Christ

Solo Vacations

It only took a day for me to find out, I don’t vacation well.

I make hasty decisions. When I think back to adult decisions I have made, I have never spent more than 5 minutes before I have said yes. I know I should be a better Christian and “pray about it”, but God gives me wisdom and a gut feeling. My move to Texas, my car, and currently this vacation were rall decisions I made in less than 30 minutes. Most times, it pans out. I have now been in Texas for 5 years. I love my car. Sometimes though it doesn’t. Chicago is a struggle.

I came to Chicago for a Christian conference. Yesterday, I made it through the first general session and workshop. I walked to find something to eat. I settled in at Gino’s East for my first deep dish experience. Before my first bite of doughy, cheesy, meaty goodness, exhaustion hit me. And months of feelings and fears began to surface. Fortunately, a friend called me. I cried. I tried not to, but my tears escaped me…little bandits.

This is not my first time vacationing alone. I have been to London, Spain, Colorado, Portland, and Seattle alone. I revel in those memories. Walking the streets of London in the middle of the night. Driving haphazardly to Seattle. Prayer walking with a faithful dog named Lazarus in Divide, Colorado. This is the first time, I have been lonely while vacationing. No one should eat deep dish pizza alone. I want to experience life with a person. After lunch, I resigned to my room. In the building across from mine, people were living and moving and dancing and jumping. I lay on my bed. I didn’t go back until the next general session. I did the same today.

The only difference between yesterday and today is this. Today, I acknowledge I have run, filling my life with work and school. God will find me in my quiet resignation. I am uncomfortable being here. I am scared being here. I don’t like my withdrawal, but I can’t muster the will to engage. Luckily, God has always found people in the most random places.

Find me in the cave

Find me at the well

Find me in the river

Find me in the jail

Life

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ embodies the conquering of death by the Source of Life. I believe this as truth. I believe that death has been conquered for me. So, that when my physical bodies withers, I am brought to real eternal life with God.

So, what do I do here? Suspended in a real (yet quasi) life experience that is riddled with death and all his friends. Where in the middle of loneliness there is a real sorrow. Where in the middle of sickness there is a real pain. Where in the middle of hatred there is a real violence. I don’t know. I don’t know. I take the cues of Christ and move towards the mess. Where there is sorrow, I mourn like Jesus with Mary. Where there is pain, I acknowledge someone is reaching out for a touch like Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood. Where there is violence, I bend down to the ground writing mysteries in the sand like Jesus on the Mount of Olives.

Last year around this time, I was very invested in modern liturgical practices. I came across meditative tracks, by a group called the Liturgists. There is a track on their Garden album titled Sunday. In this track, Rob Bell discusses the Resurrection how ultimately the moments of joy and life and laughter in this life point to the immense beauty and worship that will occur in eternal life. And that the sorrows and pain and violence are temporary.

Yesterday was one of those days where I felt the Resurrection and the Life. Hula hooping and eating chili with popsicle wine and bubbles reminds me of life. It was worshipful and beautiful. It was children running around throwing pillows. It was laughter and naps. The Resurrection allows me to take a simple meal on a simple weekend and call it holy. It allows me to reclaim something that feels secular and find how God can make it sacred.

Resurrection is Life, not only eternal life. Resurrection is the embracing life in the way Christ embraced life now and eternally.

Happy Holy Life Friends.

Lenten Prayer #8: Body Shaming

I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) at the age of 17. I never dealt with it. I have spoken about it with friends before, but for a long time, I just wished it away. I lived my life. I don’t overeat, but ate normally. As if my body would somehow just magically begin processing food normally. It doesn’t. I have been frustrated with my weight gain in mid-adulthood. I weighed myself on Friday at work. Three numbers on the screen. I quickly stepped down and recalibrated the scale. No one should see those numbers.

Shame infected me like food poisoning. I wanted to throw up. I was disgusted and nauseated. So much work has been done in the body positive movement, but I can’t feel positive about my body. I don’t. My shirt felt clingier than ever. Sticking to every pound of unprocessed meals from times before. I sat behind my desk most of the day. I began thinking of all the stupid things, I ate that week. I ate my lunch and wanted to vomit it back up. I loathed myself.

These feelings are not gone. However, I recognize this. Having PCOS is not my fault. I cannot control that. Not treating it for 10 years is my fault. I could have controlled that. I start Whole30 tomorrow for the 3rd or 4th time. Tomorrow though will be different. Tomorrow’s Whole30 begins with a complete transition into a Whole30 lifestyle. It is what my body needs. I don’t know if I care about the weight as much as I do about the shame associated with it. I don’t want to feel that shame anymore.

On my bedroom mirror, I wrote these words, “You have PCOS. Through diet, exercise, and the grace of God, you can be healed. Choose today to make wise food choices.”

Father, 

The work of Christ removes shame, right? I have so much. You know where it all lies. Currently, it sits within this broken body of mine. I have used humor and wry self-deprecation, willpower and diet plans, but nothing works. Shame comes when sin has occurred. Lord, I could justify why I didn’t do anything. Why I pretended not have a problem. You know those justifications before, I breathe them. Rather, I confess my negligence and ask forgiveness. Shame removal is a work of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit work. 

God, thank you for Your abundant Grace. You don’t see my weight or my shame as trivial, but they are of importance to You. Whole30 is just a diet, but I ask you would work on my from the inside-out. There is a brokenness in my heart about my body. Heal that brokenness. Help me become open to your healing. 

I humbly ask this, in the Name of the Risen Christ Jesus, through the Power of the Truthful Advocate, 

Amen

Lenten Prayer #7: Good in the World

God’s goodness has always been displayed most in the people involved in my life. For many seasons, my life was filled with dinners, coffee dates, ice creams and such. In this current season, there are few people. I welcome it. The depth of these relationships is significant. I have never been more challenged by people. While also remaining well-loved. The goodness of God, displayed through people, is frightening. I have come to expect badness in most things, but it’s the goodness that leaves me unprepared. It is the goodness that frightens me. It is the goodness that I have no idea how to respond to. I don’t know what I am doing but the goodness continues to come. I am glad for people who are good to me. You are also good for me.

Father, 

There are evils in this world. I have come to expect them. I am prepared for them. Your goodness catches me off guard. Thank you for the good people in my life. Thank you for being the source of all goodness. My friends are Your Voice whispering, “It is very good”. I hear You, through their wisdom. I see Your Grace, through their patience. I feel Your Heart, through their love. I know Your Goodness, through theirs. Bless them. Bless them wildly. 

Through the Good Name of Christ, by the Way of the Holy Spirit, 

Amen

Lent Prayer #2: Rushed Spirit

Father, 

I’m already at a loss for time and the day is just beginning. It seems logical to ask for more time in the day to the One who is eternal. However, You give me peace. You give me patience. You remind me to slow down. Not to dwell on traffic unmoving, but the people all around who may be in need of Your Light. Slow me down to the pace of Your Son, who was able to notice a woman at a well, a paralyzed man at a pool, and me amid the billions. Let patience and perceptions be Your grace poured on me today. 

In the Name of Your Son, by the Way of Your Spirit, 

Amen

Lent Prayer #1: Mammon Spirit

Today marks the beginning of gloom. The colors and sinfulness of Fat Tuesday have died, and we sit here amid consequences and penitence. Lent is fast becoming my favorite season in the liturgical calendar. I have privately sought the Lord. He has responded. As a means of accountability, I have decided to post daily prayers marking this journey into immense spiritual sorrow. If it be the Lord’s will journey with me, writing prayers of your own.

Father,
I have this mammon spirit seeking gain and control, working in opposition to the Gospel. In this season may its pervasive dominance in my life be diminished. As I seek Christ, may this heart be filled, to be poured out as an offering to the Lord and an act of love to humanity. 

In Christ’s Name through the Holy Spirit,

Amen. 

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Breakdowns

My alarm goes off at 6:30am. I sit up and open the Bible laying next to me. Isaiah one and two. God’s Word saturates my soul. The exhausted eyes find life in words riddled with life. I close my eyes to see my Father. His face is ever-present. He directs me to every classroom at my job. I lift prayers to the heavens, knowing God’s ears are perked to listen to the supplications of His children, especially when they are aligned to His will.

I leave two hours later, prepared for what I know lies before me: to prepare kids for camp, to meet with the managers, to love, to serve, to care. Then my car overheats in the middle of the highway. I pull to the side. I wait. I go. I pull to the side. I wait. I go. I pull to the side. I wait. What is typically a 20 minute commute has stretched to a 80 minute experience. Eventually, I parked a couple blocks away and walked to work.

My mother calls. She is six hours further along in the day. I don’t know how she is able to absorb all my tears, but she does. My friend drives us to the meeting. On the drive back, we just pray.

This is not the part of the story, where my car is miraculously fixed or everything gets better. My car is parked at work for the next several days, and I am once again reliant on the graciousness of people to take me places and the graciousness of my job to allow me to have my car repaired on the property.

This is the part of the story, where I just vent. I have spent so much money on cars it is ridiculous. Since, I moved to Houston, I have probably spent $7,000 making repairs on vehicles. It is bankrupting me and keeping me from achieving financial goals for 2016. This is on top of this new repair bill, I need to pay DTS in 2 weeks, so I can return to school this semester. And, if God could just miraculously fix my car, that would be great. If He just answered that ONE prayer everything would be better.  He didn’t. He answered a different one.

As, I prayed, returning from the meeting, I remember saying this, “God let me see evidences of your grace.” This is the prayer God answered. I could focus on my car and how I am ready to find a new way to commute. However, God has been so gracious to me today.

My teens greeted me warmly. One of my teens brought my lunch from the kitchen. Several of my teens carried boxes and organized room to help all the other teens pack for camp. One of my coworkers helped me get coolant. Another coworker pick up extra clothes. Another coworker made a list of other things kids need. Another coworker dropped off forms for camp. One of my teens braided my hair for camp. One of my teens called me, mom and my mom grandma (weird, but enduring). Two of the custodial women helped me look at my car. My roommates picked me up from work. I had dinner with them and one of my favorite families from church. My roommate gave me a magnet.

I’m not going to lie and say, now I am not concerned about my car anymore. I am concerned. I still don’t want to pay money to fix my radiator. However, God in a really great way, took my eyes off of what could have easily broken me down.

God, I quickly forget your mercies. How they are new for me as the sun’s dawn daily. Thank you for always radiating light into darkness. As, I wait patiently remind me to look to You as Provider, Grace Giver, and Friend. You are always enough.

Amen