The Helper

It’s been so long since you were in town

You have to come in, please, sit down

I’ve been waiting for a chance to prove myself and you’re finally here

Don’t you like what I made you?

I’ll never be good enough, it’s all I fear

I want to sit at your feet and listen, but I haven’t earned it yet

So I’ll stay in the background, working until I’m worried and upset

Getting every detail right from my view above,

And thinking someday it will finally be enough to trade for your love

I only have this small offering and it’s not very good

But I have to show my love through work, I wish you understood

I don’t have time to rest when there is still so much to do

You’re telling me I won’t buy your love but that can’t be true

Because it’s worked with every other person, knowing they’ll love me if I just give more

Until eventually they take everything and I have nothing left in store

So I’ve learned to give in order to receive

And if you’re telling me you’re different that’s not something I believe

If I let go of all this work my hands will finally be empty

But that doesn’t stop my old habits from coming back to tempt me

Pride and success at war within my very being

And when I’m distracted it’s you my blindness keeps me from seeing

So I yell at you, not just for my empty hands but because you never shift

Thinking it’s your fault I’m so tired when really it’s mine for refusing your gift

This promise of your grace and presence that needs no repayment

And a chance to be still instead of focusing on the entertainment

My work on display doesn’t distract you from my heart

And you see right through me, down to the deepest part

And if I stopped moving or looking for more stuff

I’d hear you whisper, “My dear child, you’ve done enough”

“Rest at my feet and trust in my word”

And I think your voice is the most beautiful I’ve ever heard

I missed the sound of it this whole time, getting lost in the detail

But suddenly none of that matters when I hear your exhale

Now all I want is to sit and breathe with you

My Lord, you’re all I have left and all I will pursue

I Knew That I Loved You

When you worked so hard to memorize the name of every stranger you met

When I saw your face and I couldn’t stop smiling, even when it felt like my face was splitting in half

When you wrapped your arms around me and I felt completely safe

When you told me to “sleep well” for the first time, and every time after that

When you passed me your car keys and dared me to be brave for once

When you gave me space to talk and I didn’t feel like I had to interrupt to be heard

When you read my face better than anyone and knew what I was feeling before I did

When you stayed up late to talk, and the time difference meant 3 a.m. for you but time didn’t matter anymore

When you read my favourite book to me and made my interests your interests

When I whispered my fears to you and you said we’d find a way

When you cried in front of me and I knew you were showing me something that scared you but all I saw was the bravest person I know

When you prayed for me, and I heard the way you say my name to God

When you opened the car door for me every chance you got, something that I never cared about before until I saw how much it meant to you

When I found out that you left your deal breakers at the door, choosing me over any other bias you had before

When you didn’t hesitate to give up your internship opportunity after you found out I was working toward the same goal

When I got a taste of what ministry would look like together and I never wanted it to end

When you said “hey” for the first time and I never wanted you to say “goodbye”

When you found out about my migraines and started keeping extra ibuprofen in your car

When I heard the way you talk about your family and home and realized I wanted to be a part of that

When you randomly sang songs from the playlists I made you and always messed up the lyrics but knew it would make me smile regardless

When you followed me onto the bridge and all of our fears couldn’t stop you from pulling me close

When I said “I love you” for the first time and saw the look on your face that said it all

When your name kept showing up in the list of things that brought me joy

When I dreamt of my future and your presence was in every image I could paint in my mind

When you said “I miss you” and so many other things with your eyes

When holding your hand felt like both an anchor keeping me steady and wings lifting me up

When I started writing this months ago and I’m still thinking of new ways to fall in love with you

When forgiving you felt like the easiest thing I’ve ever done

When words failed me but we already knew each other’s hearts so well that words didn’t matter anymore

You asked me when I knew that I loved you

As if it was a single moment and not every moment with you that’s added up until now

And the answer isn’t a specific date or time with you, but everything in this list that reminds me

You’re not just loved, you are love

Cursed

I look at You, the one who takes away

Who curses Your people for their disobedience

I see You full of vengeance because of what Eve did,

Retaliating and bringing down brokenness

Did You know what would happen when You cursed her?

Did You know?

Because that curse You gave her is now resting on me

From the moment I asked the doctor my options and all she could do was frown in silence

Before telling me that any chance of having children would be risking unimaginable pain against a staggering infertility rate

Almost like a death sentence before I even got a chance

And that verse echoes in my head:

“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth.”

I ask why, never knowing if I’ll get an answer

Why did You make me like this?

Why did You give me a heart for Your children, only to rip away a chance of having my own?

Why does Eve’s mistake fall on me?

It wasn’t my fault that she acted out in pride

But I remember it is my pride that cries out now,

demanding an answer for a gift that isn’t mine to take

Just like the fruit wasn’t Eve’s

And I remember that despite her pride and mine, You are the same God who made a way:

for Sarah and her impatience

Hagar and her fear

Rebekah in her barrenness

Leah in her rejection and Rachel in her envy

Hannah through her misery

Elizabeth in old age

And eventually the Virgin Mary

You made a way

And this womb feels cursed but it’s also the place from which You brought forth a Saviour

And now I look at You, the one who gives good gifts

Who blesses us even when we don’t deserve it

And makes a way

You Are The Sower

I’m getting lost in the roles, trying to be so many things at once

I look at the soil, wondering which one I am

Or which one each person in my community is

And I can’t stop thinking about the ones in shallow soil or thorns or the footpath

I look at them wondering

How can I save them all?

I even look to You, wanting some form of control

Or at least myself to blame when things go wrong

I’m so focused on myself and the people around me

Wondering if our harvest will be enough

Wondering how long until everyone joins us

Wondering when the pain of the thorns and hot sun will go away

So much of my focus is misdirected and I’ve lost sight of Your promise

Because I’m forgetting how the story ends

Not with a command to be better soil

Or save more people

But with a plea to listen and understand

You’re calling me not to be another savior

But to rest in where You have planted me

And give thanks for Your mercy

For every single being You created

Began with a seed, and now I watch

As You tell us that it was never about which soil I think I am

But the fact that You were the farmer,

Willing to plant in every place no matter how hopeless it seemed

And You see the potential and desire of Your people, that we call out from the footpaths and the fertile soil and the shallow soil and even the thorns

We call out to You, and in Your grace You plant the seed

Knowing full well that only some of Your people will be ready right now

And maybe some will be ready later

And maybe some will never be ready

But we listen and rest in Your grace

Because still, You sow

Calming the Storm

“When,”-not if

You tell me when, not if

And I’ve had it tattooed on my body for years

And memorized for even longer than that

Ever since I was kid, searching for some solution to my fear

The fear that paralyzed me anytime I got near water too deep, where even looking at something as vast as the ocean sent me running in the opposite direction

The fear that led me to the Bible, hoping to find comfort in any stories associated with water

And I stumbled on this verse:

“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”

And I felt peace for a second, but don’t think I didn’t notice that word:

“When,”-not if

You knew that storms would come, and sometimes it feels like You’re the one who led me to them

I should have grown out of that childhood fear, maybe learned how to swim, to have faith in the unknown

But instead I’m here, sitting in a boat and clinging so tight to my fear, wondering if You’re really here

Because You said when the storms come, but You never said when the storms would end

And right now it feels like there’s no end in sight

And I want to be angry and yell at You

Don’t You care that I’m going to drown?

It feels like You’re sleeping while I’m watching as wave after wave is breaking in and my old fear begins to fill me faster than the water can fill this boat

But I think it’s really the silence I fear, and if the storm were to calm down for one second I think I’d finally be able to hear You say:

“Don’t you trust me?”

And I’m more afraid of telling You that I’m not sure I do

Because You told me to get in this boat

and You fell asleep, leaving me to deal with this storm on my own

And I want to be angry and yell at You to save me

But deep down I know it’s really my fault

When You were here all along,

But I waited to call out to You, to wake You up

Tirelessly trying to solve things on my own

Anything to avoid the unknown

Before giving up and finally facing defeat

And all this time, You’ve been patient

Waiting to remind me that the verse never ended with “When,”-but with You

You said “I will be with you”

And I was too focused on the storm that I lost sight of Your promise

And Your presence

And I don’t know if I trust the unknown, but I’m beginning to trust You

When You silenced the storm before I even had another chance to doubt

And I look at You, really look at You for the first time in a long time

And everything else is unknown but I know You:

The one whom even the wind and waves obey

Books

A couple weeks ago, I was at an event that shared the real life experiences of refugees and immigrants in our area. We did a simulation where everyone got 16 slips of paper to write down 4 of each: people, roles, objects, and personal belongings that matter to us. I can’t remember everything I put down, but I definitely remember the people: I wrote down my mom, who is the strongest woman I’ve ever known. I wrote down my sister and my best friend, and the guy I’m falling so hard for. I also remember some of the belongings I wrote down, and how much I struggled even thinking of four that mattered enough; I came up with mugs that I’ve collected from different places I’ve traveled to, blankets I’ve had for awhile that bring me a lot of comfort, and my photo album that’s regularly updated with pictures of people and places I love. But what I remember writing down above everything else were my books. I wouldn’t say I hoard anything, but my book collection has continued to grow every year that I add to it. I love reading, and I rarely go anywhere without bringing a book along. I love my books, and so I wrote them down on the last slip of paper. And then during this simulation, we were told to get rid of one item/role/person from every category. This was to demonstrate the hard sacrifices refugees have to make when put in compromising situations. It was hard to get rid of anything, but that wasn’t even the worst part. Next, someone came by the tables and randomly chose people to take more things from; some lost a couple pieces of paper, some lost everything. This was to simulate how refugees can rarely control their situations and often lose people or objects or even positions like their jobs, all in order to flee from dangerous circumstances. When they came by my table, I watched as everything was taken except for one thing: my books. They took my role as a sister and daughter, they took my actual sister and my mom and my boyfriend; they took everything I deemed important enough to write down and all I was left with were my books. I hated it. In that moment, I would have traded every book I’ve ever owned, every page I’ve ever read, if only I could have my people back. I meditated on what that meant for the rest of the night, and the rest of that week. I couldn’t stop thinking about priorities and the time/money I’ve invested into my books compared to how I’ve invested into those people. Then this past Thursday, students at Ozark got an email saying we needed to pack for a 2 week Spring Break, and maybe longer if things with the coronavirus got worse. They advised packing necessary school books in case we needed to switch to online classes for the rest of the semester. So with only 24 hours left in Joplin, I spent every second I could with my best friends and my boyfriend, not knowing the next time I would see any of them. And when Friday morning came, I finally packed everything I could think of and got ready to leave the only home I really know right now. I packed up all the books I would need, and books I’ve been wanting to read but never had enough time; I took 18 books with me in total. I hated it. In that moment, I was disgusted with the rows of books lining my room I was once so proud of. I couldn’t even look at a page for the next week, knowing that no amount of reading would give me back the people I so desperately want to be near right now. My sister and mom are thousands of miles away, my boyfriend in another time zone, and my best friend going through a major transition and moving to another state so far away from everything familiar. I want to be with all of them right now more than anything; I wanted to trade in my slip of paper with “books” written on it in exchange for every person that makes up the person I am. And now I’m sitting in a guest room, staring at this stack of books I’ve brought with me, knowing that their value is nothing compared to the value of these people.

I don’t know when I’ll get to see my family or friends or boyfriend again, but I have some advice for people able to be with the ones they love right now: hold on to them so tight, and make sure they know you love them more than any object you’ve ever owned or desired.

Dark Night of the Soul

Where are You, Lord?

I search day and night, calling Your name.

But You no longer answer, and Your presence is absent.

Where once there was the comfort of Your embrace,

now there is a cold wind,

and I no longer rest in Your shelter.

I plead and beg for Your answer.

Please come back into my room;

please don’t make me go out.

I only hear from You in dreams, and it seems like

a cruel joke that I wake up to silence.

I am trapped in this Dark Night,

searching blindly to get back to where I was before.

But You’re calling me to something more.

It’s only dark because Your light is so blinding,

only absent because I’m actually drowning in Your presence.

You are slow and patient, teaching me to let go of

my control and hold on to Your love.

Psalm of Praise

I wake up in the morning to Your light and new day;

I lay down at night, resting in Your embrace.

You are near, and Your presence is like a gentle father,

like a mother who listens to my every need.

Where I walk, You have made a way,

and Your feet are right beside mine.

I feel Your guiding hand pointing me

in the right direction.

Never have I known a love like this.

Psalm of Anger

When my world fell apart, I pursued You, God.

But still, friends turned to enemies

and became the fuel for my anger.

I watched as everyone I loved chose

to abandon me, to take the easy route.

I was betrayed by the very people

I thought I could trust.

Instead of falling apart, I let You hold me together.

Your justice is more sweet and pure than the anger I held onto, and so I chose surrender.

What questions do you find yourself asking God over and over again? (anonymous submissions from students in my teaching class)

Why? Is it something I did?

How are you going to redeem this?

What did I do wrong?

Who praises you from the grave? Are you out to destroy me?

How can this be worked out? How long will this last? What am I supposed to do?

Why do I feel like you have left?

Why, God? What is the purpose for this?

How long can you let things go on this way?

Why this and why me?

Why won’t you take it away?

How long will this pain be with us?

Please hold my spiritual hand through this. I don’t know what to do. What can I do?

When will others forgive me like you have?

Why do my loved ones keep getting taken from me?

Am I really forgiven? Have you turned your back on me? Are you listening to my prayer? Have I sinned beyond your grace?

How do I know what you want? What’s true?

What do you have planned that’s better?

Why did this happen? How do I move on from here?

What are you doing God?