Category Archives: Personal Reflections

To Not be Remembered

It was about halfway through the promotional video that I realized they were using my words on the voiceover. Every subsequent word confirmed it. Excitement rose up in my bones: they were using my letter! I would be named at the end of the video! I was surprised that no one had asked permission, but I shrugged if off. After all, it was a public letter, written as a part of Wheaton College’s Tuition freedom day. That year, I’d received a particularly generous scholarship and wanted to communicate my gratitude. Stories of the Lord’s provision and faithfulness. And now, in the official college video, they were using my letter.

I’ll never forget the sinking feeling when I got to the end of the 1:34 video and all I saw was the school logo. Where was my name? My picture? Even the handwriting of my letter? I dug through my recall – had I put my name on the letter? Why wasn’t it included? Why had no one tried to track me down? Here was this beautiful, professional video with my words eloquently weaving the piece together. It was my gratitude, my story of God’s provision. And yet, my name was nowhere to be found.

The video would come and go and I would never be associated with it. No one would ever praise me for it. I wouldn’t be getting the glory for thanking the donors that year or for being obedient to the Lord in steps of faith that don’t always make sense.

Then again, the donors aren’t being praised for their faithfulness either. Most of them don’t have their names all over campus. It’s a quiet, nameless sort of obedience to be the “vessels that God is using to provide for my education.”

I remember later that semester of my sophomore year, one of my professors posed a question:

Are you willing to serve, do all that is is worthy and beautiful, to give you life away, and not be remembered for any of it?

Clearly, I wasn’t.

But it wasn’t entirely my fault. Because, for as much as I had learned and actively pushed myself (or had the Lord push me) towards humility up to that point, there was still more. The process of being made nothing and Jesus getting all the glory is uncomfortable and painful. And there always seems to be more. It is the actions of anonymity, the hours of intercession in solitude, the offering in secret, the handing over the microphone, or letting your name fall from the record.

We say things all the time that make sense in our head: Jesus gets the glory, it’s His story, not ours, we’re only living for an audience of one, and we will become nothing so that He can be magnified. But when we fade deep into the shadows and the things that make us feel worthy are no longer seen, the reality is something different. We don’t mind it being Jesus’ story if we’re the one who gets to be seen and praised for telling it. We want the life worthy of the biography, but the kind that gets written because you live with such humility that you’d never dream of writing it yourself (ironic, right). We see the people in Scripture who seem insignificant compared to Abraham, King David, and Paul, but they still get a minute in the spotlight. People like Rahab, Boaz, Abigail, or Joseph of Arimathea. I tell myself that I’m okay with humility if it means being one of them. I don’t need to be as beloved or well-known as John, as long as I get to be remembered for my faithfulness like Anna or Lydia.

But what if loving Jesus means that I don’t get to be remembered at all?

What if I lived like it really isn’t about me?

What if I really did decrease, so that He really increased?

What if obedience and faithfulness looks more like the story of the man in Ecclesiastes 9, a story that is only two verses long –

“There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siege works against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.” Ecclesiastes 9:14-16

The man was clearly operating in some personal and probably spiritual gifts, including a bent towards leadership, if he had wisdom enough to deliver the city from the siege of a great king. Yet, Scripture is clear about both his poverty and his lack of recognition. Yet no one remembered that poor man. God gets the glory in the city and he fades into the shadows. Poor, unremembered, and deeply known by the King of Kings.

Stewardship and humility are not mutually exclusive. We are called to die and that means dying to our desire to be remembered. If we’re fighting for the accolades, the book deal, the speaking engagement, the twitter hashtag, or the biography-worthy life, are we fighting for our glory or Christ’s? None of it is about us. We must decrease.

The reality about being remembered is that the closer I get to Jesus, the less it seems to matter. When I hear Him tell me just how deeply He delights in me, how permeating His hesed love is, how His covenant with me is irrespective of my worthiness, the easier it is to spend my life being forgotten. I can say that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), knowing that it’ll mean spending all my energy, my body, my resources, my time in a love for Jesus that may not be remembered. The more that I feel and know that I am as beloved as John, the less I feel the need to be remembered for that.

The more that I’m fighting for Jesus to be illuminated, the more I’m okay I am with living in the shadows. The more that I’m okay not being remembered if it means that Jesus is.

22 drafts.

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My mom calls out as she heads up to bed, “don’t forget your devo for tomorrow!”

Believe me, we’ve been here before. One of the many perks of being Lori MacMath‘s daughter is that she gives me a little leniency when it comes to turning these articles in. Thanks, mom. Except, per usual, I’m staring blankly at my screen. This time, twenty-two drafts stare back at me.

Twenty-two. That’s a whole lot of unfinished pieces of writing, if you ask me.

Here we are, sitting on my bed, listening to a nighttime worship playlist on Spotify, pounding away at my keys. It’s as if I expect my fingers to untangle with words what my mind can’t. And yet, sentence after sentence, I just keep hitting save draft.

You could call it 22 ideas, 22 beginnings, 22 glimpses into something that feels much bigger than myself, 22 pieces of my heart, 22 stories, memories, and lessons of walking with the Lord. But for as beautiful and poetic and all of those things sound, at the end of the day they are simply drafts. Unfinished. Incomplete. Fragmented. Less than whole. Something I can’t post. So I sit here disappointed with the drafts.

Yet, what constitutes this difference between post and draft? Resolution. Answers. Summary. The pastoral “3 step take-home” climax at the end of a sermon. It’s the bow that gets tied around the present or having a 30-second elevator pitch. It’s what compels us to put puzzles together and why it bothers us when a piece is missing. We want completion, fullness, finality, and understanding. We know that all good writing has a thesis that ties the whole piece together. So what do you do when you can’t seen to find the thesis? When conclusions are elusive, summaries seem far, and life is full of more cliff-hangers than epilogues…

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5

I don’t have any good three-point devos right now. I can’t seem to wrap up any of the 22 drafts I’ve started. I don’t have answers when my sister comes home from work and tells me about the cards she addressed for thousands of parents who have lost a child. I don’t have a clear way to articulate everything that’s happened with my body, health, and heart these past ten years or what it means that things seem to be changing. I can’t put into words all that I’ve cried, felt, seen, and ultimately can’t begin to understand as I watched one of my best friend’s watch her dad pass away. There isn’t a blog post big enough for everything that my recent work with refugees has shown me. Yet, I think that is all more okay than we allow it to be. 

I think that it’s okay to feel like my life is still in draft mode. To have thoughts without a thesis, hopes that are unwritten, circumstances that seemed tangled, and questions that are unanswered. More often than not I don’t have answers, summaries, 3 take-home points, or bows to tie on everything the Lord is doing. And that’s okay.

I sit here trying to write the post that should’ve been due a month ago but I don’t have words. Because there aren’t words. When I look at where I am, what I’m thinking, feeling, and doing, it doesn’t comprise an article, but rather a draft. Unfulfilled longings. Unmet expectations. Waiting. Growing. Learning. Questioning. Growing. More waiting.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

It’s in our nature to want resolution because ultimately that is what we will have. Completion and wholeness, dressed fully and perfectly in the righteousness of Christ before the throne. Our lives are stuck in the editing department until the day we see Him face to face. Piece by piece our story is being written – unfinished and fragmented as it may feel until that day.

So I’ll hit publish tonight. Because as unfinished as we may feel, we must learn to live, with fullness, in the tension and the drafts. Living with the hope of an ending that will be more whole, beautiful, and complete than the greatest “happily ever after, the end.”

surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel?

will I dance for You, Jesus, or in awe of You be still?

will I stand in Your presence or to my knees will I fall?

will I sing hallelujah? will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine…when all I will do is forever worship You.

(Bart Millard // Mercy Me)

You’re Gonna Miss This

Remember when I wrote about crying in a coffee shop? Well, the other day I was sitting in the basement of my campus library, misty-eyed and sensing Jesus. I was literally in the middle of writing a paper about the natural sciences, minding my own business and looking at pictures of rocks. I don’t know why Jesus chooses meet me in some of the most unexpected moments in my life, but He does.

I was just sitting on the hard wooden chair, shivering and typing my paper, trying to figure out how to cite an unpublished Theories of Origins textbook. While unashamedly listening to my Sam Hunt pandora station (my favorite homework motivation music), You’re Gonna Miss This by Trace Adkins started playing in my headphones. I wasn’t even listening to worship music, y’all. Jesus chose to meet me in a country song. Just sayin’.

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The thing is, I’ve heard this song before. It wasn’t one of those “oh-my-word-this-is-a-new-song-and-the-lyrics-are-just-speaking-to-exactly-where-I’m-at” kind of moments. I’m not even the biggest Trace Adkins fan. Yet as the southern drawl enunciated lyric after lyric, I found that my typing slowed and my spirit stirred. . .

She was staring out the window of that SUV
Complaining, saying “I can’t wait to turn eighteen”
She said “I’ll make my own money, and I’ll make my own rules”
Momma put the car in park out there in front of the school
She kissed her head and said “I was just like you”

Before she knows it she’s a brand new bride
In her one-bedroom apartment, and her daddy stops by
He tells her “It’s a nice place”
She says “It’ll do for now”
Starts talking about babies and buying a house
Daddy shakes his head and says “Baby, just slow down”

Five years later there’s a plumber workin’ on the water heater
Dog’s barkin’, phone’s ringin’
One kid’s cryin’, one kid’s screamin’
She keeps apologizin’
He says “They don’t bother me
I’ve got two babies of my own
One’s 36, one’s 23
It’s hard to believe

The chorus goes like this:

You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These are some good times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now
But you’re gonna miss this

They may not be the most profound lyrics in the world. Maybe you hate country music and don’t even think they are that good. Regardless, they met me in the library with a glorious weight of conviction.

I get that the world, our culture in particular, moves at a “get-to-the-next-thing” kind of pace. We spent highschool dreaming about the day we’ll be in college. College is spent stressing about how we’ll get a job when we graduate. When we get employed after graduation, we wonder when we’ll get married. And when will we have kids? When will we move to a bigger house? How soon until retirement? Grandkids? Great-grandkids? Vacation? We spend our lives looking towards whatever is next. The funny thing is, this futuristic way of thinking often lends itself to idealistic reminiscing. We look back on our lives and wish that we only knew how good we had it back then. We remember tidbits of the past with a fondness that we didn’t feel when we were living it. All while rushing full steam ahead to the next season.

I just wonder why, as Christians, are we okay with living our lives like this? Why do I live like this?We live at the same rushed pace as the rest of the world. Most of the time we do it in the name of “ministry” or for the glory of the Lord. And while Jesus traveled, healed, spoke, and lived out a vibrant, busy ministry, He never did so at a pace that would’ve caused him to miss the moment. Jesus was all about being present where He was at. He found stillness in the midst of pressing crowds. He found joy in the midst of questions. He found purpose, growth, and the Father during times it would’ve been easier to just look ahead to whatever was next.

My internship coordinator has been helping me walk through the process of looking for a summer internship. As I ramble on and on about where I’m going to intern and the frustrations of the application process, he continues to remind me that my internship doesn’t start my first day on the job. My internship started the day I realized I needed to get an internship. It includes every opportunity that has fallen through, every application that I’ve spent hours writing, all the prayers over the places I could go and things I could do. I’m quick to want to get past all of this – the discomfort, the questions, the busywork, the unknowns. I want the internship. Or better yet, I want the potential job after the internship ends. I want the summary paper that I’ll write at the end of the internship class that ties up and makes sense of the whole thing. But that just causes me to miss what’s happening right now. The process. The journey. The ways Jesus is moving, even before things seem to be happening.

It’s fun to dream about what’s next, whether that’s tomorrow or ten years from now. It’s often more fun than focusing on the heartbreak, confusion, schoolwork, diapers, tantrums, questions, drama, and dirty dishes of the moment. But I think Trace Adkins is onto something. Something that I need to be constantly reminded of. It’s not just about moments that we are going to miss someday. It’s about whether or not we are missing Jesus in the moment.

All we’ve been promised is today. This moment. And someday, I’m going to look back on that day in the library and writing this blog post when I should be writing a paper, as a growing, maturing, often overwhelmed Junior in college. It doesn’t always feel good or fun or exciting, but I know that I’m going to look back and miss this. These moments of laughter. Moments of clarity. Moments of tears. I just don’t want to miss them while I’m here. And I really don’t want to look back and say that I missed Jesus in them. Because He’s here, and so are we.

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Crying in a Coffee Shop

The other day one of my roommates and I were sitting at Blackberry Market, our post 2:00 class decision to hang out and pretend to do homework. It’s like the Holy Spirit decided to meet me in the midst of the lemonade I’d been craving all day and a rainy day coffee shop. Why He chooses these moments, I’ll never know. As conversation topics rolled into reading a devotional together, the tears quickly surfaced. What the heck. I promise, I don’t plan on crying as often as I do. It’s not like I plan to have these heart-to-hearts with Jesus and the people in my life, they just kind of happen. Pretty soon we were both crying and laughing and sharing the hot cinnamon roll in front of us.

After our verbal processing session, a quick run to Target, and some literal running on the indoor track of our gym, I went to drive my car back to our apartment only to find that my key wouldn’t unlock the car. The unlock button wouldn’t work and I couldn’t get the key to turn in the door. What the heck. . .again. I found myself on a long walk back to my apartment to get the other set of keys. A long, rainy, cold walk to the apartment and then back to the car. A walk through puddles that I’m pretty sure could be classified as small sized ponds. My sneakers are still wet y’all. Needless to say, the Lord and I had a pretty honest conversation through the rain and my chattering teeth. To give you a glimpse into the state of my heart last night, I may or may not have said out loud: “well maybe Your plan for me is to just get hypothermia from being out here and then I’ll die. At least then I don’t even have to worry about any of this stuff you are asking me to deal with! I wouldn’t have to wrestle with questions of who I am or have to trust you with my future. And I wouldn’t be wet or cold anymore!”

Did I mention that I don’t ever plan for these things to happen to me? They just kind of do, leaving me shaking my head and sometimes my fists but always marveling at the means the Lord uses to draw me back to Himself.

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These moments didn’t lead to some profound realization. They were just simple, unplanned moments where I met the Lord. Moments where He revealed pieces of my heart that I hadn’t been willing to look at. I realized that old fears had resurfaced. Old identity issues had came back up. There were things I thought that I’d worked through, until the Enemy snuck them back in and I’m reminded yet again of the lifelong battle that we fight.

It’s nothing new. These questions of am I enough? And more than that, is Jesus enough?

Am I enough in the midst of my sins and recurring struggles? The circumstances I can point to where I’ve obviously failed in loving the people around me? The ways I’ve failed to guard my thoughts and submit my desires for sanctification in the Lord? Am I enough for the things He’s calling me to that I feel incredibly unprepared for?

But then again. . .is He enough for the uncomfortable, challenging things He calls me to? Enough for the moments when I feel painfully alone? Enough for the sins that, despite the disciplines and fighting on my part, seem to have no problem resurfacing? Enough for every hope and desire of my heart?

Obviously, I know the answer to every one of those questions. I’m guessing you do too. I know the Scripture that combats every one of the questions. But just because I know doesn’t mean that I won’t forget. It doesn’t mean that I don’t need these moments in a coffee shop or in the rain where the Lord reminds me of who I am and who He is. It doesn’t mean I’m falling apart or that I’ve somehow failed Him again. It means I’m human. It means I’m in need of His grace. It means I’m still living in a broken world where the Enemy can still lie to me. It means there will never be a day where I don’t need to proclaim truth to my heart.

The truth that I am beloved. He is for me. He is near me. He is enough.

The Ordinary Life of Making Your Block

The other night, wrapped in one of my dad’s oversized sweaters, I had some much-needed introvert time. I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a peppermint mocha and some Christmas-themed worship music, flipping through old journals. I came across the following words from the middle of my senior year of highschool: “One day, I’m going to sit… Read more. . .

The Lie of Over-Processing

Maybe it’s just me that struggles with “over-processing.” Or overthinking. Call it whatever you want. The point is, I think about things deeply. My brain never shuts off. It’s how I’m wired. Everything in my life has always has meaning, no matter how insignificant or simple it might seem. And that can be such a gift when… Read more. . .

How Gratitude is Changing My Heart

Confession time: I can be a real cynical and prideful sinner. People have been telling me for years to keep a gratitude journal. And, in my flesh, my reaction was always something like, “my relationship with Jesus is deeper than just a superficial list of things that I liked during my day.” A little less… Read more. . .

What’s He Up to?

“When an answer I did not expect comes to a prayer which I believed I truly meant, I shrink back from it; if the burden my Lord asks me to bear be not the burden of my heart’s choice, and I fret inwardly and do not welcome His will, then I know nothing of Calvary… Read more. . .

Specificity Makes My Heart Squeal

As I’ve set up my dorm room the past few days, the issue of light has been central. My roommate and I refuse to use the awful, dreary florescent overhead light to brighten our white cinder block residence hall. That has meant strategically placing three lamps throughout the room, since the command hooks refused to… Read more. . .

A Beachy and Belated Welcome Back for 2014

I don’t know when it became the middle of March, but no one seemed to ask me if that was ok. And seeing as I wasn’t consulted about the speed of time, that means I technically haven’t posted all year. In my defense, technology prevented me from accessing my blog for the better part of… Read more. . .