When love finds my square foot on earth.

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The sand crunched cold against the back of my hand as I lay there in the dark, arms crossed behind my head. My knuckles worked their way into the soft silt soundlessly, my weight making the slightest dent in the massive desert dunes.

Slight. Tiny.

Tiny like a grain of sand.

I feel so small right now.

In this huge ocean of desert, all I’d have to do is move and a whisper would shift a silky wave of sand back over the spot where I’d been.

But at that moment, there wasn’t even a whisper.

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The silence was huge as the desert sky forgot the last hints of sunlight and gave over to night. In seconds, it became a rich black canvas for stars to poke through, white bulbs punched in a Lite Brite.

“It almost feels like you can reach out and touch them, they’re so close,” said my friend Elizabeth, who was laying a few feet away.

I nodded, even though she couldn’t see me.

I don’t think either of us could’ve felt farther from home than we did in that moment, lying there in the gaping evening shadows of the central Asian desert, starlight piercing our thoughts. Moments ago, I’d laughed until tears ran out into the sand — we were looking at a ridiculous picture we’d posed with a cup of noodles and the camels that had brought us out here.

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Where are we.

Still, even here, God sees.

Earlier that morning, we’d taken a tour of an ancient place covered with art that honored a faith whose followers strive to be like their figurehead — to achieve a state of sleep.

Lying there wide-eyed, sleep was the furthest thing from my mind.

I sifted sand through my fingertips.

“Elizabeth, aren’t you glad we don’t have to follow something that tells us the best we can do is to one day get to sleep for a few thousand years? Aren’t you glad we get to follow the One who made all this?”

The One who is bigger than the sky, yet sees us. And loves us. And pursues us so we can spend eternity reigning with Him.

The silence reigned a little while longer, and then we found ourselves singing. Song after song came, and eventually this one.

Your love is like radiant diamonds bursting inside us we cannot contain.

Your love will surely come find us like blazing wildfires singing Your name.

God of mercy, sweet Love of mine,

I have surrendered to Your design.

May this offering stretch across the sky;

These hallelujahs be multiplied.

I thrust my palms into the night sky, praising the One whose love does surely come find us, no matter what square foot of earth we’re standing on, no matter how remote or how normal.

He reaches for us. We just have to reach back.

Starlight traced the edges of my outstretched hands. Lying there, like Elizabeth said, it’s almost like we could touch Him.

It’s a moment I’ll never forget.

But the next morning, as I drank instant coffee from a paper cup and watched the sun pierce the sky over the dunes, the thought that warmed me wasn’t so much that this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.

It was the thought that these moments, moments where I feel His grandness bursting my heart – they pierce my every day. In my car. At my desk. When I run, when I’m folding laundry, when I get up early to read the Bible.

Your love will surely come find me.

In a few days from now, when I’m back at my commute from the Birmingham suburbs just as the sun rips the Alabama sky open over I-65, God will find me there just like He always has.

I just have to choose to reach back.

He’s always there, and He’s always just as amazing. Expansive. Overwhelming. Personal. Beautiful.

Sometimes when we find ourselves on a mountaintop, we feel like our heart is quickened to realize His presence. And in some ways, it is.

By design.

But those moments were never meant for us to walk away and forget who He is. We pack that mountain, that sunrise, that starry night into our hearts and they gather together again in collective praise every time that we feel Him in our quiet cup of coffee, every time we talk to Him while we fold clothes, every time we do our job as an act of worship to Him.

Wherever we are, His love surely will come find us.

Like blazing wildfires.

More, please. More of that.

I stretch out my hands again.

*****

i dont wait anymore

 

God’s love. It’s worth our whole life, our whole story.

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What He makes me do.

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I stood there, the sea of grass rippling against my ankles, chest heaving like I was trying to suck in the entire chilled sky all at once.

I’d sprinted. I’m not a sprinter. But sometimes that’s the only way to get to a place where you can yell.

“Why is this so hard sometimes?”

“Why don’t I feel You?”

The questions flew out over the pasture without anything to bounce off of except the rabbit bouncing into the bushes, the wind waiting to carry my words away.

I gasped for air.

The wind tousled my ponytail.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul.

Of course.

Of course that’s the truth that would drift through my brain as I stood there in a horse pasture, restless legs stamping down the tall blades in the spot where I’d stopped.

“God, don’t you know all I’d like to do is rest? And be restored?”

For weeks I’d been living in the desert — literally and figuratively. When I moved there, I’d packed a mixed bag of excitement and nerves.

In return, the desert packed a punch.

The desert is a hard place to live. This I knew.

But my feet were barely sandy when His promise to just walk forward, I’ll lead you got shaken out of my pockets like lunch money by a playground bully.

The adventure was gone. Fast.

I felt like I’d been beaten up on the dry, dusty road, so like a bloody-nosed kid with cut-up knees, I ran back to the last place I remembered seeing my Father’s face.

Where things were green.

And like the walking wounded, I paced His pasture, asking Him to explain Himself. I let it all out. Questions. Indignation. Tears. Hurt. Exhaustion.

He makes me lie down.

I didn’t feel like I needed Him to “make” me.

But at the same time … I did.

I needed Him to tell me to rest, to remind me again that He wouldn’t leave. In the Valley of the Shadow of Death, though He was there, I’d lost sight of Him somehow.

The dark closed in.

For You are with me.

He was.

Even when I felt desperately alone in the dark, when the weight was crushing, He was with me.

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

It wasn’t always what I wanted. But in the moments I needed Him most, He was there, providing the exact thing I needed to get me through the night.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

No matter where I run. Valley. Sand. Pasture.

If I make my bed in the depths, You are there.

My feet came to rest.

And as I sat down, not in the bed I’d made for myself but the one He’d made for me, He reminded me who I was.

A daughter.

His sheep.

And like a sheep, I’ll need to remember — and need reminding — again tomorrow.

The roar of the darkness.

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The power popped, and the air was warm, and 14 of us piled into the thick dark of my parents’ windowless bedroom.

We tried to keep the toddlers away from the one lit candle. We tried to keep our 16-year-old eastern European (and non-English speaking) guest from thinking the world was ending.

We didn’t know that my dad and some of the other men, watching the roaring blackness out the window, had quickly piled up the mattresses just outside the bedroom doorway.

Dec. 21 is always the darkest day of the year, but this was taking the cake.

“But I don’t want the power to be out. I want to play in there,” my 3-year-old niece said. “I don’t want to stay in here.”

We made it a game. We sang songs. But I could see on the faces of the men, who looked in on us every few seconds, that something a lot bigger was happening outside.

Power poles were snapping. Trees were bending. Shingles were peeling off roofs just streets away.

And then it was all over.

That night was supposed to be our “Christmas Eve” – everyone had in-laws and other houses to disperse to before the real thing. But as we stepped over the mattress piles and used up the last few matches for a candlelit dinner, even the little ones forgot about the presents under the tree.

“That could’ve been so much worse.”

“That was basically our entire family in one room.”

“Between you and me, the greatest danger passed over when we were all still running for the bedroom.”

We were fine. We were blocks away. But we all still trembled a little knowing death had passed over, and we all huddled around the light we had. Plans had changed.

What a great day for plans to change.

It’s amazing how much the trappings of the holiday, the trappings of life don’t matter when huge, black, consuming death comes roaring past your house.

That tiny flame – flickering humbly in the bedroom while we sit in our helplessness – it suddenly becomes so vital, so central – sanity and salvation and hope and peace all in one.

Like Jesus. Jēzus Kristus.

Sure, the tent that is our earthly home may be destroyed. Life as we know it could be drastically changed. Possessions splintered. The landscape of our family altered.

We tremble at the thought.

But as my mom started singing to the wailing littles in our family who didn’t understand the ferocity of the dark, “Jesus loves me, this I know … ”

He does. He does love us. This we know.

And this is what we celebrate. The Light that came into the thick, deadly darkness. The Light that is our everything even – especially – when everything else gets blown away.

Something – Someone – much bigger.

‘We can find you one.’

“I’m so happy to meet your new husband,” she said to a friend before jabbing me jokingly with an elbow as I passed. “Now you just need to find Grace one.”

She patted my arm.

“I heard what you said about Lottie Moon earlier. But I still think we can find you one.”

I’ll go ahead and tell you that singleness is not my favorite topic. Not that it’s a bad topic … I just would prefer for it to be brought up in conversation with the frequency of my subtle toenail polish color (hey, that really matches your dress) rather than that of an electric blue Mohawk (WHOA, would you look at that! That’s so bizarre! I know a great place around the corner where you can get that toned down … ).

Ideally I’d just like for that part of me to fade into the background and let – hopefully – the Jesus inside me come to the front instead.

I had told a story about Lottie Moon to a few folks that day, about how she had spent herself feeding the Chinese – physically and spiritually – and the starvation eventually got her.

But not before reaching many with the hope of Jesus.

“How many there are … who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God.”

Lottie had an opportunity to marry once. But she knew she was meant for China. He didn’t feel the same way.

“God had first claim on my life, and since the two conflicted, there could be no question about the result.”

It was that simple.

Now I’m no Lottie Moon. Wow, I wish someday I could be a tiny sliver of the lady she was.

But what I am right now is a single woman fighting daily to cling hard and fast to a Savior who’s the most amazing thing life has to offer. Eternity has to offer. At the moment, there’s no husband. Every day I get up and do what disciples of Jesus do – sit dumbfounded at the infinite grace and joy we’ve been handed for free, and fight hard against distractions and my own flesh, fighting to keep my eyes locked on Him. I fight to take His love to the ends of the earth and finish well.

It’s not entirely helpful when I’m in full-on battle mode to hear that I need a different life, even when the comments are made in love.

I love Him, and I want to live the life He gave me.

I want to pack light. I want Him to spend me out in the best way He can use my single life. I want to have time to give from sunup to sundown to relieve the moms who just need a minute alone with Jesus to grieve or rest or decompress. To talk with friends who need it, when they need it, for as long as they need it. To move in with someone for a couple of weeks when they need some extra help close at hand. I want time to pray fervently for others.

My heart was so encouraged a while back when I listened to the podcast of one of our pastors from church speaking about singleness. Not that it’s never been said before, but I needed to hear that message that day.

That marriage is brilliant and messy and God-ordained for some to be the way God shows the Gospel in a human picture … Him giving Himself for His bride, the Church.

And that singleness is brilliant and messy and God-ordained for some to be able to share the Gospel without having the demands of a family (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).

Both of them valid. Both of them needed.

Right now I’m living in the second.

Either way, He’s all I need.

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