Becoming Real

BecomingReal“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” –The Velveteen Rabbit

Every Monday afternoon, my TLC girls and I have a “house meeting”. Because I’m possibly the least meeting oriented person on this planet, our meeting essentially consists of us all cozying up on the living room couches with a cup of tea and our favorite blanket. We talk about everything from practical items like the chore chart and groceries, to prayer requests and where we’ve seen God move in our hearts and lives that week.

The reality of these meetings is that they’ve been some of the most mundane moments with my students thus far—a heartbreaking reality check for someone who loves nothing more than chatting about Jesus over hot beverages.

More often than not, I ask questions and then sit smiling– like Dora the Explorer, awaiting an answer that more than likely isn’t coming.

“How can we pray for each other this week?” …Crickets. (Sometimes an awkward smile, if I’m lucky.)

I generally wait a few moments, offer a prayer request of my own… and then wait some more… until the silence becomes unbearable.

“Where have you seen God work in your life this week?” I trudge on. No response.

“Or maybe, would one of you risk sharing what you’ve learned in Bible this week?” Not. A. Dang. Thing.

That is essentially how our first two weeks around here went…

At every meal and house meeting, I felt like I was stuck playing the world’s worst game of 20 Questions with a mildly captive audience. (Captive being the key word here, since I think my students realized that they were gonna have to interact with me if they wanted me to feed them.)

It was rough.

“If someone other than me doesn’t start talking in this house soon, I think I’m gonna lose it! I’m gonna throw myself off a bridge or something.” I vented to my best friend in Denver last weekend.

“Well, lucky for you, you live in a village and there probably aren’t bridges for a few hundred miles.” Eyeroll. Thanks, Kitty.

It was with this salty attitude that I began my day on Monday. I’m not gonna lie—I was whole-heartedly dreading our house meeting that evening. Just the thought of another round of 20 Questions made me want to keel over. It felt like this job was going to be the death of me.

I sent my girls off to work with a smile early Monday afternoon. As soon as they walked out the door, I proceeded to dramatically put my face down on the dining room table and tried to resist the urge to slam my forehead into it. Realizing that I drastically needed an attitude adjustment (and to pray through my cranky heart), I shoved the little Velveteen Rabbit notecard that a friend from home gave me in my hoodie pocket, laced up my sneakers, and I went for a run.

I ran down the airplane runway, through the creek that bounds our village, and took off through the woods grumbling and grousing at God the whole way. (Yes, family members, I had my bear spray with me… Everyone can calm down.)

What the actual HECK, Lord?! Why did you bring me all this way just to put me in a completely silent house? What are you doing?! Is this real life? I could be perfectly ignored by teenagers in Denver AND not be 2,500 miles away from home (AND ice cream). This just can’t be reality here.

The trail wore thin and spit me out on the banks of the Tanalian River. Mildly pissed, I plopped down on the rocks, threw my shoes behind me, and took out the little white notecard from my pocket. As the frigid river water rushed over my feet, I read and re-read the ending of the Velveteen Rabbit.

“I am making all things new.”

As I read the words on the notecard in my hand, Revelation 21:5 rang in the back of my mind—likely because I had just included this verse in my teaching of the story of Joseph last week in Bible class. I sat and thought back to how God had turned Joseph being sold into slavery into the beautiful salvation of an entire nation. Joseph had real struggles, yet God redeemed his pain and made a new plan for generations to come.

In the strangest of ways, God used the story of Joseph to remind me that the pain and loss in the story of the Velveteen Rabbit was turned into something beautiful and new too. When the little saggy, eyeless rabbit had been thrown to the burn pile after scarlet fever ravaged his best friend’s home, the fairy turned him into a new creation—a Real rabbit.

I sat for a few seconds and considered the sweetness of the children’s story that I’ve grown to love— the beautiful redemption of becoming Real because of Love…

My emotional daze wore off quickly as a four-wheeler blazed out of the trees behind me and scared me back into reality. “Buhhhhh, I know…” I sighed under my breath while tugging my socks and shoes back onto my damp feet. “I know You are making all things new, God. I know You’re making my students and I more ‘Real’ this year, but I am literally out here in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness talking to myself like a nut, begging You for some freaking depth here. All I want is to have a decent conversation about You with my girls. Is that too much to ask?”

(I don’t know what I was expecting as an answer to that one, but no divinely audible answer came. Neither did a mystery writing in the clouds like it seems to in the movies… And so, I returned the notecard back to my pocket and took off down the trail home.)

Still mentally fried, I barreled into the house just before four o’clock. I gathered my girls in our living room and as we all settled in with blankets and tea, I pulled the card out of my pocket yet again.

In true Kacy word-vomit fashion, I abandoned the loose agenda I had for our meeting and somehow ended up telling the story of the Velveteen Rabbit instead. “We’re all becoming Real.” I choked out at the end of the story. “I know the process and the vulnerability really hurts sometimes… Shoot. I’m exhausted and just feel like I could cry most of the time lately, but I know that God is doing things in your lives and I would really REALLY love it if you would be willing to risk sharing some of that with me. Because just like we learned in Bible last week, God really is making all things new… and that is something to celebrate…”

My word-vomit trailed off and I sat staring awkwardly around the room about to cry out of mental exhaustion. Just as I was anticipating yet another painfully silent gathering, a quiet voice came from the sofa to my right.

“Uhm. Can we pray for my family? They’re really hurting right now…”

And by-George, at four-something Monday afternoon, God answered weeks and weeks of desperate prayers for interaction with my girls. That afternoon the silence was broken in the Elisha house (along with the floodgates that held back my girls’ tears). Never in my life have I been so thankful to talk about alcoholism, suicide, brokenness, death, and Jesus. It was beautiful.

As one of my girls closed our house meeting in prayer about an hour and a half later, I stared down at that silly notecard yet again and laughed under my breath.

You become…

We’re all “becoming” in this house; God is making us all more Real, day by day. He is returning voices to the voiceless. He is beginning to set captives free in very real ways.

Even on the days when my eyes feel like they’re going to fall out like the Velveteen Rabbit’s from excessive crying, or when my not-so-old joints feel loose, and I feel shabby and under-fluffed from lack of sleep, I am learning to count my girls burdens as blessings because they are learning to trust Jesus and I with them simultaneously.

He truly is making all of us here at the Tanalian Leadership Center New and Real in Him. And just like the story goes, “Once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“And a heard a loud Voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also He said, write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'”

(Revelation 21:3-5)

Wake up call

Easter Sunrise“Babe, wake up. Look at the sunrise! Come on, Kace… Wake up!”

For a year, I woke up to these words at least once a week. My ex-boyfriend, who I endured the slight misadventure of sharing an apartment with, was a morning person… and well, I am not.

Every Saturday morning he would beg me to wake up and watch the sunrise with him. Me, being the extreme romantic that I am, would roll over, smash my pillow over my head, and tell him to shut up and go back to sleep.

When we split a few years back, nothing really changed in regards to my non-morning-person-ness. Don’t get me wrong, I think morning people are wonderful, but try as I might, I just have never had that streak within me. If my job allowed it, I would sleep in until 9 am every morning and stay awake until 3 am every night.

That being said, this time last year when my friends and I had the bright idea to wake up and have our own little sunrise Easter worship service at Lookout Mountain, I was a little bit less than excited. I knew that it would be an amazing morning adventure, but I wasn’t incredibly jazzed about the idea of waking up at 5 am.

The night before Easter, I set five alarms on my phone out of fear that my anti-morning brain would over sleep. As I fell asleep I remember laying in bed dreading my early morning wake up call and thinking about all of the times I told Mr. Wrong to leave me be or let me sleep.

Just four hours after falling asleep, I sat straight up in my bed in my dark apartment– an hour before my alarm. Instead of my usual slightly grumpy / pre-coffee morning attitude, I was stoked for the day and wasn’t able to fall back asleep.

I hopped out of bed, turned off my alarm, took a shower, made coffee, and got dressed. (And not just in sweats– I’m talking “did my hair, put on a nice sundress, and managed to get some makeup on” kind of dressed.) I walked the dog and if I remember correctly I even had some quiet time with God that morning… All things that I hardcore struggle to do before 9 am, even on my most alert mornings.

Around 5:30, I hopped in my car and headed off to my friends’ house to load up and head to the mountains.

Wide eyed and bushy tailed we arrived at Lookout Mountain that morning just in time to watch the sun start to peek out from behind the Earth. That morning, with five of my closest friends, I sat on the mountain side and worshiped my King to the harmony of an acoustic guitar and a harmonica.

In that moment, everything was beautiful.

I didn’t mind that it wasn’t even 6 am yet, that it was still relatively dark, or kind of chilly.

In fact, as I sat there and watched the sun crest over my city, I felt God whisper in the depths of my soul. I woke you up to watch this sunrise with Me. You are my beloved and I am redeeming you.

And that He did, and continues to do so every single day.

A year later, sunrises still aren’t my favorite times of the day, but they no longer bring up the bitterness of a time of personal brokenness for me.

After all, isn’t that part of the beauty of Easter? Our Father sent His Son to reconcile our relationships with Him and His Spirit to dwell within us and begin to heal the wounds in the depths of our souls.

He is a wonderful Father and Lover, a beautiful Redeemer. He is my King and today we celebrate His risen Son.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on Earth.”

(Ephesians 1:7-10)

Practically Peter

Easter Lillies

Easter is easily one of my favorite holidays and seasons. I mean, it’s full of cute baby farm animals, bacon’s red-headed step-child (ham), and flowers. Those things alone would make the heart of this sunflower rancher’s daughter burst with girlie joy, even if those were the only wonderful parts of this season… But they’re not.

This season is centered around God and his beautiful recreation of the world: the way that His redemptive power was personified through the death and resurrection of His Son, the unimaginable love that He showed for His people through Christ’s sacrifice, even the way that he continues to use imperfect people to build up a church to serve a Holy King. It all just makes my heart burst with joy!

As I sat and reflected on John 18 this week after Gospel Community, John’s account of Peter’s denial of Jesus in verses 15-27 struck something within me.

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, ‘You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, ‘You also are not one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.”

Just hours earlier, Jesus had predicted that Peter would deny Him three times before the night was up. And what do ya know; Jesus’ prophecy came true.

Weird, right? It’s like Jesus knew Peter’s deceitful heart ahead of time and still loved Him despite it.

After re-reading John 18, I feel like I can relate to Peter the most out of all of the apostles.

Peter was a go-getter. An absolute hot mess of a go-getter.

I mean, if we look back in the first few verses of chapter 18 of John, Peter cuts off one of the ears of a guard who has come to arrest Jesus. He was well intentioned, but he got a little too excited in trying to defend Jesus and cut off the dude’s ear. (Oops.)

And then there was that time at the Last Supper when Peter told Jesus, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” (Matthew 26:33) Peter was absolutely in love with Jesus. He openly stated that He was willing to go anywhere, even to his death for his King.

Then this whole denying Jesus three times thing happens hours later and I’m left scratching my head thinking, Where the heck did the ever-devoted Peter go? How could he just abandon Jesus like that?

Aaaaaand then I remember who I am.

I am a woman who seeks after God in her own spastic, go-getter fashion. I love Him more than I love everything else in the world combined and I know that I would go to my death for my King.

And yet I am still an anxious, control-freak who tries to play it cool, yet always ends up cutting off someone’s ear (okay, it’s usually my own ear) in a moment of indiscretion.

I have a big mouth and if it’s not closely monitored, my God-given wit can be sharp and biting.

I am a passionate person and when I don’t use my passion for God and good instead of evil, (See look, I make pop culture references sometimes…) I easily fall into the traps of lust.

All of this to say, I am a hot mess, and yet God is using me anyway. Just like He used Peter, and just like I’m sure He is using you.

God has built His church out of screw ups and sinners… Screw ups and sinners whom He loves and is redeeming.

Peter went on to be one of the pillars of the early church and yet there he stood, just hours after His King had been arrested, and essentially spit in His face by denying Him not once, not twice, but three times.

I think that we often fall into the lies of “I’m not good enough to be loved by God” or “There’s no way that God could love me after I have [insert your supposedly unforgivable sin here].”

Yet He does.

He sent His Son to die for us because He is a forgiving Father who constantly redeems our stories.

He forgave and redeemed Peter, one of the people closest to Him on this earth, after he denied Him three stinking times.

God continues to forgive and redeem me when I put my foot in my mouth or when I figuratively cut off an ear in my own zealousness.

That truth is what this season is about. Easter isn’t about little chickens, candy, or visiting a creep dressed up in a rabbit costume at the mall.

Easter is about God and indescribable the way that He loves us, even when we spit in His face or trip and fall flat on our own faces after denying Him.

God is seeking to use you.

Will you let Him love you? Will you let Him use you in His Kingdom? Are you willing to let go of your shame and brokenness and let Him guide and redeem you?