And on the eighth day, God settled: the sacrifice of unconditional love.

A year ago, I was so sure I’d figured it out. “Love is not a sacrifice,” I adamantly declared to everyone around me. “Love has to be a joy. We sacrifice because we love, like God sacrificed for us. But love itself is not a sacrifice.”

I’ve thought a lot about love this year. I think I grew up with the mindset that when time passed and love got old and was more about serving and giving than feelings, it wasn’t love anymore, it was obligation. Love should be thrilling, electric, the most natural and easy thing in the world. But now, I’m not so sure about that.

Because in a world that screams “never settle,”
that’s exactly what God did.
He looked at us,
A bunch of broken, selfish, messed-up sinners,
and said, “Them.”
“Those are the ones I want.”

He settled for us.

He could have destroyed us all and started over.
He could have changed the human heart to serve and love Him by nature.
He could have done a whole lot of things.
But He didn’t.
He chose to sacrifice instead.

Because that’s what love does. That’s what love is. Love, when it counts, is a sacrifice.

And sacrifice isn’t convenient, or easy, or the most logical choice. That doesn’t mean it’s crazy or irrational in the way that we think of irrational love – leaving everything behind for someone you’ve just met, moving across the world on a whim. That sort of love is driven by a feeling, and I know that were I to love like that, I’d move across the world and promptly turn around when it ceased to be as glamorous as I once thought.

But God doesn’t love like that, acting on an emotion He was overcome with because it seemed like a nice idea. He had all of eternity past to consider what He’d do when we would inevitably turn away from Him, and He chose to act in a way that would make no sense to us – He gave everything for the people He loves.

Love is a lavish gift, a calculated choice to freely give something completely undeserved.

God doesn’t love us because we’re good – He loves us because He’s good.

And I want to love like that, too.

*

There’s a parking lot not too far from where I live, surrounding a few restaurants and stores that I end up at probably once a week. There’s nothing special about this parking lot, nothing romantic or lovely about it – in fact, it’s quite loud, far from private, and humming with activity most days of the week. But somehow, it’s a place that’s held so many deep and long conversations with many of my favorite people.

It is in this parking lot late at night during one of these conversations that I find myself relaying a truth told so many times to me: “God knew what He was taking on when He took on you.”

In times of failure, of disappointing the people I love, of dealing with the guilt and shame that accompany life as a human being painfully self-aware of my shortcomings, this has brought me comfort. God knew what He was getting into when He chose to love us, and He didn’t run.

He knew. Our God knew all the baggage we’d bring to the table. And He wanted us anyway. Our God settled, and He delighted in doing it.

*

This year, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to actively love when the subjects of our affection are flawed and our capacity for desire and craving for perfection are limitless.

As someone who used to be among the enthusiastic, idealistic hordes of people shouting, “NEVER SETTLE,” I think I’m starting to change my tune. I think that in a broken world as this one, we’re always going to be settling for something, and so we’re brought to a decision: is this worth it to love anyway?

I’m not saying we should ask and answer that question lightly. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use wisdom and discernment in the choices we make, because of course we should.

But if we decide that love is worth it, then settle and settle well. Settle well and love hard, because people will never be perfect but we can choose to love them fiercely and freely like God does. Because perhaps we’ve made love out to be something given in exchange for perfection, a transaction of a sort, and we’ve forgotten that God has never ever loved us like that.

Love is a sacrifice. It’s a joy, it’s a privilege, it’s a delight, it’s a gift – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or deserved.

God settled. He sacrificed. He gave a preposterously wayward world exorbitant amounts of grace.  And if God says people are worth loving like that, then maybe we should love that way too.

*aj

The Gospel of lifeboats.

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“Do you think you see Jesus as a lifeboat, or a luxury?” My friend and I are driving, slowly picking apart the way we’ve seen Jesus preached in our communities, churches, and young adults groups. “Because sometimes, I think we miss telling people why Jesus is so incredible in the first place.”

 

It’s a sleepy Sunday afternoon, and she and I are falling into our rhythm of long drives and strong coffees and deep talks, tumbling into deep and hard and holy conversations interspersed with laughter and good stories – my favorite. We’ve both noticed this pattern – Jesus being preached as if He’s a jetpack to make life better, if we want Him.

  Continue reading “The Gospel of lifeboats.”

Hallelujah in the dark.

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It’s Monday morning, and I miss my old life.

As I tumble out of bed, I glance at my phone and frown at the time. It’s later than I wanted, but I’m up now. I look at myself in the mirror as I put my hair in a scrunchie on top of my head – the bags under my eyes are beginning to resemble suitcases. I sigh.

 

My first coherent thought is to brew a cup of coffee, and so I do – the first good cup of coffee I’ve had in three weeks. This morning routine provides me with a small shred of steady familiarity; every sip is reassurance.

 

From where I sit, I have the perspective of a gnat. I am selfish and spoiled by nature, and I know this. I miss my friends. I miss my life. I miss normal. I miss lunch dates and late-night ice cream runs and Bible studies with my community. I miss road trips. I miss coffee shops. I know people are dying and yet I am a helpless bystander grasping at anything to numb the feeling of powerlessness.

Continue reading “Hallelujah in the dark.”

seeing Your goodness in the land of the living.

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“How do you reconcile the two? The goodness of God with the pain and brokenness of life. How do you make sense of it all?”

 

It’s after midnight, and the three of us are sitting around on the floor of our room, Bibles in our laps, honesty hour for each of us. After a long day of travel and unexpected experiences, we’re exhausted and cutting right to the heart of what we’ve all been walking through.

 

“I guess…I don’t know exactly. I think I often tend to believe that God doesn’t have to be good to me to still be good.”

 

I pause for a moment, and gather my thoughts.

 

“Almost this: I know I don’t deserve His love, so I see the love He does give me as a beautiful, wonderful gift, and everything else as extra. I don’t think that’s right or healthy, but that’s how I tend to reconcile it. He doesn’t have to be good to me in my mind for me to still believe He’s good.”

Continue reading “seeing Your goodness in the land of the living.”

West-Coast Grace: resting in His presence.

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Sometimes it takes a trip to the other side of the country to really start to see God more fully.

 

It’s not about the travel, though. Sometimes just a change of pace, and scenery, and a lot of long walks and talks with people that know your soul. Sometimes it’s just the space to sit for an hour with a journal in the early hours of the morning in a dark living room, or as the wind whips through messy hair and thick sweaters on front porches.

 

It is in the kitchen that I find myself on a Saturday morning, gripping a mug of good coffee, overthinking. We’ve squeezed seventeen people into a beach house, and so I’m surrounded by the coffee drinkers, those of us lingering around the counter as people have started to spread out – some on couches with fuzzy blankets and guitars, some around tables with card games, some zipping up jackets to walk to the beach.

 

As the conversation begins to wind down, I quietly slip out of the kitchen, grab my Bible and journal, and find a place alone outside, to think and pray and read and cry silent tears, if they’ll come.

Continue reading “West-Coast Grace: resting in His presence.”

Cry, Pray, Trust: for when you’re stuck in a season of waiting and need a reminder of God’s faithfulness.

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Sometimes all you can do is cry, and pray, and wait. And trust that God is in control, even when it takes every ounce of faith inside you to catch even a glimpse of that.

 

*

 

I wish I could say I spend my New Year’s Eve in a glamorous way. I didn’t.

 

At 10 pm on Sunday night, my family went to bed, and I washed dishes alone, in my kitchen. I played a worship album two times over, and fell to my knees and cried all the tears I’d been holding in for a week. I prayer journaled and dedicated my year to Jesus, and tiptoed into my living room to watch the ball drop in the darkness of my house, holding a flute of formerly-sparkling cider.

 

3…2…1…and, it’s 2018. Everyone celebrate with your friends and lovers, but I’m still over here alone. I flicked on Netflix to numb my thoughts, and played that worship album again as I drifted off to sleep.

 

*

 

God is faithful. The words echo in my head, and as I think about one word that would define 2017, it’s that one – faithful.

 

Over and over, God spoke. Both in the loud and in the quiet, in rooms full of worshipers and in the solitude of my bedroom, He confirmed those three little words, time and time again – I. Am. Faithful.

 

Gracious, good, perfect God, remind me again what Your faithfulness looks like, won’t you? Because I’m stuck in a long, hard season of waiting right now, like I’m teetering on the edge of a cliff, and gravity hasn’t yet decided if I’m going to stay or if I’m going to fall. Oh, how I need you.

Continue reading “Cry, Pray, Trust: for when you’re stuck in a season of waiting and need a reminder of God’s faithfulness.”

where i’ve been, what i’ve learned, and the God who’s been constant through it all. // + my photography!

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It’s been too long.

 

Each time I’ve tried to sit down and write, I’ve either gotten distracted, become unmotivated, or overwhelmed, hence the silence on my part. And so instead, I’ve been gone, treating my blog as an intimidating monster to be slayed, not a haven to use to think and rest in, which I think has done me more harm than good.

 

Regardless, here I am, and thank you for sticking around to read – it means the world.

 

The past few months have been stretching for me. The end of my summer marked the end of a metaphorical season in my life, and whenever a season ends, in my experience, it’s like something’s come out of nowhere and struck me blind, leaving me dazed and confused about where to go next. Moving forward was the only option, and while I’m not sure if I’ve done it gracefully, it’s been a necessary and worthwhile journey.

 

And so, I took a trip with friends from all over North America. We traipsed around different states, drank a lot of coffee, and had extensive, passionate conversations until the sun came up. I came home with a renewed sense of what I want my life to look like, reality colliding with my visions, my passions, my dreams, and my desires.

 

And since then, I’ve had so many more conversations across the miles with those friends who mean so much to me, and I’ve discovered even more about myself, about God, about the people with whom I share my life, and who I want to be. Continue reading “where i’ve been, what i’ve learned, and the God who’s been constant through it all. // + my photography!”

When God Chooses to Work in the Ordinary & Call Us to Where We Already Are

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I’ve been writing this post in my head and heart for too long.

 

It’s the byproduct of so many late night wrestlings, so many journal entries and tweets and long-winded conversations with the people closest to me.

 

It’s those texts we send our friends about waiting for the next thing to happen – about anticipating the answers to our big questions, about finally finding that thing after waiting so long, hoping so desperately.

 

It’s the prayer we pray of God, just show me where to go and I’ll go, what to do and I’ll do it, who to be and I’ll be that person.

 

I’ve been there so many times, and honestly, I’m often still in that boat. Most of my daily prayers close with something along the lines of, “Lead me, Lord, to where you want me to be, who You want me to meet, to the future You have planned for me.”

 

And over the years, as I’ve grown as both a young adult and a Christian, I’ve often been so focused on that next thing, that I haven’t embraced the space where God has put me.

 

See, something that I’m ever-realizing is this: God doesn’t need us to be anything extraordinary in order to be used by Him; He uses us right where we are to fulfill His purposes that are so much bigger and more beautiful than just ourselves.

 

That’s not to say He doesn’t lead us ahead – simply that sometimes, the place He has for us is directly in front of us.

Continue reading “When God Chooses to Work in the Ordinary & Call Us to Where We Already Are”