Sunday, December 11, 2011

May Grace Abound.














"I could give you a million reasons to justify my case, but the truth is
... I just need your mercy."

... as I penned these words I fully realized their weight. I would leave this courthouse with a $200 debt .. or a $2000 one. I handed the slip of paper to the clerk at the window and waited for my name to be called.

Guilt has a quick dawning, and I knew that a busy schedule was no excuse to not pay a ticket on time. In the most logical of ways, I knew that mercy was the only way out; and I was in no control of the granter.

As I stepped into the little courtroom, I sat beside others who stared blankly ahead.
I closed my eyes for just a moment ... and suddenly I was .. well..
still in this little courtroom.

BUT .. in the moments of my eyes being closed I shuttered deeply inside. I pondered what it would look like if this were the day I faced the Author of my Life. In a few minutes I would simply face a man or a woman who probably looked a whole lot like me. They probably at some point in their life procrastinated paying off a ticket. If not that, then maybe they struggled with lying, or stealing, or treating their husband/wife with disrespect.
As I opened my eyes, all I knew was that this wasn't going to be a perfect person. I was still ever anxious as to how their sentencing would affect my life.
And yet, I stared again at that judgement seat. What if this was the Author of my Life? Eternity?
I pictured this being it - Judgement Day.
My eyes closed again and I was overwhelmed with this one word

.. M e r c y.

If I thought I needed mercy with an unpaid ticket, how much more with an unpaid life? I hadn't paid the fine for my debt. Who could stand before a perfectly Holy God, and say
"This is why I deserve Heaven.."
Heaven demands perfection, or else it'd be hellish.
Backstabbing, gossiping, hurt.

No one perfect.
Not one.

Every sinful thought. Every hateful word. Every bad decision.
No way. Not one.

And even to those whose lives were seemingly clean..
I knew it wasn't enough to live a "good" life - to give God the list of events and charities I donated to, or how many times I prayed or went to church. I knew, this would only be more foolish. I could only give what had first been given to me.
Nothing was really mine, anyway.
It would be like me standing before this judge, and telling her it would all be OK - I didn't pay my ticket, BUT... I DID serve food at a shelter to those in need this Christmas.

She might say that was nice, and it is; But we all know that the debt simply hadn't been paid.
Granted, it holds true that I may be able to get off paying that ticket with a fine of community service hours, or something of the sort. However, if it was anything besides the full payment of the ticket as appointed by the law - then it would require some degree of
m e r c y.

God said don't lie
We lie.
God said don't take what isn't yours
We take.
God said the hate in our heart is like murder.
We kill.
We deserve the wrath of God, and yet:

"You were bought at a price." (1Cor6:20)


Jesus.
We hear it again and again - our debt has been paid, our slate wiped cleaned. I admit that this truth resonnates deeper some days than others. Yet, as I sat in this courtroom realizing the weight of truth, I also found the weight of Grace. That it wouldn't cost me a thing - but Him, e v e r y t h i n g.

I was pardoned the added $1800. That felt - good. I waited in line to pay the $200, and somehow now, this seemed like nothing at all.
Grace.

I looked behind me in line and caught eyes with a man of Spanish decent. He stood with his papers in hand, his little girl behind him, peeking her head from behind his legs.
"Your smiling," I said
"Does that mean your verdict was one worth smiling for?"

He smiled bigger, and went on to tell me that he only lives in Tempe for part of the year, and the rest he is up in Northern Arizona. He had been unaware for several months of a ticket he had gotten. The judge had leniency, and he was thankful.

I looked down at his beautiful little girl, who felt invisible behind her daddy's leg. She gripped his pant leg even harder when I bent down and said hello, with a small hand wave.
She hid her little grin
as she pressed her head deeper into his pants.
I stood up as my name was called to the window ..
"Dios te bendiga." I said as I walked toward the counter.
"Igualmente." He smiled.


Walking out of the courthouse I realized that I spent a lot of time worrying about the outcome of my situation instead of facing it. It dawned on me that it added no minutes, no hours, and no days to my life. God had plans far beyond what I pictured them- day in and day out.

As the thoughts poured, I heard feet racing toward me from behind. I turned quickly.
She ran to my feet, looked up at me, and g r a c e f u l l y stretched both of her arms outwards.
I was in shock.

This shy little girl, scared to leave the comfort from behind her daddy's leg, was standing in front of me, looking up - waiting for me to hug her. And not only that, but she ran. I knelt down and wrapped my arms around her as I choked back tears.

A song came to mind:
"Your grace has found me just as I am, Empty handed..
but alive in Your hands."


..and in the arms of a little girl, or in the grace of mercy;
It's his love.
<3







Monday, October 24, 2011

dance;)















....As we drove in the dark, we pondered the evening's celebration.
How beautiful when two lives join into one; truly a God thing.

The road was dark before us as we headed into the night. Tbari sat in the front seat, with the windows down. I put my head against the seat behind me, and closed my eyes as the now crisp October air blew gently over my face.
The season of Thankfulness was upon us, and I was thankful.
Thank you God that I got to see my best friends marry one another, thank you God for the amazing group of people you've placed all around me.
I opened my eyes and stared out the window once more, as I leaned up to Tbari's ear.
"What was your favorite part about tonight?" I asked him.
His faint little voice was hard to hear over the open windows on the highway..
His response caught me off guard - that is, if I heard him right...

"Dancing with you," He said.
I leaned up and put my ear closer to catch his words amidst the loud breeze -
"What did you say your favorite part was, Tbari?"
With his head still pressed against the seat he leaned his ear a bit to the left,
and said once more:
"Dancing with you."
Whoa.
The time spent in the last 3 1/2 years with the children that God has placed in my care - this was the first moment that I truly understood what it must feel like to be a parent.
To have a child completely melt you.

Maybe it was because as these words slipped so easily from Tbari's mouth,
I pictured his day in my brain and thought -
"there's no way that could have been his favorite part..."
How about all the hours spent on that fun scooter?
Hanging with his buddies playing outside?
Helping blow up all the balloons for the party?
The game of battleship?
The BOUNCY HOUSE?!
And yet; he didn't think twice.
His result was solid, and if he had been sitting in that oh so famous game chair, I am certain that would have been his final answer.
Maybe I doubted so much because I can be just as insecure as a 12 year old boy, who is much smaller than his peers.

"Tbari!" I yelled over the music.
"Dance with me!"
And as presumed, he put his little hands over his face in embarrassment..
"No, Miss Mia!" He giggled."I don't know how."
"Oh, Tbari."
I walked up to him and said,"You're one of the best dancers I know."
And it was true, he was. But this wasn't exactly the duggy; this was a bit slower.

So I took his hands and put them in mine, and we began to sway.
His shyness was something precious, and we danced.

The song ended, and off he went again with his friends,
bouncing like monkeys in the big bouncy house.
I didn't think the dance would again cross his mind,
(maybe only to recollect his embarressment ...)

But, to my surprise here we were.

I write this post for more reasons than 1, or even a couple;
but there are two I want to express most fully.
I can't help but to believe that this is God's heart for his children. He longs for nothing more than for us to find our full joy, our f a v o r i t e moments, content in His arms.
Not for the house he has provided us
or the food
or the friends
or the fun stuff we get to play with,
but just to be with him.
How wonderful if we embraced this reality.

The second point I make is this:
Show love to the children in your life, and around you.
They are so full of life, and you don't want to miss out.

If you struggle to do this, or maybe you don't find yourself surrounded much by a younger generation-
then pray for them..
and really pray.

The littlest moments go the longest way in a child's heart and mind.
And after all, we were all in that same place long ago.
I know we can all come up with many moments in our lives in which we longed for someone older to care to know us just a bit deeper.
As Jesus seeks us in this way,
let us follow him.
____________._____________

"And unless you change and become like little children,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."
(Matthew 18:3,4)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Japanese Cherry Blossom, and being found.










The Job?

Not mine.


The feeling?


I don’t know, you name it - Hurt, Rejection, Hopelessness.


But God reminds me that His presence is with me.

Sometimes in ways so subtle... or, not so subtle.


I reached up and into Elizabeth’s closet, hoping to find the warm and comforting smell of Japanese Cherry Blossom awaiting me. Anything to comfort my now sorrowful heart. It isn’t there - in it’s normal spot, just to the right of the green bin that she keeps all of her girly smells.


“Maybe she put it in the bin this time ..” my heart hoped.

So I stretched further, bringing the little colorful bin close to my body, and I dig through. No! I thought to myself.

My dear roommate had just left to catch her flight out to California, and she must’ve brought it with her; and frankly, Warm Vanilla Sugar just wouldn’t do the trick. The shower after work washed away the few sprays that I was able to borrow in the morning before heading out for my day - oh well. “This fits the tone of today,” I thought.


I reach back up and put the bin back in its rightful place, and ...

BOOM! down comes tumbling Elizabeth’s foot stone. For the 3rd time today.

I lifted my eyes to avoid the falling of tears - the frustration of being frustrated - and then dropping something. I looked up, sighed deep, and slowly made my way into the closet to pick up the wandering foot stone. I reached out to grab it, wondering how it could have fallen so deep in her closet from a short distance drop. I closed my eyes and felt around.

Why is it often easier to close our eyes to see?


And yet, there it was - the little white foot stone. I grabbed onto it, and began to pick it up, but as I opened my eyes I was attracted to a little maroon bottle with the slightest faint delicate handwriting.

Ugh, I thought. I REALLY need to keep up with these new contacts.

I got a little closer ...


“Japanese Cherry Blossom.”


My heart softened, and I sat comforted.

"Thank you, little runaway," I said to the footstone.

(Yes, I talked to the inanimate lifeless piece of stone)


.. but only to be reminded of the one little sheep that the shepherd left the 99 for, or the woman who tore about her house for that one little coin.

I recollected the Lord's tender words to a short little man, so undeserving :

“I came to seek and save the lost.”

Ok God. I hear you.

"Thank you, Jesus."

I whispered, as a tear streamed down my face.


And how could I not be reminded of what happened just 1 day earlier...


My phone lit up as a late night text came buzzing through.

My brother. It was always nice to hear from him.

“I don’t know if you know her, but Brit Nicole and her band sang at our game yesterday.”

“Oh yea! For sure. She has some great tunes.” I replied.

He went on to tell me that she sounded good live, and I pondered the beauty of some of her songs. That night I listened to a couple of them, hearing the truth behind Hanging On, and my favorite- “Lost get Found.


The next day came, and I spent most of my time working in the back, dealing less with guests, and more with the set up and break down of our breakfast and conference lunches. However, there was one guest that I helped that day.. and his name was Benjamin. Benjamin looked oddly familiar to me, so when Terry called me up to the gallery stand to assist her with Benjamin’s reservation, I was assured he had been with us before. As I greeted him, there was an awesome humbleness in his presence, and I was thankful it was this guest I would be working with. I began to work out the kinks of his reservation, making small talk as I typed and searched as to why his company hadn’t sent his credit card authorization through to us. Luckily, I was able to get in touch with a woman in charge of all travelers reservations, and she informed me she would fax an authorization over immediately. As we waited for the fax, Benjamin expressed how odd it was that this often happened during his travels; however, he certainly carried a “no worries” kind of attitude. I noticed on the gallery stand his phone that lit up with pictures similar to the site I peruse often - Yes, the infamous “Rabbit Room.” I told Mr. Glover I would be back in a moment, as I waited to see if his fax had come through.

It had.


As I picked up the little white sheet of paper I noticed the company name -

“EMI” - A Christian recording label.

Hm.

I know he said he’s never been with us, but maybe I HAD seen him before.

I walked back out to the gallery and proceeded to fix the needed changes to his reservation. As I did this, I was compelled to ask.

“I noticed your company..” I began.

“You wouldn’t happen to know what the Rabbit Room is, would you?

“The Rabbit Room..” He continued in a familiar and yet curious tone. “That sounds so familiar.”

“Well, it’s a site devoted to the place that C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien would sit in London, and pour over the use of words, the existence of man, the hereafter - you know , just what they do. It is a place where mostly underground Christian musicians, poets, writers, and artists post their thoughts and work. I must say - it’s pretty sweet. A guy named Andrew Peterson founded the site, I said, one of my favorite musicians and writers.

“Andrew.” He said most factually. “I know Andrew.”

“Oh, personally?” I asked.

“Yes, I’ve spent some time with Andrew.” He answered. “I’m actually here to help write a few songs for a new artist in the area; but I will definitely be checking out the Rabbit Room. I better get to it..”

With that he was off to his room, and I was back to work.

The next morning I stood with Shelly in the back, fixing the needed items for our guests once again.

I saw someone walking towards me - and at this point my contacts hadn’t made their snug little way into my eyes yet this morning, but I noticed the figure as Mr. Glover. He walked right up and said; “I just really wanted to ask you what kind of music you listen to exactly?
Who do you like?”

“Well, I love some pretty modern Christian stuff like MercyMe, Third Day, Hillsong - but I enjoy mostly the underground songs and artists that seem to find their way to me - instead of the other way around.”

“Great.” He said. “How about a girl named Brit Nicole? Do you know any of her music?”

Hm;

How oddly familiar.

“Why, yes.” I said. “My brother asked me that question just last night - and it caused me to turn some of her tunes on, and sing along.”

He smiled.

"My wife is her assistant."

“Do you happen to know the song, Lost Get Found?”

I smiled again and said,

“Yes, what a great song.”


“Cool,” he said.

“I wrote it.”


God is with us. He comes through perfume bottle moments, or song writers; but giving the same message of truth:


“I seek and save that which was lost...

and be sure of this;

I am with you, always,

until the very end of the age." -luke19.10,matthew28.20



I plan to take him at his word.


(And needless to say, I walked away-

and smiled.)


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Streams















"When is the time to trust?
Is it when all is calm,
When waves the victor's palm,
And life is one glad psalm
Of joy and praise?
Nay! but the time to trust is when the waves beat high, when storm clouds fill the sky,
And prayer is one long cry,
O Help and save!

When is the time to trust?
Is it when friends are true?
Is it when comforts woo,
And in all we say and do
We meet but praise?

Nay! but the time to trust
Is when we stand alone,
And summer birds have flown,
and every prop is gone
All else but God.

What is the time to trust?
Is it some future day,
when you have tried your way
And learned to trust and pray
By bitter woe?
Nay! but the time to trust
Is in this moment's need,
Poor, broken, bruised reed!
Poor, troubled soul, make speed
To trust thy God.

What is the time to trust?
Is it when hopes beat high,
When Sunshine guilds the sky,
and joy and ecstasy fill the heart?
Nay! but the time to trust
Is when our joy is fled.
When sorrow bows the head,
And all is cold and dead,
All else but God.
-streams

Streams in the Desert is most likely the best devotional for any heart of anguish. It was birthed by a woman named Lettie B Cowman, or most commonly known as Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. Mr. and Mrs. Cowman were both strong towers in the faith, being remembered for their missionary hearts for China and Japan. After returning to the states when Mr. Cowman's health began to subside, Lettie cared for him. After his death she went on to pen many books, one of which was Streams in the Desert.

In hearing the trials of exceptional loss and pain, I am drawn to recollect my own life. What do I consider to be the most problematic? Where is my pain? Where is my struggle?
If I were face-to-face with Lettie Cowman, I would undoubtedly be ashamed to express my struggle as anything worth sheding a tear over.
However, I recollect further, back to the days of my youth (namely, the dredging years that make up the "high school days") and I recall the pain, the tears, the anguish. I also vividly recall those with many more years than I, stating: "this too, shall pass" and "oh just wait - this won't hardly mean anything at all in years to come."
But what is that? That is nullifying the place that I felt stuck (and sinking) into. Which yes, ultimately, we need to spend more time de-magnifying our doubts and fears, and heightening the power of faith in a God that loves us unconditionally.
However, my 18 year old brain could not see past the hopelessness. I couldn't escape the feeling that this would n e v e r end. The drama would always continue, people would always say hurtful things, I'd continue to give my heart to those that never should have it, and I would forever be my own worst enemy.
The point being:
In seasons of pain, and dryness, there is no use to say these times will not matter in the future, and that they shouldn't matter right now.
Although in the face of another's tragedy, we may be able to simply relocate our pains to a shelf labeled "not AS bad" or "be thankful you aren't going through THAT" .. but the truth of the matter, is simply the truth of the matter: We all have our personal fears, pains, and hurt.
We must be true with the trials of our own hearts, in order that we can rise and press through. To use another's pains and trials as a realization of what we have to be thankful for is a good thing- but to slip past dealing with where we're at in our walk, is a foolish road to take.
The bible says that God leads us on sometimes unfamiliar paths, and that means for each of us this path may look much different!
Same problems? Yes.
Death
Pain
Hurt
Rejection
Fear

But these manifest in different places of each heart, so if we're in the process of being conformed to look more and more like Jesus, we must be true with where he has us.

I once heard someone once share a story pertaining to strength.
He shared about his youth days, and his desire to appear strong (literally).
At the gym, this young man asked his older brother if he would spot him on the bench press, as he gave him a little wink. You see, by "spot him" he actually meant: I'm going to get WAY more weight than I can push, and I want you to pull it up with me, so that I can look macho for all of the pretty ladies here.
So, the older brother did as every older brother should do - and as his younger brother pushed that bar up as high as he could, he let that bar fall as hard on his younger brothers chest as it could. Afterwards, he looked to him and simply stated: If you never admit where you're weak, you'll never learn how to be strong.
How harshly true.

Some people may look at this man with the judgement that he was just young and selfish and cared only to external things. That he was shallow. Did he have cancer eating at his bones? No. Did he suffer the great loss of a spouse? No. But the point is that his struggle was the mask he wore, to appear greater than he really was. A mask we all wear well - and a mask that, if we don't learn how to shed the disguise, will in time eat away at us.
This is truth. We must all face the deepest place of emptiness and weakness within us, no matter the magnitude. If it's a sin or struggle - it's worth getting out!
Do we then continue on in our weakness? Well, ultimately, yes: for
In our weakness God's strength is made perfect.
However, as his Spirit abides in you, there in an unknown
strength and power carrying you through the seemingly trivial, to the undeniable tragedy; oft with a Grace that can only come from above.

So, if you're suffering the loss of a loved one, stuck in a messy fight with a best friend, consumed by the thoughts that you're overweight, or wishing you didn't desire to look macho around girls; I encourage you to read once more the poem from Streams, and remember there is a stream to be found in y o u r desert.

For God has made
promise
after
promise
after
promise,
and He, my friends, is faithful.
So trust Him, with, well - whatever.

"What is the time to trust?
Is it when hopes beat high,
When Sunshine guilds the sky,
and joy and ecstasy fill the heart?
Nay! but the time to trust
Is when our joy is fled.
When sorrow bows the head,
And all is cold and dead,
All else but God."

See also: 2Corinthians12:9

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Redelivery.




















Among loose paper clips, old photos, and a little ornament that reads: "Jesus is my Christmas song,"
there was a note.

Stumbling upon it, I grew thankful in my decision to save most every piece of writing that I've ever penned. It's a wonderful gift to see growth, change, and life through words once written - some scribbled, some hand-crafted in calligraphied beauty.

Don't fret! Unlike many others in the past, this note was in fact delivered, but rewritten with the hand of a hopeful perfectionist (it's a hope felt loosely; for, I know that my war with perfection is a losing end. Jesus continues to stand in the gap for me on that one..)


In any case, I was placed next to Joe for just 4 simple hours of my life; a seat in the sky from Jersey to Phoenix.
Maybe in recounting the words placed on my heart for him,
it may just bless someone else needing to hear the same.




Joe,
It's been a joy conversing with you today on the plane.

I suppose the only thing placed on my heart to leave you with has to do with letting go. Not letting go of intellect - for our minds are powerful tools that God has given us to use. However, He has also given us
a heart,
a soul,
a spirit;
his Spirit,
if we so choose.
Often times, the use of our intellect overshadows the need to use these also, as a means
to reason.

Come face to face with Him, Joe, and see what He has for you. Take all the brain power you have, and put it next to His - does it pale in comparison?
Sometimes all it takes is a quick look around; Outside of this airplane window I see the vast expanse of
earth,
water,
sky,
and every piece inside of me, my mind included, is saying:
"if this is what my eyes CAN see.. imagine what they can't."

...Because then for just a simple moment I close them, and know; there must be a grandeur purpose in this grand design.

My heart screams, "In the end, what I can't see, is all that will remain!"
Not the images we see,
or better yet the images we cling to maintain.
The only thing left standing, and worth standing upon, is the Word.
Time is always of the essence my friend, and the most essential time is always now.

I know you've heard some of this before, but the reminder is here for the taking.
The bible rings out:
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men,"
Joe, He set eternity in your heart.

And so I come back again to letting go.

Jesus said, in order to find your life,
you must lose it.
Just let it go.

It was great meeting you, my friend.
I hope we meet again, maybe in another place.

:)
Mia.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Trusting through Midnight











Lord,

Help me to seek you
in the hour of midnight,
when the fear arises
that my stagecoach
will quickly turn into a p u m p k i n,
and my beauty
to rags.

Help me to see
that your love perfected
casts light upon every shadow of doubt.
That the same love that drew me,
will keep me.

That if you are near,
the beauty will never fade;
it will only grow to become
more beautiful.

For in the moments that lead closer
to the ticking of midnight
my hands begin to s h a k e
as the hands of time press forward...

If only my soul would be at rest.
Who can quiet the anxious heart,
but you?

I am reminded.
Your hand, it holds the minute hand.
For it is not the clock that houses my fate -
It is you.

Stepping into that glass slipper,
takes faith.

But the truth is:
it fits,
and always did.

You were only just waiting for me
to try it on.