Jan 8, 2019

This is Why You Fight || a short story

Those arching doors spread above you as if you’re entering a palace, but it’s not. Instead, they swallow you up, and you’re lost. 

With a sweep of air, the mall doors close. Your feet find stone, smooth and spreading so far it disappears. But you don’t really look that far anyway. Instead you see a dozen other doors, all opening from this passage. And inside them are lights flashing, smells bursting, noise rustling. 

Children run by, screaming. They dart into one of the stores and are hidden behind rows of clothes and shoes and purses.

There are a hundred other people in the mall, just like you. But none of them see. They walk and talk and point and are consumed by the noise and lights. In their eyes, you see reflections of glitter as they carry purses and raise their painted faces. 

As you walk through the hall, they brush your shoulder. Someone runs past you and darts to keep from tripping. They don’t see you though. All those eyes are turned downward when your gaze meets their face. They rush into stores and hide in dressing rooms. They spend money and go on all the rides. And then they grab a meal and leave, never really opening their eyes to what’s around them. 

But you do. 

You see them. You see that woman with sunken cheeks who tries to hide it by makeup. She carries a bag on each arm and eases herself onto the escalator. When she rises, she only holds onto the bag and stares straight ahead. 

And you see that man, the way he brushes a hand through his hair and eats from a steaming platter. But his face is turned towards the merry-go-round where children grasp onto silvery poles and giggle on the hard horses that turn for the thousandth time. You wonder what he thinks as he sees them. If he remembers those days when he was allowed to play, to dream. 

Or that couple who laughs as they push their baby in a stroller. They run through all the mall's shops and eat all the food and see all the lights. But when they pause, those smiles fade. The façade slips. And you see the lines in their forehead. The way the woman turns her face from her husband’s. His shoulders falling. Her lips tightening. 

They all have stories. You try to see them, wonder what their life truly holds. The sunken cheeks—do they tell tales of long nights by a hospital bed, begging for someone to give a different answer? Or the eyes watching the merry-go-round spin—do they remember a time when another child laughed and played before he grew old and left home? The hesitating smiles—behind closed doors, do they turn to tears? 

But no one sees them. No one knows. And even if they did, no one would care. 

You do. 

It builds in you like a volcano. A wildfire burns in your chest, and you want to run, to shout, to scream. To tell them that there’s hope. That they have a purpose. That they are loved. 

Because if you don’t, will they never know? What if you’re the only person that can tell them? 

But your feet clasp onto the hard ground. In a crowd of a thousand, you are one small voice. On a beach of sand, you are one grain trying to shove the waves away. 

Shoulders brush yours. Eyes glance past you. Voices dance around you. 

But they never know you’re there. When you slip out of those arching doors, they don’t know. Their lives go on, living in those flashing lights until they too must slip out of the make-believe world they think is real. 

And then they feel it. 

The cold. The shadows of a night where no stars shine. Leaving behind the smells and tastes to return to the real world where life is hard, and pain is real. 

When that happens, will they remember to hope? 

You trudge through the grime on the sidewalks and step onto the road.  There are puddles lining the cement, leaves littering the ground.  Your feet get wet as you find your car. Ice has settled on the windshield, or maybe it’s just the dew that stiffens like the coldness inside you. 

Your hand finds the key, but it freezes your fingers. When you look back at the mall doors, you see through them to the noises and laughter and fake smiles. 

And the tears fall because you were there and couldn’t save them or tell them the truth. Even if you did, would they listen? 

A car’s light flash beside you. You stop. Open the door. Slip into the cold again. 

There’s someone there, a woman trying to open the car door with slipping gloves. Her hands stumble. She lets out her breath, leans against the car, and her hair slips into her eyes. 

You step forward and open the door for her. For a second, your eyes meet, and they really see. 

She nods, smiles. That time, it isn’t fake. 

And then you part. She drives through the darkness; you slip back into the car. As the key turns, you stop and remember. 

You are one grain on a shore of a billion, and you can’t stop the waves from breaking. But maybe, in that moment, you helped one grain of sand escape just a step further away. 

Even though the lights will flash and blind so many, maybe you can love just one. Perhaps a hug or one small word could bring the hope that one aching soul needs. 

The car turns off. You enter the cold and run.

Run through the puddles.  Run towards those arching doors. You let them swallow you up. Even with those empty hands, you face the enemy and fight because nothing can stop you, and you have a purpose bigger than those lights and empty faces. 

It’s not because of who you are. A grain of sand can’t fight the coming storm. But you hear this voice calling you to something bigger, something grander than what the world says you can do. 

I am with you.

So you fight.


Jan 1, 2019

Say "Goodbye" to Welcome "Hello"

Happy New Year, dear friends!

I wish I could sit down with you right now and hear your story.  Share life.  I wish you could tell me all about your New Year celebration, your goals, your dreams, the future you imagine God leading you into.

I wish we could share about 2018.  The hurt we felt.  The tears that fell.  The moments that pain eased away, and we rejoiced in celebrations and victories and joys!  The times we couldn't help but dance because we were just overwhelmed by God's grace!

If we were walking through the woods by my house as we looked back on the past year, I'd bring you to my favorite place.  Where the trees break to let a small creek flow between two smooth rocks, we'd sit and dangle our feet in the water.  Or, if it's a breezy, cold day, we might stand there, stomping our feet, silhouetted against the dormant rose bushes.

I'd share the victories and joys - friends becoming neighbors, welcoming a new baby into the family, making new friends at the Glory Writers retreat, a graduation, a relative healing from her cancer, writing The Torch Keepers with the Lord's guidance and seeing Him use it to win a contest, and those overwhelmingly beautiful times of worship.  Even the little things - those notes in the mail, the challenges God helped me overcome, the changes in life.

But there were hard things too.  Long, mundane semesters of school.  Phone calls announcing someone on the verge between life and death.  Those dry times where I feel far from God.  The months of fighting cancer over with the gentle, last breath.  Tears.  More deaths.

If we were talking alone, I'd tell you that 2018 was beautiful and hard and tearful and victorious.  In it, I learned the beauty of peace, glory, love, surrender.  And I learned that no matter what, God. is. good.

As the New Year slips around, I'm looking back with so many emotions building up in my chest.  I won't forget the memories.  But I still have to say goodbye, like I did to those people who slipped from this earth into Heaven.

Yet it's okay.  Because without "goodbye" there would be no "hello."

I want to dance with Jesus into 2019.

To seek Him fully, love Him fully, trust Him fully.  I want Him to direct these goals and dreams that grow in my heart.

No matter what comes in 2019, I trust Him.  As I say goodbye to an old year and welcome a new one, I embrace the adventures to come.  The hard things.  The challenges.  The victories.

And even the tears.

Dear friend, if I took your hand in mine and lead you through our creek, we'd find ourselves surrounded on both sides by trees.  And then, after swinging on the vine that drapes across the water, the trees would distance.  A little clearing opens to our left.  Around it, there are these stones that peek at us like the edge of the mountain.

There's a log there.  I'd walk across it, trying to hold my balance.  When I got to the end without falling (obviously *cough*), I'd turn around and smile.

Friend, I love your dreams and hopes.  Your future is beautiful.  It might be stained with dirt or blood or tears, but it's beautiful if you let Jesus write your life story.

So dream away.  Scribble down the resolutions you hope to reach this next year.  But hold them lightly so Jesus can take those goals and erase the words, writing a more perfect story for you.

As we slip out of the clearing, I would lead you up the hill through ferns and moist leaves.  We'd come into my house, where a dozen people live in not-so-quietness.  The solitude would slip away as you prepared to leave.

I'd wave from our porch, saying goodbye like I'm saying to this old year.  If you never left and I never said goodbye, I couldn't say hello to welcome you again.

So goodbye, 2018.

And hello the new year with the dreams and hopes and memories to come.

Because we can't talk face to face right now, let's share in the comments.  What are your dreams for 2019?  Where did God take you in the last year, and where do you hope He takes you in the months to come?

Happy New Year, dear friend!

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”;  whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
- James 4:13-14

You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.


Dec 28, 2018

Shalom in Today's World

One morning as I read my Bible, I asked God a question.  The answer overwhelmed me.

It didn't come all at once.  The answer started as a word, one word, and then grew into something larger than I imagined.  It became a picture.  As all the pieces slowly fit together, I sat down here to process and share what He put in my heart.

Here's the story.

Once upon a time, the world was this huge, beautiful masterpiece.  Back in Eden, things were perfect (Genesis 1-2).  The little bits of glory that we find today were all unified into this grand, epic world where Jesus was everything and people literally lived in His presence (Genesis 3:8).

Fruit was juicer.  Color more vibrant.  Air more sweet.  Love more true.  Because we had Jesus.

Imagine the world as bursting with color, like the paint on a canvas that just piles up until you can't separate one color from another.  They sweep together, never ending.  They're just so huge.

But then that broke (Genesis 3).  That peace shattered into a million pieces.  Life was like a puzzle - all those shapes and colors working together as one big picture - but now it was broken into so many separate pieces.

It was as if the world became black and white.  Not everything changed, but they weren't the same.  We were left with something missing.  It's still that way today.

We hurt.  We cry.  Sometimes, life's just hard.

But, every once in a while, we see a streak of color.  A flash of red or blur of green.  It's like the stray puzzle piece that's broken in two, and we only see a portion of it.

We had peace - shalom - but we lost it.  Yet not entirely.  Because sometimes, I catch a glimpse of it.

I walk in the woods and hear the rustling of trees, clapping their hands in praise to the Lord.  And there, in that single moment, I see a flash of the color in our black and white world.

Or I receive a letter in the mail, just a note from a friend who says, "I love you."  The swirls of flowers and butterflies on the envelope make something inside me grow warm.  And I see a flash of color.

Or my family gathers with another family, all of us who just love Jesus with this radical love.  And, seated around, we sing praise songs at the top of our lungs.  We share and cry and sing, and sometimes I want to dance.  Because there's that piece of color inside us that just needs to be shared.

That peace in Eden was shattered into a million pieces.  And yet they're not lost.

Every believer has one.  We hold a fragment of that peace - that bit of color - and can give it to a lost world (2 Corinthians 5:20).  We hold the power to offer Jesus' peace because He put it in our hearts.

So I'm here.  I only have a quarter of a puzzle piece, but it's beautiful anyway.  The edges are chipped.  Sometime I forget about it and live without that peace - shalom.  But it's still inside me waiting for me to live fully in Christ.

When I choose to live in that God-given shalom, it's glorious.  I feel the peace deep inside, even when all else fails.  I love others and share that hint of color because I want them to find their own shalom in Jesus.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

For they shall be called sons of God.

I cultivate it in my own life.  I share it with the lost, those who live in a black and white world.  And when I gather with other believers, we bring together our broken puzzle pieces, join them together, and have a handful of whole, complete ones.

I can't wait for when Jesus returns to find every church holding up their connected pieces and declaring, "Here's the shalom you entrusted to us.  We lived in it, shared it, and are now giving it back to you!"

I wonder what it will be like when He joins the broken fragments together, back into that whole puzzle that we lost in Eden.  What glory will Heaven have if it contains the little beauties of today and a hundred times more?

Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

That's the story.

Maybe it doesn't make sense.  Maybe it's redundant and twisted and not perfectly accurate.

Oh, but how I long for that shalom.  How I can't wait for Heaven's beauty when the black and white of today will be replaced with full color!  When we return to the glory we lost in Eden, and when all of our pieces will be joined together in unity.  When we see Jesus face to face and hear Him reward our faithfulness.

So I want to live today, grasping onto that shalom, that fleeting color, and never letting go.  I want to share it with a hurting world so that they can find the hint of color and come before Jesus rejoicing.

Peace.  Shalom.  Color.

That day, I asked God a question: what is peace?  And He swept me away with images and memories and colors.  He brought me from the past of Eden to the future of Heaven and the brokenness in between.

And yet it wasn't entirely broken because Jesus was still there.  He came to earth to bring us shalom.  I rejoice because I find fragments of His beauty around me every time I open my eyes to it.

When I looked up the Greek word for peace, it defined the desire that propels me to find Jesus' beauty in my everyday life.  Now it's one of my favorite words.

εἰρήνη (eiréné):  peace; when all essential parts are joined together; the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoerer sort that is

Or as another author described shalom,

Wholeness and completeness in God.  The way things were intended to be.
- A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

That's what I'm searching for: completeness in God.  Finding His glory in the midst of this life and living my days to give the glory back to Him.

Christmas represents shalom coming to earth, and I want to embrace that, treasure Jesus, and rejoice in the gifts He gives (James 1:17).

Merry (although late) Christmas, dear friends!  No matter what, you are so loved, right now.  And that's truth, because God loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

And despite all the pain, there's beauty in this broken world.  Let's live, seeking His shalom.  ♥


And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.