“Must Love Jesus”

Crushes are weird things. I try to put rules on them, set them within safe parameters, but attraction doesn’t like to follow the rules.

Let me tell you another secret. As a Christian girl who’s still fairly young and single, who would like a man who loves Jesus, Crushes don’t always follow my “must love Jesus” rule. I come in contact with a large pool of people on a regular basis. And I’m a girl with all the tendencies girls have. I may act like an ice queen sometimes because I’m shy initially, but once you break that shy ice, you are mine, and I will claim you in all my quirkiness. So when you’re a young man around my age with that particular eye color I’m a sucker for, and you elbow past my shyness– whether I’m ready or not– things will start to get interesting.

For me, interesting is not always a good term. In Katie-speak, “interesting” is what I call those people who drive me bonkers and who I can’t figure out.

Here’s what no one tells you in Sunday school class about being a single, Christian girl in a world full of unsaved men:

It hurts sometimes. No one tells you that you might actually feel something toward one of those unsaved guys. No one tells you that you might build hopes (or your uncooperative heart might) on someone God probably doesn’t want you building anything on. That it might give you headaches and cost you sleep, and it might take up a lot of prayer time with your Father.

No one tells you, you will hear people say: “He’s not a Christian… Missionary dating never works… So-and-so let a guy turn her head, and she ended up miserable”–no one tells you, you’ll hear all that (even preach it to yourself), but you’ll still want to stamp your feet and reply: “Yeah, but…” or at least scream: “But that’s not fair.”

No one tells you, you’ll say those silly cliche’s to yourself. “Well, if I just pray hard enough, he’ll get saved,” and then dream God will work the miracle. After all, “if you have the faith of a mustard seed!” But in the back of your head, you know this isn’t how the world works, which in thinking feels like a slap in the face of God, who can work the impossible. But is He going to work THIS impossible?

No one tells you, you will become a walking, talking bundle of contradictions, and the fact that you let yourself be led to this place, or that God let you be led to this place, just feels cruel.

Then you think: “This has always been my weakness. I have always wanted this TOO much. Maybe I wouldn’t be in this place if I wanted it less.” (Oh, the discontent!)

But there is no switch to flip, and you realize you can’t turn it off. This is one electric current you’re just going to have to ride out. It’s just that, at this “Ah-ha” moment, you realize that “riding it out” could easily mean tipping in either direction.

You could easily become the girl who’s just another statistic, or you could trust God, as blind as you feel, and watch Him do something amazing, knowing full well that the amazing you WANT is never the amazing that you GET. That life is crazy, but your path is never outside God’s sovereignty. That when He lets us trip over our hopes and bruise our own hearts, He has a plan to knit us up stronger, wiser than before. That our plans about how life should go are never HIS plans about how life WILL go. That in the crazy, dark places we never foresaw slipping into and yet somehow feel we crafted for ourselves, we are not alone or abandoned, and God still speaks to our hearts.

Here is the thing that blows my mind: God wants us (girls!!) to live our crushes, our attractions, different than the world, just like everything else in our lives. Other girls would look at these men like meat. God asks us to look on them as a man, an empty heart longing for God. God asks you to respect him and be kind and patient when he–as a lost soul– acts like a lost soul. God’s probably gonna ask you to give him/it/that crush up someday, and that’s okay, too, because this isn’t about you finding your soulmate . (This isn’t even about getting asked out on a date!) This is about you learning what God wants you to learn from this.

It has nothing to do with the fact that as a girl some days it would be nice if this guy just saw you. The truth is you are just you, the one he likes with his eyes when he smiles, the one he remembers only in the context in which you live for him. Maybe you are a person to share with but never learn about. A face to look for in the window. Someone to wave to. And that’s okay. Maybe while he’s looking for his meat, God wants you to be some kindness. Maybe the only God-kindness he’ll ever know. Maybe the only girl in his whole life who will ever treat him with the respect God gives.

And if that’s all you ever are to that Crush, that’s probably more than okay with God, too.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

Philippians 3:8

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Deer Meets Sports Car: Read at Your Own Risk

This is a warning. Read at your own risk! I may make you cry.

I joke, with the people who know, that all the stories I write are sad. Some of it comes from the fact that I write the best– fiction, non-fiction, you choose!– when I hurt. Hurting makes me want to slow the world down. Examine it. Hold it up against the light. Find the rainbow through the prism of tears.

Writing–even writing fiction– helps me discover things that God made beautiful in this world, helps me step back and see the things, the people, the situations to be thankful for.

Sometimes tears come with laughter, too.

My intention for this weekend was to write something happy. Even though this week gave me a mixed bag of material to work with, maybe I’ll find something in between.

How do I measure happiness? That’s been this week’s question. What makes your heart dance with joy? Maybe I have this misconstrued notion that a Christian can’t delight in anything but God, that we should all be hum-drum people unless we’re talking about God– don’t show too much enjoyment over that person or that compliment or that thing or that event coming up. But God delights in us and we’re people, so why can’t we delight in that friendship or that person? God made the world and proclaimed it good. Sure, it’s fallen now, but it’s still not without the presence of God’s goodness, so why not delight in the rainbows and the sea of ground fog in the morning, tree crowns like islands peeking out? It’s all an echo of beauty meant to point this world’s darkened minds toward True Beauty!

If happiness can be stolen, where does happiness turn into joy that lasts? I know the Sunday school answer: at the feet of Jesus. But what does this look like in action?

I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer this question. I haven’t been very joyful over anything lately (I’m ashamed to say). I’ve been throwing three year old tantrums with God, actually– like a petulant child good at faking it until the next dish smashes or someone steals my new toy, my new distraction.

So on Tuesday when I was driving to work, fifteen minutes earlier than usual because I was placed at a different office from where I usually work, I was putting on my mental armor over all the raw places no one should see, and I missed it. I missed it until it was too late. Deer head in the corner of my vision. Impact. White bits flying off my car. One moment and something I enjoy was broken. Broken. Broken. I don’t like broken things. I don’t like when things that should look “just so” don’t look “just so.”

Pride’s a nasty disease.

Pride will make you miss the things that should bring joy in a situation that may not be ideal. Like here: it was not a head on impact, my car was still drive-able, I was not hurt, my airbags didn’t go off, I hadn’t hit another person or another car, and I have insurance. So crying over this is the adult equivalent of crying over spilled milk.

Yet placed in the greater context of my broken, messy, stalled-out life that isn’t “just so,” it was devastating. This wasn’t a beef between me and the doe. This was a beef between me and God.

So I pulled to the side of the road and got out my phone. Instead of calling God, I called my mom: “I hit a deer!” Sob. Sob. “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.” It’s a long list of “I can’ts.” And later, after my face is a red, raw, sad mess that’s far from “just so,” I say: “I can’t go to work. They’re gonna think I’m crying like this over my car.” And I’m not, right? We don’t want to give the impression I’m THAT attached to material things, right??

“Katie,” Mom says, “maybe the people at work need to see that you’re human, huh?”

I’m not hurting over a car. I’m hurting over my inability to seek joy the way I’m supposed to seek it. There’s always going to be deer lurking on foggy roadways. There’s always going to be deviations in the schedule. A pause here. A wrong turn there. A school bus driven by Grandpa. A life stalled out. These things will always come, so how do I get joy to swim through the mess with me?

God speaks to me through Scripture–I shouldn’t go a day without it–but He preaches through circumstances sometimes, too.

Later Tuesday morning after I’d dragged my wrecked face to work, my wrecked heart raw there where the tears have made paths and patterns, one of my members visiting from my own office knew me well enough to guess something was wrong, and she said a kind word. One of my co-workers– one of those ladies I’d put armor on to protect myself from– gave me a hug as soon as she saw me. “Cars can be replaced,” she said. “People can’t.” And on lunch as I watched another co-worker pull from our parking lot on his motorcycle, I thought: “Huh. One deer could change his life forever. Maybe permanently. No fixing the white bits that would fly off him.”

There it is, peeking out like the fog’s finally burning off. My heart’s been saying: Well, if I’d only been going to work at my normal time. If this– If that– But IF NOT, I would never know how much my members care or that my co-workers are not people I always need to protect myself from or that it’s possible to say with Job: “Should I accept the good from God and not the bad?” IF NOT, I would never have seen THIS grace.

Maybe it’s as simple as they say: Joy starts when we are thankful.

We may enjoy driving our little white sports cars that turn peoples’ heads and make them look twice, but drive in any car with the windows rolled down, Indian summer golden against the windshield, and the world will still be just as beautiful and just as full for the enjoying. It’s not things that give us pleasure the most but God who made things good. Shouldn’t we thank Him for that?

“Through Christ let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.”

Hebrews 13:15

24 Hour Millionaire!

Do you live paycheck to paycheck?

I do. There’s this paycheck that comes around every morning at 5:25. It’s called twenty-four hours. I cash it in the moment I swipe right on the vibrating alarm button that glows and rattles and screams it ear-spitting scream at me. In that moment– snap on the lamp, room floods with light, swing the legs out from beneath the covers– it’s there before me: the richness, the mystery, the adventure, the fullness of the day. I used to feel as if each rich day flowed into the next, as if I had some bank account bursting with twenty-four hour bills– a millionaire!

But these days (this week especially), I swipe right on the alarm, get up, exercise, go to work to pay the bills, come how and work on the things I love– and before I know it the day has eaten up my bank. I live in this odd place in life where I don’t want to dwell too much on yesterday and who knows what will happen tomorrow! And today?

Well, today I’m just trying to survive, and survival is expensive. It forces you to focus only on the hours you’re spending now– this twenty-four hour period– you can’t think on any else. They will take care of themselves. So, yes. I live paycheck to paycheck.

And every morning I say– you’ve probably heard me say it before– “Today is the day God is gonna change you life, Kate.”

And boy, has He!

Oh, probably not in ways that you can tell from the outside looking in, but from the inside looking out, my horizon changes daily. I’ve already gone over the overwhelming emotions of change in my post It’s Always Sunny in Pennsylvania, but here’s the crazy thing that even the most emotionally bruised person can see in the journey: when you’re forced to take each day as it comes– literally leave yesterday in yesterday (the discouraging stuff anyways) and leave tomorrow to worry about tomorrow– you start to scrutinize today for the things God is doing TODAY.

Some days it may not look like He is doing much (or anything at all), but don’t you know?! Hasn’t it occurred to you (I mean, I forget it all the time. Crazy!) that 90% of what God does for us in our lives, He does “off stage.” Half of our very own stories we won’t even be spectators for until the plot point is dropped solid and screaming into out lap, and we gape like some surprised movie-goer boggled by the twist. And we blink, and we cry or we laugh, and our hearts explode. “Whoa!”

That’s the way God works in our lives as we live paycheck to paycheck. We assume we’re just struggling to survive, to make ends meet, or to make some sense of the chaos. But while we take the day as it comes and seek Him in the minutes and hours that we’re given, He’s moving us closer to all of our tomorrows. Until one day we wake up to find tomorrow is no more, and eternity is all that exists. Eternity with Christ as our light, where yesterday won’t even be a bad dream because bad won’t exist anymore.

I’m not sure why I or we, as humans, cling so much to the bad memories, to the yesterday that let us down, as if by rehearsing it in our heads we could make the performance go better. That show has closed for the season, my friend. It’s not calling your name anymore. And I don’t know why we get so afraid of the things we can’t control, like tomorrow, because really tomorrow is a retreating thing, always one inch farther than our grasp. God will never ask us to take on any more than what you can take on in this moment. Our capacities for pressure and comfort, grief and rejoicing, excitement and fear, so on and so forth may change as the moments change. But one thing God will not change while you walk this earth: Your life can only touch this moment in time, right now as you read this, whatever that moment may be.

He asks only this– that we spend our days wisely and walk through the moments with Him.

So maybe you live life paycheck to paycheck, and you feel how I’ve felt lately. Unsure how anything is going to get paid. But isn’t that what faith is? Trusting God in the face of the unseen and the uncertain and the impossible?

Have faith. God is the one who provides. Maybe He’s just doing His work “off stage” right now. But God is the one who provides, and have no doubt. He will provide. He will surprise you. Today is the day He changes your life.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.”

Psalm 121: 1-3a

It’s Always Sunny in Pennsylvania

For a while I’ve thought: “Settle down, Kate. People are going to think you’re drowning.” I’ve felt the need to apologize for not being more encouraging, more upbeat, more “life is always sunny in Pennsylvania.” But life isn’t always sunny in Pennsylvania, and no one should apologize when it takes a little more effort to produce a positive attitude.

Several people have heard me say lately: “I feel like God is working on, like, seven different things in my life right now, and those things all overlap. And they’re all currently at the growing pains stage.” That’s not to say ALL of my life is awful– Far from it! My family is all fairly healthy. My friends are all where God wants them to be. My church family stills loves and prays for each other. I can walk on lunch at work, breathe fresh air, and smile at people. My customers still like me, and the government hasn’t been telling me I need to burn my Bible– SO life’s good.

Life’s good, but it’s not always sunny. And that’s okay.

This is perhaps the most painful lesson I’ve learned over the last few weeks now that the pressure cooker of my life got turned up another notch. Sometimes when God lets things come and He leads us through them, it doesn’t feel pleasant at all. Sometimes the place God wants us is right in the place that stings. And that’s okay.

When life changes, it can feel like an upheaval, like all the fault lines are cracking apart and splitting open, and what looked familiar a week, even an hour ago, looks alien now. The aftermath can leave you feeling sick, scared, betrayed, lost. And feeling those things is okay. It’s normal. God understands. He forgives.

I’ve had to learn to forgive myself; that what’s good for God to show toward me is okay for me to show toward myself. I’ve had to learn to be patient with myself. If God can give me chance after chance to trust Him, why can’t I give myself unlimited chances to trust Him as well? My feelings swallow me up sometimes, and I feel overwhelmed, and I think: “This is too hard. If I give up, things will just plod on as they always have, and I can shut my eyes and cover my ears, and say: ‘Blah, blah, blah’ to all my nasty feelings, and everything will be cool! Right?” And then the idea of giving up overwhelms me, and I’m just trapped between one overwhelming feeling after another. I’ve had to learn to be patient with the waves, and just keep my eyes on God through the emotional storm.

Change is scary. Trusting God can be scary sometimes, too. And when I’m scared, I feel all kinds of things, but God knows and understands all of my reactions. He’s not going to go anywhere just because my emotional compass is all over the place. This may come as a shocker– it comes as a shocker to me– but God created me. He’s known every little thing about me since before my mom knew about me. He’s known me since before my mom’s mom knew about her. Nothing I do, no reaction I have, no sadness, no joy, no elation or disappointment or fear I feel surprises Him. He knows I will have these feelings because He has asked me in His word to give them over to Him, entrust them to the One who can carry them.

How incredible is it that the person who asks me to walk through all of this craziness is the same person who created my heart? Who would know better what level of pressure it can withstand than it’s Creator? On top of that, how incredible is it that the same person who asks me to walk through this craziness is the same person who promises to reinforce my weaknesses with His strength? The same person who promises to walk through it with me?

“Still feeling grim?” I might ask myself. “Cling to Him.”

My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty– there’s nothing my God cannot do!

I’ve been working on a story through all of this, and the little girl in the story sings this song to her overwhelmed and emotionally-shattered father at one point. He doesn’t believe her. He cuts her off and ignores the message. He lets all the things he’s feeling distract him from the simple truth his daughter gets so easily.

When you’re small and tiny (which we are in comparison to God), it’s not about what you can do; it’s about what God can do with you.

Feeling overwhelmed? That’s okay. God is never overwhelmed. So if you’re having a hard time FEELING as if everything is gonna be okay, wake up tomorrow and remind yourself: “God is never overwhelmed!” Remind yourself of that every day until He leads you through the valley of doubt, confusion, frustration, disappointment, hurt, or the shadow of death (whatever name that valley goes by in your story). Remind yourself of it until eternity if you have to, because it’s true, and it’s worth clinging to.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (the valley of deep darkness) I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5: 6-7

The Counselor Killer and Real Life

I call them Counselor Killer moments– when something happens that makes a situation so unbearable, you decide then and there that things need to change.

My first Counselor killer moment came when I worked at a small summer camp. The very last week of junior camp, which for us was the last week of camp altogether, a little girl named– well, we’ll call her Sally– was placed in my cabin. From the first moment she arrived, I knew this was not going to be a picnic. She wouldn’t cooperate with anything. She wouldn’t be forced to go anywhere. We were constantly late– for meals, flag raising, chapel. My staffer had to be pulled off her regular duties to go one on one with Sally because Sally would constantly wander off, throw tantrums if we were doing something she didn’t like, scream and flail and gnaw at her lips and hair.

This first Counselor Killer moment came late in the week– maybe Thursday– so you can imagine how exhausted and worn down I was. This is the end of the last week of a long camp season that has left me with a death-rattling cough (which keeps me up at night) and other general symptoms of exhaustion. Someone decided to change the schedule that Thursday, midday– probably because we were always collectively behind schedule BECAUSE of My cabin– but my girls were split up since my staffer had taken Sally to change early for swim rotations. We were supposed to change AFTER roll call, it seems, but my girls were in the cabin half dressed when we realized this.

When we finally sprinted out to the flagpole, everyone one else had been waiting– who knows?– fifteen minutes. We ran across the field, and as soon as everyone spotted us, they CLAPPED– all the counselors and the junior campers who didn’t know better. And as my little, unfortunate girls filed in behind me, they whispered: “Miss Katie, why are they clapping at us?”

I turned and said the first thing that came to my mind. “Don’t worry, girls. They’re not clapping at you. They’re clapping at me.”

They were, too. The counselors, anyways. My poor girls. Some very UN-Christian things can happen at a Christian camp. We’re only human after all so you must forgive us.

My girls, bewildered and alarmed, bounced back no problem. We were off to have fun, you know! But not Miss Katie. This little girl had uncovered a situation, a state that managed to suck all the joy from my job, from camp, from my narrow life at that moment.

I shoved on my oversized white sunglasses, grabbed my beach towel, and spent the waterfront rotation crying silently on a beach chair next to another counselor hoping he wouldn’t notice the tears.

That was my first Counselor Killer moment. When God told me it was time to leave my camp bubble and venture into the real world. It changed the course of my next few summers, and probably even my life.

That was close to ten years ago now, and I’ve had minor Counselor Killer moments here and there since, but this week I had the biggest, scariest moment I’ve had so far.

Things need to change. Things are going to change.

Saying that now, at twenty-eight, when I have no idea how, when, where, or who change is coming through is the scariest thing I’ve ever said. But God hinted this week through various circumstances that He wants me to trust Him. “LOOK for what I’m sending you, and trust me.”

I like comfort. I like stability. But when comfort becomes an encumbrance, God will let your life grow uncomfortable anyways. So why not give up and trust Him? If He’s asking you to change something, then change it. Stop worrying what five years from now will look like or what people will think if you donate your 401K to orphans. Be radical. Be daring. If God asks you to climb a mountain, don’t be a Jonah and sink in a sea.

Sometimes it seems that things get worse before they get better, but sometimes I think God lets the worst come in order to open our eyes to our need to reach out for the better. Jonah couldn’t fulfill God’s will for his life until he admitted to himself that he was walking in the opposite direction all along. Things must have looked bleak in the belly of that great fish, but God didn’t leave Jonah there!

I trust God is moving me, too.

“When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.”

Jonah 2:7

A prayer from the belly of a great fish

He Left Us Single to Make Us Special

Even though I know I need to keep a proper perspective, I still have a lot of moments when I need someone to speak that perspective to me. Also I need to listen to the perspective-speaking people who actually KNOW something about my heart, rather than the ones who only see the outer trappings of my life.

Here’s the story from this week:

I came into the week refreshed. Recharged! It was a very purposeful, pleasureful weekend.

Then. Monday. Work.

I am very blessed to have the job I have. It can be challenging enough, but it is not super difficult, AND it brings me in contact with way more people that I would ever meet on my own. God has place me here for a purpose. But on Tuesday, I got sat down and asked my absolute favorite job-question ever. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I am a planner, but in the category of calendars, I am a Day Planner rather than a year planner, let alone FIVE WHOLE YEARS. I know they ask you this to gauge your ambition within the company, but given the fact I don’t know where God is leading me from day to day, let alone year to year, this question has always made me uncomfortable. I try to answer as accurately and intelligently as possible. But have you ever had a moment where a question is put to you in one context, and all it really does is rip open the fears and insecurities in all your other contexts?

I was frustrated. I just put down these worries. Why do I have to be reminded of them, first thing?

Pray. Try to give it up. I can’t blame my boss or my co-workers; they’re just trying to do their job to their best as I try to do mine to my best. “Nothing is impossible with God!”

Skip to Wednesday. Lunch. I’m walking the street like I always do at lunch if the weather is nice, and who should I bump into but a family friend. I love meetings like this! God’s used so many of these random meeting moments to give me the ounce of “Sonshine” I need to get through the rest of the day. The first words out of this friend’s mouth indicate THIS is NOT one of THOSE moments. “Kate! What are you doing?”

“Walking.”

“Why are you walking alone? Where’s your boyfriend?… Don’t you ever go out places, meet anybody?… You Baker girls, I just don’t understand why anyone would want to be alone forever…”

I’m not exaggerating. These are direct quotes. Sometimes the things people say get seared into my memory. Obviously these were the last topics I wanted to encounter on my little prayer walk that was finally lifting my spirits off the previous day’s discouragement.

Now at a job, questions about the future, about where things are headed, are generally appropriate. THIS was not. Be careful how you speak to people about their situations or circumstances. No matter how much you think you know about a person, unless they ASK for your advice or commentary, they probably don’t want it when you offer it. Here’s why.

You’re going to say a few things with your unsolicited observations that you might not intend to say: 1.) You’re ignorant. You have no idea what God is doing in this person’s life. You have no clue about the pain you might be dropping your wisdom into. 2.) You see people for what they lack. “Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you fix that? Why do you leave this like it is?” 3.) You ignore the fact that God has a hand in people’s lives and situations. 4.) Not only are you ignorant. You don’t care. (The last one is for repeat offenders.)

If you want to give people unsolicited advice or caring, try a little: “Hey, I’m praying for you,” instead. This leaves the door open to a true conversation, maybe even a little encouragement, and if the person you’re talking to doesn’t want to “go there”, at least they know you care enough to take it God.

This conversation told me only one thing in Big block letters, and it was probably the last thing this friend wanted to say. A Big Old Satan-Lie: YOU FAIL AT LIFE. IF YOU DID THINGS RIGHT, IT WOULDN’T BE SO EMPTY.

Enter my big sister later in the night to speak some real perspective to my sob-wracked soul. “God’s not going to leave you where you are forever… Just think, if we had all married young, we wouldn’t have the same relationships that we have right now. We wouldn’t be the cool ‘aunts’ to all the kids in our lives. We would just be other adults. Other moms.”

Whoa! Suddenly my mind was spinning with all the things that wouldn’t be possible were I not single. With no other demands on my love, I am free to give my time to my friends, to their children. I am free to give my time to Sunday school, to God. I can pack my car and drive to Virginia and spend a beach weekend with people I love and be an ear for their hurt and arms to hug their loneliness. I can spend a weekend with my family in Maryland and create memories for the next generation to reminiscence about with their own children. I may not have kids of my own, but I get regular shots of love from Alli, Gabe, Morgan, Carter, Eros, Lincoln, Weston, J.D., Carys, Jack, Jayne, Zane, Reagan, Roman, Natalie, and Olivia, and hopefully a growing number of others. Maybe, just maybe for this season at least, God left us–the Baker girls– single to make us special, to make us something to the people around us that no married woman could ever be, and because of that……

I DON’T LACK! As I write that list of names, I know– I AM FULL, FULL, FULL. I just needed someone who saw that to shout it a little louder than the lies. Thank God for big sisters! And of course, He sent her just when I needed her.

So please, I ask you, challenge you: Be people who speak God’s perspective into other people’s lives and not Satan’s lies. Think before you speak. Pray if you’re concerned. And remember: God’s will, not man’s, be done.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29

Author’s P.S.: If I know you and I missed any of your children, I’m sorry! There are a lot, and I was writing this quick.

Please, Don’t be Alarmed

If you’ve asked me lately how I am doing, and I look like I want to cry; please, do not be alarmed. These days a sincere: “How are things going with you?” is enough to bring me to an emotional crisis. If it appears I don’t know how to answer you, it’s because I don’t know how. Should I give you the best, positive spin? Or should I lay both barrels on you and try to explain the in-explainable mix of good/bad, hard/easy, ugly/beautiful stuff God’s been doing in my life? Do I try to explain how life is just like it always is, and how it’s just like it’s never been before– and at the exact same time?

How do I explain that I feel stuck at the same moment that I feel as if God is uncomfortably squeezing me into the next stage of my life? How do I tell you that this constant state of warring emotions leaves me exhausted? If you’ve seen me recently and I look like I’m suffering from foggy brain or like I just need a ten year nap, it’s probably because I am and I do. Some days the strain is so great, I go home wishing for instant sleep.

Am I doing things right? Is this how life is supposed to feel? Those are my prayers now. I ask God that a lot. “I’m sorry I fail you. I’m sorry I don’t have a better idea of how to do things.”

Ever feel like that?

I walk on eggshells some days, especially at work (you know, that place where you’re supposed to leave home at home, life at the doorstep.) “Please, don’t let anyone see. Don’t let the fragile emotional shell I seem to live in crack.” And then my boss, a sweet lady who sincerely wants to know, asks: “How are things going with you?”

And what do I tell her: At work? The same as always. Nothing exciting. But everywhere else? In every nook and cranny of my being–the kind of everything that makes you realize life cannot be compartmentalized into “work is just work, home is just home” any more than you can make your heart just a heart and blood just blood. “Everything else”… well, that’s been shattered, broken, shed like a skin. It’s being burned up, shook up, pressed down, stirred, stretched, prodded, poked, questioned, challenged, GROUND DOWN…

Refined.

How do you explain that to people who don’t even believe God exists, to those people who leave God in the shadowy backgrounds of their own determined existence? How do you explain that the person they see standing before them is a living, breathing sculpture made and shaped by God? How do you explain to them that once you give Him your life and heart the sculpting is NEVER done? How do you not sound like a crazy person when you explain that sometimes it HURTS when the Sculptor is working?

No, nothing is wrong. I’m not depressed. My life is normal to all appearances. But God’s doing some real lift-work. He’s setting my emotional and spiritual bones.

Some days I can’t apologize for the fact that when I gave my life to God, He took all of it–every nook, every cranny– and nothing is just this or just that. It’s all His.

So if you ask me how I’m doing and I look like I want to cry, don’t worry. It’s only because I’m overwhelmed that God would want any of my life in the first place, such as it is, and these days the simple fact that I make it through a whole day is a testament to God’s awesome sufficiency.

“I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplished all things for me.”

Psalm 57:2