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!

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