First Rain Since Harvey Left

It is the first rain since Harvey departed. In his wake, he left ruins that still remain unbuilt. As disastrous as the Houston landscape has been it was merely been a physical representation of the human heart. I have been gutted. Noahic flooding that seems like judgment, but actually is healing. Personally, I still don’t know what to make of a hurricane that felt like that of a Grecian epic. I don’t think it is mine to decipher. I am not the one who controls it.

God is the Author. He is quite the Author, but such an interesting Reader and Listener to the story as well. He placed Himself in it momentarily, but it has always been about Him. He is a mysterious Author. The best books are the one that leaves me wondering what the author was trying to tell me. He has left a Commentary who teaches, but even then, mystery. Divine and material mystery.

I have gone through the gamut of human emotions since Harvey.

Sorrow. Anger. Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Anger. Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Loneliness. Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Shame. Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Envy. Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Abandonment. Displacement. Fear.

Displacement. Fear.

Fear.

Those have been my most persistent friends in this season. They are terrible friends; they leech themselves onto me. As I turn to them, they turn on me. I don’t think they have all departed. I still think they linger, but in this moment, I have felt something I have not felt since the flood waters rose.

Hope.

It was by way of a woman I have always admired. How kind is God in the midst of ruins to sift through the rubble.

Good Father,

I am devastated, in both definitions of the word. I have looked inward for so long, that I have lost sight. Your truth is so simple. Your call is so clear. My cross is so much. Teach me to trust. Teach me to bear burdens better. Remind me that you are both the Builder and the Cornerstone. When I burrow into the complexities of the human ego, remind me of the simplicity of the Gospel.

The Good News is the hope for those who have fear.

The Good News is a refuge for those who are displaced.

The Good News is reclamation for those who feel abandoned.

The Good News is gratitude in a heart that envies what is not hers.

The Good News is penitence in the place of shame.

The Good News is the hope of companionship for those who are burdened with loneliness.

The Good News is understanding rather than anger.

The Good News is joy in the middle of sorrow.

I am not fully “telos-ed” by the Gospel today. I will not know if I will be tomorrow, but Mrs. Ellen, thank you for the reminder. I don’t know if you will ever read these words but bless you.

In Christ. By Way of the Spirit. Directed to the Father.

Amen

Hope.

Hope. Refuge.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship. Understanding.

Hope. Refuge. Reclamation. Gratitude. Forgiveness. Penitence. Companionship. Understanding. Joy

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Not My Hometown’s Gospel

September marks five years since I left Georgia. Most of my Facebook friends are still from back home. Of those “hometown friends,” many of them are from the church I grew up in. I don’t go home often enough to keep in touch, but it wasn’t until a conversation today, I realized my belief of who God is has changed.

On any given day, I can scroll on my newsfeed and see people charismatically speaking things over their lives. I’m not against a godly exhortation or prophetic exhortation. I just remember often times sharing my brokenness with people and being met with a good ol’ “encouraging word” or reminding me that my negative thinking and speaking got me feeling so low. Those actions painted a picture of God for me, that I have quietly dismissed for a while, but now openly reject. It’s my hometown gospel.

In this gospel, this god wasn’t concerned whether, I was genuinely okay. He was so busy trying to fix me, He never knew how broken I was. He was more concerned about actions and less concerned about me. He looked on the outward appearance, but not on the heart. Most frighteningly, He was a god who was not able to handle how bad things can actually get. Who was not ready to see my shambles. One who kept telling me about if I just had a better perspective, I’d be better.

This is a rather cruel gospel, and not a god worth serving at all.

I look at Jesus, remembering He is God. I am amazed at how he handles human suffering. The recognition He offers to the woman with the issue of blood. The weeping He does with Mary at Lazarus’s grave. The care He provides, His mother at the foot of the cross. The concern he has for the widow whose son died. The way he creatively deals with blindness on three separate occasions. Jesus was mindful of suffering. Dealing with each person individually and personally.

God gets my shambles. He doesn’t slap me with a, “Buck up Buttercup”. He joins me in them. I think that is part of redemption. I don’t have to face the worst of life alone. Instead, I believe in a God who has faced the worst of life and can lead me in the valley and the shadow of death. Who mindfully hears and understands my shambles and responds individually and personally…

I don’t know where these thoughts have come from. I welcome them after a season of sorrow. To end a song that has been a generous reminder of God’s great love in the midst of my shambles and doubt.

He knows the name of my sorrows

He knows the names of my fears

Why should I let them bother me

For I know that He is near

Home

The term “home” has been extremely salient for me this year. In January, my home was with Claire and a flower, a bird, a repetition, and a baby. By April, home had lost its meaning for me. There were many houses I stayed in, but moments in which I struggled to find my place in them. I questioned whether, I was an obstruction or a blessing. I loved all the places I stayed, and experienced feeling homey, but never got the absolute feeling of home.

I recall a conversation with my mother in June. She urged me to come home and get a break from my instability. I remember my words clearly, “Mom, if I come home; I will never go back.” Home is where you feel at peace and where you don’t struggle to find belonging.

As I sit in Hartsfield-Jackson Airport waiting to board my flight, I leave home to return home. I make things unnecessarily difficult sometimes. I didn’t want to claim Atlanta as my home since, I hadn’t been here in over a year. However, being in the presence of my family reminded me that I do have a home here. My family is not perfect, but neither am I. My mom and sister and brother and even my dad are my family. And, with them I am home.

I need to stop writing about my family though before, I start bawling in an airport.

I return home to Houston today as well. Not, to a couch or mattress or daybed, but to a room in a house that I live in. Yes, everyone I have a place to live, and it is scary. It is frightening, but here I am home. There I am home.

Jesus is My Home(boy)

This was the tagline of shirts made popular in 2004. Blame it on Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ or the frequently fluctuating nature of pop culture, but at church, school, and life the shirt was rather popular. Note, it was also on trucker hats; thank you Ashton Kutcher. As trends tend to do, the shirts faded into obscurity and can probably be found for sale on Craigslist or repurposed on Etsy. However, as I have had my sense of home challenged, this thought as remained constantly on my mind. Not so much that Jesus is my homeboy. In hindsight, that shirt was a bit rude. I don’t even think the disciples would have the audacity to call Jesus their homeboy. Even if they didn’t figure out who he was until after His resurrection, they knew He was a big enough deal not to refer to Him as that, but I don’t want to get legalistic. If that shirt led you into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, then praise the Lord.

Last year around this time, my friend Marianne went to Kenya on a two-week mission trip. Before she departed, we met at her house to celebrate her birthday and pray for her. I cannot remember all the words of her sweet prayers, but these couples sentences have always stood out to me:

God, you know lies in store for me when I get there. Lord, I am scared to leave the comforts of my house, but Jesus wherever you are, I am home. Jesus, you are my home.

For four months, I have attempted to procure permanent housing. Most nights, I spend on the couch of two of the most constant reflections of the hospitality of the early church. Every so often, I will give the poor couch a break and sleep on the air mattress at another friend’s apartment or on the best of days an actual bed. However, I have not had my own bedroom in 4 months. Please do not assume ungratefulness. I am beyond grateful. I could be sleeping in my car or in an abandoned building. I could be wandering the streets at all hours of the day and night. I am not. My situation is far better than many other people. I daily work with homeless individuals; I know they would rather have a couch than the shelter. Nevertheless, my situation is difficult.

It is hard to be 23 and without a place to call your own. I want to host events and small groups, but this space does not belong to me. I want to have friends spend the night and do brunch, but I can’t. After a long day at work, I want to hole myself in my room and debrief and be alone. I want to cook and have a schedule and go running. I want a bed that I can sprawl out on and roll over in. I want pots and pans and decorations that I get to decide. I want a place to call my own. I don’t want a space; I want a home.

That is what I have been so desperately searching for since April. Where is my home? I have no home. Why can’t I find housing? Why is this so difficult? Why have we been rejected again? I hear the Lord, whisper to me, “I am your home”. My heart breaks. I know He is, but have I believed it? Have I trusted in the idea that Jesus really is my home?  That when, I acknowledge His presence and dwell there that I have peace and feel like I am home? Do I even remember that this place, I am so desperately searching for, this house, this residency is my temporary residency and that Jesus is my actual home? Or that, God knows exactly how long I will be on this couch. Or even that He knows where the location of new home will be. Even further down the line, could it be in God’s infinite wisdom that He is simply preparing me for missions work in the future in which my housing will be unstable?

I don’t know? For every one thing I know, there are 17 billion that I don’t. Humph, for every one thing I know, God knows how many ways I know it incorrectly. What remains is this. Home is not your house. Home is not a bedroom or a bed. Home is not just a space that one occupies during periods of rest. Home is where Jesus is. Home centers on Him. In Him, I will find the comforts of a warm bed, the peace of my own space, the joy of freedom. Though, I will probably struggle with this come Monday, it remains true. Thankfully, truth is not based on my emotions.

It is a hard reality to come to terms with; especially, when I would rather tantrum it out or panic. The fear is sometimes still there, but it is slowly decreasing. Let my faith arise, O Lord.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”

Psalm 91:1-2

Jesus, is my home.

Also, this is my 100th post!!!!!!!!!!

Homeless and Hopeless

I lay awake on a friend’s couch for the 104th night in a row. My neck and shoulders are stiff. My back is tight. I would toss and turn, but I am a big girl and there is only so much room on a couch. I have been scared to say these words aloud, but the truth is I am homeless. I have been since April 1. I always have a couch to sleep on at a friends (sometimes a bed), but typically I am on a couch. I live out of a suitcase and all the clothes out of the trunk of my car. I have worn the same 30-45 articles of clothing repeatedly for 4 months.

I lament to friends, but I don’t think they understand how psychologically daunting it is to be without a permanent place of residence. The people allowing me to stay with them are so kind, but after two weeks of being somewhere you begin to feel like a burden. I don’t take showers daily and I don’t do laundry when I should because, I want to be as cheap a burden as possible. My 24th birthday is next month, and I am terrified that I will spend it sleeping on a couch. I am scared that I will look back at being 23 and remember that 1/3 of my life was spent homeless. I am scared I will never find a place of residence even with a salaried full-time job. I have searched for apartments for 4 months and with every rejection, I lose more and more hope. I have no door to shut so I can have space. I don’t have the space to relax in private. I stay out even when all I want is to be inside a closed space. I don’t cook. I spend tons of time in my car wishing it would transform into an apartment, but it is still my car. My car that has sometimes doubled as bed.

The irony, I work at a homeless shelter and for some reason people are catching on that I might be homeless too. They ask me questions about my clothes and why I look so tired. They ask about where I live. I wonder if there are more people out there like me? Hardworking people with full-time jobs who are homeless. Why is it this hard to find adequate housing?

The hardest part, however, is attempting to rectify God’s purpose in all of this. Because, I can’t see it. People attempt to encourage by saying, “You will have such a great testimony”, but I don’t know if I can actually make it through this. I don’t know if I believe that God just allows life to be this freaking difficult simply for a testimony. Does He? Can someone give me Biblical proof of this. Or have we just adopted this as the Pig Latin Christianese that sounds alright, but is just a giant mess? I am not mad at God. Well, I don’t think I am. I am simply forever adjusting to this madness I am in.

God, I hate this. In fact I loathe this. I don’t understand it. I cannot rectify it. I cannot comprehend this. I am angry and frustrated. I am sad and tired. Jesus, I dread sleeping on this couch. I hate the searching in my suitcase for some article of clothing that is not too wrinkled to wear to work. It is not about comfort it is more about peace. I hate that my quiet time with you is never alone, but has to be penciled in on a drive or before anyone gets back. I am miserable. Please don’t think I am ungrateful. I am grateful. A couch trumps my car. But, how long o Lord will I cry out to you for a home? How long? Lord, my prayer do not simply ricochet on the sky, You hear them. Does the ground soak up my tears or do you hold them as well? Where is this home you have built? Where is this bed, I am supposed to lie in? But is it truly your will that I should be homeless? Because if it is let me know. It would alter my perspective drastically, but I don’t think it is. God I trust you, but it is still scary. Nevertheless, please just sustain me. Because, I feel like I am losing it. I feel like I am losing hope. I am losing my desire to be in Houston. I am losing rest. I am losing, but I am not lost. Lord, I love you. I will always love you. Hear the heart of my midnight cry.

In Jesus Name,

Amen