Don’t forget danger doesn’t have to be physical danger. It could be the danger of being a failure. Danger of rejection. The danger of not being good enough. Take courage and be who you are even when you’re afraid.
Take it from me, the most scary of scary cats. I have run from fears a long time. I have made fear a staple and now its hard to unhook its metal clinches off my skin. But, I also don’t want to live in fear. I don’t want to be this person any more, who runs from her own shadow. I want to be birthed into who I am. Molded into who I was made to be. But to do that I have to become a warrior first. I have to battle the fear. I have to battle it and face it over and over again until I am no longer afraid.
I fear a lot of things. The biggest of which is probably not being enough. I have never felt like I was enough in my life. Not smart enough. Not pretty enough. Not anything enough. I have never been enough for my family. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. But it wears on you after a time. You begin to wonder what is wrong with you that they cannot see past your flaws. So you begin to try harder. You fear this rejection will continue and it does and so you wonder how anyone else possibly sees you be enough at something! But it does happen.
I can hardly believe it’s been 7 years this month since I moved to San Antonio. Texas is a vast contrast to the life I knew for 20 years in South Florida. Hollywood, FL is a fast paced conglomeration of lives on collision. 20 minutes north of Miami, 5 minute drive to the beach, 15 minutes to just about anywhere else local you need to get to and everything in walking distance. In Florida I was a mermaid… and then God called me away to Texas, like Aslan the Pevensie children. And it’s definitely been a Narnian sized adventure!
San Antonio is definitely a far cry from what it was when I first visited some 15 or 20 years ago. I mean there were no lights or highways anywhere near where my family lived. Now it’s booming but it’s still vastly different than anything else I’ve ever known. The hills, the grass, the land, and above all the trees… it was all so foreign to me. But I had dreamed of a time I would one day wear knee high boots and drive my little red car through hills, on tiny curvy, windy roads. After coming to a Texas and settling in, I’ve realized it’s where my heart has always been- in Narnia.
Texas is my Narnia. It holds vast places of curvy and windy roads, it holds nature as I’ve never experienced it before. It is a place of the wild, where concrete may be present, but it doesn’t run the show.
It’s been raining every day for about 2 weeks now and everything has bloomed. Everything is green and filled with fragrances of sweet earth, bitter rotting tree limbs, musky leaves all rolled together. It’s days like this that I am mesmerized by this natural beauty. This graceful display of tiny worlds hidden underneath nooks and crevasses.
Despite being a mermaid in another life, and desperately loving water, I’ve had to morph into a nymph of sorts and clamber into mossy rivers with all new creatures and different adventures to be had. Still, when a really good rain arrives every 2-3 years or so, I bask in it. I find it irresistible not to go and smell some wet decaying leaves and stick my feet in small torrents of flowing water.
This is a nymphs life in Narnia. Or maybe this month it’s more like Hobbiton. Walking along these familiar trails and hills I almost fully expect Bilbo Baggins to come out of a hole in the side of a hill- so green and fragrant as the world is at current. Still yet… it’s a magical place where Nature and I collide.
When I tell people all thing things I’ve been through, a lot of them tell me I’m brave. I don’t feel brave. The words resound in my head echoing around in circles like a bad dream. “You are a brave girl…You are so strong.”But I don’t know what these things are. I am not brave… I am broken.
I have never felt brave. I have definitely never felt strong. I HAVE felt burdens, the weight of which threatened to crush me, to decimate me. I HAVE felt pain, the kind that hits like a hammer against soft flesh and blinds you to everything else in your path. It’s a crippling kind of pain, a savage kind of brokenness. But it’s the kind that you never see on the outside. It’s the kind of pain that lingers inside against the backdrop of a shattered spirit, a tattered and torn soul- yet what others can’t see doesn’t exist right? I hoped so once. I wished it … but it was not so.
I have discovered that more and more, as pain grows, its burden is harder to carry forward, and it becomes all-consuming. The pain of not being believed in is devastating. The pain of always fighting alone is crippling.
What can one do against such darkness hiding in your soul? Nothing but put one foot in front of the other and continue on. Yes. Even when it cuts you because that’s when you KNOW you are getting stronger, like muscles burning on a treadmill. You won’t see the progress of strength. Not until later. Much later. But it will come and when it does, you can look at it and wonder at how far you’ve gone from who you used to be, how tremendously God has carried you even when you were running from Him, even when you didn’t think He was there.
But whatever you do, do not despair in the pain. Do not give up in the battle. You have to fight through to the other side, and there is an ‘other’ side. All things come to an end. The good things but also the bad ones. It may not be an over night occurrence, but it will change. Until it does, find your courage, or at the very least put one foot in front of the other- go through the motions and see a new chapter form. Find your purpose.
How do you do that? Gather a teaspoon of courage and do something you always wanted to do. I took up Tae Kwon Do. On the bright side, if I failed at it, I never had to see those people again. I loved it! It changed the trajectory of who I am. It changes me every day.
So what is the measure of being brave? What is it like to have strength?
Usually, those revelations are not found in ease and comfort. They are measured in the acreage of pain one has accrued over time and despite it all, still continues on, or so they tell me.
Apparently, to be strong, to be brave you actually feel the opposite. You feel weak, you feel frail, and you feel afraid, like firemen running towards flames. By their own recognition, they’re afraid, but the fear does not control them. In fact, they use it to propel themselves faster into danger.
Three things I have surely known every day in my life. 1) I felt weak. 2) I’ve been in pain. 3) I was always afraid.
By that definition, I guess, then, I am brave. I am strong. Perhaps you are too, you just don’t know it yet!
We’re waiting for the apocalypse, the zombies to arise, but we’ve fail to see that it’s already here. We’re it. We’re the ones to fear, the living but dead. It’s just that we can’t see. The deadness is inside, not out.
We tote all things behind us like a prized possession, but we are dissentgrating. We’re dragging on looking for life in putrid dead marshes. We crave left and right, this thing and that, but nothing satisfies. Nothing hands can grab onto can fill the deep deep void.
What can satisfy?
What satisfies a punctured heart thats bleeding out with every beat? What is enough to fill the leaky void we call our souls? Nothing short of something vastly unending. Abysmal in proportion. That would be nothing physical, for the physical will change. It will all pass away. It will be eroded piece by piece, grain by grain, moment by moment. Nothing short of something all sufficient, omniscient, without limit of power or margin of error can even put a dent in our void- only what is already full can fill what ails us.
We wonder around- a needle in our bag, porn in our pocket, murder under our belts. Booze is in hand while we’re trying to navigate stormy seas and we’re hoping to come out alive and unscathed. It’s unrealistic. It’s idiotic. It’s insane.
We’re crazy demented, tormented spirits running from the vaccine for our souls as if it were the plague- as if one little book, we fear, could set us ablaze like Chernobyl. Thus, we plunge ourselves deeper into the zombie apocalypse, trying to escape the inevitable, and live the half lived lives we have and call it breathing.
The zombie apocalypse is already here. We’re it. Awake. Arise. Be set ablaze by the truth you run from.
I’ve been mesmerized by this word that keeps cropping up on me. In songs, in my readings, in my soul…FIERCE.
Fierce by definition (from several dictionaries) is as follows: 1) wild or menacing in appearance.2) violent in force and intensity. 3) aggressive in temperament. 4) menacingly wild, savage, or hostile;strong.
I have always been enraptured by this word. I have so wanted to be fierce, to be wild and strong and intense. I always wanted to be impenetrable, unhurtable because well… hurting is not something anyone willingly wants to go through. Yet, I’ve always managed to fall short of that. I’ve always managed to be the Lilly that is vulnerable, weak, and powerless in so many things.
But fierce is what God is. I have discovered in my twenty something years that have felt like fifty something that He is the one who can, who is impenetrable, unbreakable, strong, and He is willing and ready to help little me. Honestly, I have no idea why. I don’t see what a perfect God can possibly see and want in someone so broken and shattered that He’d go the extra mile to make sure I knew who it was that got me out of my pits, the conundrums of X,Y, and Z called my life.
All I know is that when there was no way, no possible way of getting myself out of whatever the bind was, and I got on my knees and said ‘that’s it, I’m done. I’ve lost. I’ve failed, everything is going to fall apart”, He was the one who made a way. And it was always such a way that I knew no other human force could create.
But I had to get to that point, the one that said “there is literally nothing I can do. There is really no more in my tank and the only thing that’s going to save me is NOT ME.” That is when God is at his best. That’s when his arm is long enough to reach. Well it’s always long enough, but if we’re not reaching out to grip it, He has nothing to take hold of to pull us out of the mire. When we are helpless, thats when we discover the power of God.
That is when we discover He is nothing like us. He is so extravagant in his love, his mercy, we are so undeserving in this thing called grace that it’s not human. He doesn’t think human. He doesn’t do human. He does extraordinary. He is the definition of love, which these days is a common currency word but I’ve come to find is really two fold when relating to God. His Love =affectionate devotion.
I tend to forget, He’s NOT actually human. He’s God and nothing I can conceive will ever come close to understanding his reality, what love means in his dictionary.
From what I have experienced, definition 1 is dead on. His love is ‘wild or menacing in appearance’. Not in actuality. It’s hard to put into words, this feeling of raging love: a feeling of joy, awe, fear of what this is going on, of mattering so significantly when I feel so insignificant to a God I can’t come close to understanding- all at once.
When I’ve failed, have no strength or power or will of my own to help me out of this predicament, all is hopeless. Yet, God brings in hope amid despair, courage amid the fear. It’s unrealistic and yet so real that it has happened. More than once. To me and to many others.
I think of this wild love as like a hurricane. As someone who grew up in south Florida home of the hurricane, pretty much yearly, well…summer storm takes on a whole new meaning. It’s one thing to look at TV footage of palm trees bending in the wind. It’s a whole other thing to be there in the thick of it, feeling the raging invisible winds push you back.
You feel the torrents going up and down, in circular motions, in fluctuating direction. You can’t see the wind, you can only see its effect. You see the trees bending, you feel the currents threatening to toss you aside. But when it comes to God, being rooted in him keeps you in place amid the wildness going on outside and all around you. You are firm in the hurricane because God’s love is Fierce and it roots us into the ground so we can be bent but not broken like the trees. His affectionate devotion carries us. We just have to say yes and not let fear keep us from it.
So when the storm rages REMEMBER…
It was that time of year again. The time to pledge, to pledge to the master laird, the landowner and the castle’s protector- Finn McIntosh. He, too, was one of the clan of McIntosh but his family was of McLure. Year after year had passed since his declared manhood at age 10, which was also the year of his first pledge. It was the year his father had perished. He’d come to castle McIntosh for protection and to learn. To learn the art of making a living, to also learn the art of making war. He’d pledged his fealty that year along with 3 others. His cousins. All McIntosh. All strong. All of one family, one people.
Out of loyalty he’d pledged. Out of devotion he’d taken the oath. Year after year he’d grown, herded the cattle, milked the cows, brushed the hoses, and fought. They’d trained in fighting everyday. Until each man, young and old felt their muscles tired enough to fall off the bone. He’d trained for battles yet to come… and then they pledged. He never understood why though. Why the need to pledge each year? He’d devoted himself body, mind, and heart to his clan, his kinfolk, his uncle the kind hearted master laird. He, Adair McLure, never considered going back on his pledge.
But this year, his 21st year, was different. In the span of less than one year he’d grown to hate. He’d grown to despise the name McIntosh. He despised the blood in his own veins and it ran cold. Ice cold. He’d grown dark inside himself, too dark to even look his master in the eye. Now he knew. He knew that one year made all the difference. Hell, just one day could change everything. A singular had done that for him. It was the day his father returned from the dead.
It had been the first day of the Hunt on the first of october. For one month the McIntosh clan hunted on their vast lands. 47 men from all across the country. Young and old. They spent each day from sunup to sundown out in the forest. The man with the largest prize, the trickiest kill would win the gold. A lump sum from the laird, but more importantly was the bragging rights. A year’s worth of bragging rights. Adair had arrived home to the annex cottage he singly inhabited on the outskirts of the castle. He arrived near twilight, covered in dirt, in blood, in grass. He was still smiling over his cousin’s joke as a momentary shadow passed the reflection of his mirror. He looked back but saw nothing.
“Is anyone there?” He called out the open window that reflected the day’s last light. He was met by no answer, so he grabbed his small axe as he headed toward the window. “I saw you. I know someone is there.” He called out fully expecting to see his McIntosh cousins come out laughing at his expense. For a moment nothing moved and then he heard it, a deep, radiating, yet familiar voice called out to him.
“You’ve so grown up, Adair, my son.” A tall strapping figure with a tangled beard came into full view of the open window. It was warm and night was setting in, the crickets chirping softly, but all feeling had gone out from Adair’s body.
“What sorcery is this? Who are you demon spirit?” He spat out barely understanding what his eyes were seeing. “My father has been dead some two decades.”
“Or perhaps that’s what the laird, my brother-in-law, wanted you to think.”
Adair tried to convince himself this was a moment of hallucination, a mere reflection after an exhausting day of Hunts, but there was no way to deceive what was truly before his eyes.
His father continued, “After all, I was presumed dead that very same day you were celebrated a man, or have you forgotten me already?”
It was those last 5 words that did the trick. After every long excursion his father had made when he was young, he always returned home and asked ‘have you forgotten me already?’. To which the young Adair would shout ‘No, what have you brought me da?” It was as if something inside his head rattled itself into place and he moved forward. “D…Da !” Adair breathed out. He ran towards the window and grabbed his father around the neck, the wall and sill between them.
That had been some four months passed. Four months he had been brooding, keeping in the anger, the murderous rage that was birthed the day he saw his father’s face in the window before his cottage. Now he had but 1 month to go until he had to make his pledge again. The hustle and bustle of the event no longer held sway over him. He no longer looked forward to it when all the clansmen came and pledged.
Adair knew either he had to flee the castle or make his pledge. Which he would choose only God Almighty knew. Everything had shattered within him that day. He could not understand how a brother could be out for the blood of his own kin, the husband of his sister. He could not understand how such malice and evil could be within a man to take in a boy only out of greed, to try and steal his land. If the laird thought McLure lands would ever be held by McIntosh then he was mistaken. Adair would be dead before that, dead well before.
And so the month passed into oblivion and Adiar found himself before the laird’s seat in line to pledge. Yes. He would pledge. He would pledge with as much venom and malice as was given him when his father had been taken from him unnecessarily. In time, though he reveled in thoughts to level the laird’s head with his sword.
In the tender twilight of converging Winter, there lies one of the last warm Autumn nights of 2017.
The World basks in the last glory of the day. In the distance the atmosphere is painted a rustic orange color fading into the antique blue of night and then into pallid grey soon turned black.
Night is falling and with it a Winter Brew. A conglomeration of crisp icy air turned fresh, the smell of spices baking into perfection, leaves turning fiery and smelling of glorious damp death. #TexasForever #TxAutumn
Smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, pine, drying berries, cool mornings and evenings, daylight shifting- they all beckon to the call of that familiar homey time of year called Autumn. It signals the beginning of the holiday season, the ending of a year and new beginnings to come. It’s my favorite time of year despite having been grown up in South Florida where seasons don’t abide.
It was on such a day like this 16 years ago that everything changed. America was forever altered after we watched two commercial airplanes crash into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. One day changed everything. It shattered our cloud of false security, but it also bred fear across the nation. It fueled hate. I remember that day. I was in 7th grade. Siting in the library watching live coverage of the event for a short while before being sent off to class, head spinning.
People were crying. People were shocked. People didn’t know how to react. I was the latter. It almost seemed like it was some made up tale- planes flying into buildings. A bad end-of-the-world movie scenario. Yet, it’s a truth that remains. An ugly truth engrained in the land of our hearts, carved into the province of New York City. Today lets remember. Lets remember what hates does. What it destroys. How much it costs. Lets remember September 11, 2001.
If you know me, you’ll know that music speaks to me. Though, I don’t write songs, God always speaks to me through music. Songs have been God’s microphone in my life since I was a little girl and this lyric could not be more true in my life…
“you unravel me with a melody,
you surround me with a song,”
This short trip to Haiti was no different. God had a song ready to unravel me. I didn’t think I’d find a song to be unraveled by in the 6 measly days I was in Haiti. I was wrong. It was an old song turned new for me, sung by the innocent voices of 40 orphans on the back of a truck. One little girl, dubbed ‘The Singer’ of the clan, started out with these words:“I have decided to follow Jesus.” The other kids picked up the old tune and soon the truck we were crammed on trudging toward the new orphanage location for a day of games was filled with a simple song I also had learned as a child at Sunday school.
“I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back.”
It’s a simple hymn with a simple melody and very repetitive words. Its not what we’d consider a hit worship song in the modern world. Yet, the depths of the words in this song and the singers who were belting it out, hit me full force in the depths of my soul and the song rang in my head for the next 4 days of my Haiti trip.
40 orphans, the oldest of which is about 15 and the youngest being under 2 years old, were declaring that despite everything, they have chosen, would follow Jesus and from which point there was no turning back. I once made the same choice they did. I decided to follow Jesus when I was about 12 and indeed, despite moments of heartache and fear and seasons of doubt, there is no turning back for me.
So, one verse into a song, my heart was sewn into the fabric of a patchwork quilt of 40 different shades. 40 lives of beautiful children through which God showed me that deciding to follow Him is just the beginning of the adventure. It is the mere nadir from which a person begins their journey. Like Pastor Emil, who found the 40 and took them in and through which God is doing a grand work to touch the lives of so many other orphans and people in the village, we also will be used. We have a grand destiny to be a small part of the song God is writing on the pages of our lives. All we have to do is decide.
And just like that crammed in on a bumpy truck, the song wove its way into every nook and cranny of my trip, calling out to me as it went the verses of that old hymn as soon you will discover in my next posts.