numb to our own blindness. That we don't see where we are leading you. That we don't see that we are the leaders. That with every heart we are affirming this illusive reality that this hearted way is the way to life. That you are not missing anything but have actually found it all.

Because we get too caught up in it ourself. We are lonely and want your affection, too. We want you to come running to us and squealing our names because we want to be wanted.

What do I really wish that we wanted?

That our hearts burned, were beyond restless, couldn't settle until we'd told you:

You are so worth loving, not only for what you look like.
Stop obsessing over what you look like and who likes how you look.
You're missing out.
You're missing out on these crazy free moments where you break the basic norm and sing a little more loudly. love someone who others avoid. take extra long on helping with something less than glamorous.
You're missing out on giving.
You're missing out on so much laughter.
You're missing out peace.

There is truly so much more. 

Please, forgive us.
And please, those of us who are are responsible. It starts with us. So let's start.

Let's start calling people to a higher standard.
Let's start calling ourselves to a higher standard.
Let's break basic, basically pledging to live so in love with Jesus that we are so in love with life. So in love with life that His way is contagious.
Basically breaking our shallow self-obsession and chasing to pursue faith, love, and holiness (1 tim).

There truly is so much more.

© 2018 Deborah  Spooner
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

suspended


The light blue mesh meshed against my pale, Minnesotan-sunless legs which held the tan, slighlty sparkled journal that had come with me when I'd come to Israel.

"I feel like I'm living suspended. Suspended between the end of college but in the tension between that ending and the beginning, the beginning of 'what comes next.'"

You see, it's summer.

Thirty four days ago, I walked across a stage to receive a diploma (cover). A cover symbolizing so much more: how I'd covered my college days with my commitments' overcommitments, covered my dreams with a much more healthy surrender to God's dreams for me, covered some relationships with way too little care, covered new ground and evermore appreciated the ground that God already been faithful to cover for me.

Now nineteen days ago, I'd packed up silver bullet Mazi and drove the hours (compounded by two more hours in which I'd gone three miles because of stop-and-go-traffic with suddenly malfunctioning air-conditioning in the Kentucky heat) to Music City. My sweat covered body arrived at the teal and white home to the first-time-meeting soccer loving roommate, welcoming yellow bedroom lights, and a session of unpacking: unpacking the car, unpacking my many thoughts, unpacking so much of the sorrow of leaving Minnesota, leaving the people and places I'd come to love so dearly. The last three weeks had been some of the most painful of my life, feeling like what I loved was stripped away, stripped clean off, leaving me raw.

Raw, I'd arrived.

Arrived at a nine-week stay at a company that I, three weeks in, have come to love. A nine-week period that is not so much a definite period or inquisitive question mark but more of a space, a deliberate and much needed pressing of a long key into the keyboard. The space motions to an emptiness. Without the space, what comes before and what comes next will be unreadable, but the effort to push through space when what follows is still unknown, when it is pushing straight into a vast whiteness. Not complete. Very unknown. But still moving, spanning each day between what is towards what will be.

Suspended, I sit in the space. No, I live the space.

The only way through is to do.
The only way to go is where He shows. 

I know.
I know the suspended space is a place where I can be receptive to so much of what the Lord is doing like I cannot when the space has moved to the filled forming of the next letter.
I know I can soak in frustrated suspension, or I can dive right into the discomfort of not knowing, of being unsure of six weeks from now and right into the doubt, the doubt that I've done it all wrong I am missing it I will miss it things might come crashing down.

I'm learning that the space actually is the best place, for me, for now.
Because it's right where God has me. Maybe better, it's right where God is with me.

I know.
I know the only way that I'm going to make it through my suspended space is through surrendering to grace.

He's faithful.

And He's calling us to be, too. He's calling us to what He always calls.
You see, my tan journal holds more questions than the question of suspension.

How can I live more radically today?
How can I flee selfishness and the evil desires of youth and spend my life for Christ?
How can I be faithful to what's in front of me, today?
How can I invest in people and be a difference maker?
How can I see the needs around me?
How can I get my eyes off of myself? 

A life surrendered to His grace: His grace for our moments of suspension as we can do nothing more than take one step trusting that He's laid the path in front of us, His grace to remind us of our calling to love Him and love others, His grace to equip us to remember that it's not so much about figuring out "our perfect plan" and "the right move" and "making it all happen." It's just not about us, period. No space. It's about Him, His glory, His Gospel. We are called to surrender to that, to Him, to losing ourselves in making Him known.

In the space, I see He is faithful.
In the space, I see I need to not question why I'm in the space but use other questions to get my eyes of me and onto helping, serving, delighting in Him.

For I am suspended between an end and a beginning, but I know the one who is the beginning and the end. My best end, our best end, is beginning with that, beginning with Him. What simple, sheer, solid grace.

Suspended, I sit in the space. No, I live the space, the place of grace.

© 2018 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Semi Circle


The spacebar blinks up at me.

I've opened blogger, maybe for the fifth time in a year. I don't look at it much anymore. I don't want to (or maybe), I want to so badly that I can't bring myself to do it. Too painful.

You see, it's coming not full circle but semi-circle, right now, sitting on the mahogany-tinted tall chairs by the window hightops, staring out at the blue Happy Wok sign contrasting the My Place Bar and Aaron's Furnishing Store with white letters reading com uters. The green and white grande cup just accosted my lips as the barista told me my order was a winner, maybe the best he'd heard in a while (I don't mess around).

It's January, not June. June, almost two years ago, when I had this same order, day after day, studying page after page of an ancient language for a summer class. June, when I was questioning my question's questions, trying to discern why I was made such a way, desperately seeking and seeking and seeking what I was made for.

January, now. January, when I'm four months away from walking across a university stage and receiving a diploma. January, where that June seems like a lifetime ago but at the same time when the end seems closer than my brain can actually comprehend. January, when I've seen the growth but also the decline. January, when I'm in my hometown for an extended period of time for potentially the last time, ever. January, when four months will chew and release me to an unknown place, an unknown job, and unknown future.

I stopped writing.

Back in July of 2015, I made an (in)decision about what I thought about writing: how valid the medium really is, how successful I actually was in the pursuit, (ultimately) how deeply I believed I was called to continue. Not landing in a decision, I simultaneously began my college career and became inundated with the seventeen thousand things buying for my time, taking on seventeen thousand and one of them, for better or for worse.

Do I regret it, this not writing?

My initial response is I simply don't know. I can understand why it happened. I can see what the time was filled with: growth upon growth upon struggle upon realization upon growth growth growth. I'm not the same as those June and July days, and I don't want to go back to some elements that filled them. I've changed, and I've needed to do so.

But was it right to cease the writing? In very tangible ways I won't describe here, I've been faced with the reality with what might have been if I would not have stopped. Very tangibly.

And would that littler version of me be proud of where this me is today? In some ways, 100% yes. In others, 80% no. She wouldn't have guessed the cease-fire of writing, the total blank page, the turing over to other things and new things. Yet her dreams from where she thought she might be and where I am today are a little different.

But is the different bad?

I was sitting on the faded green, floral and wicker rocker that my hallmate turned RA turned roommate had brought. Feet propped up on the firmly soft cube foot-rest, I leaned my head against the cool wall, and my eyes landed on the flimsy papered, fake window view into New York City, framed by the entry way into the kitchen in where it hung. I was struck.

Lord, I want your dreams for me, and not my dreams for myself.

Evermore, it'd been my prayer. Have a conversation, breathe out the prayer. Finish a class challenging my ideas, breathe out the prayer. Leave the car and come back in saying i dont know i dont know i dont know in desperate prayer, still breathe out the prayer. I now had sat, staring through doorways into windows of where I wanted to be and being evermore fervent in prayer that it's His will (not mine) I seek.

The spacebar blinks up at me.

For better or for worse? I think for both, but ultimately for necessary. It's what happened. My deepest concern: was it disobedience to my Lord? In some ways, yes: I think it was. In other ways, no: I think it was not. Dichotomy there? Yes. But I cannot explain more here, more now.

You see, I have come semi-circle.

I'm not completely through my college career. I'm not completely back to a June, seeing the sun and the summer months and sometimes the Son more clearly. But I'm in the end of my newest beginning, the growing, developing, refining, and ultimately not falling down but falling into the arms of my Savior, evermore aware of the need for His grace and the (magnificently) glorious reality of His name, for He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him (thanks, J. Pipes).

Semi-circile, I sit. Semi-complete with some of my dreams, semi-discovering what my true dreams truly are. Seeing that I make (much, much) too many semi-decisions. Discovering that I may evermore feel semi-ready, caught in semi-ideas and facing the reality that I am only semi-free of my sinful tendencies on this earth, waiting for ultimate deliverance through my Savior.

But what has come fully? A full knowledge that I serve the Lord who is not semi, who calls for (much, much) more than semi-obedience. He is what completes our circles in the first place, and I am safe: safely within the circle of this divine plan He is sovereignly weaving.

And there is no place I would rather be, no dream I would rather pursue. It trumps my incessant figuring-it-out, pushing for more, holding on sometime too tightly to the things that I even wish I could improve.

The spacebar blinks up at me, and questions are not totally gone. I know growth still hasn't come full circle and simply won't until we are fully made like Him. But it blinks, and I type one word after another. I take one step before the next. For I know that He is writing a story, He is the one who fills the pages of history.

I must seek this, seek the Word who is life, one word, one spacebar blink at a time.

© 2018 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

end of semester (spring)

she was not meant to harbor the dissimilation of all she thinks, doubts, feels, sees, and she is harming more than just herself if she tries

This is a post, caught deep in my layers of post "drafts" that I stumbled upon today. It was written at the end of a semester that was packed with so many good things that my schedule, my life, my brain was packed right up to overload, and I came close to overloaded burnout. The draft date was May 14, 2017, and I have more thoughts to be added as the months have been added between that day and this day. I considered leaving it in drafts, but decided not to. Here, then, is a finally-sit-down-and-pour-out heart plea of deep exhaustion but deep desire from months ago.
__________________________________________________________________


God, this semester, I've tried.

I tried to figure out what it meant to live a life worth living. I tried to see the meaning tucked inside each minuscule moment. I tired to push for a powerful existence. I tried to do ever more than ever before.

And I had some results.

I found out that I have a limited capacity, but I serve a God who is unlimited.
I found out that following my own "wisdom" is not always the wisest decision.
I found that I can perpetually doubt (everything) and questions (everyone).
I found out that I can make wrong assumptions and not be able to solution everything.

I discovered that maybe I am much more of a coward than I would like to admit, that maybe I play my life safer than the safest sailor and that I would rarely rarely rarely take a risk (ever) -- my abilities just allow me to do "more," to do more that people would consider risks. But they aren't. They just aren't for me.

I've discovered that I'm afraid of love (or maybe) that I may really not know what love means. I've realized that I really don't like making up my mind but that I am, at the same time, incredibly stubborn.

I've realized that some non-decisions are really decisions, and that safety at the expense of comfort can mean a comfortably miserable existence and that time is an illusively gifted responsibility.

I've realized that I need people, and I need truth. I need facts outside of my mental reality, a mental place where I am both creatively whimsical and calculatingly analytical.

I've realized that sometimes I try to evaluate my own self from a self removed from self. I intellectualize my way away from where the Spirit is leading me, and I hold onto my head to the degree that I lose hold of my heart.

I second-guess my ability to second guess, and I choose the comfortable, easy best over what may actually be the really best.

I deceive myself when I cease spending time with the Son. I search for truth, but if I don't ever come to the truth, how am I supposed to find it?

I think that I know better or can figure it out, but maybe I really need to figure out that I need others to do the figuring with me. Maybe I need to cease so much figuring and start more of the acting. Maybe I need to stop so much internally musing and just muse on the fact that I can delight in the One who delights so much in me and so much in the people and in this world that He has crafted. Maybe I need to craft my life after the Crafter of Life and lay down my existence to with obedience as my heartbeat.

Maybe I must trust.

Trust that I am not enough but I serve the God who is way more than enough.
Trust that I do not understand but I am actually understood.
Trust that I do know what I must -- I know the One who does know, and that's exactly where I need to go.

I'm afraid, Abba; afraid to move in a direction because I do not want to be judged (by man), but I must realize that there is only One whose judgment holds weight, and I want to be faithful into that judgment day.

Do I trust you to write that story?

I'm trying,
and I know I've tried but can try harder still.

I'm being conformed into the image of You, Christ, and who am I to be impatient in the process. I must simply be faithful, but I must be a fired faithful: relentless.

I want that, Abba. I want to come back to not asking what I want or need or think is a good idea but asking--and not just asking but seeking--your desire for my next step, for I do not even need to see more than simply that.

Lord, please keep me from my self and from my selfish, flesly ways. Grant me grace when I need it but grant me truth when I need to preach it and be preached by it.

I crave freedom and peace and trust and truth and gloriousness un-burdened by burdens that I was not meant to carry but only burdened with what burdens Your heart. I need to be channeled into You. I need to lose more and more of myself to ever find what it means to be found in You and to be truly alive.

I need to come back; I need to come back to what you've told me since the beginning, to come back to the (non-complicated) and oh so simple truths. I need this truth maybe most of all, a heart guarded by the beautifully simple and simply beautiful reality.

Lord, please keep me from the reality that is so focused on myself and which is introspecting myself to death, instrospecting it farther and farther away from you. Keep me from pursing things that smell of the fragrance of death. Inspire me with your vision. Infuse me with your hope. I want to be found freed in the fullness of You, forever thankful. Lord, Your favor is so undeserved that you give to us. Thank You, oh Abba, thank you.

Refresh me, revive me. I need You.

© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Nothing Is Wasted | Internship Stories


He sat in the tall, black conference room chair. Through the multiple windows behind him, I could see the apartments which the three other summer interns and I called home.

“It’s God orchestrated…”

After two others had already shared how God brought them to the Voice of the Martyrs, he was emphasizing the theme apparent among the ministry: God is at work in a unique way, bringing people together in a manner only He could orchestrate.

From paintings and college connections, the stories of how employees came to VOM are varied, but as we interns heard more and more stories, I was increasingly amazed. From the daughter of a missionary whose parents interacted with Nate Saint to a fumbled choir audition leading to sporadic missions trip and ensuing Oklahoma introduction, VOM’s staff is comprised of unique individuals with unique stories.

Even more, the conference room conversation further emphasized the experiences each unique individual had gained. Sometimes, it didn’t seem like previous experiences related to anything the employees could foresee. However, each experience taught something. It may have built character or given a skill set. Later on, they were able to see how it was used.

I drummed my fingers on the table, thinking of the questions I’d brought to the table as I left from college and headed to this internship.

What does it mean to live like God is working out His ultimate plan?
What does it mean to trust God when you don’t understand how the pieces are fitting together?

I’d heard about so many of our persecuted family members forced to grapple with ideas of God’s sovereignty and the tangible realities of trust. Forced out of homes, tortured, and even killed, I heard this truth ring out among their testimonies:

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

This internship was showing me much.

We can plan; we can go in a life of service to the King, but ultimately, the best place we can go is straight to the truth of the Bible, to a trusting surrender to Christ and a daily picking up of our crosses, and to a reliance on His promises.

My persecuted family spoke of forgiveness and joy, despite not being able to always clearly understand the “why” of His plan.

My new VOM friends spoke of trusting in God’s plan despite unforeseen challenges along the way because they know they are obeying the one who is the Way.

For, nothing is wasted.

Each difficult situation we are faced with is an opportunity to choose to rejoice always and pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Each experience we don’t understand is a time when we can choose to love those around us more deeply (Mark 12:30-31).

Each day is our choice to come, follow Jesus as we praise Him for what He’s doing in His-orchestrated plan – bumps, failures, triumphs, and all.

For, nothing is wasted.

© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Regardless | Internship Stories


“There was a deep inside of me, a happy of Jesus.”

Brown couch against my black notebook, so much of my American surroundings suddenly seemed trivial as the persecuted believer’s heartfelt words emerged in the video curriculum. Barely noticing the syntax, I absorbed the concept: a deep place inside, a joy only allowed because of Jesus.

It was week four of eight in my summer internship, and I felt like I was experiencing a crash-course in Christian life and ministry.

Within my department, I saw how strategy of spreading the word about persecution is seasoned with trust in God’s plan. "I had no idea." Comments issued as I introduced believers to the reality of persecution while exhibiting at a national conference: convicted and inspired. "Equipping to be storytellers of the persecuted." The words for the new program's booklet to engage the American church emerged, and I further read of people being impacted through those willing to give their life because of their commitment to Christ.

I was seeing, hearing, and reading about what God was doing in nations with unique challenges for Christians, and I was now watching the video testimony of one of such believers: “There was a deep happy because of Jesus.”

What does it meant to delight in the Lord, regardless?

The internship kept bringing this to mind, and my persecuted family shows me this: mind.

So much starts in the mind.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

When believers are faced with imprisonment, torture, and even death, they rely on the truth of the Bible. They cling to songs bringing to mind the sweet truths of Christ and His resurrection.

They engage with truth deeply, and their deep commitment to Christ is evidenced by a deep delight in the very character and essence of who He is. They delight in the reality of a God who is good, just, and holy. They fix their mind on this, despite externals.

Looking up at the persecuted believer on screen, I thought of how our external situations might be different but how we have internal similarities: we both may struggle with doubt, pride, anger, jealousy. We question.

However, just as each other, we each have a choice to fix our mind on praising the Delightful one, our Savior, despite not only external situations but internal thoughts. And this mental fixation? It compels us to action, for his love does not let us sit passively (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; James 1:22).

Entering the last days of my internship and looking into continuing in a life surrendered to Christ, I make it my prayer: Lord, let obedience to fix my mind on you be my heartbeat; let delighted praise of you be my speech.

There can be “a deep” inside of us, a joy because of our Savior – regardless.
© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Real Persecution | Internship Stories


Pink and white airplane display still yards away, I faltered as I gazed at the pond surrounded by prayer stones emblazoned with regions and Bible verses.

Words reached my ears through Nik Ripken’s audio version of The Insanity of God.

He told. He’d heard persecution-familiar Asian believers crying, tearing their clothes, and speaking in loud voices. The believers had listened to Nik’s stories of Middle Eastern persecution, and they had committed: committed to wake up an hour earlier to pray for those facing “real persecution.”

I faltered. Wow, Lord.

This summer hadn’t brought me from Asian or Middle Eastern nations but from over six hundred miles “up north” to the hundred (plus) degree heat of Oklahoma that had more heat than just weather: a hub of “on-fire,” dedicated believers serving the Lord through an organization while representing numerous “on-fire” persecuted believers throughout the globe.

Coming for an eight-week internship, I didn’t realize how much I would come away with. Sitting across from multiple International Ministries workers, we talked about Bible smuggling and America’s cultural Christianity. Perched on the couch’s edge at my host family’s home, I heard stories about decades spent among Muslims. Pulling up the edge of a banner at a conference, we discussed methods of spreading His Word.

I’d seen the faithful service of co-workers in the office, some serving for over twenty years. I’d listened to the interworking of meetings discussing missiology. I’d heard about my persecuted family who were obedient even till death. I’d tasted and seen the work the Lord is doing globally, and I’d been convicted.

I faltered. Wow, Lord.

As Asian believers cried in prayer, I asked hard questions: what does it really mean to be a part of such a global family of Christ?

As I read my Bible and thought about believers dying to get the Word to others, I asked: who am I to keep asking the Lord to “fill me up” if I am not being “poured out” for the sake of the gospel?

Amar's eyes lit up as he talked about sharing the love of the Father even though he was a refugee. Hannah's passionate voice echoed as she urged believers in the west to simply read their Word of God. Lives filled up and poured out. Lives poured out and refilled.

I faltered. Wow, Lord.

Wow, Lord, You are working a plan so much bigger than any of us can see (Proverbs 16:9; Psalm 138:8; Job 42:2).
Wow, Lord, You’ve given us each a piece in your story (Ephesians 2:10).
Wow, Lord, open my eyes to the ministry that is here, in front of me as they are being faithful there, with what's in front of them.

Wow, Lord, grant us each strength to be faithful to obedience – to the daily surrenders of our everything for the greater reality that we—a global family—are joining in the work of Him who is everything.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Obedience


The green and white blanket supports my black socks, black pants, and grey tee as I sit, head against the hotel headboard, staring at the silver-handle on the seven-foot smooth door.

I rarely cry.

It's not something I proudly champion (unfortunately, my pride just takes other forms).
It's just something I've observed.

"Deborah, do you even have a soul?" 

Holding the "I-Heart-Oklahoma" T-shirt with bright green, edgy succulents and gold-edged vases behind her, my summer roommate looked at me so sincerely I laughed. She'd asked if I was going to buy anything this summer for sentiment, and I'd told her that nah, I wasn't very sentimental. Combined with our internship "professional development" results (I had no Clifton Strengths Finder "themes" in the "relational" category and scored a zero for "mercy"), she genuinely wondered.

I rarely cry. And I've struggled with having tendencies of a creative executive with a poetically analytical mind yet rock-steely core.

But I teared up, here.

My prayer list, complete with long lists under lots of categories, blinked open at me.

where should I go what should I do who should I talk to how to I keep moving forward what about learning this going there trying that

A frenzy of frenzied questions had inhabited my mind for almost two years, and I had recently turned to (consistent, intentional) prayer about them. Mind used to darting, my heart was learning what it means to be still: to be still focused on the one thing that matters so (so) much:


Lord, how can I obey?


Since OneNote holds my (many) notes, I'd made a new section: people. I'd started starting there: Lord, help her to have wisdom. Lord, bring him to you. And this? It got my eyes off of me and onto a bigger perspective.

My decisions no longer begin with "what do I want out of life?" but with simply "Lord, how can I obey?"

And this? It makes me tear up because I see that I mess it up so (so) often. I get consumed by my own ideas, desires, thoughts, ambitions. I get so caught up in the technical, minute details of how to "obey best" because I've held this so tight that I've actually gotten tightly tied to its idolatry. I get so caught wanting to please the Lord that I try try try to figure it all out best and make me a thriving Christian.

I lose sight of it.

It's about coming to the Savior, being saved from sinful uses of the way God has made us, and being committed to simply this: obedience.

The biggest success of how I live my life? The best decision I can make? If I obey what the Lord calls me to. The biggest success for anyone? Obeying, so that, in the end, we hear: well done, my good and faithful servant.

And this obedience? It isn't mystical, or hard. It starts incredibly simply. From this start, then we have wisdom for all the rest of the choices we make.

Rejoicing always (Philippians 4:4). Praying without stopping (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19). Putting others above ourselves and don't do things from selfish ambition (Philippians 2:3). Bearing one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2). Welcoming each other (Romans 15:7). Remembering those who are persecuted (Hebrews 13:3). Loving enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

It's not hard; it's in the Word. The hard part, sometimes, is that we hardly take the time to read it and then do it (James 1:22).

Lord, keep us from over-complication.
Lord, make us people whose heartbeat is obedience.



© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Let's Talk about Sin

_______________________________________________________  
As seen on The Rebelution
_______________________________________________________


"We are not human doings, we are human beings."

Sitting across from three leaders (having years more of life experience which I wanted to honor), I couldn't help my visceral reaction: I wanted to gag.

I know. I know I know I know. People realize that human busyness is an issue and we need to spend more time on soul-care. I've heard. I do know this need is valid (very valid).

Sometimes, though, it seems like soul-care and self-discovery are the most common advice people give. Deep in my soul (and actually right on the surface), I just want someone to challenge me, to call me out on my sin, to tell me I need to repent, to push me to have more discipline and to be more committed to simple (and often less experiential disciplines): serving, praying, reading the Word.

Maybe I'm the only one who is a little sick of the soul-talk. But I just can't help it. I find hard truths in the Word: love my enemies and pray for persecutors (Matthew 5:44) and pick up my cross (Matthew 16:24-26) and count trials as joy (James 1:2) and give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Who is calling me beyond soul-care to do these things?

Instead, I often hear I need to "look inside" and "create space" so that we all have "safe places" to share without our feelings getting hurt.

Reality: my feelings need to get hurt more often.

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22).

B e i n g | yes, I am a human being prone to burnout, tempted to measure success by a checklist, and neglecting sleep in productivity's name.

B e i n g | but, I've seen what's behind this flawed way of being: a lack of truly being, being present in each moment to the truth - ultimately, to the one who is the way, the truth, and the life and to what He says about how to live this life (John 14:6).

This "being present to truth" isn't mystical; it's having your whole being, your whole focus centered on Jesus, on worshiping and obeying him. I can choose my sin of making an idol out of my productive obedience (and then wallow in perpetual soul-care to try to fix my mess). Or, I can spend my life in worship of the supreme Being: my Lord and Savior.

I sit in my cubicle and feel myself being pulled to overly-productive thoughts making me want to wallowing in "soul-care:"  I'm not being extroverted enough, I'm not being caring enough like a Christian should, I should really be doing something else to advance my future. I am caught being inside my head. The present isn't something I often live within.

B e i n g | when I try to maximize my life, I am left in the grips of my own ability. (News flash, it's not as much as I think it is sometimes.)

And I can stay there. I can be the best version that Deborah creates herself to be. I can focus on soul-care and on doing this being better.

What if I went another way?

I can be most fully in the present when I realize that being is not about me. It's about being obedient to Christ, to lifting His name high, about preaching Him and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23) and counting all else as loss for the sake of knowing him (Philippians 3:8). 

It's about being able to lose my tight-grip on myself to ever really find what my personal "being" is all about.

I've been in the search of how to be present. To be present, I don't necessarily need more soul-care.

I must present myself before the Lord (Romans 12:1) and focus so wholly on who He is, His being. 

Then, I must pray (Isaiah 55:6). I must rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16). I must serve (Luke 17:33). I must go (Matthew 28:16-20). (Yes), I must even do.

How can I ever be without the doing of obedience, the doing of repentance, the doing of surrender?

Lord, give me the humility to let go of me and to grab hold of You and all that you make life to be - to be in each present moment.



© 2017 Deborah Hope Shining
(to comment, see red comment link below and to the right 
of "You Might Also Like" images)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...