Holding All Things Lightly

"So. I'm applying for my ten-year visa," she said over the phone.
"Ten years?!?" I said. I couldn't wrap my mind around those two little words that began to rip my comfortable, familiar world to pieces.

I always knew she would go back to India, but I tried not to think of it. I pushed that pesky little thought to the back of my mind, far, far out of reach. My big sister had gone to India for a few short months (that seemed so much longer) this summer and I knew (deep down, we all knew), God had used that visit to place this country and these people on her heart forever. In this city, only 0.58% of the population are Christians. My sister had seen dirty streets, shabby lean-to's, and the hungry eyes of barefoot children huddled together. She had heard the loud shouts at the marketplace and the piercing honks of grimy rickshaws. She wouldn't, she couldn't, forget. Now she was on the phone late one night telling me that the Lord was calling her to go back. She knew He was inviting her to live among them and tell anyone who would listen of the Great Story of the One who loves without end, who washes our filthy hearts, adopts us, cleanses us, and makes us new creatures who want to love Him back. But deep down, I wished she would stop. I didn't want to hear anymore of the country that was robbing me for a very long time of my sister. A little part (maybe a big part) of me hoped for just a moment that she might say she was mistaken, that she might say that God was certainly calling her to stay here in a small town in Northeast Mississippi where we had spent most of our lives and where we knew people and had a precious church family and we were happy and things were good.

But she only said she was certain this was where the Lord was leading her: to India. And she would, she must, follow.

If I were the good, selfless Christian that I wish I could say I am -- if I really looked like Christ, I would have thrilled at hearing this news over the phone. I would have felt that heavy, sweet weight of joy that my sister would happily obey God's call to sell all of her livelihood, and leave her home, her church, her family, me, and all that she had ever known, to go and share Jesus with a people who do not know Him.

But I only felt weak. My hands shook a little and I looked around for a glass of water to wet my suddenly dry mouth. I couldn't get those images out of my head: one less chair in the dining room for our Christmas eve dinner, that sense of something, someone missing at the birth of my brother and sister-in-law's baby or my birthday or my little sister's high school graduation. All of those milestones, those events, those things that make life -- well, life. Katie wouldn't be there anymore. How could my sister no longer be a part of my life, of so many lives?

She was the one I had watched go from an eye-rolling teenager who didn't want much to do with God into a woman full of gentle kindness who pored over the worn, marked-up pages of her little Bible and worshipped the Lord with her entire life. She loved - and she loved well. She loved well in her serving in the church, in her quietly reaching out, in her giving, in her painting, in her pottery-making. She did not love Jesus only on Sunday, but on Monday morning on her way to work, on Tuesday night when there were dishes to be washed, and on Thursday afternoon when there was someone who needed a word of encouragement or a listening ear. No, she is not perfect, but she strives every day to be more like Jesus even in the small things. And I can see that. Everyone who knows Katie can see that.

I watched this transformation of hers and I wanted to know this God she served and loved with all her heart. God, in His great mercy, showed me Himself and I was changed, too. My sister was always pointing me back to Jesus and encouraging me never to slack in my walk with the Lord but always to strive to know Him more, to love Him more. She is like a second mother, a best friend. She listened to my complaints and rejoiced with me in my joys. She loved me fully. She was always one of the first ones I called when I was upset or crying or frustrated and she would always be patient, listen, and gently, sweetly remind me of what Jesus says, of His goodness, His faithfulness to keep all of His promises.

And now she is moving to the other side of the globe. I don't know for how long and I don't know when I'll see her again. I won't be able to reach by phone at all times of the day. She'll be 10 1/2 hours ahead of my life. I can't drive home and give her a big hug around the neck. I won't be able to.

The Lord calls us to hold all things with an open hand. Nothing is ours, but has only been leant to us for a time. Katie is not mine and my time with her may be very short. I don't know. But I do know Who holds her. She is the Lord's and if the Lord has told her, "GO," then I will not stand in the way.

I know and am really thankful for the loving people who gathered around and assured us that God goes with her across the ocean. And that He loves her far, far better than any of us ever could. I know that that should make me feel so much better. But, honestly, right now it's just so very hard to wrap my selfish mind around it. My heart cries out, Yes, yes, but couldn't God use her to do great things here, with us, where it's safe and comfortable?

Corrie ten Boom, the woman who lost everything, father, sister, brother, friends, in the Holocaust  during World War II said, "Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open."
I can't tell you how much it hurts. It hurts to watch the sister I love so much sell her life -- her clothes, her desk, her dresser, her books, nearly all of her worldly possessions. It hurts to see price tags on everything she owns and watch people pick through it. It hurts to watch her pack everything she owns into one tiny blue suitcase. It hurts to even think about saying goodbye to my sister for who knows how long. It hurts to think of watching her taking her one way ticket and her life across the ocean to a busy, dirty city in India where people don't want to hear the Gospel. It hurts, God, it hurts so much.

But, oh, He is worthy. The God she is moving to India for is so, so worthy. He is worthy of all - my possessions, my time, myself, even my sister.

God, give me grace to hold things lightly.


The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark

Since it's Spring Break and I'm not in New York City this year, I thought I might revive this old blog with a quote from one of my favorite authors. I'm nearing the end of this fascinating book. Don't tell me how it ends, please.
“Nonsense!” said Gregory, who was very rational when anyone else attempted paradox. “Why do all the clerks and navvies in the railway trains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It is because they know that the train is going right. It is because they know that whatever place they have taken a ticket for that place they will reach. It is because after they have passed Sloane Square they know that the next station must be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh, their wild rapture! oh, their eyes like stars and their souls again in Eden, if the next station were unaccountably Baker Street!”
  “It is you who are unpoetical,” replied the poet Syme. “If what you say of clerks is true, they can only be as prosaic as your poetry. The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Street or to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria, and lo! it is Victoria. No, take your books of mere poetry and prose; let me read a time table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, who commemorates the defeats of man; give me Bradshaw, who commemorates his victories. Give me Bradshaw, I say!”

- G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday


18 Little Things

Well, old friend. It's been a while. If anyone's still out there, here are 18 things you should consider making time for (via Thoughtcatalog).

1. Writing things by hand. Letters to friends, lists for the store, goals for the week, notes for lovers, thank you cards and memos to coworkers. Digital communication is easy and convenient but ask anybody: there’s a huge difference between texting someone to say that you love them and hope they have a great day and writing it on a note and leaving it next to their bed.
2. Savoring time to do nothing. Taking a cue from pre-industrialized society and cultures that enjoy siestas and long, drawn-out, sit-down teas that serve no other purpose than to spend time enjoying the time you have.
3. Thinking before responding. We’ve become too conditioned to require things immediately. Someone asks a question, and we have to respond that second. Such was not the case before instant messaging and comment threads. A sign of true intelligence and confidence, I think, is someone who takes time to consider the question at hand in a little more depth, and then offers a response.
4. Cooking a nice meal just for the sake of doing so. It really trains you to defy your need for instant gratification and of course puts you in touch with something that’s very human and can be lovely if done right.
5. Getting really dressed up for no other reason than just wanting to.
6. Books. Actual hard copy books that you can scribble notes in and mark off sections of and smell ink through and hear the sound of turning pages and bending spines while you read.
7. Making phone calls to relatives for no other reason than to just say hi, and to ask how they’re doing.
8. Disconnecting from technology frequently enough that we won’t be anxious and feeling like we’re missing something when we try to do so for an extended period of time.
9. Celebrating things with long, multiple course dinners that we hold for people as opposed to just drinking ourselves into an oblivion and being belligerent (that has it’s time and place, of course, but having thoughtful, celebratory dinners is a dying art).
10. Cleaning because it’s satisfying and doing things like painting walls or getting fresh flowers just because it’s therapeutic.
11. Spending time with kids, and doing kid things with them. They just know what’s up.
12. Answering things in a timely fashion, not putting off invitations and requests just because we can.
13. Making sure relationships are actually based on time spent with one another. People seem to be sustaining them through only digital means with increasing frequency and I can understand how that’s important if it’s temporarily long distance but in general, physically being with people is the only thing that will give you that sense of human connectedness.
14. Just sitting and listening to music. We’ve made music background noise in our everyday lives, but now and again we should just sit and enjoy it like people used to.
15. Traveling by train, or if that’s not possible, at least exploring places that you pass everyday. Especially if you live in a big city, there are always little hidden gems around that you won’t believe you lived without seeing while they were a block away from you all along.
16. Putting personal health and well-being first, as it often falls to the wayside in importance. This means, aside from the obvious, taking those personal days and using them to just relax. We’ve made such a quirky commodity out of enjoying napping and relaxing, as though doing so makes us boring and old. It doesn’t, it’s healthy.
17. Planning something, especially with someone else, as simple as dinner or as grandiose as a long vacation next year. You always need something to look forward to.
18. Stopping to talk to people throughout the day. Connecting with them genuinely, as such interaction is really important but is becoming increasingly less common. Turning our phones off when out to dinner (who even turns them off anymore?) and learning to not spend all of our time documenting whatever we’re doing for social media. It often takes away from the experience itself.
P.S. if you're interested at all, my Freshman Comp class has a blog where we all write weekly. Check out the freshopotami here.


I will delight myself in Your commandments

I know "coffee and the Word" has become a vastly overused, typical "Christian girl" phrase. But, when it comes down to it, is there really anything sweeter?
It's a delightfully slow summer morning here at home. The locusts, crickets, and birds hum their morning tunes outside my window, creating a summer symphony. As I sit in my room with a warm red mug of, yes, coffee in my hand and the living Word of God in my lap, I am overwhelmed with thanksgiving.
Who am I to hold the words of the living, powerful Creator and Sustainer and Ruler of all things?
Yet He has chosen to give these words to men--to us--to me.
Why? I don't know, except that He has chosen to do so. All we can do is read and live. In light of this living Word, how shall we then live?

Psalm 119 is full of thanks to God for the gift of His words and commandments. The Psalmist writes in Psalm verses 10-11:

"With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You."

In verses 47-48:

"And I will delight myself in Your commandments,
Which I love.
My hands also will lift up to Your commandments,
Which I love,
And I will meditate on Your statutes."

And again in verses 103-105:

"How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet 
And a light to my path."

You can either choose to neglect or delight yourself in the Word of God today. Which will it be? 
The Psalmist cries out,"My soul faints for Your salvation, but I hope in Your word. My eyes fail from searching Your word." He was so much in the word that his eyes literally began to grow weak from searching it! Do yours?

About the Scriptures J. C. Ryle says,
"I want people to fill their minds with passages of Scripture while they are well and strong, that they may have sure help in the day of need. I want them to be diligent in studying their Bibles, and becoming familiar with their contents, in order that the grand old Book may stand by them and talk with them when all earthly friends fail. From the bottom of my heart, I pity that person who never reads their Bible. I wonder how they expect to draw their consolation in their time of need."


What is Love?

An interview with musician Josh Garrels. Listen to his music here. Read their blog here.


Do you ever wonder what life would be like without the internet?

It has become such a huge part of my daily life that it's hard for me to even think far back enough to a time when I didn't use the internet. Of course, you can't forget the dial-up days. Anyone who has ever used dial-up will have the familiar sound ingrained in his mind throughout all eternity. Even now I'm trying to think of how to type out or even make the sound with my mouth. I can't do it. Imagine trying to describe it to your grandchildren . . . without sounding like a dying rooster. Impossible.

My point is: I'm aghast (I love that word) at how much I waste--yes, waste--on the internet, and more specifically, social media. 

This begs the question, why?

Why Do We Waste Time On Social Media?

Pride. Pride says 'I am so great that I want the whole world wide web to know it.' So whether it's my clever statuses, pictures I feel are attractive, or things that make my life look awesome, I'm striving toward one goal: self-worship. We want to put our best foot, face, and whatever else forward, whether we have to lie about our lives or photoshop our faces to do so.

Before you post, ask yourself why. And more importantly, Does this glorify my Heavenly Father? Is my life truly consumed by Him--even my social media?

What If There Was No Internet?

 It just makes me wonder how much I could actually accomplish if it were never invented.

I'm tempted to glorify the past. I envision the Good Old Days: those sweet, simple times long ago when everyone was well-behaved, worked hard, completed all that they intended to do, and even had enough time leftover to leisurely rock back-and-forth on the front porch rocking chair with a good book in hand while they gingerly sipped on their sweet tea. Oh, and as they lived and moved, there was an ethereal golden glow over everything and everyone.

But life wasn't like that. Men, women, and children still found ways to waste time. They still found ways to feed the monster Pride that dwells in every heart.

I'm writing this for you, dear reader, so that you would not excuse yourself from sin simply because you live in highly-technolgically advanced world, as if your generation were an exception

We have no excuse. Although sin may look outwardly a bit different than it did 50, 100, 200+ years ago, it is still at its very core sin. And yes, even time-wasting is a sin.

Does This Mean That I Have To Delete My Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.?

I am not commanding you to delete every social media account you have right this very minute. 
I am asking you to consider how much time you spend on each and every social media account you have.
I am asking you to be careful that you, as a Christian, are putting off the aroma of Christ both on and off the internet.
I am asking that you would beg God to be captivated--wholly and completely caught up with Himself. 
Christian, strive to be true to the character of Him whose name you claim -- Christ's.

"Look to Jesus, believers, and that will keep you true to Him!" - Horatius Bonar


'You are My people'

I woke up to a dark, cloudy sky that made me want to stay in bed forever, which is how I feel basically every morning a feeling I never, ever experience, I assure you. Mornings like these remind us how lucky we were to have a day like yesterday. . .

The sun was shining, the birds were whistling, and I was driving home with the sun roof open and the Punch Brothers singing. I couldn't resist a run in this blissful spring, slightly sweltering warm weather. Still huffing, puffing, and gasping for breath breathing hard, I crawled walked onto the back porch to see Jer shooting his bow, Jonathan slowly, rhythmically swaying in the hammock, and Macy close behind, her tail wagging violently.
I had to pause and thank the Lord - for the chance for my boys to just be boys (something so many boys completely miss out on these days); for the good old south in April; for days like today; for God's overwhelming love in every little thing, even when I am ungrateful and presumptive. His blessings are all around me and continue, whether I have thanked Him or not.
Can you imagine such selfless love in a human? Just think of it: a man or a woman who continues to pour out love even when that love is not the slightest bit reciprocated? That is surely a rare thing, if not an entirely impossible thing. Picture the greatest, kindest, most selfless human being ever to walk the earth. Observe as he not only cares for the dirtiest, scummiest, most self-absorbed human being that ever lived, but he takes him into his home, adopts him, and loves him as his own son - even when that son goes about his business and forgets this man's unspeakable kindness. Now multiply that x 100 and you'll get some faint idea of God's love for us.

In Hosea 2:23, the Lord says to a rebellious, stiff-necked Israel:
"And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy;
Then I will say to those who were not My people,
‘You are My people!’
And they shall say, You are my God!’”

It was too perfect not to soak in every last bit of sunlight. I pulled out my paints and the boys rotated to the trampoline. 

Today, in spite of the clouds, there is so much to be thankful for. Have you thanked Him for His many kindnesses? Look around you and be thankful. The true child of God ought to be the happiest being in all the world.