Five-minute Friday: Unexpected.

Go.

I never expected God to take my heart to Costa Rica. I didn’t expect to fall in love with a country that speaks Spanish instead of French, or for my “home” to be so far away.

I never expected strangers living 3,500 miles away to become more like family than merely best friends. I didn’t expect to spend Christmas in the home of this family I only met in real life 4 months ago.

But this is better than what I expected.

That’s the beauty of God’s plan for my life. It’s always more than whatever I could have asked or imagined. It’s more beautiful, more adventurous, more whole.

It’s always more than what I expect.

Done.

Five-minute Friday: On friends.

Go.

I’m a talkative person so I make a lot of friends. I make friends on the bus and on the street, in class and in other countries. If I hardly know you I will still probably call you my friend. That’s just how I am. I want you to know that you’re important and that you matter. Because you do.

But I have best friends too. I have friends all over the world who encourage me in my faith — Japan, Costa Rica, Texas, Seattle — every day they help me fall in love with God more than I could on my own. These are the greatest friends I could ever have in my life.

I love a lot of people and I care about a lot of people, but the ones with whom I share my soul with, those who know my deep love for Christ, they are my best friends. There’s no friendship as great or deep or beautiful than one that can share the love of God.

I love you, dear friends. Thank you for loving me well and encouraging me to love God more.

Done.

Go talk to strangers.

I like talking to strangers. Most parents tell their kids not to; my dad marches up to them and starts a conversation. That is one trait I inherited.

On Monday I took a new bus to school for the first time. I sat next to a woman named Jackie. Jackie was really nice. It was her first time on the bus too because she was starting a new job downtown. We talked and laughed and connected on the 30 minute bus ride downtown and as we parted, I gave her directions to navigate the city streets that she was still unfamiliar with.

Monday evening I was home at the transit center where Jackie and I met and happened to see her going to her car. “Jackie,” I called out. “How was your first day of work?” I was genuinely inquisitive and thankful for this opportunity to meet her again as most of my random conversations are never resolved. They are left with questions of who are these people and what will they do with their lives? On Monday I got to ask Jackie more about her life. She gave me a summary of her day and as I turned to walk away she offered, “Hey, do you want a ride home?”

Parents tell their kids not to get in the car with strangers, but I did that on Monday too. I got in the car with Jackie and shared more of my life with her and about my day at school.

Today I waited at my bus stop downtown for the last bus home. There was a blonde girl sitting on a bench, thick black eyeliner circling her light brown eyes. Cheaply drawn tattoos of anime characters drowned her pale arms. I stared at her too long. It was awkward. She seemed sad. In my gut I felt drawn to say hello. So I did. I sat down right next to her and shook her hand, “Hi. I’m Hannah.” She looked at me strangely but answered. “Hey. I’m Ashleigh.”

Ashleigh said she wasn’t sad, but I wasn’t convinced. She said she was just fucking bored waiting for the bus. I still wasn’t convinced. Her eyeliner was smeared. She looked tired; tired of waiting; tired of life. I found out she has a tent in her squat, volunteers at Orion Center and has a great heart. She would rather stay in a bar until 2 am than take up a bed in a shelter where a minor could be sleeping.

She pulled out her beat up, outdated blackberry and asked for my number. “Text me whenever you want,” she invited. I gave my number to a stranger. That’s probably against some parenting rule too, but I didn’t care. I gave my number to girl who seemed sad today and now that I’m home, we’re texting about how we wish we could have done more this summer and when we can hang out next.

There are some strangers you shouldn’t get in the car with, and there are some you need to get in the car with. Some people need to see that the world isn’t judging them, and others need to know that they’re loved. The easiest way is to get in the car or start a conversation. Show them how human you both are.

Start a conversation when it terrifies you. I bet they’ll never know how terrified you are and you never know how God will use you to share his heart.

Things that I love: 12

heart-to-heart talks with amigas

the chicas who walk with my heart

my little kitty

the sun on my face

waking up to realize that I am one day closer to being in Costa Rica

learning and understanding more Spanish

conversaciones que son sólo en español

when my hair unexpectedly holds an awesome curl without effort

getting to know people

loving my job, my boss, and my coworkers

being able to laugh at my mistakes

texts from my best friends in other countries

skype

skype dance parties

skype heart chats

knowing that God is in control

the peace of God that transcends all understanding

when God teaches me to wait so my heart doesn’t hurt so much

My wild heart.

There’s something perfect about sitting by a fire while the wind rustles leaves and the world quiets down. The sun’s absence reminds me that stars still sparkle with a fire much mightier than the one before me which crackles with summer delight. The freeway rumbles from a few miles away and if you wait for it, in the stillness of the blackest time of night, the train’s whistle faints near the ocean. Laughter echoes in the twilight; smiles glow in the firelight.

This moment is beautiful and nearly perfect, but as I close my eyes and dream, my thoughts wander to a place under different stars. To arms that make me feel safe; eyes that show me how much I am worth; and a smile that reflects my own, laughs with me and reminds my heart of every beautiful thing that surrounds it.

Embers escape from dying logs and I dream of escaping from here. I wonder if someday I’ll float away along with the wind, and be carried back to those arms. I wonder where God will take this heart of mine. I have wishes and dreams; I keep hoping and praying. Like the heart of the flame, my heart is wild with dreams and passion. And I pray, Lord, where will you take this wild heart of mine? Where will this passion thrive? Where will these dreams be given life? Where do you want me, oh Lord of my wild, wild heart?

The smoke dances with the wind while the fire flickers and dies as the night carries on, but the dreams in my heart still burn with the strength of a wild fire. Lord, let my wild heart seek you with all the strength she has. And in seeking you, I pray you carry my heart like embers in the wind, lost in freedom and the beauty of dreams that never end.

The pirates who captured my dreams.

My heart is heavy as I watch the state of my dreams unfolding. They step up to walk the plank. Unkind pirates hurl insults and spit on them, as though they had any dignity to lose. Sharks circle below the plank and my dreams shuffle out — hands tied and faces blindfolded. The plank creaks and the cruel pirates prod their swords into my dreams, forcing them to their demise. They do not know they are about to die. They do not see the sharks. They are not afraid for they cannot feel. I fear enough for all of us.

“Are you not good, Captain!” I cry in desperation, though my eyes do not find him anywhere. The pirates force my dreams farther and farther out over the open water where the sharks circle faster. I begin to cry, but it seems that no one hears me. Many young girls have stood on this deck to watch their dreams walk this plank, but have any watched such a noble dream die? Have any hearts felt such pain?

Clunk. Clunk. I hear the unmistakable sound of the Captain’s peg leg as he walks out on deck for the first time since my dreams were taken captive. It is silent except for the melodic crashing of waves against the side of the ship. Everyone stops to look with reverence upon the Captain’s kind eyes. My lip quivers; tears roll down my cheeks. I am not afraid of the Captain. I know he is good. I know he is just. But I don’t understand.

He looks at me, then walks over to the plank. He takes the hands of my unafraid dreams and brings them back to the ship. He looks at me again with those same kind eyes — eyes that say We’ve gone over this before. Don’t you remember?

“Some of your dreams are not meant to live, sweet girl. You know that.” I knew that.

“But are they not good?” I ask.

“Am I not good?” he replies.

“I know you are good. But are these not good dreams?” I plead.

“Do not worry, my sweet girl. I will not let your good dreams waste away. Some dreams are thieves, robbing you of the dreams I’ve already given you. Some dreams are liars, and though they whisper sweet words, their intentions are less than pure. And even some dreams are murderers, and will take your precious life from you. Those are the dreams that walk the plank. Those are the dreams who aren’t meant to live.”

“What about these? Are these dreams thieves or liars?” I am impatient and he sees the anger behind my voice, but his eyes remain kind.

“You will see in time, my daughter. Trust me.”

A lesson on treasures.

Dear friends,

I have experienced perfection in love, in life, in faith. Seemingly perfect moments left me bewildered, wondering if I had stumbled upon a treasure worth never forgetting. I declared that I would never forget those perfect memories, but in my obstinance, I found myself still slowly forgetting. And the fear of forgetting left me bitter about losing. I vowed to never again forget something so perfect. I held on tight.

My friends, do not let perfect moments confuse you. Yes, they are marvelous, but take them for what they’re worth, the treasure, and then like Rose, understand it’s ok to throw the treasure into the sea.

There will be more treasures, more perfect moments, and each will be more magnificent than the last. Do not hold on to them so tightly that you become too attached. The more attached you become to past treasures, the more you will refuse new treasures. They could be, perhaps, more valuable, more precious, and yet, in your obstinance, like me, you would be unwilling to let go of the worthless shiny pebble in your hand.

Let it go. Grasp the emeralds! Take hold of the rubies! Search for the diamonds! Do not let this be it. God has more. There is more. But you have to be willing to let go. Do not fear. Do not become bitter. Toss the pebbles back into the sea, and let God show you diamonds.

(Originally written November 24, 2008 about my experiences in South Africa. Revised November 24, 2010 as a reminder that God has not abandoned me.)

Every day.

joy – love – grace

I’ve been learning recently that these are not characteristics we stumble on. They are each a choice. Every day, we must make the choice for joy, love, and grace, despite our seemingly defining circumstances.

Lord, help me to choose joy — to praise you in all of my life.

Show me how to love — to love unconditionally the people who are hard to love.

Teach me to be full of grace — in the way I speak and act toward others, and in offering grace for their words and actions.

A right response before God.

Last night I was reading in John with my Bible study about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet…

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

It struck me that Jesus became a servant. It would have been radical to just wash their feet, but he went farther than that. He took off his clothes and became the part. It was an incredible act of humbleness for him to become like a servant and to touch his disciples’ feet. Peter couldn’t believe that his teacher, the man he looked up to and followed, would do something as disgusting as this.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” John 13:1-9

When Jesus responded to him, saying that Peter could only be a part of him if he allowed Jesus to wash his feet, Peter’s response was incredible. If I can only be a part of you by being washed by you, then wash all of me! Don’t just wash my feet! I want to be sure that I am a part of you!

Of course, Jesus washing his disciples’ feet was a metaphor for him washing their hearts, and we can only be a part of God if we let Jesus wash our hearts. There is no half-way. Either you let Jesus wash your heart, or you refuse to be clean.

So many times I say, “It’s ok, God. I can handle this.”

And God says, “No. I need that too. I need the things you think you can deal with and the things you know you can’t handle. I need the things you’re holding on to. I need the things in the back room of your heart that you’ve been hiding. If you want to be close to Me, you need to trust Me, and you need to let Me wash you. And here I am, showing you how you need to be clean.

I pray my response to God is like Peter’s. “If this keeps me apart from you, then take it from me! But don’t stop there. Take anything that could keep me away from you. Lord, I don’t want any possibility of not being with you. Take all of me.

I want to give God all of me. I want to give without inhibition. I want to give without looking back at what I gave. I want to do whatever it takes to remain a part of Christ.

Give grace.

Heaven is not for good people. Heaven is for forgiven people.”
Greg Laurie

To those who believe in God: Don’t forget it is people who are broken, hurting, struggling, lonely, angry, ashamed, living a lie — it is those people whom Jesus brings to himself. We  forget we were once like that. We don’t admit we still are. Be full of grace, and above all, do what you were called to do: love. Show God’s unfailing, unconditional, and always faithful love.

To those who do not believe in God: Don’t forget believers are still human. They are imperfect people just like the rest of the world. They are broken. They hurt. They make mistakes. Though we as believers are supposed to reflect Christ, we are not Christ. We want our lives to reflect the beauty of God, but when our sin gets in the way, I hope you also see the grace of God. Look only to God to know God fully. We can only aspire to be a reflection God, but will never have the capacity to love as greatly as He does.

“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” Romans 3:22-24 (New Living Translation)

Give a little grace today.