A God Who Meets Me Here

A God Who Meets Me Here

“Jesus answered, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.'”

John 4:10

One of my favorite things about Jesus is that He constantly did things that no one expected.

When John and the other guys first left their fishing boats to follow this guy named Jesus, I’m sure they expected Him to be a normal teacher. In fact, it’s pretty clear that they expected Him to be normal, because the Bible says over and over that they are baffled by what He does. Jaws on the floor. “Who is this guy??”

This story today is one of my absolute favorites, because the main character is a woman with a past she wants to hide.

(…can anyone relate?)

Jesus and John and the guys were having a travel day, making their way from Judea to Galilee (both regions in ancient Israel), when it was noon and they were tired. Jesus was exhausted, and so He sat down at a well that was there. Now, I don’t know much about the culture back then, but I do know that no one in their right mind went to draw water in the middle of the day because it was hot. Everyone would go in the morning, I’m sure, before the sun came out in full force. The women would grab their water jugs in the morning and head over, chatting about the day and the gossip of the town.

But no one would go midday.

And yet, there was one other person at the well when Jesus arrived, and it was a woman. We don’t know much about her, but the very fact that she was drawing water at noon tells us that she didn’t belong. The scorching heat of the day was the perfect cover to make certain that no one else would be there and she could get her water in peace.

And yet Jesus was there.

“Give me a drink.” Jesus walked up her and sat down.

The woman was baffled, not only because men never spoke to women like this back then, but also because Jesus was a Jew and she was a Samaritan, and there was bad blood. Jews never spoke to Samaritans. And a Jewish man specifically would never, ever talk to a Samaritan woman. Ever.

But Jesus loved breaking every social rule, and so He struck up a conversation.

“If you knew the gift of God, and who I am, then you would ask me for living water and I would give it to you.”

“Sir, you didn’t bring anything to draw water with,” she said, observing His belongings, “how do you get living water?”

Jesus, possibly looking into the well or gesturing to her water jug, replied, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give them will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman was probably thrown off, as I would be, but she implored, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water anymore.”

And this is my favorite part, because Jesus wasn’t there to talk about drawing water from a well. He knew this woman – He knew her past, the hidden parts she tried to keep secret, her regrets and fears. He knew that she had gone through 5 husbands, and that she was currently living with a guy who wasn’t her husband. He knew that she drew water at noon out of shame. He knew.

“Go, call your husband, and come back.”

She looked down, diverted her eyes, mumbled, “I have no husband.”

“I know you have no husband.” Jesus replied. “I know that you have had five husbands, and that the man you’re living with is not your husband.”

I’m sure her head snapped up and that she searched the face of this guy who met her at the well. How could he know that? The most shameful parts of her life, probably the reason she was a social outcast, the very thing the intended to hide from everybody she met was just thrown into the open. And she sat there, exposed, in front of this man she had never met.

The story goes on to say how Jesus told her that He was God, the Savior of the world. His disciples came back, confused that He was talking to a woman. And the woman left her water jar at the well, ran into the town, and told everyone about this guy she had met at the well, how He knew everything about her. Could this be God Himself?

She believed in Jesus that day, and a lot of other people did too. The people of that town begged Jesus to stay with them, and John tells us that they stayed there for two days.

 

There are so many things I love about this story. I love that Jesus, God Himself, could have spent His days on earth rounding up as many people as possible and performing the flashiest of miracles. He could have been loud and boisterous and in-your-face. But He didn’t.

I love the fact that He spent an entire afternoon talking with one social outcast woman at a well. I love that Jesus knew her, not for the Instagram-worthy version of herself she gave everyone else, but for the real her. He knew every shameful part of her life, and yet He met her there. And He didn’t run away. He just offered her living water, speaking of her failed marriages as simply something in her life, not something that defined her life.

And that’s the love of God. It’s the kind of love that will cross every social barrier to meet you where you are and offer you living water. It will look into the dirtiest parts of your life and cover them up. Jesus, in how He lived His life, showed us just how much God loves us.

And just like He met the woman at the well, He wants to meet you.

(scripture taken from John chapter 4)

You Are Loved

You Are Loved

This February, I need to remember how much Jesus loves me.

 

I first realized my need to understand the depth of God’s love for me early on in this endeavor to move to a new state and do a new thing. I moved to South Carolina last September, and it didn’t take long for me to have a really hard time looking myself in the mirror, the level of self-loathing growing exponentially by the day. Because when you do something really hard, you start to realize all of the really bad things about yourself, and you are absolutely drowning in your inadequacies.

And that bar you set for yourself at some point looms over you, and you fall short. every. day.

The world tells you to practice some self love at this point. You know, do a few sit-ups to make yourself feel better or eat a banana or get a manicure or journal some more. And while these aren’t bad things, the question stood unanswered for me. Am I worth loving? All of this effort to make myself feel better… for what? The journey of my next year loomed dauntingly ahead of me, and I wondered if I could ever get that voice out of my head, the one that reminded me over and over that I never measured up.

 

This series is not about practicing self love. It is not about some self-improvement program that will make you feel better about yourself. And it’s not about being the caliber of person that makes someone want to love you, or being the “kind of person the person you want to marry wants to marry”.

This is about unconditional love. This series is a chance to join me as I learn about how much Jesus loves me. Because at the core of it all, I realized that all I really ever want is to know I’m loved not for what I do, but simply for waking up in the morning and being me, whatever that means today.

And honestly? I haven’t been reading my Bible a lot lately. I think there’s a part of me that fears the kind of Jesus that’s in there, like maybe He’s not as great as everyone says He is. But I want to find out.

So this month of love, this February, I’m going to ask the Bible what it says about a loving God who died for me, and I hope you join me. Because I know Jesus loves me, but I so easily forget, and I start to live like I’m not loved at all.

My prayer is that we would all leave this month with settled hearts and clear minds, not because we took more vitamins or plucked our eyebrows to perfection, but because we realize how loved we are by the One who will never let us down.

Honest Thoughts from a Recent College Grad

Honest Thoughts from a Recent College Grad

I’ve been told that as a writer it’s my job to tell the truth.

Which, of course, I rarely do because it’s terrifying. I can only hope I’m not alone in that. Because I can’t write what somebody else finds true. I can’t transcribe thoughts out of somebody else’s mind. And with every word I type I become more naked in front of you because you know that there is only one way for me to draw emotion on a page. It’s because I’ve felt it, because I’ve been there.

I haven’t written a lot this fall and that’s why. If emotions were an animal then mine would be those bulls that they ride for 8 seconds and then get bucked off. Most days I hardly recognize my own name so how could I possibly fashion 900 words into something comprehensible enough to post on the internet? I’m the young adult who, until a few weeks ago, left her spare car key in her car. And who spent an ungodly amount of money on Tropical Smoothie Cafe in the month of October. And who read an entire Captain Underpants book the other day because my brain can’t seem to handle anything heftier.

But alas, here we are. And you’re reading what I’m writing, so I’m going to try to be honest.

I am terrified of being an adult. Like, can’t see straight most of the time kind of terrified. I was just figuring out how to be a child and next thing I know I’m at my old college buddy’s house and we’re discussing budgeting. Budgeting. Also, I have “old college buddies”. Because I’m done with college.

It seems like a cruel joke sometimes. All our lives, we’re in school. And when we finish at one school, we go to another school. 5th grade to 6th grade. 8th to 9th. Then we’re in college. Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior. And then you’re done. And then next thing you know you’re sitting on your friend’s couch talking about budgeting and you have this powerful urge to either curl up into a ball and cry or run into the front yard and do cartwheels and pretend that none of this “growing up” nonsense exists.

And yet, despite all efforts, two days later you find yourself googling budgeting websites because you really do have to buy a car. And save up for rent on the apartment you’re getting soon. And you sit on your couch, wearing a bath robe and drinking a smoothie, typing numbers and pretending like you have any hint of an idea what you’re doing.

 

A month ago I was in one of my best friend’s wedding. It was beautiful. She was beautiful. And it gathered together all of my favorite people at my favorite place, in my old college town.

The entire gig was over by 2:00. Reception and all. The new bride and her husband ran out the door and drove off and the day was still young for us un-married folk. Me and two of my best girl-friends ended up across the street from the church, warming seats in one of our favorite old coffee shops.

We had been there a million times. Doing homework on a Sunday afternoon. Grabbing cinnamon rolls with our hallways. That one time I sang at an open mic night freshman year. Just being anywhere near that coffee shop makes me feel like I’m home and that everything really is going to be ok. And in that moment, I was so glad to be back in Ohio, if only for a weekend.

My friends and I currently occupy three different states, but for an hour or so we simply occupied the same table. Together again. These faces that filled my college years. Every day, for 1,000 days, eating dinner together, walking the sidewalks of campus and filling each other in on what boy we liked that week. Treating each other’s rooms like our own.

Until, of course, we graduated and were sent off to budget.

But for an hour, we were together again. And I wish I could tell you we laughed and reminisced and tucked our good ole’ college days into convenient pockets of memory in the plushiest parts of our brain. I wish I could say we all confidently left that day in pursuit of our new endeavors, excited and ready to tread our new paths and kick down some doors.

But instead, we cried.

“I don’t mean to be dramatic. But honestly, you guys, these have been the hardest 6 months of my life.”

They were the first words to come out of my friend’s mouth as we grabbed our seats. And I felt myself lean into them. Finally, some honesty. I thought, maybe all this time, I was the only one who had no idea how to do this whole post-college thing. That maybe I was the only one who cried for two months when I started off in my big-new-city because I have never tackled something like this before.

That maybe I was the only one who missed my college friends so much it hurts like a cruel joke that should be over right about now.

But I realized that day. I’m not the only one. We didn’t have any answers for each other. We still have absolutely no flippin’ clue what we’re doing. But we’re not the only ones who have no flippin’ clue what we’re doing. And, in a powerful way, that changes things.

 

I’m back in my South Carolina town for the spring. Pretty much everything about that sentence terrifies me. But, I’m realizing, it terrifies me less than it did in the fall. And that’s pretty cool, I’d say.

It’s not a straight line, this stage of life. It’s a roller coaster, a zig-zag, a house of mirrors, a wrestling match. It’s figuring out a million things about yourself. It’s deciding to read your Bible not because somebody told you to but because you realize you don’t actually get along that well without it. Even though you have a billion questions. It’s about asking those questions and then putting them to bed. It’s about looking yourself in the mirror and not being sure what you see, and just letting that be what it is. You’ll know, in time.

At least, that’s my prayer. For myself. Because these days I’m not always so sure.

But for now, college-grad, just know you’re not alone. Whatever you’re feeling, be sure that I’m feeling it too from my basement bedroom in my new South Carolina town. And I guess that’s the most honest thing I can say right now.

 

 

30 Days of Celebration: Honesty

30 Days of Celebration: Honesty

I’m not very good at being honest. Not with others, not with myself, and not with God.

I don’t like to be anything but fine all of the time, and when I’m not I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to voice the way I feel, which is particularly difficult because I’m one of those people who feel a lot of things.

But these days, I can’t afford not to be honest, not with myself and not with God. There’s too much change, and there’s too much transition, and I drown in my thoughts if I don’t put them in the light. And that takes honesty.

And honestly, these past three months have at times felt torturous. I went from one way of life in college and then everything was flipped upside down in an instant. I don’t like time alone, and I get a lot of it. I don’t know what to say to myself and I don’t function well.

Honestly, my head feels like it’s in a cloud most of the time. I don’t know how to be an “adult”, and it freaks me out. My faith is tested these days, and it doesn’t always stand up very straight. I go weeks without really reading my Bible. How do I take the faith I’ve claimed my entire life and actually give it feet?

Honestly, I know God lead me to South Carolina, but most of the time it feels like a mistake. Surely, it shouldn’t be this hard. I shouldn’t feel like I’m losing my mind, and I shouldn’t be so tired. I should know how to rest better. I shouldn’t be scared all the time. And I shouldn’t blame South Carolina. But, honestly, sometimes I do.

 

But it’s ok. That’s what honesty does, is it puts all of the monsters in the back of my head into the light and I realize they’re not actually all that scary. They only have power over me because I give it to them. I give all of my fears and doubts and worries little dark rooms in the back of my brain and I let them sit there, unattended, spreading poison to everything they touch. But honesty is the antidote, honesty is what flings open the closet door and gets them out into the sizzling sunlight.

And there, my little monsters slowly die. They can’t thrive under such exposure. They lose their power. And I realize that everyone has little monsters, and we would all be so much better off I we just took them out for a change.

 

I had coffee with an old friend last weekend, and after updating her on life in South Carolina, she told me that she was surprised. I had told her of my struggles and fears and she told me that she thought I was doing just fine. She had no idea. And why do we make room for such lies? Why do we tell each other half-truths? What good does that do?

I celebrate a God who lets me be honest. He’s not afraid of it. He encourages it, and it is medicine to my soul. I don’t know what I’m doing, but God does, and somehow today that has to be enough for me.

 

30 Days of Celebration: Under-thinking

30 Days of Celebration: Under-thinking

I’m an over-thinker.

Or, perhaps a better way to put it, I’m a person who over-thinks. It’s not my identity, but for whatever reason it’s a thing I do.

The mind is a funny thing. It races and flies way faster than my legs can, and way too often I can’t make it stop. And so it thinks, and thinks, and over-thinks. And, like a runner at the end of a race, it falls exhausted sometimes, crashing and burning.

I think often about the words that Jesus spoke, ones I desperately cling to.

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

I know Jesus watches me trying to figure out things I will never understand, or running and re-running harsh words over in my mind, or worrying about everything under the sun, and just wishes I wouldn’t.

Do you know what those verses say to me? They tell me that I have full permission to under-think.

I think back to an earlier post I wrote, and I celebrate that it’s not my job to understand the details of it all. Life is not a gift meant to be over-analyzed, but lived.

 

So I live, in this moment. I’m sitting in a cute corner shop in a town that I love, Bibles open with a new friend. My mustard-colored journal sits on my right, full of musings and prayers. My half-drunk cup of water stares me down, begging me to hydrate to dominate.

I think of the run I’ll take later, 6 miles if I can. I think of the brother who lives down the road and opens up his house to me simply because he loves me. I think of his new dog. I think of the show I’ve recently gotten into and anticipate the plot twists that will surely send me reeling.

I think about the nap I’ll probably take later.

I find it strange that I let myself sleep every night, don’t think twice about sitting down to rest my weary muscles, but feel no freedom to rest my mind, even for a moment. Surely, there is something I need to worry about. Surely, there is something to fear.

But the freedom of faith is that I really don’t have to fear. I really can rest. I really don’t have to overthink. I have full freedom to sit down on the side of the road and let things be, rest my legs and mind that have run so hard and fast for so long.

The thing about this life-transition is that it is kind of scary. I really don’t know what I’m doing. I really am in a new place, with new people, and new daily routines. And, apart from faith, there really is a lot to worry about. Where will I be 7 months from now? Where will I live? Where will I work?

But then I remember my story. How God has provided everything I need, always. How today I live in a home provided by God, have a job provided by God, surrounded by people provided by God. So I’m going to under-think and trust instead, because that faith has never let me down before.

Today I celebrate the freedom to think 1,000 less thoughts, and letting the faith and rest make its way through my weary mind.

 

30 Days of Celebration: Rainy Days

30 Days of Celebration: Rainy Days

It’s raining today in South Carolina. I woke up to it, and most definitely wanted to stay in bed because dang it’s cozy.

Rain is funny. It is so out of my control. I don’t choose when it rains, how hard it rains, when it stops raining. It can be humbling. Sometimes it doesn’t rain when you want it to or it does rain when you desperately wish it wouldn’t.

I was seeing a certain counselor a few years back for a season, and I will never forget one of the sessions we had. After pouring my heart out to him, explaining my fears and hopes and difficulties, he walked up to the large notepad in his office and wrote one word:

Control.

I was taken aback. He began to explain that so many of my emotional problems centered around this issue of control, and my deep fear of losing it. I left his office that day honestly feeling like he pegged me all wrong, but as time has gone on it is eery to realize how right he was.

I crave control, as so many of us do. Which is ironic, because like I said in an earlier post, I’ve never even had it in the first place. I had a wise mentor once tell me that I will never have peace until I trust that a good God has everything under control, and that He is watching out for me.

Rain is a reminder for me. It’s a reminder that I’m not in control, but that Someone beautiful is. I love rain- the smell of it, the way it hits the road and sticks to spider webs and creates fog. It makes my hair wet and creates puddles that I splash in.

One of my favorite memories is one in Africa the summer after I graduated high school. It was storming so hard that the water went out in our guesthouse, so we washed our hair in the rain. And we laughed and celebrated the power that didn’t belong to us.

Rain makes things grow. Grass, trees, flowers, and me.

Today it made sounds on my window as I read my Bible, the pitter patter that matches the rhythm of my heart. It’s awesome, this world we live in. So greatly outside of our control, but so intensely beautiful, down to the single rain drop. I am learning that I don’t need to be in control of the forecast or my own life, but it takes trust. A lot of trust. Because the fog from the rain makes my future pretty hazy, and I need to learn that that’s ok.

Today I celebrate the rain.

30 Days of Celebration: What Is

30 Days of Celebration: What Is

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly complaining about what I don’t have. Or, the way my life doesn’t look.

If I’m spending exuberant amounts of time with people, I complain that I don’t have enough alone time. If all I have is alone time, I complain I don’t have more time with people. When I lived in a dorm, I wished I had more room. Now that I have more room, I wish desperately to be back in a dorm. When I don’t have a job, all I want under this blue sky is a job. Then when I have a job, I dread it. I don’t want to go and I find everything wrong with it to complain to my friends.

So, today, I’m just going to celebrate what is.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a part of a really great faith and leadership development program through a church in South Carolina. Through the program I’m given a host home, a job, classes I get to take, friends that are doing the program with me.

And it has struck me lately that I have been finding every opportunity to complain about just how “hard” it is. And it is that, certainly. Moving across the country on a week’s notice and changing everything about your surroundings is no joke, nor is a major life stage transition. Never let anyone “should” you about how that makes you feel.

But I make the problem so often of equating hard with bad. Hard’s not bad. It’s just hard. In fact, difficult things are often the greatest things that can ever happen to you and me. So today I celebrate the difficulties. I celebrate learning how to cope with a major transition, learning how to stand on my own two feet and know who I am without all the familiarity. I celebrate the growth in my faith as I put trusting in God to an actual test.

Instead of all the newness being bad, I choose to see it as good. I already have a million memories from this time, and I will surely have more. Dinners around long tables, boat trips, movie nights, laughter with my host sisters, runs around the block.

Part of my job is going out to an after school program every Wednesday and holding a bible club for the kids there. I can already tell it will be the most difficult thing I do every week, and easily the most rewarding. The kids are vibrant and energetic, and I can tell we’re going to have an incredible amount of fun. It will be unpolished and hectic most of the time, I’m sure, and I think the best time spent always is.

I accept the craziness of my life right now. I accept the grief-filled moments of college being in the past. I accept my usual inability to grasp what is on my plate for today. I just meet myself here, exactly as I am. I let today be what it is for me, not what I hope it would be.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Today is one of those days, ordained for me. I’m not gonna skip the page, skim the letters, flip to the back. I’m gonna read it, soak it in, celebrate the characters, anticipate the plot twists, underline the good parts. I know that’s what God does.

So why don’t I?