an extension

my circumstances are not wild.

they are not out of the ordinary.

they are not exceptional.

i am not remarkable apart from the fact that i am loved by the one and only great lover of this world.

‘it was just before the passover feast. jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the father. having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.’ john 13:1

there was a night in swaziland where the girls of my team and i were sitting unexpectedly around a feast. the feast had been prepared for us by two of our own. there were grapes (a true rarity) and the cheese from the expensive part of the store and the kind of bread that really fills you up and sparkling grape juice like the kind you drink at family holidays when you’re not allowed to have the champagne. it was something to get excited about. and yet even at the mere sight of it all, i could feel the tears beginning to well up…

and as if the food wasn’t already too much, our two friends then pulled out two buckets full of water.

now, i had always known that the washing of feet was a sacred and cleansing and humbling thing; that jesus had even humbled himself to wash the feet of his disciples. but i had missed the part where he calls us to wash the feet of others just as he did for his friends and followers.

the girls continued by reading all of john 13 aloud to us.

at this point the tears were involuntarily flowing.

they both made their way around the circle of girls waiting to be made clean.

now let me just put into perspective that, despite our best efforts to stay clean, there existed only one shower for a group of fifteen girls. and no matter how hard we tried to keep our little abode spotless and free of dirt, it always found its way in…all that to say, we were dirty. our feet were calloused, caked with filth, and probably rather foul-smelling, though i never personally tested this theory for fear of finding its validity (ha).

so, as my dear friend approached me with her humble grin and her meager bucket of water, i waited in anticipation. i was eager to be cleansed. and my heart was heavy — aching for freedom. in the moments where i would be cleansed fast approaching, i couldn’t help but imagine jesus coming towards me with the bucket in his hands instead. and i began to tremble with a feeling i can’t quite put into words.

an overwhelming gratitude flooded my heart. it flooded my whole being. i was paralyzed in the presence of the lord; his love invading every part of me. and i wept.

i wept. an ugly, all-encompassing, uncontrollable fit of tears rushed from some place i knew not of. and i sat in this puddle as i was stripped of pride and the filth that had been entangling my soul.

i could taste the mere beginnings of the full extent of his love. and i think that’s why i can’t exactly describe how i felt in those moments…because the fulness of jesus’ love was not meant to be comprehended. it was meant for us to stand back in awe of and to wonder at the glory of his loving us until the end.

because why would someone as great as jesus choose to love someone as little as me?

‘how great is the love the father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of god! and that is what we are!’ 1 john 3:1

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i know they dance

i could write about all the things i’ve been working through. all the places i’ve been, what i’ve seen, how i’ve healed. but i wasn’t the one who wanted to go to those places. + i certainly didn’t heal myself. God was the one who beckoned me. he invited me in. extended his hand, reassuring me not that i would be okay or safe or happy or secure or in control, but that he would be there; that he would not let go.

but don’t be fooled. i didn’t simply arrive at this conclusion from out of thin air. it’s taken me turning + running from the free gift of grace. denying the adventure that our father offers us to realize that it’s not about feeling safe. it’s not about feeling happy 24/7 because you have the ‘joy of christ,’ ¬†because happiness is fleeting. but rather it’s finding joy even in the hardest moments; looking to eternity + seeing jesus there waiting for you. knowing the hope that he offers in the thoroughly + inexplicably painful days. not running the other direction, but clinging to him + holding tightly to his mighty hand.

so here i am, journeying into the adventure that he calls me to; he calls us to. living every day expectant that even if i loosen my grip, he will not. even if i struggle to shake my hand free, his arm will still move with mine, his wrist will endure the violence + his fingers will stay interlocked with mine. even if i gnaw at his hand, he will not once flinch or pull his hand away. + knowing that he will always call me further into the depths of his heart, loving me with each step i take…or even if i just stand still.

[ d e c e m b e r   f i r s t ]

today marks the beginning of a difficult season for my family.

today would have been the day my niece, Campbell, turned five years old.

today would have been the day we dressed her up in her prettiest party dress so that she could dance with her daddy + feel beautiful.

but we can’t.

we can’t hear her laugh.

we can’t embrace her + feel her heart beat next to our own.

we can’t look into her sweet eyes and say, ‘i love you.’

my sister can’t hold her baby girl.

+ that hurts me more than anything.

to know that my sister endures that pain every single day.

to know that especially today, she has to sit in loss.

i hate it so.

but this i know:

the prince of peace came. he came + he took Campbell to his castle where pain is no more + tears only ever stem from an overflow of joy.

he rescued her from this wretched world + instead invited + beckoned her into paradise where her heavenly father dwells.

+ i know they dance

he twirls her + admires her beauty.

he spins her + stands in awe of his perfect beloved, a smile stamped permanently on his face saying, ‘i’ve been waiting for you, princess.’

+she giggles in the presence of her maker; of her abba. delighted that he invites her to dance + giddy in the dwelling place of his spirit.

 

so, as he carries me further + deeper into his heart, i will sit expectant.

+ no amount of pain or sorrow can rip me from his hold.

day after day, i will lock eyes with the one who ransomed me. the one who sets my feet to dancing.

The Joy in Pain

‘He must first come + wreck our hearts before we can even begin to understand His’

This thought occurred to me one night here in Swaziland. We were having a worship night as a team, + I felt Holy invading my heart + my mind + then taking over my hand as I frantically began writing My Theory on Pain:

God knows an endless amount of pain. After sacrificing his only son for his true love – us – because we betrayed him + his love for us.

The pain in this world is a slight glimpse of what God experiences every moment…+ he knows no time. So, the ‘bad things’ that God allows to happen to us are simply a window into God’s own heart; the pain he feels in every rejection, every turned back, every closed heart.

The God of the universe loves us so much that he blesses us with pain + sadness. He desires for us to know the depths of his heart so much that he allows us to feel.

To feel the sting that death infringes upon us.

To feel the ache of a broken heart.

To feel the rejection of a dear friend.

To feel the burning acid as it comes up our throats after a meal that breeches our mental capacity for fullness.

To feel the cold blade as it moves smoothly across our wrists + cuts deeply into our hearts, warm blood dripping down our arms.

To feel the absence of love from our mom.

To feel the deliberate ignorance from our dad when we desperately need a father’s love.

But even in the midst of this longing, God still comes in to rescue us from this temporary pain. Because as much as he wants us to draw near to his heart in the sharing of this pain, he knows we will never fully comprehend. + along with pain in the father’s heart, there is joy. + what kind of father would deprive his child of a great wealth such as joy? Certainly not our Heavenly Father!

Chains in My Shoes

My eyes squint open to a new day. Six girls lay like sardines to my right + still more down the hall beginning to stir + it now takes no time at all to remember where I am. The sound of rain tapping the windows + sleeping bags rustling + feet tip-toeing on the tiles floors that make the house echo with sound.

Nothing familiar, yet it’s becoming my norm.

I would be lying to you if I said things were easy here in Swaziland.

There is a much more evident spiritual tension here + my heart is heavy.

I’m not surely aware why it’s so much more difficult to find time alone with Christ here…but it is.

I have one theory: Spiritual Warfare

Yesterday morning a few of us went on a run to the boy’s homestead [ about 3 miles down the road ] + although I was very excited to be getting out of the house + on my feet, the devil did not want me to find joy in that.

I fell behind the other girls + Satan took full advantage of my loneliness. He told me I was too slow, too fat, too needy, not worthy, not cared for, not beautiful.

I felt…defeated.
…drained.
…defenseless.
+ it amazes me that Satan would find opportunity on a simple run. A place where I typically find freedom + escape + he turned it into a place of oppression, loneliness; a place of chains. Burdened + without hope. I wanted to break down, fall to my knees on the side of the road.

+ for a moment I thought I might.

I thought: ‘ wouldn’t it be much easier to give up now? I’m tired. No. I’m exhausted. Why should I keep going? My heart can’t handle one more adjustment. My feet can’t take one more step or I will surely collapse. ‘

But God intercedes.

He interrupted my thoughts + said, ‘ Maddie, my beloved. Keep running, daughter. You’ve been freed from this bondage. Come, walk with me + I will not abandon you. I love you, beautiful child. ‘

As I am writing now, I am reminded of Galatians 5:1

‘ it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, + do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. ‘

Praise be to a father who rescues us out of oppression with Grace + Love. Reassuring his children of our worth + value through his son, Jesus.

Love in the Dirt

I could feel every facet of Love the moment my feet touched the rocky red dirt.

An overwhelming sense of belonging flooded my heart + as I looked at this strangely familiar world around me, I knew.

Wide, toothy joy at every turn.

Desperate hands reaching to the heavens.

Longing to be held + ready to exchange Love for Love.

I couldn’t help but picture myself in this same position.

Finger tips reaching for my father.

Needy.

Longing for embrace.

+ then it came. Not gradually, but suddenly. All at once.

I picked up one precious child. The one next to her wanted up too + before I knew it I was on that rocky dirt covered in Love.

Engulfed in Joy.

Tackled by Grace.

Flat on my back, ready to receive all the kisses + hair tugs. All of the free Love.

All of the gentle whispers.

All of the soft finger tips brushing my skin.

+ what had I done to deserve it?

Simply nothing.

I reached out my hands + invited { grace } in.

Invited { Lesego + Tulie + Angel + Zalume + Tyree + Buntu } in.

Experiencing my father’s Love at every moment + feeling more at Home than ever.

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My Heart In Africa

I’m getting caught up in the struggle of trying so hard to get somewhere with God. When the reality is: He will meet me right where I am. Every time. + the joy in that is that when I’m inconsistent + weary I don’t have to try to reach God because He’s already there with me in the broken, dirty places. There is no more focusing on the struggles to get to God. The gap is bridged + my heart is free to wander in His abounding Grace + Mercy.

So, why am I hiding? When Grace reaches that kind of depth, what have I got to be afraid of?

Rejection?

Never.

Abandonment?

Not a chance.

These past few years have been ones of struggling to find Grace. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m in peril + I need to be rescued. Unfortunately, peril gets messy, but God moves in during those moments of struggle + pain + loneliness + says, ‘I love you, and I can clean that if you want me to.’

+ it’s in those vulnerable moments when we feel the most exposed, dirty, unworthy, + undeserving of His love that He steps in + intercedes. He gets down in the dirt with us + tightens His grip saying, ‘I will never let go’.

I have to keep coming back to { Mark 10:13-16 }. I am a child of God. He has set a place at His table for me + I belong to Him. There is nothing that can change that.

Not.

One.

Thing.

{ Mark 10:13-16 }

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have Him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for eh kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.