Nov 6, 2014

: my new home

The time has come. The seasons have changed.
I have a pretty website, and it isn't here.

The link to my new blog is here!
Check it out! 


Nov 3, 2014

: why Lena Dunham's sexual abuse accusation matters

I found myself in tears while reading this article about Lena Dunham today. This isn't just child's play. It is a twisted, abusive form of sexuality, and a sober reminder that all of us have sinful tendencies that lead towards harmful behavior. In order to satisfy her own curiosity, Lena manipulated her sister with things like TV shows and candy. At its core, it is abusive because sexuality was never intended to be traded for things. It is a misuse of intimacy.

For whatever reason-- sin, her own story of abuse, her family of origin-- Lena believed (and still seems to believe) it was normal to use her sister's body to explore and satisfy her sexual curiosity. I cannot speak for her sister, but as someone who was abused in a very similar fashion when I was eleven (read my story here), I need to say that this story matters. Being abused in exchange for a Gameboy severely distorted my view of intimacy, sexuality, love, God and relationships. For months I believed I was only valuable to him as long as I did what he wanted. I equated my worth with a Gameboy that cost eighty dollars. This thought process bled into every area of my life. I believed that in order to be accepted by God and my friends and family, I needed to do things for them. To be myself was not enough. It was never enough.

I am not demonizing Lena, either. I understand that all of us are broken and have distorted views of sex and ways of dealing with it. Still, what she did was wrong. For it to be celebrated or normalized or laughed at undermines the seriousness of abuse and could cause people to believe they are making "too big a deal" out of childhood abuse instances.

For years I hid in the dark, believing what happened to me wasn't a "big deal" because he didn't technically rape me. But abuse, in any severity, is a big deal. It devalues human worth and distorts sexual intimacy. 

I am a living testament to the healing and transforming power of Christ in the midst of abuse. He has changed me and freed me from the chains of shame, guilt, and fear. If you've been abused, please know that it MATTERS, you are not alone and can tell someone about it.

This matters. It matters, it matters, it matters.

Oct 15, 2014

: on comparison (but also why is God invisible)

I’ve spent a lot of time comparing myself to other Christians, figuring out if I match up or fall short of their spiritual prowess. It’s often said that comparison is the thief of joy, and while some part of me understands that to be true, my heart is drawn towards the poisonous habit of measuring myself up against everyone around me. Am I as joyful as him? Does she ever doubt, or is it just me? Do I love Scripture as much as he does? Am I as childlike as her? Do I love Jesus like they do?

Comparison always ends with discontentment. If I come to the conclusion that my relationship with God is in some way better than another person’s, I’ve fed into a pride that leads to unfulfilling self-worship. If I come to the conclusion that my relationship with God is worse than someone else’s, I’ve fed into an inferiority complex that leads to unfulfilling self-loathing. Comparison is centered on self, but self cannot ultimately satisfy self.

What a difficult realization to come to.
I am not my own answer. I am not the solution to my own problem. 

Satisfaction is not just a little deeper in my heart. True intimacy cannot be found through vulnerability alone. Peace is not a result of clearing my mind and opening space in my schedule. I can’t generate a real, unchanging hope with positive thinking. None of these are bad things, but none of them ultimately satisfy. Only Jesus satisfies.

But this makes me angry.
Annoyed, even.

I don’t want to depend on someone else for my joy. I don’t want to ask Jesus for help. It’s not easy to stake myself on the promises of a God I can’t even see. I can’t even see him! Isn’t the invisibility thing strange? I know he’s technically everywhere and in everything like tress and flowers and whatnot, but don’t you ever wish you could touch his hands like Thomas and know that you know that you know he’s alive and kicking? But I am not Thomas, a man living in first century Israel who walked and laughed and learned from Jesus in the flesh. I am Savannah, a twenty-three year old girl writing from her apartment in Hillsboro Village almost two thousand years later. (And I am almost certain that Jesus isn’t coming over for dinner tonight.)

Difficult as it may be, this is what God asks of me: To trust that he knows and loves me. To trust that I can love him back. To believe that his affection and acceptance is more than enough to satisfy me for eternity. To believe that I am blessed for believing without seeing. And he promises satisfaction in return—a deep wellspring of joy in knowing and being known by him. He promises a secure identity that nullifies the need for comparison. He promises love. He promises that He can be trusted.

Oh, for grace to trust him more.

Oct 9, 2014

: pornography and sex and learning to be a white rose, part 2

I fell in love with Jesus when I was a senior in high school. I had an insatiable hunger for his Word and I remember thinking, I can’t believe I get to talk to him all the time. This is still one of my favorite seasons to look back on— I had the purest, uncomplicated affection for him. He saved me from the religious, good-girl games I had been playing my entire life. He rescued me with a kind of love I cannot begin to understand.

Jesus loved me and I loved him with my entire heart.
I was completely and utterly addicted to pornography and masturbation. 
I was self-obsessed.
I had an eating disorder that drove me to lose over thirty pounds in three months.
I lied about almost everything in order to cover up the truth of who I was.
I was wrapped up in toxic shame.
And in it all, he called me redeemed.

If I could go back and talk to myself at this point, I would say two things:

1. None of these truths negated the other. Meaning, I truly loved the Lord, he truly loved me, and I was truly addicted to porn. I was seriously self-obsessed, and Jesus seriously called me redeemed and sought after. My sexual sin did not (and does not) negate the affection God had for me. I had deep shame in my early years as a Christian because I was convinced that if I really loved God I would not struggle with sin. That is not reality, though, as we are commanded to continually put to death what is earthly in us: sexual immorality, impurity, anger, slander, covetousness (Colossians 3). To battle with sin is a part of being human in a fallen world. To lose in this battle is to rely on your own strength. To win is to depend upon the Spirit and grace of God.

2. I was not alone in my temptations, sexual abuse, and shame. It still makes me sad to think about how isolated I felt for those years, even though many people around me had similar stories. It never crossed my mind that another woman could be addicted to porn. I thought I was the only person who had been sexually abused. I was certain nobody else had masturbated. This thought pattern was a tactic the Enemy used to silence me, though, keeping the truths of my addiction and even parts of my redemption in the dark. The real truth is that I was not alone, I am not alone, and you are not alone. It does not matter what your temptation is, you are not the only one.

If you are currently addicted to pornography, masturbation, lust, self-obsession, food, or shame, hear this message: Jesus saves and you are not alone. Do not buy into the lie that you are isolated in your sin. This is a way that Satan is trying to keep you from walking in wholeness and redemption. I am in tears as I write this, because I so desperately want you to understand that you can be free. You can have a voice. You can tell somebody the real, honest-to-goodness, ugly truth. You do not have to live in the dark. You do not have to be covered by shame. You can be free, you can be free, you can be free.

Be strong and courageous.
Ask the Lord to reveal a safe person to share your story with.
(I promise it isn’t as scary as it seems).

Sep 24, 2014

: pornography and sex and learning to be a white rose, part 1

Part of the curriculum for my eighth grade religion class was watching a movie called Sex Has a Price Tag. The boys watched it in one room and the girls in another, because words like sex and porn and masturbation made our little faces turn red and pink and white all over. I don’t remember much of the movie, except it confirmed what I heard my whole life—sex is bad. After the movie, a female teacher talked to the girls about loving their bodies and a male teacher talked to the boys about being addicted to porn (since women weren’t supposed to struggle with porn and men weren’t supposed to struggle with their bodies). 

Porn was a man’s issue. Body image was a women’s issue. And sex was bad.

When I was in high school, a woman spoke to us in an assembly about how she and her husband were both virgins when they got married. She compared their relationship to a white rose and then talked about a soldier who died in battle protecting a handwritten letter from his wife. I’m not totally sure how it all made sense together, but it was a compelling speech and I remember thinking, I want to be a white rose when I get married. I want to be sexually acceptable to my husband. I want to protect the handwritten letter God gave me.

As I listened to her speak, flashbacks from a past of sexual abuse began to surface and I realized I was not a white rose—not because of something I did, but because of something that was done to me. I was tainted. I was ashamed. 

Everyone deals with shame and sexual temptation differently, but I turned to pornography. I didn’t trust any real human being, but I deeply desired intimacy and acceptance. Pornography was a cheap and temporary fix, and I bought into the lie that it was satisfying for over three years.

I felt trapped. Nobody could know.
Porn was a man’s issue. 
No man would want me.
I was used goods.
God wouldn’t want me.
I ruined the gift he gave me.

I carried the weight of these lies and a distorted view of sex with me throughout high school and into college. I was confused and lonely and trapped in shame. This is where Jesus met me, and while I did not know it at the time, meeting him meant being healed by him. Meeting him meant being crucified with him. Meeting him meant being raised to life by him. Meeting him meant my past would not drive my future. Meeting him meant I mattered to someone. Meeting him meant I was a white rose, after all.

Aug 12, 2014

: this is not the time to hide from reality

It's difficult to exist in a shattered world, especially when the reality of our brokenness comes crashing in like a wave on the shore, sinking our feet deeper into the sand until the tides finally turn and we have a minute to catch our breath again. Sometimes I think it would be easier to run away and hide in an obscure town in Costa Rica where there isn't a television or news station or social media to tell me how messed up humanity is. It would be easier to hide, but it would not be right because this is the world God gave himself for. He did not hide. He did not run.

He entered into our suffering and offered healing.
He entered into our violence and offered peace.
He entered into our desperation and offered hope. 

It would've been easier for God to turn his face and leave us to our own devices but because he so deeply loved the world, he gave himself to us in Jesus Christ. In love, he threw himself in the way of our brokenness so that we might know him. In the same way, it would be easier for us to turn our faces from the rest of humanity's suffering. It would be easier to shy away from the reality that my real, actual brothers and sisters are being slaughtered for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Hiding from reality does not make it any less real, though, and it certainly does not help spread the Gospel. And that is what we're all here for, isn't it? To advance the Kingdom of God by making disciples in every nation? To ignore suffering is to ignore the ultimate purpose for which you exist. Your life is not meant to be spent on comfort, security, and happiness while your brothers and sisters are being persecuted. Your life is not to be wasted on the American dream while the rest of the world is dying of hopelessness and despair.

Enter into the suffering and offer healing through Jesus.
Enter into the violence and offer the peace of Christ.
Enter into the desperation and offer hope through the Gospel.

"For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit’s mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified."

Jul 19, 2014

: choosing Gregory House over Jesus

Sometimes I’d rather watch House on Netflix than spend time with God.

There, I said it.

It’s not that I love Gregory House more than Jesus, it’s just that it’s easier to watch House solve fictional medical crises on my computer screen than it is to let God heal my non-fictional self.

To make things stranger, nothing bad is happening. In fact, almost everything in my life is good right now. Maybe too good, too much, too fast. For the last month I’ve watched favor fall like quail from the sky (Exodus 16, real story), three feet deep, and I don’t know what to do with it all so I hide in my room and watch House. Sometimes I hide in silence with a bottle of cider and ginger tea bags on my face because I heard they make zits disappear. But I never get zits unless I’m stressed, which only happens when I’m avoiding the Lord.

It’s a vicious cycle, really.

My therapist and I talk a lot about my inability to be delighted in. If you gave me a present right now, for example, I’d think of ten things I need to give back to you in order to relieve any sense of guilt I’d have for receiving your present in the first place. All of this is rooted in an overwhelming amount of self-centeredness and pride, though, because I’ve convinced myself that out of the seven billion people on planet earth, I, Savannah Ellis, am the only one who should not be delighted in.

And in some sense, I’m right. None of us are delightful apart from the cross.

However, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, the Father has called me worthy of delight, love, and acceptance. He has given me the right to sit at his table (Revelation 3). To continue living as a rejected orphan when the all-powerful Father has called me by name is foolish. To continue avoiding his presence when it is the very thing I was designed for is absurd. To settle for Netflix when the King of glory waits for me to fix my attention on him is laughable.

Today, I will wait for him. Not because it is easier, but because he is worth it.
Today, I will choose Jesus over Gregory House.
Sounds hilarious, doesn't it?

Jul 13, 2014

: living on the outskirts of grace

Jesus isn't the first person I run to when I'm confused, ashamed, guilty or sad. I try out movies, spontaneous road trips, dinner with friends, and music about Jesus, but not Jesus himself. I'm always afraid he'll tell me to do something I don't like because he's often told me to do things I don't like. I didn't like giving up my scholarship to graduate school on the off chance of getting a job in Brooklyn, for example, because I wanted to be the smart girl who had a Master's degree and an impressive knowledge of theology at such a young age. I didn't want to come out about my history of sexual abuse, pornography addiction, and virgin lips on the internet because girls aren't supposed to have dealt with that sort of thing and I wanted to be a Super Christian. I still don't like repenting, asking for forgiveness, and depending on him for money, guidance, and support, but there's a rip current in my heart that always brings be back to trusting and obeying him.

He's the safest person to come to, yet he's the person I avoid the most.

I think it's because I don't trust that he'll love me unless I do everything I can to make it easier for him. One of these days, something in me believes he's bound to get fed up with all my foolishness and throw me to the wolves. It's like I'm living on the edge of potential destruction, walking on eggshells to make it simpler for him to guide, protect, and delight in me. And when I mess up, my instinct is to run away and buy into the lie that if I feel guilty enough my sin won't matter as much and his wrath will be alleviated.

I am living on the outskirts of grace. I dabble my toes in the shallow end of the pool even though there are oceans of it available to me. Getting in the water means letting go of control and giving myself over to the tide, though. It means binding myself to a God whose purposes supersede my own. It means trusting and obeying and choosing him first.

I don't know if I'll ever be the type to dance my way through a parted sea, but I am trying to take steps in that direction. I am moving forward. Learning to run after him. Learning to lean into his promises. Learning to trust his character. Learning to obey his voice, even when it tells me to go in this direction (then that direction and every other direction in between).

I guess I'm learning to love him when I don't feel like it. And I don't feel like it much of the time, but his rip current is rumbling under my feet, beckoning me to deeper waters. So, with fear-mingled anticipation, I am choosing to move from the outskirts to the overflow of his grace.

You can come, too, even if you're afraid.
I'm so afraid I cry pretty much every day, even during the funny parts.
But move forward we must, and more forward we will.

Jun 10, 2014

: i'm moving!

The plan was to go to California in August, get my master’s degree in theology, find an awesome job, secure my identity, and conquer the world. I wasn’t doing cartwheels about moving to the West Coast, but every sign seemed to point in the direction of grad school and I was okay with it because I desperately wanted a plan. Everything about the move felt fine. No warning signs, no red flags.

When I found out my dad was travelling to New York City on business last month, I bought a ticket to tag along as a last hurrah before going back to school. I called it my “final irresponsible decision before becoming an adult.” I’ve been to the city a dozen times and knew exactly which restaurants I wanted to try and shows I wanted to see. It was a decision that impulsive 23-year-olds can make sometimes, and it was a fun trip.

On a surface level, that’s all it really was … a fun trip.

Something deeper and more difficult to explain was happening inside, though. I felt connected to the city, as if it had grown to make room for me. Or maybe I had grown to make room for it. Either way, there was a needle and thread weaving the heart of New York to the heart in my chest and I was bound to pay attention to it. As I boarded my plane at the end of the week, I sensed a whisper echoing in the crevices of my skull: Let go of your plans and move to New York instead.

It was an early flight and I was tired.

Plus, if God didn’t want me to go to school, I wouldn’t have been accepted, right? What could possibly sound more like the will of God than studying the character of God for two more years? Why would He lead me in one direction and change everything last minute? It didn’t make sense.

The whisper came again: Let go of your plans and move to New York instead.

You know those times when you know that you know that you know He spoke to you? Well, this was it, and it was Him, and He changed everything while I was sitting in 27B. I got off the plane and told my parents over breakfast, certain they would pass out and die right then and there because my plans were changing once again. They didn’t die, though. They actually laughed, cried, and told me to follow the voice of God.

So I’m moving to New York. I applied for nine million jobs and when I get one, I’ll pack my bags and go. My heart is full of anticipation mingled with fear, but I am so deeply confident that I’ve slipped into the pocket of God’s will for the next step of my life I could cry. And I do cry all the time, because letting go of control isn’t as easy as releasing a balloon into the sky, but I’m told it’s far more rewarding. Best of all, nobody thinks I’m crazy except the occasional person who thinks I’m crazy. My life doesn’t have to make sense to anyone, though, not even me, so long as I’m following Jesus.

Here’s to the wildly unpredictable God whose purposes are greater than mine.
May my plans forever grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

May 25, 2014

: vomiting on the roller coaster of life

I often wonder if I'm the only one whose relationship with God looks like a roller coaster. Not one of those metal ones, either, but a wooden, rickety, up-and-down roller coaster. There are days I wake up and sense His Spirit even nearer than the molecules of dust stuck in the crevices of my nasal cavity. Other days I look to the sky and think He is further away than the stars I have to squint in order to see. Every bad day argues with the validity of every good day, and I'm stuck somewhere in between trying to keep my head from knocking on the sides of the safety harness.

There is a peace in knowing I won't fall out of my seat, and a joy in the adventure of it all, but I wish there was a predictable portion of the ride.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). There is an aspect of God's character that is spontaneous and wild and unpredictable. While he is unchanging, he is ever-moving and constantly active. This is the kind of Kingdom we walk into when we are born of the Spirit. 

Still, I look at other people's lives and it seems like they are only headed up: always happy, always having fun, always full of faith. Meanwhile, I'm over here holding on for dear life: hair flying over my face, screaming like a baby, vision skewed, and vomit creeping through my esophagus. 

It's probably a way the Enemy tries to make me feel isolated, by making me believe I'm the only one with ups and downs and questions and struggles. I'm trying to be more open about doubts I have when I have them, though, because I'm sure other people have felt the same way. Right?

Have you ever felt like this?
Only me?
Everyone else is a faith giant?
Thought so.

Apr 16, 2014

: easter isn't tame

Easter isn’t tame.

At the very least, it should be unsettling to think a man who was crucified 2,000 years ago rose from the dead and still lives today. This is what the church professes to believe, isn’t it—that Jesus Christ isn’t buried in some 1st century tomb, but is alive and with us to the end of the age?

I wonder if we consume ourselves with egg hunts, bunny costumes, and children’s productions at church because we’re afraid to sit in the reality of the resurrection. Are we trying to manage the terrifying truth of a living, breathing, skin-and-bones Jesus by boxing him into pastel-colored packages that are more comfortable to us? This is a dangerous place to be, not because God wants to drain the joy from our Easter weekends but because he wants to give us the ultimate joy of knowing how his death and resurrection matter. 

If an endlessly glorious King really bound his fullness into an eight-pound baby, it matters.

If the perfect Lamb of God really became accursed so you and I could stand holy before a righteous Judge, it matters.

If the Father really offered up His own Son—offered up himself—to prove how unwavering and tangible his love is for the world, it matters.

If the source of Life really gave himself up to death, it matters.

The implications of these truths ring from the heights of the cosmos to the depths of your heart. It means that God is everything he says he is, and he will finish what he started. In some sense, it is already finished because Jesus defeated death by his resurrection. In another sense, though, we anticipate his return—the culmination of all things—when death and sin and shame will be made extinct by the power of Christ. The earth will be made new, judgment will come, the faithful will be raised incorruptible, and he will reign forever.

Everything hinges on the certainty of a risen Christ, a living God.

He has proven with a radical death and resurrection that he will not be tamed. He will not be reduced to cute traditions and games. He will make his glory known, sending witnesses to the ends of the earth, proclaiming, He is alive! 

This message matters. This God matters. Do not miss it. 

Jan 14, 2014

: remembering my grandfather

Every week, two of my dear friends and I meet to talk about theology and books, but mostly Aslan, over drinks at a speakeasy-style establishment in Nashville. Last Thursday, much of our time was spent discussing our families and childhoods and stories we’d never thought to share before. During our conversation I was reminded of the last memory I have with my grandfather. Rummaging through old notebooks and files, I found a piece I wrote for my creative writing class about his death. Most of my recent energy has been focused on the broken areas of my childhood, but this is a beautiful memory—maybe one of my best. It’s not his birthday or anything, but I thought I’d share it because it’s good to write about good things sometimes.

It was my third trip to Boston that year, so I knew Grandpa wasn’t going to last much longer. He had been sick since I could remember, but always managed to bounce back and recover despite the doctor’s reports. He was always a fighter—everyone knew that—but nobody expected him to last this long with a heart functioning at fifty percent. I landed at midnight, greeted by cold October weather and a tired mother.

            “Where’s dad?”
            “He’s at the nursing home with your grandfather”
            “How’s Grandpa doing?”
            “He’s worse than last time… you need to prepare yourself.”

I’ve always been the crier in my family and my parents feel obligated to “prepare me” for bad things, as if that would somehow make them better. Pulling into the nursing home, I saw my dad waiting in the front. He was exhausted. His eyes were glazed over, his face unshaven, and his smile unconvincing.

            “Dad, how’s he doing? What are the doctor’s saying?”
            “I don’t know, San. I wouldn’t be surprised if we got the call tonight.”
            “So he’s not going to make it through the night?”
            “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

I couldn’t stand the thought of my grandfather dying in a room by himself while I was thirty minutes away in a hotel. It didn’t seem right. I grabbed my suitcase, got out of the car, and insisted on spending the night with him. Hesitantly, my mother brought me to his room and set up a bed using two chairs and a blanket. She turned on the fluorescent lights and for the first time, I saw my grandfather as a vulnerable man. He had tubes going in and out of his thin, pale body. I closed my eyes and tried to remember what he looked like on Sunday afternoons when we’d visit to watch a baseball game. He’d wait for us outside, lounging on a chair in the same outfit: a pastel colored shirt tucked into his khaki shorts that came just above the knee. His socks were pulled up mid-thigh, complimented by a pair of sneakers he bought because Nana insisted he needed better arch support.

This wasn’t the same Grandpa I knew from Sunday afternoons in Winchester.

He glanced at me slowly and closed his eyes, fading back into a restless sleep. After my mother left, I turned off the lights and looked around the room to see deflated “Get Well Soon” balloons and hand-drawn cards taped to the walls. I wanted to pick him up and bring him back to the house so he could be in a familiar place, somewhere full of happy memories, but it was impossible now. All I could do was try to be a good memory in the midst of inevitable death.

            “Help! I need water! Can’t you see I’m dying?”
            “It’s okay, Grandpa. Here’s something to drink.”
            “Who are you?”
            “It’s Savannah, your granddaughter. I’m here to stay the night with you.”
            “You’re the most beautiful girl in the world, you know that?”

He fell asleep again, but not for long. Over the next hour or so, his body jerked every time he woke up because of pain or anxiety or thirst. I closed my eyes again and tried to remember Grandpa’s contentment as we watched TV together. I loved The Thoughts of Animals on the Discovery Channel. Episode after episode, he watched it with me, never admitting that he hated every minute of it. Come to find out, he used to recite poetry in his head to make the time pass. Throwing up his hands in the air, he finally confessed, “Why the hell would I care about the thoughts of animals, Savannah? I can’t even keep my own thoughts together!”

He had spunk and loved to laugh. But this wasn’t the same Grandpa I knew from Sunday afternoons in Winchester.

He shouted again about being afraid, and I was torn to pieces inside. This isn’t how he needs to go, I thought to myself. He needs to be ready. He needs to be at peace. With that, I pulled out my Bible and started reading the book of Psalms aloud.

            “Savannah,” he interrupted. “Can you hold my hand?”
            I offered my tear-stained hand to join his on top of the blanket.
            “I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be with. Keep reading.”

I continued reading for the rest of the night, and by sunrise, I noticed he hadn’t cried out for help in hours. I slowly slipped my hand from underneath his chin to see if he was breathing. Much to my surprise, he was. Grandpa woke up at seven thirty that morning. The nurses said he hadn’t slept that long without crying out for help since he arrived. After he woke up, he called me closer to his face. Looking at me with tears in his eyes, he slowly said, “Good morning, beautiful. It was absolutely marvelous to have you with me tonight. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. You look gorgeous. You always do.”

That was the last time I heard him speak. He passed away three days later, on October 27th, 2009. Thanks for the happy memories, Grandpa. I’ll see you soon.

Jan 3, 2014

: graduating college (what if I'm a barista forever)

Graduation day was a strange thing. Almost two decades of my life pointed to the moment when I'd get an overpriced diploma, snap a few pictures, and throw my cap into the air. I always viewed graduating as some sort of initiation into the real world, full of adults with real jobs and real direction. That wouldn't be mind-numbingly intimidating if it wasn't for the fact that I work at a coffee shop and have no sense of direction whatsoever.

I never wanted to be the girl who graduated with an expensive degree, lots of debt, and no career path other than liberating North Korea and getting really good at latte art. I always thought I'd have a plan... or at least a fake one to tell my parents and their friends. I've started thirty million applications to graduate programs around the country, looked at several internships, and stared at job listings for hours. It's all done out of nervous energy, though, and a frantic effort at controlling the future. Do you know how many potential life plans I come up with every day? This morning I was looking at teaching kids in South Korea, this afternoon I was looking at an internship in London, and tonight I was applying to grad schools in Los Angeles.

It's like an episode of Law & Order. You know how they bring in witnesses to identify someone in a criminal lineup? It feels as if I'm staring at dozens of different identities, but I can't point to one and say, "That's me!" And not in a cool, I'm-so-talented-and-mysterious-that-I-don't-fit-into-your-mold way, but in an I'm-seriously-going-to-be-a-barista-forever way. Some part of me wants to knock on every door until one opens, but my gut is telling me to rest and wait for the Lord.

But waiting hurts. Not being able to identify myself as a student hurts. Being a barista who's figuring things out hurts. Because it's not pretty or glamorous or fun to explain to my friends' parents. It's not the American dream. It's not the middle-class, white person dream.

I wonder if this is how the disciples felt when Jesus talked about what it meant to be the greatest in the Kingdom of God: "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at the table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves." If Jesus and I were at the dinner table, that conversation might go something like, "I have not come that you might live the American dream with an awesome job and lots of money to give to poor kids in Asia. I have come that you might serve whole-heartedly and give of yourself sacrificially."

It stings. It hurts.

But every once in a while, my heart is ravished by the thought that Jesus could be right about it all, and there's more joy to be found in serving rather than being served. I'm grateful that God is leading me into servanthood, even if it means I cry like ten times a week. I want to grow in humility and service. I don't want to waste my life worshipping myself. I'm part of another Kingdom now, and I'm here to serve.