How deep is Your love?

I took the summer “off” from writing. My reasoning was complicated:

1)  Most days I honestly didn’t have words to articulate the mixed bag of hope/ pain/ joy/ nausea/ excitement/ roller-coaster-y grief that my heart had become as I transitioned from Alaska to Iowa to Colorado to (and through) Asia and back again.

2) Traveling through 18 homes / hotels in 5 countries and 7 states in 2 1/2 months felt exactly like the run-on sentence that this is; it was exhausting. Plus, that much transition didn’t exactly lend to a stable internet connection or quiet writing space.

3) And probably most intentionally, my absence from writing was due to the fact that I had the glorious opportunity to stop analyzing the world around me for a while and simply experience the Lord’s beauty in it first hand.

And experience it to the fullest, I did.

I now know what it’s like to run through knee deep flood waters in a Cambodian city late at night shouting, “We’re on a mission! We’re gonna die…” all while laughing hysterically. Our insane laughter was partially because we were being splashed by motos (barely) passing us with a foot margin and partially because I was nervous about stepping onto a downed power line in the murky water below me and electrocuting myself to death.

That night as lightening crackled in the sky overhead, I ran through the streets of Phnom Penh with my co-leader and one of our 16-year old students. Our student had heard the Lord ask him to donate his guitar and book of worship music to a college-age sister-in-Christ (whom he had met only once) so she could start a worship school in a country where only 1% of the population knows Christ; he was thrilled that the Lord had called him to partner with her endeavor and couldn’t even wait until morning to selflessly give up his prized possession.

We arrived at her apartment sopping wet that night and stood in the rain, throwing pebbles at her window, screaming, “Ravii! Ravii come to the window! It’s the Alaskans! Come down! We have a gift for you!” as though we were in a movie or something. Eventually she emerged from the front door and stood with her jaw dropped as my student presented her with the guitar and sheet music. “God is good,” were the only words she said. I stood back and smiled as she stared at the guitar in her hands, saying those words over and over and over again.

IMG_5909I now know the depth of laughter that can cross language barriers when you’ve been befriended by a tiny first grade Thai girl who has chosen you to color with her on the sidelines of her friends’ game of tag because her club foot doesn’t allow her to run. Conversely, I know how absolutely hopeless it feels to stare into her deep brown eyes and pray for her foot to be miraculously healed, only to see that God clearly has other plans for her. At least, for the time being.

This summer the Lord turned strangers on cross-country flights into new friends. He blessed me with the opportunity to hear their stories of courage and redemption as they’ve escaped realities of war I don’t even want to imagine.

There were nights where I sat silently, holding three different women– all of whom are incredibly dear to my heart– as they cried and grappled with the unexpected death of family members. There simply aren’t words in those situations, no matter how frequently they come your way.

IMG_5880Throughout June I prayed as I stood in the Indian ocean, above the border walls of “closed” countries, in school yards, in markets, and under surging waterfalls. In those moments I heard the Lord speak louder than ever before. But I’ve also been face down on the floor, begging Him to speak and heard nothing but silence in return.

The list of things I saw the Lord do this summer seems infinite. While I wish with everything in me that I could relay those stories to those of you reading this… I simply can’t.

There aren’t enough words in the English language for me to explain just how deep and powerful the Love of Jesus has proven itself to be in my life; there aren’t words to do the glory of the Lord justice.

The best way I can explain these last few months (or really, this last year) is to say that adventuring in the benevolent affection of the Father for any period of time is a lot like what I would imagine scuba diving to the deepest depths of the sea to be. There are things down there that don’t (and won’t) make sense to those who have only ever swam near the shoreline or sat in the ocean in a boat.

In my imagination and this metaphor there are fish with lights hanging off of their faces Finding-Nemo-style and majestic unnamed organisms few people have ever seen. Similarly, in reality, there is spiritual battle and victory in Christ, pain and miraculous healing that does take place (even if I’m not the one to see it), and abundantly more grace than I could ever convey.

I understand that as I write this, my words could come off arrogantly, but please know that is not my heart. I long for you to don your own scuba gear and dive into the deep, dark metaphorical waters and explore them with the Lord so you too can see and experience the things mere words cannot explain. For those types of experiences aren’t likely to happen in our comfort zones where we feel safe or from boats where can see the shore.

The risk associated with following the Lord to unfamiliar, deep, dark places is great– regardless of what that looks like for you. But I dare say the risk of not going, of being lulled into complacency and comfort, or “staying put” because of fear, is much greater. 

Because yes, adventure is out there, but adventure for the sake of itself is not the point.

The ‘point’ can be found only in Jesus’ Love and it is beyond what my heart can comprehend or my brain can explain. All I know is that we begin to discover the depths of Christ’s love when we’re willing to go to the deep places where we feel like our faith may fail.

(In fact, your faith likely will fail. Mine did, more times than I would ever care to admit. Like the night before I boarded the plane to Asia when I dumped everything I owned on the floor of the Yarrow House and bawled, asking God the scariest series of questions I’ve ever asked in my life. Alas, that is a story for another time…)

But our loving Abba-Father? Our Jesus? He will never fail you.

His love only deepens, the further you dive in.

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith– that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

(Ephesians 3:14-21)

Losing Jesus

“When the Passover Feast had ended, as their family was returning to Nazareth, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing Him to be in the group, they went a day’s journey, but then they began searching for Him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for Him. After three days they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions…”

(Luke 2:43-46)

“They lost Jesus? Wouldn’t that make Jesus’ parents… bad… parents…?” Trevor looked around at all of us as he spoke, clearly choosing his words carefully.

Andrew, our TLC Bible teacher, and I locked eyes across the giant classroom table and smirked, clearly thinking the same thing—How do we navigate this? Andrew laughed and forced out an, “Uhm, yupp…” Before I stuck my foot in my mouth, adding, “I guess losing your kid for a few days probably wouldn’t qualify you for parent of the year…” (I’m nothing if not terribly awkward as a teacher.)

“What?!”
“How the heck would you not notice your kid wasn’t with you for a whole day?!”
“How do you leave your kid in a totally different city on accident?”

Questions and comments poured out before Andrew redirected the conversation back to the day’s study of Luke. But hours and weeks later, Trevor’s question stuck with me.

How often do I lose Jesus and go a whole day (or multiple days) before realizing that I’m not with Him?

It’s a murky question if you want to get all “theologically technical” about it. I know that, as a believer, His Spirit is always with me, but I can guarantee you that I’m not always with Him. Sometimes Jesus goes left while I wander right, completely lost in my own plans and short-sightedness. Sometimes, like Mary and Joseph, I keep walking long after He has stopped somewhere, and I don’t notice until I’m an embarrassing distance away.

My wandering is rarely intentional. (Although my heart occasionally reminds me that my sinful ability to run from God and hide in the darkness of my humanity is still well in tact.) No, usually I lose Jesus doing “good things”.

I’ve lost sight of Jesus in serving people, in religiosity, in the church, in my job, in relationships, in transition, in busy seasons, and all too often, in my own selfish ambition. It kills me to admit, but my heart is no where near stayed on Him the way I wish it was. You would think I would have this whole “following Jesus” thing down, since I’ve jokingly been called a “professional Christian”, or more commonly, a missionary. But the hymn “Come Thou Fount” is still the one written in and on my heart: I’m prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

And unfortunately, I typically don’t realize I’ve wandered away until I try to quiet myself before Him and feel distant, confused, or alone. In this place my prayers are stilted and repetitive. I feel stuck, frustrated that I can’t find Him or figure out how my heart got so far away from Him in such a short time. It’s in those moments that I’m reminded that finding Jesus isn’t something I can do in my own power. It’s not that God has not hidden Himself, but I can’t find my way back to Him on my own anymore than I could’ve originally reunited myself to God while I was yet a sinner. That is why Christ had to come– to reunite our flighty, sinful hearts with His complete, steady One.

I sat the tiny attic space above my bedroom that I’ve affectionately deemed as my “Jesus Loft” last week. After a whirlwind few days, I felt frustratingly far from God. I journaled. I read. I tried to sing to my favorite worship songs downloaded on my phone. Yet nothing seemed to draw me back into intimacy with His heart.

Exasperated, I chucked my pen across the loft and said out loud, “I give up. I don’t know where You went or how I walked off for the trillionth time. But I need you. I’m sorry I suck at following You, but I need You to come back for me. I lost You somewhere and I need You to find me yet again.”

I wish I could say that the heavens opened up that night or that my house shook with the audible voice of God, but the truth is that sometimes you just need to pray and go to sleep, trusting that Jesus will come for you in Love and His perfect timing.

After a few days of trying to be obedient in faith and praying my weird, stilted prayers (still feeling rather blah), Jesus met me in the lyrics of Steffany Gretzinger’s “Pieces” while I stood at my kitchen sink and washed perfectly ordinary dinner dishes.

Daughter, I don’t give My heart in pieces.
I don’t hide Myself to tease you.

My love’s not fractured
It’s not a troubled mind
It isn’t anxious, it’s not the restless kind
My love’s not passive
It’s never disengaged
It’s always present
It hangs on every word I say
Love keeps its promises, it keeps its word
It honors what’s sacred, cause its vows are good
My love’s not broken
It’s not insecure
My love’s not selfish, My love is pure.

As the song goes, His Love is always present, never disengaged. Even when we feel lost or He feels far off, He is nearer than we can see or believe. I don’t understand the phenomenon of His Love, but the cry of my heart stems from exactly that place of confusion. It’s a cry of frustration at my lack of faith and understanding— one that imitates the father of the demon possessed boy Jesus encountered in Mark 9. It’s a prayer that seems so repetitive and so over prayed as someone who feels like she should have it all together, but simply doesn’t…

Lord, make my heart believe.

Would You help me to see and know that Your love is always present, always pursuing me, never broken or disengaged?

Jesus, we long to believe that while we may lose You, You have never lost us. You are always pursuing us with Your perfect love, Your sweet Hesed.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”
(Luke 19:10)


 

Hang on loosely

There is no other, so sure and steady, my hope is held in Your hand

When castles crumble and breath is fleeting, upon this rock I will stand

Upon this rock I will stand

Glory, glory, we have no other king but Jesus Lord of all

Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring, We crown Him Lord of all

The first Sunday in February I stood in my same church, with my same friends, in the same pew that we almost always sit in, and yet something was different.

With my hands raised, singing the song that has become my anthem over the last few months, I opened my eyes to see a small sea of people worshiping in front of me.

Oh no. I think I’m supposed to go… 

As that thought resonated in my foggy, sleep deprived brain, I looked around at the community God has blessed me with. These people. The ones I have “wobbled” with at weddings and hit pinatas with at birthday parties. The people who I have laughed and cried with… mourned disease, death, and brokenness with… These people who know my heart and get me… I mean really get me.

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

The words swirled around me. How could I leave my people?

Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

But Lord, what about healthcare? What about a salary? I don’t really know much about this job yet… I haven’t even gotten to have an in depth conversation with the director yet… I don’t know…

More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Okay, Abba. I trust You. If we’re going to do this, You’re going to work this out. I have full confidence in that.

Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Glory, glory, we have no other king But Jesus Lord of all

That was the moment, the moment I knew that I was moving to Alaska.

Yupp. I’ll let that sink in for a bit.

I’ve accepted a position at the Tanalian Leadership Center in Port Alsworth, Alaska for the 2015-2016 school year.

Come September, I’ll be boarding a big plane here in Denver, which will take me to a much smaller plane in Anchorage, which will take me to the remote village of 200ish people that I will be calling home for the next nine months.

What will I be doing, you ask? Great question.

I will essentially be the girls’ house mom, mentor, and teacher at TLC– an intermediary program and boarding school for at-risk, native Alaskan students who have graduated high school, but don’t quite have the skill set to go to college or directly into the work force yet.

For the better part of a year, I’ll live in a village accessible only by bush plane, in house full of teenage girls, teaching them how to be adults who live for Jesus. (Ha! Note to self: Figure out how to be an adult sometime before September.) I’ll be leading exegetical studies of the Bible, teaching leadership and life skills, and helping prepare kids for the SAT/ACT, and ultimately college.

Every time I think about this opportunity that the Lord literally dropped in my lap out of no wheremy adventurous, momma-heart gets insanely giddy.

I’m so excited to embark on this new adventure.

There are new people to love, new stories about the power of Christ yet to be written, and hopefully a ton of four-wheeling, hiking, snowboarding, and fishing to be done.

And as my mind begins to daydream about the beauty of the adventure ahead, I begin to think about all the beautiful relationships and fun adventures that I’ve been blessed to have in Colorado in the last year– a year that I nearly missed out on because of my own stubbornness and plans to move to Texas.

Climbing a 14-er in a freak summer blizzard (in shorts) with my closest friends.

Roadtripping to and from Missouri in 25 hours for delicious BBQ.

Hurtling across a valley on horseback in the cool mountain rain.

Leaping through meadows of mountain wild flowers with my roommates.

Learning to drive a stick shift on a nearly abandoned Nebraskan highway.

Holding my students up as they in turn held candles at their friends’ candle light vigil.

Countless weekends of intense volleyball tournaments at Sloans’ lake.

Cliff jumping blindly from 30 feet into Horsetooth Reservoir.

Laughing wildly as I was blindly lead through a death-trap of an ancient amusement park after losing my glasses on a roller coaster.

(Note to self number two: Reevaluate the safety of my life choices…)

But inevitably, my memories lead me back to reality where my heart sinks a bit and my eyes well up with tears as I realize what I’m about to do.

I am going on a beautiful, life changing adventure with Jesus… But I’m going without my people by my side everyday and that has been a bittersweet pill to swallow. If I dwell on that for too long, in typical “overwhelmed-Kacy-processing-style”, my generally cool, calm, and collected demeanor cracks and before I know it, I’m freaking out a bit.

I mean, I’m moving 2,500 miles away from the life that I have watched God build up for the last several years. I’m moving to a village– a literal village– where the only public establishment is a coffee shop. (Because come on, Jesus knows I wouldn’t survive without a coffee shop…)

But in all seriousness, that coffee shop is IT.

There are airplane runways instead of roads, and ATV’s instead of cars where I’m heading. There are no stores, no libraries, no nothing.

I’ll have to order my groceries to be delivered by plane once a month. And while that is REALLY FREAKING COOL, the thought of navigating an entirely new culture without my people by my side makes me a bit dizzy.

True to the gracious nature of God however, I continue to have one phrase ring in my soul whenever my panic level begins to rise– a phrase that I heard at the very beginning of my journey into missions a few years ago.

You have been blessed to be a blessing.

I have not been blessed with such beautiful, God honoring relationships just to lock them away and hide them (and their fruit) from the rest of the world. No, I have been blessed with and transformed by these beautiful people to in turn learn to hold them loosely and release them to whatever God has next for them; just as they get to learn how to release me to the wilderness for nine months.

It is a unique/ glorious/ stressful opportunity to learn how to hang on loosely– to my precious relationships, to my students and co-teachers during my last few months of this season at the Denver Street School, to my Gospel Community…really to everything here in Denver from my family to my sweet Tiny Dancer and her momma– but I know it is a beautiful blessing none-the-less.

As the note card hanging on my wall reminds me every morning, this life is not my own.

These people are not mine to keep. I have been put on this earth to glorify God, share the Gospel, and to be obedient to His calling… even when that calling takes me 2,500 miles outside of my comfort zone.

Jesus, make my heart believe.

MyLifeIsNotMyOwn

“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

(Luke 9:23-27)

His Grace is Better.

Grace: the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

Everything about who I am as a human being rages against the idea of grace.

I am stubborn. I was educated by the school of hard knocks as well as an inner city liberal arts university. I am a survivor of abuse and of being an abuser myself. I am an intelligent, independent minority woman who in many regards has had to fight tooth and nail to become the person I am today. I am passionate about Love and give everything that I can to those whom I love.

Grace conflicts with nearly everything on that list.

Grace is a gift. Grace is unjustified favor, and in other words, as a child of God, there is nothing I could ever do to earn it or lose it.

Grace is the most beautiful gift I’ve ever received from God and for some reason that makes my soul bristle a bit.

Think about it all for a second…

The Son of God came down to this earth in the most lowly of ways– by being born in a filthy barn. He lived amongst the outcasts, healing the sick, loving the poor. He was not popular, glamorous, or concerned with pomp and circumstance as a “good king” should have been, and yet He was and is our Good King.

As one of His last acts of Love, he took the filthy bare feet of His disciples– the same feet that walked miles on end collecting dust, grime, slime, and excrement– and HE WASHED THEM.

Part of me has always understood the beauty of that picture– the Son of Man washing His disciples’ feet and urging them to go and do likewise to the people whom they met.

And maybe it’s because I have a strong stomach and a job history as a CNA, but washing the disgusting feet of others doesn’t bother me. Not literally and not figuratively. It’s what my God has called me to and I love to do it.

I love to serve and tangibly love on people, which is why I work where I do.

I love to sit across from students after they scream and cuss at me, after they throw furniture and break windows. I love it because I get to look them in the eye and tell them that there is nothing that they could do to make me love them less because of the love that Christ has given me for them.

And secretly? I love those moments because I slightly enjoy watching them squint their eyes in disbelief and squirm in their chairs.

They don’t ever get it, this grace that is being offered to them…

And honestly, I don’t either.

Because when it’s time for other people to extend grace to me or wash my feet– my feet that are bloodied from battle wounds at work, covered in salt streaks from my tears, and my own crap that I continuously walk in circles through, I recoil.

I pull my feet under myself and I refuse it.

Fuller, our Bible teacher, has been teaching this story from John in chapel. A few weeks ago, he announced at the beginning of chapel that he was going to wash the feet of all of the teachers. Panicked, I slipped into the back of the room. I’m wearing my running shoes. My feet probably smell terrible. This is totally not happening. There is NO WAY I’m letting him near my feet.

It was stupid, but I refused his act of grace, even though it was a chapel illustration. This being the same man whom I have cried in front of countless times over the years in staff meeting, my brother in Christ whom I literally trust with my life and process so many of life’s silly problems with.

I would let him see all of my baggage, wounds, and tears, but there was no way I was going to humble myself to let him serve me by washing my yucky feet.

(Thankfully in true DSS fashion, one of my advocates had a total meltdown and ran out of the room crying right as Fuller began to call the teachers forward. So naturally, I had to run out of the room after her. I thought I was off the hook from learning that lesson…Turns out I was wrong.)

Three weeks later, the phrase “Believe. Jesus is better.” came up so many times I could have sworn that everyone around me had been reading my mail.

At first, it came out of the mouth of one of my best friends, who just so happens to be on the other side of the world. Three hours later, it came from a friend in my Gospel Community at dinner. Two times in one day? I was willing to chalk it up to coincidence.

Then it came from my roommate… Then during worship at church… Then in a song an old friend sent me. Then during a theology class I’ve been attending on Monday nights. Jesus is better. Pray that your heart would believe.

The icing on the cake of “coincidence” came Tuesday afternoon when I stuck my hand into my mailbox and pulled out a maroon envelope addressed to me with no return address or explanation of where it had come from. The contents?

Jesusisbetter

Like a logical human being, I screamed and threw the letter on the ground upon reading it… And then I went to work on an unfruitful, mad hunt to figure out who sent the letter. Instead of answers, all that I got back were questions.

“How are you responding to this message?” one of my friends asked me after I rattled off my “Jesus is better” chain of events.

“I honestly don’t even know what to do. I don’t know what to think or how to feel or anything. I’m just overwhelmed…” I rambled through iMessenger, desperate for some sort of action I could take to understand this mess.

I do believe, God. I believe in You! I don’t know what the heck you want me to believe?! Something specific? Am I doing something wrong? What can I do to understand?! I sat and thought and thought…and thought.

In the midst of the stress that these last three weeks has caused me, I managed to spin myself into a tizzy.

“Hmmm… I don’t know, Kace. Maybe it’s more than an instruction but a confirmation. Maybe just to rest in the truth and lean into the truth that He is ALL you need.”

Great. Really helpful there bud, I thought snarkily as I read my friend’s text message, trying to process how to practically apply that to my life in addition to this Truth that “Jesus is Better”.

“You know, I can spin myself into a tizzy trying to figure this kind of stuff out…” He continued. “But then I recognize that by trying to figure out why something is happening, I lose focus on the One who is guiding me. Just turn and focus on Jesus… the rest will come.”

Mmmm good. So now I had a friend who was trying to wash my feet with Godly guidance and I was being told to stop working to figure it out and rest… Two more things that make my antsy, sinful heart twitch.

By the time last Thursday evening rolled around, the confusion, panic, and tizziness (I’ve decided that tizziness is a word; deal with it.) was piled just about as high as I could take it, but due to the nature of my month, I was fresh out of tears and emotional energy.

As I sat in rush hour traffic while trying to bust across town for parent/teacher conferences, the song “Jesus is Better” by Austin Stone Worship flipped on through the shuffle on my iPhone and I just about lost it.

“WHAT?!” I shouted in my car as I slammed my palm on my steering wheel. (Sidenote: Shouting in your car at a red light with all of your windows down? Yeah, not recommended… You’ll get some weird looks.) “WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME?!”

Stop working and running and spinning yourself into a tizzy. Just accept my Grace. My Grace is better than your works, so stop. Accept my Love and know that it will never fail when everything else does. Just accept it and stop trying to fight Me on it already. I am better. Just stop and let Me wash your feet…Let the people I have placed in your life wash your feet. Just stop, Kacy. Just stop and focus on Me…

 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Make my heart believe.