for bravery & bulbs.

seriously, what the hell.
do you ever feel that way, or is it just me?

as i open up my journal to the words i scribbled down early this morning from atop my cozy couch, wool socks on, peach tea in hand, in my freezing cold basement apartment {for which i’m very grateful}, this is what i am met with:

“today i feel an uncomfortable & overwhelming sense of anxiety & grief. it feels as though my life has been categorized and compartmentalized by these feelings lately. i literally had to yell at satan to ‘get the F out, in Jesus’ name’ last night as i lied in bed without any peace or remnant of calmness in my spirit.”

and it worked, instantly. so, do i recommend this? yes. but maybe not in a public setting.

anyway, not to give him credit, but satan sees our fears and zeros in our them. he, a thief as scripture puts it, came to steal, kill & destroy. i don’t know about you, but none of those three things sound pleasant to me. they sound pretty stupid, actually, like what little four-year-old kids do with their G.I. Joes when they’re bored. but whatever…be a child.

i’m blessed immensely by the next part of that scripture, though, the part that gives me a sense of hope. the part i’ve talked about numerous times on this blog previously. the part where Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the FULL. {emphasis mine, but i can picture Jesus throwing His hands in the air, spread out to show the grandeur of this offer, and robustly proclaiming, “FUULLL!!”}.

if i’m honest, though, lately i’ve felt no trace of that fullness. and by “lately”, i mean within the past few days, where things in my family have hit the fan and splattered across the walls and floors and windows. i miss my niece, who was taken quickly from us to her new home with my sister where things are unsteady, transient, and painful. i came home from work yesterday and stood in the doorway, where i’m usually greeted by a hug from her innocent, meek, hilarious afro-wearing self. instead, i found most of her toys & belongings removed, and an eerie silence that made my eyes well-up with tears, the kind of tears that could overflow into an ugly cry at any moment. yet for those of you who know me, you know all about how this little gal has changed me, and for the better, i’d like to think. she brought joy straight from the Throne-Room when she landed on that hospital delivery table a little over two years ago.

Image

and again, from my journal:
“in the midst of my helpless grief, i’m met by Jesus. He tells me it’s not in a Daughter’s nature to fear. He tells me it’s time to take back what is mine, the things that have been stollen by the thief.

my heart. {no more fleeting.}
my thoughts. {no more fleeting.}
my emotions. {no more fleeting.}
my energies. {more!}
my ambitions & dreams. {more!}
my waking. {more!}
my sleep & solstice. {more!}
my laughing. {more!}

He’s my Hope, and He is the hope of Glory.

if i’m honest again, i don’t fully understand what the heck that means.
Glory is a topic in and of itself, one that i’m wrestling with daily, but still…faith is being confident of what we hope for and certain of we do not see or understand, right?

so i am choosing the make the conscious {wide awake} effort to not worry or wonder about my niece and her life. instead i’ll continually pray and know that her life is hidden with Christ on high.

i’m not going to fear tomorrow or the wars that rage. 
{hello, North Korea. i’d like to be your friend, and i make a mean {but really nice} batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. come sit at my table and let’s eat!}

worry

instead, i’m going to allow myself to be filled with the promise of what hope brings. and in the process, i’m going to explore who i am–the real suzy, running at a steadfast pace toward my promise-land. {okay, you caught me, i’m not a runner, but i can speed-walk with the best of ’em.}

dignity

C.S. Lewis, in his book about grief where he writes about losing his beloved wife to cancer, also reminds me to “not mourn like those who have no hope…”

he even paints the idea that there are only two parts that coincide:
1. the only thing we can do with suffering is to suffer it.
AND…
2. hope and joy are perhaps to be found within our suffering.

and so i go back to the idea of uprooting, which i am still figuring out how to do, pulling up the weeds in my life that bog me down, the lies, the thistles and thorns satan plants in my garden to choke out what God is really trying to grow in me.

i’m an avid Anne Lamott enthusiast & junkie, thanks to mama Betsy, an amazing woman of God who spoke into my life so much over the past year, and often came to our debriefs with her stellar co-coach husband, bearing books and hugs, my favorite kinds of gifts.

i digress. 
writer Anne Lamott will make you laugh until you cry, and make you cry until the snot nearly drowns you. and she loves to garden, too. so she planted bulbs in her yard and waited 20%-expectantly, 80%-sceptically that they’d actually sprout and blossom.

here’s what happened next:

“then, amazingly, only a few days {after the Peace March}, the very first bulbs began to bloom. within a week, there were dozens of daffodils in the yard. when this finally happens in late winter every year, i’m astonished. i’ve always given up.”

i don’t think it’s too late to pull my shovel out of the shed. it may seem futile to stand over the frozen ground long enough to wishfully thaw it out, as Anne lives in California, and i live in the frozen tundra known as Missouri.

even still, i’ll metaphorically pull my boots on with bravery and plant my damn bulbs.
Hope is springing forth in the midst of my grief and confusion, and who am i to not at least try to water it somehow? 

yes, there is a season for everything, even the mourning. 

for the simple things & new songs.

life never really uncomplicates itself very easily.

i’ve felt the very real, raw feeling of being displaced since landing back at home in Kansas City, wondering if my sacred circle of people are still here for me. i’ve also felt the entanglement that tends to happen with family, the love and beauty and chaos it embodies, and i wonder if things will always be so complex.

i’m no rocket-scientist, but there’s never an easy fix.

as i sit here in Mildred’s Coffeehouse, the smell of freshly cooked bacon wafting within the exposed brick walls that make-up this quaint place where i find myself most days, i’m reminded of the simple things.

coffee.

things like good conversations with old friends, a hot tea to soothe a sore throat, scribbling out words in my journal, and paying no mind to the dog barking relentlessly as i walk past his humble abode, where he stands guard of his family.

things like spiders in the corner of my little basement apartment that somehow feel familiar, a bit like Africa, and greeting cards that make me laugh out loud in the middle of the stationary aisle at Target. oh, Target. things like babies and their dimples and new, good tunes in your ears.

there’s nothing quite like a new, good song.

i feel that is what God is doing for me right now. romancing me, singing lullabies to me in the midst my turmoil, hushing me back to a place of calm rest in Him, and He’s saying i can sing my new song too. i don’t have to fear the rhythm or tempo, whether or not it’s the right pitch or tune.

He just asks me to sing.

i was reminded of this during a beautiful meeting with a friend over coffee just yesterday.

i’ll preface by saying i’d also taken a great, long walk on my old usual trail by the Missouri river, with crisp, cold air pressing against my body as i strolled, surrounded by bare naked trees, tall and wide, lining the river and its bluffs.

river.

then i had a hilarious talk with my sassy and sweet pregnant friend, who encouraged me to just move. to go somewhere. to do something. she asked me about the feedback i received on the World Race, and i had to stop and take inventory to remember the goodies people on my teams had gifted me in the form of words throughout this past year.

and so i sat over coffee with that friend, reminiscing and dreaming about our futures with wide-eyes and fast-paced hearts, and much of what she said resonated. yet one thing that actually stuck with me was this:

“i want to extract JOY wherever i am, wherever i go.”

profound, right? but really simple.

i can take my Jesus and my sass wherever i go, but if i don’t love people well enough to extract their joy out into the world we dwell in, what’s the point?

this can happen in Kansas City, Georgia, Spain, or anywhere else. it’s not confined to one place. joy exists everywhere…or it should.

so as i get back into writing and planning and dreaming and scheming and updating my resumé and being grown-up again, the purpose that ignites and remains is this:

singing a joyful song!
yes, simply that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
{i’ve been drawn to this tune, as of late…}
“settle down, it’ll all be clear, don’t pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear. the trouble, it might drag you down, if you get lost, you will always be found. just know you’re not alone, ’cause i’m gonna make this place your home.”

for Georgia & new names.

I’ve gotten really good at being an airplane traveler, particularly recently, having been on ten flights in the past eleven months. Today, it’s pretty amazing to say that I’m on my eleventh flight, this time, on my way to reunite with the beautiful souls I traveled the world with, all of which became family. Not just the extended, flaky, awkward family you only see once every three years {if you’re lucky}, but the kind you treasure in your heart because you know their love is real, not obligatory because you share some small trace of blood or something cellular.

So, here I sit on my flight, recognized by the flight attendant from my recent flight from San Francisco/Salt Lake City which only makes me feel really cool and badass, like a regular or something. A regular who only ever drinks water. {one of these days I’m going get ballsy and order a complimentary “Bloody Mary”, which I once thought was sac-religious, but now deem a true necessity.}

I’m seated in the “Emergency Exit” row, which is usually a blessing, until you realize you actually have no more leg-room than anyone else on the plane, and you’ll have to start chucking bodies out of the small exit hole, which looks like the entrance to a hobbit’s burrow, if things go awry. How prestigious. I laughed aloud when the flight-attendant asked each of us seated in the row if we were willing to uphold the responsibility of helping other passengers to safety first. We had to give her our oath by simply responding aloud with “Yes”. As in: “I’m down. I do. I’m game. I’m practically a physician, but I hated biology. Well, sure!” But what does a measly “yes” promise these days anyway?

I realize I sound like a grandma, but I remember when your word meant something. When vows were upheld for life and unto death. When responsible people were celebrated. Frankly, though, I’m no better, and if an emergency happens, I’ll be the first one out of that little, plastic window, even if they have to shove my ass through it, like Winnie The Pooh going after his favorite honey.

As I glance across the aisle to my right, there’s a well-dressed businessman. His iPad is flapped open on his tray-table, and to my sheer delight, with a coke in his left hand, he is not working hard on some Excel spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation. No. He’s entranced in a serious game of Angry Birds {and just scored over 10,000 points, but who’s creepin’? Not I.} I love this. Not the coke. That’s like syrupy death by aluminum can. But the Angry Birds. The entire scenario reminds me of how fragile life is. How we’re all truly children at heart, ready to play and pounce, whether we admit to it or not. And ready to assault a crazy, feathered aviator should he get out of line. {Fragile, too, because I’m currently being catapulted across the atmosphere at a bajillion miles per hour in a plasticy-metal machine that could plummet toward earth at any given moment. But that’s beside the point.}

Fragile mostly, even still, because I realize more and more how fleeting our days are. I can’t begin to recall how many deaths have plagued friends of mine recently, but the numbers are astounding. My friend, Alex, just visited me from Florida, where she works as a Tech in the Emergency Room. I asked her to share with me some of the craziest stories she’s worked through, and I could hardly believe what I was hearing. What she’s seen in her young age is astonishing. Again, I hated biology, so I could never work in the ER. Someone would have to resuscitate me if I saw a tree-limb lodged into someone’s throat and main jugular artery. As the stories ensued, my mouth hung open at all she has witnessed. In that moment, I realized God, though all-knowing and probably never surprised by anything, may sometimes have to coax His own jaw back shut, after seeing atrocities happen in this world of His. Things He never planned on. Things He wanted to keep us from. I think my heart aches when I hear of parents having to bury their own children, but oh, how the heart of the Father ached when He had to do the same thing with His only Son.

You see, He’s really very near to us. Not just physically, through His Spirit, but also emotionally. Since we’re created in His image, I think the angst and the turmoil our hearts face are really the same emotions our God has, right there in the Throne Room, or wherever He may be at any given moment, which freakishly is everywhere. Some even say He’s omnipresent, if you’re into fancy schmancy words.

This must mean too, though, that we have the full capacity to feel immense amounts of joy, right?  The Creator of life intended for us to have joy, and life to the full, says Jesus. Since we’re made in His image, this means He also feels joy. Somehow, that brings me more peace than knowing His heart breaks ferociously on a daily basis. If God is able to do immeasurably more than I ask or imagine, it means I’m capable of more than I’d hoped or dreamed, in spite of the deaths which surround me and the turmoil of this life we’re living.

He lives in me.
I’m made in His image.
I bare His Spirit and birth it out into the world every day.

Gross?
Nah. Just the truth. I’m in constant labor. And yet it never feels like striving or pushing–just natural.

After a short hiatus in Chicago, {fine, let’s be honest: a marathon sprint through Midway airport only to find out my flight was delayed and all of the numbers and data on my cell phone were somehow deleted during my last flight}, I’m now sitting on the coldest plane, finally on-route to Atlanta. I hear it’s a bit warmer there, and for that, I’m grateful {never thought I’d be saying that from Asia, only a mere month ago}.

This time, I’m glancing across the aisle to my left, and the woman adjacent to me is reading her Bible. I commend her. Nothing about being on an airplane makes me want to whip out that ‘ol thing, but then I remember it’s sort-of like a love letter from God, and I don’t even need to convince myself that she’s the luckiest woman aboard.

She’s reading Genesis 35 {once again, I’m not creepin’}.”Ugh! Why on earth would anyone read that boring first book?!” I once thought. But the truth of it is, this is the best part of the entire love-letter. The part where a light-bulb went off somewhere in God’s {rather large} cranium, and He was filled with utter jubilee as He created you and me. The first line of the chapter says, “Arise, Oh Jacob, and go up to dwell in the land of Bethel.”

I love that God urges us to get up, and to live. In essence, that’s what He’s saying here. He’s telling us all about how he created us for a divine purpose. He’s telling us to be like Jacob, who was given a new name, and made an altar of praise for God, realizing God had answered him in his deepest distress, and stayed with him wherever he had ventured off to, those places of divine purpose.

I never wanted to go to this small Georgian town and do the whole “alumni” gig like everyone else seemingly does. In the same sense, I guess I feel less like Jacob, and more like Jonah, trying to avoid Tarshish and aiming to go the complete opposite direction of where God wants me. But the truth is I think Gainesville, Georgia is my promised-land this month. Maybe this entire year, and that’s saying a lot, because I was blessed to gallivant most of the planet, and it was the last place I wanted to land and the last place I expected to feel safe and secure. Maybe Georgia {like Bethel} is where I’ll find my new name, too, as I find my next divine purpose.

I’m not sure what this next week has in store. I’m not even positive I’m the same person I was when I touched-down on that United States runway one month ago.

But I do know my God will meet me there. He directs me back to that first story of when He lovingly created me, and how all of the muck and mire we’re walking through was never supposed to befall us. His original plan was so much greater, and He gives me preference and says He knows the plans He has for me.

Well that’s a relief, because I have no friggen’ clue myself.

As I open up my complimentary package of frugally salted peanuts {I prefer more sodium flowing through my arteries, and what the package should really say is “Our Airline Is Broke, and This Is All The Salt We Could Afford Peanuts”}, I can’t help but think of the people I’m about to hug once again. People like Stacy, who remind me how kicking & screaming can sometimes be liberating, especially when you’re sharing a 5’ by 5’ dark hole within your mice-infested, Kenyan bunker, and tears are inevitable, so why even try to hold them back? And people like Alys, who led me faithfully through the barrenness that was Africa. Say it with me now: “Africaaaaa”. That’s what it was, a barren hell, and that woman ate roasted, salted peanuts all the live long day, never  once complaining, even though she thought Malaria was going to end it for all of us.

Beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to protein, which keeps us feeling energized and alive. And the same goes for those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers: it’s time to be filled with the joy and energy of the Spirit, arise as Jacob did, and choose what’s next as we take strong steps into our promised-lands {even if that land is Georgia}. It’s time to walk out of sin and shame, and to boldly choose life to the full—even if we have no idea what on earth “life” is supposed to look like. {Life, literally, on earth}. We know it should look like Heaven, but that’s easier said than done.

Still, I’ve learned it’s a choice.

And as for the 3 year old girl in the row behind me who is currently screaming about her doll’s tangled hair: your promised-land is waiting for you, too, my dear. But if you don’t shut your mouth, I will uphold my Emergency Exit Row duties and punt-kick your little tushy right off this airplane.

P.S.-the next time I fly, it’ll more-than-likely be to Spain. {* Hint Hint *} More to come.

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Robin, Casey, Julie, & Me. Roommates and car-riding-buddies for the week. So grateful for these women!