Three.

The next morning stands out to me the most from that time.

There was a sweet moment where I was able to convince myself that it had all been a dream.

And yet, even as I laid there convincing myself of this false truth, I wouldn’t allow myself to open my eyes yet.

All of the self-convincing in the world was going to run right into my new reality the second I opened my eyes and broke eye-contact with the dream.

writing to heavenBut open my eyes I did. And as I walked downstairs from my bedroom that morning to a house full of people except for the one person I longed to be there more than anyone, I knew that my life had changed forever.

I will never forget the day prior, coming home from school to my dad still in bed (it was the first day that this had happened no matter how sick he had gotten). The house slowly filling up with people throughout the afternoon. The whispers and concerned looks that they tried to wash away as soon as one of us kids would see them.

And then the night that my dad slipped away into a world that we can only dream of this side of heaven. The tears, the disbelief.

I don’t think anyone is ever prepared for a moment such as this one, a moment that is so beyond our ability to understand that our minds and bodies sort of shut down and so we push all of the responsibility of coping onto our understanding of Jesus and our soul’s have to carry the burden.

But Jesus and souls and all of that spiritual stuff is so real and yet so confusing. There’s no way to fully understand it which is why people who go through trauma are never the same.

I know I will never be the same since losing my dad to Cancer at the age of eight. I keep thinking that at some point it will stop feeling so empty when I think about him, and yet my life was altered at that time in a very significant way.

Forever more there will be a before, and an after. A life with my dad and one without.

But the beautiful thing, the thing that keeps me holding on to hope, is that this is not a two-act show.

3It’s a three-act one…

Yes, there has been a before and an after. Most of us can probably point to a time in our lives where things sort of stopped, altered, shifted, something happened that we could never go back from.

…but there is an act that is yet to come, and that is the hope I hold onto.

Maybe it’s because I dealt with death as a very real thing that I have always been fascinated with the concept of it. I don’t mind talking about it at all. I’m sort of morbid in the fact that I always think about who will be next. I am not afraid of it.

Oh, and I love cemeteries.

Like, I love them.

I am drawn to them, spend time in them, I write and read and rest in them.

I think they’re absolutely beautiful.

My dad doesn’t have a gravestone and I’m perfectly fine with that. Because he is not there. As much as the symbolism might have been nice, he wouldn’t be there. He is in the place where Cancer is no longer a defeater and where death and depression and abuse and disease no longer have any rule or reign over the children of God.

And today, on Good Friday, I can’t help but ponder how hopeless the disciples must have felt. If I were them I would be questioning everything.

Did we have it wrong?

I thought He was our hope?

How could He have fooled us like this?

What’s going to happen now?

Why would He just leave us?

How much time have I wasted following Him?

Will this pain ever stop?

 How can we go on?

Many of these questions I have asked myself over the years dealing with the never-ending, just always-changing pain and void that I have to process constantly with the death of my daddy.
And yet.

 

And yet.

 

Act three.

Jesus died on this Friday over two thousand years ago.And. Yet.

In the hopelessneaslanss of the situation, there was a hope that would change hope forever.

There was a death that would change death forever.

Jesus was in the process of changing the way we would live and the way we would die…forever.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that is in each one of us if we choose to receive Him, Jesus rose from the grave.

Wounds and all.

He rose. He defeated death. The one thing that we truly have absolutely no control over, the thing that seems to be the end of all endings, is only the beginning in Christ.

“Oh death where is your victory? Oh death where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55 NIV)

I found the most beautiful cemetery the other day. And while I stood there It started snowing when just hours earlier it had been warm and sunny.

IMG_3841And all I could think about was how this world was so beyond our control. Death and life and wrong and right feel so subjective that we have no other option than to hope in something bigger than all of us.

Someone asked me recently why I loved cemeteries.

I could only answer in sentences as broken and chipped as the gravestones. I had no complete thoughts, but do any of us this side of death?

“Everything” I finally said.

“The stories that must be there. The lives lived. The reality of death and the hope and tragedy of it as well.

Everything.

The beauty.

The reminder of our mortality.

The reminder of God.

The question of whether hope remains in these families or not.

The opportunity to pray for them.

 

The finality.

 

And yet…

 

The eternity.

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Learn.

waitingThere’s a Target about a mile from my new house. I tend to walk there at least every other day, if for no other reason than to just be around something that’s familiar. There are definitely worse things I could do to cope with adjusting to a brand new life, but the effect of Target to cause you to spend money when you absolutely do not need to is something that could become detrimental if I don’t get into a better routine soon.

The theme of my life right now, besides Target, is learning. I have been trying to take in as many lessons as I can and not allow the overwhelming task of moving across the country to cause me to become unintentional about this season of life.

I was disappointed in myself after one week that I didn’t have a whole new life worked out already.

I rush everything.

But I can’t do that here. Busses, metros, unpacking, looking for churches, making friends, finding a way to invest in my new community and make a difference…it’s all slow stuff.

collection of vintage alarm clocks

I’ve been doing a bit better this week, letting myself sink into my days, not putting expectations on myself. I’ve been working on memorizing scripture and taking time to slow down in my studies to really allow myself to feel and know and rest in the Word of God. It’s one of the hardest disciplines of my life, and I can already feel it shaping my bones and my heart and my mind and my skin. It’s seeping in, and that in itself is a slow process, but it’s one that remains with you, one that changes you. It prepares you to be ready for what’s next, which is in itself a practice of active faith because you don’t get to see what He’s preparing you for.

It’s painful, it’s beautiful and sometimes it is just absolutely necessary. The discipline of waiting and listening to the Holy Spirit is a big one. The discipline of letting Him take control; of submitting every moment to His will—the when and where and how and what of His will—that is true battle training right there.

An intentional slowing down and season of preparation is one of the most effective things I believe any of us could do in order to glorify God.

I have very high expectations for my life–that it needs to be big and loud and impactful–and I genuinely believe that God has called me to big things, but who am I to define big?

waiting1Who am I to categorize the slow stuff as less than loud and powerful? I’m opposed to slowing down because I equate it with being ineffective. And I’ve come to learn that I don’t think I could be any further from the truth if I tried.

Jesus waited and learned and listened and prepared for 30 years before He started His public ministry. John the Baptist waited for the arrival of Jesus whom he had been prophesying the coming of in complete faith. Abram and Sarai waited for that promised baby. Joseph waited for justice for most of his life. Paul waited and prepared for years after his conversion to start actively spreading the truth of the Kingdom to those he had persecuted. In fact, I’m not sure I can think of hardly any stories in the Bible of people who didn’t have to wait in faith and the stories of the powerful results of that faithfulness are some of the most inspiring promises and gifts that God has ever given us.

 

IMG_3755The other night as I was walking home from one of my recently regular treks to Target I saw the most beautiful cloud in the sky. Now I definitely am someone who regularly appreciates nature, but there was something in the site of this cloud that made me so incredibly joyful in my heart that I stopped to take note of what the heck was going on inside of me.

As I stared at this cloud there was an overwhelming voice in my heart screaming at me (joyfully) “It’s going to be ok! Everything’s going to be ok!”

I almost laughed out loud. In fact, I thin I did! I kept wondering why this cloud was evoking such a stir of excitement and adventure in my heart on a lonely weird afternoon where the highlight of my day had been, once again, Target, and I realized it was because I was focused on the beauty of the moment I was in and as a result was completely free from the angst and stress of what the next moment was going to hold.

I was in that moment fully, and it was in me too. I was at total peace and that space of peace was exactly what I needed to be released from the pressure of making that moment anything but what it was.

 

stopwatchesIf I could sum up all of what I’ve been learning right now into one phrase, it would be that adventure is found by giving each moment the worth it deserves.

And in so doing, we find ourselves experiencing all that we don’t deserve but have been offered freely by our God if we choose to accept it, which is complete freedom to live out every different shape and size of a moment being able to fully trust Him that He’s going to be in every other moment that comes after it as well.

Be in it. Let it be in you. No matter what it is. Joy, sorrow, fear or peace. Dive in and invite God to come into it with you.

It’s going to be ok.

Maybe.

alice41I truly do believe that God is all I need. He fulfills every desire in me, and even though I don’t understand that fully and I struggle with doubting it at times, I do believe it.

I heard one of the greatest quotes once from a professor of mine. He said, “Truly living as a follower of Jesus means following your deepest desire rather than your strongest one.”

I live in a constant state of volleying this strong-willed heart right back over the net from the side of my strongest desires to the side of my deepest desire, but this is not always a game I win. That being said, I do believe that God is the truth, the way and the life. I believe His heart for me and I desire him deeper than I desire anything else.

As I round the corner to my two-week mark before I embark on a new season of life on the East Coast, I’ve been asking a question that I can’t seem to find the answer to.

I know that God is all I need. And I believe that.

But what is ok to want?

Sometimes my strongest desire does win out over my deepest. I allow myself to act a certain way, make a decision that does not invite the full blessing of God over my life, etc… And those actions and decisions are usually based out of me acting on a desire of mine. A want.

But I’m afraid that in the process of trying my best to invite God more fully into my life on an ever continuing basis that I have started to fear the wants as if they are all going to lead me astray.

If God is all I need, what is ok to want? I don’t believe in a Christianity that restricts us from asking questions but I do know that sometimes we must rest in the unknown and be at peace with the fact that we will never fully understand this life on this side of heaven.

So where does that leave me? As far as I can tell in this very moment sitting in sweats in my favorite coffee shop in Portland (side note: I’m actually nervous about the fact that my sweats will not be acceptable in DC, but that’s beside the point), here’s where I land:

I believe that my desires, if they line up with the heart of Jesus, are ok to have. I can honestly trace back almost every act of rebellion that I’ve ever done toward God and trace each one back to me suppressing a want of mine because I thought it meant that I was claiming that God was not enough for me. Instead of being honest with my pain or struggle at a sense of lack, I got mad and just reached out and grabbed what I thought He was holding back from me.

My dad passed away from Cancer when I was eight years old. I didn’t grieve for him until I was 21 because I always felt as if grieving over him meant that I didn’t have faith that God was good and that He was ultimately in control of things. I’m not sure where this idea came from, that to trust God meant suppressing my needs and desires that I had from this world, but I don’t know that this concept has been a struggle for most of my life, and as well meaning as Christians can be at times, I think we get this part of our walk with God wrong…a lot.

What does God “being enough” actually look like? God has the ability to act and speak through everything and anything that He desires. How does God relate with us? He created us in this world to be in community and relationship. He speaks through our brothers and sisters, He speaks through His creation, He acts and fulfills in the most creative of ways, most of which we will probably never even fully know about! So what do we really mean when we say that God is enough for us? I have a suspicion that it doesn’t mean what I’ve believed it to mean for most of my life.

I’m reminded of when Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane and came back to his friends sleeping. He approaches them and says, “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Matt 36:40). Jesus wanted to have a certain kind of relationship with his friends, he desired things from them to meet his heart where he was at in a trying time in his life and was hurt when he didn’t receive that. He doesn’t hide it, he feels it, he expresses it, and then He still goes back and prays to the Father. They don’t seem to threaten each other or cancel each other out. And I’m pretty sure we’d all agree that God was absolutely enough for him. But I think he still wanted.

And maybe when I give myself permission to want without equating that with a lack of faith, maybe that’s where freedom resides. Maybe being fulfilled with God alone in the truest sense of that concept means that I am actually free to want and hope and dream without fearing that my faith is lacking or that God isn’t truly enough for me.

And maybe this is the place where I start to see God everywhere and in everything and everyone who strives to love me the way He does.

And maybe this is the place where I start to take my own role in other people’s lives more seriously as well, knowing that their desire for a connection with Him is something I should always be mindful of when interacting with them knowing that I am just one of many avenues to how God will fulfill the wants of their hearts as well.

And maybe I’ll start letting my wanting heart be a little more unashamed of wanting.

 

Maybe.

He Will Do It

IMG_1944I am moving to Washington D.C. one month from today. One month from today I will take a suitcase, my cat and every ounce of courage I can muster up and fly across the country into, well, the unknown.

Many of you have asked me why I’m moving, what’s out there and why D.C.? And honestly I have no good answer for you. Well actually I have a great answer for you but it’s one of those answers that you’re embarrassed to give because it’s the one that induces shocked and confused looks from others, which is usually at the very least a minor shaking of your confidence, and at the very worst a look that causes all of the doubts and voices that you’ve been keeping locked up quite nicely to come springing out like one of those creepy Jack in the Box’s which then leads to you being in a puddle of tears on your kitchen floor….not that I have experienced anything like that.

But the truth of the matter is that God and I have this dialogue going, and I have worked for years to be able to hear Him clearly and I am still learning every day. And back in November I heard Him quite clearly tell me that it was time for me to move forward into something new, and that the new was not in Portland. And that’s all I knew. And so I did what any strong Christian woman would do. I doubted and I feared and I questioned and I gave into the fog of confusion for a few days and then I prayed and I had others pray and I sat on my bed one night and spun my globe and asked Him,

Where?

And all I can tell you is that I have a peace about D.C., because that’s all I knew then, and that’s all I know now.

That’s all I know about where I’m going, but I do know more about the one who’s sending me.

The one who’s sending me is the one who’s going with me, and He is. He really is going before me. I could tell you a million little ways that God has partnered with me in this, letting me know He’s with me at every turn, but what I will tell you now is that He is awakening my voice in this move. I know He is releasing a side to me that I have had hidden for years due to abuse, conformity, fear and insecurity. And it is time to break the silence.

I know that His heart is that I would love Him, love myself and love others in entirely new ways this next year. That I would speak up and out for my worth and for the worth of others. That I would find courage and learn how to be bold and respectful at the same time. And that I would never fear adventure, authenticity or advocacy again. These things will come bubbling out of this Brooke a million different ways over this next year and beyond, and I’m just as curious as you are to see what that’s going to look like.

My conclusion is this, for now: that I seek God with literally everything I have. With my voice, with my thoughts, with my body, with my mind; and then let Him take it from there. When He opens my mouth to speak may it be with the boldness that only comes from being soaked in Him. When He tells me it’s time for my fingers to move over this keyboard than may it be done with the respect and faithfulness that any art deserves. When He tells me that it’s time to go for the “more” that is out there for me, first stop D.C., then may I go with courage and surrender that can only come from having the power of the Holy Spirit truly being the one in charge.

It’s a beautiful and terrifying and confusing and exhilarating partnership, mine and God’s. I believe with my whole heart that He’s called you to a partnership in this life that is just the same. Be bold with me?

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thess 5:23-24 NIV

So we must be blameless through and through…spirit, soul, body…and yet the one who calls you is faithful, and HE WILL DO IT.

So I submit. And He does it. I ask for courage. He provides it. I offer myself as best as I can every single minute to surrender, repent and receive all of who He is.

And He will do it.