And When I Run

Broken Cisterns. Worthless idols. Forgetful Israelites. Faithful God. These concepts stood out to me the most on my way through Jeremiah 2.

I’ve started making my way through this Old Testament book recently. I began wary, I have to admit.

Sometimes the OT reads like a different language to me. It talks about idol worship and cities and towns that I’m not familiar with. It’s very severe when it comes to talking about Israel’s sin. It penetrates my heart much as it must have seared the consciences of the Israelites back then as it reprimands them for their half-hearted devotion to the Lord.

It uses references I can’t relate to. And it talks about a group of people that I frequently get annoyed with as I read about them consistently forsaking their God even after all the awesome things He’s done for them.

And yet, God is still speaking to us through His word despite the things we don’t think we can understand or relate with. In this specific chapter, God tells Jeremiah to speak to the people. So, Jeremiah tells them things that the Lord wants to say.

He first tells them that they once followed hard after God in full devotion to Him. He describes their holiness and God’s salvation from their enemies. Quickly, though, he begins to expose their present spiritual state. With a lot of bluntness that I’m sure even back then gnawed at them. Because on the outside I’m sure they looked fine. They still, as it says in this chapter, talked to God and prayed for his salvation. They thought they hadn’t sinned. That everything between them and God was great. And that they could still keep worshipping their idols.

And following their hearts. Despite how deceitful they are.

In Jeremiah 2:5-6, he says, “This is what the Lord says; ‘What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?'”

God poses this question to the Israelites and I believe to us:

What fault did you find in Me that you ran from Me? My ways. My spring of life.

The Lord explains that the Israelites left the Lord, the spring of living water, and built their own broken wells.

What floors me when I read this is that God led the Israelites through an uninhabited desert. With no GPS. Or Google Maps. And they saw first hand him parting the Red Sea and destroying the Egyptian army. Then, he provided food for them in the desert. He protected them too many times to count from enemies that were way more equipped and skilled than them. Then we come to this chapter and something seems awfully wrong.

And it forces me to ask the question, what led them to this point?

The crazy part is that where the Israelites have failed, I have also failed. Where the Israelites blame God for their problems, I’ve questioned His motives, too. But as I read through these words, I hear the brokenness in His voice as He says to the Israelites through Jeremiah’s voice -“Why did you run from me? The One who loves you and saved you and is still providing for you? Why are you going to all of those places to be satisfied? Why are you still building wells when my spring of water is right at your feet?”

Just like the Israelites, I’m reminded today of God’s faithfulness. That He sees our sinfulness and brokenness and shame and offers us new life at his spring of water. He rebukes us, but that rebuke comes from His heart for us. He sees that the places we go make us worthless just like our idols. It hurts Him when we sin, because He sees us suffering. He wants us to run back to Him and has so much to offer us.

 

 

 

 

Shari Part One 1/2

“Shari?”

His voice again.

She fisted her hands. I have to fight this, she thought desperately as she pushed away the feelings.

It didn’t matter that he had perfect brown eyes. Or that in his arms she forgot to breathe. Or that she’d memorized almost everything about him.

It didn’t matter that every time someone brought him up, her stomach pitched like being on Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens. She knew that he’d moved on to another girl. Who was of course perfectly gorgeous and docile.

Feet glued to the floor, she prayed a prayer of surrender.

Not my will, Lord.

How could she hold this against him still? How could she still care for him even after all of this time?

He took her arm. “Hey Shari, aren’t you going to sit with me?”

“For real?” Shari gaped at him. “What about Anna?”

She’d promised herself that she would avoid this church service, because she knew he’d be there. But today, she hadn’t been thinking.

“She goes to a different church.”

Of course. “Well, great. Look, I have to go….find a seat.”

“And I have no idea why you can’t just sit with me.”

“I’m saving a seat for Erin.”

“You don’t talk with Erin anymore.”

“I thought I could do this, but.”  Shaking her head, Shari spun and slipped out the door into the crisp fall breeze that picked up her auburn hair and tossed it in front of her face.

Talking with him stung. Especially  when he was kind and genuinely acted like he cared. She would forget. She would move on. It didn’t matter how many times she’d pray for him, or pray about the situation, she would push through. This didn’t have to be the end of her.

“He never cared about me, Lord. I was just another pretty, hot girl to him. I never mean anything to any guy ever. It’s my appearance that draws them, but my personality has them making U-turns. Why my knees still get weak when I’m with him, I don’t know. I hope some day I will. Please take it all away.”

 


 

 

 

 

Story Intro and Musings ;)

Every year when my birthday comes around, my emotions spiral like spaghetti, all tossed and thrown together and tangled. All of the goals I want to accomplish dangle just out of my reach.

I’ve been twenty six for three months. Most of my twenty-sixness I’ve spent languishing over a computer screen, applying to jobs, jaunting around my new city (DC’s sunrises never cease to take my breath away along with my words. Maybe it’s the color. Or the newness. Or the pristiness that contrasts so prolifically with my life.)

Anyway, all of this to say, the best way I can describe my life is through a story. I can’t really tell you what’s happening to me until I type it out and see the words fill the pages or my computer screen and reread them until I finally grasp what I’ve been struggling with all these months.

All of this to say, I wanted to share: The context is different, but still…. 😉

Sharilyn grimaced as she watched Jesse and a petite blonde angle their way near her group of friends waiting in line at Lochness Monster. Even in a crowd, Sharilyn knew she couldn’t hide.

“Lord,” the prayer came as she felt the bitterness rise in her heart.

Her hand was laced in his. Of course. Sharilyn swallowed her sarcasm and waved.

“Shari? How’s it going? I didn’t think I’d run into you today!” Jesse waltzed over. Perfect dark hair and chocolate eyes dazzling as always. He may be the most arrogant boy she’d ever known, and yet his gregarious personality was what had drawn her to him at first.

He raised his hand for a high five and Shari met it. Each movement, each breath, each look, Shari catalogued. Oh why did she even bother?

“I’m Sharilyn,” she threw out her hand to the model clinging to Jesse’s arm like a life jacket in the Atlantic Ocean, “I don’t think we’ve met.”

“Anna.”

“Nice to meet you.” Shari tried to keep her eyes from looking at Jesse’s face. She’d begged God to help her forgive and forget. She had no idea she’d feel so deflated and scrambling for words to say, to make the moment less awkward.

“So what are you doing with your life, Shari?” She sucked in a breath. DId he have to act like he cared? Did he have to be so confident and self-assured? She wanted to scream. Please, God, I don’t want to be nice to him.

“I just started working at a non-profit in DC.”

“That’s great, Shari!”

“What about you? How are things going with you?”

Shari studied his guarded expression, she was sure that was the best poker face she’d ever seen. Or maybe that was just how he operated normally, disguising his true self from everyone. Especially her.

“Training to join the Air Force.”

She grinned, “Good luck.”

“I don’t need it.”

“I know that…” Shari groped for words. What on earth?

But Anna had already drawn him away to another ride and they dissolved into the crowd. Shari gaped after them, gripped the straps of her gym bag and jaunted toward the bathroom.

“Shari?” Kellie called for her but she already felt stifled, she had to let out all of her emotions and thoughts somehow. She couldn’t stand in line and hold it all in. “I’ll meet you all in Ireland!” She gave a quick wave and slipped into the closest bathroom stall.

And slipped to the floor.

“I thought I could do this, Lord, but each time I see him – ” A few minutes later, mascara stained cheeks, red eyes and an ice cream cone later, and Shari had left the park and was careening back down the highway.

____

A text from her friend Lora lit up her screen. “Want to hang out and have a chill evening with a few of us from church?”

“Sure.”

“It’ll just be easy going, maybe a movie and pizza!”

Shari pulled up to their friend’s apartment in Arlington. She let herself in the front door and plopped on the couch. “Lora, I’m here!” She called, then rubbed the ears of their Shih Tzu.

Lora threw open the back door to their back porch and a few more kids from church filled up the kitchen and living room area. Shari felt her chest constrict. Jesse was in the midst of them.

Lora finished setting the table and passed out plates.

Jesse walked over and started piling food on his plate. “Shari, I heard you and Kellie went hiking this weekend.”

“Yeah.” Shari heaped the stir fry on her plate and scooped out some hummus, breaking off the pita bread slowly. “You should try this pita bread, Lora makes the best.”

“She said you two went hiking at Great Falls. Erin,” he nodded to a cute brunette girl they’d both met this summer, “Kellie and Shari are going running this weekend at Scotts Run. Are you going along?”

Shari gaped, propping her hand on her hip. “Does she tell you everything?”

Erin walked over, her lips in a thin line that Shari knew easily drew into a scowl whenever prompted. She hadn’t included Erin in a lot of her outings lately, and couldn’t believe Jesse, first was texting Kellie at the same time he was talking with her, and next that he told Erin about her plans.

And then Anna walked in. And Shari dropped her plate on the floor.

“We’re all going bowling later,” Jesse ploughed right through, as though he didn’t know the emotions pulsing through her, as though she was the only girl in the room he cared about. It was so dumb. She had to get away from his spell. “You should come, Shari.”

“Lovelies! I’ve brought the most delicious apple pie you’ve ever tasted in your lives!” Maura waltzed in in a Grecian white halter dress and looped her arm through Jesse’s. Anna stood in the corner with Kellie and Erin, casting a stink eye at Maura.

Shari almost couldn’t take it.

“What did I miss?” Markus, Bill and Stephen, along with a few other guys from their church group shuffled through the door and Shari felt like laughing. She caught Lora’s eye and cornered her.

“This is one of the chillest evenings I’ve had in awhile.”

Lora almost spit out her bite of chicken and veggies. “Well I was texting Steve and Mark, and they all wanted to invite a few people…and they all ended up here. Is everything ok, Shar?” Lora’s eyes narrowed in on her friend.

“Couldn’t be better!” Lora soon got swept away talking with Samuel, a new attractive guy that all the girls in church were ambushing. Shari tossed her eyes, scooped up some apple pie and plopped down on the back porch, where nobody could see her. She hoped.

More soon 😉

 

Choices

I’m battling with choices today. This is nothing like a Robert Frost, which path should I travel down choice. This is more like a – should I give up or keep going choice.

Except whenever I wrestle with the decision to give up completely, my conscience can’t rest. I know I can’t do that. But I feel like I’ve come to a point in my life where I’ve got to make the choice and that choice is going to define how the rest of my life plays out.

You see, the biggest decision I have to make – besides what job to apply to – is do I decide to give in to worry and fear or don’t I. It’s so simple. And painful. And something I never would have imagined facing a few years ago.

I never thought that life could be this arduous. That the road I traveled in the future would be filled with so much struggle. I never knew that my heart could shatter and that Jesus would come in and heal me. I didn’t know how any of that would play out. I thought that suffering was awful, but now I’m realizing it’s so useful in making me more like Him.

But more importantly now, I’m realizing that each day is a choice. Are you going to choose to love or choose to hate? Am I going to pray for that person that drives me insane and makes me want to scream or am I going to lash out at them? Will I choose to forgive that person who hurt me? Will I choose to show compassion when I want to focus on myself? Will I choose bitterness over grace and forgiveness? Will I walk through trials with others even when they’re too much for me to bear or even listen to? Will I choose to do life with people whose lifestyles and values are antithetical to mine? Will I put myself behind me completely and put my desires, my will, my way to death so that Christ can shine through me?

Will I choose the Lord’s will or will I choose mine?

My hope is that in this season I learn to seek God first over all of the things I desire. My comfort. My will. My way.

I want to seek His kingdom first and to seek Him with all of my heart (Psalm 119:2) In seeking Him, my hope is that He will make these choices clearer and the decision making process not as painful.

I hope this can be your prayer too, that seeking Him first will give us the right motives to choose others over ourselves. And that even in our brokenness when we fight for our own way, we can see that He is greater and that He is good. His faithfulness takes my breath away.

After all of the things I’ve sought and chosen, He is the One I choose and the One I will pursue. Nothing is impossible for Him.

 

 

No Control

The god of Control tricks its way into our lives with things we believe to be true.

But they’re not.

They’re lies.

And I’m so done believing in them.

So many times throughout the Gospels, Jesus keeps telling his followers things that make no sense to them. He speaks with authority and control. His power is something that leaves people speechless and changed. I was reading today of the cost of following Jesus in Matthew 8. It’s so ironic that I stumbled on this passage because it’s something I’ve been struggling with lately.

You see, I’m a twenty something girl who’s struggled most of her adult life without a boyfriend.

To so many, they would say this wouldn’t matter to them. For a while I truthfully believed it didn’t. It didn’t matter to me that all I focused on all day was schoolwork and getting A’s in every class. I didn’t need or want a man. I knew I didn’t need a boy to tell me I was pretty. And I so wanted high scores.


And I got them. Deep inside, part of me thought I had controlled my value. I was the A student. I got perfect grades. Why wasn’t this making me happier? I wondered so many times as I studied and aced another test.

What did it all matter if I didn’t have anyone?

You might also think that if you’ve never been in an actual bf-gf relationship, like most of the world has been, then your heart has never been broken. This is the furthest thing from the truth.

The truth is that I ended up being the girl who locks herself in a bathroom stall and cries about not having anyone. I remember moments when the pain cut into my heart and reality mocked me, the reality crushing in when I found myself alone on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the semester, watching and listening to stories of the perfect guy, the perfect date, and the perfect relationship.

Then the scene switched to the end of my senior year, when several friends became engaged to be married. And then after graduating, the volume of marriages and happily ever afters increased. Along with the brokenness of feeling valueless and worthless and to be completely truthful I felt unloved and not beautiful enough to ever be the girl a great guy would choose to marry.

To understand it, you’d have to walk in my Nikes. And feel the sting of rejection and loneliness. You’d have to grasp what I believed as I scrolled through social media and the gap between what I thought I needed in all of my friends’ fairytale romances and what I saw in my own life that just couldn’t be breached.

Most of us single girls on a good day are happy enough.

 We’re happy that we’re loved and valued and remind ourselves (if we love Jesus) that Jesus loves us and died for us. He gives us value and worth that nothing in this world could ever measure up to. But if you look closer, there’s a brokenness that we, or at least I, veil behind a mask of self-sufficiency. Especially being single and twenty something and you happen to still glance at your facebook feed as it blows up with diamond rings, fairytale weddings, and happily ever after families peering out from you in perfect snapshots.

And you catch your breath when you realize that those were your dreams once as a ten year old playing with your little cousins. You hoped that someday that would be you with all of that joy. And somehow you have arrived at life without it.

Which was part of what I thought I’d find when I moved to DC. I thought I’d find security and value in a job and a career. I thought, as I interned on the Hill, that I’d someday find a great job that would provide value and meaning and purpose to my life. I thought that through the friends and career that I worked tirelessly to pursue, I would accomplish all that I wanted and a man didn’t need to be in the picture.

I would be completely satisfied and content with taking the reins.

If you know me, you know that’s not where I’m at. God’s ways are higher than mine. I used to view valleys and deserts as empty, atrocious places where nothing fun happened. But then He came and wrecked my life with these things that have happened this past year.

I don’t know all His reasons, but my soul knows this: He is the only One who satisfies. I’ve ached and searched and tried to control how I can get value and attention from my job and comfort and worth from trying to figure out my life my way.

None of those things satisfied me except Jesus.

Which brings me to Matthew 8. In this chapter, a teacher of the law approached Jesus, telling him he would follow Jesus wherever he went. In response, Jesus tells him that “the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” And then one of his disciples mention about burying the dead, to which Jesus replies “follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

As I read this, I realized how much I want to control my relationship with Jesus. Even back then, the disciples and teachers of the law had their own perception of following Christ. They imagined that they could follow Him their own way, and He would give them everything they wanted in their timing, and their happiness would result in all that God was giving them in their way and in their timing. And that it wouldn’t cost them comfort. That it wouldn’t cost them everything. Especially their control.

You see, in these few verses Jesus was teaching what He’d been teaching the whole time He walked the earth. He was telling people that we can’t come to God on our own terms and expect God to show up in a mighty way. We can’t come to Him with half-hearted desires for Him. We can’t come to Him expecting comfort in this life or to expect Him to sympathize with how much we want to just stay comfortable instead of stepping out in obedience to Him.

The past few years, I’ve tried to control everything in my life – career, job – and even my relationship with Jesus. But there’s no such thing as both of us controlling how I follow Him.  There’s also no such thing as both of us controlling my career, my job, or any part of my life.

So even in this season of singleness and heartache, I’m reminded of the God who is in control. Whose authority is worth relying on and whose power is enough to turn even the most hopeless seasons into hopeful ones. We can trust Him in the valley seasons because it’s at the end of ourselves that He says – nope, you can’t control this, but I can.

And HE will.