Art, Relationships, & The Lie That Keeps You From Having Both

I do a lot of things. I say that I do a lot of things. Photography, blog design, graphic design, writing, making jewelry, painting – I have a really bad case of, “oh that’s amazing – I want to be able to do that!”

So I try. Really hard. Because I want it. Really bad.

I experiment, I Google things, I research it. I spend an ungodly number of hours reading, observing, and trying over and over and over.

I used to hate that I never had anyone to teach me what I wanted to be able to do. It’s frustrating. Discouraging. Sometimes I feel like it’s not worth it. Too much to tackle. Like I’m on my own. I’ve never had close friends or teachers that help me, guide me, & enable me to get better at whatever artistic endeavor I’ve got my hands in.

But over the years, I have started to see it as a gift. I am slowly perfecting the art of teaching myself.

We live in a world that admires “the self-taught” above everything else. “You TAUGHT yourself?” It’s the ultimate compliment.

People look at someone who learned something on their own and ask, “HOW did you teach yourself that?”

How? Because they fully believed they could throw themselves into it and eventually figure it out.

Anyone who has learned anything on their own knows how frustrating it can be to be “self-taught.” To spend 10 solid hours on something little and stupid, because you can’t get to the next part until you figure it out. “If only I could just take a class on this.” “If only I could just ask someone and get the answer.”

But everyone who has spent 10 hours on something little and stupid also knows that they will never forget what they learned.

Everyone who has sought something with their entire heart has discovered that the greatest lie they can believe is that they “can’t” unless someone else teaches them how. They learn that belief is everything they need to propel them forward.
And it becomes permanent to them. It becomes what they understand, not just know.

What they are capable of, not just what they replicated.

In a way, it becomes part of their identity.

It becomes worth it.

I like to think that God’s primary characteristic is an artist. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created.”

When we were created in his image, we were created with the innate ability to create and initiate on our own. More than that – the desire was embedded into our heart. We can initiate change; we are active, not passive creatures.

Last week I was asked, “how do I get a relationship with God like yours?” A few days ago, “how did you get past everything that happened to you?” And in the last 24 hours, several people who don’t know how to pray or hear from God have crossed paths with me.

And everyone wants to be taught. Because in the moment, that seems impossible.

We all want to be “able,” immediately.

We feel utterly directionless before we take the first step. We think we don’t even know where to begin. We base our potential options off of failed actions in the past. “I tried that for like three years, it never worked.” “I can’t just….do that.”

And so we decide, “I can’t.” Until someone comes along to teach us.

But what we’re always forgetting is that God created us with the ability. God designed you with the ability to create. God MADE to have a relationship with him. The relationship you see other people having with him. God created you with everything you need to get past what happened to you. He designed your heart and soul explicitly for the purpose of communicating with God – sharing yourself with Him, and He sharing himself with you.

What we are forgetting is that God created us.

And just like everything else, a relationship with God is simple, but not easy.

You were born with the ability to have the relationship with Him that you want but don’t know how to get. Believe it.

You were born with the ability to speak to a God you cannot see. Believe it.

You were born with the ability to overcome everything that has happened to you. Believe it.

You are able to chase God with everything you have, no matter what. Believe that in the end, it will be worth it.

Because it is when you doubt the possibility that you lose the ability.

If I didn’t believe I could figure out how to use a camera, I never would have become a photographer.

If I didn’t believe I could find the answer to my stupid broken code problem somewhere on Google, I would have stopped looking & never designed anything.

If I didn’t believe that I could mess with paints enough to finally get it to do what I wanted, I would never create anything.

You must believe before you try.

If I didn’t believe God would answer me, I would stop talking to him.

If I didn’t believe God would love me the way I needed to feel love, I would have never asked him for it.

So, this is my encouragement to believe. And to try. To try hard.

Choose to believe. To experiment. To run, and fall. Climb, and slip. Mix things together, and find that they don’t work. But slowly we get the answers, piece by piece. We master the next step, eventually.

And before you know it, you will have created. You will understand, not just know. You will have the relationship with God that you didn’t have last month, last year, ten years ago.

Because you will have tried all the wrong ways – and it was hard – until you found that you could obtain what looked out of reach.

Because you were created by God. In His image.

– – –
“You will seek me & find me when you seek me with ALL your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

It is written: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father & learns from him comes to me. John 6:45


No longer will a man teach his neighbor saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 31:34

“I will put my law in their minds & write it on their hearts. I will be their God, & they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33

– – –

PS: I am raising money to get back home by selling photography from the first half of the trip! Please consider helping us out! <3

Come join me on Facebook! > >

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Rest: Conversations with God.

I’m learning that black and white often isn’t sufficient for me. I love words. But I love the sky. And colors. And air. And space.

This was my conversation with God this morning. And how it felt.

Did you read my last post? I Was A Prostitute: The Truth About Sex. Also, I love this: Bodies & Beauty: My Almost-Eating Disorder..

The Most Important Thing

“It’s 12:33am on a Sunday, and I haven’t slept in my own bed or shaved my legs in my own shower in about two months.

I haven’t been alone for more than 30 waking minutes since March 24th.

I went to a new church today. Two of them, actually.

I have holes in my boots and a blister from flip-flops given to me by a woman who knew I needed them.

I just missed an important credit card payment on accident, and they don’t take apology letters.

I can’t decide if I’m more upset that I decided to wait for marriage, or that I’m not already married.

I just want to sleep next to him right now.

I’ve been sitting at this damn table for two hours now, looking at this little list of things, wondering whose idea it was to give me a platform of any sort. “

Read the rest of my post on DeeperStory.com today >>>.

When Christianity Says You Aren’t Enough + Update On The Trip

“I thought the world was diseased, and that I could save it by living, breathing, and dying in a vacuum called The Righteous & Holy Life. That the rebellious would see how good and clean and white I was, and would press their faces against the glass, crying out to God that they too wanted to be saved. So that they might live, breathe, and die in this sub-world, utterly void of sin.

They were destined for hell. Sons of liars, thieves, and all things wicked and perverse.

Not to be touched.”

Read the rest of my post on DeeperStory.com today >>>


Max & I are in Richmond, VA at the moment — we’ve spent the last couple of weeks in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, West Chester, DC & (I think?) we are headed to Raleigh, NC this evening!

Cities coming up: Greensboro, Charlotte, Columbia, Charleston, Savannah, Atlanta, & anywhere in between! We would love to meet you, or crash on your sofa! Or you know, both.

I’m still updating See The Cities with our photos! Also, you should read Max’s post, “If We Reach The Cities, We Will Reach The Nations.

– – –

Are you following me on Twitter? Do it here: @laurenlankford

Be a fan on Facebook. It’s the best way to keep up. Do that here.

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Love Was The Plan.

 

“The nights when your bedroom feels miles deep and miles wide, as you tear through your mind trying to even remember what God felt like last time? What you wouldn’t give to simply walk next to Him.

The mornings you climb out of your shower, pulling your eyes from the mirror, hoping to slip your bathrobe over your skin before he sees you? What you wouldn’t give to not even know what shame felt like.

The afternoons he’s absent and you numb a piece of your heart, resentment leaving a thick, bitter coating over your desire for him? What you wouldn’t give to feel like you were created from a piece of bone near his heart, wildly adoring who you are together. “

Read the rest of my post on DeeperStory.com today >>>

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Car Accidents and Playing It Safe.

Last night, driving home in the dark, my mind blanked from the phone conversation I was having as I noticed a car’s headlights do a complete U-turn in the middle of the eight lane highway. What in the world, you can’t just do that, you’re going to get hit. Cars were sliding off the entrance ramp on my right, to the shoulder with their hazards on. I strained to make out dark shapes yards ahead of me, wondering why there would be mis-matching headlights and tail lights on both my side of the highway and the other.

A blanket of glass and debris suddenly appeared in front of me, washed across every single lane, as well as three obliterated vehicles spun backwards and facing me. And even more cars on the other side. Oh, that’s why. I tried to explain what I was seeing on the phone and ended it quickly, as soon as I realized I had to figure out how to come to a complete stop, back up, and cross a few lanes sideways before dozens of other cars behind me slammed into both myself and the wreck. In the dark.

I normally do 80mph right here, and now I’m doing -12. It’s always an odd feeling, coming to a complete stop in a place that is never still.

I debated with myself for all of four seconds. I could keep going. I could. I probably should. Or I could park half on concrete, half on mud, and make my way through four lanes of the outerbelt in the complete dark with no guarantee of not being hit, and make sure the drivers of these crushed vehicles were alright.

Not like I could do anything if they weren’t. But God smacked me in the face. Lauren, you do what I tell you. You stop. And you go. And you Be. And you pray.

The only thing more strange than driving backwards on the highway is running across it, glass crunching under your boots, as you try to explain to yourself the eerie silence and stillness of half a dozen men on the other side of the concrete wall, while a woman wrestles her body against a car seat, a twisted frame, a door that no longer exists, and an airbag, looking like someone tossed a bucket of blood at her face.

There are two cries I cannot bear. An infant who cries not to be heard but because he is alone, and a woman in pain who doesn’t know who will come for her.

Keeping one eye on the oncoming cars and one eye on the SUV I was making my way to, I tried to piece together the hysterical screams of another woman standing on the side of the road. God, woman, stop waving your cell phone and arms and mixed up words. Unless you’re the one with metal digging into your flesh, you shouldn’t be the one screaming in a crisis situation. Rule number one in dealing with trauma. Do not do anything that induces more panic.

Shouting towards the men standing against the concrete divider, I made no attempt to hide the frustration in my voice. “Get over here. Why are you not helping her. COME ON. We have to move her!”

A car’s brakes screamed as it flew through the middle of the accident, trying to slow down as the glass ground into his tires – the driver obviously not seeing the vehicles in enough time to stop and maneuver around.

Dear God, some car is going to plow right into this woman and end her life.

The men glanced back and forth, first at me, and then at the woman on the opposite side of the road, still screaming directions and telling everyone to “get the fuck back in all your god damn cars!” Half of them chose to listen to her, the other half to me.

Another car slid sideways as it stopped just in time, avoiding the whole mess of us.

With half the men finally at the SUV, doing their best to calm the blood soaked woman, I ran back across a few lanes to the screamer. Half because she was really pissing me off, and half because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something important.

“Hey, calm down. Seriously please stop screaming. It’s going to be fine.”

Another car flew through the middle of two of the backwards vehicles, missing one of the men by less than two feet. Okay. Maybe it’s going to be fine.

“THEY HAVE TO MOVE. THEY ARE GOING TO GET HIT. NO ONE CAN SEE THEM. THEY’RE GONNA GET HIT.”

“I know, ma’am, but that’s why they’re trying to get to her. They’re out there helping her because if she doesn’t get moved, she’s going to get broadsided by a car and die instantly.”

“THEY NEED TO GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE ROAD THIS IS NOT THEIR JOB.”

“I understand. And what they’re doing is dangerous but we’re more concerned with her right now. We don’t know if she’s alright.”

“OH MY GOD WHY IS NO ONE LISTENING TO ME. THIS IS NOT THEIR JOB. YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO ENTER THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT. YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO LEAVE IT.”

I gritted my teeth as I realized how many times I’d heard this in my life.

In a mess of words I lost my patience and explained to her that she should just stay on the side of the road where she wouldn’t get hit, for the love of God stop screaming, and to let the men make sure the other woman was okay; that I wasn’t willing to stand there on the side of the road and watch her die in front of my eyes because it was too dangerous, too unsafe, or not my job.

Unzipping her jacket, she just about punched herself in the chest as she pointed out the EMT emblem stamped into her t-shirt, and stepped up to my face.

“LISTEN TO ME, BITCH. I AM A GOD DAMN EMT AND THAT WOMAN SHOULD NOT BE TOUCHED. THIS IS NOT YOUR FUCKING JOB TO TELL ANYONE WHAT TO DO IN AN ACCIDENT. EVERYONE NEEDS TO GET THEMSELVES OUT OF THE WAY.”

Wow. Alright. So we have an EMT at the scene. I caught myself getting angry as I realized she was the first person who should have been putting her life at risk – not us – to make sure this woman didn’t need CPR, a tourniquet, or glass pulled out of her face. And instead, I’m the one doing it. Trying, anyway.

I should say something right here. Generally speaking, if you scream, “listen to me, bitch” in my face, I’m most likely going to do exactly the opposite of whatever it is you suggest. I’m human. And I really just don’t do well with people commanding me to do things while yelling. Sorry.

I should also say that this woman had a damn good point. I realize that as an EMT, she’s been trained day in and day out to get as many civilians out of harm’s way as possible, and knows the risk involved with trying to move someone who most likely has a spinal cord injury.

But I also know that in that moment, I would have risked my life to stand in the middle of a freeway, in the dark, to simply pray over a woman whose life will never again be the same.

To sacrifice my safety in order to comfort a woman who never again will be that terrified, in the center of death’s grip, to fight in her behalf in front of the throne of a God whose hand could stop a wave of armored artillery headed right for us.

How many times, as Christians, have we left someone paralyzed in the middle of the road, because it’s too dangerous for us?

How many times, as righteous people, have we abandoned someone blinded by blood and tears, because what made the most sense was to keep ourselves safe?

How many times, as good men and women, have we tended to “our jobs,” safe on the side of the road, while we wait for God to show up?

How many times, have we been qualified EMTs, trained for hours on the proper way to handle an injury within the Church, only to have it translate to walking away from a woman sobbing, screaming, crying, and begging for help?

This is what bothered me. What shook me up the most.

That we are trained to be safe, to let someone else get their hands dirty in the blood and the wreck, to be content with abandoning someone on the brink of emotional or spiritual death, simply because there is someone else who could handle it better.

That crazy, screaming, panicking EMT? She was probably right. We could have paralyzed her by moving her – and thankfully the medics showed up while the men were still getting to her through metal and glass.

And sometimes you need to step back, trust God, and let someone else do their job, because they can do it exponentially better than you.

But that never, ever pardons you from slamming on your brakes, putting your life on hold, and falling to your knees to put someone’s heart, body, and salvation into the hands of the God of the Universe. That never pardons you from putting yourself directly in harm’s way to come alongside someone and to provide comfort, love, peace – and whatever you’ve been gifted with for exactly those moments.

I will never know what happened to that woman. If she lived, if she died, if she’s still in critical condition at the hospital. And that’s okay.

What I do want to know, however, is how different the outcome would have been, had an army of men and women had gotten out of their cars, knelt on the wet pavement with gravel digging into their skin, and cried out to God in her behalf.

I would give anything to see that..

Redefining Trust: Who Has Your Heart?

I’ve noticed lately that our society is somewhat obsessed with talking about trust.

Every horoscope, every personality test, every 50-trillion-questions-about-yourself-survey tries to define you by your predisposition to either trust or not to trust.

Unfortunately for me, I’m evenly split on every personality test I’ve ever taken. I’m loud, I’m quiet. I’ll spill my life in a flood of everything you didn’t want to know about me, and I’ll sit in the corner dreading having to speak more than 10 words. I can go two weeks without cleaning anything, and I can be an emotional and mental web of chaos because there are three pens too many on my desk.

There was a personality test I had to take in high school, the DISC test. My result? 25/25/25/25. Very funny, God. Oh well, I guess you can consider my DISC to be well-rounded. (The guy who made us take this test didn’t find that joke very humorous, by the way. He told me with a very concerned expression on his face that I was a highly unusual person. No shit.)

“Do you trust people?” Come on. What kind of question is that.

I’ve realized that I’m one of those people who spills easily, but won’t expect anyone to mop it up.

I will give everything, and count on nothing.

I’ll show you the inside, outside, and wrong side of my heart, but won’t commit you to it’s care.

This is where everyone has looked at me and said, “you’re the most trusting person I know.” And I have to say back, “Yeah? Alright. If you say so.”

But this has never sat right with me. I still feel like I trust everyone, yet no one, and I want to know why.

I love dictionaries. So today, I asked the dictionary what trust (and entrust) is:

Trust: Reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety of a person or thing. Confident expectation of something; hope. The obligation or responsibility imposed on a person in whom confidence or authority is placed.

Entrust: To charge or invest with something of value. To commit something to the care to, for use or performance.

Reliance on strength. Hey women, whose strength are you relying on?

Confident expectation. Hey men, who are you confident in?

To commit to the care of. Hey you, who have you committed your heart to the care of?

Trust, I am learning, is not character trait. It’s not a checkbox on your personality test. And it’s not a passive state of being.

Trust is an active decision. An active risk.

Maybe this is why putting trust on a survey doesn’t work. Because when you rely on something, when you entrust someone else with your own heart, there are two parties involved. Trust is something that cannot be defined on your own terms. When you choose to trust, you choose to be at the mercy of the strength, integrity, and surety of the other.

I am fighting with myself just writing this. But I want to be a trusting person. I want to trust everyone. Why do I want that?

I’m going to say it’s because I am part of a generation that has been raised to consume, consume, consume. We accept everything, believe everything, listen to everything, watch everything, and welcome everything.

Our greatest fear is that we might offend someone.

Both of these things, the overwhelming desire to soak up everything and to welcome the entire world into your heart, give us a knee jerk reaction to the idea of protecting your core and being slow to trust.

We accept everything, forgetting to passionately believe only a few things. We grab for everything, forgetting to cling desperately to only a few things.

I am learning that refusing to build and protect my core just might be the death of me.

When you spill your guts and bleed your heart, it can be like opening a safe. And when that safe is open, anyone can reach in and grab what they want.

I challenge you to be selective in who gets the keys to your safe. I challenge you to be slow to entrust people with your heart. I challenge you to wait for the people who have integrity, strength, and surety that you can count on. That you can commit your heart to.

I don’t want to stop wearing my heart on my sleeve. I don’t want to stop sharing all my secrets with every girl who needs or wants to hear. I don’t want to stop loving and loving deeply by way of my mistakes, my weaknesses, and hurts. I don’t want to stop talking about the hard things.

The good news, though, is that we don’t have to.

Because I have learned that God can take the safe your heart is in and turn it from steel to glass. So that everyone can see you, and your love, and your story. So that your heart is visible to everyone, and still displays honesty, vulnerability, humanity, and your need for God.

And we are called to do that. We are called to be a light, to sit on a hill.

But when it comes to trusting? Really, honestly entrusting your heart to the strength, integrity & surety of someone?

That you guard. For that, you are at peace with having higher standards for who gets the key. For being selective, to clinging to what is right and best.

For that, we are called to guard our hearts, for it is the wellspring of life.

Translated to common English: “Protect your heart, because the condition of your heart will determine the rest of your entire life.”.

Pictures from a Rainy Day & Stubbornly Holding To Blind Belief.

It rained today. I’m tired of the rain, so very tired. But all things are pretty, and I have decided to see them as such. So I took pictures on my front porch.

Also, I realized today, yet again, that I’m only a child. But that I have the best Dad. And that when I revert back to the heart he originally placed in me, stripped bare of all questioning, fears, guilt, concerns, and a forever of et ceteras, life is a thousand times more beautiful. More thoughts on that below.






You know when you were a kid, and your dad told you that the tooth fairy only comes on Tuesday nights, that watermelons grow in your tummy if you eat a seed, and that the birthmark on your mom’s leg was where she spilled her coffee, every morning?

You know all the things your dad told you about your family that you accepted without question?

You know when your dad said he was proud of you, and that took up 103% of your heart and brain space – so much so that you couldn’t even comprehend caring about anything else in that moment?

You know when your dad told you that you did something wrong, and the whole world broke and stopped until you put the pieces back together exactly the way he wanted them to be?

You know when you heard the car pull up and the garage door open and everything fell out of your hands as you screamed, “DADDY’S HOME!” and ran to hug his leg?

You know when you asked a question and he said “it doesn’t matter” and you didn’t give it another thought, just because he didn’t?

I want that with my Daddy. With my God. My Father.

I want to stubbornly cling to the most outrageous things with a blind belief simply because those words fell from His lips and there is no possible way that my Daddy is ever wrong.

I want to believe every single thing He tells me about my family – the one He’s given me – because His truth is my new truth.

I want 103% of my mind and heart to be flooded when He says is proud of me, and to not be able to even fathom caring about what anyone else thinks.

I want to have my priorities in order so that when my Daddy tells me something is off, I throw my heart and my soul into having them exactly the way He wants them to be.

I want to scream to my Daddy and everyone else that He’s home. MY HOME. Whenever I hear Him, see Him, feel Him.

And when I go to my Daddy with a painful question, and he says, “Don’t worry about it, because I’m not.” – I want to know with every cell of my body and every fiber of my heart that if He isn’t worried about it, I don’t need to be either.

– – –

And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:10

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” Matthew 11:25

You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. I Thessalonians 5:5

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 1:4.

+ rest +

I’m terrible at resting. I’m terrible at knowing why I’m terrible at resting.

Have you heard that most weaknesses are just strengths taken too far? My strength is diving headfirst into things that wrap their fingers around my heart, and working hard to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. I’m not passive. And I take it too far. I’m proud of the strength, and ashamed of the weakness. I’m ashamed of the cost.

I’m still learning the cost of the weakness. And let me tell you, there is a great cost.

What has it cost me? Health. Peace. Relationships. Friendships. Seeing truth. Hearing God. Seeing God. My memory. Quality of work. Love. Joy. Wisdom. Invaluable experiences. Emotional stability. And on, and on, and on.

I recently watched a documentary called, “Stress: Portrait of A Killer.” It’s on Netflix, and you should watch it.

I wish I could say seeing the science behind stress and the destruction of brain cells was my breaking point, but I’m a little more selfish than that.

On December 1st, I woke up at 3:30am and realized I didn’t have any interest in getting out of bed that day, which would arrive in a couple of hours. Everything on my plate were things I had chosen: A good job (not involving physical discomfort and more than paying my bills), school (which I love) and a major I’m interested in, editing photos that I took because I adore photography, writing the mission for Love Bomb, and a handful of trite activities. None of these were miserable tasks that I’d been forced to complete, none of them were long-hated obligations that I’d been silently swearing against for years.

So why was I dreading the morning?

For the past two weeks, I’ve been searching for this answer. And I found it. It is because I do not rest.

Skipping a class and sleeping in an extra 2 hours because your entire body aches is not rest. Taking a day off work to catch up on overdue commitments is not rest. Splurging on more coffee at 10pm is not rest. Fighting against the guilt of being a month behind on housework and triumphantly choosing not to do them just yet is not rest.

If you are working relentlessly out of guilt or self-inflicted obligation, stop immediately.

If you think maybe you’re working relentlessly because of guilt or self-inflicted obligation but aren’t quite sure, stop immediately.

The actions that fill your days should come out of health, joy, love, peace, and heart.

If you’ve lost your passion, drop everything, and for the love of God: Go find it.

If you are trying to play savior to others, or to yourself, you don’t know Jesus as well as you thought you did.

Rest is physical, emotional, spiritual and mental. The cost of not resting affects all three of those areas as well.

I am the poster child for anti-rest. I have taken it upon myself to destroy that quality in me. This past week, I have let go of the majority of my obligations, much to the dismay of the world I decided that I could save. Yesterday, the moment I was off work, I came home and crawled into bed. Yes, at 2:30pm. I slept for four hours. I woke up, read some, wrote a letter, talked to a friend, half-watched a documentary, and went to bed early. I overslept this morning. My entire past 2 weeks has looked like this. Lazy? No. I am resting. I am catching up on 8 years of rest that I never had. I am cooking real food and lounging on the sofa for an hour while I watch trash TV and eat my dinner. Lazy? No. I am resting.

Three days ago, a marvelous thing happened. I woke up from a nap, sat up, and said to myself, “I miss my friends!” I went downstairs, turned on a documentary, sat down at the table, and wrote a handful of letters. While I had my envelopes and stamps out, I wrote a letter to the girl I sponsor in Zimbabwe, and paid some bills. IT WAS FUN. I loved it. These were all things that normally are on my to-do list; things that drip with guilt. And in this moment, I realized why they drip with guilt: Not because I don’t want to, but because I am too tired.

My body, mind, and heart have been screaming at me for years, and I just now heard them.

I will throw a brick at the next person who says to me, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” and consider it a service to humanity. I realize this is extremely hypocritical of me, but we preach best what we need to hear most.

I understand that it’s hard. I understand that some of you are soldiers on multiple battlefields. I understand that for some of you, being “sister, mother, daughter, wife and friend” is not just some cute little description of you that hangs on a plaque in your bathroom. I understand that some of you are paying for others’ mistakes. I have a word for you from God, the one who created you: “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.” (Exodus 34:21)

I beg of you to rest.

If you cannot yet rest physically, rest spiritually. Know that, “my Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

If you cannot yet rest physically, rest emotionally. Know that, “the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12)

If you cannot yet rest physically, rest mentally. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

And if you cannot rest physically, ask yourself the hard questions. Why have you committed to certain people? Why are you consumed with X, Y & Z? Why do you chase after the things you chase after? What are you doing that is your security blanket? What will you lose if you work less? Why will you miss what is gone?

The cost of not resting is great. If you don’t believe me, do a word search for “rest” in the Bible. Or go watch “Ink” on Netflix.

Give yourself grace. And rest.

– – –

“Very well then,
with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people,
to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
and, “This is the place of repose”— but they would not listen.
So then, the word of the LORD to them will become:
Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that;
a little here, a little there—
so that as they go they will fall backward;
they will be injured and snared and captured.
Isaiah 28.
.

+ gifts: intimate, all-consumed, enraptured. +

Before I get into this post that accidentally turned into a book, look at these photos! As a little girl, I was captivated with water, and would sit in the tub for hours splashing, pouring and watching it. Oh love love love.


In my minds eye, I can see “a perfect relationship.” Not in terms of place, time, success, looks, or circumstance – but emotions, joy, trust, honesty and openness. Oneness. Thanks to hundreds of movies, we all have the image of a woman running at a man, full-speed, and throwing herself into his arms – ecstatic and all-consumed with the heart that is before her. Nothing else in her line of sight. Joy painted across her face. It’s almost a renewed form of innocence. Love does that.

Anyway, I was thinking about these things as I drove home late last night after hearing a teaching on marriage and oneness at JHouse (such perfect timing for me, somehow – even though I’m as single as it gets) – bouncing images off the walls of my mind. I was a mess when I had showed up at JHouse and Kelly was a doll and spent the first chunk of the service praying and crying with me in an empty hallway.

Forgive me as I piece these thoughts together poorly.

Months ago, someone gave me an image of God offering me a wedding band – he is my husband, my faithful. The whole God is my husband/boyfriend thing has always really irritated me, by the way. It wasn’t til I switched out the traditional word for what that relationship WAS to what it MEANT – what I needed and wanted in that relationship – my faithful, my rock, supporter, encourager, helper, provider, lover, companion and confidantethat I realized that yes, this is who God is for me. It gets harder still when we’re also told he is our Father, and then that Jesus sticks closer than a brother – a strange sort of family that clearly wouldn’t work in human terms. But remove the limitations of relationships defined on earth, and think about what your heart desires. That one heart to cleave to, run to, fall back on, love on and be loved by, trust wholly, to teach you, to provide for you, to listen to you, to lead you, to sit with you, and forever on. The point is that God more than fills that unrelenting need in all ways, and in ways we can’t understand.

Anyway, I’ve accepted that he is the other half in this all-encompassing relationship for me, but in no way has it matched up with that first “perfect, beautiful relationship” I described at the beginning of this post. Some days I’ve felt let down. Disappointed. On bad days I beg him to show me where that relationship is. Eventually, I think we all get to the place where we decide it’s not worth it. If being in a relationship with God is just for the sake of being in one, and having that relationship spot filled, then meh. We could just do without. I could always come back. Oh, that line. (Would we ever want to leave someone that fits that ‘perfect relationship’ description? Would we ever want to leave when we are crazy-in-love? Food for thought.)

As I was thinking through what Kelly had prayed over me and what we had both heard from God, I got stuck trying to complete this image of God being one who watched over my heart at every minute of the day, and showed up with gifts for me just when he knew I needed them. Why does this not satisfy? Why do I not see the gifts as real gifts? Why do I swallow them down as either “I deserve this,” and give him no thanks, or “I don’t deserve this, let me work harder,” again, with no true thanks. I kept fighting through to try to mesh the image of God’s love and provision with my ‘perfect relationship’ image, and finally I found yet another wall my heart had still standing. It has no name, and a cause unique to no one. It’s what develops as a result of flawed relationships with the people in our lives that give to us, added onto the fact that we ourselves have flawed hearts and minds.

This wall – more like chains, or a mask – has kept me from being myself with God when he gives to me. It’s kept me from being a woman in love. This mask has kept me from understanding why gifts are given to me and what my response should be, making them not gifts at all. (Isn’t that just how the deceiver works? Taking something beautiful and making it into something that it’s not?) One of the greatest lies we can ever believe about God is that he doesn’t really give gifts.

Gift: something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone; something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned.

Let me put it this way. When a man brings a gift to his beautiful woman that he knows she will love – what is his greatest reward in giving it to her? What does he expect in return? He expects no *thing* in return – this is what defines it as a GIFT. But it is given with a hope – a hope of joy, ecstasy, love, thankfulness, and total satisfaction with him. The hope of that ‘perfect relationship’ manifesting itself in all of its glory. I finally meshed the images together.

When God gives me a gift, he desires nothing from me – but that I throw myself into his arms and tell him a dozen times over how much I love it, how happy it makes me, how much I love him, and how treasured and loved I feel.

Any man reading this, I am sure, will agree with me. That when he brings his girl any gift, there is no greater reward than to see her eyes light up and be completely enraptured with what he gave, and her repeated thanks – attested by the joy on her face. That it pales in comparison to her giving an expected thank you and offering to do something for him tomorrow in return. Yes, men?

Women (and men), if you feel you don’t deserve a gift, know that you’ve already forgotten what a gift is. Begin to learn to be crazy in love with Him. Be ecstatic when you receive your gifts. Because that is why they are given to you.

I hope this made sense.

This is my prayer – that we learn to be the woman enraptured with our gifts. That we learn to abandon the lie that tells us we have to make up for and repay our gifts, and by doing so, disappoint the giver and devalue the gift. Because don’t you know that the gift is given because he wants to watch us be delighted?

I have no theological evidence to support this, but I would humbly submit that perhaps the more often we respond to our gifts in this way, the more he will love to give to us.

– – –
You will be made rich in every way
so that you can be generous on every occasion,
and through us your generosity
will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:11

If you, then, though you are evil,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts
to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:10.